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About soleson

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  1. My story is fairly similar. Two years ago we were just finishing up a several hour canoe trip on the Zambezi in Mana Pools. Our guide was really careful to avoid spots with hippos but apparently one with a calf was underwater. We were attacked from beneath without any warning. We had two canoes. The one with my daughter and son took the brunt of the attack with mama hippo taking a large bite out of the canoe which quickly began to sink. The guide on that canoe was thrown into the water and was panicking. We managed to grab hold of the other canoe and get to shallow water while the guide swam for it. Luckily the mama hippo only took one swipe at us. Needless to say my daughter (her first safari) was pretty shaken and is no longer a fan of hippos. How my son managed to keep the expensive camera equipment he was carrying out of the water is still amazing to me. According to the guide that had been on the river for 25 years, this was only his third attack he had seen. So I wouldn't hesitate to go on a canoe ride again but not going to happen for my daughter.
  2. @amybatt As others have mentioned, I am sure you will love SLNP. I am not one that normally returns to the same place often, but SLNP will definitely be one place I return to. I spent about a week there in August 2013 and stayed at Flatdogs. I did combine the visit with some time in Chobe/Vic Falls but I would concur with your decision to focus only on one area per trip. While the ProFlight connections in/out of Livingstone to Mfuwe were not bad, we still had to miss one game drive and it was a bit tiring moving around between parks (and fairly expensive too). Next time I will spend a minimum of 10 days in SNLP. The leopard sightings were second to none. While we didn't have a great number of lion sightings, the ones we did were really good. Spent several hours with one pride by ourselves given no one else was around. Not sure you can match the lion sightings of the Mara, but it was still pretty good. One option to consider if you enjoy photography is to join in on one of the photo safaris from Ed Selfe ( We were fortunate enough to have Ed be our guide for 4 days as we had requested a guide with photography experience. He has been in the area for many years. I believe his photo safaris usually combine 2 different lodges so you can spend time in different areas of the park. Just a thought...
  3. @@PCNW Absolutely amazing pics. Your composition skills are second to none. I am reading this with great interest as my plans for 2018 safaris had Phinda and Sabi Sabi at or near the top of my list. Any thoughts on why the game viewing at Phinda was sub-par? Time of year? Poor guide? Or just plain bad luck? Any thoughts are appreciated. Again, very nice work on the photography!!!
  4. I did the Southern Africa (Zambia) and East Africa (Kenya) in the same trip a few years ago for some of the same reasons you mention (in my case I knew my son wouldn't be able to return for a long time). I have also done just Tanzania, just Botswana, and combination of South Africa and Zimbabwe. I love safaris, but after the 17 days in Zambia and Kenya, I was a bit worn out due primarily to the travel between Joburg - Vic Falls - South Luangwa - Joburg - Nairobi. Like others, I would recommend picking either East Africa or Southern Africa and taking it a little slower. Just the cost of traveling between Vic Falls - Mana Pools - Harare - Kenya would likely pay for airfare for second trip from the US to Africa. You can't go wrong with a 1) Kenya/Tanzania safari trip with an add on to Rwanda or 2) a Zimbabwe (Mana Pools/Hwange/Vic Falls) safari with maybe an add on of the nearby Chobe riverfront. As you have probably seen from this site, you will be addicted and want to go back sooner than you realize anyway... Personally, for a first safari I would probably do East Africa but like I said you can't go wrong either way.
  5. Sorry to hijack this tread but a friend just proposed doing a 12 day self-drive out of Maun to Moremi, Savuti, and down through Chobe to Kasane. This would be for late May through early June next year. The friend is South African (lives in the States now) and done similar drives previously. Based on the above, it looks like Savuti may not be the best option with the river dry now. Any alternative suggestions on a reasonable 10-12 day itinerary. I would love to find wild dogs but maybe that is expecting too much... I have never done a self-drive during my previous several safaris so this would be a new experience for me.
