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Southern Africa Green Season (Feb 06) Trip Report...Or How I Swam Thru Africa

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Better late than never! I’m always amazed to see all those trip reports being filed from airports on the way home. Because I travel on business 4 weeks out of 5, this has taken me a while to put together. Thanks for your patience. You’ll find my photos at http://sharontaylor.smugmug.com. There are two galleries with photos from this safari.

I was anxious to return to Botswana, having been there in 2000. I was hesitant about going in the green season, but my safari consultant had traveled there then and thought that photos with all that greenery would be great. One of his groups that had traveled there in February 2005 had a fabulous trip and so we looked forward to the same. Costs were a consideration, as well. As it happened, we hit the wettest rainy season they’ve had in 20 years…go figure!

JOHANNESBURG - SOWETO
Our foursome arrived in Jo’burg from four different departure points. We wanted to visit an orphanage, so Wilro Tours gave us a tour of Soweto. In addition to the usual sites, we visited the Carl Sithole Social Centre, run by the Salvation Army. They care for not only orphans, but also children from abusive homes. They also provide a lot of services for the general community, such as AIDS counseling. We overnighted at the Garden Court Hotel near the airport.

BOTSWANA - CHITABE
From Maun, we traveled to Chitabe, flying around and through thunderstorms. Despite the weather conditions, the flight was amazingly smooth. A herd of wildebeests flanked by a rainbow in a dark stormy sky greeted us. Naturally, my camera was packed away! It rained off and on for most of our stay in Botswana, but all the vehicles had tops on them, which, while not keeping us totally dry, helped a lot. Our guide Lazarus was an excellent driver and we never got stuck while negotiating the flooded roads. At times, we would drive up to a lake and then proceed to drive through it. On the way to camp from the airstrip, my friend pointed out a tree she thought would be a great place to find a leopard and she was right! We had a great experience before even arriving at camp.

The next morning, the weather was cloudy and cool. The smells of the bush, always enticing, seemed to be enhanced by the rains. We found lions on the airstrip, 2 males and a female. On the evening drive, we saw them again. One male was on his back, waving at us. Then we realized that he was just shooing flies; they were terrible! In the distance, we heard a leopard, took off and found a female calmly strolling along…another great sighting.

Giraffes were congregating in the area the next morning. Two were “neck fighting”, with what looked like a referee circling them. The “whump” was audible as each blow struck. Nearby was a lovely river with hippos swimming along, sun glinting on their backs. The giraffes were in Round 12 as we headed back to camp. The afternoon was wet, even for the lions. We found a lioness in a tree, trying to stay out of the wet grass. Eventually, she slid down the trunk to the ground and disappeared. After dinner, Celine and the staff of Chitabe surprised me with a birthday cake and the South African version of champagne. What a magical place to spend my birthday!

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