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Ratdcoops

A Family Mobile Safari Botswana (Part One)

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Ratdcoops

So here goes. My very first trip report. Something I undertook in my own mind very shortly after discovering Safaritalk in order to repay the many other contributors that I have had the pleasure of reading over the last couple of years. 

I will be breaking it down into two different parts. This first part will be Botswana, followed by a second part which will cover off on our travels and experiences through Zimbabwe.

This leg was hosted by Guy and Edi from Elephant Trails Safari Co and Guided by Ofentse. 

I can't speak highly enough about this company and Ofentse, each and every moment of this safari exceeded all of mine and my families expectations. 

Our Itinerary for Botswana.

 

  • Friday 7/09/18 11.40pm Depart Perth International Airport
  • Saturday 8/09/18 Arrive Maun Airport Botswana
  • Monday 10/09/18 Depart Maun, Road Transfer to Xakanaxa in Moremi Game Reserve
  • Thursday 13/09/18 Depart Xakanaxa Road Transfer to Khwai Game Reserve
  • Sunday 16/09/18 Depart Khwai Road Transfer to Savuti in Chobe National Park
  • Wednesday 19/09/18 Depart Savuti Road Transfer to Chobe River Floodplain
  • Friday 21/09/18 Road Transfer to Victoria Falls.

The trip started at 5.30pm after my wife Robyn and two boys Tyler(14) and Dylan(12) had finished at school.  My wife is a primary school teacher and took two weeks unpaid leave to allow us the opportunity to enjoy such a long holiday in Africa. 

We enjoyed a very excited one and a half hour drive to Perth, parked in the long term parking and caught a short shuttle to the airport. Please excuse the image quality really is just a happy snap.

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Our flight departed as scheduled at 11.50pm and arrived on time approx 5am. We had a reasonably long lay over so we had pre-booked into Shongololo Lounge so that we could have a shower refresh and a little chill time. We all thought this worked out really well, although some may think a little expensive at 120USD for the four of us.

 

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Time for a little visit to the shops in OR Tambo Airport

 

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We depart Johannesburg at our scheduled time and arrive in Maun 1.30pm to a very comfortable mid 20 degrees celsius. A very pleasant surprise, I was expecting much higher. Guy and Ofentsi from Elephant Trails were there to meet us along with Shareen (a friend who would be travelling with us). They took us straight to The Sedia Hotel, a place we were familiar with, we stayed here on our last trip three years ago. The Sedia is by no means a luxury hotel it is rustic but comfortable, exactly how I like it on this type of trip.DSC03421.jpg.834bac02576aa392196f3508cde15226.jpg 

Edited by Ratdcoops

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Ratdcoops

It is at this point I will start to include some photographs that I would never have bothered to capture prior to my discovery of Safaritalk.

Some of the birds in the grounds of the Sedia Hotel on our first afternoon.

I promise there will be a lot more mammals included throughout the report as we had superb sitings throughout the trip, including a total of 25 lions, 7 leopard, 2 cheetah, 20+ wild dog including a hunt and another time with conflict between the wild dog a lioness and some hyena. We were also lucky enough to sight an Aardwolf although my photo leaves a little to be desired.

I can't take ownership of all of the photos that will be included in this trip report, my two boys have also become very enthusiastic with the camera and I find it hard to get it out of their hands at times.

I will attempt throughout the report to give the correct names but please feel free to correct me.

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African Golden Weaver

 

DSC03218.jpg.40cbd64ca64e368126fe621c1cb021e4.jpgAfrican Hoopoe. A real thrill for me I have seen many times on Safaritalk

 

DSC03413.jpg.12b8831464308920e224f001c0cc1920.jpgBlue Waxbill

 

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Southern Red-Billed Hornbill

DSC03226.jpg.01dace987a9ae8763e82dc2ec0e93bfc.jpgGrey Lourie or Go Away Bird

DSC03155.jpg.1e6549e841b8a62357399e252f654b49.jpgArrow-marked Babbler (a better photo later)

 

DSC03240.jpg.381ad460e7b2d498e5d8f6f2461f35c2.jpgWhite Browed Robin-chat

 

DSC03173.jpg.a67b53cf010c3d528285ee82fa664b77.jpgRed Eyed Dove

 

DSC03306.jpg.aeb9fc7ce8ff42c3ec1a36a57b99c08c.jpgRed Billed Spur Fowl

 

DSC03180.jpg.d2da661a0cf87c7b5fdd576255b11800.jpgKurrichane Thrush

DSC03311.jpg.a50f040386bfbf2a5d5d5ed8319090d9.jpgFork Tailed Drongo

 

That completes day one of our holiday. Maun is an awesome place and it was so good to be on the ground in Africa. Robyn and Dylan were ready for a rest Tyler and I wandered down to the Thamakalane River to soak it all up. What a privilege to be living out my childhood dreams and sharing them with my wife and two children. I can't remember a time in my life feeling more at peace and moved to be alive.

