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Chobe National Park in northern Botswana is renowned for its elephant population, particularly dense during Botswana's winter months, May-September. The Chobe River attracts herds of them who come to drink, swim, and frolic in the mud. The best way to see this is to take a boat ride. And so we did. It's truly great fun to watch them playing in the mud. This was the best viewing I've had on any safari yet of baby elephants ... something I'm always craving to see more of. Simply glimpsing them standing beside their mothers and family is an adorable sight.
But watching them play and wrestle with each other in the mud was a delight of a whole new order.
But it's not as if the adults weren't getting a little goofy and playful themselves. I think this might be my favorite photo from the whole trip, this adult elephant in this comical position, head-first in the mud, back leg up in the air.
Naturally, we ran into several of one of the African waters' primary inhabitants: hippos. I always like seeing their titanic bodies out of the water. This one has a little egret friend with him.
And the other more sinister ubiquitous creature lurking in the African waters: a NIle crocodile. I've become rather fond of crocodiles as a result of all my trips to the crocodile reserve in Mexico. But only when they are lying still and not menacing anybody! I like how the sun lit up his scales to a rather golden hue.
The elephants do not seem to mind these sets of vicious teeth all around them as they frolic. What a joy to see a whole family joining in the muddy fun all together. Some other creatures stood along the banks during our boat ride. A young waterbuck, quite adorable, I must say, looking all shaggy and fuzzy, his white target ring just beginning to show on his butt. Next pic down, his mom and dad (presumably, though they could be complete strangers in the same place at the same time) -- a male and female waterbuck, and a couple impala in the foreground.
An African darter.
We also had some more delightful southern carmine bee-eater sightings throughout Chobe National Park, whom we'd first spotted in Moremi. How can you not be smitten with these colorful creatures?
And this was unexpected to me ... another animal I love from my contact with them in Mexico: the spoonbill. These, however, are African spoonbills rather than roseate. You can probably guess that they're the guys standing on either side of the yellow-billed stork. I like when birds are given practical, obvious names ... much easier to remember!
Marabou storks ... hard to get a sense of scale here, but they're huge birds, standing about four feet high, and can have wing spans approaching 8 feet. They're also creepy. They're also cool. They're also little devils. I had to contend with them while I worked in the UWEC (Entebbe zoo). There was one who sometimes stood around the cafe patio where I ate, and he stole a big piece of chicken right off my plate. I was so diligent to keep an eye on the vervet monkeys so they didn't steal anything, and then that marabou walks by and snatches up my dinner.
And of course the ubiquitous red-billed hornbill. I still think they're neat.
A very non-ubiquitous critter is the honey badger. I caught a glimpse of one running away in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve the previous year, but we had two very nice sightings in Chobe. Difficult to photograph as it was surrounded by tall weeds and was mosting moving. These are very clever creatures ... I saw a TV show about one in a sanctuary who ingeniously figured out how to escape from an enclosure first by simply climbing the fence and unlocking the gate, then by digging a tunnel underneath a cement wall, then by rolling rocks over to the wall, stacking them up and standing on them until he was tall enough to climb over the wall, then by moving branches to form a ladder and climb over the wall, then any tools like rakes or shovels left by workers in the enclosure he used as ladders. Very funny. But they are also quite renowned for their ferocity.
Sable antelope are quite shy and not terribly common to see either. We saw some up in northern Namibia in Bwabwata and the Mahango Core Area. But these were the only ones we got a good, if fleeting, look at in Botswana. Their latin name is kind of funny: hippotragus niger. They don't seem very hippo-like to me, haha.
Another little creature not terribly common to see was a slender mongoose. In these poses, I'd call him plump before I'd call him slender! But his long tail seems like his most distinguishing feature! Were it me, I think I'd name him a black-tipped mongoose.
Botswana's Chobe National Park borders Namibia along the Caprivi Strip, the two countries divided by a ribbon of water. We spent our evenings down near this stretch of water with elephants and lions all around us. The lions were typically on our side of the water watching the elephants typically on the opposite side.
Not the grandest photo in quality, but I just really like how that whole line of elephants is drinking. Obviously a thirsty bunch.
Now ... are you ready for some lions?? We watched this pride come back from the water to their homebase in the bushes as the sun was setting. Something magical about a big family trotting home after a hard day watching elephants and zebras and other potential prey. But first, before heading back, this little lion practices his fiercest expressions. Gotta be ready for when the day comes he's old enough to hunt himself!
So as we're sitting in the vehicle, the water at the Namibian border is on our left, we're parked just outside a kind of wall of low bushes along the edge of the marsh on our right. Baboons are sitting along this same strip quietly grooming each other as the sun nears the horizon. The lion pride reaches the bushes in front of us and disappears into them as if it's some kind of magical doorway, like the fabled hole in the back of the wardrobe. The bushes don't seem dense enough or extensive enough to hide a pride; I expected that when we drove our vehicle back through the bushes toward camp, we would see them on the other side. But we didn't. They vanished somewhere. We saw the same thing the following night. And driving by there another time during the middle of the day, a male and female emerged as if by magic from that same doorway. It was peculiarly mysterious. Sisters sit near the "doorway" here.
This is from a different part of the park and at sunrise rather than sunset, but you know how I love capturing a critter with its tongue out. Even very large, intimidating critters.
And guess what: We weren't done seeing leopards! So in three of the four parks we visited in the Okavango Delta, we saw leopards. Considering I had hoped to see this animal in particular on this trip, I think we did pretty well! Can you pick out her face in the first pic below? :-)
While the leopard is the manifestation of stealth and grace, the cape buffalo can generally be taken as the dictionary illustration of "cantankerous." The males in particular being notoriously ill-tempered. But sometimes they look sweet as can be, like they would never scare a fly. The first one below calmly lets his oxpecker friend clean his hide, not minding the indignity of having a bird perched on his face. And I think the last buffalo is hoping to get on the cover of GQ Buffalo. Maybe he's singing, "I'm a sexy beast!"
OK, dear reader, thanks for hanging out with me on yet another virtual safari! If I'm still maintaining this blog next year (2019), you'll probably get to join me on a whole new set of safari adventures. (and p.s. if you're not already a subscriber, if you don't want to miss when a new post goes up, enter your email address into the "Updates" bubble on the right!)