Chobe National Park is in Botswana, about 35 miles from Victoria Falls. Botswana is one of the most stable countries in Africa. It has two diamond mines which produce significant income and this country has not suffered the bloodshed and revolution of many of its neighbors. Over the years the leadership has changed more or less democratically. While our trip there today did not give us a particularly affluent impression, Botswana should be on the list when tourists visit Africa to see animals. Chobe National Park is home to about 120,000 elephants, the single largest population of elephants anywhere. Sadly, this population has overwhelmed the park ecology. If each of those elephants is consuming 400 pounds of greenery a day, you can imagine that the vegetation disappears faster than it can grow back. Nearly all the larger trees were dead; hungry pachyderms had stripped the bark, exposing he sensitive tissue beneath. Park rangers are trying to control the situation by exporting elephants to other African countries who no longer have a significant population of these gargantuan eating machines.
The spot where we crossed from Zambia into Botswana is a four corners area. The borders of these countries and Zimbabwe and Namibia all come together here where the Zambezi and Chobe rivers merge. A bridge over this confluence of rivers needs to be built, but with the interests of four counties differing significantly, politics have gotten in the way. The only way to cross is by boat. We passed about a mile of 18 wheelers waiting to make this crossing. This situation has been aggravated by the fact that no one wants to drive through the political hotbed that is Zimbabwe at the moment. The border is only open during daylight hours and the truckers spend more than one night, waiting for their turn to get on the ferry.
For us the crossing was easy and the passport formalities were remarkably informal. We were all conscientious about getting stamped in and out, but it would have been easy just to stroll across.
We visited Chobe by boat and with a land rover. The boat approach was bucolic and the animal life was prolific. Elephants came down to the river to drink, coat themselves with mud, and generally mess around. I have grown really fond of these creatures. They are so kind and attentive to one another. Even when they quarrel, a few trumpet blasts and a wave of the trunk soon set things on the right track again. When the herd went for a swim, the water was over the baby's head and the adults cradled it gently with their trunks until it was safely back on land. We could see its little trunk above the waves like a snorkel. One was crossing the road when we unexpectedly drove upon it. It gave us a blast from its horn as if we had gone through the red light and whirled back into the bush. Our friend who lived here for two years said that you can get tired of looking at the animals. That certainly hasn't happened to me yet.