WARNING: Be prepared for lots of elephant photos!
We left Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe without any of the hassle that we encountered entering Zim. It was a country we really enjoyed, even with all its quirks and problems.
Chobe National Park
We entered Botswana and we continue to notice that these southern African countries are much more developed and Westernized. It means we get the little luxuries we are used to at home, but it also means things are more $$$ and we have to watch our spending!
We’ve also noticed that there are a lot of other trucks doing this route and we now routinely see other trucks and groups at campsites.
We arrived at Chobe National Park, a park known for their elephants – 50,000 in 11,000 sq kms. Since it is still the wet season, our guide wasn’t too optimistic about how much we would see. You’d think we’d be getting tired of game drives by now, but it is neat to see game in different ways. We did a sunset game cruise on the Chobe River and up until now we haven’t seen elephants in mass quantities.
The Chobe River runs between Botswana and Namibia and the river has swampy grass islands that the elephants and hippos use to graze. We saw lots of hippos, elephants, a small crocodile, eagles, many types of birds and antelope. The highlight was seeing a baby elephant and seeing an elephant swim across the river. We were treated to a beautiful sunset with a beer in hand on the way back up the river.
Botswana goes for mostly the upmarket safari market and therefore we were only spending 5 nights in the country.
After Chobe, we headed for Maun, the entry point for trips into the Okavanga Delta. The Delta is one of the world’s largest inland water systems. During the peak, the Delta expands to 16,000 sq kms. The group was doing a 3 day/2 night trip into the Delta by way of mokoros. This is the traditional way to do safaris in the Delta. The mokoro is a home-made dug out canoe that accomodates two people and is propelled by a poler in the back.
We drove across the top of the Kalahari Desert to our entry point for the Delta. Paul and I were introduced to our poler, Sampson and he assured us that is boat did not leek. And sure enough ours stayed completly dry, unlike a few others. The polers pole you along through the narrow gaps in the delta grass and lilly pads. It is an incredibly relaxing and surreal experience. The mokoros are very basic – comfy, but you have to be careful not to move around too much. We poled through the Delta for two hours to reach the campsite (on an island) that we would be spending the next two nights.
The campsite was a bush camp with lovely hole-dug toilets. We spent the middle parts of the days, sunning, relaxing, sleeping and swimming at a little water hole. In the first afternoon, we went for a game walk at dusk and although we only saw a few elephants from a distance, we learned a lot about the Delta ecosystem from our guides. The next morning, it was up before 6 am for another game walk, similar to the first on Easter Sunday. It didn’t really feel much like Easter without our families, but we did indulge in an Easter egg treat. Some people tried poling with the mokoros – a very hard skill to master! We were surprised that some of the polers were women, which we had thought might have been more of a job for men. That afternoon, we went for a sunset cruise in the mokoros and we got to hold old elephant tusks, which weighed a ton (30 lbs each is Paul’s guess).
We cooked for our group in the evenings and the polers stuck mostly to themselves. The rural Botswana people are known to be very quiet and reserved with tourists. We couldn’t help feeling guily as we ate meals like spagetti bolognaise, while they ate their sadza (ground maize). But they were always happy to receive our leftovers.
After a peaceful two days, we were poled back out to meet our truck. The driver had cold beers and drinks for us and it was a nice touch. Another really cool experience that words cannot express (maybe the pics can). We spent the night in Maun and the next day had a really long drive into Namibia. We bush camped in a place with huge bugs (never seen bugs 4 inches long before!) and we spent the night in our tents as a torrential storm pelted us throughout the night. The truck got stuck at the campsite and it took the might of our big strong men on the truck to push us free.
We are now in Windhoek, Namibia’s largest city. We are headed to Etosha National Park for a few more days of game driving (we might be saturated of game by then!). Then we are headed to Swakopmund, where we are hoping to go game driving for Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie! I am getting quite a repuation on the truck for my celebrity knowledge and in case you haven’t heard Brad & Angie are in Namibia and planning to have their baby there. (Paul is rolling his eyes as I write and does not want to be involved in the Brangelina game drive).
In Windhoek, we had to take a picture of the Huber (my mother’s maiden name) store for all you Hubers!
Hope you all had a wonderful Easter – we were thinking of you!