leopard in a tree in chobe national park

Day 2 – Botswana Safari in Chobe

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I’ve been slow with posting about Africa because I’ve been struggling with how to present so much and make it interesting rather than just saying we saw lions again, which we basically saw every day!  For now, I’m going to go day by day.  In the end, I may adjust to each stay, as we spent a few days at three different places, the first being Chobe.

So, I will start with day 2 in the Chobe National Park.  We arose at 5, went to breakfast at 5:30, and left for the park by 6 am. We donned parkas, wool hats, gloves, and a fleeced poncho that was provided by the lodge.  The poncho was super nice, and it is the first time in my four safaris that we used something more than a blanket.

Birds in Botswana

Our first memorable sighting of the day was an Egyptian Goose with 10 goslings and a jackal laying in wait!  Our guide counted them because he wanted to keep track.  I wonder how many of those cute little guys will survive.  We also admired a nearby stork and spoonbill.

Lions in Chobe National Park

Shortly thereafter, we spotted a pride of 17 lions sauntering across the green flood plains.  What a special treat to see so many at once.  The female with three cubs that we followed yesterday had rejoined her pride of many males and females.

The one cub hung on its mother’s paw.  While another pounced on her back until she rolled over and played with him. 

The pride continued heading northeast until five of them reached a quagmire of water.  After stretching down for a sip, one by one they crouched and leaped over the narrow ditch of water.  They could have walked around it to the left instead!

More Birds

Once they settled into the tall savannah grasses, we carried on, spotting some beautiful hornbills and the magnificent lilac breaster roller.  Their colors are remarkable in flight.

Impalas in Chobe National Park

Next, we saw some impalas, known as the McDonald’s of the bush due to the black stripes on their butt in the shape of a M.  Not to mention, they are definitely the favorite among predators. 

Seeing as how they are both grazers and browsers, meaning they will eat grasses or taller things like shrubs, they have a large food habitat and thus their population is plentiful.  Perhaps their strong population is why they are more available to leopards and lions.


Leopard in Chobe National Park

Speaking of leopards, we made it to the leopard who had killed an impala the previous day.  Since leopards are solitary and can only survive if they are fit to hunt, they won’t fight lions or hyenas to defend their kill.  As a result, they gorge themselves on their prey and then carry the lighter carcass up into a tree for safety since lions and hyenas don’t generally climb trees.

This leopard with a full round belly, was perched on a tree branch and panting heavily from overindulging.  Its kill hung on the same branch near the tree trunk.  Because it was off-road, we only stayed a few minutes, after agreeing to pay the large fine if caught.  But it was long enough to capture this beautiful beast yawning in the morning sun!

I have wanted a leopard in a tree photo for years, so this five-minute interaction was the highlight of my day.  Little did I know, we’d be blessed to see several leopards in trees on this Botswana safari!

Coffee Break

We took our coffee break after the leopard sighting.  It’s the only national park in Africa I have ever been in where there was a bathroom!  Usually, we cop a squat behind a bush after the guide has made certain it is safe.

I’m never fond of the coffee breaks (or sundowners) because I know the likelihood of seeing any cats is limited.  That said, we did have lions visit us during our sundowner in Zambia last year!  Anyway, we stretched our legs, sipped our instant coffee or tea, and snacked on biscuits, before we piled back into the jeep to finish off our morning drive.

coffee break on safari

Zebras in Chobe National Park

The rest of the morning was filled with several more encounters.  It is rare to drive very far in Chobe National Park without seeing something.  We passed by a dazzle of zebras.  I like that word as a herd description for zebras because their stripes are quite dazzling.

The stripes are unique to each zebra like fingerprints are to humans.  Additionally, the black stripes soak in the sun on cool mornings, helping the zebras warm, while the white stripes reflect the heat in the afternoon. 

It is hard to believe such dazzling creatures camouflage so well, but their lion predators are color blind. As a result, they can stand in a prairie of grasses without being seen!  Sadly, despite their camouflage, they are listed as endangered as they are losing their only natural habitat in Africa.

zebra in chobe national park

More Impalas, Baboons, and Elephants

As we continued our drive through the dry thicket, not surprisingly we spotted more impala with a random kudu which was kind of fun to see.  Lots of red-billed oxpeckers cleaned the impalas as they wandered across the road in front of us.

kudu and impale in chobe national park

Next, a troop of baboons skittered by us.  Some little ones chased each other while the adults stopped to eat elephant dung.  The babies clung to their moms’ chest while walking as others rode on their mamas’ back, though riding on their back makes them more vulnerable to birds of prey.

