Elephants in my plunge pool

Posted by Elise Kirsten on 20 May 2019

My eyes shot open. It was pitch black and I was cocooned under voluminous mosquito netting in an exquisite four-poster bed that rested in my lodge on the lip of a rocky incline, high above the Chobe River floodplain.

It would usually take a thunderclap of significant proportions to rouse me from my slumber (especially in a bed as comfortable as this) and even the heavens’s most violent attempt may not be enough once I’m asleep.

What woke me this night was the sound of a roaring lion (more dangerous than thunder I believe). Or was it? I stared into black nothingness, listening intently.

I heard the sound of bubbles being blown in liquid. It reminded me of pushing air through a straw into a milkshake as a child. It wasn’t a lion I’d heard but the grumbling of an elephant, which was now taking liberties in my plunge pool.

View over the Chobe River Valley from a suite at Ngoma Safari Lodge. Image credit: African Albida Tourism

I jumped out of bed and opened the curtain a crack, and my eyes adjusted to the dark just in time to catch a glimpse of a large shadow moving away into the inky black.

I was staying at the Ngoma Safari Lodge, a heavenly retreat in northern Botswana and part of the Africa Albida Tourism portfolio, in the game-rich Chobe Forest Reserve, right outside the Chobe National Park.

When I woke in the morning (to find my plunge pool half empty) I bravely made use of the outside shower knowing that at any moment I may be trapped, naked, in the rounded ‘cubical,’ as the likelihood of stumbling across ellies in these unfenced parts is rather high.

My plunge pool was rather empty after an elephant used it for refreshment. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

Still, I couldn’t resist. The view over the floodplain reminded me of one of the opening scenes of Disney’s Lion King and the possibility of being trapped in the buff by a pachyderm would make a more interesting tale than had I just made use of the luxurious indoor ablutions.

Birds high above the valley floor swooped below me. Zebra and impala grazed in groups far below as the light crept over the plain illuminating the landscape.

The view from Ngoma Safari Lodge in Botswana over the Chobe floodplain towards Namibia. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

After an elephant-free shower and indulgent breakfast we headed for Kasane where we’d make our way down to the water’s edge for a morning on the Chobe River. It’s here, floating next to banks with long grass that we began our count and soon gave up, as we passed family after family of elephants. Our group of six saw roughly a thousand (we lost count) over the course of two days.

Elephants grazing, elephants swimming, elephants walking, elephants covering themselves in mud or rolling around in it in what appeared to be sheer delight, with all fours held out towards the heavens.

One of the many elephants we saw in Chobe along the river. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

We enjoyed a lazy lunch on the boat (a picnic packed by the lodge) watching the playful creatures, which can weigh up to six tons, and then made our way around Sedudu Island, in the middle of this section of river, on a loop back. We passed a group of hippos – one put on a show for us by launching into the water from the island – and a small croc, and we were hoping to spot a malachite kingfisher. To my surprise, as I looked up at the rushes on our right, a brightly coloured little bird matching its description took flight. ‘This is the life,’ I thought.

One of the ladies in our group sips a pink gin on our cruise down the Chobe River. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

After a morning on the water, we were driven back to Ngoma Lodge in one of its game drive vehicles through the Chobe National Park. Our guide, Johanne Metengu, was extremely informative and pointed out so many interesting facts they could be chronicled in a small book.

Driving through Chobe National Park. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

I learnt that guinea fowl, hornbills and baboons all eat from elephant dung and saw jackalberry, fever-berry and waterberry trees, as well as the iconic African baobabs. We came across giraffe, puku (small antelope), impala, elephants and more elephants, black-backed jackal, buffalo, kudu, red lechwe, warthog, zebra, and Peter’s epaulatted fruit bat.

Back at the lodge we enjoyed our second scrumptious evening meal accompanied by red wine and I marvelled at the quality of the food. Up on this rise with the warm evening air and stars twinkling above the floodplain, the conversation, the sounds of nature and the setting were all perfect.

Getting there

We flew SA Airlink from Johannesburg to Kasane (about R3,654 one way as part of a round trip ticket). Ngoma Safari Lodge sent a driver to collect us from Kasane airport and transfer us to the lodge, which is 56km away.

Cost

Green season (1 Jan- 31 Mar 2019 and 1 Dec – 31 December 2019) $395 (about R5,670) per person sharing;
Shoulder season (1 Apr – 30 Jun 2019 and 1 Nov – 30 nov 2019) $506 (about R7,265) per person sharing;
High season ( 1 Jul – 31 Oct 2019) $682 (about R 9,790) per person sharing.
Annual ‘pay for two nights stay for 3’ is available from 15 Nov 2019 – 31 Jan 2020 (excluding 20 Dec 2019 – 6 Jan 2020).

Contact

Africa Albida Tourism africaalbidatourism.com

Need to know

This is a malarial area, so take the necessary precautions.

Muddy ellies enjoying time in the Chobe River. Image credit: Image credit: Elise Kirsten

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