“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive” – Karen Blixen
We spend a wonderful first day in Africa with Vanessa and her family in Jo’burg – or Josie, as our Soweto guide Simon calls it, before departing for Maun, Botswana. After getting thru customs and retrieving our bags, a Delta and Dessert representative brings us to our small plane, that will fly us to Savute, in Chobe national park, our first camp. Flying over the Okavanga delta, we get a first glimpse of what we can expect the next 4 days. At Savute’s small airstrip, our guide is waiting. He introduces himself as Baba. He asks us if we want to go straight to the camp, or start off with a game drive. We all agree, that the camp can wait, we are ready to see some wild life.
We have barely left when we run into a couple of giraffe and elephants, but Baba doesn’t stop. He explains that he has something special for us that he doesn’t want us to miss: a leopard has just killed an impala and we might still find her at the place of the kill. Before we get to her, we run into a roadblock: we have to wait for a herd of buffalo to cross the road.
We arrive at the site of the kill. Three other jeeps are already there. The leopard and her four-month old baby son are sleeping under a tree, the dead impala on the other side. We can smell the blood and dead flesh. Baba tells us that there are only 6 leopards in Savute, so we are lucky on our first day to experience this. We sit and watch for a while and suddenly the mother gets up and moves back to the impala, ready to eat some more. She won’t be able to finish before other predators like lions and hyena will move in so she has to eat as much as she can. She is right in front of our jeep. We can hear ribs cracking and see lips licking while she is having a feast.
The baby wanders over as well and both mother and baby are going back to sleep. We continue and we pass some wildebeest together with some impala. This is the “Neighborhood watch” according to Baba. Before we reach camp, we pass a big herd of elephants, on their way to the waterhole for their evening bath while the sun is slowly setting.
We arrive at our camp and Baba shows us our tents. The camp is right at a waterhole, so we have animals visiting at all times, we don’t even have to go for a drive.
We have cocktails sitting at the fireplace, before we dine overlooking the waterhole, with the sounds of elephants splashing around. We are off to a great start and I snuggle into bed with my bushbaby – a hot water bottle – and fall into a deep and happy sleep.
Our wake-up call is at 6, for a 6.30 breakfast and 7am game drive. It’s cold this morning and we are happy with our blankets and more bush babies in the jeep. Most jeeps are going north, but Baba decides to take us south to the marsh instead, hoping to see the marsh pride of lions. After about 30 minutes, we arrive at a waterhole and 4 lions are lazing around in the sun. It’s a family of 3 young males and their sister.
We sit and watch in fascination at how powerful, yet graceful these magnificent animals are. One gets up for a drink. We are so close that we can see the water dripping from its mouth. Another one gets up and walks towards us. It passes our jeep less than 2 meters away. We hold our breath, but he doesn’t even look at us, just struts off towards a tree to take a nap in the shade. Baba tells us that the rest of the pride is probably not far away, as they killed a buffalo the night before so their bellies are full and they need to drink. And indeed, when we continue our drive, we see two more lionesses strolling towards the waterhole, followed a bit further by a third one. No baby cubs yet, but shortly after we pass the lionesses, we come eye to eye with the king of the jungle, slowly striding our way.
We sit, we watch, we take pictures as he gets closer and closer, finally passing our jeep on his way to the water. We drive back to the waterhole, where we see 2 of the lionesses make a futile attempt of going after 2 pumbas, but they are still full and not serious about the hunt.
It’s time for a coffee break. Baba gives us background on the history of Botswana, the national parks and conservation program to protect nature. Botswana has 4 national parks, all protected by ex-army people, with the directive to shoot poachers first and ask questions later. We fully agree with this. He also tells us how he became a guide, after having worked in the diamond mines for years. He loves his country, he loves nature and is a great story teller and we are lucky having him as our guide.
We return to camp for lunch on the outside veranda, with the elephants playing around in the waterhole right in front of us. After lunch I walk back to our tent and one elephant is walking along with me. Right in front of our tent he takes a big poop, poses for a picture and strolls of again.
On our afternoon drive, we see another elephant shaking an acacia tree and impalas – Baba calls them McDonalds of Africa, as they have black stripes on their butts that look like a letter M and they are the food for all cats. We run into a herd of elephants, frolicking around in the water.
Baba parks the car and pulls out the mobile bar from the back of the car. We toast to a wonderful day while watching an amazing sunset.
