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Lower Zambezi - a third encounter of the close kind (June 2017)


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Day 8 Old Mondoro:


We had been joined in camp yesterday by Grant Cumings - owner/operator of Chiawa and Old Mondoro. Great company and obviously very knowledgeable about the area and wildlife and we enjoyed his company over lunch and again at dinner. I seem to remember that we were the last guests to leave the camp fire that night and the conversation flowed freely aided by a certain Irish beverage on my part. Good times. 


No snoring from mrs deano tonight so a good sleep and next morning we were scheduled for a game drive with Marshall. Grant was leaving for Lusaka so would be joining us for the first part of the drive so that we could drop him at Jeki Airstrip.This served double duty as we could have another look for the cheetah as it seemed that Grant was very keen to be the first camp in the region to get a proper photo. We were definitely on board for that and with Marshall and Grant we set off though the Winter Thorns for the plains of Jeki.


Once we got to the plains we trained eyes, spectacles, binoculars, zooms and anything at objects that could be cheetahs. I photographed all sorts and enlarged them on the LCD but it was just trees, or mounds or distant impala.




I took a photo of a distant waterbuck to test my settings. I suspected that if we did see the cheetah again that it would be far off and the image would need to be cropped so had to be decent quality.


First a waterbuck to test settings



After more searching we headed away from the South Eastern end of Jeki towards the airstrip and Grant suddenly saw a cheetah. It was a lot closer than yesterday but still beyond the range of the lens I had but Grant fired off some pics from behind me and then I took my own once I had managed to train my eyes and camera on the cheetah. That green building in the hazy background is Jeki International and the windsock is to the left. No doubt that this is Jeki Airstrip.



It looked like the cheetah had maybe been thinking about tackling some warthog but it soon took off for the cover of the bushes to the North of the plains



And then it was gone. The whole sighting can't have been more than 30 seconds.



We were all very happy with the sighting - Grant got bragging rights for Old Mondoro Camp and Marshall got bragging rights over Seb and we got to see a cheetah in Lower Zambezi. Unbelievable.


We had time for a drink stop before dropping Grant at the airstrip and after we dropped him off we headed back slowly to camp.





We were happy to stop for anything and everything on the journey back.


Like this hippo in a small lagoon 



Crocs baskinglarge._DSC5962.jpg.238db60c6062fc8318d0ec4563a50c86.jpg


Baboons along the way



Hard to do a drive in Lower Zambezi and not see them



Waterbuck are also plentiful 



More baboons. They always seem to be up to something.



When we got back to camp we noticed that there were already elephants heading down to the lagoon behind our tent. We dropped off some of our gear then walked down to the dining area for lunch.



We enjoyed another gorgeous buffet style meal and lingered over cheese and biscuits before deciding to head back for a siesta. We were accompanied by Seb who was keeping an eye on some of our fellow guests as Seb had spied the elephants in the lagoon. Just as our fellow guests were dropped off safely one of the elephants decided that he wanted to feed right outside our tent. It turns out that this chap is a regular almost daily visitor and is know affectionately as Scratch.


This is him on the other side of the lagoon before lunch.



We stood with Seb for a while he decided the best way to approach  and after walking this way and that we realized that an approach by vehicle was the safest way as Scratch had really made that front door impassible. Or was that impossible?


Seb left us in the bush just off the pathway (at a safe distance) and soon returned with a vehicle. We then drove up to the back and side of the tent and had to climb in over the outdoor bathtub adjacent to the porch...we couldn't climb in over the porch for fear of crocodiles in the lagoon and there was also a buffalo in there watching the proceedings - have I mentioned that I love Africa? You don't get this at the Marriott so I captured most of it on GoProp or iPhone and edited the clips together.


Scratch was right outside the door and we enjoyed his company and that of his friend for a good hour before having a bath and then our siesta.


This was Scratch when we returned from lunch just as Seb dropped us off in the vehicle



He stayed here for a while (viewed from the porch looking back)



His mate was in the lagoon



And looked at me with a puzzled gaze as I took a bath. Very glad that he didn't smell the water in there and decide to come and taste it. Now that would have been a trip report!



We eventually had our siesta and, after opening the door very slowly, decided that they had gone so that we could walk down for afternoon tea. We would be driving again this afternoon and Marshall wanted to go in the opposite direction so we headed out to explore a new area to see what Lower Zambezi had in store for us.


