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Trip Report Modified WS Migration Routes trip report

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Just back a week from our wonderful, amazing first trip to Botswana (May 15-30)! It was everything I could have imagined and more. And like many others who have gone before, I'm hoping to be back sooner than later!

My friends & I (4 of us) booked this mobile camping safari to Linyanti, Khwai & Xigera a year ago, but somehow WS lost our reservations so they modified our itinerary by upgrading a couple of camps at the front end and reversed the last 2 camps. Boy, were we happy that everything worked out this way!! Instead of being 4 of 8 guests on the MR program, we ended up having a private guide all the way. I thought it was a really great, well rounded itinerary and saw really different landscapes and experienced different kinds of camps, which will help us in deciding how we travel the next time.

I will break things down per camp:

Toka Leya (Livingstone):

Wonderful camp! Beautiful accommodations, great staff & food.

We were here only 1 night so we only had the tour of Vic Falls, which was completely full & gushing! Ponchos and wet sandals were a must.

Chobe River tour:

Wonderful wildlife sightings - highlights were beached hippos, ele drinking water, lots of crocs & birds.

Xigera Camp:

Loved Xigera! Again, wonderful staff & food. Awakened 1st night here by a herd of eles & grunting hippos. The eles waded thru the water and ate off the trees for almost an hour. For 1st timers, you can imagine how scary this was! Mokoro rides were so relaxing! Bird life here is amazing and there was LOTS of water from the summer rainfall. It was easier going on safari by boat vs. safari vehicle. Saw many animals here but less herds. Loads of birds... we're bird nerds so it wasn't boring for us. Favorite memory here was at lunch on Chief's Camp. We were called by the guides to run to the clearing with our cameras; there was a journey of giraffes running! Apparently, a herd of red lechwes got spooked by something so they started running. The giraffes saw them so they started running! Then the zebras followed. I was waiting to see if it was a lion chasing but no such luck. The staff was also nice enough to set up a basket weaving demo for us at the lodge. We loved it.

Linyanti Adventurer Camp:

Upon landing at Chobe airstrip and met by our amazing guide Brooks, we saw almost everything we wanted to see in less than 1.5 hours! Big herds of animals with babies, cheetah pair, 2 lionesses and Romeo, who wasn't so nice about sharing his kill...

Super sightings! Over the next couple of days we saw so much wildlife & birds and visited Romeo a few times. He was quite lazy and sated from his giraffe kill. We never saw his brother Milky Eye tho. Lots of rutting inpala, fun to watch mating rituals. My favorite sighting here was seeing the Duma Tau pack of wild dogs! We really were in a hurry to get to the airstrip on the way out but Brooks heard the wild dogs were at their den and so he sped to the sight to show them to us. It was amazing. It was a pretty decent sized pack, around 12-15 dogs.

As for our camp, mobile tenting was really comfortable... I slept incredibly well and outside of the lack of room, I really enjoyed the more rustic settings and the visitors! We had a couple of ele visits, as well as a honey badger at night near the campfire.

Khwai Adventurer Camp:

The original campsite here was flooded so our camp was moved to a public concession. LOTS of water, but we still had good sightings here (and some amazing sunsets) as well as hearing some crazy activities at night (jackals barking, lions roaring, hyena howls, baboons barking... wow!). The highlights here ranged from watching a tiny lion ant kill to seeing a huge herd of cape buffalo to finally a leopard sighting! But again my favorite was another wild dog pack sighting. This time Brooks insisted that we get to the den site by 5 PM b/c if they were there, he wanted us to experience the assembly and greeting to the alpha female. That was amazing!

Again, the tents were comfortable and the food at both mobile camps was delicious! Wonderful cooking with limited resources.

Camp Kalahari:

Located near the Makgadikgadi/Nxai Pan National Park. This area was so completely different than everywhere else we've gone. Looked like Palm Springs without the springs, and the pans were super cool, so flat and vast! There was still water here which made for a miserable experience with the mozzies... they were quite DEET resistant, little stinkers. Wildlife viewing was so different here as well. While we could get really close to the animals at the other camps, we generally couldn't here, as the vehicles aren't allowed to go off road. And the animals aren't as habituated to the Land Rovers so they will run when the vehicle gets closer. I used my longer end of my lens here (420mm) while I only used that for birds at the other camps.

We got to visit the habituated meerkats twice! What fun they were! They would scamper when you got close but if you sat down quietly they would come and sit by or on you and use you as a sentry. It was so much fun watching these critters run around... we actually watched the main colony (of 18) storm the other colony (11) when the alpha male from the other colony came by, tried to take one of the females and then marked their territory. The offended colony then went en masse to the other colony. Waited for a fight to happen but it never did. Very fun watching them hop around with their tails up!

Other highlights: watching 2 lionesses with their zebra kill and watching the jackals and vultures waiting to get in patiently. And one of the lionesses growled at us make us back off (seeing as tho the jackals & vultures did!). Seeing the humongous Chapman's Baobab near sunset. Going to Blind Man's Palace (vast salt pan) at sunset & dark to experience the nothingness. If it weren't for the mozzies, I would have heard nothing. It was a really surreal experience.

As I said earlier, it was a really great mix of camp experiences. For battery charging, it was easy at Toka Leya & Xigera, as there is electricity (generator) and power strips in the rooms (just bring an adaptor). At the mobile camps, we charged them in the vehicle. It helps to have a DC converter, as sometimes the converters in the vehicles don't work. (I wonder how this would have worked with 8 people in the vehicle!!) At Camp Kalahari, we would hand our batteries & chargers to the camp manager as they have solar powered electricity.

And having experienced camps at both Wilderness Safaris & Uncharted Africa, you could really see & experience the differences in camp personnel & guide training. WS really trains their guides so well and the attention to their clients was outstanding. And when the passion and enthusiasm shows, like it did with Brooks, it made for a much more enjoyable safari experience.

I can understand why people don't like going this time of year because it makes wildlife sightings harder, but I really liked that the landscape were green and for us, the thrill was in the "hunt". By the time we left Xigera, our eyes were trained to look for small things like birds & bugs, so finding even slightly bigger things was pretty easy for us. Seeing the little critters as well as bigger game was just as thrilling.

Thanks for all who have posted about their experiences previously, esp on packing lists. One thing I wish I had was saline spray as the air was so dry. The weather was just about perfect, the way I like it: sunny and warm days (80 ish), cool nights & mornings (lo 50s)... perfect sleeping weather.

Here are some pictures & movie clips from my trip.

http://web.me.com/quimbymoy/Botswana_2010/Welcome.html

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