A long catchup post:
As promised there has been no connectivity since the last post. There was WiFi at the local airport but as soon as we all tried to use it, it slowed to a creep. Some of you may have seen a brief FaceBook post. That was it.
After three nights at Baobab Camp in Chobe National Park (well next to it) we took three planes to transport 17 of us to Banoka Camp in the Okavango Delta. To date we have seen most every large animal and many birds found in this part of the world. The only “major” mammal we have yet to see is a Cheetah. Carol and I have seen Cheetah in Tanzania four years ago . Also we have yet to see a Black Rhino.
In Chobe we learned, or maybe relearned, the meaning of an “African Massage”. The entry road had us rocking side to side with the occasional up and down motion just to keep us alert. It was more like riding a bucking bronco than being in a 4 wheeled vehicle. This long road took us to the Chobe River which forms a border with Namibia. Once along the river sightings of animals increased substantially. We never did see any of the cats in Chobe, not for want of looking, but we did watch a pack of Wild Dogs size up herd of Cape Buffalo looking for a young, or old or weak member to take down. Confronted with more than a few horned heads of large buffalo, they decided to look elsewhere for breakfast. That was the major predator we saw in our six game drives in Chobe. I will not provide the entire birding list we saw. My favorites start with the Lilac Breasted Roller the Goliath Heron, and the Open Bill Stork. Oh how could I leave out the Saddle Billed Stork and the various colored Horn Bills.
The cabins were very pleasant, set in an open campus so we required escort to and from when it was dark. The animals do wander through. They are canvas walled require mosquito netting which is provided as is a mosquito repellant. The food was served in the main lodge with open walls so as the temperature dropped it got chilly. The last night dinner was served in a bomah (corrected spelling), a circular corral with high walls. We ate local foods in a local manner, no utensils, and were well entertained by the staff.
Note for anyone contemplating such a trip. Early morning game drives depart with sunrise, 6 AM in these parts at this time of year. It is Chilly! Driving in an open safari vehicle is cold. We all have multiple layers and gloves and warm hats. By 9 AM most of the outer layers are stowed and by 10:30 we are stripping down to shorts and tee shirts. By 2 PM it is HOT. As I am wrigint this it is 6 PM and I am in shorts and a T shirt but others will be donning long pants and shorts for the dinner hour.
Banok Lodge in Okavango offers tents with full baths and two vessel sinks for our comfort. Power is solar with generator backup and water is plentiful. The tents all face onto a plain that is normally under water and the river is beyond. The area is well populated by mammals, large and small. Our second night our escort to our cabin was delayed while a Hippo decided to move out off the path and away from the paths to our tents. These tents are on sturdy platforms 4 or more feet elevated and have plenty of room for the king sized bed and desk that I am writing at. As we settled down for the night the sounds from outside got louder and it became apparent that more than one animal was disturbing the neighborhood. There was no way to seek help if help could be found. It was clear that leaving the tent was foolhardy and sounding the alarm would only draw staff into danger and not make us any safer. We waited and eventually we fell asleep. In the morning we found fresh elephant dung infront of the tenet next ours and fresh elephant and hippo track around both tents. The calls of lions and elephants were reported by everybody on our side of the lodge. It was a very exciting night! And most of us still got a reasonable amount of sleep.
In the morning we had two highlights beyond game drives. First we had a “back of the house” tour of the facilities that make this lodge work. For 16 of us plus another party of 4 the staff total is about 30 to provide housekeeping, food, maintenance and guide services. Most of these workers come from surrounding communities which own the land the lodge has been built on. After the tour we went on a boat ride on boats poled from the back. They can not use the dugouts for tourism because the number required would e require too many trees be destroyed. They make them out of fiberglass and they are also much lighter than wood.
What remains in Banoka for us is High Tea with explanation of the geology of Okavango Delta followed by a final game drive here and dinner. Transport to Kufue in Zambia sounds complex using buses, boats, and at least two flights in small aircraft. I get tired thinking about it.
Tourism is big business for this region of Botswana. They claim it is the number two industry in the country after diamond mining and just ahead of agriculture.
Okavango to Kafue River was as complex as it could be. Our safari jeeps took us to the airstrip where we flew back to Kasane Airfield. A bus took us from there to the boarder with Zambia where we dismounted from the bus to pass through exit passport control and then back on the bus to the landing at the Zambezi River to cross into Zambia by small boat. The wait to cross on a ferry is 2 to 4 weeks! After crossing the river we boarded a new bus to drive first to Immigration/Passport Control for Zambia then back on the bus to Livingston (not Texas) where after a stop in the market we continued on to the Airport for another flight to Kufue airstrip where Toyota Safari Cars picked us up for the short jaunt to the Fukupa Tent Camp on the Kafue River.
We are closer to the equator and closer to summer, it is very hot mid day. The Tsetse Flies are active in the heat of the day so we are not. Our drivers pick up dry elephant dung and put it in a can on the front of the truck and ignite it. The smoke seems to drive off the insects. It might drive off some people too, but not me. The absence on insects makes up for the stinging eyes and smell that some consider offensive. The flying ash on the other hand was a bit much. When I get to post this I hope to post pictures as well. Our tent is good sized With a sort of all in one design. There are curtains to separate the toilet area and the shower. The walls are screens with offer almost no privacy from curious monkeys and passing elephants and hippos. These can be covered with curtains at night so we can only hear the neighbors but can neither see nor be seen. One traveler stepped off his front port yesterday and started a crocodile into jumping into the river. This is a fine lesson to stay in areas we are told are “safe”. Between us and the next tent there are two hippo highways, paths that are very clear headed toward the river. On our way to the tent after lunch we startled a bushbuck into running away.
I’m going to take a break from this soon and go for a dip in the pool. At the last camp the pool was closed and empty. They had made a design error and elephants were able to stand just off the narrow deck and help themselves to the pool water. This was too close to the deck for everyone’s comfort.