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The Something New of "Something Old, Something New"


hannahcat

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hannahcat

That is so exciting! I know you're going to have a fabulous time and will bring back amazing pics! I can't wait to hear all about it!

 

Bonniest of Bon Voyages.

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This is a continuation of the trip report started in the South Africa forum. To sum up: my mom and I traveled to South Africa and stayed at Dulini Lodge, where I had stayed once before. After a quick

Our final sighting for that morning's game drive was the show-stopper: a gorgeous older female leopard, about eleven or twelve years old. She looked a little thin to me, but otherwise in good health,

This is probably my one less-than-squeal moment, and I feel a little silly writing about it. Maybe my problem is that I'm like a little duckling, and I have imprinted on a certain set of trackers/rang

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Atravelynn

Agree with you on the reedbucks but those LBRs and wattled cranes are right up there too. Hot damn on the lionesses and the lovely light on the male lions is pretty hot too.

 

Hilarious about your mom and eles, but only because there was not phone call back to brother.

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Atravelynn

Now I see the health issue you mentioned elsewhere, that extends beyond your concern for your mom.

 

Good info on Chitabe tents' loo setup.

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hannahcat

I don’t know if you have ever tried to go out to dinner with people who really aren’t that hungry when you feel like you could eat a horse, but if you have, you’ll know that, no matter how much you originally liked the people you’re going out with, you run a high risk of ending the friendship before the evening is over: they dilly dally. They talk to the waiter. They wonder what they might order, or if they might split something after all. None of this is fun if you are truly hungry.

 

Something like this happened to the poor hungry lion brother.

 

Though he had recruited the lion sisters to hunt for or with him, he hadn’t bargained on how full they were. Here is their hunting attempt — more like a lion parade, really.

 

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Here is the disappointed lion.

 

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He, too, made a weak attempt at hunting, but with their cover blown, it was really useless.

 

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I’m not quite sure what happened after that — whether the sisters took pity on him, or whether the brother finally smelled the warthog carcass after all, but the next thing we knew, he was digging it out from its hidden spot in the long grasses.

 

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After a while, even he had had his fill, and he left the scraps for the vultures.

 

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hannahcat

Agree with you on the reedbucks but those LBRs and wattled cranes are right up there too. Hot damn on the lionesses and the lovely light on the male lions is pretty hot too.

 

Hilarious about your mom and eles, but only because there was not phone call back to brother.

 

Thanks @@Atravelynn! I kinda wish I had gotten just a little bit of a tighter focus on the wattled cranes, so I'm glad to hear they stand out for you -- sometimes, you just spend too much time staring at a thing.

 

Thanks also about the notes on my mom and my health note -- I like what you did with your grey text for health notes, and may try that next time.

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hannahcat

Thanks, @@Hads! I have so much regard for your photos, so it's really nice to hear what stands out for you.

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hannahcat

The afternoon drive started out somewhat dramatically — the floods were just coming into Chitabe, and we were driving over some bridges for the first time in the season. Shortly after I took these bucolic pictures, this bridge broke below the weight of the truck.

 

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While we waited for Phindley, our guide, to call back to the camp to ask for advice and assistance, I took advantage of the moment to snap a pic of something I should have taken a million pictures of at Little Vumbura and somehow didn’t: the water lily. This one is lovely, but I wish I hadn’t been so distracted at LV and had remembered to get a few there — they’re really gorgeous at that watery camp.

 

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After just a few minutes, Phindley got the go-ahead to rev up the truck and see if he could get us out that way, and happily it worked. We drove off, and presumably Chitabe sent staff to patch up the bridge.

 

The drive started with a giraffe.

 

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Phindley was a photographer himself, and was usually very good about predicting the movement of an animal in order to get great shots, but this time the giraffe surprised us all by suddenly changing direction and heading through a flood-water stream. You could see it really irritated Phindley that he wasn’t on the other side of the stream so that we (and he) could get the shots of the giraffe walking towards the camera through the water, and that’s when I knew we would get along just fine. Phindley might not be the most talkative man I’ve ever met — the first couple of days, he wasn’t big on telling stories about the wildlife — but he surely cared about light and positioning, and as time went on, I like to think he warmed up to me and my mom and as he became more talkative.

