I would call this post the "last country" in our 3-part trip from Frankfurt, Germany and Cape Town, South Africa...but technically in addition to Botswana we stepped foot in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia! Oh My.
As I mentioned in the Cape Town post, it's a miracle the flight logistics worked out flawlessly on this trip. Just 1 flight time change, which the airline called me about to confirm the day before and thankfully the new flight fit into our schedule. From Cape Town we flew to Gaborone, Botswana via Johannesburg. The next morning from Gaborone we flew to Kasane via Muan at 6am (instead of our original afternoon time). 3 days later we flew back to Gaborone via Francistown. And finally 2 days later from Gaborone we flew back home via Johannesburg to Frankfurt to Amsterdam to San Francisco and finally to Los Angeles. No missed connections - although we had a delay from Amsterdam and were literally running through the SFO airport, determined not to miss our very last flight!
Ok - logistics out of the way. And NOW - my second safari experience (after Kenya in 2015)...and it did not disappoint! The Chobe National Park was spectacular and the river safari from our lodge was such a unique experience. Not to mention other crazy things in those 3 days - like walking across the Zambia / Zimbabwe border and taking a boat across the river to have lunch in Namibia! Thanks to Ravi (Trisha's cousin) for making it all happen for us!! Another trip of a lifetime down in the books. Fair warning...a few graphic animal photos below in Safari Part 2. Circle of Life out in the wild...
Chobe National Park Safari Part 1
- Per the advice from a couple people, I was told that while the Okavango Delta is "technically" the official place to do a safari, the Chobe National Park is close enough and no one except locals (although now you too) would know the difference. It's easier to fly into, great lodging options right by the park and cheaper. So that worked for us.
- The town of Kasane has an airport and many lodging options. Note, you can research all the hotels online and through typical travel websites, but it's hard to actually proceed with getting more information about safari packages online and booking options - as every place seems to go through a 3rd party company for the day trip parts and there is no easy 1-800 number to call. Really thankful that Ravi was able to help us navigate the logistics and book us an absolutely wonderful stay at aha Chobe Marina Lodge for 3 nights. It included everything from airport transportation, lodging, breakfast, pool and the safari day-trips which we could add on for each day.
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Safari Day 1!
- We were picked up at 6am from the hotel for our first safari, which lasted until 9am.
- And oh yes...the "African Massage" phrase came back to me from Kenya - bumpy roads and crazy skilled jeep drivers. eek!
- The most spectacular thing was watching a couple lions frolic in a field, take some drinks of water together and then walk RIGHT PAST OUR JEEP! WOW! They weren't fazed by us at all, but man - that was really amazing (and a bit heart pounding!)
- The elephants were amazing - so many herds! The babies were ridiculously cute. And they crossed right in front of our car - talk about a serene experience!
- A few more randoms from the day. Btw - the "Chobe Chicken" (Also known as helmeted guineafowl) are everywhere. We cracked up every time we saw them...and yes, we have a wooden chobe chicken on our mantel at home now. :)
Chobe National Park River Safari
- The Chobe National Park sits right on the Chobe River, which separates Botswana from Namibia - and from our lodge it allowed us a really unique and amazing opportunity to go on a late afternoon river safari!
- Our guide took our private boat up and down the river, just like safari in a jeep, spotting magnificent animals along the way. What was great about the boat experience is that you could pull right up to the land and it felt like you were right there with the animals!
- Several times though he pulled up a bit too close for comfort to the crocodiles - yikes!! They never moved an inch...but we know those creepy eyes were following us.
- From more elephants to hippos in the water and giraffes and water buffalos - it was the best way to end our first safari day. Not to mention a spectacular sunset as we were pulling back in to dock.
Victoria Falls - Zambia and Zimbabwe
- We booked a group shuttle that would drop us off in Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls for the day and then bring us back to Kasane.
- The driver picked us up at 7am and within just 15 mins we were at the boarder crossing. We got our passports stamped and then back in the van for another hour.
- Upon arriving at our destination in Zimbabwe we decided to go across the border to Zambia first before seeing the falls. I will admit I was a bit nervous about this experience! Unsure of how the border crossings would go, did we know where we were walking, was someone going to come kidnap us, would we get stuck in another country and miss our shuttle back, its hot and I'm hungry! Yeah - all those things swirling through my head. But Ravi was our protector and kept us safe and on track the entire day. Whew. - THANKS Ravi!
