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A Family Mobile Safari Botswana (Part One)


Ratdcoops

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Caracal

 

Great reporting @Ratdcoops - both the narrative and the beautiful photos - reckon I can feel the enthusiasm of you all for the safari lifestyle. 

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Great first full day on  safari @Ratdcoops

 

Can tell already this is going to be a fun trip report to follow!

 

Some fantastic photos taken already.

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A great trip with excellent photos. My favourite of the latest is the Lechwe - really beautiful.

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Ratdcoops

Thanks @tonyq, @mopsy and @caracal was hoping to get another day out over the weekend unfortunately wasn’t to be. Hopefully tonight after work. I would like to keep the momentum up. Appreciate you all following.

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Ratdcoops

Day 5 

 

Off to our usual start. 

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It wasn't long before we were on the road for our next windy windy and boy were we in for a treat. The morning was quite brisk as we headed off, all wearing jumpers and some even taking advantage of the blankets on board.

We had been on the road for all of ten minutes when a couple of impala bounded across the road 10-20 metres in front of our slowly moving vehicle. I was sitting in the front seat next to Ofi and asked "do you think they are being chased?" He responded  "probably morning exercise". As we turned to look in the direction they had come from, the call went up "DOGS".

They were moving fast and disappeared quite quickly, so we continued on full alert. As we came around the next bend there they were yelping, and excited, clearly finishing off the remains of a fresh impala.

 

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We enjoyed these guys for a good 20-30 minutes by ourselves before Ofi called it in, so that others could come and enjoy them as well. We were very happy to share our sighting, having a philosophy that if we were to take advantage of other peoples information then it followed suit that we should reciprocate.

After the arrival of one other vehicle, we received a call from camp, a lion had just passed through camp. Ofi suggested that we should go and check it out, to see what was going on. It wasn't very far along this journey that we came face to face with our lioness and cub from yesterday, wandering along the road towards the dogs but apparently unaware of what lay ahead.

 

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The moment she realised there was something going on.

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We were excited for what was to play out. We knew she was hungry but with only herself and her cub there was risk involved, we had counted sixteen wild dog in the pack.

All of us were keen for action but none of us wanted to see any harm come to the cub. She moved in and muscled the dogs off the last morsels, but it was merely scraps not enough for any real sustenance. She was very sure to keep her cub close.

 

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This little titbit secured she settled in to defend it, while her cub ate what it could.

It was now that we had a couple of Hyena arrive sniffing around, and see what they could gain from the situation. This was enough for the wild dog to exit the stage, and leave what little was left for these larger predators to haggle over.

 

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The lioness clearly decided it wasn't worth the effort with her cub and moved on, we accompanied her on her travels.

 

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The following photo hopefully shows a little better the damage to her back leg. She was clearly inconvenienced by it as she moved along her way. These predators definitely face their own challenges and struggles as they work to survive.

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She came across some red lechwe that held her attention but the wind wasn't in her favour and they became aware of her.

It was interesting to watch, as they chose to advance towards her letting her know that they were aware of her presence, then run to a distance they were comfortable with before settling again.

 

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This seemed to be the end for her efforts today. It was beginning to warm up and she rested up and she and her cub spent some time grooming each other. We watched for a period of time but we had been joined by quite a few cars now so we left her to it.

 

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Always time for some other viewing, a Goliath heron while watching them groom. A very impressive bird, I wasn't ready for how large they really are.

 

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Time for a cuppa at another beautiful waterhole accompanied by a bull elephant.

 

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Time to windy windy back to camp for lunch, not to many stops for photos as we soaked it up and digested the amazing morning we had just enjoyed. We did however stop and spend some time with these swallow tailed bee-eaters.

 

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Todays lunch break wasslightly longer than others during the trip because Ofi had to help the camp staff get some water. Fortunately the weather was still mild and there was good game viewing in camp.

 

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I particularly enjoyed this big guy coming through and showing the lechwe who was boss.

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I have included the following photo, even though the elephant is hard to distinguish, I always love watching my two boys having close up interactions with magnificent animals. Such a privilege.

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The afternoon game drive consisted of plains game and of course plenty of elephant.

 

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Then sundowners. 

 

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Thank you Botswana for a magical and enlivening day in which everything felt right in the world

Edited by Ratdcoops
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Ratdcoops

Day 6 

 

Today was to moving day our last day at Xakanaxa and the Moremi Game Reserve onward to Khwai.

We had our bags ready to go and loaded onto the vehicle. We would enjoy a morning game drive within the reserve and then meander our way to our next camp, allowing the camp staff enough time to setup before we arrived.

The plan was interrupted as we were readying to jump on the vehicle, an impala bounded through our camp closely followed by dogs. After the initial lead dogs the remainder of the pack followed along behind.

