Cape Town and Botswana Trip Report ...Very Long


Jun 8th, 2005, 02:04 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
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Cape Town and Botswana Trip Report ...Very Long

Good Morning,
It is 3 am PST and I should be asleep but my brain is on African time.
I will post this report in three seperate entries and there is a link for the photos.

After sorting through the 1500 plus shots that my husband and traveling friends I have picked ou the photos that best tell the story. Some shot are better than others ...Enjoy.

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Jun 8th, 2005, 02:06 AM
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After 26 hours of flying, we arrived into Cape Town about 10 pm and were met by our pickup service. It was nice not to have to think and we quickly arrive at our lodgings at Village and Life in De Waterkant Village.
Our friends had arrived the day before and had already checked into our apartment so we were greeted with a glass of wine.
I had originally booked 55 Loader Street which is a 2 bedroom apartment but was told that we had been upgraded to 2 Loader Street. As it turns out 2 Loader Street is located near several night clubs and sleeping at night was near impossible. We were moved to another apartment which was nice but smelled musty and had moldy carpet in one of the bedrooms.
The V&L apartments are great for couples or families as they are spacious, well located and nicely furnished. However, I was not completely satisfied with the housekeeping or upkeep maintenance.
We spent the first day getting caught up on our sleep and toured the city on a double decker bus which was a great way to get a general overview of Cape Town. The weather was windy and cold with occasional showers.
For the most part we avoided the waterfront area as it looked really touristy and never made it up Table Mountain because the wind had the cable car closed. We found a great wine bar in de Waterkant Village and some several nice spots for breakfast all within a short walk.
Dinner that night was at One Waterfront in the Cape Grace. The food was good, service marginal and the atmosphere was stuffy…in other words I would not rush back there.

The next two days we spent with Selwyn Davidowitz touring the winelands and the cape peninsula. The weather eventually cleared and we had an amazing view of Table Mountain from the deck of our apartment.
Selwyn is a wonderful guide and it was so nice to see Cape Town through his eyes. We had so much fun with him, learned a lot about post apartheid South Africa and were humbled by our visit to Kayamandi.

Selwyn joined us for dinner at The Africa Café which was a great place to experience a variety of African food and is a fun but touristy venue.
Our last night in Cape Town we dined at 95 on Kerome Street. The food was outstanding as was the service. The handsome Italian speaking owner was certainly a bonus!

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Jun 8th, 2005, 02:07 AM
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Pinch me I am in Africa…that is what I though as we landed at the Chobe Airstrip. The terrain was very much as I imagined it would be dry, grassy savannah, low bush and sparse trees. We would not travel on a paved road for the next 10 days.
We were met at the airstrip by Richard, who would be our private guide for the next 3 days. In retrospect, I am so glad I booked private vehicles at the Wilderness Camps because it gave us the freedom to sit and enjoy the scenery, bird or animals as long as we wanted.
We discussed with Richard our interests and that being new to Africa we hoped to learn and experience as much as possible on this trip.
Boy howdy did he take us seriously…non stop for three days, we were always the last ones back from our game drives, we usually late for brunch and we always had the best stories!
The waterhole at Savuti greeted us with a herd of zebra, dozens of impala and several elephants. Upon arrival at the camp, the camp manager and staff were there to greet us with the traditional welcome dance and song.
Our friends were in tent 3 with a full view of the daily procession of animals at the waterhole, while we had the honeymoon tent at the far end of camp which was very private. Both tents had loo’s that were attached to the tent via a covered deck but were open on one side. Both tents had a much appreciated king size bed and a seldom used private sitting area on the deck.
The main lodge areas and tents are all connected by raised walk ways. Overall the setting was lovely and not nearly as rustic as I had imagined.

Our first game drive took us out into the dry Savuti Channel which has an amazing bird life that kept us continually flipping through the bird book. I felt overcome by the massive herds of Zebra grazing on the plains grass and felt as if I had been magically transported into a whole new world..
There was a champagne toast to celebrate our first African sundowner followed by a second bottle of nice white South African wine.
Dinner was buffet style, seated at the long, communal candlelit table which looked out onto the waterhole by day.
Later that night after we retired the elephants woke us as they strolled by our tent on their way to the waterhole. It was amazing to stand on our deck and watch them by moonlight moving so quietly through the grass.
We had lions calling to each other through the night as well and it was hard to want to sleep if fear of missing something.

The next day felt like it was 48 hours long as we were on the go nonstop but what a day it was!
By the end of our first full day at Savuti we saw the three cheetah brothers being chased by lions, the same lions with a baby buffalo kill; the cheetah brothers attempt a kill on a baby zebra not to mention huge herds of zebra, impala, numerous elephants, and 40-50 species of birds.
That same night we spent at the hide that is about a mile or two from the main lodge.
It was full sensory overload as we drove away from the cheetah action and arrived at the hide. It was completely lit by lantern and the sleeping mats were complete with mosquito nets which lent a very romantic feeling to the setting. A campfire had been lit and dinner was waiting at the edge of the fire. A traditional Botswana meal was served in large round ceramic bowls and was eaten in the traditional way…with ones hands.
Later after our meal, Richard suggested taking a real night drive with a spotting torch to look for leopard. We piled in the rover with a glass of wine and blankets and off we went.
It is a whole different world of animals that move in the cover of night.
While we never found the leopard we had a close encounter with a small herd of water buffalo.
At 11pm we were back at the hide, completely exhausted and ready for bed. After a worst case scenario lecture about safety I felt better knowing that I was 5 feet away from the guy with a massive rifle. Funny how I never had to use the loo that night!
The lions serenaded us from afar and zebra woke me up playing in the water.
The hide looks out onto another pumped waterhole which had animals visiting it all night. It was fun to walk the edge of the water hole the next morning and look at all the different animal tracks.

