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Oct 2007 Bots Trip Report: Selinda/Seba/Kwando Lebala

Oct 2007 Bots Trip Report: Selinda/Seba/Kwando Lebala

Old Oct 19th, 2007, 06:48 AM
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Oct 2007 Bots Trip Report: Selinda/Seba/Kwando Lebala

Prologue…
Sept 1,2007 DH: Can you take off the first week of Oct? Why don’t we go on safari?
Me: As in, this year? Sure, I’ll book a trip to the moon while we are at it…are you nuts?
DH: Just see what you can do…
Well, about 15 emails later with an outstanding TA in Botswana (I had never used a TA for our safaris in the past) and we were booked!

Fast forward:
We left Sept 28, after sitting on the tarmac in Munich for an hour while SAA tried to figure out how to get water in their toilets. Which they never figured out…Off we went on our faily new plane for an uneventful flight. Neither of us ate or drank anything as we were so tired from working like loons, so I can’t comment on the food and beverage service. We landed in Jo’burg at 9:10 and apparently our brakes were “smoking”. The odd thing about this is they made the announcement and then asked the cabin crew to rearm the doors – why you would want to keep passengers on a plane that is smoking I have no idea. We finally got off and ran (I kid you not) for what seemed like a mile to the Botswana Air counter with 5 minutes to spare before our flight started boarding. They are just starting to use e-tickets, and were insisting that we had paper tickets (we did not) so I suggest that people bring their itineraries and reservation numbers with them.

They were very kind, the flight was on time and pleasant. I know many people on the board have a love;/hate relationship with them but we were very lucky. We landed in Maun and were met by our TA Karen (is this normal??) who had all of our documents for us and she was absolutely delightful. One of the things I started to notice is everyone in Bots introduces themselves personally, event the people at the Sefofane counter. You might think this is normal, but in Europe this never happens. It makes a memorable impression.

Jonathan was our pilot to Selinda in a tiny 6 seater Cessna. It seemed smaller inside than your standard SUV. I thought it was hysterical and loved it. We flew quite low towards the end of the trip which enabled us to see masses of eles and hippos in the water…it was the best greeting party ever.

Selinda camp: “Can anyone drive here?”
Mots our guide picked us up and off we went on the 45 minute drive to Selinda. A majestic looking Kudu and some curious giraffe greeted us as we drove. Selinda has a nice open boma and the tents are well spaced apart. Julia greeted us and we checked into tent number 9, which is the farthest from camp. I loved it because there is nothing on the left of the tent but a wide open plain which is great for game watching. Based on the number of ele droppings it is also a favorite grazing haunt for eles. The tents are elevated and beautiful with an open bath, mosquito nets, ceiling fans, comfortable beds and large front porches. The bathtubs are amazing. I studied the African Mammals book in the room and really got into the spoor section.

At 4 we headed to the boma for tea and met everyone else in camp. This was a bit of a shock for us as camp was full and we had never been in another camp with other people on all our previous safaris. (I always thought we were lucky in this aspect but after this trip I quite like having others in camp). We met some lovely people, but why is it that everyone always wants to know what you do for a living when they meet you? Jeeze, I went on vacation to get away from work, not talk about it! I thought about turning it into a silly activity that I would enjoy, telling people that I was a seasonal leaf raker, a porn star, or maybe that I was giving retirement a trial run… In the end I just volunteered my real job title and then quickly changed the subject “Wow, that is a very interesting camera lense you have there…”

Selinda has great vehicles, with individual chairs that are super comfortable. I like the fact that no one gets a middle seat. We headed out on our first drive and saw impala, red lechwe, a huge dazzle of zebra, eles, giraffe, baboons, and a honey badger (the latter being a first for me). Mots has a snorting contest with one of the zebra which was hysterical – it sounded like a donkey. I think Mots won the contest. Dinner was pleasant and accompanied by visits from a civet and an African wildcat.

Morning came and with it, a breeding herd of about 30 eles walking by our tent as I tied my boot laces. I would gladly get up at 5:30 everyday if I had that waiting for me…we headed out on an excellent walking safari led by Ishmael. About 30 minutes into the walk we encountered 2 breeding herds which required us to climb on a termite mound for safety. As we then moved on, we encountered 3 more herds and a few journeys of giraffe which were quite inquisitive. We passed warthogs, hippos, wildebeest and a black-backed jackal on our 3.5 hour trek. We were walking at a serious pace and covered about 12-15 kms. Ishmael is an excellent guide – he sees everything. We did what I called “CSI: The Bush” at one point - he found an impala jawbone and could tell it was a 3 month old female from the size and shape. And who says you never see game on walking safaris??

