Beautiful Botswana

Last day in Zimbabwe and first day of the final leg of my big African journey!

We had a slow start to ease the newbies in and to meet our new cook for the final leg, Henry.  Straight away he was in my good books because he made the best eggs I’d had in Africa yet, nice runny yolk!

We left the campsite and by 10am we were stamped out of Zimbabwe! Before crossing the border into Botswana we had to walk across a wet sponge thing to clean our feet before entering.  Didn’t see the point…

We drove another hour to a small town to get money and snacks.  All 3 ATMs in the town were not working!  Victor had just been telling us that we would have no issues with getting money here, Botswana has a strong currency and they are very proud of it – hah! There was meant to be another ATM near our hotel that we could try out, fingers crossed!

We arrived at the camp which was on the grounds of a big resort in Chobe National Park.  Victor told us that last time he was here he had lions walking around the tents at night!  After lunch we walked up through the resort, very nice pool and bar area and we walked past some warthogs, monkeys and mongoose!  Just around the corner was a supermarket, liquor store and ATM, had success at this ATM so we hurriedly went to the liquor store to lighten our wallets.

At 3:30pm we hopped into a jeep to go for our game drive in Chobe NP.  Chobe National Park has the highest population of elephants in the world – over 150,000!

We drove along the main street before turning into the gates, the next 3 hours were spent driving on sand and boy was it bumpy!  We drove down to the river and wow, I have never seen so many elephants in such high concentration! I mean hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of them, they all come down to the river in the afternoon to cool down before heading back into the bush at night.

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Driving down to the river

As well as the elephants we saw impala, kudu, giraffe, warthog, hippo, waterbuck, baboon, water buffalo and I was so excited to see giraffe bending over eating and drinking! I had wanted to see one bending over because they look so funny, I was super happy with that!

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We stopped after 2 hours to have tea and coffee before starting the drive out of the park.  On the way out we saw 2 lions way in the distance, too far away to get any decent photo of them but it was exciting that we got to see them!

Got back to the hotel and had time for a quick shower before dinner, peanut butter chicken curry, pumpkin soup, rice and mixed vegetables. Henry is still impressing me so far with the food!

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Sunset

After an early night to bed we were up at 5am to start our 5:45am game drive.  It was pretty cold heading into the park so we were given blankets to wrap around ourselves, which I was grateful for because within 10 minutes I was freezing!

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Sunrise

We got to the park and drove the same trail down to the river.   The game drive was pretty good, we saw all the same animals we saw the day before (minus the lion) and I reckon we saw at least 50 giraffe! What was exciting though was that we saw 2 male giraffe fighting, they were wacking their necks around hitting each other, it was intense!

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Had been trying all trip to get a good shot of this one!

We got back to the campsite just after 9 and I was shivering like crazy! Henry gave me 2 cups of hot tea to warm up and I stood in the sun for a solid half hour, finally felt like I was getting some life back into my body!

I went up to reception to try give dad a call for father’s day, I hadn’t had a chance the day before because of travel and bad internet and I wasn’t having much luck now!  Spent a solid hour calling home and dad, mum and Jetlyn trying to call me.  By lunch time still had no luck so decided to come back and try later. Lunch was burgers and chips, yum! Few of us went to the shops after lunch to stock up on beer, snacks and toilet paper (my Africa essentials).  Had 2 hours before our evening river safari so went to the bar for a drink and to attempt to call home again.  The internet worked well enough and I FINALLY got through, call only lasted 5 minutes before it cut out but I was able to have a quick chat with dad!

At 3pm we piled onto a big boat with about 100 people on it!  I wasn’t overly impressed with the size of the boat but once we got going it was perfectly fine, we were able to pull up to the waters edge a number of times and get good views of the animals.  We saw hundreds of elephants! Getting only metres away at some points and right at the end we saw a family of elephants crossing across the river! Super cute seeing the little baby elephants with only their trunks visible out of the water trying to cross.

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So many elephants!

