On Saturday morning, I packed up the Hilux and hit the road for Botswana! With Monday off, I decided to spend the long weekend in Kasane, Botswana, which is just over the border and right next to Chobe National Park. Jacob and I spent a few days in Chobe two years ago and it’s definitely worth visiting again as it has over 75,000 elephants (half of the elephants in Botswana) and is right on the Chobe river.
It’s about an hour drive from Katima to the border of Namibia and Botswana. Overland border crossings can be a pain at times. At this one, you park your car in Namibia, go into immigration, fill out a form, then wait in line for the officer to stamp your passport. If you are driving a car, you then have to fill out another form, wait in another line and have that processed. You then drive about 100 yards, park, get out of the car and enter a small booth where you have to sign a paper register asking for your details and the vehicle’s info, including chassis and engine numbers. Then you drive about 200 yards, park in Botswana, enter their immigration office, fill out their form, wait in another line for the passport stamp and another line for the car registration and payment. After about 4 stops, 500 yards of driving, and an hour of your life (plus some money), you are in Botswana. Then you drive a few kilometers and have to stop, get out and register yourself and vehicle as entering Chobe National Park. Somehow I feel like this process could be a bit more streamlined.
Nevertheless, I made it over the border and into Chobe, on my way to Kasane. It took me about 2.5 hours total travel time, which was not bad overall.
Kasane is slightly larger than Katima but not by much. It has an airport and is the jumping off point for several of the parks in the area. There are a few luxury safari lodges on the edge of town because of the proximity to Chobe and a few B&Bs, self-catering guesthouses, two clothing stores, two grocery stores, and a few tourist attractions. I stayed at The Old House B&B and had a lovely room with plants all around and a stream just outside my door.
I immediately booked a river cruise for that afternoon, then went in search of lunch. The Old House is right on the Chobe River and has it’s own dock and boats. On my tour there was another couple but they didn’t speak much English so it was difficult to communicate. We motored upriver and stopped to register at the park office before entering the park. The river is a great way to see the area and in the afternoon, many boats head out, searching for animals. We were not disappointed!
We saw several herds of elephants coming down to drink and splash in the water. There are hundreds of hippos in the shallow areas and we got pretty close to a few of them as well. The Chobe river is a bird lover’s paradise and I saw many different species, but none close enough or still enough to photograph.
Meanwhile, on the horizon huge storm clouds started to roll in. An hour into our 3 hour tour the sky got really dark and it started to rain. Then it started to rain harder! As a team we decided to head back and saw that most other boats were doing the same.
There were ponchos on the boat for everyone, but it rained so hard and there were so many boats speeding back and creating spray that I got completely soaked even through the poncho. It was a warm rain, but I was only wearing a tank top and knee length pants. I wouldn’t say I was exactly cold, but I was not warm. It’s all part of the adventure, right? I mean, it is the rainy season afterall.
When I got back I took a warm shower to get the sand off then went down to the B&B restaurant for dinner and enjoyed Hake, salad, and mushroom soup while reading my book.
On Sunday I had booked a morning game drive and was glad to see the sun shining when I got up at 5:30 am. I was the only one staying there who had booked the morning game drive so I had a private 4×4 and driver! For 3 hours Albert drove me around and related his knowledge about the local flora and fauna. He just started as a guide 3 months ago but had a vast knowledge of plants from his grandfather. Here’s a few of the highlights from the morning (you might have to click on the photo to see the whole thing):
I also saw kudu, giraffe, hundreds of baboons, and black-backed jackals. It was a great morning of wildlife viewing and ended all too soon.
In the early afternoon I went to Caracal, a wildlife sanctuary that takes in injured animals and cares for them until they can be released back into the wild or transferred somewhere else. They have several dozen snake species in cages that you can see up close, including all of the most venomous snakes from the area and some that were brought in when poachers were caught trying to smuggle them out of Zambia. They also have several owls, parrots, warthogs, an aardvark (that I didn’t get to see because it was in its burrow), and lesser bush babies! The bush babies are tiny; from ear to ear is about the length of my finger.
Right now they also have a baby baboon who was found alive, trying to nurse from her mother who was killed by poison. The baby was sick when they found her, but has recovered well and is not super playful and curious.
It was definitely worth the $3.50 entrance fee!
There was rain in the forecast for the afternoon, but at the last minute I decided to risk it and went on another boat cruise. This one was much more successful and I saw more elephants, hundreds of hippos, birds, buffalo, and a few rare sightings like this one:
This was only the second time I’ve seen a hippo out of the water (the other time was in Kenya in 2003) so I guess my lucky charm worked.
It was a wonderful evening and once the sun went down a bit it didn’t even feel too hot. But the clouds rolled in again and we headed back to the dock a bit faster than normal to avoid the rain. It just sprinkled a bit on the way back so we only shortened the trip by about 15 minutes. Overall, it was an excellent day all around and I celebrated by going to the one Indian restaurant in town and getting mixed veggie curry!