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Trip Report Back from Namibia, Botswana and Vic Falls

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Hello everyone,
I have been back almost a week from the most wonderful trip of my life. Africa was everything all you Fodorites said it was, and more. I can't believe I waited so long to go where I've been wanting to go for years. But I am now officially one of you and have been seduced by Africa's beauty and mystery, and all its other attributes! I can't wait to go back!

Some of you asked about the Great Namibian Journey and I'm happy to report that it was wonderful, as was the rest of the trip, including Migration Routes in Botswana.

There is so much to tell and I will try to get a report together soon with more details. In the meantime, I can begin by saying my SAA awards flight turned out great, as I had an empty seat next to me going and coming. So it was a lot more comfortable than it might otherwise have been.

I enjoyed using my new Canon S2 and thanks again to all who recommended it and advised me on its use. I think I got some great shots altho' I've only seen them on the LCD. Will try to install the software on the computer this weekend and post some of the highlights. I did notice that it's possible to zoom in and magnify photos in playback on the LCD - I hope I'll be able to do that on the computer and edit the pics. Yes?

Welcome back to all who have returned in the last few weeks. I've enjoyed the reports and pics that have been posted and hope to make my own contributions soon.

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    Panecott,

    Welcome back - I can't wait to read your trip report and see some of your pictures.

    I will be doing the Great Namibian Journey in early August. I have one little question at the moment: did you see Chris Bakkes at Palmwag Rhino Camp?

    Greetings,

    Johan

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    Thanks, everyone. Wish I could say I'm glad to be home!
    Johan, I envy your upcoming Great Namibian Journey. You are going to love it! I hope your are fortunate to get Douw Steyn as your guide. He was wonderful.
    To answer your question, no, I don't believe I met Chris Bakkes at Palmwag. There was a young woman, a substitute, managing the camp when we were there. I think her name was Sue, and I'm pretty sure there was no Chris.

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    Here is the first installment of my trip report. I've been writing for some friends who are not safari goers, and have tried to adapt it for all you Fodorites, for whom much of it may be superfluous. I apologize in advance if it gets too tedious.

    Safari Remembrances: My Magical Mystery Tour of Namibia, Botswana and Vic Falls:

    I had the most wonderful time of my life and have been seduced by Africa's beauty, mystery, people, scenery, wildlife, food, serenity. I stayed away for so long because I thought this was to be a once in a lifetime trip, but now I want to go back again and again! There is so much to see and experience there. Oh, to dream! For now, it's back to reality.

    I was in the wilderness for most of the trip and loved every minute. Every day was a new and wonderful adventure, and sometimes we went for an entire day or longer without seeing another vehicle. I saw the most beautiful and colorful birds and some animals I never knew existed (springbok, waterbuck, kudus, oryx). I even ate the last two (taste just like steak) and had curried crocodile (just like chicken).

    We saw herds of elephants, hippos, zebras, cape buffalo, many different types of antelopes, a few lions, jackals, ostriches, one snake ( a puff adder), pelicans, eagles, two rhinos flirting, giraffes, two huge crocodiles, baboons, monkeys. I'm sure I have left some out.
    An elephant came right into our camp one day in the Delta, and it was so amazing to be riding along a dirt road and suddenly see a lioness walking along the road a few feet away (Savuti), or a male lion with its prey (a dead zebra) on the side of the road (Palmwag). We saw two elephants fighting just a few feet from our vehicle one evening in Linyanti (a little too close for comfort, really, but awesome to see).

    We stayed in tented camps for most of the trip, with an occasional lodge or hotel thrown in. In Swakopmund, Namibia, we were down the road from Brangelina. I was hoping to get the first photo of the baby and sell it to the tabloids, but our timing was off just a bit. :-0.

    After a fun boat ride on Walvis Bay and a delicious lunch at Pelican Point, we went for a wild roller coaster ride on the sand dunes in a 4 x 4. Some of those dunes were high, and the drop was vertical! A bit scary at first, but great fun.

    In Namibia the camps were quite comfortable, with beds, mosquito nets, private baths, verandas that looked out forever. The tents were far enough apart to give a feeling of isolation and at night you'd hear the sounds of the wilderness, the calls of the birds and animals amid the silence.

