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It was in March 2014 that we were on a splendid safari with the excellent Kwando camps. When back home we immediately started to think about a return trip since we had enjoyed it so much. But somehow it was not meant to be. Other trips came in the way, and only five years later, in February 2019, did those return plans finally, finally materialise.




We were a bit unsure how to approach this return. Sure, the camps had been great but we were hesitant to do a classic lodge trip. Having somehow turned into one of these troublesome birding people along the way I was unsure if sharing a vehicle with others tourists (with unknown preferences) would really still work for us. And a private vehicle really would have been quite a budget chore.




The answer was a mobile. Be out there as long as you like, choose to stop for whatever you enjoy and be it a butterfly on the road - is there any better way to do safari?






There are a lot of mobile operators out there, and most of these well-renowned, and very good value compared to Botswana´s "slightly" overblown lodge prices. We used Letaka Safaris, a long established company and can heartily recommend them, they did an excellent job. And to make a good thing even better we decided to spend a little extra and have Doug MacDonald as a private guide. We´ve done several safaris with him in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Chad and really enjoy his guiding style and company. This safari was definitely so much better with him calling the shots.




So when to go? Dry Season Botswana is the most action-packed, the most game- and predator rich time, and a mobile is probably even better value then since lodge prices go through the roof while the costs of a mobile are pretty much the same all through the year. And Green Season is a matter of luck - can be wonderful, can be wet and miserable. On the other hand the classic Northern circuit (Savuti, Khwai, Moremi) is very busy in peak time, and far fewer people try to tackle the difficult, often flooded roads in summer. And ultimately it was very clear for me - I wanted to see the wonderful blue, green and white colour combination I had loved so much last time.










The Kalahari has a special place in my heart, and it was clear from the very beginning that it would have to be in the itinerary as well. A wilderness unlike no other, and while it can be a difficult place it again gifted us with magical moments.








The only thing we were missing was some mates to share this adventure with. We were very, very fortunate that @Alexander33and J.B. were kind enough to be willing to join up - I think we made an excellent team and look forward to more adventures with them in the future.




So, all set now - trip report ready to go!




Edited by michael-ibk
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Beautiful images bringing back very fond memories 

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We had not been to Botswana before, and, in fact, it had never registered very high on my list.  I had always envisioned it as a specialized Dry Season destination with very exclusive lodges and some of the highest costs in all of Africa.


So when Michael first contacted me about joining them on this safari, my first thought was: Botswana? In February?


At the time, it was February 2018, almost exactly one year prior to our intended departure date, so I decided to look up the weather forecasts for Maun and Kasane for the next 7 days to get a better idea of what might be in store for us:










And it wasn’t just a chance of afternoon showers.  I’m talking rain, like a 100% chance of rain for hours each day.


Actually, I have become a Green Season safari convert. I love the lushness of the backdrop and the clean air that results from refreshing rains, but this was looking more like it would be a safari in the midst of a fierce monsoon.


In addition, at the time, I earnestly was working with my travel agent on a particular safari to some remote lodges in Tanzania that I long had wished to visit. I knew the trip would be expensive, and I suspected that if we committed to Botswana, we almost certainly would not be able to manage it at all.  So, with some regret, I demurred initially.


And then I got the actual quote for this imagined Tanzania safari.  Even at only 8 total safari nights, it was beyond what I had imagined even the top price might be.


Suddenly, a mobile safari in Botswana in the pouring rain with Doug Macdonald and two other simpatico travelers was looking pretty good.


I reached back out to Michael. Was his offer still good? Fortunately, it was, and within a few days, we were all set.


(And, for the record, as you will already have gleaned from Michael’s introductory photos, we did not end up getting drenched and swept away by the out-of-control flood waters that my worst thoughts had conjured up, either).


Edited by Alexander33
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Oooh two-voice TR! Very cool. Looking forward to hearing your sides of the Botswana to compare while we were on ours.

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Game Warden

Makes my day when reading about Safaritalkers going on safari together :)


You know, I too enjoy 2 voice trip reports - especially when I'm writing 1 part of it...