We woke early and after a very light breakfast of Rusk and weak coffee we were off again to see the Zibilianga Lagoon at the far end of the concession which looks towards the small sliver of Namibia that cuts into Botswana.
We saw another near kill as a large fish eagle swooped down to check out a Nile monitor. Bad move, as the monitor was huge and it leapt off the bank into the air and just missed nabbing the fish eagle. That would have been an interesting struggle to watch unfold!

What a delight this area is and completely different than the dry savuti channel. Hippos, crocs, monitor lizards and tons of water birds.
The entire concession is 120,000 hectares which included Duma Tau & Kings Pool camps. Ironically, the rovers from Duma Tau spent most of their time near Savuti because the cheetah & dogs were in that area. The great thing is all the camps share the concessions and talk on the radios constantly about sightings.
Finally we arrived back at camp, late for brunch and in desperate need of a nap and a shower.
On the evening drive we found the cheetah boys again, saw tons of giraffe, zebras, wildebeest, impala, elephants, a few jackals and a spotted genet.

Our last day we went on a bush walk in an area that I named leopard land because we had been there several times to look for the leopards who had been sighted there frequently.
It was an incredible experience, as it felt very different to be on the ground away from the protection of the rover. I truly felt like part of the food chain as I looked warily around every bush and tree. Again, the pre-walk worst case scenario safety talk had me quaking in my boots. The initial part of the walk was fairly relaxed and we stopped often to observe a troop of baboons, look at tracks and dung or ask questions.
We were able to really close to a small family of Giraffes who were shyly hiding a young calf. I love how elegant and sensuous these animals are yet slightly comical, especially when they peek above the tree tops. Watching from a large termite mound reinforced how big they really are.
About half way through our walk, just when I am becoming a little more comfortable, Richard stopped us and whispered that we needed to stay really close, single file, be very alert and utterly quiet. There were alarm calls from the birds ahead of us and he thought that something was going on.
He had been checking the wind direction earlier and the position in which he now held the rifle was not relaxed.
We walked on in total silence for several minutes when suddenly there was a crashing in the bushes in front of us and the next thing I know we are all ducking behind a clump of very small bushes. Water buffalo…no wildebeest crash by with 10 feet and I wildly look around to see if we are all still alive. One, two, three, four. where’s my husband??? Whew, behind another small bush to the left, my stomach churns and my heart pounds. We silently get up and follow Richard who is now moving at a full trot with the rifle extended out and up.
We come into a heavily treed area only to hear the guide muttering SHIT, sorry, oh damn, sorry…he had suspected the leopard was around and sure enough he had seen the tail end of it disappear in to the thick bush. He was quite contrite that we had missed seeing it and was sure it was his fault for rushing us..!
By now I was sure I was not having a heart attack and started to breath again. Oops, now we were way off track and had to hike back several miles to the rover. Of course, we were late to lunch again and barely had time for a shower before catching our plane for Kwetsani. What an eventful three days we have had and saying farewell to Richards was emotional as he felt like an old friend by now.

Spending 2 days tracking and observing The Cheetah Brothers
Watching two lioness share a buffalo kill
The sleep out at the hide
The bush walk, 5k marathon
Herds of Zebra, pronking Impala, Giraffe
Our guide, Richard who was an awesome teacher and completely passionate about the bush, spoke with a British accent and was ruggedly handsome.
The best showers of my life

Game Sightings:
Zebra by the hundreds, Lots of Elephants, Herds of Impala, Wildebeest, Water Buffalo, Hippos, Crocodile, Lions, Cheetahs, Jackal, Bat Eared Fox, Spotted Genet, Mongoose, Warthogs, Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Springhares, Eagles, Hawks, Vultures, Ostrich, birds, birds and more birds.

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Jun 8th, 2005, 02:08 AM
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The 40 minute plane ride transported us to the Okavango Delta where the flood waters were in full flow. The view from the plane was amazing and soon we were landing at the Jao airstrip where we were met by our guide, Vundi.
Again, it felt like sensory overload as we glided through the delta in a small power boat bound for Kwetsani. The beauty of this area is indescribable and our friend Dave who is a wildlife biologist and wetlands freak was grinning ear to ear.
Luck had found us again as our guide Vundi was very knowledge about birds and stopped frequently to identify species and talk about the delta. He questioned us on what we had seen and done at Savuti and what we hoped to see and do at Kwetsani.
30 minutes later, we landed at the boat dock with elephants and monkeys being our first visual of the island. The short drive to the lodge left me feeling like I was on Gilligan’s Island except we were greeted by a welcoming staff complete with a cold champagne aperitif. How did they know?? We have been celebrating our anniversaries, 13 and 10 years on this trip with nonstop Champagne Sundowners!

