Archive for May, 2010

Back in the RSA!
May 31, 2010

I left the Grotto at 11.00am on saturday, bidding a fond farewell to what had been my ‘home’ and extended family for the last 4 weeks. I would like to put on record my thanks to Kelly, the Book Bus Project manager who looked after us all so well and made sure we got every opportunity to make the most of our time in Livingstone. I will miss the Grotto’s faded charm, Grubby’s alcohol induced bawdy tales, Cuzzy’s doleful eyes when begging for scraps, Ellington the night watchman – the kindest and most gentle of men, and of course my fellow volunteers.     

From the moment I arrived in Jo’burg airport, for my connecting flight to Cape Town, I was in a different Africa and some would say not the ‘real’ Africa.  But to be honest, much as I loved Zambia,  I was ready for that change. South Africa is gripped with World Cup fever, merchandise around every corner and digital clocks counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to kick off. Having said that, football is very much the black man’s game although every black South African I’ve spoken to either couldn’t access or afford match tickets. There is much talk of World Cup greed, particularly in Cape Town.

Rugby is still predominantly the white man’s game and as we flew from Jo’burg to Cape Town the pilot gave regular score updates on the Super 14 Final in which the Bulls beat the Stormers.  He also pointed out all 3 of ‘Jo’burg’s sports stadia, which were directly beneath our flight path.

Ellis Park, an  iconic sports venue where South Africa lifted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, will this time around be hosting the round ball  game. This year’s  Super 14 rugby final was, for the first time, played in Soweto at the Orlando Stadium. On July 11th Soweto will also stage the biggest football game in the world, in the new multicoloured Sun City Stadium which has been designed in the style of a traditional African calabash cooking pot!      

By 8.00pm I was safely ensconced in my 14th floor hotel room, complete with double bed, soft pillow, a duvet, en suite shower and stunning views out towards the Waterfront. The welcoming, night-time panorama included the illuminated Green Point Stadium, where England will be playing the USA, and across Table Bay the blinking light house on Robben Island.

I spent Sunday morning bartering  for African souvenirs, with the friendly stall holders in Green Market, before  strolling through the beautiful Company Gardens, beyond the Cecil Rhodes statue and out to the South African National Art Gallery  for a whistle-stop tour of its highlights.

A text from Nicci alerted me to her pending arrival at 1.30pm and I arrived back at the hotel just as her taxi pulled up to the front door!

It was great to see her. She was surprising lively after her 16 hour flight and we  were soon headed out to a Waterfront bar, soaking up the sun and sipping an ice cool Castle lager. We watched the yachts come and go, seals playing in the harbour, and the ever-changing cast of  vibrant street musicians and dancers.

We had a lot to catch up on. It transpired that on her flight out, Nicci had been sitting with a very chatty South African cardiologist, of Polish extraction, from the Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital, who as a young doctor, back in 1967,  had taken part in the very first heart transplant!  Away from the hospital, he was also apparently something of a South African wine buff  and in his youth had to choose between training as a  surgeon or concert pianist!      

Today we were up early and atop Table Mountain by 8.30 am,  way ahead of the crowds. I stood beneath the cloudless blue skies taking in the stunning views, for a second time, but this time it was nice to have someone to share it all with.

By lunchtime we had taken a taxi down to Camps Bay, nestling below Table Mountain, and walked along the largely deserted and beautiful sandy beach, paddled in the Atlantic and watched the surfers riding the waves.     

It’s been a great day and we have done and seen a lot, and enjoyed the gorgeous ‘winter’ sunshine, although Nicci did get caught in an unexpected  shower!

Tomorrow we have tickets booked on the first ferry out to Robben Island, which I’m really looking forward to. Watch this space!

Over and out from Zambia
May 28, 2010

I’ve just returned from the Lubasi Orphanage, the last visit of my Book Bus stint. This week has really flown and there have been lots of ‘goodbyes’ as those of us who are leaving tomorrow  have explained to the children that we will not be returning next week but will be replaced by  some eager new faces wearing the ghastly yellow Book Bus polo shirts!

