You won’t believe all the elephants in the Land of the Giants!

In ADVENTURE by Janice and George10 Comments

Chobe safari

In the parched African bush, water is life, and the banks of the Chobe River teem with an awe-inspiring abundance of wildlife.

This is the “Land of the Giants” – so-named because it’s home to Africa’s largest herds of elephants (more than 120,000 ellies).

elephant on a chobe safari

A Chobe elephant giving himself a dust bath

Elephant spotting on a Chobe safari

From a riverboat on a Chobe safari, you see them in the shallow water, yanking out grasses with their trunks, waving their magnificent tusks as they shake the clumps clean to pop into their mouths.

Sometimes the elephants are so close you can almost reach out and touch their wrinkly skin. (Of course, you shouldn’t.) You might even get sprayed with droplets of water when they drink.

An adult elephant eats up to 600 pounds of grass, leaves and twigs a day!

The wonder of this place is that it’s not only elephants found here in prolific numbers.

The “Land of the Giants” – better known as Chobe National Park, an unfenced 4,500-square-mile park in northern Botswana – is also famous for its huge herds of Cape buffalo, large prides of lions, countless antelope and pretty well every other African animal imaginable.

Indeed, Chobe has one of the greatest year-round concentrations of wildlife in all of Africa. The only one of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) hard to spot is the rare rhinoceros.

Cape buffalo

A herd of Cape buffalo in Chobe National Park

Puku

The Chobe River floodplains are the only place in Botswana where you can see the puku antelope

water buck

Water buck are another type of antelope you see in Chobe National Park

We had already seen elephants up close and personal on a previous Chobe safari on the the elegant Zambezi Queen. And just like an elephant never forgets, we hadn’t forgotten how incredible it is to be within touching distance of them.

So as we set off on a full-day’s game drive in an open Land Rover, bouncing along red-sand tracks criss-crossing the scrubby bush by the river, we’re excited at the prospect of seeing wild ellies again – along with all the other creatures that live in Chobe.

A game viewing vehicle in front of us stops in front of a tower of giraffes

A “Noah’s Ark” of wildlife

Large Chacma baboons swinging through the trees quickly catch our attention.

Then a dazzle of zebras. (Don’t you love the name for a group of zebras? Their black and white stripes are certainly dazzling!)

zebras in Chobe National Park

A dazzle of zebras looking quite dazzling

We pass a bull elephant giving himself a dust bath with his trunk, his ears flapping.

When two male giraffes circle each other in what looks like a curious dance, we stop to watch; after each circle, they curl their sinewy necks down and bump the other’s body with their heads – playfighting, we’re told.

giraffes in Chobe National Park

Two male giraffes circle each other before playfighting

giraffes playfighting

Each giraffe now starts hitting the other’s body with its head

giraffe neck

Giraffes are the tallest animals on land, with graceful necks up to 7 feet in length

We can’t wait to see lions on our Chobe safari. And we do!

Driving up to observe four resting in the shade, we’re amazed yet again at how close the animals allow us to get. (Most safari viewing in Africa occurs on game drives, and the animals are habituated to the sight and sound of people sitting in open vehicles.) When one lioness yawns, we can clearly see her fearsome teeth.

safari in Chobe National Park - lion

Oh my! What big teeth you have!

resting lions

Most of the time, lions like to sleep during the day and hunt at night

And the birds!

African fish eagle, ground hornbills, sacred ibis and the most beautiful, the lilac-breasted roller – in flight, the tips of their turquoise wings look like they’ve been dipped in royal blue ink.

lilac-breasted roller bird

The lilac-breasted roller bird must take the prize for the most beautiful bird in Africa

And here we managed to photograph a pair!

So many animals and birds rotate through this kaleidoscope of nature that our necks get sore swiveling from right to left.

That they co-exist in harmony is a marvel too. With their tusked snouts, comical warthogs dig up mud which baboons then root around in with their nimble fingers, picking out juicy bulbs to eat. Antelope even prance around near the lions! At night, yes, the cats hunt. But now, it’s all one peaceful scene.

Still, it’s the elephants we gaze at later in the day in the river that tug at our heartstrings the most.

Globally, their numbers are declining. But here in the “Land of the Giants,” they are safe for future generations to witness and enjoy.

safari in Chobe National Park

Guaranteed, for now; you will see elephants on safari in Chobe National Park

Where to stay on a Chobe National Park safari

  • We bedded down in the intimate and deluxe Ngoma Safari Lodge, just outside Chobe National Park’s less-visited west gate.

Best time to go on a Chobe safari

  • The dry season from May to early November is the best time to visit, when animals congregate around the Chobe River to drink.
  • September and October are prime game-viewing months for a Chobe safari. But beware: September is also known as the “suicide month” because it’s so hot. If you’re heat-averse, you’re best advised to go between May and July; you’ll still see plenty of game! We visited in June, and thought it was a perfect compromise of very pleasant weather, not too-dry scenery and more than enough animals to exhaust our camera batteries.

All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except first and last image)


Our magazine feature

A version of our Chobe safari story was recently published in Taste of Life magazine. Click on the image below to read it.


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Safari in Chobe National Park


Comments

  1. Oh my gosh! Your photos bring back such wonderful memories of our safari. I couldn’t decide whether I was more smitten with the elephants, zebras or giraffes. Your photos didn’t add to my clarity:-)

  2. ‘Love all the images, especially that of the puku antelope!

    I’ve been on safari in both Africa and Asia, and each safari has been slightly scary (‘cos of the closeness), yet fabulously thrilling!

    1. Author

      That’s a spot-on comment :-). A little bit scary but wondrously thrilling! Going on safari makes one feel very much alive – and so conscious of the whole cycle of life and death in the animal world…

  3. This trip looks amazing, as have all your African travels! I am hoping Stephen and I can manage to go on safari somehow, someway, sometime! Bucket list, for sure!

    1. Author

      You will love it when you go (and we’re positive you WILL go). Visiting Africa really is very special – especially the safari experience(s). Just be prepared for loving it so much that you’ll want to go again!

  4. Chobe National Park seems like a wonderful choice for seeing big herds of elephants. It must have been quite an experience. An African Safari is very high on my list, but I don’t have much hope for it in the near future.

    1. Author

      You never know what the future holds :-). Africa may be in your sights sooner than you think… Though we must confess, it took us a while to piece together the itinerary for this trip to Africa.

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