As well as the elephants we saw a lot of Nile crocodiles, hippos, water buck, water monitor, impala, giraffe and lots of different birds.  In the middle of the river is a small island which is disputed territory between Namibia and Botswana, both countries want the international court to settle the issue but for now there is a Botswana flag there.

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We finished up the cruise just on sunset, very beautiful seeing the silhouettes of the elephants against the sun.  Enjoyable cruise, I’ve seen a lot of elephants along my Africa trip but not in those numbers which was really special.

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We went back to the campsite, dinner was a delicious steak, the meat has been getting better the further south we go in Africa!  Went to bed with a full stomach!

Up early enough in the morning to watch the beautiful sunrise over Chobe river.  We had breakfast and packed up the camp to head off. I was walking over to the truck and then noticed in the dirt in big letters it said HENLY. Henly?? I looked around and our cook Henry was smiling at me. Is your name Henly not Henry? I half yelled at him. He just laughed. I asked why he didn’t say anything and he said he didn’t want to be rude! Far out! I went around telling everyone in our group that his name was Henly and not Henry! The confusion was because of his accent he pronounces L’s with an R sound!

Off we went just after 7am, now knowing everyone’s correct names!

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Sunrise! Amazing colours!

We drove to the border to stamp out of Botswana, we would be overnighting in Namibia before heading back into Botswana.  If you look at the map below we travelled from Chobe north into Namibia to stay at Bagani and the following day we accessed the Okavango Delta at the most northern part, much easier to cross into Namibia rather than drive all around the Botswana country to get there.

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Map of Botswana/Namibia border

We continued on our way into Namibia, stopping along the way to get money and groceries.  We stopped at about 1pm to have lunch on the side of the road, kept on going and at 3pm we arrived at camp!  The camp was next to a river, no swimming allowed because of hippos and crocodiles!

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Don’t need to tell me twice!

Spent the afternoon sitting by the bar over the river, very pleasant! Got chatting to the bartender, 24 years old and just finished secondary school!  He said that in Namibia you only go to school when your parents can afford it, so he only started primary school when he was 13 years old!  He said he wanted to study nursing but he couldn’t afford it, he was hoping after 2 years working at the bar he would have enough money saved to start his degree.

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Kingfisher seen from the bar

We watched the sun go down and then went for dinner, everyone went off to bed after dinner so I decided to head back to the bar.  Had a drink while looking out over the water it was quite pleasant!  My peace was interrupted by a Brazilian guy on another tour called Jose.

“WHY ARE YOU SO SAD?”. I’m sorry what?

“You are just sitting there crying looking at the water”. Woah… definitely not crying and definitely not sad!

Started chatting with him and his friend Rafael, it was nice to chat to some other people outside of the group but my God did he complain. Too hot, too cold, people in his group too old, not enough animals, too many mosquitos, don’t like the beer, don’t like this, don’t like that rah rah rah. He went on and on!  His friend went to bed after a while and we were joined by one of the staff members Bonky. Bonky brought beers and interesting conversation! He was from a town near the border with Angola and as such could speak Portuguese (did not realise they spoke Portuguese in Angola!) as well as English, Afrikaans and his tribes language.

The more Jose drank the seedier he got, so after a while I decided it was time to go hide in my tent, said goodnight to them both and raced off to bed.

Woke up before 5am the next morning, poked my head out of the tent and saw an otter splash by in the river! Out in the distance there were a bunch of hippos as well! This is my favourite part about camping in Africa, being surrounded by the wildlife!

My least favourite part of camping is the anticipation of whether the showers are going to have hot water or not! It was a pretty chilly morning, I hadn’t showered the night before because there had been no power so fingers crossed as I walked to the shower block it would be hot… success! Had an amazing hot shower to wake up!

After breakfast we drove about half an hour to the border, stamped out of Namibia and walked over to the Botswana side to get stamped in again.  We had another 10 minute drive to the river where there is a free ferry provided by the government until the bridge is constructed.

