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Found 15 results

  1. Can I just say, I absolutely loved Cape Town and would return in an instant. I arrived mid morning direct from Heathrow on British Airways. The flight was fine and I actually got a decent amount of sleep. After dealing with immigration formalities, where I had difficulty with the fingerprinting machine (to the point where I think the officer was getting frustrated with me), I quickly picked up my luggage and met my transfer. It took about 40 minutes to drive to the hotel. During this time, I asked the driver various questions about South Africa and he pointed out some sights along the way. It was a sunny warm day and I immediately decided that after I dumped my bags, I would head straight to Table Mountain. I had read how difficult it can sometimes be to visit due to crowds and worse, due to cloud cover. It can be perfectly sunny in the morning and then the clouds roll in and surround the mountain and the new you can't see anything. So as a piece of advice, if you are thinking of going, head straight there at the first opportunity so you don't miss out. I bought my ticket ahead of time from home. You pick the day you want to go and then the ticket is valid for 7 days. Easy peasy! I figured that one day out of the several I would spend here would have good weather. I checked into my hotel, was given a quick tour, had a quick shower as my room was ready and then I had the reception arrange a taxi to the mountain. While I was waiting, I took some photos of the spectacular scenery around the hotel. On arrival at the mountain, I arranged for the same taxi to come pick me up in a few hours. In hindsight, I wish I had allowed myself more time. I just loved it and there was so much to see. Luckily, I didn't waste much time getting to the top. Having my ticket in hand meant I didn't have to stand in line to purchase and could head to the cable car for the flight to the top. The flora, fauna, vistas are just spectacular. I walked and walked. There are lots of lovely trails. I also spent some time chatting to a guy from Australia who I was standing beside on the cable car. It was his first trip also. I took lots of photos and got the rock hyrax and even a sunbird. I was thrilled to bits. This may not be exciting to some, but I had been dreaming if Africa for some time and I was going to enjoy every little thing. i had no trouble finding the taxi and headed back to the hotel. I was then informed that there was a surprise waiting in the hotel bar. My friend and travel agent had arranged tea for me. OMG! There was so much food and so many desserts. I have a friend at home who always complains that I never share my dessert, but I could have easily shared this. I had to take some back to my room. I stayed in the bar to watch the sunset, which in August, is quite early in the evening. I can't figure out how to get the text in between the photos for captions. They are in order: Table Mountain from the Waterfront View of Cape Town taken from plane on landing The Twelve Apostles View of Signal Hill Cable Car to the top View of the mountain Hyrax surveying the territory Pretty Flowers Beautiful Vista Sunbird Tea with a view
  2. 3rd Oct 2010 Cape Town to Gansbaai Trip Participants: Jo Dale and Helen Dale Today didn't quite go according to plan. We arrived into Cape Town in glorious sunshine, just about on time despite an hour's delay leaving London Heathrow. Whilst admiring the view of Table Mountain without its "table cloth" we picked up our hire car, an Opal Corsa and quickly realised that any plans to stop off en route to Gansbaai would be hindered by the fact that a lot of our luggage was on display. Consequently we put plans to stop at Rooi Els (to look for rockjumpers) on hold. We stopped briefly at a quaint little art cafe in Betty's Bay for a coffee on our drive along the scenic coastal route of the R44 and R43. We arrived and checked into our comfortable self catering accommodation at Gansbaai, which Helen had arranged over the internet. An interesting observation, coming from the UK, is that we were a bit stumped by the lack of facilities. We stayed at Air del Mar, in a twin bed self catering studio room on the ground floor with a sea view. The rate quoted on the website was R490 per unit. The studio was equipped with a fridge/freezer, microwave oven and utensils sufficient to prepare a light meal. I think we wrongly assumed that self catering here would be the same as in the UK, where we'd expect to get a hob and an oven, but to be fair we probably just didn't pay enough attention to what the facilities would be like. The owner was very friendly and even supplied us with some fresh milk for tea. There's supposedly a communal braai but we did not make use of this owing to the weather. We had hoped to arrive in time to arrange a whale-watching excursion, but this plan was scuppered by a rather inclement storm front that quickly closed in, whipping up the sea in the process. This, coupled with the scenery, made us wonder if we'd got on the wrong plane and found ourselves in Scotland! Cape Agulhas Not wishing to waste the day, we quickly decided that the best course of action would be to head down to Cape Agulhas, since that excursion wasn't weather-dependent. This was not ideal as we'd done the coast road down to Gansbaai and so it was a long drive for Helen on the first day. The most direct route turned out to be along a series of easily navigable gravel roads. This actually seemed to be a nice area to do some birding, but given it was now late in the day and we had a lot of ground to cover, we didn't stop very often. We did, however, make time to watch a slender mongoose attack a rather dead and smelly Puff Adder, dropping his prize as he crossed the road in front of us. We also observed a Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and Cape Long-claw. Several raptors were also seen, including Yellow-billed Kite, Steppe Buzzard, African Marsh Harrier as well as Ostrich. We arrived at Cape Agulhas and walked to the southern-most tip of Africa, admiring the view out onto a fairly rough sea. It was quite chilly with the wind and drizzle so we didn't linger long. We took a different route back along the tar road, which was much longer, but also quicker. We stopped off in Sandford for a delicious meal of BBQ ribs and chips before heading back to Gansbaai. It was with a sense of foreboding that we retired to bed. Looking at the weather we didn't expect that our dive with the sharks would be going ahead, despite assurances from Marine Dynamics that they were expecting us bright and early the next morning. Bird list: Cape Wagtail White-necked Raven Pied Crow Cape Crow African Pied Starling Blue Crane Denham's Bustard Ostrich Helmented Guineafowl White-breasted Cormorant Brimstone Canary African Marsh Harrier Egyptian Goose Steppe Buzzard Cape Long-claw Mammals: Chacma Baboon Slender mongoose S AFRICA JO 005 dev Blue Crane by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 015 Brimsone (Bully) Canary by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 021 African Pied Starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr S AFRICA JO 024 Cape Wagtail by kittykat23uk, on Flickr shark dive 028 To the Southernmost tip of Africa by kittykat23uk, on Flickr shark dive 012 Cape Aghulus by kittykat23uk, on Flickr
  3. -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 (http://safaritalk.net/topic/16227-awesome-red-island/) we needed to come back to a "classic" safari destination in order to improve the good experience in Namibia 2 years ago (http://safaritalk.net/topic/15973-sand-and-stars-namibia-2014/) 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!
