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Pangolin

A Pangolin in Africa

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Pangolin

Hello All - I'm Back!

 

This is not my real trip report....yet. I've been home for about 36 hours, and have not fully recovered from the trip back.

 

Edit: THIS IS NOW INDEED THE TRIP REPORT.

 

One day I'm watching lions hunt buffalo at Duba Plains, and the next I'm back home.

 

My plan is to give my report in three stages:

 

(1) This note to say I'm back and to provide just the most general information;

(2) Within a couple of days provide a more thorough summary of the trip;

(3) Within a couple of weeks provide the photographic evidence to back up my wild tales.

 

So..........I can't say that it was definitely my best safari ever (out of 6), but I also can't say that it wasn't. In other words, it was GREAT!

 

Quick synopsis -

 

Cape Town - 4 nights (3 full days);

Botswana:

Little Vumbura - 4 nights;

Savuti - 3 nights;

Kalahari Plains - 3 nights;

Duba Plains - 4 nights.

 

Cape Town-

 

Loved it (except for the part where I got food poisoning from lunch on our last day). We visited the Aquarium, went to Robben Island, took a full-day tour of the Cape, and went to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Had a good time at all, and especially enjoyed Kirstenbosch.

 

Little Vumbura -

 

Nice camp at a great location. Had great general game viewing (enhanced by multiple sightings of sable herds). Predator sightings limited to lions (a pride with two generations of cubs; and a coalition of 3 males).

 

Savuti -

 

A stunning location now that the channel is full of water. General game viewing was relatively mediocre, but predator sightings were absolutely amazing. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs! Oh my. One sighting, to be described later, was arguably the most "special" sighting of my life.

 

Kalahari Plains -

 

Loved it. The new "permanent" camp is comfortable, but far from over-the-top. It is set among a series of pans about an 80-90 minute drive east of Deception Valley, in an area rarely used by self-drivers because no campsites are nearby. They still have every right to be there, however. The pans are full of springbok and oryx, with decent numbers of red hartebeest as well. We saw a band of three cheetah brothers every day, as well as a leopard. More honey badgers and bat-eared fox than you can imagine. We took one day-trip over to Deception Valley, where we apparently missed Hari by 30-45 minutes (another WS vehicle did run into him, but alas, we were on a different road).

 

Duba Plains -

 

What a beautiful area! However, with rising water, it is a 45-minute slog through very mucky conditions to get to the plains. Our guide lovingly referred to different sections of the route as "marsh madness", "swamp island", and the "crossing of death". The plains teem with life of all kinds, and we were lucky to witness two serious buffalo hunts (by lions) while we were there, with one of those resulting in one less buffalo in the world.

 

No pangolins to be seen anywhere though :)

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twaffle

Welcome back Pangolin, you've been missed! Can't wait to hear more, sounds fantastic. Hope you have some good Honey Badger pix. I'm sure Jan will get you a good pangolin photo on her current trip. :)

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Atravelynn

The Duba descriptions are precious. Welcome back, Pangolin and thanks for posting only 36 hours later.

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Pangolin

For a quick look at a few pics of Kalahari Plains from our safari, you can check out Grant's blog for Africa Geographic here

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basto

Welcome back Pangolin, great to hear that you had a fabulous time! Really looking forward to hearing more about Savuti, and your most "special" sighting, it sounds exciting!

 

/Tom

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pault

I can imagine a lot of honey badgers and bat eared foxes! Reading teases like this is quite difficult with 9 months until I can visit Africa again, but the full trip report will have the opposite effect, so I forgive you (not that you will have been feeling in need of forgiveness). Sounds like it was a really great trip. In fact it seems everyone around here is having spectacular trips.

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Pangolin
My plan is to give my report in three stages:

(1) This note to say I'm back and to provide just the most general information;

(2) Within a couple of days provide a more thorough summary of the trip;

(3) Within a couple of weeks provide the photographic evidence to back up my wild tales.

Well, so much for Plan A. I'm going to jump right into a combination of (2) and (3).

I'm still sorting through the thousands of photos (99.99% taken by Mrs. Pangolin), so it may be slow going. Because starting at the beginning is usually a good idea, I'll kick the report off with a summary of our three days (four nights) in Cape Town.

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Pangolin

We arrived in Cape Town very late the evening of February 17. I will say that I am very impressed with the look and efficiency of the Cape Town airport. It was well past midnight before we were settled in to our hotel on the waterfront, so we were in no hurry to get moving in the morning.

 

During this and subsequent nights, the fur seals in the harbor tried their best to prepare us for the night sounds of hippos.

 

We spent the morning having a leisurely outdoor breakfast, and hanging around the waterfront. We then mustered up the energy to walk two blocks and spend a couple of hours in the Two Oceans Aquarium.

 

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(not me)

 

The aquarium, although not huge, is quite good (take it from a group that included two fisheries biologists and a zoo educator).

 

By the afternoon we had mustered up the energy to hop on the ferry and take a tour of Robben Island. The water was a little rough, but it was an enjoyable ride over on the top deck of the ferry.

