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Botswana Delivers in the Green Season Again


Pangolin
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Late afternoon on the floodplain of the Linyanti River in northern Botswana, somewhere between Duma Tau and Kings Pool camps. The sun is hanging low in the western sky, with sunset approaching. A powerful thunder cell is slowly sweeping across the western horizon, resulting in an amazing spectacle of reds, purples, blues, and whites. Lightning blazes intermittently, adding to the color palette.

 

We are on the edge of the floodplain. From above us comes the deep grunt of a giant eagle owl. In the distance a lion roars. A monitor lizard is ambling through a colony of nesting carmine bee eaters, causing a bit of a ruckus.

 

Who could ask for more on a late Africa afternoon, but these sights and sounds?

 

But wait, I have not mentioned the real stars of the show. The floodplain is occupied by the Linyanti pack of 18 wild dogs, including 9 almost-grown pups. Our time is mostly occupied by watching the pups play in and around the bushes at the edge of the floodplain, but then, a blur of movement and we all cry out LOOK! THERE!

 

And 100 meters away a herd of 20-25 impala bursts across the floodplain, with 4-5 adult dogs in hot pursuit. All remaining dogs, including the pups, immediately jump up and run to join the action (as do we). One impala unwisely separates from the herd and makes for the river, with 12-15 of the dogs in pursuit. Within seconds, the impala leaps into the water, while the dogs (and we) skid to a halt at the waters edge.

 

The impala escapes from the dogs, only to meet its fate in the jaws of a crocodile. The final scene was out of visual, but not audio range.

 

We all (dogs included) catch our breath and prepare for the night to come, but in a few minutes the dogs that stayed with the main impala herd come back, and bring dinner with them. The pups and other dogs immediately run to greet the returning heroes and claim part of the prize.

 

The sun is in the final stages of setting, and the colors are still beyond belief. Time to snap off a few final images, and then run for home (Savuti Camp this night) before the storm arrives.

Edited by Pangolin
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You have been quiet. Good to hear you are having a blast.

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The dogs were awesome, weren't they?!

 

I'm back at work so am having to take a break from my report- if you're quick you might catch up with me!

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Phew! There better be some pix from Mrs P!! :D

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madaboutcheetah

Fantastic sighting!!!

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That afternoon was indeed fantastic. Just that 90 minutes or so pretty much justified the entire safari. Defintely one of the top 5 game drives of my now seven-safari career.

 

We planned the safari around six days at Duma Tau and Savuti to be spent with Grant. Four days at Duma Tau, then two days at Savuti so we could also spend time with Grant's wife, Helena, the Savuti manager. Grant normally guided out of Savuti, but worked things out so he could work at Duma Tau for a bit, because DT was on the list of discounted camps, but Savuti wasn't. This was also special because as of this week, Grant no longer works for WS. He and Helena are moving to Cape Town and Grant is going into business for himself.

 

The itinerary was Xigera (3 days), Selinda (3 days), Duma Tau (4 days), Savuti (2 days), then some decompressing in Maun at the Thamalakane River Lodge (2 days).

 

Xigera was not on my original preferred itinerary. We had Tubu Tree booked (love those leopards, Stokeygirl), but then had to change our dates slightly to accommodate a change to Grant's schedule, and Tubu was not available on the new dates. I then tried Kwara and/or Little Kwara, but neither was available when we needed them (Dec. 4-6), so we settled for Xigera.

 

I'm glad we did.

 

As for pics, Mrs. P is still sorting through the 8,500 or so she took, but I was in charge of poor to mediocre pics and videos with the point and shoot, so that is what you'll get for now.

 

I'll start with Xigera soon.

Edited by Pangolin
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Well, right off the bat in the trip report, but I skipped ahead to get your attention. We now return to linear programming.

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As for pics, Mrs. P is still sorting through the 8,500 or so she took, but I was in charge of poor to mediocre pics and videos with the point and shoot, so that is what you'll get for now.

 

I invoke "Rule - 1"...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Rule 1 clearly states that; if there are no photos to accompany that which is stated... it didn't happen!)

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You definitely got my attention with that opener! I just love it when Africa can make lyrical poets out of data crunching scientists :) I could envision the scene you describe so vividly. Looking forward to more.

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So.....we started at Xigera, near the center of the Okavango Delta.

 

Although not my first choice, as previously stated, Xigera exceeded all expectations. The camp was comfortable, but not over the top. Our guide, Teko, was excellent. He was born less than 10 miles from Xigera, and raised in and adjacent to the Delta. He was a great tracker and spotter, and very congenial.

 

Xigera also began a trip of many reunions, as one of the managers was the manager at Duba Plains when we were there in March 2010. She recognized us before we recognized her.

 

Xigera is in a beautiful area. Here is a short video of some scenery (although I have obviously not yet mastered imbedding the video - I'll work on that - or someone can clue me in - I've even read the thread that explains how and I can't do it).

 

 

Edited by Game Warden
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Because we have such a good number of trip reports from Botswana going on at the moment, I'll just hit the highlights from each camp (I also don't have access to many of Mrs. P's photos at this juncture).

