Archive for the ‘Botswana’ Category

Mashatu Game Reserve

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

mike playing guitar in our safari tent

One last game drive, we thought when we booked at Mashatu Game Reserve, located right on the border of Botswana and South Africa. We’ve become very attached to seeing the animals, and already feel the loss of thinking this might be our last safari. We spent two nights in a safari tent, and had some beautiful game drives.

our first kill by an african wild cat
And we saw our first “kill”…an African wild cat crunching on a large insect.

our second kill, the lilac breasted roller with a armoured grasshopper
and our second “kill”…a lilac breasted roller bashing an armoured grasshopper into a tree branch.

hyenas eating a dead giraffe
and a group of hyenas eating a four day dead giraffe.

I should have been a mechanic…

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

then again, it’s a good thing I’m not.  We returned from the Okavango Delta to Kasane where we left our car, to find the tube that brings the gas to the engine (or where ever it needs to go) has a hole in it. Mike and I decide we think we can fix it ourselves, but end up making it much worse than it was before–to the point where you can see our trail of gas as we drive. We are told the nearest mechanic is 10km away, but there is no way we can make it there with the amount of fuel we are leaking. There is a discount auto parts store in Kasane where we head to see if anyone can help us.

One of the employees, gets under the car, and “wraps” the tube using a plastic bag. It looks like it will work, but when we start the engine, fuel pours out of the tube. Then a few other guys go under the car to try another method…Meanwhile, I see these two people at the gas station next door, and I realize we just saw them at the internet cafe. They are driving a huge overland truck, and I run over to ask for some help.

getting a tow to the mechanicIt turns out Peter and Tessa (a father & daughter from the Netherlands) are touring Africa for 6 months in a converted army truck, now their mobile home. I asked if they were heading toward Kazangula, but they are heading for the Namibian border in the opposite direction. I tell them what’s wrong with the car, and that I was hoping he could give us a tow, and very matter of factly with his Dutch accent, he said, “I vill take you”.

Peter explained that they had slept in their “home” for 70 days, as many of the countries they drove through did not have any accommodations. Our adventures pale in comparison to the things that happened to Peter and Tessa. They have been woken up in the middle of the night surrounded by an army with machine guns; they went through 21 checkpoints just driving through Nigeria, they have been stuck crossing bridges, etc. They are also keeping a blog, unfortunately it is written in Dutch. But take a look at their overland route– talk about adventurous!

They towed us out to the garage, and 3 hours later we had a new fuel hose installed. I’m hoping that will be last of the car problems.  Actually, the truck has been great, except for this one isolated problem.  If the first mechanic in Komatipoort in South Africa did their job, than none of these other problems would have happened…

what’s it like to go on safari?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

sunrise in the Okavango delta-2

First of all, don’t waste your time doing a self-drive safari unless you have a good idea of where to go and when. Mike and I spent 3 days at Kruger, and only saw lots of animals when we were with a guide. The guides also keep in radio contact with each other, so if something interesting is happening they will be alerted about it. Not to mention its just more fun to have someone drive you around, and give you animal trivia you’ll probably never use.

Typically a safari lodge will have two game drives per day. The first one usually means you have to wake up insanely early, even though its supposed to be a “vacation”. At Kruger NP the game drives depart at 3:45am. But in the Okavanga Delta, our wake up call was at 5:30am–I guess the animals “sleep in” in Botswana compared to their South African counterparts.

Anyways at 5:30, the sun is just breaking and beginning to warm up the day. Amazingly, the temperature is nice and cool in the morning (about 60′), but by mid-morning it can be pretty hot and steamy. The early morning is my favorite because the light from the sun seems to be hitting everything just right–the trees have a nice warm tone, you can see the dew on the tall grass, it isn’t raging hot yet, and the birds are singing in the morning.

After a quick breakfast, we head out in the Land Cruiser where the fresh air and smells of Africa hit you full in the face–the mustiness of grass, the sweetness of wild sage, and the smell of animals (and their dung). As you drive, there are pockets of warm air, mixed with cool breezes. It’s really something else. The time passes quickly even though the game drives can run from 2.5 hours- 4 hours. If you are on a safari at a national park, the vehicle will stay on the tar and dirt roads, which limits your access to the animals– you will only see the animals up close when they are near the road. On the other hand, if you are on a game reserve or a private concession the guides will likely drive off the road in order to track the animals, which makes for a much more exciting time.

close up of leopardOnce you return from the morning game drive, there’s usually brunch followed by a few hours to rest (or hang out by the pool) before the evening game drive which begins around 4:30pm. There have been game drives where we’ve seen very little in 3 hours, maybe impala or zebra. And on the other hand, there are times where it’s just one exciting find after another. Like our last morning in the Okavango Delta, we were going on a short game drive before catching our flight.  We weren’t expecting to see much, but we ended up finally seing a leopard. I thought we were tracking a lion, until I realized our guide was looking up in a tree. We sat with the leopard for 1.5hours, just hoping she would come down from the tree.

