How can one not see 600,000t of heaving, grey animal flesh? Botswana’s Chobe National Park is home to the world’s largest elephant population — up to 120,000 animals, weighing in at an average 5t each. So if you go there, you can’t miss them, right? Wrong. On a recent three-day trip, I didn’t see a single one. That’s almost unheard of in an area where elephant images dominate marketing material. Even Sedudu Island, which sits in the middle of the Chobe river and usually hosts "the greatest density of wildlife of any river system in the world", was almost unoccupied, except by hippo and crocodile. Timing, of course, is everything. Most of the year, animals are profusely visible. But when it’s raining hard, as it was when my party visited, they don’t need to come to the river. That doesn’t mean we didn’t see plenty of wildlife. We did — just not what we expected. Foreign tourists, who provide most of the trade for lodges along the river, might have been disappointed at the absence of ...

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