Zimbabwe to Botswana and a Chobe River Cruise - The BBA V4 Never Slows

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Africa » Botswana » North-West » Chobe National Park
June 13th 2019
Published: June 16th 2019
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oday was going to be an easy day for us. All we had to do was meet our transport to Kasane, Botswana at the front entrance to our Victoria Falls hotel and we would be whisked away. Well that part turned out fine; it was what happened after we reached the Cresta Mwana Hotel, Kasane that meant this was another day on the go for us.

We had time to spare before the pickup and so decided to take a stroll downtown for some window shopping which might turn into some big time shopping if we find what we are looking for and the price is right.

In the 4 or 5 times we have walked to and from the hotel to the township and vice versa, some 400 metres, we have always been offered a One billion Zimbabwean note and each time we have declined. Let’s face it they are worthless and anyway how do we know they are genuine and not a photocopy !

Our stroll around the shops didn’t reveal anything we wanted to buy at the right price and after watching the playful baboons in a shopping thoroughfare we headed back to the hotel to await our transport.

There were eight of us in the minivan after we picked up other passengers and headed the 40km odd down the highway with few corners to the Botswana border. It was a bit of a United Nations with one from Spain,France,a couple of Germans, a couple from we think the UK and us Kiwis.

It was a rather boring piece of road to the border with just scrubby bushes on both sides and no inhabitation to speak of until the border post came into sight.

Another seamless border crossing except we had to change minivans and the people we were with were split up depending upon which accommodation in Kasene,Botswana you were going to. We guess it is a logistical thing swapping minivans.

We said our farewells, for now, to the pleasant young immigration lady in the Zimbabwe building and walked the 50 or so metres to the Botswana building where the greeting was just as good as the farewell from Zimbabwe. We are not sure if when we return to Livingstone, Zambia that we travel through this border post again or take a rather rudimentary ferry more like a barge across the Zambezi River and straight into Zambia. Time will tell.

The countryside, buildings etc didn’t really look any different in Botswana then they did in Zimbabwe. That is until we pulled up at the Cresta Mawana Hotel and Spa which we both agreed is the best place, by sight anyway, that we have stayed at. Our travel agent in South Africa,Mathew,had said he had got a very good deal for the Cresta and we are extremely pleased he did.

The reception staff was very pleasant and efficient and we were quickly at our room which has water views of the Chobe River which runs beside the hotel and marks the border between another country, Namibia and Botswana.

As we mentioned at the start of this blog we thought this was going to be a day of relaxation. However as we found with the two private game parks we visited earlier they were ready and organised to take us out on game drives within a short time of our arrival whereas we believed our itinerary said that the activities would commence on the first full day there, being the next day.

This afternoon we were booked for a river cruise and so the activity commenced.

There were two small catamaran type barges(we think that is the best description)tied up at the pier below the hotel on the river. With us waiting in the hotel lobby were a group of around 20 mainly Europeans and a similar number of Japanese with their guide. It was obvious that both vessels would be going and that the Japanese tourists would have one to themselves for commentary purposes.

The vessel we boarded had comfortable chairs lined down both sides facing inwards and each other and we got ourselves two chairs towards the bow. It was quickly obvious that the chairs would be moved and as our fellow travellers settled in the chairs were moved from here to there or where the sightseers thought they would get the best view of whatever we were about to see.

Although we had not long arrived in Kasene and our hotel is on the outskirts of the smallish town it became very clear to us that there are lots of other tourist establishments along the river bank because as we neared the entry to the National Park office, a tiny white building up on the riverbank, there were at least a dozen other vessels of similar design to ours waiting to get clearance to proceed into the Park.

As we waited for our ‘captain’ to come back from the tiny office we took in all the other boats and our attention was drawn to one more slender type vessel next to us. On board were about 8 or 9 tourists seated behind a large camera tripod atop of each were cameras each with enormous lens. Some of those people were dressed like you sometimes see professional press photographers with appropriate clothing in which they store stuff like more lens etc etc.The slender vessel had a captain and a person who we assume was there to guide the photographers to get the best wildlife piccys with their fancy cameras atop their anchored fancy tripods each of which turned with the seat the photographers were sitting in 360 deg.What on earth are we going to be sighting we wondered with our small Sony video camera and Panasonic camera in hand?

