Tuesday August 4
Today, we headed out on safari. It was an early start but we were both excited. Over the next 3 days and 2 nights, we hoped to see zebras, giraffes, elephants and lions and maybe even a leopard.
We got a lift to the border and exited Zambia without any hassle. We boarded a speedboat and crossed the river over to the Botswana side.
After crossing through Botswana immigration, we waited for what seemed like ages for some others to come through - it finally emerged that one of the children with them didn't have their passport! Thankfully, they just disappeared off back to Zambia and we got on with our trip.
To start the safari, we took a boat down the Chobe River. Here we saw African water buffaloes, hippos, crocs, waterbucks and plenty of birdlife. Here, we also got our first proper look, close up, at elephants as two of them crossed the river right in front of our boat.
From the boat, we had a short game drive to get us to our camp - a short drive that gave us close ups of more elephants as well as lots of giraffes and zebras amongst the kudus, impalas and pukus - all different types of antelope. Our eagle-eyed driver also spotted a snake deep in the grass - I think it was a Mozambique spitting cobra. Mostly, I was just astounded someone had even spotted it!
Once at camp, we picked our tent and dumped our small bags and laid out our sleeping bags. We didn't stay in the tent for long as it was like a sauna in mid-afternoon!
After a quick lunch, we headed out for our evening game drive. As well as plenty more of the above, we also saw vultures, fisheagles, baboons and then finally, our first view of a lioness. She was far off in the distance but with my camera I could just get close enough to see her and the prey she was eating. I could just about make out her blood-stained mouth! Our driver, Leonard, promised us we'd see much better than that during the drive.
Wednesday August 5
It didn't take long to prove Leonard right - the next morning, we headed out early for our game drive and very quickly we saw a large female close up and two tiny cubs, about a month old. There were loads of safari trucks around her but she was right by the side of our truck and I got some great pictures.
Further along, we saw some more females and three older cubs, around seven months old. These wild animals were so close it was truly amazing. Within half an hour of leaving camp, we'd seen four female lions and five cubs as well as hyenas, jackals and more.
Then, over the radio, we heard there was a male lion in the vicinity, probably looking for the females. We drove around and before long, the sight of a large male lion striding around the bush was a few metres from the truck. As it plodded along the grass, we followed and took as many pictures as possible, wandering if we'd see such a sight again during the safari.
We needn't have worried - we were able to track the lion for a while and it walked across in front of our truck on a number of occasions as we followed the various tracks around.
Soon, we lost the lion into the bush but when we reached the river bank, we spotted the lion up in the bushes as it went to lie down. After checking his binoculars a few times and letting the lion settle, our driver suddenly left the outlined tracks and headed straight into the bush where the lion was. Without any warning at all, we rounded a large bush and were faced with this massive, unbelievable and stunning lion barely 8 feet or so away from us. It lied there calmly while we all clambered to get good pictures. I was on the far side but it made no difference - quite easily and quickly our driver did a turnaround and I was faced directly by this male lion. He was getting a little agitated as his tail started swishing a little and at that point our driver thought it a good idea to leave him alone!
Also the previous day, we'd seen a fairly well eaten skeleton of a dead elephant. It was here today we saw plenty of vultures, jackals and hyenas scavaging as much as they could!
On the evening game drive, we saw the lion again, with the big male literally walking out in front of us and through the bushes down to the river side where he was trying to find one of the females.
As we sat back in camp that night, the five of us who had spent the full day in our truck agreed that today had been amazing. For me personally, this was one of the best and most exhilarating days of my life.
Even the missionaries in our camp trying to convert me couldn't spoil my day!
Thursday August 6
After yesterday, today had a lot to live up to. We soon got word that there was a dead elephant which was attracting the interest of some lions. When we got there, one lioness was sitting close by it but seemed disinterested.
We headed down to the waterfront again and here we found a large tree with a massive baboon population - with the adults watching on as the young played and climbed and fought amongst the branches. We sat and watched them for ages and it was so funny seeing them hanging from the branches and leaping around.
After that, we started driving around and we noticed that the trees and sky were teeming with vultures. Literally hundreds of them. Our driver headed back to the dead elephant which by now was covered, completely covered, in vultures and storks scavenging the flesh from the rotting carcass. It was a disgusting and yet compelling scene. It was hard to stop watching and taking pictures - for me, at least!
After lunch, we headed back to the boat for the ride back to the border. We were all so tired and the boat ride dragged - the poor guide on the boat most have thought he was boring us but really we were just trying to relax!
Thankfully, the border crossings were painless and we got back to the hostel in good time!