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Mobile Camping, Botswana


vikramghanekar

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vikramghanekar

Hello

I am just in the process of putting together a report on my recent trip to Botswana.

It was mobile camping trip. I was part of a group lead by wildlife and nature photographer Theo Allofs and his wife Jami Tarris. They had organised this trip in association Brian Gibson of Capture Africa based in Maun. It was my first mobile camping experience and it was absolutely fantastic.

The trip's itinerary was as follows:

23rd September to 3rd October 2017

Day 1 Thamalakane River Lodge, Maun

Day 2,3,4: Moremi Game Reserve

Day 5,6,7: Khwai Community Concession

Day 8,9,10: Savuti, Chobe National Park

Day 11: Thamalakane River Lodge, Maun

Day 12: Helicopter flight over Okavango Delta with Helicopter Horizons in the morning. Fly to Jo'burg in the afternoon

 

Will post day by day account soon. I need to figure out how to add videos and shots from my mobile phone to the report.

Cheers

Vikram

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Had some beers with Theo long time ago in India, good guy and answer question if you ask. How is he doing?

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vikramghanekar
9 hours ago, Wildship said:

Had some beers with Theo long time ago in India, good guy and answer question if you ask. How is he doing?

He is doing well! Had quite a few beers with him on the trip! He is now based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He operates a company called Wild Focus Expeditions along with his wife Jami Tarris. We had a great time in Botswana.

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16 hours ago, vikramghanekar said:

The trip's itinerary was as follows:

23rd September to 3rd October 2017

 

@vikramghanekar I'm confused by the dates. Was this safari in 2016? 

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vikramghanekar

I am sorry. It's 23rd August to 3rs September 2017. Thank you @Geoff

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madaboutcheetah

Vikram, Look forward to images and the report .......


Quick question - How was Savuti?  Which part of the delta did your helicopter ride take you over?  Sounds like an amazing time ........ 

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vikramghanekar
10 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Vikram, Look forward to images and the report .......


Quick question - How was Savuti?  Which part of the delta did your helicopter ride take you over?  Sounds like an amazing time ........ 

Savuti was hot, dry and full of action. 4 male lions brought down a buffalo close to the public campsite. Saw 2 lionesses on an eland kill and a lion pair in pre-mating rituals. To top it off, a female leopard with a very young cub on "Leopard Rock".

I am not sure which part of the delta we were flying over, but at one point the pilot said that we were flying over Chief's Island/ Moremi Game Reserve area. It was 1 hour flight, so we covered a lot of area.

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vikramghanekar

Botswana has always been on my mind for a long time. However, the ultra luxury camps in private concessions was not really an attraction for me (my wife would have a different opinion). When Theo Allofs put together a mobile camping trip to Botswana, I dived straight in.  The opportunity to join a world class veteran pro wildlife photographer in one of the most sought after destinations in Africa, I was not going to miss.

After getting a visa for Botswana within a "short" period of one month and 4 days, finally I was on the plane to Johannesburg via Dubai. Experienced travellers had asked me to make sure that I check my baggage in at Mumbai airport through to Maun as collecting it at Jo'burg and rechecking it in is impossible for holders of Indian passport (Collecting baggage at Jo'burg means a visa for SA, which I didn't have). My flight from Mumbai to Jo'burg was with Emirates and connection to Maun was with Airlink. 

I was going to share my tent with Dr. Senthil, a radiologist from the US. We had never met. Chatting on Facebook messenger made me realise we were connecting at Dubai and will be on the same flight to Jo'burg. I was trying to compare my fellow passengers faces with Senthil's profile  pics on Facebook while waiting to board at Dubai airport. I was almost convinced one of them was Senthil (of course he wasn't). Thankfully I didn't approach him (he would have been stunned). Senthil, however, found me out on the aircraft itself. (Probably his skills at diagnosing diseases from radiographs came in handy at recognising people from their photographs).

We had long layover at Jo'burg (5 hours). The time was spent in a Cafe' admiring Senthil's photos from his previous trips to East Africa (He is a fantastic photographer).

