S: Botswana & Zimbabwe 2011
FC: Botswana | 2011 | Zimbabwe | &
1: Botswana | May 2011 | Zimbabwe | & | &
2: After a brief layover in Maun - the gateway to most Botswana Safaris we boarded the first charter flight of our trip - a "spacious" 12 seater, which would turn out to be the largest light aircraft charter of the entire trip. In no time we were flying over swamps, waterholes and even the occasional elephant and giraffe on our way to Savute.
3: Flying over elephants at a waterhole | On approach to the Savute Airstrip | Our camp Savute Under Canvas (red star above), was located inside the Chobe National Park, near the Savute Channel, which after more than 30 years of being dry, has recently started flowing again.
4: Our tents at Savute Under Canvas Mobile Camp | Ensuite bathroom complete with bucket shower! | Hot water was added to room temperature water to create a comfortable shower, albeit a fast one!
5: The dining tent - complete with a well stocked bar! | Even the most basic kitchen produced delicious meals | The supply truck and gas stove | A metal hot-box oven, where fresh bread was baked every day
6: Once the sun goes down the camp is dark except for flashlights, battery operated lanterns and the campfire. | Under the cover of darkness, animals are free to roam the unfenced camp. We were awoken one night by loud scratching at our tent walls. On the same night others heard a racket in the kitchen tent, which turned out to be a honey badger breaking into the food supplies. It got away with honey, milk and cooking oil. All that was left in the morning were the empty containers, licked clean.
7: Our safari guide Phetogo "Pat" Malatsi
9: There were an abundance of Elephants, many of which were in herds with their young babies | This youngster was digging for salt, a necessary part of their diet
10: This lone elephant was having a grand old time bathing and playing in the Savute Channel
11: Wide open spaces of the Savute Marsh
12: Lilac-breasted Roller | Cape Glossy Starling
13: Francolin | African Fish Eagles | Guinea Fowl | Hamerkop | Juvenile Tawny Eagle
15: Kori Bustard | Ostrich
16: A rare sighting of a Tsessebe | Steenbok | Public Display of Affection....Impala Style | Impala
17: Female Waterbuck
18: Yellow Mongooses | Banded Mongooses
21: Juvenile Male Leopard
22: Extremely rare sighting of African Wild Dog. This one was feeding on a kill prior to re-joining its family group.
23: Although the family group was separated for only a short time, they greeted each other with lots of nuzzling and excited yelps.
24: We drove for a mile through a herd of zebra numbering in the thousands
27: Our next flight arriving to pick us up | On our way to Moremi Game Reserve | Our handsome bush co-pilot!
28: After a quick flight we arrived at Sango Safari Camp (red star above), which is nestled in the shade of the trees overlooking the Khwai River and on the border of Moremi Game Reserve. | The camp staff greets all their new guests with traditional songs of welcome
29: The bucket shower being prepared | Sango Safari Camp is a luxury permanent tented camp
30: Sango Safari Camp is located just outside the traditional village of Khwai
31: Based on its proximity to the Okavango Delta, this area of Moremi Game Reserve had many water crossings. | Our camp was located outside of the Moremi Game Reserve where vehicles can travel off road. Once you get into the reserve, game drive vehicles must stick to the roads and bridges.
32: Vervet Monkeys
34: Red Lechwe | Waterbuck | Impala | Female Kudu with Juvenile | Male Kudu
35: Warthog | Zebra | Jackal | This toad never moved from its perch - it was in exactly the same position when we passed by it hours later | Partially submerged Crocodile
36: Hamerkop | African Jacana | Cattle Egrets | Spur Winged Goose
37: Grey Heron | Open-billed Stork | Composite image of the flight of a Saddle-billed Stork | Saddle-billed Stork
38: Ground Hornbills | Yellow-billed Hornbill
39: Verreaux's Eagle Owl | Hadeda Ibis | Cape Glossy Starling | Magpie Shrike | Little Bee-eater
40: Our guide Face took us on a bush walk one afternoon. It was great to see the bush from a different perspective and learn about some of the smaller animals, birds, insects and plants. | Face inspects elephant dung and explains how undigested seeds transported in the dung allow plants to grow in other areas of the bush. | Hyena tracks | Two species of Dragonfly | Face shows us how an Ant Lion burrows in the sand and uses its pincers (which he can feel on his palms) to trap its prey.
