As our 3 week trip to Southern Africa was winding down, we were about to embark on our last 2 safaris - our fifth on land and our first water safari. We awoke early and had a fulsome breakfast at the Rainbow Hotel in Victoria Falls before being picked up by our driver for our 1 1/2 hour drive to Chobe National Park in Botswana. We were accompanied by a group of 5 Australians who had just completed a trek to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda.
As we headed east out of Victoria Falls through Zambezi National Park on our way to the Botswana border we spotted small herds of elephant and several giraffe browsing the trees along the roadside. After about an hour we reached the Zimbabwe/Botswana border where our driver escorted us to the Zimbabwe customs office to have our passports stamped. We were then driven a few hundred yards to the Botswana customs office where we had our passports stamped once again and then walked in single file through a narrow boardwalk and stepped into a shallow tray of disinfectant to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease.
After passing through the border it was another 20 minute drive to our meeting point - Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane. We wandered through this beautiful African resort before making our way down to the pier to board our safari boat.
Once we were settled on the boat, we left the pier and motored slowly along the Zambezi shoreline in anticipation of what we would spot first. We did not have to wait long.
Within a few short minutes we spotted a herd of over 40 elephants strolling down the sloping bank on our port side towards the water. Our pilot cut the boat’s engine so we drifted quietly along the shoreline to watch the first few elephants enter the water and begin their long swim across the river to the opposite bank. Only a few minutes later a massive herd of buffalo appeared as we rounded a bend in the river. We were able to drift in right to the shoreline with unobstructed views of the buffalo only a few yards away. Dotted along the shore were numerous crocodile basking in the morning sun.
As we meandered around the Zambezi, crossing from shoreline to shoreline we had many more up close encounters with elephants, buffalo, hippos, crocodile and a variety of birds. Compared to the other parks that we had been to, the water safari at Chobe presented us with the largest number of wildlife that we spotted in a single safari.
We returned to Chobe Safari Lodge where we enjoyed a well-presented buffet lunch and the company of our Australian travelers. After lunch, we boarded an open safari vehicle to begin our afternoon land safari in Chobe National Park. We trekked along the sandy slopes dotted with acacia trees and patches of grassland that led to the banks of the Zambezi River. We covered much the same area that we had in the morning by boat, only this time we were following the river from the shore. This gave us an opportunity to get up close to some of the wildlife that we hadn’t been able to see from the water.
Hidden amongst a group of small trees, we pulled alongside a pride of 4 young lions who were resting comfortably in the shade of the acacias. Not far from the lions, a herd of impalas was scattered across the grassland. As we travelled back toward the park entrance we encountered several groups of impala, zebra and giraffe making their way methodically towards the water.
We exited the park and stopped for a brief water break before we changed vehicles to go back to the Botswana/Zimbabwe border for our journey back to Victoria Falls. Once again, we had our passports stamped as we re-entered Zimbabwe, a process which took a considerable amount of time due to the number of people in the queue.
We were dropped off at our hotel to have a refreshing swim then prepared for our African themed dinner at the Jungle Junction Restaurant in the elegant Victoria Falls Hotel where we met up with our Tasmanian friends with whom we had travelled on the Shongolo journey from Pretoria. The restaurant is an open air venue with a superb buffet offering a variety of cold and hot foods. Several carving stations offered up meats such as kudo, beef and crocodile while other stations featured curries, seafood and sushi. Live entertainment was provided by costumed tribal dancers and singers who performed energetically throughout the meal.
As the evening wound down and we were ready to go back to the Rainbow hotel for our last night in Africa, we realized that it was time to say goodbye to our vivacious and fun-loving Tasmanian friends Helen, Tina, Merv and Julian. They had provided us with constant companionship and endless conversation and entertainment over the past few weeks for which we are eternally grateful. While it was difficult to say goodbye, we look forward to spending time with them again when we visit New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania in 2021.
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