Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 9

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November 11, 2015 – 9:12A

It was nice to sleep in till 6A.  Had a quick & delicious breakfast before saying goodbye to Kay and all the wonderful and friendly staff at Wilderness Tented Camp before we all hopped in our 2 jeeps and MP and Paul drove us to the airstrip.

Kay and Brian

Kay and I by the bar in the main lodge at Wilderness Tented Camp

Proctor and Brian

Proctor and I in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta Guides

Paul, our guide Vitalis, and Proctor in front of one of the jeeps at the Okavango Delta airstrip. Donna and Barb are in the jeep.

We stopped to view a hippo walking around, a dozen or so more in the water and a steenbok laying in the grass.  Proctor said that steenboks are affectionately referred to as “chiwawas” because they are the smallest of the antelope.

Steenbok

Young Steenbok laying in the grass.

I couldn’t help but reflect that on the last few game drives I’ve really had fun bonding with two of our travelers Cheryl and Norma.  Cheryl is Italian and lives in San Diego, California.  She and Norma travel together.  Cheryl is very funny with a contagious laugh.  She is a great photographer and actually takes pictures of horses (or “anything with four legs” as Cheryl puts it) for a living.  Cheryl always has 2 cameras ready while we’re on these game drives and her 40 lbs (I’m guessing) backpack of camera equipment.  I’ll never forget seeing her lug that around everywhere.  haha!  Norma is retired and lives in Palm Springs.  I enjoyed a really nice chat with her as we sweated out the afternoon heat in the main lodge yesterday.  She is 74 and this is second Ultimate Africa trip with OAT.   The other day when Vitalis had us all tell one another a little something about our background and reason for coming to Africa, Norma talked about the peace that she’s experienced during her two trips to Africa.  She stated that she believes “God lives here.”  I also learned that Barbara, from Washington state, is an artist.  I would love to see some of her drawings and asked her if she was going to do sketches of some of the photos she and her husband Dana have taken.

I’m now on the 7-seater “puddle-jumper” with Aryn, Judy, Katherine and our pilot flying back to Kasane Airport.  It’s so cool being able to look down and spot elephants and giraffes feeding off trees.

I’ve learned so many new things on this trip.  I think back to the days and weeks before I left for this trip and people would ask me what it was going to be like.  My only response was I had no expectations.  I had never been on an African safari.   All I knew to expect was what I’d read from the little “Final Document Booklet” that OAT had mailed me.  This entire trip has been quite the learning experience.  I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about all the wonderful people I’ve met so far.  They are always smiling and seem to maintain a positive attitude.  I also get a sense that they take very little for granted.  They don’t seem to be wrapped up in gossip or “drama” as we say in the US.

Vitalis told us that the African culture  believes in witchcraft.  He shared two anecdotes of how the African culture relies on guilt to punish those who’ve wronged against you.

One Example:  There was a man who stole a plow from his neighbor in the middle of the night.   The plow was very heavy and he carried it home on his back but when he reached his home he could not get it off his back.  For a while he tolerated carrying around this heavy plow on his back, for many days and nights until he couldn’t take it any longer and decided to return the plow to its rightful owner, who, at first, said to him: “that’s not my plow, you can keep it” knowing that the witchcraft’s punishment of guilt would force the thief to continue lugging the heavy plow around on his shoulders.  Finally, after the plow owner felt the thief had learned his lesson, said:  “You know, come to think of it, that is my plow.  Thank you for returning it” and wouldn’t you know it, the plow was finally able to be released from the thief’s shoulders.

Second Example:  There was also a man who stole corn from a farmer’s field in his village and for days he suffered of corn kernels falling out of his scalp and hair.  Eventually, the thief couldn’t take it any more and fessed up to steeling the corn and the corn kernels stopped coming out of his hair.

On another note, Vitalis educated us on the cultural belief: ‘you get what you give.’  For example, if you are starving you can go to a neighboring family and they will feed you.  Also, if you are out of something in your kitchen (ie. cooking oil) you just go to a neighbor and ask if they will give you some cooking oil (versus walking all the way to the nearest store).  The African culture understands there will come a day when they are out of something in their kitchen or they are hungry and will need to seek a favor from that same neighbor.  I appreciate all the “learning and discovery” that Vitalis and the other camp staff members are providing us.  Well worth it.

