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Alex Rogers

Family self-drive adventure JHB-Botswana-Vic Falls

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

Hi all - as a small thanks for all the inspiration and ideas I've had from you over the last 2 years of planning, here is a trip report of our recent family trip to SA-BOTS-VIC. I've lived in Aus for 20 years, but grew up in Durban, and wanted to bring my family to experience a bit of Africa. We camp a lot in Aus, so we decided to hire 4x4 and camper trailers and do it ourselves. Decided against roof tents, so that we could set up camp in an area for a few days and use vehicles for exploring - generally worked well. My wife is English (but pretty adventurous for all that :P ) and we have 2 boys, 12 & 14

 

Stage 1 - Fly SYD-JHB, the JHB-DBN, hire a car and up to Blythedale on the KZN north coast for a few days with my Dad, my brother and his family, and my sister and her husband. Mostly beach and chilling with the family, but a little local wildlife spotting too: 

 

The beach was glorious:

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I have a soft spot for Hadeda - my Mom (who taught me to love birds) called them "mummies friends" when we were little, and we always thought their call was them saying hello to Mom. 

 

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Every day the "locals" would come to play near us: 

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And the beach patrol was active: 

 

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Saw my first Woolly-necked Stork, even if I hadn't quite worked out how to focus my new camera properly: 

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On the last day I discovered the Sappi Stanger wetlands, one of the tiny remnants of bush and water in a vast monoculture of sugar cane: 

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An hour here yielded more birds than the entire trip to date - highly recommended for those interested in birds. Still struggling to learn my new camera, but caught a few nice shots of this Goliath Heron: 

 

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We explored up and down the coast a bit - beaches are glorious, still as wild as I remembered - but there is not much left of the bush, at least south of the Tugela. The increase in population is very noticeable, development is rampant, informal and formal, and sugar cane still rules supreme. 

 

4-5 days was enough, then back to JHB to prep for the trip. 

Edited by Alex Rogers

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Alex Rogers

We hired 2 4x4 from Bushlore (Hilux 2.4 diesel, long range tank, water tank, lockable enclosed back, AT tyres, towbar, recovery kit etc, otherwise pretty stock) and 2 camper trailers from Commander (heavy duty offroad trailers with rooftop tents, gas kitchens, electric fridge, decent storage). Both companies were good - equipment was spot on, service was good, hassles were very limited. Still, it took us a whole day to get toJHB, pick up trucks, trailers, make them work together (some wiring incompatibility), shop for all the food (and wine - don't forget the wine) for 17 days on the road.  

 

Bush hats - check

 

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As tough as his truck

 

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6:30 start from JHB - the road trip begins!

 

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Alex Rogers

Botswana, I love you. I really do - you are my favourite African country. But you could really work on your immigration & customs processes....

 

2 hour delay at the border when we realise we inadvertently brought 2 birth certificates for one child, and none to the other. And no, Botswana would not accept that a child with his passport clearly showing same surname as both of his parents who are accompanying him is free from the risk of being trafficked. Grrrr. Anyway, managed to get our house sitter in Sydney to photograph the offending document, email it to me, and at least they accepted this phone JPG - so no real harm done. However the customs guys inflicted a mortal wound - when they confiscated all of our beautiful freshly bough meat! Seriously guys, how can my bringing in an SA steak possibly affect the health of your precious national herd? 

 

Ah well, should have done more research, I guess - so its beans from here to Maun. My vegan sister didn't gloat even a little bit. Next stop Khama Rhino sanctuary, where we had a lovely little campsite and a Botswana sunset to make it all better

 

First time setting up the tent. Much quicker than we'd thought, probably 30 minutes to get the whole campsite up, fire going, chairs around the fire, supper on the go and red wine in hand. 

 

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Cold start to the day - a quick game drive before breakfast and hitting the road: 

 

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Haven;'t seen springbok for many years - yay!