I finally landed in Maun at 1:30 pm. Theo and our guide for the trip Brian Gibson (owner of Capture Africa) greeted me at the airport (along with some other passengers in the group). We were transferred to Thamalakane River Lodge for an overnight stop.

Thamalakane River Lodge is situated about 15 km from Maun, on the way to Moremi Game Reserve.

It turned out to be a very pleasant lodge with beautiful surroundings, good food and service.

 

 

View from the restaurant 

 

59bab41bcebdd_03Thamalakne(1of1).thumb.jpg.d2a0faea5363a68d7a307defc4a7492b.jpg

 

 

They offer Mokoro and Riverboat cruises

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Our cottage

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View from the cottage

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In the evening we were briefed by Theo/Jami and Brian about our trip. Jami handed over maps, checklists, basic photography information booklet and a buff.

Dinner was a buffet with decent food. I retired early, tired from 24 hours of travelling.

 

Next day morning after breakfast we checked out and assembled in the parking. Our adventure was about to begin.

Including Theo and Jami, there were 10 of us. Apart from Brian, Josh was the other guide.

We had two open landcruisers. One had trailer for luggage. The camp crew had left previous day to set up the camp at our first destination: Moremi Game Reserve

59bab5f160b03_05Thamalakne(1of1).thumb.jpg.e59132bc5dcfc420464e005c78ab565a.jpg

 

 

Josh sorting out baggage in the trailer.

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Initial part of the drive was on a tar road to Shorowe village after which the dirt road began.

On our way we saw a large bull elephant munching away by the side of the road. He was completely relaxed and not bothered about self drivers whizzing past him. After about 2 hours of driving we reached the famous game fence. Apparently the fence is now broken in most places and there is hardly any maintenance. It is, however, intact where we crossed. I guess it's a matter of keeping up the appearances.

 

By noon we reached the South Gate of Moremi Game Reserve

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Decorations at the gate

 

59bab6057c25f_08Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.38d8d6a2479d5b7846da2e6384553848.jpg

 

Brian completed the formalities at the office. There was a clean loo behind the office.

59bab609b9361_09Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.035a6c288151de2734f333241850c6aa.jpg

 

 

 Stretching legs at the gate

 

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Signboard inside the gate

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We parked near public campsite just inside the gate. There were hardly any occupants. 

We had a packed lunch and stretched our legs some more.

Soon we were surrounded by quite a few birds: Francolins, Mieve's starlings and Yellow billed hornbills as well as a bunch of squirrels and even a dwarf mongoose!

59bab61e80a3c_12Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.71399c5ade457e512d3cf358b2056c0b.jpg

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Sangeeta

Glad to see you get to this post-haste, Vikram! Looks like a fun time being had by all.

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offshorebirder

Great start @vikramghanekar.    I am really looking forward to the rest of your report and photos!

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vikramghanekar

Here's a link to a couple of videos that I shot with my mobile phone. Please let me know if this works.

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0ewlmM6qQRkWmlWY0g5ZGxIdDQ

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0ewlmM6qQRkQk1kZGxCSVBfOUk

 

 

 

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vikramghanekar

After lunch we proceeded to our camp in Moremi. It took a lot of driving. There was a lot of water around and so were the animals. We made stops to watch a family of elephants, some zebras and some red lechwes- A new species for me.

Finally we reached our camp by 3 pm. The tents were ready. We quickly freshened up and re assembled in the dining tent for some tea and delicious cake and left for evening game drive.

It was already 5pm and we had to be back by 6:30. Not too far away from the camp, Brian found tracks of a leopard. We were in the process of tracking the big cat when we received a call on the radio from Basha, Brian's handyman in the camp. "Wild dogs just passed through the camp".

We hastened back towards the camp. Suddenly as we took a turn, there they were on the road.

 

59bc03b9b2759_15Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.29d5f09ada169c70ae5d800018c3670b.jpg

 

They were quite pale in colour.

