Botswana delivers in spades in the Green Season

Reply

Feb 23rd, 2012, 07:05 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
Botswana delivers in spades in the Green Season

I have just returned from a short Botswana Green season safari- we were at three camps for 8 days, Kwara/Little Kwara and Duba Plains. My party of three were mainly interested in photography. We had hired a private vehicle throughout and at Kwara paid for a specific guide I had wanted- Hobbs.
The safari was amazing- we loved Botswana. The weather gods smiled on us- it never rained for more than a few minutes while we were in the vehicle on game drive; all the rain was at night and on the last day post game drive when we were leaving. The sun was harsh but the temperatures in the shade pleasant. Pure luck but great!
I will attempt to do a trip report later but will just put down some summary points below:
Best decisions: The Private Vehicles and paying for Hobbs- he was exceptional.
Game drives: We averaged 13 hours a day on game drives mostly in one shot (5.30 am to 7 pm) except one day broken into a morning and afternoon/night drive. The PV gave us complete flexibility and was an absolute must have. I would not do a safari without it. Both camp vehicles were great (3 rows with one for each of us) but the Kwara one was better, newer and slightly larger. Critical factor was the roof on both vehicles not just for rain as I had expected, but to protect against the harsh sun all day and for branches that would enter the vehicle above us while speeding through rough terrain. It was tough enough watching for thorns/branches from the sides rather than the top as well.
Concessions: Kwara was fantastic as expected, with a tremendous diversity of game viewing habitat. Duba Plains was also as expected but wetter than Kwara with a lot more inaccessible areas and much smaller. A max of 4 nights here in my view unless buffaloes are present.
Guides: Hobbs was exceptional- single best guide I have ever had, with amazing intuition, professionalism and a no-nonsense, yet friendly attitude. He was also very photographer oriented and understood light, framing and vehicle positioning intuitively. Our guide at Duba Plains was also very good, he along with every guide I met at DP knew Hobbs- many of them had worked at Kwando in the past. Kwando’s tracker, was also a plus, as four eyes are better than one. DP has no tracker
Game viewing: Fantastic, but we worked hard staying out long hours, were very patient and worked with the guides.
Highlights:
• Start to finish Cheetah kill where a mother cheetah took down a red lechwe with a 1 km start time. Hobbs was amazing in figuring out what was going to happen, interrupting our lunch while we all watched the Cheetahs (mother plus three sub-adult cubs) and racing the vehicle towards the kill, all the time careful to not influence in any way predator to victims.
• Start to finish Lion kill at DP with the legendary Ma-di-ta (from the Last Lions movie) after four hours with the pride (best sundowner of my life with lions all around), the kill in pitch black at 8 pm viewed by spotlight, also a red lechwe.
• 5 male lions (of the magnificent seven at Kwara) right outside camp- spent three hours plus and alerted camp staff who came out to see them in a vehicle with the manager of LK. We were literally 3 to 25m from them for the three hours. Also, experienced my first live full blown lion roar.
• 6 bachelor Elephants playing in a pool with one diving to the bottom with the soles of his feet visible and the trunk out like a snorkel (Kwara).
• A full afternoon with three 6 month old lion cubs (Ma-di-tau’s latest litter) witnessing their behavior together for 4 hours at DP. This was an exceptional afternoon with the cubs playing and posing on a beautiful dead tree branch that had diorect views of the open plains of Duba Plains and looked often in one direction that appeared to signify where their mother had last headed.
• A full day spent at the Tsum-Tsum plains in Kwara with exceptional tracking leading to the famous 3 cheetah brothers who were on a mound beginning a hunt (the hunt failed). Spent two hours at a distance of 10m from them, very relaxed with vehicles. Saw a huge male leopard but he was shy and we could spend about 15 minutes with him. Saw a male lion resting (No.6 of the magnificent 7). Never saw the 7th whom Hobbs thinks is dead as no one has seen him for months.
• A sundowner after two hours of tracking a male lion at Kwara with Hobbs saying its unlikely we will find him, then hearing a loud roar close by. We drove 200m into a thicket and could hear their breathing- had a tire puncture in pitch black. Hobbes changed the tire in record time with the tracker and the rest of us frantically shinning lights all around and seeing at least one pair of lion eyes. Within 25m we found a male lion polishing off a zebra and three females. Spent an hour and radioed other 2 LK vehicles who joined us but respectfully gave us the best position literally a few meters from this huge male lion.
• A huge crocodile jumping clear out of the vehicle right behind our vehicle as it was moving backwards trying to climb out of a hole in deep water. Several sightings of very large monitor lizards.
• Boat and mekero at Kwara- the boat trip with Hobbs as captain led us to see a Sitatunga deer that I understand is very rare. An unexpected and exceptional boat ride at Duba Plains with a boat guide who had spent a decade at Xigera and has now been brought to expand DPs activities. We called it body surfing with Hippos!
• Lots more- large schools of Red Lechwes ( several hundred at DP), journeys of Giraffe, Zebras and impalas by the hundreds (Kwara, none at DP) etc, etc, well over a 50 bird species including a dozen different raptors. Only two things we missed- at Kwara Wild Dogs, and at Duba Plains buffaloes. The latter is a complicated story but the buffalo lion interaction is now much rarer at DP, mainly because the buffalo are often in an inaccessible spot on paradise island for weeks or even month+ at a time. DP is careful not to advertise this but my sense is it’s now hit or miss (with emphasis on the latter) for buffalo at DP. I say this as another person I know was at DP for several days in December and the buffaloes were in paradise island for 3 weeks then and have been away again for almost a month.

