Final Days in Africa

Life at Vumbura Plains was pretty plush. There were lots of little touches that contributed. When we first arrived, we were asked during our orientation what drinks we preferred for sundowners. We said gin and tonic, please. Then they asked what sort of gin we’d like! Upon returning from each game drive we were greeted with a cool or warm (depending on the weather), moist, scented towel to wipe the dust from our faces and hands. The service was excellent. The kitchen produced delicious food and we enjoyed having some of our dinners and all of our lunches at private tables. Meals were less time structured than at Chitabe, which was relaxing. They had some delicious house roasted nuts at sundowners which we also found in the mini-bar in our room. In an effort to be more sustainable and cut down on the use of disposable plastic water bottles, Wilderness Safaris gives each guest a stainless steel water bottle to use during their stay, and of course to take home as a souvenir. As at Chitabe, all the buildings and walkways were raised off the ground, and the common areas looked out over the watery plain. The guest bathroom near the “lobby” also faced the view, which you could see quite easily from the throne since there was no wall on that side! The wildlife was everywhere. While being escorted after dark back to our room to freshen up for dinner one evening, our flashlights lit up a hippo grazing in the grass just below us. At night the sounds of the bush were everywhere, including right outside our tent.

On a couple of occasions the elephants made an appearance in camp during the day. Elephants are mezmerizing. They exude a sense of peace and a slow and steady rhythm in everything they do. It’s infectious. I was thrilled when one afternoon, as we were lazing about on our deck, I saw some elephants making their way along the camp heading towards us. They were eating and walking at a leisurely pace and soon they were right in front of us. Not only was it a fun photographic opportunity, but it was exciting to be so close to simply observe them.

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Michael viewing the elephants from the comfort of our plunge pool!

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Bath time!

Bath time!

The time of year we visited the Okavango Delta was not the wet season despite the fact that the rains were just starting. The wettest time is from June to August when the waters of the Okavango river flood the delta. There is water in parts of the Delta all year long, but when the floods come, it increases dramatically. Even though it was not flood season, we still travelled through water sometimes in the vehicles and you could get an idea of what it would be like with a lot more water.

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Here are some more of the birds we saw.

Ground hornbill

Ground hornbill

African fish eagle

African fish eagle

Hammerkop

Hammerkop

Slaty egret

Slaty egret

Helmeted guinea fowl or "bush chicken"

Helmeted guinea fowl or “bush chicken”

Marabou stork. He was hanging around the lions waiting for his turn at the kill.

Marabou stork. He was hanging around the lions waiting for his turn at the kill.

One afternoon we watched a giraffe take a drink. That may not sound like much but it’s a bit of an ordeal for the giraffe. First, because they are very vulnerable with their heads down low, they are very cautious about where and when they drink. This giraffe was constantly looking around for predators. Also, because of their long necks and the blood pressure that builds up when their heads are down, they can’t stay in that position for long. So giraffes tend to take a drink, stand up, take another drink, stand up, etc. They also don’t lower or raise their heads very quickly because that might wreak havoc with their blood pressure as well. The giraffe doesn’t want to pass out because he stood up too quickly!

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We saw more elephants on our game drives, including a mom and her baby and a big bull elephant who we watched methodically eating the bark off some branches.

Mom, looking to see if the coast is clear.

Mom, looking to see if the coast is clear.

Baby peaks out

Baby peaks out

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Grabbing branches

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Here are some photos of the sausage tree which I described earlier. Salami anyone?!

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On our last visit to see the lion family with their buffalo kill we saw them lounging and playing in a very peaceful scene. The cubs were so playful and tried to engage their uncle, who was really quite patient with them.

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Starting to wake up

Starting to wake up

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Everyone wants a good relaxing stretch

Everyone wants a good stretch

The cubs can't resist jumping their uncle

The cubs can’t resist jumping on their uncle

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taking a drink

Taking a drink. She did this about 3 ft. from our vehicle.

All that was left of the carcass.

All that was left of the carcass.

Here is an elephant that came into camp one morning just as we were getting ready to go out on our game drive. We are in the vehicle waiting until it is safe to drive off. It’s amazing that the elephants don’t do more damage to the structures, but they’re pretty good at avoiding them.

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On our last game drive we saw a lovely herd of elephants with young in tow.

Notice the baby you can see through her legs.

Notice the baby you can see through her legs.

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I really loved the elephants and could have watched them for hours. Particularly pleasing were the low rumbling noises they made to communicate with each other. It was an incredible sound.

The view from our deck.

The view from our deck.

On our very last morning we opted not to get up at 5:30am and go out on a game drive. We had seen so much already and had a very long journey ahead. So instead, we slept in and packed our things, had brunch and said our farewells. We were driven to the airstrip around 11am to catch our plane to Maun. Here is the pane that took us there. It was the largest of the three we took around the Delta.

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On the way to Maun, we stopped off at another camp to exchange a few passengers. Here are a few photos of the flight as well as one of Maun as we were coming in.

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Maun

Maun

The tiny airport in Maun was crowded and hot as we waited for our flight to Johannesburg. We had retrieved the extra luggage left with Wilderness Safaris without incident and finally boarded the plane for an uneventful flight back to South Africa. During our layover  in Jo’burg we managed to change into some clean clothes for our transatlantic flight and re-packed our bags a bit. We found our gate and boarded the plane for the 16+ hour trip to Atlanta. It was a long flight and a bit of a blur. We watched some movies, tried to sleep, and simply endured. In Atlanta we had plenty of time to catch our flight to Albuquerque, so there was no stress getting through customs, re-checking our bags onwards, and finding a proper breakfast. I think we slept some more on the flight to New Mexico and arrived in early afternoon after about 33 hours of travel. At that point we had to decide if we were going to make the 3 1/2 hour car journey to Durango or get a hotel room and rest up first. We decided to go for it and used our last burst of energy to drive home. Our dog was very happy to see us and our house sitter had kindly left a pot of soup on the stove. Whew! It was a relief to take a hot shower and relax after our travel marathon.

Long journeys by plane are always a bit surreal. Your body is confused about what time it is and you have the sense of being in limbo when you’re on the plane. It is always a bit of a miracle to arrive someplace knowing you woke up that morning somewhere else, very far away. The long journey to Africa was well worth it. What a fantastic time we had. I think about it all the time and try to remember the details and nuances of what we experienced. I’m so glad I have the photos to look over as a reminder, but they are not the whole of it. The sounds and smells and tastes and people are there too in my memory. Thanks for following along as I chronicled our journey. Your encouragement and support has been a real help. I’m not sure what’s on the horizon for my next adventure, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

Cheers!

Sarah

4 thoughts on “Final Days in Africa

  1. Thanks Jan! I enjoyed sharing it and of course experiencing the trip. It’s true what they say about Africa getting under your skin. I’d like to go back and see more.

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  2. Glad you are both safely home. I have LOVED “making the trip with you,” especially seeing the wonderful pictures of animals I won’t see “in the wild.” THANK YOU so much for including me in your blog. Love, Bonnie

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