We had a lovely, slow start to the morning, packing up and having breakfast, meeting our driver at 1000. We picked up another couple at a different hotel and headed for the border. The drive was uneventful, going along a two lane, paved road for the most part in a straight line. The vegetation looked like what we’ve gotten accustomed to. We saw one elephant and some baboons. After about an hour we reached the Zimbabwe / Botswana border. Now crossing that was an experience. We first had to go through the Zimbabwean checkpoint which was clogged with tractor trailer rigs awaiting clearance. Luckily we did not have to queue up behind them. We said goodbye to our van driver. We then were shifted over to a driver with a 4 wheel drive safari vehicle. We entered a small, rather ramshackle office and presented our passports. That’s when we discovered that the officious young lady who took forever to process us coming into the country had the wrong date on the stamp she so loudly employed. Instead of it saying we came in on the 21st of Sept, it read the 21st of June. Oh, my. Once Dana cleared that up with the gentleman behind the window, we were cleared to pass. Then we had to walk over to a foot pan with something that looked like thick muddy water and had to put the bottoms of our shoes into it. Now, if we immediately stepped over into Botswana I could understand it, but no, we walked back to our vehicle. Hmmmm. We drove barely any distance then had to get out and go through the Botswana immigration. Both a nicer facility and smoother operation. And then we were in Botswana!
Now you could say that it’s our third country for this trip, but we decided we should consider it our fourth. Yesterday, while we were rafting, when we fell out and finally found some rocks to cling to, they were on the Zambia side of the river. So technically, we’ve touched Zambia as well. Ha!
Our driver then got us on the road to our next destination, the Elephant Valley Lodge, next to Chobe National Park. It was like driving through a convection oven – so hot and with the wind of the drive blowing so hard on us I could hardly catch my breath. We checked in and were shown our quarters. It’s like a cross between GP Large tent and a permanent building. Tent sides and roof, but solid floor, lights and luckily, a full, regular bathroom. We had arrived just prior to lunch, so we soon went over to the dining area for our first meal here. A new routine to get into for the next few days.
At 1500 we met our guide, Simon, along with a charming couple from Amsterdam, who we found out had been married only a week and were on their honeymoon. We were all headed out to an afternoon cruise safari on the Chobe River. We drove off in the safari vehicle and after much bouncing around we eventually came upon the river. We climbed into the boat and took off. Immediately we started spotting animals- loads of them! It’s a very different environment, with the river now at it’s lowest before the rainy season it had a bunch of islands, if you will, crop up providing soft, green grass. And boy, do the animals take advantage of it. We saw hundreds of elephants, cape buffalo, waterbucks, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, warthogs, and a type of antelope we hadn’t seen before, a red lechwe, one that is aquatic, so it can swim to the islands. And they were all grazing together. So different than what we’d seen previously. And the bird life! We saw great white egrets, snake darters, cormorants, African spoonbills, ibis, an African fish eagle, and yellow billed storks. Wow! We watched them all carry on, which is always fascinating. We saw elephants flopping into the water to cool off, two of them swimming between islands, hippos resting all lumped together and birds everywhere.
As the sun began setting Simon pulled the boat over to the edge of an island for our Sundowner sport – our evening drinks. We not only had a beautiful sunset but a cape buffalo surprised us by suddenly standing up next to us to be silhouetted. Back to shore then the drive back to the lodge.
Dinner followed at 1930 out on a lantern lit deck overlooking the watering hole. All through dinner we had a floor show called elephant TV. Shortly after we sat down a bunch of elephants appeared and entertained us throughout the meal. Charming.