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South Africa & Botswana, we had a blast!


MR1980

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August 31st 2012 Part II

 

When we got back from the boat cruise it was time for us to leave Xakanaxa and head for our next destination in Moremi Game Reserve, North Gate also known as “Khwai”. We had an amazing time at Xakanaxa and this is definitively a place we want to come back to some day and stay for maybe 3 or 4 nights. With our late arrival on the 29th and the boat cruise on the final morning we only had 2 proper game drives in this area and that’s by far not enough to really appreciate this stunning area. The drive from Xakanaxa to North Gate went pretty smooth, some stretches of thick sand but it wasn’t too bad. We were surprised by 2 honey badgers crossing the road but as we drove through a section of thick sand we didn’t want to stop and risk being stuck so unfortunately no images but happy to spot them! :) During the drive we didn’t spot much else except for a huge dead elephant so when we arrived at North Gate we quickly inspected our camp site, visited the ablutions to freshen up a little and went back strait in the car for a late afternoon game drive.

 

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It was a short drive but we could already see that the Khwai area looks a bit different than the area around Xananaxa as Xakanaxa is more open and Khwai has beautiful forests surrounding the campsite. If you add elephants and other animals to those forests it becomes even more beautiful. I’ve never been to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe but to see the elephants slowly walking through the forest reminded me (if only a bit) of that place I’ve seen only in images unfortunately. It really felt like a magical place… I hope my images do it justice. The campsite we got was not as great as the one at Xakanaxa, we had hoped for a spot next to the river but instead of that we got a site at the edge of camp overlooking the open plains. So no river view unfortunately but it could have been worse as some campsites had no view at all.

 

Until next time! September 1st would probably give us one of the most special sightings of the entire trip… :)

 

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Edited by MR1980
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Great images of the herd. Any idea of the cause of the death of the elephant in the third photo?

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Great images of the herd. Any idea of the cause of the death of the elephant in the third photo?

 

Thanks @@Marks! I don't know for sure about the cause of death, I guess it died a natural death. It was a massive elephant, to big to be killed by lions I think. The carcas looked pretty much intact except for the soft parts of the body so at least it wasn't killed by poachers because it still had both tusks.

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Kitsafari

 

Glad to see you continue this report - interesting pics of the Elephant indeed. Really like that Bushbuck photo, too.

 

Have a wonderful safari - and don´t forget to proceed with this report (and start a new one) afterwards! :)

 

Thank you very much @@michael-ibk, I'm sure we will! I promise I will continue the report... ;)

 

Great you like it as well @@Marks! I think so too but it is difficult sometimes, especially when you see all those amazing sightings on Safari Talk...! :)

 

 

I was thinking your trip was just as amazing as well, with such beautiful shots of the elephants, the hornbill, the lovely profiles of the bushbucks. safaris are 50% quiet but so enjoyable drives, 30% with thrills of impalas, giraffes, zebras, and 20% of the drama biggies - elephants, predators and the rare rare nocturnal creatures.

 

:D

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  • 5 weeks later...

 

 

Glad to see you continue this report - interesting pics of the Elephant indeed. Really like that Bushbuck photo, too.

 

Have a wonderful safari - and don´t forget to proceed with this report (and start a new one) afterwards! :)

 

Thank you very much @@michael-ibk, I'm sure we will! I promise I will continue the report... ;)

 

Great you like it as well @@Marks! I think so too but it is difficult sometimes, especially when you see all those amazing sightings on Safari Talk...! :)

 

 

I was thinking your trip was just as amazing as well, with such beautiful shots of the elephants, the hornbill, the lovely profiles of the bushbucks. safaris are 50% quiet but so enjoyable drives, 30% with thrills of impalas, giraffes, zebras, and 20% of the drama biggies - elephants, predators and the rare rare nocturnal creatures.

