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My very special Safari - in loving memories


Wild Dogger
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I have long thought: 

„Shall I do another trip report?“
I find it very much of being a repitition of TRs of past trips.
But this trip for me was a special one.

Let me first step back into time, August 2020.
My wife Claudia was in hospital, where she was diagnozed lung cancer.
Due to Covid I was only allowed to visit her for 1 hour a day, but luckily that summer was a nice one, so we spent many hours in the hospital´s park.
On one of these occasions she said to me: „Oh, Thomas, I just want to go to Botswana one more time.“
What can I say, she died this July without her biggest wish being fulfilled.


2 weeks or so after her death I decided that I had to do this trip to her beloved Kwando camps, esp. Kwara Camp, which she loved so much.
So I booked:
6 nights Kwara
3 nights Lagoon
3 nights Nxai Pan
1 night Maun for the PCR test.

 

The closer the date of departure came, the more I was unsure if it was a good idea to go.
So many memories and I was not sure how to handle them.
I often fell into black holes at that time and suffered and cried a lot, so what would be, if that happened in Botswana?

 

First issue I had, was going to the airport.
We used to park our car in a parking garage at the airport.
But for some reason I was not able to drive the 170km alone this time, so Claudias sister offered, that she would get me there.
Everybody encouraged me to make the trip, it would be in Claudias sense.

So I had my PCR test done and went.

 
On the flight I had my moments but it was not bad.
And I had my new travel companion with me:
Dolly.

 

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The procedure in Joburg was smooth and also in Maun everything was easy.
There you had to make another test.
For this purpose 2 tents were set up next to the terminal building.
In the first tent, rows of chairs were set up on which the pax were seated.
The test took place in the second tent.
2 people could be tested at a time.
After the test you got a number and had to sit in a covered corridor next to the tent until your number was called and you were good to go.

This went smooth and easy.
While you were waiting for the result you could without any hassel fill out the immigration form.
Good organization!
This procedure made me forget my problems for a while and I was welcomed by one of the Kwando staff.

All went very fast and I was already on my bush flight to Kwara.

Arriving at Kwara I was happy to meet Charles, whom I know since 2004 when he still was a guide at Lebala, and Lets, who we met in 2019 in Lebala.
My guide was Josiah and the tracker was See, all very good!

 

 

Charles and Lets knew what happened to Claudia and they were very helpful and lovely to me as the rest of the staff was.

That was the first moment I thought, I had made the right decision although I missed my longtime travel companion a lot.
During my stay I still often thought of my soulmate and best friend and suffered and sometimes also cried when I was alone in the tent, but it was better than expected in my worse dreams.

 

Everybody of the staff wore facemasks even on the game drives.
Fever temperature was measured once daily in all camps.
I learned, that 95% of Kwando´s staff was vaccinated.

 

I shared the vehicle on the first 3 nights with a very nice couple from Germany, Dagmar and Dieter, who were very helpful.
We had a lot of fun and got friends!

 

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(btw. did you realize that Dolly and me we are in partner look :D)


The sightings at that time were just amazing.
Quality Leopard for 40 minutes on the first drive, the second night jackals trying to catch Tsessebee calf.
They failed but instead 
a pack of Wild Dogs rushed out of the forest and took over. Claudia would have loved that.
We saw Cheetah almost every day, unfortunately they were a bit lazy.
Also lion cubs with lots of entertaining interaction.

 

Big areas between Kwara and Splash camp were burnt 10 days before.
As it had rained a bit, green shoots already came through.
Lots of Zebras and Tsessebees were around.

 

After 3 days I got new travel mates: John and Mavis from England. This was their Golden Wedding journey and again we had lots of fun and I got even more new friends.

 

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The first 6 days were flying.  
I did not care too much about the sightings, everything felt right.

John, Mavis and myself we headed together to Lagoon.
My english friends were supposed to go to Lebala 2 nights and then 2 nights Lagoon, but something went wrong and so they stayed 4 nights in Lagoon.
Unfortunately we could not share the vehicle but we still had great time in camp.

 

The first 2 drives I was alone in the vehicle, because the other person was stuck in Kasane due to heavy rainfalls.
My guide was Matt, who was guiding us 2 years ago in Kwara, and the tracker was KB.

Lagoon was all about Lechwe, Giraffes and Lions.
We tried hard to find Wild Dogs and Leopard but were not successful. No signs of Cheetah.
My travel mate now was a lady from Germany. For her it was all about photography.

 

After 3 nights I flew out to Nxai Pan.
Dark clouds did not mean good.
On arrival it was heavily raining.

 

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I was greeted with a "Welcome to the desert" while my feet got soaken wet.

My guide was Mr. G and the tracker was DRC (I called him then Congo).

