Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lebala, Botswana

If it starts looking like we're not lifting off, throw out some of the baggage.

The "rustic" tent.


You looking at me?

Awake at last.

Two days without a buffalo, and these tourists start looking tasty.

The babies.

More babysitting

More babysitting. Let the leopards have them, I'm too tired to care.

Chobe, Botswana and Namibia

Botswana border chameleon. Stands guard at immigration office

A sunset with elephants?

What happens when you fall behind the group

Japanese tourists and elephants. see above.

Brian's Giant Deadly Zambezi Tiger Fish.

Other swamp residents

Elephant taking a dust bath.

Songwe and Victoria Falls

Augie and Mo at Victoria Falls

Monkey baby at Victoria Falls

Elephants at the Stanley and Livingstone Lodge

Victoria Falls from the helicopter

Grub at Songwe

Lazy people taking baths at Songwe

Pumping water for baths

Just in case

Return to Botswana

Monday, October 22 – After breakfast, we were taken by boat to the Namibia border, then into Botswana and the Kasane airport for our charter flight to the Lebala Camp, located in the Kuando Reserve north of the Okavango Delta. After a 45 minute flight, we had a 30 minute bumpy drive to the camp. This is the first truly remote camp we have experienced, and our first tented camp.

Our tents are large and spacious, with a sleeping area, a dressing area, a large bathroom with claw foot tub, and an outdoor shower. There is no electricity, just kerosene lamps. But they have propane tanks for heating the water and cooking. The camp is not fenced, so we were not allowed to walk at night without an escort. We were told to not be alarmed if we should wake up in the night to find an elephant rubbing against our tent.

Our afternoon game drive brought us our fist zebra sightings, and we also found a pride of lions, with two large males lounging on the hill, and 8 cubs all under a year old playing. We were able to get close enough to scratch their tummies. We returned to a nice family style dinner. There are 14 guests at the camp at this time. There are 8 tents. It’s amazing what wonderful food they can prepare out here in the middle of nowhere. They have no phones, no internet, no TV. Their supplies are trucked in or flown in anywhere from every 2 weeks for some things and every 2 months for others. Even though it is remote and rustic, it is still luxurious in many ways. Augie thinks it’s primitive because there’s no air conditioning.

Tuesday, October 23 – After a 5:30 wake up call, we all met around the campfire for tea, coffee, and porridge before beginning our game drives. We went searching for the lion cubs to see if their mothers had returned. We found the cubs all alone on a hill. They were behaving nicely because they had no adult supervision. Our guide, Tabo, was a terrific tracker, so he began to follow the tracks of the mothers. After a while, Augie spotted one of them in the distance. As we drew closer, we found all 3 females and the two males. The females were in a hunting mode and the males would follow along for a while, then plop down on the ground to snooze for a while.

They eventually came upon a herd of impalas near a lake, a perfect place to trap them. We watched as one lioness circled around the far side of the herd, while the other two took up positions on the side where we sat in our vehicle watching. The two males found shady trees near us to watch the lionesses do all the work. We were told that if the females make a kill, the lions come in and chase them away so they can eat their fill. The females get the leftovers.

The impalas make a loud noise which sounds like static electricity when they sense danger. Suddenly the lioness on the right made her move and the impalas began to stampede toward our vehicle and the other two lionesses. The impalas were quick, and the lionesses did not get their kill. Exhausted from their efforts, they found a shady tree to rest under. The males soon joined them and we were able to get some great photos. We then headed back to camp for brunch.

The afternoon we spent relaxing in our tents, in the public area, or in the pool. At 4:00 high tea was served. They had a wonderful selection of cheeses, quiche, and pastries. At 4:30 we went out for another game drive. Before we left, the lions had been spotted moving in the direction of a herd of buffalo that were near our camp. Our guides said that, because the lions had not made a kill in a few days, they would attempt something as dangerous as a Cape Buffalo because it would provide them with enough food for a while.

We quickly found the lions and began following them again. It was well after sunset before they finally got in they positions around the herd. Because there was a full moon, we were still able to follow them with our binoculars. Suddenly, there was a loud stampede of buffalo, which sent up a huge cloud of dust. We waited for a while before we could see the lions again. The buffalo stayed huddled together for a while, then began to move away. We followed the lions until about 8:30, when the guides decided that they would probably not hunt again tonight. So we returned to camp for dinner.

Onward to Botswana

Namibia, Day 2

Sunday, october 21 -- The 3 guys in our group opted for a morning fishing trip, while the gals took in a game cruise down to the Chobe area, the same area where we had cruised when we were at the Chobe Lodge. We had some terrific viewing. We came across a group of hippos lounging on the banks. We got too close at one point and the big bull started to come after us. We also watched a group of elephants crossing the river to join another huge group on the island. We got as close as is possible to a herd of Cape Buffallo because they were drinking on the banks of the river and they can't jump in the river to come after us.

We came across a large strip of land that was crowded with animals. We saw giraffes, baboons, wart hogs, buffaloes, impalas, elephants, and many types of birds.

We returned in time for lunch and found that the guys were all sunburned and only Brian had caught a fish.

In the afternoon, while everyone else relaxed in their chalets, Augie and I, and Steve and Mary Anne repeated the mornings' cruise. There were not quite as many animals as there had been in the morning. We returned after dark.

Final day in Victoria Falls

Sturday, October 20 -- This morning, 5 of us went on an elephant back safari. Augie and I rode the largest of the bunch, Miss Ellie, with Norman as our driver. It's not like the Asian elephants, where you sit on a basket. The elephant has a soft saddle. We rode for an hour, then we spent some time feeding our elephants and thanking them for the ride. Then we were treated to breakfast and taken to a large shopping area in the town of Victoria Falls where Rhonda bought 3 huge giraffes and Augie and I bought a large carving of elephants. We took all our treasures to the DHL office for shipping.

We went back to our hotel to shower (didn't want the others to smell elephant all the way to our next destination), pack and head off to Namibia.

Our next experience is the Impalila Lodge, situated on the Zambezi River. The entire trip was by boat. This was the first of our first rustic, bush experiences. The lodge is near where the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers meet, on a strip of land which runs along the border of Botswana but belongs to Namibia. We were at the point where Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia all meet.

Our private chalets were elevated above a lush forest, but it was back to air cooling, generator power, and mosquito nets. They do a good job, though, of making sure there is plenty of hot water available all day. Rhonda and Brian stayed home once when everyone else went off for a cruise, that they turn off the electricity when all the guests are gone. They also shut if off in the middle of the night.

Shortly after our arrival, we were taken on a sunset cruise. This was so much nicer than our boat cruise at Chobe, because we had our own private boat. We saw lots of crocs and hippos, and a gorgeous sunset.