Safari Day 5 – Lucky sightings!

LOCATION: Kanana Safari Camp in the Okavango Delta, in NW Botswana
WEATHER: Cool in the AM; hot in the PM. High 80

5:30 coffee wake-up, then breakfast at 6:00, and off by 6:30 for another game drive.

First we checked to see if the leopard was still in the tree, but she had moved on. Another guide called our guide Sue and told him about a pride of 12 lions, including 4 cubs. We headed there and watched them play and stretch. I could watch them for hours.

We drove around a different part of the safari land (careful not to get stuck again). but we did go through several deep puddles.

Sue found 2 male lions basking in the sun. How special!

One of them kindly moved to a tree in the sunshine for a great photo op…

Death – From time to time, we see carcasses – mostly elephants who have died of old age. We saw a giraffe that had been killed by one of the lion groups we saw today. We also saw a small antelope carcass hanging in the branch of a tree – left from a leopard who had dragged it up high to feast on. Sadly, there are lots of dead hippos all around – they have starved to death as a result of the fire here last spring and the subsequent lack of grass on which to feed.

A note about hygiene….With these 4+ hour game drives, Mother Nature is bound to call. When the moment strikes, we ask the guide to stop and he finds us a safe tree. He scopes it out for lions and leopards, and then instructs us to clap our hands as we walk to the back of the assigned tree. The jeep has toilet paper and tiny paper bags on board for such needs. We put the used TP in the small bags and then drop them in the dustbin when we return to camp. All very civilized.

More zebras, giraffes, and elephants…

After this great morning game drive, we returned for lunch at camp. Another yummy meal, followed by siesta. We checked out the swimming pool.

Then, back to the lodge for 3:30 high tea and the next activity. This was another dug-out canoe trip. It was quite different from the one in the previous camp. Due to low water levels, we drove to the river, hopped on a motor boat to cross, then boarded the makoro, the dug-out canoe. En route, we spotted a lot of HUGE croccodiles and hippos. In the canoe, we enjoyed about 2 hours in the delta channels. We saw several of the very rare aquatic antelopes, an otter, and many storks manning their nests.

On our way back to camp, we stopped for our final sundowner. With our G&Ts, we had billtong (jerky) and olives. Quite sophisticated.

DINNER: Our last dinner in the Delta! We had kudu fillets and lots of side dishes. The staff sang and danced a farewell for us. All 7 guests depart tomorrow.

Safari Day 4 – Shinde Camp to Kanana Camp

LOCATION: In the Okavango Delta in NW Botswana
WEATHER: Cooler in the AM, then warm – 75 – in PM

We were told that our flight today would be at 10:00. Wanting to take advantage of every minute here, we opted to do one short activity in the early AM. This meant that we had our regular 5:30 coffee/wake-up greeting. After breakfast, the Angola couple and I went with Bee and another guide to continue the walking safari that we quit early yesterday when we went in search of the wild dogs. Again, the safety lecture and Bee loaded his gun. We walked for about 2 hours with Bee telling us very interesting things about the plants, trees and birds.

Botswana no longer allows game hunting in any part of the country. Up until 2014 our camp was a hunting camp. As we walked on the walking safari, whenever we approached the game (impala, wildebeest, and zebra), they became skittish and ran away. Bee said that this is becuase they remember hunters on foot from generations ago.

Then to the airstrip to pick up our little airplane to Kanana.

After a 5-minute flight, we touched down at another camp to drop off some staff and supplies and to pick up 2 tourists. Then, another 20-minute flight to Kanana. The plane went on to Maun to drop off the remaining guests and staff.

Kanana is owned and managed by the same company, so much of the camp seems similar. The schedule is the same, as far as waking up, activities, meals, drinks, and safety rules.

The pathways to the tents are made of elephant dung and leaves. It creates a mulch like texture – very soft for walking.

Our room has a key on the outside, not inside. This is to keep the babboons out. They have figured out how to negotiate door handles. We heard the story of a babboon who watched a guest for several days to learn how to operate the latch. Then, when the guest was out, the babboon opened the door, entered the room, helped himself to the cookies and sherry decanter that they leave for us. When the guest returned to his room, he found the babboon drunk and asleep on his bed!

