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Trip Report From Termites to Elephants: Around Botswana, Finale at Vic Falls

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This was my first safari, and I was joined by my son Sam, who had just graduated from college. It was a trip we had long dreamed of doing together. It was all we had dreamed of and more…
Itinerary arranged by Africa Adventure Company

Depart JFK for JNB SAA May 24 ( I did the international flights on my own)
Chitabe Lediba May 26-29
Kwetsani May 29-31
Camp Kalahari May 31-June 2
Savuti June 2-5
Zambezi Sun Livingstone Zambia June 5-7
Depart Livingstone to JNB, to JFK June 7-8

Firstly I want to once more thank everyone on this forum who patiently answered all my questions, and to all those that posted their trip reports and photos. I am sure my experience was richer because of all your knowledge.

Part 1 Chitabe Lediba
5/26- Chitabe- We were met by our guide Ebs. The first thing we noticed was the intense smell. It was African sage. As we drove to Chitabe, a trip of about 20 minutes we saw our first animals; a Warthog, a large group of Elephants, which Ebs told us were all female and young, Zebra, Impala and various birds. I was going to try to keep my “promise” not to take photos on the first drive, but Sam had no such idea, and quickly took out the camera, and took pictures of the elephants.
We arrived in camp, and were assigned to tent #5, a family tent, consisting of 2 bedroom areas and a joint toilet, shower, and sink area. We had a deck with a large table and some chairs. There was an outdoor shower, which was something I fell in love with. We had enough time to unpack and settle in a bit before tea and our first drive.
Chitabe Lediba is a 10-tent camp, and there were 2 vehicles in use. For this first drive it was just the 4 of us, Rainy and David from Australia, and Sam and me. This was their first safari game drive as well; so all my “concerns” about being a “newbie” disappeared. We all shared a total sense of wonder and amazement at everything we saw, and all that Ebs told us about the animals. We came upon a group of elephants, and Ebs was able to drive in quite close to them, then they walked towards us, OK time to take out the camera, forget the “wait till tomorrow idea.” We came upon some female kudu, and I asked about the birds sitting on them, and learned they were Oxpeckers (red and yellow billed), and that they eat the ticks from many of the hoofed animals, forming a symbiotic relationship. We then drove up to a wide-open grassy area. There were Zebra, Wildebeest, Tsessebe, and Elephants all roaming and grazing in the area. It was exactly how I pictured Africa. We sat watching them, until Ebs got a “call”. There were some Cheetahs nearby. We got to the area, and there on a termite mound were a mother and her two 8-month old cubs catching the last rays of the sun. We watched as they nestled with the mother, and they roamed around the mound. The light was too low for any decent shots, though I took some regardless. We then drove away and had our first sundowners, though the sun was already set. Ebs, Rainy, and David pointed out the Southern Cross, and other southern constellations. The moon was just a small crescent in the sky, so the Milky Way was amazing. Back for a delicious dinner, but first we all sat around the fire and chatted. Then to tent and bed, and I hugged the hot water bottle against me thru the night.

5/27-We actually were awake before our 5:30 wake up call, though not yet out of our warm bed, into our cold clothes (we remedied that for future mornings, by putting our clothes in bed with us, under the hot water bottle, and dressing inside the bed). After breakfast, we departed at 6:30, before the sun was up though the sky was getting light. We got to experience our first African sunrise, and it was lovely. We were now six in the vehicle, and we were given these wonderful flannel –lined ponchos to wear. We drove along and in the early light we saw our first and only Side-Striped Jackal. In my readings before the trip, jackals were among my “little five” that I wanted to see. As the sun was just rising, we found the Cheetahs another termite mound not far from the previous night. The early morning light made for some great photos. We sat and watched the cubs scamper about racing each other as the mother kept one eye on them, and another for any dangers. They had recently eaten Ebs noted by the size of their stomachs, and as Cheetahs rely on their speed to hunt, were not likely to hunt today. We watched them as they moved eventually onward to the tree line where we stopped following them. We drove to an area of open grassland, where we saw some Wildebeest and Tsessebe. We sat enjoying them for a while until Ebs noted a change in their sounds and behavior, which indicated to him that there was a predator in the area.
At this point I should note that of all the guides we had, Ebs was the only one who had not “studied” to be a guide, rather he had learned tracking as a child with his uncle who was a tracker for hunting safaris. Ebs had done this for a while, till he could no longer tolerate the hunting, and left. He was “discovered” by Wilderness when he was doing maintenance work at the airport, that was 11 years ago.
Ebs noted the direction of their gaze and headed off. We drove off-road over small bushes and trees, we felt we were “on the hunt”, and soon we came upon a young male leopard and followed him. At one point he climbed up a small tree and while he was there, I got to really SEE him. The size of his paws, his eyes, his face. What an amazingly beautiful animal. Sam and I grabbed each other’s hands and tears came to my eyes, for of all the animals I dreamed of seeing this was the ONE. We followed him for a bit longer, but eventually he moved into areas with larger trees, and we just sat back and reflected on our experience. As we continued our drive, Ebs pointed out the many beautiful birds that we saw; Wattled Cranes, Lilac Breasted Rollers, Yellow-Billed Storks, African Jacana. Soon Ebs drove to a water hole filled with Hippos. One was not yet in the water, and we watched him amble his way there. We all got out and stretched our legs, had some tea and biscuits, and watched the hippos. We drove on, watching Impala, Giraffe and Zebra. We soon came to an area where there were Vervet monkeys and Baboons, and as we slowly drove past them, we came to a peaceful shaded area where tables and chairs were set up for us for our brunch. We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch out in the bush. Back at camp, I took the first of my delightful outdoor showers, as I spied upon, and was eyed by some Vervet Monkeys in the branches overhead.
PM drive-We saw our first lone buffalo in the deep grass. Soon we came to a large herd (20+) of Eles as they neared a water hole. The sun was perfect, and their reflections in the water were wonderful. Between taking countless photos, and watching them as they drank, and continued their forward movement, I really saw what amazing animals they are, and fascinating to watch. With the great range in ages in a large herd such as this, to the amazing dexterity they have with their trunk. Eles never cease to delight me. We had sundowners near a small waterhole, and for the first time there were some light cirrus clouds in the sky, making for an exquisite sunset, and many photos. As darkness descended, Ebs turned on the light and began to look for predators. All of a sudden he stopped, and asked me to hold the light, I shone it where he directed me, and 2 green eyes reflected the light. There on a termite mound was a Leopard. We watched it briefly until it moved off, and we attempted to follow it, but the grass was tall, and we lost it. But soon came upon a Small-Spotted Genet, a Civet, an African Wild Cat and a Spring Hare.

5/28 Sam woke me up by calling out “Mom, did you hear the lion roar?” I hadn’t, but soon did as we walked to breakfast. As we started our drive, we heard him again, and drove towards the sound. The other LR from Chitabe joined us, and soon we found a lone male lion, which both guides thought to be about 7-8 years old. He walked in front, to the side and then behind our LR. Not more that 7-10 feet from us!! His eyes were so beautiful, his mane full, and he continued to produce a gruff sound, a low roar. It was another handholding moment for Sam and me. He continued to roar, smell the ground, and scent-mark the area. Ebs noted he was looking for female lions. After following him around for a while, we turned aside. Soon we came to a large group of Baboons. The young were busy scampering about on an open dead log. We saw a very young baboon, still pink, latched onto its mother, as she held him with one hand as she moved about. We watched them groom, some others mate, and always the young were playing. We drove on, and came to a water hole filled with Yellow-Billed Stork, and Spoonbills. By the airstrip, there was a large group of Zebra and Giraffe. One Zebra was extremely pregnant, almost as wide as she was long. Ebs began driving very purposefully, and soon we came to a female Leopard up in a tree. How beautiful she was.
PM drive- We saw a Reedbuck, and then a small herd of Cape Buffalo. So we headed off for a closer view. Along the way we stopped and watched some Eles, with some very small ones, Ebs noted if they are small enough to walk under their mother (and some were) they are less than a year old. We got to our herd of 6 Cape Buffalo, and noted Cattle Egrets perched atop, and Oxpeckers as well. As the sun had set, and we passed a quite close to a small herd of Eles, we herd them trumpeting loudly, and flaring their ears wide, and stepping towards us, and then back. We were told this behavior is a mock charge. I found it thrilling, but I think I was in the minority. As darkness descended, Ebs turned on the light, and we found a Large-Spotted Genet, a Spring Hare, and Scrub Hare. Soon we just sat and listened to the sounds of the Bell Frogs, and stared at the amazing sky.

