Day Eight-Monday, April 14, 2014: For breakfast, I had a snack bar and coffee in my room because it was going to be a full day safari in Chobe National Park, Botswana as part of the Tydon Safaris 12-day Exclusive Tour.
The Wild Horizons shuttle picked us up at 7:25 am and we (me and 8 Japanese people already on the van) drove 1 hour to the Botswana border. On the way, we saw elephants on the road and one lady – who couldn’t get a good picture out the window – asked the driver to stop and open the door. He looked at her strangely and then said ‘No’. I couldn’t believe she even asked; we are not in a zoo!
Coincidentally, I saw Sandy (from Chicago) my South African Airways seatmate with her Northwestern University group at border patrol as we stood in line for more than 40 minutes waiting for Customs Agents to process us through. Leaving Zimbabwe, even for a tour, is why I had to get double-entry visa at the Victoria Falls Airport.
We then were required to walk on a pest control mat (foot and mouth disease) after which we were allowed to walk through the gate to our vehicle on the Botswana side. The Japanese family went one way and I was taken to join another group for our journey to Chobe Marina Lodge – our base. A very nice resort with good shops and restaurants.
My group consisted of a nice couple from Perth Australia and an older family (mom, dad, and daughter) from Denver Colorado that had obviously (their accent was so hard and thick you could hardly understand them) moved there from some Slavic/Nordic country. Notable gear: Perth man had a Sigma 120-400 on his Canon 600D. Denver daughter had Sigma 150-500 and Nikon 70-200 on her Nikons and Denver dad had a Canon 100-400 plus 2X converter on his Canon 5D.
Morning Game Drive
Anyway, we went on the Chobe River cruise first. And I was thrilled to see how the river families commute to and from home, school and work while dangerous hippos and crocodiles lurk near the shores.
But then my attention was turned to the Nile Monitor scavenging on the shore for some food in the hot sun but being very obvious about it.
There was a troop of little monkeys hooting from a nearby tree but this lizard was looking for something a little easier to catch.
But this tour was really about the birds. Our guide was very good, especially in spelling out the names of the species since he noticed that I was taking notes. Here are some of the names he called out that I was able to capture: white-fronted bee-eaters, reed cormorant, helmeted guineafowl, woodland kingfisher, and egyptian geese.
Admittedly, the African Darter was a stunning site when it was drying out its wings. Otherwise, it looked just like any other heron flying around.
There were plenty more birds called out such as: pied kingfisher, african pied wagtail, african jacana, cattle egret, grey plover, black heron, and damara red-billed hornbill but I could barely get a good shot of the skittish creatures.
And, of course, there were numerous other birds that I just plain completely missed.
We sailed back to Chobe Marina Lodge and had a delicious buffet lunch with a good variety of options: pizza, pasta, beef stroganoff, chicken curry, and salads etc. plus raspberry fool, cake and ice cream for dessert.
Afternoon Game Drive
We then went on the riverbank game drive after lunch and we saw more impala, elephants and water buffalo close to the shore. However, the highlights for me were:
- the Warthogs snuffling around for food
- and the hilarious way the Giraffe were eating off the ground.
One thing I noticed is that the Chobe Guides/Drivers don’t call each other on the CB radio when they spot the big 5 like they do in Kruger/Sabi Sands.
Anyway, the tour ended around 4:30 pm. It was a good day for birders but no lions, leopards or cheetahs for us big game hunters.
Our guide drove the Perth and Denver families over to the Kazungula Ferry where they would take a small boat back to the Zambia side.
You had to be blind not to notice the trucks lined up for several miles along the main road. They were waiting to take the ferry over to Zambia one at a time! Look it up on Google Maps if you’re curious. It was said that the trucks sometimes wait up to to 2 weeks to cross over; they pay the truck drivers to do nothing but eat and sleep in the cabs for 2 weeks! You know that would not sit well in the US, but, oh well…
We then drove back to border patrol for pickup on the Zimbabwe side. Wild Horizons was there waiting to take me back to Kingdom Hotel by 6:15pm.
I rested before I went to dinner at 7:30 pm. Dinner is buffet-style every night but at least they try to do some things differently like rack of lamb. Unfortunately the lamb was rare and gummy – Ugh.
I wrote up my notes as usual and prepared for a long day of travelling the next day.
To be continued…