Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our African Journey: Days 9-13, Chobe Chilwero

When we arrived at the Chobe Chilwero Lodge on Sunday, October 23, we were shown to our cottage which was even more sumptuous than the digs we stayed in at River Bend. Among other things, we had two showers, one indoors and one outdoors in our private fenced in backyard, a gazebo-like outdoor dining area, complimentary sherry in our room, and a mini-bar stocked with whatever we wanted, all complimentary.  As it turned out, the food at Chobe Chilwero was disappointing but that’s the only thing that was.  The wines served with meals were all good.
Entrance to our accomodations at Chobe Chilwero Lodge
We met our guide, Kerby, who took us out on our first game drive shortly after we arrived.  We told him that Joe, our guide at River Bend, had assured us that we’d see a leopard at Chobe and Kerby also assured us that we likely would.  Indeed, when on the grounds of the lodge itself, we were expected to call for an escort to accompany us after dark (to and from dinner, for example) because leopards (as well as some poisonous snakes) appear on the lodge grounds themselves from time to time.  We needn’t have worried about that: we never saw a leopard or a poisonous snake on the grounds of the lodge during the entire time that we were there.  And that, of course, was great.  What was not so great, however, was that on our first game drive at Chobe, we didn’t seen any leopards either, although we did see lots of other animals, especially elephants.

Impala and elephants at Chobe Chilwero

We returned to the lodge around 7 PM in time for cocktails.  Dinner was at 8 PM.  And after dinner, we retired to our king-size bed, covered in mosquito netting, for a well earned night’s sleep.
Our bedroom at Chobe Chilwero Lodge

Monday, October 24.  Our morning game drive began at 7 AM, later than the drives we’d gone on at River Bend but no matter.  Lots of animals – but still no leopard.  Back to the lodge for a pleasant buffet lunch, the best meal of our stay at Chobe Chilwero.  A nap in the afternoon.  And then, instead of an afternoon game drive, a boat ride on the Chobe River.

Lions at Chobe Chilwero
The Chobe River marks the border between Botswana and Namibia and you can see herds of elephants on the Namibia side from the Botswana side.  You also can see Sedudu Island in the middle of the river, an island that was the subject of a territorial dispute between Namibia and Botswana but which ultimately was determined to belong to Botswana.  Herds of elephants swim from the island to the Botswana mainland and back again at different times of the day and seeing that, especially seeing the maternal care afforded baby elephants who are just learning how to swim, was one of the high points of our trip.
Elephants swimming across the Chobe River
The Chobe River is also home to hippos and crocodiles and we enjoyed seeing them as well.  But nothing really compared to the swimming elephants.  At the end of our boat ride, we returned to the lodge for cocktail hour and dinner.  On the menu that night was grilled crocodile and I adventuresomely opted to try it.  My mistake.  There is a good reason that one seldom sees grilled crocodile on restaurant menus in New York.

Hippos in the Chobe River

Crocodile on the bank of the Chobe River
Before going out on another game drive with Kerby at 7 AM the following morning (Tuesday, October 25), we were visited by a host of baboons right outside our front door.  And on the game drive itself we saw any number of animals, including another pride of lions and lots and lots of elephants.  But still no leopard.  The clock was running down but, despite the fact that I was eager to see a leopard, we opted to go on a boat ride that night instead of another game drive.  We really wanted to see more of those swimming elephants.
Baboons in our front yard at Chobe Chilwero
More elephants at Chobe Chilwero
And we did.  It was an even better boat ride than the first one.  Hippos.  Crocodiles.  And those marvelous swimming elephants.

...and more swimming elephants
We returned to the lodge and were surprised to discover that we had been singled out to receive a special personalized candlelight dinner in the gazebo-like structure outside our cottage.  Another delightful romantic touch to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Cape buffalo at a watering hole in Chobe Chilwero
The next day, Wednesday, October 26, would be our last full day in Chobe and we considered for a while using the day to visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe instead.  But when push came to shove, we decided that we’d rather spend our last day at the lodge itself and go out on one last morning drive (and maybe a second in the evening as well, depending on how the morning drive went).  And so we did, rising at 5:30 AM to get a really early start and maximize our chances of seeing that elusive leopard.

Greater kudu at Chob Chilwero
And it worked!  Kerby drove us further out than we’d ever been before and spotted the last of the “Big Five” game species we’d hoped to see.  It was a magnificent specimen and, as Kerby put it, a “cheeky” animal, appearing boldly before us, and then swiftly disappearing into the bush.  Our sighting was so impressive that we decided to end our game drives on this high note, foregoing the afternoon drive on this last day and just resting up for the long trip home that awaited us.

Our "cheeky" elusive leopard at last sighted at Chobe Chilwero
We returned to the lodge for lunch, a nap, and packing for our trip back to the States.  Dinner that night was somewhat disappointing but, again, it was at least partially my own fault.  I opted for the impala stew that turned out to be as stringy and chewy as goat.  But it wasn’t as bad as the grilled crocodile!

Sunset on the Chobe River
We were, however, in for a special treat on our last night at Chobe Chilwero.  The lodge had arranged for a talented group of young dancers to entertain us with a number of their traditional dances.  We loved the show.

African dancers at Chobe Chilwero Lodge

I’ll be posting my penultimate comment on our Africa journey tomorrow.

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