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Kwando Camps June-July 2009


Guest sniktawk

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Guest sniktawk

We left Hwange and made our way to Nata via the border crossing at Panamatenga, “what an adventure”, at least the crossing was quiet (we were the first to cross for 4 days.). On the Botswanan side I was required to fill in what I can only presume was a Swine Flu Questionnaire, (have I been in contact with dead pigs?) Given what was to come next I think a return via Bulawayo and Plumtree border crossing would have been a lot better, further but quicker.

 

The “road” from Panamatenga south to Nata was what I can only describe as a national disgrace! This is supposed to be the main transit road north to Kazangula and Zambia, the stories about cars disappearing into potholes may be true. At one stage we had to travel on the dirt at the side of the road (on the wrong side) for around 5 kms.

 

An overnight at Nata (Nata Lodge not yet finished but looks like it is going to be lot posher and no doubt more expensive) we stayed at Northgate Lodge, not bad but quite expensive (welcome to Botswana).

 

The following morning down to Nata Sanctuary to see the flamingos on Sewa Pan, they said it was a little wet! We got about 3kms before sinking, luckily it only took 30 minutes to dig our way out and make a timely escape, our first con of the day.

 

The second con was being robbed by the police; about 50 km outside Maun there is a veterinary gate, with the usual barriers and stop signs. The nice policewoman walked to the gate to meet us with her arm held up to indicate for us to stop, when we did we were informed that we had passed a stop sign 20 meters in front of where she was standing, and we were to be fined Pula 200. What a con, welcome to Botswana again, interestingly they had caught loads of people, mostly self-drive with SA plates.

 

 

After the relative quiet of the game (not bird) viewing in Zimbabwe we were hoping for a substantial improvement.

 

We did not get off to a good start, after arranging for an early flight (9.00) to Little Kwara in the hope of some form of morning game drive we were taken straight to camp, and sat around until 15.00 before we started. It was then that we discovered that in spite of assurances to the contrary before our departure, game viewing would be severely restricted by the water levels. There were three new bridges to allow access to the areas remaining. Tsum Tsum was inaccessible which was hugely disappointing. All in all apart from Birds and a few good sightings of Plains game the 4 days were very disappointing, more so given the experiences of others in recent months. We saw one scrawny female Leopard twice, both times in exceedingly difficult circumstances for photography. Although on our first sighting she had managed to kill a porcupine which was interesting to see. Four lions were found at night one of which was a Lioness in the process of passing its insides out through its anus - not very nice.

 

The camp is nice but we had no idea that it was next door to Kwara, when we were last there we saw construction vehicles going to an entirely different area.

 

Worth another visit when the water is not so high and thereby limiting?

 

After 4 fairly fruitless days (25th to 28th June) we flew out to Lagoon, on arrival we were informed the dogs were denning but that no pups had yet been seen. Hooray!

 

 

29th June

That evening (when we were off to try and find mating Lions, we got a call saying the Boys of Lagoon had been found, off we sped at a speed that Charles would have been proud of.

A good sighting in good light ensued spoilt only by our position; another vehicle got the best spot. You do not get many termite mounds with lots of twigs but this was one.

 

30th June

The following day was spent trying to find the dogs but with no luck, a lot of hours at the den proved to be futile. We had elected to sit at the den and wait for some action sadly no action and no photos. That is just the luck of the draw some times patience is rewarded others it is not. Unbelievably only 2 photos all day

 

1st July

We found the dogs asleep at the den, thank goodness for that; in addition we later found a solitary male Lion, another “Mohican” one. In the afternoon we went hunting with the Wild Dog, and had the amazing sight of Impala fleeing from the Dogs through a herd of Elephant, mayhem ensued, not the least of which was us screaming through the middle of it all!!!. Shortly after this a rather large piece of wood was thrown up by the vehicle towards me I put up my hand to deflect it, unfortunately this also had my camera in it. My hand came off worse with a good size lump of flesh being removed from the back of my right hand; the camera was of course undamaged.

 

A liberal application of ice and a panty liner and on with the show, unfortunately we lost the dogs and headed back to camp. (Notice we got our priorities right dogs first, then medical treatment). It is at times like this you find out what you never really wanted to know what medical equipment do camps have, in this case hardly anything and far less than what I have in my car, luckily they had antibiotic cream, dressings and bandages.

 

2nd July

We had another mixed day with a very quite afternoon. The highlights were our last visit to the dogs (they were just lazing about, well fed and clearly not about to hunt again that day. It was good fun watching them answer the call of nature – tummies to full to get up so they just let go where they lay!!!) and dwarf mongoose posing nicely on a log.

 

3rd July

 

Morning road transfer to Lebala where we met with Spencer and Simon at Johns pan, thank goodness we thought. The subsequent 4 days proved what we have always believed. You must have a good guide and tracker plus good luck. This team is clearly one of the best in the business.

