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Published: October 24th 2018
Ha! Caught you finally
Usually I get a photo of the back end.
"Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature, amongst other creatures, in a large landscape." - Doris Lessing
Leaving Notten’s Bush Camp was somewhat sad as we had a wonderful time and met some very nice people. But….as all travelers know, another adventure awaited, so we loaded up and headed for the local airport. We would put this to you dear readers…how many times have you taken a transport to the airport where you drove for about 30 minutes and did not ride on at least a gravel road? Well, this was the case for us as we were in an open Land Cruiser on bumpy trails headed for the friendly skies. It was if we were on another bush drive. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised at how nice and new the airport was at Skukuza. Its sole purpose was to get people close to the bush camps near Kruger National Park and it succeeded in our eyes. We flew to Johannesburg, overnighted and then set off to Botswana, the next leg of our journey.
We flew to Maun and then were loaded onto a seven-seater plane (yes, you read that right) piloted by
a sixteen-year-old girl (okay, we made up her age, she must have been at least 25 years old and stated she had been a pilot for 3 years) to make the 20-minute flight to our new camp in the Okavango Delta. MJ got to ride next to the pilot which made her smile while Dave sat in the back and stretched his legs. We had amazing views from this small plane of the Okavango Delta and our excitement began to grow. The terrain was far different from anything we had seen to this point. A vast array of green and brown, with the green indicating where the moisture is from the delta. It seemed to meander around endlessly without a plan. Our photos don’t do the area justice but we hope you will enjoy the views from the small window of our plane. On approach, we banked to the right, making use of the prevailing winds and landed on an airstrip where the only thing we saw was a gent in a Land Cruiser, who would take us to Shinde, our new camp.
The path to the camp would be extremely bumpy, a harbinger of things to come. The
Flapping his ears to stay cool
He will spend up to 19 hours a day feeding
five-minute ride also let us know one thing in particular. Although it is technically spring in the delta, it was hot. Don’t get us wrong….we live in Florida where it can be quite warm….but this was hot. Each day, the temperature would hit a sweltering 100 degrees plus….warm even for this time of year. As with the previous camps, this one had its own identity and charm. The staff was very friendly and met us as we drove up with a welcome song and we arrived just in time for tea.
We deposited our bags in our tent, then it was off for an afternoon safari. Unlike the other camps, the Land Cruisers were designed to take fewer passengers and were covered. We were not sure we would like covered transportation originally, but this proved to be a great thing with the sun beating down on us in the late morning and afternoon. Our driver Chachos was also our guide and tracker for our three days here. On our first game drive, we’d been told that eight lions had been seen on the morning drive and everyone was looking to see where they had moved to in hopes that
they had not left the area as they are very transitory animals. A few days prior this pride of lions killed a zebra and many got to see the process of eating an animal, which we had observed in South Africa. Fortunately, as sun was setting we found 7 of them lounging in the tall, tan colored grasses and the eighth one was lounging on a small dirt mound under a shade tree. We sat and watched the sleeping lions as the sun set.
We normally think of deltas as places where rivers perhaps expand and meander on their way to bigger bodies of water. That is not the case here as the water flows into the delta, only to stop and eventually evaporate. The result of this is that the delta provides year-round food and water to its resident animal population and provided us with a spectacular amount of wildlife to view and enjoy. This of course explains why the area is a UNESCO site.
At this camp we had choices of a variety of boat trips man powered and engine powered. We opted for a morning of fishing in the Delta. Neither of us has fished
in years so we figured this would provide great entertainment. We first traversed the narrow banks in search of hippos and birds. As has been the case so far, those hippos were elusive. We’ve seen a few in a pond but generally we only see the tips of their back or the tips of their nose as they are extremely light sensitive and stay underwater during daytime. The canals are lovely, the ride was primitive and peaceful. One can attain a level of serenity in this landscape that cannot be described. After the unsuccessful search for hippos we headed out to wider waters for fishing. We are told tiger fish and tilapia are prominent in these waters. As a matter of fact, we are told that a couple of days before we went out that some other guest at our camp caught a fish and they prepared it for their dinner. Sadly, we didn’t have that kind of luck. MJ spent her time feeding the baby feeder fish the worms off her hook. Those little guys are fast. Dave was successful in catch and release of one two-inch tiger fish…. Ok, maybe two and a half inches. All in all,
it was a pleasant morning for a boat ride.