59bc03d90ccfa_13Moremi(1of1)_filtered.thumb.jpg.349bb7a2dd6fb8f889be399d122853e5.jpg

 

We followed them to an open area. They were behaving a little strange. Initially we thought they were out on a hunt. But instead of spreading out, they were close together and literally had their noses to the ground. 

59bc03dbc3a0c_16Moremi(1of1).jpg.eddec8e49184b6b3a6b5e0eea692cf12.jpg

 

59bc03de657bc_17Moremi(1of1).jpg.db47ccb4f2acb16cdc56f0c50009d04e.jpg

 

Josh was speculating what they were upto.

The dogs were on our right... Suddenly they were all alert and looking towards our left.

As I looked towards left, a second pack of about 10-12 dogs rushed in from our left.  All the hell broke loose. There were dogs all around us, chasing each other with twittering and excitement. Dust was flying through the air. It was an incredible sight! I managed to click a few pictures in the dying late evening light (the sun had already set). D500 worked admirably, locking focus more often than not.

 

Dogs chasing each other.

 

59bc03e078a5e_18Moremi(1of1).jpg.0a54f522d900b4a70d176428d4ec22b6.jpg 

Wild dog in an all out pursuit

59bc03e324742_19Moremi(1of1).jpg.17fee628edd18903b7502071bd456d48.jpg

 

Greyhound ?

59bc03e575c91_20Moremi(1of1).jpg.0d436751ca6e0cf0ef490ae38730533e.jpg59bc03e841979_21Moremi(1of1).jpg.dd1c1d633e18c11a0ae41f8a62b6963c.jpg

 

It was over within a few minutes as one pack managed to chase off the other.

59bc03eaa3c8a_22Moremi(1of1).jpg.8c446d370b9b3398763c712f6f7d2159.jpg

 

 

What an incredible start to our safari! First day, first game drive!!

Couldn't even have wished for this! 

 

 

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vikramghanekar

Day 1 contd:

We returned to the camp after all the excitement with wild dogs. Sitting around campfire, nursing drinks and exchanging stories is one of my favourite activities while on safari. This evening was no different. After customary G&Ts all of us sat down to enjoy the dinner. But the evening was not over yet! Suddenly, one of the staff members rushed in. There were lions in the camp. Desert forgotten, we jumped in one vehicle. Just about 20 metres down the road our car headlights found 2 big male lions walking on the road. We followed them for a while, but they were certainly on a mission and were in no mood to stop. We, of course, couldn't follow, being in a national park. We returned to our desserts and then were off to bed. Thus was the end of a super exciting first day of our safari.

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vikramghanekar

Day 2

After an early morning wake up followed by coffee, rusks and some porridge, we were off on our morning drive.

After all the excitement of yesterday, today seemed a little subdued.

But we were in for surprise. Just 15 minutes into the drive, we ran into the wild dogs.
It was still dark and they were mobile.

They had puppies with them, probably moving their den as a result of yesterday's interaction with the "dark" pack.59bd4dbc7da6b_23Moremi(1of1).jpg.ae21f65a0781475a977597a2b0ea3de2.jpg

59bd4dbfc37b9_24Moremi(1of1).jpg.1fe93ec8d7c70bf515318bba0320a3b1.jpg

 

Dog looks keenly into the bush

59bd4dc26fe1d_25Moremi(1of1).jpg.f012762ed1725e5ec5f46adb192a10ae.jpg

 

 

There were quite nervous and moving fast. We left them in peace and moved on.

Soon we found the tracks of the 2 male lions that we had seen last night. We followed the tracks for a while but soon lost them in thick bush.

After driving around for a while, Josh found tracks of a male and a female leopard. Francolins in the nearby bush were going berserk. Josh was quite certain that the leopards were around. While Brain moved ahead with the other vehicle, we decided to stick around make some intensive search. The search soon yielded fruit.

We found this guy on the move.

59bd4f70514b0_26Moremi(1of1).jpg.3ba5930113cde4521b344ed8dd79020d.jpg

 

He was quite a big guy and was very relaxed. But he was on the move. Soon we caught a glimpse of what he was doing. There was a female leopard that he was following! A mating pair. Unfortunately, the female was very skittish and was not happy with our presence. We tried to follow them, but soon they disappeared in thick bush.

