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Botswana 2007, a Trip Report in Pictures on 5 tented camps

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Feb 5th, 2008, 11:08 AM
  #21
 
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I enjoyed those! I can't believe how close you got to the meerkats..wonderful! Thanks!
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Feb 5th, 2008, 12:07 PM
  #22
 
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Thanks for the great photos, so nice to escape to Africai if only for a few moments.
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Feb 5th, 2008, 05:22 PM
  #23
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Lisa,
Chitabe Lediba was fine, but not our favorite of the 5 camps. This was partly because we requested Newman and didn't get him, even after informing one of the managers when we arrived. We never knew who dropped the ball here, our TA, Wilderness or the camp management, but it could have been easily corrected as far as I could tell because Newman's vehicle wasn't full. We had a young fellow (I have forgotten his name) who was a bit quiet and whose English wasn't the best (but better than my Setswana!). In his defense, out of all the Chitabe guides looking for dogs one afternoon, he found them, purely by tracking. Soon after, the rest of the Chitabe Landies arrived, 4 or 5, and there was a traffic jam racing after the hunting dogs. Not my favorite thing, but understandable that every guest wants to see the dogs. Overall, game viewing was decent, tho Lagoon was better. We got the family tent (No. 5), farthest from the dining tent, which had two bedrooms and one not-very-private bath. Perfectly comfortable though. Vehicles are 2-3-3 configured Land Rovers, if I recall, rather than the truly horrid Uris at Lagoon. We went on a walking safari with the splended Dawson from Chitabe main camp one morning. The food and service was very good, but not the most simpatico ambience I've ever encountered.
Little Vumbura has just been redone and was the most luxurious of the 5. Almost too much so. Gorgeous rooms, fabulous huge beds with billowing mossie nets, indigo batik accents, plush sitting chairs and a large writing desk, gorgeous oublic areas. Also a good souvenir shop and nice pool, a real plus in the stifling November heat. The managers were solicitous and great fun and our guide, Moa, was one of the best we'd had: extremely knowledgable and someone who really cares for the animals and is serious about his work, and a serious photographer to boot (he was a manager of guides at Jao and I believe was on rotation loan at Vumbura). The landscape is highly varied: waterways you explore by boat, stunning plains, mopane forests, a large pond frequented by all manner of bird species and a few crocs. We saw two of the most gorgeous lion prides I've seen. My only complaint (well, we had an obnoxious safari mate, but that's not their fault) about L. Vumbura was that the guests were almost all rich Americans. I see enough of those here! But if you want chic and high comfort, excellent guides and game viewing, you can't beat it.
Matt, many thanks. The pictures aren't really great, but I tried to give an idea of what each camp was like for people trying to decide.
Leslie
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Feb 5th, 2008, 05:30 PM
  #24
 
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This looks like a trip I might like to do at some point; I am a solo traveler not anxious to join a tour but don't want to schlep my own bags around or make sure I have enough bottled water from day to day - or morning coffee for that matter. How did you arrange things? Did you book your own lodges, camps, etc., and do the game drives and viewing through them? And how did you get from one lodge or camp to the next?
Very naive questions -sorry.
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Feb 5th, 2008, 06:06 PM
  #25
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Jess215,
We are not tour-taking types or schleppers either. There are many Africa specialists out there who arrange private tours. Once you get outside of the international airport, the ground operators meet you at the airports and drop-off points, carry your bags, provide water, get you through customs, and basically do EVERYTHING for you. We went with Premier Tours, www.premiertours.com
out of Philly and owned by a southern African named Julian Harrison, twice (in 2006 to South Africa, with Vic Falls and 3 days at Chobe thrown in). Both times we were very satisfied, though I only did a little comparison shopping for prices. The ground operator on this Botswana trip was Wilderness (you must book with them thru a travel agent), which is a huge operation that even owns its own airline, Sefofane, to fly you from camp to camp.
Another specialist TA in the U.S. is Africa Adventure out of Florida
www.africa-adventure.com
run by Mark Nolting. But there are many many more, and the big tours operators like Micato, A&K, etc. will also do private tours. They cost a bit more than group tours usually. You never need to worry about being lonely because there are plenty of people to meet at the camps, but you aren't stuck with the same people throughout the trip and you don't have that hurry-scurry feeling of tours. I tell solo traveler friends these are easy trips to do, except for the dreaded single supplement rates. But a few camps (apparently Mala Mala in Sabi Sands, for example)have singles rates. Botswana is a place you won't forget.
Leslie
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Feb 6th, 2008, 03:04 AM
  #26
 
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sorry for my ignorance but what is a Uri vehicle?
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Feb 6th, 2008, 05:01 AM
  #27
 
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ekscrunchy,

A Namibian 4WD vehicle designed for safaris - good for photography!!!
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Feb 6th, 2008, 05:04 AM
  #28
 
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Thanks, Leslie - I guess my only real concern then is the cost.... the only downside of my Micato trip was that I went to Africa for a little peace and quiet and didn't get any -- until Zanzibar, when it was just me and my guide -- and that too can be a little bit awkward at times.
Jess
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Feb 6th, 2008, 05:44 AM
  #29
 