One thing in Botswana that we expected to see and did not was large numbers of birds. In the past when we have seen photos of the Delta area they feature endless birds in and around the waters. The camp we were in had very few birds. I guess that means we will have to go back in the future and stay at another camp if we want to see hundreds of birds. We did enjoy the beauty of the wide-open spaces with solitary trees dotting the horizons.
Each day we were out, the drive would start out very uneventful, making us wonder if we would really see anything worthwhile. Each day…..we were very wrong and had to mentally chastise ourselves for even thinking this for a moment. The animals were plentiful as many had told us….just a little patience and the next thing you know you are seeing zebras by the dozen, towers of giraffes and many more elephants than expected. The elephants were of course easy to spot and were constantly flapping their ears in a never-ending attempt to keep cool. They also flair their ears when
they encounter potential danger in an attempt to make themselves look bigger…..like they needed any help in that department. We actually got to witness this as on one drive, we stopped as a bull elephant was very close to the road and our guide wisely gave the elephant the right of way. We must have proceeded a little too soon, as the elephant flared his ears and made a sound that gave us the distinct impression that we were too close. We just kept moving away from him and evaded a potentially bad situation.
Botswana offers larger groups of animals than we had seen at our other camps and we delighted in just stopping to watch the various animals grazing while keeping a lookout for danger. There were multiple opportunities to do so each day and we never tired of it. Baboons Fighting
A morning drive provided great entertainment. There is a section of the property where hundreds and hundreds of baboons play in the trees and run in the tall grasses. On this particular morning we were captivated by a heard of 80 or more Zebras. We’d been sitting quietly watching each and every one of
Narrow tracks to follow
Lots of these to navigate during our drives
them turn their backs on us when we heard baboons fighting. Being in the same proximity we could watch both. Three baboons were chasing a fourth and they were screeching loudly and wildly. From the tone of things, you could easily tell the one baboon was in lots of trouble. Chachos suspects he stole food from the others. The chase was on….they ran quickly after him grabbing and screeching. The thief baboon made it to the tree and ran to the top. This was quick action-packed excitement. The other three bounced up the side of the tree and a brawl ensued. Screeching, yells and fighting noises came from the tree…….. and then………a baboon was tossed out of the tree to the ground!! Wow! He shook himself off and ran for his life with the other three in pursuit. Another tumble, another fight took place in the golden grasses, a yelp and then things got quiet. They all went their separate direction and the thief headed back up the tree to lick his wounds. Moral of the story, don’t steal unless you want to get your ass whipped!
Each evening, we would gather on the deck of the lodge by
the fire pit to indulge in a beverage and talk with fellow travelers about their day. A couple of nights the camp provided singing by locals and staff with them eventually escorting us up to dinner where we dined at a large table with the other campers and staff. On our last evening, we were seated at the table, only to be summoned and taken to a private dinner with our own waiter in celebration of MJ’s birthday. A star-filled sky and a sliver of a moon provided a wonderful ambiance.
Our last evening drive they took us to a pond for sunset drinks and to our surprise there were at least 20 hippos in this pond. We still didn’t get to see them out of the water but they did show themselves a bit. Sadly, this would be as close as we would get. There appeared to be a bit of a stand-off towards the end as our guide informed us that we were temporarily blocking the “hippo highway,” which is a path they take to and from the water. This may have explained the noises they were making after the sun set…..they wanted out of the water,
Google C.J.Craig doing The Jackal.