    In Botswana, it was a bit more rustic, little domed tents with cots and mattresses and down comforters (for the cold nights), and outdoor bucket showers. All the cooking was done on fires by the staff and the meals were incredible.
    Every evening's entertainment was "bush TV" - sitting around the fire, and star gazing. In the mornings they'd have a big pot of "jungle porridge" cooking by the fire, along with ham and eggs and freshly baked (on the fire) bread. Not exactly "roughing it", but for a first time camper like me, it was about as rough as I wanted to get for a week. Some of our camps were near the water and at night it sounded like the hippos were right outside the tents.

    The sky was incredible at night - I saw the Milky Way for the first time, Jupiter, the Southern Cross, Scorpio, many shooting stars. The guides were great, and extremely well versed in the wildlife and astronomy, and could spot animals from what seemed like miles away. Truly amazing.

    The trip ended in Victoria Falls and I stayed on by myself for 2 extra days. The falls are awesome, 3x higher than Niagara, and 1.7 km wide. I saw some crazy Japanese guy bungee jump from the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe. I got vertigo just looking at the small jumping platform that extended from the bridge!

    My hotel, the Zambezi Sun, was right behind the falls and my room faced them. I couldn't see the falls because of the vegetation but I could see the huge spray and hear the thundering waters all night. I left my curtains open and could watch the spray and the sky from my bed. One morning at sunrise the spray was blue, then it turned pink - so beautiful. And one night I woke up around 2 am, and the moon was shining thru' the spray, along with some stars. What a sight!
    I was told there's a lunar rainbow at the full moon, which must be awesome, but unfortunately, I missed it by a couple of days.

    I could go on and on but I think this is all for now. I took over 3000 pictures with my new Canon S2 Sadly, my favorite film camera, which I also took along, died on the third day.
    I'm going to try and post the highlights on that Kodak site and will post the link when I figure out how to do it. It may take a while to get thru' them all, but in the meantime, it'll be fun reliving the whole experience. To be continued.......

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    And here is Part 2

    One thing that struck me throughout this trip was how consistently gracious and courteous the service was, everywhere I went. There was never a single sour note on the entire trip. You are made to feel so welcome and special everywhere, and the hospitality is so genuine.

    I took two separate safaris in Namibia and Botswana. There were only 6 of us on each trip, an ideal number, and fortunately, both groups were compatible and congenial. In Namibia, there was a Swiss couple, a German couple (the wife spoke little English, but had a wonderful, dry sense of humor and constantly made me laugh), and an American doctor from Dallas who was traveling without his wife, and me - and all of us were around the same age, or at least the same generation. We all hit it off, were all interested in stopping for every photo op and got along great. Everyone was courteous and considerate, and also funny, friendly and laid back. It was like traveling with a group of friends and the extra seats in the 9 seat safari vehicle made it very comfortable.

    Our guide, Douw, was wonderful -- a young Namibian man of Dutch ancestry whose family had been in Namibia for generations. He had such passion for the wildlife, and the scenic beauty, which just enhanced our enjoyment. He played the harmonica and sometimes serenaded us by the campfire, and also sang. He knew all the words to that song "El Paso" and sang it for us one night - very amusing. His accent sounded just like Sean Connery.

    On our very first day, driving to our destination, we spotted oryx, herds of springbok (which became my favorite antelope - so beautiful, delicate and graceful) and a martial eagle with its prey, another bird, on the side of the road. We stopped and the eagle flew to a tree and started peeling the feathers off the bird. It was fascinating to watch. It was a great start to what was to be a series of wonderful sightings. And we also had a beautiful sunset with dramatic clouds the first night.

    Most of the camps are small, with about 6-8 tents, and at all but a few of our stops, we were the only ones there. At Kulala Tented Camp, our first stop, there was a young Spanish couple traveling on their own. They were lovely, joined us for dinner, and we ran into them again later on in the trip. It was all very pleasant. The isolation and remoteness of the camps was part of the enjoyment, and we rarely saw another vehicle on the road.

    It’s hard to say which was my favorite camp, because they were all special, but perhaps it was Kulala, since that was my introduction to the wonders of the African wilderness.

    Our first stop at Kulala was the Sossusvlei sand dunes, the highest dunes in the world. We awoke very early to catch the early morning light on the dunes, which creates the most beautiful and dramatic shadows on the orangey sand - a photographer's dream! We took a hike up one of the dunes, which was fun, altho' hot and strenuous by midday. The scenery is amazing and we spotted some oryx, springbok and a family of ostriches with lots of chicks along the way.
    All of my travelmates went ballooning the next morning. I opted to sleep in and enjoy the quiet of the camp and did not regret it.