Our first stop was for a LBR in lovely light and even then I managed to mess up my settings as it took off. Luckily though it landed on the ground so I got another chance. Still needed a faster shutter speed though.








We then spent some time with a nice herd of buffalo who were looking for somewhere to bed down for the night. It was a very peaceful scene until a francolin started shouting just behind us but we figured that he was just telling us to go for a sundowner before it got dark so we took him up on that suggestion.







Our sundowner spot was gorgeous. A small plain with nice views of distant mountains although the sun had already gone past the best spot but it was still amazing to be there with the sights and sounds of the african night to come. Marshall got us set up with drinks and nibbles and then the nearby impala started alarm calling. We were asked to get back in the vehicle so that we could investigate and then they seemed to stop so we carried on with the sundowner. Ten seconds later they were at it again so we left everything and jumped in the vehicle and were off in the direction of their barks and snorts.




It had become dark by now so we would be lucky to see anything but at one particular spot we heard what sounded like a warthog in the final stages of being killed by a lion or more likely by a  leopard. We could see bushes moving and could hear sounds but saw nothing conclusive. It was still thrilling though and definitely worth leaving the sundowners for although we did eventually get back there and finished them off from the safety of the vehicle.


The night drive back to camp with the usual red filter was quite eventful as the first animal we found was a young leopard. It was quite a way from where we had been so unlikely the case of the alarm calls that we heard but she was definitely on the lookout for something to eat. We watched for a while then left her to the night and that predator and prey thing that plays out.












When lions and leopards can't be found at night it seems that Lower Zambezi offers up other critters. I can't remember a night where we didn't see either a civet, a porcupine, a genet (or 20 genets!) and tonight was no different. I think this civet had just caught something.



Back at camp for a fantastic meal served up under the stars and I was joined by an uninvited but still very welcome guest - a mantis. If she had asked nicely then I might have shared dessert but the Jamesons was all mine.




Today's video is a little long but I just could not leave out the elephant footage from lunchtime and in fact could have done 5 minutes just of that. 




And today's movie quote "...why it's simply impassible!..." - "why, don't you mean impossible?..." - "...No. I do mean impassible. Nothing's impossible!..."


Kind regards



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Old Mondoro, one of my favorites, and how much more so with cheetah.  The ele was a talented star of the page 2 video.  Your B&Ws are perfect to convey night time, especially the leopard.


That impassible quote seems rather Mary Poppins-ish, Peter Pan-ish, or a similar children's tale-ish. 



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great report Deano. We're visiting both Old Mondoro and Chiawa next moth (after South Luangwa) and looking forward to having your luck!

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enjoying the report @deano  we stayed at that chalet a few years ago and loved watching the ellies and buffalo in the lagoon, and the leopard sightings were spectacular the landscape is just beautiful

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Wonderful! And very cool to see the cheetah! Have there been more recent sightings?

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Brilliant.  You're right, you don't get this sort of stay anywhere but Africa!

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14 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

That impassible quote seems rather Mary Poppins-ish, Peter Pan-ish, or a similar children's tale-ish. 



Indeed, but I remember it from the book, and not the movie (which I never saw.) I won't say more...except that this report gets curiouser and curiouser... ;)


So exciting that you saw the cheetah again, and this time with proof! And that thrilling, if a bit disruptive, elephant blockade.


Also love the B&W leopards and genet. But I wonder if all the lodges use the red spotlight, or is this just an Old Mondoro thing? I'm sure I've seen night shots from this area with normal spotlighting. I guess with the red light, really the best and only option is to convert to B&W.



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Good guesswork @Atravelynn; you would have got there if you had continued in that theme. Thanks for your comments.


@philw I am jealous. We have done South Luangwa twice (followed up each time with Lower Zambezi) and those trips rate as the best we have done. Looking forward to the trip reports. Please say hi to all at OM and Chiawa from Dean and Debs. 


Hello @Towlersonsafari - all the tents at OM are good but for different reasons although #3 (the old #4) is our favourite. The new #4 is further up the lagoon and aside from Scratch who likes the tree outside #3, the other elephants always seemed to end up outside that tent. Another reason to go back......


@ForWildlife - thank you and yes, there was great sighting of the cheetah feasting on an impala a few weeks after we left. I will e-mail the camp and ask for an update but their Facebook page would be a good place to look.


