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Trip Report - SA and Botswana - or "Beauty, Cruelty and Bad Air Days"

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Just got back and decided to start typing to help with jet lag, so this will definitely be an installment trip report.

We left home on 7/11 and flew SFO-LHR on United. From memory, the staff may have been a little less surly than normal, I also may have imagined it or have simply become used to a certain standard.

Picked up a car in London and visited my sister and her family in Hampstead. We spent the afternoon at Kew Gardens, then returned the car and made our way to Terminal 1. We checked in for the SAA flight (using Delta miiles for 1st class). The First Class lounge was quite disappointing, but probably reflected the amount of traffic. The best lounge at LHR is Virgin, hands down. Service on board was excellent, the flat bed was very spacious and comfortable. IFE was pretty good as was the food and wine. Famous person sighting #1 - Jonty Rhodes SA cricketer. The attendant actually makes up your bed, they put a sheet on the bed, then make sure your duvet is comfortable for you, I half expected a kiss on the forehead and a hushed "night, night". Elke of course slept almost until landing, while trying to wake her, a young boy travelling with his parents helpfully suggested that we could throw cold water on her. It didn't come to that.
Arrived around 7 so went to the Arrivals lounge for a shower and breakfast, then checked in for the flight to Mala Mala.
It was quite cold in Joburg, though after the flight I always feel quite warm, so I actually like some cold air.

Mala Mala
This was our 8th trip since 1994 and second of the year. I do enjoy visiting new camps, but there is something very special about getting to know a place and its people well. I suppose its all about being comfortable, even the sometimes tiring (and worse) task of socializing with strangers seems to be easier there. The rangers treat us as one of them, and we had our customary dinner as guets of the owners, who are terrifically generous hosts.

Game Viewing
This was one of those times that our rangers have spoken of, when all the animals seem to be hiding, and they have to work very hard to see anything. For us this is not such a problem, our souls are refreshed as much by being there as by seeing game. In addition we had a bird count to keep us occupied.
Highlights were a new Leopard for us the Manyalethi male, who spends most of his time further north, I have a feeling he may be one of the Leopards of Simbambili, but have not been able to confirm that yet, I will have to knuckle down and compare whisker patterns when I feel less fried.
Had a poor view of the son of the Hlabitini Female and that was it for Leopards! 2 in four days on a property that has yielded 7 in one drive before now. It just goes to show that nothing is guaranteed.
Lions - the 6 females and 2 cubs of the Eyrefield pride briefly. Then we saw a new pride for us, we had to travel all the way to south of Kirkmans (over 15km) to see the Selati Pride. This pride consists of two females and 6 sub adults and has managed quite a comeback.
On the way to see them we hada fun encounter with a Rhino and her calf. The little fella saw us stop and came bounding towards us feeling very brave and important, as he got closer to us and futher from Mom his courage deserted him and scampered back to her side. Its apity we dont see more Rhino calfs, because they are quite good value.
More to come.

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