  4. This may be of some interest to anyone wishing to visit South Africa during the spring. The time for wild flowers and whales, log fires and good food. Pen http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/7651162-a-south-african-spring
  5. The new book is called SACRED NATURE and is published by HPH books it is interesting that they are using a niche wildlife book sth African publisher one of the events is at Skoobs Theatre champagne bar 74 montecasino , I montecasino blvde, fourways on 23 OCT at 1500 (3pm ) please respond by email rsvp@hphpublishing.co.za the sample photos on the site look great a cash bar is available
  6. Hi, This is my first trip report here (and one of my first posts!). I’m mostly a reader/lurker and not a talker/commenter, but I have enjoyed all your many fantastic trip reports and thought I would try to write my own. This trip was a bit low on the actual Safari part, but I’ll try to focus the report on the parks we visited. In September 2015, two of my cousins (M and C) and I went on a family trip to South Africa. We’d all been in South Africa before, but M was 3 and C was 14 the last time they visited. So we were really excited to come back. When planning the trip there were a couple of things we had to take in account: We wanted to visit Cape Town, we wanted to go on a self-drive Safari (with our normal rental car) and we had to make sure we’d visit our aunt who lives near Johannesburg. And it had to be pretty cheap as we all three bought an apartment in the months after buying the air plane tickets… In the end the trip looked like this: 6 September: Fly from Brussels to Cape Town 7 – 9 September: Cape Town, Cape Point, Boulders, Robbeneiland, Table Mountain and Hermanus (Stay in Somerset West) 10 – 11 September: Stellenbosch, Cape Aghulas, Swellendam, De Hoop, Marloth Nature Reserve (Stay in Swellendam) 12 September: Oudtshoorn 13 September Knysna 14-15 September: Addo Elephant National Park 16 September: Fly from Port Elisabeth to Johannesburg 17 September: Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens 18-19 September: Pilanesberg 20 September: back to Johannesburg 21 September: Fly back to Brussels We only had point-and-shoot cameras, so the pictures are not on the level as most photographs on here, but I like to think they are still ok. Photos are from C, M and me.
  7. Similar to the thread on Marievale found here: http://safaritalk.net/topic/13778-marievale-bird-sanctuary-south-africa/ this is not a trip report per se, rather some images and general information about a specific location. In the Western Cape there are a number of birding spots, including Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Intaka Island. One of perhaps the lesser-known and certainly least touristy of these is Strandfontein. In actual fact it is a water purification works. The birding area is a series of controlled ponds lying outside the "industrial area" of the facility. It is placed just next to the beach at Muizenberg, but there is no access from the coast road, and the facility is reached from the M17 in Grassy Park through Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve. The turnoff is at S34.05364 E18.52926. Follow the single tar road through the Seekoeivlei reserve, and eventually one arrives at a road between two large ponds absolutely teeming with birds. At the end of this road is the gate to the facility. The main birding ponds are reached by turning right onto a dirt road right in front of the gates. This is what it looks like from above (Google Earth image):
  8. For my first trip report, earlier this year about our jaunt to Peru, I procrastinated a full 5 months before getting up the gumption to proceed. There are so many fascinating reports posted by others, who are much more interesting and knowledgeable than I in just about every subject imaginable, that I always hesitate to take up space with my own stories. In fact, I had considered skipping a report altogether this time around. However, given that we have two trips booked in 2016, and both center on places and accommodations that I would never have known about but for the generosity of other SafariTalkers who have taken the time and made great effort to report on their adventures, I felt that it would be hypocritical of me to do anything but dutifully outlay the highlights of our most recent trip. There are some folks who can convey the spirit of their experiences with just photographs and a few well-chosen words. It is a talent for beautiful minimalism that, allow me to confess upfront, I do not possess. I am a man of words, and the English major in me simply will not allow me to leave well enough alone. So, where do we begin? Ah, yes. The pangolin. It all started with the pangolin -- or, to be more precise, our desire to see one.
  9. Someone asked at lunch today, "Who here has been to South Africa?" Two of us replied that we had. Our friend is going this Dec for two weeks during the first part of the month and is spending the whole time at one B&B. No safari. She said they're the type who like to drink cocktails and watch sunsets, so she didn't want to go on safari. My other friend said you'll be doing a lot of that on safari. After some discussion, we managed to convince her that she and her husband had to try a safari for part of their two weeks. They've never been to Africa before, although their friends that she's traveling with have. Not sure if that couple have ever been on safari but they don't want to go, so it would just be my friend and her husband if they decide to go. Where would you recommend they go at this late date (assuming they can get a booking)? It doesn't need to be luxurious, but since they are reluctant, maybe someplace pretty and comfortable. I'm guessing maybe three days away from Cape Town.