I spent the afternoon counting eles at the spillway (131), more book studying and waited for the evening drive. This was the first safari where I was interested in spoor because it is quite easy to see the tracks in the white thick sand. I am not a siesta person, so I did miss access to hides during the midday like you have at Kaingo. We met a great couple who arrived that afternoon that joined our vehicle and we took off with Mots for the border with Kwando in search of the 8 cubs that were seen on the game drives that morning. No luck, but we did see the usual suspects, including 2 owls. Mots was really doing his best but it was a pretty quiet drive (with the exception of the good conversation). We had a celebratory dinner for the Botswana Independence Day with dancing and singing staff and traditional food. It was the best meal at Selinda.

The next morning the eles had vanished but we caught several hippo out of the water, fish eagles, carmine bee-eaters, lilac breasted rollers, buffalo, black-backed jackals, giraffe, crocs, essentially the whole wild kingdom except cats… We spotted tracks and Mots asked everyone what they were and I chirped “Cheetah?”

About 1 ˝ hours into the drive Mots announces “Can anyone here drive?”

My husband eagerly volunteered to get behind the wheel and Mots grabbed a stick, and off he went over termite mounds, by palm groves and through the mopane as he tracked 2 cheetah brothers for over an hour. During this time we didn’t pass a single animal and I must admit I had the Talking Heads song “We’re on the road to nowhere” slowly on replay in my head. Mots came back to the car, grabbed his binoculars and all of a sudden a huge grin shot across his face as he pointed to a distant mound with a few lone palms…”There they are.”

He took the wheel like a Formula 1 driver and got very close to the two (very tired) cheetahs. We were so elated, as was Mots, who mentioned he could see by their tracks that they were getting tired. But he was determined they would get tired before he did. Now that is tracking!

On the way home we had a rare daylight spotting of an African wildcat that dove down an aardvark hole before we could get a picture.

Evening brought the return of the eles in a marsh behind the camp with lots of calves. A pod of hippos was honking loudly nearby and I was so happy I would have stayed there all night. Everyone else wanted to go see the cheetahs, so we drove past some lovely creatures and ended up spying the cheetahs, which had moved. Sundowners were taken next to a pod of hippos and on the way home we spotted steenbock, springhare, and a tiny, one month old hippo out for a stroll with its mother.

There were two women who had a private driver (who followed Mots all day) who got a flat tire on the way home that Mots fixed for him, as he has no spotlight. I am not sure how you do a night drive without a spotlight, and if I had paid for a private driver I would wonder why he was following the other cars all day long…we thought it was a bit comical but I am sure they did not.

About 10 minutes after getting into bed I heard a loud noise and saw flashlight beams so I jumped out of bed and onto the porch. There it was, a huge bull elephant having dinner at tent number 8. He slowly strolled to our tent and continued to feast while I sat in a ball on the porch in awe.

The next morning we had another good drive, this time accented by a dead hippo surrounded by crocs. He had been in a pretty bad fight judging by the marks on him. We went back to camp, hugged everyone and headed off on a packed plane with many stops – Mombo, Jao and then Abu for our short drive to the Seba camp…
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 09:16 AM
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For photos, peek here:

http://www2.snapfish.co.uk/share/p=6...=SYE/otsi=SALB

More of the trip report to come
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 09:47 AM
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I'm enjoying your report. We had Mots as our guide at Selinda in July. He found the cheetah brothers and the wild dogs in the same morning! Looking forward to reading about Seba. Was it too dry for mekoro rides? Was the food at Seba still wonderful?
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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Great trip report! I wish I was able to plan a trip on such short notice, but I am one of those people that has to plan well in advance.
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 09:53 AM
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Hi there,

Thanks for your post.

Yes the food at Seba was amazing. It was not to dry for mekoros but I was more interested in the eles than boats. I wish we had done one though - it is always a tough decision: walk or drive or boat!

Here is the Seba portion:

Seba camp – “Have you ever touched an elephant’s tongue?”

