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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

Feb 14th, 2008, 09:42 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 526
At last I continue.. We have been on a few trips since we returned, but I will briefly conclude (eventually) this trip report!!!!
Another wonderful highlight at Somalisa was the ambush of the zebra. We came upon 10 lions with 8 lying on lookout on a termite mound. Suddenly, one then two came down from the mound and lay camoflaged. They had sensed a large herd of zebra and were obviously hungry. One of the lions broke away and took a large circular route down towards the zebra. The lion cut off part of the herd and flushed out one of the zebras. As the other lions crept into place for the attack we were in awe observing the masterful play by play drama. Eventually the zebra escaped! The smell of the last kill will linger always, so I wasn't too unhappy!! We observed the lions eventually creep back to their original positions to lay in wait for some other unsuspecting animal!

And so to Makalolo Plains.
My recommendation is to avoid this camp. We had to meet the Makalolo guide at the 'park' area where we traded vehicles. We were sat in the bar when we arrived and given a lecture! Our room was just fine and we as always enjoyed the accommodations. However, the staff was not the best and we barely saw the manager. The food was terrible and the wines etc. just barely okay. Snacks on game drives, instead of wonderful home made goodies which changed daily, were low quality store bought cookies.There was no sense of joie de vivre amongst the staff. The drives were very repetitious and our guide luke-warm!! We did get a couple of walks, but he told us in no uncertain terms that if an animal came too close he would not be using his rifle as if he shot an animal he would probably lose his licence and would not be able to work again. Not too reassuring. We did, however, to give MP its due, see a rhino at night and one during the day. The day viewing was after a couple of days of aimless driving around just hoping to observe an animal or two. For some reason we actually got a radio alert (most unusual here) and arrived to hear a jeep full of the OATs group from a neighbouring camp talking in loud voices exclaiming over the rhino and very effectively scaring it back into the bush!! We surmised that the guide, not wanting to lose his tips, did not care to admonish the group for their appalling behaviour.
Luckily our pilot back to Vic Falls was staying at the camp. We asked if he could fly us over the Falls and he enthusiastically agreed but said that he had two other passengers who would need to leave 20 minutes earlier if we did that. Of course when contacted they were thrilled. We had a fantastic flight over the Falls which was yet another highlight. We had been given the most awful packed lunch with spam-like meat and cheap cookies. I gave one to the pilot (along with a nice tip of course)and one to a girl in an airport shop and they were happy to get them.
The plight of the people in Zimbabwe still haunts me. They are so accepting and do not complain.
We waited for our plane which was delayed and arrived in Joburg with no traceable baggage. It was in fact there, but got lost and we received it three days later in Knysna!
Philbill is offline  
Feb 14th, 2008, 11:14 AM
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I think that we were at Makalolo together in August. I went three times last year. The management team from April was amazing, and the camp had a great feel about it. We played camp fire games etc, it was the true Zimbabwean adventure. In August, despite my love for the camp, I was disappointed at the management. The camp has certainly of its feel. I think this is because a lot of the staff are new too. I certainly noticed an improvement when I went back in September.

As for the game viewing, there are a couple things you can do to vary it. One problem was that two pumps were broken, one at Mbiza, a public area. This meant the areas were not very productive. It is also possible to go into the Linkwasha side of the concession, which is the same size a s Makalolo. It contains the huge Ngamo Plain. You do have to put in a request and it you have to time it around OAT in that area.

I can understand how you see things as repetitive, returning to the same locations. Though I do believe game viewing makes up for it.
Feb 14th, 2008, 11:20 AM
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meant to say, lost its feel
Feb 14th, 2008, 01:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 526
It is always good to get another point of view. Thanks for commenting! One person's perspective can be quite different from another person's!!
A great bunch of people came the afternoon before we left the following morning. Maybe you were one of those!!
Have you stayed at Somalisa?? That was incredible. I think that MP was so lacking compared to all the other camps we stayed at and I hate to be negative. It is nice to know you had a different experience. You certainly get around a lot being there three times in one year.
Philbill is offline  
Feb 14th, 2008, 02:04 PM
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Phil, I think I remember you because you mentioned going to Selinda at Dinner. I was a solo traveler, the keen photographer. Maybe it was not you I was thinking of.

Am yet to go to Somalisa, though its size automatically makes it more homely etc than MP. I am thinking of going there instead of MP for this year.

You would be amazed the difference that a management team can make......April compared to your experience. It is sad that all those from my first trip are now else where. A massive difference I also noticed was in the food. In April, the price slashing had not yet been enforced. So although inflation was high, it was still possibly to hold of certain foods. Come August, stuff was missing from shelves in shops, as reported in the news. The lodge said they could not get hold of basic food sources.

