Chobe National Park Botswana and the Caprivi Strip Namibia

Grumpy hippos and playful lions

Never forget that wild animals are, well … wild. For instance, we were sitting in a small boat watching and photographing a particularly playful pod of hippos. The play fighting between the young males became more intense until some submerged, nothing unusual there. Hippo play timeThen four of them, including the largest male resurfaced, cutting the distance to us by half. Time to go! As they kept on coming our escape was stalled by the propeller being stuck in the lily pads, forward backward went the prop trying to get free, tensions rising, onward wallowed the hippos.  At the point they got uncomfortably close and it was all too obvious how huge the alpha male was, then the prop came free and we were on our way. Our guide said they wouldn’t have attacked the boat, he never looked worried, they just wanted us gone. A close enough encounter for us though and a reminder that wild animals need to be treated with respect.

We had 6 nights in the area on and close to the Chobe river, which forms the border between Botswana and Namibia in the area known as the Caprivi Strip. Three days were spent on the Chobe Princess 2, a 4-cabin houseboat (officially on the Namibian side) and 3 days at Muchenje Safari Lodge. Muchenje is located in the Chobe National Forest, just a few minutes outside the 10,700 square Kms of the Chobe National Park.

The comfortable houseboat cruised the Chobe river, providing many opportunities to see the abundant wildlife, but the main safari activities were conducted on smaller boats. The knowledgeable guides took us out three times a day, to get up close and personal with the creatures that call the river and its banks their home. Chobe Princess 2For serious photographers one of the boats was equipped with swivel chairs and camera mounts (instead of tripods) to accommodate camera bodies and bazooka sized lenses (boat needs to be requested). The animal encounters were too numerous to mention but aside from the hippo excitement mentioned above, the most memorable was with a solitary elephant and a fish eagle. The elephant had decided to wade into the river and snack on the water lilies, ripping up vast quantities with its trunk. As it slapped the bounty against the riverbank to dislodge the mud and roots, he inevitably and comically covered himself in some of them. You’ve got to smile at a Lilly decorated pachyderm. In close attention on the bank was a huge crocodile, stealthily contemplating the chances of taking a colossal meal, but he slipped passively into the river when the elephant wandered over to him and ended the contest before it had begun.

Sea EagleFish eagles are plentiful along the river and, having been invited to take spare seats on the ‘camera boat’ with my modest camera, I was delighted to capture this majestic bird in full flow as its talons touched the water to snatch up its prey.

At Muchenje lodge there are number of options for game drives, all delivered via a Land Rover style vehicle with raised seats.  There are 3 shorter drives each day, plus the option for an all- day drive which allows guests to travel further into the park and a spell on a boat on the river. At this time of the year there will inevitably be some rain at some part of the day, so lined ponchos are provided to keep you as dry and warm as possible. Again, we were fortunate to see so many fabulous animals and colourful birds. Highlights included multiple encounters with lions, with one walking so close to Linda that another stride to the left would have had the lioness sitting in her lap. Both lioness and Linda held their cool. On another occasion an adolescent male wanted to engage in a game of peek a boo (see picture). Baboons were plentiful in the park and in the last hour or so before dark we would see vast troops of them scoping out the area they would use to sleep for the night. Many of the mothers would be carrying young babies on their back and some with another slung underneath their belly. Lilac Breasted RollerThey always amused me as they sloped off the track into the bush, they would look (seemingly resentfully) over their shoulder at us. It was hard to choose which birds would rank as our favourite with so many gaily coloured varieties to select from but backed into a corner I’d have to go for the Lilac Breasted Roller, not least of which was that he patiently posed for his picture as proud as can be of his bright plumage.

Let me give the final animal mention to the hyenas, jackals and vultures. Perhaps not top of most people’s list to see, but lovely in their own right and performing a vital ‘clean up’ roll in the park.

Combining the houseboat and the lodge proved to the perfect way (for us) to have an unforgettable experience in this area of outstanding natural beauty. Quite apart from the animal sightings, the scenery is worth taking time to stand still and contemplate, particularly at sunrise and sunset. Lion peek a booA chilled glass of sauvignon blanc at the back of the Land Rover or on the deck of the houseboat is a very civilised way to ‘drink in’ the natural beauty and symphony of wildlife sounds.

The staff on the houseboat and at the lodge were polite and attentive, plus the guides were extremely knowledgeable and accommodating. We would love to come back to this area again in the dry season and would have no hesitation in using both again.

264 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Steve Aldridge

Award-winning travel writer

Leave a comment


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Solo travel holidays isn’t confined to the young and restless; it’s a liberating experience that transcends generations….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.