    Namibia is a land of ever changing landscapes and endless blue skies. We drove through mountains and plains, sand dunes, hills, valleys, and plateaus, stark lunar like areas and some rich with vegetation and wild flowers.

    Because of the heavier than usual rains this year, the grasses were high and plentiful. We were surrounded by fields of silvery golden grasses which glistened in the sunlight and moved like waves in the wind.
    At Swakopmund, on the Atlantic Coast, the desert sand dunes extend right to the ocean -- it is only one of a few places in the world where that happens.

    We took a boat ride from Walvis Bay near Swakopmund and were followed by flocks of pelicans, and some seals. Some of the seals climbed right into the boat. At the end of the ride we were greeted by our host for the day, a charming young man, Cronje, who had a wonderful lunch set out for us on the beach, which started with a tray of fresh oysters. He was the one who later drove us miles along the deserted beach and then on the dunes.

    During our wild ride on the sand dunes, we came across a puff adder, the snake with the fastest bite in the world. Apparently, it can strike in a fraction of a second and the venom takes effect immediately, causing damage that resembles a decomposing body. We met a woman in one of the small villages who had lost her foot to a puff adder bite. One of my travel mates was a doctor and it was kind of comforting to have him along -- just in case.

    Much of our time in Namibia was spent in long drives to our next destination. We made numerous stops for sightings and photo-ops and usually arrived at the camp after dark. Upon arrival at each camp we were greeted by the staff who welcomed us with trays of cold drinks and wet towels. Although the drives were long they were completely enjoyable and never boring or uncomfortable. There were two nights at each camp, except for one night at Damaraland, and three at the Skeleton Coast.

    The only thing I would have changed about the Great Namibian Journey is I would have liked more down time to enjoy some of the camps. Because our days were so chock full of activity there was little time to just sit and relax! (I can’t even call it a drawback because there was no downside to this trip) but I think an extra day at Damaraland and perhaps at Ongava would have been absolutely perfect.

    More to come.......

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    Panecott,

    Great trip report - can't wait to read the rest.

    One question: how close were you to the lion at the zebra kill at Palmwag Rhino Camp and to that martial eagle?

    Greetings,

    Johan

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    Thanks, guys. I would highly recommend this trip, or Namibia in general, to everyone. It truly was awesome and I would love to go back.

    Johan, we were quite close to the martial eagle at first, when we spotted it along the road. I'm not too good at distances, but I think it flew to a tree maybe 50 meters away. I'd estimate the lion was about the same distance, maybe a little farther.

    More safari.....

    Near Damaraland an elusive elephant had been sighted and we went on an unsuccessful hunt for him along a scenic riverbed one morning. We gave up after a few hours, but saw lots of kudus and birds in the process. At Palmwag we went rhino tracking with trackers from the "Save the Rhino Trust" in Namibia. They spotted a female with her calf but she got spooked and ran away. We saw them only from a great distance running up a hill.

    Part of our tracking was done on foot and we were warned that it could be dangerous. Rhinos will charge if frightened and can be deadly. The trackers' vehicle had once been charged by a rhino who dug its horn right into the steel side and pulled it out, taking a big piece of the vehicle out in the process. It had been repaired but we could still see evidence of the attack.(After seeing that, I was kinda relieved that our rhino had run away!).

    A few nights later, however, we got to observe two rhinos close up at a watering hole from a nearby "hide" at Ongava Lodge in Etosha. There was a male and a young female rhino who were checking each other out. We were told to be absolutely still and quiet. One of the men was wearing a ski jacket and every time he moved it rustled and the rhinos would stop and listen and lift their heads and their ears would perk up. I wanted to tell him to be still but I was afraid to speak! It was pretty nerve wracking, because if one of them got spooked and charged, the little hide offered no protection. We spent about 40 minutes there - waiting to exhale! - and all breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. But it was very exciting. The camp manager had been watching from the lodge when we were in the hide and shared our excitement when we returned to camp. Afterwards at dinner we were all exhilarated from the experience and all confessed to having been a little scared.

