Botswana, Chobe National Park

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Nov 7th, 2011, 10:15 PM
  #1
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Botswana, Chobe National Park

I am in Livingstone, Zambia, a relatively short distance from Chobe National Park in Botswana. For US$140, I cannot afford to miss the opportunity to experience one of the best animal parks in Africa.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 10:24 PM
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FROM LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA TO BOTSWANA

Based on the previous night activities, the alarm at 6:30am comes rather quickly. However, my disappointment is rapidly replaced with excitement as within 45 minutes I will be picked up for a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana.

My plan to take a nap as we are driving to Botswana never materializes as I feel I cannot afford to miss the scenery along the 65 kilometer route. It goes by too fast to capture anywhere other than in my half awake internal SD card.

Daily Zambian life along the roadside is passing by at a speed of at least 120km per hour! Playing children pause to give us curious looks or smiling waves that makes my sleep denial worthwhile.

For a brief moment, I glimpse a set of brown horned heads above some tree tops, Zambian giraffes! The road to the border seems to be a freshly paved one and it passes through a rather flat countryside.

I am told that at one time the roads in Zambia were so bad and filled with potholes that it was joked that if if you drove straight in Zambia you were drunk.

Approaching the border the road is lined on one side with about two miles of semi tractor trailers. To cross into Botswana we will be taking a fast boat across the river, however these semi tractor trailers must use a ferry. Depending on the customs procedures and the time of the year this is a process that can take about two weeks. The area is in serious need of a bridge which is planned in the next few years at a cost of approximately US$230 million.

Clearing border customs in Zambia and Botswana is a simple process. Depending on your time in country or the amount of entries you will be making there is about a US$30 visa fee for some nationals. For others like Bahamians, it's free!

A short distances from the customs building we board a ten passenger boat for our river crossing into Botswana. As we make our crossing, we are at a point where we can see the river borders of the four surrounding countries of Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Arriving in Botswana we are meet by our tour representative to clear Botswana Customs. We are then driven to the launching point for our Chobe National Park visit. At the office we pay for our tour, US$140 then relax with a light snack and refreshments.

I am excited!
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Nov 8th, 2011, 02:36 AM
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Looking forward to more! When we crossed from Botswana to Zambia in March of 2010 the line up was 3 weeks long - commerce from large parts of Africa sitting, idling. Not to mention gambling, hookers and drugs. The people from our Lodge weren't optimistic the bridge will be built anytime soon.
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Nov 8th, 2011, 05:02 AM
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Chobe is one of my favorite national parks because of its elephants and unbeatable river cruises.
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Nov 9th, 2011, 02:55 PM
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ElizabethS,

Some minor construction seem to have started for the bridge at least on the Botswana side. Now that elections are over in Zambia, it has given locals there hope that a better connection between the two countries will be built soon
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Nov 9th, 2011, 02:59 PM
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Femi,

Could not agree with you more... However, I was surprised at the destruction caused by elephants. Hope they will go forward with a corridor to allow them to roam over a wider range including nearby countries. Impressive animals in their natural habitat.
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Nov 9th, 2011, 03:05 PM
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RIVER SAFARI

My first safari in Africa begins along the Zambezi river in Botswana. Our tour starts around 10am in a ten passenger flat bottom boat that has a canopy cover to protect us from the already scorching sun. We are told Botswana is one of the hottest countries in Africa and for now I do not disagree.

Leaving the dock area, we pause for a short safety briefing under the silence of the now tranquil river. I am fixated by the natural beauty of the area and cannot believe I am not on a Hollywood Studio movie set. An approaching buzzing sound brings me back to reality as a low flying helicopter passes overhead.

Continuing down the river, we approach Sedudu Island a once disputed territory between the countries of Botswana and Namibia. Botswana won the legal battle in The World Court and is proud of it's ownership of this flat mash island covered in grass. Sedudu is where many of the animals find their way for feeding because of it's rich resources.

A pair of eyes stares at us from just above the surface of the water and a warning grunt is heard as we approach a pair of hippo's. You know what they say about a hippo with a big head, a big body that can be dangerous. In fact, of all the animals in the wild, hippo's kill more humans. We keep our distance.

