Gaurang's Trip Report - 28 days in Botswana

Old Dec 19th, 2006, 02:51 AM
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Sorry for the delay, but things have been a bit hectic recently. The reports and photos for the other 26 days will follow eventually .

Gaurang
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 01:21 PM
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DAY 3 - WHAT A BUSY DAY!!!!!

By 5:45am we were out of camp. This was a morning where Newman excelled and left us all dazzled. The most impressive was when he suddenly just stopped on the edge of an open plain that was scattered with many bushes. We could not see anything and then he pointed to a mass of bushes 100 metres into the distance – we still could not see anything. Then Newman explained.....”see that small cloud of dust behind those bushes – there’s a honey badger there”. Then we located the dust cloud but could still not see any animal. “Only a honey badger digs like that and produces such dust formations”. We moved slightly forward and then we saw it.....a honey badger scampering between the bushes!!!! We were all really excited by both the sighting and Newman’s skills. We sped towards the honey badger trying to get close enough for a photo, but it soon shot in to a hole and we lost it. Other highlights of the morning Newman show included spotting an African wild cat in the long grass (our first ever day-time sighting) and following francolin alarm calls to find a large female leopard. Although both cats were very shy, we did manage to get some photos. Other morning sightings included many of the migrating elephants (who had decided to spend the night in Chitabe), our resident lioness (still with her zebra kill), large herd of buffalo, many giraffes, slender mongoose, yellow mongoose, kudus, wildebeest, zebras, impalas, baboons, vervet monkeys, tsessebe, many raptors and many birds including a crimson breasted shrike. We heard the calls of a male lion but could not locate it. Newman explained that the male was calling for the female that had become resident near the camp – but she did not answer the calls because she wanted the zebra (what was left of it) all to her self. A very clever lioness.

During siesta time, I wondered around camp to see what I could find. I must have spent almost 2 hours trying to sneak up on the resident squirrels in Chitabe camp. In the end they either got very tired or really fed up – but I did eventually get close enough for some nice photos. We also saw some reedbuck, bushbuck and a rock monitor lizard, which was exciting as I only ever seen water monitor lizards before.

On the afternoon drive we were joined by a honeymoon couple from the USA. It was their first ever safari and their first ever game drive – what a baptism of fire!!! Within the first 10 minutes they had seen elephants, buffalos, lioness, hyena, and a young leopard (7 months old). The leopard was very shy and we didn’t mange to get any good shots. That wasn’t all.....we also found two majestic large male lions (Chitabe pride) and a female cheetah close to the Moremi border. We also saw hippo, zebras, wildebeest, impalas, kudus, baboons, warthogs, and many raptors including a Giant eagle owl.

Under spotlight we saw bat eared foxes with very young (and shy) cubs, wild cat, elephants, giraffes, buffalos, scrub hare and spring hares.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 02:10 PM
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<font color="red">Photographic highlights from Day 3<font color="red">

http://www.kodakgallery.co.uk/Slideshow.jsp?Uc=31ailg45.1fvvvu6d&amp;Uy=4xnvgw&a mp;Upost_signin=Slideshow.jsp%3Fmode%3Dfromshare&a mp;Ux=0&amp;localeid=en_GB&amp;mode=fromshare&amp; conn_speed=1</font></font>
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 02:51 PM
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Your 2 hours of squirrel pursuit paid off with those photos. Given a choice of napping, reading or watching resident wildlife during siesta time, I usually opt for the wildlife too.

Your African Wildcat shot was wonderful. Such a rare creature, yet it looks like a house cat roaming through the garden. I love honey badgers and it's great you got to see one in action.

Did I read you, Rocco, and The Man (Hari has been so named in a previous post) will be venturing out to Africa?
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 03:40 PM
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Another excellent daily report and tremendous pictures! I really loved the coucal and the lion's teeth.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 10:26 PM
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Gaurang,

Excellent report and some very nice pictures.

From what I read, you can't complain about the sightings you got. Quite impressive.

Greetings,

Johan
 
Old Dec 24th, 2006, 03:55 AM
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Thanks Lynn, Bill and Johan.

