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Getting Close to Lions, Botswana


Botswana is an expensive destination and we were, therefore, determined to cram as much safari time as we could into our two-day stay at Kasane, the main gateway into Chobe National Park—or, more precisely, the Chobe Riverfront section of it. We were on a self-drive trip from Windhoek to the Victoria Falls, but had left our Hilux behind at the border crossing between Namibia and Botswana. Taking it into Botswana would have greatly added to the rental costs and also involved a fair amount of paperwork.

So for any land-based exploration of the wildlife, we had no choice but to book a safari vehicle with a driver/guide. In fact, that had already been arranged well in advance through the lodge where we were staying. We were extremely lucky in that we ended up with a superb driver who knew the park inside out and also did not need any suggestions from us about where and how to position his vehicle to get good shots.


Prior to our safari drive we had already taken a couple of boat trips on which we saw large herds of elephants and encountered huge crocodiles as well as numerous water birds. So our driver set out to show us some of the animals you do not usually see from the boats, such as big cats—most notably lions.

The large male lion in the two photos above had been snoozing when we found him. He spent a few minutes looking us over, but then lay down again to catch up on his beauty sleep.

The three females we found shortly afterwards also seemed to be tired and only one of them stirred when we approached.


The driver told us that they would only become active after sunset—which was about an hour away at that time. However, the park would be closing then. So we (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to get up very early the next morning to come back for a sunrise drive.

Remarkably, we found the three lionesses in roughly the same area and this time they seemed to be in hunting mode.


Our driver parked the vehicle in what I initially thought was not really an ideal spot for close-up photos. However, as I said, he knew the terrain and the animals very well and after a short while the lions started to walk right towards us, finally passing within a metre or so of the vehicle (without paying much attention to it or, indeed, its passengers).


We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and succeeded in getting some decent photos (almost without using the zoom).


When, wanting to get closer to the lions, a number of other safari vehicles started to approach, we decided to leave—to have the coffee we did not have time for before we left the lodge.


In addition to a flask of coffee our driver had also brought some biscuits and they soon attracted attention.


As you can see, the vehicle provided seating for up to 9 people and if you book a safari drive on the spot you are likely to find that you are sharing it with a number of other people. Obviously, interests differ and you might not get to see the animals you wanted to see or move away from a viewing location before you are ready to do so. You may also end up with lots of photos of other peoples' heads and arms. Whilst booking a vehicle for your exclusive use is undoubtedly more expensive, it may not be as unaffordable as you might think. Just ask!


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