Seba is wonderful. It is a small camp with 5 tents on a shallow (at this time of year) lagoon. It was recommended by our TA since I adore eles, and there is not much on this board about it. So, I was a bit nervous about it. The tents are lovely, with big down blankets, mosquito nets, ceiling fans and raised porches so you can sit outside in the evening. We didn’t see a single bug in our room the entire time.

We had a warm welcome by the staff and I took to our guide Joseph immediately. Boyce, who freelanced at Kwando Lagoon (and who is related to Charles at Lebala) was the other guide – both are amazing and work together extremely well.

We headed off on our evening drive shortly after we arrived and within 15 minutes I spotted a leopard in a tree. It quickly jumped down and we spent awhile trying to find him again with no luck. We had a really fun couple in our vehicle whose last day at camp was the next day. Off we went and we saw a very old, lone matriarch ele who was without her herd. Joseph was fascinated and took lots of notes as he has been researching eles for the last 15 or so years. (Seba’s in house researcher was in the US while we were there, which was a bit disappointing, but not for long with Joseph by our side.) We then saw three male giraffe necking – it was really fascinating as I had never seen it before and it looks like it is in slow motion. We were taking bets on who would win but hey were quite lazy about it – they would fight, then eat, then flight a bit, then they got bored and all wandered off in the same direction.

Dinner was amazing – carrot orange soup, filet mignon with veggies and a fabulous chocolate mint tart. In fact, all the food at Seba is amazing, as are the hosts. We were trying to come up with the strangest name for a group of animals (dazzle of zebra, murder of crows, parliament of owls) and decided it was Boyce’s job to find us a parliament of owls while we were there since it was his contribution.

The next morning we got a lovely “good morning” from outside our tent at 5:30, and then the door opened! I sat up to see a lovely lady bearing a tray with coffee and biscuits. I rubbed my eyes to be sure I was not dreaming and was happy that I had a tee shirt on. Coffee in bed – how much does that rock? By that time my husband was making jokes that he was expecting me to be waving him goodbye from the ground when our flight was scheduled to leave!

They have a lovely breakfast at Seba and we all piled in the truck around 6:15, following the leopard tracks out of camp. We passed some tall grass and Joseph saw a faint flick of a tail in the distance, which turned out to be a pride of 10 lions settling into breakfast: a water buffalo kill which was very, very recent (like 20 minutes). We practically drove over the 2 females on the way to the kill as they were so well hidden in the tall grass. They were just opening the buffalo up in some shallow water when we reached them. There were 2 males, 4 females and 4 cubs about 3-4 months old. Joseph said he had seen them with a one month old cub as well, but it was probably hidden in the tall grass. It was amazing – one female had her whole head inside the belly and when she would pull it out the opening was so small that it would make this loud “pop” noise. Then one of the cubs decided it was tired of being in the water and so it climbed up on top of the buffalo instead.

We finally pulled ourselves away and Joseph saw some vultures circling, which we followed, and followed until we came across about 50 of them on the ground and on top of a young giraffe carcass. Most of it was gone, but upon closer inspection Joseph could see there were knife marks along the neck…it had been poached. Apparently they ride on horseback and kill the animals for meat. It was a rather sad way to end the drive, and Joseph planned to report it to the wildlife authorities.

I spent the afternoon in the “library” hoping to see something on the lagoon and became immersed in “Elephants for Africa” by the camp’s owner, Randall Moore. If you have been skeptical about EBS and how they return eles to the wild, then I highly suggest this book. What made it more interesting for me is I was meeting people and animals featured in the book while I was there. So, while I am reading I hear some noise in the trees and I grab my camera to take some pictures of the monkeys playing in the trees. While I am snapping away, I hear a loud crash of branches to the left and there is one of the released elephants, Mafunyane, who is easy to recognize by the big tear on his right ear. I stood still, not sure what else to do, as he walked around me to the lake while I took his picture. As he moved around the lake I walked onto the dock and got a few last snaps. I headed back to the library tent (now looking for references in the book for Mafunyane) and about 30 minutes later I hear another crash. Out on the balcony I look to the left to see a huge ele with its trunk extended towards a tall branch. I think he was as surprised by me as I was by him and he beat a hasty retreat towards the lagoon, which is when I noticed he had no tail.

His name, I was to find out, is Eeyore. He is a wild elephant that likes the camp. I watched as he and Mafunyane approached each other slowly from opposite sides of the lagoon, and I wasn’t sure if they were going to fight or play or whatever. Finally they were face to face and one of them emitted a low, guttural greeting which was so cool. Sean, who was managing the camp, and I talked on and off about them and the camp for a bit. It was the perfect day and it wasn’t even 4 pm!!

