South-Africa, Botswana and Zambia - July, 2009

SELFDRIVE PHOTO SAFARI

This year we are ready for a real expedition! For three weeks we plan to explore parts of South-Africa, Botswana and Zambia on a combined trip!
And - planning is the key! We, however, start the planning part a bit late - with the results that we a) do not necessary get all the preferred campsites at least not in Botswana, and b) - Zambia and South Africa on our way back is a bit, well - flexible, to be honest. More about that a bit later on. First - some fast facts:


SOUTH AFRICA

Size: 1,221,037 sq km -- Capital: Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial),
Cape Town (legislative)
Population: 47.9 million (2007) -- Currency: Rand
Official languages: Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ndebele, South-Sotho, North-Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda

BOTSWANA
Size:
600,370 sq km -- Capital: Gaborone
Population: 1.990.876 -- Currency: Pula
Official languages: English and Setswana (national language)

ZAMBIA
Size: 752.618 sq km -- Capital: Lusaka
Population: 11.862.740 (2008) -- Currency: Kwacha
Official languages: English

 


Click here for our detailed TRAVEL ROUTE

Our biggest concern on this trip is to get hold of two fully equipped Landrovers for camping purpose. It feels like "half the world" is going on a selfdrive safari to Southern Africa this year. Our preferred company SafariDrive is already fully booked, but Bushlore (Johannesburg based company) finally finds us two vehicles which suit our needs. TIP: Do book your vehicles 9-12 months beforehand to be sure you get what you want, when and where you want it! The selfdrive safari business is thriving! And TIP: do NOT book your holiday the three weeks at the beginning of July! The South-African schools have their winter holiday this periode! We learnt the hard way, but now we know :-)

With planning and booking of our Botswanan campsites, lodges and parks we end up using TravelWild, a Botswana based company situated in Maun. TravelWild has close proximity to the National Parks booking office in Maun and thorough knowledge about campsites, lodges and parks in both Makgadikgadi, Moremi and Chobe National Park. Highly recommendable! A big thanks to Nicky who quickly and effectively meets our needs! And an even bigger thanks to Chris McIntyre at SafariDrive who recommended this!

For Zambia we use the internet. Ian and Mogens are responsible for this part of the trip and have a more relaxed attitude to planning.. Zambia is, however, much easier to relate to. In Botswana you have to prebook and prepay both your park entrance fees and campsites/lodges situated in the parks. Otherwise you're stuck! Zambia allows you to just show up at the gate, pay your fee on the spot and off you go. We have, however, most of the Zambian accomodations covered before we leave. After all, Africa is not Europe with travel agencies on every second street corner...

 

July 4 .. Stavanger, Norway - via Schipol, Amsterdam - Johannesburg, South Africa

Finally the departure day arrives! And starts with the fact that the alarm on my cell phone is completely dead silent! I wake up on instinct, I guess. 15 minutes from the second I get out of bed till we sit in the car on our way to the airport with all our photo gear, bags, pc's and equipment. New record! And we make it! :-) We weigh in with KLM at Stavanger airport Sola, and luckily Mogens is the holder of a KLM Platinum card! We are somewhat overweight.. Wonder why? We have only brought two cameras and a lense or six.. each.. But hey, we are on our way and even happy to leave 30 degrees C and sunny weather in Norway!

In Amsterdam we get the most pleasant surprise! We get upgraded from cattle class to World Business Class! And don't ask me why! Having paid just a silly amount of money for the roundtrip plane ticket to Johannesburg it is rather comfortable to sink down in pleasant recliner chairs, being welcomed with a drink and presented the "restaurants" menu! Hurrah! What a great start! :-) The 10,5 hours on the plane is a pleasure! We land 21:25 in the evening in Johannesburg. Somewhat chilly compared to our Norwegian (for once) tropical summer tendency. We find the Airport Grand Hotel after a 10 minutes taxi ride. The hotel has their own shuttlebus service, but the bus is small and we are a lot of people heading in the same direction. Taxi it is. But, at last in Africa. And tomorrow our adventure can begin!

 

July 5 .. Airport Grand Hotel, Johannesburg - Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Serowe, Botswana

After an early wake up call from the planes taking off and landing juust above our heads (it is an airport hotel allright..) we have a lovely breakfast and are ready for take off ourselves. But we have to wait. Definately for a while. After lots of phone calls to Bushlore they eventually appear outside the hotel. Over 2 hours late! This means trouble for our already tight schedule the first day. We have a long day ahead! The Landrovers, however, look ok and have the same roof top tent arrangement we used two years earlier visiting The Okavango Delta. Another family of 5 (dad and 4 sons) get their Landrover at the same time (this was probably what has confused Bushlore) and are a bit pussled when they realize that the three of us have two vehicles. Safety in numbers :-)

We stop at the nearest supermarket to stock up with some food, drinks and basics for braai and camping. The adventure can finally begin! And it starts with road works. The area north of Johannesburg is definately under construction... At 14:00 we are however on our way towards the Botswanan border.

It rains lightly, but the temperature is ok. We have never been to South Africa before, and enjoy the view anyway. An Ostrich is the first "animal" we spot on our trip north. It's a long trip towards Botswana. We drive through 4 tollstations before we reach the border and we manage to cross it just before it closes for the night. TIP: The different border crossings between SA and Botswana close at different times. Make sure you know when! We get over the crossing at Martins Drift which closes at 18:00. We can forget the plan to reach the booked campsite at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Serowe because of our delayed start and check in at the campsite of the Kwa Nokeng Lodge instead, just 1 kilometer past the border. It is already dark, so we have just a simple evening meal under the moonlight before we go to bed. Luckily the tents work fine, the rain has stopped and we drop dead asleep. It has been a long day.

