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game viewing/game listening...unusual circumstances for safari

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Aug 6th, 2005, 10:06 AM
  #1
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game viewing/game listening...unusual circumstances for safari

Hello,

How I have enjoyed reading the threads on this forum! You are all so knowledgeable that I thought I might do well to ask my questions here.

My husband and I, because of time restraints, are trying to figure out the very best time to visit South Africa, and possibly, Victoria Falls. We can either travel in early November, or in late March/early April. We will be staying at the Zulu Nyala Game Reserve for about six days, but have flexibility to add on a few more days to visit Zambia/Victoria Falls, or maybe Sabi Sands.

Now, here is the question: I am totally blind, (my husband has perfect vision), and in considering when the best time to visit, we are not only concerned with the best viewing, but also the most active time of year, given our parameters, to hear the sounds of Africa. I read somewhere that, for example, Victoria Falls is at its peak in Feb./March, meaning that, of course, their sound would be amazing; however, from what I understand, to see them at that time might be difficult because of the mist? Is this correct?

Any information anyone might have, or experiences you might wish to share, concerning what you hear in the bush, as well as what you see, would be so very much appreciated. There may be no difference from one time of year to another, but as is the case with Vic Falls, there may be something we hadn't thought about.

Also, from what I've read, early November might allow sightings of baby animals, but because the adults may be protective of their young, is it more difficult to get in close to see/hear them?

Anyway, I'm sure you get the idea! We are so excited! This has been a longtime dream of mine, to go to Africa and experience it, in all the ways possible.

Thank you.

Lisa
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Aug 6th, 2005, 11:41 AM
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Lisa,
This is an incredible question, and made me really think about all the wonderful sensations of being in Africa. In addition to the sounds, the smells are incredible...and touch too. In fact many of my very favorite things do not involve sight. The best-loved sensation (mine, shared with many friends who live in Africa) is the sound of a lion roar that vibrates through your body. And the smell of the bush seems to intensify just around sunset...ah, memories....

So here are my ideas: to really hear Africa, you don't want to hear it over the engine noise of a noisy landrover--yours or that of other tour groups. And ideally, you would be in a place where you could do alot on the ground, allowing you to touch and smell (without the smell of the vehicle interfering).

Are you absolutely tied to November or March/April? Because the destination I'm thinking about isn't at it's best--rain or temperature-wise then. But if you can handle hot temperatures, or don't mind being there during a warm rainy season, it would still work...

My advice does throw your planned trip out the window, and for that I apologize. But for a person seeking all the sensations of Africa that do not depend on sight, I would highly recommend Zambia, specifically South Luangwa National Park. You could do Vic Falls from the Livingstone side easily from here too. Depending on the rainfall that season, November would be quite dry for the fall, and typically in March April the falls are at their height with great sound but also alot of mist.

Now, please tell us how you "read" this forum!
There are several reasons:

Zambia allows and even encourages walking safaris. Now the operators may not permit you to go on a regular walk, but this policy means that in Zambia you can go on a drive in the park, then get out of the vehicle and walk just a bit to experience Africa on the ground. Or sit in one place and experience the landscape and wildlife that way.

When you are on the ground, it will be quiet, so you can hear the sounds of the bush, and you can touch trees, bushes, seeds...and smell herbs and flowers...or whatever else the guide finds.

Some of my fondest memories are of sitting on the ground, quietly, near a lagoon or river, and waiting for the birds and animals to come to drink. Again, while this might be possible anywhere, in Zambia you could very easily set up a program like this.

You will want to be in a place that allows night drives (Kruger for example, does not.) At night, if the guide stops the vehicle and turns out the lights, you'll hear all the night sounds of the bush--wonderful! Sometimes animals will begin to wander back to check out the vehicle too--once we broke down at night and were waiting for another vehicle to pick us up. Hyenas began to come around to investigate. Very cool.

3)You will probably have to arrange a private vehicle to do this. Zambia is cheaper than the other destinations, and the money you save on accomodations could go toward hiring a private vehicle. If your trip is during the off season, and you tell the camp/lodge about your situation, they might be able to make a deal with you about this--either get other guests who are interested in this special approach (I for one would love it) or just by how they assign people to vehicles. And during the off-season, I think many of us who've been to South Luangwa have enjoyed having a vehicle to ourselves just because no one else is around.

You could combine a trip to Zambia with a South Africa holiday, as long as you have enough time.