Once on the other side we had an hour of bumpy roads before getting to the Okavango Delta.  We had lunch by the water surrounded by cows, donkey, horse and in the far distance was a herd of elephants!

A short while later our polers arrived, the polers would be driving our mokoros (dug out canoes) for the next 2 days. They are called polers because that is what they do, they push the boat with a pole – simple.

Once they were all there we did introductions, the head poler was Siga, the rest of them had names like Hustler, KV, BBT, Lizard etc. Reason being their real names are too complicated for us to pronounce! Steph and I are had BBT as our poler, out of curiosity I asked him what his name was, I reckon it had about 30 letters in it and had some of the clicking noises, we’ll stick with BBT.

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Loading up the mokoro, you can see how the sleeping mats have been turned into seats

We got into the mokoros, loaded up with our overnight bags we had packed, sleeping mat (now turned into a seat with back rest) and in another mokoro was our tents, chairs, cooking supplies for the night.

We had about an hour ride along the delta in the mokoro, it was so peaceful! Gliding past the livestock on the river bed, going through the water lilies and lily pads on the water.  We saw tonnes of birds, can’t remember the names of them all, but what I do remember was the cormorant, African Jacana, knob-billed duck, spur-winged goose. I like birds… I just can’t remember any of their names! At one point BBT steered us up to a plant sticking out of the water and asked if we could see it, see what? There was a tiny little frog about 3cm long, apparently it is the smallest frog found in the delta and poisonous to all animals!

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We eventually pulled up to a small island, Kau Island, which is where we would be spending the night. We emptied out the mokoros and went and put our tents up, we had a safety briefing as hippos, elephants and lions regularly walk through the camp (definitely believed him as there was a lot of poo around).  Our toilet on the island was a hole dug in the ground with a toilet seat on a frame hovering above it.

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Five star toilet!

Once set up we went for a walk around the island, saw monkeys, elephants and hippos out in the water.  Our guide kept showing us different poop and telling us which animal it belonged to. After the walk we got back into the mokoro for our sunset ride, went to deeper parts of the water where there were hippos bobbing up and down in the water.  Bit nerve racking surrounded by massive hippos when you are in a tiny boat, hippos can move so fast and I know we would have no chance if they decided to go at us.  As we glided by they had their eyes fixed on us, they weren’t letting us out of their sight!  We pulled up against some thick reeds to watch the sunset and the hippos bobbing around.  The sunset was beautiful, once it was down we raced back to the island before it got too dark!

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We had dinner and drinks around the campfire that night which was fantastic, looking up we could clearly see the beautiful stars in the sky.  After dinner the polers did a bit of a performance for us, they sang 4 different songs, the one that has been stuck in my head since then is Beautiful Botswana (this is a link to a video I found on youtube of the song, different people singing of course https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoMVIqzSo1E ). They also did a couple of dances which involved dragging a few of us to dance along with them.  Once they were done a few from our group told stories and sang songs, I had nothing to contribute whoops.

Everyone slowly went off to bed after that, I stayed up a bit longer to speak with Siga.  He said you have to do a 2-3 day course before taking an exam, you have to learn about the flora and fauna in the area and then also how to pole properly.  He had been poling for about 4 years (officially) but he said he grew up using mokoro and most of the other polers had been doing it their whole life.  However for them to take tourists out they had to pass this exam.  While we were sitting there we heard a lion growl, Siga said it was probably about 1km away, scary!  Went to bed shortly after that.

Woke up at about 6am, had breakfast and we got dressed to go for our morning walk. We rode in the mokoro for about 20 minutes to another island in the area.  As it was a walking safari we had a few rules for safety, main one being we had to walk in a straight line as it is less intimidating to animals than a big group walking.  For a while we were tracking lion footprints but no luck!.  Siga told me that the lion we had heard the night before had killed one of the villager’s cows!  Halfway along the trek we came across a herd of elephant blocking our path, so we had to turn around and head back. On the way back we saw four red lechwe in the distance, asides from that we didn’t see much else on the walk, but I did enjoy it anyway.

