Driving into the park for the first time you see nothing but thorn trees jostled together, with coarse shrubbery nestled in soft, fine sand.
Heart slumping, I wonder if I will see anything at all, or will this be 10 days of pretending to get excited over a bird?Turning right onto a narrow bumpy road, that tosses us this way and that, we bumble down hill for a few minutes, suddenly breaking through the trees toward the bottom, I get my first glimpse of the Chobe River and loose my breath.
Running along the edge of Chobe National Park is a river so vast and wide it’s more like a lake. Filled with green islands of grass. A treasured relief for the animals in the dry season and such a stark contrast to the arid thorn trees and sandy landscape to your left. A bachelor herd of elephants graze in the middle of the river, I can just make out the tops of their bodies in the distance. Hippos sunbathe along the banks and fish eagles and vultures fly overhead. Inhaling the bush air you’re stuck by the smell of sweet untainted grass and animal dung, lingering with the scent of the vegetation it once was.
Driving a bit further along the river and we have to stop for a herd of breeding elephant crossing the road. The babies run and dart in amongst their mum’s, barely managing to keep upright as they learn to use their trunks properly. Buffalos saunter in behind them and giraffes meander through the bushes in the distance. Calling into question my sanity I blinked a few times to make sure I really was seeing all these animals walking alongside each other. Had I magically stepped into the lion king?
Chobe National Park has the highest concentration of Elephants in Africa, over 50 000 traverses through the park. In the dry season when all the little beds of water and small dams dry up, the animals migrate towards the river. A huge amount of wildlife gathers on the banks of the life-giving Chobe river.
Every day of our trip we stumbled across something new, interesting and rare. Wishing all the while that you could pause, rewind or go in slow motion in order to experience it all. A baby Ellie darting across the road and face planting into the sand (#thecutest), a whole herd of Sable with the males in a fight, pushing a youngster out of the herd. A honey badger lumbering up the road in broad daylight. Lions playing and tumbling in the long grass, lions stalking giraffe, more lions drinking and languishing in the warm sand.
Puku, Kudu and Lechwe, as well as mongeese and anxious warthogs, compete with three hundred strong herds of Cape Buffalo for your attention. As well as good sunblock, mindfulness is what you need to come armed with to Chobe National Park. If you let yourself get lost in this place, it can etch its beauty onto your soul and stay with you forever.
As I sit on the open Landy and the sun warms my arms, I feel at peace, I feel at home. I watch the river sparkle and sway in the sun and follow the movements of a kingfisher diving in and out of the water. I realise how important it is to switch off from the world, and rejuvenate your soul in a place like this. Having no signal in Botswana was a magnificent relief and forced ‘e fast’, it allowed me to be in the moment not behind it, seeing the animals with my heart and not my screen.
Chobe National Park draws you into a dream you never thought you’d have and refuses to let you go, it ruins you for life, as you are sure no other safari could compare.
Look out for our final post on Botswana, a walk on the wild side and how to make a safari on a budget an elegant affair.