41: Face demonstrated the use of a bush "toothbrush." When chewed on, the stick creates a brush and the chemical composition of the plant cleans the teeth. | Wild Dagga - known for its mildly euphoric qualities
44: Heading off into the sunset at the end of the day
47: We came across three female lions sitting in the grass early one morning. After allowing us to observe them for a while, they moved off into very thick brush and we were unable to follow them.
48: Later that same day, our guide returned with us to the area we had spotted the lionesses and made the decision to drive into the heavy Mopani brush on the hunch the lionesses were sleeping there. Knocking down trees and generally making a very loud racket, our game vehicle plowed its way into the brush where we did in fact find three sleeping cats, none of which were the least bit bothered by us and all the noise. We watched other vehicles try to make their way in, but we had the prime viewing position. Our guide could tell that one of the females was lactating so we knew if we waited until they were ready to wake up and move on that they might lead us to the cubs. Two and a half hours later our patience paid off!
49: Our vehicle followed the lionesses from their resting spot to a secluded culvert close by | As we approached we could hear the mewling of the hungry cubs | The young cubs greeted their mother and the other females excitedly as they knew they were about to be fed
51: Right before our eyes and no more than 10 feet away we had a front row seat to the mother nursing her three cubs. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience that we will not soon forget!
52: Adjacent to the culvert where the cubs were hidden was a little hill. While the mother nursed her cubs the other females sat at the top of the hill, presumably keeping watch. Later, this hill became the stage from which we could see the family interact with one another.
55: Sometimes unsure of themselves, but with the curiosity instinctive to a cat, the young cubs tested their footing on the sandy hill
56: Female Hyena at her den
57: Hyena "poop" is white from the calcium of the bones the animal consumes
58: A hyena pup all of sudden made an appearance, but to our surprise the affection between mother and pup was less than enthusiastic. Quite different from the affection displayed between the lionesses and their young the previous evening. Eventually the pup went back into its den.
60: On this flight Gavin would soon be stuffed in the back alongside boxes of eggs, tomatoes and other supplies for the next camp!
61: The floodplains of the Okavango Delta
62: Our final camp in Botswana was Oddball's Enclave (red star to the right), situated on the southwestern edge of Chief’s Island, deep in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Upon arrival at the airstrip we were greeted by our guides who lead us to the Mokoros (dug-out canoes) that would be our main form of transportation on the labyrinth of waterways that make up the world’s largest inland delta.
63: Oddball's Enclave
65: Private "al fresco" bathrooms and the traditional African bucket shower | Our tents were elevated above the water and had sweeping views of the Delta
66: Mokoros in the early morning light
70: The sound of a Mokoro canoe passing through reeds is somewhere between a hiss and a swish, with long rasping notes as the wooden hull hones itself against a sharp leaf-blade. Mix in the whirr of duck wings, the chirrup of a bee-eater, the grunt-grunt-whoop of a distant hippo, and you have the soundtrack to the Okavango Delta, one of the most wonderful wetlands in the world.
71: Always on the lookout for a hippo or crocodiles, our Mokoro guides/polers, Knowledge and Philip, men of the swamp! | The water in the delta is crystal clear - here you can see the grasses at the bottom | Insects and spiders are very prevalent in the Delta
74: Daily nature walks on Chief's Island
75: Termite mounds twice our height! | Elephant tracks | Red Lechwe | Wattled Cranes
76: We said our good-byes to Robyn & Richard and took a flight to Kasane in northeast Botswana. From there were driven up to the border with Zimbabwe where we crossed into the country on foot. We watched while the Zimbabwe authorities completed extensive paperwork before we received our visas. The visas were paid for in US dollars (Zimbabwe's official currency since their own was abandoned in 2009) and immigration officials would only accept the newest cleanest bills we had! Once over the border we were collected by another driver who took us to our hotel in Victoria Falls, located about an hour away. | Our plane arriving at the Oddball's airstrip | Flying above the Chobe National Forest with the Chobe River in the distance | On approach to Kasane International Airport - the first pavement we had seen in a week | Flying above the Okavango Delta
77: Just outside of town and on our way to our hotel, The Kingdom - Victoria Falls (red star to the right), we had to stop to let an elephant cross the road. Later that night, while we were in the town center our driver nearly ran head-on into another elephant crossing the road in the dark!