Day two to follow soon.

Edited by Ratdcoops

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michael-ibk

Wow to all the predator sightings you mentioned, looking forward to see this in the report. Great Hoopoe photo, and lots of material for your Big Year!

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TonyQ

A great start to you report. It sounds like an excellent itinerary.

Enjoying your bird photos and looking forward to your next posts.

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xelas

Ah, mobile safari ... already the start is fantastic, @Ratdcoops. What was the camera gear involved?!

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Ratdcoops

Thanks @michael-ibk quite a few new birds to add to big year, only got back four days ago so I will be taking a little longer to compile my bird photos for my big year. We were very lucky with predators on this trip. 

Thanks @TonyQ appreciate the comment. I will start working on day two tomorrow. 

@xelas we used a bridge camera the SonyRX10, was perfect for this trip gave us a focal length of 24mm - 600mm in a small package easily shared amongst us and great for walking when in Zimbabwe. Had some limitations in low light, so some photos may not be quite what I hoped when I process. 

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xelas

Either @Game Warden or @wilddog should move this post into Botswana section, IMO.

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Game Warden

Thanks @xelas, now done. As a quick aside, fancy becoming a moderator? :)

 

Matt

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Peter Connan

A great beginning! Looking forward to more...

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anocn4

Thanks for sharing. Look forward to the rest of your trip report.

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mopsy

Great start @Ratdcoops looking forward to following along.

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CDL111

Looking forward to the rest of your report. Your itinerary was  the same as our first ever safari and am sure it will bring back memories for us . 

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Ratdcoops

Thanks @Peter Connan, @anocn4, @mopsy, @CDL111 great to have you all along. I hope I can provide something interesting for you all to enjoy. It really is encouraging to hear from everybody that is following.

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Ratdcoops

Day 2: Still in Maun.

We planned to have two days in Maun in order for us to be fresh and ready to face 3-4 weeks in the African bush with mostly tented accomodation. Following on from our previous trip I didn't want anything to get in the way of soaking up everything that Africa was willing to provide for us.

The idea being by extending each leg of the trip by a day or so we could then take our time and improve our opportunities for great sightings without feeling the pressure to tick any boxes. There was also a budget consideration, thinking that if we had to pay for four airfares it may as well be a longer trip. This will probably be the last trip that we bankroll for our two boys.

We really approached the trip with our hopes but no expectations.This approach was to pay dividends as we were relaxed and Botswana delivered big time.

The day started early for me as I woke at 4am bright as a button. I am an early riser in Australia and I was still to adjust to the time change. I worked on my journal, a new addition for me with the intention of keeping notes for this trip report. This was a practise that was to fall out of my routine, fortunately my wife was willing to keep this up for me. 

Once the rest of my family rose and the sun was high enough it was back down to the bush between us and the river. The group safaris that had camped in the camp grounds next to us were up and about and packing up their tents and bedding. DSC03885.jpg.810daf5b66d580962f969a3f3473a22f.jpg

 

DSC03469.jpg.c7d089741a88444015282aa5db2cbcdf.jpgAnother Arrow Marked Babbler

 

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Coppery Tailed Coucal

 

DSC03488.jpg.c851fdd484256e455c0c15b5066a43cd.jpgA pair of Red Eyed Doves

There were many other birds but the photos are mainly serviceable only as ID Pics for my Big Year, which will be updated as I have the chance to sort through.

 

DSC03543.jpg.743b0a7f183b8b2ac24412156c5bec61.jpgWith the approach that I have outlined there was plenty of time for the smaller things.

 

DSC03580.jpg.1a2f0e22951834d8cf5d0a7f35505cdf.jpgTime for breakfast and a cup of coffee up at the restaurant and bird feeder. Breakfast was very good and probably the best of the meals we had while at The Sedia.

 

DSC03684.jpg.9f0a76d8f901c41444da7e7d43465f24.jpgDSC03672.jpg.7d0a2b46bf8119b7863090e8591af14d.jpgBlack Collared Barbet, the punk rocker of the bird world one of my favourite for the trip and our only sighting. I have included two photos because we loved it.