It has been a tremendously rewarding experience but I now feel ready to leave and I’m really looking forward to meeting up with Nicci in Cape Town for a week of relative luxury, in a hotel with a bed and ensuite facilities – bliss!

I’m also looking forward to seeing Chris again on June 6th after six weeks apart. I’m sure there will be a lot to catch up on. And of course I’ll be back in time to enjoy a month of World Cup football from South Africa.

Four volunteers who first met four weeks ago and one who joined us a fortnight ago will be leaving tomorrow. We have made the most of our last week together. On Monday we revisited the Royal Livingstone for another high tea and cocktails whilst watching the sun set over the Zambezi. The Hotel is in the grounds of the Livingstone National Park and our night was made complete as we left, for on our way out we met eye to eye with five zebra that had wandered in and were nonchalantly grazing by the swimming pool. They weren’t at all fazed by our cries of surprise and excitement, and just carried on munching, regardless!  

Around the time of a full moon, if the skies are clear, there is a  unique lunar rainbow visible at Victoria Falls. Last night, after our evening meal we took taxis down there in the hope of seeing it. The skies had been clear when we left central Livingstone but by the time we had driven the 10km to the falls it had clouded over, so we were all really disappointed. There is one more opportunity for us tonight but it has been overcast most of today, so I fear we are likely to be foiled again.

Tonight we are eating out at Olga’s Italian Corner, where it all kicked off four weeks ago. Later on we also hope to meet up with some Zambian friends we have made whilst working here. They are all professional dancers who we have seen ‘Dance around Zambia’ twice! They are all great fun but when we visit the local bars, which all have either a DJ or live music, they put us Brits to shame on dance floor!    

Well that’s more or less it from Zambia. I will try to keep the Blog going in Cape Town, as there is much to see and do there. I will also be continuing with it when I return to the UK and during my forthcoming VSO stint in Rwanda, so if you are enjoying the ride please stick with it.

Over and out from Zambia!

Clippety Clop over the Zim-Zam Bridge….
May 25, 2010

On Sunday a group of us took a taxi down to the border and walked across the old metal railway bridge built by Brunel, I think, and known locally as the Zim-Zam Bridge, to enter Zimbabwe. Kelly, our group leader invited two Zambian friends, Paul and Oliver, to come along as unofficial guides. They were both immigration officers, which was very helpful in speeding things up at the border.

On our way across the bridge we paused at the spot where the bungee jumping takes place (not for me!) and I witnessed something I had never seen before, a completely circular rainbow within the river gorge – it was quite spectacular.

We were relieved that the nasty old troll (His Excellency Robert Mugabe) was not lurking under the bridge and we were able to enter Zimbabwe without hindrance.

The purpose built resort of Victoria Falls was rather like a ghost town and the only sign of tourism was at the old colonial (1904) Victoria Falls Hotel, with its magnificent views along the Zambezi toward the falls (you can see it, on the left, perched above the rainbow) where we took lunch on the terrace!

During the afternoon our ‘guides’ took us away from the resort area, complete with its mega Spa Supermarket (closed) and out to the poorer part of town which was much more lively and the local market was as vibrant as those we have visited in Livingstone.

A number of us are now in our final week on the book bus so we are saying our goodbyes to the children and school staff we have come to know over the last few weeks. Today is a public holiday, Africa Day, which has allowed me time to update my blog. Tomorrow, at Libala School, the staff have invited us to take nshima with them at lunch time. This is of course very generous,  but they also have the ulterior motive of a laugh at our expense as we get it all over ourselves, again!

Finally, I was delighted to receive a text from Nicci yesterday informing me that just a year after joining her current school she has been appointed as assistant head of the MFL department. Well done Nic! Good luck leading your student visit to France later this week and I can’t wait to meet up with you in Cape Town on Sunday!

