Botswana day 1: Arrived at Chobe Game Lodge

Breakfast was mostly the same dishes, with a few changes, for example the selection of bread was slightly different and so were the hot dishes. After eating roughly the same food for two days in a row, it was no longer felt as tasty as the first time. So perhaps it was not a bad thing that we were leaving the Royal Livingstone Hotel. As usual I had left most of the packing for this morning. But there wasn’t much to pack. We only spent two nights in Zambia so most of the stuff was still in the baggage.

Amon picked us up at 10 am and drove us to the customs office at the border. It was about an hour car ride. Along the way we saw a man walking slowly down the road and holding a rifle. Amon told us that the man was following the rhinos and they were protected 24/7 against the poachers. However, I wondered how effective a lone man would be against a group of poachers. But on the bright side, at least Zambia was doing something to protect their endangered animals.

There were many big trucks lined up against the road leading to the customs office. Amon told us that they were trucks carrying goods to other parts of Africa. The border crossing was at the meeting point with three other countries, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, so there were always a lot of trucks waiting to cross the Zambezi River. Amon said that there were so many trucks in the queue that some truck drivers could wait for up to a week just to move their trucks cross the river. The boats transported the one by one so it could only ferry about 20 trucks a day.

While waiting for a boat to pick us up, we chatted with Amon. Amon said that he had been in the job for eight years and was saving money to go to the university. He wanted to be a geologist and I thought that it was nice that he was able to work towards his dream. The boat had arrived by this time and we said goodbye to Amon.

We got onto the boat and crossed the river into Botswana. On the opposite shore, we were picked up by a guy called Innocent. The ferryman started chatting and did not seem to be in a hurry to move. AC took out some money and tipped the ferryman because it seemed that he and Innocent would not move until we had tipped him. Then we got into Innocent’s jeep and he drove us into Chobe National Park.

Along the way, Innocent stopped the jeep and pointed to the right to show us some vultures sitting in a tree. Even though they would not win any prizes in a popularity contest, I was quite excited to see them. I know that many people do not like them and they had always been depicted as evil, sly creatures in cartoons and shows. To tell the truth, I used to think badly of vultures too. Until one day, I learnt that the condor in my favorite TV drama, 《神鵰俠侶》 (The Return of the Condor Heroes), was actually a type of vulture. As I learnt more about vultures, I found out that they were actually pretty fascinating creatures and they served an important function in the grand scheme of things.

Then Innocent pointed to the left and we found out why there were so many vultures in the area. Two days ago, an elephant died and now its corpse was food for the vultures and other birds. I had seen vultures feeding in documentaries, but to actually see it with my own eyes was pretty cool. To answer your question, no, we were not near enough to smell any rotting stench.

We also drove past some grazing impalas who stared back at us. Innocent told us that the place we were staying at, Chobe Game Lodge, had only female guides and they were good.

At Chobe Game Lodge, we were given a welcome drink and a rather lengthy briefing before we were shown to our room. The room was very nice and there was a porch where we could sit and enjoy the scenery.

Lunch was buffet-style so we could pick what we like. The food was better and tastier than the meals we had at the Royal Livingstone Hotel. A waitress came up to our table and introduced herself. She took our drink orders and looked a little disappointed that we did not ask for anything more interesting than orange juice or Coca-Cola.

At 3:30 pm, we proceeded to the jetty for a sunset cruise. Along the way, we passed by a family of warthogs. The grass within the compound was so short that they had to graze kneeling down. These were wild animals so we told not to go too near them.

We were the first to arrive at the jetty so we were able to pick the best seats which were at the front of the boat. Besides the two of us, there were six other Chobe Game Lodge guests on the boat. Among them were an elderly American couple who might be doing conversation work as the husband mentioned helping to create animal sanctuaries in various parts of Africa. The husband had also visited Africa since the 1960s. AC whispered to me, “That’s before you were born. He’s probably old enough to be your grandfather.”

Our guide was a woman called DK. She loved birds and was able to point out the names of the avian species that we saw during the boat ride. She told us that when she was studying in the university, she would go down to the river daily to stop people from shooting at birds. She told people that she was a ranger and would arrest those who hurt the animals. So the men all stopped when they knew DK was around. This continued until DK graduated. It was amazing that nobody called her bluff and everyone believed that she was really a ranger.

The elderly American man turned out to be equally knowledgeable about birds. He shared with us some interesting stories about his experiences which made the cruise quite interesting. He pointed out the nest of a bird called hamerkop and said the opening was not at the top like most nests but was in the middle. If you peeped into the opening, you might see around three baby chicks. Once the chicks noticed you, they would turn around so that their butts were facing you. Then they would squirt shit into the intruder’s face.

The man ended by saying, “And you learnt very quickly not to peep into a hamerkop’s nest.”

His wife laughed and said, “Now you know that he obviously had tried looking into a hamerkop’s nest.”

Click on the image above to get the wallpaper version (2000 x 1500 px)

I enjoyed the boat ride very much. It was much better than the sunset cruise we had in Zambia even though it was very hot. The late afternoon sun shone down at an angle so although the boat had a roof, we were not totally protected from the sun’s rays.

Click on the image above to get the wallpaper version (2000 x 1500 px)

DK told us that Namibia was across the Zambezi River. My ears pricked up when I heard that. I would like to visit Namibia one day. I’ve heard that it had great sand dunes which would be quite a sight to see. Obviously the sand dunes were not located near the river.

Below were the animals we saw during the cruise. As always, you can click on them to view it larger.

At 5:30 pm, DK parked the boat among some reeds and we waited for the sun to set. After the boat had stopped, she took out two plates of dry snacks for us. AC and I were not hungry so we did not eat the snacks, but we took a bottle of cold mineral water from DK’s cooler box. Going on afternoon cruises were thirsty work.

Some birds foraged for food near our parked boat.

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The sunset was beautiful but the sun was too bright to look at for long.

In the distance, we saw a flock of birds flying home for the night.

Click on the image above to get the wallpaper version (2000 x 1500 px)

When the sun was about halfway below the horizon, DK started the boat and headed back to the Chobe Game Lodge.

Click on the image above to get the wallpaper version (2000 x 1500 px)

I liked how the colors changed when it turned into dusk.

At 7:30 pm, we went for dinner which was located at a grassy area. It seemed to be the BBQ night and there were cooks manning the grill and cooking a variety of delicious meats. There were also big metal pots hung over a bed of coal which made it felt really campfire-like. It was nice to eat under the stars but it was quite dark. Even though there was a lantern on every table, it was too dark to see what I was eating. And I do like to be able to see my food while I eat.

The same waitress who served us during us appeared at our dinner table. She place her hand over her name tag to test whether we remembered her name. It was quite embarrassing when we had to admit that we forgot her name. This time we took special notice of her name which sounded somewhat like “Chen Jie”. AC promised to remember it henceforth. I also made a mental note to try and remember the name of everyone we met in the future in case we were tested again.

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