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How I fell in love with Africa


mvecht

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mvecht

My first visit to South Africa took place in 1998 and included a 2 day stay in Sabi Sands. I managed to see the big 5 and all the other usual suspects. Even though I have loved animals and nature all my life I cant really say that I fell in love.

In 2002 I was invited to South Africa to see some friends including a selfdrive in Kruger. I combined this with a trip to Botswana and I got the bug. Now therewas no way back!

We drove from Joburg to Mopane restcamp which is more or less in the middle of Kruger. An area with many Mopane trees an therefore also Buffalo and Elephant.

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The next morning we saw a Buffalo carcass. We later found out that it had been killed by a delivery truck.

Sofar no activity at the carcass.

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A curious Giraffe

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The highlight of the trip happened when we saw a car parked closed to a drainage pipe. When we enquired we learned that a Hyena was giving birth and a relative were moving the cubs.

The relative

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We could hear sounds indicating that there was another cub to come and a few minutes later mommy appeared.

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On the way back to camp we drove past the Buffalo carcass.

A single Hyena ran away and there were a few Vultures in the nearby trees.

3species of vultures

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Morning in camp.

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The next morning there was a Leopard and a lot of vehicles at the Buffalo carcass. However I have to say that all vehicles behaved quite well.

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After a few minutes other vehicles congregated just up the road. Lions and Buffaloes!

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The Lions took down a Buffalo 50m from the road not knowing that there was a much easier prey available just down the road.

Unfortunately it happened behind some bushes so we could not see it but there was a lot of growling and snarling so I am quite sure they made a kill.

On the way back to camp we saw Martial Eagles mating (sorry for the poor quality of the picture.

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In camp I got a nice portrait of a Yellowbilled hornbill

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Tom Kellie

~ @@mvecht

 

Those newborn hyena images are remarkable!

I'd wondered what very young hyenas might look like — now I know.

Thank you for taking the time and carefully preparing such a meaningful trip report.

You convey the experience in such a powerful way.

Tom K.

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Marks

A great look back! I must agree with Tom in saying that the hyenas are a real highlight. The hornbill portrait is another.

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mvecht

Next stop the Okavango

I first visited Chiefs camp which is just south of Mombo.

Great general game and lots of game in camp both day and night. The first night I heard a Leopard nearby as well as Hyena and the next morning I had Lion tracks just outside the tent.

 

 

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mvecht

Sorry, pushed the wrong button!

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A nice Lion pride

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A barred Owlet just outside my tent.

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One of the first five Rhino`s released in the area caused a lot of excitement

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A male Elephant was a very regular visitor in camp.

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My only daylight sighting ever of a Honey Badger.

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Next stop Stanleys Camp

The air transfer was abit hairy. The plane had been sitting on the airstrip for some time before we took of. The plane was full and therefore quite heavy. As the pilot was picking up speed, a herd of Elephants decided to cross the runway. We barely made it over the backs of the Elephants!

One of the highlights here was the activity with 3 semi habituated Elephants.

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and then lunch next to the same Elephants.

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In the evening we found a pride of Lions.

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On the way back to camp I got to operate the spot lights as the community tracker did not show up. A lot of fun but hard to hold the light for that long. I did manage to find a lot of Springhares and a Civet but no pictures.

The next morning we realised that the Lions had killed two adult Giraffes.

The Hyenas were busy with one kill and the two male Lions with the other.

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We then found a Lioness with 3 small cubs.

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Then back to the males.

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This Hyeana cub was extremely curious and also tested if our tyres were edible.

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Air Botswana did one of their usual cancellations so I had to spend an extra night in camp which I ofcourse did not object to!

When I sat down for dinner the camp manager gave me a strange look. It turned out that all the other guests in camp was on an incentive trip and I was sitting next to a representative from Air Botswana!

The camp managers were relief managers and they were actually the ones that turned my attention to the Kwando camps which I really appreciate.

Last sighting on the way to the airstrip was a nice bull Elephant.

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All in all a great trip and now I was in love with Africa. No way back and always in my mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marks

That last little hyena is extremely cute.

 

Great pictures that demonstrate the degradation of the giraffe carcass.

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mvecht

2004 Namibia

I started the trip at Impalila Island in Namibia.

First a flight from Joburg to Kasane and then a boat transfer via immigration at Impalila Island.

All activities are boat based. Typically in the afternoon evening you visit Chobe and in the mornings you do birding and or fishing closer to the lodge.

Birding is superb but it is also great to see Buffalo and Elephants from a boat as you get a nice and low perspective.

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Yellow billed storks on nest

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Black Egret

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Arriving at Impalila Island Lodge

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I have stayed twice at Impalila Island lodge. Both times I have been lucky to get a private boat/guide.

