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Mashatu, Kgalagadi to Caprivi overland and a Moremi mobile with Masson Safaris : 6 weeks in Southern Africa 2014


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Yay, got caught up with your report today!

What a huge diversity of wildlife and landscapes you saw. I wish I could organize 6 week long trips too :) So jealous!

As always, you're such a fount of info. And beautiful photos too. Look forward to more of this to come.

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Really like the wind-ruffled lion right behind the fallen tree, and the little ele on the road.

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Brilliant photos. Kgalagadi is magical, eh?


And yes, thanks for a wealth of information contained in the TR.

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A wonderful safari, really enjoying the photos as well as the writing.

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Another Treepol Odyssey! Mashatu really provided variety and even a happy ending for the bleeding ele. I hope the ending is similarly happy for those 5 cheetah cubs. They had better start obeying Mom's chirps for that happy ending to occur. Such a find and it seems you were privileged to be one of the first viewers. You got great stuff at Mashatu in your 4 nights there!


Next up is Kgalagadi. Did you devote 6 nights in 2 locations to Kgalagadi? My reading of your itin indicates you did.


Both are places I'd like to visit! Once again you are my scout, just like for Manu (Peru)!

Edited by Atravelynn
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@@michael-ibk @@TonyQ @@Africalover @@Marks @@twaffle thank you for your kind comments.


@@xelas - Ferdinand the bull, how appropriate and how funny. Haven't seen that book for years!


@@Sangeeta thanks for reading along. Tasmania is a long way from anywhere, so travelling far overseas for less than 4 weeks really isn't worth it - thats my story anyway!


@@Safaridude - KTP certainly is magical and a sadly overlooked park IMO. It has so much to offer in terms of scenery, wildlife and open spaces.


@@Atravelynn - this was certainly an odyssey, I must say that being in Africa and not getting on a plane for 31 days was very refreshing. Upington to Maun was all road and it really felt like a safari without the artificial and time-wasting breaks associated with airports and flights. Richard thought that all 5 cheetah cubs had a good chance of surviving now that they were out of the den, as long as the female could keep them away from other predators. Mashatu delivers for a third time! Happy to be your scout....any chance of this being a full-time position????


Namibia (cont.)


Next day, Rietfontein, Goas and Nuamses offer eles, giraffe, zebra, springbok and impala. We stopped for tea at a picnic site on the edge of the pan, after which we started to see some large ele bulls.




Several cars are parked up watching a pair of cheetahs mostly hidden in the long grass.




At Ngobib a lioness was half-heartedly stalking impala.




We settled down to see what would eventuate and became so engrossed that we missed the approach of an elephant bull that was almost at the Landrover before he was spotted. Francois told us to sit still and make no noise as the ele swayed up to us, pausing at the bonnet and then the side window, fixing us with a bright, beady eye before moving to the waterhole. We had barely located the lioness again when a second bull trundled by, to be followed by 3 more. This was a close and memorable parade of great grey ghosts. I asked Mum if the sighting was close enough, thinking she may have been nervous, however she was so wrapt that I don't think much else registered.






Namutoni is the lunch stop, before we check Chudop where giraffe, hyena, black-backed jackal and banded mongoose have stopped by.






Koinachas had eles only and over at Klein Namutoni we saw giraffe, terrapin, red-billed teal and oryx.




Here is the first Damara dik-dik of the trip.




We left the park as the shadows lengthened to drive to Mushara Bush Camp, our home for the next 2 nights. Next morning we departed Mushara early for the last full day in Etosha. A hyena pup accompanied by 3 adults plays in the shadows near Klein Namutoni, and a scruffy Tawny Eagle perches above the waterhole.






A leopard relaxing nearby attracted quite a crowd until the attention became too much and with a few liquid movements he was out of the tree and heading for cover.




We left in order to avoid the ensuing traffic jam and were rewarded by a rhino sighting before heading to Andoni waterhole. The Andoni Plain reminded me of the Serengeti, endless grass dotted with a few hardy springbok and oryx rather than impala and Grant’s gazelle.





We turned south at Andoni, checking the northern waterholes on the homeward journey, stopping to let this kudu pass.




