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

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Nov 15th, 2006, 06:57 AM
  #61
 
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Dennis

What led you to Susuwe in the first place?
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Nov 15th, 2006, 07:17 AM
  #62
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Oh, Wait I Forgot the Best Part
Every night at sundowners, Beaven would pull out a folding wooden table, cover it with a brightly colored tablecloth and arrange a complete set of wooden animals on the table, then the food and drinks. I guess seeing wooden animals at sundowners were supposed to make up for no animals at game drives. We did get a good laugh at the care Beaven put into arranging the animals, beads and seed pods on the table.

I Think I Have Figured Out The Caprivi Strip
I don’t think there are actually any animals other than the ones with hooves and an occasional elephant on the Caprivi Strip.
The roads all have loads of elephant poop along side the roads, but on our walking safari, we saw no elephant poop. I think that they import the elephant poop from Chobe and they have this big truck that spreads the elephant poop along the roads so that the tourists think there are 2,500 elephants in the park. We actually saw a big truck on our way out and I thought “Aha, the elephant poop truck”, but it was the soldiers collecting firewood.
We saw the same three buffalo in the same spot on each game drive. I think they are made of wood and stuffing and there is a sensor in the road and when you hit the sensor the guide yells “buffalo” and the one buffalo raises his head, then puts it back down, kind of like the animatronics at Disneyland.
They have a person who goes to all the sundowner spots and stamps zebra and giraffe footprints into the sand so the guide can say “Zebra were here” “Giraffe were here”. It could be the same people that are spreading around the elephant poop, but it could also be a specialized job.
I also think, that if someone opens up a lodge on the Angolan border, they would make millions. No safari vehicles would be needed, just a large deck overlooking the trail that all the animals use to get to Angola.

Thoughts on Susuwe
If this were my first trip to Afica and I only stayed at the above two lodges, I don’t think I would have gotten the urge to keep returning to Africa. Susuwe Lodge itself is beautiful, I’d love to see a similarly built lodge on the Luangwa River, but there just wasn’t any game other than animals with hooves. Even at South Luangwa in the Emerald Season when the pans were flooded, there were animals to see, so I didn’t really buy the “rains drove them away” story. The lodge has been in operation for 6 years, so obviously there must be something to it, just didn’t happen for me. During the three nights/four days we were there, we only saw one other vehicle...says something for the location I think. (though at Hwange we only saw five vehicles in four days and that location is the best so far) The food was good but again we were put at tables by ourselves with no interaction with the host. (there were no other guests there until the last night, and they were from France) The game drives were short, most in the 3 hour range which left too much downtime. Even if there were no game, it would be nicer to be out on the barren plains than be confined to the island. Beaven could have been more enthusiastic and possibly sped up a bit on the return through the nothingness and gone elsewhere. It must be hard to be a guide with nothing to show, but put a little effort into it and make us think there is something around the next bend. Tom kept saying “At least we’re in Africa, I kept saying “what a waste of money this is, I’d rather be in the Mojave Desert, at least they have camels!” Obviously I would not return to this camp, and wouldn’t recommend it or any other lodge in this area. It is my fault for not doing any research on the area before bidding on Luxury Link, but the web-sites of course showed plenty of game. I think I’d be more pissed if I had paid full price and had the same experience.

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Nov 15th, 2006, 07:21 AM
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Dennis,

Your explanation of the guide predicament and your reaction to it are enlightening. You are indeed a good sport and in tune with the situation you faced. NapaMatt asks a good question. Why the Caprivi Strip?

Hari, What a terrible fate for the Lagoon lions. Does their run in with guns make them more skittish when they return to the Lagoon area in Kwando?

GreenDrake, I just hope you can get to Angola from "theh." I actually have read where Angola is now hoping to capture some of the tourism and safari market. This thread may promote some of the first guests.



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Nov 15th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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Nothing But Heat
We left Susuwe this morning, and it’s the only safari lodge I’ve ever been happy to leave. The ride to the airstrip was uneventful of course and I could have done cartwheels when I saw our plane approaching. Moremi Air picked us up in a 6 seater plane and the pilot was very nice. We had a short flight to Katima Molilo to go through Namibian immigration. When we got there, there was no immigration officer. Our pilot went to ask someone in the airport and was told his car broke down and we would have to wait. After another plane landed about a half hour later, the man in the control tower went to pick up the immigration officer. I decided to take a walk and when I got to the gate, the police officer said:
”There is nothing to see here, all we have is heat. Nothing but heat. This is a miserable place and there is nothing to see but heat.”
Not a good candidate for the Katima Molilo Tourism Board.
Well, he had that right, it was hot! (99F)

Your President George Bush
Finally after fourty-five minutes the rather large, brightly dressed immigration man made it to the airport and we walked into his office and called us in. He said:
“This is all your President George Bush’s fault. He did not send aid this month and my car will not go. If your President George Bush had sent aid, I would have a car that would go. You will give me aid to fix my car.”
I looked at Tom, Tom looked at the pilot, the pilot looked at the immigration officer who broke out in a belly shaking laugh and said “Just a joke, I like saying that to Americans.” We talked for a few minutes, he stamped our passports and said “well, I’m done for the day, I need a ride home. Please when you see your President George Bush, can you tell him to send aid so I can get my car fixed, this is not good.” We shook hands and the three of us in the plane laughed all the way to Kasane.

