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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: -18.5421, 24.5105
Safaris are perhaps the most overrated tourist activity you'll find in Africa, over-romanticized through film and television. Scores of tourists packed onto open-top jeeps, oohing and aahing at every little bird and insect, giddy like schoolgirls, as they frantically attempt to cross off each of the Big Five off their lists - lions, elephants, Cape buffaloes, leopards, and rhinos. Snapping hundreds and hundreds of pictures of the most insignificant little things, and returning home to torture their friends with slide show after slide show.
Not even being a fan of the zoo, I couldn't imagine how anyone could do a safari for weeks at a time, let alone for a few days. But of course, a safari is an obligatory activity while in this part of Africa, almost a rite of passage, one of the many tourist traps in the World, marketed in the guise of a must-do-before-you-die activity. So we did what all tourists do in Southern Africa, and signed up for a day trip to Botswana's Chobe National Park, to join all the other annoying tourists in search of Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa.
But a funny thing happened as we started with a game cruise down the Chobe
river - we became those annoying tourists in this part of Africa!!! We could not care less about the birds, but a baby croc??? OMG!!! We gawked and gasped like everybody else on the tour, our attention span only broken when somebody shouted "Look, a hippo in the distance!!!" A hippo? OMG again, as we all rushed to one side of the boat, drawing an instruction from our guide to be careful with sudden mass movements like that, as it may upset the balance of the boat.
Elephants???!!??? Where???!!??? Give me those binoculars, goddamnit!!! My right index finger started cramping, as I snapped hundreds and hundreds of crappy pictures of the elephants, despite the fact that they were no more than little ants in my viewfinder, due to the woefully limited range of the lens on my cheap point and shoot camera. I was suffering from lens envy for the first time ever, even though I laughed to myself upon boarding the boat, and seeing one of our fellow passenger's massive lens, that was as large as a miniature Hubble telescope. The game cruise was absolutely amazing, but a couple of hours is about all that you can handle, with the
heat shortening your attention span.
Lunch was planned perfectly in that regard, as we headed back to the Chobe Marina Lodge for their truly excellent buffet, a spectacular spread of roasted and stewed meats. It was just enough rest and sustenance to recharge the batteries for the afternoon's game drive through Chobe, which ended being more breathtaking than the earlier game cruise, as it allowed us to get only a few feet away from elephants and impalas. Though our Africa trip is only a few days old, we've already had a number of unforgettable moments, and today's visit to Chobe was definitely another highlight.
But we still weren't ready to descend from our high after leaving Zimbabwe, as we somehow had curried the favour of the Warlords Yeow, and received a royal summons to their regal estate, the Chundukwa Lodge, for a sunset cruise down the Zambezi river, followed by a gourmet meal prepared by their private chef. Our captain for the cruise had worked as a safari guide for many years prior to arriving at Chundukwa, meaning he had an incredible talent for spotting wildlife. It's still shocking to see how they can see and identify the smallest speck
in the distance, and being able to a identify it as anything from a crocodile to a hippo.
We had originally planned on one of the fancy sunset Zambezi cruises, but being on an old little boat wasn't a detriment to the experience. In fact, it ended up being an enhancement, as a small boat with only four passengers allowed us to zip around as we pleased, chasing elephants that were swimming across the river, something we were told is an extremely rare occurrence.
It would be nearly impossible to top any of our prior experiences today, but dinner somehow managed to do just that - sitting outside on a beautiful night in an amazing part of the World, sharing a lovely meal with new friends, and learning that they have similar values and outlooks on life as we do ... how could you beat that?
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