The Long Report: South Africa, Botswana and Namibia

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Nov 2nd, 2004, 12:06 PM
  #61
 
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Excellent read Kavey!!!

Love your "teasing" list of demanded wildlife!! I can hear it now, "Let's see can we possibly see quintuplet pangolin newborns between the age of of 3-4 days old and we also would appreciate if you could arrange a visit from some aadvark newlyweds!!"
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Nov 9th, 2004, 05:49 AM
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GD it was very funny yes... and James had also seen the (then) recent issue of Africa Geographic which featured a rare photograph of a pangolin mother with baby on it's back so he knew where I was coming from.

Oh and forgot to mention - the day when we had our ele encounter - Pete was wearing his Elephant Tshirt - a beautiful Tshirt in which the entire front is covered by a painting of a lone bull elephant! Fitting eh?
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Nov 15th, 2004, 02:47 PM
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1st June

We're woken before time again by that insistent Heuglin's robin as well as a grunting hippo so we're both awake when we hear the call at 6 am. We slurp a little caffeine and grab a banana and we're soon off towards the South side of the area where we encounter large numbers of kingfishers. We get amazing and close views of giant, pied and malachite kingfishers who are all enjoying the abundance of these waters.

We don't initially realise how lucky we are with some of our bird sightings. A colourful bird lands on a low branch just above us and I ask James what it is as we admire it's pretty plumage. He tells us it's a narina trogon and that the guests that left just before our arrival were desperately hoping to see one but were unlucky. Because we're not sufficiently serious birders to be searching for specific species we're always pleased rather than disappointed with whatever we're lucky enough to see. Only a few minutes later we see what James tells us a palmnut vulture, another bird that the recent guests unsuccessfully looked for.

Shortly afterwards we encounter a group of four young male giraffes. I laugh in surprise when I notice the excited state of one of the four and watch him chase one of the others around a tree.

At 9.45 we're back at camp for breakfast and I really enjoy a blue cheese omelette, a sausage and some rather scrumptious spare ribs, potato wedges with cheese and chicken drumsticks. I really don't know how one can build up such an appetite sitting pretty inside a landrover and doing nothing more active than looking at the sights all about.

After breakfast we pay our bill (unlike Botswana and Namibia WS camps, SA ones are not all inclusive and bar drinks/ sundowner drinks are extra). We say goodbye to Shannon who gives us a little paper bag for our road journey with flapjacks and chocolate inside. Andy and James drive us back to our car - James' leave starts at the same time as our departure and he's asked us to give him a lift as far as the main road.

Given that James' home is not that far out of our way we offer to take him all the way home rather than leave him on the roadside looking for another ride. On the way we pass cotton fields with white fluffy cotton ripe for harvesting as well kids selling sugar cane and making a rand or two from each stick.

James directs us to his village and the last bit is on sandy tracks past a number of neighbouring houses. When we reach his house he introduces us to his parents, wife and kids. His neice is there too as James supports not only his own family but his parents and siblings and their families too. I hold his big bouncing baby son for a few moments but this terrifies the baby's older brother who starts wailing. I take some photos of the family together before we say our goodbyes and Pete and I set off on our way.

We stop in Pongola for petrol and groceries before continuing to Ithala. This park is one of the most poorly sign-posted of those we visit and a good map is essential. The turn off the main road is not sign-posted so we make a successful guess based on where we think the turn off should be.

We arrive at Ithala gate at 3.30 pm and enter the park towards Ntshondwe. Within minutes an immense white rhino meanders out of the grass to our right and crosses the road only a few yards ahead of our car. This is our closest rhino sighting yet!

At Ntshondwe we get the keys and information for Thalu Bush Camp and pause to buy some beer in the curio shop before heading out just after 4pm. We look at the map and decide to take the 4x4 shortcut to Thalu rather than the longer regular route. It's a scary road with some very steep slopes but we make it to Thalu by 4.45.

I am very disappointed by Thalu. Whilst I was aware it would be a little rustic I had no idea that the bathroom and toilet would not be within the same building as the bedrooms, kitchen and lounge. Instead the bathroom is some distance away down a path and the toilet is further still. Thalu is not a fenced property and I know I won't be comfortable walking that far out from the main building in the middle of the night. As someone who always needs to use the facilities during the night this is a very big deal.

Deciding whether to stay or dash back to Ntshondwe is nerve racking because we have no idea whether there is actually any accommodation available there and if there is we might be charged for both. We are also aware that the Ntshondwe gates close at 5.30. Ontop of that is the disappointment that our chalet at Thalu comes with a private field ranger whereas Ntshondwe chalets do not.

