Posted by: Tommy | January 18, 2011

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is Botswana’s largest and first national park. We spent one day in the Northern section of the park, which is the most populated with animals. To do this, we crossed from Zambia to Botswana on a small ferry, then took a taxi into Kasane, a very small town on the Northern edge of the park.

We arrived at our lodge / hostel, called the Thebe River Safari Lodge. They had a very unattractive sand campsite and air conditioned rooms. Although the rooms were appealing, we opted for the campsite since $100/night for lodging is not really within our budget. We decided to set up our tent later and left our bags in storage before heading to town.

In town, we were starving, so we decided to eat at the only restaurant – a KFC. I cannot remember the last time I ate at a KFC. We then headed to the grocery store for some basic food supplies so we wouldn’t have to eat all of our meals in the lodge restaurant. Long life milk and cereal, tuna and crackers – that would at least cover breakfast and lunch.

Back at the lodge, we decided on our activities for the next day – a morning game drive and an evening boat safari down the Chobe River. I was excited – our first boat safari. We went to set up our tent, and it was hot. And threatening to rain. With the rain fly on the tent, it’s really, really hot. Scarred by the sleepless nights we spent in Mozambique, we hesitated and stood staring at our tent. Should we sleep in the tent? Should we pay for the room? We debated. We stared at each other, neither wanting to be the one to decide on the room instead of the tent.

At this point, the girl working behind the front desk thought we were completely crazy, after we had first begged her to store our bags overnight for us, in case of rain while we were camping. We then took our tent out to set up, and decided that, no, we would stay in a room…

The room was nice, with our own bathroom – a luxury I have come to appreciate, and even a kettle and instant coffee and tea. We slept well, and woke up early ready to head out on our game drive. We prepared our now-regular pre-game drive snack of bananas and instant coffee for me, gathered our things, and walked over to the safari truck.

We were with two other people, a Belgian and a German. It was about a five minute drive to the entrance to the park. Chobe is not like Kruger National Park – there are no tarred roads, only sand roads. There are no formal campgrounds with showers, power, pools, shops, restaurants, and activities. It is wilderness. Once in the park, we passed a few other safari trucks, but almost no self-drive people. Chobe is not the self-drive paradise that Kruger is. I was glad we were on an organized game drive and we had not attempted to do it ourselves. The roads don’t even have signs at all – you rely entirely on GPS, or your own sense of direction (which of course, Tommy and I lack completely).

Within twenty minutes of entering the park, we had already stopped for giraffe and elephants. Best of all, we stopped for two lions, a momma and a juvenile close to the sand road. We watched them for another twenty minutes, then continued on down the sand roads toward the Chobe River. We drove along the Chobe River, stopping to admire birds and water buffalo. We watched baboons for a few minutes. Baboons are so interesting – they seem so human. Tommy spotted some banded mongoose – a good spot. It was a fun drive, made all the better by a lion spotting.

We arrived back at our lodge around 9:30 AM, and I was ready for breakfast. Tommy was not so sure – he was feeling sick, again! We headed back to our room, where he promptly crawled in bed. I gave him some Tylenol, ate my breakfast, and we relaxed and napped for a while.

Tommy still wasn’t feeling well, so I went on the evening game boat cruise on my own. But I would not be on my own for long – I was joining two big tour groups, one of Dutch people and one from all over the world. It was a little lonely being on my own with big groups – groups have such a strange lemming effect on people. In total there were about 30 people on the boat.

Sometimes I envy groups – the brochures look so pretty, and it is certainly simpler. But then I’m around a group, and I realize what an effect traveling in a big group has on your experience of a place. For me, I am distracted by the group of people, wanting to know them, wanting them to know me, and I lose focus on the place I’ve come to see. Someone else takes a picture of something, and then I feel like I should too – why? It seems there is always someone in a group sarcastically making fun of the activity, and that also detracts from my enjoyment. I know I can be naive and too serious, but when I am traveling, I like to learn and try to absorb the experience of the place – the sounds, the people, the atmosphere, etc. Other people, especially in large groups, are too often a distraction from that whole-hearted enjoyment.

The highlight of the cruise was the elephants. Elephants love to play in the water, and along the river, pools of water collect. The elephants enjoy wallowing in the small pools and covering themselves with cool water and mud. They look so hilarious wallowing – awkward moments on what is normally such a large and graceful animal. The group of elephants we watched played in the water and swam for about 30 minutes.

We spent another comfortable night in the room. Things always work out somehow; the room was a godsend while Tommy was sick. Strangely, I felt fine the whole time. Tommy started to feel much better the next day.

Chobe is more wild than Kruger, although our sightings were not as impressive. The scenery is more beautiful. You’ll just have to take my word for it, though, because we don’t have good enough internet to upload pictures now. Pictures will be on Flickr later.

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Responses

  1. Anna I agree that large crowds color your entire experience and can easily detract from it. You were brave to go on your own while Tommy was sick. But if he is like us, he will enjoy it through your eyes.


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