Livingstone I presume?
May 25, 2010

On Saturday, having done my washing in the old bath which stands outside Grubby’s toilet block, I walked into town to visit the local museum. En route I heard singing coming from the grounds of the local Anglican Church and called in to see what was going on. It was the beginning of a weekend of centenary celebrations, the church having been originally set up by missionaries in 1910.

I sat for a while and enjoyed the dancing and singing. Then the speeches started. Interestingly the only other white faces in the crowd belonged to the archdeacon and his rather sour looking wife! During the archdeacon’s speech he made what I thought was an interesting point about the ‘heart of the Anglican Church’. He claimed that it was no longer white European but black African. The average Anglican used to be white, middle class, well-educated and 60+ years, whilst now she is black African, in her 30s and from a family where at least one member has been affected by HIV Aids.

When I eventually arrived at the museum, I concentrated on the room dedicated to David Livingstone. There were a lot of interesting artifacts, letters, and photographs but the thing that surprised me most was nearer to ‘home’. I had never realized that Livingstone, when back in England, edited and wrote up his journals whilst staying at Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of  ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ Lord Byron, which I have visited many times and is just a couple of miles from where my Dad currently lives!

The notion of Livingstone discovering and naming the falls, after Queen Victoria, does strike me as vaguely amusing. Yes, he was the first white man to see the falls but the local people knew all about them and had already named, them rather more poetically, Mosi-Oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders). Believe me, if you ever see them you will know why.

On returning to England I carried out further research into Livingstone’s association with Newstead Abbey. By the late 19th century the abbey had ceased to be owned by Lord Byron’s family and had passed into the hands of a William Frederick  Webb. Webb loved new inventions and was responsible for installing gas lighting and central heating. He was also an avid big game hunter, decorating the place with exotic trophies from his expeditions to Africa, including the head of a rhinoceros that was mounted above the mantel piece in the Great Hall.

It transpires, that whilst on a hunting trip to Africa, Webb met up with Livingstone to whom he subsequently became indebted for saving his life. When Livingstone next returned to England he was invited to stay at Newstead Abbey and whilst there he worked on redrafting his journal.

A photograph from the archives of the Royal Geographic Society, taken at Newstead Abbey after Livingstone’s death,  shows his son Tom and daughter Agnes together with his faithful porters Abdullah Susi and James Chuma. Following his death these two loyal servants had carried Livingstone’s body all the way to the coast so that it could be shipped back to England.

On first arriving at Livingstone Airport I had taken this photograph of a statue showing the explorer with Susi and Chuma along side, without knowing at the time that  over a hundred years ago all three had spent time at Newstead Abbey, so close to the town of my birth. It  was becoming a small world even then!

Solar powered cooking!
May 21, 2010

Today is the end of Week 3 on the Book Bus. Friday is quite a heavy day as we do morning and afternoon visits. This morning we returned to Cowboy Cliff’s pre-school and this afternoon we were back at the Lubasi Orphanage.                  

Today’s theme at the Cowboy School was ‘monsters’. We read ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and helped the children make monster masks. This meant an early morning, post breakfast prep session. At 7.30 am we were cutting out 100 mask templates! It’s worth it though as the pre-school kids are great and really appreciative of everything we do.      

When we arrived Cliff was already at work on top of the playground shelter, re-thatching it. Some of the ladies of the local community were also in the grounds setting up 3 solar powered ovens. They are absolutely amazing, essentially an aluminum covered cardboard box with a plastic cover that is pointed towards the sun. They cost 10,000 kwacha, which is the mighty sum of one pound fifty pence and are of course reusable. For most people, the only alternative source of heat, for cooking, is charcoal which is relatively expensive.

We arrived at around 9.15 am and the ladies were just putting a chicken dish into the cookers. At the end of our two hour session it was perfectly cooked. They kindly gave us a small amount to taste and it was delicious!   

