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Published: June 17th 2019
Here we go again, after a few days off the real early morning wake up, coffee and game drive and it doesn’t get any easier in pursuit of the elusive lion. We have decided too to take advantage of another potential 3 game drives if we don’t see a lion before. This thing is not going to beat us despite saying ‘nature is what it is’.
Hot coffee does get you ready for driving around looking for animals and it does fortify the body against the considerable chill factor at 6am in the morning even if the guide drives the vehicle at a sedate 40kph up to the park entrance.
This morning our guide was Phuti and he had a trainee called West who sat alongside us in the front tier of seats. Alongside Phuti was a local who hadn’t been out on a game drive before and in the back two tiers were a couple from Chelsea, London(we say this because the man was identified by Chelsea FC jacket he was wearing)and a couple from Japan.
Dawn was just breaking as we entered the park. Chobe National Park is different to Kruger in that the roads are
not tar sealed but really just tracks, with in some places quite deep sand, especially where we were driving on this first morning on the bank just above the river. Even though the vehicle we were in was a Toyota Land Cruiser and a 4 wheel drive it still struggled with the depth of the sand in parts.
It took about 50 minutes to make out first serious game sighting, a pod of hippos, most of which were in the water with just their backs showing. The few that weren’t though gave a great opportunity to see how they move on land. They have the capability of running (yes running on those short stumpy legs) at speeds up to 45kph and they are considered one of the more dangerous animals because of their unpredictability.
It was a lovely sunny morning now that the sun was up but there was still a bit of a wind chill from the fresh breeze(the first ‘windy’ days of our 3 odd weeks on the road so far)although the sun was starting to make an impact with some warmth.
We were getting an entirely different perspective of the land down by the
water side now that we were travelling over land rather than by boat as we did yesterday.
A large herd of Cape buffalo moved on by as we watched from the parked up vehicle. These animals too are dangerous and even more unpredictable as they don’t give off any signs to humans that they may attack. We were at a safe distance to observe them.
With not a lot of other animals around we took a bit of stretch and coffee time after driving around a large tree in which leopards may sit just to ensure there wasn’t one up the tree watching us.
A solitary warthog came into view as we got back on track to observe whatever animals were out and about this morning. They are one of the ‘Ugly Five’ and it’s not hard to see how they got a spot with their short legs, upturned tusks and their unappealing face. When we have seen them they don’t tend to hang around like this one this morning.
In quick succession there was a small group on impala and then some banded mongoose followed nearby by a troop of baboons among the mongoose.
It had been a quiet morning for animal sightings which is in sharp contrast to yesterday when we were on the water and there so many animals around.
At least heading home to the hotel the sun was up and there was some warmth creeping into the day. Breakfast was going to be very welcome.
We were signed up for the 3pm game drive so we did have a little time for rest and a bit of administration of washing out the ‘smalls’.
We have made sure that when we aren’t in the unit we have the fly screen door to the terrace locked as we learnt a lesson shortly after arrival yesterday when the monkeys that are in the grounds of the hotel, got in and ‘stole’ our milk capsules. Thankfully nothing else went missing, at least as far as we can tell.
We are on full board at the hotel but three full meals a day would be too much when although we are out and about not a lot of it is on foot, exercising and burning calories. So lunch was a selection of salad items although we did sneak a piece of
black forest cake for a wee desert.
Before we knew it again, it was 2.45pm and time to gather in the lobby for the afternoon game drive.
They don’t allow night time drives in Chobe National Park which is good because we felt that the time we spent after dusk in the two parks in South Africa was a bit of a waste of time as all we did was follow the search lamp like at a tennis match and we only really turned up two chameleons and the whites of the eyes of the day time animals who you are not allowed to train the only on for fear of blinding them temporarily and making them vulnerable to their predators.
It appears that many of the accommodation places offering game drives go at the same time and we were lined up with several other vehicles with their passengers waiting in anticipation of getting going.
We took a slightly different track to this morning although still within sight of the river.
After some banded mongoose to look at it was down to the track that follows the river bank and to some elephants that had
come down for a drink and a mud bath. There was mum and her baby in a small water hole with mum stirring up the mud for junior to follow her. They love coating themselves in mud which keeps them cool in the hotter times of the day. We have noticed as we have travelled along dark patches on the trunks of trees and this is where the elephants rub their skins thereby removing whatever is left from their last mud bath.
Then came a pose by a male elephant with ‘five legs’(need I add what the fifth leg was)Elephants have a very sizable penis although we guess that when you take into account the size of the animal perhaps the appendage isn’t that big after all !
Not all males show off their appendages!
The elephants had been sharing the adjacent location to the mass numbers of hippos in the water except this afternoon the only hippos out of the water were in the distance.
We watched the herd of elephants having drunk and bathed themselves gather themselves together and headed up the river bank and into the bush. We are still amazed by just
how quickly these large animals go out of sight when they enter the bush from a clearing.
Back up the track we went to get a sighting of three giraffes almost perfectly in line and as soon as they had moved on we think the same herd of elephants we had spent time watching down at the water’s edge crossed the track with the older ones protecting the babies and giving us a standoff look while they got themselves all across and on their way into the bush again. We certainly have seen more elephants here in 3 activities in Chobe than all the others put together in Kruger.
In fact our guide told us they Government of Botswana are considering culling them to reduce numbers to make the vegetation available to the elephants and other animals more sustainable. There are reportedly up to 160,000 elephants in Botswana with 50,000 alone around the Chobe River.
We started the drive back towards the gate taking in another stunning sunset from a couple of different spots.
We had felt our driver for the afternoon lacked a bit of experience with the vehicle in the uneven sand and this
came to the fore as we were driving on a narrow track with twists and turns and bushes tall enough to hide a sole elephant who we suddenly came across and surprised him just as much as it did our driver !We were sure it was giving us the sign to get out of its way although our driver seemed nonplussed. However he couldn’t seem to get the vehicle into reverse and the elephant came out onto the track fully and faced us. Everyone seemed to freeze and we didn’t get a photo or any video of the grumpy elephant before the second land cruiser from our hotel squeezed by us and revved the engine and drove at the elephant. This put the elephant into running away mode and he eventually went off the track but was still glaring at us as we passed him.
Then we got lucky, or sort of lucky !
We reached an open area with a small hill off to the left when Gretchen spied a lioness sitting on a rock looking down at us from a couple of hundred metres away.
Now had we not stopped to watch the sunset or
had the elephant incident that held us up we would have come across the lioness earlier and with better light. Because the hillside faced more east the failing light wasn’t helping getting a photo or video of the last of the big five we had been looking for. And then she got off the rock and was gone back into the bush. No photo and no video !But at least we had seen the big cat albeit in a rather shadowy location.
We felt a bit relieved but not on such a high as we were after the leopard walked right by the vehicle in Tydon.
We still have another two chances to get a better sighting of a lion and so we readied ourselves for bed after dinner knowing that the alarm will go off again at 5.15am before we know it.
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