Our beautiful room…

The schedule is the same here – lunch at 11:30; followed by a siesta time; then high tea at 3:30; then afternoon activity at 4:00. Today was a game drive. Our guide here is a young man named Sue. All the guides here know our previous guide. As an older man who has been around for a long time and has a tremendous amount of knowledge, Bee is apparently quite the legend. We were lucky to have had him.

It is interesting that we are not that far from our first camp, but the animals and landscape are quite different. There was a huge fire here last March, and there are massive patches of blackened soil all around. It has rained here (finally) the last few days. Sometimes we drive on hippo trails and paths that jeeps have made. Other times, we just go off-road wherever. As Sue headed off-road toward some elephants, we went through a muddy patch and got really stuck in the mud.

He radioed back to camp and another jeep came to rescue us…..and got stuck, too!

Another radio call brought a tractor to the rescue!

Back on the game drive, Sue found a mother lion and her cub for us. He said the second cub was killed a few days ago.

Then we went to a woodsy section and found a leopard up in the tree with her baby. She had killed an impala yesterday and with full stomaches, they were dozing up high. It was a little hard to see them.

We found a lovely spot for our evening “sundowner” (happy hour). Today’s was a refreshing gin and tonic and pistachios. The guides use these old-style boxes to carry glassware.

George had a martini.

The sunset was absolutely gorgeous – like you see in National Geographic.

Very happy with our spottings, we returned to camp. They welcomed us with cool, damp washclothes. Nice!

DINNER: Africa seekswa – like pulled beef. Quite nice. Lots of side dishes, too. There are 7 of us here – the Angolan couple who were with us in the previous camp, an 82-year old Brit, a Canadian couple, and us. The guides and camp manager join us for dinner, served family style. As with our first camp, the capacity is only 18. It is nice to have a small setting like this. Staff outnumber guests by about 3:1.

After dinner, about 9:00, we asked Sue if he would take us for a night drive. It was really neat. He flashed his strong flashlight around, and we saw lots of eyes staring back at us. Hippos stay in the water all day and come out at night to eat. We saw a lot of them. We saw a bushbaby (kind of like a koala) in a tree, and huge storks nesting in the trees. Wow!

Safari Day 3 – A Day of Bonuses!

LOCATION: Shinde Safari Camp in NW Botswana
WEATHER: Much cooler. Cloudy. High 75

It rained during the night, making a beautiful noise on the tent top. Again, the housekeeper woke us up at 5:30 with a thermos of coffee and a cheery “Good Morning”.

Today’s morning activity was a walking safari. Bee took us to the start of the path, with a lot of security instructions. He took a loaded shutgun with him…..just in case. There were 6 guests with Bee leading us, and another guide bringing up the rear. They gave us ankle protectors against the spiky grass.

The guides use walkie-talkies all of the time to let each other know if they spot something especially interesting. After about 30 minutes of our walking safari, Bee got a call saying that one of the guides had spotted a pack of wild dogs. They are endangered here, and are a rarity to see. So, we hurried back to the jeep to go to the area where they hopefully still were. Yes! It was a pack of about 25. Bee made a call like the sound that the dogs make, and they came trotting up to the jeep. Some had red faces, covered from blood from a recent kill.

We followed them for about an hour. They move fast. At the end, they changed from a trot to a full-blown run. We speeded up and chased them until they reached their goal – a dead antelope that one of the pack had recently killed. We watched them fight over the meat, bones and head.. Nothing remained when they were finished.

Then, back to the search for lions. Bee and the other guides had heard them during the night. Bee spotted their tracks and we followed them. Yeah! We finally found one. This was a middle-aged male.

Since it was cooler, there were a lot of animals roaming around, not hunkered down in the shade. I have been thinking (and writing) that this is the dry season. Bee told us that this is the RAINY season. But, there hasn’t been a good rain in 2 years. All of the terrain that we have been crossing in search of animals is normally covered with water this time of year. Bee said this is the driest he has seen Botswana in 50 years. Climate change?

We passed through a grove of acacia trees, which are a favorite of giraffes…

What a busy morning! We returned to camp for another nice lunch. Chicken skewers, baked eggplant, lentil salad, sugar snap pea salad, and a cheese plate.

After a siesta, we had high tea, then took off on our afternoon activity – this time on a motorboat. We started in the main river area, then went down narrow, then narrower channels.

Bee called this “elephant alley” and indeed we saw many big paths from the grass to the water. They dig channels as they walk.

