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Trip Report: July 2007 - Cape Town/Kruger/Victoria Falls/Okavango

Trip Report: July 2007 - Cape Town/Kruger/Victoria Falls/Okavango

Jun 13th, 2008, 07:57 PM
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Trip Report: July 2007 - Cape Town/Kruger/Victoria Falls/Okavango

This report is way overdue, but better late than never right?

I already have a travel addiction, anytime someone says “let’s go to (fill in the blank)“ they know I’m up for it…. My Africa addiction all began with a friend saying, “I know some people going on safari….“ I’d never been before, but how could I pass that up?!? There would be 7 of us (2 male, 5 female 20-somethings) on this whirlwind trip; I had nothing to do with the planning since I was worming my way in on their trip - the itinerary:

July 1-2 fly to South Africa, meet up with the group in Cape Town
July 3 Park Inn Hotel - Cape Town, South Africa
July 4 - 6 Honeyguide Mantobeni - Kruger Area, South Africa
July 7 Johannesburg
July 8-9 Zambezi Sun - Livingstone, Zambia
July 10-12 Kanana Camp - Okavango Delta, Botswana

Cape Town -
We took a taxi to the hotel and checked in. The rooms were nothing special, but they seemed clean and the beds were comfortable. Our rooms overlooked Greenmarket Square and provided an interesting vantage point for watching the market. We heard a lot of cautions about crime and atm fraud, and in fact one of the guys was approached by a kid that demanded money after claiming he had a knife, I don’t think he really did and he ran off when more people showed up but it just goes to show that you need to watch your surroundings when you are in a city. So after that the group went everywhere together, I’ve never traveled with a large group before but the amount of time spent waiting/getting ready is amazing! The market seemed to be rather touristy but it was fun to look around. We wandered around and bought a few things. Since this was the beginning of the trip we took our purchases to the post office to mail home (that 20lb luggage limit was still to come). That was quite the experience - we were told that we could purchase a box to mail things home if we waited in that line over there…so after waiting 40 minutes and finally getting to the counter we were told that the person that sells boxes was at lunch so no boxes, maybe if we wait in that line over on the other side they will give us an old box…. So we finally got our hands on a box, cajoled a roll of tape out of the clerk and mailed our package - for an exorbitant price considering it was small and didn’t weigh that much. The other girls on the trip bought things at one of the shops near the market and had the stuff mailed home, much easier and I don’t think it cost them all that much.

Half of the group had gone up Table Mountain on the first day, the rest of us got in too late and missed that excursion. They had clear weather, but it was pretty windy. The next day we negotiated a half-day trip with a taxi and took off for Boulders to see the penguins. There were a couple on the beach swimming with the kids, which was fun to watch and we spent a long time there with less than ten penguins… imagine our surprise when we walked doen the boardwalk and saw hundreds - LOL - they were everywhere!

Both nights we were in town we ate at the waterfront, One Waterfront & Balthazar - both had great food, at Balthazar we ate outside under heat lamps and it was a lot more casual. The mall seemed to have a little bit of everything - we stopped at a bookstore for wildlife guides and journals to keep notes in. Nearly everything seemed to be very cheap because of the exchange rate, but not books!

Honeyguide Mantobeni, Kruger Area
After a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Mpungalanga, and a 2.5 hour ground transfer we arrived just in time to go on the evening game drive - our first ever safari! We saw plenty of game during daylight/evening hours, but this would be the only night drive with anything really exciting. A young male lion posturing and roaring until a large male shows up and he immediately rolls over in a submissive posture. After listening to then lions for awhile we head to camp for the first time. This was a tented camp, but camping it certainly isn’t! The food was delicious - no one ever told me that a safari, like a cruise, is dangerous to you waistline! Each evening we were served a three course meal, with two choices of entrée. Breakfast was fruit, yogurt, cereal, and made to order hot items. The “tents” were clean and has canvas flaps, screen flaps, and mosquito netting around the bed. We left the canvas rolled up when we went to bed and it was freezing when we woke up!!!! But it was amazing to be able to look out and see Africa from our bed! Thank goodness for the hot water bottles, I will be so spoiled by the end of this trip that I had to hunt for a hot water bottle when I got home to keep my toes warm this winter.

More later...

more pictures than you want to see are on my website http://kdunley.shutterfly.com (the pictures are in reverse chronological order, just scroll down to find Africa)
Kate579 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2008, 10:52 AM
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Nice job of worming you did!

I like your description of the tents, being able to look out and see Africa.

Pic #18 made me want to hop in the screen and head down that path.

Cheetahs in 3s! Nice serval and drinking giraffe. Cute little frog in the delta.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 14th, 2008, 06:09 PM
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Lynn - I certainly thought so but I have a feeling its going to turn into a very expensive decision. I've now caught the Africa bug (think maybe it's malaria pill withdrawl???).

As soon as I got home I started planning a trip back and will be going for a whole month this Aug/Sept, just my dad & I and more rustic this time so that I can afford to stay longer....

There were actually 4 cheetahs! one was lagging behind trying to lick the impala bones clean so I don't think I got a shot of all of them together.