 

Our first Mammal. Coming from Australia so many of the animals that we see are completely exotic to us, we were completely in love with these guys and my two boys never tired of taking photos of them. Unlike most other countries we don't have any deer/antelope/squirrel like animals, we have however grown up seeing them in Disney movies and the like.

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We then ordered a taxi and headed into town for some last minute provisions and a quick look around. The following photo was taken while waiting for our taxi and needed to be included because my wife can't get enough of these guys and insisted on a photo.

 

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Burchell's Starling

 

Our trip to town was uneventful and we returned to The Sedia as soon as possible.

We had booked a one hour boat cruise on the Thalamakane River under the advice of Guy from Elephant Trails the day before. We had very low expectations for this trip. I personally thought it would be a quick trip up the river nothing really to see. Well this was the beginning of our expectations being well and truly exceeded. The Thalamakane River was beautiful and there was birdlife everywhere. 

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DSC03802.jpg.a0860c32d6494706e2fc0071a7ad21cd.jpgAfrican Darter and the Old Bridge Backpackers upriver from us. A  good place for lunch I am told.

 

It was the Mammals that truly surprised us as we didn't expect to see any. It wasn't very long in that my wife spotted Hippo's on the bank, something we didn't get a very good viewing of on our last visit. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of them out of the water but captured an image in the water. They were shy and we only had an hour.

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Hippo

 

The next wonderful surprise was the Maun Game Sanctuary. I had read about this prior to our trip but decided against it as I thought it would be a poor substitute for what was to follow. What I wasn't expecting was viewing some of these animals on this one hour cruise. I know they are contained in a small area but to see some Mammals in very natural looking surroundings a day before we  thought we would was awesome. The photos weren't great but do document what we saw.

 

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We needed to head back as we had dinner booked with Guy and Edi from Elephant Trails along with Shareen. It was a great night with a good buffet dinner. Of to bed and tomorrow the Delta.

Edited by Ratdcoops

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xelas

Sony RX10 deliveres excellent details in good light, based on posted birds photos; the Collared Barbet is indeed a stunning one.

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Ratdcoops

Day 3 

Finally after two and half years of planning and counting down 400 days, courtesy of a countdown app put on my phone by a mate, the time had arrived. Today we depart for Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve. Departure time is set for 8.30am as always I am up and about well before this. My eldest son is the first to join me and we  head off with the camera in hand to see what we can find before breakfast.

 

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Red-billed Firefinch

 

This was the only new bird that we captured that was worthy of note. We are particularly fond of the finches as we keep them in an aviary in our backyard. I will try to keep a lid on the number of bird photos for the remainder of the report and save the rest for other topics. They are important in the context of this report because they are representative of the way we went about our safari, notice and appreciate everything.

 

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A very happy and excited family after an enjoyable breakfast before our vehicle arrives. Guy and Ofentse (from here on to be known as Ofi) arrived on time. We loaded up without a hitch, waved farewell to Guy and were on our way

As luck would have it my hat hat blew off a short way into our journey out of Maun, as we stopped to retrieve it Shareen happened to remember that one of the vehicles from Top Gear's Botswana series was in the area. Ofi asked if we would like to go see it. Although none of us are Top Gear fans why would you knock back the opportunity? It is a Lancia and I have confirmed the number plate is ridgey didge, pretty cool I thought.

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Top Gear Car

 

From there it was back onto the vehicle.. remember keep hold of your hat! The tarmac was pretty uneventful from there and I was keen to pass through the Vetenary (as spelt in my tourist map) fence as this is where we would begin to see animals.

The competition was on for what animal would we see first, and who would pick the correct one? With the loser to perform a dance in honour of their animal.

Dylan - elephant, Tyler - Impala, Ofi - warthog, Shareen - kudu, Robyn - giraffe and myself a very optimistic and unfortunate choice of ostrich. Needless to say I would be dancing before to long.

Remember hold onto your hat and think before you speak!

 

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Tawny Eagle 

Once we crossed over the Vetenary fence the animals began to appear and it was immediately obvious that the area was carrying a lot more grass and the trees had more leaves than last time we travelled through this area. 

It also contained more animals than our previous trip with some good sightings as we went. We noticed a lot more giraffe and put this down to the Acacia carrying really good leaf cover. We didn't linger long at sighting on travel days as we did when we were in camp and setup.

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Giraffe at rest something I hadn't seen before.

 

As we continued along our journey we encountered our first sizeable elephant family and this pretty little male kudu.

 

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We arrived at South Gate around lunchtime, we were never too worried what time this was. We had a enjoyable but basic lunch, this was the nature of our travel days and it worked well. We were joined by a couple of friends who enjoyed the crumbs we inadvertantly dropped.