Even if you cannot do Zambia on this trip, I hope that provides a few ideas about how you can really enjoy Africa with all your senses--something too few tourists appreciate in the rush to see or photograph the big 5.
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Aug 6th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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Dear Lisa

I can't add much to Tashak's excellent post but wanted to suggest that you investigate a safari with Derek Solomon. He is based in Zambia (I think he may be with Norman Carr's safari operation but not sure on that one) but I think he can do trips in different countries too.

Basically, I met him on a special wildlife festival trip in Kenya last year and one of the things he did was a special Sound safari - he had special recordings of various birds and other animals which he'd use to teach his group about various aspects of behaviour at the same time as driving out into the bush to find some of those same animals and birds in the flesh.

He has such a keen ear for the sound side of things that it might be a great idea for you to book a short private safari with him in Zambia or elsewhere?
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Aug 6th, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Kavey & Lisa,
Derek Solomon is a superb idea!! He is one of the top guides, and probably the top birder anyway, and his sound safari would be an amazing experience. He is based in South Luangwa for at least part of the year. A whole tour with him would be the best, but it might be possible to arrange a day or two with him in the Valley given your interests.

I met someone just this year who was on one of Derek's trips. Among other things, they were trying to use sound equipment to see how hippos communicate with each other underwater. Fascinating!
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Aug 6th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Yep, I've heard nothing but good things. Because my interests lay in photography and art I concentrated on those activities during the all-too-short festival of wildlife but my dad did one of Derek's bird sound safari drives and pronounced it very good and I think he may have done a walk with him too.

He didn't come out to the Galapagos for the 2nd festival but I believe he'll be there for the next one, in India and I'm determined to join one of his activities this time!
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Aug 6th, 2005, 04:31 PM
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Lisa,

Tashak's reply to you was so good I'm not going to bother to say much more more than that his recommendations are excellent and yes, so are the sounds and smells of the African bush...not only lion at night, but also hyena, hippo, elephant, fish eagle, hornbills, grey lourie, just to name a few of the obvious ones. About the first thing we do when getting out of the plane on the bush airstrip is draw a deep breath and take in the smell of wild sage or whatever's in season. And when we're not in Africa, we continually think of all those sounds and smells. Have a wonderful trip!
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Aug 6th, 2005, 05:51 PM
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One of my favorite things about Zambia are the incredible sounds. As you already mentioned, you have Victoria Falls, but then there is the incredible birding and hippos of South Luangwa.

Hippos are quite vocal and with the plentitude of hippos in South Luangwa, I think it would be a very good choice.

Then there are birds like the blacksmith plover that are very interesting to listen to (they make sounds like a blacksmith hammering away) along with 300+ other species of other birds.

If you added the Lower Zambezi, you would be able to enjoy canoeing, and while canoeing you would be very close to the birds, hippos and other wildlife.

Another thing I like about Zambia is that there is the opportunity to stay in Kawaza Village (near South Luangwa). This is an actual African village and you would be hosted by a member of the community and have the chance to participate in their activities, from grinding corn, to assisting with the cooking, to either watching or participating in their tribal dances.

It is a very reasonable donation of about $100 pp per night for Kawaza Village. Similar experiences, such as Gudigwa in Botswana are more than triple the price.

Here are some links that you and your husband may find useful for Zambia:

www.zambiatourism.com
http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/page...s/kawport.html
www.luangwariverlodge.com
www.chongwe-river.com
www.kasakariverlodge.com
www.star-of-africa.com
www.kaingo.com
www.stanleysafaris.com

Feel free to e-mail me if you need any more guidance regarding Zambia or would like a good lead for an operator that will get you the very best prices. I will be leaving in three weeks to Zambia for my third visit in as many years. It is an incredible place!
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Aug 7th, 2005, 06:11 AM
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Good morning, everyone:

Thank you all so very much for your thoughtful responses to my questions.

Tashak, what a beautiful posting...what I wish for, more than anything, is to feel a lion's roar "vibrating through my body"!

As for how I read this forum, I use a speech access program called JAWS (Job Access With Speech), that reads to me everything on the computer screen, not necessarily in order, but how I choose to read it. With this program, I have access to everything on the Internet, e-mail, and almost all other software programs available. My computer speaks to me...I do not speak to it! I'm glad you asked...please feel free to ask questions. It's from our curiosity that we can learn so very much. Why else would so many of us be intrigued by Africa?