  10. Well, it’s been several days since my wife and I came back from our second African safari trip and I’d better start my TR before the memories fade away (not that my memories from safari fade away easily, but still…). Since last year we debuted in Eastern Africa - Kenya (Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria, Lake Naivasha, Selenkay Conservancy, Amboseli NP, Ol Kyniei and Naibosho conservancies) we decided to get an idea about the southern part of the continent. The list of places to visit was long, time and funds were limited, so it took quite a lot of planning, starting from September 2013. There were two iconic places in Southern Africa, which we wanted to see – Cape Town and Victoria Falls, so I did my best to integrate them into the itinerary, while keeping the time spent there to a minimum (so we will have the bulk of our trip spent on safari. In terms of national parks / reserves I really wanted to see some of the private reserves adjacent to Kruger NP plus the Okavango Delta, so the trip took place in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe (shortly, just for the Zim side of VF) and Botswana. This first TR will cover the RSA part of the trip. For the Zim-Zam and Botswana portion of the journey, I will write a separate report in the Botswana section. The trip took place between May 16 and June 05, as you know the weather patterns in Cape Town are kind of tricky - the opposite from the rest of the country, so timing was not easy. We wanted also to see a green bush, without the rains, though. When considering other facts, like the water level of the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls, availability of well priced lodges and camps, time off from work, timing really turned out to be quite a challenge. The RSA part of the trip was designed entirely by myself – booked hotels, activities, lodges, domestic flight tickets separately, one by one. For the Botswana section I used a very competent local agent in Maun – Nadine from Safari Specialists (also known as Safari Destinations). I will write more about them in the Botswana TR. Itinerary: 2 nights in Cape Town. 3 nights at Motswari Lodge, Timbavati Private Game Reserve. 3 nights at Elephant Plains Lodge, Sabi Sand. 1 “technical” overnight in Johannesburg. 1 night at Maramba River Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia. 2 nights at The Old House B&B, Kasane, Botswana. 1 night in Maun, Botswana. 2 nights at Pelo Camp, Jao Concession in the Okavango Delta (Wilderness Safaris). 3 nights at Sango Camp, Khawi Community area, Botswana. Everything was very carefully planned by the hour and the funny thing is that the plan actually worked 100 %. On our BA flight from London Heathrow to Cape Town we got an unexpected bonus – great aerial views of the Namib desert and Walvis Bay (as far as views from a commercial flight go): Sea salt processing facilities in Walvis Bay, Namibia: Landing in Cape Town: Isn't this the best view one could get from an airport? Regarding Cape Town - what is the best thing one could do in CT for one half and one full day? Best answer: hire a pro photographer guide with a car for the entire duration of the stay and do not hire just anyone, get James Gradwell - a great pro and owner of Photography Tours, Cape Town. The guy is really bright, very knowledgeable, knows the very best spots for photography in town and around the Peninsula and is flexible, decisions regarding where to go are made on the spot depending on weather and your preferences. If this is not enough, I will mention that James is also a qualified safari guide and has worked in several game reserves in RSA. To say that we had lots to talk about (from photography, history to safaris and wildlife) would be a serious understatement. We were extremely lucky with the weather in CT – two beautiful sunny days, which helped for excellent landscape and even wildlife photography. I will not bother you too much with the landscapes (will post just a few, this is a safari forum, after all). We stayed at an excellent location – Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, right at V & A Waterfront, so we were able to walk around the area even before we started our tour with James. We loved Cape Town, the city reminds me a bit of Vancouver, BC with the ocean and the mountains in view. James Gradwell showed up on time at the hotel lobby and we decided to start the photo tour with the colourful houses of Bo-Kaap (the Malay Quarter), just stopped at the City Hall for a quick photo: Sorry for the non-safari photos, it is quite a temptation to post them, though, since they are a lot easier to shoot than longer lens wildlife shots
  11. I´m pretty much decided to do the Kgalagadi in May 2016 (with Augrabies Falls thrown it), not least thanks to @@penolva ´s brilliant photo book which really clinched it for me - have to get there as soon as possible. Will also include Cape Town and do the usual stuff (Penguins!), and for diversity I´d also like to try to visit one of the smaller, lesser-known parks/reserves nearby (=within reasonable driving distance). Seeing South Africa "specials" like Bontebok, Blesbok, Rhebok, Grysbok, Cape Mountain Zebra would be great, good birding places as well. Is there a chance for marine mammals in May at the coast? I have been suggested either going to De Hoop Nature Reserve or to the Cederberg Wilderness area and Lambert´s Bay. Not too much to be found for all these online, so what are your opions? Any other good tips for the vicinity of Cape Town? Also, is Cape Agulhas worth seeing? And how is Kgalagadi in May? Thanks for all advice in advance, Michael
  12. Leaving tomorrow for South Africa and an adventure with @ to Limpopo Lipadi. From there I'll be going to Cape Town where I'll be at the following shows representing Safaritalk as press. www.wtmafrica.com and then, www.weareafricatravel.com Of course, I won't be leaving home without the trusty pith helmet so upon my return expect to see some of its adventures. I have an incredible line up of conservation and safari people who I'll be meeting with, talking to, dining with: I can't wait to arrange some future ST interviews. I know a couple of you will be at the shows, so don't forget to come over and say hi. Just want to take this opportunity again to thank everyone on Safaritalk who made this opportunity happen for me. Thank you I don't know how often I'll be able to check in so I'll leave you in the capable moderating hands of @@twaffle, @@kittykat23uk and @@wilddog. Do behave yourselves now Matt.