 

After losing them, we found a family of elephants walking through tall grass.

 

59bd50c6e82ff_27Moremi(1of1).jpg.eb75c6f333159406e5b604f49006457c.jpg

 

The family had a really tiny calf with them. All of a sudden, they stopped in their tracks and started smelling the air. They were quite alert and didn't look too pleased. We soon found out the cause of their discomfort.

A pair of wild dogs! They appeared to be from the same "pale" pack and were out on a hunt. There were quite a few impalas around. We waited with baited breath to see if they would be successful in their endeavor. But the impalas spotted them and ran off, snorting loudly as they went. The grass was quite long and the ground was covered with wild sage bush. So tracking dogs was very difficult. We soon lost them.

we found a few interesting birds on our way.

 

A little bee eater with dragonfly kill

59bd54c4172e9_28Moremi(1of1).jpg.c33345f925e7695bf35717ae4486632f.jpg

 

An African Hoopoe

59bd54d57b6e4_29Moremi(1of1).jpg.750d0ecc707e63cb5298884d03c145f7.jpg

 

A sunbird (don't know which)

59bd54d7ed448_30Moremi(1of1).jpg.e07dc1548a112f20a48b9f8601355b01.jpg

 

 

A bateleur eagle

59bd54db68873_31Moremi(1of1).jpg.3fc4ea3556731c6716ba348d60d6d3b4.jpg

 

Soon it was getting hot. We returned back to the camp for brunch and siesta.

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Peter Connan

Stunning sightings so far!

 

The sunbird is a White-breasted.

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Fantastic start of report! Love the photos and your descriptions! More please.... am curious about your mobile experience.... thanks for taking the time to do this Vikram!

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vikramghanekar

Thank you @AandA

 

 

 

Our camp was situated on the banks of a shallow marsh.  It was interesting to watch animals coming down to drink.

After lunch, I decided to take a brief nap. But the tent had become quite hot and it was difficult to sleep.

I decided to spend my time lying in the shade of a large tree in front of the camp. It was quite cool under the tree and gentle breeze made it even more comfortable.

Some camp photos.

Bar/ Tea-Coffee station

59c689cf8424f_32Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.e9e640276718594f95c354b114e01bb6.jpg

 

Closer Look

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Dining tent

59c689e0aee32_34Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.33607b69b2909ed32e43382c3f9da70c.jpg

 

 

Lunch made by Flo. Simply delicious 

59c689e79bbcb_35Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.9cd414fdea09348b258022bcddca5f11.jpg

 

Lunch

59c689ee59e89_36Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.78bb13c464495b487b52a1ffd651e095.jpg

 

Bread

59c689f510355_37Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.65c13d493238fc140dec39d19849f170.jpg

 

 

Post Lunch Siesta/ Game viewing

 

59c689f963ce9_38Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.91135b94f02dcd9047aa5c009f1aaf54.jpg

 

 

We headed out for our afternoon drive at about 4 pm.

We came across a Tawny Eagle

 

59c6901355eb4_39Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.9029bd1fee65122d6e25284081b8d9d8.jpg

 

A Mieve's Starling 59c6901aad0a4_40Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.45a5fafc9046c2d04678098af489a6c5.jpg

 

Double banded Sandgrouse- Female

59c698b7aa21e_41Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.075586c52ed0292f23d50d558b838c6f.jpg

 

Male

59c698bc5ad31_42Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.b9a66e2cf2277c983bd86f4fec953cdc.jpg

 

Photographing a dead tree with interesting pattern: Theo and Senthil

 

59c698c3868b2_43Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.c51a0a229706fe7071311dd5c5ace08b.jpg

 

Didn't turn out too well. It would be much more interesting at night with star trails in the background

59c698c7d8ec2_44Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.d9e52767b4a8882adce12a8194b754dc.jpg

 

 

We found some lion spoor and searched for them, in vain.

 

Instead we found Wild Dogs, again.

