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NAMIB DESERT, NAMIBIA

Sand dunes, camel trekking, chameleons & many other desert critters

sunny 22 °C

At the southern edge of Swakopmund is Desert Xplorers. From there I rented a camel and went on a short trek into the desert. For $300 Namibian Dollars ($37 Canadian) I rode a camel for 45min in to the desert. (There were various options for shorter / longer treks too).
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My grumpy camel!
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A hug made him happier :)
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Cheeeeeeese!
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If you've never rode a camel before, its definitely something to cross off your bucket list, but let me warn you, it'll be the most uncomfortable ride of your life!
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Another day I went on a 4x4 jeep safari, booked threw Living Desert Tours. I did the half day tour for $600 Namibian Dollars ($75 Canadian). My guide was Chris, who was fantastic, and an expert on all things desert-y.
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The Namib Desert is massive. Over 2000km long! A single dune can be up to 32km long & 980ft high!!!! I would have really loved to have gone to Sossuvlei (where those really, really big dunes are), but only having 3 days here, I only had time to visit the 'small' dunes of Dorob National Park (the outskirts of the Namib, between Swakopmund & Walvis Bay). If you've never seen sand dunes before, the 450ft tall dunes here are still incredibly impressive!!
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'Road' through the dunes.
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This is Chris with a Horned Adder, an incredibly venomous snake!
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I cant remember the name of this dune beetle, but it stands on its head in the early morning so that the dew runs down its back and into its mouth. Clever.
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An itty bitty Shovel Snouted Lizard
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Scrub Hare. We also saw a jackal, but I didnt get a photo of it.
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My fave desert discovery was this pregnant Namaqua Chameleon!!!
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Curly chameleon tail :)
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Chris put a worm in his hand, and the chameleon climbed right in! A completely wild chameleon! We also got to see her change from light pink to dark grey right before our eyes! Amazing!
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Then Chris put a second worm in his other hand so we could watch her super long, super fast tongue in action!
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Then he put the chameleon back on the sand, and placed another worm a few feet away, and we watched as she stalked her prey, lol.
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Her tongue was just too fast! i couldnt capture it!
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Chris had an amazing way of finding creatures out in the desert! When you look at the the dunes, all you see is sand. But we'd be driving along in the jeep, and all of a sudden he'd slam it into park, jump out, run up a dune and start digging, and voila ... an adorable Palmetto Gecko!
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He even got his very own photoshoot :)
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I absolutely love the patterns & ripples in the sand!
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We made a stop at the base of a 450ft sand dune, took off our shoes, and all ran to the top!
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Views from the top ...
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Our last stop was atop a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean ... world's biggest beach thats for sure!!! You can barely see the road, but that is the hwy from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay, and onward to the airport. Quite a scenic drive with sand dunes & ocean the whole way!
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That's it for Namibia. Three days is most definitely not enough time. I only saw a tiny portion of this amazing country. Some day I hope to return and see the massive dunes at Sossuvlei, Fish Canyon, visit the Skeleton Coast, hike in Spitzkoppe, and go on safari in Etosha. Still so much to see & do there!
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Posted by ChantelleS 21:25 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert wildlife sand safari lizard dune jeep gecko chameleon Comments (0)

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AFRICA

Game drives, camping and wildlife galore!

overcast 18 °C

I make $13 an hour ... if I can afford an African safari, so can you! Mind you, I'm the biggest penny pincher you'll ever meet, but I travel far & wide every year, you just gotta know that the most expensive way to do any vacation is one of those all-inclusive traps. You just need to suck it up, and plan it yourself, and any vacation will be way cheaper! So heres how I went on safari in Kruger NP on my budget ... always always wait for a seat sale. That is #1, as airfare is always the most expensive part of any vacation. I've seen travel agency billboards advertising 8 night safari pkgs for $5999, PLUS tax, NOT including airfare! Thats absurd! Did you know you can do self-drive safaris in Kruger NP for $15 per day, per person? I bet you didnt, cuz your travel agent sure as heck wont tell you, cuz they want your money! I traveled to Africa solo, so I didnt feel comfortable renting a car alone, but maybe you are braver than me, or maybe you have a travel partner. Self-drives are definitely the cheapest option, cuz then your game drives are $15, you can do any other sightseeing (such as Blyde RIver Canyon) in your own vehicle rather than going on a tour, and you dont have to pay to take buses/taxis. Everything is cheaper in Africa than in Canada ... car rentals, gas, food, hotels ... everything. Keep that in mind when planning. Like I said, I traveled solo so I didnt rent a car, but what I did do was the second cheapest option. Upon arriving in Jo'burg airport, instead flying to Kruger (which can be upwards of $800 one way), I took the bus to Nelspruit (closest city to Kruger NP) for $45 one way. When it comes to accommodation, you can stay in lodges/hotels/camps inside Kruger NP from $100-$1600 per night (not inc any game drives), OR you can stay in Nelspruit or Hazyview (I chose the latter as its only 12km from Kruger gate) for $40-$80. If you have a rental car, just drive to Kruger NP gate, obtain your $15 permit, and away you go. Its that simple. The park gates open at 6am, and close at 6pm. By staying in a hotel/lodge just outside of the park, its very easy to spend the whole day on safari in your own vehicle, and just drive back to your cheap hotel afterwards. But like I mentioned, I didnt do a self-drive cuz I was solo, so I did the next best thing ... I booked a 2 day / 1 night camping safari with Bubezi Safaris for $271. That inc my tent (photo below), a morning & afternoon game drive on day 1, and a morning game drive day 2, and breakfast (bring $ for other meals). Still waaaaaaaaaayy cheaper than the $5999 the travel agency was advertising thats for sure!