The next morning, we easily fall into our bush routine: wake-up call at 6, breakfast at 6.30 and ready to go at 7. It’s a quiet morning; we see 1 male lion and then nothing for a while. It’s a bit eerie and we joke that the animals must have had a conference last night and agreed to take the morning off. We don’t care, we enjoy the views and the peaceful atmosphere. Finally, back at the marsh we see a couple of giraffe and the same pride of lions from yesterday hanging out.
Then we have to race to the airstrip so we don’t miss our flight to our next camp. Goodbye Savute, goodbye Baba and the rest of the staff, it was magical.
After a short flight we land in the famous Okavanga delta, one of the largest delta in the world. Our next guide is waiting for us. He introduces himself as OB and tells us he will bring us straight to the camp for lunch. We enjoy our lunch before we are shown around our new home. The camp, located right at the delta with its own private dock, is the oldest camp in the Delta. Our tents are real tents, unlike Savute. We settle in and spend an hour on the observation deck, overlooking the delta.
Our afternoon drive starts at a swamp, where we see baboons, cranes and a croc sunning itself on the bank. We see our first zebras, including a baby. The terrain is different from Savute: more diverse, greener with bigger trees.
We hear that 2 lions killed a giraffe 2 days before. They have been chased away by another lion and lioness, who have been guarding the carcass since, so we hope they are still there. We are lucky: when we get close to the site of the kill, we see what is left of a leg, a hoof and some bones. And we can smell it….the stench of blood and a decaying body. At first there is just some movements in the bush and the sound of cracking ribs. We find the male lion conked out on the other side of the road, paw in the air, not a worry in the world. Finally, the lioness comes out, she looks straight at us, her face still bloody.
She is less than 5 meters away, walks towards her male companion, sits down and then turns around to go back to her prey and eat some more. The vultures are already hovering above, waiting for their turn. Nature is very efficient, within the next day or so, there will be nothing left of this giraffe but a couple of bones.
We enjoy a great dinner and meet Linda and Natasha, fellow Americans. The next morning, we leave at the usual time. The baboons are shouting, which usual means some sort of danger, but it is false alarm, so we continue our way to check back on the lions. Eagles are flying overhead, and a beautiful crane is standing in the water.
On the other side of the swamp, we see a herd of buffalo approaching the water. It’s the biggest herd I have ever seen, there must be close to a thousand. The babies are on the inside, protective big bulls are standing guard, watching the jeeps and other potential predators. You do not want to mess with them, they have killed more humans than any other animal.
We arrive back at the lions. The lioness is still – or again – eating. We see her inside the carcass of the giraffe. The smell is even worse than yesterday. After she is full, she comes out and walks away. We follow her to the water, where she stops to drink, before returning to her meal. The male is again asleep on the side of the road.
We make a tea stop at a swamp, looking for crocs and hippos. We see 2 crocs on a little island in the distance, but no hippos to be seen. We see our first hartebeest and Tsesebe, yet more different gazelle types.
Our next destination is Mopani, elephant country, but ironic enough we only see 1. We pass a very interesting looking tree and learn it’s the Marula tree. They make the liquor Amarula from this tree. This is a sign that it is time for us to eat and drink and we return to camp for lunch.
After lunch we lounge around the pool and the observation deck. We decided to split our afternoon with a short game drive followed by a boat trip on the delta. It’s a beautiful evening and we enjoy the landscape and the views. We stop again at the swamp and this time the hippos are out. 2 are lazing around on the island with the croc. We watch one wobble over to the croc and stare him down, before he decides it is too warm and drags himself back into the water.
We enjoy a relaxing boat ride on the Okavanga delta. We leave just before sunset and we see the sun go down in the water while sipping the cocktails OD is serving.
After another great dinner that night, it is time to say goodbye to Al, Ernie and the great staff at Camp Moremi the next morning. You got to love the names of the bartender and waiter: Chops and Dibbs. We have time for a last game drive before OD has to get us to the airstrip. I joke with him, that we expect at least a leopard, lion cubs and some cheetah.
OD is on a mission to make this happen. We see a leopard running across the road, but it is too fast to be chased. We come across several herds of elephants, so I am happy already, but OD is still determined that we will see more.
And in the last hour, he succeeds. It is as if he has orchestrated a grand finale for us: we see a leopard in a tree. We would have completely missed him. We see 2 more lions and another hippo.
And then just before we get to the airport, there are several elephants, and a big herd of buffalo on the side of the road. It is as if they were told to make an appearance as the farewell committee.
We take our last picture in the VIP lounge at Moremi airstrip before we wave goodbye to OD and board our plane to Maun on our way to Cape Town.