The water level is extremely low due to the drought, so we got stuck a lot. We saw a lot of beautiful birds

There are huge termite mounds all over the place. They build these towers next to a tree. Over time, the area gets built up around them and islands of land are created in the flood plain

After about an hour through the narrow, shallow channels, we came out to a wider, deeper part of the delta. To our delight, there were about 15 hippos playing and fighting in the water. Bee got out all the fixings for our daily sundowner – gin & tonics and nuts while we watched the hippos..

Before dinner, one of the staff members showed us how she makes things out of palm leaves.

DINNER: Dish after dish were served. The main course was lamb shanks.

BOOKS: I finished another one of Peter Robinson’s Yorkshire murder mysteies. “Wednesday’s Child”. 4 stars out of 5. A bit worried…..we don’t have wifi here, and I don”t have any other books downloaded. Hopefully the next safari camp will have some paperbacks to borrow.

Safari Day 2 – In search of cats

LOCATION: Sinde Safari Camp in NW Botswana

WEATHER: Hot. High 90

We are on a well-planned schedule. The housekeeper woke us up at 5:30 with a thermos of coffee. Breakfast at 6AM, then off for another game trip with guide Bee at 6:45. It makes sense to do the animal viewing in the early AM and late afternoons as they are resting during the heat of the day.

Today’s hunt was for cats….lions, leopards, and cheetahs. We saw many of the same animals as yesterday, including an impala with an hours-old baby. I just can’t get enough of elephant photos.

We drove by several herds of zebra. They don’t seem afraid of people.

Bee stopped several times identifying the tracks, looking for cat tracks.

He told us that a lion entered our camp last week and made his home for 3 days under one of the guest tents …unit E1. Yikes! That is our tent!

We passed this carcass of a cape buffalo. Bee said a lion killed it 3 weeks ago.

We passed another set of bones,…the remnants of 2 hippos that had been fighting.

No lions, though. In addition to the animals we saw yesterday, today we also spotted warthogs and waterbucks.

Back at camp for 11:30 lunch….One of the staff members welcomed us back with cool, perfumed towels. Lunch was a buffet with African bobboti..a kind of meat pie made from venison, along with rice, salads, and ratatouille. Just a bit of South African wine to wash it down..

Then, siesta for George; reading for me. To cool off we had a dip in the swimming pool. A great way to refresh ourselves.

Time to eat again at 3:30 – this time for high tea. Then, off for our afternoon activity. Today we did a mokoro trip down the delta. A mokoro is a native dug-out canoe. The mokoro seats 2 guests plus the driver. He steers us with a long pole – kind of like the gondolas in Venice.

It was really peaceful moseying around the river. Our guide pointed out a lot of plants and birds. He told us not to move around much as the canoe was somewhat wobbly. I certainly didn’t want to turn over, and join the pythons and crocs in the water!

We saw some beautiful birds…

There were small inlets leading from the main delta. Some are hippo paths; some elephant ones. Mostly we rode on the “hippo highway”, channels that they create walking to and from the water.

The guide pointed out interesting tiny frogs, too.

He spotted from afar a very rare animal – an aquatic antelope. We were able to get quite close to watch him a bit.

We stopped on a little island for happy hour. Magically, a table appeared and the guides brought out our pre-ordered drinks (G&Ts) along with today’s snack of kudu billtong (jerky). Yum! Luxury in the swamp!

Back to our tent to freshen up and to sip from a decanter of sherry awaiting us. We sat on our deck watching fruit bats fly around.

DINNER: Promptly at 8:00. As with all meals, we ate family style. They served dish after dish. George had pork chops; I had ostrich carpaccio and then lots of different vegetables.

After dinner, we sat around the firepit sipping amarula – a Botswana liqueur made from a nut of a tree that is common here. This is living!

Safari Day 1-From Maun city to the 1st safari camp

LOCATION: Shinde Safari Camp in NW Botswana
WEATHER: Hot – 90

We were met back at the Maun Airport by the safari company rep. I have always wanted to see a placard with my name on it in an airport!

We walked out to the tarmac and boarded our little prop airplane. There were two other tourists with us, Germans, plus a staff person going to one of the camps, and the cute, female pilot who looked about 15 years old. These little airplanes traverse the country as the main form of transportation. There aren’t roads in many areas, especially in the rainy season when the entire area turns into a flood plain.

