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Found 28 results

  1. I am new to this forum but a friend (a regular on this forum and others were we "met" before) suggested I post here. Here we go: My friend had to cancel because of her work commitments and I would like to try and find someone to share the coming experience with. Dates are mid-April for 3 weeks (not flexible as everything is booked). Flying in and out of Namibia and into the park through Mata-Mata. Itinerary includes all the very best camps (Urikaruus, Grootkolk, KTC, Nossob, etc) as well as 6 nights in Mabua area in Botswana. I am a 57 years old Male looking for a female partner (one can read a lot into this statement but really more a question of the chance to get along and clashing male egos). I'm from the US, currently residing in Europe. I have years experience of traveling in Africa including previous trips to KTP. Contact me if interested via PM and I will gladly provide more information.
  2. Trip Report: Namibian Splendour So it has been a full 4 years since I last set foot on African soil, and not a day has passed since that I haven’t thought about my time there. I made returning to Africa a priority, and finally, back in July, I was able to return. Having visited South Africa and the Victoria Falls region back in 2013, I wanted an even “deeper” African experience this time, so I visited the Kalahari region of South Africa and Namibia in hopes of going even further off the beaten path. Again with this trip, the focus was on time in the bush. My itinerary was for 16 days, and we were starting in South Africa. There would be 3 days/4 nights in the Kalahari (at Tswalu) and the remainder of the time was in Namibia. I had been interested in going to Tswalu for many years, in hopes of having a good chance to see a pangolin (among other rare sightings). We flew into Johannesburg from U.S. and Tswalu is accessible via private air charter directly into the Kalahari airstrip. It was clear upon our arrival that Tswalu catered to an upscale audience, the lodge was a traditional BOMA bush camp style structure, but composed of high end elemental affects such as crafted natural stone and timbers. We stayed in the lower end “Motse Suite” but it was uncommonly large, complete with bath, patio and personal refrigerator. The weather was absolutely perfect for our first game drive with crisp and refreshing air, a pleasing arid clarity of a mild Kalahari winter. The first drive was outstanding, we had a few “first native sightings” in the wild, including: Gemsbok (Oryx), red Hartebeest, and ostrich. We even got a tantalizing glimpse of a young male black rhino in some thick bush, but he was not having it and quickly dashed deeper into the impenetrable thicket. The best, “first” sighting occurred near the close of the day, when we spotted a lone male cheetah walking alongside the road near a main barrier fence of the reserve. He was clearly seeking something in the area, and our guide, Sian, told us that he was known as one of a bachelor pair in the territory, so he could have been seeking his sibling. Our second day brought even more wonderful sightings including: black backed jackal (BBJ), some springbok, a young giraffe and its mom and several more ostrich. I found the ostrich quite amusing because they always seemed in a hurry, flying through the bush to who knows where. Their posture and gait was quite comical to me, and I smiled a little whenever one would fly out of the bush, racing into any direction that wasn’t ours. Then there was the steenbok, which we had seen before in the Kruger area, and the Kalahari sightings were almost always the same: a brief moment of pause, then a quick direct stare at you and then off like a rocket into the bush. Our wonderful tracker, Ben, repeatedly demonstrated his fantastic tracking skills, spotting pangolin tracks and porcupine tracks among others. During our game drives, I was struck by the diversity of terrain at Tswalu, as it could quickly turn from mountain to semi-desert, to thick bush and then to clearings with open expanses, grassy fields mixed with rocky terrain and hazy blue mountains off on the horizon. Throughout the open areas, numerous animals could be spotted either lying down or traversing and grazing about. There were springboks, Oryx, trotting ostriches, and wildebeests in relative abundance. Other sightings of the day included a small meerkat colony, cory bustard (the largest flying bird in Africa), numerous giraffe, eland and common zebra. On our evening drive, soon after our departure from the lodge, off to the left of the road was a large lizard basking in the afternoon rays, it was a rock monitor! I had not expected to see many, if any reptiles in the winter, but it looks like we were fortunate. Sian explained that this reptile was a relative to the Komodo Dragon, and it certainly looked as much. Evidently, this lizard also possesses poisonous bites similar to the Komodo. We followed Sian off the vehicle, on foot to get a closer look. We took a few minutes to snap some pictures and just enjoy the moment of spotting this great reptile. Continuing on, we spotted a mongoose, red-crested korhaan, a beautiful tower grouping of giraffe, some bat-eared foxes pouncing and foraging in the grass, more steenbok (complete with trademark pausing direct gaze followed by jet propulsion into the bush), red hardebeest and gemsbok (Oryx). The highlight of our evening’s sightings was at the Wild Dog den, just as the sun was setting. Sian intently ended the evening there, to witness their sundown hunting rituals….which is when they evidently go out to hunt, just as the sun sets. Although we could not see them, we were told there were a litter of pups in the underground den. We enjoyed sitting in this tightly shrouded enclave of bush, watching the dogs frolic, wrestle and grapple as part of their evening hunt rituals. After some time, just before full sunset, we followed the pack into the thick bush to view their hunt…only to lose them eventually in the darkness and thickness of the brush. Sian talked to us about the species current threats, which I was mostly aware, and how the reserve had completely lost their previous pack, unfortunately, to canine distemper. It was an honour and another full privilege to have seen these fantastic animals in their natural surroundings. Our last full day on lodge, would turn out to be a full 12 hours out in the bush. I think by the end of the day, Sian and Ben may have regretted the suggestion to stay out all day, but it would be a truly spectacular and memorable African day for us, filled with magical wildlife moments. Armed with Ben’s superior tracking skills and Sian’s sharp eyesight, we started out on the lion side of the reserve in search of the famed Kalahari black maned lions. Note: the reserve is divided into a lion side habitat and a non-lion side for the protection of some of the more highly endangered prey species (such as the Tsessebe). Along the way into the interior of this portion of the reserve, we spotted common zebra, and another small meerkat colony. Ben got tracking and we could sense we were close…around a curve and high up on a hill, Crystal (my wife) first spotted the majestic male perched on view on a high embankment, casually surveying his territory. Sian stopped the vehicle, as we took some time to capture a few images. Sian then moved the vehicle up and around to get a more level view of the lion. When we came around, a second male was seen nearby standing on another part of the hill. We spent some time with this magnificent pair, following them as they moved about the area, sometimes stopping to rest in the grass. They were beautifully intimidating, visibly larger than the typical African lion, looking healthy and well fed, as you would expect from two 8 year old dominant males…in their prime. Moving on, we drove on to a nice sandy and high vegetation area where we spotted more zebra grazing with eland. We arrived to what we were told was one of the most remote areas of the reserve, in order to have our packed lunch. As we were stopped in a clearing that was, in wetter seasons, a watering hole…we saw several Harteman’s mountain zebra up on the rocky hillside nearby. We had a fantastic gourmet bush lunch and continued on our way, to yet a different area of the reserve. Ben caught sight of some lion pride tracks, and this was to consume our next 1-2 hours, driving off road through thick brush and nearly unpassable terrain. At a couple of points, I thought of suggesting that we abandon the tracking, but it was clear that Ben was certain we were close. True to the maxim: “never, ever give up”….our perseverance paid off as Ben spotted the young lions hiding deep in the thicket, lying down. There were at least four of them, all looking healthy, relaxed and well fed. We spent some time talking about the pride and enjoying the company of lions before we carried on. Driving on, we spotted a herd of kudu and a sable before we got radio notice that a bachelor coalition of cheetahs had been seen nearby. Sian drove us over to the area, and another ranger had been tracking the cheetah on foot alongside a high ridge thick with brush. After some brief off-roading and radio communication, we saw 2 of the males lying down in the bush, nearly hidden from sight. We approached closer in the vehicle, and the cheetah seemed quite accustomed to 4 wheeled visitors, but they were very aware of our presence, taking the time to occasionally stare back in our direction. After a brief