The main lodge is beautifully furnished and looks like a giant tree house. It is open on one side, has a thatched roof and has a huge deck complete with spotting scope that overlooks the water filled delta. Red Lechwe as far as the eye can see are grazing knee deep in the delta waters or laying in the sun on the spits of dry land. The road in front of the lodge is almost completely underwater and will be lapping at the sides of the pool in another week.

On either side of the lodge are the rooms which are all connected via a tall, raised walkway which lends to the feeling of being in a tree house. The rooms are huge thatched roof cottages with separate loos, indoor and outdoor showers, and private deck with lovely sitting areas that look out onto the delta. The king size four poster bed fills the room and is complete with mosquito netting (which by the way mosquitos were never much of an issue on the entire trip).
We have cottages 4 & 5 which are by themselves on one end of the lodge and are spaced very far apart which ensures complete privacy, well almost but that’s another story.

We settled into our rooms and met up again for afternoon tea with Vundi who laid out a loose itinerary for the next few days.

Our drive took us through partially flooded roads to the mokoro launching area and soon we were floating serenely through the channels into the delta. From the mekoros we spotted more lechwe, tsessebe, storks, cranes, herons and numerous another species.
The sundown over the delta was breathtaking and celebrated by yet another champagne toast. This place is truly magically and romantic.
On the drive back to the lodge we saw more elephants and a spotted barn owl. We were greeted at the lodge with a glass of sherry and eager questions from the manager, Kerrie as to what we saw and did.
Back in the cottage I had the best shower of my life, okay they all felt that way and relaxed on the deck before being collected for dinner.
I thought it was charming that at both Wilderness Camps we were always collected by our guide and greeted using our first names. These people work such long hours but always greeted us with a smile and made us feel they were glad to share their knowledge and passion for Botswana.

Back at the main lodge the outside deck had been transformed into a softly lit dining oasis. The huge long communal table had been moved outdoors and swathed in white linen and candles. With only four of the five tents being occupied, dinner was intimate with a small number of guests, several guides and the new camp managers, Kerrie & Conrad. Also joining us were the outgoing camp managers from Jao who were expecting their first child and moving back to England shortly.
The staff preformed a moving celebration of life and welcome dance, complete with traditional drum music and song.

Another magically evening in Africa complete with lions roaring as background music which continued on through the night as they called to one another.

Kwetsani has several prides of lions who claim the island as their territory; needless to say I welcomed being escorted back to our cottage each night and always carried an extra torch.

The next day started off very with an elephant in camp that trapped us on the walkway to the lodge. It was exhilarating to be this close to this giant beast as he peacefully trimmed all the trees around our cottage. At one point he was reaching across the walk way and his giant tusks were resting on the boards between the hand rails. We were eventually rescued by our guide, who came around and helped us off the walkway at a low spot and we crept through the bushes, through the kitchen and in the back door of the main lodge.
At one point we were all sure the big male elephant was going to take down the entire walk way but at the last minutes the elephant crouched and wiggled under.
Later as we sat enjoying our early morning breakfast and coffee a lone lioness circled in front of the camp about 12 feet from the deck.

An incredible way to start the day! Soon we were back in the rover making our way along what was left of the partially flooded road in front of the camp and eventually made our way to higher grounds that had not been breached by the fast rising flood waters.
Some how Vundi managed to takes us right to that lone lioness that we had seen at breakfast and we found her on the move in the high grass. The morning light made for some beautiful photographs and the lioness was quite cooperative in posing for a few shots. She eventually circled the rover marking territory before sauntering off.
After spending some time observing her we retraced our path and drove to the opposite end of the lodge and found the main pride which included four more female and a huge male lion. They were not fazed by our approach and continued to sleep peacefully in the morning sun.
To be so close and able to observe their every movement was wonderful. They were so relaxed and some were laying on their backs paws in the air, others were in a heap paws over the others back all the while the big guy slept off a hard night in the shade of a palm tree, completely undisturbed. It must feel nice to be at the top of the food chain!
At one point one of the lioness grew tired of us and stood, gave us the evil eye and strolled off to find some privacy behind a clump of small palms. Whew, that made me feel very uneasy just knowing she could have been in our rover in a nanosecond.

Another highlight of the morning was observing a huge herd of male lechwe whom we nicknamed the “boys club”. They put on quite a show for us, pronking just for sheer fun and leaping gracefully over deep channels of water. The sound of these beautiful creatures moving through the water is like music to my ears.
We spent a great deal of time photographing and observing the many new species of birds we identified.

The afternoon was spent fishing at Vundi’s favorite spot and both the guys caught fish! I spent most of the time trying up fix the line that I kept snagging up in the reel. Having never fished with that type of reel, I eventually gave up and spent a lazy hour enjoying the delta and sipping a beer.
Other sightings that day included Nile Monitor, Reedbuck, Steenbok, Wildebeest and birds, birds and more birds.
After another spectacular sundowner, we arrived back at the lodge with time to shower and relax before evening cocktails and dinner. There is no lack of food or beverages though out the day and it seems like we are eating every three hours.

