On Safari at Chobe National Park

In and Out of Jo’Burg

Though we did fly into South Africa, it was only to enjoy a long, early morning layover in the Johannesburg Airport. We were pleasantly surprised to see the flight from Abu Dhabi to Jo’Burg was practically empty so we could spread out and stretch out. We had so much space, in fact, that I actually managed to get some sleep (a very rare gift where you’re as tall as me). The seven-hour flight time and two-hour time difference meant that were didn’t have to worry too much about jet lag and could hope to hit the ground running.

After spending seven hours on a plane, we then had to spend almost as much time hanging out in the Jo’Burg airport waiting for our flight to Kasane in Botswana. We got stuck waiting in the international transfer lounge for much of that time, which is unfortunately a room with no food, no shops, and little entertainment value. Though Beth was trying to catch a few more minutes sleep, I found the highlight of those weary hours to be a series of energetic young children running around and playing loudly (to Beth’s displeasure).

With boarding passes finally in hand, we were finally freed into the main departure terminal with the promise of breakfast and duty-free shopping.

Arrival in Botswana

Our flight to Botswana was an experience in and of itself. The plane we flew on was tiny — I think it sat no more than 30 people. Beth and I requested seats as close to the front as possible hoping to get out quickly so we could make our afternoon game drive. This turned out to be a foolish request as the door was at the back. Since we were sitting in front of the bulkhead, we didn’t have the standard tray table to eat on. The flight attendants actually had to get our trays out of a small closet and hook them into slats built into our seats. They were a bit rickety, but they did the job okay.

Though we spent most of the short flight reading, we did spend some time watching the scenery change beneath us. We went from the urban setting of Johannesburg and nearby Pretoria to the open savannah and forest of the African bush. Then this was suddenly replaced by a vast expanse of white sand. Only it wasn’t really sand… it was salt — The Makgadikgadi Pan is one of the largest salt pans in the world.

While Beth and I had both remarked that the views from Jo’Burg airport didn’t really capture the spirit of Africa, we certain knew we were in Africa upon landing in Kasane. A tiny, one-room airport, you practically expected a giraffe to wander its way across the runway at any moment. After quickly passing through customs our vacation was officially underway.

Chobe National Park

The first stop on our Southern Africa Adventure was at Chobe National Park. Our game lodge was located right on the edge of “civilization” just outside the park itself, but still conveyed a strong sense of being in the wilderness. The rooms were quite nice and if it had been warmer, I would have definitely enjoyed spending time by their pool. For me, the standout of the lodge itself, however, were the meals. As you probably saw on my Facebook feed, each meal exposed me to the opportunity to eat a new and exotic type of meat (Kudu, Impala, and Warthog were all on offer).

Game Drive #1 (Afternoon) 

Chobe’s claim to fame is that it boasts the highest concentration of elephants on the planet (60,000 animals inside the 12,000 km² park). Five elephants per square kilometer might not sound like good odds for spotting them in the wild, but nature was on our side.

The Chobe River runs through the park and serves as the primary water source for all of the animal life. Each afternoon, animals trek long distances to the river’s edge in order to drink. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting an elephant. They were literally everywhere you looked.

As we were driving along the river bank, our guide pointed out some small birds sitting on their nests. A moment later were saw a herd of elephants stopping down to the river to drink. The elephants’ path would take them directly on top of these poor birds’ nest. The birds, who were probably about 1/100 the size of the elephants, held their ground and drove the elephants away.

Game Drive #2 (Morning)

But elephants aren’t the only thing to see in Chobe. Our game guides (Puloko, Lucky, and Tony) were all exceptionally skilled at tracking, spotting, and identifying all the animals in the park. They were also very well informed about all of the animals physiology and behavioral patters and so we got not only a fantastic safari but an educational experience as well.

On our second morning we saw a cloud of dust rising across the way. Dust means one of two things: jeeps or animals on the move. In this case, it meant a herd of 200-300 cape buffalo were making their way down to the river. The herd was so large they completely shut down the road and we had to wait for them to cross before we could continue.

Cape Buffalo are apparently quite aggressive and will charge with absolutely no warning. Other animals generally give some type of a warning before they try to kill you, but cape buffalo just get right down to business. At the same time, however, their faces make them seem incredibly docile. They also had a tendency to stop and look at right at you with an interesting sense of of inquisitiveness.

River Cruise

Having seen animals on land, we took the opportunity to also view animals from the water. We had seen a pod of hippos from a distance, and were eager to get closer. While the hippos were initially absent, the elephants once again came through with a show. We came upon a whole herd of elephants going into the river to eat, bathe, and swim. Even though many were mature adults, they all seemed to revert to a child-like state and just play in the river.

The funniest thing we saw that day, however, was a passing troupe of baboons. In Thailand, we’d seen mother monkeys carry their babies hanging down from their stomach. Once the babies are a bit older, however, they start to ride on their mother’s back, cowboy style. These little baboons looked just like cowboys on horseback.

