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Mosquito posted a topic in Trip reportsmany thanks to the Safari Talk forum for help in planning an exceptional 18 day safari in Botswana and Zambia. Special shout out to Safari dude who introduced us to Benson Siyawareva who still has us laughing..what a great guy and guide who went with us to Botswana. Also always appreciate Twaffle's help as her advice has been so spot on over the years....And Fiona at Ngoko Safaris did all the arrangements superbly...not a hitch, not even one..... arrived home at about noon and started downloading the images to my computer so will have something to post shortly..... camps were Little Vumbura, Little Kwara, Lagoon, Lebala, Kaingo and Mwamba with a one night stay at Royal Livingstone as we moved from Botswana to Zambia...stayed 3 nights at all the camps except Lebala where we split 5 days between Lagoon and Lebala.... Saw every kind of game imaginable with lots of predator action and babies as well.....and who can forget a Ferrari Safari with the wild dogs? Anyway thanks again for being such a valuable resource.... Mr and Mrs Mosquito
johnkok posted a topic in BotswanaLittle Kwara and Sandibe - Okavango Delta, Botswana March-April 2013 My Trip Report - such as it is I write from the perspective of what I myself would have liked to have known as I was planning such a safari in this area and for this time of year. I was helped while planning this safari by others on SafariTalk and I hope that my report will in turn be helpful to others. But I stress that these are purely subjective opinions. As they say, your mileage may vary. So firstly, a bit about myself so as to put what I say in context. My wife and I have gone on many safaris - mostly in Africa. We have never done self-drive and have no plans to do so. We are both avid (but amateur) wildlife photographers, and do lug quite a lot of big and heavy camera equipment. Our desire these days is to witness and photograph "events" - the priority being to be able to follow a predator as it stalks while hunting. We also therefore end up "wasting" a lot of game-drive time just hanging around, waiting (and hoping) for the predators to get up and start moving around, and hopefully to spot some game and start some serious hunting. We also like to shoot birds, especially birds in flight. This provides lots of fun for us, especially when the mammals are not cooperating. Well - this will be the first installment - the short version - and maybe even the only version. 1. Kwando's Little Kwara in March-April 2013 for 5 nights 1.1) Not as hot as I had feared, knowing LK did not have electric fans in the rooms 1.2) Many coalitions of lions - saw 6 of 7 (several of whom are showing their age a bit, but lots of roaring as they dominate), 1 of a 2, and 2 of a another coalition of 2 young strong and healthy males whom I guess will be challenging others soon; good news is they walk obligingly on the road for long periods; bad news is 1,750 sq.km (675 sq.miles) is huge, and the 7 went way east and we never saw nor heard them again after the initial 2 days 1.3) Coalition of 3 cheetah brothers - now nearing the end as they are around the 10-year mark; still strong and healthy looking, but becoming timid and lazy; Hobbs our guide said their behaviour has clearly changed over the years; sat with them for hours on several game drives - all we had were strolls to mark territory, and lots of lying down, even when all the Guides "knew" they were already hungry 1.4) Had an exciting evening tracking down a leopard which was heard calling just as we were packing up after sundowners. Found it, but it was very skittish and shy. 1.5) The main channels were running swift and strong, so birding action was reduced; compared with August 2010 (in Eagle Island Camp also in the Delta), where birds were flying off left right and centre when we were on the boat, there were scarce few here; and it is extremely hot for the first hour of the boat ride 1.6) Birding - saw a decent but not great variety; lots of sightings and shots of various bee-eaters, rollers and such. Of the kingfishers, lots of Pied but nary a Malachite; lots of Woodland and a few Striped and Grey-headed; shots of Senegal Coucals here and there. 1.7) Grass was just turning brown from green and middling long. Visibility into the bush is so-so. Shots of animals will have grass in the way more often than not. This also often wreaks havoc with auto-focus - especially true with the not-often obvious ones that are some distance from the animal. 1.8) Generator only switched on twice a day for the whole camp - during the hours of the game drives; generator re-charges the car batteries under each room, which power the in-room electric lights. Water from the tap is mostly brown turning slowly lighter as it flows. Hot water is gas heated in each room. All re-charging of camera batteries and Notebooks have to be done in the office. The inverter in the Lounge can handle recharging some batteries but not my Notebook. On my last days there, the inverter totally gave up the ghost and would not work even for the camera batteries. 1.9) Food - it's only so-so. I heard other guests rave, so this is entirely subjective and as with all other such things, only my personal opinion. 