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The safari would begin in Kasane, where we would meet with Doug and proceed south in our vehicle.  The schedule was as follows (all dates are February 2019):


4:   To Savuti – Chobe National Park

5:   Savuti

6:   Savuti

7:   To Khwai Community Area

8:   Khwai Community Area

9:   To Xakanaxa – Moremi Game Reserve

10: Xakanaxa

11: Xakanaxa

12: To Maun (overnight Riley’s Hotel)

13: To Deception Valley, Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)

14: CKGR

15: CKGR

16: To Maun; helicopter tour late PM (overnight Riley’s Hotel)

17: To Johannesburg (early PM); depart for home


Michael and @AndMic planned to arrive a few days early and explore the Chobe River from Kasane.  Meanwhile, J. and I would start off with a short visit to Victoria Falls. From there, we’d then travel overland to Kasane on the morning of Monday the 4th to kick off the safari in earnest.


Edited by Alexander33
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About six weeks prior to our departure, I learned that not only would Michael and @AndMic be arriving at the Johannesburg airport about the same time as us, but that @Kitsafari and @twaffle also would be there en route to their own safari in Botswana.  Michael, being the social butterfly that he is, quickly arranged a rendezvous for all of us.  Yes, our safari would commence with a Safaritalk GTG.  How appropriate!

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Stunning pictures! I look forward to reading the rest of your trip report as I have considered Botswana multiple times, but have been put off by the lodge prices. 

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@michael-ibk I'm jealous of your photographing skills. Beautiful pics you show us in your first post. Never ever I could capture it like you. Thanks 

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Yay, looking forward to this report! Beautiful photos to start out! And I hadn't heard about the Safaritalk GTG in the airport - fun! Any photos? 

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After two consecutive overnight flights for us (Dallas to London, London to Johannesburg), it was a real treat finally to be not only on African ground, but also a part of a Safaritalk GTG with members that I had known about for years, but only in the form of their trip reports and other postings.


Our flight to Johannesburg had stood out by virtue of the agitated and quite intoxicated woman seated directly behind me, whose favorite word in the English language evidently was the “F-word”, preferably shrieked so as to show emphasis.


And I have to hand it to her, she had quite mastered a proclivity for its usage, even managing at one point to employ the word as an adjective, an adverb, and a noun, all in a single, exclamatory sentence when she couldn’t figure out how to navigate the entertainment screen in front of her (and on the back of my seat), jabbing it repeatedly with her fingers, and ultimately the palms of her hands, until finally, just before the onset of whiplash for me, she finally f---ing passed out, and was quiet for the remainder of the voyage.


So after that, it was quite a pleasure the next morning to meet and be greeted by the smiling faces of my fellow Safaritalkers. We all gathered at Mugg & Bean for coffee (and breakfast for us) and good conversation.  Say what you will about the Internet, but to imagine that it was possible to arrange a quick morning respite with kindred spirits from 4 different continents (Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America) for maybe 30 minutes between connecting flights, with differing destinations? Simply amazing.

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In seemingly no time at all, our flight announcement appeared on the overhead screen and shortly thereafter was listed as “Boarding Now.”  We’d see Michael and @AndMic in just a few days, but as to @Kitsafari and @twaffle, whose alluring reports over the years had enhanced my appetite to visit Africa so many times, there was no guarantee.  I so wanted to linger and get to know them better, but there simply wasn’t enough time.  With best wishes and all-too-quick goodbyes, we hurried away and made the last regular shuttle bus to our plane.


54 minutes ago, SafariChick said:

And I hadn't heard about the Safaritalk GTG in the airport - fun! Any photos? 


That’s my question as well.  J. and I were too jet-lagged and bleary-eyed to have the presence of mind to take photos ourselves, but I thought we took a few, didn’t we?  I’m hoping so, and if any of you have any, then please feel free to post them.


In the meantime, with a 7-hour time difference between us, Michael has told me to proceed on, so I will do so.


Next stop for J. and me: Victoria Falls.

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By the time we arrived at our hotel in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), it was mid-afternoon and, as expected, we were tired. We were staying at Victoria Falls Safari Club, as opposed to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (on the same grounds), which has more people and is less secluded. Aside from the more elaborate meal service, and fewer people overall, I probably would have been just as happy with the Lodge as opposed to the Club. But, in any event, the point here was rejuvenation after long flights.  By this time, we’d been traveling almost 48 hours, and we needed some sleep, decent meals, and comfort before continuing on.


But not too much sleep. I also wanted to see the Falls, but with only one full day there, how could I maximize our time to our best advantage? I had no idea of where to go and no time to explore the area in order to find out.


