The Land of the Giants

Our final safari started with an early morning border crossing into Botswana where we would be visiting Chobe National Park. Almost the entire Percussive group was together for this tour and we were split up into three jeeps. After crossing in to Botswana we stopped at a little café where morning tea was provided for us. The café had a courtyard with lush landscaping and a small pool in the back. The atmosphere was relaxing, which was just what I needed since I was so stressed out about my broken camera.

After tea we hopped back into our jeeps. I sat with Caleb and Jordi in the back row, where I attached my 70-300mm zoom lens to his camera. He had agreed to let me share his camera for the rest of the day, so we passed it back and forth throughout the safari. The weird part about using Jordi’s camera was that it is actually my original DSLR that I bought way back in 2010. I sold it to him when I upgraded to my Canon T5, and using it for the day was sort of nostalgic.

Entering Chobe, I could immediately tell that it would be very different from Pilanesberg. The terrain was flat and although it was forested, it was also very dry and sandy. We didn’t see any animals in the forest, but as the trees started to thin out and we neared the Chobe River, we caught a glimpse of a Cape Buffalo off in the bush. This was our third and final big five animal, and when we got closer we could see that he was not in great shape at all. In that moment I was reminded of how real the animals were. When you see wildlife photography it often represents the most perfect moments with the healthiest animals. This is completely understandable because they make the most beautiful images, but in real life many animals show signs of the brutal realities of what survival requires. This buffalo was missing a horn and large patches of hair, and his skin was covered in festering sores. He was a sobering reminder that only the strongest animals thrive in the wild.

The beat-up cape buffalo

The buffalo was heading for the river to escape the heat, and in following him we soon came to a viewpoint that overlooked the Chobe. This is where we started to see more wildlife.  Impalas grazed in herds along the river banks where hippos, crocodiles and monitor lizards lounged.

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Impalas graze on the banks of the Chobe
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A Nile crocodile lying in the sun
Impalas near the Chobe River

We were watching a few Nile crocodiles basking in the late morning sun when a lone kudu suddenly burst onto the scene.  He was running at full-tilt, clearly frighted by some perceived threat back in the bush.  Our guide followed the kudu for a while as he nervously trotted around, looking back into the trees for whatever was stalking him, but the predator never materialized.

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A frightened kudu

Although we didn’t see any cats, we had some great bird sightings throughout the morning drive including vultures, African fish eagles, a gorgeous lilac breasted roller, and marabou storks (a member of the “ugly five”).

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African fish eagle
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Lilac breasted roller

When it was almost time to turn around and head back, we suddenly found ourselves in a open field, surrounded by towering giraffes.  This was our closest encounter with giraffes yet, and I was delighted.  Our guide turned the Jeep around after we had watched the giraffes for a while, but the excitement wasn’t over yet.  We still got to encounter a couple of parades of elephants before we left the park for lunch.

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A giraffe walking only a few yards away from our Jeep

 

 

Lunch was back at the same little café, and it included a variety of delicious options many of which were vegetarian friendly.  We had plenty of time to eat and relax in the courtyard where a couple of warthogs had wandered in for their own lunch.

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Warthogs grazing near the pool

After lunch our guides led us on a short walk to the river where we boarded a boat for our second tour of the day.  This tour took us on a relaxing cruise down the Chobe where we saw more birds, crocodiles, and a few large rafts of hippos.  I was delighted to watch them sink under the surface of the water, and bob back up moments later.  Every once in a while they would stand up to their full height, which gave a sense of scale as to how massive they really were.  The bulls were almost unbelievably large and dwarfed the females by comparison.

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A hippo surfacing in the river
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A mother hippopotamus and her calf

On our way back to the café and our waiting Jeeps, we briefly crossed the river into Namibia, making it the fifth country we had been to in a span of 48 hours.

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Crossing into Namibia

After the river cruise we were transported back to our hotel in Zimbabwe.  Most of the group left immediately for a traditional Zimbabwean dinner excursion, but Caleb, Jordi, and I had opted to sit that one out.  Caleb and I spent the evening getting much-needed hot stone massages, which were a great way to loosen up our muscles after all of the traveling we had been doing the past few days.  In the morning we would be flying back to South Africa so it was nice to feel relaxed and refreshed before boarding yet another plane.

 

 

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