Hippos, Crocs and so much more

Trip Start Aug 17, 2003
Trip End Jun 04, 2004

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Flag of Botswana  ,
Saturday, September 20, 2003

The last National Park of the overland tour - Chobe NP in Botswana. The landscape is quite different to the other parks we've been to because of the Chobe River, which runs along the side of the park. This means there are still the same arid areas as in Etosha and Kgalagadi, but a much lusher, greener area along the river bank, home to many more different animals.

First we got up once again before sunrise to head out on a jeep safari. I had got very blasť and wasn't expecting it to be that great in terms of seeing new animals (terrible to have got bored of seeing elephants!!), but in fact it was absolutely amazing.

It felt like we got much closer to the animals, because we were in jeeps, going along tracks rather than roads, so we seemed much more in amongst them. Also, the jeep was a lot quieter than the massive truck we'd been on for the other trips, so was much quieter!!

The first thing we saw was a large herd of sable antelope - which we'd seen from a distance while in the delta, but here they crossed the road just in front of us. I haven't managed to find out yet whether this is where the sable furs come from, but they certainly seemed to have a fair amount of fluff around their necks!! They also have very curvy antlers which curl over their backs - and in fact they've been known to get the ultimate revenge in death, by plunging those back into the lion/leopard which is killing them...

We also saw lots more antelope - impala again (with the McDonalds arches on their bums), puku (very similar to impala, without the "M"), and roan antelope, which are pretty rare.

I also got to see my buffalo up close, which was great - we were right in amongst a herd which were spread either side of the track. If it wasn't for the very big (yet slightly comical) horns, they would just look like cows. But instead, they do look pretty scary! At one point we found 3 young buffalo on their own - they'd obviously lost the rest of the herd. This wasn't great news, as it's highly unlikely they'd have lasted the day alive - probably lions would kill them.

We did see a pride of lions, but they weren't being very active - they were in the shade of a bush, so you could just see a tangle of legs and tails!! Most irritatingly, while we were watching them, there were two trucks of japanese and american tourists talking at the tops of their voices. OK, so it clearly wasn't bothering the lions, who weren't moving at all, but it really jarred with the tranquillity of the area - they just didn't seem to realise that what they were watching was real, rather than a Disney style animatronics show!

We also saw more elephants - a herd crossed the road right by us, which was incredibly close - great to see. They always look so cuddly, and yet you really don't want to get too close to them! In the distance in the river we could also see crocodiles, hippos splashing around, and lots of birds.

I wasn't totally convinced when they pulled the jeep over in the middle of the park and got out "to have some tea". This wasn't a specially cordoned off area or anything (in fact there were families of baboons grooming each other about 10m away) and anything could have just wandered in - but the guides didn't seem at all concerned. I guess they must know that it's safe, but it's still pretty disconcerting!

That afternoon, we set off for the second game viewing - this time by boat along the Chobe River. This was even better as the boat was practically silent, so we were able to get really quite close to the animals without fazing them. We saw loads of hippos, some in the water keeping cool, and one eating on the bank. They are absolutely huge - you see their heads poking out of the water and they look pretty big - and then you see the rest of their bodies, and they really are immense. And I definitely wouldn't want to be in the way of one in a bad mood! A few of them yawned - showing massive teeth - not a nice thought, especially as there were warning signs all over the campsite about hippos coming up into the campsite at night!!

Again we saw more new species of antelope (didn't know there were so many!!) - including lechwe and waterbuck. The waterbuck have a white circle around their tails - prompting yet another story... apparently the waterbuck was desperate to go to the toilet - but the seat had only just been painted so he had to wait. But he was so desperate, he couldn't wait, so he sat down anyway - and that's why he has a white circle on his bum!!

The cruise was a great way to get close to the animals, and was also really chilled out - with a great sunset at the end to top it all off.

The following morning I had quite a shock when I woke up - there were hippos rumbling pretty close by, probably on the banks at the edge of the campsite, so I was joking with the people in the tent next to me that there was one just outside their tent... Then suddnely something brushed down the side of my tent. As it was pitched practically in a bush, that was a little odd! I called out to see who it was, and got no response - so I looked out the front - and saw a big bum in front of me. It took a while to realise that it was far too small for a hippo, and was actually a warthog - but it did worry me for a moment!!!
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phb on

pics from my september trip......
went down the same route and what an excuse to try out the nikon d200 and d700 cameras... tamron 500mm lens paradise......... see the pics and you know what i mean.... keep well


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