 

July 6 .. Kwa Nokeng Lodge, Botswana - Njuca Hills Campsite, Makgagikgadi Pans National Park

We get only two hours peace! Wake up at 01:00 because of some confused chicken which starts their morning serenade in the middle of the night. Good God! They again wake up the dogs. Hurrah... Tired as we are we fall asleep again and wake up by my cell phone alarm.. Groan.. Today we have a seriously long trip ahead. Trying to keep up with our original plan we will skip the Khama Rhino Sanctuary for now and instead aim to reach the Njuca Hills Campsite in Makgadikgadi. The Pans of Makgadikgadi were once the centre of a great lake that has now been dry for more than two thousand years. Today it is thought to be the largest saltpan in the world. The grasslands of Makgadikgadi National Park are home to a large number of antelope, and consequently, these attract an impressive range of predators. And THAT we like :-)

We head for one of the oldest towns in Botswana, Francistown, and have some breakfast on the way. In Francistown we stock up with some more food and water, because the Njuca Hills Campsite doesn't even have water. Better safe than sorry.. On our way we plan to stop in Nata if we have time and check out the Nata Bird Sanctuary. It is a lovely day! Both our Landy's, however, have problems with speeds above 100-110 kms/hour. Then they start to wander, shake, rattle & roll. We also drop Nata and plan instead to reach Njuca Hills with spare time to sunset. But for once the Shell Map of Botswana isn't very correct, and the only gate into the park is far ahead to the west, at Phudhudu.This gate is also closed!, but a man appear and lets us in. It is about 30 kms to the campsite over heavy sand, but he assures us that we will reach it before sunset. Yeah... It's now 15:30... But the drive is pleasant, even though the Makgadikgadi Pan isn't exactly as we expected. It is full of undergrowth with bushes and some trees.

There isn't much wildlife to see until we meet the Elephant from hell... He is a big, lone bull Elephant in musth. And for you who don't know.. - this is a periodic condition in bull Elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behavior, accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. The testosterone levels in an Elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.. And this guy, he is PISSED! Ian and I drive in front with Mogens and his Landrover behind us. We manage to pass him only because there are some smaller bushes between us on the road and him. The Elephant, however, charges after our vehicle and gets really annoyed when we get away. Mogens is another matter... The Elephant does NOT want to let him pass. If Mogens try, the Elephant charges. After some time there are four vehicles trapped by the Elephant. Even a Landrover with park rangers - who tries to scare him away - gets charged.

Ian and I head for the campsite. There isn't much we can do, and Mogens now has company by others. We find ourselves a nice spot and put up the tent, and eventually Mogens also arrives. 45 minutes after us. The Elephant just gave up and walked away at sunset. His "fun" was over for the day.. Even if we are a bit late to start the braai we get organized and have our first decent outdoor meal. Beef, african sausages, rice and some South African wine. Yummy! Tastes extraordinary well since I am a bit shaky from the days adventure with the Elephant. And then we find out - this isn't Njuca Hills Campsite at all!! Our campsite is further 35 kms east! The guy at the gate gave us wrong information! Well, too late for that. Xhumaga Campsite it will be! This night we go to bed in our tents on top of our extra air mattresses which we brought from home. An experience from our trip in 2007... It will be a lovely night indeed! :-)

 

July 7 .. Njuca Hills Campsite, Makgadikgadi - Kaziikini Campsite, just outside Moremi

Oh what a wonderful morning! The mattresses is a huge success and definately made the night!
;-) We wake up to the sounds of birds and quarrelling Vervet Monkeys. Finally we are back in "my" Botswana! Xhumaga Campsite has very nice ablutions and the whole campsite is surrounded by trees. We didn't see how beautiful it was the night before. We pack down camp and assemble our photo gear. We will have our first gamedrive on our way out of the park. But first we test the equipment on the Vervet Monkeys marauding the garbage bins. Everything seems ok, so we are good to go. We don't get very far before we see our first Duiker who runs with an insane speed across the track. There are a lot of Impalas and Kudus and animal tracks everywhere! We didn't see those yesterday!

We drive down to the marked Observation Point not far from the campsite. Here we have a fantastic view overlooking the dry riverbed and the lodge Leroo-La-Tau. And with our binoculars I spot my first Lioness trundelling along the riverbed. Wow! I hadn't expected this my first morning in the park! :-) We drive down to the Hippo pool, but here it is rather quiet. No sign of life either in or around the shallow waters of the pool. On our way up towards the main track we meet this lovely Kudu female. Beautifully lit by the morning sun!

We head towards the gate entrance and meet 8-10 Giraffes with babies just beside the road. The Giraffe babies are really curious and have some problems organizing their legs when they run away. We see more Lion tracks both on and along the sandy path, but we don't see their owners. At least we know that they're there!

Out of the park we head west towards Maun which is our next stop. It has been a great start of the day - our first "proper" day in Botswana. We get stopped by Mr. Moktobi at the veterinary fence 50 kms from Maun. He tries to get some bribes from us, without any luck.. Otherwise the trip to Maun goes quickly. Nice tarmac, only interrupted by the natural Botswanan speed control au naturel - the cows.. Lots of cows! Just before we reach Maun we cross the Thamalakane river. Wow! Definately more water here than two years ago. Wonder how Moremi will be.. Under water?!? The vegetation is also much greener this year. What we have read about the abnormal high waterlevel in the Okavango Delta may be true!..

