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South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe - May 2016


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I have enjoyed reading the trip reports of others here on Safaritalk so much, I would feel guilty if I didn’t provide a trip report for my latest visit to Africa. Since it is my first such report, hopefully it will work out okay.


A little background on why I chose these destinations. I have previously been to Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia, and the Chobe riverfront area of Botswana. My son was finishing up some missionary work in Zimbabwe so we timed our visit to coincide with completion in May. I decided to also include my daughter and my wife so there were four of us. Given my daughter had never been to Africa, I wanted to ensure she had a high likelihood of seeing the Big 5 as well as many others. I also want to give everyone a variation of different types of safari experiences such as walking, boat, safari truck, etc. as well as different types of lodging (lodge, tents, and camping).


For these reasons I decided on the following:

· 4 Days in the greater Kruger area - Lodge

· 3 Days in Victoria Falls – Bed and breakfast

· 2 Days in Chobe – Overnight Camping

· 3 Days in Hwange – Somalisa Camp

· 3 Days in Mana Pools – Zambezi Lifesytles


I normally prefer to spend more time at one place and forgo the travel between camps, but decided this was the best way to cover as much as I could given the time and $$$ constraints. One good thing was by going in May which was not very busy, we essentially had a private vehicle for all game drives except in Botswana where we were paired with a few other people.


Initial thoughts on the different areas -


- Greater Kruger area is great for a first time safari where you want to be sure to check off the boxes, however, coming across power lines, etc. was a bit of a downside. Guides were terrific and they use a driver and a spotter which helped find game more easily.

- Victoria Falls is a must see but since this was my 3rd time, I will skip it going forward.

- Botswana (Chobe) was again a repeat but this time we went further into the park from Kasane for the overnight camp. I didn't expect much, but the game drive on the way in was the most game filled of all the areas. We stopped counting at 300+ elephants (including the largest elephant by far I have ever seen that walked litteraly just 10 feet from us), 100+ giraffes (my wife's favorite), 25 lions in 5 or 6 separate sightings, honey badger, and much more. Definitely want to go back further into Chobe, Savuti, Moremi, and the Delta next time.

- Hwange was a mixed bag. Probably due to the time of year. Not great game concentrations in May around the watering holes since there natural ones around the park still had water. The refurbished Somilisa Camp was amazing. My wife did not want to leave. On the good side we did see some of Cecil's offspring and also had a cheetah kill right in front of the camp main tent. Literally watched it from the pool deck.

- Mana Pools was also a mixed bag for me. I really loved the scenery and pure "wildness" of the park but next time I will visit later in the year when the game concentrates more around the river and the four pools. We did find some wild dogs which was the highlight of my trip since I had been unsuccessful seeing them before. Oh, and getting attacked by a hippo while canoeing on the Zambezi we will definitely not forget. Luckily it turned out well for us (not necessary the canoe though) but my daughter is no longer a fan of hippos...


We took with us Canon 5D III and Canon 7D II for cameras along with the 24-70 2.8 II, 70-200 2.8 II, and 100-400 II lenses. Also, had the 1.4x and 2.0 extenders. In the end, we took over 10,000 pictures which I have taken over a month to narrow down to the best few hundred.



I will start with some of my favorites and then move on to a location by location report in follow up posts (since I didn’t keep good enough notes to go day by day).


We came across this leopard resting in the evening. It seemed so peaceful and didn't even acknowledge we were nearby...




Next we moved on to the Rhino. While we did spot a black rhino from the distance one morning, we moved on and came across a pair of white rhinos.





This trip did include a few species that I had not seen in the wild before including this Nyala and two sightings of honey badgers (heavily cropped).






I also have a tender spot for the younger animals...










More to come later...

Edited by soleson
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@@soleson...you have given us a nice beginning!

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@@soleson I enjoyed the insight into your thoughts when planning. Great start and excellent images - a daytime honey badger!

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@@soleson welcome and thank you for starting a TR. you may wish to revert to a standard typeface though as this is a little difficult to read....

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Some great pictures in the intro, love the Nyala and the three babies at the end especially. Looking forward to more!

