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Botswana delivers in spades in the Green season


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#1 AKR1

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:07 AM

I have just returned from a short Botswana Green season safari- we were at three camps for 8 days, Kwara/Little Kwara and Duba Plains. My party of three were mainly interested in photography. We had hired a private vehicle throughout and at Kwara paid for a specific guide I had wanted- Hobbs.
The safari was amazing- we loved Botswana. The weather gods smiled on us- it never rained for more than a few minutes while we were in the vehicle on game drive; all the rain was at night and on the last day post game drive when we were leaving. The sun was harsh but the temperatures in the shade pleasant. Pure luck but great!
I will attempt to do a trip report with pictures later but will just put down some summary points below:

Best decisions: The Private Vehicles and paying for Hobbs- he was exceptional.
Game drives: We averaged 13 hours a day on game drives mostly in one shot (5.30 am to 7 pm) except one day broken into a morning and afternoon/night drive. The PV gave us complete flexibility and was an absolute must have. I would not do a safari without it. Both camp vehicles were great (3 rows with one for each of us) but the Kwara one was better, newer and slightly larger. Critical factor was the roof on both vehicles not just for rain as I had expected, but to protect against the harsh sun all day and for branches that would enter the vehicle above us while speeding through rough terrain. It was tough enough watching for thorns/branches from the sides rather than the top as well.
Concessions: Kwara was fantastic as expected, with a tremendous diversity of game viewing habitat. Duba Plains was also as expected but wetter than Kwara with a lot more inaccessible areas and much smaller. A max of 4 nights here in my view unless buffaloes are present.
Guides: Hobbs was exceptional- single best guide I have ever had, with amazing intuition, professionalism and a no-nonsense, yet friendly attitude. He was also very photographer oriented and understood light, framing and vehicle positioning intuitively. Our guide at Duba Plains was also very good, he along with every guide I met at DP knew Hobbs- many of them had worked at Kwando in the past. Kwando’s tracker, was also a plus, as four eyes are better than one. DP has no tracker
Game viewing: Fantastic, but we worked hard staying out long hours, were very patient and worked with the guides.
Highlights:
• Start to finish Cheetah kill where a mother cheetah took down a red lechwe with a 1 km start time. Hobbs was amazing in figuring out what was going to happen, interrupting our lunch while we all watched the Cheetahs (mother plus three sub-adult cubs) and racing the vehicle towards the kill, all the time careful to not influence in any way predator to victims.
• Start to finish Lion kill at DP with the legendary Ma-di-ta (from the Last Lions movie) after four hours with the pride (best sundowner of my life with lions all around), the kill in pitch black at 8 pm viewed by spotlight, also a red lechwe.
• 5 male lions (of the magnificent seven at Kwara) right outside camp- spent three hours plus and alerted camp staff who came out to see them in a vehicle with the manager of LK. We were literally 3 to 25m from them for the three hours. Also, experienced my first live full blown lion roar.
• 6 bachelor Elephants playing in a pool with one diving to the bottom with the soles of his feet visible and the trunk out like a snorkel (Kwara).
• A full afternoon with three 6 month old lion cubs (Ma-di-tau’s latest litter) witnessing their behavior together for 4 hours at DP. This was an exceptional afternoon with the cubs playing and posing on a beautiful dead tree branch that had diorect views of the open plains of Duba Plains and looked often in one direction that appeared to signify where their mother had last headed.
• A full day spent at the Tsum-Tsum plains in Kwara with exceptional tracking leading to the famous 3 cheetah brothers who were on a mound beginning a hunt (the hunt failed). Spent two hours at a distance of 10m from them, very relaxed with vehicles. Saw a huge male leopard but he was shy and we could spend about 15 minutes with him. Saw a male lion resting (No.6 of the magnificent 7). Never saw the 7th whom Hobbs thinks is dead as no one has seen him for months.
• A sundowner after two hours of tracking a male lion at Kwara with Hobbs saying its unlikely we will find him, then hearing a loud roar close by. We drove 200m into a thicket and could hear their breathing- had a tire puncture in pitch black. Hobbes changed the tire in record time with the tracker and the rest of us frantically shinning lights all around and seeing at least one pair of lion eyes. Within 25m we found a male lion polishing off a zebra and three females. Spent an hour and radioed other 2 LK vehicles who joined us but respectfully gave us the best position literally a few meters from this huge male lion.
• A huge crocodile jumping clear out of the vehicle right behind our vehicle as it was moving backwards trying to climb out of a hole in deep water. Several sightings of very large monitor lizards.
• Boat and mekero at Kwara- the boat trip with Hobbs as captain led us to see a Sitatunga deer that I understand is very rare. An unexpected and exceptional boat ride at Duba Plains with a boat guide who had spent a decade at Xigera and has now been brought to expand DPs activities. We called it body surfing with Hippos!
• Lots more- large schools of Red Lechwes ( several hundred at DP), journeys of Giraffe, Zebras and impalas by the hundreds (Kwara, none at DP) etc, etc, well over a 50 bird species including a dozen different raptors. Only two things we missed- at Kwara Wild Dogs, and at Duba Plains buffaloes. The latter is a complicated story but the buffalo lion interaction is now much rarer at DP, mainly because the buffalo are often in an inaccessible spot on paradise island for weeks or even month+ at a time. DP is careful not to advertise this but my sense is it’s now hit or miss (with emphasis on the latter) for buffalo at DP. I say this as another person I know was at DP for several days in December and the buffaloes were in paradise island for 3 weeks then and have been away again for almost a month.

