Another Botswana trip report

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Jul 31st, 2004, 12:58 AM
  #1
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Another Botswana trip report

Recently back from a week in Botswana and felt I must post a report sinc I am an avid reader of everything that's posted and gained a lot of info from everyone elses reports.Will try not to be too longwinded.
My husband, 15 year old son and myself flew from london to jnb and then on to maun and then to our first camp, which was Duma Tau, for 2 nights. Our other 2 camps were Little Mombo and Duba Plains.
Of all the camps Duma Tau was probably our least liked. This was mainly due to the game viewing, we seemed to drive for hours before seeing anything, though when we did it was generally good. However we were told that this is the case in this area.Our guide, Julius, was pleasant but we did not feel he was that great at tracking. When we had good sightings it was normally because someone radioed into him, so we were always the last group to get to any of the sightings.Despite this we did get to see wild dogs twice, also some lion and hippos on land, which I hadn't seen before.We also did a great boat trip and saw several young elephants playing in the water, ducking and splashing each other.
The rooms were good, though at night when the mosquito nets were down did feel rather dark and congested.The food was good but not brilliant. Despite what someone has written earlier the managers were very sociable and helpful and were always around.
We then went to Little Mombo for 3 nights. This was a wonderful experience in every way - the game, the rooms, the food and all the staff.
The rooms are enormous and beautifully appointed, everything you could want is there, including facilities for making tea and coffee, a decanter of sherry and beautiful home made biscuits.The manager Elmarie is extremely welcoming and makes you feel very much at home. All the food and drink is excellent. I felt it could all easily be compared to singita.
The game viewing was brilliant as was our guide, Brookes. We saw many sightings of leopard- 2 pairs of mother and cub, plus a single one. Many lion and 1 cheetah, plus numerous of all the regular game, often in large herds.One day we were out and tracking the cheetah who was trying to make a kill, it was near to brunch time so Brookes sugested we stay put and radioed the camp to bring us out lunch and drinks a bit later.
From here we went to Duba Plains for 2 nights.I had chosen this camp because of the lion buffalo interactions, however when we got ther we were told that because of the high waters this had not really been happening as most of them had gone to where the vehicles couldn't reach. The first 2 drives were mainly viewing birds and water. On our last drive they managed to find the buffalo and lions who had crossed back into accessible land and it more than made up for the previous drives. It was amazing watching the stand offs between them. There were 9 lionesses and a massive herd of buffalo. Initially one of the females got a calf but just as they started feeding the male appeared, roared at them and picked up the kill and walked off with it. The females were then left trying to kill again, which they hadn't managed to do by the time we had to leave for our flight out.
This camp was probably the worst for management and food. The food was quite basic and at brunch quite vegetable based, which is no good when you have a meat eating 15 yr old who doesn't like veg.Also at most meals the manager in camp did not eat or mix with us. Only on the last night did he join us and it felt he only did this as there was a group with a private guide who he knew.
I think I have probably written enough for now. If anyone ahs any queries do not hesitate to ask and I'll do the best I can to answer.
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Jul 31st, 2004, 10:32 AM
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Thanks for the report -- I was especially interested as I stayed at the same camps in January 2003 except it was Mombo not Little M.

I was very disappointed to hear that Duba Plains was the worst for management and food. When we went it was head and shoulders above the other two camps for both. James, Julie, and Ike were the managers. James was the expert on lions who was conducting the pride studies. Julie was his girlfriend and did all the cooking -- very talented. And Ike was the single most impressive person I met on our trip. A native Botswanan who had been a guide, we had great discussions on all kinds of Botswanan issues, from conservation, to politics and education, to the AIDS pandemic. In fact he was the only camp manager who wasn't a white south African. I had heard Ike had headed back to Gabarone and left the business. I know James was talking of taking time off to write a book about the Duba lions. Who were the managers, and do you know if they are temporary or permanent? There were only 4 of us as guests when I was there and it definitely felt like a family so I am sorry to hear of the change.