The Cowboy Pre-School is an amazing achievement. In 2003 the site was the village rubbish tip. It now house the most appealing, well looked after school environment we have visited. The perimeter fence is a couple of metres from the edge of the Livingstone National Park. Whilst we were there today we could hear an elephant snorting and just see the top of its head through the trees. Cliff told us that last night a group of them could be seen from the school yard. They also showed us a photograph taken when a rhino recently appeared, causing great excitement amongst the children. I should add that there is an electric fence between the park and the school yard!            

Some of us are hoping to make the most of our final weekend here by taking a taxi to the Zim/Zam Bridge and crossing over into Zimbabwe for a view of the falls from the other side. Apparently you can get closer to the falls in Zambia side but get a more panoramic view of them from the Zimbabwe. We also intend to quench our thirst at the famous old colonial Victoria Falls Hotel.     

Many thanks to all of you have been posting comments. I’m amazed how many people seem to be following my Blog. I hope it will continue to be of interest.

Finally on a sporting note, I was pleased to hear from Grubby (a kiwi) and his partner in crime Bart (a South African) that in their words “England thrashed the Aussies” in the 20/20 Cricket World Cup Final!  Mind you they did point out that it was our South Africans that won it for us!

Three weeks in and flying high!
May 19, 2010

Week 3 on the Book Bus. Although the temperature continues to reach the top 20s during the day, it drops quickly after sunset and overnight it has become distinctly chilly in the tent. Typically it is about 12 degrees when we stagger across to the shower block and get breakfast but by the time we reach our school of the day it’s nicely simmering!

On Monday we returned to the Linda School, for our third visit, and the children now know us and greet us like old friends, which is really nice. In each of our schools we are usually working with children from grade 4 to Grade 7 i.e. between 7/8 and 14/16 years old. We take the same groups on each visit so that we can build up a rapport with the youngsters. Some of the older children are really chatty and quite good fun. The boys , and quite a few girls, love browsing through the football magazines that I always carry aroundas a stand by.  

Tuesday saw us at Nakatindi School, their first visit from the bus this season. This school is in a poor area and the children were quite demanding in terms of both their reading and behaviour! They have very little in terms of possessions and are constantly asking for pens, paper, stickers, etc. However if we give to one we have to give to all, or we would have a riot on our hands! There was also no shade at Nakatindi and a few of us were feeling the effects of the sun after 4 hours out in the open. To top it all the bus broke down on the way back to camp and we had to flag down a couple of taxis.

Today we had our first experience of a government school. The Libala School is fee paying and located in a more well heeled part of Livingstone. All the teachers are qualified and the atmosphere was quite purposeful. Other than the staffing, it is only slightly better resourced than the community schools.

Schools are responsible for their own cleaning and caretaking. When we arrived at Libala the pupils were busy brushing out their classrooms and watering the school garden. A couple of parent volunteers were cleaning out the toilets, which for the first time this week were western style. Usually it’s just a hole in the ground so we avoid having to use them!

 The children also told us that when they go home they have to wash their own school uniform. They were amazed that children in the UK aren’t required to do similar chores at school and in the home. I wonder who has got it right? I remember being criticized at Naunton Park when I suggested Y6 pupils might wipe down the canteen tables!

A group of 14/15 year old boys who were footbll mad asked me if I could take a football for them next week. They considered themselves the best players in the school and wanted it for themselves, “not the other lazy chickens!”. I explained that I could not promise anything but if we did provide a ball it would have to be shared. They told me that  they usually play with a plastic bag stuffed with rags and paper. I did see another group with a plastic ball at breaktime enjoying an impromptu kick about, bare foot!  

After work  yesterday, I had an expensive but amazing experience that I had been looking forward to since I arrived in Livingstone. I took a 30 minute microlight flight over Victoria Falls and the adjacent national park area. The adrenalin was pumping a bit as we veered over the lip of the falls and the enormity of this natural wonder could be seen its entirety. There was a marvelous rainbow caused by the late afternoon sun against the water and spray.