We would be landing soon. Then it’s off by minibus, boat and another plane to Zambia.  (btw – I’m amazed how well I can write in my journal on this flight – very smooth flying).

2:50P

Flying at 12,400 feet in our “upgraded” 12-seater “puddle-jumper” over Zambia.  Looking down at a beautiful view of the great Zambezi River.  We had a half hour delay at Livingston Airpot due to an issue with a traveler’s luggage.  Unfortunately, Wifi was down at the airport.  What a bummer since, last night, I had prepared a long text of updates to quickly send off to Aaron and my mom.  Oh well.  I’ll try again in 3 days.

It is said that yesterday’s high temp was 105.  Today’s is 110 and we are flying north, which means closer to the equator so I can only imagine how hot it’s going to be in Zambia if this heat wave keeps up.  For the next three days we are staying in another “tented” camp but this one’s situated along the junction of two big rivers.  As always, I am excited to see what this next camp is going to be like.

While we were waiting on our bus, a group of natives came up to our bus windows selling copper bracelets and wood carvings of animals.  After some persistent bargaining, I bought 5 bracelets for $20 – a good price for five.  The bracelets are beautiful.  I have one for me, Aaron, my mom, my sister Lisa and my friend Lynne.  Vitalis said to rub the inner lining of the bracelet with clear nail polish to keep the copper from turning your wrist green.  I noticed that our pilot Kyle’s wrists were green where he was wearing 3 or 4 copper bracelets on each wrist.  Our pilots on this flight are Shane and Julie.  They are very friendly.  Shane is from Ireland and introduced himself to me at the Livingston Airport.  He was very nice and we actually talked a lot about Ireland as I am planning on traveling there in 2017.  He gave me a few tips on food to try and towns to visit. Thanks Shane!  Very nice guy.

I’m signing off for now.

5:10P

OMG!  I love this new camp!  It’s beautifully situated where the Lafupa River meets with the Kafue River that eventually flows into the Zambezi River.  We are literally 100 km from any other form of civilization.  How exciting!  The camp is called Lafupa Tented Camp in Kafue National Park (say that 10 x’s fast).  As our jeeps pulled up, we were welcomed by men singing and playing African drums along with a cool wet hand towel (which has been a standard at each camp).  The hand towel is handed to you to unfold and place over your neck or forehead or just rub all over your face if you wish to help cool down … haha!  The camp manager is Natalie.  Very sweet girl.  The back of the main lodge is a long stretching balcony that overlooks the beautiful rivers.  The view is absolutely stunning.

Lafupa River Deck

Deck at Lafupa Tented Camp’s main lodge overlooking Lafupa River & Kafue River intersection.

When we first arrived we were served another one of those sweet tri-color cocktail along with “High Tea.”

Welcome Cocktail

TriColor Welcome Cocktail served to us at Lafupa Tented Camp.

This was tea served with three different kinds of flat bread pizzas (chicken, ham and vegetable), filo dough triangles filled with creamy butternut squash and a chocolate and white cream roll (like a pumpkin roll).  Delicious.  We sat at 4-seated small round tables along the deck overlooking the sparkling tier and the staff delivered a quick orientation of the camp, only to be interrupted a few times by some nearby snorting hippos.

Seating Area

Seating Area of Main Lodge at Lafupa Tented Camp in Zambia

After “high tea” we were escorted to our “tents.”  Aryn and I, of course, are in the furthest tent from the main lodge – #9.  We’re practically in stitches laughing over how being the youngest, we’re placed in the furthest tent.  HAHA!

I’m sitting at the desk of our tent and absolutely loving the view of the Kafue River.  Right beside our front porch is a large indentation in the land leading down to the water.  This is what they call a “hippo highway” as it’s the repeated path that the hippos take to get from land to water.  Hmm … I wonder if we’ll have any visitors tonight.  The tent is extremely spacious.  It’s walls and ceiling are canvas with a cement floor and a wooden front porch with two director’s chairs.  I’ll definitely be sitting out there.  I absolutely love this place although I did love how at the previous camp our beds faced the opening flaps of the tent for a great view.  I also miss Kay and the staff there. They were all so nice and friendly.

Lafupa Tent

Inside Tent #9 at Lafupa Tented Camp in Zambia

We are surrounded by a lot of tall trees so it doesn’t feel as hot as I thought it would.  At 5:45P we are to meet at the main lodge to leave for our first game drive in Kafue National Park – so excited!

