A Sunset Cruise with Hippos and Crocodiles

4 Nov

Chobe National Park is bushy savannah and riverfront marsh populated with unique trees and tons of wildlife. It is located right on the border of Botswana and overlooks Namibia’s Caprivi Strip (aka Namibia’s panhandle) across the Chobe River. It is so close to Namibia that elephants inhabiting the area are known as either Namibian elephants or Botswanan elephants, depending on which side of the river they are hanging out.

The awesome pool at the hotel

One of the highlights of Chobe was the campsite we stayed at. Actually, it wasn’t a campsite at all. It was a nice hotel resort on the banks of the Chobe River, with a posh pool area and tons of resident warthogs trotting around. (Those pumbaas make me laugh so much.) We got to camp on the grounds of the resort, and somehow nobody cared that us lowly campers infiltrated the hotel pool and took advantage of the nice bathrooms in the hotel lobby.

Pumbaas taking a nap in shade at the resort

We were super rested after spending the afternoon of our arrival at the pool, so the extremely early morning wakeup for our Chobe game drive the next day wasn’t so bad. I was excited for the game drive (because of my love for safari’ing), but I wasn’t expecting to see anything absurdly awesome. We had already seen so much cool stuff in our previous game drives, I thought nothing else could impress me.

A mother and two kids

The morning started out slow. Our guide Innocent slowly drove us around the park in pursuit of a progression of leopard tracks he spotted on the road. Unsurprisingly, the shy and secretive leopard was nowhere to be seen. We did see the usual giraffes, zebras, antelope, gazelles, warthogs, and elephants (both Namibian and Botswanan).

A baby leopard!

Thinking this was probably it for the day, we didn’t realize the significance of Innocent pulling up to a thick bush. Then we saw them: the gorgeous shiny gold spots of a leopard peeking out from underneath the dense brush. And not just any leopard. A BABY leopard!

We hurriedly started snapping pictures, laughing as he sat up then sprawled sideways on the ground. We must have sensed that our time with him was short. A few moments later, he crept back into the bush as the noise of a quickly approaching safari car spooked him.

Is that a ...?! Yep, it's a crocodile - right by our boat!

After lunch and rest by the pool, we hopped on a small barge-like boat for a sunset cruise on the Chobe River. It was a combo of three of my favorite things: boating, safari-ing, and watching the sunset.

The most exciting – and slightly terrifying – thing about a boating safari is that you never know when a particular animal is going to surface right next to the boat.

A yawning hippo

Creepy crocodile eyes would appear out of nowhere and slowly slither by just feet from our boat. Hippos constantly popped their heads out of the water then back under right by our boat, sometimes yawning before they disappeared underwater, either as a sign of tiredness or aggression. (I thought they were just sleepy from waking up, but our guide said a yawning hippo is an angry hippo. Oh geez! Just what we need, the animal in Africa that is most dangerous to humans showing his rage while we are floating nearby in his river.)

A mother crocodile protecting her eggs

A family of elephants were brave enough to cross the river in front of us from one bank to the opposite bank. A spookily motionless mother croc stretched out on the riverbank, threatening us with her eyes. She was just protecting her eggs, said our guide.

We even got to see the hefty hippos tramping around on land – a rare occurrence as they spend most of the daylight hours dozing in the water.

A hippo on land!

We boated around for three hours until the sun finally went down. It was the quickest three hours ever. I could have rode around on that boat all night. (Crocodiles aren’t hungry at night, right?)

The sun disappeared, and we finally had to head back to our campsite, where the culinary genius Charles had stir-fry chicken waiting for us. What a delicious end to a great day!

Sunset on the Chobe

Tomorrow we drive due west towards the Okavango Delta, where we will say goodbye to our trusted truck Imani for a few days and pack ourselves and our stuff in mokoros to get to our campsite.

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