 

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We travelled with them as they followed the road, they then fanned out and started flushing game out of the bush until they hit a big plain and  they were off. Their speed once in full pursuit is breathtaking. We lost visual of them but could see where they had crossed our road and made our way there at great speed. The following photos are what we found.

 

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The photos that follow are taken from approximately fifteen minutes after they bolted across the plain. It really was amazing to see how quickly these predators devour their prey.

 

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Feeding done, it was now time for some play and socialising.

 

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We sat with these guys for about an hour and a half the majority of that time all to ourselves. This truly was one of the best experiences of my life and such pleasure to share it with my wife Robyn my two boys Shareen and Ofi.

All good things must end and we needed to be on our way towards our next destination. So we bid farewell to the dogs of Xakanaxa and proceeded on our journey to Khwai.

 

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As we continued on our way we found time to stop for some other sightings.

 

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Zebra

 

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Common Sandpiper

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African Fish Eagle

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White-faced Whistling Ducks

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Little Bee-eater

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Ground Hornbill

 

The airstrip was particularly productive.

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A pretty Kudu

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Lilac Breasted Roller

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Wattled Crane

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Saddle Billed Stork

 

Our next stop would be the Dombo hippo pools for lunch.

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Pearl-spotted Owlet along our way

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Hippos in front of our lunch spot

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Black Heron (I think)

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The ammenities. 

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An elephant as we left just because I haven't put one in today.

 

On our las trip we hadn't been fortunate enough to see a big congregation of vultures, this was about to change as we spotted them circling up ahead to find a recently dead kudu with many vultures in attendance. 

 

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It was now getting hot but we still found time to have a kick of the footy.

 

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A Genet, not a great photo but we hadn't seen one before so I thought it was cool. I still have no idea how Ofi was able to spot this.

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Another Pearl-spotted Owlet

 

We arrived at the Khwai river and stopped for a quick chat to hear there were a couple of male lions feeding on a buffalo but they were likely to gone tomorrow so we pressed on after a taking in a little of the new scenery.

 

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We arrived at the lions just on dark and they were not going to be doing ver much for a very long time. Not great photos but a great way to finish off a very, very satisfying day on safari.

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Edited by Ratdcoops
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Productive drives with the dogs and to be the only vehicle with them was a bonus.

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Caracal

Great sightings including  that genet in the daytime - I've only ever seen them on night drives.

 

Do you know why that lioness was on her own with her cub?

 

 

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mtanenbaum

Fantastic trip report so far! How great to be able to share this with your kids! I have taken my son (college age) twice to Africa and we have magical memories of the trips!

 

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Ratdcoops

Thanks @CDL111, @mtanenbaum I do feel extremely happy and satisfied when I think about how lucky my kids are to experience the miracle that is African wilderness and wildlife. As a child growing up I would have given my left leg to visit. 

@Caracal I remember our guide offered a couple of reasons for why she was by herself, I will check in with my wife and two boys to clarify my recollection before posting a reply to your question. 

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Ratdcoops

Day 7

 

Today was to be a day of leopards and elephants. Overall it was a quieter day on the sighting front. The previous night at dinner we had all put in a request for our dream sighting. Shareen wanted a male leopard in a tree. Ofi had heard a report of a leopard in a tree over the radio. Shareen and I went early with the Hi 5.

 We headed off to find her leopard in a tree. We were set for disappointment, as the radio informed us that the leopard had left the tree and found cover. We arrived at the tree where the leopard had previously been and she was indeed huddled deep inside a bush.

We moved away a little to give her space and see if she would settle and return to the tree where part of her meal was left. Most other vehicles moved away and once things had settled down she emerged a little from cover but was still quite obscured.

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We decided to leave her for a little while to do her thing go and have a coffee and rusk. We were also all in need of a toilet break. A new rule was agreed to for game drives, no more premature Hi 5's.

 

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On our return she was in the process of retrieving the remains of her kill from the tree, clearly she wasn't comfortable with the attention she had received this morning so was relocating.

 

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We continued on our game drive but things were a little quiet and it was heating up. Feeling that we were a little flat. I made the call "lets get lucky", and then in the middle of the road in the middle of the day a leopard appeared.

 

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She had some impala in her sight. It was interesting to watch her stalk and also roll a couple of times to disperse her scent and maybe pick up some other scents.

 

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She wasn't sucessful and settled into the shade of some bushes, we observed for a while then let her be.

 

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On our way back to lunch we visited the water hole where our lions had been the previous night. They were long gone but this big boy was in attendance.

 

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After lunch we visited a spot where the elephants come to bathe and drink in the afternoon. We had spent some time at this spot on our last trip. We had all loved it, so we were more than happy to spend an afternoon with the ele's.

I apologise if this is a bit of elephant overload but I hope to reflect the number of elephants that come to visit and also the time that we spent with them.

 

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Some young guys came to play. Always fun to watch.