Lynn.....I have some much better pictures of wild cat (you'll have to wait for Day 4). They do look very much like domestic cats. Yes, you are correct - Rocco, Hari and myself are planning a trip to Kafue for Sep/Oct 2007 (but nothing has been confirmed or booked yet). My next trip has been booked for August 2007:

Elephant Plains, Sabi Sands (4 nights)
Jo'burg (1 night)
Kafunta, South Luangwa (5 nights)
Kaingo, South Luangwa (3 nights)
Chongwe, Lower Zambezi (5 nights)

Bill.....Jayna loves taking close-up photos of eyes, teeth, paws etc. 95% of the photos in this trip report have been taken by her.

Johan.....I definately could not complain about Chitabe, it was very impressive. The game, Newman, the camp and the staff made it as close to the &quot;perfect camp&quot;, if there is such a thing. Being the first camp, it left a hard act to follow for the other camps in our itinerary.
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Old Dec 25th, 2006, 03:45 AM
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This morning in the UK, the BBC screened an episode of &quot;Incredible Animal Journeys&quot; and this one was titled &quot;Running With Wild Dogs&quot;.....and guess what? It was an hour long programme focussing on the wild dogs of Chitabe with Newman as the guide. There was a lot of focus on Newman and his tracking skills. What a pleasant Christmas surprise!!!!
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Old Dec 25th, 2006, 05:57 AM
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Hi Gaurang,

Sorry...i didnt get to stop over in London. With the re-scheduling i had to fly directly to NYC. Merry christmas and hope to see that episode sometime.

Hari
 
Old Dec 26th, 2006, 09:22 AM
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Fantastic Pictures Gaurang....fantastic....I especially like the pictures of all the cats. Myself, my wife, and my mom have been deciding where to take a trip that will get us back in touch with nature. Our choices have been Africa, Alaska, and Costa Rica. I think seeing these pictures has sealed the deal for Africa. Thanks for the lovely photos!!
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Old Dec 26th, 2006, 10:46 PM
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Africa:
What month were you in Botswana, and what kind of camera and lens did you use?
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 12:51 AM
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Dizzy.....I'm glad that you enjoyed the photos and I'm sure Africa will be a fantastic choice for your family holiday. I'm still serving the starter - just wait for the main course

spiegelcjs.....we in Botswana from 29th October to 25th November 2006 (28 days). The equipment used was a Canon 30D with a 100-400mm IS L lens and a Canon 350D with a 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC lens. Also a Sony HDV camcorder with external microphone.

Regards

Gaurang
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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Gaurang: us Predators need to eat every 3 days or so -- keep serving it up I'm getting hungry.

Tell Jayna she has done fantastic with the photography. I like to try and shoot the eyes, teeth, paws, etc. too but I have never captured that side view of the lions teeth, I really liked that! Looking forward to more narrative and pictures when you get to it of course.
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 08:08 PM
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Never did hear if you saw your quota of snakes. My husband must be a kindred spirit as he was horrified when we ran over a fer de lance snake in Belize on our nature excursion. As you have done many safaris maybe you would offer advice to two first-time visitors to Africa. We are going in October 2007 for 3 weeks but have 20 days with a group of friends in South Africa going from Drakensberg to Durban and Capetown. Our only group wildlife experiences will be at the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve for 3 days(rhino) and Boulders Beach. Have been thinking about whether we should go to Botswana for our ten pre-group days or whether we should go to Kruger for 3 and Botswana for 7. Since we are going in October the prices in Botswana are at there highest. Maybe it would be more affordable to do Botswana on another trip. Is it really the best wildlife viewing and worth the cost in October?
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 08:43 PM
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Love the Snipe.
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 04:36 AM
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Bill....sorry for starving you but I promise that it will be worth the wait. Hopefully the next installment with photos should be up at the weekend. You could go in to crocodile mode and eat less frequently

Nafaway....yes I did get my quota of snakes in the Kwando concession with some amazing (and close-up) sightings. For me Kwando is the &quot;Land of Snakes&quot; - more details will follow in my report.
October is a very tricky month in Botswana. It could be very dry and you will get some of the best gameviewing on the planet (2005) or the rains could come early and disperse the animals (2006). For me, it's very difficult to give &quot;value-for-money&quot; ratings for safaris as there are so many independant factors that contribute to this e.g. the guides, the camp, the weather, luck etc. But if the pre-group trip is planned for early October, I would definately recommend 10 days in Botswana and it will only get more expensive with each year. If expense is an issue, you could consider 10 days in Zambia for a great wilderness experience.