    We were scheduled to stay at Ongava Tented Camp but for some reason we were put in the Lodge instead. After seeing our rooms, none of us complained. :-) The lodge was just beautiful, with little individual chalets. Shortly after we arrived I heard a crunching sound outside my veranda. I looked and saw a small herd of kudus feeding just steps away. Unfortunately, when I opened the screen door for a closer look they got frightened away.

    Ongava was the area in Namibia richest in wildlife and it was there that we also saw our first giraffe, herds of wildebeest, jackals, waterbuck, red hartebeest, and of course, the ever present springbok and impalas.

    But without a doubt, IMO, the most dramatic and exciting sighting we had in Namibia was of a male lion sitting with prey, a dead zebra. Nearby were the lioness and two cubs, which we didn't see at first. It was the day after our rhino tracking as we were leaving Palmwag. Douw told us that it was very unusual to see a lion in that area so it was quite unexpected. We all seemed to spot him at once and let out a collective yell of excitement.

    The kill had evidently taken place a few hours earlier and every so often the lion would dig in for another bite. At one point he stood up, grabbed the zebra with his teeth and started pulling the carcass a few feet away. The cubs approached the prey but the male lion wouldn't let them eat. Maybe he did later on, but we watched for about a half hour and it was the lion king all the way!

    After leaving Damaraland Camp, we stopped at Twlefelfontein (sp?) where we hiked up a rocky path to see some ancient cave drawings that were discovered about 60 years ago. The drawings were all of animals and birds, and amazingly clear and preserved -- the cave collapsed thousands of years ago and the drawings have been exposed ever since, on several large chunks of rock scattered about the area. On the way back we saw - and heard - a family of baboons up on the rocks. They make an amazing sound, loud and strong -- I didn't know what it was at first.

    At one point along the road we passed a number of young men from a nearby village waving at the van, hoping to stop it and sell amethyst, quartz and other stones that are found in abundance up in the hills. When we stopped for gas a short time later, a few of them came up to the fence surrounding the gas station (they were not allowed inside the fence). When one or two of us showed some interest about 10 others appeared out of nowhere, all trying to sell their goods. We all declined at first, but everyone eventually wound up buying something. It was funny to see how they each targeted one of us for the sell! I got a small chunk of amethyst for $4, which I put it on my desk as a paperweight. Occasionally on the road we passed locals riding in carts drawn by donkeys - known as "Kalahari Ferrari". Most of the time, except near an occasional village, we never saw anyone else on the road.

    One of my favorite safari customs was the Sundowner, which I know is familiar to all of you, but a new and very appealing experience for me! Each evening at the appropriate time the guide would pack up the van with drinks and snacks and we'd drive to a scenic location - never hard to find - usually up on a hilltop or near the water, and watch the sunset. I got very accustomed to the Sundowner quite quickly, a really lovely tradition! I developed a taste for "Amarula", very nice on the rocks, and sometimes had wine or gin and tonic Of course, the scenery was always spectacular.

    One evening, as we were returning to camp, we spotted flocks of birds near a watering hole - queleas, I think. Douw stopped the van and clapped his hands loudly and suddenly thousands of birds flew out of the trees, down to the watering hole, then back into the trees. Some flocks made large sweeps across the sky before returning to the trees. And each time Douw clapped his hands the scene was repeated. It was incredible and beautiful, and I never remember seeing so many birds anywhere. And of course, the sound was amazing.

    Everywhere we went we always spotted herds of springbok, impala, and zebra. At our next to last stop, Etosha Park, we saw our first giraffe and that's where we saw the two rhinos at the watering hole at our lodge. There were other watering holes in the park where we saw herds of wildebeest sharing the water with zebras, oryx, springbok and a variety of birds. It was so interesting to see the different animals all in the same spot at the same time.

    Our last stop in Namibia was the remote and desolate "Skeleton Coast" in the northwest, named because of all the shipwrecks that happened there. It's a hauntingly beautiful area which we reached by plane. Along the beach and surrounding sand dunes you see the bones of whales and other animals. Supposedly you can see the remains of some shipwrecks out in the ocean but on the day we were at the sea it was too foggy to see anything, altho' the fog gradually lifted.
    We had a 3 mi. walk along the shore - we all split up and did our own thing, which was nice. I walked the whole way with my feet in the water and at the end of the walk, Douw was waiting for us with a lovely picnic lunch which we ate on the rocks overlooking the ocean with the waves crashing. I would rather be near the sea than any place in the world so I just loved the parts of the trip near the ocean.

