Thursday, October 25, 2007

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.

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