A Trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe in Sept./Oct. 2013
Part 1: Kasane + Chobe
I want to go to Africa!
Finally, on 21st September 2013 the time had come: I checked in for the long, long flight to Southern Africa. My mind was still full with the preparations for our Munich March for Elephants which should take place on 4th October and in which I finally could not take part in now. On my way to the airport I was still answering some e-mails referring to the march. Actually it was not the best position to start such an enormous trip when having something else in mind, but I could not change it as I had already arranged my Africa trip long before the date of the march was fixed and for which I had promised to help.
So I was travelling to Africa with a full head and expecting a completely new world there, as I had never been to the South of the African continent until now, and I expected to face some difficulties, too, because, I mean, it was Africa, right? But as it was Africa, I also expected that any problem could be solved somehow, and if it was in an unusual way!
And that is exactly how it turned out: My trip was gorgeous, but I experienced some difficulties.
First obstacle was that, coming from Munich via London to Johannesburg, I missed my flight to Kasane, my final destination, due to delayed announcement of the gate in Johannesburg airport. (I had to change the flight here to go to Kasane.) It was the first time in my life that I missed a flight, and I was really distressed. It was very chaotic then, - arranging a new flight for the next day and a hotel room in Johannesburg for one night, - and all of this was so hard because I was almost fainting from fatigue. (Hadn't slept the night before my trip and also not the night in the plane. So I was REALLY tired.)
I will never forget this hall in Johannesburg Airport where I discovered that the flight to Kasane had already left - without me!
OK, at least I could sleep long and well in Joburg then, and the flight next day was ok.
I finally landed in Kasane at its small international airport.
Tears came into my eyes when I discovered that I was compensated for my late arrival in Botswana as it began with a first beautiful elephant standing just beside the road already on my way from the airport to the lodge.
Then I arrived at my lodge, The Old House in Kasane. It was a friendly small lodge at the banks of Chobe River. I liked my stay there very much. And I think it should be called 'The Blue House' ;-)
It turned out that maybe it was luck that I spent the first restorative night in the quiet Johannesburg hotel as in the evening there was a very loud sound in front of my room in Kasane. Frogs! There were many in the small water basins in the garden of the lodge, making a hell of a noise until well after midnight.
I couln't find the tiny frogs to take a fotos of, but there were other animals who seemed to inhabit the lodge :-)
From Kasane I made several safaris to Chobe National park which is very close. Some safaris by car and some by boat on Chobe river. It was very beautiful and it surprised me how many different animals there are at one place.
Specially in Chobe National Park I saw so many animals!
During my whole trip I got the impression that there are indeed more animals left in Botswana and Zimbabwe than in Kenya, and additionally, it was the end of the dry season which means that all the animals around were gathering at Chobe river as it is the only possibility for them to get water. So although this season was harsh on the animals, for myself the safaris were very beautiful with all this rich wildlife around me. I even had 3 leopard sightings in only 3 days which is very rare.
And of course there were lots of my big grey friends. Botswana is the country with most elephants all over Africa, even all over the world.
I also enjoyed the grumpy inhabitants of Chobe river: Many hippo families, - I could watch them inside and outside the water. Also lots of crocodiles and Nile monitors, fish eagles and many animals more.
So I start with a collection of fotos of several boat trips I made in Kasane to Chobe National Park.
At the entrance of the park, people are greeted with this sign:
Yes!!! That's why I came here.
The first thing you notice are the many boats on the river. Every afternoon there are lots of tourists on river Chobe. The animals, however, seem to be completely undisturbed by this intrusion into their habitat.
So many different species on one and the same place!
Lots of birds were also around.
With all these creatures around the crocodiles are surely having an easy life.
And everywhere you could find elephants - lots and lots of elephants!
Many hippo families are living in the river. Every now and then you pass by one. If you feel insecure in their presence strongly depends on if you are going by a big boat or in a nutshell.
The most beautiful thing on such a boat tour is to see elephants crossing the river, specially during sunset.
This family was the first to cross. On the way, the baby seemed to drown completely, but it arrived safely and sound.
Another family crossing. Our boat drove around them so that we could see them from all sides. The view with the setting sun was captivating.
One evening I joined a safari in a small boat, and suddenly our tour guide started to drive in a crazy speed along the river. I thought, bugger, this way we will not see any animal at all! But it turned out that he knew what he did. After a while he stopped and observed the banks of the river. It was already beginning to become quite dark, but within short we saw something really interesting.
He jumped on a tree and then, like a model, put himself in the right position for a gorgeous foto. I couldn't get enough of that sight.
Unfortunately night fell, and we had to leave the park. Wow, this had been an impressing evening!
In the time between my safaris (the hot times of the day) I either relaxed in the lodge or I tried to do some errands, e.g. get some cash money. This was the next obstacle.
Already on my first day I thought that Kasane looked much more like a village than like a town. And this seemed to be proven by my experiences:
In Kenya I was used to get money from any ATM which exists in each and every small town. Getting cash is absolutely no problem there.
Now I tried the same in Kasane (touristic place!) in Botswana.
There were 4 ATMS in my area, which I all approached in the heat of midday, either on foot or by taxi - and all of them were out of service. So I had no choice but waiting for the bank opening hours (between my safaris) and get the money directly at the counter - which also was a longterm procedure. When it finally was my turn in the queue, I was sorry for those waiting behind me as they had to wait around half an hour until I finally had my pack of money.
The next issue which also turned out not to be as easy as I thought was to buy a Botswana SIM-card for my mobile, and whereas in Kenya you can get one on every street corner, in Kasane I had to walk long ways (again in the midday heat, of course) and look hard for a place to get one. Finally I was recommended to a "Chinese shop" where at last I was successful in finding a suitable SIM card. I found it apellative that all of things it was a shop owned by Chinese that I found such a 'modern' article, and not in a shop owned by Botswana-people. It seems that the Botswana people have not yet discovered in how many ways they could make business with tourism. In a way, this is likeable, too.
Also the safaris by car in Chobe National Park have been overwhelming - animals everywhere…
These safaris usually start very early in the morning.
Driving on the park ways we often met antelopes or other animals. I was astonished that even kudu or impala which are very shy in Kenya, were absolutely relaxed rather close to the car here in Botswana. And there were lots of them!
When we drove on, my tourguide stopped at this bush and claimed that there was a leopard inside. I could hardly believe it, as I could not see the cat, although my tourguide said "It is there, just in front of you, it is watching you!" - and I must add, our car stood around 2 meters away from the bush. I wasn't able to see a leopard. It took me several minutes until I finally discovered it. Can you spot it?
Later on, we saw another leopard (or was it the same?). Obviously it was trying to hunt. I really enjoyed the site of such a magnificent animal. But as more and more cars were gathering around the place, we moved back to give the leopard space.
.... to be continued in Part 2 (next page)