 

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And beautiful little steenbok

 

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I'm a birder - I've grown up going to national parks in SA, so I've seen most of the mammals - so my big focus this trip is birds, much to my family's dismay. But even though I did most of the driving, I tried not to annoy them too much with stopping for every LBJ (saving that for my walks) - but fortunately Africa is blessed with a lot of larger interesting birds too. 

 

Korhaan - one of my favourites

 

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This was one of my best sightings the whole trip. My son spotted a Martial Eagle in the trees in the far distance (4-500m) and we were checking it out with binoculars, when another eagle screamed into view, knocking the Martial off his perch. The two birds locked talons and spiralled to the ground. The Martial gave lie to his name, and fled, while the other eagle screamed in success, flew a victory lap, and then flew off to a nearby tree where his mate was waiting, whom he proceeded to vigorously cover. I got a few pics of the later action - not great given the distance, but gives you an idea. Tawny Eagles? 

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Rather less spectacular, but another of my favourites, the Ladies of Botswana

 

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And who doesn't love  hornbill? Actually, that other hornbill in the mirror, that's who! This guy was all set for a bit of shadow-boxing with his reflection: 

 

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We saw lots of animals and birds on the game drive - unfortunately no rhino, though. There are plenty in the park, and we saw lots of droppings and tracks, but as we all know, animals don't just appear to order. We had a long road to go, so quick breakfast and head out. 

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Posted (edited)

Next stop Kubu Island. I'd always wanted to visit the Island - something about it struck as magical, mystical, a kind of lost Africa - and it didn't disappoint. 

 

Quick stop before the serious offroad begins, with a great view over the shallow Makgadigadi pans in the distance

 

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The pans are awesome

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And so are we :-) 

 

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but for proper mightyawesomefulness - apply to a baobab tree (Son #1 - you don't rate, mate, got about 1000 years or so catching up to do)

 

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And then the sun went down on all that space and peacefulness descended20190706_181801.jpg.6fc58f7396a534a06b9c142e99011583.jpg

 

And the moon came out over the endless plain

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And all was well in the world

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

Dawn wasn't bad either. 

 

I was up at first light

 

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Skies are vast out there

 

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We camped among the baobabs and another lovely tree - African Star Chestnut. 

 

 

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As the sun came up, the colours cooled, and the air heated. We took a walk around the island. 

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Weird things happen out there, man...

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

Not a lot of mammals on Kubu, especially when it is as dry as this. Hasn't rained for a LONG time around here. The few locals know how to keep cool 

 

Ground squirrel

 

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Birdlife is more plentiful - but quite obscure to my untrained eye. I'll add captions for those that I can't currently identify once I've got some help from the Bird section of the forum. 

 

Bulbuls were ubiquitous across the whole trip, from Durban to Vic Falls. Adaptable little so & sos

 

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Darling little bird, but absolutely no clue as to who she is. Fluffed up in the sun, doesn't look like anything in any of my books - or a bit like everything, to tell the truth. (Since identified as a Marico Flycatcher by the Safaritalk brains trust, thanks)

 

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Kalahari scrub robins were my bird of Kubu - so cheeky, inquisitive, always underfoot, always moving, flipping those cocky little tails

 

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Cape Glossy Starlings shone in the sun

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Southern Grey headed sparrow

 

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I lured this Acacia Pied Barbet in with a drink of water

 

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Saw many other birds, including my first Violet Eared Waxbills - too cute, but also too elusive for me to get any decent pics. 

 

What a great stay. Another night, and then back on the road out to Maun. So far the driving has been easy - while the roads were braided and the way obscure, all roads eventually did lead to Kubu, and while we were in 4H for prudence, we never aired down. 

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

We stayed for a day & 2 nights at Maun at the OKavango River Lodge - pleasant, unpretentious, nice bar and good ablution blocks - perfect for recharging and shopping for the rest of the trip. We'll be 7 days in the bush, and have no meat! Maun provided the cure. Unfortunately the long dry meant that the OKavango River was dry at the lodge

 

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An evening walk up the river yielded a surprise - elephants! They silent slipped out of the bush for a drink - we were 50m away on foot, but on the other side of the waterhole, so I wasn't too concerned. A magical sundowner session followed. I only had my phone with me - the phone pic attached shows how close they were. 

