Back home from Kwando (Hari)

Old Sep 2nd, 2006, 11:01 PM
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Back home from Kwando (Hari)

Greeted at the front by my lovely Basset hound, Jack....the only wild dog i'm going to see for now. He was as happy to see me as i was seeing him.

However, i truly feel like a little kid back to school after a brilliant long summer vacation. Yes, folks....Kwando delivered yet again, and had a truly superb 10 nights at their camps. Indeed, i feel severe withdrawal symptoms at the moment and feel lost about being back to reality.

After this, my 7th Africa visit....i have an answer. I was asked by many people at the camps as to what my draw for Africa and Kwando is particular was?

I can sincerely answer that: Even though the scenery and the vistas were spectacular and the game sightings phenomenal, the thing i miss the most already is the people at Kwando.....where can i start, the management at all camps (Jonah, Lebu, Bk, Harry, Monique and Mel) and ofcourse, my awesome guides Spencer and Ruster...not to forget the other guides, and my splendid trackers Rock/Baruti/John that i had fun interacting with.

All the people are so warm, hospitable and genuine that i'm lost for words. That's part of the Kwando experience. What more can i ask for?

I have read threads on these forums about change in Kwando management etc etc., please do not let it concern you. The Kwando experience does not change. I had a brilliant time at all their camps, and there is no reason to doubt them. There is the usual spring of energy and the usual hustle, bustle everywhere.....fantastic!!!

I have also read on these forums about the Kwando vehicles. I did experience the brand new green URI's at both Lagoon and Lebala and they are fantastic. Kwando has done a lot of research in terms of the best vehicle for both guideing/tracking (because it is the most important factor). It has lots of leg room in both rows and it is fantastic for photography, as it lower to the ground.

Detailed trip report will follow in a couple of days after i settle down. Pictures in a couple of weeks (hopefully)

Special mention of my guide at Lebala, Spencer- to give you an idea about him, my 14 year old cousin (from last trip) regards him as a true icon and is his fondest memory of his trip to Botswana. Spencer, like most people at Kwando is true, dedicated and sincere and makes you feel at home as part of the Kwando family.

I'm already trying to start to plan my next trip to Kwando. I really have no desire to change the winning formula that works for me. Why bother changing? Besides, i have full confidence that the winning formula will stay and can only continue on it's upward momentum.

Kind regards,

Old Sep 2nd, 2006, 11:38 PM
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Hi Hari

Welcome back, it's good to hear that you had a superb time (and hopefully, no luggage issues). I look forward to the report and pictures.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2006, 11:50 PM
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Welcome back from me, too, Hari. Gather your strength, draw a breath or three, relax with some Wolf Blass for a day or so, then get stuck into that trip report! We'll be patient.

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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 12:47 AM
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Thanks Gaurang and John,

WIll do....

Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 02:34 AM
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Lagoon camp (trip report):

Amidst the quick packing at the end of my trip, i lost my journal from Lagoon i will not make a day by day entry for Lagoon. Just a synopsis for now: I have a detailed day by day trip report for Lebala and Little Kwara.

Landed in Maun on August 22nd from JNB. The flight was jam-packed with the usual safari crowd....everyone looks exactly like everybody else on the flight. My sister Beena and I had an immediate transfer by Moremi Air to Lagoon camp.

We met our guide to be Ruster, who was returning from leave who was heading bk with us from Maun. He is a fantastic person and a great guide!!! We were to spend the next three days with him.

The flight from Maun to Lagoon, had lots of great vistas and lots of ellies along the way.

On landing at the airstrip, we were little disappointed to see Jonah and Lebu (camp managers) go on leave. We are very fond of the both of them. However, Bk made us feel right at hom immediately. BK, many of you may know him from his great-guiding days from Mombo. He has lots of very interesting stories and is very very nice to talk to. Lebu, we were lucky to see her again later in the trip....

Game viewing was very good. Lots of huge ellie herds all over northern Kwando area. Some herds more relaxed than the others.

Every morning drive gave me good Sable and Roan sightings. I may hv a couple of good pics of Roan. The sable was little more shy.

Ruster and Baruti (brilliant tracker) followed up on lion prints to find a radio-collared lioness that was in a fight of some sort and seemed to be bleeding. The rest of the pride was skittish and bolted away prior to our arrival.

