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Great shots there on the Chobe, Michael. I can understand why you entertained the idea of just staying put. But I’m so glad you didn’t…...





Our road transfer and border crossing went smoothly, and we connected back up with Michael and @AndMic, and met Doug and our driver/guide, Matambo from Letaka Safaris, at Chobe Bush Lodge in Kasane.  Within a short a mount of time, our vehicle was loaded and we were on our way to the Savuti area of Chobe National Park, where we would have a mobile camp set up for three nights.


(In order to keep the narrative flowing, I may take a few things out of sequence. Michael and I also talked about describing our time area by area, rather than day by day, so let’s see how it goes).


One of the things that appealed to me about this particular safari was that it did not come with any sense of pressure.  Some of our more recent voyages had involved “high stakes” sightings (Rwanda for mountain gorillas, Brazil for jaguars).  But this time around, I was up for whatever we happened to come across, without holding my breath for any one thing in particular.


Along the way, we stopped for baobab trees.







At one point, Doug mentioned that there was a place with some ancient rock drawings.  Did we want to see them?  Of course.


They were located in the midst of a small, steep outcropping that jutted out of the surrounding flat earth as if propelled by some violent, localized upheaval.














Michael and Doug elected to climb to the top of the plateau.  I scoured the scene for all potential routes up, and quickly realized that my “courage” at the edge of Danger Point had been only a temporary abatement of my fear of heights, which had returned with a vengeance. I stayed put.





Drawings VI.jpg



Drawings VII.jpg



Drawings VIII.jpg


Edited by Alexander33
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I have a slightly compulsive habit of keeping a mental list of “firsts.” First sighting on our first safari? Pearl-spotted Owlet. First major sighting on safari? A crash of white rhinos.


What would our first sighting on this safari be? If you had asked me to guess, never in a thousand years would I have come up with…..


Dung beetle.








We came across him as he wheeled his precious cargo down the middle of the road. I actually had never seen a dung beetle, and really wanted to get out of the vehicle for a closer inspection to watch him laboriously push his treasure forward like some Sisyphus of the insect world.


However, we had just joined up with our companions for the safari in earnest a few hours prior, and I didn’t want to come across as annoying or pushy. (After all, doing this sort of thing, even if you have traded messages and corresponded for a while, is still a little like going on a blind date – for two weeks).


I heard Michael’s voice ring out behind me. “I’ve never seen one of these. Can we get out?”


If there had been any doubt that the four of us would make a great team (and there hadn’t been, but if there had….), all doubt would have been erased in that moment.




Edited by Alexander33
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Once we were in the Park proper, we began to see a lot more wildlife.








Swallow-tailed bee-eaters were new to me. (Are these juveniles, Michael? They don’t look quite as colorful as some of the depictions in the book).








Red-billed Spurfowl








Swainson's Spurfowl





Knob-billed Duck








I had been anxious to see Bradfield’s hornbill, a lifer for me.








Tawny Eagle





In the last rays of light, we came across a small family group of ground hornbills, one of my favorite birds. We watched them as they scoured the ground and fallen logs for insects and bugs.








Obviously, I was not expected this guy to fly.





He landed on a snag relatively high up in a large tree, where he must have been rooting for insects of some sort.  I never managed to see what he was targeting.








And with that, the light faded. 





It was time to move on. We rounded a bend, and there, in a small forest of tall trees, was a campfire and three tents – our home for the next three nights.


Well, not only did I neglect to get any photos of the GTG in Johannesburg, it seems I also did not take any of our Savuti camp.  Ordinarily, I would pause at this point to see if Michael was more astute than I.


But in his last post, he promised you I would show predators. Who am I to disappoint?  So, I will continue.


Edited by Alexander33
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If our first sighting of them all had been the lowly dung beetle, our first sighting of our first full morning was a bit more high-profile.


To prove the point that it’s important to be alert at all times, we seemingly had just left camp, and the sun had yet to break the horizon, when we rounded a corner and literally came face-to-face with a young male leopard.  He couldn’t have cared less about us.





He appeared to be in search of something – perhaps the night’s hunting had not been fruitful and he was still on a mission.





We tracked him a bit, and then he diverted off the road, almost purposefully driven, into a deep green glade.  Fortunately, we still had a clear view of him. He approached a large, fallen tree, and I surmised that he might hop on top of it to take a better survey of his surroundings – and that’s exactly what he did.