We decide to leave. We have made the mistake of unpacking luggage from the car on arrival - we should first have checked out the property before bothering as we now have to load it all back into the car.

We try to stop via the field office near Thalu incase an officer there can phone ahead for us but we are unable to find anyone. Having wasted more time we leave the office at 5.10 and Pete drives back to Ntshondwe as fast as he can without driving dangerously. We arrive at 5.35 and the gates are still open. Furthermore the receptionist tells us that they have plenty of chalets free. I can see that she's clearly used to Thalu guests changing their mind and coming back to Ntshondwe and suggest that much of this could be avoided if the description of Thalu provided by KZN Wildlife mentioned that the bathroom and toilet facilities are in an outbuilding rather than attached to the main unit.

Because I made our booking more than 3 months in advance of our arrival we had to book a Ntshondwe chalet and put our names on a request list for Thalu as bookings are not processed more than 3 months in advance. This means have already paid the higher price of a Ntshondwe chalet (I was advised to use the credit of the difference on purchases in the camp shop or restaurant). The receptionist informs us that we will not be charged for both units and simply transfers the payment I've already made to the chalet she has just assigned to us.

Chalet 7 is a self-catering chalet for 2 and is absolutely gorgeous. It's very large with a beautiful open plan living area, a well-planned kitchen that is half open to the living area, a twin bedroom and a bathroom with shower over bath. The living room looks out onto a covered patio area with an outdoor braai provided. The layout of the chalets is very clever and maximises privacy between chalets. Ours is surrounded by large boulders and trees. Each chalet also has a parking space nearby. In and around all the chalets a large population of rock hyrax, also known as dassies, race along branches and pause on the rocks.

The relief is just palpable and we're both in absolutely fantastic mood. Rustic is one thing but being too terrified to go to the toilet in the night is quite another! To celebrate we decide to have our evening meal in the camp restaurant which is just a few minutes away. The buffet is 90 Rand per person and offers a good choice, provided you eat meat. Whilst there are vegetarian options the choice is pretty limited and I know I'd feel churlish about paying 90 Rand if I were a veggie. Some of the dishes in the buffet are roast meats and attendant vegetables and gravies, spaghetti bolognaise, soup and a large range of salads, seafood starters and breads, desserts such as chocolate pudding, fruit crumble and ice cream. Quality not amazing but perfectly acceptable and a welcome alternative for those who don't fancy cooking.

The chalet is a little cool but there is a small electric heater that we leave on in the bedroom to warm it up a little and spare blankets are located in one of the wardrobes. Somewhat drained we sleep early and very well.
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Nov 15th, 2004, 02:47 PM
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2nd June

Ah the luxury of an easily accessible bathroom! After lovely hot shower/ bath and breakfast we set off at 9.30 to tour the park.

Within a few minutes (before reaching map point 6) we encounter a lone white rhino right by the road. It could be the same one that we saw yesterday or a different one, we're not really sure. Wonderful clear sighting and pretty darn close.

Over the next few hours we enjoy driving around the park. The scenery is just incredible. Sweeping vistas of hills and plains worn by centuries of weather with the backdrop of the huge cliff against which Ntshondwe is nestled. Covered with golden grasses beneath a beautiful blue sky it's an incredible sight. All the more so given that we're not encountering any other cars.

We come across wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, impalas, rocks that looked like rhinos (with spiney ridges and everything), birds of various species, baboons, nyala and some animals which we just couldn't work out between lesser kudu and mountain nyala).

At 12.30 we pause at the rather abandoned picnic site. We cross the suspension bridge - the small river is dry at this time of year - and have a little walk around the area and peer through the bushes at the Pongola river which is certainly not dry. Crossing back over we're pleased to find the toilets are not locked and are clearly still cleaned and stocked regularly even in this quiet season.

We continue on to a loop that strikes us as heading into a less visited part of the reserve (not that we've seen any other visitors at all so far). I'm keen to see black rhinos and, whilst we drive through the thick, bushy scrubland I believe they prefer, we pass a number of current rhino latrines along the road. But no rhinos. Instead I'm thrilled to spot and then identify by myself a pretty group of blue waxbills. I don't do so well working out what the bright yellow birds we see near them are but redeem myself by identifying which types of starlings are which.

We stop for lunch in the car at a beautiful viewpoint and enjoy the view. We feast on bread, salami, peanut butter, crisps and soft drinks. I'd definitely recommend packing lunches when self-driving the parks as it really lets you get further from camp and into some more remote areas of the parks.

