A few years ago, my wife and I went on safari in Kenya. While watching lions, giraffes, water buffaloes, elephants, and other animals I remember thinking, “I really want our children to experience this!” As part of our round-the-world family sabbatical, we included a safari in Chobe National Park in Bostwana. Chobe is best known for elephants, and we saw lots of them, but there were plenty of other animals to see.
We drove about 70 kilometers from Livingstone, Zambia, to the border with Botswana, went through customs, jumped in a small boat to cross the Zambezi River, and continued to Kasane, Bostwana. Our safari included two boat rides on the Chobe River, several game drives in the Chobe National Park, two nights sleeping in tents, and five or six scorpions at our camp site.
After arriving, we boarded a boat with our captain named Captain (no kidding). On the Chobe River, we saw lots and lots of animals up close: elephants swimming across the river, hippos marking their territory (it’s both fascinating and rather gross to watch), crocodiles sunning, water buffaloes grazing, and lots of birds catching fish.
We were especially pleased to see African Fish Eagles, birds that look very similar to the American Bald Eagle with dark feathers and white heads. The birds mate for life, and we saw pairs of them in their nests and flying over the river. The fish eagle has a distinctive call, sometimes called the Sound of Africa, and we were delighted to see the birds and hear their call.
After our boat ride, we climbed aboard our cruiser with Sinka, our driver and guide. Sinka was a gregarious man with an easy laugh, gentle spirit, and uncanny ability to spot animals. During our first afternoon, Sinka helped us find a leopard by driving slowly around the back of bushes to a shaded area where he thought the leopard might be resting. As we turned, there it was! We gasped in delight to see the big cat. On our second day, we watched another leopard stalk a wart hog before giving chase. The wart hog eluded the leopard and lived another day.
Each day, as the daytime gave way to evening, we noticed the activity changing. Lions began to wake from their daytime slumber and prepare for the evening’s hunt. One evening, we spent a long time watching three lionesses with their cubs prepare to hunt. Gathering their cubs, the lionesses made their way to the river, took long drinks of water, and headed off to hunt as dusk fell over the land.
Going on safari amazed me the second time just as much as my first experience. This time, however, seeing the animals, listening to sounds from the bush, and sleeping in tents was more special because my wife and I shared it with our children. We still talk about the bachelor herds of elephants we saw — large groups of male elephants that have been forced out of herds with mothers and babies. And we still laugh about bouncing to and fro while riding in our open-air cruiser.
Once again, I loved watching the animals and the beautiful scenery, but this time, I especially loved watching my children see and experience all of it.