South Africa/Botswana Trip Report

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Jun 21st, 2005, 06:57 PM
  #1
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South Africa/Botswana Trip Report

We've just returned from a wonderful trip to South Africa and Botswana. It was our first safari and we were anticipating for so long, that it is hard to believe we are now back at home. Everything meant our expectations and more, and it was a fantastic experience.

We started with 3 nights in the Capetown area, actually staying at Stellenbosch, which was quite centrally located. We stayed at the Lanzerac on a winter rate, and were very pleased with the room, etc. We also had a good dinner there our first night.
(I had fillet of ostrich, which I thought was excellent). We started out with rainy weather, but went ahead with our plan to drive to Franschhoek visiting several wineries along the way, and shopping in Franschhoek. The weather finally started to clear so we drove up to La Couronne for a late lunch (just barely outside Franschhoek), what a wonderful view while enjoying lunch!

We saved our last full day for the drive around the cape. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the scenery was breathtaking all the way around. We then arrived at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where we had a very late lunch, (big plates of prawns at Willouwbys (spelling?) and explored the waterfront area.
We were getting tired by this time, and decided to leave just before dark to start back to Stellenbosch. I was now very excited to pack up and move on to the next portion of our trip, as our safari starts the next day.
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Jun 21st, 2005, 07:31 PM
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Continuing:
We flew early morning flight from Cape Town up to JNB, then flew Fed Air into Londolozi. We stayed at Londolozi Tree Camp for 3 nights, and I cannot say enough good things about Londolozi. On our very first game drive that afternoon/evening we saw the "big five" plus many other animals. We also had our first Boma dinner that evening, which is so special with the lanterns, etc. I would say that we saw the most variety and consistency of animal sightings at Londolozi than any of our next camps. The ranger and tracker system seems to work very well there. The service is great and it's just a very good experience. I may be biased, since this was our first camp and therefore probably the most exciting.
We had a very interesting and exciting sighting on our last night there. One male leopard in a tree snarling and growling at another leopard on the ground growling back, apparently a territorial dispute. Just later, while watching this, our tracker spotted another leaopard barely in the distance (a female watching the commotion). All the growling and snarling attracted a couple of hyenas, and amazingly, one hyena walked directly past the leopard on the ground (within about 10 feet). All of this happening when it was totally dark outside (spotters use a red light)with all those Southern hemisphere stars above. It was very hard to have to leave Londolozi the next morning.
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Jun 21st, 2005, 07:55 PM
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Hi brandywine, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask you about the South African wines and which you thought were best?
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Jun 22nd, 2005, 12:02 AM
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Brandywine, sounds like a greeeaaat trip - looking forward to hearing more. Any pics?
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Jun 22nd, 2005, 10:28 AM
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Disputes among the animals do provide some lucky viewing. Big 5 in one drive is pretty lucky too. Glad it was such a successful trip!
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Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:49 PM
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Before I continue, I would like to thank all those all on this board that helped out with suggestions and answered questions before we left, and for all your trip reports that are such a good source of information and inspiration.

Kavey, I don't usually like to carry a camera, but had a new digital for this trip (my husband always has his 35 mm), so I will try to get some pictures posted from my digital, but don't expect anything great!

We transferred from Londolozi back through JNB and into Madikwe in time for lunch and the afternoon game drive. We stayed at Madikwe Safari Lodge which is CCAfrica's new lodge there. The lodge and rooms are beautiful (although rooms not huge like 6 paw Wilderness camps) and the food is very good. Rooms are Air conditioned and heated, but there were no screens on the windows, so could not leave them open at night, which I thoulght was too bad. We were here for 3 nights, but I think that two nights would be enough. The reserve is quite large, but it is my understanding that off road driving is more limited here, under certain rules or constraints, so it does not seem as exciting as some other camps and locations, and I believe there is a large area where no roads are allowed. Also, the game drives were long, but longer periods of time between sightings. However, this is the only camp that we saw cheetah and wild dogs, so worthwhile in that regard. I really wanted to see the wild dogs, and was losing hope but they were finally located on our last morning there, so had a long viewing as they were resting. (this is a large pack of 20 dogs and they were not denning, so hard to keep up with them). We also saw lots of Rhino, giraffes, and the only place we saw jackals and the beautiful springboks. Our vehicles had only our guides/rangers here, no tracker or spotter (some of the camps at Madikwe do have trackers). I cannot quite explain this, but our time here was just not as exciting, although certainly nothing wrong. After all, sometimes it is just a matter of luck!