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We got back to the campsite and packed up our tents and got back on the mokoro, we went back the way we came the day before but continued a further 10 minutes up the river to our new campsite.

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En-route to the new camp

We got in and were surprised to find we would not be camping we actually had beds!  They were set up in big tents, 2 single beds with a light as well, fancy!  We settled in for a chilled afternoon, a few people went off for mokoro lessons, I read a book and had a drink by the bar.

I decided to test out the outdoor shower and was pleasantly surprised with hot water!! Not that I needed it, it was a stinking hot day!  In the afternoon there was to be another walking safari, only about half the group went off for the walk, I stayed behind was feeling especially lazy that afternoon.

When the others got back from the walk we sat around a campfire near the water, really nice sitting out and again the stars put on a good show for us. I attempted to get some photos of the sky but didn’t have much success.  For dinner Henly and one of the polers KV had both cooked dishes so we had a massive feast!  The flavours were amazing, had a variety of vegetarian dishes as well as 2 beef meals.  After dinner we sat by the campfire before passing out in bed just before 9!

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Campfire at sunset

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My best attempt at capturing the stars

From 4am onwards I kept being woken by the sounds of hippos grunting and moving in the bush just outside our tent! It went quiet at about 6 so I decided it was safe enough to venture to the bathroom.  A fire had just been lit for the shower so I was one of the lucky few to get a hot shower! After breakfast we got back in our mokoro and went 10 minutes down the delta to get back to the truck.

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Steph and I with BBT

We said goodbye to our polers and headed back towards the Namibian border.  Along the way I was really enjoying looking at all the bee-eaters on the electric wires.  It’s such dry brown landscape so these beautifully coloured birds just stand out!

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Bee-eaters on the wire

We had to cross the same river on the ferry, this time there was a bit of a queue so we had to wait about 40 minutes.  As we were crossing the river a fish jumped up onto the boat from the water! One of the locals was quick to stamp his foot on it to kill it and then put it in his bag, guess he’s having fish for dinner!

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Dinner

We left Botswana behind and entered Namibia, back to the same campsite we had stayed in previously.  The afternoon was spent relaxing by the river and watching the sunset.

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Another gorgeous sunset

We only spent about 4 days in Botswana in total, but they were definitely highlights from the trip.  Botswana is on my list of countries to come back and visit, I think it has a lot more to offer!

 

9 thoughts on “Beautiful Botswana

  1. Shannon you are having a brilliant trip. Botswana sounds and looks fabulous. We are rapt because marriage equality was resoundingly approved by the Australian public, now to get it passed through parliament with no changes. Lynne

    On Thu, 16 Nov 2017 at 7:54 am, Where in the world is Shannon? wrote:

    > shannypayne posted: “Last day in Zimbabwe and first day of the final leg > of my big African journey! We had a slow start to ease the newbies in and > to meet our new cook for the final leg, Henry. Straight away he was in my > good books because he made the best eggs I’d had in A” >

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  2. Great read Shan and fantastic photos. The wildlife is spectacular- amused to see the horses had to take a second take! Looking forward to the next blog!

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  3. I’ll only read this post when the next one has been posted. 🙂

    I’ve probably never lived more vicariously than this trip, hehe, I think I can save my money now for other things and do away with the idea of travelling anywhere.

    Only… if the posts continue 🙂

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  4. Thought I might have to wait until end of June to read this immersive post, so good that it wasn’t so!
    You need to quit the theatre office, Shannon, and do this all for a living!
    Pretty sure one of the birds you weren’t sure about is a Yellow billed stork btw. And FYI, I called Lindsay’s old man “Frank” for 12 months or so when he first joined maintenance – no idea why, and he didn’t correct me either!

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    • Glad you enjoyed Shaun!

      If I could make a living from travel writing you bet I would haha!

      I think you might be right about the Yellow Billed Stork. I’m shocking with bird names, get told so many and it goes in one ear and out the other!

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