time, they started moving to our left through the brush and shortly thereafter we saw all 4 coalition males in front of us neatly spread out in the brush, all seated and looking in the same direction. It was a truly beautiful sighting. We then moved on for a visit to one of the largest resident meerkat colonies on the reserve. Evidently, conservationists had been working to condition the meerkat to tolerate human visitors over time, so that Tswalu visitors could walk amongst the colony as a native. It was a very fascinating, amusing and informative visit amongst these little animals, which were somewhat paradoxically both adorable and vicious. We saw them foraging about the ground, sometimes locked in heated battles with one another over an ostensibly empty hole in the ground! (see photo below). I was particularly drawn to the sentinel, perched high in a nearby tree as he scanned the horizon in 360 degrees for any sign of predators from above or on the ground. As Sian remarked, ‘you have to take your job seriously because it could mean the death of one of your mates and it would be on your head’. As we continued on, the day was waning but Sian and Ben made a last effort to find a pangolin before we headed back to camp. We went to an area where Ben knew there to be a resident pangolin and he hopped off the vehicle to track it on foot while we drove around the area. After about 1.5 hours, and several radio attempts to reach Ben, we met up with him and he informed us he was hot on the trail of a pangolin. With indications of fresh tracks, Ben had, amazingly tracked the pangolin down to its home, which was a basketball sized hole in the ground at the top of a ridge behind some large rocky terrain. We followed Ben quietly on foot to the location, where we hoped to have a glimpse of this magnificent animal as it came out in search for its evening supper. We watched the hole quietly for some time with no signs of activity, Sian and Ben informed us that the pangolin may not come out at all. We eventually decided to carry on, but I snapped a quick photo in the dark of the animal’s home. Even though I had high aspirations of making this rare sighting, one of my personal favourite animals, it was actually very thrilling to see its home. I had come so close to this truly special animal which was burrowed before us in the ground. For our last morning game drive at Tswalu, we drove to a yet un-explored (at least for us) part of the reserve. After a couple of hours, we unexpectedly came upon one of the large black maned Kalahari lions taking a rest in the grass just beside the road. Sian stopped the vehicle so we could get a closer look. Ben jumped off the front into the tall grass to get into the high back of the vehicle. When he jumped off he quickly jockeyed his gait and leapt onto the vehicle, nearly stepping on the second large male lion that was lying just in the tall grass! Sian and Ben had a good laugh and some light hearted exchange in Afrikaans, but it was a close call to nearly step on a lion! We sat, basking quietly in the morning sunlight, taking more photos of these great cats at close range. Both males had risen to a seated position, one on either side of the vehicle, when Sian instructed us to be quiet. Imperceptible to us, a rival male had made a call off in the distance. The two massive males started to respond in kind and it was one of the most awesome experiences one could imagine, awesome in the true meaning of the word. The sheer power of these thunderous roars were deafening, with vibrations that you felt running through your chest, as if you were at the loudest concert with the deepest bass. The experience was in “stereo” with one giant Kalahari male on either side of us. The seats of the vehicle were actually vibrating from the roars. It left me with an immense, profound respect for the outright power of these animals and reinforced in my mind why they are known as the king of beasts, a title that is well deserved. Even our guides were speechless for some time afterwards and it was clear that we had shared a truly beautiful and unforgettable moment in time. After the “roaring lion” encounter, a guide radioed out that the local pride contingent was at a nearby watering hole taking a morning drink, so we headed over in time to see the matriarch and numerous young cubs hanging out, drinking and relaxing under brush. It was another great close encounter with the counterpart members of the lion family, and we could see that the adult female still had fresh remains of pink from the blood of the previous night’s kill. If you look closely on the photo of her below, you can see the pink on her jaw and a spot of red near her shoulder. On Namibian Soil: After our wonderful time in the Kalahari, we made our journey into Namibia. It became quickly apparent that transportation between the remote camps of the Namibian wilderness could be tumultuous, with light air charter flights serving as the most expeditious transport. If the winds are kind, the flights are decent, but note that it can be turbulent and not for the squeamish. Our first camp in Namibia was the Kulala Desert Camp near the Soussevlei Sand Dunes . When we arrived on camp, with our new guide Matheus, I was struck how much the lodge reminded me of the first camp we stayed in Africa back in 2013, the Nkambeni Camp near Numbi entrance at Kruger. We settled in and enjoyed a brief, relaxing afternoon break before our evening game drive. The evening’s drive was a casual, informative drive around the reserve as Matheus explained the foliage, geology and geography and fauna of the area. We learned about the soussala bush that shielded springbok and gemsbok from sandstorms. We learned about the mara bush and the bitter bush (which was the semi-pleasant grassy smell I had recognized from the Kalahari grasslands at Tswalu). The mara bush, evidently, when rubbed on your skin will protect you from mosquitos for up to 4 hours. We saw fairy circles, which I had recognized from David Attenborough specials, which naturally form on the ground and which nothing will grow from within the circle. It is still not fully understood what causes this phenomenon. You can see some of these fairy circles in the picture below, just above my watermark signature in the lower right. Our second day was focused on hiking the sand dunes….and we hiked the highest one, knows as “big daddy”. We drove ~40km to the highest sand dunes in the world: Soussevlei. This is a surreal, striking and alien landscape with sand dunes as high as mountains. The geographic shadows and light over the dunes changes with the angle of the sunlight and the surrounding flat desert terrain is littered with ancient dead acacia trees (known as the skeleton forests). The atmosphere is other worldly here, and time space seems less defined. Days in Namibia, as I would come to find, are better defined as simply “light and dark” rather than by clock. Experiences stack one upon another, and you can hardly believe the asphalt covered world of urban dissonance from which most of us tourists came could exist on the same planet as this. The views from the highest vantage point were breathtaking. At the bottom of big daddy, there is a silt basin with the ancient dead trees seen in the photos above. After the big daddy summit, when we stopped for a mid-day break nearby, an uber-polite young British boy pointed out to us that there was a spotted eagle owl resting in a nearby tree. I took the opportunity to check it out and got a nice, close view of this fantastic predatory bird. I was grateful for the tip, as I had previously only seen them in darkness during the night’s hunt. Our evening drive was out to the Sesriem canyon area, which we were told was ~300 m deep. The area is notorious for horned vipers (adders) which are often blown down into the canyon by the strong desert winds coming off the nearby Naukluft Mountains. As we hiked through the picturesque and rough terrain of the canyon, our guide looked out for horned adders in the floor. In the end, we did see a dead one, but luckily (or unluckily) no live ones. On this evening, our intended trip back to the camp for our sundowner was cut short because, as Matheus remarked: “the sun is faster than us today”. We improvised and pulled up to a nice spot on the side of the roadway, listening to the barking desert lizards, unseen but well-heard throughout the vast desert land before us. These were truly moments of bliss, free from worry as I sat in the fading sunlight, sipping a cold Seagram’s dry lemon! On our last day at Kulala, we hiked up more sand dunes and then drove to a very remote and stunningly beautiful part of the reserve, where Matheus showed us an example of ancient bushman cave painting…reportedly around 4000 years old. These paintings were left as markers to indicate some significant direction or sign or to brand the location as having some importance as a reference to other bushmen. The rest of the evening’s drive around the desert was in search of a Hartmann’s mountain zebra viewing…which was realized, but only from afar. For our sundowner, we went to a simply astonishing viewpoint, overlooking a vast flat plain with rocky mountains out on the horizon. We could see the small silhouettes of zebra marching across the flats as the sun went down over the distant Namibian cliffs ahead. It was a fitting finale for our time amongst these trance like landscapes in the Namibian Soussevlei region, with panoramas that collide upon one another, sand to rock, rock to trees, bush to