79: A beautiful resort hotel with traditional Zimbabwean art, and the world's emptiest Casino! | Local dancers perform at the hotel restaurant
80: Although we did not stay here (our hotel was next door), no visit to Victoria Falls is complete without a visit to the Victoria Falls Hotel, popularly known as “The Grand Old Lady of the Falls.” The Edwardian-style hotel built in 1904 is a perfect example of British colonialism in Zimbabwe.
81: What could be more colonial than afternoon tea on the terrace?
82: Tame warthogs roamed the back lawn
84: An evening out at The Boma gave us an opportunity to experience traditional Zimbabwean food and entertainment. We were welcomed with a traditional greeting in the local languages, Shona and Ndebele, and then dressed in ‘chitenges’ (traditional robes). Once seated at our table we were brought a dish of snacks - peanuts and other groundnuts and a local beer fermented from maize. The thick homebrew is an acquired taste. We tried almost all the foods including; guinea fowl, crocodile, impala, warthog fillet (delicious), ostrich, peanut butter rice, a disgusting nut called monkey ball, and fried Mopani Worms!!! A local storyteller and Sangoma (traditional healer) roamed from table to table sharing traditional folktales and reading fortunes.
86: We both ate the Mopani Worm - yes, an actual worm - although not a live one!
87: A drum ceremony, dancing and face painting were all part of the evening's festivities.
88: The "Big Tree - a baobab, located just outside of the Victoria Falls Park, is estimated to be between 1000 and 1500 years old. | David Livingstone, the first white man to view the falls gave the falls the name 'Victoria Falls' in honor of his Queen, but the indigenous name is 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' - literally meaning the 'Smoke that Thunders.' | Considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world. It does however claim, at a width of 1,708 meters (5,604 ft) and height of 108 meters (354 ft), to be the largest sheet of falling water in the world.
89: The only thing between the path and the falls is this fence made of sticks! | Since this was the rainy season and water levels were at their highest, the spray coming off the falls creates a near whiteout in parts. | The "Devil's Cataract"
90: The provided raincoats did very little to keep us dry, as the walks along the cliff opposite the falls are in constant shower and shrouded in mist | The Victoria Falls Bridge spans the gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia
91: The Victoria Falls Bridge crosses the Zambezi River just below the Victoria Falls and is built over the Second Gorge of the falls. Not just the border between | Zimbabwe and Zambia, it also serves as the main transportation route between the two countries and is literally the "jumping off point" for bungee jumpers and other extreme sports. | We didn't have visas for Zambia, so we could only sneak one foot over the border.
92: Flight of Angels Helicopter Flip over the falls. David Livingstone coined the term ‘Flight of Angels’ when he first documented discovering the Falls; "A sight so wonderful that angels must have gazed down on it in flight" | Each passenger is carefuly weighed so the helicopter is balanced
96: The mist from the falls was visible from upstream during our Zambezi River cruise | This 8-legged creature fell from a tree into our boat when we were docking
97: Sunset over the great Zambezi River
98: On our last day we strolled through the small town of Victoria Falls. Since we had previously seen elephants in the urban areas we were not surprised to come across this tree that had been ripped apart by an elephant, which must have been interested in these unusual seedpods. | The Colonial British influence still evident by this mailbox | Every hotel had armed security at it's gates and patrolling the grounds | Locals trying to make a few bucks sell Zimbabwean currency, no longer in print since political turmoil and hyperinflation rapidly eroded the value of the Zimbabwe dollar to become one of the least valued currency units in the world. This bill which we picked up for a mere $5 was the highest bill in print at the time their currency was abandoned in 2009, toppping out at ONE HUNDRED TRILLION dollars!!!! That's 14 zeros folks, but at the time it was worth only about 2 US dollars!!!
99: The Zimbabweans are well known for their artist carvings. At this craft market there were thousands to choose from. A few dollars - or a trade of a baseball hat, t-shirt or shoes - would buy a beautiful souvenir.