I can't believe the guide spotted that frog - he was tiny!!! In that picture he is maybe two inches away from the lens
Kate579 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2008, 06:10 PM
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Honeyguide Mantobeni, Kruger Area (cont.)
The beating of drums wakes us a dawn, just as hot tea is delivered to our tent. Brrr, after putting on every layer we brought with us we head out for our morning game drive…. or so we thought. As we walked around the bend in the path between our tent and the lodge and I am joking about running into an elephant we hear a loud rustle in front of us - Um, it that huge grey patch over there an elephant?!? We slowly backed away to our tent and our first large animal sighting in Africa is had before we even leave camp. On our first full day of safari we saw elephant, kudu, zebra, impala, wildebeast, baboon, marshall eagle, yellow billed hornbill, ostrich, tree squirel, and a rabbit. It was cold in the morning and evening, but pretty warm in the afternoon when we took a bush walk - our guide identified the trees and bushes and explained native uses for them. The marula tree being my favorite, especially when the end product is added to my hot chocolate. Due to unseasonable rains it wasn’t very dusty, but there were puddles in the road that made for interesting driving. They stayed on the roads here, no off-roading to go after the wildlife.

The second day we saw all sorts of interesting things…. In addition to the ever present impala, we came upon a cheetah and her three cubs. They had recently killed an impala and we were able to watch them through the trees finishing their meal before the walked out on the road and gave us a great view. We also saw our first and only rhino. This morning’s elephant encounter would be much more exciting since one of the young males decided that our presence on the road was unacceptable and mock charged us several times - in between charging he would go back to eating things of the side of the road, making sure to leave at least one toe in the road as he stretched to reach a tasty morsel - apparently to let us know that it was still his road and we were not to go by….

We would also get a brief glimpse of a serval during daylight - very rare according to our guide, a quick flash of hyena, and a two second view of a bush baby by floodlight. Somewhere in there we also saw wildebeast, zebra, dwarf antelope, giant eagle owl, tawny eagle, marshall eagle, yellow billed hornbill. and lilac breasted roller.

The third day was our last in camp so we only went on a morning drive but we still managed to see a lot of new animals - we went to the waterhole, where we saw a couple bumps that revealed themselves as hippos, crocodiles, and turtles when looking through binoculars - no large animals out getting a drink this morning though…. We also saw a waterbuck and had our first daytime lion sighting. Also a few more giraffe, marshall eagle, impala, wildebeast, and zebra.

There were also a lot of monkeys in camp and a waterhole that could be seen from the deck of the lodge, but we never did see anything -maybe because their were puddles everywhere from the recent rain?

This afternoon we transferred back to Johannesburg through Mpungalanga for an overnight before flying on to Livingstone and Victoria Falls. We stayed at the Airport Grand Hotel, a short shuttle ride from the airport - it seemed clean and the food at the buffet was pretty good. Our laundry has gotten misplaced at the camp although luckily it was located before we left, but a few pieces were still damp. Even though it was late when we arrived the hotel agreed to dry it for us and we had it back within a hour or so! Very helpful when you only have a few changes in your 20 pound bag!!!

Victoria Falls
We were met at Livingstone airport by a driver expecting two groups - but we were the only ones still there… after he made several phone calls and talked with the other driver several times we overheard enough to figure out that the missing group was us! The friend who had made the reservations had gotten married and changed her name between the time we first started planning and the beginning of this trip. This wasn’t the first or last time the name change would cause chaos - do not under any cicrumstances change your last name after starting the booking process! We were taken to the Zambezi Sun which was nice, but has the feel of being in a Disney resort version of Africa. There are zebras and giraffes loose on the grounds and monkeys that will open the patio doors if you leave them unlocked, the resort has a back gate that exits directly into Victoria Falls National Park and the falls are right there which was nice, but the food at the resort was expensive and not that spectacular. The town of Livingstone is fairly far away, but the hotel does have taxis available to take you to town. We went to a local touristy restaurant for dinner one night and ate crickets (they tasted like the crunchy part of popcorn) and some more conventional Zambia dishes. After viewing the falls up close on day we climbed down a path to the boiling pots and got a close up of the river raging past. The path is fairly well defined most of the way down (concrete stairs) but then suddenly disappears and we had to scramble over rocks and through small streams before getting out to the river.

