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Botswana June 2011


umiami05

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umiami05

This is my first post on the forum. I've been reading the trip reports, planning advice topics, etc for a couple of months in preparation for my first safari, so I figured it was about time I help contribute. First, I'd like to say thanks to everyone on Safari Talk.This forum was an endless source of information that was extremely valuable when planning the safari.

 

 

Itinerary:

June 5, 6: The River Club, Zambia

June 7, 8, 9: Linyanti Tented Camp, Botswana

June 10, 11: Duma Tau Camp, Botswana

June 12, 13, 14: Tubu Tree Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

June 15, 16: Jacana Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

 

My father has always dreamt about going to Africa, but the right time never really presented itself. So we decided to plan a family trip for his 58thbirthday. There were 8 of us in the group, including spouses and significant others. The safari was organized by Natural Habitat Adventures (http://www.nathab.com/africa) through Wilderness Safaris. We had a private guide for this trip and he did an exceptional job.

 

The River Club, Zambia

 

We flew into Livingstone, Zambia from Johannesburg and were met immediately by a driver from Wilderness Safaris to take us to the River Club on the Zambezi river. After a short drive, we transferred to a boat, which would take us the rest of the way to the camp. All of the stress of planning, packing, and traveling immediately melted away as the boat shoved off, and we made our way upriver. After only a few minutes we came across a breeding herd of elephants drinking from the river. We couldn't believe it. We had only been in Africa for a few minutes and we already spotted our first elephants. We immediately knew this was going to be a trip of a lifetime.

 

The River Club was a truly gorgeous camp. The rooms all had an Edwardian-style that made you feel like it was a hundred years ago. Having arrived in the afternoon,we ate a late lunch and then set off for a sunset cruise. Having read about the sunset "booze cruises" on the Zambezi, I was not expecting to see much game ,but I was pleasantly surprised. Five minutes in we rounded a small island and spotted an African Finfoot, which is one of rarest birds in Africa. Our guide was an avid birder and his enthusiasm quickly spread to the rest of our group. We couldn't believe our luck. We also saw hippos, kingfishers, elephants, a rather large crocodile.

 

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African Finfoot

 

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Fishing at sunset

 

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Fishing on the Zambezi

 

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Crocodile

 

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Hippo

 

The next morning we went to Victoria Falls, visited the local Simonga Village, and went on a short walking safari to see the white rhinos of Mosi-Oa-Tunga Zoological park. Our guide arranged for the park rangers to take us to the last known location of one of the rhinos. When we arrived the park rangers motioned for us to exit the vehicle and walk quietly behind them.That definitely got our adrenaline rushing and we walked silently as we tried to suppress our excitement. After walking only 100 meters into the bush, the ranger whispered and motioned towards a female rhino and her baby. It was truly a magical experience to view the animals down at eye level, rather than being up high in a 4x4. After only a few moments, we retreated back to the vehicles so as not to disturb the mother and baby. The encounter was brief but definitely a highlight of the trip.

 

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Zambian Rhinos

 

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Park Rangers

 

We left the River Club the next morning, and made our way by car and ferry to Botswana. After crossing the border we did a Chobe River Cruise at Chobe Safari Lodge. We saw a huge variety of birds and animals on the boat cruise including african fish eagles, crocodiles, nile monitors, elephants, hippos, bee eaters, king fishers, and African skimmers. One highlight was a juvenile lanner falcon that kept flying short distances on the banks of the river. The behavior was quite odd and we supposed he was just practicing his flying skills. Regardless, it provided us with an excellent photo opportunity. We saw a lot of different animals on our short cruise, making us wish we could spend a few more days in Chobe National Park. However, the camps in this area were very crowded and had a much higher capacity then the classic camps offered by WS. We much more preferred the seclusion of the Linyanti concession and the Okavango delta. So I'm not sure if I would want to spend too much more time in Chobe on our next safari.

 

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Lanner Falcon

 

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Elephant in mud bath

 

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Kingfisher with fish

 

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African Skimmers

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Oooh I cannot WAIT for the rest of this. Your images are absolutely fantastic, they're giving a huge case of envy! And wanderlust!

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Game Warden

Oh yeah, what a first post. Welcome to the mayhem. Nice photo treatment. See you round the subforums. Matt.

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twaffle

A very big welcome, great way to start.

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Vlad the Impala

Anyone who can make a crocodile look beautiful knows how to use a camera! Great shots - keep them coming.

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RedLeopard

Gorgeous shots I agree and eagerly awaiting the next post.