We stop at the Spar shop to get more to drink and food. We are going to the Moremi Game Reserve in the delta and there are no more shops until many days ahead. Lovely feeling to be back in Maun again! We also visit Ians favourite shop, the Delta Meat Deli Butchery. They have very nice beef for the two carnivores.. This year we have TWO functional fridges/freezers. Yeah! We look for an axe but find only a saw. It will have to do. The axe which was supplied in the Landrover is more functional as a toothpick for Elephants.. Ian's leatherman was a better choice.. We fill as much diesel as we can and head for the bumpy, rocky and sandy road after Shorobe towards the Moremi Game Reserve. Which is NOT improved since 2007..

We get stopped again at the veterinary checkpoint at Buffalo Gate and explained the rules for carrying meat in Botswana. You can bring meat west towards east and south towards the north, but not the other way around. It is only 1 km from the Buffalo Gate to the Kaziikini campsite which actually is situated outside the Moremi Game Reserve. Here we will spend the night before we enter Moremi the following morning, 28 kms ahead. All the campsites in Moremi was fully booked when we booked, 2 months before. TIP: book early! Cannot stress this enough!

Kaziikini is, however, a nice little campsite and we have a little walk on the premises to look for birds. We only find a Grey Lourie of interest. There are no predators outside the Moremi National Park. At least so they say. The ablutions are nice, despite an open roof solution and no doors.. Wonder how this works out during the rainy season :-) We have a lovely braai for dinner, even though our collected wood is somewhat wet.. It takes some time to prepare our food. But hey, we have enough South African redwine and all the time in the world. We are in the wilderness again. Who can complain?

 

July 8 .. Kaziikini Campsite - Camp Moremi Lodge, Moremi Game Reserve

We get ut at 6:00 and pack our gear. It is 28 kms to South Gate and we want to be there as early as possible. On our way to the entrance, still outside the park, we meet both Giraffes and Zebras. And just inside the gate we meet our first herd of Kudus. Magnificent sight in the early morning light. The first that comes to my mind is that it's very green this year compared to our last trip. There must have been rain lately. We continue towards the Xakanaxa campsite, and beside the airstrip we see our first three Elephants, by a watehole!? In here!? Humm... Much water indeed! We wait for an incoming light aircraft which is about to land before we head for Xakanaxa campsite which was my first camp in Botswana 2007. Good memories from this spot :-) Here, an Elephant scull beside the Xakanaxa airstrip.

There is A LOT of water around the Xakanaxa campsite, and a huge pond which wasn't there the last time. We struggle a bit before we find the right and dry track to the site. The Xakanaxa campsite is however situated on one of the higher banks of the river and is dry and exactly how I remember it but for one huge improvement. There is a brand new ablution block! It is identical to the one in the Xhumaga Camp, and it looks like there is an attempt to standardize the quality of the campsites. It isn't luxurius, but compared to the well worn and half way torn down concrete block we found in 2007 this is definately something else. We have a walk on the premises before we head for our accomodation for the night, Camp Moremi. The Xakanaxa campsite is fully booked months ago.

But where is Camp Moremi? We think we know the way, just two minutes along the river from the Xakanaxa campsite by car. The normal route just past the boat station ends however in a fence. The other tracks end up in waterholes.. We see the lodge itself, but we find no way to reach it. We see car tracks going into one of the "ponds" and give it a try. For the first time we have the car lights and bonnet under water!! I am, to say at least, at bit nervous! But it works fine, and we are a bit closer to the entrance. But the only way in is, the way I see it, IN a waterway.. Luckily a local guide in his gamedrive vehicle comes by and confirms that the waterway actually is the safe(!), new entrance to the lodge. The old one is completely under water. He advise us about some tree trunks under water and off we go. Puuhh... Both our Landys get through the deep trench in the middle and up on dry land again.

Here: Mogens on his way after we go first in our car. Luckily just around the bend, which we couldn't see from the other side of the water, there is dry land. We are told that the water level now is at its highest and has just started to recede. The day before one of the lodges guests got stuck on the same spot, water pouring into his car... All statistics we have read is true. There is exeptionally much water in the delta this year.

Camp Moremi is situated on the scenic Xakanaxa Lagoon in the eastern extremity of the Okavango Delta. It is a lovely lodge! We get our own "tents" built on a wooden base. One tent is our bedroom and livingroom, and the second tent on the same deck holds the bathroom. There is spacey between the different decks, and although Mogens lives in the neighbouring tents, we do not se his deck. Nice place for some privacy after sleeping several nights in a roof-top tent :-)

We arrive just in time for a lovely lunch served on the breakfast/lunch deck in the garden. Further out in the garden there is a swimmingpool with its own sundeck. The temperature is lovely, 25-28 degrees C during the day. The nights are more chilly, and in our tents we are glad we have woollen underwear. It is after all winter down here. After lunch we take a trip to the viewing platform which gives us a beautiful view over the Xakanaxa Lagoon. The lagoon is about the same level as the lawn, and if you try to walk on the grass it is more or less under water. You get wet! The lodge staff has, however, made dry walkways and paths of flat stones and gravel to keep their guests more dry.

