Let me back track to about a couple of weeks ago and my visit to Pandamatenga. I had one of the best weeks of my life! The transportation up there was a little unnecessary…15 hours in a crammed bus with hardly any pit stops was just too much to handle in one day. But when I did get to Panda (which was just two silos and a dirt road), Christina and her boyfriend Coenie were waiting for me. They then took me to a local lodge where we immediately saw an entire herd of sable. It was beautiful. Then, right as we were sitting down to eat; I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. Out in the distance was a giraffe drinking water. It was so surreal!
The rest of the week seemed to fly by. But in the course of only a couple days, I visited a local women’s group meeting, walked to Zimbabwe, gardened with primary school children, and learned the farming systems of Panda. One of the nights, we visited another lodge called the Kazuma Lodge. Now let me just say that this lodge was one of the most amazing places I had ever been, it normally costs $700 USD to stay there but since it was the off season, he let us spend the evening there for free. The entire lodge is a dark wood floor with an elaborate tarp cascading the top. The north and east walls were shelves filled with old books and colloquial antiques from when Britain ruled Botswana, while the other two walls were open to the African bush. As we sat on cushioned pillows under the stars and around the fire, we ate the most savory guinea fowl stew (that had been hunted that afternoon). At one point in the night, I looked over at the watering hole next to the lodge and was startled to find a herd of 7 elephants drinking water. It was probably one of my most special moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.
For those of you who don’t, I ended up jumping in AJ’s buggy and took a tour of Chobe Farms. At one point, AJ took me to a point where I could see Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. After the tour had finished, Christina was still running errands so AJ took me to a different house in Kasane. This house was gorgeous. There was a pool in the backyard and a lush garden; from the backyard you could see the bright blue of the Zambezi River. Turns out, the owner of this house is the owner of all of the Spar’s throughout Botswana (Spar is a grocery store chain similar to Kroger). So it had hardly been a couple hours and I had already met two of the most prominent businessmen in Kasane!
Needless to say, I made good friends with the Spar’s owner’s daughter, we exchanged phone numbers, and AJ took me to a river-side lodge where we met Christina and Coenie for lunch. That was the first time I had eaten pizza since I arrived to Botswana and it was YUMMMMY!
Next, we jumped in Coenie’s buggy again and set off for the next lodge where we would depart on our boat cruise of the Chobe River. Here, we met up with the other two volunteers in the area, Octavius and Shelly, as well as their trainees, Bridgette and Mignon. For only about $20 each (because Octavius knew the captain), the six of us hopped on a small speed boat and set off on the Chobe River. On the ride, we saw some of the most majestic, purely natural animals in their environments. We saw impala, kudu, baboons, crocodile, hippos, elephants, Cape buffalo, and I don’t even know how many species of birds. In fact, one of the coolest things happened just as we were about to turn the boat around. The captain paused and declared, “LOOK! THERE’s A LION!” We spent about 10 minutes switching off with the binoculars trying to spot this lion ear. (Seeing lions is a rarity since they’re such private animals, in fact Christina had only seen 5 in over a year). Then, as if in a National Geographic video, the lion submerged from the brush and began stalking a huge herd of Cape buffalo. We all held our breaths as we watched two more lionesses prowl. In total, the pride of 9 lionesses surrounded the herd of buffalo. We actually had to turn around before any of the action could go down, since the crocodiles and hippos swim at night, but it was still such a phenomenal sight.