I am just back from six safaris through Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. We are all back safe and sound after having fantastic summers. Here is a little recap of our many safaris over the past two months.
The wildlife this year was unbelievable with amazing sightings of lion, painted dogs, roan antelope, and huge herds of elephant. We spent three days monitoring a lion on elephant kill in Savuti. Our Land Cruisers were the only ones at the kill each day and it was wonderful to not have 50 vehicles around us, which is what you get in Kenya and Tanzania. This was a special time to, at our leisure, see the interaction of all the wildlife at the kill over an extended period. There were jackals, hyena, and every bird of prey in Botswana and after three days there was nothing left of the kill.
Big Cat Trophy Hunting by so-called sportsmen, has now been banned in Botswana. Ian Khama the president of Botswana is a true conservationist. He has realized that Cats are worth more alive than shot by the hunters and it was the unethical hunting practices that brought about this ban. Because of this, we hope that cat viewing will be even more amazing in the next years.
The most exciting viewing for me however, was the interaction between a mother elephant and her calf in Savuti. It was human-like to see a one-year-old elephant refusing to swim the newly formed Savuti Channel. It was like he was saying that’s too deep Mom. The mother swam back and forth trying to persuade her calf to follow. She used pushing and trumpeting as coercion but, finally, it was a loud stomach rumble that convinced the baby to follow. Elephants are extremely efficient communicators allowing them to broadcast their feelings over great distances. At last, the calf swam the channel using his trunk as a snorkel. By this time the herd had moved on so the mother scolded her calf into double time to catch up. It was exceptionally fascinating to see.
We had one very cold night after winds blew up from South Africa following snows in Johannesburg. The rest of the time we had perfect weather however, without cloud in the sky.
An award needs to go to our bush kitchen staff. They prepared five star food all the way and plenty of it. I just do not know how they do it. Do not expect to lose weight on a Hemingway Safari. Oh, and we had ice, and plenty of it, the whole way.
Botswana is truly the best destination if you are looking for good wildlife viewing, safety, fine weather, excellent food, outstanding medical services, and much more. Plus, you will not see the hundreds of mini vans that swarm around you as in East Africa.
Most of our Botswana group drove up with us from South Africa through Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is an extremely friendly country and we were able to meet up with the Tourist Department who welcomed us at the boarder.
There were good roads all through the country and the lodging was very comfortable with out being over-the-top. One of our favorite stops was when we stayed with some good friends of mine on the Limpopo River at their amazing lodge. It is located on a citrus farm, which attracts the elephants. At one time, we had over 200 elephants around us. Next year we will explore the fossil beds and the newly discovered dinosaur fossils in the area. We then drove north through the amazing Motopos and into Hwange National Park. Here, we staying in a lodge that everybody loved. It is very inexpensive, small, and personnel. Just below it is a water hole and we were able to sit at the lodge, drink cold beer, and view amazing wildlife. Next, we headed north to Mosi o Tunya, “the smoke that thunders:” Victoria Falls, one of the most amazing places in the world.
Many people think that Zimbabwe is not a very safe place. This is just nuts. It is probably one of the safest countries in Africa with the most friendly people. Zimbabwe has so much to offer and the people who are reluctant to visit it are missing out.
Some people in our group decided to add Cape Town to their itinerary. This is always a good idea if you have a bit of extra time to spend in Africa. Sali, our guide in Cape Town took good care of everyone. There is so much to do in South Africa’s most beautiful city. It is also the perfect place to get rid of your jet lag before beginning a safari.