**note: the only thing that can make a game drive long and tiring, is if you have a group of bird lovers in the car with you.  Stopping for every bird, discussing their coloring (usually brown with white),  where they migrate, what they eat.  Most of the time the bird is so far out in the distance that I can barely even see anything…

Nada in Nata

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

So after getting the car fixed–again. Without knowing what to expect from the Makgadikgadi salt pans, we headed south to see what the fuss was about. The Makgadikgadi starts at Nata and extends westward. We arrived at the Nata Lodge and signed up for an evening drive, but felt a little suspicious that it only cost 10 dollars for the drive which included 3 drinks each. At the start if of our game drive, we realized we wouldn’t be seeing much when the guide said there wasn’t much to see. The big attraction to the Makgadikgadi is when the water level is low and thousands of flamingos migrate to the salt pans. Our timing for the salt pans couldn’t have been worse…all we saw was tall grass and pools of water, there wasn’t a flamingo in sight, or even any animals. (not even a photo)

Okavango Delta

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

high water levels in Okavango DeltaTaking a flight into the Delta was a wise decision. In some places the water level was riding up over the bonnet of our Land Cruiser. Once we were through the “puddle,” our guide would open his door to let the water pour out.
wild dogs with bone of baby impala We had some very exciting drives while in the Okavango Delta. One in particular was following 8 wild dogs on their hunt. We watched them as they spread out to chase after impalas, but failed on their first attempt. As they regrouped, when each member rejoined the group, they would wimper in a very high pitch which reminded Mike of “yappie dogs,” not vicious carnivores. Next as we were waiting, a group of hyenas approached, hoping to “win” a free meal. After a quick scrap between the two groups, the dogs took off. We were separated from the wild dogs for only about 5 minutes, and by the time we caught up to them, they had already made their kill, and were finishing up their impala. Photo: wild dog with leg of baby impala.

the original watering hole

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

aerial view of trails leading to watering hole
Our intention was to drive to the Okavango Delta until we found out the roads would likely be flooded in parts. And even if they aren’t flooded right now, the roads are rough and slow going. We were also told that it’s easy to get lost since there are few signs to mark the way. So with all the warnings, we took a 1.5hour charter flight, rather than days and days by 4×4. From our tiny four-seater charter plane we could see elephants, hippos and giraffe.
The photo above: you can see tons of these small watering holes as you fly overhead. Interestingly, these are first created by elephants who wallow in small puddles of mud which creates bigger puddles and eventually becomes a watering hole for not only elephants, but all animals. The little white trails leading to the watering hole are also created by elephants. From the plane you can see all of these white trails connecting one watering hole to another. It’s quite a sight.

Chobe NP

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

a cub and its pride drink at a watering hole 

We spent 3 nights in Chobe NP and took in two boat rides and 3 land safaris. By far our favorite was this morning when in the distance we could see a pride of lions lying in the road. When we reached them, they had all moved into the bush, but our guide, Moses was determined to get a better look. The lions were down at a small watering hole. When we reached them we got some great photos of them drinking from the water.

Chobe National Park

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

We left Livingstone, Zambia and took a ferry across to Botswana. From there we headed to Kasane, which is the nearest entry point into Chobe National Park. When we turned up at the gate, they asked us if we had a 4×4 as it was 7km to the lodge. We had to laugh, considering the 75km off-road we did at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. Without any difficulty we made our way to the lodge, and even took in some kudu and hippos along the way.

warthogs and baboons going about their businessUpon arriving we were shuffled onto a skimmer boat safari– looking at water monitors, baby crocodiles and miscellaneous birds in the water. We also observed chacma baboons, warthogs, elephants and impalas all enjoying the same watering hole. It was interesting to see the interaction between the animals–an elephant flapping its ears, stomping and trumpeting in response to the pesky baboons, the warthogs completely ignoring the situation, and the often-frightened impalas waiting their turn to drink from the water. A few minutes later, several families of elephants emerged from the bush to cool down from the heat of the afternoon sun.

As we continued on our way, we could see lightning in the distance. It was brilliant, and some bursts of lightning not only lit up the sky, but looked like it was bursting into fire itself. Rather than head back to the safari lodge, our guide continued on our way. The flash storm caught up to us; the rain coming down in sheets, creating waves in the once still river waters. The rocking of the boat from the wind forced us to beach the boat. Once our guide, Kelly tied down the boat, she ran up a hill and we thought she was abandoning us, but then we realized she “popped a squat” behind a bush. We all had quite a laugh about that! We waited on the boat for the rain to pass– we couldn’t drive the boat for fear of tipping, and we couldn’t walk for fear of the animals. Finally after 45 minutes, a safari vehicle showed up to rescue us. All 13 of us hopped on to the truck completely drenched and shivering. It was also kind of funny, as we all had those orange life jackets on sitting in the truck.