Agreed @amybatt. This is why I love Africa...and I think you all do too. We actually had the same happen 3 days in a row at Old Mondoro!


Thanks for all the reads and likes. I have said before that I enjoy re-living the trips through these reports and short of being able to have one massive expedition with everyone on Safaritalk this is the next best thing.


Kind regards



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Well done @janzin - It was a bit of a gamble on my part as I knew it from the books but could not remember the first time I saw Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (t'was a very very long time ago) and hoped it was in that version and/or the Tim Burton remake with HelenaBonhamCarterJohnnyDepp (all one word because they are always together in his films!). 


A bit more information on the cheetah today and as for the red filter I think OM and Chiawa are really the only company that used the red filters. There is a way to process the "red" image with photoshop but I don't have PS and can't be bothered to figure it out which is why I go with B&W. They do also have regular lights that they will use if the sighting permits.


There are very polarized views on the need for red filters and that would warrant a topic all of its own here on Safaritalk. 


Next installment to follow. Hopefully I get them all before you depart on your trip!


Kind regards



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Day 9 Old Mondoro (part 1 of 2):


Today was the last full day at OM and we were hoping that the water level on the Zambezi would permit an afternoon canoe ride - we had done this on both of our previous trips and it was the highlight for me. We found out that we were okay for today so that meant we would drive this morning and canoe + night drive tonight. 


I started my day with porridge with honey and a double Jamesons...because I could; and then we set off towards the East againbut this time in search of lions. Marshall was driving us again today and said he had heard them roaring last night and since we had not seen lions yet at OM this trip we were happy to try and also to see what else we might find along the way.


Did you think I was joking with the Whiskey for breakfast?



It was a bit milder this year - normally Mrs deano would have a big coat on in addition to this lot.



We meandered through the forest stopping for impalas, baboons, waterbuck and then two elephants that were digging for water in a dry riverbed. It was a lovely sighting and I could have stated with them all day but we had a plan to find lions plus our fellow guest was leaving at lunchtime today so we needed to make tracks so that she could squeeze in a drive before leaving. 


The bigger guy on the RH of the picture got most of the water







We then left the forest and got up onto one of the open areas between two of the plains. The scenery here is spectacular.




A short while later Marshall pointed the vehicle up a small incline and right there we spotted a young male lion just taking in the day and watching his world. He was in full sun for now so I took the chance to rattle of a few pics from varying angles and zoom lengths. 






A handsome specimen with piercing  - almost scary - eyes



He was a bit of a poser



He kept looking West towards some bush and Marshall knew that this guy usually hung about with another lion and sure enough we found the older male who was already resting up in the shade there.




These eyes were even more amazing and I have not processed them at all in the image below (there are edits to the whole image  - contrast, exposure and such)



Look at them in black and white - I don't think I could have looked this one in the eye!



Before long his young mate came to join him








They looked like they would be here for a while  and It was getting warm now so we left them to their shady spot while we went off in search of anything else that we could find.



We were very lucky with elephants today and soon found two more that had paired up to enjoy a paddle in a small water way. Another typically beautiful Lower Zambezi setting.














And not far away from these two we found a big old boy who allowed us to watch while he had his morning bath and a very public scratch of his various 'bits'.











Scratching his belly



Scratching his bum



And then time for brunch



Again, I could have stayed with him all day but we needed to get back to camp. We had a quiet but scenic drive back to camp and still managed to spot some of the other the animals of the place - like these bee eaters



And this almost fluffy looking warthog. You need a mud bath my friend.



When we got back to camp we should not have been surprised to find Scratch and friends were again blocking the way to tent #3. We didn't even try and walk from the dining area today and just went straight for the bush taxi and another bathtub entry - like I said yesterday, you don't get that at the Marriott!



Easy to see that he had walked across the lagoon again - his preferred route.



We can still see you there...you are way too big to hide!



Once we were safely inside he hung around picking up seed pods and generally being a nice big quiet elephant neighbor. It was truly amazing to be in his peaceful presence and to just watch and listen to him being a wild elephant who liked to hang around outside our tent.



His mate was not far away either



And my favourite antelope was there too. Toilet seat for a bum and a heart shaped nose. What's not to love?



I have split today into two parts because I did the same with the videos - the afternoon canoe trip is a favourite of mine so I always have a lot of footage and besides....this one was, what's the word? - eventful. Yes, that about does it!