 

:D

 

 

You're right @@Kitsafari. When I'm on a quiet game drive and nothing really interesting happens I can't help but feel a little bit disappointed sometimes about not having the great sightings. But now, while I'm sitting behind a desk while the rain keeps pouring and pouring I wish I was sitting in my rental car somewhere in Africa listening to the sound of the bush without even seeing a single animal... Nothing beats the bush!! :)

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Tom Kellie

You're right @@Kitsafari. When I'm on a quiet game drive and nothing really interesting happens I can't help but feel a little bit disappointed sometimes about not having the great sightings. But now, while I'm sitting behind a desk while the rain keeps pouring and pouring I wish I was sitting in my rental car somewhere in Africa listening to the sound of the bush without even seeing a single animal... Nothing beats the bush!! :)

 

~ @@MR1980

 

Amen to that!

I couldn't agree more.

Tom K.

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  • 4 weeks later...

September 1st 2012

 

As I mentioned already in my previous report, the Khwai area is very beautiful from a landscape point of view but when we left our campsite early in the morning we were hoping to find some cool animals and birds as well. I’m happy to say we succeeded as during the day we had several great sightings!! Our first special sighting, at least for us, was a beautiful bateleur perched high up in a dead tree. We had seen one before, in Kruger National Park in 2010 but this sighting was much better. After watching it for a while it was time to move on.

 

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Up until now we hadn’t seen a single lion and as our time in Moremi was almost over we were hoping for a lion to pop up around every corner. Not long after we spotted the bateleur we got lucky! We were driving at the edge of a large open area when all of a sudden we spotted an impressive male lion and his bride in the middle of this open area. They were not very close to the road but we couldn’t believe our luck anyway and for the next 1,5 hour we watched them doing their thing. Which consisted mostly of mating, resting, mating, resting and so on and so on, you probably know what I mean… ;) At times they stood up and walked a few meters but that was about it. Would this be happening in Kruger on a main road it would have probably been total chaos with cars everywhere forming a classic Kruger roadblock but not in Moremi. We were only occasionally joined by another car which usually moved on after a little while. The only one that wouldn’t leave us was a very nervous black-backed jackal that was running around and kept barking at the newlyweds all the time.

 

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Since we expected the lions to be in the area for the next couple of hours we decided it was time for brunch and so we moved on to camp and planned to come back later in the afternoon. Unfortunately the lions were nowhere to be seen when we came back in the afternoon. We looked everywhere but it seemed our luck was over… The rest of the afternoon game drive was very quiet from a wildlife point of view but we still managed to find a new species to add to this year’s list, namely a family of five Southern ground hornbills which were foraging on the forest floor. Beautiful birds that didn’t even seem to notice us watching them. When we came back at our campsite we put up the rooftop tent, took a well-deserved shower and finished our nightly setup by starting a fire for the planned braai and placing a couple of candles in a semi-circle around us to protect us from any dangerous animals. The candles didn’t stop the hyena from getting VERY close to us and our car but ok, at least we felt safer… :) Dinner was great with a big piece of steak, a salad and fried mushrooms and no animals with big teeth to scare us. This changed during the night when my girlfriend heard some alarm calls around our campsite. She was curious about what was going on so she opened up the front of the rooftop tent and when she popped her head out she saw a leopard sneaking around our campsite. She tried to wake me but was unsuccessful so unfortunately I missed the whole thing… I have to say I slept very deeply during this trip and since I didn’t even woke up when an elephant was hugging a tree next to our campsite at Xakanaxa I wasn’t surprised I missed this night’s leopard as well. In the morning we would leave for Savuti, a part of the trip that we didn’t look forward to after we got stuck in thick sand already at the Makgadikgadi Pans a week before. And Savuti was said to be even worse…

 

Till next time my friends!!

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

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Edited by MR1980
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  • 6 months later...

