|Explore Africa Southern Africa Botswana|
Botswana-Khwai is one of many articles to be created from photos taken on three connected safaris (Botswana and Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya) between June 20 and July 31, 2009, with Cheesemans Ecology Safaris, Saratoga, California (www.cheesemans.com).
In the itinerary for the Botswana portion of the trip, Gail Cheeseman described our stay in Botswana to be in tents in our semi-luxury camp which are large with en-suite toilets. The food is excellent with three course dinners prepared by a professional safari chef. Camping will be in HATAB (Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana) sites. There are no fixed buildings or facilities at these sites and the entire camp is erected and removed by our supply team. Everything is brought in and when we leave a site, there is no trace that we were ever there, once the wind has dusted our tracks. The tents are 9x15 feet (3x5 meters) with high roofs and nine-foot covered area in front of the tent. Camp beds are made up with mattresses, sheets, duvets and pillows. The rear door of the tent opens to a private en-suite toilet There's a tall wash basin and a mirror outside each tent. This is filled with fresh warm water first thing in the morning and again on every arrival in camp. There is a dining tent, but with the normally excellent weather and skies at this season, often the table is set beneath the stars. Showers are separate to the tents and are in the form of bucket showers hung from a tree with a canvas screen around the shower. Hot showers can be requested and the water is heated in a bucket on the fire. There is no electricity in the tents. Each tent is outfitted with an oil lantern. Bring a good flashlight and headlamp, with spare batteries to use at night. Camera and other gear can be charged through an inverter connected to the safari vehicle battery which provides 220 volts AC.
Botswana on safari is described by Gail as being out early for the best morning action and beautiful light, then a delicious lunch followed by a break and possible walk in the camp vicinity. Botswana is built on sand and its soil is the result of thousands of years of termites at work turning wood into soil. On walks it is very interesting to see all the tracks left in the sand by many species. We'll have both an afternoon game drive to be in the field for the best afternoon light, as well as the magic hour of dusk to dark when the nocturnal animals become active.
Diane and I flew out of Peoria on a 6:00 AM flight to Minneapolis on June 20. After a 7-hour wait, it was on to Amsterdam. After a 5-hour wait, we boarded a plane for an 11-hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, where we stayed overnight. The next morning, June 22, it was a 2-hour flight to Maun, Botswana, where we met Grant Reed, who with his brother operates Letaka Safaris (www.letakasafaris.com)
Grant was our driver/guide on the first leg of the adventure, featuring semi-deluxe tent camping which was moved three times to different locations in Botswana, and morning and afternoon game drives with near-freezing temperatures in the morning and evening with about 4 or 5 hours of relative comfort.
The safari through Botswana and Zambia included ten nights of camping in Botswana in the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve at Khwai, Savuti National Park, and Chobe National Park. One night was spent at Victoria Falls in Livingston, Zambia, before we flew to Mfuwe, Zambia, for three nights at a lodge near South Luangwa National Park.
Game drives were made in an open Toyota 4WD Jeep with 4 rows of seats including the driver's, each one higher than the one in front. We rotated seating each day, moving forward one seat. Grant had hot tea and cookies available to us when a stop was made about 10:00 AM each day. He always checked out areas for stray animals before designating the men's bush and the ladies' bush.
There were five of us plus Grant and his staff of four native Africans who kept busy with camp duties and cooking over an open fire while we were out in the field. Each time we returned to the camp site, we were met by Sox wearing a big grin and holding a tray of cold fruit drinks which were a welcome thirst quencher.
Botswana was mostly for the birders with fewer mammals than we saw in the second and third legs of the trip. Diane and I were not familiar with the various species. We were just happily photographing everything remotely interesting. She was taking digital still pictures, and I was recording videos with a camera bought expressly for this trip.
The rest of the two weeks was similar, but each day brought new sights to see and photograph.
Grant and the other three participants were extremely knowledgeable about all the birds and mammals encountered and made us eager to learn more about them in the future.
At the conclusion of our two weeks with Grant, we celebrated our visit to Botswana and Zambia as a success, and goodbyes were said with hugs and handshakes!
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Jim and Diane Tanner
article published 1/7/2010