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

Lions, Leopards, and Cheetah, Oh My!

Vumbura Plains delivered on the big cats in a big way. Not only did we get to see the lion family with the buffalo carcass on a daily basis, but we saw several leopards, a couple of cheetah, and other lions, including some that were hunting. It was a big cat fest as far as we were concerned, and we realized just how lucky we were when we met an American man stationed in Gabarone, Botswana, who had been on safari numerous times, and still had never seen a leopard, despite his fervent wish to do so.

One of our leopard sightings was a beautiful female lounging in a tree. The light was decent for once, at least until she turned the other way! After watching her for a bit we got to see her climb down the tree and go hide in the bushes. An approaching troupe of baboons was the cause. You would think a leopard in a tree would not have reason to fear a few baboons, but in reality, she was in grave danger as they could easily have overcome her. Baboons can be fierce aggressors and a lone leopard is wise to seek cover. Here are some photos of that gorgeous lady.

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One of my favorite photos from the whole trip.

One of my favorite photos from the whole trip.

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On the way down.

On the way down.

Peaking out from her hideaway.

Peaking out from her hideaway.

We also came across two cheetah brothers who were having a siesta on a termite mound. We watched as they stretched and moved off through the grass to a different termite mound in search of more shade. Though they looked very relaxed, it was clear they were keeping a keen eye on their surroundings.

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Shade was the order of the day.

Shade was the order of the day.

Me and my cheetah friends!

Me and my cheetah friends!

There were, of course, other wonderful things to see besides the big cats. We had a lovely experience in a watery plain watching as two male kudu made their way towards us. With the engine off, we sat in silence, listening to the splash, splash of their steps and admiring the reflections of these magnificent beasts in the water. It was very peaceful.

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Another favorite photo.

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Another time, while out on the western edge of the concession that is used by Vumbura Plains, we had just spotted a secretary bird, which I was trying to photograph, when a sable antelope dashed out from behind a bush and ran away. I missed the secretary bird, but just managed to catch the sable. They are very rare so I was quite pleased to see one, even if only briefly!

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Here is a smattering of other lovely creatures we saw while at Vumbura Plains.

Mongoose living in a termite mound behind our tent.

Banded mongoose living in a termite mound behind our tent.

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A bachelor herd of impala.

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A bateleur

A bateleur

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A vervet monkey

A yellow-billed kite

A yellow-billed kite

Crocodile amongst the flowers.

Crocodile amongst the flowers.

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Cape buffalo

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Red-billed oxpecker

Red-billed oxpecker

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One morning after transferring our English companions to another vehicle so they could go to the airstrip, we had Ben all to ourselves. He had heard there were some lions who had been following a herd of buffalo for some time, so we went in search of them. First we found the very large herd of buffalo who were accompanied by many birds taking advantage of the bugs stirred up by their passage. Then we found the lions. There were three of them perched on a termite mound keeping an eye on the herd, or more likely the older male stragglers.

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As we sat and watched them, a couple of older male buffalo got closer and closer. Ben told us that if the lions took off in pursuit, we should be ready to hold on tight as he would try to follow. Not long after, the lions got up and started off into the long grass. It was hard to believe the buffalo weren’t aware of their presence as they were so close. We saw them spread out and slink through the grass, incredibly well camouflaged.

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The males watch as the female closes in.

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Finally, it all happened in a flash. The lions charged, the buffalo took off, and so did we. That was a wild ride! – two hands on the roll bars and big grins on our faces. The lions missed and the buffalo lived to graze another day, but it was very exciting to see first hand.

After the chase.

After the chase.

The next day we came upon yet another male lion waiting out the heat under the shade of a tree. He was a splendid sight and posed quite obligingly.

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Next time I will share some photos of the incredible elephants we saw and heard and other fun things from our time at Vumbura Plains. Until then, be well and thanks for reading.

Chitabe In Pictures

At Chitabe camp in the Okavango Delta of Botswana we saw so much wonderful wildlife it’s hard to pick only a few photographs to post. There was a huge diversity of animals and birds and it seemed that new and exciting things were around every corner. One morning we came to a water hole where quite a few marabou storks had gathered along with egrets, white pelicans, herons, and other water loving fowl. There was a hippopotamus carcass nearby which probably accounted for the storks as they are scavengers. We also saw many living hippos at the water holes.