 

An immediate change in “luck” ensued! A viewable picture of Myers Parrot in a tree was obtained!

 

A nice afternoon on the flood plains (and I mean flood), nice opportunities for Zebra and Red Lechwe.

 

4th July

 

An early morning discovery by Simon of 2 Male Cheetah. They proved once again that Cheetahs do climb trees, but do sometimes pose in the shade and shadows. These animals are big and well fed.

A quieter afternoon with good Elephant and plains game.

 

5th July

 

A “quiet” morning another viewing of the 2 male Cheetahs, followed by a solitary Lioness and then mating Lions. The evening was spent contemplating the beauty of Red Lechwe, Fish Eagles, Wattled Cranes and Ground Hornbills.

This evening various ministers of the Botswanan government were in camp on a “jolly”, sorry a fact finding trip.

We, in particular Wendy told them what we thought about all of the unnecessary luxury (no prizes for guessing which operator got the worst publicity) and the madness of Zibilianja. I do not suppose it will make the slightest of a difference but it was fun. Their policy can be quite easily summed up throw out all the experienced managers and guides who are not Botswanan and substitute them with ill qualified locals, and at the same time put up the prices! Also their attitude towards self-drive was appalling; they are clearly intent on getting rid of this as well.

 

6th July

Another sighting of the 2 male Cheetahs in the morning resting up for hunting.

In the evening we set off to find a large male Leopard but no luck. We returned to help out the other guides look for the Cheetah (they had been looking all afternoon) within 15 minutes Spencer and Hector returned to the vehicle saying that they smelt Kudu blood and funnily around the corner you could smell the blood and then see the Cheetah eating, guess what a Kudu! Luckily the other guests were nearby and were able to enjoy the sighting. Inevitably a Hyena came and stole the kill, by which time one of the vehicles had left. On the way back to camp Simon spotted the male Leopard, what a monster, he was difficult to follow and as it was now dark difficult to photograph, this did not of course prevent other guests taking pictures from moving vehicles with flash.

 

7th July

 

Our last morning not bad another Male Lion.

 

I suppose that the easiest way to sum up the difference in viewing is by the numbers of images I have posted from each camp

 

Kwara 20 of which 5 are from good saddle bill stork sightings

 

Lagoon 17 this low because of the difficulties of getting good images of the Wild Dogs

 

Lebala 36

 

So ends another trip to Kwando, we will return as long as some good staff remain.

 

It is our opinion that management skills and ability has deteriorated over the past two years. Luckily the two trump cards of Spencer plus Simon and Charles plus Bowman remain. Dushi a “new” tracker at Lagoon seems extremely promising.

 

The food has never been good but it seems to be getting worse, the menus which repeat every 7 days were basically the same as at Christmas, we cannot imagine why everybody considers soup followed by meat and two veg is what people like, but what do we know? And why is it that they serve rice with a roast dinner????

 

Some of our fellow guests were on “last minute” specials for which they paid considerably less than us, this particularly galling.

 

We had a private vehicle at each camp, which resulted in other guests getting a private vehicle for free. Worse still when we were the only guests at Lebala for one night we paid for a privilege we did not need plus of course we were the only vehicle spotting.

 

Wendy paid a single supplement every night in spite of the fact that the only camp we stayed in that was full and only for two nights out of 4 was Little Kwara, how can this be fair.

 

Finally after a day without GIN at Lebala at Christmas it happened again at Lagoon, WHAT SORT OF WAY IS THIS TO RUN A COMPANY?

 

Images can be found at the following link, some birds not yet fully identified!

 

 

http://sniktawkwild.zenfolio.com/p596286846

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twaffle

Great report Snik, thanks. Quite descriptive and I don't know whether to be more upset by the lack of gin or the problems with the poor lionness with the prolapse. I don't suppose she would survive this. I am looking forward to viewing the photos tomorrow when at work. It just brings home how 'hit and miss' wildlife viewing can be.

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madaboutcheetah

Ken,

 

Can you please re-check the link? Can't get to your photos. Thanks.

 

Sorry you weren't able to access Tsum Tsum. Highly recommend you give it another shot.

 

Who are the managers at the 3 camps during the trip?

 

To be honest, I've never been a fan of the "cooked breakfast"

 

Cheers,

Hari

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Interesting report, Snitawk. Honest but depressing in parts. The weather seems to have had a major effect this

 

year, as I found in March. I've tried to look at your photos through your link, but it just says 'Access to content is

 

protected by owner'.

 

 

Jan

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madaboutcheetah

Yes, Ken - some lovely photos!!! The WC, the Hornbill in flight amongst others being brilliant!!!

 

As you have already mentioned, Spencer appears in top form and glad you had another great trip with him!!! Thank God those new cheetah coalitions are now relaxed and photogenic.........

