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Green Season in South Africa, Victoria Falls, and Botswana


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We (two American couples in our 60’s – the third safari for us, the first time for our dear friends) had a great trip to Southern Africa from February 23 to March 17, including flying days. Since safaritalk.com and tripadvisor.com were wonderful sources of information and inspiration, I thought I should pay it forward a bit, in a Cliff Notes version of a report about our trip. If I could figure out how to include some of my 8,003 (yeah, I know, I have a problem) mediocre photos, I’d do that, too.


We prefer staying at each camp for just a couple of nights so that we can experience more different places -- so many wonderful choices, so little time and money. They don’t have to be luxury at all, just comfortable and not too (relatively) pricey -- hence our green season scheduling. We had very comfortable accommodations, very good service by very nice people, good and some excellent rangers/guides, good food, and lots of animals everywhere we went -- I’m clearly not hard to please when it comes to safari. Our trip was arranged, per my specifications, by Sun Safaris, and we had nary a hiccup the entire trip.


We went to four bush camps in the greater Kruger area, one day on the Panorama Route, two nights in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side), and three Kwando camps in Botswana, plus a couple of necessary short overnights at a Jo’burg airport hotel. Our detailed itinerary, once we got to Jo’burg on the Delta flight from Atlanta, was as follows:


Day 1 – After landing we had a brief overnight stay at O R Tambo City Lodge, which is clean and very convenient, it is actually right on the airport grounds above one of the parking facilities.


Days 2-3 – We took a commercial flight to Hoedspruit, then were driven to nThambo Tree Camp (Klaserie Game Reserve) for two nights. nThambo is not fancy, but very quaint and comfortable, and therefore quite suitable for us. It has only five tents, raised up on stilts, and there were never more than seven guests while we were there. The staff is small, and there was only one ranger and one tracker, who also ably served as hosts and assisted with meal service. The highlights were two lions mating in the distance on an adjacent property where we could not traverse, a lioness and cub feeding on a warthog, a small herd of elephants among the mopani trees, and a herd of cape buffalo – but not a single leopard! (However, we got leopard overload later.)


Days 4-5 – We took a short mid-day land transfer to Tanda Tula (Timbavati Game Reserve) for two nights. TT is a very nice camp, perhaps our most “upscale,” but not over the top. We had an excellent ranger (Forman) and tracker (Given). Highlights included three leopard sightings (a pair in a tree, a pair on the ground, and a single coming down from a tree), a crash of six rhinos, a herd of about 200 buffalo ignoring six hyenas, a dozen elephants playing in a waterhole, wonderful bush breakfasts, a group of bushbucks walking up from the dry riverbed and right past our lunch table on their way to the swimming pool, and a pre-dinner singing and dancing show by the staff.


Day 6 – We hired Seasons in Africa to take us on a full day (after the morning game drive, of course) tour of the Panorama Route. The usual but beautiful sights were Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavals, lunch at the Potluck Bush Kitchen, Lowveld Viewpoint, God’s Window after a brief storm, and Lisbon Falls. We stayed overnight in Hazyview at Hippo Hollow, which was fine for what it is – a large tourist lodge in a town. We would skip the Shangaan Dinner Show there next time.


Days 7-8 – A different Seasons in Africa driver took us to Arathusa Safari Lodge (central Sabi Sands) for two nights. Arathusa has nice rooms, not tents, and a waterhole in front of the rooms with resident hippos and visiting general game. For some reason (probably because our ranger did the vehicle allocation) we always had ten guests in our vehicle, the other two vehicles had only two to six. Highlights were watching animals at the waterhole all the time, elephants (including a couple of babies) drinking and playing in a mudhole, two Matemba male lions resting, four more rhinos, an adult male leopard feeding on a baby bushbuck in a tree (with a hyena underneath hoping for some leftovers), and – wait for it – our first (ah, but not last) wild dog sighting! We followed (along with two vehicles from Wildearth TV) the pack of seven dogs down a road and briefly into the brush, and they killed an impala after we had left them.


Days 8-9 – A mid-day land transfer got us to Notten’s Bush Camp (southern Sabi Sands). This was probably my favorite camp, primarily because of the lantern-lit ambiance, family-oriented service, and a few special touches. Those touches included champagne and bubble bath waiting in our candle- and lantern-lit room after dinner, after-dark sundowners out in the bush for all the guests, and having dinner in a different area of the lodge each night. The game drives were good as usual, highlighted by three separate leopard sightings including the 16-year old “young Notten’s female,” two lazy lionesses in a dry riverbed, and again more rhinos.


