Botswana 2019           Page:  1   2  

Chobe River, Muchenje Lodge

Our second day began with a boat tour on the Chobe River. We were on a small pontoon boat, and it was a great way to see everything from a different direction. Like with the safari trucks, the animals were fairly tolerant of letting the boat ease into their space. The sleepy hippo barely opened his eye.

Elephants standing in water Hippo snoozing Crocodile mouth Water Monitor Bird - Marabou stork

After the boat ride we took the long way back to the lodge, poking down dirt roads looking for animals. We had some success, a lioness too sleepy to even look at us, a few more birds, but nothing really exciting. As our guide said on the first day, you can't not see impalas, they're everywhere. They time their babies to arrive at the beginning of the rainy season, and, if the rains are late, the females can delay their delivery by as much as 15-20 days. Once the time is right, the females in a herd tend to give birth all at once. A baby impala makes a great snack for a lion or leopard, and there is some safety in numbers.

Impala babies Lion snoozing Warthog Leopard tortise Bird - Scarlett Breasted Bee Eater

Then, just as it turned to dusk, we found a leopard that had killed an impala. Leopards prefer to drag their kill up into a tree so they won't be disturbed, but in this case our guide thought the impala might have been too heavy. So the leopard was in the tree eating some of the organs. Our guide didn't think the leopard could defend her kill through the night, but we went back at 5:30 AM to find out.

Leopard at night

We arrived at dawn the next day to find not one but two leopards, the mother that had killed the impala, and a one year old cub. As we arrived, the mother walked away while the cub stayed in the tree. Then the cub came down for a snack which made for some great photos. Right time, right place, and great light!

Leopard in tree Leopard on branch Leopard eating impala Leopard eating impala 02

Later in the day we visited a local village. There was a school, a small infirmary, and a government maintained well where people could draw water. The houses seemed to have 1-3 rooms, and were built of locally produced bricks with a corrugated tim roof. Most houses had no electricity, no running water and an outhouse. People get by with some farming during the wet season and by raising a few head of cattle or goats. There's a community stockade for the livestock, with a high fence topped by electrified wires. Every night they herd the animals inside to protect them from lions, leopards, hyenas, etc. (We also saw electrified wires atop masonry walls in Victoria Falls, to keep out baboons and to keep elephants from reaching over the fence to pick fruit.)

There are virtually no jobs in the villages. The villages go back to a time when growing food and raising livestock was what supported your family. So a good location meant having a reliable water source and reasonable soil. Now, a location on a bus route is more important. With a modern economy, young people almost have to leave. At the lodges and camps we talked to workers who had come from villages hundreds of miles away. They work every day for two or three months, and then they go home for a week or two to see their children and family.

The government supported school seemed very nice. The teachers were alert and attentive and the kids were very sweet. One of the most delightful things happened spontaneously. In the middle of the school yard was a podium on a small riser, and arrayed in front of the podium were rows of bricks. As I walked over I decided they must use this space for assemblies. Still just looking around, I idly stepped up onto the riser. Without me saying a word, the kids began lining up along the bricks, even shuffling left or right to get into their usual spot. Then they began singing a school song, complete with gestures and a little hip action! It was totally spontaneous and just delightful. I wish I had had the presence of mind to make a video.

Village school morning song Village school near Muchenje Village school near Muchenje boys

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Created by
Terry Culhane
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