My Safari Trip Report

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Dec 8th, 2004, 06:57 PM
  #1
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My Safari Trip Report

I was really hoping to write up a detailed trip report/travelogue but I think I will be too busy for the next couple months. So instead, here goes...

My itinerary was as follows:
3 nights - Cape Town, Table Bay Hotel
3 nights - Duba Plains
2 nights - Jao
3 nights - Mombo
3 nights - Seychelles, Banyan Tree
4 nights - Seychelles, Lemuria Resort
1 night - Johanesburg, The Grace Hotel

Cape Town was perfect. Hotel was immaculate and provided absolutely perfect service throughout our stay. While there, we did a full day tour of the cape, stopping in all of the big name places: Kirstenbosch Gardens, Groot Constantia Estate, False Bay, Boulders Beach (penguins), Cape of Good Hope, Chapman's Peak Drive, and all of the beautiful beach towns on the western cape. Some of the highlights from that day were: spotting whales from the road, seeing ostrich and baboons, taking the fernicular at the Cape of Good Hope, the penguins (although too touristy), and of course the amazing scenery.

Next we headed off to Maun via a direct flight from Capetown. After being greeted by Wilderness Safaris in Maun, we boarded a 12 passenger plane for the 30ish minute flight to Duba Plains. The flight was pretty rocky- my wife did not enjoy- but seeing elephants, buffalo and even lions from the air was a great start to the best leg of our itinerary.

Duba Plains was a gret camp to start. Paul the manager was a super-hospitable host and the other guests were friendly as well. And our guide, Thompson was a lot of fun. But maybe my favorite part of Duba was the help, especially Oriah and Zacks (meal servers). They were adorable.

As for the game, we hit a jackpot at Duba; within 15 minutes we spotted the resident pride at Duba (the Pantry Pride and the Duba Boys). During our stay we witnessed the pride stalk and attempt to kill a buffalo (thrilling), physically throw out a mature male (riveting) and the arrival of 3 cheetahs to the area for the first time in a long time. Besides the cats, we also saw a ton of elephants, including some breeding herds, baboons all around our tent, hippos, vervet monkees, red lechwe, tsebbe, and tons of birds. I would highly recommend Duba to anyone, but be careful to go at the right time.

Then we headed off to Jao. While Jao did not provide a lot of game due to the heavy flood season (flood plains were not populated just yet), it was all made up by our guide Frank. This man single-handily was one of the highlights of my entire trip- only 2 days with Frank and still I was choked up when we left. He took us an amazing mokoro ride, boat trip and a few game drives. Bottom line, Jao was about learning as Frank was super informative. Can you tell I enjoyed Frank? At Jao, we were charged by an ornery elephant, watched a 27 member elephant herd around the camp all day, hippos, giraffes, zebra, baboons, and zillions of berds, including a Pels Fishing Owl (sp?).

Our last leg of the safari was to the apex of camps, Mombo. We were greeted at Mombo by an some baby ostriches near camp, an experienced staff, and hospitable managers (special nods to Brandon and Kiko). I wish I could say I spent that afternoon by siesta-ing, but I was too overwhelmed by the surroundings. In the plains in front of the camps there was a higher concentration than I had seen in the 2 camps before Mombo. And the vervet monkees, warthogs, and mongoose around our tent kept me occupied before it was time to roll on our first drive. Thompson was our guide at Mombo- highly recommend him as well- informative and fun. The first drive produced a ton of regular game, a hyena's den with super cute pups, another pregnant hyena, and more warthogs than you can ever imagine. The payoff came an hour or so in when I asked Thompson "what is that under that tree over there?" and his reply was "whoa- those are wild dogs!!" I was so psyched- I spotted wild dogs! I did not even expect to see wild dogs at Mombo as I had read they had moved to other areas. We observed their fascinating behavior for 30 minutes and "chased" them through the bush as they set off on an apparent hunt. Unfortunately, we lost them in the thick forest. In fact, Thompson shared that this was his first visual of dogs in 6 months. To top it off, we spotted 3 more later in the drive. But before we came in, a call came in over the radio that the super elusive male leopard was spotted near camp. We raced over (going well over the park speed limit) but to no avail- Thompson wanted to see him so bad (would have been only his 5th male leopard in Botswana).