Well, it was going to get even better. We headed towards the lions, which had moved their kill to exactly the spot that Joseph had predicted that morning. There was a flock of large marabou storks in the water where the kill had been and the lions were now in a shady spot. Closer inspection yielded not just one but two small 1 month old cubs. Sadly, of the original 3, one seems to have died, but Joseph was quite happy to see 2 of them as only one had been seen in recent times. The tumbled around, took a lick here and there of the kill to fit in, and spent the rest of the time annoying their fat and happy parents.

The next morning we left on our drive and I had high hopes of spotting the small hippo and its mother whose tracks on the sandy road we followed out of the camp towards the water. The tracks were fascinating to watch – sometimes close together, sometimes further apart…
Joseph drove all over the place but it was one of those drives where it appears that all the game has gone on holiday with no forwarding address. We saw a herd of tssebe and a rare roan antelope and a few lone eles, but other than that it was quiet.

Joseph was getting used to me and my ele addiction so he rang his mahout buddies at Abu to see where they were letting the eles rest for the afternoon. Joseph was a mahout for years and years at Abu before coming to Seba. I was so excited I could barely stand it. We met two of the mahouts and they brought over Shirini and Little Abu to meet us. Shirini showed us all her tricks and it was amazing. I raided the cooler in our truck and fed her pears and oranges while Little Abu hopped around. Joseph took pictures of the thrilling 10 minutes and then asked us if we had ever touched an elephant’s tongue. I was speechless as I touched the big, pink, soft tongue and gave her a pat goodbye. It is very, very, rare that a Seba guest gets to meet the eles.

On the way back to camp I spied 3 eles and pointed them out to Joseph. He broke out in a huge smile and said “It’s Nandipa and her calf that she had after we released her back to the wild! We haven’t seen her in 6 weeks!” They were joined by a male ele who had an interesting floppy ear – one Joseph had never seen so we took lots of pictures.

I spent the afternoon in the library reading and watching for visitors, only to find out that Mafunyane was grazing at our tent. I got some great photos.

That evening Boyce found a leopard and then lost it and every time we left he would call about 5 minutes later to say he had found it again. There is a reason why they are called elusive! We saw a herd of kudu on our way to go check on the lions, who had moved to a bush nearby. The only thing left of the buffalo was the tail and the skull. The two males were gone and the small cubs were quite curious about our truck.

We had another awesome dinner accompanied by hippos and hyenas making plenty of noise. There was plenty of lightening but no rain.

Morning came and who should be at the lagoon in front of camp? Nandipa and her calf! They say eles have excellent memories and I am sure she must have remembered Joseph and decided it was time to visit the camp. The morning drive was short, but we caught up with the male lions and saw some beautiful bright green pigeons building a nest. It was an amazing experience at Seba, but we were really looking forward to Kwando as we had heard so many excellent things about it.
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 10:31 AM
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Melissa,

Will await your Lebala report. Sounds good so far.......
Cheers,
Hari
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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I didn't get why the guide kept asking people to drive. Now I understand, so he could track more effectively.

Outstanding sightings from lion cubs to honey badgers to roan. The elephant encounter is exceptional.

I was not able to see the photos without registering. Don't know if you can post photos with and without registration or if I just didn't navigate the site properly.
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 02:30 PM
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Melissa,

Your Selinda report brought back delightful memories! Mots is a real entertainer...and competent.

John
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 02:32 PM
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melissaom: great report so far, good for you to seize the opportunity on a quick decision! Brilliant tracking by Mots, working for a sighting is special and having it be the famous 'Boys' is a real reward.

Great pictures, clearly you were in elephant paradise -- perfect for your passion. The birds that you wanted identified look to be white-faced ducks and the magnificent ones that you forgot the names of are yellow-billed storks.
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 06:01 PM
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VERY nice report! Thanks! Sounds like a great time. Haven't looked at your pics yet, but will soon.
Thanks again!
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 06:24 PM
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Melissaom,
Thrilling report, esp. getting so close to the elephants, which I too am dazzled by.
What's EBS?
Is it mostly Americans who ask what you do for a living? I find most Europeans don't ask. We Americans tend to the categorize people by their professions, which is unfortunate.
FYI there's a book about about collective nounds called "An Exaltation of Larks" by James Lipton that you might be interested in. I love "a murder of crows."
Leslie
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 06:28 PM
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Melissa,

Just took a look at the pics. The unidentified bird(s) are Ejyptian goose.

