Botswana – Day One

We were to leave for Botswana on our 3rd day.  Our transfer picked us up at the lodge at 10:30AM, and took us straight to the ferry crossing to the Botswana/Zambia border.  I was sad to leave Zambia because I fell in love with the people there.  Everyone was so nice and friendly, words that fail to truly describe the Zambians.  They are so much more.  Joe described them as ‘gentle’, which is an interesting way of describing a group of people, but they were.  All of them.  I cannot recall another group of people whom I’ve encountered in my life who are as genuinely pleasant to be with as the Zambians.  On our way to the border, we asked our driver, Raphael, why Zambians are such nice people, and he told us that Zambia is made up of 73 different tribes, and the only way to achieve a peaceful coexistence is to be kind to each other.  Wow!  If only the rest of us were to think that way, imagine how different the world would be!

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Picture of us with our guide Junior before we left Sussi & Chuma

With that said, I was eager to get to Botswana because that’s where all the excitement is.

Raphael explained that the only way to cross the Zambezi river/border is by ferry, and as a result, trucks sometimes have to wait 2 weeks at each end of the border to get across to the other side.  Luckily, they are currently building a bridge between Zambia and Botswana to help ease the back up.

After crossing the river by boat, it took only 20 minutes for us to reach Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero.  This place is 3 minutes from Chobe National Park, and tucked away that you’d never know there was a 5-star lodge in the area.  The property is enclosed by electric fencing to prevent predators from entering.  It had a Jurassic Park feel to it.

Our room wasn’t quite ready when we checked in, so we had lunch first.  By the time we were done eating the room was ready to go.

Lion World Travel had booked us a complimentary 30-minute spa treatment, and the staff wasted no time.  After dropping off our bags, we headed over to the spa for a relaxing back massage.

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A common waterbuck roaming the lodge grounds.

Afterwards, we met up with our guide, Tony, who drove us to Chobe National Park for our evening game drive.

Along the way, we saw the usual suspects – impalas (or what Junior had called them, JABIs – just another bloody impala), and other antelopes.

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We expected to see animals from a distance, but we certainly didn’t expect them to be in our face.  At one point, we got so close to an elephant bull, that it started advancing toward our jeep forcing Tony to drive in reverse.

Never mess with a bull in musth…

“JABIs” alongside the road…

Crocs on the riverbank…

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Elephants surrounded by tourists on the river cruise.
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A lilac-breasted roller – my favorite bird on this trip.

We were moving swimmingly, but then all of a sudden a female elephant herd appeared and blocked our way.

Baby elephants are the best…

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We were at a standstill for 10-15 minutes, and ended up backing up as the herd stuck to the road.  Eventually, they moved off to the side and we were able to go on our separate ways.

Next up were the giraffes…

and then more elephants…

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By now, everyone had already told us about the lions causing “traffic jam” the day before, and I was ready to move on to the lions.

But not before our sundowner…

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As the light started to fade, so did my hopes of seeing lions on my first day in Botswana.

All of a sudden Tony started driving very fast for unknown reason.  When we got down to the riverbank, we caught a glimpse of this…

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Three lionesses surrounded by 3-4 jeeps full of people and a boat full of people.

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Next time, I’ll get to see their faces…

Zambia – Day Two

Day 2 in Zambia was our only full day, which was jammed pack with activities.  We hit the falls first thing in the morning.

Victoria Falls, also known by the locals as Mosi-Oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders) isn’t the widest or tallest in the world, but it has the biggest volume of water flowing through.

At one point of the walk the mist from the falls was so dense it felt like we were walking through a rainstorm.  In hindsight, we were way too close to the falls to really get a good view of it.  The best way to view Victoria Falls is probably via helicopter tour, which we didn’t do.

The morning was capped off with a tour of the local Nakatindi village.

The village doesn’t have much infrastructure.  People have to go to the sole water pump and carry buckets of water back to their homes.  The local women carry everything on their heads, and make it look so simple.

One thing that struck us was how innocent and curious the local kids are.  They would come up to us to feel our skin and hold our hands as we walked.  There were 2 little boys jostling to hold Joe’s hands.

After lunch and siesta, we were met by Junior for a sunset boat cruise on the Zambezi river.

Hippos up close…

Elephants were attempting to cross the Zambezi river from Zimbabwe to the Zambia side.  With their bodies submerged, they use their trunks as snorkels as they walk across the bottom of the river.

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Some made it to one of the islands in the middle of the river…

Others were just frolicking along the banks…

I never thought I’d see elephants in the water like that.  I always thought they would just be along the banks drinking water.  It was an amazing sight to see!

Another amazing day, and another amazing sunset.

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Zambia – Day One

oBack in the late 90s early 2000s I remember telling the girls that we should all go on an African safari when we hit 30.  Well that never happened.  Either no one was really interested, or life just got in the way.  Well, life did get in the way in the form of work, children for some, and other obligations – mostly financial.  The trip was never forgotten but always remained in the background.  That was until I read Tess Gerritsen’s novel Die Again, where part of the story was set in Botswana.  The description of the place finally brought it to the foreground, and an African trip was finalized.

We planned our Zambia/Botswana trip through Lion World Travel – a Canadian travel agency that specializes in African vacations – who are, by the way, the most fantastic people to work with.  I found out about Lion World through Costco, my go-to for everything.  If Costco trusts a vendor enough to promote them, then I will trust in the quality and value of that vendor.

Botswana was the main attraction, but I added Zambia because I wanted to see Victoria Falls.  There are 3 major waterfalls in the world – Niagra, Iguazu, and Victoria, and I wanted to see them all.  I don’t know why the fascination with water falls.

The package booked our accommodations through Sanctuary Retreats, which operates luxury lodges in various African countries.  The one in Zambia was Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma – named after the guides who accompanied the explorer Dr. David Livingstone.

There are 12 “tree houses” on property.

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View of the Zambezi river from our deck.

Very nice and romantic, but the only downfall were the bugs that were everywhere, which made me quite uneasy staying in the room.

Fortunately, we spent most of the afternoon with our guide, Junior, who brought us on a rhino walk shortly after we checked in.  We were met by 5-6 rangers with rifles, and instructed to walk in single file in case the rhinos decided to charge at us.

So reassuring.

Luckily, the rhinos paid us no mind, and we walked away unscathed.

Afterwards, Junior brought us on a game drive in the Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, where we saw tons of ‘prey’, thanks to the lack of predators. Apparently, all predators are darted and relocated elsewhere because of the villages nearby in order to protect the locals from being attacked.

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Buffalos in the grass

Every afternoon game drive is capped off with a ‘sundowner’, where the guide parks somewhere andprovides us snacks and drinks while watching the sunset.

Our first day in Africa ended with a beautiful sunset on the Zambezi river.

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