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samburumags

Wow! and welcome

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umiami05

Linyanti Tented Camp (LTC)

 

We took a short flight from Kasane to Linyanti. The views from the plane were gorgeous. The Chobe river was flooded, giving it more the appearance of the Okavango. We saw elephants, buffalo, and a baby hippo from the air. We landed on an airstrip near Duma Tau and had a fairly long drive to get to camp. At one point, our guide Thuto noticed a squirrel sounding an alarm, and based on the sound figured there must be a snake in the area. He got out to investigate and found a 6ft rock python under a nearby log. Two weeks prior to the start of our trip Thuto, was guiding a group at LTC and found where the local pack of wild dogs was denning. Fortunately the den was quite close to our camp. On our drive from the airstrip, we decided to check up on the den to make sure the dogs were still there. Luckily, the dogs were right where they were supposed to be. We were amazed and delighted that we had been in the bush only 1 day and already seen the elusive african wild dogs. It was starting to get dark so we decided to leave the dogs and return the next day.

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Elephants from the air

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Zebra

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Squirrel alarming

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Rock python

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Wild Dogs

As we were heading back to camp, a call came over the radio which made Thuto stop, turn the car around, and go racing in the opposite direction. He didn't tell us what the call was about, but we could feel that something cool was about to happen. Sure enough, a few minutes later we rounded a corner and saw a large male lion sauntering down the dirt road that we had just passed through. The lion was named Romeo and is apparently known for walking down the road at sunset. The camp manager knew we would be arriving soon so she staked out the road in case Romeo happened to be passing by that night. It was a good thing she did that because we must have missed him by only a few minutes when we first drove by. Thuto maneuvered the car so that the lion would walk straight for us. It was our first lion sighting and I think everyone in the vehicle was holding their breath. Romeo walked right past the vehicle coming within inches of the front of the car. As he passed, he let out an immense roar to let everyone in the area know HE was the dominant male.

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Romeo the Lion

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umiami05

The next morning we found leopard tracks going right through camp. So we decided to try and track it down. We followed the tracks for about 30 minutes when Thuto spotted a large male leopard sticking his head up from behind a fallen log. We followed him for a while but he was very shy of the vehicle and quietly slipped away into a dense grove of mopane trees. Upon returning to the road we found a second set of leopard tracks, this time belonging to a female. We found her shortly after sitting on a termite mound. It was really amazing to see both the male and female leopards because we were struck by the size difference. The female leopards are much smaller than the males. In fact, I was surprised at how tiny the females actually are. Its makes it all that much more remarkable that they are able to drag their kills up a tree.

 

After leaving the female leopard, we checked on a trio of warthogs that live in an old termite mound. All three were sleeping in the termite mound when we drove up. They were all quite cautious and paused at the opening to the termite mound to check us out. It provided a great photo opportunity. Later we got a call that Romeo had killed an impala, and we went to see him. After the drama the night before, we were confronted with a decidedly more relaxed lion this time. He was dozing under a mopane tree next to his half-eaten kill and seemed content to sleep through the day.

 

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Male Leopard

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Male Leopard

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Female Leopard

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Female Leopard

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Female Leopard

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Warthog

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Lilac-breasted roller

In the afternoon, we checked back in the wild dogs who were out hunting. Another vehicle from Kings Pool and a vehicle with scientists were also following the hunt and helped us hone in on the action. It was very difficult tracking the dogs as they moved fast and changed directions rapidly. We got glimpses of the dogs through thick mopane scrub but we would soon lose them in the dense trees. Overhead we could see 20-30 vultures circling in anticipation of a kill. In fact, the vultures really helped us find the dogs after we would lose them. It was exhilarating following the dogs. Thuto would shout for us to "Hang on!" as we went tearing down the dirt roads. After 45 minutes, we got a call on the radio. Thuto turned around to us and said "The dogs have killed, Hang on!". We went flying down the dirt roads trying to reach the dogs before they had consumed the entire kill. It took us 5 minutes to reach the kill site, but the dogs had already eaten the impala. All that remained were a few scraps. It was an incredible site though. The pack had about 12 dogs. Half were laying around gnawing on bones and the other half were fighting with the vultures and a tawny eagle who were trying to steal the scraps. After about 20minutes the Alpha female left to return to the den, likely to regurgitate the meal to her pups.The other members of the pack followed her soon after. On the drive back to camp, Thuto used a spotlight to find a flap necked chameleon in a tree. It was the perfect way to end the day.

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Giraffe

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Impala Running

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Wild dogs at kill

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Wild dogs at kill_2

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Wild dogs at kill_3

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Flap-necked chameleon

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africawild

A Very nice report and fantastic pictures . The green season can be quiet but not for you this time , what an incredible first day of safari !!! Waiting for the rest

 

Paco

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wilddog

Fubulous - thank you , keep it coming.

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Pangolin

Quite the first safari! I really liked Linyanti Tented Camp when I was there. Looking forward to the rest your report. Since you seem to have such great luck, hopefully you got a good look at the Duma Tau male.

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umiami05

Thanks for the comments everyone.

 

We didn't get to see the Duma Tau male actually. We got really lucky and saw 5 leopards in 3 days at LTC, but we didn't see any more for the rest of the trip. We found lots of tracks at Tubu Tree but we never spotted one. The leopards were content to hide in the bushes.

I guess that just gives us a reason to go back to Duma Tau wink.gif

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Pangolin

Thanks for the comments everyone.

