The monkey made a break towards the open porch screen door. A spit second later I see him running out and screeching, double-fisted with loot. Another successful raiding mission accomplished at Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane, Botswana.
Other monkeys took their share of the prize with squawking and hitting in a family battle. And after the spoils were consumed and paraded around for the rest of the monkeys to admire … the next raid began, despite the efforts of the employee armed with the slingshot whose job is monkey deterrence. The monkeys clearly are winning the scavenge war.
Note to self … we will be keeping the screen door closed to our room. And no drying the laundry on the porch either as I prefer not to see a monkey trying on my undies.
And with that, i knew we had arrived in the Africa of the movies and the storybooks.
We are in Kasane, a small town in northern Botswana that is primarily a gateway town for the Chobe National Park – one of the best wildlife parks in Africa known for being the home of over 80,000 really big African elephants, a large lion population and a huge diversity of other wildlife.
Not that the wildlife knows where the park boundaries lie. Besides keeping company with monkeys, warthogs and mongoose, a four foot long monitor lizard freely roams the grounds. And the caution signs near the water warn of crocodiles and hippos – and they mean it. Awesome.
One of Mom’s bucket list priorities was to visit Victoria Falls. So we flew in to that airport in Zimbabwe, got a double entry visa, and promptly went to Botswana to spend a three days at Chobe National Park. But we’ll be back to Vic Falls before we leave.
In the interest of time, we are staying in a much fancier lodge than we would normally choose, mainly because of its proximity to the park and the ease of arranging game drives and transfers without spending so much time and energy on logistics so we can make the most of our limited time here. Not that this fancy place stops us from hand-washing our laundry and hanging it all over the room or going to the grocery store to self-cater meals rather than eat at the hotel restaurant buffet.
We started both mornings on a three-hour game drive through the park as the sun rose. The light was dark pink and then salmon and then yellow and then finally reached the white of full day. The part of Chobe we are visiting is the most accessible part for day trips and is along the Chobe river where the wildlife congregate to drink.
And Chobe does not disappoint. It has been a national park since the 1960’s and the wildlife there reflects the years sheltered as protected haven. We saw lions and hippos and giraffes and impala and warthogs and jackals and buffalo (with babies) and kudu and fish eagles and tawney eagles and storks and hornbills and puka, an antelope species that is not common that likes to be near the water. And that was just in the morning drive. The afternoon was a sunset boat trip on the river, which i had feared would be cheesy, but instead was fabulous and filled with the wonder of watching more animals being …. animals.
Hippos lounged in the water – one big male was out of the water (which is rare) and a female turned her substantial butt towards him and furiously splashed water, warning him away from her baby she was protecting. Two others played … diving like whales roll through the ocean as they circled and chased.
Lone male impalas roamed near the large herd after losing their battle for dominance and living in exile … either to ultimately win their way back in the next year as the lead male or become lion dinner.
A pride of lions lazed under a tree, one so relaxed it was sprawled on its back with a leg up in the air snoozing with the confidence only achieved out here at the top of the food chain. We heard a roar from the other side of the road, and a lion returned to the pride, to be joyfully greeted by his brother before the pride moved further west.
A young giraffe placidly munched leaves and gazed over from her breakfast, while two others fought in the distance, leaning against each other and bludgeoning the other with their long necks and small horns in sweeping thuds.
Baby buffalo kept close to their enormous mothers, sneaking peaks at the trucks and trying to decide whether we are dangerous … looking curious until the mother herded them away.
And in the evening we saw elephants standing belly-deep in the river pulling up watergrass with their trunks, carefully washing the dirt off the grass swishing it back and forth in the the water before eating it … consuming huge swaths of grass with an occasional roll in the water to cool down.
Another herd of elephants came to the river to drink – standing in line with trunks in the river sucking up water and raising their heads to put their trunks in their mouths, babies protected in between the moms.
Both my human Mom and I have done camping safaris before in Kenya and have seen the ‘”Big 5″ (Leopard, Lion, Rhino, buffalo and elephant.) And we will be camping for two weeks in Namibia later on this trip, including in some wildlife parks. We both prefer that experience, but we both acknowledged we could get used to being waited on and hauled around in our current more luxurious settings if we let ourselves.
But we both agree that while this experience is different and more pampered, it’s also special. And pretty miraculous. And we are both so excited because we get to get up and do it again tomorrow.
As I write this, the monkeys have just staged another raid … this time into the grocery bags of some French tourists who weren’t paying attention. One monkey tried to haul a sizable bag of bananas up a tree, but was forced to drop them when the grocery’s owner chased it down. It still succeeded in breaking off a piece of banana, and was undeterred as it circled around looking for the next opportunity.
I was laughing at the French family’s consternation … because even though monkeys can be dangerous, it’s just hard not to admire their cleverness and quickness and cheer them on.
And it’s hard to think that the monkey’s ingenuity in adapting to the human environment isn’t an adequate payback to the park animal’s adaptation to loads of humans driving next to them in their environment.
Ultimately it’s the tourism and the money it brings that is keeping these animals alive and somewhat protectored from the poachers and others who would have killed or encroached on their environment by now. And Botswana and the parks here are notoriously expensive to visit, but I’m not sure that is a bad thing as much of that money goes back into the parks and the communities around them, ultimately helping protect these animals from human predators looking for ivory or horns or other quick poached profit.
And if a human loses a few bananas in the process, that only seems fair.