  13. While I can still edit the post, just to mention that the time period for the below trip will be May 17 - June 04, 2014 We are in the process of booking our second trip to Africa. After visiting Kenya last August, the logical step would be to have a taste of Southern Africa. Very, very tough call, so many interesting countries and places, so little time and funds are not unlimited either. Changed the itinerary several times, including and excluding places, counting days, prices, flights... Finally decided on the following: - 2 nights in Cape Town staying at Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, a former prison, but a great value at 100 USD per room p.n. at V & A Waterfront. Have booked one and a half days private tours with a pro photographer - James Gradwell - http://www.photographytours.co.za I've seen quite a few of his photos on his Facebook page and I find him to be very good. He charges as much as any other private guide and I find having a person who knows all the best places in the area for various types of photography will be a great thing plus photography tips and tuition and perhaps could ask him to use his tripod for sunset and night shots (do not take mine on safari due to the baggage restrictions on bush flights). We'll be with him for two days and will break away just for a short helicopter ride to do some aerial photography (weather permitting) and in the morning on the second day when we booked a safari with APEX shark expeditions - the legendary Chris Follows that we know from the Air Jaws on Discovery Channel. If we are lucky we might be able to see a Great White shark breaching out of the water. Other animals are also on the agenda - cape fur seals, dolphins, penguins, sea birds... After the shark safari we will continue with James on the shooting tour around the Cape Peninsular - Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, the African penguins and will play it by ear.. Early flight to Hoedspruit via Johannesburg. Transfer to Motswari Safari Lodge. - 3 nights at Motswari Safari Lodge in Timbavati Private Game Reserve - this one is considered to be one of the best value places in the Greater Kruger Area. - 3 nights at Elephant Plains in Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve - this might not be the top place in Sabi Sand, but certainly is the a great value at $220 p.p.p.n. I realized that those are close to towns kind of manicured reserves and we will stay in lodges (we would rather stay in tents for more genuine experience), but according to my research those are the best out of the more affordable places in the region. Perhaps I could have booked 6 days in South Luangwa NP instead of the private reserves in the Kruger area for almost the same money (if we stayed at Marula Lodge, just outside the park's gate). Well, booking is done, deposit paid already. Transfer to Hoedsrpuit airport and flight to JNB. - 1 night at a hotel close to O R Tambo airport in Johannesburg prior to the flight to Livingstone - Peermont Metcourt at Emperors Palace - a noisy hotel in a casino complex, but very close to the airport with reliable free shuttle. Flight to Livingstone, arriving at 1.00 pm. - 1 night at Maramba Lodge, located between town and the falls. Hoping to see as much as possible from the falls until dark, possibly fit in a helicopter tour over the falls. By the end of May there is high water at the falls, clouds of moisture and I've read that the the best way to be seen is from the air. Flights on microlights look very exciting, but they do not allow cameras up there. There is an automatic camera mounted on the wind which periodically takes pictures of the passenger and the pilot, but still it's not like taking your own photos of the falls. The other option is a helicopter hoping that none of us will get the middle seat Next day seeing a bit more of the falls (time permitting) then a transfer through the border and the river to Kasane, Botswana, hopefully on time for the afternoon cruise on Chobe River. - 2 nights in The Old House, Kasane. They are located at the waterfront and have their own boats and game drive vehicles, prices are more than reasonable. We intent to do game drives in Chobe NP and river cruises while staying there. Next day early morning game drive with our luggage collected, then get dropped at the airport for an Air Botswana flight to Maun (twice a week service about $70 USD per person). - 1 night at The Old Bridge camp in Maun. Possibly do a flightseeing tour with open doors helicopter over the Okavango Delta (will start a special topic on this with some questions to those more experienced with it). - 2 nights at Pelo Camp (a semi permanent "wet" camp operated by Wilderness Safari and located in Jao flats area, the flight is to Jao Camp with a boat transfer to Pelo). Anyone with experience at this camp? It is very new - opened in July 2013. Here the original idea was to save money and just to do overnight or two nights motor boat trip to the inner delta organized by The Old Bridge Camp (http://www.maun-backpackers.com/boat_trips.htm). Such a trip will stay overnight at a camp on Chief's Island, have walking tour and then head back to Maun and that would be a true Okavango Delta experience without paying for a "wet" camp and costly light aircraft transfer. I have not considered the most important thing, though - the water levels in Maun at the end of May - most likely not high enough for the motor boat tours to take place. The overnight mokoro excursions are not the same thing, they go to a concession named NG32 which is not in the proper inner delta at all. Although the motor boat tour didn't work for us, because of our dates (end of May), IT WILL WORK FOR ANY OF YOU WHO DO IT IN JULY OR AUGUST and this will save you quite a lot of money. We will pay now 480 USD just for a return light aircraft transfer to Pelo Camp, otherwise the camp itself is a lot cheaper than any of the camps in the Jao Flats area (380 USD p.p.n.), total of 1240 USD p.p. for 2 nights. 