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Namibia and Botswana impressions

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I just returned from a trip to Namibia and Botswana. The water in the Delta was quite high but did not affect the game-viewing – I suspect many camps will have to deal with all kinds of logistical issues when the annual flood arrives and bumps up the water levels even more. At Duba the vehicles spend a lot of time crossing sometimes very deep stretches of water, and if/when the buffalo herds cross a deep channel to the Paradise area they cannot be followed. However this has been the situation for many years, nothing really new about that. If you haven't been to Duba for 10+ years it comes as quite a shock to see so much water there. It used to be that the buffalo herds could be located by plumes of dust. Those days are over. One of the locals mentioned to me that it (period of high floods) is a much welcomed development, a pleasant contrast to all those years of the Okavango Delta shriveling up. I heard the same thing from an environmental expert - he said that the Delta goes through wet and dry cycles of about 7 years' duration; we are right in the midst of a very wet cycle right now. As everybody knows by now, the Savuti Channel is flowing like it last did in the 1970's with water reaching all the way to the once legendary Savuti Marsh. It really looks fantastic from the air; we flew all along the channel coming out of Kings Pool on my last day there.

A selection of my photographs can be seen on Picasa at this link:

https://picasaweb.google.com/BertinHouston/AfricaMarch201103?authkey=Gv1sRgCOiP0rad45a8oAE&feat=directlink

In summary:

The 4-night Skeleton Coast Safari in Namibia with Kathleen was amazing; the area is simply otherworldly. Stunning natural beauty, awesome geological formations, plenty of desert-adapted wildlife, a trip into the interior where we visited a small Himba village, and walking in real quicksand - the Skeleton Coast has all of that and much more. I had an interesting time at Doro Nawas in Damaraland with very worthwhile outings to the San rock engraving site & the petrified forest but hardly any game there this time of the year. From there I went on to Desert Rhino Camp where I was extremely lucky with a cheetah and two different lion sightings, and fortunately black rhino on foot, albeit after several hours of tracking them. This is a superb camp which I would recommend for anyone visiting Namibia.

Then it was on to Botswana. At Kalahari Plains Camp I experienced an eye-popping San interpretive walk, and the game-viewing was most impressive with hundreds of oryx & springbok & beautiful black-maned lions. At Tubu Tree we had more than just one leopard hanging from trees, a hyena taking away a kill from a leopard right in front of us and lions wading through deep water. With plenty of other game around, often with four or five species of mammals to be seen at the same time. Selinda was no slouch either with a near perfect cheetah sighting which - after several hours of hanging around - resulted in us witnessing a kill. Patience really paid off! Good general game too, and a large pride of lions on arrival at Lebala airstrip.

I left a couple of the best sightings for the last camp on the trip which was Dumatau, where our guide Ron found a pack of seven wild dogs & mating leopards to boot. I thoroughly enjoyed a mokoro outing and a boat trip with some fishing on a tributary of the Khwai River at Wilderness Safaris' new Banoka camp (game on the quiet side there, mopane quite thick!), and marveled at James’ intimate knowledge of the area and the wildlife at Duba Plains, which should be renamed Duba Marsh as the vehicles were swimming all the time. Lots of lions everywhere, climbing onto all kinds of things including woodpiles and termite hills.

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