canyons. Truly spectacular. Our next stop brought us to the Hoanib Skeleton Coast camp, which is truly one of the most remote, desolate locales remaining on the earth. As our pilot remarked when we landed, ‘you are not on the edge of nowhere, you are in the middle of nowhere’. I couldn’t be happier. The lodge was a very open, modern and refined design with a backdrop of rocky outcrops and scattered trees whose beauty could not be possibly accurately represented with photography. Despite its remote locale, this camp is top shelf. The rooms are just the right size, with just the right amount of comfort and the staff and food service here was fantastic. Much to some’s surprise, however, the Skeleton Coast camp is not actually on the coast, but rather situated ~75km inland from the Oceanside. Upon our first evening outing, with our amiable guide Mwezi, we could see that the landscape would once again be breathtaking and unimaginably beautiful. We drove upon a long natural rock wall, as beautiful gemsbok gently scoured the semi-arid ground for green snacks. We traversed forward through the sand and rocks, passing through and unexpected forest of acacias amongst the seemingly lifeless, harsh terrain. When we reached a high point for our sundowner, it seemed that we could see to infinity over the horizon. For me, the spot brought thoughts of something off the set of Star Wars. This was natural, unspoiled desert wilderness like I have never seen. With its proximity to the ocean, a.m. game drives can often be obstructed with unexpectedly thick fog, as we would discover on our first morning drive at Hoanib, which would land us at the coastline. Along the way, we had a nice sighting of these desert adapted beauties on top of the hillside as they were browsing for their breakfast in the thick Namibian fog. As you move to the coast from camp, you pass through an amazing variation of terrain, from expansive deserts with sand oceans, thick and almost impassable brush, rocky outcrops and semi green oases. Once at the ocean, you could get an eerie sense of this harsh, unforgiving shoreline and its foreboding beauty which has caused so many shipwrecks of the past. The one pictured below is the wreck of the Suiderkus from 1977. There is also a massive cape seal colony that resides on the coastline. They were amazing, spread out for at least 1 km. While we were on coast, we were fortunate to get a brilliant sighting of a lone long haired brown hyena nearby, ostensibly looking for opportunities to ravage a baby seal pup. Next up was to the Damaraland region and the dusty, harsh beauty of the Desert Rhino Camp [DRC]. The lodge is blessed with a warm and welcoming crew, probably the best crew we encountered at any of our lodges. The accommodations are rustic and understated, but very comfortable and having a real campground feel. At night here, you can hear a variety of visitors outside your tent….most vocal would probably be the spotted hyena, which chanted, howled and barked with regularity during our stay. The night sky at DRC has to be seen to be believed. The star laden southern heavens are truly brilliant after dark, with the multitude of colours of the Milky Way galaxy revealed in full celestial glory among the unpolluted Damaraland skies. Shortly after our first excursion at DRC, I was impressed once again how the landscape could change so dramatically in Namibia. The rolling hills were covered in baseball sized red stones and sandy foothills with low, rocky mountains surrounding on all sides. It was apparent that the amazing and unexpected Namibian penchant for abundant life among the harsh climates applied here as well. Milk bushes, acacias, nara bushes, grasses and the amazing welwitschia plant grew throughout. I was particularly fascinated by the welwitschia plant, which, at first glance seems like rubbish that someone has tossed on the ground. Upon closer inspection, you can see the plant has a woody base and long twisted leaves that grow out close to the ground. These plants are quite amazing, and endemic only to Namibia and neighboring Angola. We learned that they can survive for thousands of years, only on moisture from the air if need be. There is no guarantee you can see one of the rare and elusive namesake desert black rhinos here, but I can almost guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience with natural wonder, regardless. As you can see from the DRC photos below, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx and springbok are prevalent in the Damaraland region. Our last stop took us further north in Namibia to the Ongava Tented Camp, a concession bordering Etosha National Park. The first evening drive revealed that the terrain here was much more vegetative and lush that the Damaraland region. There were tall reeds and grasses and the trees were higher, although there was still an abundance of arid, desert type plants scattered about as well. On our first drive at this private reserve, we saw waterbuck, impala, kudu, and a pride of young lion resting in the tall grass. On our first full day, we were headed out of the reserve to tour Etosha National Park. Shortly before our approach to the main gate, we stopped to enjoy a chance sighting of the dominant male lion and his lioness as they casually kept their eyes on a dazzle of nervous zebra. It was a wonderful sighting that we enjoyed for some time. It was a standoff. The lions moved about a bit and the watchful zebra stood on the ready to take off at a moment’s threat. We moved on to Etosha and through the guarded main gates. Amazingly we saw quite a few sightings along the way soon after entering the park. Etosha is a drive only park, and visitors cannot get out of the car or veer off the main roads. Nevertheless, there were a number of nice birds in the roadside trees and brush, including the yellow hornbill and the crimson breasted shrike (which was a fast flittering bird, constantly on the move and nearly impossible to photograph well!). Moving on towards our first stop in the park, we saw wildebeest, springbok and zebra. After the first rest stop, we moved further into the interior of the park and towards some watering holes that are strategically situated throughout the region. As we turned off towards one of the watering holes, Leon (our guide) spotted a black rhino out in the brush to our right. It would have gone completely unnoticed and hidden to the un-trained spotter. We watched from some distance as the rhino moved about the brush, well camouflaged, as you can see in the photo below. It moved a bit closer, but was almost at all times obscured by the thick bush. Eventually, stereotypically evasive of company, the black rhino moved on deeper into the thicket and completely out of sight. Onto the first watering hole, it was packed with a plethora of herbivores congregating nearby. This was a stunning array of some of Namibia’s iconic animals all gathered together. There were gemsbok, springbok, zebra, and blacksmith lapwing, among others. We moved on to a second, larger watering hole, which would prove even more rewarding. Immediately upon our arrival we were presented with a massive bachelor male elephant drinking and spraying himself with water. He was joined by ostriches, impala, oryx, warthog and common zebra. It was truly astounding to see the abundance and variety of majestic wildlife all together in one place! On our way out for the day, we spotted a black backed jackal lying in the shadows just on the side of the road….and off to his right sat a spotted hyena beside a large bush. It continued to fascinate me how these clever animals, often with such bright, beautiful and distinct colours can hide on the terrain. They are perfectly adapted for their native bush homes. Given the fantastic game viewing possibilities and the less public nature of the private reserve, we elected to remain on property for our remaining game drives at Ongava. We enjoyed some extraordinary drives during our stay, exploring the vast 70,000 acre private reserve. We also stopped to walk about on foot for a time, seeing a colony of ground squirrels and some photographic remains of wildebeest skeletons from a recent lion kill. We spotted giraffe, wildebeest, impala, zebra and waterbuck, among others. Perhaps one the most interesting sightings, was a massive congregation of red billed quelea swarming over a watering hole. The sound of the massive gathering of birds was akin to a helicopter or small airplane, they were so great in number. It was truly enchanting to watch them, as they flew about in waves and groups within the massive flock. I had never seen such a gathering of so many birds in one place. I truly can’t say enough about the beauty and unspoiled majesty of Namibia. Legitimately, this report and the pics don’t do it justice. I feel immensely privileged to have witnessed some of the last remaining “wild” still remaining. The whole experience was just humbling and it underscored, for me, the importance of preserving the wild that remains in our vanishing planet. The time I was fortunate enough to have there, brought some of the most enjoyable, profound and thrilling moments of my entire life. It was in many ways, very different from my last Southern Africa trip, but equally as delightful in a contrasting manner.
  3. I've about finished editing a few hundred images from my 15 days in the Kalahari and will shortly begin my trip report. Meanwhile, this video is a short 'tease' of the trip. I hope you enjoy this 3 minute overview. I promise to begin the tale shortly.