Day 10 – After brunch our Notten’s ranger took us to KMIA airport near Nelspruit where we caught a commercial flight to Jo’burg, where we had another overnight at O R Tambo City Lodge. The highlight was really good burgers, fries, and onion rings and cold US$1.75 beers at an airport restaurant.


Days 11 -12 – We took a commercial flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, for two nights at Lokuthula Lodges, located a few minutes out of town. We decided to try these simple and inexpensive lodges – free-standing, with three bedrooms, two baths, a living area, and a kitchen (not that we intended to cook anything). We liked them just fine, and especially liked their location adjacent to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and its bar overlooking a waterhole where several herds of elephants came during happy hour. Warthogs and baboons wander around the grounds at Lokuthula, and almost walked into our open lodge one afternoon. (I felt a bit silly worrying about the warthogs when a woman walked right by them pushing her infant in a stroller.) The highlights at Victoria Falls are, duh, Victoria Falls. We kept busy with a happy hour at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, a sunset dinner cruise on the Zambezi River, an early morning self-tour of the falls, coffee and scones on Stanley’s Terrace at the colonial Victoria Falls Hotel (our waiter has worked there for 26 years), the helicopter Flight of the Angels, a scenic zipline tour with Wild Horizons (me only, the others rested and fought off the warthogs and baboons), and another happy hour and dinner at the Vic Falls Safari Lodge.


Days 13-14 – Kwando had arranged for Bushtrackers to drive us across the border to Kasane, Botswana, from where we took a private Moremi Air flight (50 minutes) to Kwando Lebala Camp. Kwando is more about the game than the accommodations, which is certainly not to say that there was anything at all wrong with the lodging – the tents at Lebala were really quite large -- or service. Highlights here included three separate leopard sightings (two in trees, one on the ground, and then we repeated two of the “resident leopards” sightings again the next day), and watching two mating lions for almost an hour (that would be four “sessions” -- I felt a bit like a voyeur while taking my R-rated video). That might have been THE highlight on most days, but not this day, because late that afternoon we got to follow a pack of seventeen wild dogs as they spread out and scouted around through the brush, eventually settling down by the waterhole where we were having our sundowners.


Days 15-16 – Another private flight (this time by Kavango Air), 30 minutes long, got us to Kwando Little Kwara Camp (Kwara was full) for yet another another two night stay. It’s another “typical” Kwando camp -- comfortable tents, good service, excellent guiding. We went here to get a chance for a couple of water activities, and enjoyed the afternoon motorboat tour into the Okavango Delta and the morning mokoro ride around a lagoon with several hippos and a couple of crocodiles. We also did two game drives, seeing more birds than normal including our first ostriches, but those sightings paled in comparison to finding a mother cheetah and her three sub-adult cubs, especially when a pack of 19 wild dogs also found them. The cheetah cubs got pretty nervous, but the mother cheetah held her ground and slowly led her cubs away from danger. It was very exciting, and pretty tense for a few minutes, but ended with a good result.


Days 17-19 – This Moremi Air flight, this one about an hour, took the four of us directly to Kwando Tau Pan Camp in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve for three nights. I figured if we were going to go all that way we should spend an extra night, especially since I wanted to take the all-day game drive to Deception Valley. We had never been to a desert camp, and this is the one I picked – Jack’s Camp is clearly out of my preferred price range – and we appreciated the different topography. As expected, the game was sparser, but there were a few new species that we had not seen elsewhere. The best highlight was seeing two pairs of lion cubs and then finding their two mothers who led the cubs to a large bull kudu that the moms had killed the night before, whereupon all six of them tucked in for a somewhat gruesome feast. A male lion was also eating/sleeping/eating/sleeping for two days at an adult giraffe carcass – wow, did it stink -- which the guide said died from injuries, with lots of vultures patiently waiting up in the trees. The next day my wife and I did take the all-day game drive to Deception Valley and are glad we did, although I don’t think we would want to do it twice. While driving away from the lodge that morning we had run into a male, a female, and a cub lion hanging out on the road. During the nights we heard many lions calls, seemingly from just outside our tent door. The last morning before we left my wife and I took a short bush walk with our tracker, a member of the San bushman tribe, to an “exhibition area” where he showed us several interesting things he can do with plants and simple tools.


