Reflections on the luxury of life interrupted
The advantage of visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia is its great proximity to Chobe National Park across the border in Botswana. The advantage of staying with Oriel and Alan at Bushbuck River Lodge is they do all the arrangements for you to make the trip -there and back in one day.
So early on a Tuesday morning, we are greeted after breakfast by a local taxi driver, Mica, who picks us up at the lodge, drives us the hour or so down the road to the river crossing, takes us through border control and delivers us into an awaiting motor boat which ferries us across the river at the point where four countries meet.
While we take in the cool breezes of the clear day, in the middle of the river we note that Zambia is behind us, Botswana ahead, Zimbabwe to our left, and on our right stands Namibia. “I will be waiting for you when you return at the end of the day,” Mica had said, just before we launched off. Thank goodness. We could not have negotiated this crossing without him.
Another 20-minute jeep ride from the Botswana boat landing side, and we enter the Park. Hailed as holding some of the greatest concentration of wildlife in Africa, Chobe is the 3rd largest park in Botswana, and is largely known in particular for its concentration of elephants.
It offers something else for those of us coming from South Africa: another mighty river to explore. Like the river cruise on the Zambezi at sunset the night before, the African river safari holds both different and similar wildlife from the bush safari, but in a new environment entirely.
Very soon we watch in fascination as we come upon something we have not yet seen: elephants swimming in the river. Fully emerged. The whole herd. The babies can’t yet swim, so they wrap their trunks around this mama and that mama as they plunge with everyone else into the refreshing waters. Playing, spraying, dunking, disappearing … only to come up and start all over again.
We see the elephants from both the river boat in the morning, and the safari jeep in the afternoon after lunch. Hippos, crocs, antelope, elephants and myriad birds move in the early sun about their business as we sit and glide down the river in a boat with a cup of tea. It’s calm, peaceful, and …. after adventures at Umlani …. feels just a little, well, slow.
However, we soon realize the slowness is due to the river and boat as transport, not the Park. As the shadow of the sun changes, in the afternoon our land safari ranger, Simon, takes us throughout the northern part of the Chobe in just two hours on a wild quest to see a group of lions. Passing giraffe, all kinds of antelope, more elephants and buffalo as big sightings along the way, we land where the extended family of cats are spending the afternoon. Parked in the shade away from the sun’s late afternoon heat we simply enjoy watching these creatures … watching us. Once again I am amazed at how close we are to them and breathe in the majesty of the moment.
And then we are back to the Park Gate, back to the ferry crossing, and handed with ease from one transport vehicle to the next until we land back in Zambia and see Mica waving to us. Heading home on the road that travels along the Chobe River, as it merges into the Zambezi we begin to set a bit like the sun next to us.
This is southern Africa which is different from South Africa. Long stretches of quiet grasslands. Hustle and bustle at the border crossing. Mom and pop stores in town. Dirt roads. Rolling stairs greeting arriving airplanes; a single baggage claim area. Jeeps and Land Cruisers. At times, intermittent electricity. Nicely rough around the edges; no pretentiousness. Hot. Dusty. Wild. Wonderful.