Later Ian takes a boattrip on the lagoon while Mogens and I goes on a gamedrive with one of the guides. Nice not having to test and drive through all the waterways ourselves.. We head in the direction of Dead Tree Island. We know it's not possible to reach the island itself, the bridge being totally under water, but the guide knows about a Lion pride and a kill from this morning in this direction. And he is right! We find two big Lion males and at least 4 Lionesses with a bunch of cubs enjoying a Buffalo evening meal. We see Hippos grazing along the river, Elephants with their babies, the Giant Eagle Owl, a fishing Hammerkopf, Wattled Cranes and Reedbucks. Just outside camp on our way back we also spot the elusive Pearl Eagle Owl. Lucky us! :-) For a long time we look for a Leopard which apparently roams the area, but we don't find it.

We have our sundowner drink at the Lions Den Pan with our guide and marvel the African sunset over the Xakanaxa Lagoon. The colors are as always just fan-tas-tic! Nothing beats the African sunset, a gin&tonic and good company :-) After returning back to Camp Moremi Lodge we hear that the Leopard just has been seen by to guests on the lodges premises, on the walkway between our tents. You can't win them all :-) We have a lovely dinner and finishes the evening around the campfire with the other guests and the very nice and friendly staff. The service has been superb! And we have even got our clothes washed. Lovely! Many thanks to Michelle and BT for a very nice stay!

 

July 9 .. Camp Moremi Lodge, Moremi Game Reserve - Savute Safari Lodge, Chobe Nat Park

Up very early. We are going to Savute today and don't have complete control over how much time we're going to spend on the trip because of potential water problems. TIP: Always plan for 2-3 hours extra time when planning your day in the bush. You never know what will happen! We leave Camp Moremi at 7:00 after a very good breakfast in the garden. Somewhat cold morning, so the porridge was an excellent breakfast choice. I am not that nervous for the departure through the waterway and the big "pond" this time having driven it with the guide the day before. To be able to get to Savute we have to go all the way back through the South Gate down to the Buffalo fence instead of taking the lovely and scenic route along the hippo pools and through the Khwai area. This area is totally flooded and of course not adviced to try even with two vehicles. On our way south we see both Elephants, Kudus and Giraffes. Moremi has yet to disappoint me. Here: the green Moremi :-)

Finally making it to the main road north we head for the Sankuyo Village and the Mababe Gate which is the entrance to the Chobe National Park. We don't see a lot of wildlife along the main road but for two Ostriches and a young Giraffe which suddenly explodes out of some bushes along the road. We were THAT close to hitting it... In the Mababe Village we are in for a surprise. The road further north is closed. No bridge, just a river which is impossible to cross even for our Landys. A new bridge is placed on the ground beside the river, probably waiting for the workforce, spare parts or whatever. How will we reach the Mababe Gate now?

Luckily a couple of park rangers in a car comes by and offer to guide us "around the problem" as they call it. We gladly accept! But what a detour!! We drive 20 kms on a narrow, wiggly and windy bush"road" in the middle of nowhere behind locals who really knows how to hit the accelerator! And the highlight - we cross the river on the narrowest bridge I have ever seen for a vehicle! 3 thin twigs (cannot call them tree trunks) for each pair of wheels at the bottom of a decent to the river which is 45 degrees ++. No room for mistakes! If you miss the twigs you're in the river. We luckily get both our Landrovers over on the first try! It is an exhausting trip, especially being a passenger with no wheel to hold on to. We do, however, reach the Chobe National Park and pay our guides some money. We would never had found that piece of road ourselves...

In Chobe we choose to take the Sandridge Road towards Savute this time having tested out the Marsh Road the last time we were here. We were also advised to do this, because a Swiss couple had chosen the Marsh Road some weeks earlier and they got stuck for 4 days in the mud before they were found and rescued! We don't know about the water level this week in the marsh. Better safe than sorry.. We spot our first Red Hartebeest, a magnificent male Kudu and closer to the lodge this proud Kori Bustard.

The Sandridge Road is indeed very sandy, and bumpy, and our camping gear really gets thrown around in the car. The cameras are, however, safe :-) Finally at the Savute Safari Lodge we are met with some refreshing drinks and get two of the best meru tents they have, both with a view - even from the bed - over the main waterhole where the Elephants already are playing. Nice! We are again just in time for tea and get to meet the other guests on the main deck directly above the waterhole. I get surprised, and happy, when I learn that our former guide Gwist still works for the Savute Safari Lodge, even though the lodge has got new owners in the meantime. I ask if Gwist can be our guide for the evening, and since we are returning guests they rearrange the guides and we get Gwist all by ourselves as gamedrive guide for the evening. Great! I have seen a Leopard only once, and that was because of Gwists merit. He actually remembers us and are really happy when he learns that we asked specifically for his expertise.

Off we go on an evening gamedrive, and what does Gwist do? He takes us directly to an area where he knows that there has been a kill by a female Leopard! We spot the Leopard in the shades beside a tree where we see the Impala leftovers hanging high up above her. WOW! We are just 2 meters from the dozing female Leopard and she looks calmly up on us when we drive very slowly by her. Gwist has done it again! Am I happy! I just adore cats, and Leopards in particular! :-)

Here: the Leopard has just climbed the tree after her afternoon sleep and is on her way to supper!

We place ourselves on a perfect spot to wait for the Leopard to move. We have seen a lot of Lions and other wildlife earlier on the trip so we decide that the Leopard is well worth waiting for. We know the Leopard is going to go for her meal in the tree, so we just relax, adjust our camera gear and wait for the action. It is rather nice to have a big gamedrive vehicle just for the three of us. We have enough room for three tripods if we want, and all the extra equipment. And best of all, we don't have to fight a lot of other passengers jumping around in the car. I could very easy get used to the service and advantage of beeing a returning customer! Patience this time gives us a big reward. Just one hour before sunset the Leopard starts to move. By this time there are about 10 other vehicles gathered around us. Words of the Leopard has spread.. but we have the front row. Gwist has done a great job. Again!