The second day brought us a surprisingly sparse drive early on, which was just plain but odd, but nonetheless all the guides experienced a similar situation. Its almost like the animals were hiding. Near the end, however, it turned for the better as we spotted a leopard resting under a tree. She provided a good 20 minutes of viewing, which was super enjoyable for me as the leopard was the last animal on our "must-see" checklist. What a beautiful animal. Right afterwards, we saw a pack of jackal puppies and watched them put on a show of playfulness. The night drive gave us another leopard sighting and this one even put on a half-hearted hunt of a male red lechwe. No one thought she was really that interested- she looked more like she was playing chikcen with him. The coolest part was when she used the Land Rover as cover as she stalked the antelope- she crouched right underneath my seat. The night drive gave us mating lions, male kudus, 3 of the Whaler Pride male lions and a huge, protective elephant breeding herd with some newborns (one male charged us and the herd took off running when we circled them too much).

The next day brought us a much desired spotting of the Steroid Boys, Mombo's resident hunting brother cheetahs. When we drove up on them, they were stalking 2 tsebbes. Unfortunately again, the hunt was successful. However, we did follow them for a couple of miles as they roamed for dinner. On that day, we also were blessed with spotting of warthog piglets, another leopard (this one in a tree), baby giraffes, newborn impala babies, and baby vervet monkees on our sala. In retrospect, I guess day 2 was the day of babies.

Our last day at Mombo had one priority: spotting lion cubs. Another guide had seen lion cubs very far (10km+) from camp a few days before so our expectations were pretty low. A kilometer or so outside of camp we spotted a male lion sleeping on a mound. While observing him (the last Whaler), the other couple with us spotted a lioness 50 yards away resting in the shade. So Thompson headed closer to her only to find her joined by another lioness and...4 cubs (3-4 weeks old)!!! Just waht we ordered and 9 kilometers closer than we had ever dreamed. So of course we called the other guides and watched the curious pups for over an hour. As cute as these 4 were, we could also hear some newborns within the palm island- the guides figured the noises were coming from less than 1-week olds! After the cub show, my wife and I spend another few hours exploring an area far from camp (the other couple went back to camp with the other guide) as our flight was later that afternoon. During that time, we had lunch under a baobab tree, spotted Bob Marley himself (resident male lion) and a fresh wildebeest kill, two more lionesses, an impala carcass surrounded by vultures, large buffalo herd, zebras, hippos, crocs, and many many more hooved animals. So in summary....bottom line, Mombo ruled! I haven't even touched on the little things and the undenaible beauty of the Delta. And of course, Mombo holds a special place in our hearts.

Lastly, I should tell you that I am a pretty serious amatuer photographer and I took approximately 1500 pictures on our 3.5 week trip. I have taken about 65 or so of the initially apparent worthwhile shots and put them on Ofoto. I do this with some trepidation as I hate how my images are distorted and colors are mitigated on Ofoto. Nevertheless, I feel the urge to share with everyone, so here goes.

http://www.ofoto.com/BrowsePhotos.js...1&sort_order=0

Off to Seychelles in a future post...

Dennis
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Dec 8th, 2004, 10:44 PM
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Hoodwinkers,

Thank you for the AMAZING photo album!

There were so many great pictures...loved the double yawning hippo, the lion cubs, the lying lion yawn/roar, the leopards, the cheetahs, the baby elephant, etc.

Please tell me what kind of camera and lens you used. I will be spending 15 nights on safari in Zambia and the Sabi Sand next September and I am determined to get just the right camera for next time.

Did you qualify for any discounts by traveling to Botswana in November?

Lastly, if you could do it over, do you still prefer to do it in the order you did (Cape Town/Botswana/Seychelles), or what you do it in another order next time around?