Nice to see a pic of Motsamai in full form ..... He found us the Selinda pack just towards the end of our morning drive on one occassion.

Some of the pics towards the end of your gallery appear like they maybe from the Lebala area?

Cheers,
Hari

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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 06:16 AM
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Thanks everyone for your messages. Here are a few answers to your comments.

Lynn: Sorry for the confusion - I re-read my post and did not make it clear at all that Mots was indeed on foot while he was tracking the cheetahs. Also, I was not aware the snapfish requires people to register to view photos. Apologies.

John: I fully agree with you about Mots! He is a gem and his enthusiasm is wonderful.

PredatorBiologist and HariS: Thanks for the help on the bird names, I knew the board members could help me out on them! The flock of black birds all have a hole in their bill which also has to do with their name, which still escapes me!

LALeslie: EBS is short for elephant back safaris, something I have always had mixed opinions about. Having seen many of the elephants from Abu's that have successfully been returned to the wild (and are thriving with young) was very inspiring. And yes, it was always Americans who asked what we did for a living. We are in our early 30s and most everyone we encountered was in their late 50's- mid 60's, so that may have also made them wonder why we were there and what we do. Thanks for the book tip!

HariS: You know Lebala well! Yes, the ele pics at the end of the online album were taken on the way to the airstrip for our flight to Maun.

Ok, off to Kwando Lebala. This was hard to write as we did not seem to have the typical Kwando experience. I think honesty on the forum is what makes it so helpful though, and it is also what helps us plan better trips. Based on what I have read here over the years I am convinced that our guiding experience at Lebala is really an exception. For all of those planning a trip there, please keep that in mind.

Kwando Lebala –“16 eyes are better than 2”

We had a nice flight over the delta and were picked up in the brutal heat of the day for the 30 minute drive to Kwando Lebala. We were greeted by Bleu and Arwin and were told that our requested guides were not available – Charles was hired as a private guide and Spencer and Vundi were on leave. We were a bit disappointed as we had heard such great things about them, but figured our guide and tracker would be fine. We had read so much on this board about how great the Kwando properties were so we were really excited…

Unfortunately, we were a bit…disappointed (don’t judge yet, please read on). Our guide asked everyone in our car what they wanted to see (everyone said cats, I said the smallest ele you can find), if we had been on safari before (all said yes), we got our safety instructions and a short brief on “16 eyes are better than 2” (i.e. everyone needs to look for game) and we were off. For about 5 minutes. We then proceeded to hear a 15 minute dissertation while stopped in front of a few impala about the differences between the males and females, which was then followed by (this is not a joke) 2 meters of driving and then another 15 minutes stopping for him to explain the various virtues of wildebeest. I thought I was in a safari 101 course. I could understand if we had asked him to stop or had even asked a question, but no one had. I almost asked him if he could not drive and talk at the same time but did not want to appear rude as we had all just arrived and we would be spending a lot of time together. So I tried to look as bored as possible to give him a hint that we would like to move on by inspecting my backpack. 30 minutes into our drive, while the precious beautiful light is fading and we are finally off.

The situation soon got so pathetic it was funny. I have very good eyesight and when on safari I really like to spot game. Well, from my squashed middle seat in the front I was spotting everything significantly in advance of the tracker and our fearless guide. Apparently they didn’t hear me, ever, because they would then announce to everyone the same animal later. It was like being on safari with a very slow parrot. One couple actually asked me if they could tip me instead. We were all wondering if we had been told “16 eyes are better than 2” because our guide couldn’t see properly.

Things got even more theatrical when they pretended to “suddenly” spot the lions that we knew they had seen earlier that day.

During the sundowner I heard a really loud trumpet from a thicket and we saw a huge herd of eles nearby –now that was great. We were also charged by a hippo, which was quite exciting. Well, maybe not as exciting as the transmission overheating on the way back to the camp in the dark, but oh well.

Eles surrounded the dining area at dinner (which was an excellent meal) and a pod of hippos grazed off our balcony for about 45 minutes.