We finish the evening with a wonderful dinner outside on the deck accompanied by the still excisting Savute choir which sets us in a very pleasant mood. We gather around the lit campfire for a nightcap and enjoy the quiet African evening, and just before we go to bed we spot one of the two Honey Badgers which still lives around the Savute Campsite area a couple of kms from the lodge. It is probably one of our friends from 2007 which is running along the waterhole, since they are highly territorial. What a nice conclusion of a perfectly wonderful day.

 

July 10 .. Savute Safari Lodge, Chobe - Three Baobabs, Savute area

The night, however, turns out to be everything but quiet. A Leopard visits our terrace (our female friend from the evening gamedrive?) probably while hunting for animals at the waterhole. It turns noisy as hell when also Hyenas and Wild dogs adds to the killing spree. We see both the Hyenas and the Wild dogs, but we only hear the Leopard. The sound is, however, not to be mistaken. And that is enough for me this close to the tent.. Nothing is comparable to some real action during the night :-) We fall asleep again around 4:00 when things are calming down again. I will never forget the sounds from the Leopard that close though..

The morning view over the waterhole is more quiet. A group of female Kudu's and their calves drinking in the morning sun. Lovely sight. We have another warm porridge for breakfast. It is a bit chilly out on the deck, so we choose to have our meal inside. The start of the day is relaxing. No hurry at all. We are just to reach the Three Baobabs Lodge in the Linyante area today and don't have to get up before the sun :-) I have some time to write my diary and we have also time for a photoshoot of some lovely birds which are visiting our veranda.

We leave Savute Safari Lodge and head for the road past the Savute airstrip and towards Ghoha Gate. We drive some 28 kms before we get through the gate and onto the main road towards Linyanti. We follow this for a few kms before we turn right into Chobe Forest Reserve and the new and wide road we remember from 2007. Not! The road which had two very wide lanes in both directions now is a normal bumpy and a bit narrow sandy road. In only two years time! Wow.. I am amazed by how quickly the undergrowth is developing when it's not maintained! Left: the now singel lane road, 1/4 of its original width!

To find the Three Baobabs we only have GPS koordinates of main checkpoints along the road. The lodge is brand new, opened end of June - last month.. We have a GPS koordinate of where to turn off this main road towards the lodge, but are not quite sure if we do the right turn. Instead of finding a narrow - yes - but still visible bushroad we find the tracks of what looks like one vehicle off the road to the left approximately where the GPS koordinates tell us to turn. Hmm.. Can this be "the road"? We try, and with some good will we can see that somebody has driven here before. No signposts, no marked trees, nothing! Interesting :-) We do, however, follow the terrain and find the second GPS koordinate, and this looks more travelled. Hopefully we are on track! We continue our expedition somewhat more enthusiastic. We do not take a wrong turn anywhere, and despite our doubts we find the Three Baobabs in the end, after just a few discussions.

What a pleasant surprise! We were not very enthusiastic about this lodge to begin with, because originally we wanted to camp in our tents in Chobe this night. But this looks promising indeed! We are met by Florian (German) and Kristin (Swedish) who runs the lodge. A very friendly and service minded couple who really wants to make us feel welcome. We have a cold drink in the main lounge and have chat before they show us our meru style tents for the night. And they are cosy! Just check out the grin on Ians face in the nice bathtub in our private, open walls bathroom! With lovely and warm water! Very nice after a rather long and bumpy offroad trip to get there!

The main lodge itself is situated between two of the three huge baobab trees on the premises. Check out our photo gallery for more photos of this nice lodge.

In the afternoon Florian takes us, beeing their only guests tonight, on a gamedrive on the farm. The farm is 45 hektars and has indeed some wildlife. Among a lot of bird species we meet a Zebra herd and Warthogs. The gamedrive trip stops on a lookout point where we have a nice view over the area. Here Kristin waits with our sundowner drink and some snacks to nibble while we watch the African sunset.

Tonight we have a lovely lambdish at the lodge together with Florian and Kristin. A truly great atmosphere and nice people to spend the evening around the campfire with. Before we go to bed Ian and Mogens are out taking pictures of the moon! No light pollution! The pictures turnes out great! :-)

 

July 11 .. Three Baobabs, Savute area - Chobe River Lodge Campsite, Kasane

It's a pleasant night at the Three Baobabs, only disturbed by some howling Hyenas for a moment. When we get up in the morning we get a surprise after our morning shower. Hot coffee is waiting for us just outside the tent. Nice touch, because it's rather cold in the morning before the sun awakes :-) We have some more pictures taken of the premises before we have a lovely breakfast and take the scenic route which pass the Zebras on our way out. We meet the main road just outside the village Kachikau and get the first glimpses of the Chobe River. It has a lot of water, but doesn't seem to have the flood tendencies as Moremi. This is further north. The main flood has hopefully passed this point. We can only hope.

We enter Chobe National Park through the western Ngoma Entrance Gate. It is good to have everything prearranged and prebooked. No hassle at all. We just sign in and off we go, already preapproved ;-) This is where we had our exit in 2007 before entering into Namibia just across the river. We don't get far into the Chobe National Park before we meet our first Monitor Lizzard walking along the road! And this time I get a proper picture of it. It is a huge reptile, about 2 meters long with a long neck, powerful tail and claws, and well-developed limbs. It's actually really beautiful! Out in the river we also spot a swimming Monitor Lizzard. This is the first time I have seen them swim! On the riverbank there are Crocodiles scattered around. Yupp, finally along "my" Chobe River again!

