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Trip Report: Makololo Plains (Zimbabwe) and Mombo camp (Botswana) Part 2

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Jan 22nd, 2005, 12:16 PM
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Trip Report: Makololo Plains (Zimbabwe) and Mombo camp (Botswana) Part 2

After 3 days at Makololo we headed off to Mombo camp. upon arrival it took us some time to adjust to having other guests at the camp and especially to having other guests in teh vehicle with us. it really made us realize just how special our trip to makololo was. u become jaded having the entire camp to yourselves!! after the transition period though it turned out the people we shared the vehicle with were very nice and our guide tsile is a great friend. we had him the yr before and requested him again. he has such a good memory and could even recall sightings we had the yr before. amazing. anyway highlights from mombo included:

buffalo sleeping under the tent

spotting the female leopard that the jouberts are filming for their national geographic movie twice and being able to radio to them that we had found her. 1 of the 2 times we found her was from our tent. my wife and i were getting ready to head to afternoon tea when she said "whats that?" i saw out of the corner of my eye what i knew to be a leopard about 10yds from our tent and i hurried outside to take some pics. i actually startled the cat and she proceeded to head over under my father's tent. i tried frantically to call out his name but he was sound asleep. i slowly walked toward the common area of the camp and waved the staff over. shortly thereafter the jouberts were radioed in. then we follwed her by car on teh hunt for impala. pretty cool.

watching 3 of the 4 new dominate male lions in the Mombo area

saw 2 nomadic males eating buffalo, and a pride with cubs feeding on a zebra kill

saw a very large male leopard for a long time. he's the father of the before mentioned nat geographic female. and saw another more skittish male leopard that semi mock charged us and tehn scampered off into the brush.

had an elephant block in camp and block us being able to get to the game vehicles.

and best of all i want to describe the most eventful game drive i've ever had. it started off with tsile seeing a pack of 7 or so hyenas sitting in teh shade of a lareg bush. we wathched them for a while and 1 of them headed over to another nearby bush. we saw movement in the the bush and thought it was more hyenas taht we hadnt noticed but it turned out to be 2 wild dogs. i couldnt believe it. i thought the hyena would attack them but he just marked his territory on the bush and teh dogs stood up. apparently hyenas will only attack other predators if the have a kill, not just because like lions do. we drove over and watched the dogs for a couple minutes when suddenly we heard baboons giving off their distinct alarm barks. we left teh dogs/hyenas to check it out and sure enough we quickly came across a pride of lions tearing apart a newly killed baboon. pretty gross. we watched tehm for a while and radioed to another vehicle of our find. the lions finished off their treat and started moving in teh direction of a waterhole taht was just around the corner. the other vehicle was approaching teh water hole from the oppsoite dircetion when we were radioed by them saying taht 2 rhinos were drinking at the hole. we couldnt believe it. we pulled ahead of the lions and settle next to the waterhole to watch the 2 rhinos as the lions came strolling in. both species were weary o each other and the rhinos started to move away from the area. pretty amazing to see how they would react to lions. we sat at the waterhole watching teh lions drink and eventually settle into teh shade. we headed back to check on teh wilddogs and sure enough as it was nearing dusk they were up and beginning to hunt. we could see impala far off in teh distance and tsile did an amazing job keeping up with the dogs as they charged through the brush. we follwed those dogs for several kilometers until finally they exploded form a fast run to a sprint into teh thicket after teh impala and we couldnt follow bc it was too thick. teh chase was amazing. we never saw the final result but teh process was incredible none the less. so on 1 game drive we saw hyenas interact with wild dog, lions intearcting with baboon, lions with rhinos and wild dogs hunting impala. this is what makes Mombo so unique. The amazing interactions.

all in all, the 6 days on safari couldnt have been better and we left more than satisfied with our choice to visit tehse 2 wonderful places in january. the combination of the 2 was incredible.
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Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:44 AM
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Wow!!!
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Jan 23rd, 2005, 08:18 AM
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Incredible six days - doubt it could get much better than that. Thanks again for the trip report and pictures.
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Jan 23rd, 2005, 09:30 AM
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Very exciting..hope our game viewing at Chief's Camp in May is just as diverse.
What camera gear and lenses were you using?
Thanks for the great report.
Brenda
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Jan 23rd, 2005, 03:19 PM
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i have a olympus c-750 ultra zoom digital camera. i alos just purchased a 1.7x teleconverter which helped a bunch for the bird shots. i am a very amateur photographer so for me auto mode was on for most of teh trip. i rely on teh take 1100 shots and 200 have to turn out ok method of photography. luckily digital space is inexpensive. hehe
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Jan 24th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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Thanks for the helpful info. I am planning at trip to botswana in Jan of 06 as we speak. Who did you book through, and if you dont mind the questions, how much did mombo run? Did you find the price worth it?
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Jan 25th, 2005, 06:08 PM
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hi ellene,
mombo is around $1100pppn yr round now. as much i have a hard time admitting it, i think it is worth it. i've been there 2 times (both in january) and have seen a lifetimes worth of wildlife in teh 7 total days i have spent there. between the 2 trips i've seen approx 20 different males lions, 6 different leopards, 3 cheetahs, 2 wild dogs and huge amounts of hyenas. also in january there arent that many very good wildlife viewing camps and mombo is a huge exception. if you are planning to go next jan, i would suggest makololo plains in zim in addition to mombo. the game is very good at mak and the price is right. makes the average of the 2 camps in line with 2 standard wilderness botswana camps. i would suggest 3 nights makololo, 3 nights savuti and 3 nights mombo. that would be a great jan safari.