Today's film and movie is from a more adult genre and specifically about Africa so I expect more folks should guess it if you want to play - "...Even now, if you dare lock eyes with them, you will be afraid...".


Part 2 to follow.


Kind regards





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You are really whetting my appetite for Lower Zambezi. Just 8 more sleeps...!


Very eager to hear about the canoe ride, as that's something I am sort of wanting to do, but sort of leery of. Eventful...hmmmm!


No idea about the quote.

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Look at that pic of mrs deano looking at the ele from inside!!  He's RIGHT THERE!!!  That is craaayyyy-zeeee!

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For the double Jameson and porridge, was it mixture?  With enough brown sugar or maple, this could be a savory start to the day.

Of course Alice in Wonderland is the source of that last quote.  Never cared for that one. It got a little too far fetched for me.  Sorry.   I was even going to even suggest Jiminy Cricket, which would have been a nice complement to the mantis at dinner.


The moving clouds are a such a dynamic segue in your videos. 


Glad the water level allowed canoeing.  It is an important consideration in where you can venture in the canoe or if you can even push off.  Do you remember what day of the week you canoed?  I ask because as much as weather conditions play a role, what's happening with the dam has a huge effect on the Zambezi water levels.  Weekends it is lower.


Your hints of "Africa" and the word "them" in the quote has me certain I have guessed it.  That's one movie I will never watch while I am still making trips to Africa because I don't want to be scared.


Looking forward to the rest.


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On 8/18/2017 at 6:48 PM, deano said:

@cjt3  - it's definitely a harbour in Cape Town! Thanks for playing along. Love the doggy pic...what kind?


@deano - His mom was a poodle believe it or not.  Not sure about the father, but we assume a terrier of some sort.


I was traveling over the last week so didn't get to keep up with the game, although looking back I would have failed miserably in any event.  Hopefully I will do better going forward.

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@janzin the canoe ride is always a highlight of the trip for us (that's 3 now at OM + 1 at Chiawa) and even after an eventful one such as this we would not hesitate to do another; indeed, the Chiawa one came only a couple of days after this one so it can't be that bad! You'll find out soon enough....


Yes he was pretty close @amybatt but I think there is a bit of compression in the photo from the zoom. Standby for a closer encounter from him in tomorrow's installment (and a close encounter of another kind in the one I am working on now).


@Atravelynn I sometimes add it to porridge as you describe (the brown sugar option) but more often than not I drink it as it is shown in that pic. You are right of course about the dam and the water levels and this trip was on a Wednesday. The water levels were actually the highest we have seen in our 3 trips. The clouds are part of a an all day time lapse that I decided to break up into little bits rather than 90 seconds of footage. Glad you liked them.


@cjt3 hard to believe the poodle but definitely a terrier in there. He looks very well groomed. Keep trying with the film quotes. This next one is a classic and I expect 99% to guess it.


The film quote was from "The Ghost and The Darkness". In researching it to make sure I quoted it correctly I was struck by another line uttered early on "...remember this...even the most impossible parts of this story really happened..."! Perhaps @Atravelynn is right to be scared - do we have anyone sleeping in a tent next to a railway line anytime soon?


Kind regards




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Day 9 Old Mondoro (part 2 of 2):


The canoe trip departs around 2PM and we were the only guests taking part today so we had Seb and his assistant all to ourselves. It seems that Seb is the senior river guide at OM and has taken charge of the previous year's trips we had been on so we knew that we were in safe hands and the water level looked quite high so more space for the hippos that can sometimes get a bit grumpy when the water is low and the guides have to keep walking the canoes through shallow parts.


Earlier today I had given Juliette my memory card from the cheetah sighting and Seb had been examining all of the photos on the computer and suggested that what we had seen was definitely a male judging by the size and shape and of course the benefit of 200% magnification on the important bits. 


We filled our water bottles before boarding the boat that would transport us, along with 2 x canoes, up stream to The Discovery Channel. The 20-30 minute journey is gorgeous and a safari in its own right with the constant flow of the river, the birds, the hippos and the crocs and it is a fantastic place to be whatever you happen to be doing there. After the safety briefing we decide that mrs deano would ride with Seb in the lead canoe. That put her right at the pointy end of things and I got to ride back up. Seb warned us that there was a female hippo with young calf that had been acting up on previous trips but other than that all was looking beautiful on the channel.


