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Trip Report Overland Wildlife Expedition to Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana & RSA

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Just discovered Fodor's travel forums. I thought I would post a few of my trip reports and sharing our experiences with other like-minded traveler! Here is one of our adventures in southern Africa. I think you will enjoy it!

Cheers!

http://cokesmithphototravel.com/Expedition_to_Southern_Africa_2009.html

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    Thank you for sharing your spectacular adventure and incredible photographs. I've read many reports but I find yours to be the most fascinating as you really experienced the "bush" first hand by overland travel where your interactions with the wildlife, people and culture are so much more interesting than a regular (although still wonderful) safari that most of us experince. This is definitely a trip of a lifetime and I'm glad you and your family were able to experience such a special and memorable time in Southern Africa.

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    Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed your trip report and photos. It is always good to read a report written by a fellow self-driver, as we are few and far between on this forum. Your journey included many parks that we have been to and will return to this year. We will be camping at Khwai Community campsite, so it was good to learn that you had such a marvellous experience there. Your photos are lovely.

    However, some of your comments/actions left me very uneasy - I quote them below. It is exactly this sort of behaviour that results in self-drivers having a very poor reputation, particularly in Botswana, where park authorities have been threatening to ban self-drivers from their parks. Feigning ignorance of the rules, driving at break-neck speed amongst a herd of elephants, deciding to drive more carefully only after you have terrified the elephants and killed a steenbok, and arriving late at a gate is exactly the behaviour that gives us such a poor reputation. My DH and I are by no means perfect but, when self-driving, we do try to always respect the rules and drive in a manner that never endangers the wildlife. I am sorry if my comments seem mean-spirited, but please (in future) don't add to self-drivers' already poor reputation. CR

    From your trip report:

    I had an inkling that sunset was our limit but we decided to push it our first night and feign ignorance since there was no signage at all in Imfolozi regarding self-drives at night. The rules are always listed on the back of your permit.

    ...we were heading at break-neck speed directly in to the middle of a much larger breeding herd consisting of well over 100 elephant cows and their young. The noise and the speed of my truck were no doubt terrifying to the elephants. I came extremely close hitting a cow that bolted from the road in to the surrounding bushveld.......This ended up being our only road kill on the entire trip, but we all felt a high degree of guilt, maiming the beautiful steenbok and scaring the elephants half to death. We all agreed to drive much more carefully to avoid killing anything else and to give elephants a much, much wider berth. Pity you didn't drive carefully from the moment you entered each park.

    It was about this time when we noticed we had less than 25 minutes to drive 30 kilometers down sandy tracks to the soon-to-be-locked main gate. Although we were late for the gate, the ranger was very understanding when he saw the spectacular images of our leopard-lion incident. Gate times are also on your permit.

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    Wow - what a scolding. I am a bit saddened that these are the areas that you gleaned from my report to throw back at me. I think your description of your comments as mean spirited is right on the mark. But thanks just the same for taking the time to look the blog over and give some feedback. And I guess another thanks is in order for convincing me NEVER to post a trip report here again!

    Well, the information was not on our permit as we did not get one at Imfolozi. As we entered the park after hours, we never got a permit and even though I requested one the next day, they told me not to worry about it. And since this night was our VERY first night in South Africa, it was an honest mistake that we did not repeat during our next 59 nights safaring in-country.

    The steenbok accident was horrible, but we were only doing nothing wrong and your pointing it out as if I did something malicious or with ill intent is a bit mean I think. And the way you put the quotes side by side with the elephant incident was a bit like yellow journalism and very misleading in my opinion. Perhaps it is the way I wrote it up in the report that lead to your interpretation of our feelings and about the event in general. But the emotions of that day were very high after the incident. Our entire family was very very saddened by the accident and if I could have turned back time, I would have. HAve you ever had an accident or killed an animal with your vehicle without meaning to? And only driving more carefully after the incident was a bit of an over interpretation - I am a very careful driver and I always obey the laws. This was an innocent and very tragic accident - nothing more. I regret it tremendously. But it was an accident and it could have happened to anyone.

    The elephant incident was scary too. Chalk it up to inexperience to some degree, but the whole thing was something I had seen experienced guides do on a number of occassions. In fact I have seen professional guides do far worse, as I am sure you have. About 25-30 km/hour was the break-neck speed - poor choice of words on my part a bit of literary exaggeration actually. You conveniently left out the verbage in my post that basically stated we had no way of seeing the rest of the elephants as there was a substantial curve. We honestly thought that we had passed the first set of elephants safely. There was no way to know what was coming at us. I have seen what elephants can do to a truck and its passengers, so I felt that this was the best course of action for the safety of my family and we came out of it unharmed and the only negative outcome was an irritated cow. I am not saying I would handle the situation the same way again, or that I did not make any mistakes, but I handled it the best way I thought I should at the time and my family came out of it completely uninjured. This is not the case for many who have elephant incidents in Africa, as I am sure you know. And for you to arm-chair quarterback this incident from a blog post is unfair at best.

    For the late arrival at the gate in Chobe, I was in line with at LEAST 30 other vehicles that night, ALL of whom were late - MOST of which were professional vehicles. And we were being passed on the dirt tracks by ALL of them! Give me a break - you would really leave an amazing wildlife event like the one we witnessed??? And the rangers there were more than understanding and we spent a lot of time with that crew showing them our shots and sharing their stories.

    Thanks again for convincing me NEVER to post a trip report on Fodor's again.

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