Jul 1, 2006

CHOBE, Botswana –  Captain Jost guns the launch straight at the crocodile, basking on a snag.

"Ooooooh, he's just a little baby," the guide Barbara coos. "Hel-lo bay-bee!"

The little cherub in question is a two-meter-long male. This accident report will be quite entertaining, I think. Unfortunately, I may not survive to snark about it.


Bay-bee swivels his long, flat head and flashes his teeth as we draw alongside. We all flinch.

"He's just cooling himself like a dog," Jost laughs.


That's how safaris go – an aquatic one in this case: incredible animals, straight from dreams and nightmares, heave into view. Buffalos glaring among the estuary grass. Hippos piled like river-smoothed stones in a mud wallow. An elephant child chewing the ground, still unclear on the finer points of trunk mechanics and table etiquette.

And pretty soon everyone's fighting over the chili-crusted cashews and the last bottle of Savanna.

That? Oh, that's just another impala.


The sunset – a sheet of gold and apricot – refocuses our awe. The land dwindles to a thin wedgwood strip, sandwiched between the sky and its reflection on the river.

From the lodge porch, I watch until the last pinhole of light dissolves. This is not just another night, but my first – perhaps my only ever – in Botswana.

You've come a long way, bay-bee. Now pay attention.

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