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Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa AKA Durbs, Joburg, Ellies and The Nellie: A Trip Report

Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa AKA Durbs, Joburg, Ellies and The Nellie: A Trip Report

Sep 21st, 2007, 09:34 PM
  #21  
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Leslie:
Don't be concerned...that was just our guide and he won't be there! Note that he was a great guide! I GAINED ..oops caps lock... 10lbs in 5+ weeks but some of that was South Africa ...more to come later...and it was worth it!!!!!!!
Philbill is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 06:38 AM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Loved your LV account. That's good you bring up the long outings vs. shorter ones and how you handled it. Baby hyenas! And 8 of them!

The minimal progress on books has been mentioned several times now. I pack very light for reading material now too.

Great tip on that cushion and only $3!? I didn't think there was anything at REI for $3.
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 02:12 PM
  #23  
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I am so excited about this pillow that I looked it up on line to give you a reference.
Go to the main REI website and it is Item 610507 (just put the number in the search box). The 'chambers' (just found the word in the description) make all the difference in the world to comfort and adaptability as you roll sideways and bump up and down. I did spend most of my trip in the front set of passenger seats or beside the driver.
If you have items sent to your local REI store and pick them up at the store there is not shipping. Our store had them in stock and I am embarrassed to say I bought 4 of them. I was so sure one would burst but it lasted the whole trip and is still great. I gave one to one of the camp managers who admired it. And of course, you let the air out and they pack down.
Am I thrilled with this pillow or what?? I guess it doesn't take much.........
Philbill is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 10:05 PM
  #24  
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More: LV, by the way, does wash underwear!! I took inexpensive 't' shirts and it seemed like they did shrink but may have done at home anyway. I had melted a pair of zip-off pants last year when ironing them at home (in a fit of domesticity!) so I did mention this when the manager reviewed the laundry procedure. I was advised that most of the staff at the camps knew about this fabric but it would be wise to provide a reminder. The zip-offs worked extremely well on both drives as we often unzipped when the morning weather got warmer and zipped up at sundowner time. Most of the camps were not full and some nights we were the only two people in camp, which I thought strange for mid to late August. I had expected 'sold-out' camps. LV told us that their camp's reservations have really increased for next year as word gets out about the rebuilding . At this camp (and no other) everyone was separated for lunch with individual tables set up for each couple or family group.
On the final morning at LV we had the mokoro ride and it was, as I have written, a wonderful experience. We had told our guide we had to pack so after landing on an island for morning tea and snacks we returned to camp around 10:00am. At last a chance to relax in the sun and admire the beautiful scenery. After a shower we wandered down to the bar where Jacks was holding down the fort. Jacks told us about his childhood and his experiences with mokoros and started my Bush and Tswana (Setswana) language lessons. Joy of joy, I can now ask for mofini o mohibidu (red wine) and we invited the cook and her assistant who were waiting to serve brunch to join us at the bar, as the other couple remaining at LV had not returned from their drive. What fun we had.. They had a drink of fruit juices and we took photoes. They laughed good-naturedly at my feeble attempts at Tswana, but delighted in teaching us how to say hello to men and to women in the singular and the plural. I had a chance to try all my phrases out on Unozeba (the shop manager) when she wandered down. It was a time I will not forget. My husband dissuaded me from the Valium for the upcoming light plane ride, so I had two glasses of red wine instead and that worked perfectly well. My fear of flying was a thing of the past!! My check-in to 'Betty Ford' might be a thing of the future!!!!! [Aside: Has anyone else drunk more wine on safari than they ever thought possible? Selwyn had introduced me to pinotage and we visited Backsburg two years ago and there it was at LV, along with a great merlot. South African wines are wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] [Another aside: I found myself writing this section in the present tense as I was reliving the moment!! I think that is a great indicator of how meaningful the experience was.] We talked a LOT to camp employees wherever we went and learned much about their lives and the state of the country from their point of view, especially in Zimbabwe. Similarly it was interesting to get the viewpoint of our white South African guide in Durban and the black guides we had in Joburg.
We were so sad to leave and Lawrence, Uno and Dardley all came down to the dock to see us off as did a couple of the staff. Our guide told us of a cheetah sighting so we were thrilled to drive by and see a cheetah for the first time. We were not to see another one on our trip. On to the airfield where the big news was that 136 pieces of luggage were arriving by plane as Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, had taken over Vumbura Plains for 3 days. Two employees from VP were also waiting to board, and the four of us with my husband as 'co-pilot' boarded a 5 seater. One of the girls cried softly all the way and looked scared to death. Both of them were horrified to hear that we would be landing at Chitabe Trails and then they would have to take off again for Maun. At the Chitabe airstrip we were met and told that as we had asked to go directly onto the game drive (we had??) we would be meeting up with our guide who had left the camp on the afternoon/evening drive about the time we landed.
Sorry about the jumping around, but as I remember things I want to add them!
Philbill is offline  
Sep 24th, 2007, 03:20 PM
  #25  
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LALeslie:
Forgot to mention but at Chitabe Trails Newman told me people do sometimes request him, and if you can do that you would be thrilled! I am just starting my CT account but trust me, and maybe others can verify, Newman is the man!!!!! He is incredible.
Philbill is offline  
Sep 24th, 2007, 04:11 PM
  #26  
 
