Today we visited the interior of Chobe National Park with our intrepid guide Shime – a Botswanan who hails from a small village 7 hours away near the city of Maun. We are staying at the luxurious isolated Ngoma Safari Lodge located on the edge of Chobe on the Namibian border. The Chobe game drives are the main activity offered by Ngoma – and along with their lodge, these drives are first class. Their guides are super knowledgeable, have eyes like hawks, and at lunch time, a full spread with wine appeared on a table in the middle of the bush!
Chobe is teeming with wildlife. Botswanan’s realize the importance of conservation – nearly 40% of the entire country is set aside as National Parks or uninhabited wild areas. These are not small game parks where animals are fenced in – these are huge un-fenced tracts of land, Chobe, the Okavango Delta, the Kalihari etc.
Rather than Kruger National Park – where vehicle after vehicle can be lined up watching game, here we saw only 3 vehicles the entire day. You name it, we saw it – wild dogs, lions, many herds of elephants, rhinos, hippos, kuru, impala, water buck, sable, many species of birds, alligator, water monitor, zebra, giraffe, cape buffalo, several endangered species and much more.
We drove within about 3 meters of a pride of lions. Our guide wasn’t fazed at all when they all stood up as we approached. He said its not uncommon for the lions to get up and jump onto the top or hood of the vehicle. Now, that excitement we don’t need! This was the closest I’ve been to lions in the wild – even closer then in Tanzania a few years ago.
Chobe is home to huge numbers of elephants. We drove into the middle of one large group and they trumpeted and walked right up to within a meter or so of our vehicle. We sat in still silence, not risking making any noise that might frighten them.
The largest group of animals in one location we saw were Cape Buffalo. The ground was literately black with their backs for a great distance. These are among some of Africa’s most dangerous animals – but our guide said if they are in a large group like this, there is little chance of one of them charging the vehicle. We later came across a small group of buffalo on a walking safari and we gave them a wide berth.
Sometimes the smallest animals are some of the most intriguing. We came across two dung beetles rolling a ball of dung through the bush. Well, actually the female just hangs on for the ride while the male does all the rolling work. Their egg is contained inside the ball of dried dung.
We saw our first chameleon – it was crossing the tar road and had taken the color of grey and black pavement. We moved it to a branch of green leaves and wow, it started changing green! This small creature is amazing when you only consider the fact it can change its body color to suit its external environment. But also consider that the Chameleon can rotate one eye totally independent from the other – 180 degrees opposite as well as turn its neck 360 degrees.