    After lunch we did more exploring in an incredibly beautiful area thru’ a riverbank and had another wild dune ride. At the top of some high dunes we got out of the van and walked down one of the vertical dunes, which make an amazing sound - like a loud groan - with each step. They are called "roaring dunes", an amazing phenomenon. There were also patches of quicksand in the riverbed, which Douw happily stepped in -- sank up to his knees.

    After two wonderful weeks, our time in Namibia came to an end. I reluctantly bid adieu to my new friends and traveling companions, all of whom were heading home, and prepared for my next adventure in Botswana.....

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    Panecott,

    Can't wait to go back to Namibia in August. The Namib desert is so stunning and Palmwag Rhino Camp is my favorite camp in Africa (it's a pity that you didn't meet Chris Bakkes, one of the best guides I know).

    It seems that you had a great time there but in my opinion almost everyone falls in love with the scenery of Namibia.

    Excellent report - I am eagerly waiting to read about your time in Botswana.

    Greetings,

    Johan

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    Thanks, hanl and Johan. It is fun reliving the whole experience while writing about it.
    Johan, I agree with you about Namibia. It is surely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, with its variety of landscapes and spectacular scenery.

    Now, to Botswana.....

    All of the camps were staffed by native Africans, usually young men and women from the local tribes, about 5-6 per camp and they all seemed to share the workload. They also all seemed to share the same sweetness and graciousness. Whenever we thanked them for anything the reply was always "pleasuuuurrrre", with a lovely accent. Before the start of dinner, one of them would wait patiently near the head of the table for the conversation to stop, and then shyly announce the menu and wish us a good meal. Somehow, they all seemed to remember everyone's name and they anticipated our every need.

    I had two nights in cities between the Namibia and Botswana safaris and in Maun, I stayed at the Maun Lodge, located alongside a river. When I arrived there was a hippo drinking along the river bank and many young locals turned out for the event. It was a Sunday afternoon and the hippo was definitely the best show in town. After I checked in I hurried out to join them but the hippo had submerged by then and didn't resurface.

    In Botswana, our first stop was the Okavango Delta, a beautiful area of islands and channels where the only means of transportation is the "mokoro", a dugout canoe which is operated much like a Venetian gondola, with the oarsman standing at the rear and maneuvering with a long pole. The mokoro operators were wonderful and would patiently stop and/or backtrack everytime we asked for a photo op.

    We had several mokoro rides thru' channels lined with papyrus and other grasses, and hundreds of waterlilies. It was completely relaxing and enjoyable, and so beautiful, and altho' it's possible to encounter elephants and hippos in the area, our rides were pretty uneventful. An elephant did visit our camp one afternoon and was feeding off the trees, however, he kept his distance behind some bushes.

    The first camp, Xigera, was the most rustic, and surprisingly, one of my favorites. The tents had mattresses on the floor (the others all had cots) and the toilet and shower were open air and enclosed on only 3 sides! The 4th side was open to the bush and whatever animals (4 legged) happened by. It took some getting used to but the shower was really great fun. The rest of the camps had enclosed facilities.

    My travelmates in Botswana were all Americans: a family of 4, two doctors and their college age son and daughter, and a 30 something woman. We all got along great, and as in Namibia, it was comforting to have doctors along, just in case. Fortunately, they were not needed, altho' the wife did notice a tick on my arm, which I quickly removed. Our guide, Brooks, from one of the local tribes, was great. Like the Namibian guide, Douw, he was funny, knowledgeable, very professional and excellent at game spotting.

    We didn't see much big game during our first few days in Botswana but we saw some of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen, such as the Little Bee Eater and the Lilac Breasted roller. One morning we took a mokoro ride to another island where we hiked for several hours, and saw some warthogs and baboons.

    On our fourth day, driving up to Savuti Marsh, we began to encounter lots of wildlife, and the order of the day was "big game". At one point during the drive, Brooks spotted a cape buffalo and immediately drove off road and took us on a wild ride looking for the rest of the herd. We found it, after driving over plants and bushes, which sprang right back, and had great fun during the chase. The roof was open and we were standing on the seats and holding on for dear life, laughing the whole way as the vehicle bounced along. The cape buffalo were amazing to watch. After initially running away, they settled down and stared us down.