We had heard from another guide at Klein Namutoni that there was an injured lion at Tsumcor. He had been there for 5 days, dying by degrees. I didn't like the sound of this, the sight was much harder. We stopped for about 3 minutes before Francois said - 'I don't like this lion business' and drove to the waterhole. The lion had a puncture wound on his leg and a belly wound most likely inflicted by an oryx or kudu.His poor condition, laboured breathing and obvious discomfort is one of the harshest memories I have from 6 African safaris.




I was so shocked at this sight that I don't have any photos and have borrowed this one from @@farin. Nature Conservation has a strict non-intervention policy for injuries incurred in the wild and would allow nature to take its course (this differs when the injury is the result of human activity). @@egilio may be able to offer an opinion on the injury, although the photo doesn't show much.


Otherwise, Tsumcor waterhole was busy with elephant, giraffe, kudu, eland and springbok. Shame the light was so strong.








There are more elephant at Groot Okevi with 3 family groups visiting the waterhole as we watched.








This calf delighted us as he gambolled around the herd.




Chudop also had a family of elephants drinking and bathing that scattered when this bull arrived.












The already stirred up and smelly waterhole became more unpalatable to the waiting giraffe as the bull bathed.




Oryx and zebra didn’t seem to mind though.





We did a final turn around Dik-dik Drive before leaving Etosha for the last time…this trip, that is!

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Very sad to se that lion.

The dikdik is beautiful - and I think your mother must have loved all of those elephants - so clsse to your car and then enjoying the mud and the water!

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Happy to be your scout....any chance of this being a full-time position????

You're hired. But you probably won't like the pay (or lack thereof). :(


Kgalagadi was lovely and I also joined you in Etosha, recognizing the waterholes. Very sad about the slowing expiring lion, but it was a natural death, not caused by man. You caught all the action at the waterhole. The drinking mongoose are rather humorous. Was there any discussion on how often a brown hyena shows up? That had to be quite a thrill.

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@@TonyQ every time I ask Mum what was her favourite sighting in Africa its always eles, the location switches from Mashatu to Moremi, but its always eles.


@@Atravelynn yes, a natural death, and soon afterwards we saw the baby ele which bought home the whole cycle of life philosophy, still though... We didn't talk about the frequency of brown hyenas at Okaukuejo, although I gathered from Francois reaction that it wasn't rare, just not regular. There was no particular buzz around the waterhole either. Anyway, it was very special to me as brown hyena were high on my desirable sightings wishlist.


Next morning we left Mushara early in order to have repairs made to the starter motor in the Landrover before heading to Hakusembe River Lodge near Rundu. @@farin commented on the drive north that the acacia trees grow quite tall when there are no giraffe around! We passed several groups of school children walking home and roadside stalls selling a variety of goods such as gourds, firewood, pottery, carvings and wooden toys. Tidy, traditional kraals lined the highway each sheltering a collection of wood, mud and dung huts.


The Lodge lies on the Namibian side of the Okavango River where Angola is directly across the water.




The residents of this village were busy at the riverside as we floated downstream on the afternoon cruise.










The first 2 birds caused some Pantanal déjà vu - Grey and Black-crowned Night Heron.






We also saw Green-backed Heron, Pied and Giant Kingfishers, a Little Bittern, a small Nile crocodile and sunset on the river.









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Beautiful photos @@Treepol! Love them all, but especially the drinking mongoose, the baby croc and the eles. The lions of Kalahari in the Khalagadi TP posts were amazing, as well. The lions of Etosha, too, can not mention all of the exciting images.

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great shot of the elephants hurrying to the waterhole, and your mum has to be very pleased with all the sightings of elephants and those next to the vehicle. that's very sad about the dying lion. it's a awful feeling knowing you can't do anything to relieve that pain and suffering it had to be going trhough.

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@@FlyTraveler and @@Kitsafari thank you for your kind words. There are more photos of eles hurtling downhill to the Kwando River in the next instalment.


Namibia (cont.)


I was out early next morning birding around the lodge. White-faced Ducks flew low over the river and this Pied Kingfisher fished early and then preened on the riverbank.






