Stuck in the Jungle

When I left home in July 2016, I only knew 2 things: I was gonna be away from home for a long time and my first destination was Brunei. I would travel around South East Asia, but had no idea where I would go exactly. You can have a lot of fun in South East Asia, but after a few months I realized that I had enough of it. Too much of the same and too commercialized. I wanted a destination more adventurous, a place where I can really go out exploring instead of being surrounded by dozens of selfiesticks and where I can talk to locals who are truly interested in talking to me.Elephants Chobe National Park

While I was putting random destinations into Skyscanner’s search engine for a 100 times I suddenly found a flight for 70 euro to Africa. I couldn’t resists such bargain and a few weeks later I found myself in Southern Africa. You can’t leave Southern Africa without seeing any wildlife. Each country in Southern Africa has several National Parks where you can see wildlife either in their natural habitat or in sanctuaries. I didn’t want to see wildlife in any form of captivity, so I decided to avoid all the sanctuaries and National Parks with fences. I intended to visit a National Park in Zambia, but didn’t make any concrete plans until I had reached Zimbabwe.

It was in a hostel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe when I met 2 cool Dutchies who were considering to visit Chobe National Park. I had considered this park  before, and within an hour plans were made and a car was rented. Chobe National Park in Botswana is said to be one of the best National Parks in Southern Africa. There’s a high density of wildlife and  4 of the big 5 can be seen here.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

A river flows through Chobe that seperates Botswana from Namibia and Zambia. A typical safari in Chobe consists of a river cruise and one or more game drives. I couldn’t be more excited to see a wide variety of wildlife from both land and water. We decided to do the game drive first and do the river cruise at sunset. We had our own car and the gravel roads in the park seemed all straightforward.

Chobe National Park

It didn’t take long before we withnessed the first wildlife. We saw antilopes, hippos, buffaloes and many bird species. We had been driving around for more than 3 hours and were really excited about the wildlife we had seen when we decided to return to the village for the river cruise, although we had not seen any elephants, giraffes and lions yet. We were aware that it was rain season and it is normal to see less wildlife.

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When we entered the park we were told that you normally spend around 2.5 hours to see it all, but we found that we could have spend a lot more time. It was the first time for me to go on a real safari, apart from the few hikes in areas with no carnivores. I found driving on those gravel roads and watching the wildlife spectacular. I heard stories about other national parks where the vehicles pretty much drive in a line, but we had seen only 2 other cars in those 3 hours. In order to make it to the cruise in time, which we had already booked, we had to go back.

There was one main gravel road through the park which we had been following the whole time, but there were several roads back to the concrete road and they were clearly marked. We drove back to the concrete road, but the gravel road got worse and worse. We nearly got stuck in the sand, but managed to stay out of trouble and decided it was wiser to return and go back another way. Due to this detour we were lucky to see monkeys for the first time in Chobe.

We drove back and tried a different road, but this time we got stuck for real. We only had less than 2 kilometres left till we would have reached the main road when our 4×4 couldn’t handle the amount of loose sand anymore. We got stuck and neither managed to drive back. We kept our heads cool and tried to think of a way to get out of this situation. We had to get out of the car at this point. There was no other way to escape. Not a very comfortable thought when you realize that lions, other carnivores, elephants and other dangerous animals are roaming around here and they could appear at any time. We tried to find wood or other stuff that we could put under the wheels so that the car got grip again and we could drive ourselves out of here. But nature wasn’t any help. Despite all the trees around, we couldn’t find any decent wood. We put under the car what we could find, but it didn’t work. I then got the idea to put the rear shelf under the wheels. It was the only thing we had in the car that could be any help. But again, it just wasn’t enough.

Stuck in the sand
Stuck in the sand

We realized that this was not going to work. We had about 2 hours left before lions and other carnivores start hunting, so we had to find a better solution. Considering the amount of traffic we had seen elsewhere in the park it was unlikely that anyone would find us here soon. We decided that we had to walk the remaining part to the concrete road and flag down a car for help. We knew it was an insane idea to walk for about 2 kilometres through the jungle, but we thought it was the best idea. We were putting everything back in the car when we suddenly saw a car far away.  We knew that whoever it was, we would be saved. It happened to be park rangers.

Neither they had any tools to get our car out of the sand. But now we were with more people, we all pushed and managed to free the car. We were happy for about 2 seconds, when the car again got stuck. We pushed again, but a few metres further the car was stuck again. It seemed a mission impossible for us to get out by ourselves, so we let the ranger driver our car. The ranger has  a lot more experience in driving off-road and drove our car back to the concrete road. Due to the ranger driving our car, someone else had to drive the safari vehicle, so my friend was lucky to drive that one.

With our saviours
With our saviours

We couldn’t be more happy to be back on the concrete road safely. It had taken more than 1.5 hours to free the car since we got stuck. We were very fortunate that the rangers just passed by and realized it could all have ended much worse. The river cruise had already departed, but we didn’t mind. We were safe and on our way back we got the see many elephants from the concrete road.

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