We wanted to head to Chobe National Park in Botswana, and as there is no budget tourist transport between Katima and Chobe, we opted for local transport, meaning we took a local “mini bus” to the border, walked across the border, and then hitchhiked into town. After I told some friends about this and realized how mad this sounds to our friends back home, I decided that this deserves some explanation.
Other than paying $100 US per person to go about 80 miles, there is no good way to get from Katima to Chobe, despite their proximity. We jumped into local transport, a mini bus or “combi” as they call it, which is a large van which fits about eight people, but usually holds at least ten. They shoved us into the back and proceeded to drive around town for at least 45 minutes, doing seemingly nothing as the van was full. The driver kindly drove everyone to their home at their village (door to door service! What a bargain!), which meant that what should have been a 45 minute drive took over 2 hours. We made a few friends in the bus, which was nice.
We then walked about two kilometers over the bridge, past towering baobabs and a pretty marsh, into Botswana.
Then, the hitchhiking, or “hiking” as it’s called here. To allay your fears, let me explain how utterly safe and nice of an experience this was: when we mentioned to the immigration officer that we were hiking into town, she asked the next people after us if they could drive us into town. Although they couldn’t fit two, they offered to take one of us and the next car could take the other. Later, a random Namibian gentleman ushered us into this car, offering to take us to the road, where we would be more able to find another ride into town. He noticed a few officials in trucks were leaving, so he took it upon himself to ask the men in trucks if they had room for us. An official with the national parks of Bostwana let us jump in the back of his pickup, and we were dropped off in town, right outside of the lodge where we’d be camping. In the back of the truck, we met a nice Namibian couple and a Zimbabwean girl whose sister lives in Atlanta, and upon visiting her met a man she was to marry in December, and told us about her upcoming Zim and US weddings. The people we met could not have been more kind and helpful.
Overall, it was a nice experience, although long and a bit tiring.
Then, Chobe National Park in Botswana. Also one of the premiere places to view wildlife. Chobe is home to over 120,000 elephants. It has no fences, and is at the meeting point of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers. In contrast, Etosha National Park in Namibia is a fenced park and is a nearly arid “pan” with watering holes spread about.
In Chobe, we camped at a big resort in town with a beautiful pool overlooking the Chobe River. In Botswana, there aren’t many budget options for travelers. The options are often either expensive rooms at mega resorts, or camping, as many South Africans drive big camper vans with large tents on top, called “Overlanders.” We took a game drive in the morning, saw two lion moms with their five cubs, and the last animal we hadn’t seen in the “the big five”: buffaloes! In the afternoon we took the river boat cruise – simply STUNNING! Many hippos, elephants, crocs, birds – the highlight of the river cruise was getting to see a herd of elephants swim across the Chobe river – using their trunks as snorkels – so cool!!