5/29 -Our last drive at Chitabe. We saw a Reedbuck and Black-Backed Jackal as the sun was just coming up. Then we got a call and headed to find a lion. We approached him, and Ebs noted it was not the same male we had seen yesterday. This one was a bit older, with a lighter colored mane. Ebs told us that there are 2 coalitions of male lion, one had 3 members (he thought this lion was of that coalition) and one had 2 members. He also told us that the Chitabe pride had lost its dominant male about 2 years ago, and as of yet, none of these males had assumed that role. As we approached the male, getting quite close, Ebs noted the size of his stomach, and felt that he had recently eaten. The lion began roaring, and in the distance we could here the sound of another lion. They continued to call to each other, until they met. The second lion was older and his mane was a bit less full. He also had a full belly. They walked together, and then found a nice shady area, and sat, the older one eventually lay down and slept, as the younger one sat, head upright, but periodically closing his eyes. We got a call, and soon went and found the Cheetahs again. They were under some small brush, but clearly visible. Later we came to a small group of Giraffes “fighting”. Ebs described this as “practice”, as this is what they do to establish dominance in the herd. It was amazing to see them swing their long necks and heads and hit the other with their horns. Back at camp we said our goodbyes, and picked up our packed ”lunch” as we did not want to miss a moment of our drive to have a sit down meal. We boarded our plane headed to Kwetsani.

Photos- I am making albums by camps. Chitabe and Kwetsani are posted as of now at http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

Feedback wanted-is this too long a report???

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    Hi amycyma

    It is too long for me! But I did love the album photos. I never knew the flamingo ate shrimp I thought it was an algae, so that was interesting. I also loved seeing those Meekats using your bodies as look out points, though I thought they would go on top of your heads, being the highest vantage point. A lovely selection of photos!

    Kind regards

    Kaye

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    Not too long for me! I know how you feel about seeing the leopard, and I have only seen them fleetingly through the brush. Hopefully, that will change when I take my daughter in December after her college graduation! It looks as though the female leopard in your Kwetsani shots has a bum left eye, but she sure looks fit and beautiful otherwise, so it must not be affecting her hunting skills? I am eagerly awaiting your next installment about Camp Kalahari as it is to be a new destination for me, and the meerkats were the draw. I always wondered if the photos of them with "guests" were staged and you certainly answered that question in your gallery.

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    Fun report, no no no, not too long, your enthusiasm is showing!!! Good photos also, you are using Nikon so of course they have to be good!!! Or wait, is it, as I say about photos - "it's the Indian, not the arrows that counts"!!!

    regards - tom

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    Thanks all for your feedback. I will do Part 2 when I get back from work, I am inspired by your positive responses.

    Kaye, there is an algae that flamingoe eat which is what produces the pink color in the flamingoes found in Lake Manyara area of Tanzania I think, there is no algae of that kind in the Kalahari, hence no pink flamingoes. I had edited and edited down the report, but I can recognize it as a bit long, so feel free to skim, or just look at the photos.

    Tom- your positive response to my photos is much appreciated. I put in the best of them, and kept alot out, but so far my Savuti album is bigger, with lots of eles and lions.

    Scruffypuma- yes the leopard in the Kwetsani pitures has an eye infection our guide thought. but he too noted it has not affected her hunting, in fact she still hunts for her almost fully grown son he commented,thou we did not see him.

    oops got to get to work.
    amy

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    When you finish parts 2 and 3, stick the photo link in again so it's handy. I've only looked at Chitabe photos so far and the yellow billed stork photo is a unique perspective.

    Glad you described the background of Ebs. That's a positive story from a conservation viewpoint.

    With the heavy floods, was there any mention of different water levels around the normally dry Chitabe?

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    Lynn-The waters had yet to reach Chitabe the guides and managers felt, and they were unsure when/if/how it would impact them. As yes I felt that Ebs, with his background was unique among the guides I had, and I will always have a special place for him, because of that, as well as being my "first" guide

    and now back to my report writing, and i will keep posing the photo link.

    amy

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    Part 2 Kwetsani

    5/ 29-We arrived at the airstrip on Jao Island, and went by speedboat to Kwetsani camp on Kwetsani Island. The ride took 40 minutes, mostly through narrow channels amongst the reeds, with waterlillys all around. At one point we came to a large lagoon with hippos. It was a completely different experience to view the hippos from the water, as we were now, then to view them from the land as we had at Chitabe. We arrived at camp, and it was lovely. We stayed in tent #4, a single room, but it had separate shower, toilet and sink areas. I enjoyed my outdoorshower with Red Lechwe off in the distance. The area is completely flooded, and the water that I saw in the near distance from our tent is not normally there, in fact the usual way to arrive at camp is by LR.
    PM drive- We headed out after a lovely tea, and found that there were a total of 6 guests at Kwetsani, and 2 of them were leaving the next day. Our guide was OP, and we were joined by 2 new guests. We drove along on what was formerly a road, but now is completely under water, as is most all the nearby “grassland” at the edge of Kwetsani Island. Along the way OP pointed out Red Lechwe. He noted that unique amongst all the antelope their back legs are significantly larger and higher than the front; this gives them more power to move through the water. We such a variety of birds .OP told us that the small island just ahead was once a termite mound. He explained how Baboons would perch on the mound, and their droppings would contain various seeds. As the mound disintegrated, and the waters came, the seeds would germinate and grow, and hence this small island would develop with quite a variety of flora. This began my fascination with all things TERMITE. I found a small Steenbok, the first I had seen, sitting in some grass that we passed. We stopped to look at him, and unfortunately the LR wheels began to sink in the soft wet sand, and we could not get out. OP radioed back to camp for help as he and Joseph (a trainee) attempted to put more sand under the wheels. Deciding the glass is always considerably more than half full while I am in Africa, I suggested we have our sundowners, and pointed out that we were perfectly positioned to watch what would be a beautiful sunset And so the sunset beautifully in the west, and the stars began to slowly fill the sky. It was quite dark by the time our rescue vehicle arrived, and towed us backwards to more stable sand. We made our way uneventfully back to camp, though OP did find a leopard, but it moved away before I could get a good look at it. Dinner was very good.
    5/30-AM drive- wakeup at Kwetsani was a 6, breakfast at 6:30 and we left for our game drive at 7:00. We went by speedboat to nearby Hunda Island (I think
    Tuba Tree camp is there). On our way we saw these huge spider webs glistening in the morning light. OP told us they are communal spider webs. When we get to the island we got into a LR. Our vehicle mates made it clear they wanted to see a leopard. As we drove we saw various grazers, Impala, Baboon, Zebra, Wildebeest, and OP explained which animals form commensal relationships. The Impala are often found near Baboons, as the baboons will knock down the leaves from the trees, and the impala then eat the leaves. OP noted that you could always find where North is by looking at a termite mound. Termite mounds always lean to the west. This is because new material is laid on the mound by the termites at night. The sun hits the east side first, drying it, and pushing the wet buildup towards the western side. More termite trivia: As abandoned termite mounds erode, the holes in them fill with water. This causes further breakdown of the mound. But there is a substance in the mound that acts as a sealant, allowing water to be trapped, soon an elephant mud hole will form, and this then enlarges through repeated use until it becomes a permanent water hole, as the mound is predominantly underground. We then sought a nice place for tea, but we got a call, that a leopard was spotted near the airstrip. So off we went. OP did his best, driving all through the area, well into the brush, but as the leopard was on the move, it proved difficult, (and uncomfortable) to continue the search. We stopped for tea, and then proceeded at a leisurely pace back to the boat. OP continued to provide insightful commentary. Local people to fish use the Fever Berry leaves. They do this by grinding up the leaves and placing them in the water. When fish ingest the leaves, it paralyzes them, and the fish are then just taken from the water. We came upon a Leopard Tortoise shell. OP told us that the tortoise eats the scat of hyena, for the calcium, which keeps their shell hard. When we got back to Kwetsani, we found the camp had been “invaded” by a large herd of elephants. One of them was very young, it still had some hair on it, and Joseph felt it was only a couple of months old. We were in the midst of all these eles and were able to watch them from every vantage point, from the LR, to the walkways (as they walked under us), as we ate our brunch and then took an outdoor shower. The walkways at Kwetsani are quite high, and for the first time, we were above the eles, and could look down on them. This made for some interesting observations.
    For our PM activity we were given the option of going on a Mokoro ride, It was just Sam and me with OP and Joseph. Sam and I told OP we were interested in seeing frogs. He told us they were small. So I start looking on the reeds for the Long Reed Frog, thinking to look for a frog about the size of my thumb. When we found some, it was the size of my fingernail. We were able to hold them on our fingers. They just stayed with us until we put them back into the water. We were going along when OP noted the little head in front of us was Cape Otter. Sam was able to get a brief video of it. I took photos of water lilies, and OP made me a water-lily necklace. I noted that the “stems” of many of the water lilies were coiled. OP noted that they coil when the water lily is pollinated; this coil will keep the “fruit- (I can’t recall the exact term) under the water. We ambled our way back as the sun was getting lower in the sky. The mokoro was a unique experience, completely changing the pace and the focus of what we were looking at/learning about. The perspective from being low in the water was also completely different then riding up high in the LR. When we got back to land, we drove around a bit, coming upon some baboons, and watched them groom. But my attention was turned to the termite mound nearby. OP and I got out to look at it more closely as I continued to question him about termites, this continued as we got back into the LR, discussing how this mound was abandoned and remarking on the signs that indicated this. Evidently as OP and I discussed termites, Sam videoed a pair of Baboons mating, with the sound track being my discussion of termite mounds with OP. When cocktail time came a bit later, Sam amusingly showed the others this little video, with the accompanying soundtrack about termites. All had a good laugh!
    5/31-AM This morning Sam and I went with OP and Joseph by boat to Jao Island. Soon after arriving OP got a call about a Leopard sighting. She was in a Sausage Tree, which gave us good views of her. OP noted that she had an eye infection in her left eye. But he did not think that it significantly impaired her vision, and hence her ability to hunt. He commented that she had a male offspring, who was old enough to hunt on his own; though she continued to provide for him at times. She stayed in the tree, moving periodically from branch to branch, and then climbing down and eventually moved into the grass, when we lost track of her. She was so beautiful, and it was amazing to watch her as long as we were able to. After we left her, we drove about the island, noting how much flooding there is. OP noted that the area we were driving in, which seemed like a large shallow lake, was formerly all grassland. We stopped for tea, watching various birds and antelope in the water. We headed towards the airstrip, and the plane that would take us to the Makgadikgadi Pans. (Which I had finally learned to pronounce correctly-(Ma Kah dee Kah dee- the “g” is silent)

