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soleson

Mobile Safari - May 2018

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soleson

I truly enjoy reading everyone's trip reports but have not had a chance to go through prior year pictures to do a report until now.  I will try to keep it short and to the point.

 

In May 2018, I talked a friend into joining me on a safari mainly to Botswana but also a few days in Timbavati on on the way since I knew it would be difficult to find rhinos in Botswana and he wanted to see the "Big 5".  Our itinerary was as follows:

-  2 nights at Tanda Tula in Timbavati

-  6 night mobile camping safari with Letaka Safaris in Moremi and Khwai  

-  2 nights in Makgadikgadi Pans at Camp Kalahari

 

A little background first.  I have been on several safaris throughout Africa usually with family.  We stayed at mid-price permanent camps or lodges (a fewer higher end places when feasible).  With this trip I wanted to try a mobile safari and roughing it a bit more.  After looking at options we landed on a six day Letaka safaris out of Maun.  While I had been to Chobe a few times, I had not been to the Okavango Delta before and the permanent camps prices seemed a bit too high to really consider it.  A mobile safari therefore gave me the ability to try a less luxurious experience while still seeing areas of Botswana not previously visited.  With the safari in May (chosen more due to work schedule than anything else) it wasn't very busy as we had only 3 people on our safari, each with their individual tent, bucket shower, etc.  

 

First, Tanda Tula in Timbavati.  With only two days, we were eager to get out to see the wildlife.  The first day provided several sightings including four of the Big 5.  The second day was also fruitful although not quite as good as the first.  I will only include some of the highlights.

 

First off were the Rhinos which we had luck with on our first drive.  

 

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The rhinos were accustomed to seeing vehicles apparently as they didn't really care that were were there.  

 

Next up was the leopard in the tree.  The lighting that evening was excellent for photography and the leopard seemed fine with posing for a while.  

 

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The next day we spent quite a while with a few elephants as they were digging up some roots.  Quite entertaining watching them dig with their feet and truck.  

 

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We also came across a large bull in musth.   We was not very happy to have visitors so we backed off a ways.  

 

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Other sightings included some of the normal wildlife in the area.

 

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Zebra

 

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Genet

 

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African Wildcats (night drive)

 

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Giraffe

 

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Steinbok

 

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Lilac Breasted Roller

 

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Lions were a bit hard to find where we could take quality photos...

 

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Kudu

 

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Baby rhino

 

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Cape buffalo

 

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Another rhino

 

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Owl on night drive

 

 

 

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Final rhino.   Next up Botswana...

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wilddog

Thanks for this @soleson. Looking forward to hearing about the Botswana/Mobile camping section.

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soleson

After finishing in South Africa we flew to Maun and were promptly met by the Letaka safari team and took the short flight to Moremi.  There we were met by the the Letaka mobile safari team which included our driver, Shaka, as well as the three other staff that set up the camp, cooked the food, did laundry, etc.   Not having done a mobile safari previously, I was not sure what to expect other than the safari company had a good reputation.   Given that the safari was in May, it wasn't very busy and we only had three people on the safari (myself, my friend, and a German young man that was taking a few months in Botswana while between jobs).  He had already been in Botswana for one month attending a guide camp even though he wasn't planning on actually becoming a guide.  Just wanted the experience.  Luckily he had the same outlook on safaris as we did other than he was more interested in birds that we were, but that was fine.  We got along great and whenever someone suggested doings something different like leaving earlier, everyone was on board.  

 

Shaka had been doing mobile safari guiding for many years including several with Letaka.  I believe he said he was previously with Wilderness Safaris at some of their high-end camps in Botswana.  In any case, he was very good natured and one of the more knowledgable guides I have had.  He certainly knew where the game would be at and where they would be going which was evident on our first game drive when we came across wild dogs but they were headed into the woods on the other side of the river/swamp.  We took the long way around since there was no roads and sure enough they came out almost exact where he predicted.  While I told him my goal was to see lots of wild dogs, I really didn't expect to see too many if at all.  Turns out we saw three different packs on 4 of the 6 days on safari.  We spent a couple of hours with them as no one else was around most of the time.  

 

The other goal was lions as my friend had only seen a few at Tandu Tula and they were in much of an open area.  Of course, leopards are welcome at any time.  

 

As the the camp, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food cooked mostly over the fire.  Each meal was fresh and with a different desert.  The portions were large enough that no one went hungry for sure.  The camp staff were friendly and told stories of prior safaris and joked with us and each other.  

 

The tents were probably 10 feet by 10 feet with a separate portion in the back with a drop toilet and a bucket shower.  The staff would put hot water in the bucket shower up to 2 times a day if wanted but we had to specify a time ahead so that they could warm the water over the fire.  Wish I had taken pictures of the tents but oh well.  The beds were twin sized on a metal frame that was sturdy with a twin size mattress about 4 inches thick and a comfortable pillow.  Obviously, the accommodations were not a nice as some of the more luxury lodges we have stayed at but that was by design.  Overall, I would definitely go again if I have the opportunity.  The maximum size of the group mobile safaris I think was 6 or 7 which is a reasonable number.  Three was almost too few but luckily everyone was talkative and friendly.  