The quality of meals at Kwetsani was similar to those at Savuti which were all served buffet style with the occasional starter at dinner being served pre-plated. For the most part the meals were quite good with the exception of one dinner that included a fish entrée that was overdone, fishy and served in a strange white sauce.
One memorable meal included a Kudu stew that was awesome.
As an avid wine drinker I would rate the wine quality as average to good and included a lot of nice SA wines that were fun to try. Cocktails were always good…especially the afternoon G&T and I loved the Amarulo which became my coffee creamer of choice each morning.
This brings me to the coffee & tea quality, an area that is sadly lacking given the otherwise high standards at WS camps. I did find it strange that they used French presses and instant coffee, yuck. Instant coffee is not real coffee as far as I am concerned but in the big scheme of things it was not a big deal especially after I discovered Amarulo!

Our final full day was spent on Hunda Island which is a short boat ride away from Kwetsani, where Tuba Tree is located and is part of the 60,000 hectare Jao Concession.
We off loaded from the boat into another rover which is always left at the boat landing.

The island is nickname “Little Savuti” because of the dry, grassy savannah which Savuti is so famous for.
Our first sighting was a lone female lioness that was thought to have had her seven month old cubs killed by another strong lion who was not the father. It was a truly sad sight to see her walking slowing through the grass, head down looking total dejected. She was so thin and her coat was uncharacteristically dull, nature can be incredible cruel.

The island is also home to huge herds of Giraffe and big flocks of Ostrich; in one group we counted over 12 Ostrich pecking their way across the savannah. We spent the better part of the morning in the dry, treed areas looking for the elusive Leopard to no avail.
The troops Chacma Baboons made for fascinating and sometimes hilarious watching.

Vundi took us to a beautiful marsh where he sat up a wonderful picnic lunch complete with folding chairs, table cloth and wine glasses. It was heavenly to sit in the shade and savor the beauty and quiet solitude of the area. We saw herds of wildebeest, red lechwe and numerous birds while we lazily sipped a glass of wine.

On our way back to the boat landing we heard some alarm calls in a wooded area and started following some leopard tracks. Suddenly a small herd of lechwe burst through the bush; these animal were a long way from the water and were moving away in the wrong direction. The leopard tracks soon gave way to human boot tracks and we rounded the bend to find a group from the Botswana Defensive Force who were patrolling the area for poachers.
No Leopard…DAMN!
Seems the defensive force became stranded there when they punctured two tires on their vehicle earlier that day, they had no radio only a GPS.
After a brief discussion with Vundi they visibly relaxed as he apparently told them he would radio Tuba Tree camp who could help them repair the tires.

Two more herds of giraffe, numbering 14 and 12, kudu, lechwe, bushbuck and elephants were spotted before we return to the boat.
We landed the boat back at Kwetsani and walked back to the lodge, this was the only real exercise we’d had in two days. Thank goodness for elastic waistbands!

It was decided at dinner that night that our last morning would be spent sleeping in, followed by a leisurely breakfast and a 2 ½ hr boat ride through the delta. I could have spent a whole day sitting on the deck watching the ever changing flood plains.

I woke, unplanned before sunrise and decide to just lie in bed and watch the sunrise over the floodplains. The sun was a bright red ball of fire peeking over the horizon that turned the sky brilliant orange red as it crept higher and higher. I could feel the evening chill evaporating from the air when I rose to find my journal. What a phenomenal beginning to a new day of adventure and I am so glad I did not sleep through as planned.

We had the entire lodge to ourselves for our final morning breakfast and after saying farewell to the staff at the lodge we stowed our gear in the powerboat for lovely late morning cruise. We were headed to the hippo pools at Jao and the next few hours ended all to soon as we found our way back to the airstrip.

The prides of lions talking every night
Elephant encounter on the walkway
The mokoro sunset cruise and champagne toast
The sound of lechwe running through the water
Hunda Island
3 hour boat tour
The best almost completely private outdoor shower overlooking the delta
Our Guide, Vundi who was a gentle kind man, a wonderful teacher and had an evil sense of humor.

Game Sightings:
Lions, Lechwe, Tsessebe, Elephants, Zebra, Giraffe, Steenbok, Impala, Reedbuck, Wildebeest, Bushbuck, Kudu, Nile Monitor, Vervet Monkeys, Chacma Baboons, Water Crocodiles, Hippos, Fish, Stork, Herons, Cranes, Fish Eagles, Bee eaters, Birds, Birds, and more birds.

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Jun 8th, 2005, 02:09 AM
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The brief 10 minute plane ride deposited us at the Chief’s Camp airstrip where we were met by Antony who was our guide for the next 4 days.
It was sensory shock to go from the green lush floodplains to the dry arid savannah of Chief’s Island. It was a quick drive to the camp where we were greeted by the Managers and Staff. Soon we were sitting in the main lodge with a homemade lemonade drink discussing the camp particulars.
The lodge itself is a series of low slung buildings with thatched roofs and semi open sides. It is furnished with African art and nice natural feeling materials, sofas, and chairs.
A large deck extends across the back of the lodge that has two big, comfortable seating areas that looks out onto a natural waterhole. There is also a huge pool area that faces the waterhole that is two steps down form the deck seating area.
I was told in another 2-3 weeks the water from the delta would find its way to the lodge and turn the now grassy dry area into a floodplain.
Recent sightings at the waterhole have included a large pack of wild dogs and three days prior a leopard.
There are twelve well appointed tents, six on either side of the main lodge all connected by treed pathways. We were in tent 12 which was at the far end of the lodge and of the six on that side had the most privacy. All the tents are on a raised platform with a big deck and our looked out onto a grassy treed area.
Our friends were in tent 9 which was surprising close to tents 8 and tent 10, so much so that you could hear conversation clearly from those guests.
We checked out tents 1-6 later and they were set up much the same way with tent 1 being the most private and tent four having a nice view of the waterhole.
The inside of the tents are comfortably furnished and the sleeping area is separated by a partial wall and door that leads into the bathroom. Each tent has a small desk with an intercom system that you can use to reach the main lodge or other guests.
The beds however are oversized twins pushed together, which for a couple on an anniversary trip was a bit of a let down. I was told later by Penny, the manager that they were going change that in the future so that the beds could be converted.