We find ourselves an umbrella acacia and stop for lunch. Here you don't go far from your vechicle! We set up our chairs and table and have a long and pleasant lunch waiting for the sun to do it's warmest job before we start our evening gamedrive. It's too hot during the middle of the day to have an active wildlife. We get visited by a lonely Baboon, otherwise it's pleasantly quiet. At 14:00 we start moving towards Ihaha campsite and Kasane which is our destination for the day. The area is teeming with wildlife as before.

In just few minutes we meet Sabel Antelopes (left), Buffalo, Giraffe, Zebra, common Waterbuck, Impala, you name it! We have picked our timing right, and Mogens gets to see why we call this part of the Chobe River area "Ellie-county". We meet hundreds of Elephants! Big ones, bigger ones, tiny small babies with short trunks, smaller families and larger groups. All on their way to the river to drink. It's a lovely chaos and has to be experienced to be believed. And the Chobe Elephants have so far been easy to relate to. If you don't act stupid and know what to do, it's ok! We have a fantastic gamedrive along the river today and I am really glad that I can show Mogens why I love this spot on earth so much.

We reach Kasane and the shopping mall Spar juuuust in time. They close at 18:00, and we get there with only minutes to spare. We are going to camp at the Chobe River Lodge Campsite for 3 nights and need to stock up with some more to eat and drink. We find the campsite, and it is a big disappointment! :-( Compared to our beloved Ihaha campsite at the other far end of the Chobe river this is a catastrophy. Maybe not for people who like camping and living on top of each other, but for us being used to Ihaha and its quiet and secluded pitches this is not pleasant at all! This is, however, the price to pay to be late with booking. Good ones go first.. But, we hear the Hippos in the river nearby and suddenly we have two grazing Elephants just outside the campsite fence 5 meters from our tent. It reminds us that we are not far from the wildlife despite the overcrowded campsite. We make ourselves a nice braai for dinner and the Botswanan meat together with some South African redwine is lovely as always :-)

July 12 .. Chobe River Lodge Campsite, Kasane

Up early! We plan to have the whole day in the park and leave the campsite at 7:00, only to be stopped on the main road of a big herd of about 100 Buffalos crossing the tarmac! A bit absurd sight :-) We also find Kudus grazing along the highway this early in the morning before the traffic increases. We head for Sedudu Gate and drive slowly along the sandy path closest to the Chobe River. You definately need your 4x4 vehicle to get around here! There is extraordinary little wildlife to see this morning, and it's cold. A few Warthogs, Impalas, Kudu and Baboons move slowly around, but that's about all. We head for our preferred birdwatching spot not far from the lookout point and are not disappointed! Among others, we find The Lilac Breasted Roller - the Botswana National Bird (left), Sacred Ibis and Egyptian Geese.

We drive almost all the way to our lunch spot from yesterday. It's quiet, but we find Hippo's grazing onshore along the river, the magnificent Fish Eagles hunting for fish and a Monitor Lizzard warming itself in the morning sun. A few Vervet Monkeys are also thawing in the sun after a cold night in the bush. We visit the Ihaha Campsite and take the backroad in just to refresh our good memories from this lovely spot. We check at the reception block to see if they have a vacant spot, but everything is still fully booked for the night and the nights to come. Well, we have tried.. We stop for a very early lunch along the river and put up our sunshade. We enjoy a few hours in the quietness of the bush, reading books, having a nice meal and going through and naming all our pictures. Being three people taking photograps we cover most of what is happening during a day. I have brought our two books "Mammals of Africa" and "Birds of Southern Africa" which is of good help. It's nice to actually know what you're seeing :-)

We start our returntrip around 2:00 and take the same route along the lower paths closest to the Chobe River. We haven't come far before we meet this Giraffe making funny faces towards us. He is really creative and not at all scared of our two Landys. It seems like this year with cold mornings gives us more to see on our afternoon gamedrives. The wildlife is again very active and we see them in numbers. Not only the Elephants, but 30 Giraffes in one go and 15-20 Sable Antelopes out seeking the river together. And there are a lot of babies among most species. Not far from the Serondela old campsite we see something we have never seen before. A female Elephant and her two babies swimming over the river, the small trunks barely visible above the water. I'm so afraid that they will drown, because they are totally submerged when they reach the deep trench in the middle of the river. But out of the water they get, both the mother and the two small Elephants. What a wonderful sensation!

Just where the path out towards the Puku Flats starts, along the riverbank, we finally have a welcoming sight. Two Lionesses ready to hunt! We also spot the Impalas which they most definately have in mind and place our vehicles to enjoy the action. The Lionesses don't notice us at all, occupied as they are with the Impalas. We get some very nice pictures of the Lionesses. There is no kill, though, because one gamedrive vehicle with a stupid guide interrupts the hunt by following(!) the Lionesses offroad. This idiot should really have been reported to the park rangers!

The Lionesses lie down when the Impalas flee, and out of some bushes just behind us comes three lovely Lion cubs to join their mothers. They are SO CUTE! Here: two of the three cubs. We enjoy the Lions playing in the grass when suddenly another two gamedrive vehicles with stupid drivers drive up just beside the Lions and scare them away. The Lionesses take their cubs and head for the Puku Flats to get some peace. We give up and head for the Sedudu gate because it's beginning to get late. We have to be out of the park before sunset 6:30. Back in our campsite our little spot is occupied by another two cars, but we get a bigger and more "secluded" (well, sure..) spot to put our cars, surrounded by the bush behind the fence on at least two sides :-) We have another lovely evening beside our campfire and the braai is excellent. We go to bed happy and another Lion story richer.

