National Park Experiences in Botswana

Botswana, where our drives have been bumpy and interrupted by the occasional wild animal on the side of the road. It’s always a good African reminder when you’re driving down the ‘highway’ and happen to drive past a giraffe standing right next to the road without a care in the world, or a family of elephants who take a little more notice of the truck than we’d prefer. It’s something we just don’t tire of and every time it happens we have to pull over, put the windows down and get the cameras out to capture the authentically African experience. We’ve also become more familiar with ‘bushie bushie’ stops, otherwise known as toilet stops on the side of the road. The boys remain close to the truck while the girls trek out in search of the perfect bush to crouch behind, tissues in hand while each of us wishes we’d been born differently.

On Thursday we arrived in Nata and quickly set up camp before running to the 4x4s which would take us through the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. The game drive was less eventful than others we’d been on and we spent a lot of time talking as we drove, passing only a few animals which we’d seen a lot of in other parks. It’s funny to see how entitled we’ve become and how quickly something that excited us so much on first look now doesn’t even warrant a photo or car stop.

We perked up as we arrived at the water for the sunset after being told that one of the vehicles had eskies and we were each allowed a drink. Practically skipping over there we made our choice and walked toward the water, the sun beginning to set over the water filled with endless flamingos. As we drew closer to the water we realised we were getting closer to the flamingo territory as the sand quickly turned to flamingo shit. Regretting our shoe choice – thongs – we made sure to tread carefully, not wanting to flick any on the back of our legs or take a slip through and end up sitting in it. We took a break once we were at the end before turning around and making the careful walk back to the vehicles where we jumped in and braced ourselves for the cold drive home having forgotten to bring jackets.

The next day was an early one as we prepared for our drive through to Kasane for Chobe National Park. After our arrival at the campsite we were again rushed to set up our tents and get ready for another game drive followed by a sunset cruise, forcing us to get our day packs ready with anything we might need, including a jacket considering our mistake made the night before.

The 4x4s were waiting for us at reception and we hopped on, ready for our final game drive together. It started off well, the park itself was beautiful with picturesque landscapes throughout, something I hadn’t experienced in Etosha or Kruger. We saw kudus up close at the beginning before driving down to the water hole and spotting multiple hippos, a small crocodile and quite a few buffalo. A big family of elephants was up ahead and our driver continued on, bringing us up close and personal with the family and giving us the chance to watch the one month old elephant playing with its unfamiliar trunk and running in between the other elephants. Our guide had switched the car off so as not to scare away the animals, however as a couple of the elephants began to take more of an interest in us and started walking right up to the vehicle I thought it might be time to turn the car on and prepare for a quick getaway; evidently the guide didn’t feel the same way. The elephants drew closer and we were all in awe while I sat there thankful to be in the middle seat, not trusting that the elephant would back away. Thankfully it did and I can look back on it now as such a cool experience and I don’t think I’ll forget the attitude of the baby elephant that sat not three metres away from me in Chobe National Park.

Driving back to the gates we kept an eye out for a leopard to complete the big 5 for this trip but to no success unfortunately. We pulled up at the exit for a real toilet stop and as usual it became an instant queue for the girls, sharing a roll of toilet paper that someone luckily remembered to bring. You’d think we would have all learnt to bring our own every time by now but apparently not.

We drove to a different entrance of the park and boarded the boat waiting for us complete with camping chairs in rows of two. Lisa and I sat ourselves behind the Dutch boys we’d grown quite close to, purely for their company and not to do with the esky placement carrying our bottle of wine. Having brought the metal cups from the truck we felt quite classy drinking a Cape Town Sauv Blanc, gliding through the water and admiring the park from a different view, stopping to see the water animals from a closer vantage point than the vehicles. We were happy for the boat experience in general, kicking back and telling stories from home as we progressed through our drinks. The sun slowly made its way down until we got back to the starting point where our truck was waiting for us to return to the campsite.

Geoffrey had dinner prepared when we got back, our last cooked meal for the trip we sadly realised. We all stayed around the fire that night enjoying each other’s company and the night sky above us before heading to bed for our last sleep in the tent with the less than comfortable mattress, sleeping bag and, for me at least, pillow made of clothes.

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