Monkey Mommy

Monkey mom carrying her tiny baby outside our tent at Kafue Tented Camp in Zambia

9:30P

We’re back at our “tent” after a delicious dinner.  For my “sundowner” drink I chose a Jack & Coke instead of a beer – which was very refreshing.  Our game drive was very interesting because half of it was a “night drive.”  The elephants are more aggressive here because of the history of poaching in the area.  We encountered an elephant and our guide “Golden” (short for “Golden Boy”) would only stop for a few seconds for pictures.  The elephant looked up from the tree he was eating, turned to face us and immediately started towards us with his trunk raised and that’s when “Golden” stepped on the gas.  Wow!  That elephant meant serious business.  I think all of our hearts literally skipped a few beats.  Next we heard the warning call of a puku (another type of antelope that is prevalent in these parts) and just then a leopard striding down from its perch on top of a termite mound and disappeared into the “thicket.”  So for the next half hour, we drove throughout the area with “Golden” directing the spotlight all around looking for the glowing eyes of that leopard.  What a unique and exciting experience. We never did see the leopard again but it was cool looking out with the spotlight and seeing pairs or dozens of pairs of eyes glowing back at you from a distance.  Someone mentioned the glowing eyes looked like a small town in the distance and I said:  “Yes, it looks like Bethlehem” and we all agreed that that was a perfect description of how peaceful and beautiful those eyes appeared among the dark African night.  Mostly, we saw puku and impala but we did see a mom, dad and baby hippo walking in the grass.  Later on, we spotted another few hippos, a beautiful genet cat, a scrub hair in the middle of the dirt road staring back at us and two spotted hyenas creeping along – very spooky.  My camera takes horrible night shots but one of the couples in our jeep Dana and Barbara had an amazing camera that beautifully captured one of the hyenas.  Dana promised to send me that shot!  I love these night drives!  Very peaceful and intriguing to be on the hunt for these wild animals at night.

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena taken by Dana during our first night game drive in Zambia

During dinner, an elephant walked right up to the entrance of the main lodge but the staff quickly “shoo’d” it away.  Golden then told us a story about one night last week when one of the guests blew their air horn (which is supposed to be for medical emergencies ONLY) because their was a hippo outside the door of their tent.  The entire staff came running for the emergency, with Golden at the head of the group.  When he saw the hippo he warned everyone else to go back. The hippo immediately began chasing him.   Apparently, when hippos run after someone their jaws repeatedly open and close.  So imaging Golden’s fear as he looks back to see this giant opening and closing jaw at his heels.  The hippo chased him all the way inside the main lodge where Golden was finally able to dart behind a corner, which confused the hippo, and Golden managed to get away.  Wow!  What an incredible story.

Speaking of hippos, Aryn and I just heard one snorting and grunting outside our tent.  We’re hoping to hear more.  We just heard a hyena too.  Hoping to sleep well tonight and praying for cooler temperatures tomorrow.  The good news is there is a swimming pool here.

Okay … I’m sitting here at the desk in our tent and there is something very large moving very slowly right outside.  The noise started right behind where Aryn is laying in bed, across the room, surrounded by mosquito netting and writing in her journal.  She can literally hear it breathing down her neck.  Holy cow.  Hold on.

We just turned off our main lights and it moved to the back of our tent.  I stood up on our toilet seat to try looking out through the screens above the bathroom but it was too dark out to see anything.  By the sound of it we assume it must be a hippo because when we heard it eating the leaves, it was too quiet for an elephant which would be breaking off tree branches and leaves to eat where it sounds like this thing is going only for the grass on the ground.  I hope these canvas walls are strong.  Very exciting yet quite intimidating.

Oh Geez, it just pooped outside our tent – you can totally smell it.  It’s amazing to us that there is nothing more than a canvas wall separating us from this 2.5-3.5 ton wild beast.  OMG!  It is now scratching is body against the back corner of our tent.  Our entire camp walls and ceiling are now shaking.  Holy Geez!

Now it’s walking along the side of our tent and seems to be heading towards the water.  I can see it now through the screened windows and yes – it is a massive hippo.  Amazing!