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Huge Water Monitor

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Sacred Ibis

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The Crocs in Chobe are huge!

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Pied Kingfisher with prey.

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I love being on a boat anywhere in the world but combining it with watching wildlife is heaven on earth.

 

 

 

 

 

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mvecht

Boat trip to Chobe continued

White fronted bee-eater

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Pied kingfisher

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The boat gives you the opportunity to get really close.

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In the dry season this is one of the best areas in Africa to see Elephants.

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Young bulls sparring

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We did not see any predators but there is a reasonable chance of seeing Lion an dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marks

Wow! That last image is perfectly framed and timed.

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mvecht

Morning view from the room

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Wire tailed Swallow

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arrow marked Babbler

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Next stop Susuwe Island Lodge. SIL is on the Kwando river but in the Caprivi. It is a ldge with 6 beautiful rooms. To get to the lodge you need a 1 minute river crossing by boat past a small colony of Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters.

Excellent food and a good variety of wildlie. In the dry season it is a spectacular area for Elephants but also some large herds of Sable. Also rarer species like Selous Mongoose are present.

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Racket tailed roller is another special for the area.

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Birding in and around camp can be very rewarding.

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The next few pictures are from Camp.

The rooms are spacious and with some elaborate woodcarvings. Each room has a different motif on the door.

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Black shouldered kite.

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No comments!

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Civet

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Grey Hornbill

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The next stop was Kwando Lagoon Camp in Botswana.

From Susuwe it can be made as a road tranfer to Lianshulu Lodge further south on the Kwando river and then a boat transfer to Laggon. The military camp North of Lagoon also works as an immigration office.

The Lagoon and Lebala portion of the trip has been posted in

 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/14662-a-tribute-to-steve-kgwatalala-or-how-a-good-guide-can-make-a-difference/

 

and the Kwara portion will be in a separate post.

Susuwe may not be as game rich as the Kwando concessions in Botswana but it is a very charming lodge and a very nice place to visit in the Caprivi region.

 

 

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Marks

Very nice hornbill shot, you can really see the serrations in its bill.

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fictionauthor

@@mvecht, especially love the photos of the newborn hyena babies and the later one of the pup. I was at Stanley's and Chief's in 03. If I read your post correctly, your walk with the rescued elephants was in 02. It was one of the most memorable experiences.

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mvecht

Namibia 2003

This trip, apart from visiting friends in Joburg, was all about Namibia

2 nights Impalila Island Lodge, Caprive

3 nights Susuwe Island Lodge, Caprivi

1 night Windhoek due to logistics

3 nights Little Ongava

1 night Erongo Wilderness Lodge

1 night Walvis Bay

2 nights Little Kulala, sossusvlei

 

First a visit to Chobe

African Skimmers

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Skimmer chick

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Water Monitor

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Large Crocodile

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Elephant crossing the river

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morning view from the room

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Baobab in camp at Impalila

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Then a short flight to Susuwe

Elephants were everywhere

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To get from the parking lot to camp was a 1 minute boatride past a small colony of Carmine and Whitefronted bee-eaters

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Head guide was Bruce Lawson. Bruce, a director of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), is one of only a handful of qualified SKS (Special Knowledge and Skills) dangerous game guides and a national SKS birding guide. He is also an advanced rifle handling trainer for FGASA and is also a THETA accredited national assessor.

He managed to find us a Grey headed parrott which is supposed to be a very good "tick"

One of his former students was visiting and there was also a Zimbabwean guide visiting so I was in very good hands.

 

Is it dead or sleeping?

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It showed no signs of breathing but Bruce was still wary.

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This was a good call because the Elephant was very much alive!

Coffee break at Horseshoe Lagoon

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For the sundowner we had 3 large herds drinking at the same time but I did not want to use the flash to take pictures.

 

Some people call it the Don King bird!

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Pictures from camp

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More elephants

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More Bee-eaters

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Elephants can be very destructive. We eventually had to take a different route.

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Next stop Windhoek and then Little Ongava near Etosha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mvecht

Next stop Ongava/Etosha

From Susuwe it was a road transfer to Katima Mulilo airport and then Windhoek.

I had a bit of fun at Katima Mulilo airport. They told me that my luggage was 10 kg over the limit and I knew that it was under the limit. I was about to make a big issue out of it but remembered that I was in Africa and enquired about the cost of being over the limit.

Answer: 2 US dollars!

Overnight in Windhoek and then a selfdrive to Little Ongava.

I had originally booked at Ongava tented lodge but as Little Ongava opened very shortly before my stay I decided to upgrade at a minimal cost. Little Ongava was way over the top but I did enjoy it :D

The lodge was overlooking a waterhole that had good activity

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One evening the Lions did try to get the Eland at the waterhole but without luck.

The lodge has 3 rooms and I was there for 3 nights.