The Nxai Pan Camp is really nice. Unfortunately in the beginning there were no Elephants on the waterhole, they disappeared due to the rainfalls.
And I was the only guest on the first 2 nights. I was afraid that this would happen here.
I felt a bit lonely here honestly. I had my bad times also in the other camps, but here it was not easy.
Especially on the last night, there was a wonderful cloudless sky with all these stars, this was tough.
The elephants came back on the second day and also Tiny Tom Nkwazi took over as Camp manager.
I know him also for some time now and he is a very nice guy.


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The game here was as the game is in these areas.
Wildebeests, Springbok, Bat-eared Foxes and Blackbacked Jackals as well as many different species of birds.
And Dolly liked the trip to Baines Baobabs very much.


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In Maun I met my old friend Matt Mogatla and spent the afternoon with him.
Good time!


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All in all, it was the right decision to make this trip.
I met good old friends and made new ones. What else can I ask for.
It made me forget a bit for a while what changed my life dramatically.
I would do it again.

 

The way home was a desaster.
Omikron was in town.
Then my flight was delayed 16hrs due to technical problems and at home I went into quarantine for 10 days.

 

But it still was worth it!

 

So, where are the pictures?
I promise, I will post here from time to time, so stay tuned.

Edited by Wild Dogger
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@Wild Doggerso sorry to hear of your sad news.

You were very brave to go on this trip. I am pleased it went so well. Thank you for posting your report.

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as above, I am really sorry to hear your news. I am sure Claudia was with you in spirit througout and you enjoyed the trip for her.

 

Safari travellers are a special breed and as a single traveller I have always found people very kind and welcoming. Good to hear this happened for you too.

 

thanks for the TR so far and I look forward to hearing more in time.

Edited by wilddog
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Dave Williams

@Wild DoggerI lost my first wife a long time ago when we were both still young and I was left with two young children to look after which actually gives you something positive to focus on but I understand what you are going through.

The first year is the worst but once you have passed those special dates and the sooner that you tackle the various obstacles and make the needed decisions  the easier it is next time so you made the right decision to take that trip. The longer you leave things the harder it is to move on. 

My philosophy for life is that I'm lucky to be here, I owe it to those who can't be to live life to the full and do the things they would have wanted to do.

Good luck, stay strong and although things might look bleak at the moment your tears will change to smiles with the passage of time and you will be able to look back at the good times for what they were and not what you are missing now.

all the best Dave.

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Thank you for your beautiful post which brought tears to my eyes. I have had a terrible year fighting cancer as well but luckily am in remission. I also really want to go to Botswana and am planning a trip there in March even though I'm sure people worldwide are canceling because of this new Covid variant. I am supposed to go to Kenya as well in September with some fellow Safaritalkers but I just couldn't wait that long and am now planning to do both trips, although I know it is a little crazy. I wish I could get my husband to share my interest in safaris but I cannot get him to go as he is not interested, although I have shared the experience twice with my son. I think it is so beautiful that you were willing and able to make this trip in honor of your late wife. You have my condolences for your loss. I will share with you a saying from my tradition (Jewish) that we say to the grieving and that I find very healing, "may her memory be a blessing."

 

Margo

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@Wild DoggerThank you for sharing this with us, my condoleances with your loss. It turned out that you did the right thing to go on safari, honouring your wife Claudia. May your memories of the years you shared with her, help you in this very difficult time.

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5 hours ago, TonyQ said:

@Wild Doggerso sorry to hear of your sad news.

You were very brave to go on this trip. I am pleased it went so well. Thank you for posting your report.

+1

I could not say it better. 

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madaboutcheetah

Thank You for this beautiful post, Thomas .......  I am once again so sorry to hear the sad news, but, I am glad that you went through with it.  Look forward to hearing  more about it.

 

Omicron is a disaster magnet indeed!!

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Thank you for this beautiful account of the loss of your soulmate and how you honored her memory in the months that followed.  Please accept my sympathy. Know that your friends in the safari community wish you well and it seems that you encountered some of these kind souls on your trip.  Looking forward to the photos whenever you get them organized.

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@Wild Dogger So sorry to hear about your loss. I think doing this trip in honour of Claudia and experiencing the things she loved most is a beautiful tribute to her memory.  Thank you for sharing this with us.

 

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Deeply moving @Wild Doggerand immense respect for your decision to honour your beloved wife the way you did and share memories with old en new friends 

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Thank you everybody for your kind words.
I was long thinking about, if I should share my sorrows with more or less "strangers".
I think it is part of my coping with my grief.

 

So, as I promised the first set of pictures.
They are from the first evening drive.
First we found a male and a female lion.
Luckily the male showed up, giving us a yawn.

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On the radio we were told that fresh Leopard tracks have been located and so we joined into the search.
We found the Leopardess quickly. She was having a rest in the open.

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We were able to follow the beautiful cat for almost 40 minutes.
She was checking her territory as it seemed.

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Josiah asked me, how I would like to take a picture of the beauty and I told him that most of all I like it when they walk towards me.
No problem for a good guide to get me into a decent position.

