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Botswana

October 2015

CHOBE NATIONAL PARK  //  MOREMI GAME RESERVE // OKAVANGO DELTA // THE SALT PANS

Before we left Africa, we really wanted to have a true bush experience.  Although Zulu was great, we felt it didn't satisfy our safari craving.  So, last minute, we decided to sign up for a week long "Best of Botswana" camping trip... and it was absolutely incredible.  And to make things even better, we really lucked out with our group- there were only 6 of us total!  We had a guide, Moscow, a camp chef, Lesh, and another couple from Canada who were about our age.  It was perfect.

We started our safari in Chobe National Park, which has one of the largest concentrations of game in all of Africa.  We spent the morning on a game drive and within the first hour or so we saw a LEOPARD.  Apparently, it is very rare to see leopards in the park.  Moscow and Lesh, who are out there all the time, only see a leopard every few months.  It was so beautiful and so close to our truck.  We also saw giraffes, tons of elephants, warthogs, zebras, cape buffalo, sable antelope, impala, water buck, and some crocs.  Although we had seen all of these animals (minus the leopard) at Zulu, it felt so different.  This was real.  These animals were absolutely in their natural habitat and it was so awesome. 

We got to our campsite in the late afternoon, set up camp, and ate dinner.  I don't remember what we ate for dinner that night, but all the food we ate on this camping trip was really great.  We were all expecting canned food for a week, but Lesh actually made full meals each night- like curry, chicken stir-fry, pasta with a bolognese sauce, beef stroganoff... we were so impressed.  For dessert our first night he made "banana mokoro," which was a banana stuffed with chocolate wrapped in tin foil and put over the fire.  AND everyday Lesh made fresh, homemade bread that I was obsessed with.  It was all so good.

The next day, we woke up super early, broke down camp, and started driving through the park.  We were looking for the Savuti lion pride but unfortunately we didn't see any.  We did see a jackel, tons more elephants, baboons, giraffes, some mongoose (banded and yellow), several orange bill hornbills, and my favorite bird ever- a lilac breasted roller.  

Our third day in Chobe was spent looking for the lions and we finally saw them! We saw the entire Savuti Pride- 10 lions in total! It was crazy, they were just walking around right near us. They seemed completely unfazed by all the vehicles and people watching them.  

That day we also saw 2 hyenas hanging out under a tree and tons of different types of anelope- reed buck, water buck, steenbuck, and tsessebe, which are the fastet antelopes in Africa.  

After hanging out with the lions for a bit, we left Chobe and headed to our second destination- Moremi Game Reserve.  Once we got to Moremi we saw two more lions, a male and a female:

That night we set up camp in Moremi and ate dinner.  Towards the end of dinner, when it was really dark out, I saw an animal lurking on the outskirts of camp.  When I brought it to everyone's attention, we were calmly told it was a hyena (I was NOT calm).  Once we all retired to our tents, the hyenas came into our camp. Like immediately after we went into our tents.  Even though Moscow assured us that hyenas are scavengers and are just looking for leftovers and won't hurt us, I was terrified.  I was up for about an hour watching the hyenas through the window in our tent (and the honey badger that joined them).  They were really big and scary looking and Dennis slept through all of this. Even when I tried to wake him up to tell him I was scared he just said, "you're freaking yourself out." No, it was the HYENAS that were freaking me out! The next morning, Moscow and Lesh told us that the hyenas were grabbing and pulling on their tents.  THANK GOODNESS that wasn't us.  

The next day we drove from Moremi to Maun, a city in Botswana that's the jumping off point for the Okevango Delta.  Here we stayed in an actual campsite, not just the middle of the bush, and it was such a treat. This campsite had two pools- and a bar (and real showers and real toilets)! We were able to cool down with a swim AND a cold beer (did I mention it was like 90 degrees each day?).  We just hung out that day and relaxed.  It was such a nice break from driving around and getting dusty and sweaty.  

Speaking of getting dusty and sweaty- most of the roads that we were driving on were actually just made of sand and since we were in an open truck this meant we got pretty dirty each day.  This also meant that our truck got stuck.  A lot.  One time a huge truck that happened to be driving by had to tow us out of the sand, and a few other times we had to gather sticks to put under the wheels for traction.  Apparently this happens a lot because Moscow and Lesh knew exactly what to do it every situation.  

After a relaxing afternoon swimming and drinking, we woke up early and set off on exploring the Okavango Delta.  The Okavango Delta is a huge inland delta that has canals, swamps, islands, and lakes.  We started off by taking a mokoro ride through some canals in the delta.  A mokoro is a type of canoe that is propelled through the shallow water by a long pole.  It was... interesting.  I was expecting a nice relaxing ride on the water.  That was not the case at all.  We had to constantly block our faces or duck because there were SO many reeds hitting us and there were soo many bugs and spiders and it was incredibly hot- it was about 108 degrees that day.  But, it was beautiful:

We cruised around the delta for about an hour and then we got to the spot where we were supposed to park and eat lunch.  We started walking and then saw a large male elephant that was very close to us.  Our guide (we were with a different guide for this, not Moscow) pretty much told us that if we had gotten any closer this elephant would have killed us.  Lovely.  So you would expect that then we would get back in the mokoro and go somewhere else, right?  Wrong.  We just walked in the other direction.  This was also when our guide told us that there could be lions around. I was pretty unhappy at this point.  It was so hot, I was uncomfortable, and you want me to walk around where we might see a lion? Without any weapons or protection? Are you kidding me?  

We luckily didn't see any lions, and after our "walk-about" we headed back to the mokoro (where we had to sneak away because the elephant was still there, obviously) and went to a different spot for lunch.  The ride back was just as enjoyable.  I swear he was going through the thick reeds on purpose.

Once we safely finished our mokoro ride Moscow picked us up and brought us to the airport for a flight over the delta in a tiny 6 person plane.  I liked this view a lot better.  It was amazing to see the landscape and animals from above.  

That night we made our way to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans for our last night in Botswana.  The Makgadikgadi Pan is one of the largest salt flats in the world and it was pretty magical.  

Botswana was incredible.  The entire week was definitely a highlight from our trip so far.  

After our week in Botswana we headed back to Vic Falls for a night before flying out to... Thailand!