 

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Sundowners on the dry river

 

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A couple of campsite residents - 

 

Red billed hornbills

 

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White-browed robin chats - so fiercely hunting through the grass

 

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And then off again the next day. A few kms from the lodge we stopped to blow the tyres down - no more tar for 7-8 days

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

Next stop Khwai Mbudi, a community owned campsite just north of the Khwai gate to Moremi. Didn't enjoy the drive much, the damper piston on my trailer hitch blew, and the trailer was punching us in  the kidneys every bump, every stop, every start. There are a lot of bumps between Maun and Khwai...

 

Investigating trailer

 

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But all was forgiven on entering Khwai - the elephants were out to welcome us

 

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Our campsite is beautiful - a huge space under the trees and right next to the river. 

 

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And as we set up, the elephants arrive. They were a constant through the trip - night and day resident elephants, in several herds and loose groups of bulls

 

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The campsite is lovely, the ablutions are fine, the locals friendly - we have a good feeling about Khwai. 

 

We also have a little game we play, called "Unfortunately". It goes like this - for every "unfortunately" you have to counter with a "fortunately". EG - unfortunately the pounding of the trailer has broken 5/6 wineglasses and 4/6 water glasses, and the bottom of the trailer is filled with powdered glass. Fortunately, the wine survived and we can drink wine out of a shoe if needed. 

 

Arrow-marked babbler checking out the ruins of our "drinks cabinet"

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And Red billed buffalo weavers looking for crumbs

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

We had 3 magical days at Khwai Mbudi. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone. It seems that very few people know about it - Moremi itself was completely full (hence us not booking a more traditional site) but Mbudi was beautiful, clean, well set up, brilliant campsites, decent enough ablutions, friendly staff, mokoro rides on tap with knowledgeable and qualified mokoro guides. 10 minutes from Khwai gate makes it easy to access the park itself - so we split out time between game drives in the park, game drives in the Khwai concession area (fabulous!) and walks around the campsite area or just slothing in camp and watching the animals from our deckchairs  - all of which were hugely rewarding. I'll give you a sample of each over the next 3 posts. 

 

Campsite and surrounds - wildlife everywhere! 

 

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Hippo, elephants, warthog, waterbuck were our most constant companions

 

Of course I was pretty excited about the wattled cranes too - they were resident, and would fly in in the morning and fly out in the evening like a remote site FIFO worker, albeit better dressed. I could watch the waterbirds there for hours...

 

Saddlebill stork

 

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Jacana

 

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Lilac breasted roller

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Lesser striped swallows

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And many more birds. But my bird of Khwai was the Openbill - I'd never seen one before, and here they were in there dozens. Here is a little Openbill love: 

 

This might be my favourite photo of the whole trip - look at the water off his beak!

 

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Openbills hunt in shallow water for river snails

 

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A successful hunt.

 

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The weed is cleaned off

 

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And the shell is cracked in that magnificent nutcracker beak. The opening provides leverage and grip. 

 

Finally, ya got ta dry off so you don't catch your death of cold

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Waterbuck are not the most charismatic buck - but you have to love their toilet bowl markings, and this big male was really quite impressive

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They were plentiful around the camp, but the elephant were the real prize. Didn't have to go too far...

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

We had an extraordinary game drive through northern Moremi, seeing a huge amount of wildlife. Elephant everywhere, but also a lot of other game. 

 

Rafts of hippo

 

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My first ever red lechwe

 

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I'd never seen a sable either - and either we got a true poseur, or they are all the most regal of antelope

 

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Wildebeest couldn't be regal if they tried - but they are fun...

 

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And my boys just loved the baboons

 

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The kudu bulls can give even a sable a run for his money on the regal stakes, but they are a bit more shy

 

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But my day was completely made when we had a close encounter with a couple of honey badger - my third "first" in one day!

 

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What a cool sighting! They were busy rooting through piles of leaves and weren't too bothered by us. 