During my trip, I met two couples who had booked at the last minute after turning up in Maun and going to the Wilderness Safaris office to see what was available in November. One couple was offered 5 nights combining Savuti and Jacana. The other couple was offered Savuti and Tubu Tree. They paid ONLY $1350 per person for 5 nights including air transfers. This was RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP. But, it is a risky option where there may not be any availability and you will not have a choice of camps. Still, it's an absolute bargain!!!!!

Would I do it all again? Yes

Is Botswana the best? I can't answer that as there are still quite a few places in Africa that I haven't visited e.g. Kafue, Luangwa Valley, Southern Tanzania.

Matt...thanks, I was wondering what that was (I've been lazy and haven't checked my bird book).

Regards

Gaurang
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 05:39 AM
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Gaurang, I've been reading your trip report in bits and pieces (not enough time these days!) and really enjoying it. And you can keep all the snakes to yourself but I'll take Newman (he sounds like a treasure) and all of the elephants you saw.

Love the photos, too. Looking forward to more.

Cindy
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 08:39 AM
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Gaurang: good advice to feast and then fast like a croc, my personal fitness could improve quite a bit if I would stop eating all of my meals. I will patiently look forward to your next installment.
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 10:10 AM
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great photos and report. looking forward to the next installment.
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:06 PM
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DAY 4

During the night we heard elephant, hyena and that elusive male lion. It was another early start and Newman explained that our resident female lion had finally moved on and the hyenas we heard during the night had taken what was left of the zebra carcass. The day started very cloudy threatening with rain. The cloud was to remain for the rest of the day and the light wasn’t the best for photography (but that didn’t stop us). As well as all of the usual game, we also saw steenbok and ostrich. Newman found us two wild cats in the morning by investigating alarm calls – one was skittish but the other was quite relaxed and allowed us to take some nice photos. Amazingly, by listening carefully to hornbill alarm calls Newman actually told us that the culprit is either a mongoose or wild cat – long before we reached the area. This sixth sense actually resulted in one of the wild cat sightings – quite amazing!!!! We also met a grumpy bull elephant who had a very sore tusk. Despite lots of aggression and dust, he eventually calmed down. For Newman, the highlight of the day was a stunning batleur eagle that was sitting on a low branch. Even Newman scrambled to film this bird on his camcorder with a gleaming smile on his face – this was the only time during our stay that Newman used his camcorder, so it must have been a special sighting.
During the morning drive we heard the male lion again and Newman was determined to find him this time. We spent more than an hour following spoor and hoping for other animals to give us a clue, but no luck – this lion was very mobile. To make matters worse it started to rain but this was a blessing in disguise. As we started to go back over our own tracks, Newman found very fresh spoor in the wet sand, fresher than our own tyre tracks from 30 minutes before. Newman smiled and told us “we definitely have the lion now - all we have to do is follow these tracks”. Newman was correct as usual – the tracks led us to a majestic male lion sitting on a termite mound. Newman explained that the lion was using the termite mound to heat himself up. We had now seen three of the four Chitabe pride males. On the way back to camp, Newman took a detour so that we could take some photos of the camp from the other side of the channel. I call them “animal view” photos and they would have looked nicer if the sun was shining – but no brochure shots this time.

The highlights of the afternoon/evening drive was a baby giraffe suckling (another first for us) and a cute 5 month old leopard who was quite relaxed on a distant tree. The leopard had a sibling nearby but it was too shy to show itself.

But still there was no sign of wild dogs. In the evening after dinner Kenny gave everyone a slideshow of his cousin’s recent wedding on his laptop. It was very interesting and Kenny was great at explaining all of the local traditions. As Jayna and I were the only ones who were familiar with the BBC’s Planet Earth wild dog footage (filmed in Chitabe), Kenny also played a DVD of that episode. After seeing that, everyone finally understood the joy of seeing these wonderful animals – and the difficulty associated with finding them. We still had our final morning drive to go – so there was still hope………
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