Chobe National Park
To see animals in their natural habitat and not confined in one space like how they are treated at zoos was the reason I visited Botswana last March 2013. I have travelled a lot in Southern Africa before to see its interesting wildlife and amazing landscapes. But the natural and best impression that left me in awe is the Chobe Park and the Chobe River. The landscape alone is worth the trip. What made it more interesting is there are many options to observe wildlife activity, be it on land or on the river. Prices for boat trips and game drives are relatively cheap and tours are very easy to arrange even upon arrival. A visit to this park along with four of my adventurous friends was the highlight of our tour in Botswana, Africa.
After clearing out of the immigration office at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, we immediately proceed to take a two hour domestic flight to reach the Kasane Region. From the airport we took a taxi to bring us to the nearby Chobe National Park. Upon payment of entrance fees we were lead to a 4x4 with GPS, a skilled driver, and a certified ranger guide to accompany us during the tour. The park is very large and has an incredible number of animals freely roaming around their vicinity. The specific location of the park makes a great destination for wildlife lovers like us. The proximity to the river creates an opportunity for a huge concentration of wildlife animals to take a drink after their meal. The sight of birds and wildlife converging in one place show how rich its biodiversity is. We had a magnificent guide who showed us to a whole day safari with many animals that we would otherwise not see at all with our untrained eyes. We have seen many species of animals such as elephants, hippos, giraffes, leopards, lions, etc. We went up to the banks of the river and observed many birds like ibis, jacana, herons, kingfishers, ospreys, and reptiles like crocodiles and lizards.
The next day got more amusing as we checked out the Chobe River Cruise on board a rented boat. The environment is very open and it allowed us to see the animals in groups that move in the park. Undoubtedly, this is an idyllic place to go and watch the sunset. On the river we saw a lot of elephants, hippos, birds and the lovely sunset. It is the most impressive sight on my trip to Botswana. The three hour boat tour was made more enjoyable with the herd of elephants who gives quite a show as they keep raising their trunks up like waving. Here we saw crocodiles up close that swiftly crosses the river to the near island. What made our tour exciting was the sight of the hippo chasing our boat. I got scared that it might overturn our boat easily and we will get caught up between a hungry crocodile and a mighty hippo’s strength! The cruise offered unforgettable moments. The river tour has many options to offer, from small four seater boats for the daring and large boats for groups. Special tours for anglers are also recommended. It is advisable to travel to the area on the dry season in order to better see a good variety of wildlife animals in the wetlands.
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The following day we head out early on board a rented van to make a worthwhile detour to the region of Maun. We started our tour with a visit to the Okavango Delta. Before breaking up the delta by boat we definitely considered the option of seeing it from above. On board a scenic Cessna flight we got an overview of the extensive distribution of land and water. Scenic flights depart from the Maun Airport and take about an hour to tour the whole area. We were very pleased after the aerial tour. The swamp was formed through the many years that the flood waters spillover and evaporates in the salt pans. The famous swamp is a vast sanctuary for its rich flora and fauna. It teems with lions, crocodiles and buffaloes. The swamp is also constantly hounded by government threats of developing the area into a mining and farming industry to help gain more revenue for the city. On our organized boat trip along the Okavango River, I can not help but notice how much peaceful it is as compared to other attractions we visited. It was fun to navigate on its crystal clear waters surrounded by nature and tranquility. The guides were really great as they were good at tracking animals and how close we can approach them. We had an overnight stay on one of the lodges that line along the banks of this attraction.
After three days of appreciating the river we made a quick stop to the Motsana town center. It is the focal point of entertainment and relaxation within the busy urban area. We shopped for souvenirs, crafts, weaved fabrics and enjoyed a late afternoon stroll admiring its unique architecture. The open air cafes were made interesting with the presence of cute gift stores and art shops which added to its mystic charm. The free Wi-Fi in the area gave us the chance to upload our Safari pictures on our social networking sites. We sampled a taste of traditional African dishes on one of its restaurants. Later that night we had a good time as we watched a funny cultural show in the open-air stage. A day spent here was all worthwhile.
On the last three days of our tour we head back to the city to explore its other sights and attractions. On the road to reach Gaborone we were welcomed by the presence of the Three Chief’s Statues. The well maintained park offers an interesting peek into the country’s rich political history. A well informed local guide approached us and walked us thru the history of the statues. The eye catching statues are strategically located in a fenced park which is very neat. From here I understand the meaning of their coat of arms and the patriotic fervor of the three large statues. The once British ruled country was strongly opposed by these prominent political figures. It symbolizes strength and integrity for the African people. I enjoyed the informative experience and it was worth the time checking it out.
We did not miss seeing the highlights of the Gaborone Sun. We stayed here on this old hotel but still well maintained. The hotel is large with a nice pool and all their staff speaks fluent English. The rooms are clean, spacious, and quiet. The terrace bar offers light meals in the open air and the children can play in the large garden. An ala carte restaurant offers a fine dining experience while the buffet restaurant offers the comfortable casual ambience. The location of the hotel is pretty good as the city center can be easily reached in a few minutes on foot. The views from the upper floors were pretty as floor to ceiling windows are properly fitted and installed. We capped our tour by charming lady luck at the Marang Casino. For gambling enthusiasts, they have a good selection of slot machines and plenty of ways to lose money and maybe even win. Restaurant food was also exceptional on this casino.
I enjoyed my tour to Botswana. It is a wonderful place that completes the idea of how Eden would look like in my mind. A place truly blessed with wild animals, green nature, still rivers and dreamy sunsets.