Into Chobe

Today we start what most people would regard as the wildlife safari itself; we were heading into the Chobe National Park for the big stuff which meant crossing a border once again. This time we were leaving Zambia and back into Botswana again. Crossing in this direction seemed to be a little quieter and we were soon under way. We were heading west towards Kasane, situated on a bend of the Chobe River.

The Explore! trip notes are clearly old and out of date since they mention a ferry across the river. We did see the old ferry paraphernalia as we sped across the super Kazungula Bridge. Apparently this was built by the South Korean Daewoo E&C and jointly financed by the Japan Internationals Cooperation Agency and African Development Bank. Makes a change from selling your soul to the Chinese which seemed to be story in Namibia a few years ago.

This was to be a tented camping safari and we’d be staying on official HATAB campsites. Our accommodation was (technically) 4-man “Kalahari” tents. Tent capacity is always based upon what will fit in with scant regard to comfort. These were to be set up and managed by two “camp boys” which sounds a bit denigrating so let’s call them by their names, Rasta and Ona [sp?]. Rasta and Ona would also prepare all our food over an open camp fire. After a stop in Kasane for a day’s worth of supplies, including a pack of knee plasters, we entered Chobe and its dirt roads at about midday.

We were starting in one respect the most worrisome part of our trip – 7 days with absolutely no mains power. Our main concern was, of course, recharging camera batteries. We’d ensured everything was fully charged at Livingstone and, on flight mode, I’d use my phone for GPS locations of our camps. If that runs out, who cares. 😆

Francine and I had bought 6 x 20,000 mAh Anker power banks giving us 3 each. Mirrorless camera systems are considerably more power hungry than older DSLR mirrored systems because the Electronic Viewfinder [EVF] has to be driven. A battery is around 2,000 mAh. Physics gets in the way and means that you don’t get back the whole of the charge in a power bank; we might get 6 recharges from one. If the camera batteries run out, I’ll just watch. 😉

I had changed some of my camera settings to be as frugal with power as possible:

  1. GPS off (on the M1X);
  2. single AF instead of continuous (tracks focus constantly – fine for big stuff);
  3. don’t review images taken – click and forget.

In the afternoon, we’d start seeing how we get on though signs from birding on the houseboat were favourable, and that had even included tracking some birds in flight.

Other precautions: we’d both got 2 x camera bodies and planned to use each with a dedicated lens. This is dry season and it’s very dusty. Changing lenses and exposing the sensor to the elements would be a bad move.

FIrst Chobe CampWe arrived at our first campsite, 40kms west of Kasane, at about 13:00. Francine and I grabbed the leftmost tent which proved to be reasonably spacious for two given all the stuff we had to cram in: 2 x large holdalls and 2 x camera rucksacks. The tents were arranged in a horseshoe. The camp beds are quite low; about 30cms off the deck. Getting down isn’t a problem but getting back up again could be an issue for some of our less mobile companions.

In addition, our camps include 2 x toilet tents (hole in the ground with seat above) and 2 x shower tents (metal bucket filled with hot water from the camp fire, delivered through a rose welded into the bottom and controlled by a tap). We’d used this arrangement in Kenya 20+ years ago and it works well. Having arrived, Francine and I, being old hands, blazed a trail and made sure we could still use a bucket shower.

At 16:00 we we started our first game drive. One of the ladies who joined us late is not into photography and she very helpfully offered to sit more or less permanently in one of the centre seats of a bank of three, leaving the side seats free for those with cameras. Had everyone wanted to click away with gay abandon, it would not have been quite so good. Francine and I made sure we had both sides of the truck covered, as did the other married couple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA_22R8542Botswana is very well off for Elephants, about 120,000 of which are in Chobe. We drove out of camp to the banks of the Chobe river where many Elephant were gathering in groups for their evening drink. Some were enjoying dust baths. A large, lone individual demonstrated how to rip a trunk-load of vegetation out of a tree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were herds of Cape Buffalo lurking and peering. I couldn’t help but think of mimicking Out of Africa and shouting, “shoo!”. Robert Redford might’ve got away with it but not me.

Lilac-breasted RollerWe still had birds for some entertainment and few are quite as colourful as the Lilac-breasted Roller, one of which posed advantageously beside our truck. Trucks don’t often seem to frighten the quarry away, happily.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way back towards camp we happened across a small family group of Lions, including three cubs, who posed quite well, even if a little inactively. We did also see a pair of Honey Badgers mostly hiding amongst trees so, alas, the same could not be said for them. ‘T was nice to see them, though. Honey Badgers have a reputation for being very aggressive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhoever is in charge of painting the skies at sunset in this country is doing a pretty spectacular job.  Staring and wondering on the return to camp is obligatory. Clicking can be awkward given low light and high ISOs but you just can’t help yourself. It has to be done.

Arriving back at camp at 18:30, we were greeted by a welcoming camp fire and a dining table positioned beneath a canvas shelter and illuminated by candles. Very romantic. Our first camp dinner lovingly prepared by Rasta and Ona was chicken stew with veggies and potatoes. This was impressive cooking over an open wood fire. Desert was a little easier: tinned peaches with yet another carton of custard. I was getting quite hooked on custard.

And so to bed. For our first night under canvas, instructions were given for visits to the toilet tents: turn on your torch and wave it about. If you see any eyes glowing in the dark, think better of it and wait a while. Discretion is definitely the better part of valour in the African bush. Bibi was not keen on the paperwork that would be necessary for a lost tourist.

Posted in 2022 Botswana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.