Trip Report: Amazing Botswana

Reply

Jun 4th, 2004, 04:45 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
Trip Report: Amazing Botswana

It's hard to believe I'm sitting her writing my trip report...how did such a long-awaited adventure to so quickly!? If you have visited Botswana, you will understand how easy it is to fall in love with this beautiful country and it's warm-hearted people. If you haven't visited, you should consider it. I won't begin with the SAA plane flight, because that might discourage anyone from actually travelling to Southern Africa. I believe the new Airbus has been discussed on a previous post by several people...and it wasn't pretty. Fortunately, the Air Botswana and charter flights were fine (except for the last charter flight which can best be described as, "fifteen minutes of sheer terror"...more on that later!) We flew JFK to Jo'burg and stayed at the lovely Grace Rosebank Hotel. It is always a pleasure to spend time at the Grace...just a beautiful place with impeccable service. The first stop in Botswana was Macatoo Camp, home to African Horseback Safari. It is a tented camp, with a lovely bathroom ensuite. The record flood waters created an enchanting setting...water everywhere. We spent most of the rides in the water; sometimes up to the horses chests. Galloping through the Okavango Delta on horseback is thrilling. Fortunately, we did not encounter any predators while on horseback and were able to ride along side elephant, giraffe, zebra and various antelopes (red lechwe, impala, kudu, duiker, reed buck, tsessebe and steenbok). If you like to ride, then this might just be the ultimate equestrian experience (outside of urging Smarty Jones down the stretch at Churchill Downs, I imagine). Several of the horses bore the scars of lion encounters and two of the guides had been attacked, but unscathed. It was a bit sobering listening to the 20 minute instructions on protocol for lion attacks during the ride, but we only saw lion tracks, not the real thing. Perhaps our best sighting was Prince Harry at the airstrip. He was coming to spend a week at Macatoo and we were leaving the day he arrived. We spent a few minutes talking with him and he was a very nice young man. He wanted a fast horse and I heard later that her took quite a fall on one of the gallops! We then went from horseback to mokoro at the water camp, Little Vumbura. Once again, the high waters made the setting remarkable. The six luxury tents are on a small island. We had several huge bull elephants pass through camp at various times, along with noisy hippo! I sometimes think the bull elephants are lonely and seem to seek out human companionship. Several times during past visits to South Africa, camps without elephant fencing end up with resident bulls who visit on regular schedules. Who really knows why? I know I'm guilty of anthropomorphism, but the camp elephants are always gentlemen and have allowed us to get very close to them. Whatever the reason for their visits, it certainly provides for entertainment in the bush! The game viewing at Little Vumbura was average. I think the prevalent waters allowed for widely dispersed game. The best we could manage was one very lethargic lion. Perhaps the highlights were the beautiful sable antelope, bat eared fox, spotted hyaena, Pel's Fishing Owl and caracal with baby. The final camp with Chitabe, which is just a spectacular camp. The luxury tents are set high up on teak platforms with teak walkways between tents and the dining areas. The staff was first-rate and the game was plentiful. We followed three different prides each day and managed to come upon a Cape Buffalo kill just after the lions brought it down. Now I know why I am a vegetarian!! The entire feeding process is amazing. The actually remove the stomach and cover it completely with tall grass to hide it from hyaena. As the poor buffalo got smaller and smaller, the four lions got fatter and fatter. The following day the lions were in the shade recovering in "food coma" and the vultures took over. Some of the other sighting were cheetah, honey badger, ostrich (in the midst of a crazy mating dance...zig zags and whirling!), African Wild Cat, Black-backed jackal, and Wild Dog! It was thrilling to watch wild dog during a hunt...they are lightening fast. This brings me to fifteen minutes of terror! I realize know how important it is to comply with the luggage weight limits. Our last tiny charter plane barely made lift off, as it was fully loaded with six passengers and their luggage. Clearly, some of the bags were WAY OVER the 26 pound limit and the poor little plane made a heroic effort to get airborne. I made several promises to God during that short flight! I'm really not sure if I can keep them!!

