I remember as a young child, gathering around the television on Sunday nights, together with my parents and siblings, to watch “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”. I was always fascinated and inquisitive to learn about the characteristics of each of the animal species. My parents instilled in us a love of nature that continues to grow inside me today. When the opportunity arose for me to scout out four countries in Southern Africa, I jumped at it and never looked back.
Today, as I write, I am sitting on a private balcony from my spacious chalet in Namibia overlooking the Chobe River. Across the river Botswana is in the background. The island in the middle of the river is covered with fertile green grassland after the rains that arrived 3 weeks ago. The welcomed showers have allowed for most of the elephants to start their annual journey inland where food sources are now available. It’s nature’s way of moving the herds and replenishing the areas the animals travel through. As the rains become heavier, the water level will rise, and the island will be under water. The grass, which is now short, will grow up to 12 feet high and be ready to provide food for the thousands of animals that will migrate back to this area during the dry season. For now, it remains a favourite grassland for hippos and cape buffalo and a beautiful scene in which to view from my balcony.
This journey through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia has been nothing short of exceptional. Although close in proximity, each country offers their own unique opportunities and I recommend visiting all of them if time permits.
The game viewing from Namibia is primarily done by boat. Having previously experienced many game drives on land in other parts of Africa, I was anxiously awaiting this new adventure. Our small group was assigned our own private pontoon boat with comfortable bucket seats and a private viewing section upstairs. Today we have two riverboat excursions planned and while the first one was a mode of transportation to a local village, we were sure to spot some wildlife along the way.
The welcoming villagers proudly showed us around their village where they live in harmony with nature. Their mud huts provide the necessities for families to live together comfortably. The community well, which they funded on their own, is deep enough to provide everyone with clean running water as well as irrigation for their vegetable garden. Women and children entertained us with their traditional songs and dances and the boys enjoyed an impromptu soccer challenge with one of our fellow travellers.
Our afternoon excursion started with light snacks and champagne. I could get accustomed to this lifestyle quite easily! As we sailed off hippos could be seen both in the water and on land. Crocodiles were plentiful as were cape buffalo and several species of birds. Along the shores were playful impalas. But the most incredible sights by far were the large herds of elephants. Happy to be in and around the water, these large gentle giants moved from one side of the river to the other, playfully swimming right in front of us. Further down the river we saw even more. At one point we watched a family of about forty saunter into the water, swim across the river and walk up the other side. They went from Namibia to Botswana – no passports required! It was such an incredible sight to watch the little ones being coaxed and comforted by the matriarchs and all of them seemed to love frolicking in the water. Like all game viewing, one must live in the moment and embrace the experiences that nature provides.
As we continued our journey the sun was starting to set, and the sky was turning brilliant shades of pinks, yellows and reds. The skies were lit up in every direction. Sadly, our river boat game viewing was coming to an end, but this extraordinary ride will become a life-long memory of my time spent in Namibia and the perfect end to a magical day.