The official at Ngoma Gate tells us we are late, even though we still have a couple of hours before sunset and less than 25km to drive. Very soon after embarking on our first game drive, we discover that the going is very slow. We literally stop every other minute to have a look at yet more game. The amount of animals we encounter is truly amazing. Giraffe, with oxpeckers on their slender necks, kudus, waterbucks, and yet more elephants, with big troops of baboons and jackal, fish eagles, storks, and a multitude of other birds thrown in as well. The warm light makes them all look even better. The landscape: hills on or right, with bushes, baobabs and other trees, and on our left: the Chobe river, with Namibia on the other side. I am careful to avoid any of the sudden ditches while having my eyes on the surroundings at the same time. When we finally arrive at our campsite, the sun is almost at the horizon. The lady of the reception warns us for wildlife on the campgrounds, and informs us that at times, the office is not staffed when they feel threatened. Indeed, on the way to our campsite, we encounter yet another group of elephants. When the moon sets as well, we are left on an empty campgrounds, with a brilliant star-filled sky above us, and the sounds of lion very close by to accompany us into a thrilling sleep.
We are up early the next morning, and drive along the banks of the Chobe river. After the abundance of wildlife of the day before, we are almost disappointed that it takes more than a few minutes to spot our first wildlife. Driving the sandy tracks on the riverside, we see birds scavenging the water for breakfast. A white egret picks a frog out of its hiding place and gobbles it down. Many more birds, both in the tree tops and in the water. We see our first hippos in the water. At times, the track is flooded, and we either drive around it, or take an inland track until we come back to the water again. We pass through a big, big herd of buffaloes. When we have a short break at a lookout point over the Chobe river, a herd of elephants comes to drink just below us. We criss-cross through the riverfront landscape, always in search of more wildlife. After a short brunch break, we continue our quest, driving west, where we see yet more herds of elephants, impalas and giraffes, often very close. The question that seems to haunt everyone: where are the cats? They can be hiding under bushes, and no matter how hard we search for them, we cannot spot them this time. We miss sunset because we get stuck in a herd of elephants with a couple of young ones, and enjoy watching them eat instead.
The second night is more quiet: no roaring lions at close hand, or so it seems. The next morning, we again drive along the riverbank. Apart from the hippos, we now also spot crocodiles and monitor lizards. Again, no luck in the cat department. Later that afternoon, we do a river safari, and after driving around the riverfront of Chobe, it is great to sit back, and see the landscape and wildlife from a different angle. The river is rife with waterlilies, and our skipper takes the time to explain and let us enjoy watching an African jacana hop from one leaf to the next with its tailor-made feet. Next are several hippos, and very fat, big crocodiles. We are told they primarily feed on fish, where I had expected they would also take their chance on the wildlife coming to drink at the river. We stop for several big herds of elephants, see them play in the water, using their trunks for a shower, and appreciate their size more from this low angle. All the time, we are surrounded by more birds: egrets, cormorants, ibis, kingfishers, fish eagles, and many more. The richness of the riverfront has given us several days filled with hundreds of animals, and we have many memories to take with us. That evening, we are treated to yet more elephants at the waterhole at our lodge where we see tens more of the grey giants.
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