S: AFRICA: THE GRAND SAFARI SEPTEMBER 2011
BC: We were so sad to leave Africa. We shall return!
FC: The Grand Safari: An Expedition by Private Plane Smithsonian Journeys September 9-26, 2011
1: We were very happy to have a couple more days to enjoy Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. The white arrow on the picture above indicates our lovely room with the bay window and three balconies. There is something to be said for the British Empire. Otherwise we would not have been able to enjoy High Tea at 4:00 each day. With the addition of Rooibos tea, it was outstanding. We did not count calories. | As we usually do, we arrive before the tour begins in order to be well-rested for our African adventure. Usually we come in a day earlier but, because of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we come in two days early to avoid flying on that infamous date. | Page 1 | Cape Town, South Africa September 10-13 | One of the more challenging parts of this trip involved packing. We each were limited to the supplied duffel pictured here and a carry-on. Together they could not weigh more than 33 pounds. This sounds daunting for a 16-day trip; however, the camps had laundry service, mostly at no additional charge.
2: Donna with Darrol Lee, our amazing driver and guide of the Cape. His stories of apartheid were heartbreaking but he holds no grudges, even though his family was relocated from the only home he had known to a miserable area far away. | We added African Penguins to our list. What else could they be named! | We were lucky enough to see the elands which do not always make an appearance at the Cape of Good Hope. | It was also incredibly windy. Loren was hanging onto me and I was hanging onto the sign.
3: We rode the gondola (arrow in picture on the left) to the top. We were surprised to see the flat-topped mountain covered with vegetation. | The entire population of District Six was relocated as part of the national government's apartheid policy. In 1966, District Six was declared a white area; by 1982, the community had been destroyed. 60,000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas known as the Cape Flats. Their houses in District Six were razed by bulldozers. | But the government did not realize that the more-liberal residents of Cape Town would not support this action. Whites simply refused to move into the area so many acres are still vacant. | Our docent, Noor Ebrahim, watched his home, pictured above, being bulldozed. | Finally, the government devised a plan to move those who had been "resettled" back to District Six and solicited applications. Over 3000 were submitted; however, many did not want to leave where they had established a home for 30 years. | District Six | Page 3 | Table Mountain (3,567 ft high)
4: Cape Town September 14 Kirstenbosch National Garden | Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki, renowned entomologist and a Research Associate at Harvard, was one of the experts on our tour. Besides knowing his insects, he had a wicked sense of humor which made his lectures one of the most-anticipated activities. | Mandela's Gold These unusual golden strelitzia or bird-of-paradise flowers were bred to honor Nelson Mandela. It took nearly 20 years to develop the yellow color.
5: Ludertiz Airport Terminal, Namibia September 15 | Photo by Cameron Smith | What illegal substance did I have in my bag? | Photo by Cameron Smith | Kristofer (Kris) Helgen was the other expert on our tour. He is the Curator in Charge of the Mammals Division of The Smithsonian. He certainly knows his mammals and discovers new ones around the world. One evening we had the pleasure of watching Lost Land of the Volcano, a new BBC documentary, in which Kris discovers a new mammal, the Bosavi woolly rat, in Papua, New Guinea. | Page 5
6: Namibia Little Kulala Camp September 15 and 16 | This is the life. | Our air-conditioned kulala (Swahili for sleep) was luxuriously appointed, complete with plunge pool in our private courtyard. | The lodge at Little Kulala
7: These four staff members are from four different tribes. In turn, they each described the menu for our evening meal. We thought that it was really interesting but we did not expect it to turn into a comedy routine. In one language a dish might be described in a few words; in another a few sentences; and it yet another a paragraph. The woman on the far right spoke one of the "click" languages. Her descriptions were the longest. | Our last evening at Little Kulala we were treated to a barbecue with entertainment. As darkness fell luminaria lighted the walkway from the lodge. It was a magical evening. | Page 7
8: Our first sundowner In Africa it is a good thing. | Weaver bird nest It was absolutely mind-blowing that this nest would hold 60-90 birds. | Springbok On the road from the landing strip we were so excited to see our first animal. Little did we suspect that in a matter of hours we would be saying, "Oh, it's another springbok." Think white-tail deer in the United States.
9: Donna really wanted to climb Dune 45 but most of our group turned back rather than be sand-blasted. Arrow indicates a person on top of the dune. | Ostriches near the dunes. | Page 9 | Donna on Dune 45 just before she turned around The dune is almost 560 feet high. | Namib Naukluft Park | The dunes looked like mountains from afar. They changed colors as the sun rose in the sky.
10: When we asked Elaine, our driver and guide, where the sand came from, she whipped out her dry erase marker and used her windshield to illustrate the movement of the sand from the Kalahari in Botswana. The sand is blown into the Orange River which empties into the Atlantic which, in turn, pushes it back on land. | The sand in Donna's shoes at the end of the day. | Loren was prepared for the blowing sand. | Donna with Elaine, our guide, leading the pack to Sossusvlei's clay pan (above). | There was water still in this lake from the record rainfall in February.
