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Botswana Green Season: January 2013


umiami05
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Itinerary:

Jan 2: Kalahari Plains Camp

Jan 3-4: Camping in Passarge Valley

Jan 5-6: Camping in Deception Valley

Jan 7-9: Chitabe Lediba

Jan 10-12: Duba Plains

 

I just returned from my second safari to Botswana. Our last trip was in June, so I wanted to try something different for this trip. I settled on a green season trip to the Kalahari and the Okavango Delta. I organized the trip through Natural Habitat Adventures (NatHab). Once again I was traveling with my family. There was a total of 8, including spouses and significant others.

 

We also went with the same guide we had on our last safari, Thuto Moutloatse. Thuto is an excellent guide and has a wide breadth of knowledge about wildlife, tracking, conservation issues, etc. He is an avid birder and has a near encyclopedic knowledge of the birds of Southern Africa. However, I think his best characteristic is his ability to balance the desires and needs of everyone in the group. Even with such a large group, Thuto kept everyone interested and involved no matter what the activity or sighting.

 

We arrived in Maun around 2pm and immediately transferred to a Wilderness Air flight to Kalahari Plains camp. It was quite stormy and bumpy the entire flight as we zig-zagged around storm clouds. We could see plenty of rain and lightning in the distance. We had been in Botswana less than an hour and already you could see a huge difference between the green season and the dry season.

 

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Edited by Game Warden
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We stayed one night at Kalahari Plains Camp where we did one game drive and a bushman walk. The bushman walk was led by a local bushman who works at the camp. He showed us several medicinal and edibal plants, including one delicious plant that tasted just like a sour lemon drop. He also showed us how the bushmen hunt using poison arrows and how they make fire by friction. He also dug up a burrowing scorpion for us to admire. He explained that bushmen children dig them up to play with!

 

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Burrowing Scorpion

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Gemsbok (Oryx)

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After half a day at Kalahari Plains, we drove to Passarge Valley, which was about a 5hr drive. Our mobile camp was already setup by an amazing crew from Wilderness Adventures by the time we arrived in the valley.

 

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Kori Bustard

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Northern Black Korhaan (Cry of the Kalahari)

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Edited by umiami05
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Very nice images. Thanks for your report. Look forward to reading the rest.

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Beautiful photos so far! I am very interested to read this, I'll be in Botswana in less than 2 weeks' time, including Chitabe. I'm nervous about flying in the stormy weather, I do not think I'll enjoy that at all - hoping for clearer skies when I have to do my small plane flights! Look forward to seeing more of the report.

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Definitely looking forward to more. I loved seeing lots of honey badgers and bat-eared foxes last time I was at Kalahari Plains.

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I'll be in Botswana in less than 2 weeks' time, including Chitabe.

 

Chitabe was excellent when we were there. Lots of great sightings of wild dog, lion, cheetah, and leopard.

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Oh, I am so in on this report. Dying to see what the green season delivers.

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Looking forward to your continuing Green Season report...

 

We had a bushman as a guide at Little Kwara last November.

 

One night on a game drive, he stopped the vehicle and stepped behind a tree, emerging -

 

with very little on..... Great stories of growing up Bushman style and trying to light a fire

 

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Will look forward to your game drives at Chitabe; hope WildDogs enter the pic!

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Great itinerary. The honey badger is a wonderful photo. How did that happen? On foot/vehicle?

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The honey badger is a wonderful photo. How did that happen? On foot/vehicle?

 

That particular honey badger was viewed from the vehicle. It was on a dusk game drive and the honey badger was busy digging so it didnt notice us until we were quite close. It took some time to check us out and then hurried off.

 

We saw lots of honey badger (10+) and bat eared fox (30+) in the kalahari.

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Lovely photos! This is how I imagine the Kalahari... Please do tell us more about Wilderness Adventures and the actual mobile camping experience - would be very interested in your take re campsites, settings, sightings etc. Several people here recommend precisely this sort of mobile safari to explore the Kalahari in depth, and I wonder if your 10+ honey badgers and 30+ bat eared foxes were a result of your more remote wanderings.

