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Botswana & Vic Falls - Part 2 (Xigera) -- First Timer Reporting

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Aug 8th, 2004, 09:12 AM
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Botswana & Vic Falls - Part 2 (Xigera) -- First Timer Reporting

Now, onto the camps in Botswana. I am not going to go into details about the camps since so many of the board participants are already familiar with them and there is ample information on the web about each camp. Instead I will focus on the wildlife sightings.

Keeping our unexpectedly late arrival in mind, the manager at Xigera had arranged for us to immediately go out for a mokoro ride. As a first timer, allow me to wax poetical about this experience.

There are no words to adequately describe the astounding nature of a mokoro ride. First of all, there is no noise - none whatsoever. Your hear just the occasional sounds of nature: an animal sounding off in the distance; the swishing whispers of the reeds as the mokoro glides through papyrus-lined channels; the "plop" of a water drop falling from the end of the pole; the gentle whoop-whoop of the flapping wings of a bird flying home to roost - all natural and all barely audible. Total tranquility reigns. It's as though you're in a religious sanctuary. Riding in a mokoro, you automatically start whispering because you don't want to disturb the peace.

"By the way," Matt (one of our polers) said, breaking into our reverie during our first mokoro ride, "don't worry about that big ole' croc; it's winter and they are lazy now." Until then, we had not noticed the scaly-skinned predator lying along the edge of a termite-mound-turned-island just a couple meters (couple of yards) from us. We were glad to have caught the crocs being lazy - a mokoro would be a flimsy thing to be in during a close encounter with a crocodile!

On the morning of our departure from Xigera we did a longer mokoro ride. This experience was enhanced by great wildlife sightings: lots and lots of colorful birds, giraffes browsing on acacia, an elephant browsing in the brush - a lone bull that was just a couple of meters/yards from us; we were close enough to look him in the eye as he lifted his trunk to sniff the air when he realized he was no longer alone. Two very rare sightings rounded out the experience: a sitatunga and a Pels fishing owl.

We also had an opportunity to travel through the deeper channels of the delta by motorboat, which allowed us to see hippos - rather, we mostly heard them since they were hidden in the papyrus and not inclined to show themselves.

Even though it was a wet camp, we had our first game drive at Xigera. We saw impala by the hundreds - sneeze-like sounds alerted us to two males sparring in the brush while a herd of females looked on. We also came across a breeding herd of elephants. Needless to say, we kept our distance. Just seeing the elephants trudging through the bush was an unforgettable experience - it was a large herd and they kept coming and coming and coming. Our spot in the open plains afforded us an excellent vantage point for seeing these giants of the bush do what they do naturally; eat, eat and eat some more; I won't go into the pooping that followed all that browsing!

But wait! How could I forget our midnight visitors - and on our first night in the bush! It was a little after midnight that I woke to the sound of toppling trees and branches being shredded. The baboons in the trees were going nuts. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the ellies we had seen near our tent earlier in the evening had come to dinner!

Despite the warnings to stay inside the tent no matter what, it was impossible to resist the temptation to at least open the sliding doors to see them chomping at the vegetation at the edge of our veranda. With the nearly-full moon as the only source of illumination, we could barely make out their bulk and the glistening white tusks. The scene reminded me of a caption under a photo in Okavango, Sea of Land, Land of Sea - I paraphrase: "... the elephant, itself the color of darkness, faded into the darkening skyline." And that is what they did - sensing our presence and raising their trunks to smell the air, they continued to break off branches and twigs before fading into the darkness of the night. Next morning, the destruction in the foliage fronting our tent was all the proof we needed that we had not dreamed the episode. Welcome to the African bush!

Next Chapter: Chitabe Trails
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Aug 9th, 2004, 07:47 AM
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The scene reminded me of a caption under a photo in Okavango, Sea of Land, Land of Sea - I paraphrase: "... the elephant, itself the color of darkness, faded into the darkening skyline." And that is what they did - sensing our presence and raising their trunks to smell the air, they continued to break off branches and twigs before fading into the darkness of the night.

You have a wonderful way with words. This is expressed so perfectly I have a lump in my throat...
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Aug 9th, 2004, 02:35 PM
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Thanks, Kavey.

I love to write trip journals. This is the first forum I have had an opportunity to share them with others. The encouraging words are much appreciated.
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Aug 9th, 2004, 06:53 PM
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eenusa; I really enjoyed your photo posts. I am leaving soon for my safari and was curious about your camera equipment, lens, film/digital etc. (if you don't mind divulging your photo 'secrets');-)
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Aug 10th, 2004, 05:21 AM
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Azrat - glad you enjoyed the photos; I'm a real amateur so I don't know that I have any secrets

I use a Sony DSC-707 5 mega pixel digital camera which has a zeiss lens on it. Although it has lots of capabilities, most of the pictures I took were taken in auto mode. At times I did turn on my digital zoom (10x), bringing my total zool capacity to 15x. (I tend to keep the digital zoom off as it does affect the overall quality, but it seems to work OK if the subject is quite distant and stationary.)

Have fun on your trip.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 04:56 AM
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Topping for Ruth.
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