Africa 2017

West End, Chobe National Park

A Daily Dozen Post

Twelve photos of our day, selected from 616 photos.

Last time we were here in Botswana, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the west end of Chobe National Park. This time, we’re spending several nights out here, so we can explore this area more thoroughly. We’re farther away from the Chobe River; the flood plain is now a plain plain, where zebra and giraffe play.

One theme of the west end is “fewer,” in a “less is more” sort of way:

  • There are fewer tracks to explore. Mike figured it would be a shorter day today. Mike was wrong.
  • There are fewer animals. Fewer than a gazillion, however, is still a lot.
  • There are fewer people. Awesome! In fact, we didn’t see another car until late in the day when we came back to the main track, and then we saw just a few.

Gate 1

The fun started as we signed in at the two gates. Not one, two.

The first gate is on the paved road connecting Muchenje to Kasane. It’s the main thoroughfare, but it goes through the park. The two officials stood outside the hut, and when we pulled up looking clueless, one pointed and made hand signs indicating we needed to go inside the hut and sign in. Mike and I both understood the signed message. I nodded and waved back.

Inside the hut were four books clearly marked to sign in or out; one set for residents; one set for tourists. The two workers remained outside while drivers self-served. I was alone when I entered the hut, but I met a crowd as I came out. They were all going the opposite direction; none were coming into the park.

I had to register and sign in again a very short distance away at the park. I also had to pay 290 Pula (Botswana currency). I asked if they had change; although, I was pretty sure I knew the answer already. They did not have change. Yep, that’s what I figured. So I plopped my Ziploc of change on the counter. Two of the three people in the building gasped and asked simultaneously, “Where did you get that?!”

In this place where I am dazzled by multi-ton elephants and hippos and two-story giraffes, the locals are stunned by a bag of change. I pretty much always have a change bag on hand, even at home. It comes in handy, especially in remote places. I’d been collecting change during our three weeks in Maun.

As a woman filled out my permit, a man counted out 90 Pula in change to go with my 200-Pula bill. He deflated when I tried to thrust 20- and 10-Pula bills on him, and I asked, “You’d rather have the change?” He brightened and said “yes,” so I took the small bills back and let him count some more. That put a major dent in my stash, but we’re headed to Namibia next and won’t need Pula for a while.

I’ll grant ya, Muchenje is some distance from a bank, but it’s no farther than Glacierview, AK, is from Palmer. And no one has change. They didn’t have change at the Park office on the east end—and there are banks there in Kasane. I’m willing to cut the west end some slack, but not having change on the east end is lame.

The Park!

And then we were in the park, exploring all the sandy and rocky 4WD tracks on the maps and our GPS.

We started with all the usual suspects: Impalas, warthogs, kudu, birds, etc. Just because I’m not showing pics of them doesn’t mean they aren’t important or appreciated, but the self-imposed 12-photo limit means I can’t show everything, so I’m sticking with the coolest and most important stuff. For instance, I’m sure you don’t want to miss this:

A Dead Giraffe

Dead giraffe, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Haven’t seen one of these before

Watching animals die in predator/prey situations can be traumatic, but once an animal is dead, I find the carcass interesting. I was thrilled to discover this dead giraffe; I hoped it would satisfy my urge for a good size assessment. I keep hoping one will stand close beside the truck—or beside me at something like an Elephant Sands for giraffes.

But this didn’t work at all to satisfy that urge. It turns out a prone giraffe does not present a good idea of the size of a standing one. Would someone please stand this thing up for me?

It was still fascinating, though, to see it so close. I’m thinking this one just up and died on its own, as opposed to being killed by a predator. The neck and legs were uneaten, and I would expect a prey animal to be pretty well consumed. But I’m just guessing.

Did you ever think that maybe an animal carcass could make a nice house?

No? Then I suspect you’re not a skink.

Striped Skinks

Striped skink in giraffe skull, Chobe National Park, Botswana

“Mornin’, Ralph.” “Mornin’, Sam.”

