|Lunch with a bachelor herd of ellies|
It’s late May in Chobe National Park, Africa’s third largest wildlife preserve, and creatures great and small are fat and sassy. Tall golden grasses are plentiful. They are the favorite of the many herds of massive elephants and a host of antelope along with Cape buffalo, zebra, and more. The sable with its handsome striped face, the kudu with its elegant curled horns, and the seemingly thousands of impala all glow with good health. They look at us in our open-air, tiered safari vehicle with curious eyes as we trundle along sand tracks.
|Saddle-backed crane-Tom Schwab photo|
The animals show off their young this time of year. Month-old elephants hide beneath mother’s belly while the big-eared offspring of the baboon ride on their mother’s back. The proud father of young impala herds his harem away from us as they kick their heels high in the air practicing getaways from predators. A parade of gray giants cross our path to reach the clear waters of Chobe where they linger in the green grasses. After a night’s hunt, a husky, black-colored male leads a pride of fourteen lions to shade where they will sprawl for the day.
It is winter and the temperatures are mild with a warming sun shining brightly in cerulean blue skies. Bush willow glows golden and the mopane trees are still dressed in fall colors of yellow and orange. This perfect safari day began with a chill that crept into my luxurious tent home in the wee hours. I awoke to a herd of water buffalo just outside my door tramping through the camp and sounding like an army on the march. The drumming of our escort guide at 5:30 AM signaled time to rise.
|Dawn on the Chobe River|
Like all four of the bush camps on the journey with Overseas Adventure Travel in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, communal meals are enjoyed buffet style in the main lodge.
|Main Lodge Baobab Camp|
Meals in the camps are a healthful mix of fresh vegetable salads prepared in creative ways. Fare included fish in a tasty curry sauce with rice, tender beef stew with roasted potatoes, and lemon chicken with fresh fruit and cheeses for dessert. We are offered tea on our drives, cool wash cloths upon our return, and a welcome from the staff who do all they can to ensure we are treated like royalty.
A short flight took us to the Okavango Delta, a 6,000-square mile mosaic of open savannah, flowing rivers, floodplains, and lagoons. The Banoka camp overlooks a champagne colored meadow where all manner of wildlife from elephants to hippos, to the endangered wattle crane busy spearing frogs, to vultures riding high on thermals enjoy their freedom.
|Me and Cowboy|
|Sisters taking a snooze|
We left the cats to their naps and set out to explore more of nature’s most splendid creatures. We spotted waterbuck with their distinctive toilet seat markings, and red lechwe antelope with sweet brown eyes. A cruise through the flood plain cut through by a meandering river garnered sightings of two lethargic crocodile sunning on the shore and a monitor lizard slipping into the drink. A couple of secretary birds strolled by and an elegant grey crowned crane poked in the grasses. The ubiquitous hornbill birds lifted at our approach.
|Hornbill-Tom Schwab photo|
Independent from Britain since 1966, democratic and prosperous Botswana has a population of some two million people who reside mainly in the northern sections of the country that is not encroached upon by the Kalahari Desert sprawling over 80 percent of the land. Good leadership in this land-locked republic provides universal education and medicine for the people and conservation measures for the last remaining wild herds of elephants, buffalo, zebras and more, along with 400 species of birds. The flag of Botswana has black and white lines in the middle of tender blue—the color of the pollution-free skies. It speaks of the good relations between races.
Note: This is a first in a series of articles detailing the Ultimate Safari experience with Overseas Adventure Travel, aka OATS, in the countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. There is simply too much ground to cover in one article. First published in National Association of Baby Boomer Women.