what camps had you thought about including on your trip?
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Jan 25th, 2005, 06:20 PM
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Bigcountry,

Thanks for this wonderful report. I don't know if I will drop $1,100 per night at Mombo anytime soon, but it definitely will be on my "long list."

That must have been a very tense situation watching the hyena - wild dog encounter! As a dog lover, I know who I would have been rooting for in that instance.

How many other guests were at Mombo, and of the guests, how many, if any, were agents, and how many were regular (full paying) guests? I only ask because my experience, when visiting lodges in low season, is that there are often as many agents in camp as there are regular guests and I am wondering if the same holds true with such an exclusive lodge as Mombo.

I am a little confused on how you transfered between lodges. Did you have to fly to Victoria Falls, drive to Kasane and then fly to Mombo? Or, were you able to fly directly from Hwange NP to Mombo? How long did the overall transfer take?

Lastly, did you feel that 3 nights at Makalolo was appropriate or do you think (especially at those incredibly low rates) that a longer stay would be warranted? I would like to put Makalolo on my calendar for next year and I am thinking about 4 or 5 nights.

Thanks again.
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Jan 27th, 2005, 02:57 AM
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Rocco,
Thanks for the info. We only have 5 days max in botswana to Safari before heading to capetown area. I assumed Mombo would be that price, and figured two nights there, 3 nights TBD, any suggestions would be helpful.I would like to stay somwhere with a pool, as it is going to be summer.
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Jan 31st, 2005, 07:59 PM
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Great report bigcountry!

After reading it, I am considering Makololo Plains for April. But how do you get there from Botswana? How did you get between MP and Mombo?

Many thanks.
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Feb 1st, 2005, 05:41 PM
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suru,
the trip from makololo to mombo isnt the most fun but certainly worth it. u take a sefofane plane from makololo to vic falls (50 min), clear immigration and then hop on with a botswana based sefofane plane to fly to kasane (15 min) to clear customs, then fly to mombo (1hr 20 min). all in all its about 2hrs and 30 min on the small sefofane planes to mombo. the stops for customs etc take onlt a few minutes. as long as u dont mind riding on the small planes, i see no problem with the transfer. otherwise you can spend a night at vic falls or maybe go to savuti before mombo and that would break the flights up a little better. hope thjis helps.
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Feb 1st, 2005, 06:24 PM
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Bigcountry,

It does - thanks. Did you arrange all of this through one camp or the other, or with a travel agent? We are sort of going a la carte, since we are visiting friends in Gaborone and using that as our base, so transport is proving challenging.

Thanks again!
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Mar 18th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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bigcountry,

Unless I missed it, weather did not seem to be an issue with your stay at either Makalolo Plains or Mombo.

I am now considering moving the timetable WAY up for a possible early January safari to Botswana & possibly even Makalolo Plains if I had time.

The must-sees for me are:

1. Chief's Camp (about 37% the rate of Mombo in January).

2. Kwando Lebala (great for wild dogs and other predators).

3. Savuti (too many good reports to ignore).

4. Kwando Kwara (I would have gladly stayed longer at Chief's Camp except for the fact that night game drives are not available. Anyway, I have seen great reports on Kwara, as well).

A couple questions...

Did you ever, in your stay at Mombo, come across a vehicle from Chief's Camp? They are separated by less than 12 miles so it would stand to reason that they at least share a few common tracks on the island.

Was the weather ever unbearably hot? If so, was this both day and night?

How many hours did it take to transfer from Makalolo Plains to Mombo, and how much did it cost? I am guessing that you had to fly from Makalolo Plains to Victoria Falls Airport, and then transfer by road to the Chobe area, and from there catch a light air transfer to Mombo. Is this right? How many hours did this take and did it cost you any game activities at either lodge?

