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Outstanding Trip Report to Zambia and SA but.......


PCNW
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…not outstanding in the awesome sort of way but as in late like in Matt’s “Outstanding Trip Reports” post.

 

Zambia and South Africa August 2012

 

This is a different sort of trip report mostly in the form of a video slide show. And it will be obvious that we didn’t put it together specifically for ST but mostly for family and ourselves.

 

But first a little about our trip.

 

Our itinerary was a typical first time trip and probably of little interest to the experienced safari traveler. In Zambia we went to Sausage Tree Camp on the beautiful Zambezi River and The Royal Livingstone at Victoria Falls and in SA we visited Camp Jabulani in the Kapama Reserve and Londolozi in the Sabi Sands.

 

The goal when planning this trip was to go and do, see and experience as many different things as we could jamb into one trip thinking, like many, that it would be our one and only. I say this as I’m packing my camera gear for Botswana in three weeks and finishing the details of a Tanzania/Zanzibar trip for August.

 

I’ve been trying to find a way to produce a slide show so that it will upload and show at the same resolution as I’m able to view it on my Mac. And while the resolution of this clip is far better than when uploaded to You Tube it’s still not at full resolution, which is disappointing. I’ve used Vimeo for the clip.

 

 

For those interested in the slide show and not the text go here:

 

https://vimeo.com/60724503

 

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July 25, 2012

 

 

We had barely begun and it was already an adventure. We got to the GNV with two hours to spare only to be called right to the gate. The woman there said HURRY, here's your boarding pass, get on the plane!….What?…What plane?…Where are we going? We did as told but never got an explanation on why they pushed us (almost literally) onto this earlier flight but it certainly worked out for the best.

 

Then a few minutes after boarding our next plane for the leg to Johannesburg I missed Caroline only to find her sitting in the pilots chair wearing his cap surrounded by all four pilots. She was grinning like a 5 year old, bouncing up and down and moving the seat back and forth. One of the pilots took her upstairs to show her the captains quarters….My son said it sounds like Sandusky….

 

We were next up at the end of the runway only to have to go back for a medical emergency. Apparently some dimwit got on that needs round the clock oxygen but forgot to mention this to anyone. We have a 16 hour flight and the plane has 30 min worth of O2 on board. This took two hours, an ambulance and three paramedics to get her off the plane, find her luggage and get us back in line for our take off. I said a little prayer that they remembered to top off the gas tank not wanting to fall from the air two hours short of the runway.

 

During those two hours that turned into a meet and greet Caroline made friends with everyone including the father/son couple that are on their way to Botswana to hunt elephants. Apparently if you bag a big bull that could set you back $100,000 on top of the price of the trip. Lordy.

 

Those new lay flat seats that Delta is so proud of are so incredibly…uncomfortable….. Unless you like sitting on a granite slab for 16 hours and I don't, Caroline did.

 

We spent the night in Joburg and then flew to Lusaka. After passing through the security scanner (which alarmed without getting anyone's attention) to our next flight I had to go to the bathroom which involved going back through the now unattended security scanner and then returning setting off the alarm a third time without anyone even looking my way.

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Luska to Jeki and Sausage Tree Camp

 

All can say is WOW. Our plane was sold out meaning that all six seats were taken. No need for seat belts since we were packed in like sardines. The young pilot had a serious case of bed head and a three-day beard but he had on an official looking shirt and a copilot that slept with his head against the window. The ride was bumpy due to high winds (plane made from balsa wood) but I will say the landscape was breath taking. More mountainous than I would have thought.

 

The landing strip was a short dirt path and our guides were waiting by a land cruiser that would take us to a flat boat for a 25 minute ride to camp. On the way we saw our first wildlife, impala, baboons, zebras, elephants, crocs and scores of hippos. So incredibly cool. To finally be experiencing for what I had been waiting for almost a year was…well, I can’t even describe my emotions.

 

 

After being greeted at camp we were given the rules, which is, don't leave the room at night (and I'll be honest there was not any temptation to do that), little frogs will share our room and shake out your shoes and towels before using. If trapped by wildlife go into to the closest tent (yours or not) and use the radio for help. Our muchinda, Shepard, will bring our coffee at 6:00, breakfast is at 6:30.

