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Mainly Botswana, July 2022


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I say mainly Botswana, as we front ended the trip with a few days in South Africa. This was our big celebratory wife's 60th birthday trip, discussions and rough plan started in 2018, for July 2020 and then you know what happened. The central part of the Botswana trip was held over with deposits paid and we decided to take the opportunity to see a friend in Cape Town and then were going to take the Blue Train up to Pretoria before flying to Maun.

And then we decided that trying to get PCR tests and things on a train in the middle of South Africa somehow just felt a bit too risky (and thankfully as the train disappeared) so we added in Hermanus for a few days first instead.

BA to Jo'burg overnight in their lovely new Business Class suites (big improvement) and then Airlink to Cape Town. We are lucky to get reward flights, hence the routing on this trip plus it was vouchers anyway from 2020 (easy and painless for us to sort this). Drive to Hermanus and a gorgeous hotel for 3 nights (The Marine, Hermanus). Just what was needed, a couple of days to get over travel and things in a comfortable and quiet place. The other complication on this trip was that I snapped my Achilles in March and my wife cracked a vertebrae just before Christmas. So we have two crumblies with walking sticks hobbling around!

Really surreal seeing Southern Right Whales from the coast path, looking down at them incredibly close to the shore. The weather was really wild so no boat trips.

We stopped at Stony Point/Betty's Bay on the way to Cape Town - Penguins!!!! No idea why it felt really important to me to see wild penguins and we did, plus some Fur Seals, various birds and Hyrax. Well worth the time.

Two nights in Cape Town, mainly to see our friend but did go up Table Mountain and saw Humpback breaching from Chapman's Point.


Back to Jo'burg and on to Maun!






Edited by AndrewB
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Botswana ran like this; 3 night Boteti River camp then up to Sango Safari camp (3 nights), followed by Xugana Island Lodge (3 nights) before heading to Shakawe for 2 nights at Xaro Lodge (trip to Tsodillo Hills) and then a return visit for 3 nights on the houseboat Kubu Queen before flying back to Maun and onwards home.

The visit to Boteti River Camp was added to our planned 2020 trip as we had extra days when the plan was to go on the Blue Train (complicated or what this trip??) and we had to be careful on the cost. Mainly a self drive camp we were comfortable in a cabin and very well looked after. The wildlife was more than I really expected with lovely Elephants and plenty of plains game plus loads and loads of Jackals and Mongoose.




Went on a long, long day trip to Nxai Pan and Baines Baobabs which was great. Big changes here since my first trip in 1994, there is now a sign asking people to behave!






More to follow..........

Edited by AndrewB
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Back to Maun, lunch at the Duck and then Mackair up to Khwai.

We wanted to go somewhere that fitted in with the whole trip shape and chose Sango Safari Camp. I've spent time in Moremi, Savuti and Chobe so we chose somewhere different.

The camp was a good choice, lovely tents on the river, excellent food and great staff. The best Mosquito nets I have come across anywhere! You could walk round the bed inside the nets and the table and lamp etc were inside the nets. So much easier than when the nets are right up to the side of the bed and you have to fight to get a hand out to find your glasses.

Went out with a couple from Belgium and another from Switzerland into the Khwai concession. Got stuck in an Aardvark hole as the guide was rushing to get to a pride of Lions, that didn't work as we had to radio in for a tow out! But the Lions were rather lovely when we got there. Some playful and noisy cubs, very sweet, I've never been close enough to cubs to hear their squeaks before and it was very endearing. The adults had full bellies and sleeping was the order of the day. The cubs were full of energy, much to the annoyance of the sub-adult male whose tail was simply too enticing.

There were six or seven vehicles crowded around the Lions which surprised me.




After sundowners we saw an African Wild Cat and Hyena on the way back to camp.


Into Moremi the next day and after talking to fellow guests had a quiet word with our guide as we had all been on many safaris before so things slowed down, thankfully! I was surprised how quiet things were near North Gate, very little around and we didn't see any Tsesebee but did have three Leopard sightings. An elusive and shy adult female followed by a very accomodating mature male. The view was that he was new in the area, moving around, scent marking, possibly following the female. Beautiful chap anyway and posed nicely (without prompting) on a termite Mound.




Then the third Leopard which was a young female, daughter of the earlier adult seen, apparently. This was the one chasing a squirrel that I posted in the Leopard Sighting thread.


And a lovely Swallow-tailed Bea-eater, just because.




I am a great fan of sitting and watching and Sango has a lovely viewing platform with sofas and comfy chairs looking out over the Khwai River where we spent a pleasant afternoon instead of going out into the concession. Nice birds, Lechwe, Kudu, Baboon, Vervet Monkeys and Elephant. There was a Lion floating around on the other side of the river (alarm calls and a couple of roars/grunts but we didn't spot him. Fairly sure these Ellies chased him off as they came down.




