Africa 03: Part 3

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Story by Nathan Hindman
Photos by Tyler Wirken

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Once the group that went on the helicopter ride over Victoria Falls rejoined the group, we packed up and were on our way back across the border into Botswana and into the climax of our trip, five days driving through Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Preserve. These two adjoining parks, in the northwest corner of Botswana play host to a huge variety of wildlife, and every major species of African mammal is represented here with the exception of the great apes. Almost as if on cue, within a few kilometers of entering the park we were greeted by the sight of a herd of elephant grazing just off the road. Although we stopped to view them we couldn’t dally, daylight was waning and we had about 90 km of soft sand driving to get to our evening campsite. As stated before, driving after dark in the National Parks is forbidden.

Racing towards the campsite, with dusk rapidly approaching the Land Cruiser, which I was stuck driving, got bogged down in the soft sand. As I stopped to air down the tires while the vehicle ahead of me came back to do a recovery, I stuck a gauge on the tire to check the pressure. To my amazement, the gauge read 115 lbs of pressure. No wonder we dug down into the sand, we’re just lucky that the tires didn’t pop from over-inflation. Once the tires were aired down to a more respectable 16 lbs of pressure, it felt as though we were driving a completely different vehicle. So the voice of experience says “Always check your rental vehicle over,” you never know what the last yahoo driving it did to it.

Despite a valiant effort on everyone’s part, we didn’t make it to the campsite in time. Just after dusk, we arrived at an access gate, where the game rangers told us we had to camp for the night. After a delicious dinner it was time for bed. Unbeknownst to us, our camping location was less than a quarter mile from a watering hole. So throughout the night we were kept awake by the sounds of the bush— elephants trumpeting, hyenas unearthly cackle, the roar of lions, and the sound of limbs cracking and trees being felled by hungry elephants foraging for food.

As dawn broke the next morning, everyone broke camp and drove down to the watering hole. We all watched in amazement as a heard of elephant waded in the water, while a lone hippo, at the deepest part of the water could merely register his dissatisfaction at their intrusion.

The next two days were spent essentially as non-stop game drives within the confines of Chobe, with animals at every turn. We saw herds of elephant, zebra, ostriches, giraffe, cape buffalo, kudu, hippo, vervet monkeys, innumerable birds, and more impala that could be counted in a lifetime.

Chobe National Park is famous for its elephant population– it boasts the largest continuous herd of elephant in the continent of Africa. This reputation is well deserved, as we saw hundreds of elephant. No matter how many times I saw these amazing creatures, they continued to fascinate. How could an animal so large and cumbersome travel in complete silence? Elephant are known for their sense of family. They are known to mourn when one of their herd dies, and are fiercely protective of their offspring. Our trip was shortly after their calving season, so the bulls occasionally flared their ears at us and stomped the ground in our direction as if to warn “OK buddy, that’s close enough! Move along!”

So we moved along. We exited Chobe National Park to spend two more days in its debatably more impressive neighbor, Moremi Game Preserve, which is located at the mouth of the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta a wetland area where the Okavango River, fed from the rainforests in central Africa to the north empties out into the Kalahari Desert. The end result is a vast lush region capable of sustaining a dense population of wildlife.

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