 

After Shepard showed us our tent and most importantly the emergency radio we left for a night game and we found a lion. That roar just feet from our open vehicle in the dark is incredibly impressive. You can feel the roar as well as hear it.

 

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When returning to camp we were surprised with a lantern lit bush dinner, only a bonfire, lanterns and a few flash lights for the bathroom which I can't even describe except to say…well I'm not even sure what to say about that…bathroom is definitely not the right word. The dinner you ask? OMG, creamy butternut soup, tender oxtails, chicken of some delicious sort, the local form of grits only better, (all mostly cooked over an open fire) and an acorn squash concoction that was Caroline's favorite. Sweet hot chocolate for desert.

 

We let them know our only fear was spiders. .….yep, on the wall by her side of the bed. Aaaaghhhh….. I thought the mosquito nets on our bed were for show, now I know differently.

 

While in bed we couldn’t believe the sounds of the place. Our tent was about 25 feet from the river and there were hippos right in front of us splashing and talking with each other or trying to drown out the frogs, crickets and baboon sounds. There were other sounds that I couldn’t identify.

 

 

I trouble sleeping for several nights and the only thing I can figure is I didn’t want to miss one minute of the trip. Shepard woke us with our coffee and opened the doors to the river. Caroline and I sat up at the same time like a pop up toy and stared out at the hippos and the Zambezi river. Simply amazing.

 

After breakfast on the open dining deck which overhangs the river (no railing) we had a game drive with just the two of us and our guide Chris.

 

We sat with a breeding herd of elephants and watched them mourn a dead sister. It was sad to watch them touch and smell her. We also saw oodles of impala, elephant, some waterbuck, warthogs, two jackals, a mongoose, all while listening to my favorite African sound which is the Cape Turtle Dove call. In the morning they say "work harder, work harder" and in the

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Left this part out of the previous text: in the evening it's "drink lager, drink lager."

 

 

After our drive we all took a pontoon boat to a shallow sandbar, which had been set up with a table, tent, and chairs in the water. We wadded over to get a cool drink and watched them finish barbecuing the meat in the river. Lunch was special sitting in ankle deep water in the shade of the tent. The dining table is always dressed with nice linens, glasses and more silverware than I can find uses.

 

Caroline took a long nap outside on our deck and after our down time and being trapped in our room for awhile by a bull elephant we met our guide for tiger fishing. First we used worms to catch our bait. I was the cameraman and worm collector. Caroline pulled them in like she had done this before even catching several small tiger fish, however, we came up empty for big tiger fish. I will say that there are very few things better that a Mosi Lager in one hand and your rod in the other with crocs on our left and watching the red sun set behind the mountains on the Zambezi river.

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A land rover met us upstream for a game drive back and we found a pride of lions. Two lions, two lionesses and five cubs. The baby jumped on dad, he slapped the baby and mom popped him.

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The plan for the next day was canoeing on the Zambezi. We had heard the other guests tell of two hippo charges that they experienced and we were a little concerned but since we were told it was a must do activity we said Geronimo and barreled ahead…well tentatively barreled ahead.

 

"Chris, crocs to the left and hippos to the right and not much room in the middle!!!!" I developed a strategy that would assure my safety, I paddled fast and looked at my shoes. If I can't see them they can't see me and it worked since after 3 1/2 hours of dodging hippos in a small channel we made it out alive. As the kids would say that is an adrenaline rush. But, It was incredibly peaceful seeing elephant, buffalo, impala, baboons, and an incredible amount of birds all with the gentle sounds of the river.

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At the end there was a boat waiting to take us back, and that's the way to go, one way and down stream. Lunch followed and then a siesta. I took the outside lounge and Caroline slept inside. The hippos kept waking me but that is my new favorite African sound, hippo grunts. It went on all night right outside our tent. That night we could hear the lions in the distance. The other couple in camp slept with their doors open. Caroline and I discussed doing this but not with spiders in the country.