I have to say, I like the idea of a picture book with characters that live inside a skull, go to school in a rib cage, and so on.

Based on my animal guidebooks, these appear to be two male striped skinks in bright mating colors.

Double Dung-Beetle Balls

Dung beetles on dung ball, Chobe National Park, Botswana


Say it out loud: “double dung-beetle balls.” It’s fun to say, no?

You met Sisyphus, the dung beetle, in a recent post. We see a good many dung beetles, and have been known to turn them over when they get stuck and flail about on their backs after crashing into lights or other mishaps, but today we saw dung-beetle pairs. This photo isn’t a one-off. We saw a dozen or more of these today: two dung beetles on a baseball-sized dung ball. In every case, one dung beetle did the handstand and rolled the ball while the other rode the ball, round and round, wobbling this way and that, and sometimes being rolled beneath the ball.

What is up with that?!

Are these mated pairs? Just friends? Will these dung balls feed twice as many young? Is the rider navigating? Do they take turns pushing?

Inquiring minds want to know, right? As a result, I think there will be a solo, more in-depth post all about dung beetles. Although, I don’t suppose the local in the parking lot of Spar (grocery store) who scolded me for turning a dung beetle right-side-up will care to read it.

I’m not the only one who thinks dung beetles are all right . . .

Banded Mongooses

Banded mongoose family, Chobe National Park, Botswana

They can’t see me—they can’t see me—I’m pretty sure they can’t see me . . .

. . . banded mongooses think they’re yummy!

None of these are actually eating a beetle in the photo, but all of them would.

You know who else dines on these giant beetles?

Lilac-breasted Rollers

Lilac-breasted roller, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Such cool colors!

Yep, these beautiful, bright birds snarf down dung beetles. I imagine that, like the mongoose, the bird doesn’t eat the crunchy exoskeleton, but rather breaks into the soft insides.

Ground Hornbill

Ground hornbill, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Down the hatch

Now check out this ground hornbill. See the black blob near the front of his open maw? This guy is throwing back a dung beetle, exoskeleton and all. Nom-nom-nom. Gulp.


Jackal with prey, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Mmmmm, a delicious rat!

Since we’re on the subject of yummy food, including elephant poo . . . .

This is one of three pups following a mama jackal across the plain. The three little ones stopped for a few bites of fresh elephant poo, and mama kept moving right along. She disappeared in some brush and was gone for a while, returning with a long-tailed something—probably a rat—in her mouth. She dropped it on the ground in the vicinity of her offspring and trotted off again.

I don’t know how the three pups decided which one would get the rat—I didn’t see any rock-paper-scissors going on—but it was not shared.

Note: This also goes down as the first rat we’ve seen in Botswana! I wish I knew exactly what kind of rat it was.

Kudu and Babboon

Kudu and babboon, Chobe National Park, Botswana

“You kids kudus get offa my lawn!”

Okay, that’s just funny. Imagine this kudu in the babboon’s yard, browsing on lovely ornamentals.

This is a tiny babboon, not a giant kudu. I think the babboon looks Photoshopped in, but it’s not.

Hot Croc

Crocodile on the grass bank, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Hot croc

Not a hot pot or a crock pot, just a hot croc. The open mouth is a cooling action, but I have to believe it’s not as effective as submerging in the river, which, yanno, is Right There.


Giraffe standing, giraffe sitting, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Giraffe and a half

When it rains, it pours. Here’s another sitting giraffe! Did my book lie to me? Is this not as uncommon as the book made it sound? I’m watching, and I’ll let you know how often I see giraffes sitting. This is twice now, four giraffes, total, which, given the number of giraffes we’ve seen, isn’t all that many. Huh. Maybe my book didn’t lie, after all.

Get a load of the giraffe head, looking up from under its chin. It looks a bit like a puffer fish, don’t you think?


Zebra stripes, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Plain stripes

Such cool patterns!

Babboon Baby

Chacma babboon baby, Chobe National Park, Botswana


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