 

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After the giraffe, we saw a spooked herd of zebra.

 

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And then, just as the sun was setting, we found our lion sisters. As if positioned by some photographer’s fever-dream, there they were, just awakening for the evening hunt beside a pond reflecting the perfectly full moon that had risen behind them.

 

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Stunned, we spent the sunset with them, watching their preparations for the night, and the hunt, ahead.

 

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A few landscape shots with the last of the light.

 

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We drove off just a little ways, and in total darkness, and almost total silence, we had a very brief "sundowner." We knew the lion sisters were nearby, and that they were hungry, and that they were powerful.

 

After seeing them at the lake, I had been able to capture a few quick portraits as the pregnant sister walked past our vehicle and into the rough bush. I was almost sure this sister had at least entertained a fleeting thought of how we might taste.

 

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@@hannahcat Looks like a great safari. In 2012 we were fortunate enough to be guided by Phinley and I hear you - he's a great person to be guided by. Excellent positioning and generally awesome karma. I had thought he retired. Great to hear he is back.

 

Great actin with the lions and buffaloes and love the lions by the pink evening light.

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Atravelynn

Perfectly circular pond in the sunset, with lions! Your guided positioned well. Love the oxpecker flying in for a meal on the giraffe.

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hannahcat

Thank you so much, @@AndyH1000 and @@Atravelynn!

 

I have felt so guilty about the length of time that this is taking that I decided to stop putting it out in dribs and drabs and instead just to write & edit photos when I could behind the scenes. I think (hope) that I'm now about ready to finally finish this up. If you're still reading, or if you happen on this later, thank you so much for your patience and continued support! Many many thanks to you all.

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hannahcat

We had one rather funny incident that doesn’t (unfortunately) involve pictures.

 

As many of you know already, in Botswana, unlike in South Africa, there were no telephones in the room, only emergency air horns. At Chitabe in particular, we were told that we were free to use the air horn in case of an emergency, but to keep in mind that the staff was trained to react to the air horn as if someone was having a heart attack, and not to use it lightly.

 

There’s an old playwrighting truism that you can’t have a gun in the first act without someone firing it by the third act. So, with the “gun” loaded, as it were, with this little speech at check-in, it was only a matter of time before something happened, I suppose.

 

As I'll explain in the next post, I wasn't feeling so good on the second day of our time at Chitabe, and so both my mom and I were taking mid-day naps when chaos erupted. It started with the sound of something heavy landing on our tent — it was loud enough to wake both of us up. “A sausage from a sausage tree,” I thought, and turned over to go back to sleep.

 

Then another sausage landed. “What are the chances of that?” I thought. Then more sausages, and that’s when the entire tent began swaying — it was suspended from the ground on a platform held up by ropes and wooden pillars — and a cacophony of riotous noise erupted. It wasn’t sausages. It was baboons. And they were using our tent as a trampoline.

 

I was opposed to using the air horn. Neither mom nor I were having a heart attack, and we had been specifically warned not to use the airhorn just because of wild animals — we were safe from them, we were told, no matter how much it might seem like we weren’t. My mom, however, thought otherwise, and as the tent began creaking like a small ship on the high seas about to crest one last wave before falling apart completely, I began to think she might be right. I certainly couldn’t imagine trying to deal with a troop of exited baboons should they fall in after all, or find a way in.

 

I sounded the airhorn.

 

It was, indeed, incredibly loud, and, as promised, within minutes staff came running down the walkway. They immediately saw the problem and began chasing off the baboons. Much to my relief, they weren’t angry at us at all — “baboons will never run away from a woman,” they said. Apparently, we really did need the male staff members to come and intimidate the monkeys.

 

Anyway, a little moment from our life at Chitabe. I am so glad to be a person who knows what it sounds like when baboons are using your tent as a trampoline, even though it was a little scary at the time.

