February 18th, 2012

Planet Bao Bab sits at the edge of Makgadikgadi Pans and is a beautiful resort made with love and care. It is managed by a South African couple and truly is eye candy. The campsites were amazing with a little grass roof gazebo to set our tent under and the bathroom facilities were the best of our travels. Every little inch of the place was beautiful. The huts were made to represent Botswana`s traditional homes with mud walls, grass roofs and walls painted in beautiful designs. The pool, the bar, the washrooms were inspring to the eye.
 It`s also considered the Bao bab capital of Botswana. If you`ve ever seen a bao bab tree you would know that it is big and impressive. It`s also known as the tree of life,  bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread treeĆ©  Some have been around for 4,000 years.  They are fascinating and their branches can hold up to 120,000 litres of water.  At 5 to 30 metres high and at a diameter of 7 to 11 meters this tree is to be reveared.   Their trunks are fire resistent and mature trees are hollow and can provide shelter for humans and animals alike.  Although we didn`t see it, we did hear of a bao bab tree that was once used as a jail cell. 

The staff at Planet Boa Bab were super friendly and nice.  One waiter told us that in his little town of Serowe there is a legend about the bao bab tree that says that if one climbs it`s trunk up to the top they will not return as they will join their ancestors.  The tree itself bears fruit and right before leaving the lodge we got to taste it`s sourness.  
These trees are ancient and have stood their ground before the egyptians, the greeks, before Jesus and way before we ever came to be.  They were here when people were living primitively  along side nature, living in sync with the Earth.   The indigenous people of Botswana are called the San people or the Kalahari Bushmen.  Very few remain as the government has located them from the desert to small villages.  In a weeks time we will be visiting these amazing people and learn how to live in the dry, arid climate of the desert.

February 19th, 2012
We are camped in Kasane at the very edge of Chobe National Park in northern Botswana.  Our tent is but 200 meters from the river where crocodiles and hippos live.  From where I sit by the camp fire I can hear the hippo`s laugh and at times some splashing.  Although they are not visible from where we are, we definitely can hear them.   The only thing that separates us from Chobe national park and it`s animals is an electric fence that does not work.  A guard comes around every hour to make sure that we are safe from any predators.  Back in Maun we heard a story of a man camping at the same sight our tent now sits.  Unfortuantely he decided to set up his tent right by the river`s edge and that night a big crocodile had him for supper. 
We are here at the peak of the rainy season but have been really lucky so far with only minimal amounts of rain.  The guide books we`ve consulted all say that the best time to visit Botswana is in the dry months of May to September.  We are finding that being here in the rainy season has it`s advantages.  For one thing it is not busy and there is no need to book a year in advance for camping sites, lodges and a permit to visit the parks.  The other reason being that everything is so lush, green and vibrant.  This also has it`s disavantages as wild life is much more difficult to spot through thick foliage. The animals are also dispersed  as there is water everywhere. In the dry months of winter, animals gather at water holes which makes wild life viewing so much easier.  Despite these disadvantages we are seeing plenty of game and #having a fantastic time.  I must admit that it being summer it can be extremely hot. It can get as high as 45- 49 degrees!
Travelling reminds me that we are always taken care of, that things always fall into place.  On our drive to Kasane we discussed doing a self-drive into the park.  Since we have no 4 x 4 experience we did not want to do it alone.   When one ventures out into the park they have to be very prepared with extra food, water and fuel.  The roads are sandy and during the rainy season can be very muddy with water coming right over the hood of the car.  These conditions  make getting stuck very probable and if you get stuck on a road that is very quiet you could wait a week before anyone comes by.  We have heard stories of people getting stuck in the mud  or breaking down and to never be seen again.  There is a rule here in the wild`s of Botswana and that is to never be more than a certain disatnance from your vehicle.  Rule number 2 is `Whatever you do, don`t run`.
One story really stands out in my mind.  An elderly couple went out on a self drive adventure, they broke down and the husband decided to get help.  He got help and on the walk back the rescue party got mauled by a pride lions.  I realize that stories don`t always stem from truth and regardless the moral of the story hits home;  don`t be stupid,  the wilds of Africa are bigger and stronger than you.

Tonight as we were setting up camp we met a couple of South African blokes that are traveling here with their wives and families.  Hine is native to South Africa but him and his wife have been working in the Okavango Delta managing a 5 star lodge.  Conrad lives in South Africa with his wife and 2 children and manages a small game farm. Both men have great knowledge about the wild and we were very honoured to have them invite us to do a game drive in Chobe naional park with them in the morning.  So there we were hoping for a self-drive through Chobe and our wish was granted with a convoy of three vehicles through the sands of Chobe national Park.
February 20th, 2012
Today`s game drive was awesome!  Jay naviagted the Land Cruiser through the sand with no effort and found it easier than we  had thought.  The smile on his face denoted the fun he was having and my smile matched his.  So far we have met lots of South Africans and they have all been very nice, friendly and ready to give a helping hand or information.  Hines, Conrad and their families were wonderful to be around and had great stories.  What really stands out for me is everyone`s passion for the bush. 

