Friday, March 7, 2014

Trips with Friends - Coralie and Nick!

Our second overland trip was with our Shakawe friends. Nick is originally from the UK, but has been in Botswana since the 1990’s. His wife is from Sepopa and they have two adorable daughters. Our friend, Coralie, is French and volunteered in Shakawe for 1 year. Both Nick and Coralie have been a big part of our lives in Shakawe. We were so happy to travel with them – especially because we all have similar interests and values. 

We went to three different (and new for us) areas in Botswana. We started our trip at Khwai in Moremi Game Reserve. This area was just so beautiful – a totally different part of the Okavango Delta for us. We saw lots of wildlife and camped in an awesome spot. We saw a pack of over 20 wild dogs running away from our camp the first day! We spent a whole day driving around Moremi and went to Third Bridge for lunch. Along the way, we saw lots of birds (Nick’s favorite was the Arnot’s Chat and my favorite was the Wattled Crane), elephants, impala, waterbuck, hippos and a leopard! It was a great game-viewing day. 

The next day we drove to Nxai Pan National Park. This was such a different environment for us. It was predominately grasslands and pans. We saw tons of black-backed jackals and elephants. We watched the sunset at the water hole and saw many bull elephants running toward the water. They were so joyful once they arrived; it was such a great site to see! We had hoped to hear lions and other animals at night, but it was super quite camping at Nxai Pan. We also checked out Baine’s Baobabs, a stand of trees in the middle of the pan.

The next morning we spent 3 (!) hours at the water hole. This was not planned, but there were so many exciting things, we couldn’t help ourselves. When we arrived, there was a pride of lions, mostly females with one scruffy looking young male. It was such a pleasure to watch them hanging around the water hole. The young male and his mother were very affectionate, though her sisters were less enthusiastic about the young male’s presence. There were tons of springbok waiting to get to the water, but they didn’t dare approach when the lions were there. After about an hour, the lions backed off to let the poor springbok drink. They gave them about 10 minutes then took over the water hole again. The whole time, we also were watching a hawk hunt a flock of doves. It was so amazing – such speed and agility! Then, we saw two male elephants in the distance. They were very agitated – they had their trunks in the air, shook their heads vigorously and paced back and forth. They wanted to water, but they didn’t like the lions. After some time, they eventually trumpeted and charged the pride of lions. It was one of the most amazing things we have ever seen. Both the elephants and lions got very close to our vehicle, but were very clearly not interested in us. It was an exhilarating moment.

That day we headed to Kubu Island. This is such an interesting area in the world. Basically, there is a large “island” in the middle of the pans filled with ancient baobabs and star chestnut trees. We had to drive for over an hour through a massive pan. We were a little worried we’d get stuck, but we got lucky. We think we were the last people to travel to Kubu Island this season because the rains make the trip impossible. We all loved Kubu Island and wished we had more time to spend there. Matt and I walked out in the pan at night and it was like standing at the edge of the ocean. There was just vast nothingness all around us. The next day we walked around the island. I wish I could have spent more time with the trees, I believe they have lessons to teach us. You could feel their energy when you touched them. It was one of the most spiritual moments I’ve had in a very long time. We also got to see a dead baobab. When they die, they decompose into a pulp like state. I’ve never seen anything like it. I think it’s because it is a succulent and not a true tree. Kubu Island was such an amazing place and I hope I get to go there again sometime in my life.

It was such an amazing trip, one that I won’t soon forget.