We had planned a three hour game drive starting at 0530 for our one full day in Kasane. Starting from the River View Lodge, it is about a 15 or 20 minute drive to the Sedudu Gate of the Chobe National Park, all on paved roads. The gate opens at 06:00 in August and closes at 18:30. You can purchase a 3 hour pass, a 6 hour pass, or a full day pass, but these were facts that we were initially unaware of, and would make a big difference in our experience.
Having come from the more remote areas, we were accustomed to climbing into our vehicle and driving past the mostly unoccupied gates and into the park, and quite often be the lone vehicle in the area.
This experience was totally different. We had been told we were to go with Mathews, our guide from the night before. At 05:30 we were told that Mathews was doing a half day drive and we would go with a different driver for the three hour drive. We did not know that we had the option for a longer game drive, and at 05:30 not being as quick of mind as we should have been, we went along with the program.
Arriving at the gate at opening time, it reminded me of a Best Buy store the Friday after Thanksgiving, when the doors open and the flood of shoppers is unleashed. It was the same with the game drive vehicles. We were in a congo line of vehicles, all jostling for position. To my sister and I, it was a shock.
But the Sedudu Gate to the park is the closest gate to a populated area, and if you are in Botswana with limited time, this is the type of game drive you would do.
As we sped along the sand track, breathing in the exhaust of the vehicle in front, I was wondering what the rush was all about. After a while I just couldn’t take it anymore and asked the driver what was going on and why the rush.
We were told we had just three hours to get into the park, possibly see “big cats” (because that is what everyone wants to see) and get out. The drivers all rush around trying to spot the cats as they settle into their shade areas for the heat of the day. It was a thoroughly unimpressive experience.
When a leopard was spotted, it was like a three ring circus. My sister counted 19 vehicles trying to get in a position to photograph the poor thing. It was chaotic. I asked our driver to back off so I could photograph the melee.
I couldn’t fault the driver. He did not know that we had come from the remote areas and were used to a more leisurely pace and much less competition. He was just trying to please us by finding the Big Cat.
We did see the leopard, who seemed less than happy with the action all around, but stayed in the shade of the trees.
We also saw young hippos playing, giraffe, impala, three lions from a distance, and one of my favorite little birds, the guinea fowl, affectionately known as the Chobe Chicken.
We exited the park after three hours, our permit length of time.
The Sedudu Gate to the Chobe National Park:
Once back at the River View Lodge, we spoke with the management and arranged for a half day private drive the next day. We would have to change our Zimbabwe transfer time, but it would be our last game drive of the trip and I was determined to leave with a good experience.
The lesson learned here was that the three hour, fast paced, in and out game drive was not something I would recommend or ever do again. It was nothing like the remote area drives and was anything but peaceful.
My sister took another river cruise while I relaxed by our pool and sampled some new to me South African wine.
It was a nice sunset from the patio of the lodge.