  6. Yes, that was the guide that was thrown. He seemed pretty shaken. I think he didn't know if the hippo was going to take a second shot or that the crocs in the area were going to come. It was his first attack. The other guide had done canoe trips for 25 years so he had been attacked 3 times before. It all ended well and we all laughed about it later but it definitely was and experience to remember but not repeat.
  7. Part IV - Mana Pools The final portion of the trip was in Mana Pools for 4 days. I had not really considered Mana Pools much prior to reading ST trip reports over the past few years. But we decided to go for it since we had to fly out of Harare anyway. We took a flight from Hwange airstrip directly to Mana Pools mid-day so we were able to to our final game drive in Hwang and still make the evening drive in Mana Pools. As mentioned in my introduction, we decided to stay with African Bush Camps Zambezi Lifestyles camp mainly to be near the river for canoeing and to increase the chance of finding some wild dogs in May. Overall impressions of Mana Pools is positive. I really like the feel of the place and the remoteness. Obviously in May the game are more spread out since there is still water throughout the park but we still got to see our share of wildlife. We took a few short walks which was a change in plans from the original plan to take some longer walks. My daughter had broken her ankle pretty badly a few months prior to the trip so we had to cut back on the walking compared to the original plan. The camp and tents were nice but not nearly as nice as the ones in Somalisa so it took my wife some time to get used to the bucket showers and few more bugs. A few of my wishes for the trip were to see honey badgers, pangolins, and wild dogs. None of which I had seen on previous safaris. We did find 2 of the three with pangolins still missing. Still it was nice to see a few dogs and spend some time with them before they took off to catch up with the rest of the pack that had headed into the bush. A final story... I had always heard that hippos were some of the most dangerous animals in Africa so when to did the canoe trip one afternoon on the river, the guide and us did everything we could do to avoid any known hippos areas and took a wide course around them. We even would make some noise with the paddles on the canoe to alert any we were in the area. Unfortunately, near the end and despite the extreme care the guides and us took, we experienced an a hippo attack. We believe it was a mother protecting a baby but anyway it came up right in the middle of the canoe my daughter and son were in and took a large bite out of that canoe as well as damaging ours. The attack threw the guide in the back of that canoe into the water several feet from the canoe. Luckily we were fairly near the shore and were able to paddle there before the canoe completely sank. The guide was able to swim to the shore also. Needless to say, my daughter is no longer a fan of hippos. I guess it could have been worse and the guides did everything right, just sometimes things happen. Still overall a very nice stay in Mana which the elephants feeding from the trees (No Boswell though), and just the remote feeling of being away from everything. I will definitely go back but probably in August next time and will make walking more a priority. Below are some of the photos from Mana Pools.
  8. @@bluebird I'm not an expert at any means but I did visit South Luangwa in August two years ago and just returned from Hwange/Mana Pools in Zimbabwe a few months ago. Both are wonderful for the "wild" experience you are looking for. South Luangwa was simply magical but I would avoid the area around the Mfuwe gate which seemed to get pretty busy that time of year. There are a lot of nice camps there including the ones mentioned by @@marg. I was going to go back this year to South Luangwa but opted for Mana Pools and Hwange instead. In South Luangwa, we used a guide that worked for Flatdogs or Lion Camp back then but he also works independently. He is British but lived in Zambia for a number of years. I really enjoyed his guiding because he is also a photographer and knew exactly where to position us for the "best" shots. His website is if you want to look him up. I also loved Mana Pools and Hwange but given it over again I would wait until a little later in the season (August/Sept like you are planning) and if I could afford it use a private guide like mentioned by ld1 above, I certainly would. While we ended up with a vehicle all by ourselves they tended to want to stick to a set schedule which sometimes meant leaving a sighting sooner than I would have liked. Again, there are some nice camps. AfricanBushCamps (ABC) has a couple of nice camps in Mana and Hwange that we enjoyed. That time of year, the ABC camp in Kanga might be ideal as the wildlife comes to you. We stayed on the banks of the Zambezi at the ABC Lifesytles camp because we wanted the option of canoeing. As for Botswana, I have heard nothing but good things but personally only visited Chobe which I enjoyed for the combination of game drives and river boat safaris which gave a different experience/angle. Based on my own trip planning, I would say Botswana will definitely be more expensive that time of year than the other two parks for similar type camps but your budget seems reasonable for either or a combination of the options. Be careful though, once you have been to Africa, you will want to go back often. For me it was a "once in a lifetime" trip which has nwt been 4 safaris with another one in the planning stages. I seem to tell my self when I am done that I have had my "fix" for a few years but then within weeks or months start planning again. Best of luck!!