    Photos- I am making albums by camps. Chitabe, Kwetsani, Camp Kalahari are posted as of now at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

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    Thanks for the Kwetsani installment and my apologies for getting ahead yesterday with the leopard and her eye infection...unlike the others, I have no restraint and have looked at ALL the photos. You have some nice lighting on your lionw/ their giraffe kill shots. The meerkats are so cute and I am SO glad that you listed the pronounciation of Makgadikgadi, thanks. Eagerly awaiting the Camp Kalahari segment. Keep up the good work!
    Pat

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    Great reading. And, report is certainly not too long. In a way the more details the better especially years from now when you re-read it you will "relish" the trip even more. Thanks for your time and effort. Dick

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    So now we know why termites was included in your title. You may have created a documentary entry for Cannes, in the category of either wildlife or comedy.

    Kwetasani was probably one of the most affected camps from the floods but your sightings and experiences certainly did not suffer. The water might even have contributed to a unique sundowners location. Some more great leopard shots. I really like the African Jacana, one of my favorite birds.

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    oh

    I am loving your report, and I haven't even clicked to see your photos yet, but it is so much fun to recognize how quickly you were seduced and involved in your safari experience.

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    Love the report and photos! Beautiful cheetah photos. Keep it coming...and the length is fine and I'm looking forward to your Victoria Falls description since I'm headed there next year.

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    Sorry for not paragraphing, I am amazed that anyone my age even attempted to read it. I am paragraphing on my next installment. But I need a break, I want to get it all out there, but I want to relive my excitement, and I find my writing is getting a bit tedious and just listing what I saw rather then how I felt about it, or what I learned.

    So know that I am working on it, and want to make it worthy of your time, rather than rushing to get it up.

    But the pics are all up at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

    amy

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    Part 3a- Camp Kalahari (review)

    As many have requested a “review” of this camp, I am putting this part first- the rest of the experience will follow

    Accommodations-Our tent was indeed a tent. Large, but you zipped it down to get in, and zipped it up when you got in (lots of bees). It held 2 elevated cots, each with a small bedside table. There was a small chest at the foot of each cot to store things, a desk with mirror and toiletries, and a rack/shelves that held our towels, etc.
    Opposite the entrance, was another zippered opening which lead to a concrete enclosed, but open topped area that had a shower, toilet and sink in a large area equivalent to the size of the tent. There was no electricity, though at night they set up various kerosene lanterns, inside and outside the tent, and in the toilet area. At the entrance to the tent were 2 canvas-backed chairs. The walkways were dirt pathways. There was no electricity, but when I asked if I could charge a battery, it was easily accommodated. Laundry was done, though they picked up our laundry in the late afternoon the first day, and we did not get it back till a day and a half later (in this case just before we departed). The common area consisted of the dining table, and the “bar area” that consisted of an ice chest that contained water, beer, and soft drinks, and a big wooden chest that contained wine and liquor. There were also several thatched benches, with some pillows, as well as another area with the same benches/pillows. Since we never sat on them, I can’t describe their comfort, though I did hear complaints as to their lack of comfort. There was always hot water and coffee available. I also will comment that their hot water bottles are really HOT, and continue to be warm in the early morning.

    Food- Breakfast: On the morning of our game drive, we had juice and coffee before we left. Breakfast was served in the middle of the game drive, about 8:15. It consisted of hard-boiled eggs, cold cereals (these were very good), tea or coffee, and juice. A beautiful wooden chest contained the cutlery and dishes, and the food was in a cooler. On the morning of our Meerkat “activity” we had a similar breakfast at the camp.

    Lunch- We were served lunch, (not a buffet) and it was a hot meal.

    Dinner- On the first night we had a Braii (barbecue) in the pans. We started off with soup, and then we were served our meal, which was barbecued beef, vegetable and potato, dessert followed. There may have been more that I can’t remember. The dinner the following night was also served, and started with soup, and then the main course, vegetable, and starch, followed by dessert. I thought the food was quite good, and my son, who I feel is never full, felt the quantity of food was sufficient. (though I did hear another couple note that the amount of food served was somewhat insufficient).

    Activities- We were there only 2 nights- and easily felt that we could /should have stayed a 3rd night.
    We were able to do the following-
    • A quad bike ride into the pans as a late afternoon/sunset activity.
    • A morning game drive- We were the only ones on the drive, so the wakeup and departure time was set by us. We asked to wake at 5:30 and were ready to leave by 6-6:15 and returned at 11 or 11:30.
    • Walk with the Bushmen – This was set as our afternoon activity on the second afternoon, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
    • Morning with the habituated Meerkats. Wonderful!

    Staff- Our guide was very good, and the camp staff attentive and accommodating.

    General Comments- Camp Kalahari is not in the same price range as the Wilderness camps I stayed in, so comparisons as to camp accommodations are not appropriate. The food was as good, though we were not given the quantity of food as Wilderness provides (not necessarily a detraction). However I did feel that we spent less time doing “activities” then I had become accustomed to at the Wilderness camps. The Meerkat experience, Bushman walk, and Quad bike activities started later and ended earlier then a typical game drive. As such, we were finished with dinner, and headed to our tent by 8:30. Not that I couldn’t use the extra sleep, but I didn’t come to Africa to sleep. Perhaps if the camp had more people we might have stayed up talking with the others, but this was not the case here.

    We were told that our night to “sleep out under the stars" was the first night we arrived, but “Ralph” (not really sure who he is, but I think he is at Jack’s camp) decided the pans were still too wet. Though “interestingly” the following night another group of people at our camp were able to do it. (We chose not to ask if we could join them, as we felt their company would detract from the experience)

    again photos are at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

    I will write about the wonders of the Makgadikgadi pans next.

    amy

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    Amy- Interesting about your missed night under the stars. I had read and been told that you get the "special night" only if you stay 3 nights, which is one reason I have booked 3 nts., and nothing has been said about it being too wet to do so at any time and we are going in December, middle of the wet! Yikes, sounds like I might need to do some more research. So, even though you did not get your night out, you still think 3 nights would not have been too many? Is there an option for a second meerkat visit? I believe that "Ralph" may be Ralph Bousfield, the owner of Uncharted Africa (Camp Kalahari, Jack's Camp, San Camp, Planet Baobab. Ralph's father, Jack, started the whole quad bikes in the Kalahari thing (I believe).
    As usual, I cannot wait to hear the rest. Thanks again for a good report.
    Pat

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    Pat-

    The night we were told was to be our night under the stars was the other couple's 3rd night. The other group were 2 nights at Camp Kalahari and then they were going to Planet Baobab (but one was a travel agent- so who knows what they might do for her).
    Also when I had read the info, I thought I read that if you stay 2 nights you can stay one night under the stars.

    i do not think 3 nights would be too many. We would happily have done another game drive, possibly a night one(??) my son would happily have done the quad biking and either of us would enjoy spending more time with the Meerkats. The trouble with the Meerkats, is that it makes for a very brief encounter. They don't arise from their dens until after 7-7:30, and then by 10 they are beginning to forage ( at least this is the times in early June)

    As I noted the camp was most accommodating (and I think that if I protested about sleeping out we might have been accommodated-but...) I think if you make you wishes known they will do their best. (The group we did not wish to spend the night with were busy dictating how much spice they wanted in their food, etc)

    Anyway, not having spent the night under the stars gives me one more reason to go back- as i say, the glass is always more full then empty.

    amy

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    Amy-
    Thank you very much for the extra info. I have been a bit nervous about Camp K because I did not know much about it, but Jack's is just too expensive (we already have our share of expensive camps on the books). I have done other similar tented camps and don't mind that at all. I am really looking forward to the meerkats and hopefully, they will be up a bit earlier as it should be plenty hot when we are there. Looking forward to the "rest of the story". Thanks.
    Pat

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    Pat

    Make sure you visit Jack's camp, they have a wonderful museum there. One that I wished we had seen in more light (we went there after the bushmen walk). They have artifacts from the San people (Bushmen), skulls showing the evolution of various species, preserved animal specimens, If you find the "down" time in the midday too long, perhaps you can ask to go there before your Bushmen walk, as that is where one goes for the walk anyway.