So it occurred to me to do what we had on another trip a few years back when we were similarly situated: hire a local professional photographer to take us around to the best spots at the best time of the day. I had pitched the idea to Doug, and he quickly connected me with Lesanne Dunlop, a professional event and landscape photographer based in Victoria Falls.  As luck would have it, she was available on the one day we’d be there.


The plan was to get to the gate before the 6:00 AM opening and see if they might not let us in a bit early, as sunrise was at 6:05 and we wanted to be in position before then, but we were told no, we would have to wait.


Nevertheless, we still managed to get some nice photos of the Falls.  Best of all, at that hour, only a handful of other visitors were there.

















By 7:30, just as tour groups were starting to arrive, we were wrapping things up. Lesanne took us back to the Club, where we had a relaxed breakfast, a long, hot shower, a leisurely lunch, and then a much-welcomed nap before heading back to the Falls for sunset.



Edited by Alexander33
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We met back up with Lesanne at 5:00 PM for a sunset visit to the Falls, first stopping at a spot she knew where we could access the still-calm waters of the Zambezi, just a short distance above the waters of Devil’s Pool, before they dropped off into the mighty chasm below.






From here, we made our way back to the gates of the Park, and this time not only were there no crowds, there literally were no other visitors in the Park. I mean, literally nobody at all. We had the entire place to ourselves.


Lesanne took us for a stroll to a place right by the Zambian border with the ominous name of “Danger Point,” which boasts a spectacular view of Rainbow Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and the curtain below Devil’s Pool. I happen to have a tremendous fear of heights, and a bare promontory with slippery rocks, buffeted by wind and spray, with a 355-foot (108 meters) sheer precipice, ordinarily is the last place you’d ever find me.


But with no other people around, I felt positively transported into a primeval world that equally awestruck travelers must have encountered in times past.


It was just the three of us and this deafening roar of water, the sense of enveloping dampness generated by the curtains of water that fall with such force that they can create their own sense of wind patterns and rainfall from above, all illuminated by the fading rosy light of the setting sun as it occasionally pierced a foreboding cloud cover.























(The photos actually make us look like we’re standing closer to the edge than we really were.  And I assure you I would never have done this without being accompanied by a knowledgeable guide.)


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As I mentioned earlier, our excursion to Victoria Falls had been planned just as a convenient stopover, a place to catch our breath before embarking on our safari in earnest, a touristic experience that nevertheless was a “bucket list” (increasingly, I hate that term), and then check it off, along the lines of, “If you’re close by, you really need to see it, just once, so you can say you did.”


But, for me, seeing Victoria Falls was so much more. It truly was a highlight of the trip, and a very unexpected one. I had read that the rainy season really wasn’t the best time to visit; that the sheer volume of water at that time of year tended to obscure the scene and delivered nothing more than a misty, drenching mess.


But, as we would see, the rains this year had not been as prolific as in the last. There had been some rain, but there was also an ominous sign that the upcoming dry season would reveal signs of struggle and drought.


It seemed we had hit Victoria Falls at just the right time – enough water for genuine drama, but no so much that it spoiled the whole experience – and to top it off, there were hardly any other visitors with whom to have to share it.


In any event, we’d soon find out what lay in store for us. We awoke early the next morning to bright sunshine, with our bags already packed for our 1 1/2-hour transfer across the border to Botswana, where we would meet Doug for the first time and catch up with Michael and @AndMic to see what they had been up to.

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I was  excited to meet @michael-ibk and @AndMic again, whom I had travelled with to Kafue National Park together with @Atravelynn 1.5 years ago (was it that so long ago?), and equally thrilled to finally meet   @Alexander33 and JB. It was a grand ST GTG in appropriate and splendid style - meeting in Africa which has taken over our lives in equal measures. I think all of us were jet lagged in one way or another, although coming from the US both Peter and JB were the worst impacted, followed closely by @twaffle and Michael and Andreas. 


But,sadly, the GTG was only for a short time as we all had connections to run to at OR Tambo. and I only remembered, while waiting with Hilary and KP for our flight to Maun, we had forgotten to snap a shot of us all at the cafe.  I still have that image of us all in my mind, and heart.

It was a super get together. 


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Wonderful photos and looking forward  to this report @Alexander33 and @michael-ibk we have often wondered about a mobile safari and whether it would be fun 

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13 hours ago, Kirstine said:

Stunning pictures! I look forward to reading the rest of your trip report as I have considered Botswana multiple times, but have been put off by the lodge prices. 