Soft Product:
Kwara met our (low) expectations. The bed was comfortable, the shower had hot water, the bathroom was subpar . The tents are definitely tired and the bathrooms desperately need an upgrade. Food was OK. No charging in tent, confusion recovering chargers etc, have to self wash “smalls”; but we barely spent time in camp except at night so it was fine.
Little Kwara is a definite upgrade from Kwara but for the one night we were there (Kwara was full that night when we had originally booked and they moved us to LK), we had no hot water and the water supply was muddy. The service, tents and food were a definite uptick from Kwara.
Duba Plains was in a different league and exceeded expectations. The manager Lizzy runs a tight ship. Everything was perfect and the look and feel of the place is definitely high end. The tents had plenty of electricity with a charging station, indoor and outdoor showers, much better rooms, fans, mossie nets etc, etc. Moreover, the common and dining area ambiance was top notch, the crystal and tableware high end, bottles of brut and rose champagne beautifully displayed on ice with pewter flutes served to guests each evening, etc etc. The chef Jack was very good and the food was great. Every time we entered camp the managers plus staff would we waiting with cold towels post game drive. Both breakfast snacks and lunch were packed everyday and we were told no problem if we came back for lunch they would serve us hot food.
As an added bonus, both the Jouberts were at Duba Plains along with an American TV crew for the famous 60 minutes program that is doing a segment on the Jouberts. We did not get to see them as they have their own home near camp, but when we were out with the Lion cubs we received a radio call to our vehicle saying Dereck was asking where the cubs were !!
I now firmly believe Botswana, or at least the delta, in the Green Season is the best kept secret and the way to go. More than anything, the lush landscape greatly added to the overall safari ambiance and I would not trade in the gently swaying tall grasses in the balmy breeze for better game viewing in short grass with dust and cold in the winter season. The downsides of more difficult game viewing conditions and rain are an acceptable trade.
Overall a fantastic trip.

#2 Game Warden

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:13 AM

Looking forward to seeing the photos. Matt

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#3 PT123

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:37 AM

AKR1,

Sonds like a great trip - I can;t wat to hear mre and see pics. 13 hours a day sounds fantastic!!

#4 Pangolin

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:52 AM

Glad you had a great time, although now you have joined the rest of us buffoons that are somehow ignorant enough to have enjoyed our recent trips to Botswana.

Any two or so year old lions at DP?
One pangolin to rule them all......

#5 AKR1

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 02:21 AM

Pangolin, yes there were several young lions approx that age at DP. However, at Kwara we only saw adults and cubs. Yes, I loved Botswana, and those of us who were there in the Green Season are not the buffoons, someone else with a huge chip on their shoulder clearly is. <_<

#6 Pangolin

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 02:47 AM

Two year olds at DP could be some of the young cubs we saw there in March 2010.

No cubs had survived there in some time. Nice to at least fantasize that the cubs we saw have grown into the teenagers you saw.

Edited by Pangolin, 24 February 2012 - 02:48 AM.

One pangolin to rule them all......

#7 Atravelynn

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 03:24 AM

Based on your conclusion, all I can say is Shhhhh!

Your Duba comments are in line with what I've been reading from many others. You had some fantastic sightings!
When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#8 twaffle

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 03:35 AM

What an exciting trip and I can't wait to see your photos.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#9 Shreyas

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 04:46 AM

Great stuff! Looking forward to a "grand" set of pictures from this photography trip of yours ;)

#10 Anita

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 11:31 AM

Big thumbs up!

Good you didnt take the umbrella ;)

#11 basto

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 05:48 PM

Great trip and great report, looking forward to seeing more! Was Moses guiding at DP?

cheers,
Tom

#12 Pangolin

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 06:24 PM

I also met Moses at DP in 2010, but heard in December that he had moved to the Selinda concession.
One pangolin to rule them all......

#13 Anita

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 12:34 AM

Nope he is still there, Pangolin. Reuben from DP has moved to/is moving to Selinda.

#14 AKR1

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 04:37 AM

[Moses was our guide at DP and is still there. He did not move to Selinda.

For anyone interested in the current dynamics of the various Lion prides at Duba Plains, here is Derek Joubert explanation as of last month.
http://www.livethema...ba-plains-pride

#15 Pangolin

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 05:32 AM

I was evidently given erroneous information by the manager at Xigera, who was the manager at DP when we were there in 2010.
One pangolin to rule them all......

#16 Anita

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 06:33 AM

I was evidently given erroneous information by the manager at Xigera, who was the manager at DP when we were there in 2010.


Its possible they had one guy in mind for the switch and then changed minds - or lost in translation in the Delta- I heard 3 versions of the same story from 3 different guides :D

#17 ice

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:59 PM

interesting to read that you assume one of the coalition of seven is dead, that he hasn't been seen for months - I was in Kwara early January and was told by my guide (Bate) that in the end we'd seen all of the seven...

#18 Game Warden

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 08:16 PM

I'm not seeing any photos...

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#19 AKR1

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:53 AM

Working on it GW. I have had no time since our return to work on the pictures, but will get to it.

Separately, on the magnificent seven. Hobbs clearly told us he had not seen the 7th male in about three months. Either he or your guide is mistaken.

#20 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 07:17 PM

Awesome report AKR1. Can hardly wait to see pictures from your trip!!!
http://500px.com/madaboutcheetah

Botswana in my blood .......





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