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Glad you got to see a cheetah after your mekoro ride. Thanks for the reference on the cushion. If you bought four is that one for each cheek and a spare set or are you going to be giving them as gifts?

Now that you have overcome the fear of small planes and have located a reliable source of cushions, you can plan another safari!
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 24th, 2007, 06:05 PM
  #27  
 
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As a matter of fact, we requested Newman when we booked, but apparently no guarantees. We leave Oct. 30. Can't wait!
LAleslie is offline  
Sep 24th, 2007, 07:47 PM
  #28  
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As I turn the other cheek (!!), the idea for four, atravelynn, was one for my back and possibly one to sit on and the same for my husband. As it turned out to sit on one was unrealistic and husband decided he didn't need them, so we held on to two in case one punctured.
Funny you should mention being ready for another safari, but I have been emailing Timeless Africa (Julian) about Namibia and either Rwanda or Uganda. We met two guys who had decided on Uganda for next year after researching the two countries.
I would go back to the Garden Route in a flash, although I have to admit that the 10lbs is coming off much more slowly than I imagined! I actually went to the gym for the first day in months as we had a dinner party, a reception, a luncheon engagement and we had people to dinner in a 48 hour period this weekend. I haven't got on the scale since Friday (at which point I was down 4 lbs.).
We have a couple of trips planned to England and the Caribbean (I go to England a lot as I am English but live in the USA and we like to cruise). Our next 'biggie' is to Antarctica in January after which we will go to Rio for Carnival.
Philbill is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 07:40 AM
  #29  
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CHITABE TRAILS- 3 nights
We hadn't seen the camp but we were whisked off to find our guide. I noticed an animal (can't remember what) and am surprised when our driver sped by and seemed intent on getting us to our transfer. We found out why: the huge news was that there was a leopard sighting and lo and behold we saw it! It was basking in the sun on a mound. A leopard and a cheetah within an hour or so was just great! It moved very soon into the bush and we transferred to Newman's jeep. Two honeymooners in their thirties who turned out to be a blast were already on the jeep, and immediately we were driving over bushes, through small trees and in shock. LV had never been like this, although we did drive through water up to the hood/bonnet of the jeep when we were there. Here in CT was a whole different experience and wildly (so to speak!) exciting! Newman was the best. So knowledgeable and what a tracker!!!!! We learned (through constant questioning) all about his life both from when he was born up to his current situation. That man has to write his autobiography and of course we encouraged him to do that. He told us other guests have said the same. He is remarkable. Apart from the tracking, sightings (more to come!!) and the conversation, I will never forget him regularly applying sun block and so carefully cleaning his glasses! No more leopard that day except for a fleeting glimpse. However, the rough terrain resulted in a flat tyre so we had yet another experience! The change went very quickly and off we went. Other animals were seen and when we stopped for sundowners there was a full bar. LV had miniature airline bottles and you requested your sundowner of choice ahead of time which worked out just fine. Most people had G and T or red wine. We did the typical night drive and I don't know how but Newman managed to conjure up several sightings and prior to nightfall many birds. Arrival at the camp was after dark, and it was so hard to acclimate as we had not seen it in the daylight at all so really had to be guided to our tent. We had an outdoor shower as well as indoor facilities and to my husband's amazement our very own termite mound as part of the shower area. We had hors' d'oeuvres by the fire and I asked in Tswana for my wine much to the shock of the camp staff. Already I knew we were in for a change as the appetizers were scrumptious. Although the dinner was buffet style, the food was fabulous and remained so the whole of the stay. As we got into bed we got a wonderful surprise as there were two bushbabies (hot water bottles). We were like children ; so excited! I might add that we always had plenty of bedding so were never cold at any of the camps once we had warmed up the bed. A great night's sleep, and we were awoken at 6am by the sound not of a knock on the door, but by Newman blowing the kudo horn and later pounding on the drums! The other new guests, a family, requested late starts and very short drives and the children often stayed in camp, but luckily as a family they had their own vehicle. We were about to leave when we realized that the other couple had their hot water bottles with them, so we ran back to the tent and had ours refilled! On to our drive and our walk. We walked at each camp and learned a lot about the flora, fauna, land development and tracking as well as the ant lion and other tiny creatures!
Philbill is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 02:00 PM
  #30  
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SIGHTINGS AT LITTLE VUMBURA:
I was reading some other trip reports which list the wild life sighted. So, I rooted out my 'Species Checklist' from Wilderness and here we go.
Little Vumbura (by no means exhaustive..I have the birds and trees but will only list the main species):
Sable Antelope, Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Red Lechwe, Steenbok, Tsessebe, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Zebra, Fruit Bat, Ellies, Hippo, Slender Mongoose, Warthog, African Wild Cat, Cheetah, Hyaena, the two prides of Lions, Chacma Baboons, Bush Squirrel, Crocodile, Ostrich (if anyone is interested I will post all the birds as our poor guide was forced to review with me daily!!!!). Now I am hearing in my head: 'Work harder, Work Harder, Drink Lager,Drink Lager, In Botswana, In Botswana.........agghhhh the refrain will be repeating itself to me all day now.
Philbill is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 06:23 PM
  #31  
 
