Winter in the Chobe promises loads of action along the riverbanks as the inland water sources have all but dried up, forcing the animals to head north to the flood plains and the Chobe river. Here they are able to quench their thirst and graze on the lush green grasses that line the watercourses. Game viewing here at this time of year is very special and to say that our group was excited to be here was an understatement!
After landing we proceeded through the usual immigration process (this entails arriving and leaving Botswana before checking in to Namibia all in under 30 minutes) and settled into the Ichingo Lodge on Impalila Island where we would spend our first night.
Eager to see what the riverbanks had in store for us we headed out on our first afternoon cruise. There is something quite special about feeling the fresh air across your face as you move alongside the river banks, searching for potential photographic opportunities. Even more special was that this would be the norm for the next 4 days!
Our mornings were spent making the most of the early morning light and most of our activity focused around photographing Kingfishers, African Jacana, a variety of Egrets and cormorants who were some of the first birds to go about their daily activities.
The first of the mammals to show themselves were hippos and baboons who were only too happy to enjoy the sun as it ushered out the early morning winter chills. We sat just meters away from the troops of baboons on a number of occasions and were able to capture some intimate moments between baboons of various ages.
From around 10:00 am the activity along the river seemed to pick up considerably as herds of elephants made their way out of the treelines and out onto the open flood plains to graze.
The hippo’s took advantage of the winter sun too, moving out of the cold water to bake on the shores in peace.
As did a number of reptile species such as this young Water Monitor.
We would typically return to the houseboat around 11:30 or so in order to enjoy an early lunch as we cruised between Elephant Bay and Serondella (the docking sites used by the Ichobezi Houseboats). Although we didn’t need to, it was always great to know that if we happened to cruse passed an interesting sighting, our photographic boat and guide were always on standby to take us closer to the action.
Cruising between docking points in the middle of the day gave the guests an opportunity to download and sort through images or simply relax and enjoy the ever changing scenery.
Our afternoon cruises were planned to coincide with the peak in animal activity and we enjoyed some special moments in close proximity to Elephant and Buffalo and some of the general game species almost every afternoon.
Of course, there were always plenty of birds to photograph in the late afternoon as well and one of the highlights for me was seeing a Squacco heron in full breeding plumage. Check out the colours on the beak!
Two sightings stand out for me from this trip though.
The first was on our first afternoon and, although not the greatest in terms of photographic potential, it was an incredible sight to behold.
We were photographing a large herd of buffalo feeding in the shallow waters in the late afternoon when we spotted a pride of lions emerging form the tree-line.
The lions were clearly interested in the buffalo, despite having young cubs with them, and used a patch of dense grass for cover in order to move closer. As they emerged from the thick grass ,one of the members of the herd must have picked up on their scent and within a matter of seconds the entire herd had turned back and chased the lions back towards the treeline.
I last witnessed something like this 2 years ago in Duba Plains so for me, this was quite special.
The second sighting that stood out was that of a herd of more than 250 odd elephants who were making their way across a floodplain in a remote part of the River which is only accessible during the high water season (May to July). Flocks of White-faced Whistling Ducks called all around us as the elephants drank and played on the edge of the lagoon.
We must have sat with the herd for more than an hour and a half as they continued to stream out of the thickets and pass in front of our boat before moving off into the floodplains.
Over and above these sightings, we were treated to a number of other photographic opportunities in this gem of a destination.
The cherry on top was watching the full moon rise above the Chobe River whilst docked at Elephant Bay. I tried something different to capture the reflections of the moon across the waters and ended up with one of my favourite images from the trip.
The Chobe really does have a habit of delivering breathtaking wildlife and photographic experiences time and time again (check out the previous trip reports from Chobe here) and if you want to experience this for yourselves, trust me, it is worth every cent!
Gerry and Marlon will be hosting the last two Chobe photography safaris for 2014 later this year and you can get more details on the safari package here.
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