Chobe National Park

We went through both Namibian and Botswana’s Border Control yet again. Near the Botswana side, Bruce pointed out a Baobab tree that was hollowed out. He said that at one time the border control had an office in the tree and it was once used as a church. I took a picture before he warned me that you can be arrested for taking photographs at border crossings. A short drive later, we had a supermarket-ATM-Internet-café stop for an hour. The Internet place only had three computers, so it was a bit of disaster trying to get one. We managed to, but only spent four minutes and then relinquished it to Thomas for our remaining time. Botswana has a land usage fee of $350. per person to cut down on tourism negatively effecting the environment. We paid this to Bruce as soon as we arrived in Botswana. All of the cash that I had been clutching to my chest was now starting to be distributed, lessening my anxiety of carrying it around. This steep fee is the reason we are only in the park one night, though I could easily spend much more time here. The rush was on now; we had to get to our campsite, have lunch and then those of us who chose to were going on an optional safari drive in Chobe National Park. The ride was for two hours and cost $20.00 per person, but it was in an open truck, so well worth the money. Again, we were in two trucks. In our truck was Markus, Bettina, Hans, Suzy, Thomas, Jean, Ron and I. The truck’s seats were on three levels so no one’s view was obstructed. Omo had decided not to go, but Jean had said she really wanted to see elephants. If you cannot find them here, then you will never find them. Chobe has the largest concentration of elephants of any place in the world. We saw a small alligator in a pond that was created by the rain. It was fantastic seeing impalas, baboons, giraffes, and elephants so close and open. Jean was getting nervous about the elephants being SO close, but the guide said he could read their behavior. Later, he confided he had his truck overturned by a bull elephant and had to run for cover until the bull was out of the area. We saw dozens of hippos grazing on the shore. They are incredible creatures and we learned that they kill more people than any other animal. If you get between a hippo and the water, they will charge you. I told Jean she had gotten her wish to see elephants, now what was her second wish. She replied she wanted to see a lion. The guide overheard this and took us off the road into brush and shrub. There was a lioness under a tree. The guide prompted us to take our pictures fast so we could leave the area. It was not until we left that we realized the lioness was within leaping distance. We were that close to her. The guide asked us not to share the experience with anyone who could identify him; he would get into a lot of trouble for doing what he did. We were dropped off at a fancy hotel within the park where we were going to take a boat for a three hour river cruise. Our truck made it there first and boarded the boat, but there was not enough room for our entire group. Bruce argued with the people that he booked a boat for twenty. They finally agreed to give us a second boat, reluctantly, and the second group boarded that one. Our boat had a canopy over it, with a table in the center and moveable chairs. The other boat only had chairs bolted in place. Within minutes of getting settled on the boats, it started to rain. Our captain gave us ponchos to put on, but the other group did not have anything. Fifteen minutes into the cruise, there was a torrential rainstorm with lightning and thunder that whipped out of nowhere. It only took minutes for us to be soaked regardless of the ponchos. The rain came down so hard, it poured through the canvas tarp roof. A few of us wanted to go back since we could barely see a thing, but the rest of us stayed quiet and hoped the proverbial storm would blow over. The captain was waiting for the final consensus and just kept going. In the pouring rain, we saw hippos in the water, but they kept submerging before we could get a picture, though the rain was so fierce they would not show in a picture. After an hour into the ride, the storm ended. Then we saw elephants playing in the water and on the shore. We were soaked, but filled with excitement over our sightings. When we returned to the dock, we were not sure if the others had returned or if they were still out on the river. We had someone from the hotel call our lodge to tell them we needed a ride. We waited in the bar area where some locals did a spontaneous performance in native costumes. An hour later, John came to fetch us back to camp. The area outside our cabin was flooded and we had to wade in to get inside. Dinner would be served in an hour’s time by the pool. Bruce arranged for the second group to have a repeat cruise in the morning as their trip was aborted due to the weather; the rest of us can sleep in later. Tomorrow when we take off, we cross over into Zimbabwe for our last night.We drove 250 km today. Our new total is 4990 km.