  4. Well, our trip to Namibia is over, and we had the time of our lives, thanks in large part to the suggestions and experience of the posters here. Originally we planned to do a small group tour of Namibia. However, the ones that interested me were all booked until the end of October at the earliest. So, I posted in these forums and got the suggestion of a private guide another poster has toured with. So, we had a privately guided, 12-day, 11-night tour of central Namibia. We let our guide know what sights and areas interested us, and he booked our lodges and activities, after okaying his selections with us. We were in Namibia from June 11-June 22--midsummer at home; midwinter there. June 11 John and I arrived in Windhoek a few minutes early at 10:15 a.m., after our overnight flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, from where we caught the short flight to Windhoek. Fortunately, we had both slept several hours on the overnight flight and were ready to go and beyond excited to finally be in Africa. We travelled with carryon luggage only, so it didn’t take long for us to leave the secure area and meet our guide, Francois, who was waiting for us. We went straight out to the vehicle and Francois drove us out of Windhoek by a back road, avoiding driving through the city. We stopped at one of the “tree” rest stops, and Francois gave us sandwiches, fruit, and personalized water bottles that he filled for us. He showed us the map, and we discussed the itinerary and our travel style. Coming from the Canadian foothills, we are used to long drives, so our guide knew we would be all right with taking the “scenic route” when the opportunity presented itself. (We learned from our guide that the sign is shaped to point to the side of the road where the rest stop will be. In this case, the rest stop will be on the right.) There was a huge corn cricket at the rest stop. This was my first "wildlife" sighting in Africa. I am insect phobic, so I was thinking, "Uh, oh. What have I let myself in for?" Fortunately, that was the worst thing I saw the whole trip. Our first night was booked at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch. On the way, we stopped at a sociable weavers’ nest. We couldn't believe how busy and noisy it was, with all the birds and the bees. On the way, we also saw mongoose, steenbok, springbok, kudu, giraffe, a crimson-breasted shrike (aka “executioner bird”), a kori bustard, ostrich, elands, and termite mounds. We didn’t take many pictures, as most of the animals were a bit too far away for good shots, and our guide said we would have better opportunities later on. We also saw some people driving a “Kalahari Ferrari." At Bagatelle, we had a dune chalet, and it was gorgeous. It was spacious, beautifully decorated, and had a lovely view of the dunes and a small waterhole with springbok, donkeys, and an eland. There were ostrich on the property, as well. The chalet, the lodge, and the scenery were all so lovely that this is among the top 5 places I’ve every stayed, and I wish we’d had more than one night there. We got settled and then left the chalet. On our deck was a shovelnose lizard. Beside our deck, munching on a bush, was the lodge’s tame springbok, Skunky. We met the lodge’s guide and driver for the cheetah feeding. Bagatelle is part of the cheetah conservation effort, and they are host to two 14-year-old male cheetah that were “problem” animals and cannot be released into the wild for that reason. We went in an open-sided vehicle with a group, and once at the cheetah feeding site, we were allowed to get out of the vehicle once the cats were feeding. One of the cats does not do well with humans, but the other is approachable while he is eating. I got to go close to him and touch him. After the cheetah feeding, we went for a sundowner on top of a dune. John had a Meerkat Sauvingnon Blanc. I had water, as I don’t care for wine, and I was too busy taking pictures of the sunset, anyway. Afterwards, we had dinner at the lodge. Dinner was indoors, as it was too “cold.” (Note: winter in Namibia is warmer than summer where we live. Ha. Ha.) We had our first taste of African game: oryx and kudu, and it was delicious. Skunky, the springbok, kept trying to come into the dining room, and peered at us pleadingly through the window after he was banished. By this time, travelling and not quite enough sleep was catching up with us. We went to our chalet to sleep. I had one of the best sleeps of my entire life; it was so quiet and cool, and the bed was cozy. We slept almost 11 hours. June 12 We were up early for 7am breakfast, followed by our scheduled walk to a demonstration village with a San Bushman. On the way, we saw an eland who had a thin rope tied to his horns. We asked about that and were told he is sometimes "naughty" with the tourists. He certainly seemed to give us a mischievous grin. We were the only two who had booked the Bushman walk, so it was just us, Erastus (Black Mamba) the interpreter, and the San (!Koon (Tall Tree)). !Koon acted out some of the traditional ways that the San people survived in the Kalahari. He told us (using gestures and click language) about termite hills and anteater hunting, about snaring small birds, about the uses of the blackthorn tree (e.g. for stomach ailments), about caching water in ostrich eggs, and about trapping ostriches. He showed us how they started fire, and then we walked to the demonstration village. The women were sitting around a fire making beads from ostrich shell. There were children sitting with the woman and then playing. Then, Erastus brought us to meet the “chief.” He told us about foraging for caterpillars, making rattles, and the mini bow and arrow used for courting (still used today). There were three huts, and there was some ostrich shell jewellery on display. We bought an ostrich and porcupine quill bracelet. Then Erastus and !Koon walked us back to the lodge, and !Koon’s cute little daughter insisted on coming along. On the way back, we chatted a bit about our own heritage (Cree), and the commonalities among Indigenous people in Namibia and Canada. We really felt we had made a connection in our short time together, and it seemed that !Koon and Erastus felt the same. We had heartfelt goodbyes with both !Koon and Erastus, who both told us that they had sincerely enjoyed their time with us, and we said the same. We freshened up at the lodge, and then we were on our way to Sesriem. To be continued.
  5. Hi ST! I have just seen the following trip from a Spanish TO. I am very impressed by the prices they offer. This includes short safari in Kalahari, Torra conservancy safari, Etosha, Okavango safaris in canoa and Chobe in 4x4. It is also included flights of the Namib in aircraft, Damaraland rhino safari with Wilderness in Torra Conservancy, Visit of Fish Canyon, A flight over the Okavango Delta, and a helicopter flight over the Victoria falls. The price is around 4000 euros with the international flights. As a photographer I would obviously prefer a 4x4, but the point is that this includes a guide which would not be the case if I travel in self drive, excellent Wilderness lodges in many places. Also I see that the safaris in the parks are shorter than usual, but this seems logical if considered that it is a 28 days trip from Cap Town to Victorial Falls. I don't know if they consider 4x4 in Etosha which would be much better fro photography because these trucks are clearly not appropriate for photographic safaris...
  6. Hi forum! We are newbies (none of us have never been on a safari), so we would love your help! We will be traveling to Southern Africa in March 2018 (our dates are set). Given the climate that time of year in Southern Africa, and to maximize the “authentic” experience, we are trying to decide on the best safari experience for our family that we can afford. We will be traveling with 2 adults and two kids (both aged 10). We have 14 days total from arrival to departure (arrive into Cape Town, depart from Jo'Burg). We are not seeking luxury; our priority is a great family-friendly experience. We are fine staying in tents without plumbing for some of the trip. After 4-5 days in Cape Town exploring the coast (I will arrange this on my own), we basically have 3 options: Option 1: Fly to Maun from Cape Town. From there we would do approx. 2-3 days in the Central Kalahari and then 4 days or so in the Okanvango. Then fly from Maun to JNB to get back home. I understand it might be more expensive because of the exchange rate (we are Canadian), but we might save a bit (compared to high season rates) due to the low season in Botswana. Option 2: Travel to the Tuli region (e.g., Mashatu) and after 3-4 days there, then travel to a private Kruger-area park. From the Kruger area, head back to JNB to get back home. I was considering the Tuli/Kruger combo which from what I understand is amazing for kids and photography (but we might sacrifice some of the optimal viewing because of the time of year). Option 3: Arrive into Cape Town and do the 1st week in Cape Town and garden route. Then do an Eastern Cape lodge for 3 days or so. From there, go to Tuli (e.g., Mashatu) for 4 days and from there get back to JNB to get back home. This would minimize flights and travel time. While the Eastern Cape lodges are less “authentic” it still might be a great introduction for the kids and we “save the best for last” with Tuli at the end. For this option, we would drop Kruger and drop central/northern Botswana. In your expert opinions (and recognizing that the grasses might be high in March at some locations limiting visibility), which option will be: a. Best for kids? b. Best for game viewing? c. Best for photography? d. Best value? e. Most “authentic”? (I recognize that the “best” option may not be the best for each.) While we would love to also see Victoria Falls, I don’t think if we have either the time or the budget to make it happen. Finally, in a perfect world, we would love to be able to all stay in the same tent/room if at all possible, rather than having to split into two tents (since I would prefer to not have the two kids be alone). I really appreciate any advice that you have!! Roger
