After leaving the Macatoo camp I spent three days and nights in a mobile tent camp in the Chobe National Park. All transfers between camps in the delta are done by small aircraft. In a jeep, 5 km can take you an hour to drive. The flight from Macatoo was on Safari Air, and we made several stops along the way to drop off and pick up other passengers at various camps.
Sevute is within the Chobe National Park, and therefore visitors must abide by the park rules. Night driving is prohibited (you must be back in camp by 7 pm), and you must stay on the tracks at all time. March is the off-season, and I found out why. The grass was tall and the trees were green with leaves, so the game was hard to spot. I also discovered that the game doesn’t like the tall grass because they can’t see the predators, and with little game around, the predators are also scarce.
The camp is moved every 3 or 4 days. The tents are large, with comfortable beds, and 30 litre bucket showers. The cooks, Ishmael and BK, did a wonderful job of creating tasty meals from a mobile tent kitchen, and all the guys working in the camp were wonderful. They worked very hard, doing whatever needed to be done to make the stay a pleasant one.
The morning game drives started at 6:30 after a 5:30 wakeup and 6 am breakfast. We saw mostly impala, some zebra, giraffe, and many, many birds. I started to list the birds we saw and filled three pages.
I arrived on a saturday, along with a few other guests. On sunday, I was the only guest, so I was able to tailor my game drives as I liked. At my request, we toured two other permanent lodges in the area in the early afternoon, Orient Express Sevute Elephant Camp, and the Desert and Delta Chobe Game Lodge. Both were very nice lodges in good locations with elephants visiting the water holes daily.
In the evening we went back out for our game drive, stopping to climb the rocks to see the San rock paintings and finished with sundowners. (Tsodilo Hills, in northwest Botswana and west of Chobe National Park, is a Unesco World Heritage Site with over 4500 San rock paintings.) Sundowners are an evening drive tradition. I tried Amarula for the first time, which became my nightly sundowner preference. Amarula is a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the African Marula tree (locally called the elephant tree.) It is made in South Africa.
Sunday night our sundowner was held in the presence of a breeding herd of elephants. It is fun to watch little elephants and their families. My guides estimated this little elephant to be about 6 months old, and was still learning how to control his trunk.
Monday morning I was once again the only guest, so I requested we skip breakfast in camp and instead pack a picnic and have breakfast out on our drive. We had seen mostly impalas and a large kudu when we got a radio call from the guide on the Orient Express vehicle.
He had spotted a leopard in a tree, and was giving my guide Pat the location. It is common for guides from all of the lodges to share sighting information. We hustled over to the sight, near Leopard Rock as it turns out, about a 30 minute drive on the bumpy dirt roads. The other vehicle had left, but the leopard was still there. The leopard in the tree was the mother of a cub born last year and about 8 months old. She was watching her cub practice stalking in the tall grass. She was quite relaxed, but when an impala settled down and her cub was sneaking through the grass, she sat up and paid close attention. The cub did not catch the impala, but I think he was just getting some practice in. I could have sworn she was posing for me as she shifted positions and yawned and stretched. A super model indeed. We watched the two for about 45 minutes, until mama leopard called to her cub, climbed down from the tree and settled into the long grass, a cooler option once the temperatures started to rise.
After the incredible leopard sighting, we drove a short distance away and had our breakfast outside on the hood of the Toyota. Most of the game vehicles were Toyota Land Cruisers.
After breakfast we continued our drive. We saw a group of Ground Hornbills and watched them fly from the tree to the ground. Eddie, guide in training, told me of a Bantu belief involving the Ground Hornbill. If a man was irresponsible and did not care for his family, the heart of a Ground Hornbill would be mixed with other ingredients and fed to the man. The man would then become responsible and caring towards his family, as the Ground Hornbill is. Not so good for the Ground Hornbill.
Monday evening I was joined on the game drive by two more guests. We crossed the Savute Marsh, saw a rainbow, watched fabulous cloud formations, saw many more birds and enjoyed sundowners by Leopard Rock. The Lilac Breasted Roller, of which we saw hundreds, is Botswana’s national bird. It is most colorful in flight.
At 7 pm when we returned from the evening game drives, the bucket showers would be filled with hot water. The water smelled slightly of campfire smoke, but was welcome. It is possible to shower in 30 litres and it got so that I didn’t even use all the water. 7:30 to 8 pm was spent at the “bush tv” as the camp workers called the fire. The pre-dinner gathering around the campfire is another tradition at all of the camps I have visited.
Tuesday morning was my last game drive in Chobe. I was hoping to see Wild Dogs, as they had been spotted near our camp, but they are elusive and did not show that morning. We did see vervet monkeys, impalas and giraffes, and I got a lesson in the names of groupings of animals. Here is part of what I learned; a journey/tower of giraffes, a business of mongoose (mongooses?), a herd/parade of elephants, a dazzle of zebras, a shrewdness of monkeys, an obstinacy of buffalos, a pride of lions, a crash of rhinos, a raft/pod of hippos, a leap of leopards, a coalition of cheetahs, a skulk of jackals, a pack of wild dogs, a dray of squirrels, and a parliament of owls. At 11:30 we were back out at the dirt airstrip for another Safari Air transfer to the next camp. On takeoff, I quickly snapped this photo of an elephant just off to the side of the departure end of the runway. (The camera I use is a Nikon D80. All of the leopard and bird shots were taken with the Tamron SP70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens. It was my first experience with this lens and I was very happy with it. The other lens I traveled with was the Nikon 18-135mm).