One other room was occupied the first night but they did not join the morning drive.

The second room was occupied by a professional photographer who was there to take pictures in camp. He joined 1/2 of a game drive so for all practical purposes I had a private vehicle. Guide was Sunday Nilenge who was a great guide and a lot of fun. The only black person I have ever met who had a stutter.

At Ongava you normally stay in the reserve for the afternoon/evening drives and go to Etosha for the morning drives.

The night drives however were non productive.

The main attraction of Ongava is having both White and Black Rhino and a typical activity is to track the White Rhino on foot. Being alone with a guide also allowed me to do it with black Rhino which was very interesting but also a little scary as it started getting a little agitated when we got too close.

Lots of Rhino sightings in the reserve but unfortunately no good pictures of black Rhino.

This was the only somewhat decent shot I got of a black Rhino.

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Lots of Lion sigthings both in Etosha and Ongava

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Steenbok

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Black faced Impala

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Some of the Elephants in Etosha look very white

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Very dark Zebra

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White Rhinos at Ongava

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Female aptly named "Longhorn"

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Sociable Weaver

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Sunday looking at video footage of a Pygmy Falcon

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Lion Cubs

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Mummy. Just before we arrived a stupid tourist had gotten out of his car to get close up pictures of the cubs not realising that mommy was close by. He barely made back into his car.

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Pictures from camp.

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I really enjoyed Little Ongava and if you like Rhino this is the place to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marks

Fantastic weaver photo. I also think you win the prize for "grumpiest rhino" shot.

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mvecht

Next stop Erongo

From Ongava I went to Erongo Wilderness Lodge

The lodge itself is OK but I got very disappointed in the evening.

I had booked a nightdrive. It turned out that there would be 11 guests + driver in a standard Landrover!

The driver had great difficulties maneuvering the vehicle with all that weight.

We went to a cave and saw some nice cave paintings. When it got to be time for the night drive the spot light did not work and when asked the driver admitted that he had not checked it before the drive!

The next day I drove to Walvis Bay for some birding. Lots of Flamingoes but quite far away.

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The next morning I drove to Swakopmund and returned my rental vehicle. From there I took a scenic flight to Little Kulala in the Sossusvlei.

Cormorants

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Seals.

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Camp.

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The main activity is ofcourse to visit the dunes. If you have never walked in these dunes before I can tell you that the sand is very soft and that it is hard work!

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Deadvlei

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At Little Kulala you can sleep on the rooftop. This is an amazing experience. You listen to the barking Gheckos and the Springbok running around and if you open your eyes you see amazing stars.

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I really enjoyed Namibia. Stunning ladscapes and great wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Geoff

@mvecht Some good bird images amongst that lot.

 

I don't think I could sleep on that roof. ...I'd be awake all night listening to the sounds and photographing the sky.

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mvecht

@@Geoff

 

Tough call. I normally dont sleep much anyhow when I am on safari so I did wake up frequently enjoying the sounds and the stars and the fresh crisp air..

Given the chance I would do it again

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mvecht

Some pictures from2007

My wife and I started the trip as a selfdrive in South Africa.

First stop the Cavern in the Drakensberg. A hotel well known to many South africans.

 

The grounds of the hotel has great birding an offers some nice walks.

Food and wine was also pretty good at this hotel.

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Can anyone identify this snake that we saw walking in the Drakensberg?

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Some noteable birds where I did not get any photos were Half collared Kingfisher, Guernsey`s Sugarbird and Lammergeier.

This lodge offers some great opportunities for walking. Nearby is Tugela falls which I believe is the tallest waterfall in South Africa but as we were there in September there was hardly any water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Geoff

@@mvecht I think it's Striped-bellied Sand snake.

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madaboutcheetah

Wow - I must get to Namibia soon. Michael, those pics of the ship wreck is skeleton coast?

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pault

I wonder why you fell in love?

 

It's lovely to visit back in time with you. Really an enjoyable 40 minutes this morning.

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mvecht

@@mvecht I think it's Striped-bellied Sand snake.

@@Geoff I think it is correct that it is a Striped-bellied sand snake. Very active in daylight and moving fast.

@@madaboutcheetah Hari, the landscapes in Namibia are spectacular and you can have decent wildlife viewing as well. It should be possible for you to find some good Cheetah habitats!

@@pault What is there not to love about going on safari in Africa? Maybe I should have called it addiction instead ^_^

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@@mvecht

 

 

Great retrospective, thanks very much for posting. I particularly like the male lion sitting by the giraffe carcass (post 5), the rhinos in Ongava and the shots of the skeleton coast and Sossusvlei are fantastic.

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mvecht

@@madaboutcheetah

Hari, sorry i forgot to reply to your question.

Yes, it is the Skeleton coast.

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