  7. -INTRODUCTION- Hi to everyone. I'm back from a great trip in South Africa (first time there). I and my girlfriend had an amazing time and we were lucky to spot a lot of interesting animals in the parks we visited. After the trip of last year in Madagascar ( we needed to come back to a "classic" safari destination in order to improve the good experience in Namibia 2 years ago ( and to upgrade to a "next level". In fact in Namibia we had something like 2 whole days of safari in Etosha, because we decided to focus more on the landscape area of the nation. Now in South Africa the safari was the focal point of the trip and we spent almost 6 days. More, I bought a new camera and I got interested in birding. But why South Africa? Well, it was an easy choice. Probably one of the easiest African country to travel in self drive, easy to reach from Europe and a good balance between safari and landscapes. We had only some hesitation on the tour: most of my friend did the "classic tour" (at least it is classic in Italy), so basically Cape Town - Garden Route - Kruger (the South East). But all the time (usually the holiday period is August) they said: "It was supercool BUT the Garden Route and the Winelands are not so special...". And since this part was always the half of the trip I got skeptical (also because I wouldn't "downgrade" my travel experience after Namibia). THEN... I discovered the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Also thanks to this forum in my mind rised a new tour: the NORTH-WEST! This park is in Kalahari (a place we love) and it is very "unpopular" in Italy for several reasons. First of all the accomodation: few places and always full. So the big tour operators don't include it (and the area around) because people usually book the tour few months before, and for sure there are no places for "large groups". So, in January we started to check availability for August: NONE! Then I contacted an Italian/South African Tour Operator, South African Dream, which organizes customized tours to have an idea of a possible tour and the total cost. This was very useful, because they kept an eye daily on possible cancellations in KTP. Then, at the beginning of February they sent me an email: there are free places for 3 days! BOOK THEM! We organize the rest of the trip later! So at the end we used this TO for the flights, car rental and accomodations. And everything went good. The tour is this: - 30 July 2016: Flight from Milano MXP by Emirates. Night onboard. - 31 July 2016: Lending in Johannesburg, take the car and toward Kruger. - 1 August 2016: Kruger - 2 August 2016: Kruger - 3 August 2016: Kruger + Blyde River Canyon - 4 August 2016: Kruger- Johannesburg and internal flight toward Upington - 5 August 2016: Upington - Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - 6 August 2016: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - 7 August 2016: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - 8 August 2016: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - Augrabies Falls - 9 August 2016: Augrabies Falls - Springbok via Namaqua National Park - 10 August 2016: Springbok - Cape Town (!!!!!) - 11 August 2016: Cape Town (Shark Caging + Boulder's Beach + Helicopter tour) - 12 August 2016: Cape Town (Stony Point + Hermanus + Stellenbosh) - 13 August 2016: Cape Town (Cape Point) - 14 August 2016: Flight from Cape Town by Emirates. Night onboard. - 15 August 2016: Lending in Milan MXP. The tour was wonderful but a bit strong for driving. Considering it I would change some things but mostly 2: - I would take an internal flight Johannesburg-Nelspruit - I would cut the Sprinbok-Cape Town drive with 1 day more in Calvinia or Lambert's Bay For the accomodation we stayed in: - Berg en Dal Rest Camp (2 nights) (Kruger) - Skukuza Rest Camp (Kruger) - Graskop Hotel - Protea Hotel Oasis (Upington) - !Xaus Lodge (Kgalagadi) - Mata-Mata Rest Camp (Kgalagadi) - Kalahari Tented Camp (Kgalagadi) - Augrabies Rest Camp - Annies Cottage (Sprinbok) - Southern Sun Waterfront (4 nights) (Cape Town) We hired 3 cars: - For the Kruger area: Hyundai Ix35 2x4 - For the Kgalagadi area: Toyota Hilux 4x4 - For Cape Town an easy Hyundai I20 Hatch 2x4 As camera I have an Olympus E-620 with Zuiko 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6, Zuiko 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3, Zuiko 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6. Plus I have a Compact SONY Cybershot 18.2 Mp mainly used for recording. Weather was different for each area: - In Kruger sunny (except 1 afternoon raining!) and dry. Some clouds in the early morning. Temperature were quite ok during the day (but never hot) and ok also during the night (cold but with a sweater ok) - In Kgalagadi always really sunny and really dry/clear. Cold in the morning (even close to 0) and warm in the day (never really hot btw). In 2 hours in the morning you can really feel the temperature rising every minute... - The west coast sunny (and we were lucky!). Less dry and less difference of temperature day-night. In the evening in Sprinbok I didn't use the sweater. - Cape Town wet! I mean, the first day we found sun with not even a cloud and we were fine with a t-shirt during the day, but in the night we always found wind and you need a jacket. The second day was cloudy and rained (around 13 C ) and the third day was cloudy with some sun in the morning. From the second day we never sow the top of Table Mountain again. In the next posts the details!
  8. As we had proven that it was possible to drive the 1100 km to get to the park, to cater for ourselves and yet still have a holiday back in January 2015 (, we decided it was time to return. South Africa has been our September safari destination for the past three years, due to the strength of the Pound to the Rand. Now we have Brexit, it may be the sole destination for years to come.... I have also worked out the best use of air miles and had managed to book the flights with a one way upgrade to business using miles (no availability in the opposite direction). September is peak safari season in South Africa and supposedly the best time to go, so it would be a nice contrast to our summer and "wrong" time to go trip last year. Given the ever increasing popularity of the park, especially with locals, with the huge bang for small buck (Rand not Spring-) and the ability to camp and self-cater, booking was going to be the main issue. For our January trip, I just booked a few months out online and took what was available (3 main camps and 1 wilderness camp). It was not an issue. The idea of being so organised 11 months in advance is a bit of an anathema to me, but needs must. There are tales of people queuing in person at the SANParks offices at the crack of dawn and still not getting the dates and camps they wanted, so I was very nervous. The SANParks booking system opens 11 months in advance on the first weekday for in person, phone and email bookings and on the following day for web bookings. With the time difference, using the phone was not an option as this would coincide with my commute to work. So email it was. No-one could really answer how they prioritise these, so given my friend is a Travel agent, we figured that his email may get priority over one from me. This may be completely false, but it was worth a go. I gave him our dates and preferred camps with alternatives and crossed my fingers. To my joy, we got rooms for all the nights we wanted and mostly at the right camps! Wilderness camp availability was an issue, so they substituted my desired Kieliekrankie or Urikaruus with Mata Mata. Given that we had Kalahari tented camp, this was a bit annoying, as we would then have 6 nights in the same small area, however, at least this would be separated by 3 nights in Nossob. C'est la vie. When the online bookings opened the next day, there was almost zero avilability. A few campsites here and there and some nights at TR but nothing at all at Nossob. Good job we didn't wait for this! Almost immediately I was able to change the Mata Mata hut to a riverside room and grab one night at Urikaruus, reducing to 5 nights the stay in the area. That was the last change I was able to make though, despite checking a few times a week, including after the deposit deadline (when some people lose their bookings) and at payment deadline (the one that I nearly missed - our itinerary was: Joburg (1 night) Upington (1 night) Twee Rivieren (2 nights) Mata Mata (2 nights) Urikaruus (1 night) Nossob (3 nights) Kalahari Tented Camp - Honeymoon tent! (3 nights) Upington (1 night) Joburg (1 night) With 11 nights in the Park, we managed to fit in one more than our last trip. Just had to wait for the 11 months to count down....