Next Botswana…
Kate579 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 04:59 AM
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You had tremendous variety! How funny the missing group was you. So that should be cheetah by the 4s if there were 3 cubs. What a place to find yourselves.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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Really enjoyed your report! We will be staying at the Airport Grand upon arrival at JNB at the end of August. I'm a little worried about finding the shuttle to the hotel in our jet-lagged state - is it easy? Do you have to call them or does it come regularly?
bobbieharv is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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Thanks for sharing ,I am enjoying your report, it has inspired me to try and finish mine I thought I was too late but perhaps not
Loved the pics of the lion cubs, and the cheetahs..... my favourite cat.
Keep going I'm ready for Botswana.
keah05 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 03:55 AM
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bobbieharv - the airports are all a bit of a blur but I believe the driver was waiting for us in the terminal to walk us to the shuttle. I believe the travel agent had told them to expect us, so you might want to call ahead - but I believe it also ran on a schedule (since there were 7 of us we took up almost the entire shuttle)
Kate579 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:00 PM
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Kanana Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Today we were picked up by a driver and off to the border crossing into Botswana. Along the way the driver pulls over and shows us what remains of two elephants that crossed the road in front of a tractor-trailer, not much - just the skin seems to be left. Apparently the villagers had quite the feast! As we approach the border there is a huge lie of people, trucks, and cars it looks like crossing will take forever but our driver just passes everyone and pulls into a parking space in front of the customs building - good thing we weren’t on or own or we would have been there for days! After getting our passports stamped we are transferred to a small boat and quickly swept across the river into Botswana. On the other side we are helped through the customs office and then walked across some sort of chemicals and off we go again to Kasane airport. It’s tiny after “checking” our bags and a great deal of fuss about the painted Ostrich egg one of our party bought (apparently they thought it was a ‘real’ egg with ostrich still inside) we walk through to the other side and pick our bags up to walk to the plane. Since there are 7 of us and we are going in small planes we’ll have to split up. This was, unexpectedly, one of my favorite parts - our pilot went out of his way to point out the animals we could see below and it was fun to see whole herds - hippos splayed out in the grass by the river, elephants crossing, and giraffes gathered around an acaia….. Apparently the other pilot didn’t point these out so the other group didn’t see anything and were jealous when we met up back up at camp.

The next two nights we at Kanana Camp in the Okavango where each morning/evening we had a choice of motor boat, mokoro, or game drive. The first evening we took the motor boat - tons of birds and a few hippos followed by a beautiful sunset over the water. We saw the little bee eater, African fish eagle, green back heron, African darter, marabou stork, African pigeon, crimson boubou, and pied king fisher - the color & variety of birds is impressive. Running around through all the paparus looking down through crystal clear water is quite different from the previous camp.

The next day we had a repeat of our first morning on safari - a very load elephant tearing up trees between us and the main lodge. Eventually he wandered off and we made it to the lodge to begin our day. We all chose to do the game drives this morning and were rewarded almost immediately with a pride of lions. The tracker spotted prints on the road out of camp and pointed them out to us, as six of us lean over the side to look at the paw prints my friend suddenly start hitting me, “Ummm, Ummmm, Ummm…..“ There right in front of us as we came around the bend is cub in the road and to the side several females and a male chewing on what’s left of a zebra - apparently they had caught him just before dawn and we arrived in time to watch them struggle to move and breathe they had eaten so much. We watched them for a long time spotting 6 females, 1 male, and 4 cubs all female according to our guide. Eventually we moved on and got to witness our first kill - a hammerkop repeatedly stabbing and shaking a frog in the pond J We also saw implala, wildebeast, warthog, eles, zebra, yellow billed hornbill, plover & nest with eggs, tgessebe, lechwe, and grey lourie. There are hyenas in the area denning so we went looking, but didn’t see one….

Well, after that morning’s excitment we decided we had to go on another game drive this afternoon to see what the lions were up to, and hopefully get a peek at the hyena. The lions were still laying around, tummies huge from their meal, the cubs tumbling over their mothers was pretty cute. We didn’t see even a glimpse of hyena but there was plenty of other sightings - vultures , warthog, impala, African wanter monitor, lechwe, wildebeast, zebra, hippo, pel fising owl, pearl spotted owl, and genet.

The next morning was our last before heading home and the group split up, half taking another game drive while the rest of us went out on the mokoro… after a motor boat ride out to a small island we transferred into the mokoro and our guides poled us out into the delta. Skimming along so close to the water, quiet - only the sounds of the birds calling and the mokoro brushing the reeds was so peaceful. We spotted several birds and a tiny reed frog before eventually nearing another island. There was a giraffe near the shoreline and as we got closer we saw several more - our guides pulled around to the side of the island and we got out and walked to high ground where we could watch them grazing….rather like the scene in Jurassic park when they come upon the brontosaurus…..

And then back to reality… and planning for the next trip!
Kate579 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:33 PM
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Great Kanana Camp experience. That was nice of the pilot to give you an aerial safari.

Thanks for report on a diverse itinerary.

You mentioned you are planning another safari. What's next?
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 04:27 AM
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Aug/Sept will be Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe. After spending some time in Namibia (Etosha, Sousslvlei) we're taking a Wild Dog Safaris camping trip from Windhoek to Victoria Falls. A few nights in Victoria Falls followed by a Lower Zambezi canoeing safari with Natureways and then Matusadona NP at Rhino Camp.

Originally I was looking at East Africa, but the violence broke out the same week I was booking and since I'm using FF miles I couldn't wait and see.... ironic that the problems have now moved to Zim
Kate579 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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Kate579,

do you remember the name of the restaurant you went to in Livingstone? would you recommend it vs dining at the hotel?

I'm going to be staying at the Royal Livingstone and was thinking of walking to the Zim side one day to see the falls from there. Did you do that or have any idea how long it takes to walk there?

thanks
torrem is offline  

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