Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chobe National Park Botswana

There is so much to love today!

We arrived in Livingstone late yesterday afternoon after an 8 hour bus ride.  The bus was just as nice as any charter bus in the States, but the ride was long.  The countryside is beautiful though, and we were in awe of seeing just how people live outside of the city.  It ain’t easy out here, folks.  

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the wonders of Your creation.  This has been our prayer since our honeymoon in Costa Rica and every nature outing since.

Chobe National Park is in Botswana, just across the river from Zambia.  We booked a day trip there to be able to see God’s creation while in Zambia.  

Our morning started at 7:30 with an hour drive to Chobe Marina Lodge.  Think about how things look in the States around the end of November, and that’s how it looks here right now.  This is the beginning of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, so not only is it cold, but getting brown.  The landscape looks so much like the Texas Hill Country that it’s eerie.  Border control and immigration was not a problem and included a 2 minute ferry ride across the river.  At this one point, Botswana is directly across, Namibia is to the west and Zimbabwe is to the southeast.  The borders are in the river, so that’s as close to a ‘Four Corners’ experience as it gets.  

Nearly a mile before the border, 18 wheeler trucks began being parked along the side of the road.  Heading to Botswana, most are carrying copper and construction material.  Heading to Zambia, most are carrying steel from South Africa.  The average wait time to cross on the ferry is 10-14 days because one of the ferries is broken and the other two can only carry one truck at a time.  Not to mention that since the loads on these trucks are incredibly valuable, customs really takes their time inspecting each one.  The truck drives pretty much camp out in line, alternating between guest houses and their truck cabs.  The system seems so inefficient to me, and it is, but no one was complaining or causing trouble.  It just is.  

The lodge is beautiful, and we had time to explore before we left for the morning.  I would love to stay there sometime, but I’m sure it costs more than we ever could afford.

A river cruise up a portion of the Chobe River began our journey into the Park.  We shared a pontoon boat with an extended family from Mississippi.  The dad is a professional wildlife photographer, and he’s been around the world twice.  He knew his stuff.  This family ended up being with us the whole day and were really sweet. 

The Chobe River starts in Angola and eventually meets the Zambezi which flows to the Indian Ocean.  The Chobe River is also the border between Botswana and Namibia.  Part of the time were legally in Namibia, but there wasn’t a place to stop to stamp passports.  Bummer.  It’s still very exciting to say we’ve been to 3 countries in Africa now.  

Chipo was out guide all day, and she made sure we noticed everything there was to see.  Her knowledge is impeccable.  We saw dozens and dozens of hippos while on the boat.  They’re nocturnal, so most were sleeping, but some were swimming and eating.  They’re huge!  We also so several herds of elephants crossing the river to reach the grassland.  More and more animals are heading to the river from the hills as the watering holes from the summer are beginning to dry up as winter begins.  We saw red lechwe swimming and jumping in the river, along with hundreds of impala, a herd of Cape Buffalo, crocodiles, and several herds of kudu.  We saw more birds than I can keep up with, but they’re beautiful.

Lunch was served back at the lodge, and they spoiled us!  Fish, chicken, beef, pork, grilled veggies, butternut squash soup, salad, rice, and ice cream awaited us.  

In the afternoon, we loaded safari jeeps to head back into Chobe National Park on land.  Most of the drive was spent along the river bank since the day warmed up nicely and the animals were coming out drink.  We saw vevets (a type of monkey), baboons, mongoose, guinea fowl, and many more of everything we saw this morning.  It was amazing to have many of them walk right in front of the jeep.  They wanted nothing to do with us, but didn’t mind us either.  

Whole group

With Chipo
I was really starting to think we wouldn’t see any giraffe as we wound our way back to the entrance of the park.  Lions, leopards, and hyenas are in the park, but hard to find in the afternoons because they hide from the sun.  I knew that and wasn’t disappointed not to see them.  I’ve seen both in Zambia before.  Zebras and wildebeests stay further south for about another 4 weeks, and I knew that too.  But the giraffe, well, if I didn’t find them, I would’ve been crushed.  My eyes were peeled the whole last hour, and finally I spotted 3 way in the distance.  It wasn’t a great view, but they were definitely giraffe, and I was grateful and silently thanking Jesus.  Then we turned a curve and ran smack dab in front of a baby giraffe.  Um, THANK YOU JESUS!  A whole herd was crossing the road and let us enjoy them for quite some time before trotting off to new trees.
We’ve met so many incredible people in Livingstone.  From the hostel owner (Doc), to our shuttle driver (Chichi), to our tour guide (Chipo), to everyone that has served us, they have all been so incredibly sweet and kind.  God bless them!

Isaac took hundreds and hundreds of pictures today.  We want to blow up some of the best to hang on some of the huge walls in our home, especially above beds.  I think we have our work cut out trying to find the best ones.  Some are just incredible!

Tomorrow we head to an elephant preserve to ride them. I know this is super controversial, but I’ve researched it well and feel it’s an ok thing to do, at least at this place.  We’ll see if I still feel that way when it’s over.  I care more about the elephants’ welfare than tourists’ whims.  In the afternoon, we hope to cross into Zimbabwe to see Vic Falls from that side.  Pray the immigration line is short enough for us to do so.  I’ve heard it can be bearish at times.


Shelley said...

Love this update! Keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

So exciting, Laura! I love reading your posts. Keep having fun!!!

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