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Nov 15th, 2006, 07:44 AM
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I'm hoping the gameviewing gets much, much better. I stayed in Chobe NP, which abuts the Caprivi strip, and I had some of my best gameviewing (enormous groups of elephants, hippos and buffalos, each numbering in the hundreds, plus lions, wild dog, dozens of sable, etc.). There must be a reason that Susuwe resorts to posting on Luxury Link.

I'm looking forward to your comments on Hwange -- that's on the top of my list -- or should I say that Angola is on the top of my list.

I know that Angola has a park with Giant Sable, but its very difficult to visit. Does anyone know if there are any Angolan parks north of Caprivi?

Michael
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Nov 15th, 2006, 07:54 AM
  #66
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matt,
they (islands in africa) had an auction on Luxury Link and the package on their website made it sound like it would be worth going to called "the elephant migration package" so I bid and won. I didn't know the elephant migration had already migrated if there is such a thing there. My fault for not doing more research or at least running it by everyone on Fodor's.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 07:59 AM
  #67
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Dennis
I have made 2 trips to Susuwe.October 2003 and August 2004.
The 2003 trip (3 days) was very good in terms of game. On some drives we saw more than a 1000 elephants. At one sundowner we saw between 400 an d 500 elephants at the same Lagoon. We also saw Selous Mongoose, Roan and Sable. In terms of predators we saw Lions, Hyena and a couple of Leopards.
The 2004 trip had less elephants but a couple of good Leopard sightings.
Michael
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Nov 15th, 2006, 08:43 AM
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Michael, I'm glad you had such good sightings at Susuwe. It is a beautiful camp but no game while I was there, wish there were!
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Nov 15th, 2006, 09:25 AM
  #69
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Dennis
apart from elephants I would say I saw good variety but not that many animals.
Beavans comments about Angola surprise me. To the south of Susuwe you have Kwando Lagoon where you will see all the game that you want. It would be nice though if more lodges looking like Susuwe would be built around Africa. I love the rooms.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 12:05 PM
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Back To The Falls and Onwards to Somalisa
The flight from Katima Molilo was smooth and we arrived at Kasane Airport and were picked up by the transit company for the drive to Victoria Falls Airport. When we got to VF, the driver took us to Ilala Lodge and said our flight was delayed and someone from the tour company would meet us and explain. A very nice man from the company and a woman from the air company greeted us and said the flight would be delayed three hours, but they would buy us lunch at Ilala and send a driver when we were to depart. No problem, we had lunch, I walked around the craft market telling the hawkers I was from South Africa and had no use for their goods. We were picked up and taken to the airport and boarded our 6 seater (me in the co-pilots seat, pretty darn cool!) Sidney was our pilot and he was a very funny man. Told us he had 1 parachute and 1 vomit bag and they were his. I got a cramp in my leg, but was afraid to move and step on the pedals and cause the plane to crash. After a short 45 minute flight we were at Hwange Main Airport.

Willy and Heaven On Earth!
We were met at the airport by Foster, our guide at Somalisa in a World War Two Jeep Willys, which would be our safari vehicle for the next 3 days. This has to be the best of all cars to be on safari in. Small, low to the ground and powerful. Great fun and we enjoyed every minute in “Willy” the jeep. The drive to Hwange National Park from the airport is about a half hour. We checked in at the park and were on our way. Within 5 minutes from the gate we saw a herd of giraffes, kudu, impala, warthogs and some elephants-more than we had seen the first five days of our trip. I told Foster of our disappointing game sightings at Susuwe and the reason given, with a rip-roaring, belly shaking, deep African laugh and tears rolling down his cheeks he had to stop the car. “Angola....Angola.....HAHAHA...Angola, nothing goes to Angola, there’s too much poaching there and the elephants don’t go anywhere near Angola!” After composing himself, we continued on and stopped at one of the waterholes for sundowners and Foster said, “Just wait, Oh My God, you will see elephants!” Sure enough, within minutes we were surrounded by elephants on the way to the waterhole. They passed within 20 feet of Willy and us, standing near Willy’s bumper, and stuck out their trunks to sniff us on the way to drink. It was so exciting that I can’t remember what the finger food was, I was too focused on watching the elephants! On the way to camp we passed two more waterholes filled with all sorts of wildlife drinking water. A great start, but it only gets better.

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Nov 15th, 2006, 01:29 PM
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I always believe in life that one has to go through the bad to really appreciate the good and it seems now things are getting really good!

Matt
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Nov 15th, 2006, 01:30 PM
  #72
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I am so enjoying your report and that things got so much better. The elephants being so close sends shivers down my spine.

