I’m finally back in the UK after an outstanding safari that took me and a group of wildlife enthusiasts to some of the best parks in Africa. The first on our itinerary was Chobe NP in northeast Botswana.
15 September 2014
I’m not a fan of airports, but Kasane is the kind of airport I love. Small enough that you can walk down the steps from the plane and across 50 metres of tarmac into the immigration building.
The woman who directs you to the correct door then hurries behind the desk to stamp your passport with the entry visa. No frills, no fuss, but it works with an effortless simplicity that immediately makes you feel at ease.
Once we had officially entered Botswana we all stood around in the ‘Arrivals Hall’ waiting for our bags to be brought from the plane. This was done with a handcart, from which the bags were unloaded and brought one by one into the hall. No trolleys, no pushing and shoving to get bags off a conveyor belt. It was all very civilised.
Once outside we were met by Dennis, who was to be our guide for the Chobe section of our safari.
(This was the first leg of a safari that would take us from Chobe across the border into Zimbabwe where we’d be visiting Victoria Falls, Hwange, Matusadona and Mana Pools before flying down to South Africa’s Western Cape.)
He drove us to The Old House in Kasane. A quaint B&B where we would be staying until the rest of the group arrived.
Our safari was supposed to start on 16th September but the flights into Kasane were fully booked for that day so we’d chosen to arrive a day early whilst the others had chosen to fly into Victoria Falls instead and transfer to Kasane by road.
I much preferred our option as it gave us time to relax after our flight and explore the bustling metropolis of Kasane.
A little bit about The Old House…
When the Chobe National Park was established in 1968, the saw milling settlement at Serondella gradually re-located to the village of Kasane. The original foundation of The Old House was built from the used bricks that were collected from the ruins of the old saw mill buildings.
I can highly recommend The Old House to anyone who needs to overnight in Kasane and does not need the luxury of Chobe Marina Lodge or Chobe Safari Lodge. The rooms were more than adequate, with air conditioning and the bar and restaurant were simple but comfortable. The food we had there was great and the beers were cold.
What we liked in particular was that The Old House seemed to attract an interesting bunch of travellers and safari guides who preferred to eat and drink there than the more expensive Safari Lodge or Marina Lodge.
16 September 2014
With a whole morning to kill until the Australian members of the group arrived, Rena (Mrs Soukous) & I took a stroll down the main (only) street in Kasane.
We visited both the big lodges where I took a professional interest in their facilities etc and Rena took an enthusiast’s interest in their gift shops. Fortunately no money changed hands and we were were both happy with our decision to choose simpler accommodation.
Around 3pm Dennis joined us to wait for the others. Once they had arrived, loaded their bags and used the facilities we set off for the gate into Chobe NP.
I had known all 4 of the Aussies for some time and 3 of them had travelled with me previously, so there was no ice to be broken.
Shortly after we entered the park I spotted a dark shape amongst the trees to our left. It was a lone sable antelope. I hadn’t seen sable for quite a few years so I hoped that this might be the first of many.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves travelling beside the Chobe river and there seemed to be Greater Kudu and Open Billed Storks everywhere. (Roberts Bird Guide now calls them simply African Openbill.)
We encountered small groups of elephant making their way to the water and others having great fun in mud wallows.
At one point a small group of elephants emerged from the bushes behind us. Seeing us between them and the river they sniffed the air suspiciously and then continued on their way, giving us a wide berth.
Where there are elephants there is elephant dung, and where there is elephant dung there are hornbills
Another vehicle had stopped because they’d spotted (excuse the pun) a leopard in the bushes. It was pretty well hidden and selfishly didn’t offer any photo opportunities, but we watched for a while hoping it might move into the open. In vain.
Nevertheless, it was an encouraging sign that we had already seen one.
The river bank was teeming with small groups of buffalo and elephant but the light was pretty poor so I didn’t feel tempted to take many photos.
Then we saw something that did tempt me. Ahead of us, moving away from the water and into the trees was a group of sable antelope. Dennis switched off the engine and we just sat there hoping like hell that they would keep coming in our direction.
Thankfully they did for a while before bolting for the trees. It was a very special moment.
I tell all my groups that every game drive should have a special moment. It doesn’t need to be a lion sighting or anything to do with the so called Big 5, but just something that is out of the ordinary, something that you won’t see every day, something that will stick in the mind when you think back to that day’s game drive.
This sable sighting certainly qualified.
Driving into the setting sun we saw a huge herd of buffalo spread out on one of the islands in the river. We estimated that it was probably around 600+ animals.
It was dark when we reached our camp. A private mobile camp in one of the designated wilderness sites. Fortunately our site was located well within the park so that our game drives would begin pretty much as soon as we got into the vehicle. This gave us a bit of an advantage over those who had to come in from (and return to) Kasane each day as we had the park to ourselves for a while in the morning and evening.
After introductions from the camp crew we dumped our bags and re-assembled in the dining tent. We were thirsty and hungry. The drinks were cold and the food was super. A perfect match.
After dinner we sat around listening to the sounds of the bush and wondering what come to visit us during the night.