    Later in the day, after a long search, we came across a small pride of lions, a male, 2 females, and 4 or 5 cubs. They were all resting in the shade, and paid us no mind at all as we drove within 2 or 3 feet of them. We also saw lots of giraffes, zebras, impalas, a few crocs, and many aquatic birds and a pod of hippos that day.
    The following morning, when starting our game drive in the park, a lioness appeared on the road a few feet from our vehicle. She walked right past us as if we didn't exist. We followed her and she led us to another female and some cubs, altho' they were some distance away. We also saw a lot of other "lesser" game during the drive, the ever present antelopes, zebras, baboons; also some jackals and a bat eared fox.

    On our evening game drive, now in Linyanti Park, we encountered two male elephants on the road fighting over territory. They were locking horns, wagging trunks, pushing and shoving each other only a few feet from our vehicle. Sometimes they stopped and looked at us and I thought they were going to charge, but they didn't.

    The next day we encountered some females with babies - the first baby elephants we saw - and Brooks did some more off-roading for a better look. We followed them for a while but Brooks said the female looked like she was ready to charge, so we left.

    Later that night, during dinner, we heard the roar of lions, and we quickly headed out in search of them after we finished eating. Brooks spotted their paw prints on the dirt road, which we followed till we found the the lions. There were two males, quickly walking on the road, and Brooks said something had spooked them. As he predicted, one of them marked his territory (by urinating) and they quickly continued their walk down the road, oblivious to us.

    For three days we searched valiantly for a leopard - which I desperately wanted to see in a tree, or anywhere - but never found one. It was the only one of the "big five" that I didn't get to see. So, I'll just have to go back.... :-)

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    Finale.....

    Our final camp, Linyanti Trails, was one of my favorites. The staff greeted us with a song when we arrived, and serenaded us on our final night there.

    Our final dinner was native style, meaning we ate with our fingers. Dinner was a type of polenta, a staple of Botswana cooking, pulled beef, and vegetables. The polenta is supposed to be formed into a little cup, with the meat and vegetables put inside and eaten, however, I never got the knack, and just sort of shoveled it all in. It was so delicious and so much fun, I even went back for seconds.

    In Namibia, we traveled on land, except for the flight to the Skeleton Coast, which can only be reached by air. In Botswana, we flew to most camps, and only drove to one or two. The airstrips, in the middle of nowhere, were quite a sight when the planes landed. The precision and speed with which they loaded and unloaded passengers, luggage and cargo was amazing. The pilots and guides all pitched in and I don't think it ever took more than 5 or 10 minutes between landing and the next takeoff. It was all very informal but professional at the same time.

    We were supposed to be at the airstrip a half hour before the plane arrived to clear the airstrip of any animals that might have been on it. When we left the Okavango Delta, we were a little late and arrived at the strip just as the plane was landing. There was a herd of impala on the airstrip and we could see them running and jumping just feet ahead of the plane. It was quite a sight!

    Most of our planes were 12-seaters but our last flight, from Linyanti to Kasane, was in a four seater so we split up into two groups. It was really close quarters for the hour+ flight.

    At Kasane we took a boat ride on the Chobe River, where the four countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. The scenery and wildlife along the river were beautiful: herds of elephants, hippos on land and in the river, crocodiles up close, and more birds. The elephants were more numerous than we'd seen before and were bathing and playing in the river, along with their young.

    It was quite funny at one point because several of us ran out of film or memory or had batteries die all at the greatest photo ops, and we all cussed and scrambled to get our cameras back in working order.

    After the boat ride we crossed the border from Botswana into Zambia, a short 5 minute boat ride along a narrow part of the river. For at least a mile or more before reaching the river crossing we saw hundreds of trucks lined up waiting to cross the border. There is only a small ferry that carries one truck at a time and we were told that the trucks sometimes line up for weeks before getting their turn to cross. There is now talk about building a bridge across the river. Duh!

    We arrived at our beautiful lodge, the Natural Mystic Lodge, on the Zambezi River, in late afternoon and had our final sundowner and dinner together. Our rooms were individual chalets with thatched roofs just steps from the river. Although I had enjoyed the week of camping it was nice to have running water and a real bed and the sunset along the river was pink and purple and beautiful.