Thanks for sharing.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 04:28 AM
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great pics hoodwinkers. i'll be at mombo in exactly one month. hopefully the dogs will still be around. did you get any pictures of them? also its amazing to see the golden brown of duba bc in jan its only green. the delta transformations are dramatic and obvioulsy very fast as well. thanks for sharig your great pics and i too m curious what camera/lens you used. some of the detail on your bird pics are terrific. i really like the pied kingfisher.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 05:19 AM
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Hoodwinkers,

You have captured some excellent photographs. It was a pleasure looking at them - well done.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 06:57 AM
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Great report and even better photos. Did you manage to get any good photos of the wild dogs?

Thanks for sharing,

Michael
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Dec 9th, 2004, 07:14 AM
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Amazing photos and story. Makes me miss Africa all over again
Posters here really know how to write and appreciate a good trip report!

I'm also curious about the size lens you used. Your bird photos are especially spectacular - birds are no easy task.

Heather
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Dec 9th, 2004, 08:02 AM
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I am also interested in what camera equipment you use. I generally use a Nikon F100 and for birds I have needed a 400mm lens (about the best I can use w/o a tripod). I'm looking to purchase a digital camera this holiday season, and am leaning towards Nikon D100, or maybe a Canon, so I'd be curious to learn if you used film or digital.

Thanks
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Dec 9th, 2004, 08:28 AM
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Great Report..Please more camera info!
Can't wait for our trip in May 2005, we'll be at Chiefs Camp so I am hoping to see some of the great wildlife you saw while at Mombo.
Happy Travels,
Brenda
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Dec 9th, 2004, 11:05 AM
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Outstanding photographs!!!! From the brilliant close up shot of the lilac breasted roller to the canines of big cats, you had me day dreaming of Africa all afternoon. Thanks
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Dec 9th, 2004, 01:19 PM
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Dennis:

Truly awesome pictures! Thanks so much for sharing them. If you load any more please be sure to let us know.

Jan
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Dec 9th, 2004, 02:05 PM
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Thank you everyone for your kind words. Where do I start?

Wild dogs - yes, I have many many pictures. What you see in that album was the first 65 or so pics I grabbed out of the 1500 or so I took. Unfortunately, I ran out of hard drive space and am awaiting my new laptop (next week hopefully). Once I get that and sit down for a week or so, I should have all the good pics processed. If you like dogs, you will like a few I took of them playing around and bonding.

Camera - I used a Canon 10D with a handful of lenses. Primarily, I had one body with a 100-400mm L Image Stabilizer and another body with a 400mm DO Image Stabilizer (sometimes with a 1.4x magnifier). By the way, if you factor the magnification you get from a digital SLR (1.6x), that lens combo really gave me 896mm.

I also had a 17-35 for landscapes and pics of the lodges. I have heard people say that a 400mm is enough for safari and have even heard some say 300 is enough. I highly disagree. There were times where I wish I had a 500mm (although that lens is too big), but overall I think a 400mm with a 1.4x is great.

Do it over? - I think the order was great. The first few days in Cape Town were perfect for getting in the groove and the beach was a good wind down after 8 hectic days in the bush. My only regret...not skipping the beach and staying on safari for 16 days! A beach is a beach...a safari is a once in a lifetime occasion (not for me!). I would save the beaches for Mexico, Hawaii and the Carib...spend us much time as possible in the Delta.

If I were going now, I would do:
3 nights - Cape Town (or not)
3 nights - Duba Plains
3 nights - Vumbra
3 nights - Kings Pool
4 nights - Mombo

This is mostly based upon feedback I heard from others with us. Singita also has great wildlife but is commercialized it seems.

Hopefully that helps answer your questions...I look forward to sharing more of my pics, but it is a big task ahead of me. Maybe once I get my new comp and I can post a few at a time.

Cheers





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Dec 9th, 2004, 02:13 PM
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While I am here, why don't I write a quick recap of the Seychelles?

We started our visit to Seychelles on Mahe at the Banyan Tree (BT). The BT is a truly luxurious property and is wonderfully maintained. While we wer there, the princess of Saudi Arabia was there and she had 128 pieces of luggage! Anyway, the BT has the best looking pool I have ever seen. And each villa has its own dipping pool, so i was torn. The beach is huge and gorgeous- I saw a turtle come up on shore and lay her eggs, so that was special. My only problem with BT is that there is no diving or snorkeling off their beach- you have to travel to other side of island.