With the sun now beginning to rise, the leopard took a momentary pause to rest.








And then, just as suddenly as we had seen him, he leaped off the log and disappeared into the forest.


That photo of the leopard standing on the fallen tree is perhaps my favorite of the trip. To me, the relative smallness of the leopard surrounded by that lush woodland exemplifies what I’ve come to love about a Green Season safari. 


We were off to a great start.





And with that, I’ll stop for now and let Michael catch up with any additional commentary and photos he wishes to share – and also to take us forward a bit.


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Dawn to dusk means you were busy and there should be lots of great sightings as a result!  Fabulous leopards to start out with.  How nice you could manage a quick GTG!


"One of the things that appealed to me about this particular safari was that it did not come with any sense of pressure.  Some of our more recent voyages had involved “high stakes” sightings (Rwanda for mountain gorillas, Brazil for jaguars).  But this time around, I was up for whatever we happened to come across, without holding my breath for any one thing in particular. "

That is one of the things that appeals to me about a Botswana mobile.  After you got the dung beetle, you could really relax!

I'm sure you all got some lifer birds on this trip!

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7 minutes ago, Atravelynn said:

After you got the dung beetle, you could really relax!


Yes, once you’ve bonded over a dung beetle, you realize you’ve taken things to a whole other level!

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2 minutes ago, Alexander33 said:


Yes, once you’ve bonded over a dung beetle, you realize you’ve taken things to a whole other level!

In all seriousness, I have found watching them roll that dung ball to be a trip highlight.  Unless it is wet out, you don't get to witness that spectacle.

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I'm really looking forward to this---two great photographers, stunning pictures...keep 'em coming!

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16 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

Well, not only did I neglect to get any photos of the GTG in Johannesburg, it seems I also did not take any of our Savuti camp.


Fortunately I do can help out. Mobile camping is certainly not as "luxurious" as a regular bush camp but I love it. A proper tent which actually is a tent instead of a small palace, the wind breezing through the flysheet, the sound of the night feeling so much closer - that´s the stuff.






And it´s comfortable enough, nice beds, bucket shower (hot water when ordered and cold water is fine during the day as well - a nice refreshment in the heat), and long-drop toilets which take sand. Nothing more needed. Although a certain member of our party enthusiastically disclosed when we were back in Maun at dinner: " I flushed the toilet ten times! Just because I could!" :D






Token animal photos interspersing just because.






Camp staff (three men, and I´m sorry I´ve forgotten their names by now) did an excellent job, place was always kept spotlessly clean and everything we asked for was quickly provided. Special kudos to the chef, it never fails to amaze me what delicacies they can conjure up in the middle of the bush. We had excellent food throughout, as usual far too much actually. We all (except lucky Peter) had (not too serious) stomach issues at one point but that happened after dinner in Maun.




High Tea is ready.




All four campsites were wonderfully remote and quiet, we did not hear or see anything from neighbours. All were pretty new so we did not have too many animals crossing through, they were obviously not yet used to human presence here.


Since we´re talking about practicalities here´s a picture of our car - actually the only one I took.




Three rows, lots of space for us (we rotated), and Letaka Safaris also provided bean bags for us which were quite handy. Towards the end of the safari J.B. complained about the horrible smell developing in the car however. It took us a while to find the culprit  - the beanbags! They were filled with rice, rice had gotten wet, rice rotted - not the nicest smell indeed. :ph34r:


Mobile safari means lots and lots of driving. The classic Northern Circuit may appear small on a map but don´t be fooled - Botswana is a huge country. Kasane to Savuti alone are about 200 km, and 200 km can be a very long way in Africa - especially in the Green Season. We departed in Kasane at about 09:30 and arrived at Ghoha Gates (25 km before Savuti Plains) not much before  16:00. We had not rushed but not really dawdled either. The road is fine for the first stretch from Kasane to Ngoma, almost too good to be true, and with much cooler roadsigns than we have here:




And I always find it interesting to see something of "real world" on safari. Don´t get me wrong, I do love bush flights but - especially in Bots - using these it´s moving from one safari bubble to another, and a roadtrip gives a different perspective.






And after Ngoma no more tarred roads, we were entering Chobe Forest reserve, and now the real fun started. :)















Edited by michael-ibk
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Amazing photos (and camaraderie) so far.

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Back to some animals - of course our morning Leopard was a fantastic start to our first full day.





We´d have our ups and downs with the weather but certainly not this day - the early golden light made everthing look beautiful.








