A Senior Safari

Old Jan 1st, 2020, 02:38 AM
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A Senior Safari

A Senior Safari

After four nights in Cape Town, we flew to Maun for a twelve night early October safari in Botswana. Not a photographer, Iím afraid, so words will have to do.

Iím mid-seventies now, and no longer steady on my feet. Steps and stairs are a major issue and I tire easily. Why was I doing this? Because this was as good as it was going to get and next year wouldnít be an improvement. In fact, bookings having to be a year ahead, it was next year by the time departure rolled around.

A 2011 safari to South Africa had left us wanting more, but somehow years had past and now it was almost too late. Deep down I was pretty sure I could do it, and with a lot of help and a studious denial of my dignity, I did.

We put planning in the hands of The Wild Source and were very glad we had. They chose the hotel in Cape Town and the camps in Botswana and made flight and transfer bookings. We used their (very good) travel agent for international flights and their (very good) travel insurance. Decisions were made after much mailing back and forth while Bill Given tried to figure out what we were looking for. He nailed it, and the one camp that gave me difficulty might have been okay at the time it was booked.

I was still jet lagged and worn to the bone by the time we arrived at our first destination, Bushman Plains Camp in the Okavango Delta. The SAA flight involved stairs instead of jetways and bus rides to boot. I couldnít manage the steep step and had to crawl aboard the bus and also aboard the puddle jumper which would take us to Bushmanís. My rump became accustomed to many a shove as the trip unfolded.

Very fortunately the airstrip closest the camp was the pilotís last stop that day, and her friend, the manager of a nearby camp, was there to meet her. But our ride wasnít waiting for us.

The camp manager called Bushmanís and discovered that the truck had broken down en route to the airstrip. Very kindly, he gathered us up and, casually mentioning the young male lions that were living in the bushes where we sat, took us to be fed and watered at his place while a ride could be rustled up.

And what a ride it was. By this time it was late in the afternoon and as we careened at speed over the deeply rutted sand - trip was well over an hour - we felt like we were in the opening scenes of The Lion King: against the blue and pink tinged sky there were herds of buffalo and wildebeest and elephant, troops of baboons, warthogs galore, journeys of giraffe, dazzles of zebra, antelopes of every kind. We had never seen so many animals all in the same place before. And we never did again. It was our own special welcome to Africa.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 03:54 AM
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Great start. Can't wait to read more ...
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 06:41 AM
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I can not wait to read more about your adventure.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 06:55 AM
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We are planning to go on our first safari in 2020 or 2021 - can't wait to read more!
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 08:51 AM
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Wonderful start! I followed the photos of a Wild Source safari on FB and look forward to learning more about your trip!
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 11:30 AM
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Very eager to read the next installment!
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 11:48 AM
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Thank you everyone for your encouragement!

Sitting around the camp fire under the tall trees at breakfast was the best part of camp life at Bushman’s. (The tent and its surroundings were difficult for me as tarps had been set on rough ground on a hillside which was very uneven. The bathroom in particular was primitive and treacherous. Beds though were cozy and comfortable, and food mostly good.)

We enjoyed meeting our fellow guests, all Europeans, and especially the lovely staff, dignified and kind. The usual guides were off somewhere and we were very lucky to have snagged Leso to guide us. He was only there for a few days to fill in and we loved getting to know him. Strikingly handsome - his face should be famous - he was the definition of charismatic, a true teacher, and it turned out he was well known and highly thought of at the camps we visited later.

The camp overlooks a lovely tree’d plain with a small water hole in front. Apart from the occasional visit of a family of warthogs and a few impala, there wasn’t much to see when we were there. It was very dry and the water hole was low.

But after Leso and tracker Langa had loaded me into the truck via an empty crate, we were off for some great sightings over three full days: wild dogs sleepy after the night’s activity; three male lions; kudu; sable buck; giraffes with babies; elephants; a leopard with a warthog supper in a tree; lots of beautiful birds, and my favorite—a mama cheetah with two tiny kittens on what Leso thought was their first public outing. We stayed with them for a while before letting them have their privacy. Everywhere we went, we were impressed by and appreciative of how much respect the animals were given.

The other camps would have much to live up to.

And they did.

Last edited by shouldbewriting; Jan 1st, 2020 at 11:50 AM.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 12:39 PM
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dcd
 
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Great writing! And what a trip!! But being a shutterbug, I would love to have been treated to some photos as well. Oh well, your narration is terrific.