September 2nd & 3rd 2012

 

Finally, I found some time to continue this trip report… I’m sorry it took so long but it have been hectic times the last couple of months as we have recently moved into our new home and we are expecting our little baby girl any time now. A lot of time went into renovating our new home and buying new furniture etc. and of course our little girl also needs a lot of stuff so we’ve also had to buy a whole lot of stuff for her and as you all probably know shopping can be very time consuming…

 

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But let’s continue my report as the best part of the trip is still to come if you ask me. On this day we would have to drive to Savuti and while planning this trip it was already evident that this stretch of road would probably be the most challenging of the entire trip because the road to and from Savuti is known for its very thick sand and getting stuck here would be very likely, at least for first timers like us. So we had already been a bit nervous about this part of the trip while planning and that was even before we got stuck in the Makgadikgadi Pans only a couple of days earlier. After getting stuck there we at first thought, no way we are going to Savuti!! We simply go back to Maun, head East on the tar road to Nata and continue North to Kasane where we would have three nights at Chobe Safari Lodge. But that would most certainly mean we would lose one night in Kasane because the driving distance would be too far for one day. So after talking to a couple of other people we came to the conclusion that if we would stick to the plan of keeping momentum and don’t slow down to much while going through the thick sand we would probably make it to Savuti. And so we did! There were some tense moments because there actually were a couple of very thick stretches but we kept the car going and to our surprise didn’t get stuck once. Although we hadn’t seen much of the surroundings because we were simply driving too fast and only stopped once or twice to have a drink we were so happy when we arrived safely around midday at Savuti.

 

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Happy to arrive safely we went to the reception to find our campsite taken by a Polish couple who had trouble with their car. They arrived at Savuti a couple of days earlier and at some point their car simply died and they were stuck at our campsite waiting for help from the rental company. Help should arrive the same day we arrived so we hoped they would be gone within a couple of hours. It was incredibly hot that day and our campsite named Paradise (all other campsites have numbers) only had one tree on it with our Polish friends right under it so it wasn’t exactly paradise just yet… After a while the repairman from the rental company actually did show up, the car was fixed and our Polish “friends” were on their to?! Before they had left a nice Dutch couple had already found us. They had a campsite reservation but reception had told them they were overbooked and they had to find someone who would like to share their campsite with them. Because we’re also Dutch they thought they could join us. As they were very open and happy to talk Dutch again after a while and we felt the same they were more than happy to share our Paradise as the campsite was big enough for two cars anyway. It was still bloody hot so after some refreshments we decided to go on a game drive. My girlfriend wasn’t happy about this because this meant we could still get stuck in the thick sand but I hadn’t come all this way to not do at least one game drive. I asked our new friends to join us in the car and they were more than happy to join us. We didn’t have much time so it felt a bit rushed but it felt good to have seen the area surrounding Savuti Camp at least a little bit. I hoped to bump in a couple of lions or maybe even a leopard but we weren’t that lucky. After two hours we were back at our campsite, we took a shower and prepared a braai for the four of us. We witnessed the most amazing sunset with a full flowing Savuti Channel and went to bed after a couple of more drinks chatting around the fire.

 

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The camping grounds around Savuti are not very inviting. The sand is everywhere and very thick as well. There even was a couple that got stuck next to their campsite and because it was also very hot already we decided to leave Savuti as soon as we were ready. The thought of the swimming pool, the view on the Chobe River and air-conditioning was just too strong to do another game drive around Savuti… We had Chobe Safari Lodge on our minds and nothing was gonna stop us from going there ASAP. We said goodbye to our new friends (we’re still friends) who were going in the opposite direction and hit the road again. I personally would love to return to Savuti some day for a couple of days to really explore the area. One night is simply not enough to appreciate this remote location. As we are more experienced now anyway I think we would like to give Savuti another chance so who knows what the future might bring… The road from Savuti to Kasane didn’t seem as demanding as the road from Khwai to Savuti but when we finally felt tar under us after 5 days in the bush we were very, very happy. We had survived the Savuti Sand!! After we put some more pressure in the tires it was an easy drive to Chobe Safari Lodge. We wouldn’t be camping for the next three days but a “luxury” room was waiting for us on the banks of the Chobe River. Pure heaven, at least after 5 nights in the bush. We didn’t do much that afternoon, except relaxing at the pool, eating some of the best chicken wings I’ve ever tasted (at least that’s how it felt at the time) and arranging our activities for the next couple of days. I don’t remember how late we went to bed that night but I know it wasn’t very late. We slept like babies that night…

 

Until next time folks!! Next up is our visit to Victoria Falls…

 

Michel

 

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Edited by MR1980
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  • 4 weeks later...
Marks

Beautiful sunset and panoramas!

