We like to regularly share the opinions and experiences of folks visiting Chobe. This is the first hand diary of Drew Prineas. Drew Prineas added a quick trip to Chobe while in South Africa for the World Cup. It was only an overnight trip, but we think you will be impressed at the diversity of game spotted on this quick trip. We also think that this was enough of a tease that we suspect Drew now has ‘the fever’ and will be visiting the bush again and again:
The Art of Safari Seduction
By Drew Prineas
There is something about the Giraffe that is a must see. When you come to Africa they are like the centrefold in a magazine. You go through the normal poses before you get to what you really want. They have the long neck, their tongue licking around their lips as they chomp on the leaves; they are wearing the giraffe pattern designer clothing. They even do a running shoot, which is in slow motion. All this is captured plus the giraffe centrefold spread with a trip to Botswana and the Chobe National Park.
Chobe is in the north east of the country close to the borders of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We did an overnight trip there from Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe). Basically no matter whoever you book with (unless its with the 5 star hotel) you go with the same company. Minus some little confusion at the beginning and the end I thought the tour was run brilliantly. Border crossings were not an issue either (get a double entry in ‘Zim’ or ‘Zam’ if planning to go back.)
The tour starts off at the Chobe Game Lodge where you hop on a boat and sail on a small boat along Chobe River. Botswana park officials have taken a liking to seeing passport numbers being written down on random pieces of paper. And that needs to be done on the boat too. The start of the boat ride didn’t really produce that much, a bit of bird life, which at the beginning seemed disappointing. But it turned out to be an added bonus as there are over 450 species of bird all varying in colour, sizes and beak design.
Game Viewing is suppose to be all about the Big 5 (being – Lion, buffalo, Rhino, leopard and elephant.) and there seems to be a bit of bragging rights if you get to see them all. It is based on the difficulty humans have in hunting the animal. This can only be outdone if you can see a live kill, something sadly on this occasion was not realised. But that is not to say that Chobe is no good. We ended up with the tally of no killings, 3 out of the Big 5 and then some.
Buffalo are the easiest of the bunch to see, they were drinking along the river but that didn’t interest us after a while. We wanted to see a hippo. Patience is the key in game viewing and eventually we were able to see them pop their beady eyes out of the water.
As the boat ride dragged on with no real action, just animals standing around, along came a herd (is that what you call a group of) elephants. About 5 tourist boats are around the area waiting for a potential crossing. Patience is again needed as we wait for a good 15 minutes for the brave adult male to test the cross over through the water. Step by step the elephant slowly makes his crossing. The water is deep so deep that it covers his eyes. To breath – out he pops his trunk beyond the surface until he gets to the other side saturated creating a dark blue shine to his skin.
Whilst this is happening some young adults are playing back over the other side communicating through touching their trunks and tusks. Than a look down and there is this baby elephant. “How on earth is that thing going to get over?” I thought. There are about 10 left to go and they form a line on the shore and follow the same path. It doesn’t take long for the baby to go fully under water. They don’t have much control of their trunks at this age and it flings around somewhat hopelessly.
If it weren’t for the thought that surely over the generations they would have figured a way to do this. You’d think you are about to witness an elephant suicide. But alas its fellow elephants used their trunks to help it come up to the surface and take a valuable breath as it took a good 5 minutes to cross.
Where they crossed was a tiny island where they spent the next moments drying themselves off with the sand. They would do this by using their front foot and kick it into the nostrils of the trunk that was used as a scooper and swing it back to various points of the body. The elephants seems to really like this as their were many appearances of what seemed to be a 5th leg. A closer inspection with the squint of the eyes would confirm that it was in fact a bunch of giant elephant phalluses. I will never forget one of the elephant’s efforts to get ‘it’ down. No, no it was no cold spoon but putting his middle stump between his two back legs and squeeze… numerous times (don’t be bashful)… problem solved!
Lunch was back at the Lodge and from there we joined the open-air safari vehicle. From here the difference from doing an overnight to a one-day Chobe trip was realised. The one-day has a few hours (during the hottest part of the day) than goes back. The main action is in the early morning and towards sunset.
The beginning of the safari was through bare forest destroyed like Apocalypse had hit courtesy of some hungry elephants. (Chobe’s elephant population is amongst the highest in the world. An estimated 154 000 savannah elephants.) The elephants had moved on but it doesn’t take too long to witness the darling of African wildlife – the giraffe.
As we drove passed warthog, impala and eagles we eventually headed back towards the river. Along the shoreline there are the occasional puddles hanging around. Standing in front of one was this elegant looking giraffe – these lovely long legs, which have the inability to bend properly. (It must be torture just knowing that the water is so close to the lips but it takes such an effort to get there.)
It’s not easy as it is forced to spread its two front legs, present its buttocks and lean forward with its long neck. It’s a safari’s equivalent of the female model having their legs spread from the knee down whilst sitting down on a chair… That pose is everywhere in magazines now. It’s become so common that it is as if it’s a necessity in everyday living… It’s uncoordinated just like a giraffe trying to have a drink. The only difference is that on this occasion it really is necessary
But that was sort of it after that for the giraffe – You know once you’ve had your way with the centrefold spread – it’s a bit like yeah well I’ve seen it already haven’t I. I’ve seen your goodies so all this other posing is like ‘ah.’
Maybe the tour guide thought that too because soon after we went more inland. Passing baboons and eventually to some lions. Man lions are overrated. They literally do nothing all day minus probably half an hour. They really are the kings of the jungle. Some of the guides are aggressive with their driving and once we were blocked off by one from the 5 star hotel vehicles – the driver was obviously looking for a big tip. One even drove into the bushes. But we didn’t really miss out on much as they just lay there until sunsets.
We managed to see a classic sunset with dominant yellows and orange with thick black trees in the foreground. That was a nice break before heading back to the lions. We managed to see 3 lionesses after sunset hovering around a pack of impala (they are small deer like animals). They didn’t attack but its interesting seeing the other animals freak out with panic written all over their faces. The eyes light up with the head slightly raised. But again nothing beats the giraffe.
I nice sleep in quality camping facilities and food refreshed the mind for more giraffe action. The lions are doing nothing just laying down in the shade under a tree. About 200m away are 3 giraffe’s saying, “I see you.” Giraffe’s can see up to 2km away according to the guide so why on earth they were getting closer was beyond me. We were told that the giraffe wanted to make sure that the lions knew that they know that they were there. It was classic they were shitting bricks and still getting closer, 30cm at a time. “Yes hello! Yeah you… I see you. Under that tree… right there! Did you hear me? Shit I gotta get closer… Yes Hello! Yeeess that’s right I see you!”
In the end I was pretty satisfied despite not seeing a leopard. One day would have been too short whilst overnight was just right. It cost about another $100 for the overnight tour but when you add up drinks, food and the nights accommodation if you did the one day when you got back to the hotel you are probably only going to spend another $60 at the most. This will not be the last safari I will do but for the first it provided some memorable moments. The elephant crossing, the giraffe’s saying, “I see you” to the lions and that slow seductive bend over and spread legs of the giraffe trying to have a drink. I give Chobe the thumbs up.