Day 20-21 – all I remember is getting on four different airplanes before we finally got back to Houston.


In general --


  • · First of all, the rest of our troupe were real troopers. I’m the safari fanatic, but we all had a wonderful and amicable (I would hope so, we’ve been good friends for 42 years) experience. Even the initially anxious newbies really got into it -- none of us ever skipped even a single one of the 30 game drives. We scheduled our transfers, almost all of which were less than one hour, in the middle of the day so as to avoid missing any game drives while moving from one location to the next.


  • · My wife thinks I’m underselling the accommodations. They were all quite comfortable, with all the necessary amenities, and by my standards some unnecessary amenities. For example, several of our tents/rooms had sitting areas with armchairs or couches, but I pretty much only used them for laying out my clothes (all beige, of course) for the following morning. All of the beds and bedding were quite good. All of the tents/rooms had double sinks, several had outdoor showers (which I really like) as well as indoor showers, and several had large bathtubs. All of our tents/rooms had porches or balconies, some with nice views. Most of the camps had small safes in the tents/rooms, even though none of the camps seemed to be in particularly high-crime areas.


  • · The fewest number of tents at any bush camp was five, the largest ten. None of the camps were full while we were there.


  • · All of the vehicles were the same – open-top Land Cruisers with three tiered rows of seats behind the driver, except the ones at Tau Pan Camp had roofs. The trackers always sat in front of the hood except at Tau Pan inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where that is not allowed. Sometimes when approaching predators the tracker would get in beside the driver. We usually had six people in our vehicle, and only the four of us a few times.


  • · With very few exceptions, all of the other guests we encountered were friendly (why shouldn’t they be, they were on safari?) and often very interesting, including one couple who live on the MS The World.


  • · We had many entertaining sightings (most of them of animals, but some of the two-legged creatures were entertaining, too) and many interesting discussions with staff personnel and other guests. We also had lots of funny moments, far too many to mention here and some of which probably shouldn’t be mentioned anyway.


  • · The food was always good, sometimes excellent, and usually too much.


  • · Our clothes were mostly safari non-chic (Academy Stores are my outfitter of choice) in various shades of beige, khaki, tan, and drab, but you can really wear pretty much whatever you want on game drives, and many guests did so – colorful shirts, flip-flops, leggings, etc. The guides asked us not to wear bright clothes on game walks.


  • · Yes, the grass is a bit high at this time of the year, but not so high and thick that our guides and trackers -- and every now and then even one of us, especially my eagle-eyed wife -- couldn’t find plenty of animals. We undoubtedly missed spotting some game – especially since sometimes I can’t see them even when I’m looking right at them. But the tall grass mostly hides the low-slung camouflaged critters, I don’t think it kept us from seeing any leopards in trees or any elephants, buffalo, rhinos, giraffes, hippos, zebras, etc. Rain had been sparse in the Kalahari so the pans were not green, and hence there were not the hoped-for large accumulations of oryx or springbok.


  • · I will never cease to be amazed at the guides’ and trackers’ ability to see and instantly identify animals and especially birds (yes, I realize that birds are animals) at huge distances. To me, most little brown birds look pretty much like all the other little brown birds. In my defense, I am able to differentiate a lilac breasted roller from a carmine bee eater from a woodland kingfisher.


  • · We could go off-road and do night drives at all camps except Tau Pan in the CKGR. The night drives didn’t produce much game but were still fun.


  • · My wife and I took a few of the short game walks, and they were interesting. Who knew so many useful things can be done with just simple plants, and I now know more about animal poop than I ever thought I would.


  • · I am not a photographer, just a point-and-shoot picture-taker, but for this trip I did upgrade from an 18-zoom camera to a 65-zoom camera. What a difference, obviously – I was able to get some passable photos at considerable distances, especially for some of the beautiful birds, that I could not have captured with a lower zoom factor.


  • · The weather was quite good while we were there, we only had a bit of rain two times, not counting the brief storm while in the car on the Panorama Route. It was cool in the mornings -- a light jacket was enough -- and fairly hot in the middle of the day, so we did spend some time in the small swimming pools. All of the camps had pools.


  • · We saw all of the Big 5 numerous times and we got decent photos of just about every local antelope species (but still no sitatunga!), including brief sightings of a couple of sables, a small group of roans, some skittish elands, and one lone hartebeest. Our three good wild dog sightings were a bonus. We saw all of the Ugly 5 and three of the Small 5. I still have never seen a honey badger, and perhaps never will.


