Pamela MacNaughtan

Usually, I groan inwardly whenever I’m told that I have to get up at 5 am and it’s not related to work where I actually get paid money to be awake at that time. But when the reason is a 6:00 a.m. Game Drive, I don’t really mind. Actually, I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t mind.

I rocked up to reception wearing a long sleeve shirt, a t-shirt, a sweater, my cargo pants, socks, my flip flops and a warm pashmina type scarf. I am not new to going on a Game Drive in the wee hours of the morning or late at night when the air is crisp and cool.

I eagerly climbed into one of the jeeps that were assigned to our group, placed a wooly blanket over my lap and settled in for our Game Drive. I wasn’t sure what we would see (we’re never sure, it’s kind of out of one’s control), but I didn’t care. I’m in Botswana. In Chobe National Park!

Our jeep drove slowly through the entrance to the park (our campsite was about 5-10 mins outside the gates) and our driver, whose name I forget, did his best to track wildlife. I must say, after spending so much time with Ian, most guides seem like amateurs and I actually question (in my mind) if what they are saying is actually true or something they heard along the way -you should see the ‘To Goole’ list I have on my iPhone!

The roads in Chobe were bumpy, but a little African Massage won’t hurt anyone (well, unless you’re standing up inside a jeep and keep crashing into the metal sides of the open roof). We were not in the park for long before we spotted 3 bull Elephants walking through the tree towards us (the waterhole was on the other side of the road and down a hill). Our driver stopped and we quietly pulled out our cameras.

At one point it was like the Elephants were walking right to us and I have to admit, I was getting nervous as I was sitting on the side of the jeep that was the most exposed. When the bulls were about 5-10 meters from our jeep (yes, that close!), they started to walk towards the back and walked around us and down to the waterhole. It was then that I started to breathe normally again and thanked my lucky stars for snapping a half decent photo with my iPhone during my small burst of inner panic.

Once the Elephants had walked behind our jeep, we were once again on our way. The roads in Chobe National Park are very different from the roads we’ve experienced in other parks. The sand is deeper and looser here, which makes for a vigorous African Massage. Thankfully I’ve become accustomed to this type of driving and no longer mind being bounced and jostled around like a rag doll.

As the sun began to rise our Jeep turned onto a small road that took us to the Chobe River. The road was (of course) very bumpy, but as we drove we met up with the 3 bull Elephants from earlier, drinking water from the Chobe River.

I sat quietly in the jeep and let my eyes drink in the serene beauty of the landscape in front of me. The sky was highlighted with pinks, purples and a soft orange as the sun rose. On my left was the Chobe River, with its green marshes, and pools of cool water. The 3 bull Elephants were standing along the shore, drinking. On my right was a slight embankment littered with thorny bushes, trees, and stubby shrubs. The air was still a little cool and the cries of the Tropical BooBoo bird could be heard in the distance. It was the most amazing sunrise so far and one that I am not likely to forget anytime soon.

Over the next couple of hours, our driver took us around the northern section of the park in search of other animals. We managed to track down Springbox, Elephants, Water Elephant and a couple Sables. No lions. I can hardly blame the driver for the lack of animals, they are, after all, wild animals with their our agendas and such.

As our morning game drive came to an end, I was feeling more refreshed and awake than I have in a long time. Definitely worth waking up early in the morning!

Thinking of traveling to Africa?

Traveling in Africa, solo, can be a scary thought -especially for solo female travelers. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can. What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with joining a group tour.

For 45 days I traveled from Kenya (Nairobi) to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel. This was my very first group travel experience. At first I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but as time progressed, I began to relax and fall in love with this type of travel. In fact, I would definitely travel with Intrepid again. 

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