Our Botswana River Safari was even more exciting than the land safaris, and they were hard to beat. We not only saw some rare action sightings on the Chobe River, but also experienced a few rather dramatic and life-shaking moments. It was thrilling and full of memorable moments from beginning to end.
The Chobe River Safari
Up at 5:30 am. Breakfast at 6:30 am. River safari: 7:30 am. It was a long drive from the Tlouwana Resort down the sandy forest roads to arrive at the Chobe River boat dock. Then we hauled down supplies and slid off down the seemingly serene Chobe River.
Who knew there would be herds of wild animals at every turn?!
It wasn’t very long before we saw our first herd of elephants.
Elephants & Mud Baths on the Chobe River
Vyant was very informed about the elephants, the babies, why they take mud baths, and the whole special sequence of a proper mud bath. If you love elephants as much as we do, you will likely see more elephants in Botswana than anywhere else in Africa.
Getting Hung Up on a Rock in a Crocodile-Infested River
It was my fault. I had asked if we could get closer to the elephant on shore, and our wonderful river safari guide, Vyant, accommodated. Then when we tried to leave, the boat wouldn’t move. The boat was seriously stuck on reeds and rocks. Vyant tried the motor back and forth but quickly shut it off. He looked tense and worried. If we tore out the bottom of the boat, we would be devoured by the crocodiles that were ever so plentiful in the Chobe River. If we couldn’t move, we would have to call for help, which we assumed might be a little embarrassing for him. I was laughing – nervously.
Vyant had just told us a story about kids from the village being sent on an errand. It was hot so they stopped to have a quick swim at the river’s edge. The little girl said she couldn’t get out because something was holding her feet. The little boys ran to the village for help but the croc had pulled her down and they never could find the body. Vyant explained that crocodiles prey under water, then pull the victim down to drown them. After that, they bury the body in mud at the bottom of the river to tenderize the meat. Sometimes the bodies are found, but that little girl’s body was never found.
Here’s the video of what happened after what felt like a long time of “rocking” the boat.
A Baboon Troop on the Chobe River
It was the whole dang family on the bank of the river and it was great fun watching the babies riding on their Mother’s backs, and seeing the older youngsters playing like children.
The sad part is that the baboons get thirsty but are afraid of the crocs. Each baboon waits for another baboon to look for the clearest water at the river’s edge, and to try a quick drink to see if it is safe! If he makes it unscathed, the others will venture in for a quick drink too. We saw one baboon who had half his arm missing from a crocodile bite.
The national bird is an odd bird with an odd name: the Kori Bustard. They are huge birds, standing 5 feet in height, and are the largest flying bird native to Africa. The male Kori Bustard may be the heaviest living animal capable of flight.
Our guide said that their are some birds in Botswana who will not mate if there is no rain. No rain means no vegetation to eat. She can also hold her baby inside longer if there is a sudden period of no rain. Nature is amazing in its adaptability.
Yet another strange bird was this one that must dry its wings by walking around with its wings spread until they are dry.
Crocodile Up Close & Personal on the Chobe River Safari
When Vyant said there was a crocodile, we couldn’t see it at first. He pulled in close to the river bank, and Oh My God, there was a crocodile so close that he could have jumped into the boat in one leap. And crocodiles can move extremely fast! I felt myself leaning further back in the boat, but it was a small boat – there really wasn’t anywhere to back into.
Stunned and scared, I managed to slowly lift my camera, never taking my eyes off that croc who was staring right back at me. I took a quick video and a few photos, nodding to Vyant that I was good to go. Like Now. He waited a few minutes. I stared at him intently. Then he realized I was not taking any more photos, and starting backing up. For me, it was not fast enough.
Elephant Close to the Boat Drinking from the Chobe River
This elephant was so close to us. It was surprising that he didn’t turn and run off into the bush as one previous one had done. He seemed quite curious about us, and full of different expressions.
Lunch on the Botswana Chobe River Safari
Wyant seemed to magically bring out a full fantastic lunch, and after being on the water for 3-4 hours in the heat, it was delicious. He had the coolest insulated bag, a picnic blanket and everything was nicely chilled. Fruits, biscuits, chocolate muffins and an assortment of drinks.
Lily Pads on the Chobe River
Finally, a calm moment to enjoy the serene lily pads.
Fighting Over A Girl on the Banks of the Chobe River
As we came around a bend in the river, there was another large herd of elephants on the river bank. We were just watching when suddenly the chase was on! Several male elephants were racing after a female. After all, T said,
“She is quite fetching…”
The males made several attempts, but no, she wanted no part of their shenanigans!
Making Out on the Chobe River
The elephants we saw had no luck in catching the girl as you saw in the video above. She took off and would have no part of such nonsense from any of them.
Now in this new herd of elephants, there were some arguments, but there was one success (wink, wink).
Hippos Fighting at Dusk on the Chobe River Safari
This was a rare sighting! There were dozens of hippos in the river, and as the sun was going down they were having a great old time fighting and playing in the river. Talk about a big mouth!
A Floating Bar on the Chobe River
As we started back down the river, our guide pointed out the circular floating bar, The Raft, in the middle of the river. Apparently, it is in active use in the evenings.
One Boat All Morning
We saw only one other boat on the water all morning, and it was a local canoe.
Chobe River’s Edge
In some areas the river’s edge was lush and thick.
Elephants Walking Along
As we drove home after the Botswana Chobe River Safari, there was something sweet about this small herd of females and their babies walking slowly along in dusty heat of early afternoon.