Well, on that note, time for bed.  I hope I can fall asleep after that experience.  HAHA!  Night night!  Don’t let the hippos bite!  :)

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 8

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November 10, 2015 – 10:35A

Lunch is being served in a half hour.  I’m relaxing beneath the shade of the main lodge’s thatched roof here at Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta.  The ceiling fan above my head feels great.  The temperatures during this morning’s game drive were nice and cool.  As always we are split into two jeeps only this morning instead of us both going out on simultaneous game drives, one group started off on the mokoro canoes in the Delta while the rest of us kicked off the morning with some game viewing.

As we drove along the bumpy dirt roads we saw a dazzle of zebras running and watched an elephant using its trunk to sling mud over its back to keep cool.  Most of the areas we drove in were grassy and flat.  Like in Chobe, most of the trees in the Delta, are broken down by elephants and bare due to the lack of rain.  One of the women from our group, Donna, said she would love to come back after the spring rains to see all the beautiful green foliage.  Our guide “MP” noted that, from a game-viewing perspective, when the trees are in full bloom it’s much more difficult to spot the animals.  In fact, it’s practically impossible when they’re at a distance.

Muddy Elephant

Elephant covered in cool mud

After a while, we approached a shallow  river.  “MP” parked our jeep and we all go out.  This is where we were going to begin our mokoro ride: two persons to each mokoro.  Standing at the very back of the mokoro is a “poler,” he holds a long pole known as a “ngashi” that he drives down into the ground of the shallow water to maneuver the canoe.

Mokoro Polers

A few of the mokoro “poler” guides ready for us to board.

Mokoro Poler

“MP” leading the caravan of mokoros.

Our ride lasted a little over an hour and from it we saw many different birds (this is the closest we’ve gotten to some of the different storks we’ve seen in the Delta without them flying away), some baboons, zebra, impalas, a roan antelope and two sable antelope – which are rare in this area.  The sable were coming to get a drink but as soon as they saw the 5 mokoros moseying along the water, they returned to the trees. Eventually, they reappeared in the clearing and walked up to the water to get a drink.

Sable Antelope

Beautiful sable antelope reemerging from the clearing.

Red Billed Stork

Red Billed Stork along the water during our mokoro ride

 

I was talking to Judy today and we both agreed that although these “tents” are by no means 5 star accommodations, the service we’ve been provided by the staff is a perfect 5.  Everyone is so friendly and seems to genuinely care about us.  Other than my “carry-on” Jack Wolfskin bag (that I bought in Frankfurt, Germany and absolutely love btw), I have never once lifted my suitcase (except for moving it within our tent).  Vitals refers to our luggage as “his babies.”  He makes sure everything is taken care of and we don’t have to worry about lugging our luggage to the mini bus or airplane or anywhere.    OAT is meticulously perfect when it comes to their customer service.  They do a great job.

2:42P

What a hot afternoon!  Kay is calling it a “heat wave.”  She said she makes sure her morning work is done by 9A to avoid the heat.  She took us on a “behind the scenes” tour of the staff kitchen, laundry room and garage workshop.  It was funny when they took us into the giant cooler room where they stored the food.  I jokingly said to Cheryl – “that’s been the best part of the trip so far!”  It felt amazing to be in a cold room away from today’s extreme heat.  Ha!

I came to our tent and attempted a nap with a cool wet rag over my head.  It helps but still I can’t sleep.  There are a frequent wind bursts coming through the screens of out tent this afternoon.  Maybe they are blowing in either a cooler weather system or possibly some much needed rain.  I know a good rain would really make the locals very happy along with all the animals, trees, grass and the poor rivers that are extremely low.  I’m going to do some reading before we meet back at the main lodge for “high tea” while our guide “MP” delivers a short educational lecture on the Okavango Delta followed by our evening game drive.

Okavango Delta Lecture

“MP” educating us on the history of the Okavango Delta in the main lodge.

Almost forgot to mention: I woke up around 1:15A last night to pee.  I could hear the mating calls of the male lions in the distance.  I fell back asleep to it.  Funny how that sound has become soothing to me. What a unique privilege.  I feel blessed.  I think Aaron would really enjoy this place (minus the heat wave).

9:30P

Back in our tent.  Once again, the stars tonight are magnificent.  We are going to sit out on our front porch for a few minutes despite multiple warnings from our trip leaders and the staff.

The evening game drive was nice because the temperatures could down significantly.  Saw another Giant Eagle Owl carefully watching us from it’s tree perch.

Giant Eagle Owl

Giant Eagle Owl watching us in the Okavango Delta.

The sunset was breathtaking – got some great pics!