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Marabou stork

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It was the beginning of baby season in the bush and we saw beautiful wee creatures wobbling around after their mamas. In fact, we happened upon a wildebeest with her newborn calf mere seconds after she had given birth. We watched for about ten minutes as the baby struggled to stand up and take its first steps. That’s all the time it took before they were making their way back to the herd.

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Piglets!

Piglets!

The whiskers on this young warthog are to fool predators into thinking he has big tusks!

The whiskers on this young warthog are to fool predators into thinking he has big tusks!

Tsessebes with youngsters

Tsessebes with youngsters

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Giraffes get darker as they age. This young one is quite light colored.

Giraffes get darker as they age. This young one is quite light colored.

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On the way back to camp one morning we heard a ruckus in the bushes next to the road. When we went to investigate it turned out there was a python moving about under a tree. A very brave dove was keeping an eye on things! When there is a snake nearby, birds and squirrels will make a lot of noise to let the others (and the snake) know it’s been spotted.

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Another morning we spent some time trying to find some lions that had been spotted in a certain area. Having been unsuccessful in finding them and having nearly gotten stuck in the mud in the process, we were headed back to camp for breakfast when we just happened upon two leopards lying in the shade on a termite mound by the side of the road. How convenient! It was a mother and her son. They were panting from the heat and posed very obligingly for us.

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We also saw more wild dogs at Chitabe. On the first occasion they were relaxing in the evening before rousing themselves and setting off on a hunt.

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Play time

Play time

Setting off into the bush

Setting off into the bush

The second time we saw them they had just gone for a cooling dunk in the mud at a waterhole and were settling in for a late morning nap. They looked very strange with the mud plastered over parts of their bodies!

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There were many beautiful birds and we were able to see many of them enough times to start to learn their names.

Lilac breasted roller

Lilac breasted roller

One of my favorite birds

One of my favorite birds. So colorful!

Ground hornbills

Ground hornbills

Grey louries, also called the go away bird because it makes a sound like someone saying "Go Away!"

Grey Go-Away-Birds so called because they make a sound like someone saying “Go Away!”

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Crested barbet

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Hammerkop

Hammerkop

African fish eagle

African fish eagle

Here are some pictures of our first Baobab tree. They are enormous, but not immune to the damage that elephants can do.

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We also saw more leopards including a female lounging in a tree who decided to come down, and a young male cub also in a tree who was hanging out waiting for his family to come back.

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When I first spotted this young guy he was watching us from the crook of a tree.

When I first spotted this young guy he was watching us from the crook of a tree.

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There were plenty of cape buffalo as well as elephants to provide us with exciting encounters.

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I will leave you here with the spectacular sunrise we saw one morning. Next up will be lions and traveling to our next camp.

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The Teaming Wildlife of Chitabe

As I mentioned before, there was no WiFi or internet access at Chitabe. However I did take some time to write about our experience in the moment. Here is what I wrote along with more photographs.

“Our time at Chitabe has been quite peaceful. We have fallen into the rhythm of safari again and appreciate the slight changes in the schedule that Wilderness Safaris uses as opposed to the lodges in South Africa. Wake up is 5am again, with gathering at 5:30. Then we have some coffee and a bite to eat before going out at 6am. Brunch is at 11am and so far we have not come back from morning game drive much before that. We like having brunch and not both breakfast and lunch as you really can’t comfortably eat that often anyway. I have found I have been looking forward to some food or a snack at every opportunity instead of feeling always full. Tea is at 4pm which leaves a nice chunk of time after brunch in which to relax, nap, shower, or do whatever appeals. We depart at 4:30pm for evening game drive, are back around 7:30 or 7:45pm, and dinner is at 8pm. Meals are taken communally at one big table with the other guests. The tradition of morning coffee and evening sundowners while out on game drive continues. The food has been fresh and good and the quantities sufficient without being overwhelming. All this is quite a feat as we are out in the middle of the bush with only weekly and monthly food deliveries.”

Here are some photos of Chitabe camp. All the buildings are raised up off the ground and connected by wooden walkways.

The communal lounge area.

The communal lounge area.

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Firepit gathering place

Firepit gathering place

Michael at the gorgeous wooden bar.

Michael at the gorgeous wooden bar.

“Our tented room is certainly bush luxury– two sinks in the bathroom, indoor and outdoor showers, a huge mosquito netted bed, wood floors with rugs, and nice artsy touches. We latch the doors to keep the baboons from ransacking our room while we’re out and there is no AC, only a fan. We do have a view of the savanna woodland in front of our lodge and pretty good privacy. All in all it’s a treat.

