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Day 65: Livingstone, Zambia-Kasane, Botswana (11 November 2009)

Another day, another tour! We woke up this morning at our Zambezi Waterfront campsite and when visiting the ablution box I could only think about the Grey Beach washhouse at sleep away camp and the memories that that brings with it…the hair drying room, Mr. Bill’s mirror that now sits in Jackie’s basement and the numerous times that clothing was stolen when someone was in the shower. Anyway, the sun was out and the lights were on so I was definitely happier to be in the campsite in daylight especially since my torch blew last night of course so it was even more difficult than the usual to see in the darkness. And remember, at these campsites you’re not just looking for things in front of you but it’s the crawlies that you could step on that could be deadly as well!

We had our first breakfast on this tour, a full buffet which was alright and who can complain when they get to eat dinner and breakfast on the Zambezi River, right? We finished eating, packed up our tents, loaded the truck and away we went! We drove a short while to the border where we got another Zambia stamp (outgoing this time) and waited again for the ferry that doesn’t look like a ferry! It took a bit of awhile for our turn on the ferry this time and eventually we actually boarded the ferry prior to the truck so we walked our way to the Botswanan border post to get our stamps and waited for Colin to get across with the truck. We had some soft drinks while we waited and upon Colin’s arrival we headed off into Botswana and after awhile arrived at a shopping center where we could get some snacks and drinks and the guys got stuff for dinner and we drove basically around the corner and got to the Chobe Safari Lodge where we were camping for the night.

We set up camp right by the fence border of the park amidst the monkeys and the baboons and in direct view of the hippos and the crocodiles. Once the kitchen was set up (a table next to the fire) we had some lunch of sandwiches, set up the tents and then put on some bathing suits and took our stuff with us for the sunset river cruise in the late afternoon. We got to hang out in the pool a bit which was really nice. This was a lovely lodge with really nice chalets and cabins. It seems that many of the places have really nice accommodations and then also maintain a campsite as well and those are the sites we’re staying at so we can use some of the amenities of the resorts but we stay at the campsite and use the ablution boxes. We used the fancy bathrooms and got changed and then got ready for the cruise. This was the same cruise that we had been on a few nights ago, but we were able to go on a really small boat this time that was very close to the water level and we had Chapman as our guide. We knew that we had already driven this same route, but it was really great to be in one of the small boats and we felt quite close to the hippos and crocs along the way and we were able to see the elephants so close up. Remember, we didn’t feel the big need to be face to face with a hippo again (considering) but it was a great ride with another beautiful sunset to close the show!

It’s Botswana, so you know there’ll be bugs when it hits nighttime and that there were! We got back from the cruise, went back to our campsite just next to the river and had some dinner by fire and lantern light with many little crawly and flying creatures to join us. Yohan had made dinner which was rice and veggies for me and chicken added in for the others. It was really good and it was cool that it was made on a basic hotplate as we had no stove facilities at all of course. And then, as this is a full participation tour; we had to go and wash the dishes…I know, not what everyone in the world would want to do on their honeymoon…but we wanted to see Africa and without that lotto winning it can’t all be five star treatment, right? So, hands on it is…the washing was a three tub system; one with soap, one with sterilizer and the other just clean water and then some drying cloths. It went pretty quickly as there were five of us and we all went to get it done quickly.

Then of course I had to introduce more people and more cultures to the art of s’more making and everyone was quite happy with their dessert treat! Jerrit and Yohan had had them before as there have been many other s’more happy campers who have shown them, but it was the first for Linda and Simon and Colm and they do always make us smile as well! The husband and I went to bed early as there were hundreds of bugs that just seemed to fly right into you and land wherever they wanted and you just couldn’t get away from them; at least in our tents with the tiny meshed windows we were somewhat safer. Unfortunately, the Botswanan night air tonight was relatively hot and sticky so it was a little difficult to fall asleep! Eventually we fell asleep knowing that we only had one more night in Botswana with all of the bugs (we decided that bugs and Botswana both start with ‘b’ so that’s why they go together-nuts we know, but something had to pass the time, right?) and tomorrow night should put us up close with the elephants so it should be totally worth it!

Tomorrow: Elephant Sands!

From bugs to tyres to a Safari cruise on the river!