Soft Product:
Kwara met our (low) expectations. The bed was comfortable, the shower had hot water, the bathroom was subpar . The tents are definitely tired and the bathrooms desperately need an upgrade. Food was OK. No charging in tent, confusion recovering chargers etc, have to self wash “smalls”; but we barely spent time in camp except at night so it was fine.
Little Kwara is a definite upgrade from Kwara but for the one night we were there (Kwara was full that night when we had originally booked and they moved us to LK), we had no hot water and the water supply was muddy. The service, tents and food were a definite uptick from Kwara.
Duba Plains was in a different league and exceeded expectations. The manager Lizzy runs a tight ship. Everything was perfect and the look and feel of the place is definitely high end. The tents had plenty of electricity with a charging station, indoor and outdoor showers, much better rooms, fans, mossie nets etc, etc. Moreover, the common and dining area ambiance was top notch, the crystal and tableware high end, bottles of brut and rose champagne beautifully displayed on ice with pewter flutes served to guests each evening, etc etc. The chef Jack was very good and the food was great. Every time we entered camp the managers plus staff would we waiting with cold towels post game drive. Both breakfast snacks and lunch were packed everyday and we were told no problem if we came back for lunch they would serve us hot food.
As an added bonus, both the Jouberts were at Duba Plains along with an American TV crew for the famous 60 minutes program that is doing a segment on the Jouberts. We did not get to see them as they have their own home near camp, but when we were out with the Lion cubs we received a radio call to our vehicle saying Dereck was asking where the cubs were !!
I now firmly believe Botswana, or at least the delta, in the Green Season is the best kept secret and the way to go. More than anything, the lush landscape greatly added to the overall safari ambiance and I would not trade in the gently swaying tall grasses in the balmy breeze for better game viewing in short grass with dust and cold in the winter season. The downsides of more difficult game viewing conditions and rain are an acceptable trade.
Overall a fantastic trip.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 02:10 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 123
Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So happy you had a great time. Was Spike your guide at DP finally?

Single Cheetah mother killing red lechwe= out of this world!! cant wait to see the pics. And the 3 brothers too!

Wont the Duba cubs be like 9 months or so now? They were around 7-8 when I saw them. Arent those lions something else altogether!

Lizzy was a legend! Did you get to see her dancing steps when she tells a story excitedly.

Thank you so much for a quick update.
tanya_1976 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 02:27 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 123
Regarding buffaloes -you are bang on but I also think its got to do with the green season - its even worse than in the late dry season - As Dereck had pointed in his article about the presence of food for lions everywhere (and plain games babies and prides splitting) but also for the buffs -lots of grass in Paradise and elsewhere. Towards end of September till when it starts raining is probably the best time for Duba if you still want to chance a lion-buffalo interaction- lot of people feel in Duba green season with more flood plains accessible is actually better to see buffaloes but thats not true.

But it still was the most beautiful place I visited in the Delta (or Africa).
tanya_1976 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 03:24 PM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
Hi Tanya,

They remember you very well at Duba Plains! No Spike was not our guide but I did have a chance to talk to him at dinner one evening and he mentioned you. Our guide was Moses. Spike did help to pull us out of a deep hole one day as he was in the elevated vehicle- we were joking Toyota kicks Land Rovers butt in Botswana.
Moses told us the lion cubs were 6-7 months old now, if you are right they are a few months older, but they are adorable and we spent a lot of time with them on two occasions. Also witnessed their reunion with their mother just prior to her successful hunt we also saw.