1.10) People - Hobbs, our Guide whom we booked in advance for an extra fee, was as good as the recommendations of several SafariTalkers; he is a knowledgeable guide who warmed up more as he got to know us. There were many instances where his expertise was truly evident to us. Chester our tracker was as skilled, pleasant and cheerful a young man as one could wish for on a safari. Lizzie runs a tight ship. Dutch, another Guide, made for fun conversations around the dining table. 1.11) Miscellaneous - they take care of laundry. Morning drives were cool with the wind in your face, but not so cold as to need winter gear. Flies all around but did not get bothered by mosquitoes - in any case the insect repellent seemed to work well. Did need lots of sunscreen, even with the roof on the vehicle. Little Kwara vehicles have only two rows of three seats each - so there is lots of leg room. Flight time from Maun to Kwara is about 30 minutes; airstrip is only 10 minutes from Camp. --- 2. andBeyond's Sandibe in April 2013 for 5 nights 2.1) Flight time from Kwara to Chitabe airstrip is only 15 minutes; drive from airstrip to Camp is at least 30 minutes, if not longer. Flight time back to Maun is 15 minutes. 2.2) Even from the end of March and into early April, it felt cooler by the time we got to Sandibe. And there's electricity in the rooms, including an electric ceiling fan. In addition, the rooms were cooler because they were not only made from wood and canvas. 2.2) Started with a bang as a pack of 8 wild dogs were in the concession. Sat with them the first afternoon but they did not go hunting when they woke. Managed to follow them the next morning as they hunted but we had to abandon our chase as they went into an area near the Chitabe camp. Found and followed them on another drive but this time we were foiled as they crossed the river which separates the concession from a Moremi area which is totally off limits to all tourists. Cats on the hunt walk, stalk and stop often. Following dogs on the hunt is action all the way. There is no question in my mind that the ability to go off-road made it chalk and cheese between this Botswana safari and the Zimbabwe safari in both Hwange and Mana Pools last October. 2.3) Also managed to follow different cheetahs off-road as they hunted on different drives. 2.4) Spent quality time with a nice pride of lions in the early morning as they played with the cubs of different ages, called to others in the pride who were not with them, and generally gave us a grand show - short of an actual hunt. 2.5) Leopards - tracked down and followed a sub-adult female (which obligingly climbed up a tree and posed), and on our final game drive, tracked down the whole family, with brother eating a steenbok, sister impatiently waiting her turn, and mummy sitting nearby. On another drive, a leopard posed beautifully out on a limb at dusk. 2.6) Lots of water in pools and ponds spread all around (there's no boating activity at Sandibe). Lots of large birds - numerous Wattled Cranes, Whistling Ducks, Spurwinged Geese with lots of activity (many firsts with their in-flight shots). Definitely saw and shot more birds in Sandibe than in Kwara. Even managed a Malachite Kingfisher when I least expected one. Not to mention another first - a shot of two Lilac-breasted Rollers in flight together. Unlike Kwara, no Senegal but lots of Coppery-tailed Coucals. 2.7) Environment seemed to me a little more wet than Kwara, with all those little pools and ponds and swamps everywhere, but this is just an impression. They are not really that different. 2.8) With power being available all the time, the afternoons in camp could be spent working on photos, something I could not do in Kwara. I spent Kwara afternoons lying on the wooden floor (the padded seats were just too hot) in the lounge area because there could be a breeze blowing through occasionally, unlike in the rooms. Ironically, because of the game and their activity, we spent more time out on game drives and less time in camp at Sandibe than at Kwara. 2.9) Food - definitely better than at Kwara. We ended up buying the andBeyond cookbook. This was not our first andBeyond safari camp, and we had come to expect this level of food preparation. Their food is definitely the best amongst the large operators we have stayed with - i.e. comparing andBeyond against Wilderness and Orient Express. Amongst the smaller operators, the "boutique" Camp Jabulani in Kapama is the clear winner for me food-wise. Well I don't go to safari camps just for their food, but it sure adds to the experience. 2.10) People - our Guide Tshabo was as skillful as he was hardworking. (Like Kwara, we had booked a private vehicle, but unlike Kwara, we had not booked any specific guide at Sandibe.). Once he knew we were dead keen, we were off nice and sharpish on the game drive the first afternoon. The dogs were more than an hour's drive away (no stops, and with some haste), and we did not want to get to where they had last been seen only to find they had already left on a hunt. The following morning, we left camp at 4:30am (sunrise was around 6am) so as to get there before they were up and about. After Tshabo found out that we had a liking for sunrise while we were well on our way and far away from the Lodge, we always left camp by 5am. We never actually saw Sandibe Lodge at dawn in our 5 nights spent there. One day, Tshabo organised an entire day out, 14.5 hours - we left at 5am and only