Delta Sunset

Tonight’s sunset in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Our “sundowner” drinks were served by a large pool of water where some hippos were playing.  They were rolling over on their backs sticking their feet up out the water.  It was cute.  Hard to think of these creatures as threatening or dangerous.  After a while, the hippos began to make some grunting noises and in the distance we heard the growl of a lion. Up to that point our guides have always seemed relaxed but let me just say they were rushing to pack everything up and get us all loaded back into the jeeps.  Dark was upon us and we headed back to the camp for the traditional dinner.

Dinner was a delicious traditional meal around the “boma” followed by the camp staff choir singing traditional African songs and our travel group performing the “Hokey Pokey.”  Fun times!

Somehow the topic of social media came up during dinner and Vitalis explained that people here don’t really use Facebook anymore.  Instead they prefer a more “real time” form of social media called “What’s Up.”   I’ve never heard of it.

Vitalis jokingly said after dinner:  “Folks, I’ve got some very good news!  Tomorrow’s wake-up call is at 6A.”  Hallelujah!  We get to sleep in!  HA!!  After breakfast we are leaving Botswana and heading to our camp in Zambia via small planes, boat, a bus and another plane.

I want to get a picture with Kay, the facility manager, before we leave.  She is really cool.  We are also asking for recipes.  The food has been amazing, especially, today’s lunch salad of bananas, onions, mayonnaise, yellow curry and parsley.  What an odd combination but man was it delicious!

Night night!


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 7

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November 9, 2015 – 4:45P

Relaxing on the front porch of our tent watching a warthog leaning down on its front knees eating some grass.  They are so funny when they run away too because they run with their tail sticking straight up like a radio antenna.

Today’s game drive felt long as the afternoon hours seared with temperatures nearing 100 degrees (38 degrees celsius).  It’s cool when the guide pulls over the jeep to show us animal tracks in the dirt.  This morning Paul pointed out a leopard and lion track right beside one another.  We saw some cape buffalo and a huge elephant that started directly at us for a while – very cool, then a few giraffes and before we stopped for tea & coffee around 9:30A, both of our jeeps pulled right up to two lionesses resting in the shade.

When we stopped for tea & coffee, the other jeep in our group had a flat tire that Paul, MP and Proctor had to change.  We also found an elephant skull laying in the grass.  A few of us, including myself, picked it up.  It was huge.  I got a great pick of me holding it.  On these morning coffee & tea breaks I usually request tea.  They serve “bush tea” which is a rooibos.  I take mine with warm milk.

Safari Tea

Morning tea on our game drive in the Okavango Delta.

(Now the warthog is walking towards us).  By the time we returned to our camp were all felt dazed and dehydrated from the heat and the only water in our water bottles was warm.  I headed straight for our tent and downed the entire pitcher of ice cold water.  Took of my shirt and laid face-up on the bed with a cold washrag over my head.  That really helped.  I had the oscillating floor fan directed on me but soon realized it was just blowing around the hot air (sigh).  My camera battery had died (TIP:  pack spare batteries) so I missed shots of all the wildebeests we saw but did get a vid of the zebras running across the road in front of us with my iPhone.  Very cool!  We also saw a parade of elephants on our way back.  Oh, plus, when we stopped for lunch a dozen, or so, elephants walked into the pool of water just a few yards away.  They were gathering there to cool off, taking up water into their trunks and then spraying it up into the air so it fell down on top of their bodies like taking a shower.  It was funny because the guides were trying to serve lunch while we were all distracted snapping dozens of photos of these fascinating elephants.

Spraying elephants

Elephants spraying water to cool off in the hot Delta sun.

On two separate occasions we came across a stride of giraffes, one stride, of which, was gathered along a river and in order to lean down for a drink they had to spread out their legs.  That was one of my favorite pics I’ve taken so far!

Giraffe Stride

Giraffes in the Okavango Delta, Botswana


Curious Giraffes

Such curious creatures. Notice the giraffe to the right; neck stretched out and peering directly at the camera.

