During my previous weekend in Kasane, I had seen several private vehicles driving in Chobe National Park, on the dirt roads and not just the paved road I had driven on to get to Kasane. It seemed like a cool thing to do, so as I came into town on Friday, I stopped at the park entrance and asked about it. I was told that as long as you are driving a 4×4, you can buy a day pass for P50 for the vehicle plus P120 per person (that’s about $15 for a single person). Since nearly all of the guided tours drive the same two or three loops in the park, I thought I would try it out for myself.
On Sunday morning I got up at 5:30 and packed a few snacks and water for the morning and was at the park gate just after they opened. I got a lot of strange looks from both drivers and passengers as I took my truck through the gate, but I think they were just jealous since they weren’t doing it themselves. At first I just followed some of the game drive trucks, but I went at my own pace and stopped to watch the sun rise over the river and watch some hippos floating nearby. I passed some tours as they took pictures of impala (been there, done that) and went searching for some more interesting animals. Of course I saw many elephants; it is what the park is known for. But I decided to not stop at the ones far away and instead keep searching for elephants close to the road. I was not disappointed. I encountered several herds that were crossing the dirt roads and got some great pictures of them and some babies.
See the best of pics here: Chobe drive
I also got some great views of African fish eagles, giraffes, buffalo, and some smaller birds moving too quickly for my camera.
Some sections of road are very sandy and I got stuck once, until a driver passed me and reminded me to engage my 4-wheel drive. That really helped to get traction and I used it a few times in sand and on steep hills. I only stalled twice, which I consider a win for the morning.
I saw the American girls and British family from the day before on their own safaris. I think they did double-takes when they saw me. After about three hours I was tired of sitting and driving, so I drove back to the lodge and had a proper breakfast. I then spent some time trying to get a few work related things done before giving up on the super slow internet and just reading instead.
In the afternoon I went back in the park and drove around some more. I tried exploring a different area away from the river, thinking that some animals would be at a watering hole I found, but alas, there is too much water in the area for anything to be tempted there. Also the grass is really high right now so it is very difficult to see anything.
Overall, it was a lot of sitting on Sunday and at times I had to pay more attention to where I was driving than my surroundings so after a two hour afternoon game drive I called it and headed back. It was happy hour when I got back so I enjoyed a cocktail on the patio and watched the sun set over Africa.
The Safari Lodge only has buffet meals, which I knew I would eat too much at, so for dinner than night I walked next door to the Chobe Bush lodge (owned and operated by the same people) and had an ala carte fish dinner with mashed potatoes and veggies. Other than eating every meal alone and missing Jacob a lot, it was a lovely weekend and was over far too soon.
My drive back to Katima on Monday morning was uneventful and sadly, did not include any animal sightings. I had to move accommodation because I had been staying at Kate’s flat the previous week but she was coming up for the week interview candidates for the new spray assistant position so when I got back to town I packed up my belongings and transferred them to my new B&B, the 3 Palms. Then I had to rush to the airport to pick up Kate, Mukosha, Dr. Bock (from the UNAM main campus in Windhoek, here for the interviews), and Oliver, a clinical fellow at UCSF who is heading the serology sub-study in Namibia. The afternoon flew by with dropping people off, getting settled in the new place, and catching up on dozens of emails.
Even though I don’t celebrate any religious holidays, it was a happy Easter and I enjoyed every minute of it.