It was a relief for Savuti that it had rained the days before our arrival, the birds certainly rejoiced.




Wood Sandpiper, the most common wader throughout the trip.




Spur-Winged Goose




Egyptian Goose with chicks


Savuti is nothing like the Delta area, it´s much much drier, without permanent water. Most of you will have heard of the Savuti Channel which magically transformed the landscape when it started to flow again in 2008. But it has long run dry again, I think the last year when it was active was 2014 (happy to be corrected on this, not totally sure). So as a much more arid zone obviously the flora and fauna is decidedly different from Moremi or most of the Delta camps, so it´s an interesting place to build into an itinerary.




This photo is taken from inside the channel - it´s used as a road these days.


We already talked about the joy of watching small stuff. BTW, it never would have occurred to me that it could be considered weird jumping out of the car, lie on one´s belly and photograph a black dirty insect rolling shit. If I had known I was being eyed as a "safari date" I certainly would have given this action a second thought. Then again, probably not - after all, Peter and J.B. had no chance to escape anyway! B)




This was another interesting interaction - a Yellow Mongoose and a Crested Francolin, acting like best pals. I found that really surprising, I´ve seen Mongoose go after stuff more than double their size (like Hares), so I was waiting for some carnage to happen. Was not to be, the Crested Francolin clearly was boss.








While I´m in my birdy phase a few more.






Crimson-Breasted Shrike, one of the crown pieces in Southern Africa. A pretty common bird but not too easy to get, it´s tends to stay inside (or on the other side of) a bush and is never stopping.




European White Stork. I always love seeing "our" birds from home in Africa and just can´t help but wonder if this very individual could be one returning to Austria. It´s possible btw, Stork migration routes are pretty well researched, and our locals do travel down there.






African Hawk Eagle. While not exactly super-rare not a raptor you see every day.


Green Season is the time when many animals, birds and mammals alike, have young ones. Hornbills have an interesting strategy - the males basically imprison their females within trees and feed them (and the chicks) through a tiny opening. Keeps away predators but I wonder how many males don´t return and leave their families to a pretty grisly fate.




"Just going to buy cigarettes honey, I´ll be back, promise."





Edited by michael-ibk
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The lush green brings a real beauty to your photos  @michael-ibk and @Alexander33

It is good not to have “high stakes “creatures to worry about.

The camp looks lovely.

How did it work having a driver-guide from the company and Doug(obviously a very experienced guide also)?

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When talking about Chobe people normally associate the area around Kasane which is just the waterfront. But Chobe is much more, a huge park spanning more than 10,000 km² (just for reference - the Mara is 1510 km²). And Savuti is part of it. At times masses of animals can wander through, at times it can be comparatively empty. But the predators are always there - their Lions have been immortalised by the Jouberts´ gripping "Enemy" series. We did not see Lions hunt Elephant but encountered three splendid looking boys. Fortunately they did a bit more than just sleeping (Lions favourite thing to do), we got some nice licking, growling, roaring, drinking and even some flehmen.































Edited by michael-ibk
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Black-Backed Jackal checking us out. Very, very common in Savuti.




There can be no Trip Report without a Lilac-Breasted Roller. They are the ultimate posers, the perfect photo bird. We cursed this one however since we waited for an eternity for it to fly.




Wrong Roller - Broad-Billed.




There you go LBR.




Tawny Eagle




Red-Billed Hornbill. Another abundant bird here. I often wonder what exactly it is that makes a species just so extremely successful in certain areas.


Savuti is a very feature-rich landscape, dotted with many rocky hills which are not unlike the iconic Kopjes of the Serengeti.




And just like there this is the home of - Klippspringers! Certainly not an animal I expected to see in Botswana.




Climbing the rock at the paintings did have its ... interesting moments (especially with two cameras and bincos strapped around) but was absolutely worth it - Doug and me enjoyed a stunning view across Savuti and the dry channel.








Our morning ended with a couple of nice Elephant shows.






"I'm fallin' in love with your favorite song - I'm gonna sing it all night long."




"I´m gonna dance with somebody, dance with somebody, dance  dance   da- aance! "






Edited by michael-ibk
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2 hours ago, TonyQ said:


How did it work having a driver-guide from the company and Doug(obviously a very experienced guide also)?