A daughter, eh? How long until her first safari? :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
MR1980

Thank you very much @@Marks!! Our daughter was born on May 10th and she's doing great so we're very happy!! ;)

 

Probably next year we plan to go to South Africa again. :) No Kruger or other malaria places of course but there are still a lot of beautiful places we haven't seen yet. Thinking about Cape Town, Garden Route, Addo, Mountain Zebra NP & Karoo NP. There are of course other non malaria options such as Madikwe & Pilanesberg which would probably offer better safari options but with a 1 year old I prefer not to fly that much and self drive would be the best/less expensive option... Visited Cape Town in 2010 and loved it and the parks I mentioned above seem to offer a lot as well.

 

But I'm always open for other ideas.

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

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MR1980

September 4th 2012

 

I didn’t know I would appreciate a regular bed that much after 5 nights of camping in a roof top tent but after sleeping like a baby that 1st night at the Chobe Safari Lodge I knew. I had missed it…

 

For this day we had booked a guided tour to another supposed highlight of the trip, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We left the lodge early in the morning and after a short drive we arrived at the border around 09:00 hr. I had heard stories about the procedures at the border which weren’t very promising but everything went smoothly as far as I could see. After crossing the border we were on our way to Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “The Smoke That Thunders” in English. It is said that a picture means more than thousand words so I will again let the pictures do the talking. All I can say is we both were very impressed by this natural wonder, a definitive highlight of our trip!! After exploring the falls for a couple of hours we had lunch at the beautiful and famous Victoria Falls Hotel. Prices were high for African standards but still affordable for us Europeans so we had no problem enjoying ourselves on the terrace. We could have spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the view, food and drinks but our bus was waiting to take us back to the Chobe Safari Lodge where we arrived somewhere around 17:00 hr. It had been a hot and long day so after a dip in the pool we had dinner and relaxed a bit more. The next morning we would have our first private boat trip into Chobe National Park…

 

I hope you enjoy the pictures! Until next time!

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

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Edited by MR1980
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Marks

Beautifully composed shots. Love the panoramas.

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optig

@@MR1980 I particularly loved your aerial photos of the Okavango Delta because they brought back my memories of flying over the Delta.The flight over the Delta for the first time in July 2011 and marveling at how green and lush it was. I can also remember seeing herds of animals from the air.

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MR1980

Thanks @@Marks! I've worked on these images mostly in 2013 when I was still fairly new to Lightroom so I think it's possible to improve these images a bit. So I will probably revisit all these images some day... ;)

 

Thank you very much @@optig! I can imagine it brought back memories as it was an amazing experience for me as well. The big herd of buffalo was incredible to see from the air although I think it wasn't as lush and green as you describe.

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

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  • 8 months later...

September 5th 2012 Part I

 

First of all, sorry it took me so long to continue this trip report… I have been very busy since my daughter was born in May and as a lot of you probably know raising a child is very time consuming, but also a life changing experience and a whole lot of fun! I hope to finish this trip report in the next couple of weeks.

 

Today is a day we’ve been very much looking forward to since we decided to go to Botswana!! We’re going to do a private boat cruise on the Chobe River!! While researching this trip I soon found out that the best option for a boat cruise on the Chobe River would be a private one, with private I mean a small boat with only us and a guide/captain. People who don’t do so much research probably end up on a big boat like we’ve also seen a lot with beer, snacks and noisy people on them. Not exactly our cup of tea… It proved to be a great choice for multiple reasons as you can decide how long you stay with a certain sighting, a small boat can get much closer to the shore than a bigger boat and thus closer to animals and birds and you don’t have to share your guide with other people so you can learn so much more about the wildlife and everything. Boat & guide can be booked per hour so you are very flexible. We decided 3 hours would be fine so we departed at 07.30 directly from the lodge and after we got our permits a few hundred meters further up the river we are ready for our adventure!