  • · Most camps had wi-fi of varying quality, except the Kwando camps have none at all, but that’s not a big deal for us.


  • · All of the camps had small gift shops, as I recall, but we didn’t buy many (and no large or heavy) souvenirs.


  • · The beer was cold, and if you could get enough ice in them so were the G&T’s. Drinks were included at most camps, but at one camp (nThambo or Arathusa, I forget which) you could pay an extra $26 pppd to have drinks included. I rarely drink $26 worth in a day.


  • · Laundry was included and efficient at most camps, and was inexpensive when not included. We discovered that sometimes you can wear the same clothes more than one day, although I don’t practice the “turn them inside out” method.


  • · We used rand in South Africa, US Dollars in Zimbabwe, and US Dollars in Botswana. We got some rand before leaving the USA. We used currency or credit cards for miscellaneous purchases when in towns. We used credit cards to pay some tips in camps when our cash began running low, which always seems to happen.


  • · Our land transfers were usually done by Seasons in Africa, as recommended by Sun Safaris, in very nice minibuses and with very good drivers.


  • · The Moremi Air (and one Kavango Air) puddle jumper flights in Botswana were fine, I actually like them, but some of us just aren’t crazy about small planes. We tried to pack lightly, but it didn’t really matter since none of our bags were ever weighed.


  • · Naps in the middle of the day, sundowners at sunset, and amarula nightcaps are traditions that should be adopted by all cultures.


Hmmm, that turned out not to be so Cliff Notes-ish after all, even longer than the “poem” (entitled “Fifty Shades of Beige” and featuring our lovely “beig-ing beauties”) that I’ve written about our trip.


If you have any questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them.


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A well written report.

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Sounds like a wonderful trip full of variety. Couldn't ask for much more - sitatunga notwithstanding! :)


We also had lots of funny moments, far too many to mention here and some of which probably shouldnt be mentioned anyway.

Well now you've piqued my interest...

Edited by Marks
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@@hguy47 thanks for sharing your experiences and observations. Sounds like a fantastic safari with lots of different environments that gives the best chance of observing a diversity of species.


Sounds like the CKGR lions turned on the game viewing for you, good to hear a up to date from Tau Pan as CKGR is one of my all time favourie safari destinations. Shame you missed honey badger.

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Great detail on the report. a nice Ciff Note!..things folks need to know about safaris...transfer, tents, areas, and 30 game drives!!

Good for you-all, esp with newbies aboard.


Any pics, I do hope soon to come.


I always wonder how people choose the safari operators...if you care to expound, I for one would be happy to hear.


Thanks so much for coming back and sharing your info.

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Nice report, thanks for all the details, especially the good words about Nottens. We'll be there in about 6 months :)

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Enjoyed reading this very much, thank you! You had great sightings, the Cheetah vs. Dogs one must have been a highlight. I'm glad that one ended well for the Cubs. So, who are the "Ugly 5"? :-)

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Did I miss a link for pics, @@michael-ibk? Or was that from the report.


@@hguy47 You know I can't believe you unless you show evidence.


(just kidding...but a few thrown in would be lovely, thanks!)


I'm a point and shooter as well, so I'd appreciate them all the more.


Glad you have new converts! And they wear "50 shades of beige" or something like that :D


I wear grey on safari, but you'd never see ME in that movie. :ph34r:

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Wow, you guys are such nags. ;) If someone can tell me an EASY way to put up a few photos, I will try to do so. But remember, you asked for it.

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Game Warden

And don't forget to upload an avatar pic whilst at it ;)

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Thanks for some kind comments.


Marks, I might pick a few incidents that I found humorous and put them in here, but humor may only be in the mind of this beholder.


Graceland, re picking an operator (or agent), I just scoured websites for recommendations, sent requests for proposals to several agents based on my tentative itinerary, narrowed down the candidates based on no specific criteria, went through a couple of iterations with the remaining candidates, ultimately picked one, and then pestered that one for several weeks until we finally thought we had it "right."


Michael-ibk, I am told the Ugly 5 are the hyena, wildebeest, warthog, marabou stork, and vulture.

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Wow, you guys are such nags. ;) If someone can tell me an EASY way to put up a few photos, I will try to do so. But remember, you asked for it.