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hannahcat

The next day was windy and we were told that the animals were hunkering down to avoid being scented. However, even windy days in the Okavango Delta are pretty amazing!

 

One of the other couples with us, a honeymoon couple from Miami*, wanted to do a night drive, and so we agreed to have a shortened afternoon drive and then go out together later on the night drive. As it happened, I started feeling like I was coming down with something on the morning drive, and so both my mom and I skipped the short afternoon drive — the only time both of us did so — and then joined the evening drive. (This was when we tried to take naps -- somewhat unsuccessfully, as I described above.)

 

[*Side note: One thing that did surprise me about Botswana — or at least the Wilderness Safari camps we stayed in — was how overwhelmingly American the guests were. If you ever want to meet retired couples from Wisconsin, don’t bother going to Wisconsin — head to the Okavango Delta instead. As an American, of course, it’s hard to complain about this kind of thing, but I did find it startling, as I felt Dulini in South Africa, though also definitely marketed to Americans, was a bit more diverse in the nationalities of its guests. Maybe it was just the time we were there, but I think next time — if there is a next time — I might try different camps (less expensive ones? ones owned by different companies?), as I really like meeting people from around the world at the safari camps and hearing their perspectives, and I found I missed this in Botswana. All that said, though, the honeymoon couple from Miami were really lovely, and I was so glad they advocated for a night drive.]

 

Despite it being a quieter morning, we did find this lovely male kudu.

 

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We took the time to look at bird nests (does anyone know if this is a nest of the sociable weaver?).

 

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Saw a go-away bird.

 

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And some lovely zebras beside the water.

 

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I was absolutely stunned by this jackal couple. Phindley told us that jackal couples are very devoted and if you see one, the other is sure to be nearby — and indeed she was, though she was incredibly well camouflaged by the scrub, and we would never have seen her if the male jackal, after taking a little while to check us out, hadn’t walked over to her.

 

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We were also lucky enough see this lovely leopard with a kill; however, I fear that we startled her, and she left her kill and climbed a nearby tree. Perhaps she was done, though — all the insides were finished, and all that was left was the head.

 

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After a little while of watching her in the tree, we left her and went for coffee; when we came back, though, she was still in the tree and several other vehicles were nearby, also waiting for her to come down. We very quickly decided to move off again, and had this lovely sighting of giraffe and zebra together on the way back to camp.

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hannahcat

For obvious reasons, the night drive was not very productive photographically. This is an attempt to capture the spring hare — I really loved them! I take it they’re fairly commonplace in Southern Africa, maybe like seeing a bunny in the U.S., but we don’t have anything that hops on its hind legs, so they’re very exotic to me.

 

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We also saw an African wildcat, a hippo out of water, and listened to elephants feeding at night. It was incredibly peaceful when Phindley would turn off the car and we would just listen to night noises – Mom was dozing at the end. We slept very well that night, dreaming, perhaps, of baboons.

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hannahcat

The next day, after a bright start with some impala and (I think) Swainson’s Spurfowl we saw the lion sisters again.

 

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It seemed likely that they had not had a meal the day before, or at least not a big one, and they were on the hunt again, this time for a warthog. But first, they had to wake up — a long and involved ritual for Older Sister.

 

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As soon as Older Sister emerged from the brush, Younger Sister ambushed her, clearly hoping for a tussle — and perhaps burning up some frustration over being hungry?

 

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Has there ever been a more “Older Sister” expression?

 

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Finally, they were ready to hunt. The plan couldn’t have been more clear if they had spoken English and provided blueprints. Older Sister clearly indicated to Younger Sister that she, Older Sister, was going to go and flush out one of the warthogs they had just spotted, and was going to chase the warthog towards Younger Sister. Younger Sister then was supposed to ambush the warthog.