Secondly, do you know if your guide Julius at Duma Tau used to guide at Mombo. My Mombo experience was a severe disappointment and a lot of that had to do with our poor guiding.

Sounds like you had some great sightings! Especially wild dogs and leopards. Hopefully you will post some pictures in the future too.
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Jul 31st, 2004, 01:37 PM
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alicoll,

Thanks for the trip report. A report like this will make me think twice before shelling out major money to stay at Wilderness Safari camps, as Duma Tau and Duba Plains are supposed to be a couple of their finest camps.

Unfortunately, I think that even Kwando is getting pretty expensive for 2005 and beyond.
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Aug 1st, 2004, 10:11 AM
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Thanks alicoll---confirms my experience, sadly at Duma Tau...and more happily, at Mombo. Do you recall if one of the mother/cubs you saw at Mombo was known as the Torilla cub? (She is the one being filmed for Nat'l Geographic?) When we saw her, her mother was never around...and of course I was "worried" about her!! We also saw another mother/set together (after a kill).

Any updates on the leopards would be greatly appreciated!!

And I guess the Duba experience just shows how quickly things can change with weather/water/management changes...
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Aug 1st, 2004, 10:16 AM
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Hi Alison!
Sounds like a great trip!
Elmari was the best manager we had out of the 8 camps we visited on this trip. She's really lovely isn't she?
Leopard viewing seems great at Mombo at the moment - the Jouberts have been filming (and living) in the area for over a year and are focusing in particular on the life of the small female cub - she was 11 months old at the time we visited in June. We saw her and mum a couple of times. The Jouberts always let the guides know when they spot them and the guides help them in return. Seems to work really well. We also saw the male cub of the same age but didn't see his mother.
I think the water levels are so much higher than usual that most of the guides are somewhat flummoxed because none of the animals are where they expect or behaving as usual for the time of year. We'd heard that the Duba lions were hard to find from travellers who had been there before we met them.
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Aug 6th, 2004, 12:45 PM
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Late replies to some of the questions that were asked after my report. The manager at Duba was an English guy called Paul who had been there about 9 months. There was also Shyani who was the daughter of the manager at little mombo, but she was away for a few days.
Our guide at duma tau, Julius, had been at mombo before for several years.
The leopard cub we saw the most of at mombo was the tortillas leopard who is being filmed by the Jouberts.
Despite some of the niggles we had with the camps it was a fantastic 7 days and we feel was well worth the high cost. The good things far outweighed the bad.
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Aug 6th, 2004, 01:27 PM
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Thanks for your report, warts and all
I think it's not too long winded. It's the details that give your report life. I only hope I'm lucky enough Chief's next year to see the cubs you saw at Mombo.
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Aug 7th, 2004, 09:38 AM
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Amazing what a difference a guide makes. Duma Tau with Cilas for us was incredible while Mombo with Julius was pretty poor. I gave plenty of feedback regarding Julius, who is a nice guy, but was a terrible guide. Just as an example, 3 times at Mombo we drove right by lions that I spotted as we went cruising past and I had to get the guide to turn around and go back.
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Aug 7th, 2004, 09:41 AM
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Also, too bad James is no longer the manager at Duba Plains -- he had that camp so well run and with the lion research it was an amazing experience. He probably left to write a book on the lions of Duba.
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Aug 7th, 2004, 11:04 AM
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Thanks for the updates about Tortillas sp??) cub. She was beautiful, and I can't wait to see the Jouberts film (in the US it will be on National Geographic).

I'd also love to hear any updates about the lion and buffalo interactions at Duba. Haven't been there, but heard that in previous years it was just fabulous. But a camp manager I met on a flight mentioned that the buffalo were learning/ developing new behaviors to deal with the specialized Duba lion tactics. According to him, gameviewing at Duba was no longer a sure thing...on the other hand, it is evolution (of a type) in action, so it could be fascinating...
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