A Travellerspoint blog

Day 17 - going home and reflecting on the trip

Amsterdam, Detroit and Home

overcast 40 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

This trip exceeded by a large margin, my expectations. Our group really gelled and we made some new friends. Touring with a small group is vastly superior to a large one. Herding 13 cats was tough enough for our tour manager but he stated that our group was easy for him and the only real issues David had was when South African Airways went on strike and one couple from our group had to be rebooked home to San Francisco via a different initial carrier. Since the info about the strike only came out Thursday and we were leaving Friday. Collette and David had some scrambling to do. It all worked out in the end and the Bob and Margot were delayed one day. Beth and I had a fantastic or Afrimagnamazing time and would recommend an African Safari to everyone. The countries are beautiful and their stewardship of these wonderful animals is truly a gift to the world.

I want to list the animals and birds we saw and some stats about the trip so here goes:

Animals
elephant, white rhino, hippo, Cape buffalo, leopard, lion, giraffe, wildebeest, banded mongoose, slender mongoose, baboon, Hyrax, cheetah, Bush pig, warthog, vervet monkey, zebra, jackal, brown spotted hyena, sea lion, jackal

Antelope types
Eland, kudu, waterbuck, blesbok, red lechwe, impala, springbok

Reptiles, etc.
Crocodile, leopard tortoise, monitor lizard, dung beetle, blue headed agama lizard

Birds
Cormorant, ostrich, African penguin, brown snake eagle, guinea fowl, black chested snake eagle, sacred ibis, oxpecker, kingfisher, marabou stork, red headed vulture, black vulture, yellow billed kite, yellow billed stork, red billed hornbill, cattle egret, great egret, African fish eagle, African darter, blacksmith lapwing, blue waxbill, Senegal cuckoo, hammerkop, open billed stork, little egret, turtle dove, crested francolin, white crowned robin chat, arrow marked babbler, malachite kingfisher, weaver bird, go away bird or Turaco, crested barbet, african starling

Over 60 different species

here are some sayings and trivia:

Victoria Falls - The Smoke that Thunders - during rainy season 550 million liters of water per day goes over the falls
Traffic lights are called robots
Largest concentration of great white sharks in the world is in False Bay, South Africa
Happy-Clappy is a contemporary church service
If they don’t feed you we don’t fly that airline in Africa!
LIA - life in Africa, used to describe any little setback or something going wrong like a power outage
Impala - the McDonalds drive-thru of the bush
Brown spotted hyena - no teeth but jaws that can crush bones
Botswana currency the Pula which means rain, also very low unemployment unlike Zimbabwe
Chobe means Push
They loaded the plane in Zimbabwe, windows, then centers, then aisles - may sound logical but in practice- people were confused and there was NO intercom!
Elephants are right or left handed, whichever tusk is shorter, that is the favored side
African elephants are designated that because their ears look like the continent of Africa
Crocodile gender is determined by the temperature in the nest. Hotter= males, only 5% survive but they can live up to 100 years
Hippos Mark their territory by dung showering (using their tail like a propeller and urinating)
Male hippos will kill male babies to decrease competition
A hippo yawn is a threat display
A bumpy Jeep ride is called an African Massage
Carcasses are burned if a ranger suspects disease killed the animal, so the disease is not spread especially by hyenas. Elephants are susceptible to anthrax due to the bacteria living in the soil and the animals drinking from standing water.
Impala is the most successful animal since they both graze and browse (eat leaves from trees)
Afrimagnamazing - a term coined by Beth and I to describe this trip!

Number of photos taken by Beth - over 3000. She won’t bore you with all of them though....just the small collection of very best

Posted by Weimerrv 02:55 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

Day 16 - our own personal Safari and begin our trip home

Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa

sunny 80 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Up at the BCD - butt crack of dawn, for our own personal Safari. No one else in the group wanted to go so it was just the two of us. Since we had seen the big 5, Onks, our guide, told us we would see what the Bush had to offer us! We saw several species of birds and Onks described them all. Many have a symbiotic relationship with our animals like the cattle egret (eats bugs uncovered by the buffalo and wldebeest) and the Oxpecker that eats ticks and other parasites off the larger herbivores. Our first big siting was a male lion feeding on the baby elephant carcass I described yesterday - I have video of that. We also saw many elephants and they paraded past our position close enough that we could have touched them. One parade had several young ones, one less than 6 months old. He was so small and looked like he could barely keep up but his mother was there shepherding him along. We saw many types of antelope and were lucky enough to see a very young female with her momma. The various breeds of antelope give birth around the same time and can hold off the birth if resources are scarce. Over the next 3 months there will be many babies that hit the ground running soon after birth....all in all an informative and interesting Safari and we were the only ones that got up early to go!

It was back to the lodge for a quick shower and breakfast then off to Zimbabwe for our flight back to Johannesburg. Our border crossings were all quick and uneventful. . I had my Springbok rugby shirt on so the immigration official at the Botswana border crossing chatted me up about that....other than that, mostly just scanning your passport and grunting....We made it back to Johannesburg and caught our flight to Amsterdam.. we are sitting in the lounge waiting for our flight to Detroit and then Raleigh and home. I will post some factoids about our trip next.

Posted by Weimerrv 02:07 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Day 15 part 2 or African Lion porn revisited

Botswana

sunny
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Please read part 1 first before reading this entry.