 

59c698cb3c931_45Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.52cd0179fe5fdc7f06dac64a13adef63.jpg

 

It was very brief sighting and we lost them in thick bush.

It was soon getting dark and we headed home.

As compared to yesterday evening, today was a quiet day.

At night while having dinner, we heard some commotion in front of our camp.

We heard wild dogs calling from our right side followed by response from our left. Brian guessed that the pack was somehow split up and now the members were trying to get back together. It was followed by laughing sound of hyenas, for me the quintessential sound of Africa.

Brian scouted the marshy area in front of the camp with his torch. No surprises there. 3-4 hyenas were running across, whooping excitedly. Their whooping was immediately followed by contact calls of wild dogs.

Soon a lone wild dog was running across from our left to right. He briefly encountered the hyenas, but without hesitation ran around them and probably reunited with his pack.

After watching this interesting interaction, I called it a day and retired to the tent. 

Tomorrow a new day in the bush awaited!

 

 

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madaboutcheetah

Vikram, Thanks for the detailed report with wonderful images .......... Great stuff!


Quick question - did they have landing cards on the plane before landing in Maun? or did you have to wait in line and fill it on arrival?  Thanks ...... 

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vikramghanekar

Today was our last day in Moremi as tomorrow we would be heading to Khwai.

We started before sunrise, so that we could find an interesting animal to photograph in good light.

We headed to open areas where we could have better chances at shooting some good photographs. The grass and wild sage bush was quite tall in most places, making finding and photographing animals quite difficult. Brian put it down to some late rains in the delta, which had sustained the growth of grasses and the bushes.

We came across a large pool of hippos just as the sun was  rising.

59ca64674618e_46Moremi(1of1).jpg.24eaaf1e6e840b2bfe5b857cc6b8924d.jpg

 

Came across a fish eagle perched nicely on top of a relatively short tree. I couldn't resist in trying my hand at some flight shots.

59ca646a46354_47Moremi(1of1).jpg.d4817f02f2667a7006aec429c5a9d479.jpg 

 

59ca646c585fb_48Moremi(1of1).jpg.093b4cfeb6b2df7dee20a8bf9021d478.jpg

 

There were some other opportunities as well as there is no dearth of birds in Okavango!

 

An African Darter in flight.

59ca64723338c_49Moremi(1of1).jpg.83b17ece16789190c35757bb7aab3630.jpg

 

Driving on we came across a really big herd of buffalo. Brain was really excited to see such a big herd. (He must have seen buffaloes a zillion times, but it was really nice to see his genuine enthusiasm which I admit was quite infectious).

59ca64771b8b2_51Moremi(1of1).jpg.7e613a502e394656d9ccb3aba3ea5df2.jpg

 

Tried some backlit shots.

59ca64749d1d7_50Moremi(1of1).jpg.518b1fb23b9bdce5deefd6cc15c506a5.jpg

 

A mother and calf

 

59ca647ae600d_52Moremi(1of1).jpg.afaf0949e85ae1ae41960cde10d37550.jpg

 

 

African debt collector! 

59ca647db843f_53Moremi(1of1).jpg.0b47669f9955e885fbbedcd9e8fbf642.jpg

 

That "Don't you dare mess with me" look

59ca648131bd9_54Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.9b16f1e7b70f14b09f5cfff365da2cf4.jpg

 

A poor attempt to be creative

59ca648346af7_55Moremi(1of1).jpg.9ba2f79511a6101dda4b7de1e515cec3.jpg

 

 

After spending some time with the impressive herd, we moved close to the third bridge area.

There were some cheetah tracks on the road. We tried to find the owners, but the search was not fruitful.

We crossed the Third Bridge to see what's happening on the other side.

 

A lonely Yellow Billed Stork was busy fishing in the stream.

59ca66655e6f5_56Moremi(1of1).jpg.c3d7935548e6434bcd7edadfb888e0cc.jpg

 

Close up of the beautiful bird

59ca666cab2e5_59Moremi(1of1).thumb.jpg.8be1c66f207e8e793c0352aaac4b4dd9.jpg

 

Some more birds on the other side.