My one night was spent in this tent in Skukuza Camp inside Kruger NP. The camp is fenced so you dont have to worry about predators getting in. Skukuza Camp also has bungalows and hotel rooms for rent, but of course that just ups your price. In all honesty, you are in your room only to sleep, the rest of your time you are on your game drive/safari, so does it really matter if your in a tent or a fancy room?? The public washroom facilities were immaculate! Sparkling clean toilets, showers and even a bath tub! The tent itself had a door with lock, 2 single beds, electricity, fan, dresser & night stand. The camp itself is like a town. Theres plenty of options for eating from sit down restaurant, to take away, to groceries. Theres bathrooms, and a gas station too.
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Here is my open-air safari vehicle. When you chose a safari operator, be sure to ask what type of vehicle you'll be in. Anyone dreaming of an African safari I'm sure imagines themselves in one of these, but believe it or not, I saw tourists on city buses with tinted windows that didnt open! For real! What kind of safari experience is that???!!! You have to take photos through tinted windows! And you cant even get close to the wildlife cuz your in a big giant bus!!
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Alright, enough talking, onto the wildlife photos!
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If you choose the self-drove option, drive slow. Very slow. You'll be surprised at how many times animals will be right on the road! Give them space, and stay in your vehicle. If you have to pee, find a restcamp ... they are everywhere.

Rhino vs car
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See all the ppl in regular cars ... they're doing self-drive safaris ;) Just give Mr Rhino plenty of space to cross the road and you'll be fine.
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Burchell's Starlings
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A little frog we found sleeping in our safari vehicle!
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My favorite animal ... zebras!
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Riverbed
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Hyenas on the road!
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Male waterbuck
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Herd of female waterbuck at a watering hole
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Elephant crossing the road! See, I told you animals are always on the road!
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Impala with an Ox Pecker ... those birds like to eat ticks off of other animals.
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A hornbill in a Thorn Acacia
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We almost drove over this itty bitty Leopard Tortoise crossing the road!
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Vervet monkey
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Handsome hyena. So many ppl hate hyenas. I love them! Orange mohawks & polka dots ... whats not to love?
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This is the one and only leopard I saw. Unfortunately it was far away, and I had to zoom in through many, many branches. But it was chillin' up in a tree, just like I was hoping to see one.
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Baboons on the road
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We parked by a watering hole, there were no animals drinking, and I couldnt figure out why we were sitting staring at the water ... and then this guy popped up :)
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Warthog
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A very colorful Lilac Breasted Roller! One of the prettiest birds around :)
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Pied Kingfisher
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Another hyena on the road
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3ft long Monitor Lizard
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Wildebeest
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Later on we were driving down a road and spotted 7 hyenas!
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As we got closer there was an incredibly putrid smell! The closer we got, the nastier it smelt. All of a sudden a hyena snatched up a rotten buffalo leg and ran off with it! Yuck, no wonder it was so stinky!
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More of my favorite animal :)
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Magpie Shrike
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Teeny tiny moth
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Rhino
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Ox Peckers on a rhino's back
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I wanted to see Wild Dogs, but didnt actually think it would happen, as they are incredibly rare ... only 350 left in Kruger NP. But all of a sudden there were 6 of them hunting right on the road!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Check out the one wild dog balancing on one leg, lol! I caught him in mid-run)
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One decided the best place to take a shit would be right on the road a few feet from our Landy, LOL!
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Streeeeeetch
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Hippo & a Black Crake
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Black Crake checking out its reflection in a pond at a bird hide.
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Colorful water lilies
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A group of rhinos is called a 'crash' of rhinos
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Mama & baby rhino
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The one and only lion I saw in Kruger NP was unfortunately far away
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A pregnant zebra and her baby!!
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Awe, baby stripes :)
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Adorable waterbuck with his heart shaped nose and 'target' bum.
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Well thats it for my fabulous safari! Whether you travel cheap, or do it expensively, you will see the same wonderful wildlife :)
One last shot leaving Kruger National Park
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I then headed back to Nelspruit and took the CityBug bus back to Johannesburg where I spent the night before catching my flight onward to Namibia! I stayed at the Airport Game Lodge for only $42, and that inc pickup from the bus stop & drop off at the airport the next day, free breakfast, and they even had a few acres of land with some animals, for one last dose of 'safari'. When choosing a hotel I always go for ones that inc free airport shuttle, wifi, breakfast, etc, so that I dont have to pay extra for those things in addition to the cost of a room. Heres some photos of the wildlife at the lodge.
I think this is a blesbok, but I'm not 100% sure on that, as I've never seen one before!
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Springbok
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Ostrich
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Thats it for the eastern part of South Africa. I also visited the Cape Peninsula by Cape Town, but first I head into Namibia ... that'll be the next blog post :)

