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4 Countries 5 weeks Botswàna part 4

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Friday 9th June,

 

Today truthfully is a lie-in for us, as we are woken at 7am and are able to pack our final things before breakfast and a 5 minute walk to the Airstrip. No problems here with weighing luggage, queues through security checks, passport control, no thoughts even to look at our onwards ticket or any jostling for seat positions on the plane. The 12 seater Safari Air flight lands gracefully with a very young looking lady pilot, two guys in luminous jackets are on board who are hitching a lift to the next lodge so Mac, Denise, Peter and I take our seats as Aaron loads our luggage and after sad goodbyes we are in the air in seconds rather than minutes and winging our way to Leroo La Tau which is a Safari lodge situated on the Boteti river and the next stop on our incredible trip.

 

A couple of photos taken from our sundeck, literally we have the perfect 'Room with a view' of the Boteti river.

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Another easy landing 50 minutes later and before the four of us are off the plane, our luggage is already stowed in a Safari vehicle awaiting us. Leroo is at the end of a twenty minute, very bumpy sand road and Chemical our driver gets us there safely. This lodge is owned by the same company as Camp Okavango and also Safari Air. Everything is very familiar to us as the format of trips, meal times and rules are the same, even the free bar and free laundry services, both of which are a huge bonus.

 

We are shown to our rooms with sweeping views of the river, from the large wooden decked balconies. The rooms aren't quite as large as our  previous one as they hold one double and one single bed, but again with fabulous  bathrooms. The view from the deck later that afternoon includes herds of Zebra, Impala and Elephant so we can't complain. It is magic. The hot African sun is shining on us and before long we will be on a game drive with T.S. our guide who will look after us throughout our stay. It's a great system and it works wonderfully well. He answers our questions, takes us out and about and at the end of each day escorts to our rooms. There is a strange rule here that as soon as it is dark we are taken to and from our cabins by a member of staff as evidently roaming animals, including a wayward Elephant who drank the entire swimming pool water supply dry, meander into the camp and frighten the guests.

 

After a very filing brunch we unpack and make the most of our wonderful balcony watching birds and animals come to feed or drink and very soon it is time for a high tea of savoury snacks and delicious cake and then we are off on our first game drive in the Makgadikgadi National park which is within the Kalihari desert. We have to firstly take a boat for 10 minutes along the Boteti river to get to the opposite side where the Safari vehicles are kept. Once seated comfortably the six of us, we have been joined by two Americans Alan and Beth, listen to T.S. who tells us the name of every bird along the river bank where we stop every few minutes for fantastic photo opportunities, it's an amazing vista and I only hope the pictures I've taken do it justice. There are the herds of Impala along the way, we see Hippos, Ellies, Giraffe and Kudu as we meander for miles around the sandy road structure. It's bumpy and the gorse bushes and Acacia trees are lethal as we speed past, it's difficult at times to keep out of the way of their thorns.

 

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We have been driving for over an hour when a message comes over the radio to say there is a Lion close by, so we head in the hopefully right direction and within 15 minutes we see a Lioness coming out of an enclosure of shrubbery and long grass. We are silent but utterly speechless at what is happening yards in front of us. She walks to the back of this tightly covered area where we quickly realise she has some cubs. We park within meters of the covered enclosure and see there is a Lion inside eating a black and white striped meal. Sadly for the Zebra, he is on the menu today and it turns out to be one of the three cubs that is enjoying this good feast. As I've said before, this is nature in the raw, it's not the most pleasant part of life, but I try and equate it with me tucking into a gorgeous peppered Ribeye steak, we all eat to survive and Lions hunt, kill and eat their prey. These three cubs, our guide tells us are 15 months old, all males who will slowly gain their wonderful manly manes at around 3 years of age. To be honest they aren't much smaller than their Mother now, but she is still very much in charge and it's unbelievable to watch her wash their faces as they play and cuddle just like any close family unit. We sit for easily 40 minutes clicking away, taking videos and marvel at the luck we've had at being able to be a part of this. As we decide, as the sun is setting to head back to Camp, the Mum moves away to rest on her own whilst the boys play and just as we leave one of the lads bounds towards the back of our vehicle for a few strides, as my heart pounds he gives up, just like a little boy who's taken on too much he decides it's not what he should be doing so goes back to rejoin his brothers. We arrive back at camp to prepare for our own dinner and to sit and recall to the other guests an afternoon we surely will never forget.

 

Saturday 10th June

 

Morning game drives can be very different to afternoon ones. I can't say it's my favourite time at such early hours. Being woken at 6am, getting ready in semi darkness and having breakfast, but I have to mention the sunrises in such remote areas are out of this world. Like my first vision of a Botswana sunrise when we were aboard our plane from Heathrow they just take your breath away. Our boat ride to the game park at this unearthly hour shows the Hippos are wide awake. We see at least 14 of them frolicking in the reeds and their heads bob up and down. I've loved the sound of them and that definitely will be one of my lasting memories from this amazing African adventure. Hippos up close are terrifying, we know they only eat grass and aren't in the slightest bit interested in using us as a food supply but when a couple of tons of raw angry Hippo comes too close you have to very gently get out the way. All records show they are the most deadly creature against humans in Africa but not because they want to eat us, just because we get in their way. 

