Day 4 of the bush safari segment of our tour began with an early start and a long road. I knew this would be our longest driving day. Even though the miles were not great, Botswana's roads leave much to be desired. And even thought our safari vehicles were considerably more comfortable than the Namibia "Battle Bus," I expected a long, tiring, road day. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn our entire drive would take place in Chobe National Park - another of the great game viewing venues of Africa. It was more like a day-long game drive than the dusty, bumpy, enervating trek I anticipated. Sometimes I love being wrong on a tour.
The day's highlights, while still exciting for us, were mostly repeats of game I have already written about. But I will mention we saw ANOTHER cheetah! Inconceivable. This was the cheetah tour for sure! Also, we saw our first kudus. These are the largest of the African antelopes and very colorful too.
Their redish-brown bodies are brightly accented with black and white markings on face, neck, and hindquarters - and the whole ensemble is crowned with majestic twisting horns. Really quite elegant and striking animals (and good to eat too). We saw them at the very end of the day as we approached Kasane in the north-east corner of Chobe and the late afternoon light made them even more enjoyable.
Additionally, we saw Sable Antelope, another large, dramatically black antelope, similar to the Kudus in size and majesty. One other "spot" was not of the fauna variety. We saw our first Baobob trees. Wow - are they ever big. No wonder so many African legends and stories revolve around a Baobob. Almost as exciting as seeing one of the Big 5!
While the game viewing was still fantastic this day, I must confess the real highlight was man-made: Kwalape Lodge. I was expecting another rustic, permanent tent safari camp like Mogothlo. Instead, Kwalape is more like a mid-range resort.
We were greeted by the excessively charming Ompile (who went by the nickname of OP to make it easy on us) who welcomed us to the lodge, gave us the logistical run-down, and directed the staff in assisting us to our accommodations. And what accommodations they were! Most were in permanent tents - but you would never know you were in a tent: pictures on the wall, air conditioning, TVs, mini-bars, and beautiful, large, attached, brick and mortar bathrooms.
It was a standard of safari elegance unanticipated, therefore serendipitously pleasing. And I haven't yet mentioned the beautiful swimming pool, welcoming bar, big bonfire pit, and 2-story Boma dining hall - all tastefully laid out in rolling terrain and connected by concrete walkways.
But honestly, I wasn't even thinking about the facilities when I mentioned Kwalape as a highlight. That event came after dinner. I had arranged for a performance by a local music/dance group. After another huge and filling buffet dinner we retired to the bar where the staff had arranged the seating to create a stage-like venue. Then the fun began. We enjoyed one of the best performances I've ever seen anywhere (or at any price). This group was nothing short of spectacular! Half men and half women, each side played off the other in "story-telling" musical pantomime. They had no musical instruments, not even a drum. The entire musical portion was acapella voices accompanied only by clapping, stomping (some with noise enhancing ankle wear which produced a maracas kind of sound), and the slapping of some calf wraps that produced a dull thumping sound. I recorded it and intend to upload it to the Imprint Voqul sight when I get home in June (www.voqel.com). I can't ever remember being so swept up by a performance. I could barely contain my impulse to jump up and join them (which I'm sure would have been welcomed - perhaps I'll try it next time around). And best of all, I've never seen a group that seemed to enjoy performing as much as these people. They looked like they were having the time of their lives - and I believe they were. I wish I knew someone in the entertainment business in the US. This group could storm the country like an African "riverdance". What a show! What a day!