That’s a good question. Doug and Matambo worked quite well together, although it was the first time for them to do so. Obviously, Matambo had greater familiarity with the areas we visited, at least in the North, but Doug had been guiding quite a bit longer and was more experienced in that regard — and it showed. So we kind of had the best of both worlds with the two of them. That being said, Matambo ordinarily works as a guide for Letaka, so if perhaps it was not the ideal situation for him, he didn’t show it and really contributed a lot to the safari. 


Edited by Alexander33
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As Michael alluded, it was one of those pristinely beautiful African mornings.  Everything was clean and fresh, and golden sunshine made the landscape vibrant.


According to Doug, the coalition of the 3 male lions we encountered belonged to the Pump Pan Pride, which have been competing for dominance in the area with the famous Marsh Pride.  He mentioned that one of the males had a limp after one particular territorial fight, but aside from the one that later got up to take a drink, as seen in Michael’s photos, these boys were pretty much down for the count.








Occasionally, they obliged by raising their heads to take a quick survey of things, and when they did, it was easy for us to glimpse their power and magnificence.
















Edited by Alexander33
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While we observed the recumbent lions, my attention occasionally flagged and I concentrated on other targets.  These usually consisted of brighter-colored birds, and once I set my mind toward capturing a good photo of a particular species, I pursued it with a single-minded intensity that would end only on the earlier of (i) my obtaining an image that met with my satisfaction or (ii) the end of the trip.  In most cases, each such endeavor terminated only upon the latter occurrence, complimented by my bulging forehead veins and clenched jaw. My indulgent vehicle mates demonstrated remarkable restraint by not openly rolling their eyes or laughing straight in my face.


This would become a recurring theme throughout the trip.


This Crimson-breasted Shrike actually turned out better than I had thought originally, but I was still aiming much higher. There’s always next time!




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There was a permanent water hole near our camp, and we spent the afternoon there watching elephants come in from the surrounding countryside to quench their thirst.  Their social behaviors, interactions, and peculiar greetings were fascinating to watch.
























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We were joined at sundowners by a lone tsessebe. 





A hard-to-find Denham’s Bustard came by to inspect.





However, although we had no way of knowing it at the time, it was his larger relative, the Kori Bustard, which would end up playing a key role in one of our most memorable experiences on the safari.....


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The mongoose and francolin were a lively pair.  And now the kori bustard will play a big role!


Was the intro shot of the leopard cub Doug's first?  I know that's what he had always wanted to see.


Can you explain about the 9 person requirement for Chobe game drives?  Is it just that camp's rule?

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Your Vic Falls photos are outstanding and I think very unique! Choosing to visit during sunrise and sunset made a huge difference and created a wonderful magical atmosphere to your photos.

It is very interesting to hear of the few visitors during the times you were there.



The Chobe River boat cruises never disappoint. I realised through your beautiful photography that a morning cruise is a much better option than the mad afternoon rush hour we experienced before. 


I'm following along with great anticipation for the rest of your report.  :D

Edited by Ritsgaai
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Ripping start to your TR thanks @michael-ibk and @Alexander33.

Awesome photography as well.

A mobile tented safari would be my dream safari - would it be suitable for families with Kids?

Keep up the great work.

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On 6/3/2019 at 4:17 AM, Alexander33 said:

Swallow-tailed bee-eaters were new to me. (Are these juveniles, Michael? They don’t look quite as colorful as some of the depictions in the book).


Yes, all immatures I´d say. They still lack the blue band on the lower throat adult birds have and are generally paler.


On 6/3/2019 at 6:14 PM, Atravelynn said:

Dawn to dusk means you were busy and there should be lots of great sightings as a result! 


Busy indeed, no joking about the title. We got up at 04:30 every day, rarely returned for lunch before 01:00 pm and were out again by 15:30 or 16:00. Not to mention the all-day trips (including moving between parks). A holiday would have been needed after that! ;)


On 6/3/2019 at 6:14 PM, Atravelynn said:

I'm sure you all got some lifer birds on this trip!


One or two. Not that I´m obsessive about getting bird photos. Not me, not at all. :rolleyes:


On 6/3/2019 at 9:21 PM, TonyQ said:

How did it work having a driver-guide from the company and Doug(obviously a very experienced guide also)?