 

Our first afternoon we took a short Mokoro ride in search of a Pel's fishing owl. Luck was with us, and within an hour we spotted a pair. This required a short walk from the mokoros, and the walk required negotiating our way around a bull elephant. A nice start to our safari.

 

During a subsequent mokoro ride in search of the elusive (some would say mythical) Sitatunga, I was quite flabbergasted when we ended up getting good looks at three, including a large male. Hope to add a photo or two later. My shots with the point and shoot always had some reeds in the way.

 

Seeing the Pel's and some good general game (elephants, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, kudu, etc.) meant that Xigera met my expectations. We also saw an enormous croc in a place where I never had before - directly under the boat in about three feet of clear water. We also had an excellent sighting of elephants in the water from the boat.

 

Seeing three sitatunga meant that Xigera exceeded my expectations.

 

Add this sighting on a game drive:

 

gallery_5746_557_53769.jpg

 

and Xigera became an excellent choice for the start of our safari.

Edited by Pangolin
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Okay, back at it.

 

The leopard didn't do anything super cool, but it was nice to see her at Xigera. She eventually moved into heavy brush..

 

gallery_5746_557_37985.jpg

 

gallery_5746_557_16662.jpg

 

Her young adult daughter also wondered through camp while we were out on a game drive.

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A few highlights from three days at Xigera:

 

Pel's Fishing Owl:

 

gallery_5746_557_202185.jpg

 

 

Dodging traffic while looking for the Pel's

 

gallery_5746_557_19180.jpg

 

 

After 7 safaris, sitatunga numbers 2, 3, and 4, including our first look at a male:

 

gallery_5746_557_317184.jpg

 

 

Other delights while mokoring:

 

gallery_5746_557_160634.jpg

 

 

Elle's from a boat are always nice:

 

gallery_5746_557_36213.jpg

 

 

Some youngsters:

 

gallery_5746_557_38472.jpg

 

 

And the camp:

 

gallery_5746_557_468553.jpg

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Xigera was a nice place to start, especially after a 9 time zone journey. It is a beautiful, peaceful place. The advantage of going when water levels are low is that game drives are more extensive. The down side is that they don't do boat trips over to Chief's Island when water levels are low.

 

Our activities included two mokoro trips, one boat outing and three game drives.

 

Next up was Selinda.

 

It is true that given their mobility, you need a little luck to stumble across wild dogs. However, given the information I was receiving on dog sightings, by lining up a total of 9 days at Selinda, Duma Tau, and Savuti, we would have to be very unlucky NOT to see dogs somewhere along the way (we weren't). I was hoping we'd also get lucky at Selinda and find cheetah (we didn't).

Edited by Pangolin
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madaboutcheetah

What a quick jet-lag fix recipe - (being in the Okavango, finding all these amazing sightings)!!!!

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Pangolin, I love the frog. Would love to see anymore little critters if you or Mrs P have any. I'd go to Botswana for those frogs.

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The leopard didn't do anything super cool,

 

 

They don't have to because they ARE super cool. And I think they know it.

 

I'd go to Botswana for those frogs.

 

Frog tour, who's in?

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Wow, a "mystical" sitatunga out in the open, just like that! Fantastic. Lucky!

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Leopards are indeed super cool and they do know it. One cool thing that I forgot to mention was that when the leopard was out in the open, she was charged multiple times by a large male impala who would snort, charge until he was just out of range, then retreat and do it all again.

 

Lucky? I think it was tourist karma and good sitatunga vibes.

 

A frog and dung beetle safari! Let's go!

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Selinda turned out be a bit of hit and miss. On our first game drive we were told that they hadn't seen a breeding herd of elephants in about two weeks. We promptly stumbled into one. We had a couple of nice general sightings

 

gallery_5746_557_123814.jpg

 

Then heard a lion roaring somewhere in the general vicinity. It took a while but we finally tracked him down

 

gallery_5746_557_91.jpg

 

It was getting late, so after a 15-minute visit, we headed back to camp on what became a night drive

 

gallery_5746_557_348200.jpg

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madaboutcheetah

Pangolin, in Feb last year was told by my guide friend that the Elephants don't disappear into the mopane anymore after the rains begin. Apparently, due to all the permanent water around they tend to stay around through the year (although the dry season numbers aren't as high as before)?

 

That looks like the one remaining member of the Selinda coalition? The other I think was killed by rival males in Kings Pool (by Romeo - brother of Milky Eye).

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The next day was pretty slow. The morning drive was very wet, and everything was hunkered down out of the rain, like we should have been. A few exciting moments with a hippo helped save the day. We got ourselves in the middle of a hippo fight when a large bull wouldn't let a smaller bull into a pond, and the younger bull decided to take on the only other thing around....us

 

gallery_5746_557_170470.jpg

 

Love that spit and drool.

 

Things picked up quite a bit in the afternoon

 

gallery_5746_557_402786.jpg

 

Try not to get nauseated by my lack of video skills

 

Edited by Pangolin
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