We also came across a pride of 5 lionesses calmly shading themselves beneath a toothbrush tree but the highlight was finding two male cheetahs (believed to be brothers) keeping cool and well-camouflaged under a bush.  Our guide Paul pulled the jeep right up to the bush and the cheetahs became edgy.  They soon took off, springing into the air and running to another bush.  But that didn’t stop Paul.  He started back up our engine and slowly drove right up to the cheetah’s new resting place.  Not long after the second jeep, carrying the remainder of our group, arrived.  We all just sat there watching these stunning creatures.  Paul said that cheetahs haven’t been seen in the Okavango Delta since April, so we were very fortunate to have witnessed this sighting.  Wow!  What a discovery for our group.  Again, felt very privileged.  The cheetahs left that bush and went to a third, and it was no surprise that Paul and the other jeep’s driver “MP” followed.  Finally, the cheetahs seemed to be calming down and realizing our jeeps were not a threat.  We sat there for a long time.  It was hot but no one seemed to care.  These animals were so beautiful.

Cheetah brothers

Cheetahs hiding amongst the leaves and looking out for lunch.


Hungry Cheetahs

Looks like one of them may have spotted something (no pun intended – haha!)

(The warthog was just staring right at us and when I stood up to grab my camera, he took off).

Our drive back to camp was painfully long (or, at least, felt so due to the heat).  We passed through a small village known as Khwai, which is actually the village Proctor is from.  Most of the homes were wood framed with walls made of mud from termite mounds.  The roofs were thatched.  Some buildings, like the school, the boma (meeting place) and two “shopping centers” which were no bigger than a 2 or 3 car garage, had cement walls and corrugated metal roofs.  It was cool seeing this village up close and you could tell that Proctor was so proud to show us.  Unfortunately, my camera battery died as we were driving into Khwai.

Village Hut

A thatch-roofed hut in the village of Khwai, Botswana.

I am enjoying talking to all the local people we meet who work at the camps and I’m amazing by how many of them have never left Botswana – not even for “holiday.”  (Now, two enormous cape buffalo have entered the field outside our tent to graze).  The facility manager’s name is Kay.  She is awesome.  She shared with us that she has travelled to San Francisco and worked at Walt Disney World.  She got a HUGE smile on her face as she told us.  She said she loved both experiences.

It’s now shortly after 5P and dinner (a “surprise”) is being served at 6P – very excited!  I’m enjoying the view now.  Later!  (Now there are 3 hungry warthogs a few yards away from us eating the grass).

Hungry warthogs

Two of the three hungry warthogs right in front of our “tent.”

9:00P

Bedtime. Exhausted.  Dinner was tasty and for dessert they served a pancake with chocolate syrup – yum!).  It’s been great getting to know our traveling companions (their backgrounds and interests) and hearing them share all their other amazing OAT travel experiences.

There are so many stars out tonight going all the way down to the treeline.  I wish my camera could capture night shots.  It’s just amazing how clear the sky is here.

P.S.  Today was our hottest afternoon yet – reaching 103.  Thank God for Vitalis suggesting wetting a washrag with cool water from the sink in your tent.  It really does wonders.  Some of the women form our group said they drenched their bath towel in cold water and laid down in bed with it over their entire body.  They said it felt amazing!

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 6

12.13.15

November 8, 2015 – 5:00A

Early tribal drum wake up call.  Leaving Baobab Lodge for another camp in Botswana.  Excited to see what this place is going to look like.  I hope the beds are as comfortable as the ones here.  This was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in.

12:40P

Arrived at our “new home” for the next 3 days at the Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

During the 20-seater minibus ride from Chobe to Kasane Airport in Botswana, Vitalis shared with us some of the cultural behaviors of the countries we are visiting.  One particular (and controversial) topic we spent some time on was polygamy, which is practiced in Africa.  He also talked about that superstitions and are a part of their culture.  This is why when someone dies their body is always buried.  If someone was cremated then it is believed that their spirit would come back upset wanting to known why their loved ones chose to cremate them.  We also learned that when a child sneezes instead of saying:  “Bless you” they say “Grow up.”  This also falls back on their superstitions because they believe that there is a bad spirit among that child causing them to sneeze so by saying “grow up” they are wishing away the bad spirit as bad spirits are believed to leave the body as you become an adult.  Vitals also explained that there is a local philosophy called “Drink 3 times.”  He said you “drink when something good happens in order to celebrate and you drink when something bad happens in order to forget about it.  And you also drink when nothing is happening so to find another reason to drink again.”  haha!  Vitalis explains it better than I am probably doing.  It has been very interesting to learn about the people here.  Vitalis is extremely knowledgeable and I feel privileged that he is sharing so much information with us.