 

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After lunch it was onto Xakanaxa. This area was rather devoid of game, from memory a large part of it sand ridges and Mopane. We did see some birds and a lone warthog plus I have included a nest of some sociable spiders because I think it is cool.

 

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We arrived at the Xakanaxa gate late afternoon and were greeted by spotting some Meyers parrots which I was quite excited about, I haven't included the photo as we captured much better images of these later.

We began seeing animals again and were treated to some stunning light for taking photos. Unfortunately I had my settings wrong and in the excitement of our first animals in great light I was quite disappointed in the resulting shots. I can only take my ISO to about 1600 before I find the images too grainy - even this is pushing it.

 

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That's it for sightings for the day and yes we spotted impala, just no photos. Time to dust off the dancing shoes and get ready for the ostrich dance.

 

828854307_DSC042982.jpg.7df63408033a81c60a30312c598d47ba.jpgOur first camp fire at the end of a long and enjoyable day.

Edited by Ratdcoops

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Hads

Great report so far - I love the baboon pic in post 16 in the fading light@Ratdcoops

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anocn4

Everyone looks so happy in the picture. I can just feel the excitement for you guys. Enjoying the report so far!

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xelas

Same here, the backlighted baboon is wall-hanger quality!

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Ratdcoops

Thanks @anocn4, @Hads and @xelas you are all to kind. I agree the baboon photo had potential if only I didn't have the camera set to a shutter speed of 1/2000 resulting in a high ISO of 3600 which I find to grainy with my camera. The light was absolutely gorgeous though.

I am going to try and get day 3 & 4 out over the weekend. I have the photos selected and edited for day 3 just need to put it together, I find the process interesting selecting photos based upon the story I want to tell as opposed to our best shots.

It is going to be a great record for our family of this trip.

Thanks to everybody following along.

Edited by Ratdcoops

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Ratdcoops

Day 4

Here we go our first full day on safari. We were about to embark on our very first of Ofi's famous "Windy Windys" - his terminology for heading out and slowly seeking out what the world was willing to provide for us. The world inevitably provided more because of his innate ability to "Sniffy Sniff" - his terminology for following the signs that he found while "Windy Windying".

We were awoken at 5.30am for breakfast which consisted of bread baked and toasted on the campfire, hot porridge and cereal. This was exactly as requested, I was very clear that our objective was to be in the park as early as possible and this would take priority over cooked breakfasts. Our morning routine consisted of a quick bite to eat a brush of the teeth and onto the vehicle.

We would be on the road at 6am, looking out for the 'morning news' and following up on whatever animals had made their presence known through the night.

We came across a couple of bull elephants that made a nice subject.

 

Bull Elephants in the morning light. There will be a lot of elephant shots, Botswana and Zimbabwe both have so many.DSC04312.jpg.32ceaef389d3252685444456626ba273.jpgDSC04319.jpg.e8a3d5c9339c3bb40ec0b743c7d69312.jpgDSC04326.jpg.157797b5b3a807af339b0b052e22f6e0.jpg

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We observed for a while as they wandered through then we continued on our way.

It wasn't much further down the track that we came across another couple of vehicles, they had found a lone lioness with her cub. On our first safari it had taken four or five days before we came across our first predator and we had found a lion within a couple of hours. We were rapt. We settled in for a little while as was to become our habit. After a short period of time the other vehicles had seen enough and moved off leaving us to enjoyed this lioness and her cub by ourselves for a while.

 

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They had clearly settled in and wouldn't be doing anything in the foreseeable future. We continued on, pausing to enjoy the view at a hippo pool.

 

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While we were here, there were calls over the radio that a leopard had been spotted in close proximity to our lioness. We set off to see if we could get lucky.  We found the other vehicles easily enough and then the leopard. She was mobile and moving through the area quite quickly. Ofi was able to predict her path quite well and we were able to get a reasonable view of her. Their camouflage is truly magnificent especially in the sage. Fortunately Ofi and my eldest son Tyler have very sharp eyes.

 

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I got some shots but she was moving fast and the brush was quite dense. I was quickly discovering that shooting wildlife from a vehicle in the African bush was going to test my very newly acquired photographic skills. 

 

Ofi made the call that this girl wasn't comfortable with all the attention she was receiving so we would leave her be and continue along our way. It wasn't very far before we stopped to observe a group of Vervet monkey's. They are always entertaining and we enjoyed our time with them.

 

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It was  now time for morning tea, so we left our little monkey friends and headed back to the hippo pool for a coffee and a rusk.