    When we were at the airstrip the guide from jacks was telling us they had found an old ( and I mean ancient) elephant skull in the pans recently, and the Dept of Conservation was sending someone out.

    CK is a totally different experience then the other camps I stayed at, and it was a nice change in ALL respects.

    amy

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    amy,

    thank you for this wonderful report. reading it has brought back a flood of memories for me.

    i find it increasingly difficult spending time on this board, in particular reading trip reports, because i'm so broke. it will be many years before i get back to africa. but i followed your pre-trip posts and excitement with great pleasure and was anxious to read about your trip. i'm so glad that it turned out to be wonderful - no big surprise there, it is afreekah - and, how great to be able to share it with your son!

    looking forward to the rest.
    regards,
    anita

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    Part 3 Camp Kalahari (see above for CK overview)

    5/31 – We were met at the airstrip by Ndabono, who was to be our guide. We drove about 10 minutes, to camp, passing 4-legged animals I hadn’t seen here in Africa. Cattle. When we arrived, we were given lunch, and spoke with the one other couple that were there. He admitted he “knew” me, from Fodor’s. Though he described himself as a lurker, rather than a (like me-incessant) poster.

    Our afternoon activity was Quad Biking on the pans. Sam and I shared one bike and the Fodor’s “lurkers”, a very nice couple, shared another. Off we rode into the pans they are quite interesting texturally. The top crust tends to curl upward. In places this curl was short and abrupt. In other places, the crust was broken up into quite large (2 feet diameter) discs. Along the way we stopped and videoed each other riding on the pans, and the light was quite spectacular. We stopped a bit later, and Ndabono took photos of all of us jumping. The pictures look as if we are falling from the sky, as the land is so flat, it meets the sky not far from where seem to be standing. Sam and Melanie did a variety of flips and cartwheels, having a great time. We then walked around on the pans, finding some stone-age tools. The sunset was beautiful. We headed back and in the darkness ahead we noticed some fires burning in the midst of the pans. It was our camp staff and they had set up a Braii (barbecue) for us. Some new camp guests joined us. We sat under the stars having our sundowners, or in this case “star risers”. Dinner was served, and it was lovely. We headed back by quad bike, and soon went to bed (very early before 9pm).

    June 1 – AM activity. All the others had decided to sleep in (??) So Sam and I decided our wakeup and departure time. (5:30 wakeup, a bit after 6am departure.) As we were the only passengers in the Land Cruiser, Ndabono suggested we sit up in the enclosed front compartment with the heater blasting. It gets much colder in the Kalahari then we had experienced elsewhere in Botswana. The game reserve was not far from camp. The first animal we saw was a Black-Backed Jackal -a truly beautiful animal- I seem to always see them in the early morning, so they always have the warm glow of the early sunlight on them. Ndabono pointed out the small bird with the rapid wing beat, and told us it was an Ant Eating Chat, and he proceeded to mimic its call. something he enjoyed doing throughout our game drive. We saw several eagles, amongst them the Bateleur, which eats both carrion as well as live prey. We saw a tree full of vultures, mostly White-Backed, but also some Lappet-Faced- though by the time I photoed them the Lappet-faced had flown off. It made for an amazing sight. Both the ones still sitting in the tree, and the wingspan of those that flew off. Soon we came to a herd of Oryx, the first we had seen. They are really quite striking, with their long horns and dark black bodies against the grasses of Wild Dagga. One of the loveliest “grasses” is the Wild Dagga. It is a creamy white, and has a lovely seedpod that gives it such nice texture when looking at it either from a distance or up close. We enjoyed watching the herd move slowly through the grasses, with the early morning sun on them.

    Ndabono stopped for breakfast soon after this, about 8:15. He took out a large wooden chest that contained dishes, cutlery, and containers with cereals, and hard-boiled eggs. There was a thermos of coffee and hot water for tea or hot chocolate. Juice was also in the cooler along with milk and yogurt. We stood around eating in the midst of the beauiful the wild dagga. While we were eating Ndabono pointed out these small mounds of sand. These he noted were Harvest Termite mounds. It was interesting to note the difference in the size of these termite mounds as compared the extremely large mounds of the other species of termite. The harvest termite is much more common in the Kalahari, as we saw very few of the large termite mounds.

    We then came upon a pair of Bat-Eared Foxes- another of my “little five”. They were in the midst of the pans, and we enjoyed watching them amble across the pans, until they moved up into the “grassland”. We drove along to a part of the pans that was still filled with some water, Ndabono noted that there had been some late rains this year. There were groups of juvenile Greater Flamingo as well as Lesser Flamingo. They were a grey and white color that Ndabono said is due to their diet. We walked up to the edge of the water, scattering the flocks of flamingos briefly (Sam got a nice video of them in flight) before they settled back into the water again. At the water’s edge Ndabono looked in the sand and picked up a few dried shrimp that are the diet of the flamingo.

    As we drove on, we came upon a small herd of Springbok, the first we had seen. We thoroughly enjoyed watching them as they did their springy run. It is quite a sight. This is the time of the Zebra and Wildebeest migration Ndabono told us, and everywhere we looked there were Zebra and Wildebeest, along with smaller groupings of Springbok and Steenbok. Ndabono noted that he had seen several Cheetahs on the previous day, and that sightings of the Kalahari Lion and Brown Hyena, while not common, have been observed.

    We got back to camp around 11:30, and had a shower before a nice lunch. We said goodbye to our quad bike companions, who were leaving, and ate a delicious lunch. We chatted with Ndabono and he told us that they were enlarging the camp, adding I think 4 additional tents. He also noted that when we all departed on the next day, there were no guests for at least a week. And before we arrived the couple that we had gone quad biking with had been the only guests for the 2 nights they were there prior to our arrival.

    PM Activity-Our afternoon activity was a walk with the Bushmen. I was looking forward to this, as I remember reading Bushmen of the Kalahari in an anthropology course I took many, many years ago in college- and it fueled a fantasy of life as an anthropologist. And it bothers me to call them Bushmen, as they are more properly known as San people, but…We left camp about 4, after tea (I can’t remember what the tea consisted of at CK, but while good, I don’t think they were quite as lavish as at Wilderness, but certainly adequate. Ndabono drove us towards the “meeting” place, just nearby Jack’s camp.

    We were met by 5 men. 2 of them spoke English. We all introduced ourselves. We began to walk along the road, and they pointed out various animal tracks, as well as telling us how recently the animal had left the track. We saw tracks of various hoofed animals, as well as 2 different snakes (they move differently so therefore leave a different type of track). We could see the track of a lizard quite clearly, with the impression of its body, tail, and feet, clear in the sand. They then pointed out a small mound of sand, and I told THEM it was from Harvest Termites. One of the men translated this to the others, and they all broke out in a smiles, and nods of their head. (This was my LAST TERMITE story!) After looking at tracks, they picked up animal dung, and noted which animal it had come from, and then, by breaking it apart, could tell what it had eaten. They showed us some of the plants, and discussed how they use it. Specifically they discussed the Russet Bush Willow. They use the sap in their bird traps; the seedpods are used to make jewelry. The man who explained this did not speak English, and we got a chance to hear their language. It is wonderful to listen to, being completely unlike any language I had heard, as it is full of clicks of (I think) the tongue.

    We walked into the bush, and we all sat down as they showed us how they make a fire from friction. They first make a small bed with bits of dried grass, and powdered zebra dung. They then twist a stick rapidly about into a small notch in another piece of wood. Soon the grass, and dung material starts smoking. They then pick it up in their hands, and blow on it till a flame is going. They then fed the fire with twigs and small branches. After the fire died down they played a “game” 2 of the men were “springboks” and the other 2 were duiker (I think). The game consisted of various movements of their arms as well as making marks on the sand. Then one team won. It was fascinating to watch, and they clearly were enjoying themselves, moving more and more rapidly as the game went on. At its basic level, it seems similar to games such as Odds/Evens or Rock, Paper, Scissors. But the movements were much more complex.

