Africa 2012: The Big 5 Animals and Camping at Chobe National Park, Botswana

Leaving straight in the safari truck from our river cruise, we made our way to Chobe National Park for a game drive and camping. Everyone who goes on a safari had the big five animals in their mind: Lions, Leopard, Buffaloes, Elephants and Black Rhino.

Elephants and Buffaloes were almost guaranteed sights and I had no interest in seeing a Rhino since we saw one yesterday, so our main “targets” were the lions and leopard. We were told lions can be seen maybe 3 days out of the week and leopards are super rare, sometimes not seen for weeks due to their reclusive nature. So, we were definitely not holding our breath since we’re only doing one day game drive.

But, as it turns out luck were on our side. We haven’t even reached the national park yet when we spotted our first Lion sighting. He was literally just hanging out on the side of the main street! Our driver quickly made our way closer, but so does about a dozen of other safari trucks. It got really annoying since some cars were being selfish and blocked the road, which made it harder for others to get closer. But the lion got up and changed place, and we were able to track him down to get a closer look.

It was about 36C out that day. Even the king of the jungle himself was heavily panting and cooling himself down under the shade…

This is a blurry shot, but the elephants were also looking for shade under the hot, unforgiving sun!

A few minutes later, we arrived at the entrance of the national park.

We drove a straight line and found a bunch of elephants crowded around a water source. It was extremely fascinating yet intimidating at the same time, since some of them did get pretty close to us!

These deer-like animals below are called macdonalds, due to the “M” shape on their butt that resembles the golden McDonalds arc. They are very common and can be seen pretty much everywhere throughout the park. They’re also fast food for the lions I guess…

Saw a huuuuuge herd of african buffaloes!

We drove around for an hour or so with nothing very exciting happening. From the pictures a game drive could seem overwhelming and full of sightings, but in reality you could drive for 30 mins with nothing to see. You are in the wilderness after all and we can’t predict the behavior of the animals.

But then, we got our second sight of a lion later that day, a lioness to be exact!

There weren’t many other safari trucks around, so we were able to spend quite some time admiring this beautiful cat.

Soon enough, the sun started to set and the park were bathed in a pinkish hue. We were doing another aimless drive for what seemed like hours, probably our last round of the day, when our driver stopped the car rather abruptly.

He spotted a LEOPARD!!! Later on we learned it was the first Leopard sighting in weeks.

We quickly made our way closer, close enough to see the details of her beautiful coat and the muscle definition on this animal every time she moved. So elegant, so quiet and calculated. I swear I could watch her for hours and hours…

We were EXTREMELY lucky to have spotted her while she was on the ground. Not even five minutes later, probably aware of our presence, she went off to a nearby tree and started climbing up. Another group arrived soon after and were only able to admire this leopard from afar.

On another note, I always thought if I happen to be stuck in the middle of nowhere in Africa, I would just climb a tree and stay there. Now I know that even climbing a tree won’t save me!

The sun was quickly setting, so we headed to our camp site to settle for the night. It was fine while the sun were still out… but come night time things got pretty scary. I realized we were literally in the middle of nowhere in Africa, with no towns nearby or electricity and everything was pitch dark. We had no light source save for the bonfire and some weak lantern in the common area. None of us brought flash light with us so we had to rely on our iphone’s light to get around.

Thank god we didn’t have to build our tents at least, and the accommodation inside were actually pretty nice. We had a (thin) mattress with sheets, pillow and blanket. Our toilet were pretty much natural though… so I try to use it as little as possible :x

We had dinner (prepared for us) around the bonfire and talked with other members of the tour. Throughout the night kept hearing noises and low growling from somewhere that seems not too far off from the camp site, which became increasingly concerning to me. But later on we were told by our guide that the sounds was actually the rumblings of the stomach of the elephants passing by. Our camp site were located between their water source and their night time dwelling, so we were warned that some of them might even pass through our area during the night!

After a satisfying dinner and conversation, we went off to bed since we had to get up early for a morning game drive.

Africa 2012: Crossing the border and River Cruise at Kasane, Botswana

After spending a night at Victoria Falls, we woke up bright and early at 6:30am to cross the border over to Botswana. We crossed at the Kazungula post, which is an interesting point as it’s the place where four countries (Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia) borders each other.

Our taxi driver, which is the same guy who drove us from the airport, dropped us off at the gate and told us that from this point on we had to go by foot and will be met by our tour guide once we reach Botswana side. Yes, we literally walked to cross the border!

Before crossing over to Botswana, we were told to walk on this liquid sanitizer on the ground which supposedly kills any bacteria / diseases that might have hitched a ride on the sole of our shoes. All cars passing by also had to go through this liquid. Only in Africa…

This is where things gets scary for me. As an Indonesian citizen, I needed a visa to enter Botswana. I’m a pretty seasoned traveller so of course I made previous arrangements to this taken care of, which was already quite an ordeal since there was no Botswana embassy in Singapore (but thankfully we found other ways). Except at the immigration border, I was told that it wasn’t actually a visa. I got a permission to get a visa, which means I still needed to actually get my visa at another port of entry.

After a few minutes of deliberation, we decided it would be best for me to separate from the group and get my visa, since we don’t want everyone to miss the river cruise. Our tour guide called up another guy, who drove me to the port of entry (I think it’s the one that borders Botswana and Namibia) and stayed with me while I process the visa. Not gonna lie, I was pretty scared of being essentially alone in a country I had never even heard of until we started planning this trip!

But the guy I was with was really nice, we ended up making conversations and he taught me some words in his language while the lady at the visa counter took her sweet, sweet time processing my visa. In the end, I was held back by over an hour before I finally got my visa and was driven back to the tour office to catch a small boat to the river cruise!

I’m sure S, K and J were relieved to see me again… just look at their faces! :P

I soon caught up with all the picture taking and animal watching.

We saw a ton of hippos cooling themselves down in the river. It was really hot that day. Did you know that hippos are one of the animals you should be scared of? we were told that if a hippo decides it would chase you down, you would have very little chance to live since it runs quite fast and weighs a ton. So it’s like being hit by a car I guess?

This is the Zambia / Namibia side! I don’t remember which one, but I think we saw all four of the countries.

Elephants are so cute! We spotted this family cooling themselves down and splashing water on each other.

After the river cruise, we went back to the tour office to have lunch. Then we were off to Chobe National Park for a day of game drive.