Coming back towards the more central part of the park we spot a (white) rhino sleeping in the distant grasses. Around him are wildebeest, warthogs, impalas and zebras. Something we haven't seen for a while are tsessabes - one of the odder looking animals in Africa and we're excited to spot a large, lone eland within the loose grouping of other ungulates. Behind on the ridge of a hill a large flock of ostrich march determinedly towards an unknown goal.

On the way back to our chalet we pause in the shop for firewood and postcards. From the chalet we take a walk to the hide but unfortunately there is no water and absolutely nothing to see. Instead we decide to call it a day. I soak in a long, hot bath and Pete lights the fire in the living room. We cook an easy dinner of pasta and hot dogs and relax by reading infront of the fire before bed.


3rd June

We're up and out shortly after 9 am and today decide to take the Ngubhu Loop. Soon we come across vervet monkeys - adults seriously engaged in feeding or grooming, youngsters chasing each other up and down trees, in and out of bushes and occasionally receiving a reprimand from an adult they almost bowl over as they dash past. Also see a beautiful grey duiker, a pair of kudu (using our book we can easily confirm, because of the spinal crests on the females, that they are greater kudu as have been most we have seen so far on the trip), a large herd of impalas and more rhino latrines in the road.

After these animals we pass quite a long period without seeing any others but the views are so magnificient it really doesn't matter. We head downwards and cross the Ngubhu River and spot a giraffe to our right. Because he's down in the river bed itself he appears to be hiding from us as only his head is visible. The roads here are hilly with lots of steep and crumbly roads. As well as a number of fiscal shrikes and ostriches we spot more wildebeest, male impalas, tsessabe and warthog. We also pause at some abandoned stone rondavels. These were inhabited not so long ago by local people who were rehoused outside the reserve. I can't help but wonder how they feel being moved out of one of the most beautiful places on earth to be resettled in a boring village on it's outskirts but do appreciate the need to guard such a unique environment. From what I understand many now find employment within the reserve and in the businesses supplying it.

Today we return to camp for lunch after which we walk to the pool to check it out. It's a nicely created area and, if the weather were warmer, it would be a nice break to a few days of safari to spend an hour or two relaxing here. I read here for a short time whilst Pete follows a steep walking path up from the pool before we head for the chalet, grab the car and get back into the park.

Our first stop is to return to the main gate of the park for petrol. The gate guard (also the petrol attendant) happily points out a rhino off in the distance and after filling up we head in that direction to get a closer view. The rhino determinedly walks through the tall grass without approaching either our road or the one on the other side of the hill and after a while we continue around this loop.

After driving about the park a little more and just enjoying the scenery, animals and emptiness we head back to camp once more. Before dinner we pause at the reception to pay outstanding debts, including dinner for this evening, and then head into the restaurant. Spotting the German couple whose company we enjoyed over drinks in the St Lucia guest house, we invite them to join us at our table for dinner. They too think the park is beautiful and the accommodation wonderful.

Another night enjoying the open fire in the living room and a few drinks as we relax before bed.

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Nov 15th, 2004, 03:51 PM
  #65
 
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Kavey:

Marvelous!! Feels like we were there with you every step of the way.

Thank you. Can't wait for more.

Jan
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Nov 16th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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Great trip report -- I really am looking forward to the rest.
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Nov 16th, 2004, 03:05 PM
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Ditto Kavey,
The more you write, the more we'll enjoy reading. But I don't know if you'll get around to posting too much more before you leave for your trip to the Antarctic. I'm jealous
Have a blast.
Take some good pics for us too, while we still await your current lot of Africa photos. Don't get too far behind. ;-)
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Nov 17th, 2004, 01:29 PM
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4th June
This morning we're up, showered, breakfasted, packed and out by 8.30 am as we have a long drive ahead of us to Berg-en-Dal in Kruger. I feel a little sad leaving Ithala because it really is such a beautiful park but I'm looking forward to the next destination too.

We pass some interesting sights, some funny, some sad; in a field to the side of the road are two cows side by side both pushing head first into the side of a cow infront of them; on a quiet stretch of road a forlorn dog runs to and from a dead puppy in the road, sniffing and mourning and willing it back to life.

At some point on the journey we pass signs for Inkomazi dairy products. The slogan "Inkomazi - Rich and Creamy - We give you more" somehow makes us laugh and I sing it in a lilting melody every now and then along the trip.