    While we had been watching the fire and the game, one of the men built a small trap. He had me reach into to grab the bait, (which was the sap of the tree placed on a small stick). My hand was immediately “caught” They then showed us how it was made, but I didn’t really understand the mechanism that caused the ensnaring. Next we were shown a small plant. They carefully pointed out the seedpods on it as its distinguishing feature, and one of them began to dig and dig to get to the bulbous root. It was over a foot deep, and out he pulled a spherical bulb, about 7” in diameter. He began to shave off thin strips of it. He took his shavings, and put them into his hand. He squeezed the shavings over another man’s open mouth, and a thin milky fluid ran into it. Afterwards he carefully put the bulb back into the ground. This we were told is how they can always find something to drink in the desert. We walked back, to Jack’s camp, and thanked them for all we had learned. Ndabono later told us that one of men came from a nearby village, and that the other 4 live in a village up near the Namibia border. The 2 younger men are in “training”. They come for a period of 3 months, and then return to their village.

    Ndabono met us, and then gave us a tour of the “museum” in Jack’s camp. It contained skulls of a variety of modern and ancient animals. Sam noted one with extremely long canine teeth, which Ndabono said was an ancient ancestor of the Baboon. There were stone-age tools, and pottery, as well as preserved animals in jars. I would have liked more time as well as more light to be able to see it all, as it was now well past sunset, and there was not much lighting directed on the cases. We headed back to camp. We sat around the fire while I sipped some wine, and then had a nice dinner; it was just Sam and I, and Ndabono and the manager (whose name I forget how to spell/pronounce, but she was very nice), as the others were sleeping under the stars. (Read part 3a as to why we didn’t get to do this). We went back to the tent after deciding what time we wanted to get up for our morning Meerkat experience.

    June 2- AM activity with the Meerkats. We asked to be wakened at 6, and depart before 6:30 so we would be there before they come out of their underground dens. We had some juice (coffee if we wanted) before we left. We got to the dens before sunrise, and sat near the openings waiting. Soon one came up, Ndabono said it was the dominant female. She stood up with her darker front side facing the sun to begin to warm up. As we moved closer to her, she went back into the den, but we sat right by the opening, not moving, until she soon poked her head out, and eventually came out. Others slowly began to poke their heads out, and eventually there were about 10 or 11 of them. Sam lay on his stomach watching them, and soon there were 4 meerkats standing on him, sunning themselves. I of course was taking pictures. They were curious too, and one poked his face towards Sam. I enjoyed looking at them from behind, as their fur is quite pretty. I too, lay down, and 1 meerkat came on my back. None of them climbed onto our heads, as we were told they might, as they like to be up as high as possible to watch the area for predators (eagles are their dominant predator). Ndabono noted that they could “see” an eagle from further away then a human can. After they warm themselves they begin to hunt, we were told that they eat scorpions and other insects. We left when a few were beginning to forage for food.

    Unfortunately for us we have no videos of the experience, as some sand got into the lens cover, and jammed it. When we realized this happened the man from Jack’s (who keeps track of the Meerkats) took the camera and walked back there, to try to blow it out, but it was still not opening fully. Sam was later able to pry it open, and the camera was not affected so it worked fine.

    We came back to camp and had breakfast. We were told our plane was coming at 11. So I took a quick shower, and we headed off to the airstrip. When the plane had not arrived by 11:20, Ndabono radioed back to Jack’s camp. They checked on it, and radioed back that it would come at 1:15. As CK was now closed (everyone was heading to Jack’s) Ndabono took us on a short drive through the area. This area had many more trees, then we had seen in the pans. Some of which were quite lovely, so I amused myself taking some photos of the trees.

    again photos are at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

    amy

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    Anita

    I have always appreciated all your advice and support as I prepared for this trip. So I am glad you are reading it and enjoying it. Thou have only been back 3 weeks, already I want to return, so I completely understand how you feel.

    amy

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    I am enjoying your report.

    The meerkat experience sounds like it was really fun, and your pictures of them are nice.

    Your experiences at Camp Kalahari seems to have rounded out your trip.

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    Part 4 Savuti

    June 2- It was a long flight from Camp Kalahari to Savuti. There was a slight “leak” in the doorframe where Sam was sitting. Whether it was this, or the thin air, it caused him some discomfort (he has had “altitude “ sickness in the past). But once we landed and were on our way to Savuti he felt much better.
    Goodman our guide picked us up. The drive to camp was about 40 minutes, through a completely different ecosystem then we had seen before. Goodman described it as Mopane woodlands. The Mopane tree has a leaf that looks like the wings of a butterfly. The other dominant tree in the area is the Kalahari Apple. Goodman told us how the Savuti channel is now filled with water. (I had read about it on the Savuti site- this information was new to Sam). He said that the water had started arriving in August 2008.

    We arrived in camp and were met by the managers Terry and Nigel. We were the only guests that night. We had a briefing, which included information on the changes at Savuti since the water arrived. They discussed, complete with a map, where the waters were now, and where they had once ended. It had been over 20 years since water had flowed into the channel, and they were quite excited by the changes this caused.

    Savuti was the most lavish of all the camps we stayed at. It’s common areas were larger (granted it has 7 tents rather 10 as at Chitabe and Kwetsani.) There is an outdoor deck with chairs that encircle the fire right next to the water, and this extends to the bar. Breakfast is served here in the morning, and it is nice to warm yourself by the fire as you eat. They also have blankets on the chairs (a nice touch, and one that I made use of). The upper common area is divided into 3 parts, with 2 separate seating areas, and then a dining area. There is also an outdoor boma area. We were assigned to tent #1 the family tent. It is separate from the other tents, which are on the other side of the common areas. Our “Tent” was HUGE. My room consisted of 2 twin beds, a desk, and 2 comfortable chairs; there were various lighting options. The facilities consisted of a separate toilet area, double sink, and a huge shower area. It also had a large “closet” area opposite the sinks. There was a deck outside with 2 comfortable chairs and a table. Then there was a connecting passageway, with a tree growing in it, which led to Sam’s room. It was a bit smaller than mine, as it did not have the comfortable sitting chairs. Both rooms had field guides to the animals and birds. Savuti has only one drawback in terms of accommodations-NO OUTDOOR SHOWER. And I had so loved them, oh well. But it was much nicer for us each to have our own room and facilities.

    After we briefly settled in, we went back for a sumptuous tea. They were afraid we might not have eaten lunch before we arrived. Sam did his best to make them feel that they had not made too much food for us. Then we were off on our first game drive at Savuti. Goodman was our most passionate and informative guide. He clearly cares a lot about what he does, and wants his guests to learn much about the animals and ecosystems. He therefore would often ask us questions about things he had discussed before, or what we had seen.

    We came upon 3 female and 1 male Kudu on the other side of the channel. They walked back and forth along the water’s edge, and Goodman noted how many of the animals still are not accustomed to the water, and some are reluctant to cross it, and he felt that was the case with these kudu. We sat watching them. The light was lovely with their reflection in the water, then all of a sudden, they began to cross the water, at quite a rapid rate. It was actually quite exciting to watch, as they definitely did not seem all that comfortable with the water.

    We then saw a Slender Mongoose, and many Eles, and an African Fish Eagle. We came upon a large herd of Zebra, called a Dazzle – which in the late afternoon light, they were! Goodman pointed out one of the Zebra, whose mane was floppy-poor genes he noted. Amongst the Zebra was a lone Giraffe. He walked along the waters edge. Goodman pointed out several things. Giraffe’s have a parallel gait pattern that he noted aids them with balance. He also noted that Giraffes are not particularly comfortable crossing large areas of water, and that this Giraffe wanted to cross, as he was quite far from any of the trees (he was on the other side of the plains area) while the side of the channel we were on was amongst the trees. He also felt that if the Zebras crossed the Giraffe would most likely go along with them, which is why he was near them. But the Zebras did not cross, and so we left the Giraffe continuing to walk along the channels edge.


    The light was getting low, and soon just below our LR we saw first one, then another and eventually 3 Honey Badgers. Goodman told us that they have virtually no predators. Their skin is very tough, and that their underside has an especially thick layer of fat, which further protects them from cat and snake predators. As we drove along the Savuti Channel, we came upon a pod of Hippos. We watched as they used their tails to scatter their dung. It was quite fun to see. Goodman noted that this helps them mark their territory, as they are extremely territorial (one of the reasons that they cause more human casualties then any other animal in Africa). Their dung also is a source of food for fish. We watched them form quite near the water’s edge, and then they alternately began to “yawn” opening their huge mouths, with their neck outstretched. It was quite a site. (Unfortunately photo wise, I forgot to place my camera on a beanbag, so may pictures all had too much ‘shake”. Goodman then explained that the reason that Hippos can remain underwater for so long is because their nose has a ‘valve” that they can “shut”.

    We had sundowners near a small water hole. And then darkness was soon complete. As we drove, we saw our first Spotted Hyena across the channel. In the water we saw several pairs of orange eyes as the spotlight was swept along. They were Crocodiles Goodman noted. We also saw a sleeping Black Striped Jackal, and some Springhares.