While the tents are more rustic than at the other two camps we stayed at, they have their own charm and they are quite large. They have nice tubs, an outdoorish shower, comfortable beds and nice toiletries. However, I thought it was strange that I had to sleep in a separate bed from my husband (we had two double beds). A ceiling fan would have helped a lot with the over 40C weather. I also missed having a mosquito net as they turn the lights on in your room while you are at dinner, which attracts a lot of bugs (I had a few tsetses on the wall behind my pillow – probably the only ones left in Botswana!). Seeing the amount of dirt you get on yourself on safari, I think fresh towels are appropriate. We never got any the 3 days/ 2 nights we were there, which is taking conservation efforts a bit far in my opinion. Just a few things that could be improved but overall we were pleased.

The next morning it was raining lightly, which was a nice relief from the hot weather. I also figured that since there would be no tracks to look for, our tracker would look for game… At one point I was sure that a camera crew was going to come out of the bush and say “Surprise! You are on candid camera!” All I could do was laugh and I kept thinking “Oh my God, people who love this place on the Fodor’s board are not going to believe me when I tell them about all this…” More lazy spotting after my own sightings and the group on the truck actually thought about commandeering it at the morning coffee break. We did see an interesting dead hippo with some crocs and a herd of buffalo in front of camp. A few giraffe and a carmine bee eater but that was it. We knew heard them get radioed about the lions and one lady asked three (yes, three, and they heard her) times when we were going to see them, but we didn’t. On our way in, there was a small herd of eles off to the left with a tiny baby I pointed out to our guide and he just kept going. I then said “Excuse me, you asked me what I wanted to see and there it is – why are you driving in the opposite direction?” By the time he turned around it was too late and they were in the marsh.

We got back to camp and I politely explained the situation to the manager, much to my embarrassment. I have never complained on a safari before, but in all my safaris I have never experienced such incompetence from a guide, nor one that flat out ignored guest requests with no explanation. I thought the first night might have just been an off night but after a second drive I would have preferred to do a self drive if I could have. The manager did not defend them (which I think speaks volumes) and agreed that it was unacceptable behavior from a camp with Kwando’s reputation for outstanding guides. He then checked out my story with the rest of the members of the vehicle, who concurred. You can imagine how happy the lady in our vehicle who wanted to see the cats was when at lunch the other guests announced they had watched them on their drive…needless to say the manager didn’t look too pleased either.

The problem was, the other 2 vehicles were booked out privately for photographers. So there were no other cars and no other guides. The manager would have ridden with us but our car was already packed with 8 people. He spoke with the guides, and I was pleased to see that Charles would be out for the next 2 drives so worst case scenario, they could just follow him around.

Happily, nature started to intervene to make things a bit easier on our guide and tracker. We headed out to where they knew the cats were and the three lionesses were hanging out on a termite mound watching a herd of wildebeest that could not see them. The wildebeest were heading away from them so after about an hour we headed off for a sundowner. 15 minutes later with champagne in hand, we got a call from Charles that they had just made a kill. We all piled in the car with full glasses of bubbly and off we went to the kill. Two mothers were just getting started on the carcass while the third went to go get the 8 cubs. All of a sudden we heard this light stampede of tiny, soft paws and then dust everywhere as the cubs appeared out of the dark and descended on the kill. I have to admit, drinking champagne and watching lion feast is quite a decadent combo. Back at camp we had an excellent lamb dinner and plenty of good conversation.

The next morning we packed up our things before we headed out. On the way to the lions I spotted something slinking far in the distance and it turned out to be a honey badger. We watched the lions on the move and then had two hours of absolute animal dead zone…nothing but a cool breeze. Then in the last 30 minutes we had herds of eles (with babies), giraffe, hyenas, warthogs, kudu all literally cross out paths (I think they were answering our guides prayers). It was great, like the animals were coming out to say goodbye.

We had a nice lunch and then it was off to the airstrip with the manager – a ride which yielded zebra, giraffe and a nice herd of eles hurrying for a mudbath, which is something we hadn’t seen yet. They were all running, trunks in the air. The manager drove around for a better angle and I was in heaven.

On the plane we found out we had to go Chobe before headed to Maun. Wow- eles under every tree I could see! I don’t know if I would like going to a place where you can’t go offroad, but I think it is worth doing more research on now that I have had a bird’s eye view.

Back in Maun our TA surprised us again at the gate for a quick debrief to be sure we were pleased. All in all, we were. It was a great trip with lovely people, fascinating game (no wild dogs, HariS!), wonderful lodging and some yummy food.