Posted by ChantelleS 12:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged animals wildlife south africa safari kruger Comments (3)

CHOBE NATIONAL PARK, BOTSWANA

Chobe River boat cruise & Chobe NP camping Safari. April 3rd & 4th, 2013

overcast 27 °C

I was staying in Livingstone, Zambia and had booked a 2 day \ 1 night camping safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana. Livingstone is approx 45-60min from the Zambia \ Botswana border. I booked it online prior to arriving in Africa through Kalahari Tours. It was $234US, and included pickup at my hotel in Livingstone, transportation to the border, an escort to help me through customs \ border crossing & get visas (if you know you will be exiting / re-entering Zambia during your stay, purchase a multi-entry visa for $80, rather than 2 single entry visas for $50 each), I was then introduced to a rep from Kalahari Tours on the Botswanan side and led to a ferry that crossed the Zambezi River, where I then met my Game Ranger who made sure I got on the correct safari vehicle. I'm sure if I'd attempted all that on my own, I would've been lost! Also included was a riverboat cruise on the Chobe River, then lunch at a lodge, and an afternoon game drive, tenting accomodation, all meals, and 2 more game drives on day 2 before being brought back to the border, and back to my hotel.

When taking the ferry from Zambia to Botswana across the Zambezi River, there is a point on the river where 4 countries meet ... Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe & Namibia. So for a brief moment I was in 4 countries at the same time :)

