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Trip Report Botswana June 2011 Kwando Safaris-Little Kwara, Lebala and Lagoon Camps

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Botswana June 2011 Kwando Safaris-Little Kwara, Lebala and Lagoon Camps

Part #1

We have now been home for almost a week and I am already planning a return trip for 2012. What is it about Africa? It truly gets into your blood. It’s a place where your senses come alive. The smells are more fragrant, the sounds more clear. You tend to almost stare at your surroundings as you take in the sites that are so very different from home. For me it is almost like an awakening.

Our first trip to Africa was Rwanda and Tanzania in 2009. It was a fantastic trip which left us craving for more. After significant research, Botswana seemed to be the natural choice. Few people, off-track game drives, true animal tracking and night drive options, the Kwando camps seemed to be the perfect fit. The cost was a bit daunting for a working couple but traveling in June, the shoulder season, saved a considerable amount of money, still this trip was quite a financial stretch.

For me, the planning and preparation of the trip is half the fun. The months leading up to the trip saw me purchasing every map, book and any other reference material on Botswana or the Okavango Delta that I could find. I even went as far as purchasing several Tony Park novels. For those that haven’t read them, they are drama/suspense novels with the stories revolving around locations is Africa. The Delta (based in the Okavango) and Silent Predator (based in South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi) are two of my favorites but there are several others. They are “easy” reads which can be purchased on Amazon. They’re great way to get you in the “mood.”

For our first trip to Africa, I was filled with excitement and uncertainty. I had no expectations and many preconceived notions. The anticipation of the first trip was almost consuming. However, the lead up was quite different this time around. Unfortunately, certain expectations are created due to the previous experience and you almost create a whole new mental checklist. For the first go around you hope to see elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, etc. For this trip I had visions of wild dog hunts, lion kills, mating leopards, pangolins and such, which in most cases are more about luck than anything else and usually quite a rare sighting. Indeed, I had very high expectations which I now know is not the way to approach this type of trip.

Our flights from US to Johannesburg were all early or on time. To our surprise the Air Botswana flight was actually early and provided very good service. We carried on the entire way, just a backpack and duffel bag apiece. I will mention, on our return through Heathrow they put my duffel in the sizing bin which fit snuggly but they still made me check it.

Our arrival into Maun was quick and efficient since there are no visas required. A quick stamp in our passports and we were out the door. Our transfer driver was waiting in hall with our name on the board.

Maun is a far cry from Arusha. Streets are fairly clean and very few people walking the roads. There are a few street vendors but nothing like the hustle and bustle of Tanzania and Rwanda. The infrastructure also seemed much more developed, with the houses primarily built out of cider block. There are a few more traditional mud and grass hut style homes as you head further north out of town. We even saw several homes with satellite dishes. It is apparent that Botswana as a whole has more wealth than most other countries, at least for those around Maun. I was also surprised by the amount of water in the river. On our approach into Maun from JNB it appeared the water reached as far south as you could see. This would be just a glimpse of the significant water levels in the delta and beyond that we would encounter.

For our first night, I decided to stay in Maun to help adjust from jet lag. We stayed at the Thamalakane Lodge. What a nice place for a quick stay. It is about 20 minutes north of town right on the river. It had a beautiful view of the sun setting over the river. God, I had forgotten just how big, bright and colorful the sunsets are in Africa. Our “cottage” was slightly set back from the river with stone walls and thatch roof. It is open in design but screened to keep the mosquitoes out. The food was extremely good with a nice selection of items served by candlelight. Service in the restaurant was wonderfully slow and very friendly. We had a 7:00 AM wakeup call for the next morning. Unfortunately, I didn’t need it due to a combination of jet lag and excitement. My wife on the other hand, slept just fine. The morning was quite chilly to our surprise, probably around 42 F but this was just a precursor of what was to come. Luckily, there was plenty of hot water and after a filling breakfast; our transfer was waiting to take us back to the airport for our bush flight. For anyone interested in staying at the Thamalakane Lodge I would recommend cottages 1, 5, 8, or 10 for their river front locations.

Part II to come.

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