Lemuria made up for that though with their own dive shop, which I took full advantage of. My first dive provided a black tip reef shark, a huge manta ray (which let me get very close), and a gigantic mooray eel. Needless to say, I was breathless on that dive. Subsequent dives and snorkelling trips off the private beach gave me many sightings of beautiful, very colorful fish. I actually have an underwater camera so I am anxiously awaiting those pictures as well. The Lemuria Resort is almost up to BT standards, but the rooms are a significant downgrade. There are some private villas like at BT, but most rooms are in traditional resort style. Food was good, but super pricey as Praslin is a Euro island.

We did one day trip to La Digue, a stunning beach island but does attract too many people. If you could combine La Digue's picturesque beaches, Lemuria's beach and water activities and Banyan Tree's villas...that would be the best resort in the world.

Thats it for now...like I said, I hope one day to have all 1500 or so pics up on Ofoto for everyone to peruse.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 04:05 PM
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Beautiful pictures, Hoodwinkers! I liked many of them but especially the kingfisher and what is the other bird with the blue ring around the eye?(picture 56) I also love the lion cubs and the cheetahs!

You might want to check out pbase.com for sharing your photos. You "put them on Ofoto. I do this with some trepidation as I hate how my images are distorted and colors are mitigated on Ofoto". You won't have any problems at pbase. Mine from this year are at http://www.pbase.com/cjw/south_africa_2004&page=all. (Mine were processed on a new laptop that hasn't been calibrated so they are a little dark. My harddrive at home is full!)
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Dec 9th, 2004, 04:42 PM
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That bird with the blue ring is a Paradise Flycatcher. We came upon him at Jao - our guide stopped on a small island during a boat trip. I spotted that bird, alternating with the mother, sitting on a nest presumably keeping some eggs warm. But the best guide in Africa, Frank, decided to CLIMB up the tree to take a look in the nest. Even better, he invited me up in the tree with him. Once up on a stable branch we see that in fact, there are no eggs...but some newborn flycatchers. It was quite a moment. Unfortuantely, the pics didnt come out too quick, but believe me when I say those chicks looked minutes old.

Thanks for the tip about Pbase...but I think they shrink your JPEGS down too.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 05:57 PM
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Wow, Hoodwinkers, your photos are something else! They're ALL great, but I'm especially partial to the lion cubs. Thank you for sharing.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 07:23 PM
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Thanks for sharing such fantastic pix. The lion cubs were stunning...you were so fortunate to spend time with such beautiful creatures. I've been captivated by Botswana (very different than a Singita experience) and will return in May.
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Dec 9th, 2004, 08:22 PM
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Wow Dennis -- exceptional photography. Thanks for sharing!
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Dec 10th, 2004, 03:50 AM
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"Frank, decided to CLIMB up the tree to take a look in the nest. Even better, he invited me up in the tree with him. Once up on a stable branch we see that in fact, there are no eggs...but some newborn flycatchers."

Unfortunately you and your guide did something unforgettable. Such action is not acceptable when it comes to wildlife. It should be reported to Jao authorities and maybe someone else.
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Dec 10th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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Pat,

The author of this thread, with his 8 night stay at Wilderness Safari camps, has contributed greatly to the welfare of animals in Botswana.

Perhaps you should not be so quick to judge the actions of others on this board and you should chill out before coming on here and threatening to report anybody to the authorities. We really do not need a "hall monitor" around here.
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Dec 10th, 2004, 10:06 AM
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Rocco, I know how much you contribute to this board but I do not recall you ever writting about disturbing wildlife on your many safaris. In order for you and many others to experience wildlife in Africa we all should respect what we have there right now. Climbing trees to take a little better pictures of birds is not the way to to behave.

And may I ask how the author of this thread contributed greatly to the welfare of animals in Botswana besides staying for a few nights in wilderness camps? Would you, Rocco, climb to lion's den just to see a tiny cute baby and take a picture of it? I bet you wouldn't. I am sorry if I came up too strong but I still think that the guide should be blame for such unproffesional conduct.
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