We were in the Okavango Delta in 2013 as part of a 17 day trip to SA, Zimbabwe and Bots, and it was our favorite locale. So remote. So undisturbed. So timeless. So beautiful. And the animals were spectacular, although we didn't see a single cheetah.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 12:53 PM
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Thanks, dcd. Himself took thousands of photos. Maybe I’ll try to upload some.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 07:30 PM
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I am following along in my usual quiet manner
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 05:35 AM
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I just finished the latest Alexander McCall Smith book, and the love for Botswana is so evident, so I'm looking forward to enjoying your trip report. Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 05:49 AM
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travlsolo2, those books were the genesis of my desire to go to Africa. I met a woman named Precious! I was addressed as Mma! I was thrilled.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 05:57 AM
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I was relieved to be on firmer footing on the hardwood floors of Kwando Splash Camp, using ramps instead of steps, and easing my aches under the piping hot water. Splash was the largest camp we’d been to and I wondered if it would be too impersonal. But its three managers divide guests between them and check constantly to see how you’re doing, your guide and tracker stay close, and I relished the comfort everywhere. Hospitality was warm and food delicious and beautifully presented.

Lying in bed, or from the public areas, you are in full view of a large well used water hole. Breeding herds of elephants and giraffe and antelope visit from dawn to dusk, and even a large pack of wild dogs joined us for breakfast one morning.

Guide Mr T and tracker KT were excellent. They had a short step ladder which made getting in and out of the truck a breeze. As well as seeing all the usual animals, we enjoyed two spectacular sightings and a very pleasant boat ride.

One morning we came across a male lion who was wandering back from his travels and looking for his brother, a stay-at-home type who would not move from his termite mound close to camp. As we passed this guy in his meandering search, we saw another male lion, an interloper who had taken advantage of the unguarded territory to muscle in.

The previous day, this second lion had killed a baby elephant which had promptly sunk deep into a mud hole and was presumed lost. But its captor had evidently worked all night to pull the carcass free and now, exhausted and caked in mud, was trying to tuck into it. The nearby trees were festooned with vultures, and the drama continued as they wheeled overhead.

We parked close by to await developments. It took a while, but eventually the returning lion noticed the vultures and veered over to investigate. Galvanized, he broke into a trot. The imposter dropped his mouthful and headed off, pursued by the irate returnee. We followed for what must have been miles. The lion who was being seen off was older, tireder, hungrier, but he had nonetheless killed another male some time before and was not to be discounted.

Eventually though, he could go no further. He turned to face his pursuer and dropped to the ground. There was a growling and howling stand-off that lasted for quite some time, before the younger lion, having made his point, reclaimed his territory, and avoided injury in a fight, turned on his heel and departed.

(A side note: while waiting for the stand-off to end, I fell into conversation with the D.C. couple behind me, who were on a celebratory surprise post-engagement trip. She could have used a sleeved shirt and some sunscreen, while he, a genial fellow, was missing his WiFi.

They asked me about our previous camp and I waxed enthusiastic about Leso, the cradle of man-kind, and the fact that, to me, Leso was undoubtedly a very old soul. Their jaws dropped and they all but rolled their eyes at this piece of California woo-woo.

I later discovered that the woman was an Obama appointed Federal Court Judge. Perhaps fortunately, the law has no time for the mystic.)
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:04 AM
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I am loving everything about your report. Love your writing style and hearing about your adventures.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:10 AM
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I'm so glad you're sharing this here, shouldbewriting. I've read it on Safaritalk and it's worthy of broader distribution. It's the only trip report I've ever read that needs no photos. The words are so evocative of the experience. I'm so happy you had such an incredible experience for your first safari and that you're sharing it with us all! Happy New Year!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 11:54 AM
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What is that pleasant stillness and peacefulness ? !!


Oh ! That's Percy tagging along , who invited him anyway ..Geeez!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 12:19 PM
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Percy, you know that you’re always welcome anywhere!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by shouldbewriting View Post
Percy, you know that youíre always welcome anywhere!
Thank You so much.

I know the others don't care but since its your Trip Report, I Thank You for inviting me to follow.

Psst...I am loving your report but don't tell the others.

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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by shouldbewriting View Post
travlsolo2, ...I met a woman named Precious! I was addressed as Mma! I was thrilled.
That is so cool! I love it! (....how is Mma pronounced?)
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 07:01 AM
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Percy, you are a dear man and a little bit of a rascal!

travlsolo2, it’s hard to describe but maybe a bit like Emma?
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