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Zambezi Queen Cruise on Chobe River

This was the highlight of our trip!  Seeing animals from the water, meeting local villagers was an incredible experience!

Be sure to check out our previous post about Kruger National Park

We left the big city of Joburg to the wilds of the Namibia and Botswana.  The trip was among the most “interesting” we’ve ever taken. PXL_20230515_085953411 (1)After landing in the small, modern and easily navigated airport we landed in Botswana we headed to the river.  We lined up with passport at what can only be described as a cinder block shed to enter Botswana.  After a 5 minute small boar ride, we were transferred to another small shed where our passports were stamped to enter Namibia.  And then finally to the Zambezi Queen, a purpose built ship that cruises the Chobe river



The ship
We were on the ship for three nights and while each offered unique sites, they all followed a similar flow.  The ship is extremely comfortable though not particularly luxurious in the Four Seasons definition of luxury. Service is warm and attentive and much closer to reserved than pretentious.   The top deck is part lounge, part dining area where all meals are served.  Theres a total of 14 cabins (all airconditioned) so it takes no time at all to feel at home on the ship. So “at home” infact that there’s no locks on any doors – the honor system works just fine.  We loved not having to worry about taking our room key.  The food was uniformly excellent and varied.  We appreciated the history and geography the crew taught us about this part of the world as well as the pride they took in hosting us and sharing their story.

PXL_20230512_142203342 (1)The best way to describe the experience is to describe our first hour on the ship.  We took turns unpacking. When Dave was done he went out on the deck. Our cabin was on the lowest deck, in facing front (cabin 10), so we were at river level.  Dave watch at small herd of elephants start toward the ship.  As the elephants came closer and closer it was clear that they were totally unafraid of the ship.  One came so close that his truck could literally touch our railing.  Just then the captain backed the ship away.  It was a bit scary but also exhilarating to be so close to such a huge animal and a great introduction to the next few days.



PXL_20230513_131238251 (1)The ship basically runs three excursions per day: one early morning, one mid morning and one in the afternoon. All excursions use little motor boats that hold maybe 6 – 8 people.  We started each day very early for what they called a birding excursion.  The beautiful deep red sunrise was worth getting up for.  They also have photo excursions that use boats with seats that do a 360 degree turn and have equipment to mount large lenses on 35 mm cameras.  And all excursions  basically look for the same animals, though will go to different locations on the river where they are known to hang out. The birds (giant stalks among them) nest in several specific trees down river.  


PXL_20230513_145511857The guides know exactly where to find the animals.  Theres a huge difference between the land safari of Kruger and the river based safari on the Chobe.  On the Chobe, feels much more intimate for some reason and we were able to get closer to many animals.  I felt we could sit and watch the animals play or eat or do whatever they were doing more on the Chobe excursions.  There was also more of a peaceful sense being on the river.  



PXL_20230513_092611474.MPPXL_20230513_092304326.MPOne excursion we took was to a small village close by, where some of the staff on the boat live.  They opened the village and house to us and answered all questions. There’s no electricity or running water, nothing is paved and only one or two houses were built from anything more structural than mud and wood.  The kids go to school about a mile away.  They gave us a nice performance at the end of local song and dances while selling local crafts as well.  This was definitely not a tourist trap – it was very sincere, prices were reasonable, the village children were gathered to watch their parents dance and sing. 




PXL_20230513_152511331.MPThe days floating on the river were a terrific way to end the vacation.  Peaceful but powerful in the huge variety of animals we saw. From watching baby elephants wash and then try to get up a steep embankment, to hippopotamus making sure our boat stayed a proper distance away to seeing majestic giraffe lope across to birds that allowed us to come withing a few feet of them.


The overview post (here) covered the entire trip as well as our trip home from the Chobe river.  The Zambezi Queen was a highlight of the trip but in no sense the only one.  From Cape Town to Kroger to Joburg each segment provided a different glimpse of Southern Africa.  And no matter how many pictures you see, it’s never the same as the experience of being there.  It’s an experience to last a lifetime.

Africa Blog Post Links

Overview of our Trip to Africa

Cape Town

Kruger National Park


Chobe River Cruise


Here are some more photos...

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