Monday, 20 February 2012

Chobe National Park

Saturday, 18th February 2012

An excellent breakfast was served on the 'Zambezi Queen' before we prepared for our visit to Chobe Game Park (properly called Chobe National Park). This was quite a complex procedure. We needed our passport, separate departure and arrival forms for Namibia and separate arrival and departure forms for Botswana. Most of the writing-out had been done by the staff on the boat, but there were one or two minor problems with the paperwork to correct. The aluminium boats first took us from the 'Zambezi Queen' to the Namibian Immigration Post we'd been to the previous day where we departed Namibia. Then, the boats took us to the Immigration Post at Kasane (where we'd departed Botswana the previous day) so that we could be re-admitted to Botswana.

Outside the Immigration Office at Kasane, there were four rugged-looking 4 x 4 waiting. The rear of all four vehicles were equipped with three rows each with three seats. A roof was provided, supported by a substantial tubular frame but the vehicle was otherwise open. When everybody had cleared customs and found a seat in one of the 4 x 4, we set off in convoy along the fairly good road leading to the entrance to Chobe National Park. Before we reached the main entrance, we came across a number of stopped vehicles watching a pack of wild dogs who were happily scampering across the main road. Our group of 4 x 4 followed the dogs into the bush where we tracked them for a hundred yards or so before turning back to the msin road and continuing to the main entrance to Chobe National Park.

Wild Dogs are an endangered species in Botswana but we encountered this pack before we'd even entered Chobe National Park.

Chobe National Park was created in 1960 as a Game Reserve. It covers an area of over 10,000 square kilometres and is particularly famous for its large elephant population (which proved rather reclusive whilst we were there). We waited at the entrance for some time whilst Vincent, from the 'Zambezi Queen', negotiated with the office regarding our admission. At last, after a careful study of each of our passports, the office issued the large red numbered labels to be carried on the windscreen of each of our vehicles and we finally entered the park. Even the major roads were heavily-rutted sand and the ride was, to say the least, 'lively'.

There are large numbers of Impala and they became a frequent sighting, incredibly elegant animals who, when 'spooked', demonstrate an amazing turn of speed as they move away.

Impala are the most successful and widespread of the antelopes. This herd extends on both sides of our track.

We saw warthogs and countless colourful birds. We passed gibbons (I'm at a loss for collective nouns - troop? troupe? I can't even name a lot of the species at present so I suppose the short version is "Jan looked at a load of animals and birds"). In general, the animals and even the birds are used to the 4 x 4 criss-crossing the park and vehicles can get quite close to the wildlife. Some of the species (like gibbons and sometimes impala) can be quite reluctant to give way to passing vehicles.

One remarkable sight was two large, black Dung Beetles (each with a body about two inches long) rolling a ball of sand (about the size of a tennis-ball) along the edge of the track, with complete indifference to our passage. The male does most of the work with his hind legs, the female goes along for the ride. Once installed at their chosen location, the female will lay her eggs in the dung-ball.

As we made our way along the margin of the Chobe River, we found hippopotamus and wading birds, turning inland we found giraffe, warthogs, more gibbons and lots more Impala.

A group of giraffe hinging their necks up and down to reach the most succulent leaves. The sight reminded me of a number of dockyard cranes at work (before containerisation eliminated that sort of jib crane).

We didn't find elephant and this turned into something of a running joke. There are supposed to be 120,000 elephant in the Chobe National Park and Botswana but, so far, we hadn't found one. But we had had some wonderful animal sightings. The 4 x 4 drove us back to Kasane Immigration. Once again, our passports were stamped as leaving Botswana and our motor boats took us along the river to Namibian Immigration. Back in Namibia, our boats returned us to the 'Zambezi Queen', moored, as usual, mid-channel, tied to a buoy.

Pictures of Chobe National Park: Click here.