The captain returned and we were duly on our way heading slowly out into the middle of the river that didn’t seem to have much current which was probably just as well as it soon became obvious to those of us in the front of the vessel which now numbered half a dozen or so, part of a noisy(as you might expect)American family had joined us, that too many people in one place on the flat bottomed vessel would see river water flow onto the floor of the vessel as it became less evenly balanced. Now we see the reason why the chairs were arranged as they were when we boarded.

To add to the unevenness was that every so often the wake from another boat would push water over the flat bow. Items that had been set on the floor of the vessel were now being uplifted as the water that came in flowed to the rear of the vessel.However,the captain assured us we wouldn’t sink but it might be best if the weight at the front be redistributed. We had the feeling this must happen every time a new lot of tourists go out as let’s face it everyone wants to be up the front for the first and best view of the wildlife we were about to see.

The river has a sizeable island in the middle of it. This piece of land had been the basis of a dispute that had to be settled in the International Court of Justice in The Hague when both Namibia and Botswana laid claim to it.In the end Botswana won and promptly planted a flag pole with national flag to remind the Namibians who won.

On the island there was this afternoon a large amount of various wildlife, many of the animals at the waterline or as in the crocodiles sunning themselves on the bank, pretending to be asleep !

The biggest animals around were a couple of herds of elephants with some on the land and some in the river drinking and taking a bath. At one position our captain steered the vessel into we were able to watch a lone elephant who had decided to swim back to the mainland across the river. Initially the elephant looked clumsy and appeared to be finding it difficult to get that bulk weight moving forward. But soon it hit a rhythm and with its trunk up to keep air coming into its lungs it got to the point where it had to swim and swim it did ! Quite an amazing sight. Once it reached the other side some 200 metres on it just simply walked up the bank and headed off up into the bush.

Bird life included a white egret wading in some shallow water looking for food which appeared to be plentiful even though the onset of the dry season has reduced the level of water back. One thing the dry season has done for us is so far give us 3 weeks and a bit of no rain except for 5 minutes of drizzle when we started out on one game drive in Kruger.

In the distance the captain, who also happened to our guide, spotted a large crocodile sunning itself on the land, thankfully far enough away from the riverbank.However,our relief was short lived, as we floated along a little further we came across another couple of crocodiles only a few metres away from the vessel .At least at this time of the day with the sun beating down the crocodiles were on the bank,asleep….or were they?

Most of the large number of elephants were standing in some form of water pulling the long grass out and swishing it around to get off the excess water it was growing in and then eating it. It all seemed rather methodical as they went about their business.

There is one thing about Americans we have come to know quite well, at home they are polite, lovely people, as tourists they change and for some reason it seems they have to have their voice heard by all around them. The American family appeared to be 2 brothers and a sister with their respective partners plus teenagers, of the older age, some with their girlfriends/boyfriends(it was hard to tell),all in all a group of at least a dozen. One of the older teenagers we ‘got to know well’ not because we talked to him but because ‘Jack’ had the biggest camera and lens and we decided he was the wildlife chief photographer for the group. Every time another animal was spotted, or a crocodile moved there was the loud call of ‘Jack, did you get that’? We just sighed, grinned and beared it and after a while the extra noise faded somewhat into the background.

Another of the animals we saw in the wild for the first time was the monitor lizard. There were several within a small area and they were of different sizes. Now Gretchen is not a friend of things that creep or slither across the ground but she did face her fears and by the time the guide was ready to move the boat on she was getting used to them. Like all the creatures we have seen in the wild the monitor lizards took on a different persona not being in a cage or behind a glass screen as you might see them in a zoo. They do actually have some character with their tongue flicking out aiming to catch bugs as they walk.

We retraced our course back towards the hotel taking in two hippos keeping us their heads and nostrils above the water to keep us interested in them before dropping below the water line and walking along the bottom before popping back up again for air some many metres away. In fact we lost sight of one completely and we assume he did survive his last’dive’as we didn’t see him again.

With the light fading we passed by a pied kingfisher which looked exactly like the kingfisher we have in NZ except it was black and white only and not with the colours that our species have.

Above us just before the sun started to set was a flock of large birds heading for nesting somewhere for the night.

Then came the sunset and what another African stunner it was too.

We had done and seen a lot today and we headed for the restaurant for an early dinner. The buffet on offer had many varied dishes including a local delicacy of ‘worms’. We didn’t open the lid to take a look in the fear it might have put us off our roast pork which was delicious.

We have our first early morning game drive booked for tomorrow with a 6am departure, a little more civil hour than that of Gomo Gomo and Tydon.

Will we fulfil our wish of sighting the last of the Big Five we haven’t yet seen?

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