Chobe River: Buffalo, Crocs, and Hippo

On our Botswana safari, after driving along the Chobe River in the morning, we took a river cruise in the afternoon. From the water we saw more animals than from land, and we were able to approach closer. Here are some larger animals from our cruise.

This cape buffalo wading in the river seemed calmer than ones we encountered on land.

cape buffalo in river
cape buffalo wading in the Chobe River

The Nile crocodile can grow to 6 meters. This crocodile was lounging on the river bank, posing for tourists in the passing boats.

Nile crocodile
Nile crocodile

This crocodile also let our boat approach. This photo was taken with a 400 mm lens, without cropping. The head nearly filled the frame.

Nile crocodile head
Nile crocodile head shot

This crocodile showed us its teeth.

crocodile showing us its teeth
crocodile showing us its teeth

This hippo lounged in the river, providing a resting spot for storks.

storks on hippo
storks on hippo
Advertisements

Serondella – Drive Along the Chobe River

On our Botswana safari, we drove along the Chobe River on our first morning in Serondella area of the Chobe National Park. In April we saw a lot of wildlife along the river. Later in the dry season, the animals increase near the river as the surrounding land dries up and the game migrates to the waters of the Chobe River.

In the first light of dawn, these hippos have sunlight reflecting from their ears.

hippo ears in the Chobe River
hippo ears in the Chobe River

Seeking wildlife, we drove on a dirt road covered by the river. See the crocodiles in the river waiting for thirsty animals to drink in the morning.

crocodiles in river
crocodiles in river

And, of course, the obligatory African fish eagle and a lilac-breasted roller.

African fish eagle
African fish eagle
lilac-breasted roller
lilac-breasted roller

Giraffes are vulnerable when they bend over to lick salt or drink.

giraffe licking salt
giraffe licking salt

A large pod of hippos in the Chobe River.

hippos in the Chobe River
hippos in the Chobe River

Boat to Moremi Game Reserve

On our Botswana safari, we departed the Okavango Delta by boat to the Moremi Game Reserve.

In the morning we watched a team of swallows build a nest under the thatched roof of our cabin.

mud nest with lesser striped swallow
mud nest with lesser striped swallow

A swallow with mud in its mouth would land on the railing.

lesser striped swallow with mud for nest
lesser striped swallow with mud for nest

When the nest was free, the waiting bird would fly into the nest, turn around, stick its head out, deposit the mud onto the edge of the nest, and fly out to make room for the next swallow.

swallow putting mud on nest
swallow putting mud on nest

On the boat ride we saw these hadeda ibises.

hadeda ibis
hadeda ibis

Our guide explained how elephants eat tree bark, using their tusks to scrape bark off trees. Elephant tusks are powerful and sharp.

tree with bark stripped by elephants
tree with bark stripped by elephants

After landing at Moremi, we did a game drive to camp. These two elephants wrapped their trunks around each other.

elephants wrapping tusks
elephants wrapping trunks

In this swampy area, a yellow-billed stork is hunting for frogs and other small animals.

yellow-billed stork and egret
yellow-billed stork and egret

The stork spreads its wing to cast a shadow and make it easier to spot animals in the water.

stork hunting
stork hunting

We stopped for a herd of impalas, a kind of antelope, on the road. Two hundred meters later we arrived in camp.

impalas on the road
impalas on the road

In the camp our tents fronted on a lake, and in the distance ears were sticking out of the water. Our camp was next to a lake with hippos! The photo below was taken from near our tent — we had to stay within the camp. A hippo is exhaling, sending a puff of water vapor into the air like a whale. I’ve since read that explosive exhaling is a threat display, but we didn’t know this at the time. So we enjoyed the lake and hippos.

hippos at the Moremi camp
hippos at the Moremi camp

We did look around camp for grass. At night hippos graze on grass lawns at our lodge in the Okavango Delta. We were told to stay in our cabins until after sunrise. We heard hippos grunting from the grass area behind our cabin, and people saw hippo footprints on the sandy path by our cabin. On that day’s boat ride, we stopped at a remote island with a grassy interior that was mown down. Our guide confirmed that hippos keep the grass short.