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Guest nyama
We had a private vehicle at each camp, which resulted in other guests getting a private vehicle for free. Worse still when we were the only guests at Lebala for one night we paid for a privilege we did not need plus of course we were the only vehicle spotting.
Just curious. If occupancy isn't high wouldn't it be a better strategy to book the private vehicle in camp?
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Thankyou, Snitawk for such lovely photos. I loved the birds, every one a winner. In fact it's difficult to choose a

 

favourite. You had such beautiful light in many of them. Perhaps you should come with me in October and take

 

my photos for me!

 

 

Jan

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twaffle

The photo of the Green Pigeon reminded me of the email from Terese Hart from 'Searching the Elusive Bonobo in Congo' describing the huge decline of these birds in Ituri Forest.

 

Eight years ago they would catch more than 1500 pigeons each day. Now they catch between 250 and 400 in a day. The nets are up every day.

 

I find this incredibly sad … whilst we don't focus much on the birds we see on safari they are amazingly diverse and beautiful and to see the decline in numbers of this consequence deserves comment.

bonoboincongosite

 

I know some people will mainly be looking at the mammal photos but I think this series of bird photos is superb. Thank you Ken.

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matnikstym

Once again, nice report Ken. Thanks! Beautiful pics too!

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Atravelynn

Glad your luck seemed to improve near the end.

 

"A liberal application of ice and a panty liner and on with the show"

 

This has to be one of the most classic lines from any report anywhere.

 

I'll be checking out the photos.

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madaboutcheetah

With reference to the private vehicle - IF the camp is full or near full - then, they may not have a private vehicle availability if you choose the option on arrival. Also, the private guide option needs advance booking.

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sniktawk

Yesterday, 04:00 PM Post #9

 

How were we to know that the US could mess up the economy so quickly and that so many people would give up thir deposits rather than going on holiday?

 

Somehow, you always manage to bring your complaints back to the fault of the US... Your bad luck or bad timing or bad judgement leading to your having to pay private vehicle rates is somehow the fault of the US?. Very tiresome, and annoying.

 

Sniktawk

Yesterday, 07:51 AM Post #1

 

The food has never been good but it seems to be getting worse, the menus which repeat every 7 days were basically the same as at Christmas, we cannot imagine why everybody considers soup followed by meat and two veg is what people like, but what do we know? And why is it that they serve rice with a roast dinner????

 

If it is good food you want, perhaps you should try the offerings at WS properties, including the CCS...

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madaboutcheetah

sorry Ken - was lazy typing yesterday - Wattled Crane.

 

Rick/Ken - Really nothing wrong with good food on safari - just no need for anything pretentious.

Just need to eat something fresh, healthy, wholesome, palatable.......

 

Ken,

 

who were your guides at lagoon and LK?

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twaffle
The panty liner actually proved to be a good bandage, what I forgot to mention was that it was taped on with electrical insulating tape!

 

Definitely requires a photo posted.

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sniktawk

Today, 12:44 AM

 

Well who else sold the mortgages and issued the insurance to back them up, it certainly was not the Chinese!

 

No, not the Chinese, but certainly every major bank in every Western country and then some. Maybe even some in SA, I don't know. But this was in no way solely the US.

 

sniktawk

Today, 04:44 AM

 

Intense nationalism has no place on this forum.

 

Have I exhibited "intense nationalism"? I don't think so. Do others think so?

 

I am simply reacting to your consistent, predicatable, and "intense" anti-Americanism. I, for one, will not give you a free pass to lay the woes of the Earth and the woes of your personal travel experiences on the US which, I would counter, has no place on this forum.

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madaboutcheetah

Did Helena get some good video this time? Would love to see the cheetahs?

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africaaddict

Good report and images, as usual Ken. (Dwarf Mongoose trio the standout)

I'd like to think (or hope) conditions may improve by September when my wife and I will be there.

 

Cheers

Marc

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madaboutcheetah

Look forward, Ken. Pl let me know when you get the Youtube to work..... Thanks

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Pangolin
Have I exhibited "intense nationalism"? I don't think so. Do others think so?

 

I am simply reacting to your consistent, predicatable, and "intense" anti-Americanism. I, for one, will not give you a free pass to lay the woes of the Earth and the woes of your personal travel experiences on the US which, I would counter, has no place on this forum.

Intense nationalism? Not even close.

 

Intense anti-Americanism? Possibly.

 

Do pretty much all of our home governments, or corporations, or citizens behave in less than ideal ways relatively often? I think so. The US does not have a corner on that market.

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Atravelynn
The panty liner actually proved to be a good bandage, what I forgot to mention was that it was taped on with electrical insulating tape!

 

Definitely requires a photo posted.

 

 

Twaffle, we think alike.