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The view from our deck.

Our guide is Gordon. At Wilderness Safaris you have a guide only, no tracker. Gordon is Batswana, meaning he is from Botswana, the country. He has been doing this for twenty-five years and seems relaxed and patient. He knows a lot and has a good sense of humor. Since we arrived later than expected we were driven out to join the game drive already in progress on our first afternoon. Our companions are an American couple from Baltimore, Robert and Arlynn.

The game here is plentiful, more abundant than we’ve seen anywhere else, and very concentrated. The landscape is much more open than South Africa was, with sweeping views of the palm studded grassy floodplains, marshy areas, acacia woodland and lovely trees. You can look out and see giraffe, zebra, and impala all at the same time, dotting the landscape. I especially like the trees. We’ve seen Marula, African Ebony or Jackelberry, Baobab, and the aptly named Sausage tree, which has large fibrous pods hanging from it that look, for all the world, like great big whole salamis!

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We’ve seen a laundry list of game, birds, and predators, including a cheetah. Since we hadn’t seen a cheetah yet, I really wanted to tick that off. There are lots of hippos, large herds of buffalo, and elephants. The birding has been extraordinary with storks and cranes and other water birds adding to the raptors, seed eaters, and bug eaters. I’ve been learning to identify many of them and it’s great fun. Another fun thing is that it’s baby season. The rains are just starting and the impala have begun giving birth. Baby impala are adorably cute as are the warthog piglets. We even saw a newborn wildebeest take its first steps. I will tell a few of the game drive stories as I add the pictures.”

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A very muddy bull elephant.

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Impala

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One thing that amazed me about our time on safari in both South Africa and Botswana was the ability of the guides to deliver what we wanted. Perhaps we were just lucky or maybe we have good karma. At any rate, we saw a tremendous amount of wildlife with many spectacular and dramatic sightings. When we got to Chitabe Gordon asked what we wanted to see. I mentioned a cheetah as I hadn’t seen one in South Africa. Cheetah can be a hit or miss proposition but Gordon pulled it off. In fact, in Botswana we saw several over the course of our time there. The lightest of the big cats, they are long and lean and build for speed. They are the only ones whose claws do not retract in order to give them better traction while maneuvering in the chase. Here are some photos of our first encounter.

First spotted in the distance under the tree.

First spotted in the distance under the tree. Look closely!

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The termite mound he’s lying on gives him a better view of his surroundings.

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Marking his territory by spraying a bush.

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He decided to move to another termite mound and we followed.

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The claws.

The claws.

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Nap time!

Nap time!

You can see the cheetah on his mound in the background.

You can see the cheetah on his mound in the background.

In my next post I will continue with more photographs and a few stories from our game drives. Thanks for reading!

Botswana Here We Come!

Dear gentle and patient readers,

Sorry for the hiatus in posting. The holidays, winter illness, and life in general have slowed me down. However, I do promise to finish the tale of our journey in Africa.

The day we left Cape Town bound for Botswana we rose early and collected a packed box breakfast from our hotel since we were too early for the served breakfast. The drive to the airport was easy and fast, and the car rental return was both close by and quick. Cape Town’s airport was refurbished and updated when South Africa hosted the World Cup soccer championship in 2010. It is of a good size and modern without being too big. Because we had rather a lot of luggage, a porter helped us into the terminal from the car rental return which is in the parking garage adjacent. He was quite a character! He was the #2 porter at the Cape Town airport and had been working there for at least fifteen years. I am sorry that I did not write down his name. The porters have numbers that are given to them when they start work, so there was only one other porter who had been there longer. With his assistance we found the VAT Refund desk, took care of our business and located the check in counter for our Air Botswana direct flight to Maun, Botswana. The re-packing of our luggage after showing purchases to the VAT desk was a bit comical! I quickly determined that it wasn’t all going to fit in our suitcases. So we found a luggage shop and bought a cheap duffle bag. This solved the space problem but we still spent some time on the floor of the airport with all our bags open rearranging things to protect the fragile stuff. A rather bemused ticket agent looked on. Sometimes when you find yourself in an embarrassing situation when you travel you just have to suck it up and accept it.