Just to add on what Peter said Matambo actually chatted with me over this over dinner. He said he had been a bit reserved at the beginning since he had been in situations with tour groups  whose guides had been quite bossy but lacking real knowledge. And I guess few people enjoy playing second fiddle. But he quickly warmed to Doug who he considered competent and respectful, and said to me he was learning a lot on this trip. And he really was a good sport, he had an awful lot of (often very difficult) driving to do, as mentioned we basically were out all day. His regular routine (leave about 06:30, back in camp at 10:30 or something like that, and then an afternoon drive) is a lot less exhausting. But still he was always in a good mood, a fantastic spotter and an all around fun guy to have around. So I think we were really lucky with him, and I´m convinced he´d be an excellent guide on his own as well.


15 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Was the intro shot of the leopard cub Doug's first?  I know that's what he had always wanted to see.


Yes, that´s the one.


15 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Can you explain about the 9 person requirement for Chobe game drives?  Is it just that camp's rule?


Well, I guess they want to fill their cars "economically". Chobe Bush Lodge/Chobe Safari Lodge run their activities together, and it´s a huge enterprise, I´d say they have about 100 rooms together? And from my impression they get many newbies who don´t really mind that much. I think it must be possible to book a private vehicle (as we were able to book a private boat) but I have no ideas about prices. And I´m not sure about other camps rules but we did see quite a lot of cars in the park and all of them were very full.


15 hours ago, Ritsgaai said:

I realised through your beautiful photography that a morning cruise is a much better option than the mad afternoon rush hour we experienced before. 


We were never out in the afternoon so cannot really compare but I can stress that the mornings were very quiet indeed. I´d estimate we met about five other boats both days, maybe slightly more but definitely not many.


15 hours ago, Hads said:

A mobile tented safari would be my dream safari - would it be suitable for families with Kids?


Well, a matter I lack experience in but I´d say yes depending on the kids. No other lodge guests around who might take an issue with children, complete flexibility on what to do on a game drive, more budget-friendly. OTOH there´s really not much entertainment in camp, and of course all these sites are unfenced with big game potentially coming through, so care is needed and nobody should wander off. But to be honest personally I always tend to wander off a bit farther from camp than is probably sensible so who am I to talk. I´m sure I would have loved this stuff as a kid, but the lack of any activity options (pool and things like that) and the need to stay close by in a very limited area could be an issue.

Edited by michael-ibk
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A few more snippets from the first day:






Steenboks were fairly common in Savuti. I´m very fond of these small antelopes, especially love their huge ears. Like so many other animals adapted to arid zones they can get by without water. Steenbok are typically solitary, except for when a pair come together to mate. However, it has been suggested that pairs occupy consistent territories while living independently, staying in contact through scent markings, so that they know where their mate is most of the time.




Burchell´s Starling, the default representative of the Starling family in Northern Botswana. Abundant, and often quite bold.




We did not see a lot of Ostriches, and most of those were not too relaxed with the car.




The waterhole the Elephants favoured is artificial, it´s one of the reasons Savuti camps are also successful in the dry season, obviously these permament watersources attract a lot of animals later in the year. And even now the Elephants just can´t wait to get there:





African Spoonbill




Kittlitz´ Plover




@Alexander33 already presented some Ele close-ups so I´m just taking that approach one level further:












The afternoon was much cloudier than the morning, sometimes even dark and gloomy, but still a beautiful atmosphere. An undisturbed one too - the area is huge, and while there are some other camps I don´t think we saw more than four to five other cars all day long.









Edited by michael-ibk
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Another early start next morning, we were on our way before sunrise.




Soon after departing camp we found another surprise - a Honey Badger! Unfortunately it was just a bit too far away, and mostly hidden by the grass, and since the light had not yet come I did not even try to get a photo. Later we found some Lion tracks but even with a lot of circling around a rocky hill could not locate them.






A Secretarybird was getting ready for the new day.




Savuti is a very good area for Mongoose, we had a number of really nice sightings with Dwarf Mongoose which are not particularly shy here. Much smaller than its cousins, as I understand it´s Africa´s smallest carnivorous mammal. Their diet consists of insects (mainly beetle larvae, termites, grasshoppers and crickets), spiders, scorpions, small lizards, snakes, small birds, and rodents, and is supplemented very occasionally with berries.




Mr. Mongoose pal Crested Francolin - keeping its distance today though.




Impala deserve more trip reporting respect and therefore more photos. B)






Typical Savuti




We spent some time with a family of Yellow Mongoose - it´s always fun watching these hyper-active little predators, pointlessly lying around and snoozing like Lions is not their thing.









Edited by michael-ibk
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