 

Seriously, an injury could really mess up your holiday and I am surprised the first aid kit fell short. Food falling short is one thing, but a decent first aid kit is crucial. Good thing the camera did not take a hit either. I don't think a panty liner would be sufficient had the camera sustained injury.

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Atravelynn
Have I exhibited "intense nationalism"? I don't think so. Do others think so?

 

I am simply reacting to your consistent, predicatable, and "intense" anti-Americanism. I, for one, will not give you a free pass to lay the woes of the Earth and the woes of your personal travel experiences on the US which, I would counter, has no place on this forum.

Intense nationalism? Not even close.

 

Intense anti-Americanism? Possibly.

 

Do pretty much all of our home governments, or corporations, or citizens behave in less than ideal ways relatively often? I think so. The US does not have a corner on that market.

 

I'll offer a warning in advance. The 4th of July entry to my Pantanal trip report may contain references to some "intense nationalism" as well as copulating capybaras. I'm trying to offend as many as I can.

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The panty liner actually proved to be a good bandage, what I forgot to mention was that it was taped on with electrical insulating tape!

 

 

Snitawk, this reminds me of a time in the 90's when Lloyd Wilmot, my husband and I and a couple of friends from

 

the U.S.A. were walking by moonlight on the Savuti Marsh. It was Lloyd first, with a clod of earth to repel lions

 

etc., then the friends, me with my husband bringing up the rear. We safely returned to our camp site, sleeping

 

bags with mozzie nets, roughly constructed boma with thorn branches. We survived the night and drove back to

 

our main camp. My husband dicovered that his lower legs and ankles were covered in suppurating bites, he'd

 

managed to attract all the insects we'd disturbed. We looked in the camp's medical chest [ left over odds and ends

 

donated by departing guests]. His legs were a mess, so Philip, a ,doctor, said look, here are some sanitary

 

towels, they make very good dressings! We were flying back to London that night, and my husband said 'if

 

you think that I'm getting off the plane at Heathrow with sanitary towels around my ankles you've got another

 

think coming! I now can't hear the words 'Savuti Marsh' without thinking of that episode.

 

 

Jan

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Pangolin
I'll offer a warning in advance. The 4th of July entry to my Pantanal trip report may contain references to some "intense nationalism" as well as copulating capybaras. I'm trying to offend as many as I can.
Were they copulating in celebration of the US holiday? Did they make their own fireworks?
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Atravelynn
[ We were flying back to London that night, and my husband said 'if

 

you think that I'm getting off the plane at Heathrow with sanitary towels around my ankles you've got another

 

think coming! I now can't hear the words 'Savuti Marsh' without thinking of that episode.

Jan

 

Savuti Marsh will never be quite the same for me either, Jan.

 

 

I'll offer a warning in advance. The 4th of July entry to my Pantanal trip report may contain references to some "intense nationalism" as well as copulating capybaras. I'm trying to offend as many as I can.
Were they copulating in celebration of the US holiday? Did they make their own fireworks?

For these answers--and more--you'll just have to tune in to the report, Pangolin.

 

On to the photos...you may have had some bad luck with water, weather, inuries, etc. Snik, but your photos came through. The ground hornbill hardly ever flies and you have a beautiful picture in flight, along with the saddle billed stork and her buddy, the blacksmith plover is it? The colors and textures of the dwarf mongoose photo are a work of art and you repeated that theme with the tree squirrels. Those gray hornbills are not uncommon, but a gray hornbill with a gray butterfly in its beak is amazing. Your wattled crane shot has the light illuminating the wattle! So many excellent photos!

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  • 5 months later...
whorty1970

Just wanted to add a quick reply to Sniktawk... we were the recipients of the free private vehicle in Lebala because you had chosen to pre-book one. Many thanks :D

 

Also, we were one of the 3 vehicles around the 2 cheetah who were eating the young Kudu. It was the Belgiums who left just before the Hyena came and mugged the boys. Very interactive. I think you left camp the following morning? We tracked the 2 boys down again, and their stomachs were still very much full.

 

Regarding food at the camps - it could be a matter of 'taste', as it were, as we personally were happy with the food served up at all 3 camps (we did Lagoon, then Lebala, then Little Kwara). We also noticed residency was low, and in fact at both Lagoon (we were the only guests) and Lebala we had our own vehicle. At Little Kwara on our 3rd (last) day we shared with an Oz couple, but we're actually OK with sharing so we enjoyed this.

 

Looks like you saw more at Lagoon than we did (no cats at all, except a Civet in spotlight). Great time with dogs though - we saw them back from a hunt and regurgitate food for the others (great experience but gosh, what a stench). At Little Kwara we also saw the lioness with intestine coming out of anus - Hobbs called the vet/animal husbandry guys and they came and darted her and were going to try to sort her out. Before we left Hobbs said the operation had been a success but he may have just been saying that to keep us happy :(

 

Anyway, great report - brought back nice memories for us.

 

Cheers. Whorty

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