Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chobe River: A Wildlife Paradise

The Chobe River, which feeds the Zambesi, flowed right by the Chobe Safari Lodge where we were staying.  Part of our package included two boat cruises, and right after our arrival, we set off from the dock of our hotel, in a covered open boat for a cruise down the Chobe River.  There were lush grassy islands, set against the deep blue water of the river.  

We had seen elephants in the distance from the terrace as we ate lunch, but now we saw lots of elephants up close.  There were many herds on the islands, including many with babies.  We also saw some herds on the mainland, and one herd swam (walked?) across to the island together, with the little baby following close to its mum.  We almost wore out the camera.  Just when we would make a resolution 'No more pictures!', we would see an adorable baby elephant, and couldn't resist one more snap.  There are supposed to be 40,000 elephants in Chobe National Park, but I estimate we only saw a few hundred!

Here are some elephants starting out from the mainland toward the island in the middle of the river.  

We watched the baby swim across holding onto the mother's tail:

We also saw many crocodiles.  They glowed with gold and green irridescence in the sun.  We saw them outlined against light sand, green grass or water, and they all looked different depending on the background.  They were huge.

We saw countless birds of all kinds - beautiful bea eaters, egrets, ibis, stork (both yellow-billed and spoonbill), grey herons, eagles, and the pretty African jacanah. (but more about that later)

There were lots of different antelopes there too.  The ubiquitous and beautiful impala of course, but also the less common waterbuck, and the lechwek and kuku.  We were fortunate to be sitting near a guide from S. Africa who's been doing tours for over 25 years, and identified the latter two for us.

We saw many hippos, including a few out of the water.  They spend most of the time in the water due to the sensitivity of their skin to the sun, but towards the end of the afternoon, more were arising from the water.

Perhaps the most amazing thing was to see a variety of animals all at one time.  At one stop, we saw 2 crocodiles, a Monitor lizard, impala, kudu, baboons, hippos and elephants.  With a reasonable wide-angle lens we could have captured them all.  

Another interesting species we saw was Genus Photographius, whose main distinguishing characteristic was a mammoth lens extension:

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