 

And then back to camp, via a final and forth new animal for the day, a roan antelope wandered through the camp. We settled down with beers on the river to watch the elephant drinking metres away from our tent. 

 

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What an awesome day!

Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

The guys from Mbudi took us out in the morning for a mokoro ride. Not enormously productive in terms of birds and game (although got a great sighting of Malachite Kingfishers, as well as my first Meyer's Parrots) - but stunningly beautiful. Dawn at our camp: 

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

And then driving around the Khwai Concession itself was awesome. Pretty hard to navigate at times, but great fun, and full of animals. 

 

Zebra crossing (to use a well worn safari joke)

 

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We had a wonderful sighting of an elephant arguing with hippos. He was having a good swim in a waterhole on the Mbudi channel, all peaceful like: 

 

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But then some hippo started getting amorous in his pool. Give us a kiss, luv

 

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Things got quite rowdy

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And the elephant got upset, and started thrashing the water to make his displeasure known

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After successfully chasing the hippos into the far corners of the pool, the elephant retired, satisfied that honour was upheld

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But it didn't take long for the shenanigans to kick off again

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Yeah baby, who is boss of this waterhole now? 

 

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A slender mongoose provided more salubrious viewing

 

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We just found our way back to a road as it got dark, much to everyone's relief (of course I knew where I was, every second)

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We were just pulling in to the campsite at late dusk and one of the boys called "Lions!" And there they were, right in our camp, a pride of females and young males. They were receiving ferocious abuse from a troop of baboons, and while the females were chilled, the young males wanted those baboons... The photos are poor, it was after sunset and I was hand holding a big lens at unfeasibly slow speeds - but this will give you an idea. 

 

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We turned in that night super happy with our day - and did the zips up tight. At least with our camper trailer tent setup, my wife and I were up a ladder, and the kids on ground level, so she and I felt pretty comfortable that we were alright. 

 

Edited by Alex Rogers

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Tdgraves

Your darling little bird is a Marico flycatcher and on my phone so small pics, I agree your eagles look like tawnys

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

We hit the road early the next day for a planned day of tough transit driving - Khwai to Linyanti. Not that far in distance, but we knew the road would be tough - deep soft sand - and with my trailer misbehaving, it wasn't going to be fun. At least, not type A fun - more like Type B fun (fun in retrospect). In truth, it came pretty close to Type C fun (not fun at all!) 

 

The roads were really quite bad between Khwai and Savuti, and we got stuck a couple of times. No big deal, you dig yourself out. But then it got worse and worse north of Savuti, we were warned that the road from Savuti directly to Linyanti was almost impassable (and impossible for trailers) so we added on a detour on a "better" road that added 4-5 hours. And that "better" road was the worst yet - super soft sand, deeply rutted, and some hills as well to throw into the mix. The trucks were fine, we aired down super low, but they were not high clearance, and in fact the clearance was reduced by the water tanks and the under-slung spare wheels, which acted like a plough on the middle-mannetjies. The strategy - go fast and float! So I was hammering it, 40-50kmph at times, with the trailer slamming and crashing behind me on its blown dampers, picking the best line at a seconds notice, and choosing one of many braided paths by instinct. Sometimes you'd get the wrong one and deep sand would open up in front of you - your heart would sink and youd floor it and hope. Normally that worked...

 

And when it didn't, we dug. 

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and dug

 

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and unhitched trailers and dug out the vehicles and drive them around and pulled out trailers downhill and turned them around and re-hitched and tried again...

 

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And did this for 10 hours until it got dark and we gave up on Linyanti. Unfortunately, we never made it to Linyanti. Fortunately, we have camper trailers and can camp anywhere :-)

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Alex Rogers

And fortunately, Kasane was a fabulous backup plan! But more on that tomorrow - that is quite enough posting for one day. 

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Africalover

Great adventure,  read it with great interest, since we will do a self drive from Jo’burg via Kgalagadi to Okavango next year. Also renting from Bushlore. Looking forward to the rest.

