Nature Tour Botswana
People didn't sleep well because of sniffing around their tent
On a safari in Chobe National Park the open jeep stops in the middle of an elephant herd. The sound of breaking branches all around is scary. Boats sail the Okavango Delta surrounded by game. A flight over the delta is spectacular, with an extra circle above a group of giraffe.
Travelogue: Geja Rijsman
Photos: Geja and Michael Rijsman, Jos Drabbels, Sophia Stein
From the camping site in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, we reach the border in a short while and we receive new stamps in our passports. We proceed to the Botswana side. Here - because of the risk of mouth-and-foot disease - we all have to pass through a tray of disinfectant.
It's a short drive to Kasane, where we camp out at the Chobe Safari Lodge. The camping site is very dusty, but beautifully located with a view of the Chobe river and Chobe National Park. We already see elephants.
We go on a safari that same evening. In an open jeep. It turns out we're entering the park. Along the road we soon see jackals and then a common genet. We leave the road and take a sand path. We see an African hare.
The guides hear elephants and we leave the sandpath and drive into the bush. Driving over shrubs, we go straight for the elephants. There we are, sitting amidst the elephants. It's scary, the sound of breaking branches all around us. There are also elephants with calves. Fortunately the elephants stay calm.
Eventually we return to the path and end up in a buffalo herd. According to the driver there are some 300. Some run off, a beautiful sight. In the trees we see marabou storks and vultures.
Chobe Nationaal Park
Lions are gorging themselves on a kudu
We get up early for a safari. Some of us have hardly slept because they heard sniffing around their tents. We slept well and didn't hear a thing.
We're stuffed into the jeep, four in a row. It's tight, but because of the wind it's also nice and warm. Just outside the park we see a herd of waterbuck.
A little later elephants cross the road. After that we don't see animals until we're in Chobe Park. We drive for three hours in the park and see many animals. Near the entrance some lions are gorging themselves on a kudu. Vultures are waiting in the surrounding trees for their turn.
Twice we see the rare puku along the water and groups of greater kudus. And many hippos. Some of them are fighting each other with their huge mouths.
We see a young crown eagle, a cori buzzard and a lilac-breasted roller. We spot an osprey in a tree and several other kinds of eagle, one of which is sitting on its nest. There are impalas, velvet monkeys and many birds.
In the afternoon we go on a boat trip. We sail along the edge of Chobe Park, with on the other side an island which also is part of the park. From afar we already see elephants and hippos.
The boat trip is wonderful. We stay near the banks and whenever there is something to be seen, we stop so we can take as many pictures as we want.
We take many pictures of kingfishers and bee-eaters. We get near their nests, so we can take pictures from a short distance. We find two gorgeous Nile lizards and an alligator with a full belly lies on the bank.
In the river two elephants are grazing calmly, a little farther is a group of pukus. Again lots of hippos. We stay for a long while with a group of hippos who are yawning in turns. With the evening light illuminationg their open mouths it's a great sight.
On the shore, rather far away, we see an elephant herd with a new-born calf. Too bad we can't get closer.
Slowly it gets clouded and that makes for pretty photos, especially when a group of little egrets flies by with the clouds as backdrop.
While the sun is setting, we sail along a huge buffalo herd.
At six we're back. Our cook Janni has already made a wonderful fire for a barbecue. Lana and Natasja made delicious salads. We cook sausages, chicken satay, chicken legs and grilled-cheese sandwiches on the barbecue.
We sail amidst the game in mokoros
We leave very early for a long drive (605 kilometers) to Maun. On the way we see giraffes for the first time, two adults and a calf. Earlier we also saw an elephant and waterbucks.
On the way we see some ostriches and a little later an ostrich risks its life by crossing the road just before we pass. In the afternoon we only see ostriches, a group of vultures from a distance, donkeys, cows and horses. Mid-afternoon we are back at the camping site.
We slept so well. The only disturbance was the sound of braying donkeys early this morning. Our sleeping bags are wet, how did that happen?
Around 7:30 AM two jeeps pick us up. We sit in the open one. We have to sit four in a row with our backpacks between our legs or on our laps. It's really crowded.
First we drive on the asphalt road for a long while, we almost get blown off the jeep by the strong wind. Fortunately we are wearing fleece and goretex coats. When we leave the main road, it's still 35 kilometers and only during the last 12 there's a chance of spotting game. We only see birds and by the end a group of ostriches.