 

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We watched Older Sister getting into position, but to our horror, Younger Sister started wandering off in the wrong direction entirely. We had no way to communicate with the lions, of course, but I think all of us were trying to telecommunicate with Younger Sister: “Stay There! Just stay! A warthog is about to run past you in about two minutes. No, for heaven’s sake, don’t go off in that direction!”

 

Somehow, our telecommunications, didn’t work, however.

 

Here is older sister in position — can you spot the lion in this picture?

 

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Here are the warthogs.

 

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And here’s the chase.

 

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And here’s the tiny head (in the upper left hand corner) of Younger Sister, who is nowhere near where she was supposed to be.

 

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Older Sister’s expression after the failed hunt:

 

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They had a big tussle after that, and this time, I had no doubt that they were frustrated with each other and the lack of a kill.

 

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The reconciliation.

 

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Back together again, and back on the hunt.

 

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Fortunately, things looked promising nearby.

 

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On the way to morning coffee, we saw a lilac breasted roller.

 

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And a yellow hornbill.

 

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Here’s a picture of me and my mom at coffee.

 

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And on the way back to the room, another LBR, this one on the wing.

 

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hannahcat

From our room at Chitabe, we looked out over a grassy area that, we were surprised to find, had been mowed to some distance away from the cabins. It had been a while since we had seen mown grasses, or in fact any obvious sign of human interference with the landscape, besides maybe a few flower beds around the lodges, so we asked about it. Apparently, it was to prevent predators from getting too close to the guests unnoticed. I remain a little surprised by this. However, we were to learn that, even with this precaution, predators could get very close to the rooms indeed.

 

At the moment, though, there was only a relatively harmless family of warthogs out on the grass, and they were lovely to watch.

 

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hannahcat

On the way out of Chitabe that afternoon, we saw a red-billed spurfowl (I think) with her chicks; they dived into the bush at our approach.

 

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We were (if I remember correctly) radioed in to a sighting of a gorgeous female leopard on a log. She was indeed absolutely amazing, and there’s no way you can tell me she didn’t know she had admirers.

 

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(By the way, I couldn’t get a sense for how/if leopards are named in the Delta. If anyone knows about this, I’m curious about it — I loved getting to “know” the leopards in the Sabi Sand, and I know there are some famous named leopards in Botswana, but are they all named?)

 

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“All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.”

 

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We spent the afternoon with her, watching her get ready for her hunt at night.

 

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hannahcat

The next morning was our last game drive (gasp!). My mom was by this time as much in love with safaris as I am, and we were both feeling a little down.

 

This feeling was not to last long, though, as we were barely out of Chitabe before we were radioed back to the camp — a private vehicle of ornithologists had stopped to watch some birds when the lion sisters had wandered right in front of their vehicles!

 

We made a u-turn and headed back. Here is the ornithologists’ vehicle with one of the lion sisters. It looked to us as if the sisters still had not made a kill, or at least not a very big one, and they were giving serious thought to how an ornithologist might taste.

 

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And then the lions did something I couldn’t have imagined — they walked over the bridge leading back to camp. As soon as they started heading in that direction, Phindley started the engine, making a big semi-circle so that we would land in front of the bridge. When he was doing it, I wasn’t sure why he was so excited, but as soon as he parked, I understood. Having the lions walk towards us, with the leading lines of the bridge and the golden light -- that truly was something special.

 

Here are the lions with ornithologists.

 

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And the lions without ornithologists.

 

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Of course, Younger Sister, even now, is still up for playing. Here she is getting ready to ambush her sister.

 

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Younger Sister settled herself in by Room One — the room where my mom and I had first been assigned. (We later moved to room four, as its beds could more easily be separated.)

 

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Older Sister, on the other hand, was still on the hunt.

 

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This was the last we saw of this charismatic duo. I do hope they found something to eat soon! I am hoping that the two lionesses described in this Chitabe news update, who had been seen with a kudu kill, was them. I also read that as of October 2016, the pride had 16 cubs, and I hope at least a few of them are Older Sisters’.

 

It was time for our last coffee in the bush. We headed to an open area, passing along the way some giraffe.