2 nights/3 days motor boat camping safari to the inner delta will cost you $532 p.p. For the difference in the prices for two people you could charter a helicopter for almost 2 hours (just for two of you with doors removed) and take killer aerial and wildlife photos in the delta. - 3 nights Sango Safari Camp located at Khwai River between Moremi NP and Khwai community area, thus offering game drives in both places. This is the best value camp in the area ($ 1440 US for 3 nights with one road and one light aircraft transfer included). Considering the prices in Botswana in general, this is a budget itinerary. The agent who is putting this together (well, I mention the camps, she is checking the prices, except The Old House in Kasane, she offered me that one) is Nadine from Safari Specialist in Maun. Up to the moment she's been a real sweetheart and has endured all questions and changes that have gone through my mind. I did research also the mobile safari option, especially the idea of a private mobile safari (just for two of us) sounded very appealing to me. The guy mentioned $ 350 p.p. per day, I gave him itinerary, then he said that some places are $400 because camping fees are higher, then it turns out that he is charging the full amount on the last day for just returning us to Maun for 3 hours trip and charges $180 p.p. for the day before we meet, because he needs to travel from Maun to Kasane. With camps one always pays one day less than on mobile safari (sleep in the camp, have morning activity and then a transfer). Another disadvantage of the mobile safaris is that they include days at Chobe River and in Livingstone, which are highly populated areas where you can find cheap accommodation by yourself anyway. If it is a scheduled shared mobile safari the number of participants in the vehicle is very important, if you get 4 rows of 3 seats each and they are all occupied I doubt that these are going to be comfortable transfers and rewarding game drives. So, basically this is the plan, will wire money to Botswana tomorrow for deposits, South Africa is already booked, Kasane - Maun flight booked, should by the other local flights and the international flights to Cape Town and from Johannesburg. If someone sees anything terribly wrong, please let me know before I wire the money to Botswana in about 16 hours time :)
  14. Safari tails : Treepol and TreeMum’s adventures in Kruger, Cape Town, Kalahari and elsewhere This year I was privileged to share the wonders of safari with my mother. The trip was booked as a soft adventure and an introduction to the daily discovery and delights that a wildlife safari delivers. Mum has now been bitten by the safari bug and we plan to return in 2014. The highlights of Mum’s first ever safari were: Birdlife in the Kruger Restcamps Two young male lions (hopefully) trailing a very large herd of buffalo near Satara 3 cheetah hunting kudu Eles and lion at N’semani in Kruger Wildflowers at West Coast NP Lunch with Dikdik in Cape Town Coastal scenery on the flight from Cape Town to Walvis Bay Living Desert Tour (ex Swakopmund) Elephant gathering at Rietfontein, Etosha Meerkats at Bagatelle Cheetah with 3 x 4 month old cubs, Phinda The itinerary was: Forest Camp, Moholoholo Rehab Centre (1 night) Kruger 7 nights (2 Satara, 3 Olifants, 1 Pretoriuskop and 1 Berg-en-dahl) Hluhluwe-Umfolozi NP (Hilltop Camp 2 nights) St Lucia (Lalapanzi B&B 3 nights) Cape Town (Blackheath Lodge 4 nights) Swakopmund (Hotel Schweizerhaus 3 nights) Etosha (Dolomite Camp 1 night, Okaukuejo 2 nights, Namutoni 1 night) Bagatelle Game Lodge (3 nights) Phinda (Forest Lodge 4 nights) Photos from the safari (including accommodation) are now online. I’ll include some notes on planning at the end of the TR. Finally the 4 August has dawned and safari 2012 is here at last - the VIPs (very important pets) have been temporarily re-homed and Mum and I set out for 5 weeks in Africa. My brother and sister-in-law drove us to the newly renovated Devonport (Tasmania) airport and a quick 70 minute flight gets us to Melbourne for an hour stopover before boarding the plane for Perth. We overnighted at the unremarkable Bel Eyre Comfort Inn, where the redeeming feature was the free, convenient airport shuttle. The flight to Johannesburg from Perth was the longest I have ever experienced on this route - exactly 12 hours due to strong headwinds. I was lucky to snag the last row of 4 seats before the plane took off so we could take turns to stretch out for a snooze. The first night in Johannesburg was at the Airport City Lodge in comfy rooms with dinner at the airport Mugg and Bean. Breakfast next morning was up to the usual City Lodge standard (my first blood oranges of the trip) after which we met our guide Shelagh Webber and set out for the first night at Moholoholo Rehab Centre. Shelagh hired a 9 seater Hyundai for the first 13 days of the trip - plenty of room for us, the luggage, food supplies and Shelagh’s kitchen equipment. The dusty drive east was due to the strong winds that were battering parts of South Africa and the heavy traffic partly the result of coal trucks. We stopped at Milly's Star Stop for lunch before heading further east. We drove over Abel Erasmus pass, part of an early voortrekker route before arriving in a citrus fruit growing area with curio and citrus sellers at the roadside. Forest Lodge, Moholoholo Rehab Centre Wildlife started at the gate - 'kneeling' warthogs, nyala and giraffe. This continued during the late afternoon game drive where Mum saw her first African sunset, roosting vultures, more nyala, impala, a lone wildebeest and 4 giraffe. When the 6 lions at the rehab centre roared and the sound rolled across the Drakensbergs and I knew I was back in Africa. During the drive we smelled the potato bush that is just like boiling potatoes and is usually evident in the late afternoon and early evening. The common wild pear tree is a sweet smelling tree which (reportedly) is used for making love potions. The guide told us about the solo rhino at Moholoholo that seeks the company of the grazing hippos at night, and later we saw this unlikely trio close to the lodge. The staff served a delicious dinner of butternut and stilton soup, pepper steak (Mum had hake and prawn sauce) and chocolate fudge pudding. Following a good sleep Mum and I were both up early to see the sunrise across the Drakensbergs. Nyala graze at the front of the chalet and 2 young lambs spent the night in the shelter of the front steps. Breakfast was a delicious parfait of fresh fruit, yoghurt and muesli followed by bacon and eggs. The tour of the rehab centre was very informative and I have photos of Mum patting the cheetah and even putting on the leather gauntlet to feed the vultures (never thought this would happen!). Other animals that we saw were lion, leopard, hyena, honey badger, a 3 y.o. black rhino and a free ranging 4 month old white rhino that was being raised at the centre before being returned to her owner’s farm. Kruger NP We entered Kruger through Phalaborwa gate and soon saw several eles and impala. This began Mum’s deep interest in elephants that grew throughout the trip. We were lucky with a distant, yet clear sighting of a leopard in a tree - the late afternoon sun caught her spots beautifully. Next we saw a large herd of buffalo being optimistically tailed by 2 two year old male lions that looked longingly at this big prey but didn't