We then had a land transfer up to Gaborone, flight to Maun, and small plane up to our first camp in Botswana.
I'll have to get to wonderful Botswana tomorrow.
Also, for those trying to pack,please be aware that you are now allowed 20kg luggage weight for Wilderness camps in Botswana, so less worries about how much to pack. Our luggage was weighed in Maun since we were going on a small plane Cessna 206, whereas I don't think our luggage was ever weighed going to Sabi Sands or Madikwe.
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Jun 23rd, 2005, 12:21 AM
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BW, I just love being able to share more of peoples' trips via their photos. Don't care if they are masterpieces or memory snapshots - all good!
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Jun 23rd, 2005, 10:43 AM
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thanks for the report. my fiancee is currently living in Gaborone while we're awaiting fiancee visa and im thinking about a trip there. just need to find cheap air...
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Jul 5th, 2005, 08:32 PM
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Sorry I have not been able to finish my trip report, but I've been totally tied up with that pesky thing called WORK.

I've had a couple of questions about our time in Kings Pool which was our last camp, so I'm going to skip a little bit and get back to Little Vumbura later.

We flew into Kings Pool from the Okavango Delta, and the scenery is just not quite as beautiful as the Delta area. However, when we arrived at Kings Pool, the camp is really lovely set on the banks of the river with the hippos and elephants all there for easy viewing. We had missed our brunch at LV, so the manager at Kings Pool had a very nice lunch sent to our suite. The "tents" at Kings Pool (which is a 6 paw camp) are really beautiful, at least twice the size of the tents at 5 paw LV, with wonderful indoor and outdoor showers, private plunge pools, sala, and large deck from where you can just sit and observe the hipppos and elephants. The elephants basically come right through camp, and since our suite was the last one on that end, they come right around the end of our sala and deck, which is really fun. (I was not quite brave enough to stay laying on the bed in the sala with the elephant close enough to reach out and touch).

We did not see any of the big predators on our night game drives at Kings Pool but did see a few interesting animals after dark: African wild cat on both nights and honey badgers one night and a beautiful genet another night. Our best game drive was the morning that we followed the large lion for quite a while, wathching him mark territory, wander and roar searching for his brother (apparently they had been separated for a few days), and finally lay down to rest for awhile. It was so interesting to watch him, and hard to believe that this "king" would appear to be lonely separated from his brother.

For anyone visiting Kings Pool, make sure you go to the underground hide at least one afternoon (if not every afternoon, or maybe do a short bush walk one afternoon). It is really interesting and worthwhile to watch the animals coming down to the water hole, watch the elephants running off other animals, watching the giraffes trying to get their heads down to the water, seeing the silly warthogs, etc.

We did not see the wild dogs while at Kings Pool (we were there only two nights), but according to the latest Wilderness web site news from Kings Pool, the den has been located. So hopefully any of you going in July or maybe August will have a better chance of seeing the wild dogs.

One more thing, during the day I thought that I could stay a month at Kings Pool with the beautiful rooms and deck and view over the river. But the nights were another story, the hippos coming up directly under the deck and eating, stomping, grunting, bellowing or whatever, so lack of sleep could become a problem. All this noise did not necesarily disturb my husband the sleeper, so may not be an issue for everyone!
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Jul 6th, 2005, 04:25 AM
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Your KP experience sounds marvellous! I too am a light sleeper and the noises from animals under or next to our tent at many a camp have woken me up during the night... worth the lack of sleep though, I think!
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Jul 6th, 2005, 07:56 AM
  #11
 
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We had very similar experience with noise while on safari. Ear plugs work great!

Judy
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Jul 6th, 2005, 11:43 AM
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Brandywine

On behalf of my wife. How were temperatures at KP? How many layers did you need for the start of the game drive in the morning and how warm were the days?