Thanks. God willing, I do not think I will be able to wait until September 2006 to visit Botswana. I will keep September open for something else a little more affordable, like Kafue NP, and possibly Hwange in case I don't hit it in January, and then I would also be able to visit Mana Pools (opposite Lower Zambezi). By doing it that way, it would almost be like getting Zambia/Zimbabwe for free just with the difference between a low season Botswana safari and a high season Botswana safari.

Thanks for any input you or others may add to this thread.
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Mar 20th, 2005, 04:53 PM
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hey rocco,
here are the answers to your questions and a couple of comments of my own. in the 2 times i have visited mombo, i have only seen a chiefs camp car once. the only area that the 2 camps overlap is near the boro river in the south of mombo. the area that chiefs camp covers has greta game but mombo's is diffinitely better. mombo is right on teh northern tip of chiefs island so gets a direct hit from the angolan flood. as a result the ground is very nutrient rich right around mombo and thus causes so many diverse habltats/prey species wjich in turn attract the predators. you wouldnt think 12 miles separating teh 2 camps would make a difference but in the delta 12 miles can make a world of difference. im not saying that chiefs isnt worth the discount (37% of mombo's prices are hard to ignore) however, i would expect tha game to be a little less concentrated than at mombo. the overlapping area has far less game than close to mombo camp itself.
about the weather, this yr was very hot mostly bc the rains have been very poor this yr so makololo was very hot. during teh middle of the day was the only uncomfortable time and we would be heading back to camp by the time the heat became a problem so i wouldnt let that be a deterant. and the previous yr when the rain was good, the weather was comfortable all day long so i think we experienced the worst this yr.
finally about transfers, the cost was included (bc we were using only WS camps). i didnt notice and increase from the rates you see posted in the net at e-gnu. and we took planes the whole way. makololo-vic falls (50 min) vfalls-chobe (1 hr 35 min) chobe-mombo (40 min). all in all my wife didnt care for that much time in the cessnas but i didnt mind it and certainly prefered flying to partial land transfer. what we did the morning we were transfering was go out for about a 2 hr morning drive and catch the plane at 10am getting us to mombo with time to spare for the afternoon game drive so in toatl lost maybe 2 hrs max on 1 game drive. no big deal.

and now for my own thoughts. botswana in january requires going to specific areas to see good game. chiefs will be good, savuti will be great for the zebra migrations, kwara should be ok but i would be a little worried about lebala. linyanti can be hit or miss in january. i would mainly go to lebala to see wild dogs and in jan, that can be a hit or miss situation. and if u are already going to savuti i would either add 1 more night at the other camps and drop lebala or possible substitute in duba plains. that way you are guaranteed great lion sightings and duba is pretty good in jan.
tehn i would leave zim for sept to get teh full elephant effect at makololo and visit mana pools.

i just thought of one crazy possible other alternative. drop lebala and chiefs camp and substitute in 3 nights at mombo. it will cost a little more but mombo is definitely a unique place.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 05:24 AM
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Rocco

I would agree with bigcountry.
I stayed at Chiefs Camp back in 2002.
The game was good but not fantastic. The guide (who used to be at Mombo)claimed that gameviewing is much better at Mombo.
If you are very keen to see wild dogs your best shot is to go from late June to early september when the dogs are denning. Outside this time slot the dogs are very nomadic and hard to find.
Also remember that in the wet months the grass is very long and the predators can be difficult to find.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 11:22 AM
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Bigcountry - great report I'm headed to Mombo very soon and cant wait.

Rocco - I visted Chiefs in Oct 2003 and loved it. We did see Mombo vehicles once at the Simbira Channel which is about as far north as Chiefs vehicles can reasonably get on a game drive and which is somewhat south of Mombo camp. The game was terrific at Chiefs, though I'm spoilt for Leopard in Sbai Sands obviously. We took the advice of our agent in selecting Mombo in July over Chiefs because terrain differences will make game viewing better at Mombo.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 06:05 AM
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Thanks for all the feedback.

I do think I would be willing to brave the January weather in favor of some great deals.

However, I would likely only splurge on Mombo if I were going in late August - early October, when it may be at its best.

Furthermore, I would likely only go to Makalolo Plains in late August - early October, since it is such a bargain at this time of the year. Plus, visiting Makalolo Plains at this time would also allow me to visit Chikwenya in Mana Pools.

I would much rather, for a January visit, take advantage of the great deals in Botswana than to spend this time in Zimbabwe (where I can get great deals in high season, anyway).

Now...does anybody happen to know how Savuti would be in December/January? I would likely stay at both Savuti and Kwando Lebala in this particular area, as they are not too far apart (but far enough apart to warrant visiting each camp). Ideally, I would visit Savuti/Kwando Lebala/Kwando Kwara and either Chiefs Camp or Mombo depending on the season (I will splurge on Mombo in high season but not in low season when there is no discount offered).
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