 

During these 3 hours we learnt from our guide Isaac that it’s actually better to do the boat safari in the afternoon because then even more elephants come out of the forest for a drink and you can actually witness them crossing the river to the islands where they spend the rest of the day before they go back to the forest for the night. We had already planned another boat cruise for the following morning so we rescheduled it a little bit but we couldn’t be very flexible unfortunately as we had to trade our luxurious lodge for our roof top tent again and head for Ihaha in the afternoon.

 

Nevertheless the boat trip was absolutely amazing!! Everywhere you look there are animals and birds… During those 3 hours we saw waterbuck, elephant, fish eagle, puku, crocodile, hippo, sable antelope, buffalo, giant & pied kingfisher, carmine bee-eater, yellow-billed stork, open-billed stork, African spoonbill and many others. Being on a boat also gives you another perspective so you can really get those low angle shots that usually aren’t possible when you’re in a car or game drive vehicle, an added bonus I would say! I hope my story and images help you to get an idea what to expect when you’ve reached this incredible destination. I will be back soon with part II of this day!

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

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Edited by MR1980
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michael-ibk

Congrats on the birth of your daughter, and glad to see this report continue. Beautiful photos from Chobe.

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Congrats on the birth of your daughter, and glad to see this report continue. Beautiful photos from Chobe.

 

Thank you very much @@michael-ibk! Chobe is awesome, trip report continues soon with the afternoon game drive in the park. Lions & dogs on the way... :)

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Peter Connan

Congratulations!

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  • 1 month later...

September 5th 2012 Part II

 

After a relaxing lunch and a dip in the pool at the Chobe Safari Lodge it was time for our guided afternoon game drive in the park. Expectations were high so when we hopped in the game drive vehicle we couldn’t wait to enter Chobe National Park. Unfortunately for us the guide decided that he would stop for almost every animal he saw… Even if it was the 6th impala or the 3rd warthog of the drive. That’s his right of course and safari newbies might not notice it but it was a bit disappointing for us. Especially for a park such as Chobe which is known for its huge elephant herds, lions and other big animals you might think the guide would search for the more special animals first. So the first two hours of the drive were a bit slow but I still managed to get a couple of nice shots.

 

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Fortunately our patience was rewarded in the final hour of the drive!! Although light was already fading the pride of lions the guide had found us was very rewarding since this was “only” our second lion sighting of the trip after the honeymoon couple we had found at Khwai in Moremi. They weren’t very active though and did what lions can do best, mainly resting and waiting for the moment to go hunting. We weren’t going to witness this as our guide announced it was time to head for the exit and leave the park. Since we were still quite far from the gate we were still hoping for a bit of Chobe magic…

 

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When we drove down a hill I noticed some movement to my right and although it was still pretty far away I immediately knew it were wild dogs! Our guide hadn’t noticed them yet but when he saw the movement as well he confirmed it were indeed African wild dogs. When we drove closer we counted a total of 6 dogs and according to our guide they had made a kill only minutes before we arrived at the scene because the remains of a kudu were all over the place… Light was really a problem now so my images aren’t the best, also because of the distance, but as a sighting it was simply amazing. We had seen wild dogs a couple of weeks before at De Wildt Shingwedzi but those were captive ones. This was the real deal!! It must have been epic if we had arrived a bit earlier to witness the actual kill but I’m sure it would have been very brutal, not everyone’s cup of tea I guess. So in the end the drive turned out to be a winner and as a final surprise we found a hyena next to the road, close to the gate.

 

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All in all it was another great day in the African bush! Tomorrow, after another private boat safari, we will leave the comforts of the lodge and go back to our rooftop tent again for 2 nights inside Chobe National Park at the Ihaha Campsite. Until next time!

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

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Edited by MR1980
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xelas

All exceptional sightings and photos but my favourite is the sunset one :) !

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All exceptional sightings and photos but my favourite is the sunset one :) !

