Disclaimer: All my good pictures are on my camera and I haven’t edited them yet. . . so they may end up here one day.
In order to maximize the amount of cool stuff I post, and to make sure that you get through reading all of our safari experience, I have decided to break our safari experience into the two respective days. If I’m being quite honest, though, Safari Part 2 was much more exciting than Safari Part 1. So if you only have time to read one, go to that one! We took off around 7 in the morning and made the hour drive over to the border of Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. All four of these countries juncture at one point in the river. It is one of the only quadripoints in the world, location where 4 countries meet. As we were crossing the river between Zambia and Botswana, there was probably a split second where we were in four countries at once. It was pretty cool!
After that, we headed into town to prepare for our river cruise. They had a nice breakfast prepared for us, and then we headed down to the river for the start of our adventure. I must admit, I was pretty disappointed by the river cruise. Yes, we saw lots of animals and I will go into detail about that in a moment, but it seemed like we got the short end of the stick. We came with a group of six (a big enough group to get onto our own private tour), yet we got put on the biggest barge that moved SO SLOW! A bunch of the other boats from the same tour company were much smaller, and our friends who didn’t book with us got to go on those. It was lame, because we left much earlier than them, yet they passed us before we even got into the park. It was also lame, because they went much further down the river, spent more time seeing cool things, and we had to turn around much earlier than them to get back. I was really frustrated in the moment, mostly because we booked months before anyone else, yet we still got put in this lame situation. It just wasn’t as great as it should have/could have been, and it kind of left a sour taste in my mouth for a good part of the day.
We started the cruise by floating down the river and stopping on the border of the park to gain proper entrance. After that, “Mother Nature is in charge.” Chobe National Park has no fences keeping animals in, any animal comes in and out at free will. So you never know what is in the park at any one time. The first animals we saw were two hippos grazing, with a croc next to them. A croc would never try to take a hippo on land, so there wasn’t anything exciting that happened, but it was really cool to get within 20 feet of them to see up close. We then proceeded down the river and saw a BIG croc lying really close to the shore. Our guide pulled the rig around and got us really close to it. Like, within 5 feet. I could have jumped off the boat on top of it. After a while of taking pictures and gawking at it, it eventually slid off into the water and disappeared. It was pretty intimidating. DON’T SWIM IN THE WATER!
As we were watching the croc, we noticed a bunch of movement on the other side of the bank.. Eventually, out popped our first elephant! He didn’t come very close to the water, but it was fun to watch him yank on the trees for their leaves. He was VERY large. Fun fact. The elephants never stop growing, so the larger they are, the older they are. Also, you can tell the difference between males and the females by their head and size. The males have a rounded forehead while the females have a square forehead. The males are also larger. . . but the older females can easily be confused for males.
We continued down the river and saw tons of birds, hippos, crocs, water buffalo, impala, water bucks, kudu and more elephants. My eyes were really opened to the major diversity of animal life in Africa. Especially with how large their animals are. Holy cow. . . I mean holy elephant! Hippos and elephants are outrageously big. That about summed up our river cruise experience. Our friends in the other boat didn’t see much else except baby hippos and baby elephants. So we were distraught we didn’t see those, but it was still a decent experience. The afternoon held even more excitement.
We got back to the “lodge” or “headquarters” and had a nice lunch while fending our food from the baboons and warthogs that would come bolting in after food. We than began our game drive experience. It was frustrating, because we were about to take off with only our group of six in the vehicle, when they threw an extra man into our vehicle. This was especially frustrating, because we later joined another group and ended up having a full safari vehicle. This further put a sour taste in my mouth after the river cruise, but in the end, the experiences we had on the safari greatly outweighed my frustrations.
About 5 minutes into the park, we ran into our first giraffes! It was incredible. They are the weirdest looking animals. There were about four or five of them grazing in the trees. After that, we headed further into the park and saw elephants coming out of the trees almost everywhere. It was funny, because there were a couple of moments where we spooked elephants hiding in the trees, so they would trumpet out at us extremely loudly. It was always on the side Caleb was on, and it always made him jump about three feet into the air. It was fun to have the elephants walk within 5 feet of our rig. We saw lots of baby elephants guarded by their mothers, lots of impala, baboons, giraffes, kudu, water bucks, water buffaloes and just about everything else we wanted to see. . . except cats. Apparently, the pride of lions that normally hang out on the north side of the park, were last seen leaving the park and haven’t been seen in a week or so, and leopards are always rare. He told us that our chances of seeing them were extremely slim during the day, but that we would have a better chance in the morning.
Fun fact about impala and baboons. They live in a symbiotic relationship. Every time we saw baboons, they were almost always with impala. They assist each other in sensing predators, because the impala can hear for miles away, and the baboons have much better eye sight. Together, they can avoid becoming lunch. Impala are also interesting, because only one male sticks with a group of females and gets to mate with them. The other males either travel alone or spend time together in the bachelor group. They practice their fighting skills to help them prepare to battle the males with the females. I drew WAY to many similarities between them and my college experience.
There were three more major highlights before we made it to camp. One, as we were driving, we came across a group of five giraffes out by the river. One was laying on the ground and the other four were fighting. The four weren’t fighting at the same time, but they were fighting in groups of two. To be completely honest, their fighting wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. They were mostly just circling and occasionally they would throw their necks around at each other. It was still really cool to see! Two, the sunset was absolutely gorgeous. Three, as we were heading out for a good spot for the sunset, we heard a large noise coming from the bush. Immediately, our guide stopped and cut the engines. The sound was completely familiar to Elle and I (because of our experience last week), but the rest were excited to find out that the noise was coming from a lion. Somewhere in the bushes, a male lion was making its territorial noises as the evening was coming near. Even though it sounded SO close, we never did see the male lion, it was really cool to hear him though. Luckily, this wouldn’t be our only encounter with lions. See Safari Part 2 for that.
The rest of the evening was really great. We got to our campsite after dark, and the tour company already had our tents and food ready. We had a great dinner, we had to poop in a hole, and the bedding was pretty comfortable. One of our fellow volunteers, Kathryn, was so nervous that we were going to die in the night. Shortly after expressing her concerns, one of the guides stood up and confirmed all of her fears. The bottom line, though, was that we’d be safe if we didn’t leave our tents. If we had to leave our tents to go to the bathroom, stay within the lit perimeter they’d made, and always watch your step. We all ended up being totally fine, but he emphasized how important it was to be safe while out in the middle of no where. Mostly because the nearest medical help was at least 3 hours away. Overall, even though there were some frustrations earlier in the day, by the end of the day, we were happy with our experience thus-far.