One evening, brilliant guiding and tracking brought us to the Lagoon pride across on a little island north of camp. The pride is currently 6 in number (4 lionesses and 2 sub-adult males). Spent the evening with them, as they stalked baby ele unsuccessfully. Was a fabulous afternoon drive. Strangely, the lions were not even looking at the warthogs that were in the immmediate vicinity. One of the sub-adult males has just recently joined the pride (probably nomadic)was what Ruster mentioned. Hopefully, the pride will soon gain strength to being a dominant force yet again.

Lots of good general game. Buffalo herds present, but, not in the same quantities as in the Lebala side.

The Lagoon pack of dogs, unfortunately lost their entire litter of pups. However, they are seen every 4 days or so. They cover a huge home range, and according to BK....they go to as far as Chobe NP. I missed them during my stay.

The famous cheetah boys (a favourite) on these boards, hang out most of their time these days in the immediate lagoon area. Unlucky for me, they were not seen during my 3 nights here, but, returned later in the week when i was at Lebala. Ruster, did call us to say they were bk. Lebala was rocking so hard, that, Spencer and i didnt want to leave our immediate sightings (at Lebala) to drive that far and lose out on good light to photograph. So, hopefully i will see the boys on my next trip.

Like i said, lots of good general game all round.

Overall, Lagoon was charming and nice. Game viewing very good, especially with a good guide like Ruster. Great guy, lots of interseting stories from his vast experiences from over the years.

Only tip, i can give you is to leave camp atleast a few minutes earlier, so that maximizes your chances for Roan and Sable. I didnt see any later in the day. Maybe, it's just me.

The weather was up and down....cold mornings to pleasant mornings to hot/warm days. Nice time of the year to visit.

On August 25th, Ruster and Baruti drove us to Lebala camp. Lots of ellie herds along the way. We stopped by all the hang-out spots for the cheetah bros, but, they weren't around.

Ruster mentioned, that usually Roan are more shy than Sable, and that i was lucky to have gotten some decent pictures.

I may hv missed out on some things, as i dont hv my journal from Lagoon....but, the most important stuff has been listed.

Next: Lebala camp: But, it's going to take a couple of days.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 02:54 AM
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Hi Hari,

Great to hear that you really enjoyed your trip and I think I am absolutely green that you saw both sable and roan, are you saying daily? Though I need good photos as well as good sightings for me to be a really happy gameviewer!

One of the problems of short stays I guess, that you miss something at one camp, but then maybe you miss something at the next one, I myself, do prefer much longer stays.

Are the vehicles suitable for sitting 3 rows of 2 or as I thought 2 rows to sit 3?

Shall look forward to the next chapter.

Kind regards,

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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 03:01 AM
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Lebala Trip report:August 25th

Ruster dropped us at Lebala at 10AM. Greeted by Harry and Monique and was a delight to see them again. Chatted for a short bit and then Monique showed us our room. My good friend and guide Spencer showed up in time for breakfast and was nice to see him again.

Before i get to any of the sightings, Lebala camp was rocking. Full house capacity every night, lots of requests for Private guides/private vehicles that entire week. Game viewing was absolutely phenomenal!!! At one point, they had 5 vehicles going out on drive.

We started off the afternoon of August 25th by driving to twin pools area to watch a female cheetah trying to hunt impala on the flood plains. It was awesome to just sit there at the sighting and watch her every move and ambush strategy.

Spencer, was spot-on with his predictions of her every move, definitely decieded by the wind factor etc etc., Watching the final sprint was awesome!!! However, she was perhaps a second or two too early and had to give up the futile chase, completely exhausted!!!

This happened right on the border of Kwando/Selinda and hence a few trucks from both sides got a chance to see the action. Guides maintain good relationships between the two camps.

Knowing, the cheetah was going to shut-shop for the day....we stopped for sun downers. Ironic to bump into OB (now guide at Selinda), he was my guide when i had seen this very cheetah at Lagoon last year. She was with her then sub-adult cubs. Only one survived, but, has not been seen.

At sun-downers, we were happy she wasnt successful as we saw hyenas trying to trail her every move. I dont think she would hv been able to eat much that day.

Good to be back at Lebala and a great first drive.

More to come.....
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 03:04 AM
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Kwando only seats two rows of 3. They want all guests to interact with the guides. Entire trip, i only saw full capacity vehicles twice. Mostly saw 4 people.

Roan every single morning (3 night stay) and Sable (all but one morning).