The ground was very brown and dry-looking. We saw a lot of dried-up water holes.

After about 20 minutes, we spotted this airstrip and landed – out in the middle of nowhere.

The German couple disembarked and were greeted by their safari camp jeep. The jeep had come early to the airstrip, which is normal procedure, to drive around the airstrip clearing it from lions and giraffes! We saw giraffes, zebra, and impala as we landed. They also have to clear the airstrip periodically of huge piles of elephant dung. They said they had just scooted 2 lions off the airstrip.

We flew another 20 minutes to a similar airstrip and another couple got on the airplane. They will be our companions – sharing a jeep, eating together at meals, and socializing while we are here for 3 days. They are from Angola.

After another 20 minutes, we landed at the airstrip belonging to our safari camp. It is called Shinde, the native word for a small squirrel common around here. As we drove in to the camp, several baboons frolicked around us. The staff greeted us with a welcome song.


The host gave us a tour and outlined our daily schedule. (Sounds like a lot of eating!). The most important rule is that we cannot walk alone at night; a staff member must accompany us, as lions and other animals creep into the camp. Indeed, there is a big pile of elephant dung next to our tent.

The tent is incredible. Once you are inside, you forget that it is a tent. It is very luxurious. No A/C, of course, but ceiling fans and standing fans. Beautifully appointed bathroom. They are very very focused on the environment. No plastic. The water bottles are all reusable glass bottles. The toiletires are in large pumps instead of the individual throw-away mini bottles.

After freshening up, we joined the group in the dining area for lunch.

It is next to the river, so there is a lovely breeze passing through. It was a gourmet buffet featuring pork ribs, quiche, Mexican corn salad, Asian cabbage salad, and lettuce salad. A cheese platter was dessert. We asked about how they get the supplies in. Perishable goods are flown in weekly. Other things come by truck, except for in the rainy season. The truck takes 18 hours to get here from Maun, unless it gets stuck in the mud, and then it would take about a week or so.

There are 9 tents at this camp, so their maximum capacity is 18 guests. The jeeps take only 4 at a time, to maximize the sightseeing.

In the afternoon, George napped and I read in the commons area where there is a nice breeze. Later we took a dip in the swimming pool (a pleasant surprise) and it really cooled us off. High tea was at 3:30 with both sweet and savory options. While we were snacking, a herd of elephants came into our camp to swim in our river.

Then, game drive time! Bee is our driver and guide for our stay here. We hopped into his jeep and away we went. He is very good. We immediately started seeing lots of animals, including a lot of cute babies.

Animals today..
Giraffe
Baboon
Hippo
Mongoose
Jackal
Reedbuck
Kudu
Tssebe antelope
Letchwe antelope

Plus zebra…

And more elephants…

A herd of wildebeest…

Impala everywhere….

Cape buffalo….

Our final stop was at a pond with 10 huge hippos. We watched them play in the water while we had our “sundowner drinks” that Bee had brought for us….gin and tonics and nuts.

Back at the camp about 7:30 just as it was getting dark.

The staff sang and danced for us while we had drinks on the deck.

Dinner, family style, at 8:00. All kinds of dishes and wines were served by attentive waiters…..steak, curry, pumpkin, zucchini, and cheesecake.

Bee accompanied us to our tent in the dark, with a watchful eye for lurking lions.

The housekeeper had prepared our room, putting out mosquito netting around the bed. It cooled off enough, with the help of fans, to sleep well.

On to Botswana

LOCATION: Maun, Botswana
WEATHER: Much hotter here. High 90

NOTE – We have been out of wifi-land for several days, so I am catching up with our recent safari trips (following our stay in Cape Town) in the following posts.

Our taxi (same guy as yesterday) picked us up at our (Islamic) hotel in Capetown, and whisked us to the airport. We drove by miles and miles of shantytown, called townships. There must have been a million shacks crushed together with lots of people milling around. The poverty is mind-boggling.

The driver told us that local South African white people will not drive on this stretch of highway. He said it is dangerous for him, too.

He said that the poor condition of the road is because the people don’t have running water in their shacks. They bathe, wash dishes, and wash clothes in bins, then dump the water onto the road. Indeed, we drove through a lot of puddles.

We have whittled down to a backpack each. I also have a small duffle and George has his new “murse” – man purse. Our dear friend Tony with whom we travel each summer has one, and George had been admiring it for quite some time. He loves it.

