On our trip with CNP Safaris in mid-April, on the last afternoon of our trip we decided to travel up the Chobe river past Elephant Valley to have a look at the section of the river that flows passed Serondela. I have been up to this part of the river many times before but never when the water levels were so high. So we were all intrigued to see how the high water had changed the river bank – we were in for a big surprise!
“I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire.
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.”
Just past the Chobe Savannah Lodge on the Namibian side of the river, we found this vivid Southern Red Bishop perched on a reed. It is unusual to see a shimmering red colour along the river bank, so we drifted closer.
This little character watched us and seemed quite content on his perch in the sun. Surprisingly, you do not find many Red or Yellow Bishops along the river bank despite many patches of reeds which are ideal for nest sites.
For those of you who have not been along this part of the Chobe river, you will not realise how unusual and how high the water level was. It was two or perhaps even three metres higher than the normal mid-summer level.
“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.”
These trees normally do not have their feet in the water.
Further up river we came across a pair of Lilac Breasted Rollers. They had a nest in a dead tree stump which they were jealously guarding against all comers, from boats to fish eagles.
A fish eagle was perched on a dead tree close by and this pair of rollers dive bombed as they saw it as a threat.
You can see from this fish eagle’s full crop that it was just perched, soaking up the afternoon warmth and was no threat to the rollers.
These are exquisitely beautiful rollers especially when they open up their wings. I have never seen Broad-billed or Purple Rollers along this part of the Chobe river.
A little further along we found a few Green-backed Herons. They seem to be less skittish along this part than further down river closer to Kasane.
Normally, when travelling on the boat you would never be able to see over the river banks.
“Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.”
The width of the river widened considerably creating new open patches of water in some places and in others, new channels.
Down along this densely tree-lined section of the Chobe river close to Serondela, we found a small flock of Black Crowned Night Herons. This is the resident family on this part of the river. They are usually crepuscular and nocturnal, so it is unusual to see them in the early afternoon. They normally start emerging from the deep shade around last light.
Along this section of the river the bank is lined with Natal Mahogany, Jackal-berry and Rock-fig trees. The rock-figs seemed to like their feet in water and their contorted, exposed roots systems conjure up images of the “Ents” in Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the rings’.
The Serondela section of the Chobe river is lined with a dense grove of trees for about two kilometres. Then it opens up onto flood plains and sandbanks.
There is nothing at Serondela other than a camp site but is a marker for the outer reaches for our afternoon journey. On our way back we stopped to photograph this majestic fish eagle who put on quite a show for us.
It is one of nature’s miracles and immaculate engineering to be able to unpack a wing of such immense size and structure with the fingers of an artist feeling the wind.
We found one lone “dagga-boy” standing on top of a sand bank chewing the cud, accompanied by a bevy of Red-billed Oxpeckers. This old buffalo bull was vulnerable along this section as it is well-known for its lion activity.
A White-crowned Lapwing flew with us along the river’s edge for about one hundred metres.
It was making sure that we got out of its territory.
On the way back to Kasane, just past the densely lined treed section near Serondela, the trees thinned out towards Puku Flats. Normally, we would not be able to see the elephants on the far side of the river. Just beyond the water lilies is usually dry land.
Two young elephant bulls jostling with each other. It was hot and the clouds were building but it never rained. The clouds provided a wonderful, dramatic background.
Again, for those who have been along this stretch of the Chobe, you will be amazed at how high the water level was. It would not take too much more to completely flood Puku Flats.
On our way back to Kasane just past Elephant Valley, we came a cross a small family of Kudu which had come down to drink and en route were browsing on the lush vegetation close to the water’s edge.
It was late afternoon and soft pinks and purples began to colour the sky and water.
The evening colours start to reveal themselves as the sun started to set softening its strong light. This is a sublime part of the early evening when you want to just sit, be quiet and appreciate the exquisite beauty.
“I am in love with this world . . . I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, crossed its deserts, felt the sting of its frosts, the oppression of its heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.”
Just before the sun sets the colours in the sky intensify, a colour-filled climax where there is greater contrast and drama in the sky.
By this point we are almost back at the lodge at Kasane. The sun had set but the sky was on fire.
I hope this sequence of images convey the mood, diversity and at times, unusual scenes we were fortunate to experience and photograph that afternoon. I always come away from times like these on the river with deep gratitude for the privilege of being able to see such abundance and beauty.
“For the 99 percent of the time we’ve been on Earth, we were hunter and gatherers, our lives dependent on knowing the fine, small details of our world. Deep inside, we still have a longing to be reconnected with the nature that shaped our imagination, our language, our song and dance, our sense of the divine.”
~Janine M. Benyus
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.