Many thanks @Kirstine. I do think a mobile is a really good alternative. The lodge prices are much more reasonable in the Green Season btw.


13 hours ago, Botswanadreams said:

@michael-ibk I'm jealous of your photographing skills. Beautiful pics you show us in your first post. Never ever I could capture it like you. Thanks  


Very kind. Not true, but very kind nonetheless - thank you @Botswanadreams.


10 hours ago, SafariChick said:

Yay, looking forward to this report! Beautiful photos to start out! And I hadn't heard about the Safaritalk GTG in the airport - fun! Any photos?  


Unfortunately not @SafariChick, which is probably all the better since we all were - and looked - pretty tired. Except @Kitsafari and @twaffle of course who looked nothing less than supershinysplendid! :wub:


6 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

I think all of us were jet lagged in one way or another,


Tired but not jet-lagged. Us European folks have one huge advantage when going to Africa - no time zone difference.


33 minutes ago, Towlersonsafari said:

Wonderful photos and looking forward  to this report @Alexander33 and @michael-ibk we have often wondered about a mobile safari and whether it would be fun  


Many thanks @Towlersonsafari! Short answer - it is! Lots!


But now let´s


9 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

catch up with Michael and @AndMic to see what they had been up to. 


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Why Chobe and not Vic Falls? We´ve seen the Falls before, and as @Alexander33´s wonderfully athmospheric pictures show they are a miracle of Nature indeed. But I´ve also seen so many great accounts of the boat trips along the Chobe waterfront that I really wanted to do that. And once we had realized that it´s actually possible to fly straight to Kasane from Joburg this was an easy decision.


We stayed at Chobe Bush Lodge, more of a hotel than a proper safari lodge really, but perfectly ok for what it is and a good and comfortable place to start an initinerary like this.










We arrived at 13:30 at the airport and were at the lodge before 14:00 - it´s really very close. Since we were absolutely not jet-lagged at all the first thing we did was arrange our activities. A boat trip for next morning, and a quick game drive in the afternoon. We had not booked activities in advance, but these are easy to sort out on the spot, especially now in the Green Season when there are not as many tourists. But still more than enough, Chobe park close to Kasane is very crowded, lots of cars around, so if you are looking for the wilderness feeling Botswana is famous for the riverfront is definitely not that place.




One car just for us? Looks too good to be true? Indeed - we were grinning when all the other guests (who all were in groups) were picked up and then there were just the two of us left. But we were quickly told we would been reallocated to a different vehicle in the park, the norm here is 9 people per car.


The safari drive was a nice thing to get reacquainted with the African bush but it was also a bit of a reminder that shared vehicles with first-timers have somewhat different priorities. We´d only stop for more iconic animals like Elephants or Giraffes, no love for smaller stuff like Mongoose and of course not for birds. But on the other hand it was nice to see some of the other guests react to their very first Zebra, their very Buffalo, and smile at the awe in their eyes. We decided to not really bother that much with photography (it was very crammed in the car) and just enjoy our first small taste of Africa again.














The sunlight in that last picture is misleading. Just as we thought the sun would really come out a proper Green Season deluge started - it was raining cats and dogs, and we were very happy to have brought our ponchos along. Not the perfect start, and I admit we were nervous about the wet-factor of this trip after Costa Rica last year when we had had just a tad too much of that. But fortunately this would remain our most rainy game drive of the entire trip. And the wildlife rejoiced! This had been an extremely dry summer so far, Botswana was unusually dry for this time of the year and things certainly won´t be easy for the animals later in the year.




Somehow these Baboons still did not really look like they were happy about the rain.




But junior here loved it!







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But as I have mentioned game drives were really not the reason why we had chosen to come to Chobe - the boat drives were. And I am happy to say that these are just as fantastic as all the reports imply - if you like birds you will be in heaven, and even if you don´t you simply could not not enjoy this.




The boat on the left was ours. Most people do it in the afternoon so Doug advised us to go in the morning. A good decision, the river was wonderfully quiet. We booked a private boat which was absolutely worth it, and the pricing was quite reasonable - USD 52,-- per hour per boat (not per person) plus park fee (USD 12,-- per person). A regular cruise for three hours is USD 50,-- per person (including park fee).




It was pretty cloudy and dark when we set off at seven in the morning but at least the Pied Kingfishers were so close and tame that they allowed for nice photos even under conditions like that.




Once our captain heard about our birding preferences she headed for a small channel which was very productive indeed, and after a while we enjoyed the warm Botswana sun as well.




