The clouds were gathering as we ate an early breakfast and headed out of Nkasa Lupala northwards again towards Katima Mulilo. We decided to take the longer stretch of gravel road rather than driving back to Kongola and along the tar, less km but a lot more mud! The ‘road’ had deteriorated with the onset of more rain and it was a total quagmire of soft, squelchy goo. I’m sure it will be a fantastic stretch of smooth tar once it’s finished – but the question really is when that might be…
We arrived in Katima Mulilo around midday, just in time for a torrential downpour. Crawling along the main road, we turned off into Caprivi Houseboat Safaris and ran into reception. It was soon clear that the rain had put paid to our intention of setting off on the houseboat that afternoon, and the owners Curt & Silke kindly assigned a couple of rooms to us for the night. We spent a pleasant afternoon updating the blog, playing Uno and battleships, and watching the kids build soggy sandcastles on the pathways. That evening we experienced the night of the termites,an (in)famous annual event which occurs after the first rains of the season when the termites sprout wings and fly their nests, desperately seeking mates with whom to start new colonies. They form great masses of frenzied insect mania around any and all light sources, and eventually, exhausted, they shed their wings en-mass and crawl off to burrow into the sand. I love watching this phenomenon and remember it fondly from our days in the Delta, but after squelching through them barefoot en-route to the toilet in the middle of the night, I have now decided that I am just too old and too grumpy to share my open air shower with them. Hence we decided the following morning, after the rain bucketed down again, to cut our stay short and head to Chobe Game Lodge. The termites could keep my bathroom, it was air-conditioned luxury and soft white towels for me.
Hopefully we will give the houseboats a second chance and come back sometime in the dry season, but for now we headed across the border and into Botswana. The formalities were very quick, we’ve never had any delays at the Ngoma Bridge crossing, and the Botswana side has now been computerised so no more lengthy filling in of forms as we still have to do in Namibia. Driving straight into the Chobe National Park, we immediately saw three elephant browsing in the bushes, and a little further along the road, a group of rare sable antelope, what a treat.
We arrived at Chobe Game Lodge in time for an afternoon boat cruise. It was just us and our guide Connie who set off upriver. We hugged the riverbank which was the best way to see the amazing variety of birdlife that can be found here, including at least three pairs of magnificent African fish eagles perching high up in the trees. We saw a large number of hippo grazing since the cloud cover had still not cleared, and a number of crocodiles, ranging in size from some ‘cute’ babies, to a whopping old monster. Nearby many of the crocs were water monitors on the lookout for crocodile nests from which they could steal a few tasty eggs. After the very welcome G&T we returned to the lodge, only to find out later that we had missed a leopard sighting by mere minutes, the last boat home had stopped to watch one of the crocs suffocating a large tiger fish, and the leopard had walked slowly down the bank from the tree line behind – the only one of the Big Five that was still missing from our trip!
A lot of work has been done on the lodge over the past few years,and the managers Johan & Tanya have made great strides in creating a much more welcoming and small lodge style atmosphere. The gardens are beautiful and lush, and there is a new deck which runs all the way along the lodge frontage with plenty of little reading corners which are also perfect for romantic private dining. The next morning we saw lion from this deck, making their way slowly across the floodplain, this would be a fantastic place to sit and relax for an afternoon with a good book and a pair of binoculars.