We saw three more groups of Lions, lots of interesting birds and had a lovely time watching dwarf Mongoose before it was time to leave and head off deeper into the Delta.


Barred Owlet




Verreaux's Eagle Owl




Lilac Breasted Roller (because no report could be complete without one!)




And my favourite little mongooses'




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I love Bush Flights and flying over the Delta must be some of the best in Africa. From Khwai strip we flew to Xugana, which on Google is down as an "airport" which I find amusing! Dropped into two other places on the way so really low all the way which was lovely but a bit bumpy. Saw Sable, Zebras, Hippos, Ellies, and some Crocs. Vultures soaring above us was different as well.

The primary reason for going to Botswana at this time of year was to visit a wet camp deep in the Delta, hence Xugana Island Lodge. It was a great choice.

From arrival by boat from the airstrip to leaving a few days later we couldn't have asked for more. I was very impressed with Desert&Delta from camp facilities, organisation and staff. Particularly impressed that staff told us they were all kept on during the pandemic even though the camp was closed.

Just the two of us had a guide and boat to ourselves for the entire three days. Boat trips up, down and around, Mokorro and a walk.

The first thing that greeted us, ten minutes after being shown to our cabin, was these two lovely Otters, a treat! They came past in the lagoon every afternoon. Mind you, not the easiest things to photograph.




Just wandering around and sitting in the lodge gave some wonderful bird sightings from lots of Stripped Swallows, Weavers, an elusive (no chance of a piccie) Black-collared Barbet,  Yellow White-Eye, a regular Green-backed heron on the same log at early morning coffee, all sorts floating around. There was a lovely pair of Chinspot Batis merrily building a nest right over the dining table. Such a tiny, delicate nest and a privilege to watch them building it.




We went for a walk! Our guide, Wise, was brave enough to take me, hobbling with my stick, out to look for the Pels Fishing Owl. My wife was a bit worried when the first thing he did once the boat had moored up to dry land was unpack a rather large Rifle and stick some bullets in. Hmmmmmm.........

It looked so empty, not an animal in sight and water all around. But the first "wildlife" sighting was the remains of a Red Lechwe which had been killed by a Leopard and he then pointed over to some trees and said Lions had taken Buffalo there last week. Anyway, we found the Owl within about ten minutes and only a couple of hundred yards from the boat. No pics to share, high up, hidden by leaves but lovely to see.

During our stay we floated around quiet channels in a Mokorro, wandered all over the place at slow and fast pace in a boat and sat around the Lodge. Upset a bull Elephant who shook his ears at us and chased the elusive Sitatunga! We saw three, but all briefly and no pics. I was really just pleased to have seen them.

Stunningly beautiful place!

A surprise for us was on the last night when only 6 of us were in camp they floated us out onto the Lagoon on a pontoon. Food, drink and a waitress on board and we were left to drift around, eat and chat. Just some oil lamps and the stars above. Once finished, the waitress flashed a light and a boat came out and towed us back. I am not normally one for these type of shows but it was magical.


Red Lechwe




A Malachite Kingfisher is obligatory!




and a Reed frog, don't ask me, please, what species!




and I just love the light on these green Pigeons!




and then on to the next place!!


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~ @AndrewB:


These gorgeous images are a real treat!


Thank you so much for posting them.


The rich colors are inspiring.


      Tom K.

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The next part of this lovely trip was a flight up to Shakawe on the Panhandle. A short drive south and then a boat ride to Xaro Lodge.

Lovely place, great tents, very well appointed with sofas, desks and outside chairs etc, good food and hospitality but the main reason for coming here was to take a trip to the Tsodillo Hills. I have known the name since a teenager and reading Laurens Van der Post. A long time desire of mine that eventually has happened!

Wasn't quite as hoped and planned in 2019 due to injuries, hiking up higher was a no, no. But just standing and gazing at these clear and beautiful old red drawings of animals and people was lovely. The guide who showed us round was enthusiastic but his "story" was mainly about the area in the past 50 years not 5 millennia. Really glad I made it but, I expect I would have gained more from a few extra days somewhere on the edge of the Delta watching animals and birds.

Anyway, a couple of days at Xaro had some great birding around the Lodge and on the river. There was another Black-collared Barbet hanging around, but it really was uncooperative!


Giant Kingfisher




Yellow Billed Stork showing the pink of breeding plumage.




White-fronted Bea-eater nesting in the bank in front of the lodge.




and then our next accommodation came to get us!!