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I would have liked to be in a little lower position but you have to take it as it gets and I was too lazy to lay flat on the vehicles floor.

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Leaving the Leopard we stepped over a pack of Wild Dogs.
Sometimes you have all the luck.

The sighting was not a prime one, there should be better ones coming the following days.

That was a perfect start into my Safari, I felt pity that I could not share it.

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What a tragic loss - suddenly life changes in a sad way - my condolences.

As a photographer I enjoy your skills and images.

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So very sorry for your loss, it was very brave of you to take this trip alone but it seems that it was definitely the right thing for you to do, I'm sure Claudia would have wanted it for you.  The trip as well as your post here is a lovely tribute to her and your times in Africa together.

 

I love that Dolly has her own camera :) I look forward to more photos (which ones did Dolly take? :D

 

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So sorry to hear about your loss Thomas - my heartfelt condolencies. I´m glad you were able to enjoy the trip even despite going alone. The good thing is you´re never really alone on safari. Always nice people around, be it other guests, staff or guides. Your Dolly pictures on FB always made me smile - and your animal photos are (as always) just magnificent. Best wishes, Michael

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Day 2 the morning:
Dagmar and Dieter like to do a Nature Walk and me and Dolly are happy to join them.

But first we find Mr. Special

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On the walk, Dolly learns a lot about termites, poo and plants.
She is interested in everything!

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Dolly trying the Impala toilet.

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Talking about Termites and Termite mounts.

 

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Where are the animals??

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Elephant muffin

 

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Checking out Hyena droppings

 

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Size matters, Dolly and the Elephant print.

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Sorry to hear this sad news, Thomas.

I can understand a little how you feel as I myself lost a love one in July, a disappearance that affected me deeply.

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Day 2, afternoon drive:

The mission was, to find the lionesses with the tiny cubs.
Okay, let´s make it short:
we did not find them, but for good reason:

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The scene took place in quiet a distance, so I had to crop a lot and the quality could be better.

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This couple of Blackbacked Jackals tried to catch this very young Tseesebee calf. The calf really fought hard for his life and was able to free itself again and again.
The Jackals did not get a hold on it.
But then rumour in the bush and the baby´s life was sealed in a minute:

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The pack of Wild Dogs took over or like Josiah said, they scavenged from the Jackals. 
We felt a bit pity for the Jackals doing all the work (and also the poor baby, but that is the bush).
This happened so fast, unbelievable.
I would have liked to film it as pictures can´t tell the story with all the noises of the dogs and the calf.

 

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This was something, which would have been entirely to Claudia´s taste.
She loved scenes like that.

 

 

Well, she would not have enjoyed, what we´ve seen on our way back to camp:

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Having snake phobia, she was always scared, that one of the guides would crab the Python to show it to the guests (which I am sure, they would not do).
She always told the guides, when we came a cross a Python to leave it where it was.
I could imagine, what she would have done: come close to me, to make her feel safe.
These were the small anecdotes which came to my mind in several occasions.
 

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Okay, that was day 2 and what could the rest of that trip bring to top this?

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Wild Dogger
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Dave Williams

Amazing scenes and brilliant photography. Wonderful stuff!!

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I'm so sorry to hear about your huge loss and what a struggle it must be for you ever since. you've been so courageous and so strong to take the trip in your loved one's  memory and I'm pretty sure she was with you all the way. 

Thank you for having such care in sharing the TR. 

 

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So sorry to hear about your loss and so sad you didn't got the chance to go to Botswana together one more time. But I'm sure Claudia was watching from a distance when you went on your trip. Big respect for sharing it in all openess on here. I can not even imagine how you must have felt (and feel). I think it was very brave of you to make that journey by yourself, knowing in advance you were going to struggle from time to time. Probably that would also have been the case at home, so going on a mission to honor your loved one could not be something you would regret afterwards. Still, it must have been a hard decision to make and not everybody would be able to do the same, big respect for you.

 

It looks like the bush made it a real worthy trip for you, your wife and Dolly. I can compliment you a lot about your wildlife photos since they are amazing. However, you sharing this together with the photos of Dolly are what really makes this tr special. I wish you all the best and strength to cope with your loss.

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I'm sorry for your loss, but I hope she was there in thought. I love it that Dolly has different outfits! And the sighting with the tsessebe calf is just amazing, harsh, but amazing.

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madaboutcheetah

What a fantastic sighting, Thomas - A Kwando safari indeed!!!! 

 

Quick question - where is Matt based at these days?  I'm glad you met up with him in Maun.  in July 2014 he had found a Pangolin one afternoon.  My flight from Maun arrived late into Lagoon and the first thing BK (then manager) told me and Spencer was, to stop wasting time and rush to the pangolin.

 

What can I say about Mr.Special - one of the laziest Cheetahs i've ever seen!!! Always nice to see him though :) 

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