We had been worried about our flight, as I wasn’t able to check-in yesterday online, but all went well at the airport. We flew South Africa Airways. This is the view of the townships as we got airborne.

The flight was very nice. On our 2.5 hour flight, they served us wine and a nice lunch!

This is the dry season, and everything looked brown from the air. We landed in dusty Maun, a small city of 50,000. My first impression was dust and sand everywhere. The hotel van took us to our hotel, passing donkeys, cows, and goats roaming on the highway. Cement block houses without glass windows. Children running around playing with sticks.

The hotel is a “resort”, an oasis in the middle of nowhere. We asked why there are high fences surrounding the property…..it is to keep the hippos and croccodiles out in the rainy season when the ditch fills up!

We had a drink around the pool – George tried a Botswana beer, of course.

We strolled around the property. There are a lot of interesting bugs…..

Everything is open air. I think air-conditioning would be pretty useless. We sat outside for dinner. George had the least expensive thing on the menu – rib-eye steak!! I tried the croccodile. It was an Asian-style stir-fry. I was surprised that the meat was pretty fatty. Why would croccodiles have a lot of fat?

An early night, as we need to get up early tomorrow for our flight to the safari camp

Traveling is not for the faint of heart!

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Same as every day we have been here – perfect! High 73

We really enjoyed our stay at the wine estate in Stellenbosch, so we hate to complain. However, this little guy and one of his small bird friends sat outside our window and started yelping continuously at about 3:00 AM!

All of the staff at the wine estate were busy running around preparing for 4 separate events today at the winery. This room is set up for one event, in their converted barn.

We took an Uber 25 miles back to Capetown. Our plan was to stay in a hotel near the airport to prepare for our flight tomorrow to Botswana for the safari.

However, we needed to make a detour to stop at the property management building associated with the AirB&B we stayed while we were here before. While in Stellenbosch, it hit us that we (and I use that word loosely) had left a notebook with very important financial and travel papers in a bathroom drawer along with male undies. The concierge in the wine estate called for us and made arrangements for the housekeeper to collect it and have us pick up the package. When we got there, no one could find it. After about an hour of head-scratching, telephoning, and searching, it was found. Whew!

To celebrate, we walked to a nearby seafood/sushi restaurant that we had wanted to try previously. On Saturdays, they open their outdoor patio and offer quiet jazz music, with discounts on their lunches. We had some fabulous sushi and enjoyed a very pleasant hour or two. Check out Beluga for photos and menu at https://beluga.co.za/

Uber wasn’t working so we took a taxi to our hotel. The driver was quite talkative. As we neared the address of the hotel, he asked us why we were staying here. It is out in the middle of nowhere, not even close to the airport, and he said it is an Islamic residential area. We pulled up in front of a residential-looking building. With some trepidation, we buzzed the security gate, and found that it is indeed a small hotel.

We had to sign a form saying that we would not have alcohol in the room in order to keep it halal. Lots of different artwork with quotes…

Then, in our room, the Quran and some other Islamic religious books were on the desk along with a prayer rug for our convenience!!!!

It is nice and clean, and seems very secure.

With some down time, we decided to look at tomorrow’s flight and check in. Uh-oh! I got a message saying that there is a problem with our flight and to call South African Airways (SAA). Two issues with that – 1) their office hours have ended for the weekend and 2) we don’t have a phone here. SAA was on strike last week, but it has been resolved, I think. So, worry, worry, worry. I finally emailed the safari company and the administrator checked into it for me. She said it looks ok to her. I guess we will just see tomorrow! If we don’t make that flight, our entire safari trip might be in jeopardy!!!!! 😦

Being an Islamic neighborhood, there were absolutely no nice restaurants around. We found a shopping mall with a fast-food shop open. It is a chain specializing in take-away Afro-Portuguese food.

DINNER: The take-away food was a bowl of spicy rice and chicken – boujee. Pretty good. We ate it in the hotel’s breakfast area – no vino or beer for us tonight!

Even through all this drama, I managed to finish two books, both quite good. ….

BOOKS: “Emma” by Alexander McCall Smith. A take-off on Jane Austen’s heroine. And… “Past Reasons Hated” by Peter Robinson. Part of the British mystery series I like as the books take place in Yorkshire, near one of our housesitting assignments.