Fortunately we had allowed plenty of time to accomplish all this and had no trouble checking in for our flight and finding the gate area. Unfortunately our flight was delayed. They never told us why or for how long. We just sat there until they finally called us for boarding. It turned out they had decided to switch equipment and use a smaller plane. Even so, it wasn’t totally full. The bad part was that after a delay to board the flight, the smaller plane took at least an hour longer to make the journey (prop vs. jet). So in the end, we arrived in Maun, Botswana quite late. Maun is a small town with a tiny airport that serves as a gateway to the Okavango Delta and its safari lodges. The lodges in the Delta are mostly accessed by small plane so Maun is where you pick those up. After clearing customs in Maun we were met by the staff of Wilderness Safaris. They were quick to take our extra luggage for storage, give us bottles of water, and stand in line for us to check in for their flight to Chitabe, one of their lodges in the Delta and our first destination. They hurried us along through security and out to the waiting plane with one other couple. The weather was looking a bit iffy with a thunder shower headed our way and clearly they had been anxious to get us out of there. I sat in the co-pilot’s seat with Michael and the other gentleman behind in two seats and the other woman in the back seat. You couldn’t have fit any others the plane was so small! We taxied and took off just as the rain started. Lightning flashed occasionally and I wondered if little planes ever got struck. To his credit, our pilot did a masterful job and we flew away from the storm and over the flat landscape about 20 minutes to the landing strip near Chitabe.

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Do I look nervous?

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Tiny plane! We made it!

The landing was smooth, the sun was out, and there was a Land Cruiser waiting to take us to camp. Jonas, a guide in training, welcomed us, handed us the personal, chilled, reusable, stainless steel water bottles we would use during our stay, and drove us to camp. Along the way we had our first taste of safari in Botswana – open plains, savanna woodland, water, and lots of animals! Just on the drive to the camp we saw zebra, giraffe, impala, elephant, and baboons.

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Still some clouds nearby.

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When we arrived at camp we were greeted with singing and warm hospitality. We were a good deal later than they had planned, but they still had tea waiting for us and we sat down with one of the camp managers to get oriented and learn the schedule. Then we were shown to our tented “room” to freshen up and urged to return soon to go out and join the afternoon game drive which was already in progress.

Since there was no WiFi or any access to the internet at Chitabe, I was unable to do any posting while there. However I did write a passage about our time and will share that along with more photos in my next post.

Onwards to Ngala

After our final game drive at Londolozi we had one more scrumptious breakfast, packed our bags, and said our goodbyes. Amos from Sable Tours picked us up and drove us the 3 and 1/4 hours to Ngala Private Game Reserve in the Timbavati region.

 

It took us an hour on dirt roads to get to the tarmac. Along the way we continued to see animals in the bush. As we left the Sabi Sand region behind we began to pass what felt like “real” Africa to us, the real world. Flying straight into Londolozi was magical, but it's a bit like being in Neverland. We saw square homes built of grey brick the size of cinderblocks. Many yards were fenced with wire to keep animals out. People were walking along the roads. One village we drove through showed signs of damage. We presumed it was from the recent hail storm. The corrugated tin roof of a church had been peeled back like a tin of sardines. I noticed a lot of laundry hanging on lines to dry. What stood out was the color coordination. There was a lot of pink and red clothing, however, uniformly, colors were grouped. You would see all the pinks together, all the whites, all the reds, blues etc. I found this color organization quite pleasing to my inner sense of order. After a couple of hours we entered the Krueger National Park through the Timbavati gate. All of a sudden there were giraffe and elephant appearing near the road. Ngala is a private reserve with unfenced borders to the rest of the Kruger National Park.

An hour or so later we arrived at Ngala Safari Lodge. We were greeted by the soft spoken Ruth with a cool towel to wipe the dust from our faces and a glass of juice. Given, a man with a ready and winning smile, showed us to our cottage– he was to be our waiter and butler for the remainder of our stay. We decided that we didn't need lunch since we'd had such a good breakfast, and it really wasn't that long until tea. We settled into #17 and a bit later, headed over to the main deck area to have tea and meet our Ranger. We discovered that the thatch roof of the cottage protruded rather dangerously into the walkway leading up to the entrance. It was all a matter of angles, but since Michael is 6'3″, we felt this would inevitably lead to a bleeding wound on his head. At tea we spoke with Stephen, the camp manager, who also happened to be at least that tall, and he agreed to move us to #16, which had an easier entrance. We did this in the morning.

