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A River Runs Through It: Wildlife Along The Chobe

Nomadic Matt talks about his favourite part of Africa, the Chobe River

by Matt Kepnes Posted on 26 February 2013

When you come home from a trip to Africa, people tend to ask you two questions right away: “How was it?” and “Did you see a lot of animals?” To which, one replies “It was amazing” and “Yes, tons.” After that, I’ll sit down with my inquisitor and I regale them with stories of sand-boarding, camping under the stars, searching for a hot shower, wondering if that mosquito that just bit me has malaria and, of course, stories of all the animals I saw.

Elephants in Africa

Elephants in Africa, photo by Matt K.


As they listen, and the conversation comes to an end, they ask one last question: What was your favourite part?

The answer to that question comes to me easily: The Chobe River.

My encounter with the Chobe River came at the end of my three-week trip through Africa–the last stop before we rolled into Livingstone, Zambia, where I would quickly stare in awe at Victoria Falls before boarding my flight home.

Chobe River

Chobe River, photo by Matt K.

It was the perfect end to my trip. It was as if all those momentous events during the trip had just built to one grand finale.

So what made Chobe so special? Absolutely nothing… and that’s why it was so special. I didn’t see any animals I hadn’t seen before and the weather that day was pretty bad – cloudy with scattered showers. But it was here that I was able to get the closest to the animals; mere feet away without anything dividing us. Moreover, the animals seemed to be everywhere and in abundance, as if they came out to wave me goodbye.

At Chobe, we boarded a boat for a three-hour river cruise through the basin to watch the animals. We saw herds of elephants bathing in the water next to hippos, grazing on land next to monkeys, water buffalo, and impalas. Birds soared through the air. Monkeys and impala alike play-fought with each other in between storms. Hippos were everywhere (as well as the occasional crocodile).

Animals feeding in Chobe

Animals feeding in Chobe, photo by Matt K.

And in the boat, we could get up close to these majestic animals in a way that we couldn’t had we been driving in our big safari vehicle through game parks like Etosha in Namibia. Right in front of you–with no glass between you–there was nature,raw and unedited. That was what made this experience much different than the rest of the trip, and why it was my favourite part. Here I could see all I had seen before but without a filter.

Africa was beautiful. It’s God’s zoo and seeing all these amazing creatures up close and personal is truly humbling experience. This is nature, not some city zoo. When you have to stop on the road because elephants are moving across it, you know you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

But among three weeks of amazing experiences, the Chobe River in Botswana stands out the most. There, everything I could ever want from a trip to Africa came together in one place. And what more could anyone want? The day I spent on the Chobe will always be with me.

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