 

I was a little uneasy during our last night hearing strange animal sounds. The lions were getting closer and the hippos sounded like they were just outside. I told the manager about it including that I was sure it was may imagination but I thought I had heard a leopard rasping, he said there was a leopard in camp and that he had heard the same thing.

 

 

We flew back on an even smaller plane and Caroline was the copilot. She said the pilot told her every landing is a controlled crash on those dirt airstrips.

 

Next up was the Royal Livingstone at Victoria Falls. The fall was very impressive and the hotel lovely. Giraffe, impala and zebra roam freely on the grounds.

 

Neither of us were looking forward to this part of our trip but it has been a major pleasant surprise. The hotel website doesn't do it justice. It's probably one of the prettiest hotels I've ever stayed in with all of the wildlife and the naughty monkeys roaming freely on a perfect lawn on the Zambezi River.

 

 

The following morning we got up early to do a helicopter flight over the falls. Very pretty but I wasn't prepared for the low flying into the tight gorge right above the river. I tried to keep the chopper level by leaning left and right and I noticed no one was helping me.

 

We had been warned about the naughty monkeys, not to feed them and to keep the doors locked. Caroline and I were sitting on our balcony and I opened a bag of chips, oh my gosh, they materialized from nowhere just from that sound. I ran inside and closed the door leaving Caroline to fend for herself, her eyes were big as saucers. I don't know what I was thinking leaving my child with The Planet Of The Apes. They took her coke and drank it and got the chips too. I nearly wet my pants laughing watching her from the safety of my room.

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Later we went for a walk to photograph the animals. A man offered to take us into the woods to show us where they could be found and we were both just starting to think that this situation was exactly what everyone back home had warned us about. But all was well, we found the zebra and giraffe. At first we were frightening them but the tables turned and soon we were running from them. It was comical.

 

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That afternoon we did the controversial lion walk. We were so excited about this when we first read about it until I read something that Stokegirl had written about it in Tripadvisor. But Caroline just wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. And I decided not to discuss it anymore and just let her do it. Ellie Mae Clampett was thrilled by it. Sadly there's no chance that there is any truth to this attraction raising these habituated cubs to be released into the wild.

 

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The next day we headed to Camp Jabulani for elephant back safaris, a hot air balloon ride and a visit to a cheetah/animal rescue center. I was very tired...

 

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More to come later.

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Game Warden

Good start: thanks for posting about the lion walk - what was your impression of the conditions? Indeed, where was it? There has been a long debate about it here on Safaritalk.

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Matt believe me I have read so much about it trying to decide just what the detriment this attraction is to lions in general. The facility is about 20 minutes outside of Livingstone.

 

It's my understanding that this place breeds these lionesses, takes the cubs at three weeks and bottle feeds them. Hand raising and using the cubs on the walk until they're about 18 months.

 

They try to sell to the public that they're trying to repopulate the depleted lion population by rewilding and releasing in phases. We all know that these lions will never be released, way too habituated. But the one positive of this place is that you're shown a very well made video about the plight of lions in general. A fair amount of effort went in to this video, which surprised me.

 

The main guide when asked admitted no lions have ever been released. And I suspect, but don't have any knowledge of this, that their living conditions aren't great. I do know one thing and that's that the cubs are afraid of that stick that the tourists walk with and that tells you something.

 

Also I was wondering if these cubs had been declawed and felt sure I had the proof of that. This photo makes me think that the dewclaw wouldn't be extended w/o the others but to be fair I just saw a similar picture of a wild lion and a similar paw, with only the declaw exposed so I really don't know.

 

I'm curious about the eventual fate of the cubs. How many zoos need lions in SA? I can't image that they could even be sold to hunting lodges if they're declawed. Are they simply put down?

 

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Poo, I just checked that video post above and I thought it would have opened to the Vimeo site as it does when emailing it link. It has music and is larger than what displayed above. I'll try this:

 

https://vimeo.com/60724503

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Nope. Didn't work.

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Game Warden

It has music here, just takes a little while to boot up.

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