push their luck. At Nsemani a pride of lions lazed with bloated stomachs - 2 males with lionesses further back in the tree line. Up at 6.10 the next morning and prowling around the campsite looking for birds - hoopoe, green wood hoopoe, a Bennett's woodpecker and a gray lourie are around the rondavels. Less welcome are the vervet monkeys, one of which stole my breakfast strawberries. After breakfast we drove the S100 where a small pride of lions is lazing. Morning tea is at the delightful Timbavati Picnic Site and lunch at N'watetsi Picnic Site. Mum and I did a Sanparks night drive during which we saw hippo, 3 lionesses, a distant porcupine, 2 genets, a disappearing civet and a chameleon. Up early next morning I was entertained by a pair of crested barbets, yellow billed hornbills and flocks of glossy starlings. Later we drove north to Olifants, via Nsemani where a lioness was walking slowly along the road. Along the way we saw zebra and eles at Ngotsi waterhole and a very large herd of buffalo, probably the same being trailed by the young lions - sadly there were no tawny shapes padding along behind the slow moving line. Stopped to admire a pearl spotted owl just before the Olifants River where we saw open-billed storks hadeda ibis, egrets, a pair of spoonbills, Egyptian geese and bathing glossy starlings. The river is scenic with lots of rocky outcrops and pools. Lunch is at the Olifants restaurant where I had bunny chow - yummy chicken curry served in a scooped out quarter loaf of bread. A knobbly fig tree shades the restaurant deck and red-winged starlings, gray louries and a black-headed oriole feast on the fruit above our heads. A short game drive revealed elephants at the Olifants and a wide drag mark made by a crocodile on its way down to the river. Bushbuck and kudu, together with the elephants from the river crossed the road in front of us on the way back to camp. My rondavel has river views and I can hear the hippos honking and smell braais cooking as the sun sets. Up at 6.45 looking for birds - a gray headed bush shrike lives somewhere near the laundry and the brown-headed parrots are breakfasting on aloes. Other breakfast birds are crested barbets, yellow and red-billed hornbills, a single gray hornbill, red-winged and glossy starlings. A tree squirrel entertains Mum but evades the camera. The first new animal of the day is a klipspringer on the rocky skyline. We had morning tea at Letaba and spent some time in the Elephant Centre where there is an elephant skeleton, lots of ele-related information and photos and the tusks of 7 Kruger 'big tuskers' with a few biographical details of these giants. Mum thought this was a great place and it was hard to get her away! Bushbuck roam around Letaba and I saw a cinnamon breasted bunting at the plant nursery. Heading north bull elephants are drinking from reservoirs where the short (and smart) animals stand on a small step to gain a height advantage. Further on we saw eles enjoying a dust bath and surprisingly, a lone roan antelope. Ate lunch at Mopani where open-billed storks, egrets, Egyptian geese and crocs could be seen from the deck. Returning to Oliphants we saw 11 bull elephants at the reservoir and closer to camp a lappet-faced vulture. There is a white-backed vulture nest along the road near the restcamp where we watched an adult feeding the demanding chick. Another beautiful Kruger evening and the hippos are honking in the river below as I write up my notes. Next morning I found a dark-capped bulbul, a black headed oriole and a white bellied sunbird all feasting on aloes near the gate. We drove south to Satara and giraffe, 2 of which were fighting, smashing necks in a fight for dominance. Further on we have sightings of a distant rhino, a peaceful breeding herd of eles and lion. We enjoyed a skottlebraai lunch (eggs, bacon and tomato) at N'watesi Picnic Site where a Spotted bush snake dropped out of a tree, eventually slithering into another near the shade area This was a zebra day as we saw 2 large dazzles with over 100 animals each as well as other smaller herds. I realised the next day was Sunday when I heard the staff singing at the restcamp church whilst at the restaurant black collared barbets hop around in the top of the knobbly fig tree . Later we departed for Pretoriuskop, passing a kori bustard which appeared to have been hit by a car (the number of speeding cars in Kruger was very worrying) and in a nearby tree a martial eagle waited to feast on the carcass. Further on we saw 2 waterbuck males squaring off, and later a cheetah. This sighting eventually turned out to be 3 cheetah hunting kudu and we enjoyed distant sightings of all 3. We had scarcely stopped talking about this than we came upon a large gathering of cars watching a leopard eating a porcupine - he was well hidden behind a bush but we saw his spotted head and neck as he tucked into the luckless porcupine. We had planned to have lunch at Tshokwane Picnic Site, however when a vervet grabbed Mum's banana before we had even put the picnic basket down we decided on boerwors rolls and peppermint crisp ice cream from the kiosk. Later we saw eles and lion at N'semani, rhino closer to Skukuza and buffalo - so the Big 5 in one day! As we settle into Pretoriuskop at dusk someone at the staff camp is whistling a song reminiscent of Love me tender as night falls. Pretoriuskop is my favourite camp as the grounds are spacious and home to a small herd of quiet impala and a wide variety of birds. Next morning I eventually photographed a scarlet chested sunbird. Leaving camp we saw a tree full of green pigeons and later some gray hornbills. A Sanparks vehicle and armed guard accompanied women cutting thatch to be used in the maintenance of park buildings. Along the road we saw 3 rhinos and at Transport dam impala, swallows, a magpie shrike and a sentinel fish eagle sitting high above the water. We stopped at Lake Panic where a pair of mating hippos had drifted close to the hide. We also saw 4 grey herons on 2 nests, crocodile, bushbuck, our first Goliath heron, African darter, malachite and pied kingfishers and jacana. On the road once more we saw a lone lioness and 4 giraffe. Stopped for lunch at Nkhuli Picnic Site where we again ordered boerwors rolls much to the delight of the resident baboons who paid close attention to our food. Closer to Berg-en-dahl we saw a lone (and very fat) lioness at a wildebeest kill and later a rhino and calf. Next morning I tried unsuccessfully to photograph scarlet chested sunbirds and purple turacos. Breakfast birds included a black-headed oriole, bulbuls, gray louries that were joined by the pesky vervet monkeys. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is next...