On the way to Mazambala Lodge we stopped at Shamvura Camp, the home of Mark and Charlie Paxton - Charlie put the kettle on and we were soon enjoying morning tea with rusks. I have received Mark’s Kavango Open Africa Route (KOAR) emails for 2-3 years and hoped to meet them as I’ve admired the grass roots work they both do with local people. The goals of KOAR are:

  • To promote legitimate tourism businesses in the Kavango Region and maintain high entry standards for KOAR members;
  • To assist with the preservation and protection of the region’s natural resources by liaising with Government Ministries and community-based NGOs; and
  • To contribute to the national data-base of natural resources via the Flagship Species Monitoring Program and similar projects.

One of Charlie's projects is to work with a local womens craft collective. I was impressed when Charlie said that some of the women were not artistic, but they could all make functional domestic baskets which were for sale at Shamvura together with more artistic pieces - a very inclusive attitude to empowering local women. I bought several baskets that I'm using for bathroom and perfume tidies. We talked of many things in the 45 minutes we were at Shamvura - hunting, birdwatching, community health programs, park management issues, books and volunteering. All too soon it was time to leave. Mark told us about the River Road which is the original gravel road that travels east, following the river. We drove on this for a short time before re-joining the tar road for a quicker trip to Mazambala. The River Road allows close-up views of villages, schools and local community life. Next time, I will allow more time in the itinerary to travel much further along this backroad.


We arrived at Mazambala Lodge around 2.30 pm and after lunch set out on the boat cruise around 4 pm with local guide Harris. The cruise was excellent – hippo, elephant, vervet monkeys, reedbuck and red lechwe. I thought how black these eles looked compared to the grey ghosts of Etosha. Birds included Senegal Coucal, Open-billed Stork, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Wood Hoopoe and Little and Carmine Bee-Eaters – my 2014 target species.














Next morning we game drive in the Nambwa Sector of Bwabwata Game Park. I was delighted and surprised to see 2 male lions lurking deep in the scrub, the lodge vehicle had seen them earlier walking back from the river before they laid up in deep cover. I was concerned for their safety, living so close to people, however David, the Lodge guide said they had been seen in the area previously then moved out before returning, so I like to think that they may be OK if they stay within the park. The impala and kudu are very relaxed in this semi-aquatic park where crocodile’s bask at the water’s edge and a Fish Eagle soars lazily overhead.




Leopard and wild dog tracks were the only clues that these animals are also present. We return for lunch at the Lodge, an afternoon snooze and then I was out on the afternoon cruise again. I noticed that some birds were in the same places as the previous day like this Little Bee-Eater, a soggy Pied Kingfisher and the Open-Billed Stork, however there were some new faces too – Goliath and Purple Heron, Black Egret, a Water Monitor, Wattled and Long-Toed Lapwing and Hadeda Ibis.














Suddenly there is a commotion on the hillside created by this herd of eles running for the river to quench a jumbo-sized thirst.






I couldn’t help spare a thought for the desert eles of Palmwag while I watched these guys enjoying the river. This youngster stayed behind after the herd had moved off.




We passed the Carmine Bee-Eater colony again where the birds sitting in a tree looked like red flowers. I decided to book a private morning cruise with Harris to see the birds emerging from the colony.




The river was picturesque as we set out - and as there were many birds to look at it took a while to reach the colony. A Wire-Tailed Swallow basked near the marina while a Coppery-tailed Coucal caught the sun further downriver.






We stopped for both Little and White-Fronted Bee-Eaters.






A pair of Dikkops began the day on a small downstream island while a Malachite Kingfisher swayed in the reeds.






Harris’s sharp eyes picked out a well camouflaged Water Monitor before we located a pair of Open-Billed Storks close to the Carmine colony.






Harris allowed the boat to drift past the colony a number of times which provided numerous photo ops.










On the return trip to the Lodge we saw Yellow-billed Kites, 2 pairs of perched Carmine Bee-Eaters, a well-behaved hippo family and Nile crocodiles emerging to warm up for the day.