I agree with the long stay. I plan to do 10 nights Lebala next time. Especially, if you read my report....i like to not rush at sightings...

Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 03:15 AM
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August 26th (LEbala Contd):

I went straight to the cheetah again: My super-star guide Spencer, and Rock-star tracker Rock were confident of trying to relocate her. We found her very close to where we left her the previous evening.

We watched her sun-herself on termite mounds and watch her strategize her ambush once again. Got some good shots in the morning golden light. The baboons gave her away, this morning.

Same story in the afternoon drive. We headed back to camp at 11 Am that morning, knowing that the baboons upset her move. After lunch, she did much the same things. Had the sighting to ourself as most people who had seen her that morning didnt want to return and insisted that we radio them, should there be action. Once again, "Golden light" he said and i think i got some more good shots. A lovely day, spent with my favourit cat - the cheetah as you all may know and remember from my several posts on fodors.

This is what makes Kwando a great place to visit....The guiding/tracking skills along with the ability to stay at sightings. Also, today is one of those days i'm very glad to hv booked a private vehicle....i did not want to budge from the cheetah sighting at any point in the day. Spencer, was more than happy as well.

In hind sight, i wish i planned for more time at Lebala....two amazing days already done and pressure to do something different for the next day....

Night drive saw two relaxed genets at different points in time. Both Spencer and i were happy to head home. I'm not too keen to stay out late at night unless something really excieting is already cooking.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 03:41 AM
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August 27thLebala contd)

We left after a quick cup of coffee. As usual, "Let's try and locate our animal" said Spencer. This cheetah was smarter than us. He usually is fantastic in locating her within minutes, today she had different ideas.

She was probably hunting under more cover than on the flood plains and we tried driving across different roads to try and locate her tracks to get her general direction but, couldnt really read much because there had been a lot of elephant movement at night making tracking very very difficult.

There was a radio call saying, that they had located the radio-collared lioness from the lagoon side. We turned it down and continued tracking. "Who wants to see a radio-collared lioness" he mentioned to one of the other guides calling in the sighting. We continued tracking.

Suddenly camp manager Harry (also guiding on the day) had been tracking the lioness and her pride and suddenly stumbled upon two male wild dogs. Spencer was speechless, "Hold on tight, it's going to be bumpy", he bellowed and off we went racing on the Ferrari safari of our dreams. After 15 mins of brilliant driving at flying speed, we came across the dogs and followed them.

My sister, was in the back row by herself and was bouncing around in the middle seat, truly excieted and thrilled....Hahahaha

They were on a mission....they wanted to eat. They trotted on and we drove along with them. They found some impalas, but were spooked off by baboons. After about 15 mins, they found a thicket and chose to rest up for the afternoon.

This is where, i truly enjoy the URI and the drive and handling. Designed very well for such action packed adventures. Lots of research has gone into it. Honestly, i cant think of a better area than Lebala/Selinda to follow the dogs.

After hanging out with the dogs for a bit, Spencer thru experience claimed that the dogs are in no we headed bk to camp to shower and eat a quick breakfast.

He knew how excieted i was, so we decieded to pack sandwitches and head bk to the dogs at 1PM. The dogs were found in the exact location where they were left. Two male dogs, very dark majestic beauties!!! Rock, Spencer and i chatted for a long time, drank lots of water and juice. Suddenly at 3:30 PM," Lunch time" he claimed and opened the zip lock bag of sandwitches. Monique had quickly organized 20 sandwitches for 3 people. Rock ate two and i ate one. I felt terribly embarassed when Spencer had one of his customery, "My doctor said no wheat for me" stories and poor guy just ate fruits. I didnt want a starved guide, not today atleast!!!

He took a short nap, while i just felt lucky staying with the dogs. The dogs suddenly woke up at 5PM and trotted off just when the other cars were approaching the sighting. Once again, Running wild with them in the URI's at high speed was thrilling!!! What fun!!!

They tried to flush impala out of a thicket, but, a huge herd of wildebeest chased them the other direction. I may hv some decent pics.

After more running wild, they flushed a young kudu out of a thicket and chased her into a crocodile infested swamp. Vehicles got there, and suddenly the dogs got a bit edgy. They were obviously new to the area and very nervous with the carcass in water. One by one, the vehicles pulled ou....evening light gone by now and the swamps mosquito infested.

Lots of speculations as to who the dogs were. They were neither the Lagoon pack nor the Selinda pack. Speculations ranged from them being nomads to a whole range of things.

