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Just Returned from WS Migration Routes + Mala Mala

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I’m just back from my first African safari: a combination of the Wilderness Safaris “Migration Routes” mobile camping trip (9d / 8n), followed by Mala Mala (4d / 3n). Thought I’d post a brief synopsis for now, then post a more detailed report and pictures later (I’ve got about 2500 pics to sort through and winnow down to something manageable).

The entire trip was fabulous! The combination of the Migration Routes mobile followed by the comfort and quality of MM was brilliant. Two very different experiences, but each was fabulous and each produced more species in greater numbers than I could have reasonably expected.

A brief word on Migration Routes... This camping mobile is very well done. Three of the four camps were exceptional in terms of their placement and the quality of their settings. All the camp staff were marvelous, very welcoming, helpful, and accommodating. The food was great, tasty "home cooking" all prepared over a wood fire, including fresh-baked breads, and a wide-ranging menu that never repeated from camp to camp. Our Guide, Emmanuel, was knowledgeable and fun. Transfers between camps included mokoro, road, and air. One of the road transfers is uncomfortably long and difficult going (all day, basically) but is rewarded by what you get (game-wise) in the middle and at the end. We stayed in, and/or traversed, the same areas as the more expensive camps -- Xigera, Vumbura, Zibadianja, and Kings Pool -- and saw the same game that folks at those camps would see. We joked that we got "the same dirt and dust as the posh camps, but twice as much at half the price." I would enthusiastically endorse this trip, provided however that you are comfortable with the realities of camping (some lack of privacy, no indoor plumbing or running water, getting very dirty, and sometimes uncomfortable traveling conditions), as it's not for everyone. Also, we were very fortunate in that our group of six (an Australian couple, an English woman and her two daughters aged 12 and 14, and me -- a single American male) turned out to be a very compatible and companionable group. We had great fun together – and the two girls were a delight to have along. I could imagine a different experience if you are in a difficult or non-compatible group. My guess, however, is that the very nature of the type of folks likely to go on a mobile like this goes a long way toward ensuring a degree of compatibility.

Some of the highlights of the Migration Routes trip: several fantastic mokoro trips in the Delta around Xigera; Great Eagle Owl and Pels’ Fishing Owl; quality time with a Cheetah near Vumbura; raucous action at night as Lions hunted Buffalo directly across from camp in the Selinda Spillway; quality time with the dominant Lions of the Lechwe Island area (2 brothers); the profusion of wildlife around Zibadianja Lagoon and the waterhole hide (including a herd of 100+ elephants bathing and drinking in the lagoon area); brief glimpse of an African Wild Cat (sorry, no pics!); a Hyena lapping water from the wash basin outside my tent at 3:00am, not 2 meters from me and separated only by the mosquito netting of my tent flap (!); an Elephant joining us in camp for afternoon tea; quality time with the dominant Lions of the Linyanti area (three brothers, the Border Boys, so-named because their territory also includes areas in Namibia across the Linyanti River); the Border Boys on night patrol, roaring all night, at times very close to camp; night sighting with spotlight of a male Leopard feeding on an Elephant carcass; quality daylight sighting of an alert female Leopard; quality time with four Hyena pups playing and chasing one another outside their den (much cuter as pups than as adults!); a huge pod of 50 or more Hippos in the Chobe River.

Mala Mala started off a bit slow and, for the first 4 drives, included an insufferable vehicle-mate. But the game viewing got better as things progressed, the pain-in-the-butt and her party left after two nights, and I had the last two drives alone with the ranger. The rooms at MM are spacious and very comfortable. I had a stand-alone rondavel as a single (Room 20), with a nice wooden deck out back. Each day there was something different in “my backyard,” including Nyala, Bushbuck, Baboons, and once even a Hippo entirely out of water and grazing through the “yard.”

Game highlights at MM included: quality time with a herd of about 12 or 15 Elephants, including a weeks-old youngster, which eventually surrounded our stopped vehicle and grazed all around us, at times almost within touching distance; a close encounter with a crush of 6 Rhinos; a night sighting with spotlight of the Styx Pride (7 Lionesses) on the move; quality time with a female Leopard (Daughter of the Campbell Koppies Female) in a tree eating a Python; more quality time with another female Leopard (Kikileze Female) with a full belly assuming the classic Leopard-in-repose posture, draped across a tree limb with legs dangling; and on the final morning, an almost unbelievable 2 hours alone (ranger, tracker, and I) in the midst of a very active Styx Pride – almost like being a member of the pride!

Full report to come, once I’ve got the pics sorted…

rickmck

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