    We had dinner on the deck with Terry; it was a quiet but lovely dinner. The Milky Way was less intense as the moon was getting fuller.

    again photos are at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

    I will continue Savuti day by day

    amy

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    thanks amy, for your report and especially of CK. my friends and i have signed on for the migration routes itinerary with WS and 3 nights at CK at the end next may, so your review was much appreciated!

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    Fabulous report, so enjoying it. Haven't checked photos yet!

    Your Kwetsani experiences sounds like our visit to Jacana, in same area, in 2004. In June, once the floods are in, the island is surrounded by water, even though it sits in a dry plain the rest of the year.

    Your experiences bring back so many of ours, like aknards it's hard to read it because we're unlikely to get back to Bots anytime soon!

    Shame they've got rid of the outside showers at Savuti!

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    Dreams-seems as i we all share each others dreams on this board!

    quimbymoy- I think 3 nights at CK will be perfect! and please post your report ( yes I know its a year from now, but I think the fastest way for me to "return" to any of these wonderful places will be thru other's trip reports.

    and thank you all for the positive feedback.

    One error i noted in my report, Savuti had 7 tents, and Chitabel and Kwetsani had 5 tents each ( not 10).

    amy

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    June 3-AM drive

    It was just Sam and me, and Goodman, (I am getting to really like this “private “ guide stuff.) We drove about, watching the sun come up, seeing Zebra and Impala in the early morning light. All of a sudden we saw a large bird fly from the top of a tree. Goodman stopped the LR and commanded us to get out our cameras. He told us that the remaining bird on the top of the tree was a secretary bird, and it was rarely seen in the trees. It was beautiful, I could see the top feathers clearly, and then Goodman carefully positioned the LR for perfect lighting. I took a lot of photos, and Sam videoed it, and then off it flew, as we both got photos and video of it in flight. It was truly the most spectacular bird we had seen. Goodman told us about the bird; it has long unfeathered legs that are designed for walking in tall grasses (which is why it is not often seen so clearly in a tree top). It eats snakes, and lizards. Goodman noted that it is endangered.

    We saw a few Cape Buffalo, and Goodman furthered discussed the symbiotic relationship with the oxpeckers. He noted that at times they could be detrimental to the Buffalo. If the Buffalo is wounded, the oxpecker will continually peck at the wound, and it becomes infected. We dove into the midst of a herd of Zebra, and enjoyed watching them. By the waters edge we came upon a herd of Eles. As always, I just sat back and watched them. There were several young adults sparing with each other. The herd contained many young eles, which are always fun to watch. Goodman pointed out one of the Eles that had ears that “flopped forward”, an indication of “bad genes” as he put it.

    We had a nice quiet brunch with Goodman. He is quite passionate about nature, and preserving the ecosystems of Botswana. He noted that he was going on his month break they day we were leaving, heading to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe). There, he and his girlfriend would visit family and friends and go on a Safari- I was not sure if he was leading a private safari, or joining one as a guest, but it speaks of his passion that this is how he chooses to spend his free time.

    PM Drive- Camp filled up with new arrivals. We now shared our LR with a young couple. We drove along, and all of a sudden there was a young adolescent male ele right near the LR. He trumpeted loudly, and flared its ears, and took a step towards us. Goodman noted that this behavior was a “mock” charge. A real charge would entail flattening of the ears against the head, and certain tail movements. A bit farther, we came to an ele in a ”clay pit.” He described the importance of clay to aid in the ele’s digestion. It breaks down Keyline or tannin, which acts as a water barrier in the lining of the stomach, preventing the absorption of food in the stomach. When they take in the soil they “suck” it, which we observed, rather than chewing it, as chewing the soil would grind down their teeth. I just love all this information, which I remember because some wonderful Fodors people suggested taking along a little notebook to jot things down in during the game drive.

    June 4

    Goodman planned an all day drive, which we had all agreed upon the previous day. He felt that we could go farther, seeing a slightly different ecosystem. We decided to depart at 7 rather than 6:30. We headed towards the area near Duma Tau (another Wilderness camp). The vegetation was different, with much taller trees, and fewer Mopane trees. We saw numerous Kudu. Goodman told us that their horns gain a twist each year. He described their markings as a “gilly suit”, and these types of markings aid in camouflage.

    We saw an interesting bird called a Gymnogene. Its foot structure allows it to perch on the vertical trunk of the tree. It is a quite large, belonging to the hawk family.

    We came to the Linyati River. Goodman noted that Namibia was at the tree line. We saw various water birds in the river. The African Darter is a water bird whose feathers are not waterproof, as this enables it to submerge deeper in the water. We saw both the Pied and Malachite Kingfishers. Sam continued his attempts to video the Pied Kingfisher diving and catching a fish (something Sam did not succeed at).

    We came upon a pair of Warthogs. Goodman noted that the males have 4 warts (2 by the eyes and 2 by the tusks) and the females have 2 (by the tusks). He also pointed out that they have heavy calluses on their knees; as they need to knell down to eat as they have such short necks.

    Elephant Dung has medicinal uses Goodman also told us. In the villages, it is ground up and used to aid in childbirth- he described it acting like ptocin. He also said that it is used for cervical cancer. He also noted that predators will often roll about in it to disguise their scent.

    As we drove away from the river we came to trees with several vultures in them. Goodman felt that they were either waiting to eat something or had just eaten. He began exploring the area, and found the horns and skull of an impala. He noted the markings and tracks and felt that this had been a recent wild dog kill. So we drove off, hoping to find the pack.

    As we drove Goodman pointed out 2 Tawny Eagles up in tree. One of them he noted had a snake in its talons. Looking through the binoculars, you could see the snake’s head and tongue. We watched them for a while, until the eagle with the snake flew away carrying the snake in its talons. Goodman thought it was a Black Mamba.

    As we drove, Goodman could smell the Wild Dogs, so we drove past a pod of Hippos on the shore of the Linyati River. We were all excited to see our first Wild Dog sighting. Soon we came to the pack. We counted 9 of them. They were sleeping in the shade not far from the river. Their stomach’s looked as if they had just eaten. They all appeared to be adults. We watched them for a while.

    We left the dogs, and headed back to a hide that was set right near the river. There we had a nice packed lunch. While we ate we enjoyed watching the various animals in and near the river. We watched a crocodile swim along, then get out of the water on the far bank. We saw 3 eles cross the river. 2 came and crossed the river near us where it was a bit shallower. Goodman pointed out how they use their trunks like a snorkel, always keeping it out of the water. But one of the eles was crossing the river where it was quite deep and wide. At times he was fully submerged, then you would see just his back, then his head and trunk would come out. He seemed to be enjoying his “swim”.

    After lunch we drove back to watch the dogs again. This time, some were awake, and moved into the sun. Their coats are so beautiful. I could have stayed there a lot longer, but alas, I no longer had a “private” guide.

    As we drove back, we saw a Waterbuck the first and only one I saw on the other side of the river.

    As we got near Savuti, we came upon a large herd of Cape Buffalo. They were in amongst the trees, but you could hear them and realize how large a herd it was. We saw a young calf nursing. A bit farther away, we came to a herd of eles; they were drinking at the edge of the channel. We watched some young ones “playing” together; they would swing their trunks at each other. Soon the herd crossed the channel. On the other side there was a mud hole, and several began to roll around in it, or splash mud on themselves with their trunk. The young eles were particularly fun to watch in the mud.

    As we watched the eles in the mud, the Buffalo began to cross the channel much further upstream.

    We got back to camp about 3:30. Goodman was more than happy to take us out again after tea, for another drive, but I seemed to be the only one interested. Sam convinced me to stay back with him, which I did, with regret.

    We had dinner outdoors in the boma. It was Eland kabobs. Yummy. As we were having our soup, I asked for someone to pass me the butter for my roll. Nigel said there was no butter as a Hyena had taken it. We laughed, assuming he was joking. But then he showed Sam and some others the empty butter dishes scattered outside the boma. Later during dinner, we had a visitor, the Hyena. He just poked his head in, and then left. Someone got a light, and we got up and watched him walk away.

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    June 5- Our last day in Botswana (Savuti)

    We left on our last game drive, and it was just Sam and I with Goodman our guide, as the other couple decided to sleep. Who comes to Botswana to sleep??, but their loss was our ability to again dictate our preferences.

    The sun was not even up as Goodman first noted some animals in the distance at the water’s edge. They looked familiar to me… dare I hope. But he confirmed it, Lions. We saw 2 and one was definitely female. We had been in Botswana for 10 days, and this was the first female Lion we had seen. From looking at all the wonderful photos on Fodor’s, I had thought this would be a sighting I would have seen well before now. We slowly approached them. As we got fairly near, we noted some others lying nearby. The first 2 we had seen came closer, crossing the shallow water of the channel. We just sat a watched them, as the sun was not yet up, and we were facing east. There were about 9 Lions all together, about 5 were female and 4 were young males with just the beginning hairs of what would become their manes as they grew. They moved about, playing with each other, licking each other, walking down to the water for a drink. They were so much fun to watch. It was a definite hand squeezing moment for Sam and me. Goodman radioed the other guides, but we were alone with them for a while. The sun was just rising, making a beautiful glow on them. I cannot really describe how special this moment was. There were all these large magnificent animals, with the light of the rising sun, and just the 3 of us. It is what Africa should always remain.