Mazambala Lodge is on an island in the Kwando River. It’s a very comfortable lodge built under large shady trees that we appreciated during the heat of the afternoon. The rooms are simple yet well-appointed with mosquito nets (no holes), bed-lamps, lots of hot water and a wonderful laundry service. Andre, the owner was usually around and he liked a chat with the guests. There was a large viewing platform that looked out over the floodplains and the dining area is upstairs and level with the treetops. I was very happy at this lodge - access to the cruise and Harris’s excellent knowledge of the local wildlife is a great reason to return. Hopefully the Carmine Bee-eaters will keep returning to Mazambala too.





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A very beautiful Bee-Eater outing, Treepol! The Caprivi strip is rarely featured on ST, but as you are proving that lack of attention is undeserved, (And yes, I know ... "Zambezi region" ... Booooring name. ;) )

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You did very well with your target species - you have some lovely sightings and photos of the carmine bee-eaters. Your photos of a wide range of birds are really good!


Very enjoyable to see the elephants running towards the water

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Gorgeous bee eaters go a long way towards offsetting the sadness of the lion's condition, at least when looking at them in immediate succession. This is quite an excellent trip.

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@@michael-ibk I was very pleased to see 3 bee-eater species in one morning. I enjoyed the Caprivi very much - it was all new to me and we had some impressive sightings - carmines, sable and roan. I really enjoyed laid back Mazambala Lodge, I would return in a heartbeat.


The Caprivi is overlooked possibly because its quite a long way from other safari hotspots like the Okavango Delta and Etosha, and it doesn't have a reputation for being an especially game rich area, however this year I took a different view and saw the Caprivi as a corridor joining Etosha and Maun. I had heard that it is an interesting drive alongside many kraals and villages and there are several places where good carmine sightings are possible. When I return I'm thinking Etosha, through to the Caprivi to stay at Shamvura and spend some time with the Paxtons before heading to the houseboat station at Shakawe for a few nights on the water followed by a flight from Shakawe to Maun and a Massons mobile, probably to Khama Rhino sanctuary, Moremi or even Makgadagadi. I've got a loooong time to think about this!


@@TonyQ the bee-eaters were a true highlight and I'm with @@Safaridude - can't see enough of them in any one safari.


@@Marks it truly was an excellent trip!



Namibia (cont.)


Following my carmine bee-eater high from the morning cruise at Mazambala we left the Lodge around 9.15 for the 2 hour trip to Nunda Lodge, with a short game drive in the Buffalo Core sector of Bwabwata Game Park beforehand. Too late we discovered that we had forgotten to fill the thermos for morning tea. Francois quickly made a plan (he is such a great fixer!) – driving into a village, asking for ‘the house with electricity to boil water’ – and as a result we were directed to the multi-coloured Catholic Mission where 2 Namibian nuns popped their heads out the door to check out the unexpected visitors.




We chatted to the Sisters about the forthcoming wet season, attendance at the local school and our planned activities for the day while Francois was boiling the water. A German Father had just finished delivering Sunday service and wandered over for a chat, moving down the length of the vehicle to shake hands with all of us. He had heard of Tasmanian devils and wombats which we spoke of briefly. After this serendipitous break we drove further into the Caprivi passing many traditional kraals along the way.




We arrive in Buffalo Core sector for a short game drive and are concerned to hear that permission to hunt for bush meat had been granted in the area to the left of the access road. I wondered if the strip on the right side was sufficient to meet the needs of the large numbers of kudu and other hoofed animals that we saw. I kept saying to them, “cross to the other side – now!” The first sighting was a Marabou Stork followed by a Fish Eagle. Buffalo graze on the floodplain, our first of the safari while the final sight is a handsome sable bull spotted by @@farin.






We arrived at Nunda in time for lunch around 1 pm and later settled into our riverfront rooms. I boarded the boat for the afternoon cruise and saw Reed Cormorant, Grey Heron, 2 young Nile crocodiles and local people in mokoros. Bassi says the children are ‘learning to drive.’












A pod of hippos rests on a small island, these same animals graze around the Lodge in the early hours of the morning.




The cruise travels upstream to Popa Falls before returning to the Lodge around 6.50 pm. The falls provide a loud background hum, originally I thought the sound was a generator.






