The wide waters of the Chobe River form the northern boundary of the national park of the same name. They divide Botswana from its neighbour Namibia to the north. But of course the wildlife that teems on its shores, in its waters and in the skies above knows no national borders. And nor does the sun, which sets and rises on all.
For the week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme of Sunrise and Sunset I want to share with you the two memorable cruises we took on the Chobe while staying at the Chobe Game Lodge.
On our first afternoon at the lodge we took a sunset cruise on the Chobe River, departing at 3.30 from the jetty. All the boats are electric, out of environmental concerns, and all the guides female, to support local families with employment opportunities. We were joined on the cruise by a family of four from Helsinki.
When we departed the sun was still quite high in the sky and my focus, and that of my camera, was on the birdlife both on the water and on shore.
A herd of elephants came down to the water to drink, lick salt from the rocks, and sand bathe. There were several youngsters among them, including one who seemed very reluctant to step into the water, like a holidaymaker trying to brave a too-cold sea!
Another youngster got very carried away with his sand bath, flinging the sand everywhere in his enthusiasm.
A ‘pod’ of hippos was eating grass in the shallows. Two young males kept breaking off from their meal to indulge in some playful sparing, which was very entertaining to watch.
As the sun started to set a large number of impala came down to the same salt-lick where we had seen the elephants earlier, glowing in the light of the setting sun. The colours and shapes reminded me a little of a cave painting!
The sunset itself was of course another highlight. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
A couple of days later we had the opportunity to see the river at sunrise. Chobe Game Lodge was experimenting with a potential new activity for guests, a sunrise cruise on the river, and we played guinea pigs. We were warned we may not see much wildlife, but we did! We also enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and had breakfast on the river. It was very cold at first but really worth doing – a beautiful outing.
Our guide was the same one who had escorted us on our sunset cruise two days before, Gao (pronounced ‘How’). There were just the two of us on this trip. No one else had chosen this option over that of a game drive, perhaps put off by the explanatory leaflet which indicated that we might not see much wildlife beyond the water birds.
Gao cast off and set off in an easterly direction, towards the sunrise. We could hear hippos grunting and soon saw a small pod in the long grass to our right, though it wasn’t yet light enough to take decent photos. Besides, it was the sky and the just-rising sun which occupied our cameras for a while at least.
Once the sun was properly up we turned our attention to the hippos. Gao took the boat closer so we could watch them enjoying their breakfast. Hippos spend the night grazing on shore so these would just now have come down to the river. Their skin dries out easily so once the sun comes up they need to be in the water.
Not far from the hippos Gao pointed out a pair of puku on the shore. These are relatively rare in Botswana – the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species rates them as ‘near threatened’ and says that their population is decreasing overall, although increasing here in Chobe NP. It seemed the male might be trying to mate with the female but he soon returned to grazing. Later we heard them call, in a high-pitched voice like a football referee’s whistle, to a third puku further up the shore.
There were lots of birds around now, and a water monitor lizard was basking on a log, warming his body after the cold night. The Brown-hooded Kingfisher was a first for me.
Then we came across a troop of baboons and spent quite some time watching them interact. The adults were grooming each other while the babies played. Checking with Gao I learned that these youngsters would be about a month or a little more in age. I took far too many photos here, they were just too cute!
We arrived at the salt lick area where we had seen elephants and impala on our sunset cruise. This morning there were just impala here, a very large herd.
Here we had breakfast while floating on the river and watching the impala. It was a magical end to our sunrise cruise.
These photos of sunset and sunrise on the Chobe Rover were taken in July, shortly after the winter solstice in Botswana. But this close to the equator the difference in length between summer days and winter ones is much less noticeable than further north. My sunset photos were taken around 17.00 and the sunrise ones at about 6.00.
I visited Botswana in 2018