Seb and mrs deano setting off down the channel.



As usual, plenty of birdlife and it took me a while to remember that a zoom lens with auto focus is tough to handle from a canoe. This shot of this heron is a bit fuzzy as a result but they get better as the canoe ride went on...mainly because I tried manual focus as it was just easier than the autofocus - drift by - autofocus again - drift by again routine!



If you like birding then these trips are a must.



Three in one



About this point in the trip Seb alerted us to alarm calls; a squirrel at first the a mongoose and vervet monkeys. Seb thought that there was probably a leopard in the area and as we rounded the next bend we something but it wasn't a leopard - it was a cheetah! Unbelievable! No pictures I'm afraid but they would have been poor anyway as it was crouched down drinking and in deep cover and shade but we saw it look up and then disappear into the bush. It was absolutely most definitely a cheetah and we were all amazed. 


Seb then suggested that it looked smaller than what he saw of the male we had photographed the other day. I didn't really get a good enough look at it but mrs deano agreed and we made a note to radio the camp at our drink stop to see if we could send the vehicles in that direction (they did but couldn't find any sign). It will be great to think that there is a mating pair in Lower Zambezi but only time will tell.


By now we were at the point in the channel where mummy hippo liked to hang out and she definitely was not too pleased with us being close. Seeing it from the rear canoe is a different experience from the lead canoe but even though she turned to face us and then submerged and disappeared we never felt threatened...although I did train my camera on the ripples she was making just in case!


The channel varies in width and depth and with the hippos preferring the deeper water of the outside bends we stick to the shallow insides. Sometimes though, when the channel is neither an inside or outside bend you have no choice but to drift by these guys and even though you are told that all is well the heart does jump a bit when a big one disappears until you hear it surface again with that tell tale blow and spray of water. 


A regular scene on the canoe trip



There were a lot of hippos today.



This is the most typical view that you see of them from a  canoe



But occasionally they will reposition themselves or even get out of the water altogether.



I thought this one was looking like it might give us a rev!



But he settled down and just watched us drift by



A small herd of elephants appeared on the bank. They were not in the least bit concerned by us and it is a totally different experience seeing the animals from this mode of transport. 



This troop of baboons didn't even look up at us. Too busy feeding I suppose.









Almost within touching distance of them





And still plenty of birdlife around; i believe that this is an open bill stork.



And something you don't see that often - a pair of terrapins who were......'in love' just before I took this.



We had been on the go for a while now so Seb pulled in to the opposite bank and we had a cold drink and got to stretch our legs a bit. 



After finishing our drinks and watering the plants we had about 45 minutes left to get back to camp and as the sun was now just starting to drop we settled in for the last bit of the channel before we get back onto the main Zambezi for the last leg home aided by the current. There is a small island at the end of the channel and this is the third time I have canoed there and also the third time I have seen a goliath heron in the exact same spot. Could it be the same one I wonder?



And I have forgotten what this is. A type of goose I think and very dignified.



Even without the wildlife this stretch of the Zambezi is amazing. 



The sun was setting now and we did not have far to go and since was the widest part of the river the hippos had more room to spy us from. There were isolated pods of a few and bigger pods of a dozen or more with the odd loner dotted about. Plenty of room for everyone and all seemed to be in a good mood.


Except this chap. I am no hippo expert but he just did not look pleased with us being on his bit of the river.large._DSC6725.jpg.4c8f20c3e27a69d65c9d130dad0a7f53.jpg


I don't know what it was but something told me that he was going to charge at us and even though I was in a small boat on a large expanse of water with the possibility of a wild animal coming at us my first thought was to check my camera settings and focus on the hippo. Sure enough, I was right and he set off charging straight at us with a bow wave getting bigger and bigger as he did. I had my camera in burst mode and took about a dozen pics with varying degrees of success and the 'best' ones are included below. Luckily, the one where the hippo has his mouth aimed at us came out 'best' and at least there is a bit of sunlight to brighten it up.









He chomped down on the water as a threat but by now I knew he was bluffing.



Being in the rear canoe I had watched how Seb handled the situation. First he raised his paddle above his head to make himself look bigger. That didn't deter the hippo and when he started charging at us Seb used the paddle to smack the surface of the water and that caused the hippo to stop his charge and ultimately exit the water. It was over before it had begun but once on the bank he was still opening his mouth at us in a threatening manner but he was done and we had a great story to tell. 