I have so many more questions to ask, but it will have to wait until later on today.

Thank you again, Tashak, Kavey, Africagala and Rocco! (Sorry if I spelled any of those incorrectly.)

Lisa
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Aug 7th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Lisa,
I just thought of something else--if you email me at [email protected], I can mail you some info on sound resources that I think you will enjoy as you plan for your trip.
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Aug 7th, 2005, 03:42 PM
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Hello, everyone:

Since we will be staying six days at the Zulu Nyala Game Lodge in Hluhluwe, we are hoping to add on to our trip, perhaps heading to Vic Falls and maybe somewhere in Zambia for a few more days. What recommendations can any of you make as to how long a stay is needed in Vic Falls, and how far South Luangua is from Vic Falls? The one resource I do not have at my fingertips is a map of Africa (a rather visual thing), so I'm trying to get some idea of where these places are located in relation to one another.

Also, how can one get from Vic Falls to South Luangua; is this a short flight, or is it possible to drive? I do apologize if these questions seem rudimentary, but any help with this will be so appreciated! And, while I'm thinking of distances, does anyone know what the best way to get from Hluhluwe to Vic Falls would be? I know this is a flight, but would it be possible to go from Richard's Bay or Durbin to Livingstone?

Tashak, I will take you up on your generous offer of further info; I'll be in touch soon.

Rocco, thank you so much for the web sources; for me, the web is the very best research venue since I can do all the reading on my own. Unfortunately, there are not many resources in braille on South Africa, so the Internet is awesome.

One more question: If we stay six days in South Africa, then wish to see Vic Falls and then maybe do a safari in South Luangua or the Lower Zambezi, how many days might we be looking at? I don't think we need much time at the Falls, and Maybe two or three at one of these venues in Zambia. Is this at all realistic? We really only have about two weeks for travel. Maybe we're biting off more than we can chew?

Thank you.

Lisa
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Aug 7th, 2005, 04:17 PM
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Crystal- I have not yet been to Zambia but will be going there in October to the camps Rocco suggested. As the flight times go it is 1.5 hour flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe (then drive to Luangwa River lodge) from Mfuwe to Lower Zambezi it is about 2 hour flight. From Lower Zambezi to Livingstone it is a 3 hour flight. All these are on Airwaves airline, using cessnas and 1 beechcraft. I Can't wait!
Someone else may help with your other questions, but I knew the answer to this one! 72 more days!
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Aug 7th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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Crystal, forgot this part: from Johannisburg to Lusaka is 1 hr 40 minute flight on south african airlines and from Livingstone back to Johannisburg is about 2 hours on Nationwide Air.
Dennis
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Aug 7th, 2005, 09:46 PM
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Crystal, Here's my two cents' worth. First, I have been to Vic Falls twice during July and the people there did say it is difficult to see anything at all when the river is high due to the mist. Um, this probably won't be a popular comment, but I am not that impressed by Victoria Falls! Yikes I said it! It's a wonder of the world and I thought it was very nice thank you but I could have passed on it. It does make a nice break from your safari and offers adventurous activities as well as shopping and spa possibilities but in my honest opinion this destination does not compare in the least to the awesome and unforgettable experiences of a safari camp. I guess I'm saying, you wouldn't be crazy to skip the Falls and use the extra time for safaris.

Be aware that transfers in Zambia can eat away at your vacation time if not well planned. For example if you transfer from Vic Falls to South Luangway NP, you will miss out on a morning activity in Vic Falls due to an early flight over to Lusaka, then wait for your connection to Mfuwe, then an hour and a half drive on to camp. Personally I recommend that if you want to go further into Zambia after Vic Falls, you should fly directly from Livingstone to Jeki airstrip in the Lower Zambezi National Park and stay at one of the excellent camps in that area. It's a shorter distance and transfer time. Also be sure you arrange to fly into the Zambian side of the Falls so you don't have to pay the visa for Zimbabwe and then leave in a day or two to enter Zambia.

Good luck in your planning!

I'd like to support tashak's post. I have had several excellent guides who will often stop the vehicle and allow us to simply listen to the sounds for awhile. Sounds are vibrant at dawn and during the night. You can also request that your guide attempt certain experiences, such as elephants crossing a river (very noisy!) or drinking at a waterhole. Rocco is right on about the hippos, they are incredibly loud all night long. Tashak is right on about the walking - your guide will place plants, dried dung and different types of soil into your hands for a sensory experience. The smell of wild sage and jasmine will amaze you. If you do travel to the LZNP and can take a canoe ride, you will hear so many bird calls and hippos while peacefully drifting along, you'll think you're in heaven.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 04:13 AM
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Hello:

Dennis, thank you for that information; it certainly does help. Is Livingstone on the Zambian side of the Falls?