11: Pied crows | Oryx In profile they look as if they have one horn. Unicorns, anyone? The almost white one is not a true albino. | We never did tire of watching the ostriches. | Page 11 | Oryx
12: Yes, we landed on a road. Donna saw a truck drive by just before we landed. Note the pilot of the first plane that landed is now acting as the ground crew. | Donna fell in love with the Pilatus turboprops. | Loren didn't think they were too shabby either. | Otjiwarongo, Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund Research and Education Center
13: This sweet girl was lying not more than five feet from the Land Rover. Donna started talking to her like she does to the domestic relatives who live with us. She obliged by closing her eyes just like they do. Donna thought it was so cool. | There were several cheetahs behind this fence. They paid no attention to us humans until three small children ran up to the fence. The cheetahs were on their feet in an instant. After all it was feeding time. | Page 13
14: Namibia The Fort at Onguma September 17 and 18 | The staff welcomed us in song.
15: Hyena on his way to the watering hole | No zebras have the same pattern of stripes. | This zebra has joined forces with the springbok for safety. | Namibia Etosha National Park September 17-19 | Page 15
16: Dik dik What a delicate creature in such a hostile environment. | Giraffes, as they age, develop calcium deposits on the bones of their heads.
17: We were lucky to see this Cape fox. | Another lovely sundowner. We were well-taken care of at all the camps. | Wildebeest | Great Hartbeest He must join a herd or he won't survive. Later we saw a zebra with a large wound on his left flank, inflicted by a lion, standing by himself in the open. | Page 17
18: Barred owl | Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill Affectionately known as the "Flying Banana" | Red-billed Hornbill And this one? The "Flying Chili Pepper" | Note the red legs. Walking through the high grass injures the ostrich's legs.
19: Justin was always smiling even though he works six weeks before he can do the 10-hour trip home. He has a 9-year-old son and a 3-month-old daughter. He has two weeks at home. When I asked him why he wasn't joining in the rhythmic clapping and singing. He explained that his tribe uses drums and xylophones. Seven languages are spoken at Onguma so they use English as the common language except for the groundskeepers. | Our first lion! And Loren was the one who spotted her but he did not have his better camera with him. | She was just to the right of the watering hole in front of the lodge at Onguma. | Page 19 | Photo by Cameron Smith
20: Botswana Vumbura Plains Camp in the Okavango Delta September 19 and 20 | Wart hog "How ugly can an animal be? "asks Donna. | Finally, Donna gets to Botswana. She fell in love with this country reading the series, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, with its office in Gaborone. When she asked some women in an airport office their opinion of the series, they made sour faces. When she probed further, it turned out that they had only seen the movies and had not read the books. Their main objection? The casting of an American actress in the role of Precious Ramotswe, the No. 1 Lady Detective. Although Donna has been retired for several years, she did reader's advisory, highly recommending that they try the first book. Once a librarian always a librarian. | Kudu My what big ears you have!
21: This young male greeted us when we returned to camp from a game drive. The flared ears mean that he is going to charge or it could be a "fake charge". We did not walk past him to find out. | A lilac-breasted roller welcomed us to Botswana. | A yellow-billed stork with his 8-9" bill submerged. | Next morning Donna noticed that one of the rails was down. The young elephant went on a mini-rampage. Donna quipped, "Maybe he just needed a toothpick." | Page 21
22: Just like a human infant, this little one needs help from mama. She uses her trunk to make it easier for the baby to latch on to nurse. | And now she shifts her weight to her left side, again making it easier for the baby to nurse. | This baby still fits under mama's belly. Much safer there. | The adults always protect the babies.
23: We are enjoying the wonders that our guide is pointing out, including tiny, colorful reed frogs just over a half-inch long. | Photo by Cameron Smith | The original makoros or dugout canoes were made from three trees: ebony, sausage tree or acacia. Since large mature trees are needed to make makoros, now all the safari camps in the Okavango Delta use fiberglass ones. | A croc and an egret coexisting in the sun, just a few feet from our Land Rover. | Photo by Cameron Smith | Cameron Smith (no relation) enjoying his ride in a makoro. Thanks to Cameron for always having his "camera on." Without him we would not have the photos of the two of us. | Page 23
24: It was imperative that we dock before the sun was completely down because the animals (elephants and hippos) take over the water. Donna has one blurry picture of an elephant who decided to arrive early. | John Thiede, expedition leader extraordinaire | That evening we took a small powerboat out into another part of the delta. The papyrus is used in thatching and as a food source. | Can you find the tiny reed frog? They come in various colors.
