Botswana safari plus, day five
05.07.2018 - 05.07.2018
Sunrise on the river
By the jetty at dawn
Chobe Game Lodge is experimenting with a potential new activity for guests, a sunrise cruise on the river, and this morning we played guinea pigs. We were warned we may not see much wildlife, but we did! We also enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and had breakfast on the river. It was very cold at first but really worth doing - a beautiful outing.
It started, of course, with another early wake-up call, but with the luxury of a ‘lie-in’ - 5.30 rather than 5.00! We dressed quickly and warmly, and hurried over to the main building for coffee and a muffin before going down to the jetty from where we could see the sky already starting to glow pinkly.
Our guide welcomed on board - the same one who had escorted us on our sunset cruise two days before, Gao (pronounced ‘How’). But this time it was just the two of us - no one else had chosen this option over that of a game drive, perhaps put off by the explanatory leaflet which indicated that we might not see much wildlife beyond the water birds.
Gao cast off and set off in an easterly direction, towards the sunrise. We could hear hippos grunting and soon saw a small pod in the long grass to our right, though it wasn’t yet light enough to take decent photos. Besides, it was the sky and the just-rising sun which occupied our cameras for a while at least.
Sunrise over the Chobe River
Once the sun was properly up we turned our attention to the hippos. Gao took the boat closer so we could watch them enjoying their breakfast. Hippos spend the night grazing on shore so these would just now have come down to the river. Their skin dries out easily so once the sun comes up they need to be in the water.
Hippos at sunrise
I found it very restful to watch the hippos grazing - I hope you do too!
Not far from the hippos Gao pointed out a pair of Puku on the shore. These are relatively rare in Botswana – the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/11037/0) rates them as ‘near threatened’ and says that their population is decreasing overall, although increasing here in Chobe NP. It seemed the male might be trying to mate with the female but he soon returned to grazing.
Puku by the Chobe River
A tentative approach?
No, eating seems to be the priority!
Later we heard them call, in a high-pitched voice like a football referee’s whistle, to a third puku further up the shore.
There were lots of birds around now:
We saw some banded mongooses playing in the sun, but a little too far away to get good photos. This was the best I could manage:
A water monitor lizard was basking on a log, warming his body after the cold night:
Water monitor lizard
Then we came across a troop of baboons and spent quite some time watching them interact - the adults grooming each other while the babies played.
Checking with Gao I learned that these youngsters would be about a month or a little more in age.
A contented-looking baboon
We arrived at the salt lick area where we had seen elephants and impala on our sunset cruise. This morning there were just impala here - a very large herd.
We took some photos and then Gao suggested that this would be a good spot for breakfast, to which we agreed. She brought the boat into the shore. Most of the breakfast was already set out on the table in the centre of the boat, under covers naturally. She made instant coffee, then invited us to help ourselves. There were pots of yoghurt with granola and berry compote, pastries and croissants, fresh fruit, cold meats and cheeses, and crackers. There was also fruit juice and even a bottle of champagne on ice! We declined the latter, however, as we would only have drunk a little and it seemed from what Gao said that any leftovers would go to waste. Obviously had we been a larger group that would not have been an issue!
After breakfast we headed back to the jetty, stopping to photograph a crocodile on the bank in passing.
Look at those teeth!
When we arrived back at the mooring it was to find all the spaces occupied by other boats, ready for the next excursions, so we had to wait a while before we could tie up and disembark. We were met by the lodge’s owner, keen to get feedback on the experience. Needless to say we were very positive, with the result that he said they would consider adding it the regular programme.
We passed through the restaurant on our way back to the room and were offered yet more breakfast, including hot dishes, should we have wanted it. But we had eaten enough on board and were happy to go back to our room where we made hot chocolate which we drank sitting in the sun on our terrace, getting warmed up after the chill out on the water.
White-browed Robin-chat in the restaurant
After a relaxing couple of hours we went to lunch (great venison kebab!) and took a few photos around the hotel. At 3.30 it was time to set out on another game drive, this time with Dinah as our guide. Things started slowly at first:
A lone kudu near the lodge gate:
A small herd of elephants with some cute babies:
Elephant and calves
A giraffe, and a Common Bustard:
Giraffe with ox-peckers on board
A Lilac Breasted Roller:
Dinah heard about a leopard sighting at one point, but when we reached the spot where he had been seen he had already moved on. So we drove down on to the flood plains, where we found more giraffe and a distant hard of buffalo.
Chobe River flood plains
There was much more cloud than we’d seen previously, and rain in the distance over Namibia, although looking east the sky was still blue.
Landscape with giraffe
Then Dinah got word of lions not far away, so we drove in their direction. And what a treat! The pride included four super cute cubs, and a young male. We spent ages in their company, taking loads of photos and watching the antics of the cubs in particular.
Three of the cubs
Some time to myself
And with mum
Sticking close to mum
The cubs at play
The proud mother
The young male
Of course quite a few vehicles gathered at this spot, but the lions didn’t seem to mind the company and came really close to us. Only the cubs seemed slightly wary, unwilling to follow their mother across the road between the vehicles even when some backed off to give them a clear pathway. They soon braved it however and were reunited with her.
Watching the lions
Eventually we tore ourselves away and drove on to the same spot where we had parked yesterday to stretch our legs and enjoy a drink. There were no baboons here today however, and perhaps just as well, as we had little time to linger. The national park closes at 6.30 so we needed to be back at the lodge by then.
We drove back under darkening skies and arrived just a little after that hour, the last vehicle to enter the lodge gates.
Chobe at dusk
Dinner at the boma
That evening dinner was served outside at the ‘boma’ down by the river, with live music, champagne on arrival and a buffet meal. Although not a fan of the latter I have to say the food was excellent, as were all the meals we had at the lodge. But we didn’t stay very late, as we had to pack our bags. We would be leaving tomorrow, but there would be time to fit in one more game drive before departure, provided we were well-organised and ready to leave straight after breakfast.