Lin: I really enjoyed reading your post on your trip. So very helpful, as was your post here. One question concerning LZNP: When canoeing, I believe you mentioned in your trip report that only the guide and one other person rode in each canoe. Is this due to the space restraints, or do you think it would be possible for two other people besides the guide to travel by canoe? I'd like to have my husband with me, if posible, but it isn't essential.

I really do hope to feel those lions roar, so between South Luangua and the LZNP, where is the greater concentration of lions found? The hippos sound like they will be quite an experience, too!

Thank you to all of you for such wonderful ideas. Please keep them coming!

Lisa
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Aug 8th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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Lin's post was funny...but true for me too. I'm glad I went to Vic Falls, but my trip/ trips have the luxury of more time. If I had to trade real bush-time for Vic Falls I would not personally do it. But then I'm the type of person who has never been to Niagara Falls either...and when I went to Brazil I didn't go to Iguazu. To me, it's just a pretty landscape with water. Yeah, it falls a long way, but still. I'm more interested in water if it is part of an ecosystem, and wildlife is part of it. Trust us, sunset on the Lower Zambezi or Luangwa River is very beautiful...and a few minutes after that you will again be enjoying the night sounds, smells and sights of the bush.

Now if you or your husband is really interested in landscapes and waterfalls, you might want to do Vic Falls/Livingtone (Livingstone is the town on the Zambian side of the falls). But don't let anyone tell you that just because you are in Southern Africa, you must do/can't miss Vic Falls. (When they do this, they are missing something else...which of course they don't know about because they didn't do it!)

Lin is right about transfers, especially in the off season. It is far better to fly from Joburg directly to Lusaka, proceed to South Luangwa/Lower Zam (or both), then visit Vic Falls/Livingstone on the way home. If you arrive late at Vic Falls, you can still do an evening activity and perhaps the sunset cruise, which is nice. Also shopping is good in this area, and since this is the end of your trip, you won't have to worry so much about lugging souvenirs around for the whole trip. Three days is MORE than enough for the Vic Falls area--two is very good. If you really want to see the falls, but are pressed for time, 1 full day and two nights are OK too. (Unlike wildlife, the falls are reliably there. When you are seeking wildlife, you must give a place more time, because you never know when the animals will choose to appear. As others have mentioned, full moon is not the best time to see/be near wildlife, so on a 2 week trip, I would definitely consult an almanac before scheduling the trip!)

But if you only have two weeks, I think you will have to pick your destinations carefully, because the "overhead" frequent transfers cause eats up your valuable time very quickly. Neither the Lower Zam or South Luangwa is particularly easy to get to,so I think it would be better to choose only one, especially if you want to do any time in Vic Falls.

When I was on the Lower Zam, the camp did put 2 guests in one canoe. But I cannot remember if that canoe had a guide as well as a rower/poler. (We had two canoes, and I think there was only one guide for the group. The canoes always stayed quite close together. This may actually depend on the equipment each camp uses--something to check directly with the camp. One big plus for the canoes is the absolute silence!

I think that South Luangwa has a larger and more stable lion population than the lower Zambezi. (Also, the lions of the Lower Zam were displaced and prides disturbed by extensive flooding in 2001, and have been more recently disturbed by hunting in the area.) There is more wildlife, and more diverse wildlife (generally speaking) in South Luangwa. I didn't see a single lion during my Lower Zam stay, and I think I recall Roccco's experience was similar. There were good leopard sightings however (but they were equally good in South Luangwa).

Re travel times: there are many variables here. Flights and flight times change with the seasons...and there are fewer options with more connections in the off season (the times you have mentioned are off season). However, generally speaking, if you fly from Joburg-Lusaka it is a morning flight and takes about 2-2.5 hours. You can then catch a nonstop to Mfuwe, and generally arrive in time for the late afternoon game drive. (Lin couldn't becasue her lodge was farthest of all from the airport... usually you can make it. And when I have been a little late (not as late as Lin!) the camps will generally send you out to do a meetup with the drive.) When I transferred from South Luangwa to the Lower Zam, I did arrive in time for the afternoon drive...I think this would be true of a Livingstone arrival as well. But generally speaking, you will lose the morning activity and mid-day rest time on any transfer.