 

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And then some baboons. I’m not crazy about baboons, especially not when they’re using my tent as a trampoline, but I have to say that their babies are really cute. However, remind me never to babysit for a baboon family — those kids never stop moving!

 

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This baby baboon had everything figured out.

 

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At least until the adult males started fighting.

 

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Eventually, the adult males ran off, so there goes Baby again, trying to explain why he’s Kng of the Hill.

 

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It doesn’t exactly work. Life is so unfair!!!!

 

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Toddlers. What are you gonna do?

 

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For some things, even the King of the Hill needs his mom.

 

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After a while, it was starting to feel like the end of a musical — the bit where the entire cast ends up on the stage together, singing the last number. The baboons were joined by impalas.

 

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Though they mainly kept apart, this baboon stayed to watch a fight.

 

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We were also joined by yellow hornbills, and there were giraffes in the background, though I didn’t get any pics of them with the crowd.

 

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We weren’t very far away from the action, but far enough that Phindley felt it was OK to get out and have our coffee. We took a few pictures of each other and with him.

 

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Finally, it was really time to head to the airport. There were a few snafus along the way: when we got to the airport — and by airport I mean, a landing strip with some giraffes walking across it -- and with five minutes left before our plane came in, it was discovered that we didn’t have a piece of our luggage. Someone back at Chitabe hadn’t seen it in our room (though we had been very careful to say how many pieces of luggage we had, and to put them all together). Phindley radioed for someone to race from camp with the bag, but just a few minutes after that, our plane landed. Phindley stayed calm, and explained we were not to worry — we should take our plane, and they would send the last piece of luggage to us in Maun, and it should get there before we left Maun. We agreed, and Phindley began to taxi us out to the plane, when his vehicle broke down!

 

At this point, the pilot of the plane was getting pretty impatient for us to board and so we needed to walk to the plane. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked along a dirt landing strip in Botswana with giraffes, your luggage, and your 75-year-old mother, but it was once of those moments in which you realize that something that seems quite short in a vehicle is actually quite a long walk. I could see my mom was starting to flag a little under the sun — even though it was May, it was the middle of the day, and the sun was pretty unforgiving — when, unbelievably, the vehicle with our missing bag drove up, swept us up, and drove us, finally, to the plane. Three cheers for the driver — I have no idea how he got there that fast — and then we were off.

 

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Dear readers, thank you thank you thank you for your patience. I have felt terrible about not being able to update this as I would have liked to, and I now feel tremendous relief that it is done. I am finishing this final update sitting in my mother’s new house in Virginia, with a view of the Shenandoah Valley, and these last few updates have been a happy excuse to go back and relive just some of the many wonderful moments we shared on our trip together. So, in that sense, maybe this was a good time to finish this trip report.

 

Unbelievably, it is also time to start looking forward to the next report: Michael and I leave for Israel on January 11th, and I’ve fit in just a quick trip to the Hula Valley where, apparently, there are many wintering birds and maybe even a jungle cat or two! I look forward to updating SafariTalk with that (presumably much briefer) trip report.

 

Thanks again to everyone who read this report, and particularly to those who commented or liked a post — you were all very encouraging, and I deeply appreciate it.

 

I think about safaris just about every day, and very much hope to return. In the meantime, though, all of your trip reports sustain me and remind me of how glorious it is to be out in the African bush.

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@@hannahcat I have to say that with the possible exception of Little Kwara night drives in Botswana simply aren't very productive. The best place for me has always been South Luangwa National Park where after having been there 3 times,I've yet to be be disappointed by a single night drive. I also had fruitful night drives at Lakipia Wilderness Camp and in the Kalama concession where Saruni Samburu is located in Kenya. I have also heard that night drives are increasing good at Camp Hwange and Zakouma Camp in Chad.