 

The tour was of course pretty much set in stone, and very touristy, but it is definitely worth doing once. The tour of the prison is led by a former prisoner.

 

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The island has other interesting sites in addition to the prision.

 

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It even has some wildlife, including our first look at African penguins (new for me).

 

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After the three hour tour, it was time to head back to the mainland. Next up, on February 19 was a full-day guided tour of the peninsula, and on February 20, a half-day at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

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Pangolin

Continuing with our Cape Town adventure, for February 19th I had arranged for a private, full-day tour of the peninsula with John Lawrence of Big Blue Sky Tours. We could have done this ourselves, but if you want to save the trouble of renting a vehicle, and have someone who knows the area take care of everything, then this is a good option. John was quite knowledgeable, and very likeable, plus he had been a school teacher in Botswana, so we had a lot to talk about. He appreciated having a car full of biologists and environmental educators.

 

The tour was paced to our liking, and we had final say in how much time to spend in various areas. We started with some nice scenery near Cape Town,

 

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then carried on to Hout Bay, where we boarded a boat for a quick look at the fur seal colony on Duiker Island. I was a bit skeptical of a short, tourist-laden boat trip, but it exceeded expectations, and I was quite impressed at just how close to the rocks the boat ventured.

 

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After Hout Bay, it was a beautiful drive along Chapman's Peak over to Simonstown for a look at Boulder's Beach and the Afirican Penguin colony. It was "sand-blast" windy on the beach, and the penguins adapted accordingly.

 

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After lunch, we continued on our way to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We saw a few Eland and Ostrich from a distance, but too far for decent pictures. We also took the obligatory picture with all of us behind the sign indicating our exact location, but it is on someone else's camera.

 

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After that, it was a nice leisurely drive back to the hotel for dinner and to rest up for our final day in Cape Town, a good part of which was spent at Kirstenbosch.

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Pangolin

February 20th, our last full day in Cape Town. It was going to be a hot day (about 30 C) so our plan was to hit Kirstenbosch shortly after it opened, and spend about 4 hours there. Good plan. When we got there it was virtually empty. I HIGHLY recommend Kirstenbosch to anybody who hasn't been there. It was beautiful, even though we weren't there in prime bloom time. I would definitely like to go back - perhaps in spring, when more plants are blooming (also whale-viewing season (not at the garden)).

 

A series of photos (by Mrs. Pangolin, of course) from the many taken at the garden:

 

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After Kirstenbosch, it was back to the waterfront for lunch, which promptly made me sick. I spent my last night in Cape Town re-living my lunch and trying to get prepared for the next day's journey to northern Botswana and our awaiting safari. My illness peaked that last night in Cape Town, but dragged on a bit into travel day and our first safari activity. After that, I was good to go.

 

So much for the preliminaries. Next up - four nights at Little Vumbura in the Okavango Delta of northern Botswana.

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Atravelynn

A great pictoral account of Cape Town! Sorry about your illness.

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twaffle

Great start, Mrs P is an excellent photographer, even catching that very odd looking fish in the aquariam! :)

Love the photos in the gardens.

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Brian's Art for Animals

welcome back. excellent report

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Pangolin

Thanks all, for the comments so far.

 

It should only be a day or two before the safari report starts.

 

That odd-looking fish is actually very handy to have on safari. He's the one tech-support person in a group of biology-types, and has saved many a file from corruption land, and has cured an ill laptop or two along the way. This trip he saved our guide's computer from melt down.

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Pangolin

Contrary to what I previously said, I'm going to skip ahead just this one time. I'm doing this because the few pictures needed to tell the story have been sorted already, unlike most of the others from the trip.

 

We had arrived at Savuti Camp from Little Vumbura the afternoon before, and had been rewarded on our first game drive with an excellent sighting that included multiple predators, to be described later (when I return to linear reporting).

 

The following morning, we got up and started a leisurely game drive up the channel, with no particular destination in mind. After an hour or so, we had seen a few, but not many things, and Grant jokingly pointed out that we were "looking for anything with a heartbeat". A little while later, we came upon a backwater of the channel that contained a pod of hippos and a number of water birds. We also spied a number of ostrich not too far off. We declared our satisfaction with the way viewing was changing, and went off to see the ostriches, with plans to stop for morning tea with the hippos. The ostriches decided not to make things easy on us, and immediately dispersed into the mopane.

 

We shrugged and started to turn back to the hippos, when my eye (yes mine) caught the movement of a small patch of white just above the waist-high (to a human) grass. I became a bit flustered in my excitement, and let out a very professional declaration of (and I quote) "cat, cat, cat". Grant was finally able to coax out of me just where I was looking, and sure enough:

 

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A leopard was on the move in the tall grass. It was so on the move that it was difficult to get a good look at it in the grass and brush.

 

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Then, Mrs. Pangolin exclaimed that it had something. A small kill? Hare? Rodent? Baby steenbok?

 

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Grant finally got a good look, and said "that's not a kill, she has a..........."

And then it became possibly the most special wildlife sighting of my life.