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The mobile camping is definitely a must if you want to see the best the Kalahari has to offer. It allows you to get to really remote areas and you truly feel like you are at the end of the earth. It also allows you to feel emerged in the wilderness. Every night we had lions roaring ~200 yards outside camp and we had great sightings within 5 minutes of camp every morning. The camping is quite rustic, especially compared to other Wilderness Safari Camps, but its well worth it.

 

Our mobile camping was through Wilderness Adventures, which is a part of WIlderness Safaris. We left Kalahari Plains camp around 1pm to drive to Passarge Valley and didnt arrive to the campsite until about 7pm. It was basically a 6hr game drive. When we arrived, a crew of 5 staff from Wilderness Adventures had already set up our tents, a dining area, and their staff quarters. They carried all the gear, tents, food, and water from Maun in 3 trucks. We were told typically wilderness adventures supplies 3 staff for the mobile safaris, but for some reason they sent us 5. Possibly since we were a larger group of 8.

 

The campsite was a public campsite that any self-driver could book. It contained a drop toilet (similar to a port-o-potty), a bucket shower, and a stone circle for camp fires. The tents were bow-tents that sleep two people. They are tall in the center and an average person could stand straight once inside. In the front, they have an awning where the staff place two chairs and two water containers. Every morning and every evening the staff fill the water containers with warm water for washing your face, brushing your teeth, or to do your own laundry. Inside, they have two cots with very comfortable mattresses, a night stand with a light, insect repellent, tissues, etc. There are also two small tables for your luggage. If you exit the tent through the rear of the tent, you enter a small bathroom area that is connected to the tent by three canvas walls. Here you have your own bucket shower and a drop toilet. The staff dig a pit and place a stool with a normal toilet seat on top. If you need to use the facilities in the middle of the night, rather than walk through camp, you simply go behind your tent. After your business is complete, you throw two scoops of dirt on top. As for the bucket shower, once a day the staff will fill it with warm water for you to take a shower. The bucket provides plenty of water for two people to shower reasonably comfortable.

 

I cant seem to find any pictures of the inside of the tents, but if I find any I will post them.

 

Bow tents

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Dining Area

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Meals and tea were served just like at other Wilderness Safaris Classic camps. The food was excellent and of similar caliber to Classic camps. The Wilderness Adventures staff really work miracles with the limited tools at their disposal.

 

If you are considering doing a mobile safari in the Kalahari, the most popular destination is Deception Valley. However, I highly recommend Passarge Valley, or do both if you have the time. Passarge is much more remote than Deception and you will see far fewer people there. In Passarge, we had the entire valley to ourselves for 2.5 days. Deception was also really great but we did see other vehicles regularly.

 

 

 

Edited by umiami05
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Thank you umiami05 (which I feel silly saying when I could have just said Steve!) :D

 

Thanks for the details - all looks great and perfectly comfortable. And the Passarge description even better. Love those stories of lions at campsites...

 

And meerkats? Any luck with those?

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On our first night at Passage, we heard lions roaring from 8pm to 4:30am when we woke up. The closest roars were less than 200 yards from camp. We knew there must be some lions nearby so we set off on our game drive in search of them. We didnt get far when we got a radio call from camp saying they spotted the lions in the pan across from camp. We raced back and started scanning the area. In short order we spotted several lion heads peaking up from the grass, only a few hundred yards from camp. It turned out to be two lionesses and three sub-adult cubs.

 

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While we watched the lions, the lionesses kept contact calling to presumably locate the rest of the pride. We had heard a male lion roar in the middle of the night so we knew there must be more lions somewhere nearby. We followed the 5 lions hoping they would lead us to the rest of the pride, but they just led us to a shady bush where they quickly fell asleep. Interestingly, while we were listening for nearby lions, our guide Thuto swore he heard wild dogs calling somewhere in the distance. The calls weren't loud enough nor persistent enough to follow, but he told us to keep our eyes peeled.