 

An African Spoonbill

59ca666b700bc_58Moremi(1of1).jpg.cc4ebc18f9275f4e3c0e579d7d08e143.jpg

 

A pair of male lechwes engaged in ?mock fighting

 

59ca66696d5de_57Moremi(1of1).jpg.804fec3b6b5ddb9f00004f6cc58928dd.jpg

 

 

We came across a lodge vehicle while watching these lechwes. The guide told us that he had seen a couple of cheetahs in the morning, just where we had found the tracks (on the other side of Third Bridge). He gave us an idea about where they would be resting.

We turned back and followed his directions.

After some searching, bingo!

 

59ca666fa8521_60Moremi(1of1).jpg.7015ed6fd0714ec17c4c3ba4f2ffc575.jpg

 

There were 2 cheetahs, one male and one female. Looking at their manes, they looked like subadult siblings which had probably just separated from their mother. 

The male was resting in the shade of a termite mound, close to the road while the female was some distance away, lying under a thick bush. The male was quite relaxed, but the female didn't like us much and slinked into thicker bush.

We decided to wait and see if they deicide to hunt. But it was starting to get hot and the chances of anything exciting happening were next to nil.

After some time, the male got up moved next to the female.

 

59ca6672e1642_61Moremi(1of1).jpg.4ef9f2dbe3834cdb8a388956046ed58e.jpg

 

We headed back to camp for lunch and siesta, deciding to come back in the afternoon.

 

When we came back at about 4:30 pm, the female had moved into another bush but the male was out in the open, posing for some close ups.

59ca667579593_62Moremi(1of1).jpg.4476c06b20a70f7b6ec0c387d9197584.jpg

 

59ca667839202_63Moremi(1of1).jpg.b7c912e6c5d7d6e535fa891875835096.jpg

 

 

There were some impalas coming down to drink in a nearby pool. He seemed to be taking some keen interest in them.

But after showing some intent, he just flopped down and went back to sleep.

As we waited, there were plenty of birds around to keep me busy.

A Pelican and some spoonbills.

59ca667d080db_65Moremi(1of1).jpg.da5d832717a5b5f37a4e1145f8f9617f.jpg

 

Some of the birds had decided to call it a day and were flying to their roosting sites.

 

A spoonbill in flight

59ca667a4aff5_64Moremi(1of1).jpg.3b65bc1e3a69b34fda29d1591efc3be0.jpg

 

A grey heron

59ca6682166b0_67Moremi(1of1).jpg.ff8001c6c731bbf5028ba583a500f1b8.jpg

 

We positioned our vehicle in such way that we had the cheetah between us and the sun, hoping for a silhouette.

We just forgot to inform the subject of our plan.

59ca668047a73_66Moremi(1of1).jpg.2363e70a3b22a5f1880856d9e72c0a54.jpg 

 

I had to settle for this.

59ca668587262_68Moremi(1of1).jpg.93df03a0c9b1e94cbb4edd271c166365.jpg

 

As the sun dipped below the horizon, we headed back to the camp. We had a significant distance to cover in a short time.

As luck would have it, we had a familiar sighting.

 

59ca66883d64b_69Moremi(1of1).jpg.f1384ab194edbf571acd72e19d4e1c08.jpg

 

Well that was the end of Moremi part of our trip.

Tomorrow we head to Khwai!

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vikramghanekar
12 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Vikram, Thanks for the detailed report with wonderful images .......... Great stuff!


Quick question - did they have landing cards on the plane before landing in Maun? or did you have to wait in line and fill it on arrival?  Thanks ...... 

Thank you!

There were no landing cards on the plane. I filled it at the immigration. Fortunately, I was quick off the plane and didn't have to stand in line for too long. Besides, I was the only person with a stamped visa on my passport :-) (which had taken merely a month of "processing")

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  • 2 months later...
Atravelynn

Great mobile safari!  Love those running dogs.  Food looks luscious.  How many were on your trip?

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