 

We have a great morning taking loads of pictures and enjoy a restful siesta before we head back to do it all again in the twilight. We see all the usual creatures but the last half hour before we return brings not one but two amazing highlights. Firstly out of nowhere a Lioness literally walks nonchalantly within yards of us, looks me straight in the eye as she wanders past and I try very hard to snap a steady picture whilst my nerves are shredded. Secondly as it's nearly dusk and we are hurrying to get back to our boat before complete darkness falls, a large herd of Elephants are having fun washing and swimming in the river, but decide to get out just as we are passing.  There are so many bushes, trees and dead shrubbery littering our path it's impossible to, so we have to wait. We move gradually forward trying to hurry them along but one waves his huge ears furiously at us and trumpets so loud it scares the living daylights out of us. The river at this point is too deep to navigate through with our vehicle plus the water is full of Elephants going through their cleansing ritual. One bull Elephant is not amused that two Safari vehicles are taking up his space but eventually we find a gap and get through successfully without upsetting the boss too much. Scary moment! 

 

Back at camp we sit around the bar enjoying nibbles and the gorgeous South African wines whilst we wait for another superb meal. The waiting staff, chef and guides here are just as harmonious as our previous camp so they sing and dance around the long dining table before dinner is served. As they dance we are plucked from our seats and everyone of us join in clapping and humming along. It's a very special time. The food on this trip has been stunning, varied and thoroughly enjoyable. We've experienced Carpaccio of Springbok, also grilled Kudu, just like steak. Impala pie, just like chicken! As well as delicious Hake, Pork, Lamb and a multitude of vegetables and salads..

 

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Sunday 11th June

 

Our last full day in Botswana and I have to say I'm exhausted. Another 6am call and we're on our way for one more game drive with all the usual suspects around. There are so many beautiful and interesting birds along the river and each day there seems to be some weird and wonderful named variety we haven't seen before. I've never been a twitcher and I must say before we arrived in Botswana I never dreamt I'd enjoy taking photos of birds but this has been a joy! Due to the variety of size and colour we have seen. But the one bird I'd never even thought about is gracefully stepping through the bush around 100 yards beyond our truck. We dare not try and get any nearer because once they take off at speed running, we would never catch sight of it again. Yes we have spied an Ostrich! All alone but happily wandering around, no doubt catching bugs for its breakfast. It's quite a wonderful sight to see and except for Kudus, Impala, Ellies and my favourite Hippos, he is the highlight of our morning.

 

Peter and Mac join T.S. on the afternoon drive but Denise and I decide it's time to chill on the deck, watch the river and whatever presents itself and get prepared for tomorrow when Peter and I move on to South Africa and just one more interesting part of our trip. 

 

 

IMG_7724.thumb.JPG.133c6974e0b538fffe5d910943030a74.JPGA beautiful lonesome OstrichIMG_7730.thumb.JPG.d476aa8292049ad9d2afda339f022439.JPGMy smiling baby Hippo, isn't it gorgeous?

 

Here is an array of bird pictures taken around the Boteti river, some named (hopefully correctly!!!) some not

 

IMG_7516.thumb.JPG.ed70ad99b2ba55c4bfdd4d9d37cd4f0e.JPGDuring our trip, these birds are so plentiful in all parts of Africa we just called them H.G.F. They are, of course, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, but they are funny!IMG_7531.thumb.JPG.e984a666a3028c4899c1d6dd5b76b6e3.JPGIMG_7541.thumb.JPG.237a19cc6339522ab82a4a52f9caf834.JPGRed-billed HornbillIMG_7543.thumb.JPG.34b3eefdb67d0966d724b7490b7a2b57.JPG

 

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African Fish Eagle

 

 

 

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I believe a pair of Secretary birds, but I'm happy to be corrected.IMG_7635.thumb.JPG.3484c11f37cfaaf93f735753b5c8812c.JPGIMG_7640.thumb.JPG.a4d29e0cd05ed2d8afcded106d74f045.JPGIMG_7654.thumb.JPG.898b80a7c2b35200d5d90d80e381b7d6.JPGStarling IMG_7737.thumb.JPG.bdbf9a4c4e5e0b9164c57b4da2ac399f.JPGA pair of little Bee Eaters, perfectly perched for me in opposite directions to show their plumage .

 

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A beautiful pair of Saddle-billed Stork

 

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My all time favourite a Lilac breasted Roller! Always found at the top of a tree watching everything around. Perfectly beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sorry these final six pics were the also rans and the final ' Mongoose' were clicked by mistake, apologies!

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Nice job on the birds.  You never have to apologize for a mongoose.

 

The lion cub was just teasing you.

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