After settling in the manager had arranged for us to have a light lunch, perhaps a salad since it was almost tea time and we had not eaten for at least 5 hours. That had to be a record for the last week except when we were sleeping of course!
The light lunch was a beautifully presented selection of grilled vegetables, lettuce, legumes, and fruit and was a hint of the wonderful food to come.

We met our guide Antony after lunch for our first game drive to discuss what game we had seen at the previous camps, our interest in birding and the beverage of choice for sundowners.
We spotted 2 new bird species, a beautiful crested barbet and a crimson breasted shrike but were incredible disappointed in our new guide as he did not even have a pair of binoculars nor a bird or game book. After the last two outstanding guides the standard at this camp was apparently not the same. Later in conversation we found out that Antony had worked at Wilderness but had recently moved to A&K for a change of venue…hmmmm. His knowledge base seem adequate, his overall tracking abilities were okay and he tried really hard to find rhino and leopard but he was total uncommunicative most of the time.

The game in this area is incredible and we saw a very beat-up young lion, giraffe, tsessebe, hyena, black backed jackel and ending the game drive like an Indy 500 race car on the final track.
There had been a report of a leopard with a kill but it was several miles from where we were and it was getting late in the day. We decided to abandon the sundowner and try to find the leopard. Anthony drove the rover like a man possessed and we hung on for dear life as we bumped along on the rutted roads and crashed through the bush.
I managed to lose my mammal book which I had written all my sighting notes in and was completely bummed. No book and no leopard.
Back at the lodge, it was dark now and the only lighting was lantern and candle…seems the camp generator was on the fritz and the managers were not having a good day.
The pool was being used as a waterhole by the resident fruit bats and I quite enjoyed the show they put on. The bats were the only creatures who every used the pool while we were there.
In the dim fading light, I spotted a lone lion heading for the water hole and we all tracked its movements through binoculars until it disappeared in to the bush just 50 yard from camp.
Dinner later was amazing…the entire main lodge was softly lit, white table clothes…very romantic. We sat at a table for four and dinner was a four course meal that would rival some of the better restaurants in the states. The wines were very nice and we finished off the evening with a glass of South African port.
The staff and service is more polished at Chief’s Camp, perhaps even a bit reserved.
Penny and Eddy, the managers were however a very well spoken couple from Zimbabwe and were a refreshing change from the predominantly white South African managers at the WS camps.
The temperature at Chief’s Camp was quite a bit cooler at night and the warm water bottles tucked in our beds each night was a welcome treat.
The water bottles had a fake zebra skin covering and the first night our friend Dave about jumped out of bed thinking some small animal had taken up residence. Personally, I really enjoyed having a zebra in my bed each night!

With the island being home to over 27 large prides of lions there was a constant roaring at night amongst the more resident males who are obviously vying for territory.

The morning came too quick and I needed an extra layer of clothes to ward of the cold. We piled in the rover, which by now we had spent more time in than our beds, snuggled in my wool lap blanket and we were off.
More Lions…we found the Mombo boys, two of which were resting in the morning sun and the third we found later with a small group of lioness.
The sheer size and obvious strength of these magnificent animals is a sight to behold. We were able to get very close to them and watch the interactions for quite a while. At one point one of the boys got up to stretch and I admit to cringing as he looked right at us, nose raised in the air and finally walk off with distain.
Apparently he decided he had more urgent things to attend to, walked across the road and hunched up to do his business.
Poor guy had seemly gotten a hold of the wrong end of something as the visual and oratory left us clutching our sides in laughter. Even worse was that we were downwind of him and Antony quickly fired up the rover and we jetted out of there, holding bandannas over our noses.
Not far away was the third Mombo boy, the largest male in the collective who was trying in vain to win the affection of a particularly attractive lioness.
This large dominate male was much thinner than the other two and had been foregoing feeding to concentrate on mating. It is fascinating how the group dynamic works. We watched with rapt attention as the two other lioness ignored the whole thing and slept in the sun. One of the three lionesses was young perhaps a year old and had the sweetest face.
We left the lions all sleeping peacefully and drove back to where the leopard had been sighted only to find the smelly remains of an impala. A Batelier Eagle helped lead us to the bushes where only skin and blood remained.
In the process of retracing our path from the night before we found my mammal book in the road with the pen still attached. Woo-Hoo!
We had been conjuring up all kinds of Gary Larsen type comics thinking the animals were sitting around a camp fire, book in hand.
It was a very productive morning drive as we saw the largest group of Kudu’s yet, Brown Snake Eagle, Red Necked Falcon, Myers Parrot, Impalas and a plethoria of birds.

After lunch, yes more food and all wonderful I might add the afternoon siesta time was spent curled up on a couch facing the waterhole and watching the procession of animals coming for their daily drink.
Elephant, Antelope, Impalas, Zebra…one by one the groups came and went. The most entertaining was a silly group of leaping vervet monkeys and the single male warthog who had a full body mud pack treatment.

The afternoon drive took us away from the dry savannah to the green marshes that were in the process of filling with delta flood water. This was perhaps my favorite part of the island in terms of sheer beauty and the abundance of herd animals.
We drove past several animal graveyards and got out to look at the old remains of giraffe, water buffalo and hippos.
Our first major sighting was a huge herd of Water Buffalo who unlike our first encounter on Savuti were quite docile. They were grazing as a collective and the sounds of them chewing surrounded us. We parked the rover to observe them and after deciding we posed no threat the largest male and the entire herd grazed right past us on either side of the rover. They are quite impressive to look at and the horns remind me of an English barristers wig.
Just around the bend was another large herd or dazzle as we called them of Zebra and later a small group of Tsessebe.
From there we continued on to the marsh area where we saw hippos, baboons and dozens of birds.
We saw our first real kill at the marsh when a Yellow Billed Crane caught a frog and proceed to mash it to death, finally getting the entire frog down in one big swallow.
Yikes, that poor frog looked like a pounded chicken breast when the crane finished him off.

After another incredible sundowner we headed back towards camp and stopped to check out the lions that had not moved far. Now they were lying in their backs, paws in the air, enjoying the last of the fading sun.
It is unfortunate that you are not allowed to do night drives on Chief’s Island because we would have surely seen some great lion hunts.

After relaxing by the pool watching the bats with a delicious G&T in hand, I headed back to our tent for another great shower.
The generator issue had still not been completely resolved but we never lacked for hot water.
Back at the main lodge, a fire had been lit in the boma area and tables set up in a semi circle. Dinner was a traditional Botswana meal complete with Seswaa, Maize Meal Porridge, Spinach in addition to a few non traditional things. This was our only dinner at Chief’s that was served buffet style and was beautifully done.

The next day went much in the same manner but the morning game drive was a bit slow…guess the animals decided to take the weekend off.
Antony wanted to go to an area that Rhinos had been spotted in but we only found old dung. It was fun looking and we knew that the chances of finding these elusive animals
was slim. Interestingly enough we crosses paths with a rover from Mombo who had a very serious head Ranger from the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks on board. They regularly track the rhinos and travel fully armed in case they find poacher. We were told that the camps do exchange information on rhino sightings and they were quite interested to know if we’d seen any recent signs of them. Unfortunately for both party we/they had no new updates.
The highlight of the drive was two baboon sightings. Both troops were very large and had numerous babies. There were also a lot of females coming into estrous so there was plenty of “monkey” business going down!
I could literally watch them interact for hours as they are so humanlike and it cracked me up to watch them drink at the waterholes.
We saw more herds of giraffe; one group had several very young babies which are just darling. They look so awkward like a badly designed jigsaw puzzle. One of the babies still had the umbilical cord attached.
A close encounter with three Ostrich gave us an opportunity to look up their skirts so to speak. It was fascinating how the feathers are trussed together making them look like a thanksgiving turkey.
A side note here…we had Ostrich for dinner at Savuti and I must say it was quite delicious.
There was a quick glance at a lone slender mongoose and our friends were frustrated as they missed it as well as the ones at Savuti.

Our sundowner was bitter sweet as it was our last one in Africa. I felt very emotional as I stood with my husband on a dry, burnt field taking in the sights and smells that surrounded us.
We had seen lions earlier just a short distance away and a pair of Black Backed Jackal’s was hurrying the opposite direction as to avoid a confrontation. They were following shortly by our only sighting of a lone Side Striped Jackel and I felt its sense of loneliness as it passed by.
Our time here in this unbelievable place was drawing to a close and I wanted to take in the last moments of the sunset silently.
I spent the ride back to camp quietly replaying all the amazing things that we had seen and done.

Back at the lodge things were looking up in terms of the generator and the managers had visibly relaxed. Dinner that evening was set up with long communal tables as there was a large group of travel agents in camp and I think the staff was trying to go all out. The result was beautiful but the thought of mingling and making small talk was distressing.
I confessed to feeling very unsociable at the moment which was a sentiment we all shared. We seated ourselves early for dinner at the end of on table and proceed to have a delightful last evening together. The meal was delicious, I had my favorite wine to quaff and there was nobody seated to my left. Our friends had been wonderful traveling companions and we spent the entire evening reliving all of our favorite moments.

The final morning dawned and we slept in till 8 am…what a luxury. We had decided the previous evening to forego the morning game drive in favor of a quiet morning on the deck watching the waterhole.
After coffee with amarulo on the veranda of our tent, a full breakfast was waiting for us at the main lodge. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the lone male elephant that was grazing on trees and grass not 10 feet from our tent.

Packing went slow and I could not get my brain organized to the task at hand. We had 5 flights ahead of us before we would rest our heads in a real bed again.
Finally done, I made my way to my favorite couch at the main lodge which was ideal for watching the daily procession.
Today was no exception and it was as if the animals were putting on a final show for us.
Ten elephants came to say farewell and we watched in delight as one tiny baby mimicked its mother and older sister, drinking and cavorting in the water.
The elephants were joined by a large herd of Impalas who were being led by a massive male Kudu with two females and a troop of Baboons in the middle of it all.
If that wasn’t enough, after the herds thinned a group of undulating Banded Mongoose swarmed the waterhole, drank and swarmed back across the field toward the woods they had come out of.
All the while elephants and giraffe were visible in the background heading who knows where.
An incredible finale to an incredible trip!

Lions, Lions and more Lions
Watching the procession of animals at the waterhole
The amazing creativity of the camp chef
The overall diversity of terrain and game on the island
Having a huge herd of water buffalo pass right by the rover

Game Sightings:
Lions, Water Buffalo, Zebras, Giraffes, Impalas, Tsessebe, Kudo, Lechwe, Black Backed Jackals, Side Striped Jackal, Warthogs, Hippos, Banded Mongoose, Vervet Monkey, Baboons, Fruit Bats, Falcons, Eagles, Ostrich, African Hoopoe, Myers Parrot, birds, birds and more birds.

Personal Observations:
We enjoyed the three camps immensely as they all had a different feel and management style. Kwetsani was by far our favorite in terms of sheer beauty and the romantic setting.
The managers there were interesting but my least favorite amongst the three camps.
The managers at Chief’s were by far the most gracious, well spoken and treated their staff with the most respect. However, the staffs at WS were less reserved and more personable, sometimes to the manager’s chagrin.
Having a private guide, especially if it is your first trip is a wonderful learning experience. Based on our experiences, our guides at WS were a big notch above our guide at Chief’s and they make a big impact on ones overall lasting impression. Luckily at Chief’s the abundance of game made up for the guides short comings and in retrospect I am really glad it was our last camp not the first.
The meals were hands down better at Chief’s but the overall feeling of the camp is more resort like. They served much higher quality wine as well.
Personally, I like the intimacy and privacy of smaller camps and felt like twelve tents are too many at Chief’s.
The weather was perfect, cool nights but not unbearably cold and pleasantly warm days with no bugs to speak of.

It is clear that the two management companies operate on different standards and to some degree the camps caters to different types of people.
There are things that I liked about and disliked about both.
Overall, I would most likely stick with WS camps for future trips but would make my final decision based on potential game viewing, the size of the camp and the level of guides that are employed.
With that said, I am desperate to return and am totally bushwacked!
Pictures and all your future trip reports are only a small consolation that will have to last me until I return again.

wallybrenda is offline  
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Jun 8th, 2005, 02:30 AM
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How wonderful to get not one but TWO reports today! Welcome back and thanks for the wonderful report!

Your trip sounds magical and I really appreciate all the detail you have shared with us!

Can't wait to see photos?

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Jun 8th, 2005, 05:47 AM
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Thanks so much for posting that!
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Jun 8th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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Super! thanks!
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Jun 8th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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Great trip report. I stayed at Savuti Camp in August 2001 and I think we had the same room.

I'm having trouble getting into the photos, maybe because of the face in the address.

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Jun 8th, 2005, 07:48 AM
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Replace the face with = - o (no spaces) and you'll be able to get in.
It's just that those three characters automatically display this particularly emoticon.
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Jun 8th, 2005, 08:01 AM
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Only looked through the first quarter-ish so far but... so good to see the same cheetah brothers marking the same trees that we saw during our trip last year!
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Jun 8th, 2005, 08:20 AM
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Great report, glad you had such a wonderful time. Having been to both savuti and Chiefs I concur with your observations.

Funnily enough I lost my note book at Chiefs, only to find it two days later, sitting in the middle of the road.

We now take our own binoculars and I also carry my Newmans, just in case a vehicle is not well stocked. I also prefer sitting toward the rear of the vehicle and its nice to have your own book to review rather than passing the guide's back and forth.

On the subject of Dogs, were they denning in the Linyanti area? We head for those parts in 5 weeks (6 to be at Kings Pool), the whole trip being planned around the possibility of a den in the Linyanti.

Did you go out to the hide in front of Savuti, or was it not dry enough to attract the large herds of Elephants yet?

Lastly your comments about Chiefs and the amount of game are right on, thats why this time we have taken the plunge and are going to Mombo, which is supposed to be even better. Cant wait.

Now to check out the photos.

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Jun 8th, 2005, 10:01 AM
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Hi Matt,

What was interesting was we did have a bird book and binoculars and the guide kept borrowing to look at thing or to identify a bird. Not real professional! Our other two guides had books and binoculars so we were amazed when the guide at Chief's told us he had lost his binoculars...guess it was not a priority to get a new pair.
We shared that info on our feedback form.

The Dogs were sighted in the concession while we were there but not near Savuti. I was told that they were not denning yet but would be soon. Unfortunately we did not see dogs at any of our camps... another trip perhaps?
We did not get out to the hide in front of the camp..our guide thought about it one day and ran to get his rifle but by the time he returned a very large bull elephant was making his way down.
There were smaller groups of Ellies but not the massive herds you might see in September. There were some very impressive size herds of Zebra however.