I think we were really lucky that our TA could pull the trip together, and I might consider using one from now on as it is so much easier. Thanks to everyone here on this board for your ongoing comments, which are a tremendous help for everyone who loves to travel to Africa.

Now, off to plan the 2008 trip! Yippie!!!
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 06:49 AM
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wild dogs? i guess you were only there two days!!! Hit or miss!!!
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 07:10 AM
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Sorry to hear you had a poor guide experience at Lebala, but it sounds like you did absolutely the right things and made the best of it. I didn't have nearly that type of experience, though my guide at Lebala did tend to provide academic dissertations on the anatomical and social habits of different creatures. In this case, the guide was a contract guide rather than a Kwando employee -- he was very knowledgeable, but his listening skills were perhaps a bit wanting.
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 07:12 AM
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Thanks for the excellent reporting, melissaom.

Sorry to hear you had a poor guide experience at Lebala, but it sounds like you did absolutely the right things and made the best of it. I didn't have nearly that type of experience, though my guide at Lebala did tend to provide academic dissertations on the anatomical and social habits of different creatures. In this case, the guide was a contract guide rather than a Kwando employee -- he was very knowledgeable, but his listening skills were perhaps a bit wanting.

That said, I absolutely loved Lebala in spite of the guiding issue and look forward to returning next year.
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 08:31 AM
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melissaom: thanks for the forthright conclusion to your trip report. Very sorry to hear of the terrible guiding at Lebala -- Kwando certainly has built its fame on their outstanding guiding as well as rich wildlife area. It concerns me that with a couple of the management principals departed that their former outstanding guide training program has waned. The old guides are the best around but they of course are often hired out on a private basis and it seems the next generation is not currently even close to being in their class. As Hari points out with 2 night stays wildlife quality is going to vary but it appears there was good quality around but without effective guiding it doesn't much matter.

I know the feeling of heartbreak when your hopes are up for a legendary experience like Lebala is famous for -- it happened to me at Mombo and it is tougher when high expectations are created by so many others wonderful experiences. I'm glad you spoke up and pointed out the problem, hopefully that contributes to Kwando addressing the issue and retaining their high quality product.
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 07:38 PM
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Not really true ..... there are some very good younger guides like Vundi, Ruster, KB etc etc., although they may not have the experiences of a Charles or Spencer (not too many guides in the planet can match them, they really do set the bar!)they really are more than adequate for anyone's safari.

Not to say that i disregard Melissa's experience ..... but, i guess it was just an off day for Lebala and their exceptionally high standards. As mentioned in other posts, other top camps do have their off-day too. It's good that her feelings were made known to Alwyn and the camp management and i'm sure they are on top of things ....

Personally, i love everything about the tents and atmosphere and there's nothing pretentious about anything there ....... a certain other camp from a neighboring camp has the big bath tub in a completely meshed shut bathroom, that is so completely whack!!!
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Old Oct 21st, 2007, 12:29 AM
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I am amazed that Lebala was a let down.
How many people were in camp?

What was your guides name?

The photographic group was probably Africa Geographic.
 
Old Oct 21st, 2007, 01:59 AM
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melissaom,

Great trip report.

Yes, Mots has enthusiasm to burn.

In 1998 he was the supply truck driver and due to his eyesight & enthusiasm I witnessed two kills in 10 minutes.

Sorry to hear about your Kwando guide experience. I had a pathetic gamedrive at lagoon camp. As we were about to leave camp for the afternoon drive a new guest arrived. He was offered afternoon tea and accepted.

We then set off at a snails pace for mile after mile. I was pissed off with this and requested we get a move on as we wanted to see the cheetah bros. We knew where they were and it was a long drive and available light would be at a premium.

My request was acknowledged for a little while but then we stopped for ages with only an ostrich in view. This really raised my ire and I gave the guide a blast.

The guide got on the radio and asked 'where the other vehicle was?' and told them to hurry as 'his head was being chewed off'.

When I asked 'what vehicle?' I was told the one bringing the new guest to our vehicle. I said 'what! he could have eaten as we drove along'

To cut a long story short we finally got to the Cheetah bros but had 10 minutes of OK light. We arrived barely minutes ahead of a vehicle from Lebala camp.

To this day I consider that drive the worst I have ever been on.

Geoff.
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