Caprivi Strip, 2014 Part 4

by david on March 25, 2015

The Pride Of The Zambezi

After shoving off in the launch, the first words from our pilot’s mouth immediately brought a huge smile to my face. “How about a Tafel?”, Victor asked. For those of you that do not know, Tafel Lager is a Namibian beer, which goes down extremely well. He must have known my answer from the look on my face. He was already handing an ice-cold bottle to me before I could answer. It was great. Being on the water has always been and always will be one of my very favorite things, and having a cold adult beverage makes it even better. As I was still enjoying that first swallow, he eased down on the throttle and we were off down the Chobe river. As we cruised along the river, I noticed the fancy high dollar resorts and houses along the riverbank. It was not really a surprise, as waterfront property anywhere is premium property and normally holds premium buildings. What was a surprise to me was as soon as it was out of sight and we were past the town limits of Kasane, the wildlife came into view.

In the next 30 minutes I saw more elephant and buffalo than I had seen in all of my other trips to Africa combined. They were everywhere. There were not hundreds but thousands of them. Did I mention they were simply everywhere? It was impossible to take a picture that could capture the scene. No matter what kind of wide angle or telephoto lens you had in your camera bag, it would not have been up to the task. The river banks and bottom were wall-to-wall critters. The ones close to the banks were readily identifiable, while the ones further away looked like grey rocks moving about. Since we were on an eyeball-to-eyeball level with the animals it was impossible to get any quantitative count – everything all ran together. It was like one of those films we saw in science class as kids. You remember the one with the amoeba. It was sort of like that one large mass of life moving about coming together for a moment and then moving apart. They were individual cells, but appeared as one when viewed from a distance, and we were getting both views at the same time. It is illegal to hunt while in a boat and, as a result, the animals had no fear of our launch. Victor was able to take us to within 10-15 feet of buffalo and elephant. It required constant diligence to make sure we were not inside the comfort zone of these animals, but Victor was good at his job. Thus, the animals ignored us for the most part. It was particularly cool to get close to the elephants, and by close I mean you could hear them breathe close. Add in a smattering of plains game, and the panorama was stunning. This went on for the entire length of the trip. I am still in awe as I think back on the experience. In hindsight, I am glad it was winter and there were no insects flying about because I am sure my jaw was hanging open and I would have ended up with a mouthful.

As we rounded a bend in the river, our lodging for the next few days came into view. It was the Pride of the Zambezi (POZ from now on). Our launch swung around to the rear and pulled up to the landing deck so we could disembark. As we did, the deck immediately swarmed with staff offering extended hands for balance. We stepped off onto the houseboat. While our luggage was being taken to our berth, Janice and I were given the nickel tour. We were extremely pleased and somewhat taken aback by how plush she it was. The POZ was three floors, with a single berth on the top deck for extra privacy. To use their term, the middle or main deck is the “heart” of the boat, with the dining, sitting, viewing, and bar all framed by sliding full-length glass panels on three sides. The kitchen is tucked in the back out of sight and earshot. The lower deck has four more berths and ours was in the front of the boat with its own private deck. It was really, really nice.

The crew had held lunch for us and we were grateful since it had been some five hours since breakfast. After lunch, it was time for the second excursion of the day (one after breakfast and one after lunch). Even though it sounded like fun, we were tired and elected to stay on board the POZ and enjoy some R&R. After making our intent known, the rest of the guests made their way to the launches and headed out for some game viewing.

Janice and I headed below deck and changed out of our traveling clothes and freshened up. We made our way back to the main deck and found some wine waiting for us. This was a new experience for me and one I want to repeat fairly soon. We were sitting in the lap of luxury, coursing down the Chobe river with glass of wine, watching wildlife peacefully grazing as we passed by. The sliding doors were open to offer just the right amount of breeze. We saw more elephant and buffalo. There were also plenty of impala, giraffe and kudu. Glimpses of hippo, crocodile, and lion also come into play. It was absolutely incredible. What a way to spend an afternoon. I did not think it could get any better. I was mistaken about that, but that is tomorrow’s story.

At about dusk, the rest of our shipmates returned from their excursions and we were regaled with tales of their sightings of birds and other wildlife. Best of all was their sighting of a leopard on its evening prowl along the riverbank. While the sunset put on a spectacular display of just about every color in an artist’s pallet, we continued to swap stories and get to know each other a little better. The conversation carried over into a very nice dinner, and afterwards we planned tomorrow’s activities. It turns out there were 10 of us on board – two more couples (one on their honeymoon) and a family of four with two daughters about the age of my girls. I sort of regret not bringing my girls along on this trip as they would have gotten along famously. The conversation and company was good and the night went by quickly. Next thing I know it was past my bedtime. Since we have a full day tomorrow, Janice and I excused ourselves and headed to bed. What happened next could be described as a perfect storm of sorts. A hot shower, a soft bed, warm covers, the gentle rocking of the boat, topped off with the gentle slapping of the waves on the ship’s hull were more than I could stand. I don’t even remember closing my eyes

An unexpected pleasure on the launch (web photo) An unexpected pleasure on the launch (web photo)


My better half and our pilot Victor.  My better half and our pilot Victor.


Elephant viewing by launch. Elephant viewing by launch.


Up close and personal. Up close and personal.


The "Pride of the Zambezi" our home for the next 4 days.  The “Pride of the Zambezi” our home for the next 4 days.


Our stateroom Our stateroom


Our private balcony allowed for up close game viewing.  Sometimes I wondered if it was too close.  Our private balcony allowed for up close game viewing. Sometimes I wondered if it was too close.






Previous post:

Next post: