Part 2…Chobe National Park safari and Chobe River cruise…Interesting geography, culture and much more…

A small but substantially packed ferry arriving in Zambia from Botswana while we waited.  This reminded us of the ferry boat when we arrive in Mombasa, Kenya in September 2013.  Click here for that post.
Riding the ferry is free for people but not for vehicles between Zambia and Botswana but, to disembark it requires removing one’s shoes and walking in the water.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A kingfisher and his catch-of-the-day.  Not a perfect shot but we were thrilled to get this while on the move.

At the moment, as I begin today’s post, I’m sitting alone outdoors at the hotel restaurant while Tom has gone with Matthew, our regular taxi driver, to the bank where one of our debit cards was swallowed by the ATM on Saturday.

This is where we stood and waited for the little boat to take us across the Zambezi River.  A bridge is being built to accommodate the crossing which could be completed by the end of 2019.

Yesterday our free day, Matthew drove us to the bank only to find the bank manager, the only person who can release the card, was out and none of the staff knew when he’d return.  We couldn’t wait around all day for him to return.  We returned to the hotel.

Alec told us this truck broke down on the cement ramp on the river bank.  It was shoved off into the river two years ago to get it out of the way and still remains in this spot.

Matthew and the hotel concierge got to work to try and reach the bank manager and a few minutes ago, Tom left to head back to the bank where the manager was finally available.  There’s no guaranty he’ll return the card to Tom as explained by a bank official.  It’s entirely up to the manager’s discretion.

These locals, situated on the side of the road were selling cold beverages.

Humm…what about Tom will determine whether or not he is credible enough to get his card back?  He’s wearing a nice shirt and shorts but then again, so are all the locals and tourists we see.  I guess we’ll find out soon enough when he returns which, when he does, I’ll include the result here as I continue to work on today’s post.

Alfred, our BushTracks guide from Botswana.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, we don’t hold this against Zambia in any manner.  We’re in Africa and like many other parts of the world, there are clean-cut appearing scammers coming up with the most unbelievable means of scamming people and institutions.  I suppose they’re just following protocol.

Locals walking on the road from Zambia to the ferry to head to Botswana.

Yes, we know, we can order a new card from our bank in the US but the inconvenience of collecting the card by snail mail is frustrating and time-consuming. We’ll see how it goes soon enough.

Anyway, on to today’s photos and stories which include a variety of scenes from the trip to Botswana.  First, Alec, our trusty driver and tour guide inside of Zambian border (with Chris Tours) picked us up at the hotel at 7:00 am for the 45-minute drive to the Zambia immigration office near a busy pier on the Zambezi River where four countries intersect as follows:

“There is a place called Kazungula, at the intersection of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers, where four countries meet. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and a tiny strip of Namibia all come together in one spot.” 

These women around this table all looked up at me and smiled and gave the thumbs up.  What this meant, I’m not certain but I responded with a big smile and thumbs up as well

That’s interesting,” we both commented simultaneously.  In reviewing the map below, we started out in Zambia and crossed the Zambezi River.  Once we were on the other side we were in Botswana.  Here’s a map showing these points:

“African “Quadripoint” Only Place on the Earth, Where Four Distinct Territories’ are Touched.” 

(Tom just returned from the bank. He got the card back! Matthew went inside the bank with Tom as his local advocate and a short time later he and Tom walked out of the bank with Tom’s debit card safely back in his wallet. Whew! Tom generously “thanked” Matthew when they returned to the hotel).

At every border, vendors promote their wares by asking for purchases multiple times.  We say, “No, thank you.”

Once of passports were stamped indicating we were leaving Zambia, Alec walked us to a makeshift pier area where we’d have to walk over piles of pier-related construction materials toward the cement ramp where we’d board a little boat to cross the river. 

A very large hornbill, one of our favorite birds in South Africa.

Alec stayed behind in Zambia for the entire day awaiting our return at 4:10 pm.  We felt empathetic about his long day of waiting but he said he manages to busy himself while he waits for his customers to return after the Chobe day trip.

A troop of baboons in a tree.

Crossing from Zambia into Botswana isn’t as easy as showing a passport while crossing the border in a vehicle. Alec took our passports when exiting and again when returning, to the Zambian immigration office to get them stamped.

Albert, our guide with Bush Tracks Safari company, who drove us in the safari vehicle through the Chobe National Park and later drove the boat on the Chobe River, handled our passport stamps at the Botswana immigration office.