 

We didn't get to see the Duma Tau male actually. We got really lucky and saw 5 leopards in 3 days at LTC, but we didn't see any more for the rest of the trip. We found lots of tracks at Tubu Tree but we never spotted one. The leopards were content to hide in the bushes.

I guess that just gives us a reason to go back to Duma Tau wink.gif

I actually recommend Savuti, if only because my favorite guide and friend works there.

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Atravelynn

What a wonderful first post! Your family will have memories for a lifetime, plus some gorgeous photos. I like the framing effect. You have some outstanding motion shots. The fin foot is a fabulous start. I've used Nat Hab before, though not in Africa, and have been very happy.

 

Seeing a mother and baby rhino on foot is quite special.

 

What is the python 'round the neck story? The guide picked it up and placed it there? If so, that's surprising.

 

Thanks for your first contribution. An outstanding one.

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umiami05

I actually recommend Savuti, if only because my favorite guide and friend works there.

 

I've read good things about Savuti. It sounds like its a smaller camp than Duma Tau as well, which is an added bonus. Duma Tau has at least 10 tents and was quite busy when we were there. I prefer the smaller, more "rustic" camps like LTC.

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umiami05

What is the python 'round the neck story? The guide picked it up and placed it there? If so, that's surprising.

 

Yes, it was quite surprising to us as well. I can't say I completely agree with picking up and bothering the wildlife like that. On the other hand, I lived near the Florida everglades for several years and picking up and handling snakes was common place, as long as they weren't poisonous.

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kittykat23uk

Awesome photos!

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I love your photo of the elephants from the air - beautiful!!

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umiami05

The next morning we met back up with the wild dogs, but they were resting after an unsuccessful morning hunt. We got a call that a leopard had killed an impala and dragged it up a tree, so we decided to check it out. When we got there, we found there were actually two leopards, a female and her sub-adult male cub. The male waited patiently at the base of the tree until the mother was done feeding. Once she came down the tree, the son climbed up, and brought the kill down. He wandered away with it somewhere while the mother rested beneath the tree. After a few minutes she climbed back up the tree to see if her son left any scraps. Having found none, she came back down and walked off in the same direction her son took. It was fantastic seeing the leopards move effortlessly up and down the tree.

 

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Leopard and impala

 

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Leopard eating

 

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Leopard

 

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Leopard coming down tree

 

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Leopard going up tree

 

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Leopard coming down tree

 

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Leopard close-up

 

 

In the afternoon, the wild dogs were out hunting again. This time we had an easier time following them as they were hunting in a more open area. At one point we were sitting in a wide open field when we saw an impala break out of the trees at full speed. A wild dog was streaking behind her and we waited breathlessly to see if he was able to make a kill. However, the impala started gaining ground on the dog, when we noticed the dog was limping. From our previous encounters with this pack, we learned one of the younger dogs had a hurt hind leg, probably a dislocated hip. It was this injured dog that we saw hopelessly chasing the impala, fortunately for the impala, but unfortunately for both us and the dogs. The hunt was ultimately unsuccessful so we retired to the river and watched an amazing sunset.

 

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Wild dogs hunting

 

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Sunset

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umiami05

Duma Tau Camp,Botswana

 

The next morning we left LTC and made our way to Duma Tau. It was about a 2 hour drive but we had some nice elephant encounters and bid farewell to the pack of dogs that we had observed over the past 3 days.

 

On our first full day at Duma Tau, our guide took us on a three hour walking safari to one of the nearby hides. We came across a small group of Red Lechwe near a bend in the river. As we approached they ran gracefully through the water right past our group. I can still hear the sound they make as they crash through the water. It was one the neatest experiences of the trip. We also came across a bachelor herd of elephants that came quite close to our group, spotted a Giant Eagle owl in a tree, and saw a pod of hippos.

 

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Red Lechwe

 

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Hippo

 

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Elephant

 

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Bachelor Elephant

 

In the afternoon we did a game drive near the savute channel. Apparently a male lion who was new to the area was spotted there earlier in the day. The drive was rather uneventful and we only spotted a few elephants. We ran into a vehicle from Savuti camp but they had no luck spotting the lion either. Shortly after sunset we were on our way back to camp when we got a call from the other vehicle. The lion had just roared and allowed them to hone in on his location. Thuto flipped the car around amidst cheers from the back of the vehicle. We found the male lion lying in the grass. He was definitely younger and healthier looking than Romeo. Perhaps this new lion woud seek to take some of Romeo's territory. The lion soon tired of the head-lights shinning on him, got up walked away as he roared again.

 

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Baby Elephant

 

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Lion

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johan db

Excellent photos - thanks for sharing. ;) Looks like you had a great time.

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Jochen

Truly amazing photography. More please! :)

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pault

You're making this up as you go along and adding stock pictures, right? First safaris (in fact safaris in general) just don't go like this. The animals are appearing in perfect order and next are the cheetah, right? :D

 

Seriously, great trip for you all, and great first post. Some very nice pictures. Enjoying it very much.

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