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A leopard and cheetah within an hour is tremendous.
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 03:13 AM
  #32  
 
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hi, philbill,

you'll know from my trip report that we never got to see leopard or cheetah. to see both in one hour makes me really green.

thanks for a really informative report,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 08:31 AM
  #33  
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Yes, I finally did finish your trip report Ann, and really enjoyed it.
I was glad we went to Botswana and Zimbabwe as we certainly saw a lot of game, the only exception being wild dogs.
The weight is coming off so slowly but I am plodding on with this report.
I have found it better to write a little on WordPad or whatever and then cut and paste it into Fodors. That way I can write a few sentences at odd times during the day and edit typos etc. more easily. Oddball postings such as this one are done directly onto Fodors.
I just downloaded some photoes last night (I don't know why it is so difficult to get them onto a CD in the correct order and with clarity. I must be doing something wrong!!).
Off to make my breakfast tea!!!!
Philbill is offline  
Sep 28th, 2007, 10:53 PM
  #34  
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It is midnight here..more tomorrow...
Philbill is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 06:59 AM
  #35  
 
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bump
CarlaM is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 11:42 AM
  #36  
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Chitabe Trails continued...
The second day was a highlight (as was every day it seems!). We walked and learned so much about how trees communicate and produce tannin which makes the leaves bitter. Talk about survival! All of nature is so intricately balanced and I know so little! We saw an ostrich and close by spotted a nest in the sand which contained 14 eggs! I gather that this is a rare sighting indeed. One more scoop for Newman! He is so observant and, for example, can tell just from where an eagle sits in a tree if there is something happening in the bush. We did get stuck in the sand, but luckily another camp employee was also with us, so he could assist Newman. The jeep had to be jacked up, as placing branches in front of the wheels did not work. It was a hot and dusty job but we eventually moved on. No more flat tyres today, however! I might add to the tyre episode that Newman used the mosquito repellent as a lubricant when changing the tyre!
For the first time I actually took a siesta and we were awakened by an almighty noise. We had baboons on the roof of our tent, and very angry ones it seemed. The cacophany was unreal and I hadn't a clue what was happening until they started to jump off the roof and I counted 12 baboons landing and scurrying off into the bushes.
On our afternoon drive we suddenly saw a huge cloud of dust and heard the noise of what turned out to be a stampede of buffalo. Newman of course drove over to the area like a bat out of hell as he knew what had happened. A 6 to 7 month old buffalo had been taken down by two female lions and a cub. We were there to see the lions holding down the buffalo and attempting first to clamp on the windpipe and then to clench the jaws together in order to suffocate it. It was so gruesome, but with Newman's commentary elaborating on the process involved in trying to stop the buffalo from breathing in order to kill it, it was fascinating. I took so many pictures but this was partly to distance myself from watching an animal be killed. I had to remind myself that this is part of the circle of lfe. The most powerful memories are of the internal organs being pulled from the body and the awful smell of the blood. It was hard to watch, but what an experience. We also saw a huge elephant; the largest we had seen on our trip. I took more photoes of ellies than any other animal on our two week safari!! We saw some wonderful family groups and herds, and observed the babies which could still stand underneath their mothers!
Philbill is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 11:25 AM
  #37  
