Elephants Crossing: River Safari on the Chobe

Posted on August 28, 2012 by

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.

Elephant crossing the river

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.”

Hippos at Chobe River

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!”

Nile crocodile at the Chobe

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.

Impalas grazing

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.

Sunset at Chobe


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.


Disclaimer: This experience was made possible by Mantis Group and Nicky Arthur PR. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Here are more of our photos from Chobe River. We will be writing more about Zambezi Queen and Chobe National Park, stay tuned!

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

14 Responses to “Elephants Crossing: River Safari on the Chobe”

  1. Emily in Chile August 29, 2012 7:48 am #

    How incredible to be that close to all that wildlife! Although sadly I'm guessing hugging the hippos is not encouraged?

    • Nellie August 31, 2012 9:14 am #

      haha! Hippos are the most dangerous animals (I know how cute they look), so too bad, no hugging allowed. :)

  2. Safari Consultant August 31, 2012 12:40 pm #

    Amazing pics! Love the elephant pic great shot i must say. Wildlife around us gives a soothing experience.

  3. lee November 5, 2012 8:46 pm #

    Is excting to get that close to those wild animals.

  4. Alex Gibson January 11, 2013 10:02 am #

    I want to experience the Zambezi queen. I have confess crocodiles give me the chills, after watching snatch wildebeests in Masai Mara during the migration with their big jaws, oh boy. Fascination and fear all combined. I totally love elephants, they look so friendly…..

  5. the hermes blog January 17, 2013 7:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing them. I will be expecting more of your posts in the future.

  6. Michael January 25, 2013 10:04 pm #

    Beautiful pictures!! My dream is to go on a safari in Africa, hopefully 2013 is the year I actually do it.

    • Nellie January 30, 2013 4:36 am #

      Thanks Michael! They\’re all taken by my partner, Alberto. I hope you get to go in 2013! Going on safari in Africa is such a surreal experience, it\’s one of my favorite things to do. ;)

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  9. crischo April 21, 2013 10:39 am #

    Amazing photos ! I hope that I'll have an opportunity to see the Sambesi with my own eyes one day.

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