We saw no less a dozen crocodiles during our busy day.

When we were finally leaving Botswana at the end of the day we had to make a personal appearance at immigration.  Back in Zambia, as mentioned above, Alec again handled our passport stamps as he’d done upon entry. 

All of this takes time but somehow we breezed through most of it, while we were in the good hands of our guides.  Our four safari mates were interesting to talk to and we easily entertained ourselves while we waited.

Friend Louise in Kauai, Hawaii identified this bird as an African Darter.  Thanks, Louise!

Once on the Botswana side of the Zambezi River, Albert greeted us and told us a great story (while we waited for the four other guests) of how, when he was 12 years old, he became lost in the bush in Botswana. 

Female giraffes have hair at the top of their ossicones (horns).  Males have worn off the hair from fighting for dominance.  “The ossicones are what distinguishes the male and female from one another. Stereotypically, the female giraffe has tufts of hair on the top of her horns, while the males are bald on top. Some males develop calcium deposits on top of their heads, which creates the illusion of the animal having more than two horns.”

His grandfather had taught him valuable bush survival skills which came into use during his three-day ordeal when he was finally found by his family and a search party. He translated this experience into his masterful skills as a safari guide, both on land and on the river.  He provided an exceptional experience for all of us.

Another beautiful bird that is actually included in the “Ugly 5.”  It didn’t look so ugly to us.  Thanks to friend Louise in Kauai, Hawaii and niece Kari for identifying this bird.

Once the four others arrived we all jumped into the safari vehicle and began the short drive toward Chobe National Park.  Shortly before we entered the park, Alfred stopped the vehicle and set up “tea time” with coffee,  a variety of teas and homemade muffins.  I sipped on Rooisbos tea, the caffeine-free popular local tea, while Tom had coffee and a muffin. 

Albert prepared our “tea time” before we entered the Chobe National Park.

This pleasant tea time reminded us of when we had breakfast in the Masai Mara when our guide Anderson, set up breakfast in the savannah where the animals roamed around us. 

The photo from our breakfast in the savannah in the Masai Mara on October 2013.  See the post from that date, here. 

We can’t believe we’ll be back in the Masai Mara in February, this time with a new guide since Anderson now works in Uganda with the gorilla tours.  We’ll see him when we do that tour in the future.

Check out the muscles on the front quarters of this giraffe.

After tea and coffee, we headed directly into Chobe National Park to begin our land safari which would last less than three hours.  Our expectations were low during such a short period. 

A pair of giraffes at a distance.
Giraffes seldom bend down other than to drink water.  This position makes them vulnerable to attack by predators.
As typical during most safaris, the dirt roads were uneven and passengers must expect to bounce around as if on a ride at an amusement park.  But, this is way more exciting than a man-made ride.  This was nature at its finest.

Monitor Lizard on the shore of the river.

During the first 45 minutes we didn’t see much more than we were used to seeing in Marloth Park; impalas, warthogs and some pretty birds.  Then, the magic began as safari luck kicked in, as usual.  When we hadn’t seen much I was tempted to tell our safari-mates, “No worries.  We have safari luck.  We’ll see something soon!”  But, I kept quiet, not wanting to disappoint anyone if it didn’t happen.

An elderly group of four were stuck in the sand in their rental car.  There is no way they’d have extricated themselves from this situation.  Alfred used a tow strap/rope from another vehicle stuck behind this car and towed them out.  They insisted on trying to go through the sand again but Alfred discouraged them, telling them to turn around and go back. We don’t know what ultimately transpired for this group of four seniors. Can you imagine being stuck in such a location overnight, stranded in a vehicle?

And safari luck indeed transpired as hoped as we had a spectacular morning in Chobe National Park.  Over the next several days, we’ll continue to share photos from both the land and Chobe River safaris.

Elephant skull on the side of the dirt road.

Today at 3:30 pm, we’ll be picked up by yet another tour company to take us on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River on the beautiful, newer “Lion King” catamaran where drinks and appetizers will be served.  It will be fun to meet more travelers while we all share the remarkable stories of our time in this special part of the world.

Please check back for more and more and more…


Photo from one year ago today, May 16, 2017:
Vancouver is comparable to many cities with lots of skyscrapers and business centers but is impeccably clean and friendly.  We boarded the Celebrity Solstice to Alaska later in the day.  Please click here for details.

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