After a quick breakfast at a lodge, myself and others on the camping trip, were led to the river where we boarded a double decker pontoon boat for a cruise along the Chobe River.
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Elephants were absolutely everywhere! Every bend in the river was home to yet another herd of elephants. It was incredible to watch them coming out of the trees \ hills to drink from the river, and play in the water :)
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Adorable baby elephant!!
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I saw a total of 4 pods of hippos chillin' in the river! I LOVE hippos!
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Mama & adorable baby hippo :)
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More elephants ...
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Charging elephant
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Pooping elephant, lol!
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Cormorant
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Baby croc
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Nile Crocodile
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"Monster" tree
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I wish I had been on a smaller boat like the 1 in this photo ... look how close they got to these impalas!
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Fighting ellies!
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Sniffing the air for danger
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Another charging elephant
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After the 3hr riverboat cruise, we stopped for lunch at a lodge. Afterwards we switched to an open-air safari vehicle for a 3hr game drive through Chobe National Park.
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Giraffe snuggles :)
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Impala ... "Who's on my bum?"
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THIS is the photo I came to Africa to get!!! More than anything, I wanted to see a giraffe bending down awkwardly ... and I got TWO of them, plus the 2 matching giraffes in the background! I couldnt have choreographed it better :)
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A herd of giraffes is called a 'journey of giraffes'
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Adorable baby giraffe :)
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We got REALLY close to a herd of elephants! Uncomfortably close!
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Poke ... this little ellie kept bugging the other one to play
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Here he's nudging the other one, lol! He even ended up sitting on top of the other one! He just wanted someone to play with!
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Love this one!
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Peek-a-boo!
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My favorite elephant photo!
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Baby elephant trying to suckle
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Dung Beetle
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My game ranger, Sinka, holding a Leopard Tortoise
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Dragonfly on someone's hat
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Puku - a type of antelope I never knew existed! Looks very similar to an impala, but its bigger and furrier.
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One of the hi-lights of the day was finding this lion eating a warthog!!!!!!
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We were only a few feet away! So close I could hear bones crunching and guts squishing! Totally disgusting, yet totally awesome at the same time!
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We later came across a 2nd lion ... this one wasnt all bloodied up
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Traffic in Chobe
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Impala
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Around 5pm we drove down to the shores of the Chobe River to watch all the animals come for a sundowner. The first animals to show up were a troop of baboons.
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A young baboon playing with elephant poo
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Adorable baby baboon! Look at those big ears!
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Baby baboon playing with a rock
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Mama & youngster drinking from the Chobe River
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Then some giraffes showed up at the river
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Fighting giraffes!
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Chobe River
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Male kudu
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Egyptian Goose
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Sunset over the Chobe River
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After the sun set we drove to our camp. There were 8 tents set up in a semi-circle, and 18 camp chairs set in a circle around the campfire. I assumed supper would be hotdogs & hamburgers, but the game rangers-turned-cooks made us beef stroganoff, steamed veggies and dessert.
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Sleeping in a tent alone was scary ... it is NOT quiet at night! Nocturnal birds, animals & insects could be heard all night long!
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At 12:30am I had to pee. But since I was alone, I didnt have anyone to watch my back as I walked to the bush toilet, aka pit latrine. I shone my flashlight all around a few times, looking for any eyes glowing in the dark! When I didnt see any I quickly just peed beside my tent as fast as I could, and then jumped back in! And no joke, no sooner had I climbed back into my sleeping bag, I heard a lion roar!!!! I nearly crapped my pants! I was JUST outside and there was a lion nearby! The camp was not fenced, so anything could wander past my tent! I also heard an elephant trumpet, and something lumbered past my tent! I think I slept 1hr total, lol!
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Bush shower
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Good morning ... I survived the night!
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The morning game drive began at 6:30am. Unfortunately the 1st 3hrs were very quiet. We saw a few impala & warthogs, and lots of birds, but no big game til later in the morning.
Lilac-breasted Roller - Botswana's national bird
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Vulture
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Guinea Fowl, aka 'Chobe Chicken'
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Warthog
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Kneeling down to eat
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Ox Pecker eating ticks off of an imapala
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The excitement began when our ranger got a call about a male lion sighting! He put pedal to the metal and raced across the park to get us to the lion before he disappeared into the bush! We raced 'Dukes of Hazard' style, swerving around corners on the sandy roads, and flying over bumps, lol, it was so much fun ... and we got there in time. There was 1 male and 2 females relaxing by a tree. When we neared, the male went into 'pounce' position. That was a tad nerve racking cuz he was within 8ft of our open-air vehicle!
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There was a buffalo that the lions were following, but nothing ever happened. We were hoping to see some action.
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There was a herd of impala across the road, and every single one of them had their eyes on those lions! They were so focused on those lions that they didnt even pay us any attention! But whichever impala takes its eyes off those lions would probably end up their lunch!
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Impala bum
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Fish Eagle
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Nile Crocodile
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Martial Eagle eating a mongoose ... can you see the mongoose's tail hanging down?
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Warthog in a mud wallow
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He was enjoying rolling around in his very own mud bath
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3ft long Monitor Lizard
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Cape Buffalo & Cattle Egret
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We parked near the Chobe River and watched a herd of 250 Cape Buffalo swim across.
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There were 3 crocs lurking in the water waiting for a straggler! As the last baby buffalo crossed the river, a croc attacked and killed it :( The saddest part was that the momma buffalo stood at the water's edge mooing/calling for her baby long after the rest of the herd had moved on!
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Ox Peckers eating ticks off of a buffalo's back
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We came across this lone buffalo sleeping beside the river (not the smartest place for a snooze considering all the crocodiles lurking in the river), with a pesky cattle egret & ox pecker bothering him.
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Pied Kingfisher
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Beautiful Chobe River
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Thats all for Botswana! I then headed back into Zambia for a few more nights before flying to South Africa. That will be in the next post.

Posted by ChantelleS 16:00 Archived in Botswana Tagged boat wildlife elephant tree river africa safari animal crocodile camping buffalo lion botswana baboon impala kudu warthog Comments (0)

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