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A very quick trip report - Zim, Botswana, Namibia


tonypark

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Greetings all, from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South African side - the cheap side, that is).

 

I'll stick to the highlights, but basically, Mrs P and I have just finished the first month of our annual six-month jaunt around Africa (all in the name of research, of course).

 

Headed from Joburg up to Hwange, Zimbabwe, via the Martin's Drift border crossing, and spent a night in the newly rebuilt Nata Lodge. It all looks remarkablky like the old Nata Lodge, which burned down a couple of years ago.

 

Apparently President Ian Khama's threat to sack his roads minister if he didn't fix the Nata-Kasane road was a serious one as I can now report that there is much construction activity afoot. Most of the road is fine and on the patches which are still being rebuilt there is a wide, smooth, gravel detour.

 

We entered Hwange via the sleepy borderpost at Pandamatenga where the customs and immigration people were friendly and relaxed. There was no hassle and no one solicity presents or bribes. Very professional in fact.

 

This year's game count in Hwange - and annual pigramage for Mrs P and I, was much better than last year's. It couldn't have been worse than last year (when we counted zero animals because of unseasonally early rain and excess ground water). We notched a respectable 144 animals at Chingahobe Dam, near Robins including elephant, zebra, impala, kudu and other assorted grass eaters. Friends of ours counting at Big Toms saw lion and other friends stationed at Deteema Dam counted well over a thousand head.

 

We stayed at Deteema and Masuma Dam picnic sites after the count and saw lion near Shumba and lion again on the road back out to Pandamatenga.

 

Had a couple of nice nights R and R at the Chobe Safari Lodge at Kasane and then tackled the road to Moremi via Savuti.

 

What is it with Savuti? Ok, we saw elephants there and I know the place has a good rep for predators but, really, people... it was wind and dust swept and looked to me to be one of the least appealing campsites I'd seen in AFrica. The price to camp was ridiculous and our party of several vehicles was unanimous in applauding the fact that the indefatigable Mrs P had been unable to get us a booking there.

 

We pressed on to the Khwai Community Conservancy camp ground on the northern edge of Moremi where Mrs P HAD been able to get us a booking for three nights.

 

My, oh, my... what a little piece of paradise this is. I know Dik Dik raves about the place, but I never could have imagined how perfect it could be. We found a lovely campsite under a couple of huge shady thorn trees and set off to explore the conservancy.

 

IN three days I doubt we ventures more than 2km in either direction from the camp, but we saw a pack of 17 wild dog, lion, buffalo, herds of zebra, impala, waterbuch, kudu, and stacks of giraffee. The campsite was unfenced and we had visits from elephant and giraffe on several occasions.

 

This place was about half the cost of staying in a Botswana national parks campsites. Screw em, I say. The Botsawana Wildlife Authority can keep its high-price, low-yield, yaddy yaddy yah policies.

 

Reps from the Khway Communiyt visited the campsite each evening to check that we had a booking and had paid. We had to pay for some extra people and that wasn't a drama at all. I cannot recommend this place highly enough, although you must bring everything in with you (although I did note, to my surprise, a bottle shop in the nearby town of Mbabe on the way out, to Maun, so now that I know there is alcohol nearby I may just retire to the Khwai conservancy).

 

Maun... what can I say? What dump. Or, to use a phrase my friend and former boss, Greg, coince, "slow moving chaos". We stayed at Audi Camp - the best of a bad lot in my opinion.

 

Drove the Pan Handle - and this remains one of the most boring roads in Africa.

 

Stayed in Ngepi Camp in Namibia. Hmmm... quirky and charming as always, but painfully slow customer service. Cool and laid back should not mean lazy and inefficient.

 

Samsitu camping ground about 15km from Rundu on the Okavango was another little slice of paradise, all to ourselves.

 

Roy's Farm Camp, near Grootfontein, en route to Etosha - charming, quirky and excellent customer service. Memo to Ngepi management: go stay at Roy's and Samsitu for a night or two.

