cub yawning in chobe

Day 1 – Botswana Safari in Chobe

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After our three nights in Victoria Falls, we took our scheduled transfer with Wild Horizons to Chobe Bakwena Lodge located next to Chobe National Park in Botswana. We had a great driver with all kinds of stories which made the hour drive to the border go quickly.

At the border, we were met by Max, our safari guide from Bakwena Lodge for the next two days.  He walked us to the immigration window where they checked our passport and vaccine cards.  As a US citizen, we did not need a Visa, but they did want a vaccination card or for the unvaccinated, a COVID-19 PCR test within a 72-hour timeframe.

Four us got through fine, however, two people in our group were not vaccinated and misunderstood the requirements. No problem.  The border agents called a doctor who was there in 15 minutes.  They walked them into a room, administered the PCR test, collected their email address and $75 each, and then sent our entire group on our way.  Our friends never got the results, but it was smooth sailing for the rest of the way.

Chobe Bakwena Lodge

The Chobe Bakwena Lodge is located just minutes from the Kazungula Zimbabwe/Botswana border in the Town of Kasane and Northeast of the Chobe National Park.  It is named for one of the largest tribes in Botswana, and when translated from the native Setswana means people of the crocodile.

Generally, I’m inclined to stay inside the parks to have immediate access to the wildlife, but Chobe Bakwena Lodge was located on the Chobe River and offered a variety of activities in between the safari drives which were quite enjoyable.

Boating on the Chobe River

In fact, we arrived in time for a delicious lunch adjusted for special diets and immediately following, we took advantage of a free boat ride activity.  We motored along the Chobe River to the Kazungula Bridge where the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers. We enjoyed a peaceful hour while looking for wildlife.

The intersection of the two rivers is the only place in the world where four countries meet: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana.  The bridge was built by the Chinese.  Zimbabwe did not want to join the project as they would be saddled with debt, so the bridge is curved to avoid their water space!

Kazungula Bridge

While boating, we saw crocodiles, hippos, cows, a monitor lizard, and many birds, including anhinga, bee eaters, and kingfishers, just to name a few.  Making our own breeze was a nice way to spend a warm afternoon.  And it certainly got us excited with anticipation for our afternoon drive.

Treehouses at Chobe Bakwena Lodge

Upon our return, the staff had our bags in our rooms.  Chobe Bakwena Lodge features both riverside chalets and treehouse chalets.  We followed the guides down the wooded path to our tree houses as the resident mama bushbuck checked in with the kitchen staff to see what was available for her baby to eat!

the resident male bushbuck

The treehouses were really nice!  We climbed the stairs to a door that opened to an airconditioned room with a balcony, an indoor/outdoor shower, double sinked bath, and toilet.  There was plenty of room for our luggage and the beds included mosquito netting.  My only complaint would be that you can’t see the water as with the riverside chalets.

That said I liked the novelty of staying in a treehouse, even with a few large spiders which I later welcomed when I learned they were harmless and keep the mosquito population at bay!

treehouse at chobe bakwena lodge

Safari Drive in Chobe National Park

For our first Botswana safari drive in Chobe, we drove about 20 minutes in our open-air safari vehicle on the main road to Chobe National Park.  We entered in the Serondela district also known as the Chobe River Front.  There are four districts in Chobe National Park, the 3rd largest park in Botswana.

Chobe National Park was Botswana’s first park, is the most biologically diverse, and has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife.  The Serondela area features lush floodplains and dense wooded areas of teak and mahogany damaged by large elephant herds.

Elephants Crossing the Chobe River

Not surprisingly, one of the first animals we spotted in the park was the elephant.  They were headed to the Chobe River to drink, and later we saw them crossing the river!

elephants crossing the chobe river

Stay Tuned for the Leopard in My Next Post

After we stopped to see them, Max told us there was a leopard with a kill, but it was very far away, and we would not be able to stop along the way.  Personally, with Botswana being my fourth safari and leopards being my favorite animal to see, I longed to skip everything else.  But Max said we could see it tomorrow, and since some of my friends had never been on safari, I thought it only fair to stop and see things. My friend Ruth, who has been on 25+ safaris, thought I was crazy to skip!

Fortunately, the leopard was there the next day with its kill in the tree, though it stung a little to hear there were two leopards the previous day.  Whaaat?!? Two leopards together!?!  They are solitary animals, so that would have been a treat to see.  I was very happy, however, to finally get a leopard in the tree photo which had eluded me.  It turns out I got several chances through out our week on safari to do this, but I digress! Stayed tuned for future posts!

Animals on Chobe River Safari

For, now, back to the present!  We had a great game drive in Chobe which featured kudus, impalas, giraffes, a giant herd of buffalos, a confusion of guineafowl, the beautiful African fish eagle, and many other birds.  Does anyone else like saying a confusion of guineafowl?  If you have ever seen them scatter about as you drive by, you’d know confusion is the perfect name for their flock.

African Fish Eagle

As I mentioned, the African fish eagle is beautiful!  With a white head and brown body, it looks like the Bald Eagle, America’s national emblem.  The African fish eagle is the national bird for 4 countries including Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and Zambia where I went on safari last year.

As one of the oldest living birds on the planet, it has diversified its diet.  Not only does it eat fish, but it scavenges, stealing food from other birds, and also eats other birds and mammals.  It can carry 12x its weight so a baby crocodile or small monkey could fall prey!

Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a zoom lens to give this beautiful bird justice, but to me is definitely one of the most majestic birds in the African sky.

Lioness and Cubs

While I loved the fish eagle and all the other wildlife we were blessed to see, the highlight of our afternoon safari drive in Chobe was seeing a mother lion lounging with her three cubs.  As we sat, watched and attempted to snap photos of them hidden in the brush, something peaked the mom’s interest, and she trotted down the road with her cubs in tow, along with us and another safari vehicle.

It was great to be able to be so close since vehicles are not allowed off road in the national parks.  We also loved being the first to find them as we got so much time with the lioness and cubs alone before Max notified all the guides in the park on the radio. We stayed with the lions until it was time to leave the park.

The Chobe National Park requires safari vehicles to leave the park by nightfall.  They lock the gate, so it is important to know your driving times.  As we headed for the exit, we stopped to enjoy the sunset for a few minutes before we returned our lodge. The first day on our Botswana Safari in Chobe was great! ETB

botswana sunset over elephants at the chobe river

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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