Tag Archives: Africa

On Safari at Chobe, Bostwana

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.Safari Bus

HippoWe 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.

Fish EagleAfter 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.

Chobe LeopardAfter 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.

LionsEach 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.

Chobe Elephant and GiraffeGoing 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.Chobe Bachelor Herd

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders,” because of the great cloud of mist that rises when the Zambezi River cascades over the falls at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We visited Victoria Falls at the beginning of October during the dry season, which usually lasts from May to October.  During those months, the Zambezi River slows, and much of the falls does not have water cascading over it.  While this could seem disappointing, it actually makes possible a wonderful visit to the falls.

If you visit Victoria Falls during the dry season, you have an opportunity to swim to the edge at Devil’s Pool.  You can take a boat to Livingstone Island, and from there, you walk near the top of the falls before jumping into the Zambezi.  Then, you swim — or more accurately you are pushed by the current — to the fall’s edge.  Then, a natural rock wall stops you from going over the top of the falls.

Vic Falls RainbowThere, you can sit at the top of the falls, watch water rush past you as it goes over, and see rainbows formed by the mist.  It is an amazing experience that is well worth the time, effort, and expense.

After we finished our swim in Devil’s Pool and were safely back on land, we visited the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.  A helpful guide took us on a walking tour of the falls, and because of the lower water level, we walked literally up to the edge.  We stretched out on our bellies and looked over the top of the falls.  Like swimming in Devil’s Pool, it took my breath away!

Victoria FallsSo often we seek superlatives:  the biggest, the best, the tallest, the greatest, the most.  On my trip to Victoria Falls, I was reminded that something can we wonderful — even better — when it is not the biggest, the greatest, or the most.  Had I visited Victoria Falls during the rainy season, much more water would have rushed over the falls.  The spray would have been taller, and the roar louder.  But, I would have missed the chance to swim in Devil’s Pool and found my heart thumping in the midst of the Smoke that Thunders.