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Just Returned from Extended Trip to Southern and East Africa

Just Returned from Extended Trip to Southern and East Africa

Dec 13th, 2006, 04:30 PM
  #1  
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Just Returned from Extended Trip to Southern and East Africa

Arrved home last week. Spent 7 months, mostly in Southern Africa (3 1/2 months in Namibia, 2 months in South Africa, and the shorter periods in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia) and a little over a month in Tanzania. Visited all the CCAfrica lodges except Mnemba (did snorkel the reef though)and Kichwa Tembo and some other accomodations including several Wilderness lodges in Namibia, Swala in Tanzania, Fugitives Drift Lodge and Champagne Sports Resort in South Africa. Hope to post some photos in the near future, once we get our lives here restarted. If anyone has any questions, I'll try to answer.
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Dec 13th, 2006, 05:17 PM
  #2  
cw
 
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I'd love to read a brief summary of your impressions of the different areas and lodges. For instance, where would you return to, and what places did you like best.

Seven months--how great is that?

CW
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Dec 13th, 2006, 05:24 PM
  #3  
santharamhari
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Fantastic!!!
 
Dec 13th, 2006, 05:48 PM
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We've (wife and I) been asked those questions by many people we met in Africa and there are no simple answers. Generally the lodge we like best is the one we just left because the experience is freshest in our minds.

We didn't see the migration although we did see herds of a 1000 or so wildebeests at Grumeti and that was enough to make us want to return to East Africa for the big show. If we do, it will be very hard to choose between Klein's and Grumeti, they were both great.

We didn't get to hear Dave Rattray give one of his talks in person at Fugitives' Drift (we did hear him speak on another occasion and he is an exceptional speaker) and we want to do that on our next visit, even though we are not history buffs.

Seeing a leatherback turtle lay her eggs at Sodwana Bay (while at Phinda) and walking into the surf with her was an unforgetable experience. The leopards at Kirkman's were incredible and we saw lions on a buffalo kill, baboons, a herd of elphants, a giant kingfisher, crocodiles, and hyenas harassing hippos, all while sitting in our plunge pool at Exeter River lodge. The birds at Madikwe were excellent as they also were at Phinda. We would like to experience all these things and many more again.

Matetsi was a suprise to me because the game viewing was much better than I expected. There was a pack of 11 wild dogs staying near the lodge and a coalition of 5 male lions also near by (and one very stupid but fast hyena who escaped by inches).

I can honestly say we didn't have a really bad experience the whole trip, even at the $14/night hotel in Arusha.

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Dec 13th, 2006, 06:53 PM
  #5  
santharamhari
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Tuckeg,

All your descriptions sound like amazing experiences.......

Btw, which camps did you visit in Botswana?

hari
 
Dec 13th, 2006, 07:12 PM
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What a trip! I'd love to hear more about Swala Camp and Grumeti River Camp. What month were you at these camps?
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Dec 13th, 2006, 07:16 PM
  #7  
cw
 
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tuckeg,

We loved Phinda when we were there in September. What time were you there for the turtles?

I know exactly what you mean when you say that you loved everywhere. Each camp was wonderful in its own way.

Did you go to Ngala?

CW

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Dec 13th, 2006, 08:43 PM
  #8  
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Some brief responses:

Nxabega and Sandibe in Botswana.

I'll have to check our notes but we were Swala about Oct 4-7 and arrived Grumeti about a week later.

We have friends who manage Swala so it was more about seeing them than the game experience. Swala is very different than most of the other camps we visited in that most guests are on safaris and arrive with their own guides so there is only one ranger who does drives for the few people who fly in. The accomodations are very nice and the food was also very good. They had excellent Mexican lunches a couple of days and when I mentioned how good they were I was told the chef use to work at a Mexican restaurant in Arusha.