 

As for the wildlife viewing, it was very good despite not being the high season.  Especially the wild dogs.  Like I said, we had 4 good wild dog sightings over the 6 days in Okavango.  2 sightings in Moremi and 2 sightings in Khwai.  Rather than tyr to remember which ones were which, I am just posting them all below.  

 

One interesting sighting was in Khwai where we followed the dogs as they walked along the road.  We could hear a hyena back a ways and Shaka said that the hyena was following them to potentially try to seal a nice meal.  Not smart given there were 14-15 dogs in the group, all of which looked very healthy and strong.  Turns out that the dogs took off into the bush after an impala.  We had to find a road that directions so we lost track of them until we camp upon them at the kill.  They had downed a large impala and were quickly devouring it.  It literally took no more than 5 minutes before it was completely gone other than the head (picture of 2 fighting over it below).  The other vehicle there had actually saw the dogs leave the road and were able to follow them.  They said the hyena came close and the wild dogs would have nothing to have with a lone hyena bothering them.  They said a portion of the wild dogs surrounded the hyena and quickly killed it and then went on the finish the impala with the rest.  I hadn't thought that the dogs would so quickly kill a hyena but apparent they did since we neither saw nor heard the hyena again.  

 

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The second day we left early.  It was a bit foggy but quickly cleared up.  We had hoped to find a lion or two when we rounded the corner to find 2 large male lions waiting for us.

 

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We were pleasantly surprised with three quality leopard sightings over the next 3 days.  One was with a cub, one was also with a youngster at a kill and the other one was just relaxing in a tree. 

 

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soleson

Mobile safari continued...

 

Thought I would try to post a few videos.  The first one is of wild dogs fending off a couple of hyenas at night.  The safari guide used a red spotlight to be able to see the action so everything is a bit red but the interaction is fascinating and the dogs high pitch yelps are interesting.  

 

   

Next is a couple of giraffes fighting 

 

 

 

 

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soleson

A few more pictures from Moremi and Khwai.

 

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In Khwai we did a mokoro trip one afternoon.  It was relaxing but for some reason after being attacked by hippos while canoeing on the Zambezi, I can't get comfortable with being near hippos in a small boat.  Go figure. 

 

 

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I have tried several times to get pictures of rollers in flight but never really successful.  This was my latest and last try:)

 

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This little guy was enjoying playing around and entertaining us for a while.  

 

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A few more.  The sad one was the second one below with the baby elephant that had survived a lion attack but lost its tail and part of its trunk in the process.  Shaka speculated that it would not survive long in the wild without a full trunk.  

 

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soleson

The final stop on the trip was 2 days in Makgadikgadi Pans.  Our travel agent talked us into visiting there for the brown hyenas and the merkats.   While the camp we staying in was nice and we did see the brown hyenas and merkats, other wildlife was sparse.  Probably would not go back to Makgadikgadi again.   A mother brown hyena and her 2 cubs were known to have a den nearby so we were able to see the cubs but the mother was probably out hunting.  

 

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The merkats were, of course, adorable and very habituated to visitors.  

 

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Other sights included some jackals on a kill and a plenty of wildebeest.  

 

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mopsy

Great stuff @soleson you had some fantastic sightings.

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BRACQUENE

@soleson

 

If I would go to Botswana it would be on a mobile safari and your trip report shows that you have been in the middle of the action most of the time ; that video of the interaction between the dogs and the hyena's is stunning and the red color adds actually to the excitement ! 

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Hads

Awesome sightings @soleson, plenty of action as well.

That poor little baby elephant :( 

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Biko
9 hours ago, soleson said:

was relaxing but for some reason after being attacked by hippos while canoeing on the Zambezi, I can't get comfortable with being near hippos in a small boat.

Sounds familiar; we were chased by a hippo at Lake Manze. Our boat was faster but it was no fun at all.

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mtanenbaum

I would love to do a mobile safari like yours sometime! Would it be rude for me to ask you what it ran per day for costs? I have been to Botswana twice but I would love to go again on a mobile safari sometime.

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soleson

Not rude at all.  The prices are on the Letaka website but if I recall correctly it was between $400-450 per night in May when we did the Safari.  I have to admit I would definitely do it again as I liked the feeling of being closer to nature that the camping provided.  Talking with others around the campfire with hyenas and elephants walking by no too far away was unique.

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madaboutcheetah
Posted (edited)

Thanks @soleson for the report - Would you have any photos of the tents?

 

Look out for the Nat Geo series, "Safari Brothers" which features the team from Letaka ........ Fun episodes ...

 

I bet Letaka has a superb guiding team !! Bate who was based at the Kwando camps for many many years is with Letaka at the moment too..... 

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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soleson

I don't have a lot of camp pictures but here is a picture of the 3 tents we used as well as the safari truck.  

 

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chui71

very nice sightings. thank you for sharing

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