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Trip Report - Feb 2007 Victoria Falls and Botswana

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Hello all,

Just got back a couple of days ago from an amazing trip to Vic Falls and Botswana. Lots of stories to tell... lots of kills... wild dogs... Hari stories...

I went on my own, and had a wonderful time, meeting a lot of great people. The weather was absolutely amazing for the rainy season - maybe rained a total of 30 minutes on my entire trip during the day, and very seldom at night. Yes, it was very green, and that affected the quantity somewhat, but definitely not the quality of the sightings I had. Plus the green made for some nice colourful pictures.

Anyways, on with the trip report

Feb 2nd - Feb 4th

I leave Toronto on my 38 hour epic journey to Victoria Falls Hotel. Flew the first leg on Air Canada to LHR and on BA from LHR to Livingstone via JNB. I was grateful to be traveling on BA first class to LVI. For my 8 hour layover at LHR I was able to get a shower and massage and relax in the lounge (wasn’t in the mood to go into town).

Feb 4th

38 hours later (well rested from the flight though) I arrived at Livingstone airport. Even though I was staying in Songwe Village the next day, immigration wasn’t sure to charge me or not for a transit visa as I was going to Zimbabwe for a night. They finally decided on $30 - I kind of laughed at how they came to this figure, as they discussed it for about 5 minutes, and decided that it was right for me. Not in the mood to argue, I paid the $30. Unfortunately my ride that was to be arranged from the Vic Falls Hotel didn’t arrive, so I made arrangements for a taxi to the border, connecting to another taxi to take me to the hotel. The whole transfer went very smooth and I arrived around 1 pm.

The Victoria Falls Hotel is a beautiful hotel near the falls. It was so nice to finally get to my destination. I checked in, had a shower, changed, and hit the patio for a couple local "Zambezi" beers. The service was outstanding, the prices were not too bad, and the view great. When I signed the bill to my room I asked the server whether they would prefer the tip on the the bill or in USD cash (knowing what the answer would be). Of course either would do I was told, but USD cash was better. I than got the explanation on the inflation and that the USD dollar on the black market was worth 3 times what the official exchange rate was posted. In making my arrangements for this trip, I had been in contact with a company called Safpar for some of my extra activities in the area. Safpar picked me up in the afternoon, and I was off on a nice walking tour of the falls. At this time of the year the falls are going pretty strong, but despite some mist was able to get some great shots. I returned to the Hotel for dinner, followed by an early night to bed to get caught up on some sleep.

Feb 5th

I woke up completely refreshed and was picked up by Safpar for the Ellie Encounter and Lion Encounter. I understand there are different view points on this board on whether supporting these encounters is good, so I wont go into great detail. I will say I really enjoyed the experience, and learned more about both Ellies and Lions. I found the people of Zimbabwe to be very nice, and wish I was there at the end of my trip instead of the beginning, as there were some amazing deals on wood carvings. Unfortunately with the small plane flights coming up, I didn’t buy anything.

I was supposed to transfer to Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park. Unfortunately this did not work out, and at the last minute I added Songwe Village for 2 nights. After the Lion encounter I had lunch at the hotel and transferred over the border to the Helicopter Ride. Now I found this excellent. We spent 30 minutes in the air, and had some amazing views. I was able to get a lot of great pictures, and very much enjoyed the experience.
The folks from Songwe picked me up, and I was off to that camp for 2 nights. Songwe is a little bit away from the action in Livingstone, and about 30 minutes from town. I arrived and was given a tour of my camp for the next couple of days. They have a couple of baths that overlook the gorge, and the view is excellent. It was nice to relax in the tub, and have a cold drink. After the evening bath, I met the other 8 people at the camp and we had dinner followed by a bunch of drinks.

Feb 6th

This morning we did the cultural visit at the local village. It was a relaxing morning, and a nice way to start the trip. That afternoon we had a game drive at the park, and were able to spend about 30 minutes close to the 2 Rhinos that are still there. For the evening we were supposed to do the game drive, but unfortunately they were booked up, so we decided to hit town instead. Our guide Louie gave us a tour of town, and we stopped by a local pub for a couple of beers. After that we transferred home for dinner.

Feb 7th

Today I was transferring to Kwando Lagoon Camp, and I was very excited to get there. As we had some new people in the camp, I was asked if I didn’t mind to do a game drive in the morning, followed by the transfer to the airport. This worked for me, and we were able to have a nice drive with another 30 minutes of so being able to watch the Rhinos. We transferred to LVI for our small plane transfer. 4 people were going to Labala, and I was off to Lagoon. This was my first experience with a 6 passenger plane, and while I was somewhat nervous at first, soon overcame any issues I had and relaxed to enjoy the trip. After dropping off the 4 at Labala, I was off to Lagoon. I arrived at Lagoon to meet my private guide for the next 2 nights, Russ. I decided to spend a little more on the trip and have a private guide for my Kwando Camps - more on that later, but it was very much a worth while investment. Russ has been guiding for a while, and very good at what he does. We had a short game drive and arrived at camp. I will have to say that around Lagoon at this time of year, it was very green, and that the grass was quite high - making it somewhat difficult to see animals. I explained to Russ that I really wanted to see Wild Dogs, but was was happy to see anything. We had a nice evening game drive, seeing the usual normal wildlife. After a nice sundowners, we went back to camp for dinner. I met 2 couples from South Africa, and after dinner us men decided to have a night cap. Let me say that the one night cap turned into 7 or 8, and 10 pm turned into 3 am... we had some great conversations, touching all the taboo subjects like religion, and politics. It was a great evening, but was going to be rough for the next morning...

Coming soon... report on Wild Dogs...

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