Sunday, 17 April 2016

African Adventure  Part 2, February 2016

……and not 10mins later we were landing at another short dirt airstrip after seeing lots of elephants, zebras and giraffes from the air.

A quick transfer to the lodge in a jeep especially designed for game drives, tour of the facilities and our rooms and it is time for brunch. Similar set up to the last one, but each camp has its own personality and unique touches; we are all excited to see what awaits us.

Now its siesta time and already I have adapted to the local way of life, but our room is so hot I opt for a swim and nap by the pool. Now that we are refreshed and relaxed it is time for afternoon tea before heading out on our next adventure. Our driver guide is Max and Sunday is to be his spotter and tracker, two locals from a small village not far up the road.

We leave the camp very excited, and head towards a large waterhole only about five minutes away.  What a great start five elephants ambling along beside the water gave us a great photo opportunity with their profiles reflecting in the water.

First sighting ticked off the list we head off again, towards the bush in the distance this time as it is time for the animals to source their evening meal. Just a short distance away we come across two juvenile giraffes craning their long necks up to reach the new growth on the lower branches. Mum was keeping a close eye on them from just a short distance away.

As we are now on a private game concession we can venture off road, and this is what we do in search of our next animal encounter. A sole elephant was soon spotted not far away. Huge in our eyes as he was so close: but only a teenager apparently. Showing traits of human teenagers and trying to show off, he was kicking the dirt with his feet, throwing dirt in the air with his trunk, showing displeasure at being watched he started towards the rear of our vehicle. Then he quickly ran straight for us, Max just as quickly threw the jeep into reverse and showed his domination, the elephant then took off in another direction. You can just imagine six Australian women, scared by a male elephant, saved by an African male, thrilled to be in the wilds of Botswana. It was many many minutes before our heart rates returned to anywhere within an acceptable range, we were laughing and joking, but the more we talked about it the closer and faster the elephant charged, bit like a  fishing story really.

What else can top that? News that cheetahs were sighted the day before, in the near vicinity. Being in a jeep means we can cover so much more ground, we are following a dirt road when Sunday spots some fresh lion tracks. Quite large and indicating he was walking along at pace,we are hopeful of spotting him. We weren’t to be disappointed; a large male was lying in the middle of the road resting, breathing heavily. Another pair of lions had been sighted nearby (which is who our first lion was looking for). We head off and soon see another male and female pair. It is Valentine’s Day and they were definitely on date night. After getting some very close up photos we leave them to their privacy and start heading back to the lodge. We had come a lot further away from the camp than expected, so we stop for Sundowners overlooking a waterhole, before continuing on the dark. Sunday was amazing with his spotlight, finding a Serval which being nocturnal is very rarely seen.

Another wonderful meal awaits us on our return. Just before we return to our tents we are treated to a lightening show from the main deck, but once again the rain doesn’t fall. We are escorted back to our tents as the danger of wild animals is real. A quick shower in our outdoor bathroom and then it is time for bed. I am exhausted, so I fall into the very comfortable bed anticipating a wonderful sleep. About 4am this was interrupted by loud noises outside our tent. It truly felt like they would be coming in the front door next but the noises started to fade in the distance. I doze off again and the next sounds we hear is our coffee being delivered by the staff. On our way to the dining room we see the evidence of our visitors last night, hippos had sprayed across the pathway marking their area.

A quick breakfast and once again we set off, a little further south this time as this is where Max thought the cheetahs may have been headed. It was also in the direction of the river where we would ride the mokoros upstream. Some hippos lazing in the water were nearby, and then we saw some hyenas. We were following these through the scrub when then changed direction and picked up the speed. They were being chased by a Warthog family, Mum, and Dad and their young ones. Quite a sight, I feel like we are on the set of The Lion King.

We had only just alighted from the jeep and set off in the mokoros when we were asked by our polers if it was alright to return to our starting point. A little confused we agree, Max is waiting for us very excited as he has found the cheetahs. We set off as fast as the rough roads will allow and this time we are rewarded with a mother and her two cubs about a year old. They are seeking shade to rest from the heat of the day after a morning feed. So amazing to watch and again we got so close to them without invading their personal space

Back to the mokoros for a ride up river, morning tea on a small island before heading back. Very peaceful; but informative at the same time. Did you know some fish build nests in which to lay their eggs? It true, we saw many of them. The birdlife here was also amazing.

A short ride back to camp in the jeep and it was time for brunch and siesta. A swim and relax by the pool before an afternoon nap, I could really get used to this. A quick afternoon tea and we head off in the opposite direction towards a large wide stream.

A large crocodile is basking on the bank and ever so slowly slinks into the water as we approach.  Then we come across a large pod of hippos. Little did we suspect at this stage that this drive should have come with an X- rating as we were captivated by the male hippo and his harem. The females exhibit all the signs they are ready, the males then take their pick. Again we dissolve into fits of giggles with all the commentary from the front seat. Recovering from that, we continue on and come across a large family of baboons. The males of this species obviously had the same idea as the hippos but instead of trying to drown the females, they would chase them up the tree. When the girls were at the end of the branch, the boys would bounce up and down trying to shake them off. When the females dropped to the ground the chase would be on again. So glad we don’t have that ritual.

Sundowners tonight were beside another waterhole where we saw an otter. The drive back to camp in the dark was once again well rewarded by Sundays tracking and sense of direction (aided by a radio call from another group) we came across two wild dogs that had just killed an impala. Apparently wild dogs are one of the rarest sightings on safari in the Delta so we were very lucky.

A three course meal with lamb roast as the main was well received by all as we had burned so much energy laughing.  

We opted for one more early morning drive, sadly no new animals were sighted but we did stop for coffee right beside a waterhole that was home to about 15 crocodiles of varying sizes.

Sadly this is where we say goodbye to Max and Sunday who have been wonderful guide’s with great knowledge to share and great sense of humour. Our next flight is for 1hr 30mins, a little nervous about this ride in such a small plane but I am armed with Travelcalm and ginger beer……… 
This is the link to the photos taken on this part of the trip