Well, I hope in some small way this brief trip report conveys the splendor of Botswana. It is a large country with about less than two million people. The views from the airplanes are nothing less than spectacular. It is truly one of the most enchanting, magical places on earth. The wonder of the Okavango Delta is far greater than my words can convey. Go and experience it. You will come away with a renewed sense of what things are really important. As many of you have said, you leave a part of your heart in Africa and it then calls you to return again and again.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 4th, 2004, 05:51 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,657
What a great report. Chitaba is quite near Sandibe, and I suspect those buffalo were the same great herd we saw (the next day we came upon them again in a more open field and there were more than just a couple hundred!)
uhoh_busted is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2004, 06:27 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
Great report; we leave in three weeks and will be staying @ Chitabe Trails, so I particularly appreciated your bit about Chitabe, which I believe is just a short distance away.
eenusa is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2004, 12:57 PM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
eenusa: You will love the staff at Chitabe. They were my favorite staff from three visits to Africa. You may want to check www.weather.com for temperatures in Maun ahead of your visit. The nights may be quite chilly, although you do get a wonderful hot water bottle in your bed! You will no doubt have great lion sightings. Hopefully you will share your impressions when you return. Have a great trip!
girlpolo33 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2004, 01:22 PM
  #5
sandi
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Just loved the report. I think everyone should remember to refer to this report as regards the weight limits for those small planes. Welcome home!
 
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2004, 02:33 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
girlpolo33 - we're going well prepared for the cold nights ; I'll definitely post my impressions - especially since this will be our first visit to Africa.
eenusa is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2004, 03:57 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 346
girlpolo, thanks a lot for the report. i will definitely be visiting chitabe in the future. on a separate note,i'm curious what instructions you were given if lions attacked while you were riding? ride as fast as u can? i dont know. that seems insane to me. u said that teh horses had scars from previous attacks. i wonder how they survived. what an exilhirating experience though being able to see wlldlife on horseback. great post.
bigcountry is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2004, 09:25 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 596
Oh, girlpolo, I was so excited reading your report. Imagine riding with the water up the horses' chests! And seeing caracal! And Wild Dog! African Wild cat!
The princes must visit Africa often. William had been at one of our camps just a month before us. I am also eager to hear about the lion-avoidance instructions. Didn't read about the airbus so would like to hear what the problem is... Am so glad your trip was memorable.
Clematis is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 6th, 2004, 03:22 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 723
Girlpolo: Thank you, thank you. I am so glad that you had a great adventure. I was a bit worried for you following Liz's experience. I have often thought of a horseback safari, and I think you may have clinched the deal for me. One day I will do it. Ah, Africa ... is there anything better? Is there anyplace so magical? We leave for Kenya/Tanzania in four+ months, but who is counting??? Thank you again for your report. Happy returns!
SusanLynne is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 6th, 2004, 08:37 AM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
Thank you Sandi, Big Country, Clematis and SusanLynne! I was eager to share my experience with my 'Fodors Friends' and I'm happy you enjoyed reading the trip report. As for the 'lion avoidance' issue, there are actually specific protocol to follow when under attack by lion. You are instructed to follow the guide that is furthest from the attack. However, that being said, I would imagine the horses basically panic and take off. It most likely becomes a matter of hanging on for dear life, literally. If you fall off, you are instructed to roll under a bush. The horses that survived attacks ran into the Delta and stood in the high water with just their noses sticking out! Smart horses. I believe some Delta lion are competent swimmers, but this area floods only occasionally, so these lion must have been reluctant to swim in the deep waters. As for the Airbus issues, the aircraft is more fuel-efficient, quieter and faster than the 747, BUT it was designed for 'little people!' You can search on this site for the discussion, as knowledgable Fodorites were discussing technical terms like 'seat pitch', etc. If you are tall, it would be worth saving up for Business Class (I flew coach). SusanLynne, I am happy to hear you may consider Horseback Safari...it is just exhilarating and I hope to return next May for an even longer stay.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 6th, 2004, 09:04 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,922
girlpolo33
A little late from me but what an incredible experience you must have had riding alongside the wildlife of Africa.

