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Published: October 1st 2017
Geo: -18.3653, 23.5368
Another travel day. We were picked up at 8am and made the drive back to Joburg. Far less traffic this time, but it still took two and a half hours. We checked in, went through a short security line, had lunch at the airport, as the desk clerk thought that we would just receive snacks on the plane.
The flight departed more or less on time - a prop plane, 2x2x15 or so. We were amazed how few roads (and how few farms) we saw, even as we crossed South Africa.
Arrived in Maun and were almost the first through immigration. Immigration/bag claim/customs/departure lounge is all one large room. Waited for our bags in, were ignored in Customs. (Enjoyed the sign on the wall: A corrupt country is like a cow with lung disease: it has no future.)
We were met by someone from the air charter company who offered us water and juice (our pre-board beverage service), then introduced us to our pilot. We walked across the hall to domestic departures, sent our bags through security, then walked down the tarmac to our small plane. We stowed luggage, then got on board. Paul sat next to the pilot.
The flight was
about 45 minutes, flying at 7500' or so. One could see the geography of the land, how the water runs during the rainy season, how much the delta region must change. Lots of animal tracks, and a road, even with a car on it. Very fun!
The landing strip was dirt - hard pack. Easy landing, and the jeep (jeeps are totally open and roofless; stacked seating for easy viewing, like a Oakie truck during the Dust Bowl; engine is fairly quiet for sneaking up on animals. Impressive vehicles) was waiting for us. We met Osi, our guide, and Mo, our tracker. They told us it would be about a two hour trip (as they Lebala Camp landing strip is flooded, they use a different strip), but that we would look for game along the way, which we did quite successfully.
We drove along a series of very sandy roads across a very flat plain (with a fairly high altitude of about 1000 metres). Dotting the landscape are low bushes, wide trees, spreading like oaks (lead wood?), and the classic spindly dead trees, home to vultures, and now and again, a baobab.
Just after leaving the landing strip, we spotted a large group
of cape buffalo along the river. They were rather indifferent to us, which made it easy to watch them.
We forded the river - the jeep was up to its wheel-wells - then proceeded in a more easterly direction. Soon after our crossing, we came upon a large herd of elephants, drinking and feeding .We paused, with elephants on both sides of us. A couple of young makes made feints in our direction, as if to charge us, but always backed off. Osi didn't seem the least bit nervous, so I relaxed somewhat. Interestingly, a bit later, we were driving along and saw a much smaller group of elephants in the distance. The lead female spotted us and began to trot towards us. Osi sped up, and we bounced along at our greatest speed yet until we were past the herd. I later asked Osi about it, and he said that, yes, he could see that they meant trouble, and so he got us out of there.
We had a gorgeous sunset, highlighted by three vultures on a large dead tree, silhouetted against the orange sky. Classic!
Osi told us that the vultures knew lions had made a kill around here and
were waiting for their turn at the carcass. We then drove off road, into the bush. As it had quickly become dark - no twilight in the tropics - Mo joined us in the jeep, carrying a giant spotlight. We searched the buses until we spotted them - two male lions, sleeping. One was in a classic Mysti pose. The other glanced at us briefly, then returned to sleep. We didn't watch them for long, as sleeping animals, even lions, are not very exciting.
On the remainder of the drive, we saw a spotted hyena, and a wild cat. Very domestic-kitty-like. It actually paused briefly, so we were able to photograph it. Great drive.
Upon arrival at Lebala Camp, we were offered a bit of food, drinks, then shown to our "tents". I put that in inverted commas as they are really wooden structures with screen walls and canvas ceilings. Very large, too. There's a bed/sitting area, a huge dressing area with large bathtub, two showers on a screened deck, and a toilet room.
We rested until our 20.15h call to dinner. Because of hippo walking through the camp, one can only walk about at night with one's guide. We were led
to the fire, where we sat, had drinks, and chatted with the other guests. Dinner (tasty) was had at a communal table; the guides joined us, telling tales of previous adventures with stupid guests.
(This is a good point to mention the fact that Lebala Camp seems very egalitarian ,which we liked. The guides join us at table; most of the guides are black; one is white but does not seem to rank any higher than the others; it is difficult to tell which of the women is the manager, as all seem to take on most tasks. Very refreshing.)
We were tired, so, after dinner, we were escorted back to our tents, where we quickly fell asleep. (Note: the tens are electrified, using battery power from solar energy, but there's not much light. Besides, we can't hang out in our tent with the kids, a la Mumbo, because of the hippo problem.)
Tot: 2.07s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 12; qc: 42; dbt: 0.0305s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb