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Dennis's Trip Report: Caprivi Strip, Vic Falls and Hwange Park, Zimbabwe

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Nov 12th, 2006, 10:09 AM
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Dennis's Trip Report: Caprivi Strip, Vic Falls and Hwange Park, Zimbabwe

“Travel without an element of danger, is mere sightseeing” (source forgotten)
No stapler, no hemmoraging, no spa-girls, no side trip to Burundi, no Arielle, no baboon attack (well almost), no lost luggage, just another great trip (for the most part) to AFRICA!

Itinerary:
Air: Hilo-Oakland-San Francisco-Heathrow-Johannesburg-Livingstone
3 Charter Flights: Susuwe to Kasane, Vic Falls-Hwange Main and return
Road transfers: Livingstone-Vic Falls Vic Falls- Kasane Kasane-Susuwe Vic Falls-Livingstone
Hotels/Camps/Lodges: 1 night Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls 2 nights Ntwala Lodge on the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, 3 nights at Susuwe Lodge also on the Caprivi Strip, 4 nights at Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, 1 night Victoria Falls Hotel.

Game Seen:
This trip we saw 19 new species of animals that we had not seen before. Roan, sable, chacma baboon, lesser bushbaby, African wildcat, duiker, eland, bat eared fox, gemsbok (oryx), black backed jackal, red lechwe, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, springbok, springhare, steenbok, tree squirrels, tsessebe, wildebeest. We also saw hundreds of elephants, probably 50 giraffe, zebra, impala, kudu, buffalo, bushbuck, waterbuck, a genet, some hippos, 3 hyena, 10 lions, (not including those on the Lion Encounter), 8 wild-dogs, warthogs, and some vervet monkeys. Birds too many to mention or remember, incredible birding at all 3 places. Also an Egyptian Cobra and a python with a kill (more on this later). Didn’t see any leopards, cheetah or rhino, but I’m more of an elephant than a cat person, so I was extremely happy with what we saw.

Here we go again!
Shortly after returning from my last trip to Zambia in March, I was looking on Luxury Link and there was a 5 night package from Islands in Africa that was dirt cheap, so I bid, I won, I’m going back. With Julian and Rocco’s help in deciding on an extension to the Islands In Africa package, I chose 4 nights at Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, with a night in Victoria Falls before and after the safari. So glad I chose Somalisa, as it is now my favorite tented camp and Hwange, my most productive game viewing to date. (Luangwa River Lodge remains my favorite place on Earth, but Somalisa is right up there).

58 Hours Later, We’re Back in Africa
My friend Tom and I left Pahoa, Hawaii at 6:00 a.m. on October 25, flew from Hilo to Oakland where my step-mom picked us up and took us over to a hotel near San Francisco Airport. Had a nice dinner at Hungry Hunter, went to sleep and the next afternoon we were on our way! Flew VirginAtlantic to London where we had a nice lunch with Mandy (who would be leaving for Zambia in 2 days) and Julian. Good food, good conversation and back to Heathrow for our flight to Johannesburg. No problems with immigration or security at Heathrow, Tom did have to throw out his tube of Ultrathon, I buried mine in my backpack. As opposed to the U.S. security, they were not letting ANY liquids on board no matter what size container. I took an Ambien on this leg and slept most of the way, staying awake only for the dinner and breakfast, missing the ice cream and snack, the only meals I missed on the whole trip! With all the hype of Virgin being so much better than the rest, other than the video on demand, it wasn’t any different from the BritishAirways flights we took in March. (we flew economy so maybe the Upper Class might be better), but there has to be a better way of getting there from Hawaii!

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Nov 12th, 2006, 10:33 AM
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Ah, The Smells of Africa
We landed in Johannesburg, got our bags, went through immigration and went out for a breath of fresh air, African exhaust smells so much better than ours! And the accents of the people asking if we needed a taxi or a luggage cart was music to my ears!
Went back in had a croissant and soda at one of the shops and checked into Nationwide for our flight to Livingstone. Nationwide is a great airline, on an hour and twenty minute flight they give you juice, a sandwich and soda or cocktail. My first of too many g & t’s! Arrived in Livingstone and headed for the transit desk at immigration. I think we were the only ones who knew about the $100.00 visa fee. Everyone else was screaming at the poor immigration officer who did her best to remain cool, which comes easy for the Zambian people. We smiled, handed over our $100.00 each, thanked her and now had a three year visa for Zambia, what could be better than that? We were met by our driver who took us over the border into Zimbabwe, soaking up the smells, sounds, colors and vitality of Africa. On the way we saw 5 impala by the Zambezi Sun Hotel and a few warthogs. We paid our $45.00 double entry visa fee to immigration and were over the border in minutes.

Disabled Animals Home
We were dropped of at Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls for our overnight stay. It’s a beautiful hotel complete with television and air conditioning and a door onto a grassy area where you can see the mist from the falls off in the distance. Our first animal encounter was a one legged hornbill hopping on the patio, I gave him some shortbread cookies from the plane which attracted more interest from the giant ants than the bird. Shortly after that there was a warthog limping across the grass followed by a baboon with a stump of a leg. I guess they feel safe here so they all hang around. Also saw a warthog mom with her 3 babies living in a drainage pipe on the edge of the grass. Took a shower and went exploring around Victoria Falls town, went to the gas station (which had no gas) and had a coke light and talked to some Zimbabweans in the little cafe there. Came out to mass of people trying to sell me some wooden carved animals. I explained I was going on safari and couldn’t carry anything, but I’d be back in 9 days to shop. It was 97F at 3:00 p.m.

JACKPOT!
Went into the Kingdom Casino, very beautiful hotel, but only 5-6 people playing slots so I thought “What the hell, I’ll try my luck here” First pull of the handle and I got a $600 jackpot! WOOHOO! Oh wait, that’s in Zim dollars so I won $2.50 U.S., Oh well, took about an hour to lose $10.00. Came back to the hotel and went to the Palms restaurant for dinner. Had a bowl of butternut squash soup and a filet steak, a couple of drinks and off to bed. Took an Ambien and slept good all night. Woke up refreshed and went up to their breakfast buffet, complete with omelet station and was feeling pretty satisfied.

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Nov 12th, 2006, 10:39 AM
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Handsome And The T-Shirt
Our transfer to Namibia would pick us up at 11:00 so I had three and a half hours to kill so decided to go see the falls in case I didn’t make it back from the safari, I had to see Victoria Falls before I died. As I was walking to the path to the falls, a nice looking kid named Handsome came over trying to sell me a wooden elephant. I told him no but if he walked me to the falls and kept all the other hawkers away from me, I’d give him a t-shirt from Hawaii and $5.00 (I read about doing this on a trip report) so he was happy with the shirt and did keep everyone away. The falls were spectacular! Words can not describe it! The temperature was 85F, the sun was bright and each of the falls had rainbows over them. Spent about an hour walking almost to the end, but as I got closer to the Zambia side, I could see not much water was flowing. Left the falls and Handsome saw me and took me to his friend Oy-Oy’s shop for a soda then back up to the hotel. While I was at the falls he changed into his Hawaii t-shirt and about 10 boys came over saying they would give me their carved animal if I would just give them a shirt like Handsome’s. I could have gotten a suitcase full of souvenirs for free if I had brought more t-shirts with me. Said goodbye to Handsome, told him I’d be back in 9 days and would buy a carved elephant from him then. Went back to the hotel, checked out and waited for our ride to Namibia. The hotel has a policy where if you charge things to your room and pay in U.S. dollars on checkout, you get 40% off the bill, so our dinners, drinks and sodas throughout the day came to $71.00 U.S.

Three Countries in Two Hours
Our driver from Wild Horizons picked us up on time and we were on our way. Checked out of Zimbabwe, into Botswana, out of Botswana, into Namibia. The drive was nice, very scenic though didn’t see much game other than cattle and an occasional impala and warthog. We got to Kasane, a very nice town in Botswana, and met Alfred, our guide for the next two nights from Ntwala Lodge. Took a motorboat trip across the river to Impalila Island to go through immigration. Then it was off to Ntwala.

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Nov 12th, 2006, 11:13 AM
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more, more, more!!! (ps caught that about the stapler )
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Nov 12th, 2006, 11:20 AM
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Dennis:
funny intro. looking forward to your next installment(s)
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Nov 12th, 2006, 11:35 AM
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Dennis - I will be checking back here hourly (if not more often) for your next installment. So glad you liked Ilala Lodge - guess I did forget to mention da kine breakfast buffet they have there.
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Nov 12th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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So far, so good!!!!! Sooo.... where to next year, Dennis?



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Nov 12th, 2006, 01:44 PM
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Lynda- from someone who took almost 3 months to finish your report, you have SOME NERVE asking for more so soon
Vee- it might take awhile, I'm still burned out and want to work on the pics.
Cooncat-definitely back to Zim and more parts of that country and hopefully squeeze in LRL!
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Nov 12th, 2006, 01:47 PM
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Dennis,
Welcome back! So glad you didn't have a hemorrage or any other un intended excitment. Looking forward to more!
Lily
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Nov 12th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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Dennis

Virgin upper class is the bomb. But generally any carrier is better than United in any class.
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Nov 12th, 2006, 03:44 PM
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Paragraph 1 is a hilarious trip down Fodors memory lane.

I have whiplash from your three countries in two hours.

Glad you enjoyed Ilala. I don't recall it attracting so many animals with problems.

Your list of sights foreshadows an excellent trip and report. Can't wait for more.

I've been thinking about the Caprivi Strip. How nice of you to go check it out for me and report back.