I will be anxious to hear about your comparison of Mombo to Chiefs. The game concentration should be even better in 6 weeks.

Let me know if you have any problems viewing the photos. Perhaps there is a better site that I could post them on??

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Jun 8th, 2005, 10:04 AM
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great story and pictures!! what kind of camera did you use?
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Jun 8th, 2005, 12:28 PM
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Thank you for an outstanding trip report. You really did an excellent job of making it all so lifelike to the reader.

I am having trouble accessing your photos, so when you get a chance will you please send me an invitation to view your photos to [email protected]

Now, here is the million dollar question...supposing that your gameviewing was the same or perhaps a little better, would you have paid an extra $500 pp for the opportunity to stay at Mombo instead of Chiefs Camp? From your other experiences, it is a fair assumption that your guiding would have been superior, accomodations would have been just as nice (or nicer) and there probably would not be any privacy issues.

Another question, if you do not mind. How much extra per day was the private vehicle? I imagine since you were a foursome, that it was not as much extra as it would be for a couple.

Last question, did you and your friends get a chance to spend any time with the other guests, or did you just enjoy the company of each other? I am always interested to hear how the guests get along with each other.

Thanks and I am really looking forward to seeing your photo album!
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Jun 8th, 2005, 01:18 PM
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The accomodations at Chiefs were very nice, but not as private as Savuti for example. From having looked at Daryl Balfour's book on Safari style, there is absolutely no comparison between the Mombo accomodation and the Chiefs accomodation. Also from the Mombo book, the Mombo accomodations look very private, in fact some tents are a quarter mile from the lodge.
I have heard that Chiefs suffers by comparison for viewing mainly in the flood season, when they dont have access to the dry land that Mombo does. Other than that we had a spectacular time at Chiefs, with great staff and Jonathan our guide was excellent.
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Jun 8th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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My husband and our traveling friends both used an older Olympus Camedia C-700 with 10x zoom.
My husband had a adapter for the olympus and he used 1.5x teleconverter lens on for some shots.
He also used a canon SD400 with that has 3x zoom for some of the closer shots.
They got some very nice pictures out of the 1500 plus shots. Nothing professional quailty of course bu some we will be able to enlarge to 8-10s.
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Jun 8th, 2005, 02:38 PM
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Hi Rocco,
How are all your four legged kids??

I am glad you enjoyed the trip report, it was really enjoyable for me to write it as well.

I sent you another link to the photos at your email address.

There was no shortage of game to view at Chief's Camp but not having been to Mombo is it really hard to compare and decide if it is worth another $500 pp per night.
You can get more privacy at Chief's by requesting tents 1 or 12 but when the camp is full it still feels less intimate than the smaller camps we stayed at.
It sounds like other travelers have had better guides at Chiefs than we did. I had considered asking for a different guide but were a bit concerned about rocking the boat too much.

Bottom line and this is all personal preference...I like smaller camps so if I went to Mombo it still might feel less intimate to me, who knows??
Guess I need to go soon right!

Having a private guide at the WS camps was incredible because as a foursome we enjoyed birding in addition to game watching so we could stop and sit as lon as we wanted without inconveniencing anyone. Being newbies to Africa it was also a great learning experience.
Of course, the experience would have been radically different if all of our guides were like the last one!

Our tour operator worked all that out with WS and the cost was nomimal for the four of us. Chief's however was going to cost us an additional $500 per day and as it turns out we only had other guests in the car one day.
I would have been bitter if we had paid that much extra and gotten the guide we did. Then I would have definitely rocked the boat!

At Savuti we were on the go so much taht we spent little time interacting with the other guests accept briefly at meal times.
At Kwetsani, the first night the camp was not full plus the other three guests who were there had been at Savuti when we were there. So it was like a reunion and we enjoyed those gals quite alot.
The guests changed up the next night and we did see then at meals at well but they were less enjoyable dinner companions.
Chiefs was a nice change with smaller more intimate tables for meals.
I love to meet new people and chitchat when I travel but like any social situation you meet some people that you enjoy more with than others.
We have traveled with our friends before and even after 16 intense days together we are still friends!


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Jun 9th, 2005, 12:42 AM
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Your TR has to, in my opinion, rank as one of top 5 reports on this webpage. Fantastic. =D>

You have really been a wonderful Fodorite with regard to your trip in that you garnered much info from all of us and then did "the right thing" by coming back to the page and giving us all such a wonderful insight into your trip. Having personally met you I would not have expected any less from the wonderful upstanding citizen that you are.

On the lighter side I see from another thread on the Fodors page that you may even possibly have swayed Roccco to make changes in his itinerary and that takes some doing.

Thanks for a fabulous report

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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Jun 9th, 2005, 01:20 AM
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We share your preference for smaller camps - we tend to try and avoid any with more than 5 tents. We thought it a shame that Savuti had added an extra 2 tents to the camp without informing existing bookings but perhaps it was because they were not full during our stay anyway.
As for Mombo, having not been to Chief's I can't compare it either but I can comment that, although Main Mombo and Little Mombo are next door to each other (and one can walk between them using the raised walkway which leads from both to the shop in the middle) they are
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