 

July 13 .. Chobe River Lodge Campsite, Kasane

Today we have an easy and slow start with the cold previous mornings in mind. We sleep until 7:30! Maybe not that late, but keep in mind that we also go to bed very early. 21:30 at the very latest. After sunset it is pitch black and we try to follow the sun instead of our watches, this gives us most out of every day. We skip the morning gamedrive and take a trip to Kasane instead to fill our Landys. Having in mind the lack of fuel in the Kasane gas station from earlier years we want to be sure to have enough for the following days. We buy some breakfast at The Hot Bread Shop. Do NOT miss this! Lovely bakery with lots of tempting to eat! I think we buy enough to feed a football team.. Ian & Mogens get to check their e-mail at the Kasane Computer shop while I get myself a double cappucino at the Kasane Coffee shop nearby and update my diary. Everybody happy :-)

The Three Baobabs Lodge is owned by the same people running The Garden Lodge here in Kasane. While on Three Baobabs Ian agree to help Kristin with some Lightroom/photo problems she have and plan to visit both her and Florian at The Garden Lodge where they are staying parts of this week. This is truly a gorgeous lodge, nicely situated on the banks of the Chobe river and with a huge, private garden. The combination of unlimited water from the river and constant sunshine allows hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, banana and paw paw to grow in profusion. But rates follow the beauty.. It is not cheap to stay here, but each room has its own bathroom and private verandah overlooking the Chobe river. The fact that this lodge only has 24 beds makes it also very attractive.

We have a cup of coffee with Florian and Kristin and visit the Spar to stock up with some more food, fruit and water. Tomorrow we leave for Zambia and don't know when and where we have the same choices as the Spar next time.

Our afternoon gamedrive along the Chobe river will be our last visit for now, and we will have most out of it. We head right for a change just after entering the Sedudu Gate and find ourselves both a big herd of Buffalos and Elephants and a fantastic huge group of Hippos out on the dry banks in the middle of the river. It looks like rocks from afar, but with our binoculars we definately see that they are Hippos. There are also a lot of cruiseboats on the river today, packed with tourists. I am so glad that we have two vehicles and room enough to bring whatever we want with us. The crammed space in the common gamedrive vehicles and tourist boats makes the money spent on our Landys well worth it!

We turn and go west and stop by the lookout point at the beginning of the Moselesele Loop. We just want to relax and soak up as much of the area and wildlife as we can. We have a fantastic view over the flats with Buffalos, Elephants, Hippos and over 30 Giraffes. We find ourselves a nice spot on a large tree trunk and just marvel the scenery. The amount of wildlife here is just amazing! We sit here until sunset before we return to the Sedudu Gate a bit late, but this time we do not care. We drive carefully and do not get hassled by the gate. We just wanted to see the sunset over the Chobe River the last time. But Chobe has left to see the last of we. I just KNOW I will be back. Again! This is my Eden.

We want to spoil ourselves even more and conclude the evening with a dinner at the Chobe Safari Lodge restaurant. The food is lovely, accompanied by local musicians out in the garden. It is again a bit chilly, and our fleece jackets is a good choice. The night is noisy with Howler Monkeys, Hippos, Hyenas and Wild dogs adding to the choir, but we fall happily asleep in our roof top tents, ready to explore a new country tomorrow!

 

July 14 .. Chobe River Lodge Campsite, Kasane - Maramba River Lodge, Livingstone Zambia

We pack our vehicles early and head for The Hot Bread Shop in Kasane for our breakfast. Some of us cannot forget the lovely pastry and steak pies.. ;-) Kazungula with its ferry crossing and hectic traffic is our next challenge! Kazungula is the northernmost village in Botswana at a unique spot where 4 countries (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia & Zimbabwe) and two rivers (Chobe and Zambezi) meet. The Kazungula ferry is a pontoon ferry across the 400 metre wide Zambezi river between Botswana and Zambia. It is one of the largest ferries in south-central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes!

Here chaos awaits! Lots of big lorries, lanes with large trucks and a few cars are scattered around the quay. No queueing system, no information, nothing. And 20-30 boys who want to sell valuta and services and fight to get to our cars first. Oh my God! This will we an interesting ferry crossing! We pick one of the guys to help us out with money. You need to have Zambian Kwacha before you reach Zambia, and no bank in Botswana will give you an exchange rate between Pula and Kwacha. You have to do it here on the quay or in Zambia. We hear from a white South African business man also joining the "queue" that you get better exchange rates from the boys on this side of the river and border. We trust the advise and follow his car to put ourselves in the for us invisible queueing system onshore. We get however onto the first ferry and get explained how to behave on the bordercrossing on the other side to get the procedures done. This is the most complex border crossing I have been through. Following taxes in 5 different "offices" have to be paid:

* $20 - the Ferry (car and 2 people)
* 20.000 Kwacha - Road Tax
* 50.000 Kwacha - Carbon Tax (the car)
* $45 - Custom temporary import/export declaration (the car)
* $50 - Entrance visa to get into the country (2 people)
* 115.000 Kwacha - Road Insurance

We are told we are lucky today with close to no traffic..(!?!). Wonder how it is on a busy day? We have to visit the different "offices" in a certain order to pay our taxes. There is, of course, a friendly Zambian guy who will help us, of course for an extra fee, to do it "the right way". He costs us 5 USD, so why not. You have to be patient, smile a lot and never get annoyed. Then things work fine. It takes us just over 2 hours to pay our taxes and cross the border. TIP: remember to take care of ALL the receipts! They can hassle you on your way back across the border if you cannot show that you have paid when you arrived! In total the bordercrossing costs for one vehicle and 2 people about USD300. Then you're also able to get back..