Game viewing was good with the highlight being the elephants that hang out at the waterhole which is in front of the camp. Unlike any others we saw, these elephants didn't eat all day. They just stood around and chased everything else away from the water. This even included starlings! It turns out they raid the local farms at night and get such a rich diet they don't have to continully eat the way most elephants do. Lots of eagles around the camp. Tetse flies were a nuisance at times but between wife and me, we only collected one bite over three days.

Didn't really look forward to Grumeti because we thought after Klein's it would be more of the same and we were traveling that leg by ground and were not looking forward to the drive. Boy were we wrong. Greeted by the staff singing a song of welcome, we were taken to a table near the river for check-in and were seated about 3 feet above and 20 feet away from the edge of a pod of 200 hippos. What a sight! Game viewing was great and the staff, accomodations and food were first rate. It was one of the high points of our trip. Only down side was that it was very dry and getting drier and the day we left animals were beginning to die. I would not have wanted to be there in the weeks that followed as I would not want to see the suffering that was to come.

The turtle viewing trips from Phinda started around Nov. 10 and we went around the 20th. We saw a loggerhead heading up the beach and we preparing to wait for her to start nesting when the parks people came by and told us about the leatherback. In turtle watching a leatherback beats a loggerhead hands down so off we went.

We spent 3 or 4 nights at Ngala Tented camp in late August and one night at Ngala Lodge at the beginning of December.

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Dec 13th, 2006, 08:49 PM
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Would be interested to hear how you liked Swala Camp (we were there at this time last year and loved both the camp and the hosts even though I wouldn't necessarly put the game viewing in Tarangire in November-December at the top of my list).
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Dec 13th, 2006, 09:09 PM
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Hi Lisa,

You might remember I mentioned we knew Maryna and Steve when you posted about your trip. I would agree with your assesment about Swala. As you know though it's very hard to make generalizations about game and weather from the short time we get to spend at these places. For example, Lake Manyara is famous for it birds and friends of mine have had great sightings there but we happened to arrive during a rainy spell and saw very few.

One highlight for us at Swala was when Steve stopped to look at a young bull elephant from 50 feet away and the vehicle wouldn't start. He and I had to push and my wife popped the clutch with the elephant looking on. We'll remember that for a while.

They did remember your group and said hi again.

George
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Dec 14th, 2006, 02:56 AM
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Hello tuckeg,
Thanks for posting. Your trip sounds like a dream.
I'm wondering if you can share more thoughts about Matetsi. I've only seen one review about it on this forum and it was negative - would love to hear more and see your pictures.
Thanks;
Sherry
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Dec 14th, 2006, 04:45 AM
  #12  
santharamhari
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Hi Sherry,

The moment i read the wild dog sightings from Matetsi...i knew that would catch ur attention!!!

Hari
 
Dec 14th, 2006, 07:11 PM
  #13  
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Sherry,

Some general impressions of Matetsi:

1. Based on accounts of friends who had been there I expected the birding to be outstanding, the river to be a highlight, and the game to be ok. As it turned out the birding was good, the river was good, and the game was excellent. The time when we were there (early November) was a little early for birding and while we had some good sightings it was not quite what I expected. The highlight was when the rain brought out the alates (flying termites) and the birds and we saw a family of eagles (I'll have to check my photos, brown snake I think) feeding together. Quite a sight.

We took a boat trip on the river and also canoed it and both were fine but no close wild life encounters. Boat trip was wild as a huge thunder storm came up as we first went out and we had to retreat to the dock where we spent 25 minutes huddled in the center of the boat watching the storm (and rangers from both boats trying to find panchos for the guests and getting soaked in the process). After that back on the river for a nice cruise and some good photos of lightning over the river.

As I mentioned the game was excellent, the hyneas had one who was limping so they stayed in the same area for several days and we were able to view them on several occasions at close rnage. It was cloudy but I think some photos turned out ok. We also watched the coalition of 5 male lions several days and watched one of the males almost catch a spotted hyena. We also saw a herd of 200 buffaloes, elephants, hippo, sable (first for us and a very beautiful animal) and the usual cast of characters. Almost saw an aardvark but lions got there first so only saw forearm with vultures.