To our right a trashing sound that produces small white caps draws our attention to the nearby shoreline of Sedudu Island. It's a huge crocodile feeding on a dead fish. Again, no need for us to get any closer than necessary.

My first animal thought when thinking about a safari is usually about one of the Big 5. However, there is also a group around here know as the Ugly 5. We spot one of them, a warthog grazing along the main shoreline. Having watched The Lion King a few times, I am glad we keep upwind of it. I must say “Pumbaa” is a lot cuter than most of his other relatives.

On the other hand, Zazu could be proud of his family members here although a few of them like the “Snake Bird” are a little weird.

Cut, Cut, Cut! African Safari, River Scene, Take Two. Quiet, Lights, Action, Camera. But wait, I don,t see Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton around. Where are the lights, the cameras, the actors and actress?

All I see are a pair of crocodiles cooling off under the shade of a huge tree as baboons freely pass by. A few baby baboons hold on for dear life to the belly of their mothers while others get to ride on the backs of their parents like miniature jockeys.

McDonald's Impalas graze on a patch of grass as there slender bodies shine under the morning sun. No tummy tucks, liposuction or airbrush tricks. This is pure nature at it’s best. Look at the black arches on their rear end and you'll see why they have earned the local name.

Back across the Zambezi river towards Sedudu Island, we land near a herd of Cape Buffalo’s that our oblivious to our presence. I am not sure that they are even aware of their white feathered stalkers or bothered by the hundreds of flies around them. I know I would be!

Many of the animals spend a lot of time on Sedudu Island including birds and monitor lizards. Looking in the distance from the island, groups of one of the Big 5 can be seen. No doubt we will have a closer look at the species that produces the largest mammals on land.

In the wild some animals are shy (like me) and hide themselves very well. We are fortunate to find one of them alone in the open. A black antelope!

For some of the animals here it is difficult to estimate their population. For others, like the elephant it is estimated that Chobe has over 100,000 of them, the largest population in Africa. Although they are cute and cuddly, the elephants here are destructive to the environment. There is a heated debate about a solution to this problem. From allowing hunting of them to relocation and birth control pills for the females, it's a situation that has defenders on all sides of the issue.

For now, I cannot help but be in awe of them as I watch a herd stand around in a muddy pool of water. The babies and youthful ones really seem to enjoy it while others seem to question why they are just standing there.

One of them has his trunk lopsided over a tusk and we are told this is a sign of stress or anxiety. I hope he is just trying out a new trunk trick. As close as we are to the herd, I would hate for him to freak out and to “go elephantal” on us.

Our tour continues around the other side of Sedudu Island where we are just a few hundred yards from the shores of Namibia. A pod of hippo's are floating nearby and we cruise pass them headed for our afternoon lunch break.

To all of our surprise, lunch is at Chobe Safari Lodge an upscale hotel on the Zambezi River. The avocado salad along with the lettuce and ham salad is delicious. Oh, did I mention desert?

Slideshow:
http://youtu.be/WHvKoamPtdI
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Nov 9th, 2011, 05:45 PM
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You bring back many pleasant memories for me. I was toldthat the baby elephants in Chobe are so numerous, they're called 'Chobe Cockroaches'! I do believe that the elephants are stressed by the density of their population. It was in Chobe that I came to understand that elephants have the same reactions we humans do to urban, crowded settings.
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Nov 12th, 2011, 10:57 AM
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Femi,

Did not hear that one but there sure are a TON of elephants there

Glad it brings back good memories for you. Will post my drive section later just back from KNP!
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Nov 12th, 2011, 06:37 PM
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You got to see a ton or two of the eles based on your slide show photos. Nice music. I noted the R-rating at 1:00 minute mark.

What was the black antelope doing? And what are the other 4 uglies of the Ugly 5?

Is hyena or wildebeest one of them? Maybe a vulture?
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Nov 16th, 2011, 05:57 AM
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atravelynn,

The "R-rating" at 1:00 mark is a baby baboon hitching a ride on his parent's back like a miniture jockey

I think you can see it better in my next post video which I will do later today.

The black antelope was a lucky sighting. We are told it is not too common to see them around.