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Towlersonsafari

What a splendid adventure @Alex Rogers and great fun reading about something I would never have the courage to do (being English an all)

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Alex Rogers
54 minutes ago, Tdgraves said:

Your darling little bird is a Marico flycatcher and on my phone so small pics, I agree your eagles look like tawnys

 

 

@Tdgraves - thanks for the bird id - I'd considered pale, chat & Marico flycatchers, and decided I really didn't have a clue and not enough experience to make a call if I was even on the right bird. Appreciate the help :-) 

 

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

So we had a "toolbox talk" on the side of the road, and decided that the cut-line road to Linyanti was a step too far with the trailers, and we'd cut our losses and run to Kasane. Another tense 4 hour stretch of dirt led us to Kachikau - and tar road! I've seldom been so pleased to see a tar road... I love my adventures, and have no qualms about digging us out of trouble - but we'd bitten off slightly more than we could comfortably chew with the roads through Chobe - and with the benefit of hindsight, I'd suggest that some of those roads in the condition they were in were simply not suitable for towing trailers through. We could have chosen more suitable tow vehicles (say a V8 Landcruiser with a substantial lift and 32in+ tyres) and that would undoubtably have helped - the low clearance of the front mudguards meant they suffered a good bit of damage (we both lost front numberplates and broke off most of the pop rivets holding the mudguards on) and the diff and the underslung spare tyre in particular dragged badly in the rutted sand ridges. It is not always possible to drive partly out of the ridges when they are composed of talcum-soft sand. But fundamentally it would be tough in any vehicle towing 800kg+ trailer in that sand. Also, the trailers suffered as well - not matter the trailers were tough, the road was tougher, and both trailers suffered fairly significant fatigue damage, not to mention the state of the contents... I'd be tempted to go dual rooftop tents on a big landcruiser next time I wanted to explore such rugged roads. 

 

Soon we were in Kasane, and civilisation. Managed to secure a great little campsite on the Chobe river, part of a bigger lodge, and while the family booked on a game drive (perhaps as some relief from my own driving) I decided a sunset cruise was the antidote I needed. It was a great idea - the river at that spot is incredible for wildlife, birds and spectacular scenery. The wildlife was pretty habituated to the tourist boats, so we could sneak up on crocodiles, for example: 

 

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Buffalo

 

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Note the yellow-billed oxpeckers in attendance

 

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And of course plenty of elephant. We were quite blase about elephant by this stage, but you can't go past baby elephants. Tourists admiring elephants from all sides: 

 

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But we got the best light from the water

 

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And plenty more - hippo, lechwe, waterbuck etc. This hippo gave us a great demo of marking his territory - standing on the shore, defecating and urinating at the same time on his tail, which is rotated like a propeller, spraying the results in a great spray over everything. When the sh1t hits the fan, indeed. 

 

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The lechwe were altogether more dignified

 

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and the waterbuck glowed in the evening light

 

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The birdlife was amazing. There were hundreds of marabou storks settling onto the islands for the night, so despite the distance and lowering light, I got a couple of portraits. Fine looking chaps. 

 

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Who wouldn't be proud of an appendage like that? 

 

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The waterbirds were endless - just about every local heron, egret, stork and wader was present. I'd love to go on a dedicated birding boat cruise, to get up close and personal to more of them - but in one hour  I recorded 4 new birds to me, and 23 others, with many more going unidentified. I didn't get many pics, but here are a couple: 

 

Spoonbill

 

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Egyptian Geese in their thousands

 

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Also thousands of spur wing geese (and white faced whistling duck in large quantities)

 

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Grey heron (also purple and squacco noted) 

 

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Darter

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Eventually it got too dark for wildlife photos, and we broke out the gin & tonics, and just enjoyed the view

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

Our little campsite by the river was cool - lots of wildlife around the camp including warthogs, vervets and baboons - the latter could be a problem at times, but the warthog were charming. 

 

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Even birding around the camp in the dawn light led to some good sightings. Chobe River dawn: 

 

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A friendly greenbul

 

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I'd never seen a collared palm thrush before

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And the little weavers were very interested. I may have inadvertently (ahem) dropped some rusk crumbs. 

