Accomodation : Bakwena lodge, Chobe
Today was another great day perched in the back of a jeep. The anticipation of what you might see is always there at each turn on a safari and then day was no different. Looking at the landscape, taking in the vista and making connections with what you’ve previously seen or heard away from the other interruptions in life makes for a very enjoyable experience. So it was today. We had two safaris; one at 6am and another at 3:30pm. Both were sensational in their own way and has left us with a real love of the park. This one has very much lived up to the hype.
In the morning we were the only ones on the jeep with our guide Max. Given that he knew what we had already seen, we were afforded the luxury of just taking our time, or sitting and waiting if we thought something might eventuate. Max said that we were going to ‘bend the rules not break them’ by going the reverse route to everyone else. (He so could be an Aussie!). This meant that we would arrive at various possible sighting locations at different times to the other jeeps giving us a more personalised experience.
There were two main highlights to the morning expedition. The first one was seeing the ‘daddy lion’ – a feat not often accomplished. He was near to the other lions but not too close as daddy was having fun trying to make a poor female pregnant. Every five minutes he would move around behind her and ‘do the deed’. Then five minutes later again. This apparently lasts for up to two weeks to ensure that genetically the female is producing cubs that are the best they can be. You should have seen the poor female…life for her is tough! There was a young male that unfortunately had gotten in the way of the daddy lion and had scampered up a tree above them. He desperately wanted to come down but the thought of interrupting dad scared him so much that everyone time dad groaned, the poor little thing would wet himself. He knew he’d be in big trouble if his footing gave way or the branch that was supporting him broke. Finally, dad and the ‘lady’ moved away to more private surroundings and the little guy quickly jumped from the tree and moved away.
The other highlight came when our guide was informed by another guide that she had seen a leopard drag an impala into a tree. We weren’t far away from the site so thought we would go and see if we could see anything. Unfortunately the tree was large and rather large and protected and so nothing could be observed. After a few minutes the other jeeps present tired and drove off just leaving us. As we had seen a lot of the park, we told Max that we were more than happy to wait and see what happened. I think Max himself wanted to wait as spotting leopards in the park is a very rare occurrence with the last one Max saw being about six weeks ago.
In the surrounds near us, impala watched alertly but then all of a sudden they all ran and congregated together creating a swarm of impalas (where they all came from so quickly was amazing). They then started making really loud grunting noises, standing there forcefully. Looking and marvelling at these creatures (who are much maligned and often called ‘Macdonald’s’ because they are a good snack food for the animals) was extraordinary. Then out of the bush strode the leopard. As he walked away, seemingly uncaring of the impalas who were push forward toward him and grunting louder, we started clicking the camera to grab what is quite a rare shot in Chobe. For about five minutes we watched the leopard, strolling confidently down the road and then into the bushes away from the impala who seemed to give themselves a ‘high 5 for scaring off the big bad leopard’. (Apparently though they won’t leave a site until they have confirmed that the impala the leopard got is dead and that they can’t do anything about it…leave no-one behind alive’.
A full grown male lion and a leopard. Two big highlights in a mornings drive.
The evening drive saw us reunited with the mother and her son, Leon from Frankfurt. We really like these people so it was no problem having them in the jeep with us. Max decided he’d try a different route on the afternoon drive, endeavouring to locate a den full of hyenas that he had heard about a fair way down the made road. When we discovered nothing we thought that we may just have to concede that we were lucky to see what we had seen in the morning and leave it at that. This was further confirmed when driving through a new route, we encountered the carcasses of three rotting elephants in various stages of decay. Irrespective of what they looked like, they really stunk…strike two!
Things started to look up when we came over an escarpment and looked down into the valley. There Jurassic Park like, were hundreds of elephants and eight giraffes roaming the plain. Some elephants were rolling in mud pools whilst the giraffes had an interesting way of splaying their legs wide to bend and taste the salt licks in the sand below.
The Elephant brigade this afternoon was also a prominent one with elephants at every turn. We have seen a lot of elephants before, but Chobe seem to have the most in terms of visual numbers. Given that we also went a different route, it meant we ended up on the road adjacent to the river right at the very end. This is where the pride of lions had resided for the past couple of days. They had moved a little but given that it was cooler (28 degrees) they had actually moved back onto the sandy road making for a very visible presence.