We’d been given warnings of how cold the African night might be. This, after all, is winter in Botswana. Winter? Temperatures get up to the low to mid 20s Centigrade in the day but sink into single figures at night. That sounds like the kind of winter I could cope with. I must say that we had not found our first night cold and were quite comfortable in just the supplied modest sleeping bag. A blanket was also provided and there were other travel blankets in the Landcruiser if necessary, though their main purpose was to wrap you up on an early morning game drive in the open-sided truck.
Just prior to Covid-19 hitting town, I had made a camping trip to Australia in a much smaller tent to hunt dragonflies. Not wishing to struggle in and out of my very small tent overnight, for that trip I had invested in an overnight urine bottle which had proved invaluable. For a man, it can be used lying down – just roll over sideways. I used it again here to avoid leaving the tent. It’s less easy for ladies, of course, but Francine had discovered some similar female assistance called Peebols. Peebols by Shewee are essentially a sealable 1ltr plastic bag containing chemicals that form a gel. These can be disposed of in the garbage. Both devices worked well for us; Francine was content at not having to worry about eyes glowing in the night.
In truth, the racket caused by tent zips being undone at night for others to leave for a pee really should be enough to frighten off any wandering pack of hyenas. One of the attractions of a tented safari as opposed to a (more expensive) lodge safari is lying listening to the African night. I had been somewhat disappointed at hearing little but zips in the darkness.
The African night in the bush is black; very black. Light pollution was there none but we were graced with a bright moon nearing full – “waxing gibbous” if you want to be posh. This was the kind of moon that casts strong shadows so, once out of the tent, vision wouldn’t be a problem. You can see bugger all in the tent, though, which is made of heavy duty dark green canvas. We had come equipped with head torches which leave both hands free to sort out clothing, etc. Handheld torches aren’t very helpful, as I was to find out, because they leave you one-handed. Riffling through a kitbag full of packing cubes with only one hand is at best awkward.
We were roused by an 06:00 “alarm” of “good morning” when canvas wash basins were dosed with hot water from the camp fire. Four thermos flasks provided tea and coffee to complete the awakening process. Instant coffee is against my religion so it would be tea for the duration. The tea was Five Roses and was actually very good. I got used to drinking it black to avoid UHT milk. There was cereal and yogurt, toast, jam and peanut butter – be still my beating heart. We were off on a morning game drive at 07:00.
Returning to the banks of the Chobe River, what a change there was from the previous evening. Where there had been large gatherings of Elephant and Buffalo, now the river bank was all but empty.We did happen across a large troop of Baboons nearby grooming but otherwise being quite lazy. As is often the case with animals, the young are very cute but they lose a lot of their PR in adulthood.
We headed for a comfort break location where Francine had fallen for some now unused huts. These were around a corner but she was granted a small wander. Another guide was less than happy that she was off on her own but Bibi reckoned it was fine because “he wouldn’t like the paperwork” if it wasn’t. He went and chaperoned her just to be sure. The area was used as a lunch stop for some lodge groups, complete with their silver service, and a Crested Barbet (never heard of it) looking for scraps gave me something to concentrate on [just ignore the concrete perch] while Francine was off getting creative with her huts.
Before returning to brunch at 11:00, along with a few other vehicles we followed a wandering group of Lions. They were hidden by trees for much of the time but eventually broke out to run up a slope in front of the river.
Brunch was scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, beans and salad. I could get very used to this. Botswana is beef country so the sausages were beef; very good, though.
The afternoon was taken up with what, according to many clients, had been their highlight of this trip: a 3-hour boat trip along the Chobe River to see the wildlife from the water. We drove back into Kasane to board Mike’s boat.
We were not disappointed, it was, indeed, great, and Mike was knowledgeable and informative. The Chobe River here forms the border between Botswana and Namibia. There had been a dispute over one of the channels of the river which had taken international efforts to resolve.
Mike found a group of Hippos, mostly out of the water grazing on some ground between the now undisputed channels. Well, given the size of them, they’d be difficult to miss. The Hippos, of course, didn’t care what country they were in. Everybody wants a photograph of a Hippo with its mouth wide open and one obliged by yawning in our direction. How very considerate of it.
I must be becoming a birder [arghh, no!] because one particular bird, something I never expected to see, was a decided highlight. On one of the sandy islands in the river was a small breeding colony of African Skimmers. These are very unlikely looking birds whose lower mandible is far longer than their upper mandible. When they live up to their name and skim you see why – they open their beak and fly just above the surface with the lower mandible in the water. They’re a bugger to photograph because their beady little black eye is buried in the black plumage of the upper part of their head. When the light is in the wrong direction, as in this skimming shot, forget it. It was a thrill, though. [Sad puppy.]
Now we needed a major shop. Kasane was to be our last shopping opportunity for 6 days. Our advice was to drink 3ltrs of liquid each a day. That’s 36ltrs needed for a couple. It’s a lot of liquid with restricted loo breaks, and there’d be camp tea as well, so Francine and I purchased 4 x 5ltr containers of water. Having looked enviously at others drinking beer and wine, we raided the local “offie” for 6 bottles of assorted wine, too. With another 8 folks in a similar situation, our vehicle was getting full. On the road, though, it pulled a trailer into which our luggage and stores were loaded.
Back for dinner: chilli (though there wasn’t much chilli involved – that always requires care with a mixed bunch) accompanied by rice and butternut squash to boost the veggie content. We were beginning to wonder what would accompany our custard; the answer today was guava.