After lounging by the pool and taking a nice hot shower, we were ready for the afternoon Safari. We had the same guide - Mpatengo. We set out for the park and our guide said we were in for an African massage - a very rough ride! The weather was warm but pleasant. We took a similar route but did not go by where we saw the cub earlier - the rangers had warned jeeps not to go there so the mama could retrieve her cub. We were rolling along the river and I spotted a hornbill on the ground but it was too quick to photograph. We saw a couple of jeeps stopped ahead so rolled in. They were looking up in a tree and.....drum roll please....we saw a leopard up in the tree. He was very hard to see and difficult to get a good picture since it was dark and he blended in so well. A couple of our tour mates did get some decent shots. Beth took some pictures but they are difficult to make out. So, to use an ice cream sundae metaphor - we had the rhino first (ice cream); the lion second (hot fudge); the elephant third (whipped cream); the Cape buffalo fourth (nuts); and the leopard fifth, the cherry on the top! We next saw a male and female lion that were walking together and just that quick they mated and a few minutes later mated again.....lots of sex in Africa. We saw giraffes and elephants and 3 more lionesses that seemed to be stalking a monitor lizard, I have video of that as well of the elephants and an old bull giraffe getting a drink. We saw several elephant carcasses during our 2 safaris, they were in various states, from bones to a relatively fresh (2 days). If the rangers suspect disease, like anthrax, they will burn the carcass. Elephants are susceptible to anthrax due to the spread through the soil and standing water.

What a fabulous day!!! We capped it off with cocktails overlooking the river and a farewell dinner. Our tour manager, David, arranged a quick Safari for tomorrow morning and everyone backed out but us - so we are getting our own private Safari, Thank You David. So off to bed.....tomorrow we start our travel home.

Posted by Weimerrv 07:34 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Day 15 part 1- or the day we could have pet the lions

Botswana


View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Up early for our first land Safari in Botswana inside Chobe National Park. We started out slow but soon came upon a lioness carrying a cub. She dropped her cub in the middle of the trail! The poor cub was so little and so tired, he could hardly walk. The cub was less than 2 weeks old and was soon crying for his mama. Our guide told us that the mother lion was moving several cubs from one location to another to keep them away from the males. If a male suspects the cub is not his, he will kill it. We stayed for several minutes and got some amazing pictures.....more to come on this part of the story. We drove on and soon came upon 3 male lions. One was a dominant male and had wounds on his face from recent fighting. We watched for several minutes as they lounged around (lions can sleep up to 20 hours per day). Soon the big male got up and started moving and then started to roar, he called several times but we didn’t hear any reply. Our guide repositioned the Jeep and the cat calmly walked right beside me, I could have reached out to touch him!!!! So many Jeep’s arrived so we moved on down towards the river. We saw many of the same animals as last night on our river cruise. We did add several species of birds to our list (see below). We turned away from the river and soon we saw elephants, elephants, more elephants and baby elephants. I have video of one group walking single file down towards the river. Beth was over the moon, to date she has taken 3000+ pictures. We will have a curated collection soon after we get home. We stopped for a light snack and a beverage and then headed out of the park. The guide was looking for the mother lioness and we arrived at the spot were the cub had been. We soon spotted the cub, in the shade under a tree, sleeping. We passed him and about 50 yards further down the trail we spotted the mother and she walked right past our jeep. Beth could have reached out to touch her. I have video of her walking back to retrieve her cub. I have run out of superlatives to our days here in Africa, so Beth and I came up with “Afrimagnamazing”! To describe this morning. We got back to the lodge, had breakfast and walked around town. We found the post office and bought some souvenirs. We lounged by the pool for awhile and went back to the room to shower and rest for our afternoon Safari. During our rest we heard a bunch of thumping on our ceiling, turns out the staff was chasing monkeys with slingshots and they crossed our lodge roof on the way to safety....Please read part 2 for the rest of day 15.

Posted by Weimerrv 07:32 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Day 14

Zimbabwe and Botswana

semi-overcast 80 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Today was a relatively easy day, no early rise. We got up and had breakfast. We heard from someone in our group that the “ breakfast brigade” had to chase monkeys out of the pool. We bid farewell to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge around 11 and headed for Botswana. Botswana is a very stable country to the west of Zimbabwe and shares part of the Chobe River with Namibia. Botswana is the beef capital of Africa so they take hoof and mouth disease very seriously. Each of us had to walk through “disinfectant” that supposedly would kill any bacteria....we are dubious. The border crossing was otherwise uneventful and quick, not so much for some of the trucks lined up there. We are staying at the Chobe Marine Lodge for our last two nights in Africa.....heavy sigh! After checking in and lunch we boarded a boat for a animal sighting cruise on the Chobe River. After pulling away from the dock we saw a beautiful Flamboyant Tree with orange flowers all over it. I really wanted to see a Cape Buffalo and boy did we see buffalo, before the cruise was over we probably saw more than 100. I mistakenly wrote earlier in the blog that the African big 5 are: elephant, lion, rhino, giraffe and Cape buffalo...I was wrong. Giraffe doesn’t belong on the list and leopard does. So we have seen 4 of the big 5 so far with only 1 more day to hopefully see at least one leopard. We saw several crocodiles (one really large one), one was guarding a nest. Mama crocs can manipulate the sex of the babies by raising or lowering the temperature of the nest, a higher temp produces males, lower females. We saw a bunch of hippos in the water and several on land...the males are huge and mark their territory by spraying dung using their tail and also urinating. A group of hippos is called a pod and a hippo yawn is a threat display, Beth got several pictures of those. Hippo and Cape buffalo kill more humans than any other animal in Africa. There were many impala, eland and red lechwe (a type of antelope) We saw several types of birds, Gray heron, great egrets, cattle egrets, African fish eagle, African jacana or Jesus bird - because it looks like it is walking on water and African darter. No pictures of elephants today but we could see some walking down to the river as we were heading back to the dock. Tomorrow is our last Safari day, Beth wants to see more elephants!

Posted by Weimerrv 11:32 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

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