 

Thank you very much @@xelas!! An African sunset is hard to beat of course... ;) Some more elephants in the frame would have been nice but you can't have it all... :)

Edited by MR1980
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  • 2 weeks later...
Peter Connan

Chobe delivers once again! Just the most amazing animal sighting destination I have ever visited!.

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  • 4 weeks later...
MR1980

September 6th 2012

 

After another great sleep at the lodge it was time to pack our things, have breakfast and prepare ourselves for our final private boat cruise on the Chobe River! I had rescheduled the boat cruise a bit so instead of 07.30 we hopped in the boat at 09.30 hoping we would see more elephants crossing the river as they normally do that later during the day according to Isaac, again our guide for the three hour trip. This second boat cruise was just as amazing as the first one and indeed we had more elephant action…Besides the elephants we had lots of other sightings, mostly the same animals as on the first boat cruise but as a bonus we even saw a lion resting under a tree! Unfortunately it was very far away and the boat couldn’t get any closer as the water was very shallow in this area so unfortunately I don’t have an image of the lion. Three hours went by very quickly again and after arriving back at the lodge we thanked Isaac for everything, we couldn’t have wished for a better guide.

 

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It was already lunchtime and since we were soon back at camping we made sure we had a full stomach before jumping in our Hilux 4x4 again. All in all we loved our stay at Chobe Safari Lodge, it was a very welcome change to our camping routine and I would definitively recommend staying here if your also in need of a proper bed and a good restaurant in between camping. Activities were arranged how we wanted them and staff was always very nice and polite to us so we had zero complaints, it was all we had hoped for. Ihaha Campsite in Chobe National Park would be our next destination, with our initial plan to stay for 2 nights…

 

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When I was planning the trip we had heard about the very cheeky baboons at the campsites at Ihaha and the possibility of Namibians crossing the river to steal your belongings. I think you can understand we were a bit concerned about both possibilities but fortunately we didn’t notice anything about the second concern… The baboons on the other hand were very, very cheeky… But first we still had to get to Ihaha of course. If I remember correctly we entered the park at around 14.00 hrs. and on our way to our campsite there were a couple of sections with very thick sand, as bad as Savuti and where we got stuck in Makgadikgadi Pans I would say but since I was a bit more experienced I managed to get us to Ihaha without getting stuck. Along the way we spotted some nice animals as well, the two roan antelope being the highlight as they were a first for us. Beautiful animals I must say and we haven’t seen them again during this trip so luckily I got some nice images.

 

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Ihaha is indeed in a very beautiful location right next to the Chobe River and the campsites are large and wide spread, so far nothing to complain. But the baboons… I have never experienced baboons this cheeky, and they are BIG! After we had found our campsite we started unpacking and setting up our rooftop tent. Baboons were already aware that we had arrived and started to show interest in our stuff. They were actually coming closer and closer but up until now it were mostly the smaller ones that surrounded us. But when I was preparing the braai and my girlfriend turned away from the car for a second the boss jumped on the back of our car and grabbed a big can of soft drink. He was very quiet so when my girlfriend turned around he scared the sh*t out of her but when she yelled he wasn’t very impressed and didn’t move a muscle and continued drinking. And this scared her even more. It wasn’t after I came closer and screamed really loud at him a couple of times and threatened him with a big piece of wood he finally gave in and left the scene of the crime… This obviously made a big impression on us and we didn’t feel very safe anymore.

 

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Luckily the baboons go to bed when the sun goes down so after sunset they aren’t a problem anymore. The terrible state of the communal ablutions was another problem… In Moremi and even Savuti the communal ablutions were clean and in a good state but the same can’t be said about the ones at Ihaha unfortunately. They were dirty and broken for the most part. As if these two problems weren’t bad enough (at least to our opinion) there was a strong wind blowing that evening and night which prevented us from sleeping for most of the night. To make a long story short, despite the beautiful sunset and the amazing view we decided we weren’t going stay the second night. Some people might think we’re crazy but Ihaha just wasn’t for us… I already had an idea where we could spend the night but I will tell you about that next time!! For now, I hope you will enjoy my images…

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

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Edited by MR1980
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