    The next day we proceeded to Victoria Falls where we had a guided tour which was the official end to our safari.. I moved to the Zambezi Sun Hotel which was adjacent to the falls because the Mystic Lodge was too far away. The falls were awesome, and because of the heavy rains this year, were still at full flood. They were so heavy that the white water rafting in the gorge below the falls was suspended for a while. On my last day there the spray was so heavy I could barely see the Falls.

    We got drenched from the spray, even with our plastic ponchos, but it was wonderfully refreshing and exhilarating, and there were several rainbows over the falls.

    After our tour we went to the market outside the falls, where we were accosted by village men trying to sell their wares. As in Namibia they saw us coming and we all had a good time buying wood carvings and such. Some of the vendors wanted to barter. One guy wanted my scarf, then my windbreaker, then my corduroy jacket, but I like my clothes and paid for everything in cash. One of my travel mates traded a magazine she had, Elle, or something like that. The guy said he likes pictures of beautiful women. We all had a good time and it was tough getting away from them because they are very persistent. I avoided the market for the next two days.

    After our shopping spree I bid farewell to my travelmates and was dropped off at the Zambezi Sun, just behind the Falls. It's a great hotel, with a large swimming pool that was always empty, and it served fabulous buffet breakfasts and dinners. I had a small balcony and on my first afternoon some baboons paid a visit.

    That same afternoon I took a walk across the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe and while I was watching the falls at the border, a Japanese bungee jumper came along. I watched the whole thing from the time he arrived and it was amazingly quick, just a few minutes to get strapped in, get instructions, and jump. I got vertigo and started hyperventilating just looking at the tiny platform extending from the bridge, hundreds of meters above the gorge!

    The next day I took a helicopter ride over the falls, which was awesome. It was a 3 seater and I was in the front. When we flew over the gorge and the chopper turned, with my side tilting towards the gorge I had to close my eyes a few times. Many people opted for the microlight rides - those things that look like flying tricycles. Brave souls!

    My final two days were quiet and restful and I enjoyed walking along the rapids and sometimes just sitting and watching the water flow. My final sundowner in Africa was at the falls, a beautiful and memorable sight, and a fitting end to an unforgettable experience.
    I was captivated by the wilds of Africa; it is like no place in the world and I hope to go back some day (soon!).

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    What a wonderful report, and what an amazing adventure you had. I too just posted my report and had so much fun reliving it here. I notice you too were touched by the gracious, peaceful nature of the people. Thanks for sharing, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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    You chose fabulously contrasting destinations for your first trip and your report on each was wonderful.

    The rhino encounters must have been intense. So you had seals jumping onto your boat, as if they were on safari looking at you! Kudu right outside your door--wow! And lions on a kill in the desert. Some great viewing.

    Springbok are so shy and elusive. You are lucky to have seen enough of them to turn them into your favorite.

    The cave paintings would be interesting. Did you take any pictures of those?

    Welcome home from a remarkable journey--or a couple of them. Where and when will the pursuit of the leopard take place?




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    Thanks for your kind words, everyone.
    Dennis, you must definitely go to Namibia. It's high on my list of places I want to return to.
    Lynn, I did take photos of the cave drawings and will post some.
    As for the future leopard pursuit, I'll have to ask advice from you Fodorites on that one, but I do want to return to southern Africa, and also want to see the east. Sooooo.......

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    Dear Panecott;

    Read your trip report on Namibia with great interest since we are planning to go on the same trip in August. You certainly provided lots of helpful info.

    What time did you leave for the drives from camp to camp? Were you able to participate in any activities the day of arrival or did you get there too late? Did you consider the drives to be interesting or tedious? The reason I am asking this is that I read on another site that the drives are somewhat boring and take longer than expected.

    I get the impression that although there is a 2 night stay at the camps, there is really only one full day of activities since there is a late arrival and a morning departure. If this is correct, did you feel you had enough time to get the flavor of the camp?

    Thanks for your help.

    Helene

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    Hi Helene,
    To answer your questions, yes, the drives were long, but they were spectacular. I was never bored for a moment because the scenery is constantly changing and the landscapes are so beautiful. Our vehicle was very comfortable, especially since we had extra seats.
    Most of the drives, with the exception of the last one to Etosha, took all day and we did usually arrive late in the day - in time for our sundowner. But that's because we constantly stopped along the way for sightings and photo ops, which was part of the enjoyment. Getting there is half the fun. We usually left the camps around 8 a.m.
    I think I mentioned in the report that there was not much down time at the camps, and that's the only thing I would have changed. An extra day in one or two of the camps would have been perfect.

