Chobe National Park
Zambia & Botswana Why
Chobe National Park
Zambia, is one of the southern most African countries with one of its main highlights being Victoria Falls. Pairing Botswana with Zambia was a logical choice given the proximity to each other as well as our desire to visit Chobe National Park. We found out that we could easily move between the countries without issue also allowing us for quick stops in Namibia and Zimbabwe during our river cruises.
Where we went in Africa
We broke the trip into two parts Cape Town South Africa and Zambia, Botswana with quick stops in Namibia and Zimbabwe. This was due in large part to the small number of rooms available at the higher end lodges and accommodating when we wanted to go. Check out our last post on Cape Town
Crocodiles staying cool
What you need before you arrive
The art of planning and preparing. During our research we learned we needed more vaccinations, malaria pills and additional visas. This had to be accounted for in our planning especially since our passports would be needed to be sent into the consulates and we would need them for other travels.
How we approach planning
Yellow Billed Stoir
We treated planning for Africa like all our other travels we would do it ourselves. How would we get around the countries we wanted to visit, what should we expect and make sure we had the comforts of home. We weren't looking to rough it, expectations included air conditioning, our own in room bathroom and luxurious accommodations. This was our first time to Africa.
The experience we wanted
After deciding where we wanted to go and the experience, we chose to stay at a lodge and take day trips for the game drives. Tongabezi would be our home for the next few days. Clare our reservations specialist who provided everything we might need to know prior to our reservation's confirmation until our arrival in Zambia.
Zambia Lodge Details
Tongabezi is located on the Zambezi river, an all-inclusive lodge catering to your every need. They only have 12 cottages of varying types as well as a private island for a tented room experience. We choose their river cottage which was situated on the river home to several hippos right outside our door.
From our deck, hippos in front of our room
We chose Tongabezi for the all-inclusive luxury offering they could provide. Each of the dedicated areas throughout the lodge is tastefully decorated offering numerous places to relax and take in the environment around you. We had very high expectations for our stay at Tongabezi and they didn't let us down at all.
We flew from South Africa to Zambia, when the lodge picked us up for the 30-minute ride. Schedule your airport transfers with the lodge it is more efficient than the taxi service which we would consider questionable. Upon our arrival at the lodge we were welcomed by the site manager and our valet Forbes that would be with us for our stay. Forbes would handle anything and everything we needed.
Victoria Falls & Devils Pool
Behind the devils pool
Our first day we headed to Victoria Falls to swim to the devil's pool from Livingston Island. The excursion was a few hours, the lodge dropped us off for the boat ride to the island to start the journey to the devil's pool. After reading numerous reviews we didn't find one that truly explained what you are doing. Our incorrect assumption was we would walk to the pool get in and take some pictures. This was far from the truth. It is great view once you get to the pool, but you need to be very aware of what you are going to need to do to get there.
More Falls Views
Devil's Pool Experience
You can look over the falls
The devil's pool is an area that allows you to overlook the falls. You will need to walk over uneven rocks afterwards you will climb into the water and follow the instructions of the guide on how to swim either against the current or with it to reach the next area of rocks that you will walk over. After traversing these rocks and the swim you will climb back into the water to swim over to the devil's pool ledge that overlooks the falls. Note, there are rocks in the water that can't be seen, and you will more than likely to run into with them your knees.
Understanding what is expected of you at the Devils Pool
Livingstone Island as the sun is setting
Once in the devil's pool the guides will take pictures allowing you to take in the great view. We made it but again our assumption was since one of the guides walked to the pool over the rocks we would walk back. This is not the case instead we would repeat the climb over the second set of rocks, swim in the reverse, and finally get to the initial rocks to climb back to where we started. We share because looking back we aren't sure it was the smartest thing we did. Gauge your ability as a swimmer, before deciding if this is for you. There are fish in the pool and will nibble at your legs and feet. If you have water shoes bring them.
Back at Livingston Island they had snacks and beverages we could enjoy before taking the boat ride back to our Tongabezi driver - Geoffrey.
Upon our arrival from our Victoria Falls adventure, Forbes met us as we entered the lodge to discuss what we wanted for dinner. Each night Tongabezi offers at least three entrees options paired over a three-course meal with multiple appetizers and dessert options. You can have your meals anywhere at the lodge grounds or on your deck at your cottage. They carter to whatever your needs are.