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Your photos are wonderful and appreciated as I'll be going to L.Vumbura, Chitabe L, the desert (some combo of Planet Baobab) - to be determined and a few other places.
Loved all your shots, but enjoyed seeing the brown hyena and the dogs.
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Feb 6th, 2008, 12:07 PM
  #30
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Hari, I think Uris are made in South Africa, no? They are very simple vehicles, easier and cheaper to fix that Land Rovers, which need more highly trained (and expensive) mechanics. At Kwando camps, they don't have tops for shade, and that can be brutal in hot weather (but yes, better for photography). The problem is that they are bumpy and very uncomfortable, particlulary in the back row. I have spine problems, and thought I was in hell a couple of times (but nothing, not even terrible pain, will stop my game viewing quest!). At Kwando Lagoon, they make the guests take turns in the back row.
Jess, Botswana is not cheap, that's for sure, but IMO worth saving up for. I don't go to Africa to rest, frankly, but the afternoon breaks are a good time to catch up on ZZZZ's in these comfortable places. As for quiet, there's nothing there but animal and weather sounds. Sublime.
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Feb 6th, 2008, 03:39 PM
  #31
 
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Leslie,
Also, that deep Kalahari sand during the dry months make it very deep! Remember how deep the sand tracks can get with that soil? I think, it gets deeper the further North you go like Lagoon especially around all that Kalahari apple leaf area - down South, south of Lebala and the Selinda etc etc., not so deep.

During the rainy months, that soil gets compacted and firm and could be easier to drive through without being too bumpy! Ofcourse, will be very bumpy when u are running wild after the dogs!!!!

I like the open top - and can't ever imagine going on safari in a covered vehicle!
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Feb 6th, 2008, 06:26 PM
  #32
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I'm sure you're right Hari. We did tons of off roading at Kwando because of our maniac guide Steve, who will track dogs across the bumps for hours. So the season is a consideration. But when it's 120 outside, I prefer a top! I'm there to see the animals more than I am to photograph them (my husband will disagree, but he sits in the front and has few problems. Actually, the deepest sand, caried down by the waters from Angola, was at Kwetsanoi. It takes an hour just to get from the landing strip to camp thru very deep fine white sand. But it's beautiful stuff! They should import it to beaches.
Leslie
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Mar 4th, 2008, 06:13 AM
  #33
TC
 
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Leslie, Your photos are sterling. Would you mind sharing a list of your photo equipment? Camera(s), lens (sizes), filters, etc. Did you PhotoShop the images once home? I am especially interested in your bird photos as we are birders as well.

Thanks for posting such lovely images and report.
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Mar 4th, 2008, 06:42 AM
  #34
 
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Ooh, thank you!
Enjoyed looking through the photos.
We too visited Jack's Camp (in 2004) and particularly enjoyed seeing the meerkats and brown hyenas.
I enjoyed your other pics too, especially the one of the two wild dogs having a go at the intruding hyena!
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Mar 4th, 2008, 07:58 AM
  #35
Jed
 
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We also had cabin 5 at Kwetsani in Oct 07. It was the best camp we stayed at.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35086423

Great pics.

BTW, we also had our trip planned by Julian Harrison at Premier Tours.
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Mar 4th, 2008, 03:36 PM
  #36
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TC,
My husband John shot most of the photos with a Canon Power Shot S3, with the standard 12X zoom with image stabilizer. No other lenses or filters. The little zoom didn't work properly right from the start (we had only used it once before, on our '06 trip to S. Africa) because of grit. We sent it back to Canon and they fixed it free of charge. But John was frustrated at the camera's limitations. It's easy to use and small, but not for serious photos and your bird options and long shots are hampered. Also we both hated the view finder.
Kavey and Jed, thanks. Yuo can't imagine how exciting that dog/hyena chase was! Even the tracker was grinning with glee.
Leslie
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Mar 4th, 2008, 06:31 PM
  #37
 
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I just loved your bird photos! I'm a birder and it's rare to see that many bird photos from African travelers. Thank you so much!
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Mar 4th, 2008, 06:59 PM
  #38
 
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I was looking at the pics again and having a vague deja vu. When I hit the ele yarmulke I knew I'd seen them.
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Mar 4th, 2008, 07:15 PM
  #39
 
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Thanks for sharing those great photos! I loved the meerkats and wish we had seen some while we were in Kenya & Tanzania...after "Lion King" I thought they were a given!
And, that was a beautiful leopard shot and interesting of the antelope kill. I also liked the lighting of a lot of these, especially the elephant ones. Botswana looks captivating with all that water...and the camps also looked great.
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Mar 20th, 2008, 07:42 PM
  #40
 
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Wow. Amazing photos. Although we are not staying at Jack's Camp which I have heard is amazing, we're going to Botswana for the first safari trip in Sept. I hope we get to see atleast 1/2 of what you got to see! Thanks for sharing.
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