Botswana

Hi again to everyone,

Today I am going to tell you about our safari trip in Botswana. On Thursday of our last week in Africa, we went to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Botswana is about an hour from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We had to do the same things to get out of Zimbabwe and into Botswana as we did when we left Zambia. Only in Botswana we had to get out of our vehicles and walk through the disinfectant for "hoof and mouth" disease. Our vehicles met us at the other side.

It was almost immediately obvious that Botswana is doing better than Zimbabwe. There were electric poles along the road, public works buildings, just things that belong to a country with a healthier economy. One of the reasons for this is that there are diamonds in Botswana.

I think I saw my favorite billboard there. In all three of the African countries we had been in, there were signs about HIV/AIDS, being safe, etc. The billboard that greeted us in Botswana was a drawing of a gigantic (and I do mean gigantic) wrinkled condom. The words said "To be safe use one every time". It was so in your face. We all kind of did double takes and then first one person grinned and then someone choked down a chuckle and pretty soon everyone was laughing. Especially the teens! But that did lead to a short discussion about why we were seeing such signs and how HIV/AIDS is such a problem that they need agressive campaigning against it. The HIV/AIDs infectrion rate is 38% in Botswana and 20% in Zambia. This accounts for the high number of orphans in these countries.

Anyway, we got to the place from where we would be departing for the river cruise part of our safari. I have to say that I was feeling a little leery about the quality of things as we drove down this dirt track that had garbage strewn all over on one side. The dock was narrow and rickety and the small wooded area at the beginning of the dock reeked. The double decker boat that we were supposed to go on was only a single deck boat. The boat was a flat deck with 2 canoe looking things under it for bouyancy. It had an outboard motor, canopy top and rope for walls. We had deck chairs to sit in and were told to be careful to keep the boat balanced weight wise. Kyle was not happy about this! AT ALL. I forget how he does not like boats or being out on the water too much. And this boat offered so little protection that he was really hating it. So, they loaded us onto two of these boats and off we went. We were on the Chobe River which becomes the Zambezie in Zimbabwe (which then flows into Victoria Falls). It really was beautiful. The river wasn't at all low or seeming to be dried up and it was full of wildlife. Our guide pointed out many, many different kinds of birds. Kyle's favorite (and mine too) was the Kingfisher. The Kingfisher looks like a big hummingbird when it is hovering in the air and then when it seems something in the water that it wants it goes into a nose dive--straight down. It was awesome to watch.

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The boat rampThe Pontoon boatThe Kingfisher
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We saw some little deer looking animals (on shore) called lewche. Then we got to the hippos. They are magnificent. Huge! We pulled up to this island of grass and sat and watched them for a long time. This is where Kyle almost lost it. "We need to go now! We are 20 ft from this animal that can kill us. How many pictures do we need of them?" And various other unhappy statements. It really didn't help that our guide was calmly telling us that a hippo could kill us and how and why. And he seemed to think it was comforting to know that they aren't carnivores so they don't view us as prey. And if they did kill us they wouldn't eat us. I did have to tell Kyle to settle down, one of the other adults tried to tell him it would be ok, but he was having none of it. He did finally sit and glower at us. And we did finally leave and move on to other sights. But just before we left we got a picture of one of the hippos yawning with her mouth wide open! That was a cool sight!!!

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Hippos swimming REAL close!Hippos walkingCape Buffalo
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There was a huge grassy island in the river and we saw Cape Buffalo, lewche, crocodiles, birds and hippos (out of the water) on it. While we were cruising the river we noticed way off in the distance and up a hill a large dark shape. This was an elephant. A little later we noticed another large dark shape...another elephant. So, we kind of kept our eyes on them and we could see that they were moving toward the water. But almost always we would miss it when they moved. Almost like they would freeze when the humans looked. We made our way around to the shoreline at one point and sat and watched a colony of baboons play. It was very comical. This is where Kyle began to lighten up and enjoy himself a little. We all made up conversation for the baboons especially the ones chasing the one who had a piece of burlap bag. Shortly after we left there we were treated to the delightful show of watching one of the elephants we had seen cross the river. That was such an awesome thing to watch. I really can't do it justice. The elephant drank (they can drink 9L in one "gulp") and looked around and then got into the water and slowly went across. All the time we sat in the boat not far from him and watched! It was beautiful! Kyle loved it. In fact the elephants were definitely his favorite by the end of the day.

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Elephant Crossing the Chobe

We headed back to the dock after that. Once we were back in our vehicles our guides took us to the hotel where we were having lunch. Lunch was ok--we had a nice view of the river. From lunch we headed to the park. Our vehicles were essentially big open jeeps. No real walls, just side rails and a canopy. We toured the park for a few hours. We started off with seeing several birds and some more lewche. Then one of the kids spotted a giraffe. That was sooo neat. They are beautiful animals! We saw sable antelope, kudu, lewche, many kinds of birds (I wrote as many names down as I could in the front cover of my book), warthogs, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and cape buffalo. We got to watch a baby elephant nurse. The girls got to giggle over the massive amounts of urine that an elephant puts out. The warthogs (although I know they are mean) were so cute to me. They can't reach the ground with their mouths unless they kneel. Our guide told us that they are born with calluses so they can do that. Sometimes they wouldn't even straighten up before they moved to a new spot they would just walk on their elbows essentially. We frustrated a young male elephant at one point and he let out a "holler" which startled us a first, but it was so cool when we realized what was going on. We watched another elephant dump mud on himself and another one scratch himself on a fallen tree he was stepping over. We startled a group of giraffes and had the pleasure of watching them run. They are so graceful! That was beautiful to watch too.

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Warthog - Kyle says "Good Eating" Time for a good scratchGiraffe on the run
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And on top of everything, Greg and I were the only adults with most of the kids. That made it kind of neat. I enjoyed hearing their comments and listening to their silliness. Kelsy (13) loves giraffes and was "calling" to them. She told us they could feel her love for them and that's why they would come. She also talked about how beautiful her hair looked at the end of the day and told us that we could all have hair like hers if we would just wash it in the Chobe River. "You're hair could look like this if you wash it in the Chobe River". Very silly, but we joked about it for a couple days. Acting all elegant and fluffing our hair.

We were back to our hotel by 6 and all the kids then took a dip in the pool. We all convinced Kyle to go in and that the water wasn't as cold as he thought. He finally got in and I was reminded of the Bill Cosby where the guy skates on his fingers across the water 'cause it's so cold. Anyway, the tough kids stayed in and swam, but finally had to get out so we could all meet for dinner. Most of us ate dinner together that night 'cause it was our last night there. Friday we were heading home.

I will save the story of the journey home for my next installment, but Greg reminded me of a story (one of many I'm sure) that I forgot to tell. Way back when we were in Kabwe and visited the first orphanage we got to see the well they were building. The well was about 15-20 feet deep at that point and they were going to go another 10 feet or so. The amazing thing about this well is that it is being HAND dug. They needed about $100 to finish and line the well and didn't have it at that point. Our team took care of that before we left. We couldn't get over the hand digging, though!

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The well we helped to fund
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That's it for tonight. Talk to you all later, Priscilla


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