Okavango, Day One – Hippo Pool

After our game walk, we took a boat ride to the hippo pool. A crocodile we saw in the morning had moved to a higher spot on the bank. This photo with people from the other boat shows the size of the crocodile. The boat is much closer to me than the crocodile, so compared to the crocodile, the people appear larger than they actually are.

Nile crocodile on the bank
Nile crocodile on the bank

An African fish eagle in flight over the papyrus. The African fish eagle reminds us of the American bald eagle. Both eagles have dark brown bodies and white heads.

African fish eagle in flight
African fish eagle in flight

We saw dozens of hippos. Some hippos eyed us suspiciously.

hippos eying us
hippos looking back at us

Hippos are aggressive animals. These hippos exhibited a threat behavior. The prominent lower teeth can be up to 50 cm (1.6 feet) long, and they are quite sharp.

hippo threat behavior
hippo threat behavior
hippo threat behavior
hippo threat behavior

Okavango, Day One – Game Walk

On our first morning in the Okavango Delta on our Botswana safari, we took a boat ride for a game walk on an island. Papyrus lines the banks of the channel.

papyrus at dawn
papyrus at dawn

We walked through tall grass on our game walk. Our guides were unarmed — Botswana don’t allow guns on game walks. In Tanzania, two of our guides carried big rifles on game walks, and both had shot and killed a charging hippo on safari.

game walk
game walk

Elephant dung, which is quite large, contains partially digested grass and marula berries beloved by elephants. Our guide is picking up some dung to show us the partially digested grass and marula berries.

elephant dung
elephant dung

We crossed this hippo trail — two tracks with a space between the tracks. Hippos clearly visit this island, but we and our unarmed guides encountered no charging hippos that day.

hippo trail
hippo trail

In contrast, elephants trample a wider trail with only one track. Note that we walked on an elephant trail. Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal. Our guide told us that animals use their only their own trail and not trails made by other animals.

elephant trail
elephant trail
day-blooming lily
day-blooming lily

When we returned to the lodge, our toothy friend greeted us at the boat landing, in case a guest misses a step climbing out of the boat.

crococile at Xugana Lodge
crocodile at Xugana Lodge

Day 2 at Serengeti camp – the great migration, at last

During our safari in late February, the great migration is normally in the southern Serengeti. But so far there has been little rain so the wildebeests and zebras came, ate the grass, and moved to the north, where there was more rain and grass. We had seen few wildebeests and no herds of wildebeests.

On our second day at Serengeti camp, we woke early for a long drive north to see herds of wildebeest and zebra. We would enter the Serengeti National Park, where we would have to stay on roads.

Early in the morning this giraffe was eating its favorite food, acacia leaves.  Acacias have long thorns.  We see how giraffes use their long, dexterous tongue to grab the leaves while avoiding the thorns. The giraffe’s tongue is wrapped around the branch to strip the leaves.

giraffe tongue grabbing acacia leaves
giraffe tongue grabbing acacia leaves

Here’s a closeup with more detail.  See the long thorns to the left and right of the giraffe tongue. The thorns are a lighter green than the leaves and branches. At 7:18 am, the light was dim.  Like the night before, the ISO was maxed out and the lens wide open, and there still wasn’t enough light. Learning my lesson, I increased the exposure from 1/400 to 1/250 second, while shooting at 400 mm. The rule of thumb is that the exposure time is less than or equal to the inverse of the focal length, or 1/400 second for a 400 mm focal length. The photo looks clear enough despite the longer exposure. See the giraffe’s eyelashes?

closeup of giraffe tongue grabbing acacia leaves
closeup of giraffe tongue grabbing acacia leaves

A half hour later we stopped to see this jackal.  We were far away — these photos were taken at 400 mm.

common jackal
common jackal

A couple minutes later we learned why our guide stopped and waited.