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@@Tdgraves I actually like the typeface - maybe because it is bigger than usual and my eyes are old! @@soleson great start, very much looking forward to more!

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@@soleson - let me add my thanks to the chorus for this excellent trip report thus far. I am very much looking forward to the rest.

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Greater Kruger - South Africa- The Cats:


The first stop was at Thornybush in the Greater Kruger area. The travel agent we were using highly recommended it so we thought we would give it a try. If it was just me and my wife, we probably would have tried Sabi Sands but with 4 persons the cost was reasonable and they did a great job. As I mentioned in the introduction, with the time of the year, we were by ourselves in a vehicle so we could take as long or as short of time as we wanted at any given sighting. The tracker really liked leopards so that was our first order of business. In the three days there we had 8 separate leopard sightings including one where we came across a pair of leopards mating.












The reserve has several prides of lions. The first night and the next morning we spent some time with lioness, her one year old, and a new cub. Sad thing is the day before, there were 3 cubs but the night before we saw them, a leopard got two of them. Overnight the lioness had taken down a fairly large kudu which they were working on when we found them.
















On day 2 and 3 we spent more time with the largest male and his friends in the area:













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Wow Thornybush treated you well with the cats! I understand that is the appeal of Sabi Sands, to see as many cats as possible (especially the spotted ones!), but It's good to know that you can also have a wonderful experience like this is one of the slightly less expensive areas!


Which lodge did you stay in @@soleson, if you don't mind my asking?

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Thank you all for the kind replies. @@martywilddog, we stayed at Serondella Lodge in Thornybush. It has a larger family suite that worked well for us.

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Honey badger in daylight in the open in your first post.... the report is worthwhile already.


Oh and nice stuff from Thornybush too.

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Great start @@soleson , I am really looking forward to the rest of this report.

Beautiful Leopard photo's.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Greater Kruger - South Africa- The Rest:


Sorry for the delay in continuing my trip report. Seems I am expected to work at work. Go figure...


I previously provided some pictures of the Cats in the area. While the leopards were certainly a treat, we also were able to spend some considerable time with other game. We fortunate enough to see all the big 5 several times, including both black and white rhino, but also came across a honey badger and other sometimes difficult to find game. The lodge has a man made waterhole which attracted many visitors.































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Part II - Chobe/Victoria Falls


After South Africa we flew to Vic Falls for the family to visit the falls and 2 days in Chobe. The falls were not nearly as full as I remembered from my last visit in May several years ago. While waiting to for the Zimbabwe part of the trip to start, we also visited a few places around Livingstone including Mosi oa Tunya. The kids really wanted to ride elephants and see some cats up close. I am generally not a big fan of the "walk with lions" type thing, we decided to go and see what it was like. The story by the place we visited about rescuing baby cheetahs and lions what would have died otherwise and their plans to release them later back into the wild, sounds good on the surface but I'm still unsure. Anyway, it afforded a chance to take a few pictures that in the "wild" would have been near impossible without a lot of luck.


The trip into Chobe for a night camping by river was arranged to give everyone a different perspective than the nicer lodges/camps we stayed at otherwise. Interestingly, it also provided some of the best game viewing we had on the trip which was unexpected as I hadn't had that sort of luck in the same area during my 2 prior visits.






























































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Part III - Hwange

The last week was spent in Zimbabwe. The first stop was Hwange. After the 4+ hr transfer from Vic Falls, we settled in and immediately went on our first game drive. Again, we had the vehicle to just the four of us so we took our time seeing what we wanted. Since we had seen a lot of cats previously, we concentrated more on other game.


We stayed at the newly refurbished Somalisa Camp run by African Bush Camps. It was probably the nicest camp we stayed at on the trip. My wife didn't want to leave. Hwange was magical even being there in May without the more concentrated game around the watering holes. There was a group of five large bull elephants that would walk through the camp on the regular basis. Sinc


A few pictures of the camp, then some of the local wildlife.

































































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Just beautiful pictures..not sure what else to say...it was about the pictures and you said everything with those. Just awesome !!!!!!