By 10.45 we've reached as far as Piet Retief where we take on more petrol. From this point onwards we're following a small pick up truck with a huge fridge standing upright in the back, tied down by what we hope are good, strong ropes.

At Amsterdam we take a right and continue (following the fridge) through a pretty area where the land has been worn by eons into bosomous mounds. We spot a troop of vervets crossing the road; they seem to have got road safety mastered pretty well.

Shortly we arrive at Nerston (Sandlane) where we begin immigration procedures to enter Swaziland. First we need to go through the exit stuff for South Africa. We complete documents and are also advised to register the camera to ensure no problems arise when we re-enter South Africa. There is a huge problem with illegal goods being brought in from Mozambique via Swaziland. Once we've gone through passport control we are also stopped for a car check and one of the policemen opens the bonnet, checks the registration number and calls a central department in South Africa to check where and to whom the car is registered. Then we pass on through Swaziland immigration which takes only a few minutes, including the payment of a small road tax. Overall the process takes us about half an hour.

The roads in Swaziland are in much worse condition than those in South Africa and most are too narrow to allow passing all of which leads to some slow progress, especially when we're held up by large lorries carrying very heavy loads up the very steep hills. Of course, the fridge, in front of us, is held up just as much.

Mbabane proves to be a problem. A left turn we need to take is not signed (at all, not by road name, direction or by destination). We end up looping through the town, by the central bus station and deciding on the turn by sheer guess work.

I have read about the excellent craft centres on our route and we stop at one called Peak Craft Centre, near Pigg's Peak. There are a selection of small stores with some really lovely items and I choose 3 finely worked woven wire decorative bowls. We also stop for lunch at the Phumulani restaurant, on site. South African rand are accepted and we enjoy a ham and cheese toastie each whilst looking out over a beautiful landscape. Pete has a coffee, I really enjoy my "herbal tea with honey" which is an infusion of lemongrass served with a pot of wonderfully unctuous honey. The site also has clean toilets for guest use.

We don't tarry too long and continue towards the Matsomo exit point which we reach at 3.45. This time it takes us only 10 minutes to exit Swaziland and re-enter South Africa though we're initially a little concerned by the extent of the queus in both the office and on the road. We're dealth with pretty quickly however and are soon back on our way.

We arrive at Malelane Gate at 4.30 and I'm keen to get on as I know that we're not permitted to be driving in the park beyond a certain time (which I'm not sure is 5.30 or 6.00 in this park) and it's still a distance to Berg-en-Dal camp. Unfortunately the reception at Malelane is absolutely chaotic. One man deals with a long, long queue of visitors with and without reservations, some also deciding to buy Wildcard membership and so on. Others busy themselves doing very little outside the reception building. It strikes me that it would be better to have one person dealing with existing reservations and another dealing with those who haven't made any yet. Even though there are only a handful of people infront of me (I arrive at just the right moment) it takes well over 15 minutes for me to reach the front of the queue, register and get my documents.

We drive to camp, feeling rather tired after a long day in the car, some of which has been a little fraught with worry over whether we will reach the park in time to be allowed in. We see some cars parked to one side, their passengers looking through binoculars at a distant tree. I peer at it without binoculars and believe the shape I can see in the branches is a leopard but a) it's a fair distance away and we've seen leopards at much closer quarters, b) there are too many cars clustered there already and c) we're exhausted and just want to get to camp. We find out the next day that it was indeed a leopard but neither of us regrets our decision to skip the sight.

Berg-en-Dal Camp is much bigger and better equipped than the KZN parks but also feels less intimate. It's like driving through a complete town. We stop at reception and are assigned to chalet 30. The accommodation is spacious though I don't personally like the design as much as other places we've stayed (such as Addo, Ntshondwe or Ubizane). The kitchen and bathroom are pretty small. The living area is quite large and there are three beds arranged around the wall. They are built in so we can't drag them closer together which is a shame as I sometimes sleep badly when I can't touch Pete for comfort when strange noises wake me during the night. There are two bedroom chalets available, I don't know what their layout would be like. The chalets have a nice patio area outside and the ubiquitous braai as well.

Because we're so tired we head straight to the camp restaurant for dinner at 6.00 pm when they open. The buffet is OK but nothing special, the quality isn't too good and the choice isn't that appealing either. Desserts are particularly disappointing. A la carte is not available. Still, we enjoy chatting to guests at a neighbouring table during the meal. We find out that they emigrated from the UK in 1974 and come to Kruger often.