  9. @@SafariChick - We went with an outfit called Kalahari Safaris. Since the camping is done within the Chobe itself, they move the camp every week or two. We left Kasane right after lunch and drove pretty much straight along the river arriving around sunset at the camp (maybe 7 hr game drive). So it was definitely in the Chobe river front area but a lot further in than the normal game drives around Kasane. Hope that helps.
  10. Part III - Hwange The last week was spent in Zimbabwe. The first stop was Hwange. After the 4+ hr transfer from Vic Falls, we settled in and immediately went on our first game drive. Again, we had the vehicle to just the four of us so we took our time seeing what we wanted. Since we had seen a lot of cats previously, we concentrated more on other game. We stayed at the newly refurbished Somalisa Camp run by African Bush Camps. It was probably the nicest camp we stayed at on the trip. My wife didn't want to leave. Hwange was magical even being there in May without the more concentrated game around the watering holes. There was a group of five large bull elephants that would walk through the camp on the regular basis. Sinc A few pictures of the camp, then some of the local wildlife.
  11. Part II - Chobe/Victoria Falls After South Africa we flew to Vic Falls for the family to visit the falls and 2 days in Chobe. The falls were not nearly as full as I remembered from my last visit in May several years ago. While waiting to for the Zimbabwe part of the trip to start, we also visited a few places around Livingstone including Mosi oa Tunya. The kids really wanted to ride elephants and see some cats up close. I am generally not a big fan of the "walk with lions" type thing, we decided to go and see what it was like. The story by the place we visited about rescuing baby cheetahs and lions what would have died otherwise and their plans to release them later back into the wild, sounds good on the surface but I'm still unsure. Anyway, it afforded a chance to take a few pictures that in the "wild" would have been near impossible without a lot of luck. The trip into Chobe for a night camping by river was arranged to give everyone a different perspective than the nicer lodges/camps we stayed at otherwise. Interestingly, it also provided some of the best game viewing we had on the trip which was unexpected as I hadn't had that sort of luck in the same area during my 2 prior visits.
  12. Greater Kruger - South Africa- The Rest: Sorry for the delay in continuing my trip report. Seems I am expected to work at work. Go figure... I previously provided some pictures of the Cats in the area. While the leopards were certainly a treat, we also were able to spend some considerable time with other game. We fortunate enough to see all the big 5 several times, including both black and white rhino, but also came across a honey badger and other sometimes difficult to find game. The lodge has a man made waterhole which attracted many visitors.
  13. Thank you all for the kind replies. @@martywilddog, we stayed at Serondella Lodge in Thornybush. It has a larger family suite that worked well for us.