Lots of guides/trackers from the Kwara camps were in the area that day and they are more or less confident that they are part of the Kwara pack of 3. They hadnt been seen in Kwara for 2 to 3 weeks at that point and the distance can easily be covered by the dogs (120kms) or so. The markings and color of the two male dogs, according to some guides were the give away.....if it is the Kwara pack, the alpha female was not seen that day and nobody knows as to her whereabouts.

After a longish day, i suggested to Spencer we head straight home and forget the spot-lights.

True example, of just sit in one spot and something happens....even as thrilling and unexpected as this!!!! Part of the whole Kwando experience. I have mentioned enough about the people and's a taste of Kwando action-packed adrenaline jolt!!!!!!

Fantastic fantastic day!!! I didnt sleep a wink that entire night, still full of excietement from the adrenaline rush.

If i can draw parallels, i was as excieted as the day i ran the Boston marathon.

More to come: Next segment.

Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 03:42 AM
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I dont know where that ugly face icon came in....but, it was a typo.....i should hv had a smiley face.....

Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 05:05 AM
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Welcome back, Hari!
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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 05:21 AM
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Hi Hari,
I haven't gotten to starting your trip report yet but just wanted to say WELCOME BACK!!! and glad you had a fantastic time!

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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 05:29 AM
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Thanks guys, for your greetings....

Bits and pieces of the Wild dog day.....that evening, Spencer noted the excietement on my face and allowed me to write down the sighting in the sightings report book that he logs in every evening. Although, this thread has plenty of mention of must note, that this is just my experience. All their other guides are very good also, and you may have similar good experiences. It's just that, i stick to what works for me. Even the newer guides hired by Kwando are groomed in terms of Kwando specific guidelines, even if they are from other top-notch companies. Kwando has a great mix of older and younger guides.

I felt a bit bad about my sister not going to the wild dog hunt that afternoon. 1 PM was too early for her to leave for the drive. However, she was happy to have a rest and stay in camp and did have a good time chatting with Monique and Harry.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 05:42 AM
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August 28th: Lebala camp (Contd)

The morning drive started with the same tradition, "Let's try to re-locate our animal". We drove in the general direction of the cheetah and the bird calls led Rock and us straight to her. Jeez, she was found with a fully belly!!! What a successful, phenomenal cat!!! She probably was successful the previous day when we were all caught up with the dogs. She was suddenly spooked by the local hyena clan. We followed her for a bit as she tried to get out of harm's way from the hyenas. Even if the hyenas had got to the carcass, going by the size of her belly....i dont think she lost too much. After a few pictures (Yes, more....) we tried to back track and found the remains of the stomach contents of an impala. There were some vultures in the immediate area. One suspects, the hyenas got the bones and scraps.....even though, we missed the kill....i'm very happy that she is doing very well for herself in such a predator rich area. We caught up with a herd of 3000 plus buffalo in the twin-pools area (Yes, everything was happening in Twin Pools)....i guess amidst all the excietement, the buffalo herd was different and fun...

That afternoon, Spencer noted that we ought to do ele's (My last night at LEbala) and i hadnt had time to get pics of the large ele herds.

That's why, i say....stay longer, if you can.

Got some shots of general game and ele's...surprisingly, we found some very relaxed herds as well as a bull in musth. We had a final sun downer with Spencer and ROck on a termite mound with ele's in the background.

Night drive, everything happened again.....Rock wanted to follow-up on leopard tracks he had seen that morning and we went bk in that general direction. There she was right on the road around the Motswiri pan area.....followed her for atleast 15 mins until we lost her in thick vegetation. Also saw very relaxed Serval, genet and Civet that drive. "3 Spotted cats in one drive" Spencer noted. One of the other cars had spotted the radio-collared lioness and her pride again....but, i dont think many cars followed up on that sighting which was further away, but, apparently they were stalking the big buffalo herds.

I guess, my final night at Lebala.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 05:53 AM
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Morning August 29th

Lions were heard last night, so a house-full camp including all private vehicles sent every one tracking in different directions. But, ofcourse, Spencer, Rock and i decieded to head bk to see our cheetah and bid good-bye. She was still full and hadnt moved too much from her position the night prior. After about 10 mins, we left her to her sleep.