  15. The Patient Travelers in Zimbabwe and South Africa – October 2-22, 2012 Something most travelers have in common is a desire to learn and be engaged in something, or some place, different from home. We were first drawn to Africa in 2004. Our safari experience in Botswana, flying between three different camps over a weeks’ time, charmed us from the first moment. It seemed everyone else we met was on their fourth, or tenth, or even eighteenth safari. We were blown away by the intelligent and enthusiastic guides, trackers, and camp staff we met and felt we “knew” after sharing but two days and nights. The bush and the delta landscapes were mesmerizing. The wildlife – the primary “drawing card” – did not fail to amaze us. We knew that while we may not become as experienced as most of our fellow guests, we would be back again. Having just returned from our second set of adventures in Africa, I’m struck by how much wider my eyes were opened on this trip, how much more I’ve learned about the countries and people we visited, and how important it was to remain patient and let everything unfold at its own pace. More than being a “slow traveler” in Europe or elsewhere, Africa demands time and patience, and patience is always (eventually?) rewarded. Wow. Impressed myself with the prosaic introduction. Now I’m going to have to pump up the journal entries I made on the little note-pad app to match that level, so here goes: There are more flight options from the US to Africa now, and this time we flew Delta’s non-stop from Atlanta to Johannesburg, after a shorter flight from Raleigh-Durham. Delta now offers an affordable upgrade to “Economy Comfort” for those of us who don’t have the points or budget for Business or First Class. I had taken advantage of this offer for the flight over and we were pleased that I had done so. Every seat on the flight was filled, and extra legroom plus a deeper seat recline is invaluable on a 16-hour flight. So too, was the ability to arrive at our destination with fully charged electrical devices. The safari portion of this trip was booked through Zambezi Travel’s Victoria Falls Office. Chris Worden and his staffers, Liz and Helen, took care of every detail and provided us with excellent information about what to expect from each stop, transfer, and activity we booked. When we arrived in Johannesburg, a driver was there to greet us and help me find the Voda-Com desk, where I could purchase sim cards for my phone and iPad (I knew these wouldn’t work in Zimbabwe, but I wanted to be ready for the Cape Town/Garden route portion of our trip when we returned from safari, ten days later.) Our driver took us to Outlook Lodge, just far enough from the airport to provide peace and quiet, and an EXCELLENT bed and bathroom with a huge tub and wonderful walk-in shower. http://www.outlook-lodge.com/ And yet, it was still hard to sleep. We awoke around 4:30AM, made ourselves stay in bed until 6:30, then took advantage of the fantastic shower once again. I REALLY needed sunshine, and fortunately that morning was gorgeous. We walked the pretty grounds, played with the two dogs, and then had a wonderful breakfast before we were again picked up and taken to the airport to catch an 11:25AM BA flight to Victoria Falls. Oops. First snag: the BA flight was delayed from 11:25 til 2:00. Meaning we lost the day to travel. But at least they gave us vouchers for a meal, and we met a charming young American couple on their first Africa trip. They were headed to one of the Botswana camps we’d visited back in ’04, so we gave them our glowing reviews and kept their spirits up. Once we arrived at Victoria Falls and gathered our two checked duffel bags, a driver from Wild Horizons was there to whisk us to Ilala Lodge. http://www.ilalalodge.com/ While we had planned to see the Falls that afternoon, it was 5:00PM by the time we checked in, and although we knew the Falls were a short walk, the helpful lady at the front desk told us the park closed at 6PM and we might prefer spending more time there the next day. Probably good advice, we decided. Our brains still felt like mashed potatoes. The Ilala hotel is nice. We had a good room with a great bed. We enjoyed a couple of Windhoek beers at the inviting and comfortable outdoor bar. Chatted with an Aussie couple and their 20-something son, who was planning to do EVERY adventurous offering possible. Oh to be that young and athletic again! The menu looked interesting and seemed well-priced, so we decided to eat dinner there. I’d read some mixed reviews about the hotel’s food, but we very much enjoyed a kudu steak, grilled loin of warthog, and a glass of a good South African Cabernet. Plus the waiters were charming, easy to chat with, and the night had cooled. The next morning we’d scheduled to meet Charles Brightman, of the Victoria Falls Anti-poaching Unit at 6:15AM. Steve wakes me with a start...It's 6 AM! Woke me from sound sleep, only to discover it was merely 12:30. We finally get up at 5:30, shower and dress to be in the lobby at 6:15 for pickup. About 6:45, we have the desk clerk call, and discover they had us down for the next morning. To be honest, we really didn’t mind postponing to the next morning. This was, in all truth, the first actual day of our vacation. We have the luxury of all that time ahead of us. Besides, the breakfast buffet they were laying out in the dining room looked scrumptious…and we very much enjoyed it. About 9AM, we take the walk to the Falls, and nearly have it to ourselves. Amazing. Yes, the water levels are “low” but this still is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Mist, rainbows, DOUBLE rainbows, flowers, beautiful birds, some cute banded mongoose (mongeese?) We make our way down to the bridge overlook, and watch to see if there are any bungee jumpers. No takers, maybe it is too early? Too hot? On the way back, we have a great view of folks climbing into the Devils’ Pool on the Zambia side. The temperature has climbed to the mid 30s C. We sweat all the way home and, possibly because of the heat, are only approached by one or two fellows selling carvings, who are easily dissuaded when a couple of uniformed guys appear on bikes. While not as exotic as the Devils’ Pool, we decide to take dip in the hotel pool. WONDERFUL. We