Africa seeps into your soul somehow. We have been lucky enough to travel through several African countries and each one has given us a new insight into the heart of this fascinating continent. For me it is always watching the animals. Sitting quietly observing the daily habits of wild creatures is endlessly fascinating. Many times I have been scared out of my mind, others I have been enchanted by the antics of baby elephants, tiny lion cubs, frolicking antelopes and the hilarious little warthogs.
One day, however, is imprinted in my memory. We were in Chobe, Botaswana and had watched literally thousands of elephants day in and day out. This particular day we decided to observe them from the Chobe River and watch their water play. It was with some anxiety that I stepped into a little aluminium dinghy with two outboard motors and two African crew. They were going to show us some unusual sights deep along the river where “no one goes” they told us. Just what we wanted – watching quietly from another vantage point. Or so we thought.
After about twenty minutes, we stopped in the middle of the river and watched a herd of elephants coming down to drink.
Before long a couple of big males swam towards us, using their trunks as snorkels. It is one thing to be on land and close to this enormous creature and quite another to be in a small boat feeling very vulnerable!
However, it seemed they only wanted to play and so long as we left them alone, they were happy.
The river was also full of hippos – and these animals kill more people in Africa than any other, so we are told.
By now I was feeling a little apprehensive but had faith in our two African guides. Then the unthinkable happened. The motor in the boat stopped and the worried faces of our guides told us this was totally unexpected. We began to drift towards the hippos….
“Don’t worry, we will fix this,” they said and they fiddled around before getting the oars out and started to row towards the little sandy beach. Just then I saw a huge crocodile slide into the water from the opposite bank…
Really feeling a panic now, I decided the safest thing would be to get out of the boat and onto dry land and maybe someone could drive out to pick us up. The sharp African eyes suddenly alerted us – on the seemingly deserted beach, under a shady tree, lay two lions having a snooze with one eye on us!At first I couldn’t see them. Then real panic set in – we had elephants swimming and frolicking near us, a lot of hippos in the middle of the river, a huge croc on the opposite bank and two lions on the beach – and a broken down boat!
When it became obvious that the Africans didn’t know what to do, and there was no phone reception, we took the matter into our own hands and looked at the fuel lines of the boat. Fortunately years of owning boats in Australia had made us comfortable with the mechanics and the first thing Richard did was to check the fuel lines. They were blocked! After some rudimentary repairs, we got one motor going and slowly chugged back to our point of departure.
If you go to Africa, expect the unexpected and remember “Africa is not for Sissies” !