Out on the brackish water, two enormous heads bobbed on the surface. We cruised nearer for a closer look. Two teenage elephants emerged from the water, their bulky bodies towering over our small boat. Flapping their ears, they moved swiftly towards the land.
“They’re just swimming across the river to Sedudu Island. Don’t worry, they won’t do us any harm,” said said Bernard, our guide from the luxury river safari cruise the Zambezi Queen.
Along with other boat-loads of tourists, we watched in awe as the the elephants swam across the water channel, just inches away from our boat. The duo looked playful and mischievous, splashing each other with water using their trunks. When the leading elephant reached the shore, he turned around and shooed the other one away. We burst into giggles, almost as if we were watching a pair of brothers fighting.
Most of all, these elephants were completely oblivious to us and all the boats around them.
Into the Animal Kingdom
Elephants are the dominant creatures along Chobe River, with over 120,000 of them living in the national park. On our evening river safari, we spotted herds of over sixty elephants in the far distance even before we’d set off. As we cruised further into the Botswana side of the Chobe, over hundreds of them were dispersed all over the floodplains and marshes.
Chobe River divides Namibia’s Caprivi Strip from Botswana’s Chobe National Park, and is home to the largest populace of elephants in the world. While famous for its elephant population, the river is also home to a whole world of other land and water-based animals.
Hippos for example are often seen along the marshy banks of the Chobe River. As we cruised near the riverfront, we saw groups of over twenty hippos huddled together, one close to another as a form of defense against predators. With their bulging bellies and short, fat legs, these animals barely looked like they were capable of harming anyone – but as Bernard said, “Hippos kill the most number of humans each year, they’re one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.”
Nile crocodiles also lay along the banks, tanning their banks out under the sun with their jaws closed and their eyes opened. One of the baby crocs that we spotted was lying completely still when all of a sudden, it just decided to leap into the water, giving us all a surprise. Pointing to one of the crocs, Bernard joked, “”These crocodiles are signs of no swimming!”
Along the dry, yellow grasslands, herds of buffalos stood grazing, amidst waterbucks and giraffes. More than a few dozens of impalas were out on their evening stroll as we swiftly zipped by them, startling a few of them. We watched them munch on grass, without a care in the world.
Yellow-billed storks stood on the marshlands, scouting out for small fish that slither in the water beneath them. In the sky, we saw a fish eagle with its catch, perched on top of a lead tree. Water monitor lizards crawled by us, hissing their tongues along the way. Animals were all around us – it almost felt like we were intruders, taking a peek into their world.
By the time we headed back to our luxury river cruise, the Zambezi Queen, the sun was setting. We glided through the glassy water, into the water channel towards Namibia. On one side of the grass lands were groups of hippos and elephants, and on the other side were young village kids waving goodbye to us.
As if to add a dramatic end to our evening of game watching, the orange yolk washed the whole river in a shade of gold and lit up the grass lands with vermilion sparks. A lone fisherman rowed his mokoro (dugout canoe) alongside our boat, into the sunset. I heaved a sigh of relief, thankful to have the chance to be here, in a world where human and animals harmoniously live as one.
About the Zambezi Queen:
The Zambezi Queen is a luxury river cruise that gives adventurers the chance to explore the backwaters of Chobe River and at the same time indulge in 5-star comfort. The 45m-long, three-level boat was built in 2009 and has been stylishly decorated in contemporary African style. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors provide a mesmerising view of the passing scenery and there are two outdoor areas with sun loungers and a plunge pool.
Here are more of our photos from Chobe River. We will be writing more about Zambezi Queen and Chobe National Park, stay tuned!