Our visit to Harare, including a hike at Domboshawa, watching the animals being fed at the Mukuvisi Woodlands, and our spectacular afternoon at Wild is Life, was so pleasant we were a bit sad to leave the capital city. We headed to the airport, however, to discover what the term “Africa Time” meant. People kept telling us about the phrase and how everything always ran late. In our experience, no one was ever a minute late (except us on one occasion)! We got to the airport in plenty of time. I got a cappuccino and my mom and I tried to casually to do laps to get FitBit steps in the very small terminal. As the departure time passed, we waited for an announcement and kept an eye out for the plane… wondering what was going on.
Eventually the plane showed up and we all boarded the plane about 90 minutes late, but it was a different experience than flying at home where you get up-to-the-minute updates on the flight status. And as far as my experience went, “Africa Time” didn’t exist…
Chobe National Park
Victoria Falls is a bucket list item to be sure. There are, however, many options for activities and day trips when visiting the area after you’ve seen the falls. We skipped out on bungee jumping and the helicopter rides over the falls to take a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana – about a 90 minute drive (not including border crossing). There are a variety of companies that coordinate these day trips and I think they’re probably all about the same. We booked our entire southern Africa trip through Giltedge Africa and this day trip through the local transfer/guide service. You can also make arrangements through your hotel when you arrive (given you have a few days).
After being picked up from the hotel, you’ll ride about an hour to the border crossing. Then you’ll have to disembark and go through customs – first to get out of Zimbabwe and then again to get into Botswana. It’s a pretty straightforward process, but you’re subject to how long the lines are. I think it took us less than half an hour to get our bus of 15-20 people through each stop, but I could see the lines getting longer before we left. A note on that topic. If you plan to do this day trip from Zimbabwe, you’ll need to purchase a double or multiple entry visa upon arrival. We purchased ours when we arrived in the country in Harare. You’ll need it if you want to do this day trip from Victoria Falls.
Safari in Botswana
Now that you’re safely in Botswana, get ready to safari! The first half of the time is on a patio boat on the Chobe River which is the border between Botswana and Zambia. There are quite a few boats on the water with you, which helps spot animals in the water and on land. These crocodiles were sunbathing along the shore. I know he looks hungry, but actually crocodiles open their mouths like that to cool off. It was a bit intimidating at first though! They sit so still!
One of the most remarkable things I noticed when we were in Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park was how far the skies seemed to go. It felt as though you could see forever. With perfectly blues skies and clouds, I couldn’t stop ogling!
These are impala, or as we named them, “the Starbucks of Safaris” because there are tons of them everywhere. From your first day on safari, you’ll notice that you see these animals constantly. I’m a bit mad at myself because I got so used to seeing them, I didn’t take many photos of them after this day and they really are such beautiful creatures.
They travel in herds of females and children with just one male as the head. Periodically, other males try to take over the herd. As you drive around on safari, you’ll see small groups of males in their “bachelor pads” (safari humor is my new favorite thing by the way). Every once in awhile, you’ll see a male try to venture into a herd to challenge for leadership. I’m not saying I know the whole story, but during one bout we saw in Hwange National Park, one of the females was prancing around as though she had a lot of investment in the new guy. Drama. Drama. Drama!
Hippos + Hippo Pods
If you followed along on my trip on Instagram Stories, you know that I went to Africa scared of hippos. They seem so cute, but they’re big and have a terrible temper. To cement my fears, every local who I mentioned my fear to would look at me very seriously and tell me I was right to fear them! So you can imagine I was completely calm and collected when we saw this herd in the water. Totally chill. Hah! Luckily we didn’t get too close to them in the water, but I was still on edge…
Just like the impala, and many other animals, hippo pods are all females and children with one male leader and periodically other males try to take over. This guy had recently lost his efforts to take over that hefty pod pictured above. He was sent to the corner (of the marsh) and when he got too close for comfort, the herd leader let him know! I can’t say for sure, but I think we saw this guy later in the day a little too close for comfort…
After enjoying a delicious buffet lunch at the Chobe Marina Lodge, we loaded up into jeeps and headed into the national park for the afternoon. This is when we learned how many impala we were about to see. But isn’t their coloring so beautiful? Because the males defend the herd, they’re rather skittish whereas the females tend to be calmer and not easily excitable as you drive by.
We were fortunate enough to see quite a few giraffe on our day in Chobe. They’re such beautiful and calm animals, I never tired of watching them eat their way through the morning and afternoon. And after feeding them at Wild is Life, I had a new appreciation for their eating capabilities!
Aren’t those skies so spectacular? And because nobody can get tired of giraffe photos…
Animals of Chobe National Park
This beauty is a Sable Antelope and he was the only one we saw on our entire trip. His color is exquisite and if threatened by a lion, he’ll confront him! Crazy, right?
When you’re out on safari, you’ll notice a wide variety of birds in many colors. Bring your binoculars! Even if you aren’t a bird watcher at home (I’m certainly not), you’ll love all the birds southern Africa has to offer!
Warthogs! This family was on its way somewhere when we bumped into them. They quickly got into a line and wandered along the road head-to-tail until they were safely off the road. Warthogs are somehow kind of ugly and totally adorable at the same time, aren’t they?!
Oh yeah. Remember when I said we ran into a hippo again later. This is him. He was happily sunbathing across the road when we happened upon him. The jeeps all killed the engines and we waited for him to go on his merry way. And this is when my first safari-induced heart attack happened. I was holding my mom’s hand and trying to convince myself we weren’t going to die. I hope nobody else noticed my internal freak out session, but I couldn’t help it. DOESN’T HE LOOK MAD? I’m just saying. He didn’t want to be friends either! He eventually headed back to the water and I began to calm down. And I’m perfectly happy to say, we saw no more hippos on our trip!