Botswana - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 51
Chobe National Park
Friday 2nd May
Today turned out to be much more of a success that I thought it would and even ended on a high note. We started off early (why change the routine?!) with a six o’clock game drive. There was some initial confusion about the cost of this game drive as Theron had told us yesterday that we both would and would not have to pay the park entrance fees in addition to the game drive fees. He often rambles a bit and it’s sometimes difficult to cipher through what he tells us. Since we each had paid $210 for the kitty at the beginning of the trip to include local expenses such as ‘park entrance fees’, I was not happy with the thought of having to fork over yet more money to get into Chobe. Ultimately, we didn’t need to pay the park entrance fees after all so all the apprehension could have been avoided if Theron was clear about the situation from the start.
Since the game drive started very early in the morning (just before daybreak), we were all freezing cold by the time we had driven the four kilometres to the park entrance in the open 4x4 game vehicle. The game viewing was also very slow for the first hour or so of the drive. Since it was near impossible to get really good shots of anything in the low light condition, this was not necessarily a big problem. As soon as the sun peered over the horizon and started to warm us all up a bit, the game viewing get markedly better. It’s ironic that everyone has told us that the best game viewing is very early in the morning, when the animals are supposedly most active, but our own experience in all of the wildlife parks that we’ve driven in has shown six to eight o’clock in the morning to be quite fruitless.
Chobe National Park is named after the Chobe River that flows through it and our route on the game drive this morning took us along the edge of the one section of the river. More water usually means more wildlife and we saw a fantastic array of birdlife as well as some good game viewing. The river is exceptionally and uncharacteristically high right now. This is quite ironic since the Okavango Delta is exceptionally and uncharacteristically low right now yet both the Chobe River and the Delta are fed from Angola. We didn’t see any predatory cats on the drive but we did get to see the Duku (only found in small numbers along the Chobe River) and a nice herd of Sable Antelope. We also saw plenty of Wart Hog, Impala, Kudu, lots and lots of Elephants. All told, the three-hour game drive was very successful – even though we didn’t get to see any Lions.
Another wonderful brunch was nicely laid out and waiting for us upon our return from the game drive. Yet again, we had chips and fried eggs and yet again, it was delicious and very welcome. I ate a very healthy portion of chips, eggs and bread – twice. I was particularly keen to have a filling meal since I was not sure about the situation with dinner. Dinner this evening was on our own ticket and, again, this coincided with pretty much no option other than to eat at the local buffet, which is quite expensive.
Most of us spent the bulk of the morning and early afternoon just lazing around and I help put together some CDs full of photos for the guides and the other members of the group. This afternoon is pretty much the last opportunity take care of this and several people took advantage of the opportunity tom sift through the huge stash of photos that we’ve accumulated. I actually ran out of usable CDs and will have to procure some more in Vic Falls to ensure that everyone gets one.
For $15 each, we were all presented with the opportunity to buy a nice souvenir T-shirt with a wide choice of printed designs to reflect progress of our trip through Southern Africa. We all spent some time collating the designs we each wanted and these should be ready for us in Vic Falls by tomorrow.
This afternoon, we all went on a three-hour riverboat cruise up and down the Chobe River. It was a smallish boat with a lower and upper deck and almost everyone sat on the upper deck to get the best view of the myriad of birds and other wildlife. There were so many birds and so much wildlife along the river edge that I filled up my camera for the second time today with over four hundred photos. We saw large numbers of Hippos and countless Elephant along the riverbanks and we are now extremely spoiled for choice with which photos to keep and which to delete. We got quite close to the riverbank in places and some of the close ups of the Elephants are truly amazing. I was also able to get quite a lot of photos of birds in flight and it will be a treat sorting through them all at a later date.
After the cruise, we contemplated biting the bullet and just eating at the buffet this evening. After a little hesitation and a bit of discussion, Sandy and I decided to invite Theron and the two guides (Eddie & Nyasser) to join us at our expense. I caught Theron just in time as he was slicing some cheese to make himself a cheese sandwich. He sounded quite relieved to her the suggestion and was very glad to accept the offer. Once word got around that we were treating the guys to dinner, all the other members of our group wanted to pitch in and share the costs. We ended up spending the last of our Botswana Pula notes and had to put just 50 Pula on the credit card. Since we are leaving Botswana tomorrow morning for Zimbabwe, this works out perfectly.
The meal this evening was very nice but I just couldn’t bring myself to actually try one of the Mopane tree worms (kind of a large and thick maggot or grub with Zebra stripe colouring). Everyone enjoyed himself or herself and it was a very relaxing evening. As might be expected at the end of a trip such as this, our tour leader stood up to say a few words and everyone was very appreciative of the guides and how well they had cared for us. All of the problems and hardships of participation travel seemed to just melt away and we reflected on the good times we’ve all had over the past couple of weeks or so.
Tomorrow we get to lye in as we will be leaving at eight o’clock in the morning to head for the Zimbabwe border just a couple of hours from here. The border crossing will be the most difficult of all that we have seen so far and should prove interesting.