    Besides just absorbing them by sight, we were also aware of a strong and not particularly pleasant smell. Goodman felt we should investigate the source. So we drove slowly closer to the lions, and they began to move in the direction we were headed. We rounded some large bushes, and there before us was a large rib cage. It took me a moment to register the other parts of the animal that remained. It was a Giraffe. Or what remained. Goodman guessed that it had been 3 days since the kill. The other Lions all slowly began to come back, and we watched as they gnawed and licked the skin. Some chewed on the muscles left between the ribs. While we had not witnessed the kill, this was pretty awesome. We were able to get so close, and being the first vehicle, Goodman carefully put us into a wonderful position for the light, as the sun was now higher in the sky, but still had the warm glow. The other vehicles came and went, and still we sat there mesmerized by what each Lion was doing. How they interacted. Some, as they finished, just lay on top of each other, some moved into the shade and began to alternately groom each other, or wrestled with each other. Others went back down to the water for a drink. I don’t know how long we were there, but eventually the smell became too much for Sam, and we left.

    Goodman then told us that this was the Selinda pride, which numbers 12 lions. He noted that the dominant males were not present, (I think he said that there were 2??) He noted the absence of vultures in the area, which he felt unusual for a kill this old.

    We were on a high. This was our last safari drive, and what a great way to end it.

    We soon came upon a group of 4 warthogs, called a sounder. And Goodman told us that they mate for life.

    We then looked at various tress and vegetation; I finally took a picture of a Sausage Tree. Goodman also pointed out Wild Okra- he said that the small flat leaf when cooked tastes similar to the okra I am familiar with.

    We said “goodbye” to Botswana, to the baboons, zebra, giraffe, impala, a herd of Cape buffalo crossing the water in the distance, and of course the most wonderful of them all – the Elephants, as we drove back to camp and then on to the airstrip after brunch.

    again photos are at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

    Next installment is Victoria Falls-Zambia

    I cannot believe have have been back a month. At times it feels like yesterday, at other times... I want to get back...

    amy

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    Thanks for the Camp Kalahari info and activity description. Your description of the dried mud triggered memories I had long forgotten. That was a good move to request going to the meerkats before sunrise.

    How nice you met a lurker. How nice you avoided the spice dictators.

    Looking forward to some meerkat photos next.

    ScruffyPuma, I requested a second meerkat visit, but I had booked 4 nights, though I actually stayed only 3 nights due to a delayed flight. My meerkat additional visit was in the afternoon. Not quite as exciting as the morning wakeup visit, but a nice visit nonetheless. Make your request for another meerkat visit known early in your stay or before your departure.

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    atravelynn: Thank you very much for the info. We are staying 3 nights, first camp after Mala Mala, first trip to Africa for my daughter, so I think Camp Kalahari will be a bit of a shock after MM. She is really excited about the meerkats (fan of Meerkat Manor). Booked through AAT in Florida, might give Andre a call and see if a second visit is an option, othewise, I will take your advice and ask as soon as we arrive. I read your "Favorite Travel Experiences", we have travelled quite a few of the same roads.....and had to laugh on your profile about the lip balm.....I must have 15 of them stashed around.
    Thanks again. Pat

    Amy-Truly enjoying your report, waiting for Vic Falls.

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    Pat-

    CK was a "shock" for my 22 year old son, which surprised me. It primarily made him homesick for his girlfriend, but when he saw Jack's camp he kept saying he wished we had stayed there- I just did my best "smile" and simply told him I couldn't afford it. However, he slept fine, and enjoyed all the activities, just wanted a little light in the night to read, though I think he benefitted from the extra sleep.

    amy

    If my "lurkers" M and J are reading, perhaps you could add some thoughts about your 3 night stay.

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    Amy: My daughter is 23 and is fairly spoiled when it comes to accommodations, but she said it would be worth it for the meerkats! I, also, will use the "smile" and say that the $$ were spent on the rest of the camps later in the trip! I will be the one with the tiny book light! Can't wait for Vic Falls.

    Pat

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    Part 5- Victoria Falls- Zambia - accommodation Zambezi Sun


    June 5 - We arrived in Kasane after about a 45-minute flight from Savuti. We were met by a Wilderness rep. and transported by car to the ferry crossing. This was the first time we had driven in Botswana. The ride was short -15 minutes, but I got to see a bit of Kasane, which is where Goodman and some other staff at the various camps were from. We were not even near the river, several miles away, when we came to a line of 16-wheelers (freight trucks). The driver noted that they were waiting to cross the river by the ferry, and that they wait for several days (3-5) to get across. When we got to the river, we saw the ferry. It was a small metal boat that was able to carry one truck and a few passengers at a time. There were 2-3 ferries operating.

    I cannot fully give voice to my thoughts about this, as this is a travel forum, but… build a larger dock and more ferries, employ people making these, and running them, and then the goods that are transported will be cheaper as the drivers will take twice as much goods back and forth over a given period of time. OK, so I did put my 2 cents worth in…

    We went to a small boat, and were taken across the river. We crossed the Zambezi just where it meets the Chobe River. There were 2 people on the boat, one was the boat operator, and the other was the person that would drive us to the hotel (only I didn’t know that till later). I only mention this, as I had no idea of how much to tip each of these 3 different men. I tried to refer to my tipping guide that I got from my agent as I was in the vehicles, but couldn’t decide if these were long or short road transfers.

    The man on the boat with us, that I later learned was from Wilderness, took us thru customs, and then we got into his vehicle. The ride to the hotel was about 45 minutes. He pointed out various things of interest along the way, and proudly said that Zambia was a democracy and we could ask him anything. He was an older man, so I asked him about living there when it was Northern Rhodesia, and under apartheid. He was totally surprised that I knew about this, and I told him that I remember the wars, and when Zambia and Zimbabwe became independent countries. One of the things he pointed out to us was a large farm. He said that it was one of the largest in Zambia, and that it is being run by a farmer who left leave Zimbabwe because he was white. He then noted that Zimbabwe’s losses are Zambia’s gains. He said that their tourist industry is on the rise, especially in Livingstone. He noted that they are reaping the benefits of the experienced former farmers from Zimbabwe. He was very interesting, and I enjoyed talking with him.

    We stopped at a viewpoint along the Zambezi. In the distance I saw what seemed to be white low clouds, but our driver quickly pointed out these were from the falls, and that was the “Smoke that Thunders”. We drove through a part of Livingstone; it seemed very colorful, with small shops and restaurants. We arrived at the hotel about 3pm.

    Our room was on the second floor, and from our balcony we could see the mist from the falls. The Zambezi Sun is a large “resort type” hotel. There are about 3 buildings each 2 stories high surrounding the pool area. There are several restaurants on the property. None of which are particularly good, and tend to be expensive. We chose to eat at the hotel only because we were exhausted each night, and Sam in particular did not want to venture out into town. (Partially as the road to the hotel was under construction, and was not paved- and he would rather talk to his girlfriend on the phone then spend the time getting to and from town). My recommendation would be to eat elsewhere.

    The major benefit of staying at the Zambezi Sun is its proximity to the Falls. We left our room, walked to the front desk to get raincoats, and then walked back towards our room, and turned left and in 10 minutes we were soaked! The water level at the falls is extremely high due to all the water that it has received from Angola. Like the Okavango Delta, there is flooding. Livingstone Island is closed. In fact I would say there was almost too much water, as you could barely see the falls there was so much mist. But the rainbows, and the double rainbows were everywhere. I could only find a few places dry enough for me to take pictures as we walked along the path. Sam and I were totally wet, and having a blast. We took lots of fun pictures of each other. The Falls just felt amazing. The amount of water pouring over them, and the narrowness of the gorge made them unique. We thought the Falls were so wide, but we did not even realize how little of the Falls we were actually seeing until the following day. We walked about the area closest to the Falls, and then headed to a drier area that has a good view of the bridge. It was getting close to closing time (6pm) so we headed back to the hotel. Along the way we noted a craft market just outside the entrance to the Falls and planned on shoppping the following day.

    June 6-
    We had a half-day canoe trip on the Zambezi booked. We were told to be at the Activity Desk at 8am. We got there, and waited a while till they arrived. AAC booked it for us. It was with SafPar or Safari Par Excellence and for anyone interested. Their web address is www.safpar.com. They are a rather new operation, the very nice capable trip leader told us. We drove about 15 minutes up the river, to the launching area. It was just Sam and me- we were in 1 canoe, and there were 2 other men each in a canoe. The canoe was an inflatable one (greater stability), and we used kayak paddles. We were given a brief overview of the trip, and into the water we went. We had not taken our cameras with us, but they did have a watertight box you could store things in when we hit the rougher water. We just took our binoculars, unzipped our convertible pants, took off our shoes and socks and put on our flip-flops. We paddled over to the Zimbabwe side, as there is a National Park on that side so we would see more animals. The Zambia side is commercial (mainly hotels/resorts).