are joined at the pool by two couples from Florida. They had broken away from a tour that had been at several safari camps, and the heat had been too much for them. They decided to go to Victoria Falls to stay in air-conditioned comfort for a couple of days ahead of their group, who would be finishing up with a night across the street at The Kingdom. They had spent one night there, and decided it was too much like Las Vegas, so they were happy to get rooms at Ilala instead. It seemed they made the right decision for them. In the meantime, the hotel’s lunch menu was quite inviting. I LOVED my grilled crocodile and potato salad. Told my husband it tastes kinda like…. alligator. We headed back to our room to nap before walking into town to check out the market and shops. We had AC off, the fan on and the windows open. The birds were singing…there was just something about that breeze…the sunshine we’d enjoyed…that nice cold Zambezi beer with lunch…I actually fell asleep, and I’m not a napper. It’s hard to think about buying souvenirs at the beginning of a long trip, but having seen what the JNB airport shops carried, I figured we might do a bit to contribute to the Vic Falls economy. First we walked into "town". I thought I would at least see a pharmacy, maybe a grocer...but mostly it was just tourist goods in shops. On the street, the touts try to sell you 10 billion+ Zimbabwe bills...for $1. It is sad when you think that one time – and only a few years ago -- someone worked hard for that currency, saved it, etc. Now it is virtually worthless. There are some wonderful bargains to be found. We particularly liked the “Elephant Walk Market”, simply as it was located in a grove of shade trees, and caught what breezes there were, plus manufactured them with strategically placed fans. Inviting shops, and a small cultural exhibit detailing Zimbabwean crafts. There are beautiful giant sculptures exemplary of Shona stone carving. You would need to be wealthy enough not only to buy them, but to ship them home. I limited myself to three woven flat bowls with geometric designs. I negotiated a price of $6 per piece. I know similar pieces were selling in the airport gift shops for two to three times that price. Showered and dressed for dinner we headed to the bar for drinks. I’ve decided I like Zambezi beer, but that night, I enjoyed the Ilala 's special Pimms cocktail: ginger ale with muddled mint, garnished with Granny Smith apple sticks. Steve’s rather a devotee of IPAs, and is pretty much out of luck, so he must stick with lager. We chatted with a couple from England. She had been awakened early in the morning, and looked out their window to see a leopard! We had only seen warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys and an elephant or two. We are a bit surprised a leopard would show up in such a populated area. We had an excellent dinner with a bottle of Molderbosch rose wine. I had a baked brie appetizer, Steve had Kingclip fish cakes, then I had the warthog and Steve a rib-eye steak. This hotel has a very good chef. The waiters are proud of their knowledge of the menu - where the vegetables come from, etc. Finally, both of us had a good night sleep. We woke around 5:30, dressed and were picked up by Charles Brightman at 6:15 to tag along with the Vic Falls Anti-poaching unit. Charles is an enthusiastic and dedicated professional. He gives an informative presentation of how they are working to stop poaching, not only of animals, but also of indigenous hardwoods. At one time, poachers were mostly people trying to provide for their families, but now there is a professional element that is more dangerous, and for whom the financial rewards are great. Yet the VFAPU has seen continued success over the past several years, and they need to keep their focus and continue their programs of policing, education, and community involvement. We then piled into Charles’ vehicle and drove to a park entrance, where after coffee and a brilliant tomato-and-cheese sandwich prepared by Mrs. Brightman, we picked up a young scout and walked a trail looking for evidence of poachers’ snags. For us it was mostly a wonderful walking safari. We saw tracks of a busy previous night: giraffe, water buffalo, elephants, leopards, hyenas, various species of antelope, etc. I thought I got some good pictures of a couple of amazing maribou storks and a flock of parrots. (Later, something happened while downloading my photos, and I seemed to have lost them, along with some we’d taken at the Falls the day before). We learned so much about fauna and flora, and discussed many environmental issues that relate to the economically challenged Zimbabwe of today. We asked if the lady’s sighting of a leopard right outside her hotel window was possible, and he confirmed that it was. Leopards are very adaptable, and he had recently lost some house cats to a leopard. We saw some impala, and a large herd of buffalo. We picked up a couple plastic bags, and plucked a large white poachers' bag from the river’s mud. It was a wonderful experience and much more worthwhile to us than any of the touristy activities on offer in Vic Falls. He offered to comp the tour, as he was truly embarrassed to have had us down for the wrong date, but we refused. The money was “spent” and we would rather have the money go as a donation to VFAPU. Besides, our trip was unfolding at its own pace, and we were becoming adapted to a smaller world that has challenges and frustrations that are much more basic than those of a couple of retirees on vacation from North Carolina. Back at the hotel, as we readied for the road transfer to Imbabala, the TV news has reports of power and water shortages in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo. Obviously, it wouldn’t impact our trip. And of course, the results from a recent Cricket Test-match: Tourism and Sports are bright points in Zimbabwe daily life. People with jobs in tourism and wildlife management know they are fortunate, and are contributing to their country in a positive way. Nearly everyone we met seemed to be confident and professional, and eager to share their knowledge, carefully phrased opinions, realism, and humor. Next: On to the Safari Camps

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