so we respectfully moved along Near Miss
As we were driving back from the hippo pool to camp we were losing light rapidly. Chachos was waving the headlamp about looking for animals hidden in the trees and grasses. Out of the darkness came a big male elephant and by the time we realized he was there he was about two feet away. Fortunately Chachos kept the vehicle moving or he might have plowed into the backend of the vehicle. We looked a one another and said, ah... that was close. This is not the zoo and you must pay attention at all times. The elephant was trying to cross the road to join his pack and we were in the way. The Jackal
On the first day, our guide spotted a small creature, no bigger than a fox and told us it was a jackal. We smiled to ourselves, as this reminded us of an episode of one of our favorite TV show the West Wing that featured a character named C.J.Craig that lip-synching a song called "The Jackal." This animal was smallish and did not appear dangerous in the least. We were told that it
At least that what we think.....
fed on small rodents and such. Still, we were somehow fascinated by this animal that has a name associated with something much more nefarious, but looked like a fox in need of a snack. We were fortunate in that we got to see one each day we we were out in the afternoon and took pleasure in the sightings. Broken Equipment and a complaint
One of our friends once said that all of our blogs are upbeat and optimistic and nothing ever goes wrong and that we seem to like every place we go. Certainly, he can’t say that if he read our Vietnam blog or our Kathmandu blog. We will agree that we are extremely fortunate when we travel and have better luck than most…. Maybe this is good karma. Also, a world travelers not tourist there is no expectation that everything will go like clockwork so maybe our expectations are realistic and we go with the flow unless it is a huge issue. Who knows… we are just happy we’re not working and don’t want to become the ugly American…. But we have our limits.
We were taken to the airstrip the next morning after
another great drive and bid goodbye to this camp. A slightly larger bush plane was to take us after two stops to Kasane. It was at least 100 degrees outside at midday and we discovered much to our consternation that the air conditioning in the plane was not working. We felt like potatoes in an oven in this plane and were sweating profusely. It was an extremely uncomfortable ride over some interesting terrain, but we just wanted it to end.
On one of the stops we picked up a group of five Kiwis (New Zealand) and one of the gentlemen was thinking about buying the plane we were flying in for his tourist business in Queenstown. The pilot was taking his time to review the plane and all the equipment with these new passengers while we sat it this stifling heat. We were not happy and making snide remarks to each other. If this was going to be a sales call they should not have involved us in the flight. We made it to the airport and back to the comfort of some cooler inside temps as we began our ride to Zimbabwe and the beautiful Victoria Falls………. Dave
will be writing the airline to complain and MJ is still mad as a hornet! The heat made her nauseated and at one point she thought she was going to faint. She was an unhappy customer and not happy with this small local airline.
We seemed to have mechanical issues on this leg of the trip. We can only laugh at this portion.
As we got to know our guide Chachos he shared that he had been a guide for six years but had only been transferred to this camp seven days ago. We were about halfway through our first bush drive when the vehicle wouldn’t start. Chachos called Shinde camp and they sent another vehicle. We sat quietly and watched a heard of elephants during the wait. The following morning drive Chachos assured us the starter on the vehicle had been repaired and off we went. Toward the end of the drive we sat watching hundreds of baboons while we waited for a new vehicle. Yes, you guessed it the starter stopped working again. We teased Chachos that we thought they were hazing him as the new guy and gave him the worst vehicle. It took a
while for us to explain what hazing meant. Day three we are off and running enjoying our ride when yep, the starter stopped starting. At this point we were beginning to lose our patience, but shrugged and waited. Our last morning, Chachos made arrangements for another vehicle. We did recommend to management that they need to keep the vehicles in top condition as these trips are not cheap. Bumpy roads
At Shinde, as we can’t speak for other camps the ground is dirt in some locations and sand in others. The sand is soft and makes for a rough, rough ride. The vehicle is rocking back and forth and up and down. At times all four of our appendages were flying in different directions and we were attempting to hang on. It would be comical to watch.
Where we stayed: Shinde Lodge , Okavango Delta, Botswana
If you missed our recent blogs or want to look at the photos again. Bird Nerds, the Big 5 & the Ugly 5... Africa! It’s About the Hunt Whale Watching and Wine Tasting in the Western Cape Kidnapped in Cape Town and other capers….
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