Sounds like a great trip and we are amongst those hoping to see the Lycoan Pups.
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Jul 6th, 2005, 12:17 PM
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Napamatt,
The mornings at Kings Pool were chilly, (more chilly than at LV, but less cold than South Africa). I get cold rather easily so I wore lightwt long undershirt (Patagonia mock Tee with zipper), regular ltwt long sleeve safari type shirt, fleece jacket (200 weight) with good gortex shell over that to keep the wind out (because of moving vehicle). We were there the second week of June, I assume it will be colder there in July than June. They have heavy ponchos in the trucks (which are a little awkward) that I used to cover my legs. Also wore fleece headband or whatever it's called to cover ears and gloves. The late mornings and afternoons were great with temperatures I guess in the 70's, very comfortable, not too hot. (not really plunge pool weather, but I did stick my feet in, perfect weather for just sitting on deck). It was a little hot in the underground hide. Take warm clothes with you when you leave on afternoon game drive because it starts to get cold in the dark about the last hour of game drive.
Outdoor dinners were very nice, just needed a sweater at dinner at that time of year.
The mornings in the tents were just barely chilly while we were there, so not too bad, and I could actually take a quick short shower (plenty of hot water). It may be colder in the tents in the early morings in July.
Food is good at Kings Pool too.
Hope you have a great trip. Where else are you going?
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Jul 7th, 2005, 10:51 AM
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Thanks for the information.
Our itinerary is Mala Mala (4)
Kings Pool (2)
Mombo (2)
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Jul 7th, 2005, 04:19 PM
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Brandywine: Thanks for sharing your trip report...I very much enjoyed reading every detail! Especially enjoyed the Londolozi stories, as it has been one of my favorite camps. I loved my time spent at Tree Camp and the leopards were just amazing. I'm considering King's Pool for 2006, so your remarks were helpful. Thanks and welcome back!
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Jul 8th, 2005, 06:45 PM
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I never quite finished my trip report as I left out Little Vumbura. This was our first camp in Botswana, and we did not arrive until about 5:00pm but had a great first night. Getting picked up at the airport, we were on our way to camp, when the driver said that a leopard had been spotted, so what did we want to do? Join up with the other vehicle on the game drive of course! We met our guide (with 2 other couples already in vehicle) and set off immediately seeing two bat eared foxes which apparently are hard to spot so our guide thought we were meant to have good luck. Then went to see the large male leopard who was moving around, then came straight toward the vehicle, almost close enough to reach out and touch, then posing for pictures, etc. We then started back toward camp crossing thru almost a lake in the Landrover (the guide having to remove his shoes, everything has to come off the floor, and putting the snorkel to work), it just makes you laugh and feel like you are really on vacation. And of course sundowners in the Okavango Delta are really beautiful. the vehicles have to be parked and then you take a short boat ride on a channel in the dark to get to the island where the camp is located, so it really makes you feel like you are out in the bush.

The next day we took game drives moring and afternoon, good lion sightings, this was our first time to see a whole pride, and watch two brothers arguing over what was left of a small buffalo. Unfortunately, it looked like the lioness and cubs were not going to get anything to eat that morning, so they eventually wandered off on their own. We saw lots of birds, buffalo, red leche, zebra, wildebeast,etc. and a martial eagle with a kill. Our last morning, we went on the mekoro, which is very peaceful, then took a walk around a small island. I was happy to try this out, but enjoy the game drives more.

Little Vumbura (being the 5 paw camp)is much simpler in style than Kings Pool, and rooms probably half the size. We were in the honeymoon suite, which is very private (this is the tent with the outdoor tub). The generators were not working great, so needed a flash light in our tent a couple of times. The food here was almost as good as Kings Pool, so no complaints there. My husband really liked LV, probably his favorite camp, it does make one feel like you are on safari. I was happy that we tried a six paw camp and a five paw camp, they were very different, but both had advantages.
From previous reports, it seems like some people have not have good game viewing at Little Vumbura, but we really had some nice sightings. We were there the second week of June, and were told that the flood was late coming in, although they expected a lot of water, it was just a little late.

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Jul 8th, 2005, 07:13 PM
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Our trip was in June which we were very happy with. Cool mornings and warm days in Botswana, and a little colder early mornings and nights in South Africa, but still warm during the day (Madikwe being the coldest mornings). I can't imagine how hot it must be in the summertime, and would gladly try June again. I did not mind wearing a coat and gloves in the mornings, and you can always take off layers as the morning warms up.

Here is my list of bests or favorites (purely personal):

Best overall gameviewing: Londolozi (LV probably second)
Best rooms: Kings Pool
Best Food: Kings Pool & Madikwe Safari Lodge
Best Sala: Londolozi Tree Camp & Kings Pool
Best View from lodge and rooms: Kings Pool
Best service: Londolozi Tree Camp
Best intimate Safari feel: Little Vumbura (Londolozi Tree Camp second)
Best Leopard Sightings: Londolozi (LV second)
Best Lion Sightings: Little Vumbura and Kings Pool (but saw lions at all camps)
Best & Only Cheetah and Wild dog sightings: Madikwe Safari Lodge

So it was a wonderful and amazing trip, now just have to try to get back!
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Jul 8th, 2005, 08:12 PM
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Did you use a tour company or plan all of this yourself?
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Jul 10th, 2005, 02:03 AM
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Wow, GREAT LV sightings!
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Jul 10th, 2005, 04:54 AM
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Philbill,

We planned the trip ourselves, used Fish Eagle Safaris to book CCAfrica and Wilderness camps.
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