jackal eating a bird
jackal eating a bird

Here’s a closeup.  It looks like the jackal’s eating a bird with long black feathers, perhaps a secretary bird.  Breakfast before 8:00 am.

closeup of jackal eating a bird
closeup of jackal eating a bird

When we entered the Serengeti National Park, we stopped to file papers.  This superb starling was in the parking lot. The iridescent top feathers and orange breast are very pretty.

superb starling
superb starling

At noon we finally found herds of zebras and wildebeests. Not the million animals that we had read about, but many herds of animals.

zebras
zebras
zebra and wattled starlings
zebra and wattled starlings

We saw a leopard and its kill, shown in my post.

leopard in tree
leopard in tree

We were happy.  Our safari was nearing the end, and we had not seen a leopard.  The leopard completed our seeing the big five animals.  As it turned out, this was the only leopard we saw.  It was almost 2:00, and we headed for a late lunch.

But of course we had to stop to see these baboons on the side of the road.

baby baboon playing
baby baboon playing
baboons grooming
baboons grooming

After lunch we drove along a river and saw hippos. There was much more water here than at the Alamana hippo pool, so these hippos were more comfortable.

hippo approaching
hippo approaching
hippos humping
hippos humping
hippo yawning
hippo yawning

Here’s a closeup of the hippo jaws.  Note the hippo’s enormous mouth and sharp, ivory canine teeth.  Hippo teeth are sharpened during use, and the canines can reach 20″.

hippos jaws
hippos jaws

We saw lions mating.  See my post.

We started the long drive back to camp. We had started early, and we were all tired.

Our guide saw some vultures landing and taking off in the grass so he stopped to look where the vultures were landing.  No other vehicles were stopped.  We didn’t see anything where the vultures landed.  Finally he told us to look to the left, far away.  We finally saw some brown spots in the grass.  Still in the National Park, we couldn’t drive off-road to get closer.  The following photos are with a telephoto lens at 400 mm. Here’s the initial photo.

brown spots in the distance
brown spots in the distance

Soon there was some movement.

lion moving the kill
lion moving the kill
lion with wildebeest hoof and head
lion with wildebeest hoof and head

And a closeup of the lion.

closeup of lion with wildebeest hoof and head
closeup of lion with wildebeest hoof and head

Looks like a wildebeest.  Our guide told us that the lions had probably killed the wildebeest and dragged it away.  The vultures were landing at the spot of the kill. Our guide is amazing at finding animals.

At dusk we saw these storks roosting in a tree.

storks roosting
storks roosting

Back at camp, we heard a loud elephant trumpet as we got out of the vehicle.  A large elephant was walking between two tents, about a hundred meters away from us.  The elephant was taller than our tents.  The guide said to climb back in.  After the guides said it was clear, they drove us back to our tents.

We later learned that this adult elephant is a frequent visitor to the camp.  Our lead guide saw it and shined a flashlight into its eyes. The light in elephant’s eyes ruins its night vision, so it moved away.

At the hippo pool

On our morning game drive, the trucks stopped at a kopje  We walked around the kopje to a hippo pool!  A very nice surprise.

There’s a granite bank that’s too steep for hippos to climb out, so we stood a few feet from the hippo pool.  There wasn’t much water, so hippos were crowded into a small pool.  They occasionally surface to breathe and look around.

Betty by the hippo pool
Betty by the hippo pool
2 hippos
2 hippos

Hippos defecate in the water, so there’s lot of brown grass floating on the water.

hippo looking at us
hippo looking at us

I hiked up the kopje for coffee and cookies. Felix, one of our tour guides, sits on the left with his rifle. The darker area in the background below is the surface of the hippo pool. You can see a bit of green water to the right of Felix’s cap. That’s the edge of the pool.

down by the hippo pool
down by the hippo pool

Suddenly, there were was splashing in the water.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our guide told us that two male hippos were fighting.  One hippo came up under  the second hippo, turning him over. In one photo Felix has stood up, and Karen is taking a picture. Later we learned that Felix had killed a hippo while guiding some hunters several years ago. He now guides folks who shoot pictures.