After reading a while we have an early night. It's cold in the chalet though and it's just as well the third bed is made up because it means there are more spare blankets for us to share between our beds.
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Nov 17th, 2004, 01:30 PM
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I doubt I'll have time to finish it but I'll do my best to at least complete South Africa!
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Dec 22nd, 2004, 06:46 AM
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5th June

Bacon and eggs really are a wonderful start to a day! We're up and out by 8.30 though we pause to admire several scarlett-breasted sunbirds feeding on the orange flowers in the flowerbeds in the camp area.

Just outside we spot what we're sure is a racket-tailed roller on a telephone or electricity wire near the road. The bird has a russet-brown back, a slightly greeny head, dark eye strips, a long divided tail and a bright blue area underneath his body and wings.

We quickly realise that Kruger is excellent for birding as we watch two lilac-breasted rollers swoop briefly through the sky before perching and calling to each other loudly. We laugh about their quite raucous call and agree that it wouldn’t be fair to give them the good looks and a nice call. It would make the other birds much too jealous!

We enjoy sightings of grey lourie, cape turtle doves, yellow-billed horbills and a Natal francolin that races across the road. A terrapin sits sunning itself by the Matjulu River as we cross. A pair of laughing doves laugh loudly at each other. A bird of prey speeds out of view above us before we can identify it. Burchell's starlings perch on roadside bushes that they share with many more hornbills. It's wonderful.

The bird sightings are more prevalent than anything else but we do encounter several zebra, a few wildebeest and some buffalo. The buffalo are by the Mambane River and near the water we come across a number of water birds including plovers, which I really like.

After crossing the river we come across several long-tailed shrike (male and female) and red-billed hornbill sitting in the same low tree. Behind them are a number of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and impala. One of the giraffes is just a baby and we think the adult sitting nearby is it's mother. It's a wonderful scene and hard to tear ourselves away but we know we've a long drive still ahead of us.

One advantage of Kruger is that there are (very occasional) break sites with toilet facilities which is just as well as this park is much too biusy to find a quiet stretch of road and go behind a bush!

After the pause we continue to have good bird sightings coming across a striped kingfisher, several more lilac-breasted rollers and both yellow- and red-billed hornbills.

We reach Skukuza a little before midday and decide to stop there for lunch. We order in the cafeteria, pay and sit in the shaded patio area until our order is bought out to us. From here we can see out over the river to the old railway bridge from the railway line that used to come into the park.

After our toasties and milkshakes we pause in the large shop for some sweets and biltong. It's an absolutely huge camp and if Berg-en-Dal was a town it's a city. I'm glad we're not staying here as it's just not what I think of when I think of the remoteness of the safari experience.

As we leave the park I'm startled that we immediately recognise a fork-trailed drongo, a bird we saw a few of in Ndumo. I realise that actually we have come to know by heart a lot of the commoner bird species. Neither of us are into birding at home but really enjoy it so much in Africa. We both agree that we're going to get some UK birding books and plan some trips to see some of our more local species.

The bridge over the sand river is low and wide and a large baboon troop have set up camp for the day on and by it. We cross slowly, pausing to watch and take pictures as they drink water, play, groom and watch us. In the water are a handsome pair of reed cormorants. On the far bank are a herd of impala and after we've crossed we pause and watch as two of them fight, horns clashing.

A small mammal scurries across the road infront of us but he's hidden by the long grass before we can get a good look. We think he's a mongoose of some kind. Our next sightings are also animal rather than avian as we encounter more zebras, impalas and wildebeest.

We reach Mazittu (sp?) Pan/ Dam at around 2.00 pm and stop to watch grey herons wading, little grebes scooting across the water, glossy ibis, african spoonbills, blackwinged stilts and some unidentified geese. Quite a collection.

As we leave, spotting a large kudu female, I'm very excited to clearly see a grey hornbill fly slowly by. It flies parallel to us for a while before veering away. I have seen plenty of yellow-billed and some red-billed but never a grey before.

At the next water pan we watch a large family group of waterbuck, some of whom cross the water at a narrow point, suddenly starting and splashing the rest of the way. There are jacanas, a woolly necked stork, a noisy blacksmith plover and some baboons and impalas.

Continuing on our way we encounter surprising numbers of yellow-billed hornbills hopping about in the road, swooping low above it or perching in the low bushes to either side. One perched horbill was making short work of a tasty worm it had found. Almost as numerous as the hornbills were the lilac breasted rollers red-billed hornbills. We spotted a few more grey hornbills too. It seemed to me that they were waiting for something and soon enough we worked it out.