Then, the elephants crossed the road.  One of the little babies was trying to nurse but couldn’t get its trunk in position while walking!  The elephants were very calm around us as they tore apart bushes for their meal.  They only digest about 40% of what they eat, as a result they feed for 16 hours per day while destroying the forest.

elephants in chobe national park

From the elephants, we left the thicket and turned back toward the grassy flood lands where we spotted about 8 lions of the morning pride lounging in the shade of some bushes.  On the other side of us, were elephants returning from the river.  They didn’t see the lions until they were almost to the road, where they changed course and turned to the right.  A spectacle was averted!

Security Shots

From a distance, we spotted some tsessebe, the fastest antelope in Africa.  It can run up to 90 mph.  I had never seen a tsessebe, so I got my “security shot” (a mediocre photo with hope for an upgrade later).

As the morning warmed, the antelope headed toward the Chobe River where we saw large herds of puku and impala.  This was the only time we spotted puku on our safari.  They were extremely prevalent in Zambia.  It is always interesting to me to compare.

tsessebe in botswana

Before exiting the park, we spotted some kudu, banded mongoose and a large tower of giraffe.  The giraffe sighting was very nice, though it couldn’t top the rare twin giraffes I saw with their mama in Kenya.  This is why I keep coming back.  Every safari, which is Swahili for journey, is different!

Back at the lodge, we enjoyed fresh greens topped with cheese, carrots, apples, broccoli and pumpkin seeds.  I’m always asked about the food in Africa, and I always say it is safe to eat and delicious! At least at the safari camps, anyway.

lunch at bakwena lodge in chobe

Kasane Village

The next few hours after lunch is always hot.  It is a good time for a siesta or for crazy people like us to go on another free excursion that the Chobe Bakwena Lodge provides.  Today, we took a walking tour through Kasane Village.

Friendly kids greeted us, school children waved at us, and young entrepreneurs sold us candy at their “lemonade stand.”  They were selling cookies, chips, and a variety of individually wrapped candies.  Our guide translated for us, and we got 20 candies for $1 or 10 pula, with a few pula going to our translator for brokering the deal.

Then we handed out the candies to other kids along our way to a shopping center.  I recommend spending more time in the village and less time in the shopping area which was not tourist related.  But the overall experience was nice.

Boat Safari on the Chobe River

We made it back to camp with little time to spare for our next safari drive.  This time we took the jeep to a boat dock where we loaded onto our private safari boat.  Individual chairs were placed in pairs on both side of the craft’s wide, flat surface.  We could sit anywhere in the middle rows to help balance the boat.

Birds and Reptiles on the Chobe River

The boat safaris on the Chobe River are more geared around bird life and elephants.  We sidled quietly up to the soggy shore, for some nice closeups.  Most the time, my 18-200 zoom doesn’t cut it for birds, so I rarely take many shots of them.

Along with the birds we spotted a crocodile and monitor lizard.  Strangely, the nearby anhinga did not fly away from either predator.  Then we realized it was injured.  I figure it was likely the crocodile’s appetizer later. 

We saw crocodiles fighting over a bird in Zambia last year, and suddenly the quiet river was a highway of reptiles!  They came from nowhere.  But I digress.

Elephants, Hippos, and Buffaloes

After enjoying some alone time with a solitary, adult male elephant and some more along time with a some solid buffaloes, we watched a lone hippo stroll across the grasslands to the shore.  This was a special treat since they are normal submerged in water that they stink up as the propeller poo around with their tail to mark their territory.

Elephants Crossing the Chobe River

From the hippo, we motored toward the rest of the boats waiting to see the elephants cross the river.  We watched the adult mothers wade through shoulder deep water with their little ones swimming next to them with their trunks up.  With the exception of the many surrounding boats, it was fun to see, especially with the light from the setting sun!

elephants crossing the chobe river

Just as with driving in Chobe National Park, we had to be off the Chobe River by dark.  Kudos to our guide who waited the longest for the sunset and then throttled past other boats on the way back to shore.  He couldn’t have timed it better!  We were off the boat at dusk.  Our second day on safari in Botswana rivaled our first day on safari in Chobe National Park.  ETB

elephants in the sunset in chobe national park

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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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