Our leaders had pity on us, the morning of this our last complete day. Breakfast was up to as late as 8.00, and there was no pre-breakfast walk.
On the way to breakfast:
I was the last to arrive at breakfast, at 7.30, and was greeted by Neil with ‘Good afternoon!’, to which I reacted with appropriate indignation.
We set off for the day’s activities at 9.00.
We drove through the town of Livingstone. Difficult to capture images describing the place.
Surprise, surprise, we arrived at a sewage works. I didn’t take many photos, except of terns in flight – most unsuccessfully.
We then undertook a long and bumpy journey.
We were aiming for a lunch place (a lodge of course) some miles down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls, overlooking the gorge. Leader Neil was disappointed that we were not giving it more attention, but the fact is that it was much cooler in the shade, and, perhaps more significantly, most of us were deep into our phones and tablets, having access to wi-fi for the first time in 48 hours. Our super luxury lodge had been without the service since our arrival. Not their fault, but the local tower, or whatever-you-call-it, was out of action. As we were due to depart the following day, people hasd urgent and less urgent need of communication with the rest of the world.
That said, everyone did look at the gorge for a while at least.
I remarked to Neil that I was surprised how slow the water flow was, given the amount and speed of it over the Falls. ‘Or perhaps it’s a matter of scale?’, I asked. ‘It’s a matter of scale,’ he said. ‘Look at those kayaking.’ I hadn’t noticed the tiny little dots. They were moving, very fast, and were much further down than my brain had registered.
Having lunched and, er, used the facilities, (which were totally respectable)
Wednesday afternoon, 6th March. Vervet monkeys hung around the lodge. Indeed we were advised not to leave our sliding doors open. I did go onto my balcony a couple of times to look, but I didn’t see any. These were in a common area.
After a rest it was out on the boat again, in the same direction. Some familiar wildlife and some new. One very special.
These last two pictures had been taken while the boat was moving fast, with, unusually, no stopping, and at a time when I would have thought we would be turning round. Yet the boat sped on, further and further from the lodge.
After a short while all became clear. A leopard! Those local boat steerers/guides keep in touch with each other!
I hadn’t given my hope of seeing a leopard – which would complete my big cat ‘list’ – a thought for days. But given this opportunity, I, like everyone else, took zillions of photos, of which here are a very few. It (I don’t know whether it was male or female) was a long way off, but once you knew where it was, there was a clear view.
I moved to the upper deck of the boat, and by the time I was there, she also had moved.
Short of seeing her catch prey and dragging it up a tree (the chances of seeing that from a boat were slim to non-existent, I would imagine) this was the best possible view we could have had. From these pictures, I extract the following enlarged portraits.
It was now indeed a race to get back to the lodge before the (Chobe) national park shut. I don’t think we made it in time (there were no physical barriers) but I didn’t hear of the boatmen being fined either.
Monday 4th March. Breakfast was to be at 8 a.m., we were told, preceded by a pre-breakfast walk round the grounds at 7 a.m.
Yes, breakfast was scheduled for 8 o’clock, but they hadn’t told us it was to be on a boat cruising along the river! What a lovely surprise!
This was the double-decker boat, and it was great to be able to go to the top deck to observe the wildlife along the way after we had finished eating.
After this, it was time to pack and move on from the Mahangu Lodge eastwards along the Caprivi Strip. We travelled on a main road which bisects the Caprivi Game Park, and saw some interesting wildlife on the way.
We stopped for lunch at a lodge overlooking the Kwandu River.
We resumed our journey.
In due course (we did 340 kilometres that day, temperature 36°C max) we arrived at Zambezi Lodge, on the Zambezi River. Opposite was Zambia.
Saturday night and Sunday morning. (23rd/24th February 2019). We’ll gloss over the sheer panic I had felt for two hours on the Friday afternoon when a trespasser on the railway at my local railway station made me miss my long-haul flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, and I saw my two-week safari in three countries melting away before my eyes. I’ll just thank Naturetrek for speedily booking me onto a flight 3 hours later, and for having arranged the timing of the whole journey such that I was still able to take the intended onward flight to Windhoek, Namibia, (formerly South West Africa) at the same time as my prospective 14 companions.
At Windhoek, we were met by Neil, the proprietor of Safariwise, and the other leader/guide, Jakes, both Afrikaans-origin Namibian nationals. They drove us in two vehicles to the Waterberg Plateau, halfway to Etosha, where we would spend the night. From my leaving home to arrival at our lodge there, it had been some 27 hours.