Suddenly our path was littered with slow-moving crickets. Their hard armour seemed do to little to protect them from the determined birds who were absolutely feasting on them. Even at our slow speed we nearly ran over a lilac-breasted roller who ignored our slow approach as it focused on one of the crickets. We slowed further and watched as it flew into a nearby branch. What was slightly surreal was the way in which all the crickets seemed to be crossing the road in one direction as though performing some mysterious mass migration.

The crickets were so numerous that we inevitably ran one over, despite Pete's delicate swerving ballet along the road, and felt as well as heard the sickening crunch as his shell broke beneath our weight and the birds rushed in to claim an easier prize. I was saddened that so many of our fellow visitors continued to drive at or above the maximum permitted speed thereby crushing large numbers of the crawling crickets.

Not wanting to miss out on the activity a red necked francolin mother trotted along the edge of the road followed obediently by her brood of babies before veering back into the tall grasses where we could no longer see her. Looking up above the grassline we saw giraffes feeding languorously on leafy bushes.

Crossing the Nwanetsi River we saw crocodiles and a crowned plover. On the other side of the river a starling and a yellow-billed hornbill flew parallel to us for a while, allowing us an unusual view of their bodies in flight before landing together, an unlikely pair, in a tall tree. Another tree nearer the road bore a flock of shrikes, probably contemplating the large millipede I spotted in the road nearby.

As well as birds we saw larger game too: kudus, zebra, giraffes, wildebeest and impala. These sightings were particularly frequent as we neared, crossed and passed the Olifants River - a stunning scene to introduce us to the Olifants area.

We arrived at Olifants Camp at 4.30 and checked in to chalet 8, one of the self-catering, river-view rondavels. The camp sits on a steep hill so the river is quite far below. We unpacked, enjoyed a drink on the verandah and read our books for a while whilst we absorbed the sounds of animals and birds around us.

At 6.00 pm we walked across to the restaurant and enjoyed an absolutely wonderful buffet dinner, certainly the best quality and choices of any of the government rest camp buffets we'd previously eaten in. Between us we enjoyed spinach soup, roast chicken, roast beef, kudu cottage pie, a good selection of vegetables and salads, a marvellous bread and butter pudding, custard, chocolate mousse, cheese cake, fruit and cheese. Pete had some fine South African wine and we also enjoyed chatting to the staff, manager and other guests. An hour and a half later we sauntered home for an early night.

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Dec 22nd, 2004, 08:51 AM
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Kavey,

Lovely, lovely .......... please keep going as I'm sure we're all happy to read as much as you have time to write.

Your comments on hornbills brought back memories of our trip to S Tanzania - they were lovingly know by our guide as "Chilli-peppers" and "Bananas" ....... I hope it's obvious why.
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Dec 22nd, 2004, 08:57 AM
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Cute! Will remember those nick names!

I would write more but my head's pounding so I think it's time to get off the computer for a while...
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Dec 22nd, 2004, 03:40 PM
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this is really great reading. i hope it remains on the board a good long time. great detail- don't quit now!
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Dec 22nd, 2004, 04:00 PM
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Thanks, although I really need to get my tenses in order again... sigh!
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Dec 24th, 2004, 07:13 AM
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Thank you Kavey. have just taken notes from your wonderful report...we leave soon!!!
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Jan 24th, 2005, 07:11 PM
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Topping for bxzhit.
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May 1st, 2005, 07:18 AM
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Kavey,

We're thinking of Namibia for the next trip & I've been as patient as I can but ............. please .............[-o<

even a much shortened version with highlights (I'm sure there weren't any lowlights) would be much appreciated.
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May 1st, 2005, 07:42 AM
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Blush, I kind of "forgot" about finishing this...

On this trip we didn't do much of a tour in Namibia - we had one night in Windhoek and 4 in Wolwedans Dune Lodge and that was it. I'll try and find some time to add the rest of the diary here ASAP but it won't be in next couple of weeks.

The itinerary is as follows:

06-May 6 nts Cape Town
We stayed in the Garden Suite at Jambo Guest House. We visited Robben Island, took the cable car up Table Mountain, explored the city centre, took a day drive to Cape Point (stopping to see the penguins at Boulders Beach), spent a day with tourguide and friend Selwyn (who showed us some of the winelands as well as a township called Kayamundi) and even found time for shopping.

12-May 3 nts Franschhoek, winelands
Our home for this part of the trip was Plumwood Inn. We stayed in their pretty Vineyard Room. During our time in the winelands we visited a number of local wine estates. took a day trip to Hermanus and enjoyed some of the great restaurants that the area is known for.