High Quality Meals
The meals were high quality ingredients made with culinary skill you would expect at high-end restaurants. They believe in sustainable growing and many of the fruits and vegetables were grown onsite in their garden. Take a tour of the organic garden, the head gardener is very knowledgeable on how you can have an organic garden too.
Since we had to leave quickly for the Victoria Falls tours, Forbes walked us to our room to review all the features of the cottage and the services he would provide. The entire cottage had an extremely large indoor area which continued onto to our private deck. It had all the comforts we were expecting such as daily laundry service, air conditioning, turn down service and in our case a bottle of wine each day. Again, our cottage had the same high-quality decorations as the other spaces at the lodge.
Chobe National Park Botswana
The next morning, we were headed to Botswana for our game drive in Chobe National Park. The tour operator that Tongabezi arranged picked us up at 7:30 am for the hour drive to the border. We crossed via boat which was very interesting since all the other traffic went in by ferry some who were waiting 5-10 days to cross.
Botswana Game Drives
Once arriving in Botswana, Walter our tour guide for the day picked up so we could clear customs. You will need a multiple entry visa for Zambia otherwise you will need to purchase it upon your return for $20 per person no credit cards accepted. Since we got our visas through the consulate we were all set, many others had to purchase this additional visa since they purchased their visas at the airport.
Be prepared for
It was roughly a 30-minute drive to the park in an open air 4×4 vehicle. The drive starts around 8:30 - 9:00 am when temperatures can still be cooler so dress accordingly. Layers are better. Prior to starting the drive, we stopped for tea and were briefed on the safety measures. You will cover 15% of the park during the game drive. We went during the winter months (July) where in the morning the animals feed on the vegetation before heading down to the river in the afternoon to cool off and feed some more. We saw these animals during our drive.
African Fish Eagle
Animals we saw
Elephant Giraffe Hippo Ostrich Zebra Crocodile Kudu Impala Puku Lechwe Warthog Buffalo Monkeys Baboons Nino Monitor Guinea Fowl Various Birds
The game drive is over uneven ground, you are required to climb in and out of the 4×4 vehicle and you will be very dirty after the drive is done. Again, these are things you need to be aware of when planning what you want to do.
Botswana River Cruise
African BuffaloHippo Nap
After the buffet lunch we took the river cruise for the afternoon, continuing in Botswana, with stops at Namibia, and Zimbabwe all touching the Zambezi river within Chobe National Park. There were many animals we saw within that short period of time we were on the game drive.
We headed back to Tongabezi with our tour operator, to take a shower before dinner and enjoy the sunset. Each night before dinner we shared our adventures with the other guests around the firepits sampling special appetizers and drinking local wine.
Finally, we got to sleep in, after breakfast the master gardener gave us a tour of his garden before heading to our Zambia and Zimbabwe river cruise. There are several excursions included in your stay you would just need to arrange them with your valet. Again, we saw several animals along the river's edge. Prior to returning to the lodge we took a tour of the tented island, it is an option for your stay.
Zambia Game Drive - White Rhino Walk
Rhino Walk Yes, more Rhinos
In the afternoon, our next excursion was the rhino walk. The rhinos in Zambia were originally in Botswana but were relocated due to poaching. As it is described you are walking to find rhinos - 10 to be specific. Yes, walking to find them through the brush and sand. We had a park ranger with an automatic weapon, and a guide with us. The park ranger was very specific how we would walk and what to do once we find them. It was a great experience again looking back we were very close to them was this the smartest thing we did? All we can say we didn't have any issues.
Packing up for the next day long plane ride home. We were lucky to have an afternoon flight which allowed us to sleep in and have one last game drive before Tongabezi took us to the airport.
If you want to go to Africa we highly recommend that you do, it is nothing like any place we have ever been. It is an unspoiled landscape filled with, animals that are like no other all rooted in deep culture of the local people. The world is changing, we first saw it first in Alaska and now see how climate changes are effecting Africa. Enjoy it now, don't wait
Game Drive Tips
Get your visas in advance Make sure you have all your vaccinations You will get very dirty on the game drive Bring binoculars Pack light Do multiple countries because it is very easy to get between countries Make sure you tip For tipping pay in your local currency (US dollars, Euros, etc) The locals appreciate itOther Travel Tips