41 Degrees C (105 Degrees F) = Heat Exhaustion
I felt fine all day on the Botswana Chobe River Safari, in fact I was star-struck by all the amazing animals we saw and the adventures we had had, until we arrived back at the Tlouwana Luxury Tent Camp, when I suddenly felt weak and dizzy.
I rushed to the bathroom because I felt nauseous as well. My heart was beating fast. I looked in the mirror and my face was bright red. Every part of my body was burning hot. I grabbed a facecloth and wiped my face and neck with water. I soaked two more facecloths with cold water and put one across the back of my neck, while holding the other on my face. Water, that’s what I needed – water. I went out, asked a staff member for water, and collapsed on a sofa in the lounge. My head was throbbing, and I could not cool down. Finally they brought a small bottle of water.
We were supposed to go out again on a jeep safari for the evening but I was so weak, I couldn’t even walk to our tent cabin. Our driver checked on me, and said it had been 41 degrees centigrade this morning and afternoon when we were on the river safari. 41 degrees?! Six hours on the boat. When you’re in a boat on the water, it feels much cooler, and as the boat moves along you also have a little breeze. We had no idea that it was that high a temperature.
A few hours later, I began to get stomach cramps and diarrhea. My face and skin was still burning hot no matter how many wet clothes I used on my face and neck.
While absolutely everything at the Tlouwana Safari Resort was top-notch, from the attentive staff, to the food, to the accommodation, to incredible safaris, we would like to recommend that the staff be educated on heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The staff seemed confused by my condition and helpless as to what to do. At the very least wet towels and tons of water should have been quickly provided. If such measures fail to provide relief within 15 minutes, they should be seeking emergency medical help, because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke and/or death. Perhaps finding medical aid is unrealistic given the remote location, but at least some knowledge of the condition of heat exhaustion would be advisable.
Our guide, Wyant, came to get us at 4:30 for the sunset safari. He wanted to wait until I felt better, but I knew it would not likely happen quickly, and urged them to go ahead on the evening safari without me.
On a side note, I felt a little better the next morning, but every time I was in direct sunlight for the next 3 days, my face would start burning and I would feel light-headed and weak.
Botswana Chobe River Safari Sunset Safari: Elephant Charge
Thomas returned from the late afternoon safari three hours later describing the tense situation he and the guide found themselves in among a herd of elephants. They were watching the elephant herd and were fairly close to them when the guide stuck his arm and leg out of the jeep. Apparently, when elephants see the jeep, they see just a square box which is non-threatening, but if appendages protrude from the box, that expresses a threat of perhaps another wild animal!
A few elephants started trumpeting. Some started snorting and pawing the ground. The elephants began to surround the jeep. It was unnerving, and downright scary! The guide looked rather shocked as well. He cleared his throat, but was thinking hard. There is no way on earth you can get past an elephant if he does not want to allow you to pass. He knew he needed to stay calm; he tried to smile. If the elephants suddenly charged, they could squish the jeep and all it’s human contents. They could do it so quickly and easily.
The emotions that charge through you, to put a pun on it, include everything you might expect, including fear, excitement, exhilaration and a reckoning with the end of your life! There was no time for regret, but there was the pounding heart, the sweat breaking on your forehead and in your armpits, the stiffening of your whole body.
As the guide started to back up the jeep, one of the elephants came very close to the vehicle, walking sideways to keep facing them in the jeep, trumpeting loudly and protecting the herd. The younger male elephants were very aggressive, while the older and biggest elephant was more relaxed, but not at all happy. They were able to back up and away from the herd with a sigh of mixed excitement and relief. Unfortunately, T and Wyant were both a little too distracted by the aggressive elephants to take videos or photos, but here is a youtube video on an elephant charge in Botswana.
Dangerous Water Buffalo in Botswana
A herd of water buffalo also snorted and eyed them carefully. The guide explained that many villagers have been killed by water buffalo, more than by any other animal. The buffalo charge people, especially at night. They can easily kill a lion, and sometimes even attack elephants.
We saw a herd of water buffalo crossing the river a few days earlier but they were much further away than this herd.
Wildebeest, Springers, Hyenas, Leopards
On other night safaris, we also saw wildebeest and springers with their kangaroo-like legs (also nick-named the African King), as well as hyenas and leopards – but we only saw their eyes peering out from behind the darkness.
Sunset on the Botswana Chobe River Safari
The day ended with a lovely sunset, as always on the African savannah.
Another Amazing Evening Dinner at Tlouwana Luxury Tent Camp
Recommendation for Tlouwana Luxury Tent Camp
Although we certainly haven’t experienced many river safaris, the private river safari with Tlouwana Luxury Tent Camp staff was above and beyond our wildest expectations. We recommend it with enthusiasm. No other boats on the water, no other safari vehicles near us, just the two of us and the guide. Instead of a huge boat with 30 tourists vying for a good view, we heard personal stories and descriptions of the animals’ unique behaviours, amazing angles for photos with no others blocking your photos, and staying to watch a herd as long or short as you wish. In short, both our land safaris and our Botswana River Safari were amazing and personalized experiences.
It was a privilege to go to Botswana to experience the Chobe River Safari. The great herds of animals never cease to amaze and amuse, the beauty of the land and the river soothe the soul, and the diversity of the animals astounds one over and over again. The zero tolerance for slaughtering and poaching of wild animals, the responsibility of conservation and the endearing nature and spirit of the Botswana people – all of this is the kind of experience that floats through the mind forever, just like this large photo in the lobby at Tlouwana Luxury Tent Camp.