3. Chobe National Park: first experiences

Botswana: Chobe National Park

Hello, finally I found some Wifi, so here a bit of an update…
it’s mostly about wildlife and crazy leopards though 🙂 Enjoy:

After some delays, we finally made it to Botswana (Maun airport). Time to get into Chobe National Park. We are 4 of us here and we have 2 4×4 vehicles with rooftop tents. I’m not sure if I’m able to upload pictures soon, but at some point, it will work.
We were heading to Savuti camp ground in Chobe National park. On our way there we saw already a lot of animals. The first wildlife we encountered was an elephant crossing the road. After entering the gate we passed by some plains with more wildlife (giraffe, impala, wildebeest, warthogs, more elephants, zebras,…). I didn’t know where to look first. Although there were also some less interesting parts of the drive in the dry bushy area.

Wildebeest and zebra


As if it couldn’t get any better, near the end of our day, suddenly there was a leopard just next to the road enjoying some shade of a bush! We observed the leopard for some time, took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed its presence. It didn’t bother at all about us, it even came closer and closer, it took a rest in the shade of our second car… this was an awesome experience! After a while, the leopard decided to take a rest in the shade in a bush a bit far away, so we continued. We also had to meet some guys at the gate to check where we could stay…

We ended up near a riverside close to other camps, but it looked like a great place… and it was… in the morning I found already tracks of hyenas and leopards from the night before, just about 100m from our camp. Up till now, I haven’t seen any of these 2 around, just their tracks.

Leopard resting

The fieldwork: driving, interviewing, wildlife watching ...

During the day we conduct transects and we are looking for tourists to interview. Basically, we drive around fixed transects and count the animals and the tourists we see in these transects. So far so good.

In one of the transects, there are lions, now already for the 4th day in a row. It looks like they ‘ve managed to kill at least 2 buffalos in the past 3 nights…. The first day they were really just next to the road, so we spent about 3 hours just watching them, taking pictures and videos. Although it was daylight, so they were not that active. However, there was one small cub, really cute, walking around all the time, climbing trees, trying to interact with other lions, who just wanted to sleep. We named him Marco (Polo), although some wanted to call it Sam, cause he was eating grass once in a while as well…. The pride of lions probably consisted out of 11 individuals, one big male, about 4 females and 6 cubs (2 very small ones, 2 medium ones and 2 larger ones).

For the interviews, we go to camp sites and ‘stretch points’ to ask people about their sightings and where they have been, in combination with what they think are important features of national parks and some questions about vegetation. Always interesting conversations.

We also took the time to watch some games of the world cup, as our international team consists of French, Belgian and Dutch researchers. We were invited to watch it in the house of one of the locals, although I think it’s the only television around, cause at some point we were watching the games with about 15 people or so. Unfortunately, we just could celebrate the victory of the Netherlands in the world cup. After spending some time in Savuti, our next stop was Chobe River front, very nice, but more tourists. We were lucky again and saw a pride of lions when entering the park, although it got more exciting… the other car had a flat tire next to the lions, so they changed it there. I was just on the look out for the lions if they did not come any closer.


Chobe River Front: more wildlife

In the next days, a saw a lot of wildlife and the river bank was wonderful. A lot of elephants, hippos, crocodiles,… Sable antelope, Puku and Lechwe are the more scares antelopes around, but I managed to see them. A lot of lions around here as well, some just sitting on the road and blocking our way… but that’s life :-).

During my free day, I took a boat safari on the Chobe river, which was amazing, monitor lizards, waterbuck, buffalos,… In Kasane, there was also a Biodiversity Centre. It was a very interesting place, too bad they didn’t have volunteer opportunities for the moment. But we had a good talk with the chief about the life in Botswana and how nature management is done (if there is any management).

I’m also still working here though… counting animals and interviewing tourists… the other day I was interviewing tourists and they were talking about a leopard in a tree, just 500m from the picnic spot where I was conducting the interviews. So I quickly asked all the questions I needed and off we were to find this leopard… and there it was, sitting in a tree… we were just in time to see it and see it going down the tree whereafter it disappeared in the bushes… so leopard sighting number 2!


The snake passenger

while writing this, it’s July 12th, almost 10 pm. And fascinating things happened today… While doing transects, we saw a snake on the road and the other assistant wanted to check it out, she took some pictures and enjoying the presence of the snake. I’m not the biggest fan of snakes, so I kept my distance… the snake took a rest in the shade of our car, after a bit it was sitting in the wheel of our car, we still liked it and took some pictures… suddenly the snake moved more into the bottom of our car. We tried to get in out, but the snake didn’t want to cooperate, so for the rest of the day, we had a snake somewhere near the bottom of our car. I was told it wasn’t a dangerous one, which it wasn’t in the end. During lunch, we tried again to get it out, but it didn’t work, so we just drove further and maybe now there is still a snake somewhere in the bottom parts of our car.

Another leopard story

But that’s not all, we arrived at camp in the afternoon, just doing stuff, entering data, take some rest… around 8 or so, one of the research assistants went to a tree to take laundry from the line when suddenly she screamed… I turned around and I saw something big running away, most definitely some cat species…

I thought to myself: WTF….

It was a leopard… it didn’t touch the research assistant, but at some point, it just stood next to her, looked at her and took off… so we think it was just in the tree for the whole afternoon sleeping like about 20m away from us…
So, after we all figured out what just happened, we were armed with spade, torch and camera to check out if it was still around, and yes, it was just lying next to a bush, watching us. We tried to scare it away, but it didn’t care that much about us, finally, we got it to about 150m from our camp in a tree. It was just sitting there, watching us… so we decided to go back to camp and stay next to the fire and the lights… pretty intensive day.

Now I’m at Marina Lodge in Kasane, probably able to post something on my blog. We are heading out of Chobe River Front and back to our previous research area, Savuti (Chobe). As if the leopards wanted to say goodbye, there was a leopard on the way out of the park… although there were like 13 vehicles with tourists around, so I just could get a fast glimpse of it…

Black-backed jackal

Leave a Reply