Still laughing at those dangers you avoided this time out.
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Nov 12th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Over the Top At Ntwala!
After leaving immigration, it was about an hours motorboat ride to Ntwala. Along the way we saw lots of cattle, fisherman and fishing villages lining the shores of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers. Once the rains start, the villagers move to areas not in the flood plain and the next year rebuild their villages from scratch. It was a beautiful ride and saw many birds but no game, other than the resident pod of hippos that stay by the entrance to the lodge. We arrived at Ntwala and were greeted by the hosts Natasha and Dietrich, with a cold hand towel and fruit drink, very refreshing after the ride. The lodge is reached by walking on a raised wooden pathway opening into a beautiful entrance with dining room, library, wine cellar, and a deck over the river. We were shown to our chalet, more the size of a small house. There was a huge sitting area, large beds surrounded by mosquito nets, a closet and shelves for unpacking, a writing area with desk, fully stocked wet bar with ice, wine glasses, cocktail glasses, snacks, huge bathroom with a gigantic tub, two sinks, an indoor shower, outdoor shower, recessed lighting, our own private plunge pool with deck chairs, a deck over the river with hanging chairs, very, very nice, the only thing missing was a feeling of Africa. Other than the mosquito netting and a large print of an elephant, it could have been on any river in the world. Each chalet (four) has their own guide for the duration of your stay. Lunch was chicken legs in a sweet bell pepper sauce, very good.

Over the River and Over the River
After lunch we went back out on the river for sundowners and cruising around the island. Still no game and with the motor on the boat running, you couldn’t hear the sounds of Africa! There were a lot of beautiful birds to see. Sundowner finger food was biltong and peanuts....what????? A fancy place like this and they serve beef jerky and nuts? Truly disappointing! Alfred our guide was a nice enough guide, a bit wet behind the ears, but with no real game to point out it was hard to tell, and very formal. Dinner was cold avocado soup, steak in a balsamic reduction sauce, vegetables and chocolate soufflé for dessert. Took a dip in the pool after dinner and went to bed. The power goes off at eleven and the room got quite stuffy with no air flow. The next day we had breakfast and took off for Chobe Park in Botswana in the motorboat. We saw quite a bit of game, impala, warthogs and hundreds and hundreds of elephants drinking out of the river and more coming over the hills to drink. It was truly an incredible sight to see so many elephants at one time, I was in heaven! Spent a few hours there, then back to the lodge for lunch, which was a pork filet with yogurt dill sauce. After a siesta and swim in the pool, Alfred and I went to visit a fishing village. It was quite interesting, though most of the villagers were either out fishing or hiding as I only met 3 people there. Sundowners on the river and the finger food was biltong and peanuts.....what????? Twice in a row! I don’t like biltong anyway, so Albert ate the whole bowl. Back to the lodge for dinner, lamb chops in eggplant and onion, and a chocolate flan for dessert. Back to the room, took a dip in the pool and went to bed, heading to Susuwe Lodge in the morning.
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Nov 12th, 2006, 06:30 PM
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Thoughts on Ntwala
Ntwala is a very beautiful lodge, though needs more African touches. Food was excellent other than the finger food at sundowners. The hosts were friendly enough, though when dinner was served they disappeared. There were 2 other people there and in order for us to talk and compare notes on our days, we had to shout across the patio where we dined. I enjoy eating with and talking to the hosts and other guests, hearing their tales and life in a safari lodge. The guide needs to loosen up and have fun so the guests can have fun also. The only activities there are by motorboat, no canoeing, no mekoroing, just motorboating on the same stretch of the river time after time. I think if you are on a honeymoon or romantic getaway and don’t care to see game, want to stay in your room the whole time, it would make for a nice stay, but for me, I didn’t care for Ntwala and would not return.
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Nov 13th, 2006, 04:54 AM
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Dennis,

Glad you had a fantastic time....your sightings seem fantastic....appears like Hwange was the stand-out portion of your trip and can't wait to read all about it, when you get a chance to write....

Hari
 
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Nov 13th, 2006, 05:07 AM
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thanks for the next installment.
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Nov 13th, 2006, 06:14 AM
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Dennis, great report (I'm really looking forward to your impression of Hwange).

Also, any comments on your travel companion's reactions (if it was his first trip). I am thinking of traveling with a friend, and she has never been on safari, and I wonder if you have any observations of a repeat, compared to first-time, visitor to Africa.

Thanks, Michael
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Nov 13th, 2006, 11:06 AM
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Dennis, welcome back! Glad the trip was a success. I'm going to read in earnest after work (or during lunch). I always enjoy your reports. Something humorous inevitably happens.
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Nov 13th, 2006, 11:23 AM
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Welcome back Dennis - glad your trip was disaster-free! Can't wait to hear more. You surprised me with the last item on your list of new sitings - I guess I thought they are everwhere in Africa. We got to see the Roan antelope at Ruma NP - I think they're beautiful!

Cyn
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Nov 13th, 2006, 11:23 AM
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Really enjoying this report and looking forward to the next episodes.

BTW have you ever gone from Hawaii to JNB via Sydney? Around 1500 fewer flying miles than via LHR.
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Nov 13th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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What a great report! Can't wait for the next installment, Dennis.
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