African Jacana looking for food.




Lesser Moorhen, a new species for me.




Allen´s Gallinule, another new one - a very attractive Rail IMO.








A tiny avian jewel - Malachite Kingfisher. It´s really only with a boat that you can get reasonably close to this stunning little bird.




Meet Captain Neo. An excellent guide and a very friendly and warm woman, we really enjoyed her company.




Reed Cormorant




Green-Backed Heron




African Darter




Blacksmith Lapwing, the default Lapwing all through the trip.




African Pygmy Goose. I was particularly happy about this species. Last time in Botswana we only caught a short glimpse, and they were high on my target list.




Chobe is also a good place to see Crocs, they are very relaxed here and actually much easier to see than in the Delta.








Goliath Heron taking off. I´ve never seen so many individuls of this huge Heron species.




Whiskered Tern




Just to prove that there were some mammals as well - Waterbuck.






We also saw a very distant Puku. Chobe is the only place in Botswana where you can see them, and they are not doing well. Quite weird to see a single one considering how abundant they are not that much more North in Zambia.






There´s quite a bib island in the river very close to Kasana, Seduku island. How big? Big enough that we were too short on time to do the full circle around it during our three hours. A herd of Buffalo is resident here.






The Wire-Tailed Swallows love the boats and are often resting there. I enjoyed seeing these delicate little birds from up close like that.




We absolutely loved our time on the river and even asked if we could extend our three hours. Neo tried, but unfortunately the boat was needed afterwards.


Edited by michael-ibk
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We were not too keen to do another 9-person game drive so decided to just take it slow and explore Kasane a bit. Our stroll through the city showed that it´s pretty unremarkable though - it´s too modern, too touristy to have any African charm, and on the other hand it is not modern enough to really be interesting in that regard. And unfortunately there are almost no spots where you can get to the river, and the very few there are are absolutely full with trash - quite disgraceful actually.








A Spar you could find in exactly this structure and with these offers anywhere in the Western world.


Just like in Vic Falls Warthogs are running around like stray dogs, and we also found a nice little family of Banded Mongoose with young ones. Delightful little creatures.










The plan had been to spend some time by the pool, but somehow I never managed to do that, they always were too many friggin´ birds around. B)




White-Browed Robin-Chat




African Paradise Flycatcher




Blue Waxbill




Collared Palm-Thrush

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Next morning we´d meet Doug, @Alexander33 and J.B., but only at 9 o´clock. And why not repeat a great experience? So we decided to just ditch breakfast and ask for a second boat drive until then. Fortunately a boat was available, and to our delight our request to have Captain Nemo again was granted as well. And this morning was even better, glorious sunshine from the very start to the very end, we were of half a mind to just forget about this mobile stuff and just spend all our days in Botswana on the Chobe river. :)








Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater






The reed was absolutely bursting with birds!




Village Weaver




Master architects, it´s really fascinating what kind of complex structures the Weaver family is able to construct.




Red Bishop




"Our" channel was very rewarding again.






My best-ever sighting of a Black Crake.




A juvenile Allen´s Gallinule.








Coppery-Tailed Coucal






Captain Neo, a real pleasure to meet her. (Here with @AndMic.)




Another Malachite








But now - back to @Alexander33, this is supposed to be a mobile trip after all, and it´s time we actually start to talk about that instead of birds - and go see some predators!


Edited by michael-ibk
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@Alexander33 Great photos of Vic Falls! I've not been there as I always want to put any time in Africa towards wildlife but it does look very majestic and relaxing in your photos - and how nice to have had it all to yourself at times, I would not expect that!


Ah well, too bad about the lack of photos of the GTG but understandable. Lovely start to your trip @michael-ibk - I notice you said you wouldn't bother much with photography on the game drive but you ended up with some great shots - love Junior ele enjoying the rain and the poor baboons not so much.  The river really does look inviting - that huge boat just for you with a capable and friendly captain, almost feels like I am there, ah ... super bird shots of course and I love the little mongoose family in town. Shame about the trash by the river in town though :( Ok, I'm ready for some predators - bring them on!

Edited by SafariChick
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Great photos of Victoria Falls- really atmospheric 

And the boat trip with all of those birds looks wonderful 

Stunning photos from both starts to the trip.

I am looking forward to the mobile section!

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pedro maia

Great start with lots of superb photos, looking forward for the rest.

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