15-May 1 nt Swellendam
An overnight stop to break up the drive, with some sightseeing along the way. We stayed in the lovely Aan de Oever.

16-May 2 nt Oudtshoorn
We stayed in Thylitshia Villa which is a short distance outside of town. Main attractions for us were the Cango Caves and a local wildlife conservation centre. We were able to pet tame cheetahs and see many beautiful animals close up.

18-May 2 nts Knysna
Knysna was our base to explore this beautiful region of the Garden Route. We stayed in the Inyathi Guest Lodge which was right in the town centre. During our stay we explored the local region and took a boat out into the lagoon.

20-May 1 nt Storms River Village
Keen to enjoy the Tree Tops Canopy Tour we stayed one night at the Storms River Guest Lodge, a last minute booking. Despite my fear of heights the tree tops experience was amazing!

21-May 2 nts Addo
For our stay in Addo Elephant National Park I booked us an ensuite chalet with it's own kitchenette. This accommodation is part of the comfortable government run rest camp and allowed us to self-cater and stick to a low budget. We got a map of the park on arrival and drove ourselves around, for the most part, though we also booked an Eyethu hop-in guide, Headman, to guide us in the comfort of our own car for a few hours.

23-May Flight to Durban
23-May 1 nt Ballito
On arrival at Durban we collected our car and drove straight to Ballito where we met an internet friend, Kim. We had a lovely lunch in a local restaurant before a quick stop at Kim's new home. Building was almost complete though the interiors weren't quite finished. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at Kim's apartment. Very relaxing!

24-May 2 nts Umfolozi
After reading romantic reports about Mpila Camp safari tents (another government run rest camp) we decided to spend two nights in the famous Imfolozi Park during which time spotted lots of game. We also saw our very first rhino (a white one). The park was beautiful, visitors were scarce and we really liked our accommodation. The second day was spent in Hluhluwe Park. We saw a lot more rhino here and the scenery is even more stunning though we saw a better variety of game in next-door Imfolozi.

26-May 1 nt Hluhluwe
Our next night was spent in the Zululand Safari Lodge, located in Ubizane, a private reserve bordering Hluhluwe (pronounced "Shlooshlooweh"). The accommodation at Ubizane was absolutely wonderful and a real bargain compared with prices for the government rest camp at Hilltop. It was only a few minutes outside the park exit. The buffer dinner and breakfast were excellent too.

27-May 3 nts St Lucia
We stayed 3 nights in the Avalone Guest House. The location was good, our room was pretty and comfortable and the hostess, Monica was a darling. We were the only guests for the first two nights and really relaxed. On the last night I cooked an Indian meal and we had a little dinner party with a couple of Monica's friends. Whilst in the area we took a wonderful boat trip on the Estuary and also drove into the Cape Vidal park.

30-May 2 nts Ndumo
The Ndumo Game Reserve is just beautiful, though the drive there was a little rough and rocky. The water pans are surrounded by the yellow fever trees and sycamore figs. Birding is truly excellent and we also saw many other animals including lots of hippos, some huge crocs, 2 porcupines and a bushbaby. We splashed out and stayed in Wilderness Safaris' Ndumo Wilderness Camp. We were the only guests both nights and our hosts Andy and Shannon were very attentive. Our guide, James Tembe, was excellent.

01-Jun 3 nts Ithala
Ithala offered the most magnificent landscapes and was almost empty of other visitors. We were originally booked into Thalu Bush Camp but were not happy with the bathroom and toilet, both in separate buildings some distance from the main residential building (along paths open to all animals). We switched our booking to the main camp, Ntshondwe and loved our self-catering chalet - best design of all those we stayed in. We fell in love with the scenery and had some good animal sightings including some really close up encounters with white rhino.

04-Jun 1 nt Berg-en-Dal, Kruger
To break up the long drive between Ithala and Olifants (and to avoid the dangerous area around Hazyview) we opted to drive up through Swaziland and stop overnight Berg-en-Dal, located at the southernmost tip of Kruger National Park. It was a long drive but Swaziland is a beautiful country. Roads there are much worse than SA roads.

05-Jun 3 nts Olifants, Kruger
A popular camp within the vast Kruger National Park, the Olifants camp is situated on top of a hill towering several hundred feet over the river of the same name. We stayed in an ensuite riverview bungalow with it's own little kitchenette. We enjoyed our drives in Kruger, though it was certainly more crowded than other parks. We saw lots of elephants and birding was good. We took a disappointing organised night drive and a much more exciting river walk with the camp guides.