 

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We spent some time here soaking it up, chatting about our first morning and the good fortune we had enjoyed with lion and leopard within a matter of hours. As I have said earlier in the report we came with high hopes not great expectations. This was a beautiful spot to enjoy a cuppa and some game watching. Sighting impala, lechwe crocodile, hippo and a variety of birds.

 

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Given that the sun had changed position in the sky we made the decision to revisit the lioness and her cub to see if she would need to change her position out of the sun. Unfortunately we were too late she had already relocated so we missed it, but she hadn't moved very far,. She was just under the shade of a larger tree situated by a large pool so we sat and chatted, snapped and observed the goings on at the pool.

 

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We were hoping that this group of kudu would wander into her area as she was quite old carrying an injury to her hind leg and didn't seemed to have eaten in a while. There may have also been a small amount of self interest as we have never seen a lion kill. 

 

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Part of the injury to her leg can be seen in this photo

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It was getting close to lunchtime by now so it was time to 'windy windy' back to camp.

We stopped briefly for this herd of zebra.

 

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Back at camp for lunch, a little bit of relaxation, download the camera and ensure all of our images were backed up.

 

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This afternoon we had a boat ride on the Delta booked. We had previously done this and were aware that we weren't likely to see any big game, but it would be beautiful and there would be birds. We had our fingers crossed to spot a sitatunga, unfortunately not to be. The following photos are of the boat trip and ride to and from. The trip home was to reveal a very pleasant surprise in the form of an Aardwolf something none of us had dreamed of being lucky enough to see.

 

Waterbuck

DSC04806.jpg.2c42dfcbda2eaf7b943269b2643a6285.jpg

DSC04840.jpg.1694f43c97a86e8eba459a550dfc87a5.jpgGreater Blue-eared Starling

DSC04842.jpg.eed7001a938aadede8176741958def67.jpgReed-buck a new species for us

365563118_DSC048892.jpg.15181b95cb1925265d87bd46eeffcdc0.jpg

DSC05001.jpg.2353416fdb771141e381a0d292691e08.jpgMalachite Kingfisher

DSC04925.jpg.0a92b223ab20826975566b5b509eb10e.jpgDSC04871.jpg.88dd653b67e96ba09654c50af11fe708.jpg

DSC05007.jpg.31005a4ffe2aa020b40ef824c4cf773f.jpgScenery

DSC04944.jpg.c2db45ba23fcbfb0cc866eacdd49b5c4.jpgAfrican Darter

DSC04953.jpg.7f461b4eb7af015478c0177731dfa4f7.jpgPygmy Geese

DSC04965.jpg.85dd0ca48d94ef74119d6e33eb62641a.jpgLesser Jacana (I hope)

DSC04993.jpg.4a9fe10eacf18b70c24766990dc08663.jpg

DSC05049.jpg.a8de3e4e56d089f4f1b793e6c185aa14.jpgSearching for that elusive sitatunga

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DSC05020.jpg.cc1413048d46199c2730d92b63f7dedc.jpgLittle Bee Eater

DSC05062.jpg.17cf993874bd213285365611e4f844ed.jpgOfi awaits a smile as always

DSC05063.jpg.de823ccffc28ca44bbb6646985fb2264.jpgBack on land

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DSC05076.jpg.6efa338a73947bbc46083ca49a480202.jpgBig bull elephant

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Crested Barbet

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DSC05119.jpg.7bd21a01d6726fc5fc60aebcf10da38c.jpgOur Aardwolf - apologies for the images I was just happy to get something.

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Finally, the end of our first full day. We enjoyed a very hearty dinner a couple of cold beers then off to bed for an early night, to be out at first light again tomorrow for more 'windy windy, sniffy sniffy'.

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Edited by Ratdcoops

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michael-ibk

Great pictures, show very well why the Delta is such a paradise. Jealous about the Pygmy Goose, hope to get them next year there as well. I think the Jacana is actually a juvenile African one. And sorry about the Aardwolf but I´d suggest that´s rather a Side-Striped Jackal?

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xelas

Great day on the water! I like the mirrored mirror tree.

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Ratdcoops

Thanks guys. I have just had another look at side striped jackal on some images @michael-ibk it would very much appear that you are correct. I hadn’t had a chance to look at them in good light and it was a long way away when we saw it. I have to admit I had my doubts when I was looking through my camera. I think I may have got caught up in the excitement of it all.

Dont I feel a little like that Pygmy goose.

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Hads

Great stuff @Ratdcoops - I love the striking pose of the Lechwe.

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