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Others continued to make their way in

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After another satisfying but very different day it was time to sit back soak it all up and enjoy a sundowner under the African sun.

 

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We took a slow drive back and enjoyed having the spotlight out. We spotted a few night creatures an eagle owl  rufous nightjar.

 

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Ratdcoops

Images from previous post for some reason would insert into the post so have attached now

 

Rufous NightjarDSC08299.jpeg.24a283bbcfc85d8e9950423b7c07c73b.jpegDSC08290.jpeg.0a2546599322da525dc7e3586c258b84.jpegVerreaux Giant Eagle Owl

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Edited by Ratdcoops
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Two leopards in one morning, fantastic. The wife would have stayed all day with the elephants.

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Peter Connan

Lovely sightings!

I suspect at least one of your little owls is actually a Barred owlet?

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Ratdcoops

You are right @CDL111 my wife could spend hours watching elephant but we all enjoy them with their interactions and behaviour. We always found it a more enjoyable and relaxing way to view most sightings was to sit back and appreciate them.

@Peter Connan you are definitely right on the one and suspect now that you mention it. The other may also be a barred owlet.This rings true with the description given by Ofi now that you mention it. I will check other photos at home to see if I can clarify.

Sorry to take so long responding @Caracal. A couple of reasons given by the guide for the lioness earlier in the report being by herself were, because she only had one cub, for its protection. Also only having one club she may have found opportunistic hunting and scavenging more productive in supporting this cub. He didn’t give a definitive reason, more suggestions of possibilities.

Really appreciate your engagement.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Ratdcoops

Day 8 

 

We had been hearing lion throughout the trip but only seen the one lone female with her cub.

This morning after our usual breakfast we were heading out to track them and see what we could find. When I say 'we', I mean Ofi, we offered very little in this arena although our eyes were becoming much better at spotting, on our 'windy windy' expeditions each day.

While in Khwai Ofi would start his quest for tracks at a couple of likely spots by the river. His hope was to find lion crossing to the other side for us, on a recent trip he had found just that, and his guests photographed lion swimming towards them with the sun rising behind them. We weren't to be that lucky but he picked up the tracks of a couple of male lions. We followed them and as a nice little touch they went right through the campsite we had stayed at in Khwai on our last trip. It was nice to recognise the campsite and remember that trip. It was supposed to be a 'once in a lifetime bucket list' that has become a little bit of an addiction. We continued to follow tracks but unfortunately they disappeared into mopane with no access, so we headed out towards the main road which would give Ofi a good chance to find any tracks if the lions were leaving the area.

Along our way we found tracks of leopard, hyena and wild dog and, we stopped for the alarm call of squirrel and baboon but couldn't locate what was causing the disruption. I am constantly amazed by a good guides ability to be aware of everything in spite of talkative guests and being engaged in conversation themselves. We weren't  successful ourselves in the search for our own lions but other vehicles had by this time located a pride so we set off to see these. 

 

I have included some photos of a few sightings we enjoyed as we searched for the lions.

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Some impala in a drying pan as we checked out some leopard tracks.

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A baboon with her young. Part of a much larger troop that was heading off as we arrived. Was nice to get photos of her drinking with bub on her back.

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A beautiful male kudu. I love these guys once they get a good set of horns.

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A large crocodile as we neared the lions and stopped to chat to another vehicle.

 

Once we arrived at the lions it was immediately clear that there was a lot of interest and there would have been upwards of ten cars at the sighting. We joined the procession and managed to get a glimpsing of a couple of male lions.

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As a group we decided we would be better served if we pulled out of the sighting and waited for the crowd to disperse. As a rule we found that most groups would come, have a look and continue on their way. I loved that we had booked a safari that had us in the bush for twenty plus days so we didn't feel the need to rush and could afford to be patient. We moved away and because its Botswana elephants were never far away!

 

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DSC08427.jpeg.595959207687449707750a0c4c4e74f2.jpegAfter our 'cuppa-cino' our safari version of cappuccino we returned via some Meyers parrots. I always enjoyed viewing the different bird species that I have only become aware of since joining Safaritalk. Bird species viewed on Safaritalk have really added to my experience on safari, they have become one of those iconic species that I have seen in photos, and now get to come to life in front of me. This thrill of seeing something in the flesh that I have only ever seen from afar is still very fresh and exhilarating for me. 

True to form on our return the majority of vehicles had moved away and we were able to find a nice spot to settle in and enjoy hanging out with a pride of lions. At some point in time all other vehicles moved off and we were alone with them. Our hope was they would decide to cross to the other side of the river or wander down and have a drink. Neither was to eventuate but we felt it was worth the time to let things unfold.

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At one point one of the females spotted some impala on the other side of the river, we hoped this would be the motivator to initiate a crossing. Not to be, another game drive vehicle pulled through interrupting her view and she settled in for some rest.