As someone who grew up with a horse, I can only imagine how special it was to be on horseback on safari in Africa. I can honestly say, it probably doesn't get much better than that!

Thank you for a great report.

And too bad for Smarty Jones. I was hoping he'd grab the triple crown.
divewop is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 19th, 2005, 03:08 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 55
girlpolo33:

I head off the Macatoo Camp in exactly 359 days - but hey - who is counting? I can't imagine listening to those instructions about rolling under a bush and not having your heart rev up a few notches. The horses - were they in good shape? How did they assign a horse to you - did they consider skill and temperament?

Did you have a favorite guide? Did you do the overnight fly camp? Any recommendations for specific trails or concession viewing areas? How were the staff - were you pleased?

SAA - heard the same things - and I am tall too - I am hoping to get a BA WT+ or SAA Biz Class when the flight schedule becomes available.
Canechick is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 20th, 2005, 01:31 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
Canechick: Just noticed your post on last year's trip report. I'm so excited to hear you will be riding at Macatoo. You might find my 2005 Macatoo trip report of interest, as well. It's down at about #178 by now and the title of the post is: "Botswana Trip Report: Surviving Lions". Also, I will try to answer a few of your questions: The horses are superstars...amazingly fit, courageous and fun to ride! You will be sent a questionnaire to complete which will help the barn manager assign you a horse. If you are unhappy with your horse, be sure to request a switch! Our favorite guide is Corne' ...he was fantastic and also saved us from lion attack. Certainly, he gets high marks for that! The concession is HUGE, so they try to ride where there is lots of wild game, but no predators. The staff is superb...very professional. I have only compliments and absolutely no complaints. If you have any more questions, just let me know. We plan to return for our third horseback safari next May/June.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:06 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,153
I was SOOO sure I replied to this but my reply isn't here! Just to let you know, wasn't ignoring your report, found it wonderful reading and WELCOME BACK!

Where next?
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:23 PM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
Hi Kavey, thanks for the note! This may be confusing, because the trip report is from 2004 and must have come up on a search for "Horseback Safari" by Canechick (not sure who that is, really). Anyway, you were kind enough to post a message on my 2005 trip report that has moved down to #180 or so on the list. As for what's next...definitely Horseback Safari in May 2006 combined with two traditional safari camps. Seemed to be hooked on Botswana!
girlpolo33 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2005, 12:12 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,153
Ah, that would explain my confusion, DOH! And I was away for weeks in Africa when this one was originally posted...
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 23rd, 2005, 10:38 AM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2
My fiancee is in Botswana & Ive been thinking of traveling there to see her so it was interesting to read about the trips...now i just need to find cheap air
crow323 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 23rd, 2005, 08:43 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 814
Well, I'm glad this resurfaced, because I didn't see it the first time! Very nice report...and I must say your comment about Vum was a bit funny, because I know plenty of people who would be happy to exchange all those other big cat sightings for a caracal...let alone a caracal with cub! This may be the most elusive cat of all!

And your comments about Chitabe: wonderful to see! I have always thought this camp was an under-rated gem...and has some of the most diverse wildlife of any camp in Bots.

tashak is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 25th, 2005, 04:44 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
Tashak: Happy to hear you enjoyed the report...even though it was from 2004! Yes, the caracal/cub sighting was very, very special. I'm smiling now, because I remember watching the video we shot and hearing myself say, "oh my god, a caracal and baby." Actually, I think I said it five times : ) Yes, Chitabe is a wonderful concession.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:42 AM.