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    Panecott,

    Whew - thank you for sharing the journey through Botswana and Namibia - what wonderful adventures you had!

    Have to say appreciated "reading" about the puff adder encounter on the high sand dunes, more than actually experiencing, although the exhiliration of the ride sounded enticing!!

    I am a neophyte Fodorite, off to 12 days of Tanzania/2 days Zanzibar next week!! My lifelong travel plans have always included "Africa many times," and this is hopefully the beginning of many adventures. From the sounds of your wonderful report, I think it will be so!! I started exploring Botswana travel back in August, but discovered a need to scale down, so off we go to moderate camps/lodges in Tanzania for our first journey.

    Someday....someday.

    Have you read any of the Alexander McCall Smith #1 Ladies Detective Agency books, set in Botswana? They're fluffy little mysteries, but beautifully capture the graciousness and kindness of the people of Botswana that you wrote about!

    I, from the advice on this site, also am using a new Canon S2. Any words of wisdom to share?

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    Hi wildebeestus,

    I'm glad you enjoyed my report, and I'm sure you will have wonderful adventures of your own to tell us about when you return. Please be sure to do a report, as Tanzania and Zanzibar are two places "on my list", and I would love to hear about your experiences.

    As for the Canon S2, it is a great little camera and I'm sure you'll enjoy using it. Because I had so little time to learn to use it, I used AutoFocus and just let the camera do most of the work. I just learned the basics.
    I brought three 1G memory cards with me - for a one month trip - but I was midway into my 3rd card barely halfway thru' the trip!! I had to have a card downloaded to a CD in Maun and I also bought another one -a 256MB for the same price I paid for the 1Gig at home! - and I also re-compressed from fine to normal to get some extra memory! So bring plenty of memory along. (I do tend to overdo the pictures, taking the same shot over and over again, but with a new camera you never know. And you also might want to experiment with different settings and then compare the pictures when you get home, so the investment in memory cards is worth it). Be sure to take your instruction book along.
    Have you done a search for Canon S2 threads on this board? I got a lot of good advice from experienced S2 users.
    Good luck and enjoy your trip.

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    Welcome back Panecott. I enjoyed your trip report and anxious to see your photos. I too want to get back soon, there are so many places on my interest list that I can make up my mind, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania. Any super rich sugar daddies out there???

    So you liked your itinerary as is, except for an extra day here and there for down time would have been better?

    Sounds so wonderful, who arranged your trip?

    Carla

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    Wilde, glad you brought up the famous series but it's misleading to represent Smith's work as "fluffy." From Publisher's Weekly: A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" serve not only to entertain but to explore conditions in Botswana in a way that is both penetrating and light thanks to Smith's deft touch.

    The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency received two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.

    They are less "mystery" books and more a vehicle for Smith to discuss moral choices in a setting he clearly loved. Best read in order.

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    Great report. Brooks was our guide for two days at Mombo last year and we ran into him at Maun airport this year and he recognized us and told us he was leading some of the overland trips, which is a good promotion for him.

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    Napamatt,

    Brooks is fantastic!!! We had him for 3 nights in 2004 as our guide.

    We had stopped for our morning tea break, when he heard a male leopard marking territory with his alarm calls. We left the tea trolley standing and took off to find a huge male leopard. Fantastic stuff!!!

    Hari

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    Thank you for such a terrific report! And for your camera insight!. I too am a newbie blessed with great equipment and stressing. I like the comment about letting the camera do the work. It gve me some solace! Off to Kenya in 5 weeks! Again, thank you!

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    I'm glad you mentioned your trip report in another post because I missed it in June (we were in Africa too!).

    It sounds like you had a wonderful adventure and got to see so much. Reading your report really makes me want to spend more time in Namibia.

    Even though you didn't see leopards, you did see elephants fighting. I can't imagine how awesome that is!

    Did you provide a link to your pictures?

    Thanks for posting about your trip. I really enjoyed it.

    ((#))Cindy

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    Thanks Cindy and MoreMiles,
    I reread my report when I tried to find it for Lynn, and I relived my wonderful journey all over again. It's hard to believe it was almost 6 months ago! I can't wait to go back to Africa.
    Cindy, here is the link to my photos:

    http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=bo04py1o.3up76cf0&x=0&y=-evbqvu



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