Having done walking safari, boat safari, I was ready for the jeep safari at Chobe. As with the other mornings, I was dressed in layers, slathered in sunscreen and bug repellent with my backpack full of supplies, excited and ready to go. I quickly consumed a power bar for breakfast and met the other travelers in the lobby at 6:15am to meet our guides. Our open safari vehicle consisted of three rows of bench seating that you reached by climbing along the steps on the outside of the truck. Our driver was also the guide for the next three hours. We drove to the park entrance (about ten minutes from the lodge) and waited while the guide checked in and learned which path we were given. The park randomly assigns each vehicle a path to follow either inland (where others had seen a kill the day before) or along the water/beach. The vehicles are to stay on the road they are given. We were assigned to the beach/water area and I would see the land that the boat cruised by the night before.
As we entered the park and drove toward the water, I was looking everywhere to see the vast area of deserted space and many trees. With no animals to view, I was able to enjoy the sunrise.
Driving along the road, we started to see some animals.
The guide received a call on the radio of a sighting and we drove toward the other vehicles (what’s nice is that despite the numerous vehicles touring, you are alone until you come upon an animal sighting or have a snack break). We weren’t told what we were looking for so it was a surprise when we saw them
The lions and cubs were very cute, playful with each other and ignorant of our vehicles.
After the somewhat illegal off-road adventure to see the lions, we were back on the assigned road driving around. Given the time of the day (morning), our guide surmised that most of the animals were inland and were probably making their way down to the water later in the day (correlating with my sunset river cruise the night before when I saw so many animals). We stopped for a coffee break near the water with the other touring vehicles. It was a nice chance to stretch your legs and enjoy coffee and biscuits. I strolled over to the trees and flowers.
Someone yelled “look over there” and we all collectively turned our head to the trees to see not one but many elephants walking out of the bushes. Coffees pushed aside, cameras at the ready, the photos began. The guide told us that the smallest elephant looked to be a newborn of about six weeks old. That was a treat, each time you think you see a small elephant, this one was tiny in comparison. The elephants again ignorant of all the people looking at them only hundreds of yards away.
After the elephants, on our way out of the park, we saw a leopard, since this was a rarity that day, all the vehicles converged in an attempt to corner the animal for photos. Needless to say, this was a bit offputting to the animal and it didn’t stop for photos and eventually when into the bushes to avoid us.
Upon return to the hotel, I went to the front desk and told them of my issues with the tour office the night before. They were so helpful and sorted out my next tour so that I could exchange the boat for another jeep safari. I enjoyed the jeep so much that I wanted to go back later in the day.
Later in the afternoon, waiting for the jeep safari, I met twin sisters from Australia and a few other solo travelers. We were all talking before sorted into our vehicles. I was not assigned to join them so I convinced the tour guide to put me with them rather than my assigned vehicle. This worked out quite well. The jeep had the Australian sisters celebrating their 40th, a mother/daughter from Australia, a US government worker assigned to Africa and a Canadian doctor working in a neighboring country. We compared notes of where we had been and where we were going on safaris. The group worked well together looking for animals along with our driver/guide. They were great spotters and the mom was so excited on one leopard sighting she yelled and alerted the other vehicles (that was the last time she did that). We saw so many animals this afternoon before the sunset.
After the tour, I joined a few of the ladies for dinner and we toasted our day in Chobe with bottles of red and said goodbye to Botswana as we were all leaving the next day. It was a true safari day with lots of animal sightings and a true travel day connecting with fellow travelers- sharing life stories -stories that we will carry home and memories we have forever.