The bus took us to Kasane Airport where there were two small “puddle-jumper” planes waiting to fly us into the Okavango Delta.  Fortunately, there was Wifi at the Kasane Airport so I was able to touch base with Aaron and my mom via text.  Aryn, Judy, Katherine and I flew in on the 6 seater prop plane.  Apparently, Judy had opted for us to fly in the smaller plane prior to the trip.  Our pilot’s name was Kyle and he explained to us the safety features of the plane and that our flight time was expected to be an hour and twenty minutes.  Let me just tell you that for the first 15 or so minutes of the flight I was looking out from the co-pilots window thinking:  “Really?  Is this tiny little contraption seriously going to stay up in the air for over an hour?”  The plane that the rest of the group took was a 12 seater.  At one point they passed our plane and it was really cool looking out the window and seeing them.  Once my mind was able to relax, I enjoyed looking down at the beautiful terrain of mostly bare trees and dry land.  Occasionally, there’d be an elephant and some giraffes.  Very cool.

We touched down on a dirt landing strip.  There were two jeeps there ready to pick us up with our new guides Paul, MP and Proctor.  Our ride from the landing strip to the  camp was a game drive where we saw over a dozen hippos.  Paul pulled our jeep right up to the water’s edge, turned off the engine and we sat and admired and counted these hippos for at least ten minutes or more.  I love watching these creatures rise up out of the water.   That’s when you get a better perspective of just how massive they are.  Our guide Paul said hippos can get up to 3.5 tons in weight.  Wow!   We also saw zebra and various antelopes.  There was also an interesting-looking antelope known as the Waterbuck.  They are easily distinguished because of the heart-shaped outline on their backside.  The guides jokingly referred to this white outline as a “toilet seat.”  That’s how we learned to identify these particular antelope.

Hippos

Hippos in the water on game drive to new camp.

Waterbucks

Waterbucks in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

We also crossed over this long bridge made out of logs that spanned a small river known as the Khwai.  Our driver Paul jokingly called said:  “We’re about to cross the famous bridge over the River Khwai.”  haha!

Lunch at the new lodge was refreshing.  Especially the shredded carrot & minced apple salad.  And the surrounding view is awesome.  Along the tree line in the distance we watched 2 giraffes and later a pair of impalas.  We are going to need a lot of water today – it’s a hot one.

Main Lodge

Interior of Main Lodge at Wilderness Tented Camp, Botswana

Extending from either direction of the main large are wooden boardwalks that lead to the individual tents.  These “tents” are different than the ones at Baobab which had doors.  These ones literally zip up in front.  Very authentic safari living.  The floors are hardwood and we are elevated about two feet off the ground.  The staff manager Kay was very clear to explain that the raised wooden boardwalk is the only path we are allowed to take to and from the main lodge.  We are not to veer of this path and we are to be on the lookout for lions and leopards.  If we encounter one, we were clearly instructed NOT to run OR turn away but to walk backwards to the nearest tent.  Just like at the last camp, Aryn and I are in the furthest tent from the main lodge.  HAHA!  The beds in our tent are facing the front entrance which has a screen that zips shut so from our beds we can look out.  We have a wooden front porch with two chairs on it and the view is of the African “bush.”  So cool.

Tent

Outside our “tent” at Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Tent Interior

Inside our “tent” at Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Electricity is powered by a generator and our water is heated by solar panels.  Lots of sun beating down on those panels today so there should we should be in store for a hot shower.

On the counter behind our bed is an aluminum pitcher with a black lid.  Inside is ice cold water.  Hallelujah!  Thank you Jesus!  We can also access purified water from the main lodge, just like at the last camp, to fill our Wilderness Safari water bottles for drinking and brushing our teeth.

Tent view

View from my bed in my “tent”

We have some siesta time right now so I’m going to head back to the main lodge and work on a few more of my post cards before its time for “high tea” and our afternoon game drive at 3:30P.  I also want to get a video of the public men & women’s restrooms next to the main lodge.  The are so cool because when you walk in and sit down on the toilet you are facing a half wall that looks out onto the “bush.”  That’d be sweet if a giraffe came right up to the window and stuck its head in while I was using the “john.”  haha!