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As we sat,  a lone elephant approached, we hoped for an interaction between the most mighty of animals, but alas no chocolates. The elephant veered away slightly and the lionesses retreated although, the males maintained their posts.

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It was nearing lunch time and time to return to camp for a bite to eat and for a siesta.

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Afternoon tea was to be a treat Magwinyas (African donuts), a real favourite for everybody on our last trip -  especially my two boys. It is unbelievable what can be cooked on an open fire and the food along the way was always hearty and flavoursome.

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Lunch and afternoon tea done, the plan was to return to the lions and wait for them to get active. Along the way we came across this particularly pretty scene with buffalo, lechwe and saddle bill stork.

 

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We enjoyed some time with very few people with the lions however as dusk approached the other vehicles began to build.

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The lions were about to move and this is when it got crazy, cars went everywhere as it descended into a free for all. We decided with Ofi, that it would be best to avoid this so we removed ourselves from the throng and moved ahead to where he predicted the lions would move too. 

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Along the way we observed a long crested eagle in silhouette. Not a great photo but I promise I will use this in my big year when I finally get around to working on that. Running out of time.

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The lions did indeed follow the path that Ofi had predicted and we managed to avoid most of the jostling. They continued along their way and as luck would have it headed in the direction of our camp, we continued slowly and spotted them occasionally in our spotlight but left them as they had already had enough attention. On return to camp we did a thorough scout around and needed to have our wits about ourselves as we didn't have location on the males and they could very easily have been in our area.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Ratdcoops

Day Nine

Another travel day towards the famous Savuti region, an area that I have heard so much about and was excited to see with my own eyes, we hadn't included in our previous itinerary. Far from being a burden I love the travel days, as we would slowly wind our way towards our next location, giving the camp staff time to set-up before our arrival. I think by travelling in this way you really get an appreciation for the different landscapes and environments that you move through.

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One of our first sightings for us was of a Bennett's Woodpecker. Something I particularly enjoyed, they have always fascinated me, probably due to the Woody Woodpecker comics of my childhood.

 

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We stopped to view some plains game which appeared to be a little agitated but nothing really came of this.

 

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Our next stop along the way was to view a Hyena den. We found one adult in attendance and three little ones, we spent some time with them, it is hard not love these guys.

 

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All good things must come to an end and we had to move on. We still enjoyed a few more sightings as we travelled.

 

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As we moved away from the river it begun to get hot and the change in the vegetation was remarkable much drier and harsher.

 

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We came across the pride of lions we had observed the day before. They still hadn't eaten but had moved a considerable distance from where we found them yesterday. 

 

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This was to be our last sighting of any significance in Khwai. We had enjoyed some excellent game viewing but it has definitely got very busy since our last visit three years ago. 

We were now going to cross the Mubabe depression and it was going to get bloody hot, so wet buffs and Kokoi's were the order of the day. These provide great evaporative air conditioning, and relief from the powdery dust.

We passed through the gate and it wasn't long before we came across another small group of lions resting in the shade.

 

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Shortly after seeing these lions we came across a vast open plain, which to me was quintessential Africa from my earliest visions, with giraffe moving elegantly through the heat shimmer in the distance. I would love to see this place in the wet season transformed into a green paradise, but gee it is harsh at this time of year.

 

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Lunch was spent in some rare shade offered by one of the few substantial trees.

 

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Game was scarce and it was interesting to watch namaqua doves and francolins disturbed by our vehicle as we passed by their resting place in the very small amount of shade offered by the verge of the road.

 

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A very resilient little steenbok

 

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We worked through the heat and our enthusiasm never wavered, all of us still enthralled by what Botswana was offering up for us, and accepting the heat as part of the experience. The first sighting offered up by Savuti was a massive bull elephant right by the side of the road.

 

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We then visited our very first pumped watering point with a black backed jackal in attendance but very much dominated by the elephants.

 

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Edited by Ratdcoops
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Ratdcoops

Day Nine (continued)

 

We watched for hours as different elephants came and went all completely satisfied and present to the privilege it was to be in this place in the presence of these incredible giants.

 

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Some photos showing a very happy guide Ofi and 14 year old son Tyler and Shareen with her camera.

 

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On our way into our new camp we spotted our first Kori Bustard and giraffe as the sun set.

 

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We arrived at camp on dark for dinner and tonight marshmallows. Another incredible day.

 

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Edited by Ratdcoops
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Good photographs of the Bennett,s woodpecker and LBR in flight. The elephants at the waterhole brings back memories of long long ago.

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  • 1 month later...

What a fantastic trip report! I've been having a lot of fun reading along; your enthusiasm is palpable and your photos speak for themselves. Great dog and elephant sightings in particular--I would say that this is the one place on the internet where you don't have to worry about elephant overload!

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