We ate lunch at a designated picnic area by a river with stone picnic tables surrounded by small biting ants.  We had to put our feet on the chairs to save our skins from the stinging bites.   We ate under the shade of tress and conversation flowed easily.  It was our hang out spot for the better of an hour.  Off in the distance we could spot an elelphant grazing in the field and as the minutes passed more and more epiderms revealed themselves.   Soon they were but 500 yards away not giving us any notice.  Conrad``s wife was scared because she had been charged 3 times by an elephant in the past.  These elephants didn`t want anything to do with us and it was awesome to just sit back and observe these massive beasts.
February 21rst, 2012
Victoria Falls is one of the seven wonders of the world.  It is double the size of Niagara Falls and we took a day trip to Zimbabwe to have a look at the most beautiful expanse of water ever.  

February 22nd, 2012
We spent a night camped under a tree at Savute Camp in Chobe National park.  The minute we arrived and started unpacking the car a yellow hornbill perched himself on our food box and started picking our bread bag apart.  With a piece in his bill he flew up to the hole in our nearby tree and poked his head in.  I immediately picked up the book entitled `Whats `that bird and leafed through the pages to find out the following: ``When she nests a femael hornbill uses mud and droppings to seal herself into a tree cavity with the help of her mate.  She leaves only a small slit into which food can be passed.  While incubating the eggs she depends on her mate to feed her as she undergoes a complete moult of her flight feathers and is temporarily flightless.``  We then observed that our hornbill kept flying from the hole in the tree and off to get food.  He was not bothered by our presence what so ever.
The  drive here was super fun.  We drove convoy with a German couple that we met last night.  We drove at 30 km an hour, the car fish tailed as we made our way through sand tracks.  The best was when we splashed through great puddles of water and mud.  The sound of our laughter could be heard over the sound or our wheels splashing through mud and water.  The Germans drove a fully equipped land rover and startled a few elephants so that when it was time for Jay and I to drive by he or she was quite agitated.  She raised her trunk and belted out a warning trompette sound of anger.  We were as startled as she, She was hiden by a tree and we didn`t notice her until the very last minute.  She could have rolled the car over she was so close.
Our other elephant encounter happened in the same fashion.  Robbie and Suzie (germans) ahead of us startled an elephant and by the time our vehicle passed the epiderm was angry and showed his emotions with a big trumpet and charged towards us. He was so close that his trunk could have went through the window and given Jay a big kiss.

Chobe hosts approximately 120,000 elephants so we got to see many of them.  This afternoon after setting up camp an elephant came and walked right through our camp site.  We stood near our car doors just in case we needed the security of our car.  He walked but 10 feet from where we stood and rubbed himself up agains the same tree which the hornbills inhabited.  This elephant was huge like double the size of our land cruiser.  As we watched him rubbing himself up against the tree I was grateful for having moved our tent from under the tree.  We thought the tree gave perfect shade for our tent but a park official came to us asking if we could move our tent as elephants liked to rub themselves against the tree.  Phew.

That night I had the scare of my life.  Our elephant friend came to visit us again.   We were snug as a bug in a rug in our tent when we heard his rubblings.  He was right by our tent and I was soooooo scared.   We sleep in a 2 man tent which seems so small compared to this big beast.  I pictured him stomping on us, sitting on us and basically killing us.  We could hear a noise and it sounded like he was moving our chairs and tables outside but we soon realized that he was rubbing himself against the tree again.  He stuck around for what seemed forever and I was shaking.  I don`t know how Jay could fall asleep but he did and I woke him up stating that i wanted to go sleep in the land cruiser.  Of course that wasn`t an option.  The only possible thing to do was to lay still and listen to the activities jsut outside the vynil of our tent.   I was litterally shaking.  He left and throughout the nigth I could hear him walking through the stream that was but a few yards away.  As scared as I was it was amaizing to be so close and to hear all his sounds of grumbling and even gurgling.  I had never felt so intimiate with an elephant before.  I slept on and off that night and was sad to leave the next day.  I really wanted to stay another night and get comfortable with the animals that surrounded us.
On our way out with drove through the Savuti Marsh and drove through a zebra migration.  There were thousands of them dotted along the road and it lasted for about 2 km. 
The next part of our story will have to wait.  We did spend a night with the Kalahari Bushmen and it was amazing.  The tale will have to rest until we come back from our mountain bike safari.  Until then here are some pics.  love,
Annie and Jay

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