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In 2008 we took a lovely, long road trip from Windhoek. Around Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swapokmund, Spitzkoppe, Waterberg and up through Tsumkwe into Botswana.

Deciding a few days being looked after would be needed, we boarded the Kubu Queen in Shakawe for a few days before heading up Caprivi and in to Botswana for the Chobe River front and Kasane. Then on to Livingstone and Victoria Falls, all finished off with a flight up to South Luangwa to round off an amazing family adventure.

It was magical and we decided to return.

Quite fun when your accommodation comes to collect you!

Floating up and down the Cubango River on a house boat really is lovely. Very relaxed and comfortable. Birding from the boat and then trips into the flood plain and little channels in small boats. A bit of fishing (catch and release Tiger Fish mainly) for something different.

Sleeping on the top deck with the sounds of Hippos close by and just generally chilling. For us this was a perfect way to finish a three week, pretty hectic, trip.


The Kubu Queen moored up for the night.




A Water Lilly!




I find this rear view of a Squacco Heron different and appealing.




Black Crake. We saw a good number of these around Botswana but always scuttling away and hiding. This is the only pic in focus where you can actually see the bird!




The Skimmers had arrived for their breeding season on the sandbanks as the water level receeded.




Lots of Wattled Crane, both here and around Khwai. Bouncing and jumping and thinking about babies!




Huge numbers of Fish Eagles, this one had just caused chaos on the river as it took a

White faced Whistling Duck.




The birdlife up here on the Panhandle is prolific. The numbers and variety is really quite extraordinary.

We did, however, see a real change in the area since our last visit. There has been a huge increase in cattle and these graze down the vegetation significantly. Particularly near to Shakawe the river side vegetation is heavily cropped. This is seasonal and depends on the flood water receding to allow Cattle to come down and graze.

The other thing that happens is that as the water drops small fish move from the flooded areas deep in the Papyrus back in to the river. This attracts the predator fish (Barbel and Tiger Fish) and birds such as the Egrets, Herons, Cormorants and Darter which hang around on the edge of the Papyrus to grab the fish as they try to get into deeper water.




And, like for all of us, our all too brief visit to the wilds of Africa came to an end.



Edited by AndrewB
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thank you @AndrewB!

It was an interesting reading! I immediatelly looked for Kubu Queen. It is a nice vinage boat with two cabines. So, there were only 4 guests on the boat?

Ad I can see that the bird life was amazing. You've got a fisheagle with which pray? It is (or was) a bird?

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The Fish Eagle had caught a White-faced Whistling Duck @ElenaH. Unusually, this is the second time I have seen this, first in Elephant Marsh, Malawi.

The Kubu Queen has two double cabins and then two single beds up on the deck (at the back and gorgeous and where we slept on both trips). They sometimes take larger groups and use tents on the river bank. Very popular with the angling gang!

We had the boat to ourselves, they only offer sole charter, no mixing groups.

Greg (the owner) is converting another boat at the moment which will take more people and, I think, he plans to offer this more on the book a cabin and join in sort of trip.

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Interesting trip report and nice pictures  @AndrewB. Thanks for sharing it. Was it in July as originally planned?

I never thought of visiting the Panhandle. Is it mainly for birds or is there general game as well?

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31 minutes ago, Athene said:

Interesting trip report and nice pictures  @AndrewB. Thanks for sharing it. Was it in July as originally planned?

I never thought of visiting the Panhandle. Is it mainly for birds or is there general game as well?

The trip was July 10th to August 2nd this year.

You won't see much general game from the river, you would need to go south nearer to Seronga for that. There are plenty of animals around the area, Bwabwata NP just over the border into Namibia for example. We saw Buffalo from the river in Botswana that were over the border in Namibia. We saw Giraffe, Elephant & Kudu from the road going to Tsodillo Hills.

The wildlife has moved deeper into the Okavango from the Shakawe area as the pressure of more people has increased.

We saw Bushbuck at Xaro Lodge, but their long time resident and fairly amenable Aardvark didn't visit. We saw signs of Buffalo, Elephant and Sitatunga around (well, we were told that this was what we were looking at!). Leopard are around but very elusive as one would expect near so many dwellings and, apparently, Lion appear now and again.

You would see Crocodile and Hippo and, probably, Otters on the river.

The birdlife, however, is epic!

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Thanks a lot for your detailed response @AndrewB

The more I go on safari, the more I like to identify and photograph birds. The Panhandle is now on my "to go" list.

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Fantastic variety from your innovative itinerary.  Perhaps "complicated" but what a delightful cross-section and the "crumbly" aspect did not seem to impede you at all.  Otters by the pair, wow!  Your bird shots capture their beautiful colors, even the pink in the yellow-billed storks.  Happy belated 60th birthday to the Mrs.

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