We dropped to a lower level on our return to the air strip and I was able to see hippos, elephants, zebra, wildebeast, a crocodile and impala as we flew over the river Zambezi and the adjacent national park. A camera was fitted to the lower wing of the microlight and I now have a CD of wonderful photographs as a memento of the occasion.

Cowboy Cliff, Caterpillars, & the Z team!
May 16, 2010

Cowboy Cliff is a local celeb, a tour guide and philanthropist. He is also known as the ‘local cowboy’ because of the rather stylish cowboy hat he wears.

Three of us went for a three hour cycling tour with Cliff yesterday. He took us off the beaten track, through the local ‘bush’ countryside,  via  outlying villages  to a local market, where we enjoyed freshly cooked  fritters (doughnuts), and supported the community, in a small way,  by buying some local produce which included a bag of dried caterpillars. These can be eaten as a nourishing bar snack or cooked in boiling salted water along with tomatoes and onions. Nobody back at camp is very keen on my suggestion that we add them to the sauce for our proposed sunday evening pasta dish!  

Cowboy Cliff is a delightful man with a great knowledge  and understanding of his local environment. He  showed and talked us through a range of birdlife , including hornbills and woodland kingfishers, as well as  101 things you can do with elephant pooh! It apparently  has many  medicinal properties  and is also burnt to keep away the mosquitoes.

Cliff has used much of the money  raised from his cycling safaris to  build and resource a local community pre school. We visit the Local Cowboy Pre-school on Friday mornings. The children are aged 3-7 yrs and are very lively but very delightful. On our first visit they greeted us with a delightful rendition of the  school ‘Welcome Song’ and every child knew all the words! We took them on a ‘ Bear Hunt’ and taught them the ‘Animal Bop’ before making colourful butterflies which were attached to pieces of cotton and flown by the children  as they tore around the grounds! They also enjoyed being lifted, swung around, carried piggy back and wearing our sunglasses (all of which would not be allowed in the UK for child protection and health and safety reasons!)  

On Saturday one of our lady volunteers finished her two week stint and was replaced by a male – there are now three males on the book bus, apparently the highest number at any one time ever!  Our new member barely had  time to drop off his luggage before we whisked him away to the rickety but grandly named Muramba Stadium.

The Z team (the national Zambian  football team) have been in Livingstone all week and have been doing some  training sessions with local kids, including those from the Lubasi Orphanage,which the book bus visits . On Saturday they were playing Sothern Province in a friendly match, as part of an  Aids Awareness Day. It was  free  to watch and the ground was a heaving, colourful mass of happy Zambians. Kenneth Kaunda the former leader of Zambia was the guest of honour and kicked the game off.

Our view wasn’t great but we did have the benefit of some shade from a large tree. The game ended 0-0 and there were not too many goal mouth thrills so we left at half time and retreated to a local bar for a cool beer, where I was able to watch Chelsea scrape a 1-0  FA Cup Final win over Portsmouth. It was really quite surreal enjoing a beer,  sitting with a room full of  enthusiastic Zambians, some of them sporting Chelsea shirts, cheering Drogba’s  every touch (they love him out here).

Maanu Mbwami
May 16, 2010

Although I’m having a great time, enjoying the sights and sounds of Zambia, the main reason I’m here,  of course , is the book bus project. I’ve now completed two weeks of my four week stint. The work is extremely rewarding but quite tiring, particulary  given the temperatures here at the moment.  We have a thermometer on the bus which recorded  35 degrees last Thursday afternoon !

A typical day starts around 7.00am. First one up puts the kettle on, on the way to the showers. Following breakfast, cereal and toast, we wash up and do last minute prep for the day ahead. The bus  usually rolls  out of the campsite at  around 8.15 and we reach our school f or the day about 40 minutes later. The drive out is usually very pleasant, the sun is invaraibly shining but it is also the freshest part of the day.