We arrive at the water. There's a large number of mokoros ready for us. Some of the mokoros are loaded with luggage and the rest is for us, with a little luggage. A female punter approaches us and gestures we should follow her.
We only take our camera backpack with us, the rest ended up on other boats. Because of this, our boat does not lie very deep in the water. But now and then it rocks and initially I'm afraid we'll capsize.
An elephant skeleton lies where we can see it from the boat.
Our punter allows us to stand on the mat and therefore we are among the few whose behinds stay dry. Some people are in less stable mokoros or are much heavier, and they have to change several times to other mokoros.
Finally we reach our destination. A large open spot surrounded by trees. If one thought to be in the jungle, it's a disappointment when a truck appears. We are not allowed to take walks by ourselves here, because it's too dangerous.
We go on a hiking safari in a group of eight people with two guides. Unfortunately we only see two elephants and a baboon who lets himself fall from a palm tree as soon as he hears us. One of the elephants shows nicely how it shakes fruit from a palm tree with its trunk.
For dinner we have a vegetarian curry which unfortunately mainly tastes like koriander. Around 9:30 we go to sleep. The punters will keep the fire going.
Our guide has a scary story about snakes. Last week a puff adder snuck under a tent and was discovered when they were taking down the tent. The guide caught it and let it loose in a field, so people could take pictures.
In the middle of the night we hear lions roar far away. Immediately one of the punters wakes up and stokes up the fire. We hear a few more roars, which are soon drowned out by the snoring of one of the punters, my cue to put in earplugs.
Vultures nibble on the remains of a giraffe
Next morning we leave early for another game walk. We walk for one and a half hours without seeing even one animal.
Then, finally, we see a baboon, but it's far away. But we get a good look at how he pulls a bunch of coconuts from a palm tree and eats them.
We spot an elephant, which keeps walking away from us. Next we see a group of impalas, again at a great distance. There are beautiful termite mounds in this area.
Two elephants show us how to pick fruit from a palm tree. Maybe they're the same ones we saw yesterday? The elephants are accompanied by a few impalas.
One of the guides sees a flock of vultures flying. They're far away, but we follow them as fast as we can.
On the way we see four kudus and a group of impalas. We get closer to the vultures; there's a whole bunch of them.
The guide discovers lion footprints. We pass its prey, which is meanwhile being devoured by the vultures. We can't make out what kind of animal it is. We keep following the lion tracks. At a distance, we see a lion by a shrub. Twice we see it again through the shrubs. The last time at a distance of less than 20 meters; it looks directly at me! Then it bails.
We follow the tracks for a while. According to the guide it went back to the carcass. So we go there, too. It turns out to be a giraffe.
Unfortunately, the guide walks right up to the carcass, so the vultures fly up. They stay nearby, but are afraid to come back and sit on the carcass as long as we're around.
By the end of the afternoon we can choose between another walking safari or a boat ride with the mokoros. We prefer walking, like most of the others. We return to the giraffe carcass. On the way, I spot a warthog. I'm the only one who's seen it.
By the carcass we sit down and wait for lions. Again we scare off the vultures and they stay in the trees. We hear a jackal, but the lions don't show. Just before sunset we return to the camp site, because it's dangerous to be out in the dark.
At night, the punters sing and dance. It's neat. Too bad that some in our group imitate their dancing in a ridiculous way. I feel vicariously ashamed.
Flying over the delta
Especially the extra circle above a group of giraffe is great
This morning we leave in the mokoro. On the way we see a watersnake, lying in the reeds and one of the punters has us eat the roots of some kind of reed. It tastes like a watery, almost tasteless radish.
We return to our camp site in Maun. We take some punters and much of their stuff with us. They leave us when we arrive in the village. The drive back seems much longer.
During lunch there's a little riot because there isn't enough food once more. It's always the same people who get their food first and fill their plates as if there is no one else. So the last ones get little or nothing. Group travel!
In the afternoon we fly over the delta. Mostly over the biggest island of the Moremi Game Reserve.
We see many elephants, giraffe, zebras, buffalo and hippos and a couple of impala herds. The pilot also points out alligators, but I can't see them. Especially the extra circle we fly above a group of giraffes we love.
We drive over 500 kilometers today. Everything goes well. We drive in a landscape with low trees and shrubs. It is somewhat monotonous. A lot cattle roam free: horses, donkeys and cows. On the border we all have to fill out a form and have our passports stamped. Then we are in Namibia.