9:20P

This afternoon’s game drive in the Okavango Delta was spectacular.  We started off by seeing multiple “pods” of hippos in the water.  One individual hippo stepped out from the water and ran across the field into some trees.  The guide said he was on heading into the shade to rest.  The roads in these parks are dirt and extremely bumpy.  All you can really do is laugh about it.  Which becomes good bonding for you and everyone in your jeep.  Here in the Okavango Delta, they also refer to this as the “African massage.”  haha!  Our driver today was Paul and we had a young guy from the Bushman tribe named Proctor joining us.  His presence is what allowed us to go “off roading” and, therefore, closer to the animals.  Thank you Proctor!  We also saw these two tiny yellow-eyed Spotted Eagle Owls in a tree.  It took me forever to actually see them.  Finally, with the help of the zoom of my camera and Proctor’s direction I was able to get a view.  I don’t know how these guides are able to drive along these bumpy roads, worry about the branches impeding from either side of the road AND spot these often times well-camouflaged animals.  What a talent!

Walking Hippo

Hippo heading for some shade

Next we stopped to watch an elephant feeding on a tree.  He gave us a show by flapping his ears, raising his trunk and facing us head on.  It was quite an experience.

Staring Elephant

Star down from an elephant

But the creme de la creme of today’s drive was a sighting of six lions (2 females with their cubs and 2 male lions known as “The Discovery Boys”).  The guides off-roaded, driving over tree and bush stumps in order to park our jeeps among the cats.  When the engine was turned off, the guides very quietly reminded us of the rules when being among these wild animals.  #1: Do Not Stand Up in the Jeep!  #2:  No sudden movements or sounds and #3 If you drop your camera outside of the jeep, say goodbye to it because no one’s getting out to pick it up!  The two males were laying down at first.  One stood up and walked over to the other and they rubbed their faces together as a sign of affection.  What an amazing sight.  The one standing up walked around our jeep, brushing the side of his body against our jeep.  All you could hear was the clicking sound of everyone’s cameras.  I’m not going to lie, it is slightly intimidating and you just sit there, holding your breath and hoping that everyone in your group follows the rules.  The females and cubs walked around a little but mostly laid in the shade.  We sat there for over a half hour and I got some pretty sweet videos and photos.  It was an absolutely amazing experience.  Anyone who even tries to compare a safari to a trip to the zoo is either not admitting their jealousy or should have their heads examined.  I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it was to be among these animals in their natural habitat.

Lioness

Female Lion right beside jeep (notice bar of jeep at bottom of photo).

Discovery Boys

“The Discovery Boys” Friends NOT Foes

Lion Roar

One of the Discovery Boys giving us a ROAR!

Lion Walking

Amazing to see the movement of these creatures. So graceful

As we drove back to the main road our guide pointed out a huge Giant Eagle Owl high up in a tree.  This thing was massive – over two feet tall.  As it stared down from the tree we waited for it to blink so we could see its distinctive pink eyelids.   As the temperatures were cooling down and we were all relaxed in the jeep enjoying the beautiful scenery we came across a parade or “memory” of elephants walking along the beautiful sunset.  Wow!  At this point, my camera battery was done.   Sigh – again I should have packed a back-up battery.

Giant Eagle Owl

Giant Eagle Owl in the Evening

Dinner back at camp was delicious – particularly the creamed bean soup.  I always enjoy the myriad of conversations with my fellow travelers and the camp staff.  These are moments filled with smiles and laughter that you wish could last for ever.

After dinner our guide “MP” was walked us back to our tent by flashlight.  He would shine the flashlight quickly in all directions looking mostly for cats.  As we walked, Aryn, Judy, Katherine and I couldn’t help but gaze up at all the beautiful stars.  There must have been thousands of them and they were so clear.  From our from porch we can look out at all the stars.  All I can say is anytime I’ve ever looked at the stars I’ve had to look straight up but tonight you can look directly out and see just as many as you see in above. The stars go all the way down to the tree line.  It takes my breath away.   Amazing!

Off to bed now.  Aryn and I are trying to guess what that low, howling sound is outside.  I think it’s a hyena.  We have been advised that there is a leopard in the areas we are to keep our tent zippers sealed shut.  I love listening to orchestra of sounds surrounding us.  It’s actually quite soothing.  Night-night.  5a wake-up call tomorrow so we can start off on an earlier game drive to try and beat the heat.  Despite the roaming leopard, we’ve decided to keep our tent flaps open with just the screens sealed in the front and on all the side windows.  Praying for no visits from leopards … but maybe an elephant.  :)


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