On the helicopter ride (which I took Moses on as well) we saw about three herds of total 500 buffaloes on and around Paradise island , but the remaining 1,000 were scattered all over and the smaller herds looked very relaxed, They obviously are comfortable as they normally stay as a mega herd if there are predators around. We were told silver eye is also in Paradise island and the dominant male swims back and forth. We spent an afternoon tracking him but did not find him, despite fairly fresh tracks.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 04:33 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
Many thanks for your report and happy to hear you had a great safari. Although I'm sure 8 days seemed a bit short? (Especially if coming from USA?). Three of you, one vehicle, assuming one room, can you give a rough idea of the cost per person per day? Also, any photos on web?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 05:14 PM
  #6
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
No photos yet Tom. Still working on processing them.

We had three rooms, but had only paid for two at the camps- to clarify, we had three rooms for 5 of the 8 days and 2 for the remaining 3. We paid $360 pppn plus internal air and vehicle costs. In the peak season the pricing is around 1,000 pppn which I would not pay. The entire safari including airfare from the U.S (NYC) cost us roughly 6k pp.
Also, though short 8 days was all we could take off and it was fine. I was starting to get a bit tired of the 13 hour drive days and if we had stayed longer would have needed at least one full day off from safari.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 05:47 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Love your report. Botswana is so special, esp the people.

Silver Eye is still around? We "met" her in 2006! Great info. $6k is not too bad, esp w/ air ($1500?). Definitely something to consider.
christabir is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 23rd, 2012, 06:27 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Any estimate on how old Silver Eye is by now? Any info on her cub killing behavior these days?

Quite the discount this time of year.

Thanks!
atravelynn is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 24th, 2012, 07:33 PM
  #9
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
Moses was indeed our guide and remains at Duba Plains. We even took him on the helicopter ride to paradise Island- great guy!
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 24th, 2012, 07:36 PM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
For anyone interested in the current dynamics of the various Lion prides at Duba Plains, here is Derek Joubert explanation as of last month.
http://www.livethemagicofafrica.com/...a-plains-pride

I understand Silver Eye is around 15 years at this point.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 25th, 2012, 11:43 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 55
AKR1,

Can I ask what the supplement was for a private vehicle at Duba please?
africa_fan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 26th, 2012, 04:05 AM
  #12
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
Africa Fan it's $450 per day. But they have only one private vehicle which gets booked up many months in advance.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 3rd, 2012, 02:28 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
I have posted pictures and some more details on Safaritalk.
http://safaritalk.net/topic/8028-bot...-green-season/
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 29th, 2012, 05:45 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 197
AKR1,

Thanks for the report - we're considering a nearly identical trip in Jan/Feb 2013 so it was very helpful. I was under the impression the Kwando vehicles did not have a roof, but your report seems to indicate otherwise?
Statefan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 30th, 2012, 09:04 AM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
Statefan,

Here is the deal. We definitely had a roof at Kwara/LK. But, we had paid for a private vehicle, specifically requested one with a roof and they had given us a vehicle that had the hardware to put up a roof. When we were picked up at the Kwara airstrip the vehicle had no roof and they again asked us if we want one. By the time we had finished lunch a full cloth roof had been installed and it took a significant amount of hardware,steel poles, brackets etc. We had this vehicle for our entire 4 night stay and after experiencing the roof, as I say in my report, its an absolute must at that time of the year both for rain protection, but more for sun and the branches coming into the vehicle from above while offroading.
Note, we did not see a single other vehicle there with a roof and what I dont know is if the guests requested one and they could not put it up or if people in the other vehicles did not want one.
If you want a roof on the vehicle (as I definitely do at that time of the year in the Delta) then this is a critical point that I would discuss with Kwando or your agent. In summary at least one vehicle (newer Toyota Land Cruiser) had the ability to have a roof- this cannot easily be removed/put on as it takes two men and 30 minutes to do so. I have no idea at the other Kwando camps outside of Kwara/LK.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 30th, 2012, 10:02 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 197
Fantastic, thanks!
Statefan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 30th, 2012, 05:08 PM
  #17
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
I have posted some vehicle pictures with and without the roof on my trip report on Safaritalk.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 21st, 2012, 07:10 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 7
How far out did you book? How did you get Hobbs? What is the premium/cost to get a specific guide?
dkorwood is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 22nd, 2012, 06:22 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Glad this got topped as I missed the pictures earlier. Thanks for the great details.
Femi is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 26th, 2012, 11:47 AM
  #20
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
I had booked in early November- just 3 months before we left. I don't remember the premium for Hobbs as I was trying to get him with the private vehicle but they insisted it could not be guaranteed without payment, although we had a good chance of getting him by request only. However, the private vehicle is required to guarantee a specific guide. The Kwara green season private vehicle cost is much less than the competition at $240 per day. I think they charged us another $100 to guarantee Hobbs. At Wilderness safaris the PV cost is $450 per day but I believe you can request and get confirmation subject to leave schedules for a specific guide with the vehicle.
AKR1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:40 AM.