  9. 1) Name of property: !Xaus Lodge - Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (S.A. sector) 2) Website address: 3) Date of stay: 5th August 2016 4) Length of stay: 1 night 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? Several reasons: first of all we decided to spend 3 nights in KTP but since we book late, all other camps were full. Secondly we would explore an "hidden" area of the park, since you can get there only if you sleep in the lodge. Last because we would have 1 night of comfort. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Booked through an Italian Tour Operator (South African Dream). I had some questions about timing for picking up and they answered fast by email. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? 3 in 3 years 8) To which countries? South Africa, Namibia, Madagascar 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Fish River Lodge, Red Dunes Lodge (both in Namibia). The former because of the position, on the top of the dune (the canyon in Fish River case), the latter because of the environment (Kalahari) 10) Was the property fenced? NO, the units are connected to the main building through a boardwalk (the director said once they found a leopard drinking at the swimming pool) 11) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? Number 1, which was the nearest to the main building. We could listen people chatting on the terrace but it was not a issue. We had a really good view of the pan and the waterhole (even if not close). Probably chalet 2 or 3 have more privacy. 12) How comfortable was the bed - were suitable amounts of blankets/duvets/pillows provided? Very comfortable, we had 2 pillows each and as much as blankets we would. We had the hot water bottle as well. 13) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Yes, the food was good, but not memorable. Probably they should improve a bit. In partiular meat was not too tasty. The breakfast was rich and good, but also in this case a luxury lodge should give "something more" or "something special" to give an upper level experience 14) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) We met a vegetarian guest and he told this to the director. So he had vegetarian food for dinner and breakfast as well. Not sure if there are vegan solutions... The menu was fixed, so a starter, a main course and a dessert. There was a good (considering the situation) wine list. 15) Can you choose where you eat, ie privately or with other guests, guides? Single tables or communal dining? There are only 3 big tables, so basically can happen that you eat with other guests. Guides never eat at the same table. 16) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? We didn't have a morning/afternoon drive, so I don't know. 17) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. They have a landrover. It seems quite new. 18) How many guests per row? 3 guests per row 19) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Morning/afternoon game drives are included only for guests who sleeps at least 4 nights. If not are arranged and paid separately. We didn't take part in daylight drives but I head by other guests that basically they explore the area around the lodge and the Aoub riverbed. The night drive was around 1 hour/ 1 hour and half in the surroundings of the lodge. 20) Are game drive times flexible: ie, if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, ie not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? I don't think so. The drives are scheduled (maybe can change of half an hour...) 21) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? !Xaus lodge is not famous for the wildlife around it. It is more related to the environment and landscapes. Anyway we sow: - DAYLIGHT: Red hartebeests, mangoose, hyenas, ostriches, secretary birds, sprinboks, gemsboks, meerkats - NIGHT: hyenas, jackals, Bat-eared foxes, Cape foxes, spring hares 22) How was the standard of guiding? Guides were good considering the few wildlife there. They were good also in the morning walk explaining the plants and the environment of Kalahari. 23) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? No problems with guides 25) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes, they were always open to our needs (we didn't ask much) 27) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: As I wrote the day game drive is included only if you stay 4 nights. For less it is included the night drive, the morning walk and a visit to a bushmen village. This latter probably is the less interesting activity also because it is declared it is a fake experience. The point is that !Xaus Lodge lies on old motherland of San and Meir people. So they are actually the owners of the land and this "visit" is a way to help their culture. In the night it is cold (in winter) like all the other camps in KTP, but here there is an heater and the hot water bottle. Electricity is turned off at 22.00 The water comes from the pan in front of the lodge, so it is really salty! You can use it to wash or brush teeth, but not to drink. There is only a pitcher in every room with freshwater, so don't waste it! To reach the lodge there is a meeting point at the Kamqua Picnic Site all the days at 14.30. You can follow the lodge vehicle by 4x4 or leave your car in a fenced private area (with shadow) and go with them. There is a 1h 30m - 2h drive through 90 red dunes. The coming back is more flexible, usually after breakfast, but you can negotiate it... 28) Please add your photographs of the property.
  10. Seeking help from the birding experts and enthusiasts to identify the following birds from Tswalu, SOuth Africa! thanks much Pix 1: could this be a fiscal shrike ? Pix 2 : that's an African red eyed bulbul on the right. but not sure what bird is on the left? it looks like a Mackinnon's shrike.
  11. This trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) was longer in the contemplation than the planning. We had been put off by the need to self-cater and hence shop for every meal of the trip. It is supposed to be a holiday after all! Last year we had considered going to the newly opened private lodge, Ta Shebube, on the Botswana side, but were put off by their lack of engagement with inquiries and a bizarre change of pricing structure, so we went to the Kruger instead. Whilst we were there and having been forced to self-cater for 3 days after an abrupt cessation of the restaurant service in Satara, earlier than advertised, we felt that cooking could be part of the holiday vibe and decided that the next January trip could be to the KTP. After our September trip, we finally decided to bite the bullet and make pans. The long drive was not so much an issue, as we often drive about 3-4000km in a two week trip to RSA, although going to KTP does really require an overnight rest stop en route (most people stop in Upington) and therefore eats into the actual game viewing days (10 days rather than 12 from a 14 day trip). Although it is possible to fly to Upington and hire a car from there, this is really just an additional expense and does not really buy much time. As we have friends in Joburg, it made sense to see them first and borrow their coolboxes, solar lights, GPS, mobile phone etc. Therefore we did all of our supplies shopping in Joburg and froze things down in their freezer before setting off on the 9 hour drive to Upington. The shopping itself was like a minor military operation. A comprehensive list is vital as you need to buy everything, including lots of bottled water. We had been warned that the park shops were not well stocked. If you arrived in the park with nothing, you wouldn't starve, but most of what was available was tinned food and drinks as well as braai supplies. We had booked Riverplace guest house in Upington for the first night, on the recommendation of fellow STers, but despite taking full payment 3 months in advance, they moved us at short notice to a different B&B down the road, presumably to accommodate a large group. I was not happy about this as I had spent a long time deciding where to stay to make it an integral part of the trip, rather than just a room to sleep in. Also, we had the issue of frozen and chilled food to be stored, which Riverplace are well used to doing. Our alternative accommodation (Sun River Kalahari Lodge) was OK, just not really our taste. It was in a lovely setting on the Orange River. However, it was cheaper than Riverplace and it took a further month to obtain a refund from them I had managed to book our flights using miles (a first for me) but as I was not aware of the intricacies of this booking system , which opens 355 days in advance (and having flu at the time), we ended up going a week later than we would normally. However, we flew out premium economy on the A380 (lovely plane - really quiet) and came back business (another first for us), on the top deck of a jumbo - fabulous!! And all for the not insignificant cost of various airline taxes (about £580 each) So the itinerary was: 24th Jan Joburg 25th Upington 26-28th Twee Rivieren 2 nights 28-30th Kieliekrankie wilderness camp 2 nights 30th-2nd Feb Nossob 3 nights 2-5th Mata Mata river front chalet 3 nights 5th Upington 6th Joburg 7th Fly home Although it was not peak season so I was able to book only 3 months in advance, this meant that we only got one wilderness camp and this was a different one to what I was initially planning after looking at availability! Having never been before, I took longer than usual, double checking that there was enough time to transfer between camps, especially as we had been looking at going north of Nossob. During this time, the other wilderness camp got booked up. This turned out to be a perfect itinerary though, as it allowed us to see the different areas of the park. Although most KTP aficionados prefer the wilderness camps, they are very small and so get booked up well in advance. The main camps are still small (compared to the Kruger) and are well positioned for the different areas of the park. The main camps are run on generators, which are switched off overnight, so no electricity between about 10pm and 5am, depending on the time of year, whereas the wilderness camps are on solar, so they have 24 hour light (but no sockets for charging). I wouldn't have thought this significant, but we did end up washing up after a braai in the dark on more than one occasion! We had a high clearance car - looks like a 4x4, but was only 2WD, which we usually have for summer game viewing in the Kruger, affording better views over long grass. This was useful as often the sandy roads were at a lower level than the surrounding ground. We spent most of the journey to Upington listening to the South Africa vs. West Indies test match on the radio, until the final few deciding minutes where the station cut to the news and did not return, meaning we missed the conclusion There seems to be only one restaurant recommended to tourists in Upington, which is a casual bar-style place, which also serves sushi (about 800km from the sea)!! We had a good meal and an early night to recover from the long drive.
