I recently spent ten days on safari in Botswana and was once again enthralled by the diversity of wildlife that she saw. But it was the combination of wildlife and pristine wilderness that made her Botswana safari so rewarding.
© Elephants crossing on Chobe River from the Namibian side
Chobe - Place of the Elephants:
A few days of leisure and sightseeing in Victoria Falls
over my husband and I finally arrived in Botswana - for the safari of a lifetime. The border crossing lies near the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers and the area is dominated by this waterway.
Kasane is the first town a visitor experiences upon arrival in Botswana. The town has developed a great deal in the past few years with new superstores and hotels giving the town less of a frontier feel
than before. Despite this development elephants still wander certain roads in the town and warthogs root in lodge and hotel grounds. Kasane is situated on the banks of the Chobe River and it is not uncommon to see herds of elephant and buffalo roaming the floodplains whilst you are driving through the town.
As we were staying at Chobe Game Lodge
we did not stay long in Kasane. The lodge is the only facility situated in the national park and this makes it ideal for experiencing the magic of Chobe up close.
During our stay we watched game from the land and from the water. Boats, barges and smaller craft brought us up close to open-mouthed crocodiles and teeth-displaying hippos. Kingfishers and bee-eaters of various species are in great abundance, everywhere.
Taking off from Kasane airport I looked out over the vast floodplains of the Chobe-Zambezi delta
, a place of water, islands, forests and grasslands, before casting my eyes over the vast interior of Botswana. Away from the river the landscape is dominated by low trees and sand. Animal trails indicated the paths of thousands to the permanent waters of the Chobe River.
The Okavango Delta - Memories of Eden
I had never seen a Sitatunga before this trip and although this was not a prerogative it was in the back of mind when we landed at Xugana Island Lodge - said by some to be the most beautifully located lodge in the Okavango
. Set on a huge lagoon Xugana is the epitome of a delta camp. Hippos, vocal frogs and the musty scent of damp vegetation are an intoxicating mixture.Activities at Xugana
include boating and walking on the islands. It was during one of these walks that we came across a fresh lion spoor - not more than half an hour old according to our guide. The island we were walking on at the time was very small and the question was asked how the lion survived on such a small area. The answer is that, unlike lions in many other areas, the Okavango lions will not hesitate to cross water and in some areas will even use the water to hunt.
It was during one of the boat trips that I finally saw a Sitatunga
. It was at a distance but it was clear enough to get a good look - and even a photograph. Sitatunga are water-dependant antelope and are generally shy making sightings a special treat.
Le Roo Le Tau - into the Realm of the Makgadikgadi
After the wetlands of the Delta it was off to the dry paradise of Le Roo Le Tau
situated on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. It is in this region where one of the last remaining land migrations of animals still happens. During the rainy season thousands of Zebra move
to the fringes of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans to feed on the new grasses. For the rest of the year the zebra are spread around the area and at Le Roo le Tau many of them utilise the waterhole in front of the camp - quite a sight.
The waterhole provided some spectacular bird viewing
when a multitude of red-billed quelea descended on the water. The quelea is the most numerous bird species on earth and in Botswana the evening skies are often darkened by swarms heading to their roosting areas.
We saw a great deal at Le Roo Le Tau, including the rare white rhino, but one of the highlights was certainly the black mamba we spotted at one of the waterholes. Here I was mere meters from Africa's most dangerous snake
, staring in fascination as it had a drink before moving away - there was a moment of adrenaline when it raised its head and turned back at us.
I still find myself sitting staring into space dreaming of the wilds of Botswana
and I realise that the country is more than a wildlife safari. Botswana is a glimpse into the wilderness of our past.Carrie Hampton