 

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Village weavers (probably - hard to tell when not in breeding colours - but definitely not Sociable weavers as I first posted). 

 

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And pied kingfishers and malachites along the water. I took lots of photos, but malachites are very small and far away...

 

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And then it was time for Zambia

Edited by Alex Rogers
Incorrectly identified the weavers

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Posted (edited)

We trekked across to Kazungula and the Zambian side of the falls for a 5-star recuperation session at one of the very upmarket hotels there (Avani) as a much needed touch of luxury. The border crossing was classic African mayhem - the Zambian officials are barely on a living wage, and so supplement this by a system of delaying everyone as much as possible so that you will arrange an "expediter". Paying this person handsomely gets you to the front of the queue and through in a few hours - and the money is distributed widely. We spend some of these hours marvelling at the incredible inefficiencies in the process - but it all makes sense when you realise that they are deliberate. Adopting a strategy of smiling, being friendly, not allowing anyone to irritate you, being firm with the expediters' more outrageous claims, and resigning yourself to half a day wasted is the way forward. For those planning to take Bushlore vehicles across - make sure you have a police clearance certificate for the vehicle on top of all the normal papers (we didn't) and note that the guy in the Bushlore shirt claiming to be their official fixer is simply a more enterprising chancer than most - Bushlore assured us later he has no connection to them. 

 

Our hotel opened onto the falls, and despite exceptionally low flow due to the dry, they were still spectacular 

 

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Being on the Zambian side was cool - I could access the top of the falls, and rock hop along the very edge 

 

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Son #1 and I explored the river a little closer: 

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including swimming down a few rapids...

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Awesome fun, a must-do for the adventurous. 

 

We mixed up adventure with a bit of the high life: 

 

Sundowners on the Zambezi, with the smoke from the falls in the background

 

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Chilling by the pool with resident zebras

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G&T overlooking the river from the Falcon lodge

 

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As well as more casual animal & bird walks - a bird a day keeps the ennui at bay: 

 

White browed sparrow weaver

 

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Sasol Birds has these as Blue Waxbill, Roberts now call them Southern Cordonbleu (!) - I call them adorable

 

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More poolside zebra


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I'm always wary of baboon, this guy was all too easy around humans

 

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Collared barbet

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Pied wagtail on nest

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Red winged starling

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Pied kingfisher. This is another very successful adaptable bird, we saw them all the way from Durban to Livingstone, anywhere there was water, including fishing in the sea at Zinkwazi. I never did get a satisfactory photo though - practise practise practise. 

 

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Skink (trachylepsis sp?) - a very handsome chap. If anyone can positively ID I'd appreciate it

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Treepol

@Alex Rogers I'm really enjoying reading about your family safari, what wonderful memories to enjoy into the future. The Chobe cruise really did you proud, eles galore, waterbuck in beautiful light, amazing birdlife and sunsets - who could ask for more?

 

Did you see the Schalow's Turaco at Avani? I searched at Avani unsuccessfully twice last year even though a local bird guide showed me the birds favourite tree!

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Posted (edited)

And then the long road home. We broke it up into 3 days to get back so that it wasn't ALL driving - but it was a good deal of driving nonetheless. Day 1 was Livingstone to Francistown, where we stayed at the Woodlands lodge. It was a huge day of driving, dawn start, fix a tyre, border, ferry, border, driving, driving, driving - and we pulled into Woodlands just as it got dark. 

 

Just about to start and I realise a valve on a trailer wheel is about to fall off, and is leaking. Confounding my expectations, we found a professional wheel mech to fix it in less than an hour and for about $10. Sometimes things do go right. 

 

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Going back over the ferry was much easier, none of the graft and shenanigans. And in a year or two the bridge will be up - wonder how much difference it will make? Suggest the bottleneck for the truckers (who currently take 2-3 days to cross) will switch from ferry to Zambian officals....