Joined the other trucks in their tracking of lion. These lions, had really given us a wild goose chase....After 2 hrs, vultures finally gave them away, Rock located them...we found the radio-collared lioness with another supposedly skittish lioness and 2 big male lions feasting on wildebeest. They didnt seem skittish at all. The other lioness seemed to be in estrus and the male lions were interested. Hopefullly, the start of another successful pride as in year's past. The radio-collared one still seemed bruised from her fights from earlier in the week.

Got some pictures and left to pack and wash up and to say our good-byes. Ruster from Lagoon also stopped by at breakfast as he was transferring his guests from Lagoon. Tough to leave my favourite camp and all my favourite people- but, i shall return!!!

At the airstrip, funny guide Custard and tracker Justice were returning with us to Kwara. Interactions with Custard over dinners at Lebala was most entertaining. He has lots of stories of his days doing mobile safaris across Africa.

I was joking with Spencer the night prior, we have very bad luck tracking lions together.....we had seen everything unusual upto that point over the course of my multiple trips with him: Sitatunga, Black Mamba, Serval (day and night), Leopard, Cheetah, Civet, genets, Hyenas eating hippo, of course, the wild dogs......"But, you dont much care for lions" he said.

Next up: Little Kwara.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 06:09 AM
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My Yoga instructor earlier this evening quizzed me, as to why....i didnt keep up my practice during the trip...."Next time for sure" I replied. Yeah, right!!!

Anyways, Little Kwara August 29th:

Very sad to say my good-byes at Lebala, but, i was greeted with a big smile by the ever jovial guide, "Doctor" and was made to feel right at home. Got to little Kwara and was greeted with a big hug by Mel. Mel is a fantastic people person and is a great great person who fits into the Kwando way, right away.

Mel was very much an integral part of putting LK together and her good taste and sense of aesthetics has brought out a fabulous camp!!! The lounge area is fantastic!!! Very comfortable, loungy, bush-chic and very nice. The tents are huge and very nice.

Food at all Kwando camps are very good and plentiful, but, i must give Mel's Kitchen at LK a slight edge over the other camps. I later learnt that my guide Doctor's wife is the cook at camp, trained brilliantly by Mel.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 06:13 AM
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Welcome home from what appears to be a very lucky Trip #7.

You are to be commended for getting right on that trip report--and posting numerous installments, not just a little tease.

I know that withdrawal feeling, having just recovered from it myself. Thanks for your detailed animal sightings, your lovely description of the people, and your thoughts on that heated topic--the vehicles. It does indeed appear that the change in management has not altered the guests' good experiences.

Such luck you had with your cheetah! And daily roan. Your pictures may tell, but how close did you get to the roan and how many roan did you usually see? Sable too. Do you usually see these antelope at Lagoon and Lebala? These are huge non-predator finds. Leaving early is a good tip.

The mystery of the couple of wild dogs you saw may mean there are more in the area. I hope so and I hope they do lots of successful breeding. These dogs appeared to be quite active, flushing out all sorts of game. Very exciting.

Does your sister often accompany you and is she a fan of Africa also?

Why is Lebala your favorite camp? You ran the Boston Marathon?
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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 06:24 AM
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Quick note about Kwara/LK. They have some very very good guides as well just like at Lebala or Lagoon. Some of these guides are also very very well known.

Anyways, the first afternoon drive with Doc and his tracker John- We went straight to the pride of lions (Shinde pride). Heard many stories around the fire in the evening from guests at Lebala who had arrived from Kwara. These lions had pulled down a big buffalo in front of the vehicles.

Pride consists of 2 enormous male lions (the 3rd hasnt been seen for atleast 3 months- Saw them last trip), one sub-adult male, 4 lionesses and 2 cute cubs. It was nice to hang out with them playing around. There was a mating pair amongst this pride also....spent the entire drive at the sighting and then headed for sun downers and a trip bk to camp.

Nice small dinner. The camp was bit quiet as the August holiday crowds were starting to thin out. However, it was nice chatting with Mel, who is fantastic in remembering people and the minute details of our prior visit. She was to head bk to Maun the following day and would be nice to see Lebu who was to come in for relief duty during Mel's absence.
Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 06:27 AM
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Welcome back from what sounds like a remarkable trip!! Read up to the Ferrari Safari off in chase of the wild dogs, your sister tossing around in the back seat! So far, so great, can already tell why you return to Kwando. Catch up with you later!! (Great job getting the report on the board so quickly!!) Deb
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