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Nice TR. From the images that looks like a marvellous caracal sighting.

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@@soleson post 14 is amazing!! The caracal - wow!!!! and everything you saw in Chobe, the honey badger, the elephant in water, rhino! Where was it that you camped exactly?

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@@soleson the Baby Rhino in post 13 is beautiful. Super TR.

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@@SafariChick - We went with an outfit called Kalahari Safaris. Since the camping is done within the Chobe itself, they move the camp every week or two. We left Kasane right after lunch and drove pretty much straight along the river arriving around sunset at the camp (maybe 7 hr game drive). So it was definitely in the Chobe river front area but a lot further in than the normal game drives around Kasane. Hope that helps.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Your comments on going in May and on the choices you made are helpful. What a diverse group you had. While the #s of sighting may have been less in May, you saw the newborns! And you had variety.


What is the story on the caracal? So close!

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SO many amazing photos. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Part IV - Mana Pools


The final portion of the trip was in Mana Pools for 4 days. I had not really considered Mana Pools much prior to reading ST trip reports over the past few years. But we decided to go for it since we had to fly out of Harare anyway. We took a flight from Hwange airstrip directly to Mana Pools mid-day so we were able to to our final game drive in Hwang and still make the evening drive in Mana Pools. As mentioned in my introduction, we decided to stay with African Bush Camps Zambezi Lifestyles camp mainly to be near the river for canoeing and to increase the chance of finding some wild dogs in May.


Overall impressions of Mana Pools is positive. I really like the feel of the place and the remoteness. Obviously in May the game are more spread out since there is still water throughout the park but we still got to see our share of wildlife. We took a few short walks which was a change in plans from the original plan to take some longer walks. My daughter had broken her ankle pretty badly a few months prior to the trip so we had to cut back on the walking compared to the original plan.


The camp and tents were nice but not nearly as nice as the ones in Somalisa so it took my wife some time to get used to the bucket showers and few more bugs.


A few of my wishes for the trip were to see honey badgers, pangolins, and wild dogs. None of which I had seen on previous safaris. We did find 2 of the three with pangolins still missing. Still it was nice to see a few dogs and spend some time with them before they took off to catch up with the rest of the pack that had headed into the bush.


A final story... I had always heard that hippos were some of the most dangerous animals in Africa so when to did the canoe trip one afternoon on the river, the guide and us did everything we could do to avoid any known hippos areas and took a wide course around them. We even would make some noise with the paddles on the canoe to alert any we were in the area. Unfortunately, near the end and despite the extreme care the guides and us took, we experienced an a hippo attack. We believe it was a mother protecting a baby but anyway it came up right in the middle of the canoe my daughter and son were in and took a large bite out of that canoe as well as damaging ours. The attack threw the guide in the back of that canoe into the water several feet from the canoe. Luckily we were fairly near the shore and were able to paddle there before the canoe completely sank. The guide was able to swim to the shore also. Needless to say, my daughter is no longer a fan of hippos. I guess it could have been worse and the guides did everything right, just sometimes things happen. Still overall a very nice stay in Mana which the elephants feeding from the trees (No Boswell though), and just the remote feeling of being away from everything. I will definitely go back but probably in August next time and will make walking more a priority.


Below are some of the photos from Mana Pools.












































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@soleson I had a little trouble focusing on the final pictures after reading about the hippo attack...OMG- how seriously frightening that must have been and I can well imagine your daughter isn't a fan of hippos. I'm still just stunned. I've done a little canoeing as well and that was always something that really worried me. I am just so happy everyone was ok. The picture of the canoe with the gentleman just sitting there is pretty surreal. Not sure if that was the same guide who had been "ejected" or not, but wow....

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Yes, that was the guide that was thrown. He seemed pretty shaken. I think he didn't know if the hippo was going to take a second shot or that the crocs in the area were going to come. It was his first attack. The other guide had done canoe trips for 25 years so he had been attacked 3 times before. It all ended well and we all laughed about it later but it definitely was and experience to remember but not repeat.

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