  12. This TR has been delayed by my trying to finish my big year in time, but also as @@Alexander33 and I were in Tswalu at the same time and he was doing his TR, I thought I'd leave it a while. However, we are off to the Kruger in two weeks and I did not want to have two TRs hanging over me, so I thought I'd at least make a start on this one before leaving, but there may be a long gap...... Given the brilliant (from our perspective) exchange rate, we thought we'd go back to South Africa again in September. The original plan had been Namibia, but given that it is relatively cheap anyway, the savings were more apparent in South Africa, especially at high-end lodges, such as Tswalu. So we thought we'd go back and base the trip around Tswalu. We had been to Tswalu in the Summer of 2012 (Jan) and really enjoyed it. We had been intrigued that the guides had mentioned it was one of the best places in the world to see rare nocturnal creatures, such as aardvark and pangolin and that in winter, these were visible in the daylight at the extremes of the day, as temperatures were lower. We had been very lucky during our last trip and had "ticked off" all of the desert/rare species that we had not previously seen (except for the pangolin). But fleeting glimpses under a spotlight are not conducive to photography. Despite booking in February, we struggled to get accommodated in Tswalu as it is peak season and exceedingly popular. They have a 5 nights for 4 offer, which I wanted to do, but there were no free rooms for 5 nights, so we did the 4 nights and fly free offer. However, the only way we managed that was because our friend (a TA) managed to persuade them to let us have a family suite for the price of a normal room! After the success of our visit last year to Mashatu, we really wanted to include that as well, so we did and we added a night compared with last year. This will be in a separate report, as it is in Botswana. So that left us a choice of where else to go. As we would fly to Tswalu and drive to Mashatu, somewhere between the Tuli block and Johannesburg seemed appropriate. We did not feel like the long drive to Sabi Sands was worth it for three nights, on top of everything else. I wondered about Marakele National Park, but our friend suggested Welgevonden. This was the place that we fell in love with safari. We had been travelling to South Africa annually for a while and thought that we would like safari. Before taking the plunge on an entire trip to a safari destination (we already had Zambia on our minds), we thought we'd go somewhere for three nights to see if we liked it, instead of a beach or other destination, as a sort of glorified B&B. Of course we did. So back in January 2009, with our entry level DSLR and a 70-250mm lens, we had three days in the bush in green season and we loved it. The lodge which we stayed at then had burnt down and was still in the process of being rebuilt, so our friend suggested Makweti, which seems to be one of the top-end lodges looking online (these are the sorts of clients he deals with). So the trip was completed with three nights here. It was an ideal lodge for us, as there are only 5 rooms. Having finally worked out the British Airways reward flight programme, we were lucky enough to travel business in both directions, although this meant travelling on weird days. So, as an added bonus, our trip was longer than usual. We flew out on the Thursday night and back on the Monday night, extending by three days our normal trips. We filled this with a trip to our friends' lodge on a game farm. We have only been there in January before, so thought it'd be interesting to compare to "peak" season. Also, we had never been there with our TA friend and he and his family came as well. So our itinerary was: 3 nights Ditholo Wildlife Estate, Limpopo, RSA (our friends' lodge) 4 nights Tswalu Kalahari, RSA (31/8/15-4/9/15) 1 night Johannesburg 5 nights Mashatu tented camp, Tuli block, Botswana (5/9/15-10/9/15) 3 nights Makweti, Welgevonden, RSA (10/9/15-13/9/15) 1 night Johannesburg Here we go....
  13. This report relates a trip made in July 2003. It began with a twelve days self-driving expedition, in Botswana, followed by eight days in South Africa, in Welgevonden and Madikwe. At Maun’s airport, someone welcomed us (my wife was with me on this trip) and drove us to Audi Camp where we would meet our travel companions : cousins, friends and friends of friends. This was in total, we included, a group of fourteen people, nine men and five women. The others had, a few days before, taken up, in Johannesburg, the four vehicles. In the meanwhile, they had spent a couple of days in the Okavango. They arrived in the afternoon. This trip had been organized by Bruno, a good friend of mine, who is also the person who sets up all my African travels for over twenty years. Bruno and his brother, who was also with us, are born in Africa where they spent their entire youth. Bruno was severely wounded by gunfire, together with someone that is closely related to me, four years ago, in the northeast of Ethiopia, close to the Erythrean border, on the Erta Ale volcano, but this is another story that I might tell later in a specific topic. Despite his large experience of Africa, he had hired a guide. That was his only mistake. Without being nasty, I would say that he was not good at all. For this reason, I will not mention his name. In fact, he was only very active during the meals. The next day, after a first night in the tents on the cars’ roof and after shopping, mainly food for a few days, we took the road to CKGR. At the vet fence, the police was controlling the cars, especially those registered in South Africa, in search of raw meat. When we told them that we were not South Africans and that we were continuing our way along the fence, on the track to the right, they did not search the vehicles. Several people, to prevent the confiscation of the meat discovered in their vehicle, were busy cooking it along the road. After some kilometers on the track, we loose one spare wheel. I explain, to have a bigger cruising range, Bruno had asked, to the renting company to fix an additional fuel tank. It was mounted on the rear underside in place of the spare wheel and the wheel was fixed under the tank. The wheel was therefore closest to the ground and the weight of the combination did certainly not help the situation. What was not a problem on a tarred road became one on rough tracks. We decided to transfer the spare wheels inside the vehicles, which was not easy because they were already pretty well filled. We also somehow consolidated the additional tank mounting points. Obviously, it was enough because we no longer have encountered additional problems. We drove about hundred kilometers along the fence to get to where we needed to go on the other side. It was a small check point, only two controllers. They looked very pleased to see us. Perhaps, were we their first cars of the day. They searched two cars without having to report anything. Then they asked to have a look at the one that contained the fridge but impossible to open the back door. We gave them the key so they can try themselves and they did not succeed. Eventually, they did not insist and let us go. At the end of the afternoon, we arrived at the campsite which we had been assigned to, nearby the Sunday Pans. We eventually managed to open the car with the fridge. It was in fact very easy, one had to brake hard in order to slightly move forward the vehicle's contents. We all prepared dinner, which was great : leaks/onions/celeries soup followed by a grilled leg of goat and stir fried vegetables. As the nights in the Kalahari are extremely cold in July, some went to sleep with gloves, socks and even a wool cap.
