On to Botswana!

Amanda Vallone

As you can tell we had been on an amazing journey through the Southern countries of Africa thus far. We saw Table Mountain, the newest addition to the natural wonders of the world, and Victoria Falls, one of the largest and most noteworthy waterfalls in the world. So what else is there to see? You guessed it! Wildlife!

So onto Botswana we went.

On the way to Botswana we had to do a border crossing where we showed our passports, itineraries and then had to walk out through this pesticide (shoes on) as to not bring certain pests into the country of Botswana. In all honesty I am not quite sure how this stops the pests, but I’m sure it helps a little as what we picked up on our feet was pretty grody.

Anyway… you didn’t want to read about that wildlife, I know. The Big 5 is what you want to know about, right?

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We arrived in Chobe National park and were brought to our game reserve: the Chobe Lodge. I have to say we were all really tired and slightly ornery because it had gotten pretty hot, not to mention we had been traveling non-stop for days with little down time… Granted it was kind of our own fault, because the one ‘down’ day we had, everyone in the group decided to partake in 2-3 optional excursions instead of having down time. But that aside, we were all exhausted and temperamental travelers…

But then we were greeted with a refreshing drink and a cool towel and ushered to a lovely lunch.

With a little bit of time to get ready before our first event, everyone decided to freshen up a bit. Then it was on our way to a river safari at 4:30pm.

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As my group walked down the steep stairs to load onto the boat, we were diverted onto a private vessel of our own. Just one more reason why going with a group-led custom-designed trip is simply amazing! My group had no clue we were going to be on our own vessel as they saw hundreds of others boarding these big boats. But Victoria at Salute Africa and I planned for it to be just our group and simply perfect, and perfect it was! But really, I must give all of the credit to Victoria—she was amazing!

So we boarded this covered boat and as always on a Roseborough Trip, we had a cocktail party. While we were drifting along the Chobe River, we first saw so many beautiful birds that were everywhere, as well as some crocodiles. Next up we saw tons of water buffalo and hippos. I mean hundreds of these things. It was incredible. To see the wildlife so close was really amazing.

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A little more downstream was where we saw elephants, and not just one or two. There were about 30 all in one area. They were splashing around in the water and having a great time cooling off. What a sight to see!

But then, suddenly, we see these elephants trying to cross from a center island back to the mainland. We stayed for a while watching the process of it all. The elephants lined up one by one and crossed the deep river to get back. But when it came to the last two little babies they could not get across. At this time, we were so close to the babies the father got really mad, or maybe protective is a better word. He helped his two young across the river then he blew his horn, waived his trunk and made sure we knew who was boss. And it most certainly was him!

During all of this we were literally right up close and personal. The elephants crossed right in front of us. We did not move or get into their area. We simply watched nature take its course and the animals decide their own path. It was exhilarating, exciting, and emotional. These animals are so majestic. You literally do not hear them walk on land at all, yet they are MASSIVE. They are truly creatures to be respected. The wildlife was so incredible, and this was only our game drive water safari… I mean can anything really top that?

Oh, and yes, the sunset in Africa really is the most beautiful sunset in all of the world!

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Riding an Elephant

Amanda Vallone

Lions and tigers and bears… oh that’s a different trip. Let’s talk elephants in Victoria Falls.

As you have probably already read in some of our last blogs, the experiences in South Africa and Zimbabwe & Zambia are spectacular. This is one account of one more stunning experience.

It was 5am the day after our brush with death touching the lions… Joking!

Seriously, it was more like 4am the next morning when we woke up and had a cup of coffee and headed out. My family was the same as normal, dragging their feet getting ready. How does one get ready for a Bush Safari on Elephant anyway? Because that was exactly what we were doing.

As we got to camp, we were given a safety briefing and history lesson about the elephants we would see, and we were told of their handlers.

And then we all walked out on the deck and saw this spectacular parade of majestic creatures walking one by one to the balcony we were boarding them from. Besides pure size alone, the thing that most impressed me was their skin. It is all dry and wrinkled, thousands and thousands of beautiful old wrinkles, and their eyelashes are incredibly long. Like that 99-year-old woman whose skin was tanned from her life and all her wrinkles show the proof of the life she has lived—the good, the bad and everything in between. Those wrinkles are her storybook of every smile, cry, laugh, and heartache in her life—it is completely beautiful. Elephants are just the same. When you look them in the eye, there is so much depth… you find a connection right away. The elephant is truly a soulful creature. It is no wonder why all of the other animals respect them the way they do.

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So how does one board an elephant?

Let’s just say, I am not your best example…

The elephants walk up to the deck that is designed to be right at the height of their backs. You walk up and set your left leg (inside leg) up first then quickly hoist the right leg over the back of the elephant. This does take some maneuvering and stability but is so worth it.

After you are on be sure to LIFT your left (inside) foot up. Why is this an important thing? Well the elephant leans into the deck to allow you to get on. So, if you don’t do as you’re told—and are an idiot like me—your foot will be squished between the deck and the bajillion pound elephant. This, my friends, is not a comfortable position to be in.

After I realized my ankle was not crushed into a million pieces, it was time to enjoy the ride.

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We took a leisurely stroll on the back of our elephants through the bush, where we learned about our lovely pachyderm, her feeding habits, and why their tusks are all broken or sawed off.

Interesting fact: Elephant Reserves in Africa have begun sawing off the Elephants tusks to make the elephants less desirable for poaching AND because an infected tusk can lead to death. So by sawing them down, there is less of a chance for the ends to be broken and later infected.

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