25: Some of the evening's entertainment in Botswana and yes, the man on the right did set his skirt on fire. | Walkway to our "tent" | Plunge pool in our courtyard | Our lovely, well-appointed "tent" | Page 25
26: Great picture by Loren of this giraffe's blue tongue which can be 18 inches long. | Elephant damage to a baobab | Baboons grooming and watching us go by. | Waterbuck easily identified by the bull's eye
27: ST and Donna ST and the trusty Land Rover gave us the ultimate off-road game drives. No road? No problem! | Through water above the running boards | Through a seemingly impenetrable wall of brush and tree stumps | The log roads near the camp were slightly elevated. | Page 27
28: The pilots acquired permission to fly over the falls as we left Zambia headed for South Africa and our last safari camp.
29: The Zambia side of the falls as seen by Donna at the end of the trail. | Blue Waxbill Donna saw this beauty on her way back. She was so rewarded for wanting to get up at 5:45 to see the Zambia side of the Falls. | On the Zambian side of the Falls, Loren turns back while Donna continues on. Just how many steps were there? More than 50 on the whole trail | The Royal Livingstone Hotel outside of Livingstone, Zambia. One night we ate at a table for two at the edge of the lawn. We were amused by how foolhardy some tourists were as they tried to walk up to the wild zebras who were grazing on the lawn. One tourist got too close and the zebra lashed out with his hind foot. | Page 29 | Victoria Falls, Zambia
30: This used to be the luxury hotel in Livingstone, Zambia. An Englishman bought it recently with plans to renovate it and once again be the place to stay near Victoria Falls. | Oops! One minute this vendor was wheeling his produce to market and the next the axle broke. | Our guide Brilliance said that one can buy anything at the open-air market including cement. It is open 18 hours a day. | The ubiquitous blue taxis A sign on a nearby business reads "TAXI DRIVERS. NO TOILETS 4 YOU." | Livingstone, Zambia
31: Our Sunset Cruise on the Zambezi | Our cruise on the African Queen was a more relaxing one than Hepburn and Bogart's adventure. | What a unexpected thrill to watch this elephant swim across the Zambezi alternately using his trunk as a snorkel and submarining. | Page 31
32: South Africa Londolozi Camp in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park September 23-25 | Two brothers sleeping together across the road from the lioness | Yawning | We came upon this lioness at the edge of the road. Brian, our driver, stopped several feet from her. She did not bother to look up.
33: Who's coming? | Another male approaches but lies down several feet from the other three. | Page 33
34: This is how close we were to the lions. As long as we stayed seated, they paid no attention to the Land Rover. We were repeatedly caution not to stand up. The animals are so used to the Land Rovers but if a tourist would break the profile, the lions might attack when they saw legs. | We were sitting almost directly below this leopard who was sleeping off his breakfast. The remains of which were stashed in a fork of the tree behind him. When he woke up, he came down the tree and was perfectly camouflaged by the grasses.
35: The red-billed oxpeckers on the rhino are eating insects. | And then he went to sleep totally unconcerned about our being there. | A beautiful male waterbuck | Page 35
36: Nyala hanging out at the lodge | Wildebeest enjoyed rolling in the mud at this watering hole. | There were more hippos on the bank with two babies but we could not get a good shot of them. | Snake eagle
37: Brian, guide and driver, and Judas, the tracker | Judas was always listening for animal calls that we never heard. We knew when we were getting close to lions because Judas would leave his spotting seat on the front of the Land Rover and get inside the vehicle. | Created by one of the staff from colored wire | Page 37 | Our chalet in Founders Camp
38: The lodge at Londolozi | Nicky Esson, the ever-patient South African tour leader who handled all difficulties with aplomb | One last chance for Peter to point out an insect
39: Time to say goodbye to our magnificent men in their flying machines, our terrific experts, accommodating expedition leaders, a great group of fellow travelers, and, sadly,to the incredible countries in Southern Africa. We had a blast! | Page 39 | L to r: Piers Hefler (lead pilot), Donovan LeRoux (our pilot who looks 16), and Peter Haywood | Our congenial band of fellow travelers | L to r: Kris Helgen, Donovan LeRoux, John Theide, Judas, and Cameron Smith
40: Page 40 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Our trusty Pilatus PC-12s allowed us to see 5 countries and stay in 5 entirely different types of environments from the city lights of Cape Town (1) to the red sand dunes and the pan of Sossusvlei in Namibia (2) to the salt pans and plains of Etosha National Park in Namibia (3) to the lush grasslands and waterways of Botswana's Okavango Delta (4) to the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of Victoria Falls (5), and to the grasslands and thickets of the Sabi Sand Preserve.
41: INDEX Botswana/Vumbura.....20-27 Cheetah Conservation.....12-13 Namibia/Little Kulala.....5-11 Namibia/Onguma.....14-19 Pilots.....39 Planes.....39 South Africa/Cape Town .....1-4 South Africa/Londolozi.....32-38 Tour Group.....39 Victoria Falls.....28-29 Zambezi cruise.....31 Zambia.....30 | What an experience it was to sit in the co-pilot's seat next to Donovan, listening to the pilots communicate with each other and the control tower. Donna's childhood dream of learning to fly was reawaken. Piers, the lead pilot urged her to do it since she exhibited such a passion for small planes.