Our Ranger was Bernard. He offered us some refreshment and gave us an overview of the reserve asking if there was anything in particular we wanted to see. We rather sheepishly explained that we'd had incredible luck at Londolozi and had already seen the Big Five, but I admitted I'd like to see a big male lion. We were joined by a family group of Germans, father with son and daughter, who had just arrived from their international flights. Another couple had not made it there yet, so it was just the 5 of us on the vehicle that first night. Our Tracker was a local Shangaan man named Jimmy. We set out in the late afternoon sunlight for our first Ngala safari.

 

On the Trail of the Elusive Leopard – part 4

After getting our fill we left the leopard in peace and moved off through the bush to find a suitable spot to have a cup of tea or coffee. On the way through the bush we saw a Verreaux's Giant Eagle-Owl sitting in a tree. It had bright pink eyelids which you could see when it blinked! The light was very dim so my picture is not the best but you can see the pink eyelids.

These game drives are quite civilized as they always stop along the way to offer refreshment. Out comes a small table and table cloth, cups, drinks, and snacks. In the morning it's tea or coffee or hot chocolate with cookies or rusks. Rusks are a sort of homemade thick granola bar–very tasty!

The rest of our game drive that morning brought more birds such as the African Dipper, and the Violet-backed Starling. We also had a wonderful time observing some giraffes and saw warthogs and more rhino. By the time we got back to the lodge for breakfast it was at least 10 o'clock. Breakfast was phenomenal followed by a bit of rest and then a late light lunch. Pretty soon we were gathering back for tea and to get ready for the evening game drive. It's a grueling pace of sleep, eat, game drive, eat, nap, eat, rest, eat, game drive, eat, sleep. In the next post I'll give an account of the unexpected events on our very exciting late afternoon game drive, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Violet-backed Starling

 

 

Chasing Wild Dogs in the Rain – part 2

Here is a continuation of my previous post:

We were shown to our cottage by Cavin who will be taking care of us in the dining and bar area for meals and drinks etc. Londolozi has five camps strung out along the Sand River. It’s one of the oldest private reserves in South Africa and was founded in 1926. A ferociously dedicated family run outfit, it serves as a model for other lodges and reserves. Pioneer Camp has only 3 suites and is either a very private setting for couples or can be taken altogether as a terrific family or group lodge. At the moment there are only five of us staying here. Loraine and Allan have one of the other suites and the third is occupied by a single American woman. This makes for a very intimate atmosphere. One of the things that sets Londolozi apart is the personal nature of the experience and the incredible level of service, not to mention the beautiful setting. You will never feel crowded at an animal sighting here and there is an amazing variety of abundant wildlife. Here are a few pictures of our stupendous suite which features an entryway, living area, beautiful bedroom with mosquito netted bed, and enormous bathroom. There is also a large deck with a plunge pool and an outdoor shower. We have big picture windows and great views of the bush.

 

After dropping our bags in our suite and taking it all in, we returned to the main lodge area just adjacent to have lunch on the deck. How nice it was to finally relax a bit! After lunch we did some unpacking and then returned for afternoon tea in preparation for our first safari drive. We have found there is certainly no lack of fabulous food and drink here. One thing is for certain, we will never go hungry and most likely will be adding a few pounds if we’re not careful! Kate met us for tea and showed us maps of the reserve to give us an orientation. After an ice coffee for me and a gluten free mini cheesecake, it was time to be off. It was just the four of us with Kate and Life. We climbed into our Land Rover with comfortable, padded, elevated seats and were handed sturdy ponchos in defense of the possible rain. Life sits up front hanging just off the front of the hood in a special tracker’s seat and Kate drives. I’ll try to get a picture of Life’s perch later to show you. It has been much cooler here than I anticipated which, actually, is not unwelcome. I donned my own rain jacket almost immediately and not long after we all donned ponchos. It was drizzly off and on, but we never got seriously wet or were uncomfortable despite being out in the elements. Kate mentioned that a pack of wild dogs had been spotted earlier in the day and that we would head off in that general direction to see if they were active. Wild dogs are quite rare and although they have sometimes had a den site on the Londolozi reserve, this pack’s current den has been moved further off. So the prospect of seeing wild dogs was apparently an exciting one. I say apparently not because we didn’t consider it exciting, but more because as safari neophytes, we have no real frame of reference for how rare it is. Along the way in search of wild dogs we saw giraffe, a leopard tortoise and some white rhino, along with countless birds.