At  9.15 ish we  receive the first of four groups, usually a maximum of eight children, and we work through continuously for 4 hours without a break.  We work in the grounds of the school sitting cross legged on straw mats, which we relocate from time to time to seek a degree of shade. The sessions are a combination of group reading, 1:1 reading and follow up art and craft activities. 

After everything is packed back on the bus we are usually on the way back to Grubby’s by 1.30pm, and arrive around  2.00pm. We have a quick sandwich lunch and then spend a further hour or so planning for the next day. By around 3.00pm the working day is just about finished. 

The rest of the afternoon is usually spent: doing washing, writing up our logs/diaries, visiting the internet cafe,  shopping and preparing the  evening meal, and trying to enjoy  a little bit of  sunshine. After 5.30pm the sun starts to set rapidly and it is dark by 6.00pm!  That is the worst aspect of the book bus experience. However it does mean we can enjoy our evening meal beneath beautifully starry Zambian skies.

Last week the bus visited the Maanu Mbwami Community School for the very first time. This school is someway out of Livingstone and previously the original  book bus could not negotiate the roads to  reach it.  However our  new heavy duty,overland vehicle can just about make it, even if the journey is excrutiatingly slow and bumpy.

Maanu Mbwami means Knowledge is Power! The children, teachers and members of the local community gave us a royal welcome. It is a community school which provides free education (as opposed to a  government school which charges fees). 

The population in Zambia is generally poor. Many families cannot afford to send children to government schools as they have to provide a uniform and pay for books and equipment. The teachers at the government schools are qualified but  are on strike at the moment as they haven’t been paid!

Teachers in community schools are  un qualified volunteers. At Maanu Mbwami, only the headteacher is qualified.  The Maanu Mbwami School, like most we have seen, is built of  breeze block and concrete, with a corrugated metal roof. There is standpipe in the yard which  provides water but there is no electricty in the main school building. The classrooms are bare, with an old blackboard and some bench seats and desks available, but not always enough for everyone.  There are little or no resources. They rely on donations of paper and pencils. One of the volunteer teachers asked for a biro whilst we were there! The book bus will be loaning some books to the school.

The school grows vegetables in its grounds and feeds the children whenever it can.They are dependent on the World Food Aid programme, which I’m pleased to say we used to raise money for at Naunton Park School. The school has recently acquired a maize mill which they are very proud of. This is electrically powered and is available for community use. Maize flour is used to make nshema which I mentioned in a recent posting and which is an essential part of the staple diet.  

Having said all of this the children and satff are very happy. As ‘Cowboy Cliff’  said to me yesterday,  “If we wake up,  the sun is shining and we have a little food on the table we are happy!”

Stanley’s Revenge!
May 12, 2010

The new book bus vehicle is now on the road  – hooray! It doesn’t look as good as the old one but they have promised to decorate it with Quentin Blake’s art work as soon as possible.

Yesterday and today we  trundled , bumped and bounced our way at snail’s pace to Linda Community School  where we received a tremendous reception form the local children. As the bus approached the school, children appeared at doorways  waving and shouting whilst others ran along side the bus escorting us to our destination. As we climbed down from the bus we were surrounded, all of them wanting to shake our hands and say, “Hello, how are you?”

We have been working with children in grades 4 to 7 , comprised of 10 to 14 year olds. Although they are teenagers many only have very basic English and their reading is not as good as the children we worked with at the orphanage last week.

My groups have been introduced to Roald Dahl’s  ‘Enormous Crocodile’, which they found quite difficult but they enjoyed making crocodile book marks!

Yesterday another group, working nearby, had been looking at a book about stars. They then went on to make their own stars and decorate them with glitter. Unfortunately Zambian children go mad for glitter. By breaktime the word had got around that the glitter was out and huge group of children descended on the two volunteers, grabbing the glitter and covering themselves in it!   

