The Africa Journals
Cruising on the Chobe River
I didn't know that the world could be so mind-blowingly beautiful.—Justina Chen
Brian cautions us about getting our expectations up too high. “There’s plenty of water,” he says, “so the animals don’t have to come to the river to drink.” In addition, it’s the middle of the afternoon and animals aren’t usually very active this time of day.
What the heck, it’s a nice afternoon for a cruise on the river. The Chobe River is wide and smooth, the temperature is warm but not uncomfortable, and the scenery is… Well, we don’t know yet because we’re still tied up to the dock. The hands cast off the line and we head upriver.
Now the scenery is great and we cruise close to the bank. I sit back, cameras at the ready, with a nice cool gin and tonic, heavy on the tonic and light on the gin.
|Cruising with a gin and tonic. I dropped the first one. Don't tell Brian.|
I guess we’ll probably see some different birds.
And we do. Right off there’s an African Openbill stork, so called because there’s a large gap between its upper and lower mandible, an adaptation that helps it open mollusks. It feeds on freshwater invertebrates.
More birds show up. My camera lens chases a colorful bird, trying and failing to get an in-focus shot.
Had I been able to get it in focus, this is what it would have looked like. Photo from the internet:
|It's a Malachite Kingfisher.|
|A tree full of egrets.|
So this is turning out to be a bird-watching cruise. Fine with me.
Then we see a crocodile sunning itself on the bank.
We haven’t gone very far when our boat pulls up to a small dock with a wooden shack on it. It’s the ranger station for Chobe National park, and we’re checking in—no photos allowed.
Then we’re back on the river. Suddenly Henry yells, “There’s an elephant!” He and his wife and friends weren’t at Mabula with us, so this is their first safari. They’re excited. Okay, we’re all excited.
Before we get to the elephant, though, the crew sees a hippo quite close and out of the water, so we cruise over that way.
Then we go back to the elephant. It’s drinking and throwing water and mud on itself.
He's also relaxed. Very, very relaxed.
I see black things upstream that look like the stumps of trees after a forest fire. We get closer and I realize I’m seeing elephants.
Lots of elephants!
An incredible amount of elephants. They are EVERYWHERE! And all mixed in with hippos!
I try counting them and give up. Dozens and dozens and dozens. Multiple herds of elephants.
And hippos! Did you know the collective noun for hippos is “a bloat of hippos?” Hippos always look like they’re about to explode. One more mouthful of grass and POW! Hippo UFOs.
|Note the elephants going back into the trees.|
I'm on the top sundeck of the boat when I see this waterbuck approach the water as if it wants to drink. A crocodile had submerged just moments before, probably after seeing the antelope. We wait, hoping the waterbuck will be okay.
Someone said "Go away" loudly and the waterbuck does. Whew.
|A baboon has found something tasty.|
|No animals. A piece of rainbow in the center.|
|Just a nice wake on the water|
|Chobe Safari Lodge dock|
Brian is astonished at how many animals we saw. He walks away shaking his head, exclaiming how unusual it is.
I have sensory overload by the time we tie up back at Chobe Safari Lodge. But Chobe hasn't finished with us yet.