Next morning breakfast is at 7 am before a game drive in Mahango Sector of Bwabwata Game Park. These francolin appreciate a breakfast hand-out while other birds take advantage of the garden bird bath.






Mahango is a watery paradise for Yellow-billed Storks, Spurwing Geese, Sacred Ibis, Cattle and Great Egrets, Squacco Herons, reedbuck and red lechwe.








This stork was shadowed by a free-loading egret while fishing for breakfast.




The Park is good for buffalo, sable, tssebe, and roan.








Baboon and impala linger close to the water, this one has a peculiar taste in breakfast food.






The park scenery is very gentle with baobab and knobthorn trees defining the skyline.








This pair of black-chested snake eagles kept a close eye on their territory.




After leaving the riverside the first sighting is a herd of female sables following the lead male.




A herd of curious kudu keeps an eye on us and further on a collection of pricked kudu ears is all that can be seen of another skittish family. The afternoon game drive is rich in diversity and animal numbers. Two groups of shy roan rest close to the gate whilst on the floodplain it was possible to see at any one time some or all of sable, impala, zebra, blue wildebeest, ostrich, kudu, elephant and warthog.








A cheeky Bradfield’s Hornbill perches close to the road, overlooked by an African Fish Eagle.






This bushbuck cools off whilst chewing cud in a shady corner.




An ostrich family is promenading in the late afternoon, there are about 25 chicks – it was hard to count accurately!








A large herd of female sable slowly makes its way back from the river before nightfall, there was no way they were going to walk past our vehicle.










The sable herd was a high note on which to leave Namibia - tomorrow we head for Maun. The drive turns out to be a slow 420 km which takes 6 hours due to cattle, goats, sheep, potholes, 2 veterinary checkpoints and a speed camera. Francois drops us at the Kraal which is out of town riverside accommodation owned by film-makers Tim and June Liversidge. We end up taking taxis into town for lunch, an ATM stop and a quick trip to the Spar as we need to buy ingredients for dinner that we assemble in the well-equipped kitchen at the Kraal.


Next up, a 7 day mobile with Masson Safaris.


I'm away tomorrow for an extra long weekend, back in about a week...

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Weekend? It´s TUESDAY! (I´m only jealous here.) :)


Really impressed with your Sable sightings - and Roan as well, wow!

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did you know that ostriches sometimes take over youngsters from other breeding pairs? might be an explanation for the high number you saw.

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Such a variety of wildlife on this trip!

It is great to see Roan and Sable - and the bushbuck is very beautiful.

Good to see the Ostrich with 25 chicks! - that certainly is a lot.

And I am glad that your morning tea was taken care of....

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@@michael-ibk I made the most of a public holiday last Thursday and took a rec leave day on Friday for a 4 day weekend - very restful but the weather could have been better.


@@ice - I've heard of this and wondered if it applied to the large family that we saw.


@@TonyQ - morning tea is a must for me!


Moremi with Masson Safaris


Ewan collected us from the Kraal at 8 am for 6 days in Moremi Game Reserve. A long drive leads us to a shady campsite (HATAB 6) in the vicinity of Second Bridge. There is a lot of water in Moremi which sustains exceptional birdlife and of course, elephant. Mum will be very happy here. The smell of wild sage and the cries of fish eagles combine with dust and elephant dung to revive memories of my very first safari the Delta in 2004.


A small herd of tssebe is the first we have seen of these animals in any numbers.




Suddenly we round a corner and there is a pile of round-bellied, red-faced lions.




Three of the four lionesses have collars (we wonder about this number of collared lionesses in a single pride), 4 x 8 month old cubs and a young male. Ewan says that he is allowed to remain because he is useful during hunts and has not yet developed any illusions of grandeur about being waited on hand and foot by the females. He has a theory that lions like the attention they receive from visitors and choose to lie in the open rather than walk another few metres and disappear in long grass as this pride could have done.












The day has become very hot and even the ground hornbills are seeking air-con.




The Saddle-Billed stork cools off whilst fishing.




Driving on we see some bull elephants enjoying a mud-bath. Their sedate bathing is disturbed by the arrival of a breeding herd that leads to a show of mud-wrestling ele-style – Mum’s happy!