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On the third day we were greeted by elephants when we returned to camp for brunch. They were blocking our entrance across the raised walkway, shaking the fan palms and eating the nuts/fruit which fell down. We had to wait a few minutes and as they moved away from the fence we went quickly by into the camp dining room. Our meal was interrupted by the sound of more trees being shaken, and the three elephants were very happily eating! We were cautious going back to our room, and we were the only two clients left in camp. At this time Chitabe Main Camp was full, so we were very fortunate to have the camp and Newman to ourselves! [ The name Chitabe Trails has been changed this season as we were told that many people felt that the name 'Trails' meant a mobile camp.] We had problems negotiating past the elephants after our afternoon respite, but on meeting Newman again we went off to the Gomoti water area. We had very interesting sightings as usual including great views of a bushbaby and an owl on the night drive. There were great sightings of elephants taking mud baths (and later in the trip we saw wonderful displays of dust baths!). As we returned to camp, Ryan was there to meet us (all dressed up and not in his usual shorts and shirt). He proceeded to walk us back to our tent where we were flabbergasted to see our deck all lit up with lanterns and a table for two set with beautiful linens, crystal and china. A bottle of champagne was on ice together with a bottle of my favourite red wine. Ryan said that although it was not my birthday until the following month, this was a birthday celebration for me! He and Ruth, one of the assistant cooks, served us a four course meal as we toasted them. We also learned the toast "Pula!" (rain, and also the name of the currency). It was an evening we will never forget..a romantic dinner for two under the Botswanan night sky. The ellies had not left the camp, so we could see the approaching beam of the flashlight together with pauses partway up the long walkway as our servers went back and forth throughout the evening of dining! At night we heard lions' roaring and they sounded very close! The sounds of elephants splashing were also audible. We got up to the sound of the kudo horn and basically skipped breakfast as we were told the lions were still very close to camp and we might be able to locate them. We could not get to the jeep, (ellies what else!), so Newman drove around the back of the camp and we went under the fence to meet him on the 'back 40'! With Newman listening to baboons and birds and following his intuition, he eventually located tracks and soon we were face to face with two beautiful male lions. What gorgeous creatures. They decided to walk around a little and pose for us. What a treat having two private drives with Newman, but soon it was time to go for brunch and drive to meet the aircraft. for those of you following my fear of heights and concern of claustraphobia and panic attacks, it only took a glass and a half of wine at CT in order to have a very pleasant flight. Yet another young guy was the pilot, but I consoled myself by figuring that they must fly the plane about four times a day!!!!! The worst part was that Sefofane had subbed out the flight on the next leg three days later, and that company had all the biographies of the pilots and their ages together with a paragraph about each which stated in one form or other that their pilots were flying these plans to get experience in order to apply to fly commercial aircraft. So, I wondered to myself, were these pilots not good enough to make the grade to fly commercially at this point in time? Too much information can be a bad thing!!!!!
Philbill is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 06:58 AM
  #38  
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Sightings at Chitabe Trails
Here goes: Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Red Lechwe, Reedbuck, Steenbok, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Zebra, Buffalo, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Dwarf Mongoose, Slender Mongoose, Yellow Mongoose, Warthog, African Wild Cat, Large-Spotted Genet, Hyaena, Side-striped Jackal, Leopard, Lion, Baboon, Lesser bushbaby, Vervet Monkey, Scrub Hare, Springhare, Bush Squirrel, Ostrich, Scops Owl and many other birds.
Question: Why did everyone in Southern Africa pronounce Hyaena "High-HEE-na"? It's a little different from the, 'I say tomahto and you say tomayto'!!
Philbill is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 07:32 AM
  #39  
 
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Wow, loving this so far!
Kavey is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 09:05 AM
  #40  
 
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hi, philbill,

here's another pronounciation query - why the wierd "R" in "wildebearrrst" and "hartebearrst"?

all the SA guides and rangers said this all the time. did you hear this too?

your sightings were terrific - I'm green.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  

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