 

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It was not easy on the photographers in that heavy brush and tall grass. We also did not want to disturb her too much while moving cubs.

 

But, WOW!

 

Folks that visit the Sabi Sands and a few other areas regularly may see this kind of stuff relatively often, but I never had, and neither had Grant. We were all virtually speechless.

 

We left her alone after a few minutes and returned to our plan of having tea with the hippos. But just then, a call came over the radio about another great sighting less than 15 minutes away. That will have to wait though, as I now return to my regular linear reporting.

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Game Warden

What a great sighting, and even with the grass you were still able to get some cracking shots. I bet your heart was beating ten to the dozen...

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Caracal

Pangolin,as you so rightly say,WOW!

What a special sighting and you've given us great photos.

The cub looks so young.

Looking forward to more instalments and hoping to find out if you discovered how many cubs and where she was moving them.

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rickmck

Fabulous, Pangolin! I had a night-time sighting of a leopardess with a cub in Oct 2008 in Kafue. Very close by (only 30 to 50 feet), but not as clear a photo opportunity due to the darkness and spotlight only. Here's an excerpt from my trip report: "Later that evening, toward the end of the afternoon / evening drive, we returned to where we had seen the Leopardess. Sweeping the swale with the spotlight, we picked up a small creature. Spotted Genet? No! Leopard cub! Where’s mom? Not 15 meters away from the vehicle, drinking from the swale. The cub scampered around, then joined her for a drink and some grooming. They moved around for a while, drinking. When it was time to go, mom picked up the cub and carried it back to the den ~200 meters away, and we were able to follow and watch the two of them disappear into the den." And here's a couple of (poor) photos that record the scene:

 

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This remains one of my favorite & most lasting memories from safari...

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Pangolin
What a great sighting, and even with the grass you were still able to get some cracking shots. I bet your heart was beating ten to the dozen...

I must give credit where credit is due - Mrs. Pangolin is the photographer. Somebody else may have benefitted photo-wise from different positions in the vehicle, but I haven't seen anybody else's pics yet.

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Pangolin
Pangolin,

 

I could not resist "fiddling" with one of your images, hope you do not mind.

No worries. I put them in totally unchanged, other than a little cropping.

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Pangolin
Pangolin,as you so rightly say,WOW!

What a special sighting and you've given us great photos.

The cub looks so young.

Looking forward to more instalments and hoping to find out if you discovered how many cubs and where she was moving them.

We did not find out. We did not want to bother her too much, so we stayed with her for about 10-15 minutes and then let her go. We did not stick around to see if she would come back for another cub.

 

The cub was definitely very young. Grant had seen this female mating less than a km away in November, and had hoped for cubs in February. This was February 26th, so we are talking very young.

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Pangolin

We now return to our regular linear programming......almost. I'll leave most of the camp shots, aerial photos, and some landscapes until the end of my report, when I wrap things up (mostly because these shots aren't organized yet).

 

So...back to the morning of February 21. We awoke at 4 AM for our flight to Maun via JNB, my stomach still less than happy about the whole thing. We arrived in Maun a little late (about 12:30 PM), got everything organized, and departed for Little Vumbura by about 1:30 or so. It immediately started to rain.

 

This short series of photos covers our trip from the airstrip to camp, our afternoon activity, and the first part of the next day's game drive. We awoke to fairly hard rain on the 22nd, so we delayed our departure, and turned the 22nd into one long drive instead of two shorter ones. Nothing too exciting here, but it was nice to get out and see some old friends.

 

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Including some wet ones

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We went for a boat ride in the rain our first afternoon.....

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We even saw some kills the next day....

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We noticed that a few of the baby zebra in this herd had dark faces, but their mothers did not. We did not find dad to see what he looked like.

 

Things get a little more exciting soon..............

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whorty1970

Stop teasing us!!!!! I can't log on at work anymore so can only read updates in the evening - and I'm out tomorrow night so won't get the next instalment 'til Thursday :D What did you see????

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Pangolin
Stop teasing us!!!!! I can't log on at work anymore so can only read updates in the evening - and I'm out tomorrow night so won't get the next instalment 'til Thursday :D What did you see????

Well, I won't be able to top what I reported back in post #15.

 

Sightings at Little Vumbura remained pretty much the usual stuff - some lions and sable coming up in the next installment. We did see a very cool fish out of the water - a many-spined climbing perch moving from one source of water to another. We also got a good look at a python in a tree, but I'm not sure if we have any good photos.

 

Sorry, but I can only move along as fast as the files get reviewed and sorted.

 

After one more installment of LV comes Savuti, part of which you have seen. We had three different sightings of leopards (one with a kill and some pesky hyenas about), one session with wild dogs, another with two very fat and happy cheetahs, and a nice "lion on a termite mound" sighting. We also had a LOT of fun with carmine bee eaters as Russell has shown in his trip report.

 

That gets me through the next couple of days anyway. Details soon.

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Atravelynn

The mother leopard and cub is truly precious! Your other shots are great too. Too bad you missed Hari by under an hour!

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