Final Game Drive (Morning)

For our two days at Chobe, we’d searched in vain for any sign of big cats. Once or twice our guide had seen a footprints and we’d tracked them across the park only to have them disappear into an area where we could no longer follow. As our last game drive started to draw to a close, we came upon another jeep stopped at the side of the road. The group inside quickly informed us that a small pride of lions were hiding in the trees  a ways off.

At Chobe, jeeps are strictly prohibited from driving off of the roads, so we were unable to find a better view point. For 20-30 minutes were patrolled back and forth hoping that the lions would step into the open, but they kept napping comfortably. Luckily, my fancy borrowed camera lens was just strong enough to pick them out in the bush.

  • Beth at Breakfast in the Jo'Burg Airport
  • Chobe - GD1 - Eagle Lifting Off
  • Chobe - GD1 - Red Horn Bill
  • Chobe - GD1 - Young Baboon in a Tree
  • Chobe - GD1 - Cape Buffalo
  • Chobe - GD1 - African Elephant
  • Chobe - GD1 - African Elephant
  • Chobe - GD1 - Mother and Baby Elephant
  • Chobe - GD1 - African Elephant
  • Chobe - GD1 - Impala
  • Chobe - GD1 - Male Kudu Fighting
  • Chobe - GD1 - Mongoose
  • Chobe - GD1 - Dung Beetle with Dung Ball
  • Chobe - GD1 - African Elephant
  • Chobe - GD1 - Baboons
  • Chobe - GD1 - Adult and Adolescent Elephant
  • Chobe - GD1 - Elephant Family
  • Chobe - GD1 - Elephant Family
  • Chobe - GD1 - Chobe Riverfront
  • Chobe - GD1 - Cape Buffalo Skeleton
  • Chobe - GD1 - Elephants Walking to River
  • Chobe - GD1 - Little Birds Protecting Nest from Elephants
  • Chobe - GD1 - Vic and Beth on Chobe Riverfront
  • Chobe - GD1 - Bachelor Giraffe
  • Chobe - GD2 - Mother and Baby Baboon
  • Chobe - GD2 - Morning on the Chobe Riverfront
  • Chobe - GD2 - Cape Buffalo Close-Up
  • Chobe - GD2 - Cape Buffalo Herd
  • Chobe - GD2 - Cape Buffalo Herd
  • Chobe - GD2 - Impala
  • Chobe - GD2 - Guinea Foul
  • Chobe - GD2 - Hippos in the Chobe River
  • Chobe - GD2 - Warthog
  • Chobe - RC1 - Cruising the Chobe River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Fish Eagle
  • Chobe - RC1 - Crocodile
  • Chobe - RC1 - Monitor Lizard
  • Chobe - RC1 - Beth on the Chobe River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Male Kudu with One Horn
  • Chobe - RC1 - Impala on the Chobe
  • Chobe - RC1 - African Elephant
  • Chobe - RC1 - Baby Baboon Cowboys
  • Chobe - RC1 - Elephants in the River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Storks Flying Over the Chobe
  • Chobe - RC1 - Elephant Drinking From the River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Herd of Elephants in the River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Elephants in the River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Hippo in the Chobe
  • Chobe - RC1 - Hippos Running in the River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Hippos Showing Its Teeth
  • Chobe - RC1 - Birds Flying Over the Chobe
  • Chobe - RC1 - Pod of Hippos
  • Chobe - RC1 - Hippos Walking Across the River
  • Chobe - RC1 - Chobe Riverfront
  • Chobe - RC1 - Beth Through the Stairs
  • Chobe - RC1 - Vic and Beth at Sunset on the Chobe
  • Chobe - RC1 - Sunset on the Chobe
  • Chobe - GD3 - Vultures in a Tree
  • Chobe - GD3 - Vultures on an Elephant Carcass
  • Chobe - GD3 - Vultures on an Elephant Carcass
  • Chobe - GD3 - Chobe National Park
  • Chobe - GD3 - Cape Buffalo
  • Chobe - GD3 - Lions in the Bush
  • Chobe - GD3 - Kudu Close-Up
  • Chobe - GD3 - Warthog Digging for Roots
  • Chobe - GD3 - Warthog
  • Chobe - GD3 - Hippos in the River
  • Chobe - GD3 - The Reclusive Puku
  • Chobe - GD3 - Female Puku

4 Responses to “On Safari at Chobe National Park”

  1. Aunt Jean says:

    Thanks for sharing. What a great trip!

  2. Texas Mom says:

    Fantastic photos, Vic. Enjoyed your musings prior to the photos really helps to capture the mood of your adventure. Always like photos of the 2 of you, as well.

  3. Texas Dad says:

    Fabulous trip, excellent photos. Remarkable shots of lions in the bush.

  4. gwen poe says:

    Fabulous experience. grammaGwen