Here is a map to explain our itinerary.
From Waterberg we were to go onward to central Etosha for two nights, eastern Etosha for another two, and onward to the north-east border of Namibia to stay for one night in a lodge in Kavangoland, on the Okavango River, with Angola on the other bank. We would then move for three nights to a lodge at the western point of the Caprivi Strip. From there we would make a day visit into Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland), after which we would move on further east within the Caprivi strip for a night in a lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River, and then spend two nights in Botswana itself in Chobe National Park. Our last two nights would be spent just over the border in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and we would fly back home, via Johannesburg, from Livingstone, near Victoria Falls.
The following, Sunday, morning, we started as we went on most days – getting up very, very early, with a pre-breakfast walk. This makes sense because it is around dawn and dusk that wildlife is most active. Like us, the creatures do not like to move around in the middle of a hot day. (Daytime maxima during the fortnight varied from 33°C to 38°C, night-time minima from 18° to 22°.) We followed a track near to our accommodation, which was considerably higher than the surrounding plain, but still with the plateau looming over us.
The sun was not yet up.
A word on captions. I only started systematically noting the names of the birds I photographed about halfway through the trip, so certainty about the names is not always guaranteed, depending both on whether I was able to check them out after the event, and also on whether I noted them correctly (the latter going for the second half of the trip also). Anyone with better information than I is very welcome to make corrective notes in the comments!
After breakfast we set off for our next destination, Etosha National Park. This is one of the two vehicles we travelled in. Everyone had a window seat, most also having the chance for a better view if they stood when the roof was up.
As we travelled our guides kept their eyes skinned for anything of wildlife interest and stopped for us to look and take photos as appropriate. The rule seemed to be that the longer we were taking to get anywhere, risking our next meal, the more significant the creature had to be for us to stop! I was just amazed at what Neil and Jakes noticed and immediately identified as they drove along.
We diverted to a sewage works – not for the last time in the fortnight! I was the only traveller not principally and passionately interested in (and knowledgeable about) birds, my interest in wildlife, and the countries visited, being more general. And I was to learn that sewage works are fantastic for birdwatching, as they are made up of a series of ponds which attract waders and other birds.
Neil and Jakes also removed some illegal traps set to catch birds at the sewage works.
We had lunch at a safari lodge en route. We did not starve in the 14 days!
This Saturday, 27th February, I returned from a fortnight-plus-travelling trip to see the wildlife of Tanzania.
Over the next two or three weeks I shall be sharing just a very few of the photographs I took of the rich wildlife that the country is conserving in its national parks.
We landed at Kilimanjaro Airport late in the evening of Wednesday 10th February after a violent rainstorm. February is the middle of the wet season in Tanzania, though it has slightly less rain than the months surrounding it. Our leader, IW, had been fortunate in previous visits at this time of year in not having experienced much rain. We had a fair amount over the two weeks though it only affected us seriously during the last part of our visit.
We (IW plus eight of us) left our overnight hotel in rain, which continued for much of the five-hour journey across the Ngorogoro Conservation Area to Ndutu Safari Lodge. We had first sights of many animals, but weather conditions did not make for good photos. We were pleased to be able to settle in our accommodation, and that the weather had cleared considerably.
We enjoyed the view.
After lunch and a good rest, we went out for our first safari drive.
It was the time of the great wildebeest migration, and we saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these animals during our stay.
It was not long before we came across our first lions (thanks to the expert knowledge of the drivers of Serengeti Select Safaris who were with us for a week).
Apologies to those of a sensitive disposition. The male had two lionesses with him, mating with each turn by turn every ten minutes. The stand-off at the end of the encounter is because it hurts the female.
The knee-high Dik dik
This beautiful nocturnal creature is a not a feline but a genet, related to mongooses. We should not see it, but for years three of them have been visiting the dining room of the Lodge each evening, no doubt because they know that the kitchen will see them alright if they do.
The following morning dawned grey and overcast, but we hoped that, as the previous day, it would clear up later. Our first viewing of the spotted hyena led us to consider that it was fluffier than it seems on TV, and not nearly as ugly as we had hitherto thought, even when carting off a baby Thomson’s gazelle to eat.
Almost immediately afterwards we saw a Grant’s gazelle in the minutes before and after giving birth.
She had cause to be worried about hyena and jackal, but her only concern about this wildebeest is whether it will tread on her calf.
One of the most common birds around, the Superb starling