got back to the Lodge at 7:30pm. Lunch was under some trees at a fantastic riverside spot (the Gomoti Channel) with Tshabo and Steve our tracker both taking on cooking and waiting duties. Aaron the Lodge Manager was always pleasant company, and there were two outside-of-camp dining events for all the guests which always feel special to us. 2.11) Miscellaneous - Laundry is included. It turned noticeably cooler by the time we got to Sandibe. On the last few morning game drives, I had multiple layers on, and used the blankets provided as well. Sunscreen is essential. Insects - as in Kwara. The vehicles in Sandibe have three rows of three seats each. This means significantly less leg room than the vehicles in Little Kwara. A note about equipment We travel with quite a bit of gear. Together they weigh more than 25kg. There are the lenses and 4 camera bodies, plus a pocket mirrorless camera. Then we have monopods, heads, gimbals and clamps to attach the big combos firmly to the railings in the vehicles. Chargers. Spare batteries. Notebook & multiple external hard drives. Spare cards. Card readers. They add up pretty quickly. I now buy an extra seat (or 20kg depending on whom you ask) after the kerfuffle I had with Wilderness Air for the Zim trip in October 2012 (the first time on Wild Air and the first time in all our safaris that we have been charged for being overweight), where we were 54kg compared to their allowed 40kg, and they relieved me of almost US$600 cash in Vic Falls to buy an extra seat on the Cessna (for safety reasons) for all the hops. Of course, that first leg out of Vic Falls only had the 2 of us as passengers. With the roofs on in the vehicles, I soon reverted to my old method. Instead of clamping the big bazookas to the rails, we went back to seating the monopod legs on the vehicle seats and handholding the whole contraptions. Otherwise, we found that there were too many times that the big lenses could not be brought to bear. With the off-roading and the types of animals we were tracking, we found that the 300mm was often the optimum lens (range). With dawn and dusk being so often the times of interesting activity, it is the f2.8 lenses and low-light capable camera bodies which do it for me. I think I'll leave it here for now. I hope there was some useful information here for others who are thinking of the same area/same-time-of-year safaris.
Hello all, I have completed the write-up on my Safari to Little Kwara, Selinda, Matusadona and Mana Pools in March 2013. In a nutshell, the safari was fantastic and while I certainly had some big misses, I also had some wildlife encounters that I am tempted to call "once in a lifetime" opportunities. This involved joining on foot a pride of lions at breakfast in Mana Pools. Little Kwara will definitely see me again. Great guiding by Hobbs and Mike. Selinda feels like my 2nd home anyway and this time we had a private vehicle to arrange a proper boys outing. It was just Josh Iremonger (lead guide for Selinda Canoe Trails), my friend Humphrey Gumpo (Tailormade-Safaris.com) and myself, so full days on end following game around. Rhino Island and the Rhino Safari Lodge was a lot of fun, too. Matusadona and Lake Kariba is stunning to visit at this time of the year. Westerly winds blowing up waves and crests made for very attractive, dark blue backgrounds. It was great to see a lot of game along the lake shore, including black rhino. Mana Pools: Since it was just Humphery and Phil from Tailormade Safaris and myself travelling, we had arranged a light mobile camp for this part of the safari. The camp team was absolutely outstandig and the stay at Mana was once again legendary in every way. Chitake was full of wildlife, although no concentrations, no moving up and down the river bed, as there still was a lot of water in all the pans around the area. So we only spent two nights at Chitake 3 camp site and then moved to Mucheni 1 (as camp sites at Mucheni 3 and 4, Trichilia and BBC were inaccessible). The floodplains provided some stunning scenery, and as said, some unbelieavble lion sightings. The best I have ever had. Check out photographic results in my galleries (I will upload some pictures to my safaritalk.net gallery shortly). 2013 Botswana Gallery 2013 Zimbabwe Gallery 2013 Afircan Impressions Copying the full travel report to safaritalk.net would probably be a bit much. But whoever is interested I welcome to read up on my photography website. Link to full travel report. In closing, what worries me is the fact that throughout the three weeks I spent in the field, I felt raindrops only for a few minutes, in transit at Victoria Falls. Botswana's northern concessions were still green, but already quite dry and hot, with many of the pans between Kwara, Savute and Selinda turning milky. At Mana Pools, the Chitake area was still moist, but the floodplains along the Zambezi were very dry already. Without further significant rainfall, Mana will again see a very dry year. So what's next: My next major trip will come up in July, when I return to Brazil's Pantanal in search of jaguars and to the Atlantic Rainforest for some birding. As for Africa, I am in the process of planning a south - north trip through Botswana for early 2014. Starting at KTP, crossing CKGR, then heading into the Delta, the northern concessions and finishing on the Chobe. Best wishes, Patrick