  14. Greater Kruger - South Africa- The Cats: The first stop was at Thornybush in the Greater Kruger area. The travel agent we were using highly recommended it so we thought we would give it a try. If it was just me and my wife, we probably would have tried Sabi Sands but with 4 persons the cost was reasonable and they did a great job. As I mentioned in the introduction, with the time of the year, we were by ourselves in a vehicle so we could take as long or as short of time as we wanted at any given sighting. The tracker really liked leopards so that was our first order of business. In the three days there we had 8 separate leopard sightings including one where we came across a pair of leopards mating. The reserve has several prides of lions. The first night and the next morning we spent some time with lioness, her one year old, and a new cub. Sad thing is the day before, there were 3 cubs but the night before we saw them, a leopard got two of them. Overnight the lioness had taken down a fairly large kudu which they were working on when we found them. On day 2 and 3 we spent more time with the largest male and his friends in the area:
  15. I have enjoyed reading the trip reports of others here on Safaritalk so much, I would feel guilty if I didn’t provide a trip report for my latest visit to Africa. Since it is my first such report, hopefully it will work out okay. A little background on why I chose these destinations. I have previously been to Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia, and the Chobe riverfront area of Botswana. My son was finishing up some missionary work in Zimbabwe so we timed our visit to coincide with completion in May. I decided to also include my daughter and my wife so there were four of us. Given my daughter had never been to Africa, I wanted to ensure she had a high likelihood of seeing the Big 5 as well as many others. I also want to give everyone a variation of different types of safari experiences such as walking, boat, safari truck, etc. as well as different types of lodging (lodge, tents, and camping). For these reasons I decided on the following: · 4 Days in the greater Kruger area - Lodge · 3 Days in Victoria Falls – Bed and breakfast · 2 Days in Chobe – Overnight Camping · 3 Days in Hwange – Somalisa Camp · 3 Days in Mana Pools – Zambezi Lifesytles I normally prefer to spend more time at one place and forgo the travel between camps, but decided this was the best way to cover as much as I could given the time and $$$ constraints. One good thing was by going in May which was not very busy, we essentially had a private vehicle for all game drives except in Botswana where we were paired with a few other people. Initial thoughts on the different areas - - Greater Kruger area is great for a first time safari where you want to be sure to check off the boxes, however, coming across power lines, etc. was a bit of a downside. Guides were terrific and they use a driver and a spotter which helped find game more easily. - Victoria Falls is a must see but since this was my 3rd time, I will skip it going forward. - Botswana (Chobe) was again a repeat but this time we went further into the park from Kasane for the overnight camp. I didn't expect much, but the game drive on the way in was the most game filled of all the areas. We stopped counting at 300+ elephants (including the largest elephant by far I have ever seen that walked litteraly just 10 feet from us), 100+ giraffes (my wife's favorite), 25 lions in 5 or 6 separate sightings, honey badger, and much more. Definitely want to go back further into Chobe, Savuti, Moremi, and the Delta next time. - Hwange was a mixed bag. Probably due to the time of year. Not great game concentrations in May around the watering holes since there natural ones around the park still had water. The refurbished Somilisa Camp was amazing. My wife did not want to leave. On the good side we did see some of Cecil's offspring and also had a cheetah kill right in front of the camp main tent. Literally watched it from the pool deck. - Mana Pools was also a mixed bag for me. I really loved the scenery and pure "wildness" of the park but next time I will visit later in the year when the game concentrates more around the river and the four pools. We did find some wild dogs which was the highlight of my trip since I had been unsuccessful seeing them before. Oh, and getting attacked by a hippo while canoeing on the Zambezi we will definitely not forget. Luckily it turned out well for us (not necessary the canoe though) but my daughter is no longer a fan of hippos... We took with us Canon 5D III and Canon 7D II for cameras along with the 24-70 2.8 II, 70-200 2.8 II, and 100-400 II lenses. Also, had the 1.4x and 2.0 extenders. In the end, we took over 10,000 pictures which I have taken over a month to narrow down to the best few hundred. I will start with some of my favorites and then move on to a location by location report in follow up posts (since I didn’t keep good enough notes to go day by day). We came across this leopard resting in the evening. It seemed so peaceful and didn't even acknowledge we were nearby... Next we moved on to the Rhino. While we did spot a black rhino from the distance one morning, we moved on and came across a pair of white rhinos. This trip did include a few species that I had not seen in the wild before including this Nyala and two sightings of honey badgers (heavily cropped). I also have a tender spot for the younger animals... More to come later...

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