Though even in April, I ensured I skipped their Zimbabwean Vintage, the red was almost like paint stripper.
Feb 14th, 2008, 02:46 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Yes, I could make allowances except that Somalisa had the absolute best food of the entire trip and that was only a few miles away from MP.
(Selinda food and wine were great but only because the CEO was there!!)
Somalisa's drawback to me was the outside bucket shower and lack of hot water through the faucets. The rest (food, staff, ambiance, campfire etc.)did make up for it, however.
[I do like my luxuries!! As an explorer I would not make the grade!!]
Philbill is offline  
Feb 14th, 2008, 07:04 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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If you get to read this, how would you compare the gameviewing experience etc etc., at Hwange compared to the Linyanti area of Botswana? Not just the viewing, but the whole experience? Thanks

HariS is offline  
Feb 15th, 2008, 08:14 AM
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Vic Falls-Joburg-Pt. Elizabeth
Not only did our luggage not show up on the carousel at Joburg, but I couldn't find the person who was to deliver the suitcase which I had left at the guest house. Our plane was late arriving but thank goodness our plane to Port Elizabeth was delayed in departing. As you may know, the terminals at Joburg require a fair amount of negotiating and are spaced a fair distance apart. Whilst my husband stayed at the carousel along with a wonderful assistant from ComAir I traversed the airport back and forth between terminals searching for my bag! I must have misunderstood the details of how it would be delivered, and eventually a BA person called the guest house from a payphone and found out that the bag either had not been brought to the airport or it had been returned. The owner of the guest house promised to have someone bring it to the BA desk right by the security screening area whilst the flight was called to board at the same time as I was on the phone!! Surprisingly (but luckily) another delay was announced several minutes later. No husband either. I was a basket case by this time but all of the people at the airport were fantastic and I cannot say enough good things about them. Husband arrived along with the ComAir representative but no bags at all. We went through security as the boarding announcement had been made (yet again). I t turned out that the plane had to be changed because of a mechanical problem and then the baggage had to be reloaded because of the weight distribution being uneven and there were not enough employees to do this quickly!! Down two escalators to the gate...another short delay..up two escalators to security where I could see the BA counter. No bright green suitcase. The secuity personnel were wondering what I was doing so I explained and they said they would watch out for the case. I described the colour and that it could not be missed and down two escalators again. There was still a line boarding a bus to go to the aircraft and husband informed me I had a few more minutes. Up two escalators, talk to security yet one more time. By this time they know me well and so back down two escalators to the gate. By this time only two people were left but they were arguing at the gate so we boarded the bus. The argument continued and I suddenly saw a man running with a bright green suitcase. I leapt off the bus (remember this was a full size 28 inch case which no way could go on the hand baggage security screening belt) threw my arms around the man and raced back onto the bus along with the two remaining passengers. I still feel badly as we were so rushed and frantic (I can't tell you how frantic after a flight from MP to Vic Falls, a flight from Vic Falls to Joburg, no bags from Vic Falls and up until then no bag from the guest house and a long delay meaning that we might not be at Port Elizabeth in time to pick up our rental car!!!!!!) that I rushed off the bus without any money for a tip and rushed back on just in time for it to speed towards the plane.
Were we happy!! We were not due to return at all to Joburg so had to have the case. I will not say any more derogatory things at all regarding Joburg Airport!!
Philbill is offline  
Jun 6th, 2008, 05:20 PM
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I don't know how I missed this trip report but am very happy to have found it now. This is one of the most informative I've read.

Philbill, I appreciate your take on the situation concerning the plight of some of the people you encountered.

I've been thinking that for our trip planned for Aug. of this year the best way to "help" individuals is to tip very well.
I don't want to be insensitive but it seems that the one thing I have that they need is money.

We always buy craft and handmade goods (which we don't need) as a way to help support the locals. But to read that they're appreciative of 1/2 of your sandwich...my heart breaks for them.

This is going to be a trip of a lifetime in many regards.
jbella is offline  
Jun 7th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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I haven't finished this report so apologies. It won't be anytime soon as we are off to Prague.
Jbella, are you going to Zimbabwe in August? The plight of the people in Zimbabwe still haunts me as I read the newspapers. Certainly tipping well is a great thing to do in all of Southern Africa.
We gave one hotel employee in South Africa who had left his family in Zimbabwe money to send home. We told him that it was not a tip but for his family. As he was so honest he said he would have to share it as the staff pooled their tips and any money given to him would be considered a tip, so we took it to his landlady who worked at a shop in the town and she then gave it to him to send home.
It is still a little annoying to me that we spend such a huge amount of money to take such a trip and the staff is so poorly paid.
We purchased hand carved items at MP in Zimbabwe just for the employees to get the money, but after returning home the pieces weren't too great and the legs had broken off three carvings. Now I think about it the company probably took a big cut too!!
Philbill is offline  
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