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Botswana Mobile with Massons


Guest sniktawk
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Guest sniktawk

Here is our report on our recent trip with Masson Safaris to some of the National Parks in Botswana.

 

This was our first “true” mobile, so other than details we had received from Alwyn Myburgh and Johan De Bondt we had no idea what to expect, so here is what we found.

 

Game Viewing Vehicle

A Land Rover hand built (in Zambia) based on a Defender chassis, greatly extended from (130 to 160), containing 6 window seats each with a large amount of room for Cameras etc., as could be expected this was not exactly comfortable on the long road transfers. It was nevertheless extremely usable and reliable for what we needed it for.

 

Back Up and Catering

Camps were set up (two staff including Chef) before our arrival and moved to the next site without any hitches.

Catering was superb, every bit as good as most lodges and better than some (no names mentioned) with fresh bread everyday and lots of good food, of which surprisingly none was cooked on a brai!

 

Camps

As they were three of us we had two tents each containing stretcher beds with mattress duvet etc., OK for sleeping but difficult to get out of first thing in the morning. With two beds in our tent space was at a premium. Each tent had a washroom extension with a chemical toilet, and canvas sinks. Not luxury but adequate for what you really need. Each park had slightly different facilities at the camp sites.

 

CKGR

This park has lots of sites each of which are hired out for one group (maximum 8 persons), and are well separated from other sites and as a result is very private. Each camp site has what appears to be recently built bucket shower enclosures and “long drop” toilets. We used two separate sites in Deception Valley and Passarge Valley.

 

Makgadikgadi

Here we stayed at the main camp site near to Kumaga gate, this is a communal campsite, with facilities that could only be described as run down. Brand new facilities have been built with EU money and despite being finished in October 2008 are not yet commissioned! Then on to Njuga Hills (long drop and bucket shower) via a new camp site previously unknown to Ewan, but at a site that HATAB had previously requested that a site for mobiles be set up!

 

Nxai Pan

Here we stayed in what was described as a HATAB mobile camp, which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere with no facilities at all. The main camp near the entrance gate has also got brand new facilities paid for by the EU; needless to say these were not working either.

 

 

Day 1 (3rd March)

A long drive from Maun to our camp site in Deception Valley (around 5 hours from Maun). Deception Valley certainly lives up to its name. It is a beautiful area but has no permanent water, just a dried up pan. Lots of Oryx, Springbok, and a scattering of Gnu and Red Haartebeest.

 

Day 2 (4th March)

An “early” start at 06.00 and some early prizes, a youngish Male Lion with two females. As we stopped two Cheetahs were spotted not far away, further investigation showed them to be two inquisitive cubs watching the Lions, Mum was not far away and they departed soon thereafter. Plenty of plains game and birds, the birds proved to be difficult to take photographs of.

 

Day 3 (5th March)

A windy day resulting in game being hard to find, we did strike gold just before sunset when we found a pair of mating Lions. (See photos to see just how good this sighting was).

 

Day 4 (6th March)

Transfer day off to Passarge Valley. We took a long journey in order that we could take a look at the site of the new Kwando camp at Tau Pan; strangely enough we bumped into Alwyn on the road. We did not visit the camp itself as we had not arranged to do this from a distance it seemed to be of a similar build to Nxai pan, but not yet totally finished.

The one campsite on the edge of Tau Pan from which you can see the Kwando Camp seems to be closed. The day brought plenty of plains game and some better bird photo opportunities. We found a pair of old male Lions doing what Lions do best. There are only 2 camp sites in Passarge Valley around 30 minutes apart. Sundowners with lots of Springbok.

 

Day 5 (7th March)

Last day at CKGR, a “pride” of Lions was found early morning consisting of two cubs, a sub adult male and what was probably his sister, they were joined by the two males from the previous evening, the three pride females were “missing” although spotted around 3km down the road on our way back to camp, The evening was topped off with a remarkable sunset sighting with the Lions featuring much roaring (hopefully captured on video).

 

Day 6 (8th March)

Transfer to Makgadikgadi, the weather had turned and we endured a long blustery transfer to Khumaga via Rakops. By the time we got to camp it had started to rain, but we eventually got out for a short trip, along the Boteti River it looks very nice and I am sure given decent weather it should be a good game viewing weather.

