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Trip Report: Sep 2007: Rattrays (Mala Mala), Little Mombo, Kings Pool

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This is not going to be a long trip report, I will try and hit the animal highlights as well as some comments on the various camps and the experiences we had.

We set out from home on a Saturday and drove down to SFO. A quick check in was followed by a nice sojourn in the Virgin Upper Class lounge. The flight to LHR was excellent, a nice meal and "Pirates 3" was followed by a long sleep. The weather in London was good, we made our way through immigration and picked up our bags. After a shower and breakfast at Arrivals we wee picked up by our driver. He took us over to Wisley where we met m sister and her family for lunch and a nice walk through the gardens. At 4:30 we were picked up by our drver and headed back to LHR, SAA fly out of terminal 1.

We had used UAL miles the previous year to get first class tickets on SAA. SAA are in the process of eliminating first class and so I had changed our flights to the one of the two daily flights still operating first class, though the airline had said that we might be on a business only flight on the way back.
Check in was a bit busy and we noticed a young coupl in front of us getting agitated. I quickly figured out the proble when the 20 something lady started crying, she did not have the requisite 2 blank pages in her passport and so was denied boarding and given directions to the embassy for the next day - what a way to start a trip!
Make sure you have the blank pages!!!!
We soon were through security, where I twigged that the security guards were rating the attractiveness of female passengers by assigning car models to them - the cads!
As for carry on baggage we have my wifes Tamrac backpack and I have a bag for my video camera. Each was stuffed with the addtional material we would need, and which would normally be carried in a third bag, but not at Heathrow! My wife carries a small wallet / travel document holder, which we were told had to be in our carry on - what utter bullshit it all is. But be warned!
Soon we were able to enjoy the SAA lounge before boarding. The flight was excellent, the flat beds in SAA first are very comfortable and I had an excellent nights sleep.
We arrived at JNB (ORT) and had a shower and breakfast at the SAA lounge, then met up wth our friends who had flown in from JFK and we were proceeded to check in for the Mala Mala flight. At check in there was a bad moment when the agent could not check us in for the flight. He was not very communicative and in the end I accompanied him to a supervisors desk, where a minor computer glitch was fixed and we were soon checked in.
Pretty soon we were on the Mala Mala flight, only to be told there would be a delay, a group of 18 were late. Apparently there tour organizer had sent them to the international terminal! How dumb were they not to even question that? But we were delayed an hour, then to cap it all, when they arrived they took forever to board and tried to bring on way too much hand luggage. Eventually everything was sorted out, my favorite of the group was the guy wearing a hemet of the sort sported by Michael Caine in Zulu - what a prat!
On arrival at AAM we were met by Nils Kure who had a couple of enamel mugs for me, a joke we had shared about the best receptacle for fine wine. That's the really nice thing about visiting somewhere so often, the great relationships you build.
Nils gave us the option to upgrade to Rattrays so we accepted, though we did think about it for a minute, because we do really like Butlins, sorry Main Camp.
At Rattrays we settled in and were welcomed by lots of old friends with a great lunch. Gourmet it is not, but who cares, there is plenty of choice, the food is well preared, tasty and there is plenty of it, it is much better than 2 star.
Our ranger for the trip was to be Stefan and the good news was the tracker was Philemon. He is an excellent tracker, great birder and has good english with a nice sense of humor, we enjoy him very much.

The only problem here was the weather, the days before we arrived it was 100F, the it dropped into the 60's, a temperature we were not really prepared for. Fortunately the Virgin Sleep Suit is an excellent item to have , the trousers can be worn almost as long underwear, with the top being an extra sweater.

Game Highlights - the Eyrefield Pride and their nine cubs. While viewing them in the river we got stuck, not 20 feet from them. The vehicle had maybe one wheel making contact with the ground, so Philemon had to sneak out of the back and use the jack to try and get some traction, while we kept an eye on the Lions. One was very inerested in him, but we did eventually make it out. Later in the afternoon, we saw them again, out in the open in the river bed and got some nice video. Light was not good for photos.
Viewing was a bit quiet, but our highlight on the last morning was seeing the Bycycle Crossing Male mate in the open with the Kapen female. He then went up a tree to a cached Impala kill and gave us some good feeding, with three Hyenas down below waiting for scraps.
We also saw the Kikilezi female Leopard and the Rollercoaster Male Lion.
It did rain a bit and so one morning we actually went back to sleep at 5:30, got up at 7 and had breakfast then went out and stayed out later - no problem it was cool, a good decision.
After 3 days we headed back to JNB, where we booked into the Sun for the night. By this time had a stinking cold, so while Elke worked out in the 8th flor gym at the hotel, I used the steam room. The hotel was packed and we managed to get a table for dinner, where a Paul Culver Pinot Noir, did not particularly impress.
Next morning we got going early and checked in for the Air Botch flight nice and early.

Air Botch - an appropriate name. We had actually boarded the bus to go to the aircraft when they sent us back to the terminal, as usual no communication followed and so we spent almost two hours waiting, before they decided the aircraft could be flown to Gaberone but not to Maun! We insisted that the pilot explain his rationale and to his credit he swallowed his macho prode and did so - a rare thing in Africa. Six people did not catch the flight. We actually tried to charter a plane, but none were available.
We landed at Gabs and were transferred straight to another plane and off to Maun where we arrived about 3pm. I had asked for seats at the front so we could be first in line for immigration, of course they didn't have the forms on the second plane, so we had to fill them out while standing in line. Once the lggage came off, we headed out to meet our guide Grant Atkinson from Wilderness.
At this point we had more issues. There was a group of six going to Mombo, so there would be 11 of us on a caravan going to Mombo. 2 people had lost their luggage, so we had to wait around for the second flight to come, on the off chance it had their luggage, then wait for them to fill out paperwork. This cost us an hour and a half, totally for the benefit of Wilderness Safaris. The pilot could have flown us to Mombo and got back before the others were ready to go, instead we all had to wait. I will be complaining very loud to Wilderness through my TA.
We did eventually get to Mombo where Nick the manager met us with sandwiches and drinks. We elected to go to our rooms before starting a truncated game drive, thsi would allow Peter and Pat the chance to appreciate Mombo in daylight.

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