On our return to Grubby’s we all showered and donned our smartest clothes for a visit to the nearby Royal Livingstone Hotel where we indulged ourselves with ‘high tea’. It was very nice, and we managed to make a hole in the wonderful display of freshly made cakes, whilst sipping our tea from the very best china and being serenaded by the resident pianist. 

There was quite a stirr when a monkey managed to get iside and was chased by two of the waiters through the dining room and out into the garden.

The hotel stands on the banks of the river and within theMosi-oa Tunya National Park. As we arrived, by taxi, a couple of giraffe sauntered across the driveway in front of us.

As the sun began to set over the river we went down to the riverside terrace to partake of cocktails. A lot of them had a local theme. I passed on the ‘Livingstone I Presume’, which was whiskey based and settled for ‘Stanley’s Revenge’, a refreshing combination of grapefruit, cranberry and vodka.

As the sun set, and it sets very quickly out here at about 6.00pm , we could hear the falls thundering down river and see the clouds of spray being cast into the reddening sky.

Tomorrow we are booked on to a sunset cruise, with all inclusive barbecue and drink as much as you like bar  – could be interesting, particularly as we are in with Cowboy Cliffs pre-school children on Friday morning – but more of that later.

Unfortunately news has reached Zambia that Forest have been knocked out of the play-offs by Blackpool. Very disappointing but hopefully we’ll get automatic promotion next year.

I won’t even get started on the Cameron/Clegg alliance – very disappointing & I, along with a lot of others I suspect, feel let down by the Lib Dems!

Finally, it was great to log on today and find comments from some of the children in Severn Class at Naunton Park School I’m really pleased they  have been able to read some of my postings  and I hope I will be able to visit school when I return to England and tell them more about my time in Zambia.

Close Encounters at Chobe National Park!
May 10, 2010

At 6.45 am on saturday four of us set off for nearby Botswana and a two day overnight safari in the Chobe National Park. We crossed the Zambezi by a flat bottomed ‘ferry’ at a point where the borders of Zambia, Zimbawe, Botswana  and Namibia all converge. Each ferry can only take one lorry plus foot passengers. There was a five day tail back of lorries on both the Zambia and Botswana sides!

Our safari started with a boat  trip down the Chobe River (which merges with the Zambezi) where we saw hippos, elephants and buffalo by the water’s edge. We also saw fish eagles, a monitor lizard, crocodiles and impala.

Following lunch at the Chobe Safari Lodge Hotel we embarked on a four hour drive through the national park. There was great excitement and a furious clicking of camera shutters as each ‘new animal’ was spotted ( a bit like ‘I Spy Safari Animals’). It was an amazing experience and we were often with a few metres of the animals.

Chobe  has the highest concentration of elephants in Africa and I have to say we were getting quite blase towards the end as we encountered yet another elephant!  We also saw huge numbers of giraffe, impala, buffalo, warthogs and a whole range of beautiful birds including hornbills, eagles, vultures and even the secretary bird!       

Over night we camped in the park, just the four of us, Jonah our excellent, good humoured and informative guide and two guys who put up the tents and prepared the meals. We sat around the campfire spellbound by the glittering array of stars in the, light pollution free, night sky! 

During the night we were woken by lions roaring nearby.  The next morning Jonah told us they were less than 2km away!   After a 6.00 am breakfast we set off on another, 3 hour, early morning drive. Jonah tried to track the lions and we found their footprints remarkably close to our camp but unfortunately he was unable to find them, which was a bit disappointing.

After returning to camp for brunch – eggs, sausage, bacon, beans (the works!) we set of for another four hours drive through the park, as we headed back towards the ferry.

In total we spent around 12 hours driving through different sections of the park and 3 hours on the river. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. I would love to repeat it elsewhere in Africa, at one of the parks where the big cats can be more readily found.