 

Etosha: Fantastic. Hot, dusty, overflowing with European tourists and overlanders, but fantastic.

 

We had three nights at Namutoni, three and Halali and three at Okukouejo. Great sightings of leopard, cheetah and black rhino on the road via Okerfontein, lions all over the place, and another very nice leopard at Rietfontein.

 

The Namibian national parks are overpriced, comparted to South AFrica's park, yet still they pack 'em in, especially the overlanders. Having said that, Etosha's rest camps are not that big, compared, to, say, Kruger's, so even though they are jam packed the park is never all that busy.

 

Phew... nearly there...

 

Stayed at the Roof of Africa guesthouse in Windhoek (an old fave), and feasted on the impossibly huge Eisbein at Joe's Beer House in Nelson Mandela Avenue. It's worth going to Windhoek just to visit Joe's, which must be the best pub in Africa.

 

Cut cross-country via Marienthal to the Mata Mata border post in the Kalahari to cross into the camp of the same name in the Kgalagadi. We love it here - spectacular red sand dunes, cheetah, big lions, and a mongose snuffling around my feet as I type this. Hopefully he's on the trail, or is that tail, of the snake whose tracks we found this morning leading from the dunes to our Land Rover... gulp....

Edited by tonypark
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madaboutcheetah

Thanks, Tony. Keep us posted and enjoy your wonderful time over there!!!!

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Game Warden

Come on Mr Park: photos...

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twaffle

Tony, you do know how to write a cliffhanger!

 

Interesting view of different campsites. I wonder if I'll ever get to the count :D

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Hi everyone.

 

GW, I know this makes me sound like a moron, but I still haven't worked out how to post photos here. Help, someone, hellllllllllllllllllp!

 

I've also taken a bit of video on this trip, using a teeny weeny little HD video camera. If I ever work out how to upload stuff to youtube I'll put some links to that, as well... or maybe not!

 

Twaffle, you must come to game count, it's a hoot.

 

The adventure continues. We're off to Joburg via Uppington and Vryburg tomorrow. Perhaps not too much to write about on that leg, but we'll be back 'home' in Kruger in about a week's time.

 

I also put a bit on my personal blog the other day at www.tonyparkblog.blogspot.com

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A great little report Tony.

 

Next time you meet up with Leon Varley. Tell him Geoff from OZ sends his regards.

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HI Geoff, will do. I'd love to go on one of Leon's walks.

 

Twaffle, thanks for the PM about uploading photos. Will get some posted with the next instalment.

 

Mrs P and I have unloaded the truck here in Joburg, during our pitstop before heading out to Kruger, and there was no sign of the snake that I feared my have hitched a ride with us.

 

In fact, when I pointed out the snake tracks to a parks employee in Twee Rivieren camp he told me that it wasn't a snake, but rathr a mongoose with a broken leg. Either my tracking skills are in serious need of some upgrading (quite possible), or this is what the camp staff are trained to tell paranoid guests who fear they have been invaded by snakes.

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Good on ya Tony.

 

Glad you enjoyed Khwai.

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Brian's Art for Animals

nice report, can't wait to see the photos. maybe next time you can hire me to take videos of the whole trip, that way your hands are free for photos. And i work cheap <_<

My job and wife will understand if i leave, as its all for research right.

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Nice one, Brian. I get lots of offers from people wanting to come along as research/photography assistants! Funny that.

 

Twaffle has told me how to post pics and I hope to give it a whirl soon.

 

14 lion, several buffalo, half a dozen rhino and the odd elephant on this morning's drive in Kruger!

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Game Warden

Most importantly, when are you going to offer a writers retreat in the bush?

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Good idea, GW.... I'll dust off my tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches and we can all sit around the campfire contemplating our navels together.

 

Perhaps you can give me some ideas for my next book, because it's time to start writing, and...

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