We are nags about photos; and you will love it...took me " awhile"...there are many ways; I chose an easy one.....download your pics; then attach! Whew its done! I am sure others have their ways but this works for me; I title them and download....choose the file...then attach this file....OIU it is done.


Others have their ways but this works for me.


We'd love to see some and help out uploading Just ask!


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Thanks for some kind comments.


Marks, I might pick a few incidents that I found humorous and put them in here, but humor may only be in the mind of this beholder.


Graceland, re picking an operator (or agent), I just scoured websites for recommendations, sent requests for proposals to several agents based on my tentative itinerary, narrowed down the candidates based on no specific criteria, went through a couple of iterations with the remaining candidates, ultimately picked one, and then pestered that one for several weeks until we finally thought we had it "right."


Michael-ibk, I am told the Ugly 5 are the hyena, wildebeest, warthog, marabou stork, and vulture.

Well the Ladies and I on our latest safari, re: the Lipault ladies........(Kenya) truly decided

wildebeest were not that ugly; and their babies are adorable; Stork: how dare they??they bring babies, they are beautiful :rolleyes: - Vultures....YeS.; warthog - geeky not ugly; and hyena....that wild guy in class you kind of liked, but thought you should never introduce to your parents.


Just a thought; none are really ugly...I'm sure vultures have some pretty part ( a feather?) somewhere. But where? They are part of Africa,so all have their own beauty :unsure:

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~ Hi, @@hguy47!


Enjoyed reading your report.

I'm 61 and enjoy safaris now, maybe more than I might have in the past.

As I'm writing a trip report these days, I respect and sympathize for the time and effort you devoted to writing yours.

Such detail...and so true-to-life!

Thanks for posting it!

Tom K.

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Michael-ibk, I am told the Ugly 5 are the hyena, wildebeest, warthog, marabou stork, and vulture.

As a member of the hyena defense force (with @@Big_Dog?), I must object! :)


Eagerly awaiting any photos you may have to share.

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OK, so finally, with the help of computer consultant (my son), I hope there are some photos posted below.

  • Apparently the captions don't upload along with the photos, but they don't really matter for most of the pictures anyway.
  • I am strictly a point-and-shooter, albeit with a 65 zoom which did allow some long shots.
  • These photos may not mean much to anyone else, but they remind me of something memorable to me.
  • Most of these photos will look a whole lot like the photos posted by everyone else -- but I may be the first guy to post a photo of a "urinal."
  • As to how I picked these 50 photos out of the 8,003 I took, I can't really tell you -- but big cats always seem to get the most play.

































































































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Oops, I left out the cheetahs. Unfortunately I don't have any good photos of the wild dogs and cheetahs together because when that encounter occurred I was taking some (very shaky) videos.





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~ @hguy47:


Va-va-VOOM! What terrific safari photographs!

You had a terrific safari, judging by the range and quality of your sightings.

Your computer consultant son did a fine job of uploading them.

They fascinate me, including the top-notch male/female spider photo.

I really appreciate you persisting in sharing these on Safaritalk.

Tom K.


Wherever these falls are, they're impressive!


You saw them? That's really nice.


That's an impressive sight, to say the least.


Photographed at just the right moment.


Not one, but TWO? A great image!

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I´m glad we pestered you for photos. Love the leopards, the falls and the European Roller especially. :)

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Congratulations @@hguy47, on both the trip report and the photos. It took me many months to learn how to post a photo, I am most impressed!

I recognise the leopard with its left nostril missing. We saw it in December while at Lebala and the injury looked horrendous. Really good to see that it appears otherwise healthy.


Lebala, December 2014


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Soooo handsome! Love the part in the mane!


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And this would be?








Love this!






I'm a point & shoot photographer also and you really do have some lovely shots. What camera did you use?

Edited by KathBC
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@@hguy47....question for you. Did you raise a fuss when you found out that there would be TEN people in your vehicle. I am afraid that I would have had a tantrum.

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Great, great pics! Thanks for sharing...hope to have same luck you had on our trip. Considering these are all P&S pictures, I think they are amazing.

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@@hguy47....question for you. Did you raise a fuss when you found out that there would be TEN people in your vehicle. I am afraid that I would have had a tantrum.

I agree with @marg; esp. when you saw two to six in others. They would have heard from me....a few times over.


Other than that irritating detail, thanks for the photos. They are terrific. I am also point and shoot. You did very well!

You captured some special ones. Thanks to your son for showing the way!

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