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Day 60: Gweta, Botswana-Kasane, Botswana (6 November 2009)

We finally did fall asleep and morning eventually came. I thanked my husband for keeping me safe and sane amidst the bugs and their friends and we got ourselves ready to leave. The place was really very nice with wonderful staff and owners; but of course, minus the bugs! The lounge, bar and pool and food were all really lovely but it felt like insect central and unfortunately that colored my view of the place. Well, onwards and upwards and further into Botswana we go on our way to Kasane.

We got up, disentangled ourselves from our one mossie net over our one twin bed and with a very quick and cold shower amidst the dead bugs from the spray last night we started the day. We packed up quickly, left our bug-infested room (through no fault of the owners of the hotel-just some of the life that comes with Botswanan adventures), used the internet quickly, put our bags on the coach, had some brekky and were on way. Now, you have to remember, not everyone had the same experience as we did as some people had inside rooms. They too had mossie nets but the rest of the bugs weren’t as prevalent in their rooms. We said goodbye to Jen (the owner’s daughter) and thanked the lodge manager too and were on our way. Our transport journey was an interesting one this morning. We watched as a few elephants crossed the road right in front of us on their way to who knows where. We saw a truck’s trailor skid and flip over completely (the driver was pissed but fine) and some of us (not me) had to push the coach around it because after trying on our own we got stuck in the sand and eventually we were able to continue driving on a very bumpy road to Nata. We stopped for some stuff to eat for lunch on the bus later and were off again, soon to make a toilet stop only to realize that we had two flat tyres from the bad roads that we had been driving on all day. Paul and Karel were able to change one (as we had a spare) but then we had to go to a local station to put on another tyre-it’s not as if AAA is around the corner or there’s a petrol station often in sight.

After a bit of a wait (Mathew and I sat under a tree and read) we were back on the coach and on our way to the Toro Safari Lodge in Kasane on the edge of Chobe National Park. We finally arrived and were shown to our rooms which were lovely (but very little light again). We had beautiful thatched roof huts (the roof met the walls this time) with air-conditioning right by a small stream and the restaurant was a few small feet away and it was outside right on the river. It was a very pretty place to stay. After putting our things away in the room we found out that the lodge boasts at least two crocodiles and a hippo; all of which could be relaxing in the stream right outside of our hut. Lovely, right?! Well, all part of the journey! We gave Paul our money for the group t-shirts that would be made by a Zimbabwean man who will smuggle them back across the border to us tomorrow and then we hopped into a truck to our boat for a sunset game drive/cruise along the Chobe River.

The cruise was a really cool ride and a very different way to do a game drive as so many of our others have been done in trucks and 4x4s. The boat was a double-decker with white, plastic and movable chairs along the top and bottom decks. There was a ‘bar’ well, an esky with drinks to be purchased for the journey and we had a perfect sky and great weather for our ride. We saw soooo many animals…baboons, elephants, antelope, crocodiles, hippos, birds and water buffalo and many with their young! It was again amazing to see them in such a natural habitat just playing and hanging and living their lives. It’s incredible as we are just visitors to their life and on their own turf; so different than seeing animals in zoos or anywhere where they are a guest of your own natural habitat. We all had ‘lense envy’ of Eveline’s ginormous camera but knew in the end she’d send us all the pictures of the mouths of the hippos and the smiles of the baby elephants. We enjoyed every minute of our cruise and were treated once again to another beautiful African sunset with elephants and animals amidst the backdrop of the landscape.

We thanked the drivers and our guides and after a short van ride we were back at the lodge. We did a quick change and went straight to the dinner buffet where we ate outside dodging Botswana’s kamikaze cecadas that flew everywhere without looking and made the same annoying noise they make in New York in August. After dinner we chatted with Ian and Louise and Eveline on some huge chairs and couches by the river and eventually headed to bed. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time in Botswana (minus the bugs of course) and new that even more adventure lay around every corner. We felt we had made a really good connection with Ian and Louise and the four of us were already talking about another African adventure in the future. The two of them were going to be staying on in Africa after our tour and doing our Namibian adventure on their own and then spending a week down in Capetown. They’d rented a truck with a tent on the top and would be camping and staying at lodges and basically doing the same trip that we had done but in the other direction. We figured if they had a good time doing that and we had a good time with the camping portion of our next trip that it was a match made in heaven and there was Tanzania and Kenya and so many other parts of Africa to still see!

Tomorrow: The last full day of our tour…Zambia and Victoria Falls!