Our adventures in Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is known for its fast amount of elephants. According to estimates, 50.000 elephants live in Chobe National Park. A few years ago, we drove to the entrance gate of Chobe National Park in a Toyota Corolla. Ok, we agree, we were not that well prepared. Just a little! Luckily, the police officer turned us away, forcing us to make a detour of about 1.000 kilometers. Five long years had to pass before we were able to return to Botswana. Previously, we already wrote about our self-drive experience in the Okavango Delta. This blog will continue with that story.
After the river crossing (yes: through the river and not by using a bridge), we were able to make some miles. Perfect sand roads brought us to the Khwai River Community Campsite. A small piece of land next to the Khwai River that is owned by the local community. If you want to stay there, you have to ask permission (book your site way in advance...). Don't expect any luxury: there is nothing, not even a toilet. But it is worth it. As the campsite is right next to river, there is a fast amount of wildlife to be spotted: hippo's, elephants and other animals can be seen along the riverbed. In fact, elephants, will likely wander around on the campsite as well!
The benefit of a campsite without any facilities is the quietness. At night, the only light you see is from nearby campfires and the only sounds you hear are caused by animals. No music but bathing hippo's in the nearby river.
For the first time during our stay in the Okavango Delta, we were not wakened by elephants. Instead, we didn't even heard that our alarm had gone off. We missed our estimated time of departure, but heay: that is Africa.
We had a long day ahead: about 100 kilometers until the next campsite. Doesn't sound a lot, but image there are only sand roads. When we arrived at the South gate of Chobe National Park, we registered and drove off. When we had to stop to allow an approaching car to pass us, the tour guide in that care mentioned they saw a lion just a few meters ahead. We drove that piece of road four times, but the lion must have gone, because we couldn't find it. Damn!
After a long stretch of road, we arrived in Savuti at around noon. Because we were not able to book a campsite at Savuti, this was only the halfway point for today. On the map, we noticed a straight road from Savuti to our campsite in Linyanti. After about half-an-hour on this road, we thought we were going to make it in one, maybe two hours. There wasn't too much sand, so we could actually make some speed. We hadn't finished the sentence, or we drove into a deep deep stretch of sand. We felt the car slowing down. Despite we immediately released the throttle, the car was stuck in deep sand. When we got out of our car, another car approached from the other direction: it appeared that an Italian family drove just ahead of us, but they turned round as the sand was way too deep for their car with an even higher ground-clearance than our Toyota Hilux. Together with the Italians, we had to dig for about an hour to get our car free again. And that during the hottest time of the day, with a trumpeting elephant on the background...
But luckily we were able to get the car out. Together with the Italians we drove back to Savuti. There, two cars approached us, about to start on the same route we just aborted. We talked them out of it, as this would have definetily got them stranded. But as they were also heading for Linyanti, we decided we could better make the most of it and make the detour to Linyanti with three cars. The detour appeared to be a perfect road: flat and wide. Perfect conditions to make some good speeds, at some stretches, we were even able to reach 80 kilometers an hour. Without any further problems, but still covered in sand, we eventually made it to Linyanti by four in the afternoon. Well without further problems... it appeared that our campsite was already taken: by an elephant.
After waiting for quite some time, the manager of the campsite politely asked the elephant to go and stand somewhere else. Politely, yes. But the elephant wasn't so charmed by it and decided to make a charge at our car. Pfff... we didn't know how fast to get out of there, even the campsite manager had to duck away. In the end, the elephant probably had the best laugh, as he slowly walked away without touching our car.
In the early evening, we made a game drive in Linyanti (which is the most north-western part of Chobe National Park). It is ridiculous what you see during those 'late' day-time hours: buffalo's, elephants (lot's of them!), hippo's, giraffe, and a lot of small game and even more birds. When night was falling in, we returned to the campsite. Walking was considered too dangerous by the staff, so we had to drive to the toilet building.
The next morning, we were again wakened by the sound of elephants. After our daily rituals, we packed our stuff and drove off. We left Linyanti the same way we came in. Again, the road was in perfect condition, there were just a few tiny places of deep sands, but not comparable to the road we had yesterday. Unfortunately, this also meant, we had to leave Chobe National Park. Which is a shame, as it is truly one of the most breath taking scenery's we have ever seen.