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@@hannahcat I can't wait to visit Little Vumbura Camp in 2018 in the shoulder season. I can't see spending so much more at Mombo,Vumburu Plains.Zarafa Camp or King's Pool just to have a bigger rooms, and even better cuisine and wine. After all, we'd all agree that the wildlife, guiding,and bush vibe are not only far more important,but more memorable as well. I hope that you enjoy your trip to Israel;I haven't been there since my brother's bar mitzvah 30 years ago.

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@@hannahcat I can't wait to visit Little Vumbura Camp in 2018 in the shoulder season. I can't see spending so much more at Mombo,Vumburu Plains.Zarafa Camp or King's Pool just to have a bigger rooms, and even better cuisine and wine. After all, we'd all agree that the wildlife, guiding,and bush vibe are not only far more important,but more memorable as well. I hope that you enjoy your trip to Israel;I haven't been there since my brother's bar mitzvah 30 years ago.

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Atravelynn

to #65

 

“baboons will never run away from a woman,” I have personally experienced that, being a woman and since I am a woman living in Wisconsin I thought your observation on who travels to Botswana was funny. I bet the air horn startled the baboons even before the male staff arrived.

 

Even if you had spooked the leopard, it would probably quickly descend to its prey right after you drove off and if there was still much meat left, maybe it would drag the carcass up the tree where it would not feel vulnerable.

 

Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts.

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hannahcat

@@optig -- Thanks for your insight on night drives. I loved our drive for the novelty and peacefulness, but I have never been on a productive night drive, so I didn't know what I was missing! South Luangwa National Park night sounds amazing -- I hope I can get there sometime. I have recently entered a photo contest and the top prize is a safari in Zambia, though I know I have slim chances of winning. But maybe someone else on here could win?

 

I completely agree with you about the importance of wildlife and guiding vs. rooms on safari, and I'm excited about your trip to Little Vumbura in 2018. I'm certain you'll have a fabulous time! I've been thinking that, if I ever go back, it will be in the shoulder season again, or maybe even the green season. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip. :)

Edited by hannahcat
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hannahcat

@Travelynn -- I love the tourists from Wisconsin, and I would particularly love to meet you sometime! For that matter, I'm a tourist from Louisiana. But, I hope you know what I mean -- it's nice also meeting people from other countries when you travel.

 

However, the fact that (at least at one point) all the guests at Chitabe were American did lead to one interesting discussion at dinner. I think it was with Bes? One of the other guides. You were supposed to remember his name by remembering "bacon, eggs, sausage" I think. Anyway, it turned out that he had worked for Disney in Florida for several years. Apparently, Disney comes to Botswana and a few other African countries occasionally to recruit local people to their safari-themed park, Animal Kingdom. The recruited workers are often greeters at the park, and lend an air of "authenticity" to the place, apparently.

 

Bes said that he was incredibly lonely during his first six months of work, but over time, he found a community of other African workers at Disney and felt a little more at home. I think he worked there two years, and at the end, was flown out to the Disney Park in Hawaii, where he was a guest for a day. I wasn't clear exactly on the living conditions, but it did seem like Bes spent most of his time working -- besides that trip to Hawaii and a stopover in D.C. on the way back to Botswana, he apparently saw almost nothing of the U.S., including Orlando itself. It made me fear that he had not been given his proper rights -- including his right to live in a non-Disney property. At least in discussion with us, though, he seemed to look back on the time with at least some fondness. It was interesting to be at a table full of Americans in Botswana, talking to our Motswana guide about his experiences as a tourist at Disney Hawaii.

 

Thanks for the reassurance about the leopard! And that is interesting about the baboons, that you really do need a guy. Well, sometimes, you just really do. :D

Edited by hannahcat
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Atravelynn

"I have felt so guilty about the length of time that this is taking" Safaritalk is never having to say you feel guilty.

 

Fantastic baboon action. I prefer the lions without ornithologists. Nice analogy to the final bow of a stage performance and nice that it happened like that. Few guests are treated to the final walking safari on the way to the plane. They probably arrange that for special guests only. :rolleyes:

 

Quirky Disney tale, just in time to reorient you to the bustling world again.

 

Nice mother-daughter shots from a fabulous trip!

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