 

We continued on our game drive and saw lots of gemsbok, springbok, several giraffe, wildebeest, and a secretary bird hunting snakes in the grass. For awhile, we even followed the tracks of an elephant who apparently was trekking through the Central Kalahari for some reason. An elephant in the Kalahari would have been a truly rare sighting. But the tracks soon veered off the path and over a large sand dune so we couldnt continue to follow.

 

Thats another interesting point about the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Since its a national park you arent allowed to drive off the designated paths or roads. It can make getting close to the game a little challenging. Just something to consider for those of you planning a trip to the CKGR.

 

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Edited by umiami05
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No Meerkats. Apparently they havnt been spotting in the CKGR for awhile. I was told the best place to see them was Makgadikgadi and Jacks Camp

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our guide Thuto swore he heard wild dogs calling somewhere in the distance.

Why not in the Kalahari too? They seem to be flourishing so many places.

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Thanks for the honey badger feedback. Looking forward to the rest.

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As our morning game drive continued, we rounded a corner and entered a nice open pan. We stopped the vehicle and scanned the area for any signs of life. Off in the distance, my brother-in-law said he spotted the ears of a bat-eared fox sticking up from the grass under a tree. The rest of the vehicle fixed our attention on that same spot and noticed several more pairs of ears sticking up from the grass. Our suspicions of a bat-eared fox were quickly waning when Thuto declared that those were definitly Wild dog ears.

 

As we approached the tree island we saw 5 sub-adult pups and two adults. They were sleeping and playing in the shade. We spent about an hour watching them and decided to return in the afternoon in the hopes of watching them hunt. A wild dog hunt in the wild open pans of the Kalahari would be a truly awesome sight! So we went back to camp for a quick lunch and a short break and then headed back out to watch the dogs.

 

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We arrived back at the tree island about 4pm and found the dogs still sleeping. Their bellies looked full from the morning hunt but we still had hope that they would at least attempt a hunt in the afternoon. This pack was just starting out. It was comprised of only two adults, yet they were able to successfully raise 5 pups, all by themselves.

 

We watched the dogs for several hours until it became obvious they were too full to hunt. Around dusk, they played around a bit as rain clouds and thunder storms grew closer. Finally they ran off into the shrub line and we headed back to camp.

 

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Edited by umiami05
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Ah this report is just fabulous - making me feel like I am there and really getting me in the mood for my trip! The photos are beautiful and that video of the dogs is charming - they are so cute! I'm in California too, by the way - are you north or south? I'm north.

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On our second morning in Passarge, we again awoke to the sounds of roaring lions nearby. We set out on our game drive at 5am, but within less than 5min from camp the road was blocked.

 

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We finally found the source of all that roaring. As we got closer we noticed a lioness laying in the grass nearby. The two other lionesses and cubs we saw the day before were no where in sight. That could only mean one thing.....

 

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The two lions looked quite exhausted and the interval between matings was quite long. Lions mate continuosly for 3-4 days. On the first day, matings occur every 10minutes like clock-work. On the third or fourth day, the intervals increase to 30+min. These lions were definitely nearing the end of their mating. In fact, the female was clearly trying to walk away but the male was apparently still interested.

 

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After we left the lions we had several good sightings of bat-eared fox, two african wild-cats, some cool insects, and some weaver birds.

 

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Edited by umiami05
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I'm in California too, by the way - are you north or south? I'm north.

 

I live in Northern California, San Francisco. Just moved here about a year ago and love it!

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I'm in California too, by the way - are you north or south? I'm north.

I live in Northern California, San Francisco. Just moved here about a year ago and love it!

 

 

 

Oh wow, well that's where I am too (near Stanford, actually) - very cool, I love it too!

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Beautiful insects, probably more prevalent in green season.

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Great report. Love the CKGR. And, as long as it's northern California time, I was born in Vallejo.

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