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trip report: sa, botswana, vic falls

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i am not much into trip reports- but in the interest of being useful, here goes:

in botswana stayed 5 nights, 4 in delta and 1 in chobe before overlanding to vic falls and royal livingstone. the trip began in mauritius and madagacsar and south africa will post those separately. combination of baines and chiefs camp in green season, early december.

overall: baines camp is truly rustic, but the guiding and game viewing were great. by rustic i mean spiders in your $600 a night room. and scoprions. by excellent game i mean everything you would want to see. a leopard and cub ten minutes off the charter flight, herds of buffalo in the thousands. great guiding. could have done mekoro, but opted for game drives as wanted to see as much as could. night drives were disappointing and ended at 8pm.

camp management was kind but i think this could be a much tighter ship. food service seemed very limited. none of the abundance that would normally characterize this sort of place. had to request wine with dinner and it was a cheap brand from a big bottle, not the finer wines we had in south africa. no cocktails offered after dinner. game drives were all to ourselves. viewed lionesses with cubs for as long as we wanted. would not return here.

second camp was chief's which shares moremi island with mombo. again, excellent game viewing, this was more of a full service camp in that it had more guests, more public spaces and an actual bar area (baines did not- i'm not a huge drinker, or much of a drinker at all, but for some reason this was a factor for me this trip). the accommodation is in tents but ours was less bush feeling than our "chalet" at baines'. two couples share management here and resolved a problem we had with a guide immediately, switching our whole group to a great guide, called "brown" who clearly loved animals and his job.

food was better at chiefs as was presentation and surroundings. had elephants just off the deck by day and baboons, hyena and some impala by night. on the first night an elephant walked right through camp (missed it as were dining on the deck at the time).
overall would stay here again and enjoyed the experience.

as for wet season- it was wet every day but blissfully cool and cloudy. temps never got much about 70 something and found this to be perfect conditions for riding around all day. the cloud cover means animals are out and about and active and not lazing hidden under trees. saw more lions than can count and endless numbers of all other game that you see. plus babies, babies babies. the tall grasses did not hide them- warthog piglets are cutest. saw a brand new wildebeest where the vultures were still consuming the afterborth. watched two lionesses stalking wildebeest and then two lions stalking the lionesses...lots of adorable lion cubs tramping around, white rhinos and yet no leopard despite efforts to find them.

as for wild dogs- see my post about south africa.

after these 4 nights, flew to the simple but truly african chobe safari lodge and their newest rooms. surprisingly clean and bug free (my new standard), though the elephants were gone and we saw only about 10 on a river cruise. lots of ippos and giant crocs-bigger than aussie size all along the banks and looking hungry. we were done game viewing by this point and liked the african feeling of this place and the mix of people - families and lots more foreigners- thasn we found at the game lodges.

lastly we finished with two nights as the
royal livingstone which was just average in my opinion. this was the first place in a 3 week itinerary where i consistently had intestinal difficulties from the food- and ate all of our meals at the hotel. everything was stacked: eggs atop toast atop potatoes. fish atop veggies atop potatoes. enough! staff were friendly, but rooms were showing age already. adorable monkeys on the grounds, but i am sorry we didn't stay someplace more aftrican, this felt like every hyatt you've ever been to, though done up to make you feel like you are some colonial land barron. what's funny is these people we met on safari loved it! no accounting for taste.
service was excellent and well meaning in the dining areas- but it was all so faux- colonial feeling that we felt we were on a movie set and not truly in africa. great location for visiting falls and probably the only choice. livingstone was a short taxi away.

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