 

Day 7 (9th March)

After an extremely wet night we tried again, looking in particular for the two Rhino that are in residence in this area of the park, but no luck. Just an emaciated Lioness (no pictures taken)

 

Day 8 (10th March)

The weather improves a little and we set off to our next site in Njuca Hills (long drop and bucket shower). An almost fruitless drive over vast green plains, wherein we saw from a distance 3 red Hartebeest and 4 Bat Eared Foxes. There was no sign at all of the Zebra Migration given the high rainfall over the past few months this was hardly surprising.

As a result of this disappointing situation Ewan decided that we would abandon the Makgadikgadi and move on to Nxai Pan a day early.

 

Day 9 (11th March)

Transfer to Nxai Pan, thankfully not to far to the new main gate and the “new” road, but a long way from there to the pan itself. So this is where the Zebra are, masses of Zebra and calves.

 

Day 10 (12th March)

An early sighting of two extremely well fed male Cheetahs, lots more Zebra, Oryx and Gnu.

 

Day 11 (13th March)

An interesting morning! First a male Lion, not presenting a good photo opportunity but nice to see one in the place where the film ROAR was made. A little later a further encounter with the two male Cheetahs, still looking well fed, finally a pregnant leopard.

Beat that as they say!

 

Day 12 (14th March)

Back to Maun, for our transfer to Mapula

 

 

SUMMARY

A very interesting experience not helped by the weather!

 

We liked it a lot and we had some of the best sightings we have ever had, given the limitations of these parks (no off-road and no night drives), I think we did extremely well.

We will certainly try again perhaps a little later early April rather than March, and perhaps a little longer in CKGR.

 

It certainly was good value for money the total cost for 3 people with private vehicle private guiding and dining was only ZAR 68,000 then around Sterling 4,500 for 11 x 3 days or Sterling 138 per person per night around 1/10th of the price of one night at Zibilianja.

 

HOW OFTEN DO SEE A PORCUPINE IN BROAD DAYLIGHT LET ALONE GET A PICTURE?

 

 

 

Photographs are available at the following

 

http://www.zenfolio.com/sniktawkwild/f778919380/home.aspx

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Thanks for the report. I really enjoyed your photos, especially the birds. They are spectacular especially the one with the lizard and the series with the insect. Sorry, I'm not so good with bird names. You always seem to get beautifully clear flying shots. The elephant looks as if it has just come out of a mud spa! :o

 

Seems to be a pretty reasonably priced trip.

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Game Warden

Love the porcupine and mud bath elephant images Sniktawk. Ditto Twaffle's comment above about value for money. Great trip on your doorstep, almost.

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Thanks for the good report on Massons.

 

The porcupine alone was worth the trip. You not only got a picture, but a good one. The squirrel was a great shot too.

 

A new member, Phil (NatureTalk) would love the squirrel.

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Thanks for the report. The red hartebeest looks so good, considering it’s only a hartebeest.

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madaboutcheetah

Lovely report, Ken and you must be pleased with the photographs too........ Glad you had a great safari and a Spencer/Hector sighting too from the sound of it.

 

How was Mapula? Were you guided by Doctor?

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africaaddict

Many thanks for the report Ken.

Shame about the lack of game, one of the risks at that time of year. Great & clear light for photography is a bonus though. Some nice images, well done.

I look forward to our 11 days with Masson's in Sept, finishing with 8 nights Mapula & 3 @ DVL.

 

Cheers

Marc

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madaboutcheetah

Marc,

 

Why did you pick September if good light is a criteria? Bush fires etc etc., can make the skies hazy - and this happens quite a bit.

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africaaddict

Hi Mad

 

As good as the light is in the green season, game is more spread out and it can't make up for the lack of predation possibilities that are more likely to occur around drying up waterholes. Also the lack of vegetation is preferable for viewing & photography.

One just puts up with the smoke, dust & haze and makes the best of the opportunities.

 

Cheers

Marc

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I received your report via an Email Ken. Hope you do not mind.

 

An enjoyable read and impressed by some of the images.

I agree with Marc about the light and cleanness of the air. Though it does not tempt me to travel so early in the season.

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