- After going through Zimbabwe border control we walked across the bridge, over the falls, and into "no man's land" for about 15 minutes. Then we arrived at the Zambia border control and got our passports stamped. We followed the road and a marked trail to the Avani hotel to look around, and then continued on to the Royal Livingstone Hotel. It was a beautiful hotel and we sat on the patio in rocking chairs to have a cocktail and early lunch!
- It was really hot out and we wanted time to see the falls - so after lunch we took a cab back - stamping out of Zambia and then back into Zimbabwe. (Note...this makes 5 border checks before noon!).
- I didn't realize it ahead of time but we went to see the falls in the dry season. And you know what they nickname the falls during this time period...Victoria WALLS! Yeah - it was pretty unimpressive, but looking at the vastness of the space I could only imagine how intense it would be during the wet season...and that was pretty neat.
- We bought our tickets into the falls and walked around the marked trails quickly to each of the lookout spots. Cooling off a bit in the slight mist that was coming off the falls.
- And finally to finish off our Z-country experience, we stopped by the The River Brewing Co to taste some of their local beers (surprisingly very good!) and also took a walk through the famous Victoria Falls Hotel.
- Outside the hotel you could see the bridge we walked over between Z countries.
- Be sure to walk through the hallways of the hotel. The photos from when Queen Elizabeth visited are very cool!
- From there our van took us back to Botswana - going through one last border control spot for the day, and we arrived back at our hotel in Kasane by 5pm. That night we walked around town and had a great Indian dinner at Tandurei.
Chobe National Park Safari Part 2
- We hadn't intended on doing another game drive while in Kasane, but when the opportunity presented itself to squeeze in one last morning safari on our last day before flying out - how could we resist!
- Just Trisha and I went on this one and wow...it did not disappoint! Mostly for this insane scene we came upon of a leopard feasting on a dead elephant's trunk. Gross yes (sorry for the photos if you are squeamish) - but what an amazing moment to witness up close the circle of life. And do you notice not a single other animal is around while the leopard is there? Everyone knows their place in line...and you wait if you are lower down on the food chain! Oh - and the vultures flying over (also waiting there turn)...super creepy.
- We had been staring at Namibia for days, just right across the river! Thinking, how can we get over there and get our passports stamped (of course)?
- Once again - Ravi to the rescue...he managed to book a boat to pick us up at the hotel on our last day in Kasane to take us across the river to visit and have lunch at the Chobe Water Villas.
- Talk about making the most of our last day - from a 6am safari drive to a boat ride across the river to another country.
- First we walked to the Botswana border control (a block from the hotel) to stamp "out" of the country. The boat picked us up at our hotel, and then before the boat could dock at the hotel we had to stop by the Namibia border control checkpoint (a couple mins away from our destination). Yep - that will go down as a unique experience!!
- The hotel was very nice - we sipped some local beers in the lobby while admiring the view of the water buffalos across the river, enjoyed a great lunch prepared by the hotel, and had a chance to visit an empty room to check it out.
- On the way back, we had to do the same boat stops for passport control before getting dropped off at the hotel.
- Back in Gaborone, we relaxed at Ravi and family's house before flying home.
- We arrived in the evening and Ravi made me drive home from the airport (on the wrong side of the road!). Thankfully I got us home safely and managed not to give Ravi a heart attack.
- The next day we drove nearby to the Gaborone game reserve to do a self-drive safari, which was fun to drive around on our own. Zebra and Ostrich were our favorite finds.
- We had in-home massages by Liz - who if we could have taken home to the states with us we totally would have!
- Katie (Ravi's wife) took us to the tallest building in Botswana (29 floors!) - for cocktails, sunset and dinner at Room 50 Two
- Finally to cap off our trip, we had a delicious brunch on our last day in Botswana at Sanita's Tea Garden. A tucked away restaurant patio in the back of a garden shop.
And that concludes our ridiculously amazing Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia adventure! We had a phenomenal time and hope to return some day soon. Thanks again Ravi and Katie for hosting us and sharing your Botswana experience with Trisha and me. See you soon!!
And a few feet photos, of course!