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Trip Report - Botswana and Victoria Falls

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My wife and I travelled to S.A., Botswana and Zimbabwe for 23 nights. We departed ATL on 8/22/2004, and arrived in Jo'burg on 8/23. After spending 2 nights in Jo'burg as part of an Orient-Express safari package, we departed for Maun, Botswana, the jumping off point for Botswana safaris. We flew from Maun to the Kwai River Lodge in the Okavango Delta in a 6-seater Cessna. These inter-camp fligts were part of the Orient-Express package. After arriving at Kwai, we were greeted by an elephant bathing in the river directly outside our chalet. He was soon joined by 4 others. We also could see 5 hippos in the river, and a couple of lions lounging in the shade on the other side of the river. BTW, the other side of the river is the Moremi Game Reserve. The camp is open, and the animals can come into the camp at night, and often do. A camp ranger accompanies you to and from your chalet at night.

We had leopard sightings on all 4 game drives of our 2-night stay at Kwai. Our first leopard highlight involved following a female as she stalked a herd of sitatungas. The more memorable leopard sighting occurred in conjunction with a lioness. At first, we followed this lioness. Then she seemed to tire of us, and to our surprise, she entered the river and swam to the other side. Our vehicles couldn't swim. We soon found a female leopard and followed her in and out of the bush. Suddenly, the leopard darted up a tree, with the lioness who had crossed the river reappearing and just missing the leopard by a half length. Just trying to kill off the competition.

At Kwai, in addition to leopards, lions, hippo, elephants and sitatunga, we also saw red lechwe, waterbuck, impala, kudu, wildebeast, zebra, tsessebes, giraffe, mongoose, baboons, vervet monkeys, fish eagles, saddle billed stork, and bird species too numerous to mention.

Another small plane took us from Kwai to Savute Elephant Camp for 2 nights. Savute is in Chobe National Park, and so can't have night drives or walking safaris. At Savute, we continued with our leopard sightings, including watching a leopard eating an old impala kill. But the more memorble animal sightings involved elephants and lions. Lots of elephants. While our game drive vehicle was stopped and watching a large number of guinea fowl, a lone male elephant appeared out of nowhere. He stayed on the path, and approached within less than 10 yds. of our vehicle (on the side where I was seated). He stopped, turned and stared at us for a few moments. Then he turned and continued on his way, eyeing us over his shoulder. As to lions, we came across a pride of 27 (3 males, 7 lioness, and 17 youth and cubs). We were told that last year the lions had gathered in large prides (up to 40) and had taken down as many as 50 elephants. In addition to all of the same animals we saw at Kwai (except for hippo), we also saw the following at Savute: 8 bat-eared fox, black backed jackal, warthogs, steenbok, sable antelope, a male and female ostrich w/ 7 or 8 young ones, and a kori bustard.

Victoria Falls

From Savute, we chose to be dropped off in another 6-seater in Kasane, Botswana, rather than being returned to Maun. From Kasane, we ducked into Impalila Island, Namibia for lunch (described in a separate post). From there, it was 1 hr. by highway to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in Vic Falls. The VFSL is bounded by the Zambezi National Park. We had a duplex suite overlooking a waterhole. For our stay of 5 nights, this waterhole proved to be a great source of interest and entertainment. We watched herds of elephants and water buffalo march right up to drink; in contrast, herds of varying kinds of antelope approached the waterhole slowly and with great caution. We learned that while we had been golfing, a herd of impala had come to drink, and a female impala had been caught by a submerged crocodile. After a long struggle, the impala succumbed, and was dragged into the water and drowned. We did not witness the capture or the struggle, but that early evening and during the next day, using our binoculars from our balcony, we could see the croc devouring the impala carcass, while 4 marabou storks patiently waited for the croc to be careless.

The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge provided a free shuttle into town and to various points of interest. We took their shuttle to see the Falls. Entry into the Falls park cost $20 p/p. Since we were visiting during the low water season (Sept.), the Falls were perfectly visible. There still was plenty of water flowing, and you could see the mist from at least 2 miles away. We walked the length of the Falls on the Zim side, exited, ignored the insistent taxi drivers, and walked across the bridge to Zambia. Stopped to watch some bungee jumping from the bridge. Paid $10 p/p to enter Zambia (their visa fee), and another $10 p/p to enter the Vic Falls park on the Zambian side. The Falls were impressive from all angles. From the Zambian side, I spotted approx. 10 or 11 males and females climbing amidst the rocks in the Falls and swimming in a natural pool created by the rocks in the middle of the Falls.

From the Zambian Falls park, we taxied to the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia. The Royal Livingstone looks quite regal, with a hugh lawn flowing down to the banks of the Zambezi River. Lunch was over, so we opted for "high tea" on their patio. While they were serving us, a local vervet monkey also was occupying their attention. The vervet appeared to run into the hotel lounge area. The staff darted in on a parallel course to intercept the monkey. Having drawn the staff inside, the monkey reemerged and made a mad dash for our table. I grabbed our cameras and gear. The vervet jumped onto the table, took the sugar bowl, and ran off with a handful of sugar packets. We doubled over in laughter, as did antoher couple who were nearby observers.

While in Vic Falls, we took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Good for river and sunset photos. On another day, we had an elephant back safari. Basically, a 1-1/4 hr. elephant ride; you do see some wild game. Other than seeing the Falls from the ground, the next most memorable thing we did in Vic Falls was to see the Falls from the air. You could fly in an ultra-light, but if you do, you cannot take a camera. So, we opted for a helicopter flight from the Zambian side at a cost of $80 p/p. Excellent flight, excellent views, excellent photo opportunities.

We also did our obligatory shopping in Vic Falls - clearly, the people need the revenue. Based upon comments from this website, I brought sufficient U.S. dollars, especially $1 bills. The locals need hard currency (U.S. dollars, Rand, Euros) to purchase goods in Botswana. I did not try to change any money, nor did I use a credit card (except for payment at the hotel on checkout, which took some time because there is only one Zim bank processing all credit transactions simply because others have abandoned the market). Yes, I did buy a stone carving and lugged it back to the USA.

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