Lots to think about!
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Aug 8th, 2005, 08:55 AM
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Hi Lisa,

Since English isn't my first language, and the most important things have already been told, I keep my posting short.

I want to add two remarks.

First, Victoria Falls: I have been two times in the aera when traveling to Botswana, and I will be in Zambia next month for the second time. On all these four occasions I never had any interest to visit the Falls. Yes, it's one of the wonders of the world, but it's not typical African. I've seen (and heard) waterfalls elsewhere, so there's no reason for me to sacrifice some of my precious safari days.

Second, Lower Zambezi: Even if Lower Zambezi can't compete with South Luangwa when it comes to diversity of wildlife, Lower Zambezi has one unique feature that might be interesting to you: the sound quality at night is great, mainly caused by the echoes reflected by the nearby hills. I remember elephant trumpets and hyaenas howls that rolled up and down the river several times - just fantastic. You don't have this clear sound setting in South Luangwa because this area is mostly plain bush and tree land that breaks the echoes.

Mitch

 
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Aug 8th, 2005, 09:41 AM
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Mitch, thank you. That is certainly something to think about. You are right in thinking that I do want to hear all those sounds, and that is a very worthwhile comparison.

Lisa
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Aug 10th, 2005, 09:00 PM
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Lisa
In answer to your question, from Sausage Tree Camp the canoes carried one guest and one guide. However the other canoe(s) are within a few feet of you. I understand you would want to canoe with your husband though so I'd just ask up-front and I am positive any decent camp would find a way to accommodate you. I agree with Tashak that there are more lions in the South Luangwa NP, in fact the area is well known for its prolific predator population (a little alliteration there). Thinking hard about sounds, I would still have to vote for Lower Zambezi.

Kavey: Please tell me about the Festival of Wildlife?
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Aug 11th, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Hi Lisa,

Sorry to be getting to this thread a little late but I'm just back from a vacation.

I would like to reiterate the recommendations to arrange a safari with Derek Solomon leading you if you can make it to Zambia for a few days.

I was to co-lead a special wild dog safari with Derek but unfortuneately we did not get the clients needed and the trip never ran. However, I am very familiar with Derek's expertise. He is the sound expert in Africa and I believe the only one who regularly uses specialized sound equipment on safari. He has a microphone dish to pull in sounds from longer distances and everyone can plug in headphones to listen. He also uses an underwater hydrophone to listen to hippos and other unique underwater sounds. Beyond that, with no equipment he will be intimately familiar with every sound and able to interpret what the sounds are and what they mean.

If that becomes an option for you, Derek and his wife Sarah can be contacted directly by email at [email protected] If you contact them directly you can customize the experience you desire and not pay any middle man costs going through another operator. Feel free to tell them Bill Given, the Wildlife Biologist in Colorado recommended you contact them. Derek will also be able to ensure great wildlife viewing for your husband and craft the best itinerary to maximize your experience. Perhaps you can even find the rare wild dogs which are a supreme sight but also have a unique smell that sets them apart as well as interesting communication wimpering sounds.

My other recommendation, no matter where you go, is that you purchase a collection of bird sounds. Excellent birders identify by ear first and sight only second. Often the view is poor and there are so many little birds with similar looks that songs and calls are the way to go. Just as many of us enjoy studying field guide pictures of the animals we hope to see prior to safari you can learn some bird calls and other sounds of the bush. South African Bird Sounds can be purchased from the American Bird Association at 800-634-7736. This is the definitive work with over 800 species I believe. You may want to search the internet for something less comprehensive. I also have Sounds of the Jungle, Plain & Bush with contains 12 mammals. Just as many of us get enjoyment out of spotting an animal before anyone else I think you will really enjoy it when you hear a sound and know what is around before anyone has spotted it. Or even better, when you know the vervet monkey call is a warning that a leopard is near by you will be more engrained in the experience than those who simply see the leopard five minutes later once the guide finds it.
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Aug 11th, 2005, 10:55 AM
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Hello,

I realise Botswana isn't really on the radar now, but I just wanted to let you know for future reference that King's Pool camp is known for the volume (and variety) of its 'bush orchestra.' And apparently, being on the Serengeti during the migration is quite a sound-fest.

Cheers,
Julian
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