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No photos from the road, concentrating on driving - but I did get a great sighting of 3 ground hornbill (my first, can you believe it) - such amazing birds. I have to say I enjoy long distance driving, particularly in new territory - it lets the size and scale of a country seep into you, and you notice the slow changes in vegetation, landscape, wildlife etc - so get to know a landscape in a way that flying could never do. Still, I was happy to pull in to Woodlands for the night, and to receive their promised (and very much forthcoming) warm welcome. Woodlands is a lovely stopover, not a destination, but a great place to stop when the thought of a motel makes you want to shoot yourself. 

 

We packed up again early the next morning, with a few birds to keep us company. The guineafowl slept in the tree above our tent, and were first to rise (apart from Grandma, who likes a little lie in)

 

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And then it was on the road to our last destination - Molema in the Tuli Block. 

Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

We chose Molema as a last stop so that we could have one more beautiful campsite with wildlife, but still be in striking distance of JHB the next day for returning trailers and trucks. And we got it right - Molema was beautiful indeed - one of the nicest campgrounds of all the sites we've had, under giant nyala-berry trees. 

 

Setting up camp

 

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The trees were stunning - huge, and each one an ecosystem to itself, with baboons, monkeys, squirrels, bats as the mammals that I actually saw, plus all sorts of birds and doubtless endless invertebrates. 

 

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They were full of arrow-marked babblers

 

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and hornbills

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and while I wasn't so keen on the baboons, I do like the vervets. This portrait taken shortly before she conducted a raid on our fruitbowl, successfully nabbing an apple before we could move

 

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I'd tried for weeks to get a really nice photo of the Maeve's Starling - they are ever present, so beautiful, cheeky with their churring and carrying on - but surprisingly difficult to photograph. The sun has to be just right, and getting the eye highlights as well is tough. I do admire the photographers of Safaritalk all the more... This is about as close as I got

 

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One of the many tree squirrels in our Nyalaberry

 

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We were right on the Limpopo - but the river was completely dry, due to drought and damming upstream at the Platjan Border Crossing, where they are making a new bridge. So I walked up the river, being careful of elephants, up to a waterhole where I sat and had a peaceful hour or two with the animals

 

South African giraffe peering over the border fence. Actually dude, the grass is greener on your side. 

 

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White fronted bee eater. Technically impossible shot, but I liked the silhouette and hint of colour

 

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Loads of Marabou and Yellow Billed Storks

 

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Yellow Billed Stork

 

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Fish Eagle

 

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Another dodgy photo but silhouette that I quite like - shows off the classic hamerkop look. I need to work on how to make these shots work 

 

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Little Egret

 

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Three banded plover

 

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Juvenile Yellow Billed Stork. Note that they do not have white legs - that is actually a mix of urine and faeces - in a process called urohidrosis, some storks do this to keep their legs cool. Still, I think he is a charming young fellow, and quite a colourful shot

 

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And never forget the impala. So often overlooked, but we all love how sleek and elegant they are - and I've seen the males fighting at night before, quite impressive. We like impala. 

 

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And then a quick shower under the Nyalaberry and down for our last night's sleep on the road. 

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

And one last day of driving back to JHB to return the vehicles. Not looking quite as smart as when we took them 

 

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But generally they both did what they were supposed to, and both companies provided excellent service and products - very please with them and can recommend them. 

 

A final day chilling in JHB with family proves you can find birds in your backyard anywhere - another great reason birds are better than buffalo

 

Mrs Fiscal Flycatcher

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Cape Robin Chat

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Grey Go Away Bird

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Karoo Thrush

 

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African Wattled Lapwing

 

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Blacksmith Lapwing - another enormously successful bird, established everywhere that we went in Southern Africa

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African Black Duck 

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Egyptian Geese - with goslings. I said, goslings! (gotta love a fluffy duck). And talk about on Golden Pond...

 

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And that is the story of our self-drive safari, from frolicking dolphins to fluffy ducks, via a lot of ungulates and a carnivore or two. Hope you enjoyed it. 

Edited by Alex Rogers

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