  14. 1) Name of property: Tswalu Kalahari - Motse 2) Website address: 3) Date of stay: June 2015 (same price rate all year round) 4) Length of stay: 10 nights (special offer of stay 5 pay 4) 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? Based on Facebook postings of aardvark sightings in 2014. We went during the winter months in a bid to see some of the rarer nocturnal animals, which tend to be out earlier in the afternoon on cold days. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Booked through Africa Direct, an agent based in South Africa. All enquiries dealt with promptly and efficiently, by email. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? 16 over last 10 years 8) To which countries? South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Londolozi, Sabi Sabi, various &Beyond properties 10) Was the property fenced? Yes – the property is over 100,000 hectares but split into two sections. The smaller section of 20,000 contains the lions and rhino together with general game. The larger section contains wild dog, cheetah, leopard together with general game including sable and roan antelope. The accommodation is based in the larger section. Whilst you will see the fence when you cross over to the smaller section, you will quickly leave this behind as the reserve is so large. You can be sitting with a mountain range in front of you and another behind you, both of which are within the reserve, and not a fence in sight. 11) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? Number 6, which was the nearest to the main communal lodge areas. Not overlooked, and no noise from the main areas. It would have had a great view of the waterhole, if not for the huge shrub a couple of metres from the deck. 12) How comfortable was the bed - were suitable amounts of blankets/duvets/pillows provided? Very comfy, and plenty of blankets and pillows, together with a heated underblanket on the bed. 13) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Yes – the food is restaurant quality, but this can be a little too rich for me. The kitchen were quite happy to make any meal we requested. There are no set meal times, and you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. 14) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Not sure about the vegetarian options but I doubt this would be a problem. On several days, we requested particular meals which they were happy to provide. 15) Can you choose where you eat, ie privately or with other guests, guides? Single tables or communal dining? Dining is single tables, although you can choose whether to eat inside, out on one of the main decks or on the deck of your room. The guides never sit with the guests for meals. One of the camp managers will offer to sit with a single traveller if they wish. 16) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Very good – we were able to give the kitchen a list of the foods we would like for lunch and they obliged. The only criticism would be that there was far too much food. 17) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Fairly new Landrovers. 18) How many guests per row? Every booking (for a min 3 nights) has its own private vehicle. The vehicles (Landrovers) are all fairly new, and there is a variety of different sizes from the usual 9 seats over 3 rows, to the one we had with 4 seats over 2 rows with covered boxes between the seats for the cameras etc. They even supplied clamps and beanbags without us asking. The vehicles have the best ever blankets, real quality (if I’d had space in my holdall I would have asked to buy mine!) – big enough to wrap around fully and cover from head to toe, thick fleece on one side and sheepskin-type on the other side. Also the usual hot water bottles. Ponchos are Driza-bone, so good quality and wind-proof and warm. 19) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Game drive times are set by the guests – there are no limits. 20) Are game drive times flexible: ie, if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, ie not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? You can go out whenever you want, for as long as you want. Night drives after dinner are also possible. The kitchen were happy to provide packed breakfast/lunch for us. 21) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Just on the short drive from the airstrip to the lodge we saw two aardvark and an aardwolf. I had no idea of the frequency of aardvark sightings, nor of the quality. Tswalu is to aardvark what Londolozi is to leopards. To be sitting on the ground and have a relaxed aardvark walking within a couple of metres of you, is absolutely mind-blowing. We saw meerkats, aardvarks (23 sightings, all during daylight hours), pangolin (2 sightings), black-maned lions, aardwolf, sable, roan, eland, tssessebe, oryx, springbok, duiker, reedbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, yellow mongoose, slender mongoose, wild dog pups, cheetah & cubs, African wildcat, caracal, bat-eared foxes, black and white rhino, mountain zebra. There have been reported sightings of the yellow morph of the crimson breasted shrike, but we didn’t find it. 22) How was the standard of guiding? OK, but could have been better. The guide was personal and pleasant, but didn’t volunteer much information or make suggestions as to where to go. However, the friend I travelled with is also a qualified guide, so we were able to ask the right questions, tell our guide where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see. So we made all the decisions, rather than the guide. The guide and tracker were always willing to spend all day out in the bush. 23) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? We did discuss the general standard of guiding with the MD over dinner, and he is looking at how to improve the quality of the guides in general and bring them all up to the standard of a true “private guide”. 25) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes – the whole ethos of the lodge is geared towards a personal experience, and the staff are happy to cater for most requests. 27) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: Access to Tswalu is through private plane from either Cape Town or Johannesburg. The experience at Fireblade Aviation was awesome – we were treated like royalty. Nothing was too much trouble for them. When we returned from Tswalu, they gave us full use of the facilities so I could get changed, have lunch, and use the lounge and only transfer to ORT when I needed to check in for my flight (rather than having to spend 7 hours in ORT) – all of it complimentary. It was COLD a lot of the time, but there were plenty of fires lit in the main areas which were well-tended and never allowed to die down. The guest rooms have heating and a fireplace (which they will light at any time you request) and electric blankets. Single supplement will no longer apply in 2016. Lodge guidance for tipping (per person per day): Guide – R300 Tracker – R200 Junior Camp Staff – R200 28) Please add your photographs of the property. Didn’t take any photos of the lodge itself as we only went back to the lodge for dinner in the evening. However the pictures on the website are an accurate reflection.
  15. Since this Park seems to be under-represented here in the Trip Reports forum, and since I visit for 1 to 3 weeks every year, I thought I would start a thread where I could share bits and pieces from my trips over the years to this lovely and spell-binding place. All of these are self-drive, although there are new lodges opening up now which would open the place up to people who want to be catered for on a higher level of luxury than normal chalets or "rough camping". Whether we as Kgalagadi purists agree with this approach is debatable (for selfish reasons of course - keeping the experience wild). Let the Kalahari magic begin! Anyone who has been is welcome to add images and stories to the thread... Oh, and I am headed there in 3 weeks again!
  16. Similarly to my posting of a dramatically epic sighting in Etosha (, here is a short morning's report of what went down in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in November 2012 one fateful morning... This image should give you a clue! Full story here: Thanks for your time
  17. >>It costs £500 a night to stay in a luxury safari camp in the Kalahari desert in Botswana. For that price, wealthy tourists get drinks, game drives and, says one tour company, an "interpretive Bushman walk with staff members who hail from the ancient Bushman clans of the area". Visitors watch half-naked men shooting bows and arrows in the sand dunes and, if they get permission, can pay to shoot giraffe, zebra and other wildlife with guns. For Jamunda Kakelebone, a 39-year-old bushman, or San, whose family has always lived as hunter gatherers, what is happening in the Kalahari desert is deeply disturbing. Not only have bushmen families like his been moved from their ancestral land to make way for tourists, diamond mining and fracking, he says, but those who remain are now no longer allowed to hunt. The final blow came in January, when a ban came into effect prohibiting all hunting in the southern African country except on game farms or ranches. The new law – announced by the minister of wildlife, environment and tourism, Tshekedi Khama (brother of the president, Ian Khama) – effectively ends thousands of years of San culture.<< I'd be interested to hear Mr Joubert's argument to this one.... click here to read the article PS, I know this is related to the previous topic on the hunting ban but I thought it might be nice to start afresh. Feel free ot move it onto th eold topic if you disagree GW.
  18. Hi, I am planning a trip to Okavango and Kalahari towards the end of February and I was wondering about the best (cheapest) way of making the reservation. Prices seem to vary significantly - anyone know if the prices quoted for the Kwando “5 rivers safari” offer found here could be correct? 321$ pppn for Kwara and Tau Pan seems like a good deal and since the minimum stay is only 4 days I might be able to combine this offer with the "green season special" from Wilderness Safari found here Who should I talk to regarding making the reservation - any suggestions for travel agents (local or US/EU-based whichever is cheaper)? We only have 10 days available and we are considering the following camps - would we be better off only doing three camps instead of four (less travel time) and would these camps be a good choice for the end of February? Kalahari Plains or Tau Pan 2 – 3 days Kwara 2 – 3 days Little Mombo 2 – 3 days Jacana 2 days Thankful for any input. Regards, Håkan
  19. Here's a video we just made and thought you might enjoy watching! Tswalu Kalahari - South Africa’s largest private game reserve, covering an area of 100,000 hectares. It is situated in the north-west of the country near Botswana and Namibia and is in a malaria-free region: If you like this, check out our YouTube channel here for loads more Africa safari videos!
  20. Seldom seen video of a baby meerkat emerging from the burrow for the first time.
  21. Botswana’s uniqueness in the abundance of wildlife and diversity it holds offer a safari experience of a lifetime. The true African nature of the country from the dry Kalahari shrub to the wet Okavango delta and the salt pans inbetween guarantee you’ll leave with amazing memories and beautiful photographs. We’re based on the ground in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango delta and we’ve personally visited each lodge and camp we book and are in constant contact with them during your safari to make sure you’re safe and enjoying your time with us. We know the seasons, the state of the annual Okavango Delta flood, the lodge staff themselves and the ever-changing regulations for travelling the protected wildlife areas of Botswana. The logistics of planning a safari are something we can do for you. Tell us where you’d like to travel and when and we’ll do all the rest, leaving you to relax and enjoy your time with us in Africa. Safaris, quad biking, elephant riding, boating, mokoro riding, fishing, birding, hunting, walking, photography, horse riding and scenic flights - we can book them all for you. From a luxurious safari retreat in the wilderness sipping cocktails under a dreamy sunset, to a self drive camping trip with the bush surrounding you while you listen to the calls of the wild, we’re here to make sure you experience a trip of a lifetime. The warmth, smell of rhythm of Africa will touch you forever...
  22. Overgrazed land in the Kalahari becomes infested with a horrid thornveld called dubbeltjies (tribulus terrestris) Ostriches eat the young plants every season, cleaning up the veld.
  23. Crowning moment for any wildlife rehabber - the release! The bird came in close to death from secondary poisoning. Their main prey base are monitor lizards (leguaans) who are notorious scavengers of (often poisoned) carcases. Dont you hate farmers who put out poison to kill wildlife indicriminately?

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