CW
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Nov 15th, 2006, 02:00 PM
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I'm really enjoying your report, i don't know of any other report that has made me laugh this much. Glad to read today that the sightings were so much better, but did miss your food report.

You live in one of my favorite parts of Hawaii.

joyce
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Nov 15th, 2006, 03:43 PM
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OMG, Dennis. You are too funny. Love the croc in the pool story. Angola - hilarious! And I'm betting Beaven believed his story.

Remind me never to go on a hike with you. We'd have to pack an overnight bag because I have no sense of direction either. I doubt I could even find my way back to camp.

And a new big 5 list - how exciting! I'm sorry the camps were such duds but look how many stamps you got in your passport.

PB, Perhaps you can sell your testimony to the Angola tourism board, apparently they have lots of animals in the Caprivi region.</> That cracked me up!


I'm happy to read that you saw so many elephants on the drive to your next camp and that things are starting to look like an African safari.

Cindy
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Nov 15th, 2006, 04:35 PM
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Dennis,

You answered the question on how you chose Caprivi. The President Bush joke is a good one.

Hwange is looking up already.
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Nov 15th, 2006, 05:16 PM
  #76
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Lynn,

Apparently that Lagoon pride incident occurred in 2005 and they seldom go back to Namibia. The females are ok with vehicles (4) and one youngish male is fine also. But there is a second youngish male that bolts the minute he hears a car. One thought is, he could be from a very remote area in either Namibia or Bots and finds it hard to relate to vehicles. I saw them in August while in Lagoon. Because of the change in pride dynamics, no cubs have survived over the past couple of years.

On the bright side, there was the chance that the entire pride could hv been wiped out. Glad these guys survived!!!

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Nov 15th, 2006, 11:42 PM
  #77
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Dennis,

So you flew Moremi Air....they do all Kwando's transfers (they may be owned by them....not sure). Was your pilot, James by any chance? He does the Kasane route....

This is a funny story....travelling with an Indian passport, i need a Botswana visa. The immigration only accepts botswana pula for visa fees.....they didnt have enough pula in the airport, so James had to take our $$$ and drive to the bank himself to exchange it for the Pula. His car was parked at the Kasane airport. Fantastic guy....i still tell people this story.

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Nov 16th, 2006, 04:43 AM
  #78
 
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Hi Dennis,

Haven't had time to read your trip report yet but I just wanted to say hello from Chiefs Camp before my afternoon game drive.

Bobby and Milena from Somalisa send their hellos to you and Tom. I was fortunate enough to spend all three nights with them at Linyanti Bushcamp, and Beks and Sophia were also present for two nights.

Don't want to hijack this thread so will write more later in a new thread but so far it has been great.
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Nov 16th, 2006, 05:52 AM
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Somalisa, Somalisa, Smile
We arrived at Somalisa and were greeted by Bobby and Milena, the hosts at Somalisa. They’re a young couple, him Zimbabwean, her Australian-very nice and good company. They both used to work at Lion Encounter at Vic Falls, so we got some information about the place before going on that adventure at the end of the trip. We were given a cool towel and a drink by Naomi, a shy Zim woman with the most beautiful smile and shown around the camp. There’s a large sitting area with library and bar and comfortable couches and chairs, pipes and cigars if you’re into smoking, dining area, fire pit and swimming pool. There are six tents with nice beds, table, outdoor bucket shower and toilet. The trails leading from the lodge to the tents are made of elephant dung and the place is nicely decorated with a lot of African touches. When building the camp they incorporated many of the fallen trees into the design...very nice. This was my first experience with bucket showers and the boys filled them with warm water whenever we wanted a shower-I’d like to install one at my house, very cool! Dinner was served at a large dining table with the hosts and Foster eating with us at every meal. We had quite a few interesting, funny and happy conversations while eating. The first nights meal was ham and cheese crepes, pork roast, fresh green salad and the most amazing red pear in a brandy and cream sauce. Very good!

Turn Down The Lions, I’m Trying To Sleep
After a great dinner and conversation we were escorted to our rooms by Bobby carrying his rifle. “There’s lions in the area.” Just got into bed, lights out and heard the most bone chilling lions roar that shook the tent, followed by an elephants trumpeting and more roars of the lions coming from the front of the camp. It was still quite warm so we only had the screen part of our tent zipped and it was scary to say the least. The lions kept up the roaring all night long, making it hard to get a good nights sleep, but other than the hippos grunting, this was the coolest noise in all of Africa. Bobby woke us up at four thirty and said the lions are at the waterhole in front of the swimming pool. “Do you want to see them?” Of course we went and they shined the light and there were 7 lions all around 5 adults and 2 sub-adult cubs, followed by three hyenas. The lions would chase the hyenas then roll around on the ground playing. This was just too cool to watch! After the lions walked off into the brush, Foster said since we’re up we might as well get an early start. so after a quick change we were off.

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Nov 16th, 2006, 06:19 AM
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Dennis - This has been the most entertaining trip report! What a morning treat for you with the lions and a morning treat for me to read about it. I can't wait for the next installment.
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