    As we paddled (Sam actually did most of the paddling in the calm water-how nice to be told to “just sit back and relax Mom “- we saw impala, a waterbuck, and various birds that our guides pointed out to us. We saw several pods of hippos – which Sam had requested we stay a “respectful” distance from, many crocodiles, which I thought looked quite large, though we were told were not full grown. Did I mention how wide the Zambezi River is? Where we were, it was the widest river I have ever seen (I live in NY and the Hudson River is quite a wide river). There were islands of varying sizes all throughout the river. We went through some very small rapids, what fun! Then we beached the canoes, stretched our legs, had some water, and then packed up everything we didn’t want to get wet into the waterproof boxes. (Though by this time my shorts and feet were quite wet). We were then given instructions to stay in line between the guides’ canoes. We then went through a series of slightly larger and longer rapids, and the paddling was a workout. But it was really fun. Soon we came to the landing point. We drove through the park, and saw some impala and baboons. There were other animals, but I didn’t have my notebook. We then went to the resort that this company runs to have cocktails. We declined, but we looked about a bit and it seemed quite nice, though it was not on the river, or on the Falls.

    We got back to the hotel, had a quick bite to eat, and then we headed to the Falls. This time we walked down to the “Boiling Pot”. The path was a paved descent with steps the first 2/3. Then we got to an area where the walkway had been washed away, and we had to wade through the water to continue on the path. At this point there were a couple of young men standing around, and one began to show us the way down. We would not have made it down to the bottom without him, as the pathway was completely underwater, at points about a foot deep. We got to the bottom; this is very near where the Lower Zambezi starts. It is called the Boiling Pot as the water comes churning through narrow opening of the tall escarpments on the Zimbabwe and Zambia side. The view of the Lower Zambezi is great. We walked back up quickly as we had to head on over for our Microlight flight.

    We had booked a Microlight flight for a 3:30 departure. This turned out to mean we had to be at the Activity Center for pickup at 3:30. We were picked up, joining others heading for either helicopter or Microlight flights from the nearby Royal Livingstone. We got to the airstrip, and waited about 15 minutes (they were running a tad late). There are 2 microlight aircraft. Sam went first. I soon followed. I was belted in (a lap belt only). They put a helmet with an attached microphone on me so I could communicate with the pilot. Then we took off. Take off was smooth, and soon we were over the river. The day was clear and I could see the mist from the Falls. As we approached the Falls I realized how wide they are. I could see the escarpment that Sam and I had walked on yesterday. It barely was a ¼ of the width of the Falls. The escarpment on the Zimbabwe side is about 2/3 of the width of the Falls. The pilot talked about the course of the Lower Zambezi as it came into view. It is amazing as it twists back and forth. Sam’s pilot told him that this is the 7th falls, and that each zigzag in the Lower Zambezi represents a previous fault. Sam’s pilot also pointed out that a new fault is developing. We flew along the width of the Falls, and then back up rive. On one of the larger islands you could see elephants on the island. There is a camera attached to the wing of the craft, and they photograph the trip. Once we landed we were able to view the pictures. They came out great, so we each bought our pictures, which were put onto a CD. They also added on some stock photos they have of the Falls at different times of the year. It looked so different when the water level as at it’s lowest.

    When we got back to the hotel, we headed out to the craft market. We had been warned by a couple we met at Savuti, that they put a lot of pressure on you, and try to keep you from looking at other vendors. However, I love this kind of stuff. Sam had never done this before, so I handled all the “transactions”. The market was closing, and had yet to buy all we wanted. So we decided to go back again the following morning. Sam also decided that I didn’t get low enough prices, and he could do better.

    June 7- Our last day in Africa, how sad!

    I got up early, as I wanted to take pictures in the early morning light, Sam decided to sleep. I first walked along the eastern shore of the river above the Falls. I then headed to the path that said “Best Photo” or something like that. It went along the far edge of the lower Zambezi, but there were some great pictures of the lovely bridge that crosses into Zimbabwe. I would have gone back to the escarpment that runs near the Falls just to get the mist in my face, and feel the wonder of it, but decided I didn’t feel like taking back wet clothes, and I promised Sam we would go back to the market.

    Sam and I went back to the market, and he did do a better job at wheeling and dealing. We had luckily brought an almost empty bag with us, that we now filled with all our purchases. We finished packing, and checked out. Were taken to the airport. Our flight was on time, and landed in Jo’Burg with four long hours till our flight to NY. We bought some more stuff, as I hand some Rand burning a hole in my pocket. The plane was very pleasantly less than ½ full, which meant that everyone could find an extra seat-some were even stretched out on 4. We had a stop at Dakar, but we didn’t deplane.

    June 8-

    We arrived back in NY. My wonderful husband was there to pick us up. Once home, I had to put my pictures up on the computer. Sam’s girlfriend came, and we watched videos till I fell asleep.

    July 11-

    I have finished my trip report. Now I am no longer a “Newbie”. But I dream to return to Africa. I have definitely caught the bug. It is a very special place.

    I look forward to reading others reposts and looking at your photos till I again can post my incessant questions as I plan a trip, post photos and write another trip report.

    Again, many thanks to all who have patiently answered my questions, looked at my pictures, and posted your comments to my report. And to those of you who have not yet done a safari, but are planning, Africa is a wonderful place, and you will have the most fantastic trip!

    again photos are at
    http://gallery.me.com/amycyma

    amy

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    Thanks Amy. I've enjoyed every word of your report as I'm doing a similar trip next May.

    I have a question about your leg from Kasane to Vic Falls. Was this an adventure/educational and would you do it again? It was suggested that I might prefer an air transfer (at an additional cost ) instead of the ground transfer. I do like to see "a bit of real life" though. Any thoughts?
    Debbie
    P.S. I'm Paul's friend from SF.

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    Wonderful trip report. I was at Kwetsani in June 2006 and found it to be a wonderful camp. After looking at your leopard picture I compared it to the leopard we saw when we were at Kwetsani. The markings are the same. It's nice to know that she is doing well, despite her eye infection. She had a six month old cub at the time and they posed for us in an large dead tree.

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    raelond
    When we were there they noted she had a grown male offspring that she still at times hunted for- they described him as an adolescent, so maybe that is the same one you saw as a cub. I am not sure at what age a leopard is considered grown

    Debbie-
    i would definitely do the road transfer. There was a couple that we lelft Savuti with and were staying at the Zambezi Sun. They took the flight from Kasane. We arrived at the same time at the ZS. So no time is saved by going by air, and I do feel I got to see a bit of Zambia, and talking to the driver was really the only time I had a long conversation with anyone in Zambia. I would choose to go by road if it cost me more money, especially as it not take any more time.

    amy

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    Thank you, Amy. I've enjoyed each installment of your report. You've included lots of interesting info. We're always planning our next African safari -- #4 for my husband, #6 for me!
    Samcat

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    Amy,
    I was in Botswana around the same time as you were, but in different camps, which were also fantastic-Duma Tau; Vumbura Plains & Little Mombo. I have not written a report yet, but do intend to. I did not take as many notes as you and others have, unfortunately. Loved to hear what you said about the camps you visited. I plan to go again in three or four years, and from your reports I think I will definitely try Kwetsani and may even ask for your guide!
    Loved your photos too-what a pleasure to read about and see your trip. Thank you!

    Debbie,
    I agree with Amy about the road transfer. Not to say it was a classy experience-it was a bit unexpected and parts of it were surprising-but it was the only time we were among the people of the two countries, by ourselves, not spoiled with posh trappings. We saw the people waiting for the boats, their dress and poverty in a way that we had been shielded from on our posh safari trips. We passed many homes some schools, interesting signs, a man guiding his cows across a highway, people walking home from work or a few lucky ones riding a bike along the road, as many do not own cars. We passed villages where a chief lived with his various wives in their various structures. It was all very enlightening, and although at the beginning I was somewhat apprehensive about what we were getting into, I knew the AAC set it up, so it must be ok, and it was definitely an adventure I would not have wanted to skip.

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    Great family photos--yours and the meerkats. Nice ostrich outing. Looks like one of the males was trying to get the ladies' attention.

    Next up Vic Falls where I know you saw at least one zebra from the album cover.

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    I forgot to write up in the report that there were Zebras all around on the grounds of the Zambezi Sun, and the last morning as I went to breakfast armed with my camera, there were several just outside our building.

    I was able to get up very very close to them and take some pictures. The lighting wasn't the greatest, but the proximity was perfect... They were the last animals I saw in Africa... till I return...

    amy

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    Hi! We are just beginning to plan a trip to Africa and your report is very helpful. Could you possibly give me any idea of cost- I hate to be nosy and ignore this if you think it is rude.
    Thanks,Shaynak

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