They were quite busy and rumor has it the tented camp may re-open next year. If it does I would love to visit as most of the game sighting we had occured within sight of the tented camp.

Staff, food and accomodations were fine. Our ranger was knowledgeable but not very outgoing so you needed to constantly ask questions. I was told he was new, having worked for another company before, and will be attending CCA training soon so that shouldn't be an issue in the future (CCA is establishing a rangers training center for Zim and Bots so the rangers from there won't have to travel to ZAR).

The two negatives were:

1. Problems with communication both phone and internet. This was due to Zim's poor infrastructure and the storm I described which knocked out the phones for several days. All communication was by radio link to Vic Falls with no Internet.

2. Biggest issue was with security. Several weeks before someone from Zambia had come across the river during the night, entered a guest room, and stolen money and a camera (wife had gone to plunge pool at night and not locked door after her return). Because of that, we were advised to lock all doors and put valuables in the safe. Not being able to sleep with the windows open made it very confining and somewhat like a "safe room". We didn't like it but it was the price we paid for an otherwise excellent stay. We had no security problems while we were there.

George
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Dec 14th, 2006, 07:18 PM
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Sherry,

Sorry still jet lagged, meant to say wild dogs had a member limping and stayed near the lodge. Also forgot to mention that the warthogs had just had babies nad some passed by our room with tiny babies. Our friends in a near-by room were watching some trying to drink from their plunge pool when two of the babies fell in. Their mother, who was normally very protective tried to get them out and when she couldn't backed off and let our friend (assistant manager at Nxabega) pull them out. We saw photos, pretty amazing. mom kept them away from the lodge after that.

George
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Dec 14th, 2006, 08:15 PM
  #15  
santharamhari
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George,

How did you enjoy Sandibe and Nxabega? Any highlights that stand out?

Hari
 
Dec 15th, 2006, 10:57 AM
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George,
That's an incredible story about the babies falling in. Once you've caught up on sleep etc. I'd love to see those pictures. I appreciate your description of Matetsi.
I will have to request an experienced guide and cross my fingers.

Interesting about the theft. The only posted report that I've seen here also had their camera stolen - don't know the specifics. Glad to hear they have a safe.

If you don't mind a personal question, how was it that you were able to go to Africa for so long? Was it work related?
Many thanks;
Sherry
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Dec 23rd, 2006, 05:42 PM
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Hari,

Sorry to take so long to respond. Enjoyed both Nxabega and Sandibe. Game was not great at Nxabega but when we were at Sandibe guests arriving from Nxabega were raving about their sightings so I guess things are back to normal. Birds at Nxabega were very good. There were two pythons who are hunting in the small pools by the entrance. One is 1m long the other 2m. Pretty impressive to watch them from up close. Rumor has it they may have eaten the famous semi-tame squirrel "Pocket" that hung out at the lodge (and used me as a climbing post), hope it not true.

Sandibe had good animal sightings with birds not quite as good. High point was several nice views of serval and african wild cat.

George
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Dec 23rd, 2006, 05:50 PM
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Sherry,

Sorry to take so long to reply, been a little under the weather. Work is coming along on the photos slowly, hopefully we'll have something up soon.

As for how we were able to take the trip, it's an involved story that I'll explain when the photos are up.

George
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Dec 23rd, 2006, 07:37 PM
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Your trip sounds extraordinary. Look forward to hearing more about your many adventures. don't know what dates you were at Nxebega, but we were there at the end of November (11/29-12/1--and we saw the python--and Pocket, I believe. The game viewing wasn't great, but we did see two leopard year-old "cubs"--but not nearly the number nor variety of birds we had hoped to see.
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Dec 23rd, 2006, 09:00 PM
  #20  
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I got a message last week that said Pocket hadn't been seen for two weeks. She may have disappeared just after you left. Better check your luggage. When I get time I'll post about an encounter between her and a fat mouse that was interesting.
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