With safaris you never know what you are going to get. Nature, by its very nature, won’t be tamed and this unpredictability is one of the reasons we chose to visit these wild places and not our local zoo.
We’ve been lucky so far. We saw a beautiful ancient elephant, clumsily graceful giraffes and fierce lionesses. Our luck should run out at a certain point, but Chobe national park would not be the place where that happened.
Chobe is a national park in northern Botswana along the Chobe river and known for having one of the greatest concentrations of game in all of Africa. After having to say goodbye to our friends, this safari seemed like a perfect pick-me-upper.
And it was.
We depart by boat and within a few minutes, Erik – with his newly discovered talent for spotting – spots our first elephant. As the giant slowly walks to the waters edge, he is joined by a second elephant. They quench their thirst as our cameras start clicking away. The sound of it vaguely reminiscent of a horde of paparazzi chasing some celebrity, but I soon forget all about it. All my senses are drawn by nothing more than the interaction of the two elephants and my camera capturing the moments. We see the elephants showing their might. We see elephants communicating, closely huddled together. And we see elephants walking away from the crazy tourists interrupting their supper.
As if this view alone wasn’t enough, we speed past massive crocodiles, who are lying around, waiting until some unsuspecting animal will wander into their gaping mouths. Past hippos in the grass, terrifying in all their bigness, but less fierce than in the water. And then we hit the jackpot.
The vultures first notify us of a prey lying nearby. And where there is dead prey to be scavenged, there is a chance of finding predators feasting. The prey turns out to be nothing less than a dead elephant. Killed a few days before, our guide reckons. And the predators? Nothing less than three lionesses. Filled to bursting with elephant, but still struggling to eat more. We watch as they tear at the elephant’s stomach. Intestines spilling out in slow motion as the lions pant with the sheer effort of stomaching this giant feast.
This view would be enough, but to top it off, we are treated to the whole food chain in just one setting. The herbivorous elephant acting as the meal for these top-of-the-food-chain lionesses. Scavenging marabou storks waiting in the background and their competitors, the vultures, waiting in a nearby tree (reminiscent of the vultures in the Jungle Book). Crocodiles are edging closer and closer to the shore, anxious to participate in the meal as soon as the lions depart. We look and take pictures, look some more, take some more pictures and reluctantly allow room for other boats to enjoy this view.
Next up, a herd of buffalos (third of the big five!) crossing a river by following the one idiot who falls in. Normally this would have been enough to have us jumping in our seats but, the sightings of just a few moments ago, leave us happy, but somewhat underwhelmed.
By now, I have time to ask the photographer travelling with us for some tips (at the slight nudging of Erik who knows I can become overly shy when I want to learn something new). My excitement in the moment finally subdued enough to become my own questioning self. I have room to learn only because this park has already given us all we could hope for and my senses are no longer anxiously awaiting a sign of an animal. And to me, that makes this (one of) the best of safaris so far.