08-Jun 1 nt Jo'burg
After a very long drive we overnighted at an inexpensive chain hotel before our early morning flight to Maun, Botswana.

09-Jun 3 nts Savuti Camp
Another Wilderness Safaris camp, Savuti is situated in the Linyanti/ Savuti area that is well known for the high density of elephants. We were disappointed that they had demolished the bathtub that we had been promised but never mind. Excellent game viewing here - we particularly enjoyed the afternoon with the wild dogs and another drive with three cheetah brothers.

12-Jun 3 nts Jacana Camp
Jacana is also a Wilderness Safaris camp and is located within the waters of the Okavango Delta. We found it absolutely magical. We took mokoro trips and power boar trips and just soaked up the beautiful scenery. This camp really was one of the most romantic we visited.

15-Jun 2 nts Tubu Tree
Tubu Tree, another Wilderness Safaris camp, was a really good choice. The accommodation was wonderful and our guide, Grant, was absolutely excellent. We even saw leopards mating at this camp (right in camp itself, during dinner one evening!)

17-Jun 1 nt Gudigwa Camp
This Wilderness Safaris camp is a joint project between the tour operator and the local "Bukakhwe" (San Bushman) population. We spent an evening around the fire (after the bush men lit it using a traditional firestick) and enjoyed singing and dancing and traditional food. In the morning we enjoyed a walk with an elder man and woman who explained the uses of various plants and told us several stories. All of this was translated by a younger member of their peoples who acted as our guide.

18-Jun 4 nts Little Mombo
Having stayed at Little Mombo before we were pleased to enjoy the second experience as much as the first. The manageress, Elmari, is very sweet and thoughtful and our guide, Tsile, had a lot of experience in the area. We had some wonderful sightings including leopard, hyena, lion, cheetah etc. A new chef (since our last visit) meant that the food really was a step above.

22-Jun 4 nts Jacks Camp
Jack's Camp is situated in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans of the Kalahari Desert and is just charming. Our guide, Graham, was fantastic and I don't say that just because he's from North London. Only 22 and yet he was enthusiastic, thoughtful, knowledgable. We had some wonderful wildlife experiences - brown hyena, meerkats, flamingoes, zebras as well as lots of other fun activities. This camp really is a special place.

26-Jun 1 nt Hilltop House, Windhoek
After our stay at Jack's Camp we flew to Windhoek, via Maun, and overnighted at Hilltop House. They had strewn flowers on our bed in the outline of two hearts and were very welcoming. We also enjoyed a meal at Joe's Beerhouse.

27-Jun 4 nts Wolwedans Dunes Lodge
We finished our grand adventure at Wolwedans in the heart of the Namibrand Nature Reserve. Having lost our hearts to this enchanting place in 2001 we chose it to renew our wedding vows in it's beautiful embrace. We were upgraded from a Dune Lodge to the Mountain View Suite - just too wonderful for words. On our first night we enjoyed dinner with two guests from France. For the rest of the trip we were the only guests in the whole lodge. We had made friends on our last trip with Louise, an Englishwoman who has spent the last two decades in Africa, and she was kind enough to hold the ceremony for us. Our guide Pembi and operations manager Ralph (who we also met last time) did some readings for us. Julius, who worked in the Dune Lodge, took photos during the ceremony and also sang a special song for us on our last night. Other staff also attended and all of them really looked after us. The scenery is as beautiful as we remembered and the whole stay was just perfect.

01-Jul Flights home, arrive on 02-Jul

Kavey is offline  
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May 1st, 2005, 10:02 AM
  #79
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 250
Kavey,

Thank you so much - what a speedy response.

The animal viewing sounds amazing - cheetahs, dogs and to cap it all, leopards mating!!!

The ending to your trip sounds so beautiful and so moving - it definitely brought on goosebumps as I read it. Cogratulations again.
RuthieC is offline  
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May 1st, 2005, 02:54 PM
  #80
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
(I thought I had already posted this on 5/01 midday, but then I could not find it. If my post appears twice, my apologies.)

What a comprehensive guide! Your South African portion of the trip mentioned some interesting areas I have not seen much on the board. Great you saw porcupines!

Your Botswana travels read like the Wilderness catalog. You certainly sampled a wide array of their offerings.

I was sorry to learn that Gudigwa, where you stayed with the Bukakhwe tribe, will not be operating in 2006 (and may have closed already). I had been booked for Guidigwa in 2006.

Could you elaborate on the meerkat and brown hyena experience at Jack's? How long, time of day, what were the creatures doing? Thanks and thanks for the latest installment.

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