I asked mrs deano if she had managed to capture it on video but sadly she told me that she was too busy observing several thousand pounds of fat pink meat coming towards us. Shame, would have been a good video although neither of us thought that we were in any real danger but it certainly elevated the heart rate for a few seconds. (On a more serious note - I have read stories that did not have as happy an ending as ours and I hope that anyone connected with a worst case scenario is okay with my somewhat lighthearted telling of the events).


We still had a good distance to cover before we arrived back at camp and we encountered many more hippos but none came anywhere close to us and the rest of the trip was a leisurely float past amazing scenery.


Another hippo that gave us a look but that was bout it



These two just watched us and made no threat at all



We reached Old Mondoro just as the sun was setting and the final picture from the canoe trip is actually tent #3 - temporary home to us and preferred scratching stop to Scratch the elephant.



We had time for quick sundowner in camp before we departed for a short night drive before dinner. A different guide today - James - who had guided us last year and was another really good Lower Zambezi guide. The drive was fairly quiet and since we were the only guests on the vehicle I asked if we could stop to look at the starts as it was a relatively clear night. James found us a spot where I could use the camera on a tripod (I stayed in the car!) and with a nice view of the milky way. I took a few pictures to test settings and such but it was the wrong way to try and test things and a bit cumbersome so we packed up and headed for home and took our time getting ready for dinner.


Back at camp and after a great dinner we retired to the camp fire for a bit more practice with taking pictures of the night sky. This is the 'best' of about 20 or so and I will try more of this sort of stuff and iron out the wrinkles.  



Video for this afternoon will be a dead giveaway for the movie quote but then again it is an easy one anyway and any one of a dozen lines could be used from this particular flick!



"...slow ahead - I can go slow ahead. How about you come down here and chum some of this s#!t..."


And if you are struggling then this is a dead giveaway "...you're gonna need a bigger boat...".


Kind regards



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First of all...wow, a 2nd cheetah...that's incredible!! I had not heard that there was a possibility of another...! How lucky you were to come upon it!


BUT...OMG...so many hippos. And the JAWS on that thing!! I would have been screaming (not the right thing to do, I know!) if a hippo charged at us like that. I think you have scared me off the canoe ride, although otherwise it does look fantastic, especially for the birds.  I wonder why the mokoro rides in Botswana never seemed as dangerous...I guess we were in channels where there were few, if any, hippos.


Also, I'd be really worried about my camera getting dunked especially in the first few days of our trip! Will really have to think hard about doing a canoe ride.


On the upside, you got FANTASTIC shots of that hippo charge...prize-winners!

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fantastic canoe trip - although, if my wife reads your story (and looks at the charging hippo pictures) I doubt she'll be joining me for that part of the trip in three weeks time...

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Wow!  Fantastic photos.  Don't know how comfortable I'd be with an elephant that close to my tent/cabin!  


Love the charging hippo photos, although not sure I want that experience.  LOL!

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12 hours ago, deano said:

Keep trying with the film quotes. This next one is a classic and I expect 99% to guess it.


Yes - today's was much easier.  I had guessed what you might be going for just by the pictures before I even got to the quote (although the last picture got me thinking that you might throw in a Star Wars reference instead).

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WOW!  Now that's a canoe trip.  My colleagues here in my open air workspace are wondering what on earth has me "OH MY GOD" aloud at so early in the day.  Spectacular hippo encounter.  So glad it ended as it did.  Can't wait for your next close encounter. Lower Zambezi is really delivering for you!

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A great section of your report - I imagine you would enjoy your Jameson's after that encounter with the Hippo. Excellent photos!

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3 hours ago, amybatt said:

WOW!  Now that's a canoe trip.  My colleagues here in my open air workspace are wondering what on earth has me "OH MY GOD" aloud at so early in the day.  Spectacular hippo encounter.  So glad it ended as it did.  Can't wait for your next close encounter. Lower Zambezi is really delivering for you!

Are you sold on Zambia @amybatt?

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I'm definitely getting there, @Tulips  I've promised myself I can book in October, just need to get through a rough patch at work...  @deano ought to be getting a referral fee from this TR!

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Just catching up with this great trip report @deano!     


Thanks for all the nice photos and info.    I really enjoyed seeing and reading about Scratch, your friendly neighbor.  

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