- Size of Chobe National Park: 11,700 sq. kms.
- Size of Prince Edward Island: 5,660 sq. kms.
- Elephant population of Chobe National Park: 50,000
- Elephant population of Prince Edward Island: Unknown
- Amount of urine an African elephant gets rid of per day: 50 litres
- Amount of urine a PEI elephant gets rid of per day: peiddling.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to blog for every single day. It’s just that this day is unique. I had known for weeks that the morning game drives departed around 5:30, but I’d never quite worked up the nerve to tell Claire. It’s early, I had said in warning. How early, she’d asked. Pretty early, I’d said. Like before 8:00, she’d asked incredulously. Maybe, I said. Actually, she took it quite well that first evening in Chobe when we were advised that we’d get a 5:00 wake up call. But I suspect that the concept was so abstract to her that she couldn’t quite grasp it.
I thought standing in the dark waiting to be eaten by a lion was scary. I know that elephants can be ferocious if threatened. And crocodiles; well we all remember Captain Hook. I thought I was prepared for all the scary things Africa held for me. But I wasn’t prepared for a Claire at 5:00 AM. You’d think it would be difficult to use the words comatose and dangerous to describe the same person. However, we managed to get through it. Although she tried the old “you go ahead, I’ll be right there” gambit I pushed and prodded until we arrived in the lobby to join the others. There we found fresh coffee and juice and some light breakfast items and about 20 surprisingly enthusiastic safariers. At 5:30 we climbed aboard the vehicles and off we went.
You know how sometimes, something you do or see or try changes how you think about life forever? Like listening to Miles Davis for the first time affects how you listen to music, or your first drink of single malt scotch makes you rethink your relationship with alcohol? I won’t say that this safari (and those that would follow) has made me a true naturist but it did transform my appreciation of animals in their natural habitat. To see elephant families and herds going down to the river to drink and splash and play. To see impala herds on the move for food. To see lions and leopards taking it all in and measuring their options. And baboons and monkeys and wildebeest and even the stupid birds. As we watched the park come to life and we watched the hunted and the hunters position themselves, I found a perspective on these animals’ roles in life that I’d failed to appreciate before. I will never look at an animal in a zoo again in the same way. (See question of the day). And if that’s not enough awe for you, here’s the clincher. Claire didn’t fall asleep once.
As promised, I’m not going to go over every animal we saw, how many of them and so on. Suffice to say they were excellent and rewarding and educational. Not only did we drive and observe but the guides were very knowledgeable and gave us incredible amounts of information about the animals, birds and plant life most of which I forgot almost immediately. I’ll simply focus on the half dozen particularly outstanding experiences as they come up. We ended up this game drive around 9:00 and headed back to the camp for an excellent breakfast on the deck. Then a few minutes rest since we have to get ready for our first river cruise where we’ll see the park and its animals from a different perspective.
A half dozen of us gathered at the dock for the boat trip. Lettie, our guide was at the helm (is the helm at the front or the back?). Off we go down the Chobe River. The Chobe flows into the Zambezi River and divides the country of Botswana from that of Namibia (see geography lesson in next post.) A couple of hours of pleasant cruising, observing and learning and we were back for lunch on the deck. Lunch ended with a floor show (ground show) of a dozen dancer/singer/chanters re-enacting some rituals of long ago native Botswanians. All great fun. Then a bit of down time before our next game drive at 4:00.
Our second afternoon game drive of our trip followed the familiar pattern (less the flat tire) and a good time was had by all. However, (and there always seems to be a however) after our sundowner, on our way back to the camp we ran into a small traffic problem. Lying in the middle of the road was a lion. We came to a halt to watch it for a few minutes as had another vehicle on the other side. We were thinking this was kind of neat. Lettie was thinking “how do I get around this lion so we can get back before dark”. She moved the vehicle a little closer to try and get it to move. It did and walked beside us to lie on the road behind us. Good then now we could go. Except now we see that there wasn’t just the one; there were 5 more lying on the road a little further down, none of them showing any intention of going anywhere. You’ll have to appreciate that the closest of these was perhaps 15 feet away from us. After two or three manoeuvres, Lettie concluded that she couldn’t get around. Cognizant that lions start getting a little peckish when the sun goes down, she opted to back-track to try to find an alternate but much longer route back. All turned out OK but for the second day in a row we arrive back in camp in the pitch black. I think Lettie’s next performance appraisal might have a little something to say about punctuality.
Dinner that night on the deck; where else? (Actually when I think about it, we wouldn’t eat a single meal indoors for the next 9 days.) Dinner was a nice change. Buffet style, but you picked from a huge array of fish, meats and vegetables, placed them on a plate which you then handed to one of the chefs who stir fried it to your liking. Nice idea. Then off to bed. We’re passing on the next morning’s game drive in part because we have to get ready to vacate (the hotel, the park and the country) and in part because, well I did mention Claire’s aversion to anything pre-sunrise? We’re going to get some z’s because tomorrow is zzzzZambia day.
Question of the day: Zoos are great for exposing people to animals that they wouldn’t otherwise see. They can be educational and family friendly. It is true that some animals for one reason or another could not survive in the wild which makes them fair game (pun intended) for a zoo. But do you think it’s ethical to remove wild animals from their natural habitat and put them into captivity even if the zoo is hyper sensitive to their needs?