Before returning home, most of our group went for a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana for more animal viewing. Chobe has several factors that make it a premier safari destination:
- The Chobe River creates a unique ecosystem with an abundance of wildlife, and safaris via land vehicles or boat offer equally productive animal viewing.
- The park has a spectacular elephant population numbering in the thousands. Visitors have a very high chance of seeing entire herds of elephants at work and play.
- Chobe National Park is one of the few places one regularly sees hippos on land during the day. They do this because they’re competing with elephants for food. Getting out of the water during the day gives hippos more opportunities to graze and helps make sure the elephants don’t get all the grass.
- Because of the river, birdwatching here is good all day, not just in the early morning and late afternoon hours.
- The park is on the border between Botswana and Namibia, and is just an hour’s drive away from Victoria Falls, which itself is on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. You have your pick of countries to stay in when visiting Chobe.
Our group started out the day with a drive from Victoria Falls to Chobe National Park. It didn’t take long to get through Botswana’s border control, and we were outside the park at 9 a.m. We spent the next few hours on a river safari, with our two guides pointing out a lot of remarkable wildlife we hadn’t seen yet on this trip, such as African fish eagles and black herons, or hadn’t seen up close, such as hippos and a baby crocodile.
What surprised me most was how many land mammals we could view from the river. We saw Cape buffaloes, kudus, and a red lechwe. Most of all, we saw elephants—probably close to a hundred of them, and many up close as they played and drank on the shores of the river.
Who doesn’t love baby elephants? Daphne Sheldrick certainly does, and she’s taken her love further than most, becoming the first person to successfully rescue baby African elephants of nursing age who have lost their mothers and raise them to adulthood. One Green Planet recently wrote an illuminating profile of this fascinating 81-year-old woman.