“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer.
Today we gained two new wonderful companions on this tour, a lovely lady from Australia and another from Switzerland. They seem like an excellent fit already. Oh the fun we’ll have talking culture and life stories!!
This morning we headed to Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. I was thoroughly impressed with the good work they are doing in wildlife treatment/rehab/release, community outreach, human/animal conflict, poaching/poisoning/trapping, and more. The biggest concerns are vulture poisonings by poachers (the circling birds give away poachers’ locations), rhino poaching, lions attacking livestock, and elephants destroying crops.
Fun facts: They discovered that a lion won’t attack something it can’t see even if it can hear and smell it so they create a boma (corral) with a visual barrier (like a tyvek material) to secure animals where lions are a problem. They also learned that elephants hate chili peppers so they use various methods, including potato guns packed with chili oil to deter elephants from devastating farmers’ crops.
They work with communities to create eco friendly rocket stoves that cook food over open fire while preventing deforestation and vaccinate family dogs against rabies and distemper. They also have a lab to diagnose disease and read tissue samples. These are just a few examples of the good work this group does. To learn more about their work or to make a donation go to http://www.vicfallswildlifetrust.org.
A simple $20 donation buys a family a new rocket stove, saves the trees, and reduces their carbon footprint.
After a smooth and uneventful crossing back into Botswana we set up camp in a town called Kesane then went for a 3-hour game drive through Chobe National Park. The park is comprised of 12,000 hectares of wild land on the gorgeous Chobe River which acts as a beautiful and bountiful border between Namibia and Botswana. The Botswana side has a fairly steep hill rising off the river, dotted with thorny acacias and scrub while the Namibia side is gorgeous and flat with grass and farmland. In the center of the river are grasslands painted bright green by recent spring rains and devoured by basking hippos and hundreds of lumbering elephants! We laughed at the antics of families of baboons, relished sightings of hundreds of impala, four giraffes, warthogs, a family of banded mongoose, fish eagles, vultures, storks, herons, crocs, butterflies, a Leopard tortoise (they can live up to 150 years and weigh 40 kg), and waterbok. The smell of tropical summer permeated my lungs while throngs of birds decorated the airwaves. There’s one place in the park that looks like a bone cemetery with huge sun-bleached leg bones from elephants and hippos as well as a giraffe skull. That was surreal. The highlight though: being barely ten feet from a juvenile elephant and a mother and her calf. After just reading “The Elephant Whisperer”, which talked a lot about elephant behavior, this was a little closer than I felt comfortable but the driver/guide was confident in his assessment of the situation. It’s incredible that these 10 foot, two+ ton animals can evaporate into the scraggly bush in mere seconds. It was an amazing drive across stunning landscapes and a privilege to see so many animals.
Our guide delivered us directly to the river for a sunset boat cruise that took us around Sidudu Island, which sits in the middle of the same Chobe River. In addition to seeing much wildlife (huge yellow and black Nile crocs, families of hippos, elephants on the grassy mid-river “savanna “, birds, iguanas, butterflies, waterbok, impalas, and more), we learned so much about them:
🐘Migration time is timed with the rains because there’s plenty to eat.
🐘Nile crocs can grow to 18 feet and go 6-12 months between large feedings, which could include pythons (which also eat crocs), large fish, antelope, etc. Nesting season produces 20-80 eggs with 45% survival.
🐘An elephant trunk can pick up 4 tons, and has somewhere between 50-150,000 muscles in it (we get different facts from different guides).
🐘We saw some of the mere 1500 Puku antelope left in the world
I’ve come to love the hippos’ throaty laugh-bark to one another usually done when agitated; it’s easy to spot them by their adorable “shrek-like” ears poking out of the water, which get waggled to shed water after being submerged.
As the sun began calling it a day, rippled water mirroring the milky sunset, elephant families climbed the hills for the night, while the lone bulls and hippo families lingered by the river, with crocs lying like logs in the grass desperately soaking up the last heat of the day.
Over dinner we had the treat of an elephant trumpeting nearby and yips from hyena.
My heart is full and overflowing with gratitude.
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