Before reaching camp we stop at a bird rich waterhole where Pelicans, Yellow-Billed and Marabou Storks, White-faced ducks, African Spoonbills and Grey Heron are fishing.








Nearby 2 giraffe feed at sunset.




Back at camp we chat around the fire until Vincent softly calls “Suppers ready” and we tuck into our first camp cuisine which is delicious beef and mushroom hotpot. I've been so looking forward to this 6 days camping that I lie in bed after lights out listening to the sounds of the African night.


“Knock, knock, good morning, hot water will be with you shortly” This is the familiar bush wake-up call with Masson Safaris as Ewan ensures that we are all out of bed, breakfasted and ready for a pre-dawn departure from camp.


During the night we hear hippos, hyena and between 3.30-6 am a lion begins to roar and the hyena falls silent. The morning game drive is very quiet and we drive as far as Third Bridge. After sunrise more birds and animals are around – this slaty egret fished daintily around the edge of a hippo pool.




We stop for tea and biscuits in some light shade and talk about the morning so far. We pack up, climb into the vehicle and Ewan veers off to see what a small group of giraffe are staring at barely 50m from our tea stop. Above the engine noise a lion roars softly, almost certainly the same one we heard last night. We are very surprised to find this fine male so close to our tea stop! He is one of three dominant males that patrol the territory between First and Third Bridges that also contains 3 groups of females.




His sleep must surely be interrupted by squirrels shouting, starlings shrieking and impala snorting and stamping feet – what a bush cacophony. Back at camp a Red-Billed Spurfowl and chick peck around while we head off for showers and an afternoon nap.




We head back to the lion during the afternoon game drive to find that he had moved about 20m since morning and is taking advantage of a cool breeze.




A troupe of vervet monkeys crosses a narrow channel to their night tree.




We search in vain next morning for the lion that roared during the night, instead we found this pride of 6 – 2 lionesses and 4 sub-adults lying near Second Bridge in the early morning sun.








Yesterday we heard that Third Bridge was closed due to high water so we drove south to find Delta regulars of fish eagle, red lechwe, waterbuck, Nile crocodile, hippo, breeding Raucous toads and numerous birds.












Back at camp we enjoy tuna pasta for lunch, warm showers and a snooze before the next game drive. A flowering sausage tree provides a red carpet at HATAB 6 and a nectar feast for the waiting herbivores. The local implas lingered nervously outside camp, but this bold bushbuck grazes first. He almost tiptoed into camp, watched us intently before deciding that we were no threat and then hoovered up the flowers close to the guys tents.






Sallie arrives in time for tea and joins us on the afternoon game drive. Back at the waterhole we visited on the first day, the Marabou Storks have full crops and many of the Yellow-billed Storks are in pinkish breeding plumage. Spoonbills fish at the edge of the pond where a pelican is a late arrival.






Further on we see a Black Egret hooding in search of a fish supper, a sight I have been hoping to see for some time.




The zebras are standing 2 x 2 in the afternoon sun when all of a sudden the peace is shattered by dive-bombing birds – Sallie spots a Black Mamba slithering around the base of tree.




Driving on we are pleased to see the 6 lions from this morning walk out of the long grass. This old female is a formidable hunter despite her 8+ years of age. Every now and then the cubs find time to wrestle and rest.










All too soon its time to head back to camp for a final night at HATAB 6.


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So many beautiful photos

The elephants in the mud are delightful, the lions with their full bellies, the bushbuck eating the flowers, the vervet walking through the water. And of course your black egret shading the water with its wings.

Very enjoyable!

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I am enjoying your TR tremendously @@Treepol ! So many good sightings, great writing and excellent photography. One of those reports that I am sure I will read several times. Looking forward for the next installment...

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I continue to be amazed at the variety and quality of the sightings you've had on this trip. That sable herd was very impressive, as was the carmine colony. Your detours and diversions from the usual tourist paths were very richly rewarded. Loving this report!

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The Caprivi seems like an unknown gem, especially to the budget-minded traveler. Thanks to you, now it's on my bucket list.

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