You are right about the hyena, wildebeest and vulture. The other which I saw at Kruger, the marabou stock. One rough lookin fellow
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Nov 16th, 2011, 02:39 PM
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LIVE FROM ZAMBEZI RIVER

One of the problems with seeing so many exciting places in a short period of time is the fact that you are hardly left with time to keep updated with sharing your adventures. My trip to Africa has been and will be one of these situations.

However, I think to not only see but also hear the sounds of a place enriches the sharing experience. For me, reliving my visit to Chobe this way is also like seeing it for the first time over and over again.

Video:
http://youtu.be/_hZYg5RiYxg
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Nov 16th, 2011, 02:46 PM
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Well, now I am all embarrassed, especially in light of the major news stories going on currently in the US. I'll have to check the other views.

So, to change the subject abruptly...
The ugly 5 are: hyena, wildebeest, vulture, warthog, marabou.

May I add an ugly 6th? The guy in the vehicle next to mine blocking my view and blowing cigarette smoke my way.
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Nov 16th, 2011, 09:40 PM
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atravelynn,

Yes, you may.Anyway, he'll probably end up looking like the Marabou Stock if he keeps pufffing away
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Nov 16th, 2011, 09:44 PM
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GAME DRIVE

After a satisfying and delicious lunch, I have a few minutes to relax before we begin our afternoon game drive. Since there is only six of us and I am a solo traveler, I call shotgun as we load up in a Toyota Land Cruiser just outside the lodge.

Fifteen minutes later and we are at one of the gate entrances for Chobe National Park. As our driver registers us with the park ranger, a few of us view an interesting exhibition opposite the gate's office. On display are some skeletal remains, mostly skulls, of many of the animals found in the park.

I have never seen real skulls so big!

Although Chobe is open for self-drive, I quickly discover that a 4x4 vehicle would be the proper and safe way to do so. Seeing the park by land gives us a different prospective of the area and the animals. Huge areas of the park are void of vegetation but it is still difficult to spot our first animal a kudu that has managed to blend quite well with the barren landscape.

Next a giraffe is barely visible behind a set of tree leaves as he keeps his head below the top of the tree. I think he is having an afternoon snack. As we approach an open area towards the river and a watering hole we encounter another set of giraffes. It is amazing to watch as one of them quenches his thirst from a pool of water. It seems strange as he bends his front legs to reach the liquid refreshment but what else is a guy suppose to do when he has such a long neck.

Along our route we can see Sedudu Island and most of the big animals we had seen earlier from the Zambezi River. However, here I feel much safer from the hippo's and crocodiles. There are enough elephants in Chobe that I am sure we will encounter many of them here on land.

With a landscape covered in elephants our attention turns to finding other animals that also make their homes here. A kudu standing on a hill next to clump of bushes becomes easier to spot but then it disappears. I also notice more all the different species of birdies at Chobe, some flying around while others like the Helmeted Guinea fowl scratches along the ground.

Around the corner and we come across an interesting surprise. A pack of wild dogs are harassing a herd of elephants taking a mud bath. A bull elephant is not too happy about it and his announcement sends the dogs fleeing for cover. The dogs find shelter under the shade of a nearby tree and lay down as if everything is now “cool” with the elephants.

I sense the elephants are questioning, who let the dogs out. With many of their calves around, the elephants seem to know the dogs may be up to no good. A white vulture watching from a nearby tree is also probably a dead give away.

For a few moments we sit silently and watch the group of elephants enjoy their mud bath. Our observation ends when one of them start to approach us and our driver thinks it's better that we move on. Great idea as I don't think we would win a confrontation with a few tons of flesh and bones.

This time of the year it is the dry season in Chobe and the Zambezi is a lifesaver for many of animals that travel long distances for drink of refreshing water. As we cruise the park we can see some of this search for water take place as animals appear from all areas of the park and descend towards the river or a nearby watering hole.
There is no doubt that during this time of the year being near a water source is a good place to see the animals. However, if you are lucky you may also spot an animal or two resting in one of the shaded areas of vegetation.

As our tour comes to an end, one of our final routes gives us an elevated view of the area and the Zambezi River below. From left to right and all around us there are elephants.

However, we have been down by the riverside and know there are a lot more animals than elephants.

This is a place that has most of what Africa has to offer in terms of wildlife. If you are interested in doing an African safari then I think Chobe National Park should be high up on your list.


Video:
http://youtu.be/s6OSDKuXH9g
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