Boat Cruise (Elephant Cruise)
Our first activity at Chobe National Park was a cruise on the Chobe River. The Chobe River acts as a border between Botswana and Namibia. Our boat was very small, about the size of a pontoon boat, holding 7 people plus the captain. Because it was mid-afternoon and the hottest part of the day, we didn’t think we’d see too many animals. How wrong we would turn out to be…
The first part of the cruise we did not many animals, mainly a pod of hippos relaxing in the water and a few antelope and buffalo grazing in the tall grasses near the water. However when we looked ahead in the distance, we could see dozens of elephants making their way from land into the river to cool off! They were still there in the river when we arrived, some drinking their fill, while others laid their whole bodies in the water, spraying each other for fun. We were all in awe at this wonderful sight, seeing only a few elephants is a magnificent sight, but we had hit the jackpot! After about 20 minutes of watching this herd cavort in the water, we then rounded the bend.
And do you know what we found there? An even bigger herd of over a hundred strong! There were even many babies in this herd, some of which were still learning how to use their trunks, dipping their mouths down to try to drink water directly. There were a few mud puddles near the water where a few other elephants were using to keep cool.
After awhile, the elephants slowly got out of the water and began to retreat back to the forest. By this point in time, our small boat was resting on the banks of the shore. A bull elephant deemed us to close and took a few menacing steps toward us to assert himself. Luckily, he didn’t press any further, but it caused us to hold our breaths for a few seconds.
When we resumed our journey, we came across a few more rare sights: a few hippos grazing during the day, and 2 hippos play fighting in the water. Hippos have very sensitive skin and are very susceptible to the hot African sun. As such, they prefer to spend their days submerged in the cool water and choose to graze on land during the night. This provided for a good photo opportunity to see its entire body, as opposed to only the snout, which is what is often only visible. The two hippos that were play fighting both had their jaws wide open, exposing their large teeth. They thrashed around in the water, each one trying to get an upper hand. Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals to humans in Africa. They’ve been known to overturn boats at will, and it is known that one must never get between a hippo and water, as they will charge you in order to retreat to the water. Luckily, the hippos kept their distance from us (as they usually will), and everything was fine.
The rest of the cruise was a bit uneventful compared to the numerous elephants and hippos we were able to encounter, but it definitely was an experience to remember, and one of my favorite wildlife encounters in Africa thus far.
Camping in Chobe
After returning from the boat cruise and gathering our belongings, we headed into the park in a safari vehicle to where we would be camping for the night. I was extremely excited, as I had such an amazing experience in the Serengeti, and this one did not disappoint. It was also New Year’s Eve, so I would be celebrating it in a different fashion than prior years of out at the bars in Chicago. During the drive to our camp, we again saw many elephants (for Chobe is crawling with them!), as well as the standard giraffe, zebra, antelope, etc. We also were able to witness another beautiful sunset.
When we arrived to camp, it was nigh dark. We unpacked our things and spent the evening around the campfire swapping stories and listening to the lions roar in the distance. We did not have any surprise visitors come through our camp, which was probably for the best. I will for sure never forget this unusual and exciting way to bring in the New Year!