Finally across the border we turn right and head for Livingstone, our destination today. We are going to visit the Victoria Falls and that I look forward to having missed the opportunity last time we were in Botswana. We realize quickly that we have entered a new country! We drive through 3 police roadblocks before we enter Livingstone and our accomodation for the night, the campsite at the Maramba River Lodge.

The campsite is nice with good ablutions and we can use the swimmingpool and the other amenities as we like. Beside the pool there is a bar, and after a rather quick dip in the cold water we relax with some cold drinks. Just outside the bar area beside the Maramba River five Elephants are grazing and we see clear Hippo tracks along the riverbank just below the pool bar. Nice! Here we can do wildlife watching from our barstools :-) We prefer, however, to pack our gear and take the trip to the Victoria Falls just 4 kms down the road. We bring some raingear in case of wet conditions.

Victoria Falls is fantastic! Before we take the short walk from the parking to the falls we visit the Falls Museum, but the real falls are much more impressing than any of the pictures in the museum! There is built a stoned path along the edge on the opposite side of the falls, of course with a railing. The view is majestic and the sound of the falls is overwhelming! The stoned path goes along the edge and has many nice viewpoints. A visit here is not to be missed! And no picture comes close to give the magic impression these falls have on people. There are double rainbows, mist in the air, blue sky and thundering sounds. Some of the viewpoints are so wet that it feels like we are in a rainforest, with the water floating upwards! We get soaking wet, but the weather is nice and warm and we don't care :-) On the far end of the stonepath we get a very nice view over the borderbridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and just as we stand there watching a guy does a bungee jump from the bridge :-)

After studying the falls from this side, we go all the way back and cross the river to the opposite side. Top right on the picture to the right. We dry quickly in the breeze and it's warm in the sun after having spent a lot of time in the wet shade. We get some nice pictures from the waters edge too, before it drops thundering down the mountainside. After the falls we visit the nearby market, but leave with nothing. We don't have any spare kgs for additional luggage. Luckily.. because I am very close to buying a huge animal sculpture..

We visit the Maramba River Lodge restaurant this evening. No braai tonight either! Not that I would swap, but it's kind of cozy with the campfire. We have 5-6 Hippo's grazing their way upstream entertaining us while we eat. Parts of the riverbank has floodlights, so it's a nice view. The dinner is very pleasant, and the following night is very cold. I wear my woollen underwear every night!

 

15.7 .. Victoria Falls, Zambia - Musungwa Safari Lodge, South Kafue Nationalpark

We get up 8:15 and stop at Wonderbake for a lovely breakfast and a cappucino! I find the Wonderbake mentioned in our excellent Bradt Zambia Travel Book. All Bradt travel books has actually been very detailed and very helpful for us when travelling Africa, and I bring them with we every time! Wonderbake is definately to be recommended! The Zambian men are much more aggressive in their behaviour than their pleasant neighbours in Botswana. I have never felt nervous when leaving the vehicle anywhere in Botswana, but I really feel like having a clear view of the car when we visit the bakery. A lot of men quarrel between each other to take care of our vehicles when we visit the bakery even though we have told them off. Not easy to get rid of.. They want to do everything from watching the car, washing the car and exchange valuta. This time we need no help.

After breakfast we head for the South Kafue National Park entrance called Dundumwezi Gate. We are going to drive the park from south to north today. And the road is VERY tiring.. We start on tarmac, but just outside Livingstone the roadworks start. Instead of driving on a main road as we thought we were going to, we have to take a wiggly windy road which ends up beeing quite a detour. Lots of sand and very bumpy. It doesn't make the situation better when we end up driving behind a bus which really turns everything into a dusty cloud. Well back on the main road we have a couple of kms before we reach our gravel road towards the Dumdumwenze Gate. As you can see, it goes on and on AND ON forever.. We do not, however, drive more than a couple of minutes into the park before we spot our first ever Caracal! This handsome small cat has dense short reddish-brown fur. Underparts of chin and body are white, and a narrow black line runs from the corner of the eye to the nose. Its ears are long, narrow and tipped with long black tufts of black hair. Everything happens so quickly that we have no chance of taking a picture of it. But wow, I didn't expect that to happen :-) But then it stops. We don't see any wildlife after that for hours!

And more, huge parts of the areas we drive through are burnt! Something we never have experienced in Botswana. These areas are burnt on purpose, and it's a depressing sight :-( Parts of the road through the park is also bad. Very sandy and badly maintained with huge craters in it. It takes us close to 3,5 hours to drive up the South Kafue Nationalpark. Some of the northern parts of the South Kafue is however a bit pretty, and here we also spot a few animals. A Sabel Antelope, a Warthog, some Buffalos and a Puku, which is a new animal for us. Just before we reach the exit gate of the park we get to see the most lovely Wild Dog! This is the first time I see one up front, stopping actually right in front of our car and watching us for some seconds. Fan-tas-tic! It is much larger and far more pretty than I thought Wild Dogs to be seen from afar.

We arrive the Musungwa Safari Lodge and check in at the campsite. We are their only camping guests this night. The ablutions are really bad, but we get access to one of the "huts" and its bathroom.. Well, the lodge has definately seen its better days, but new owners have taken over the lodge and we can see that they have started a total renovation of the area. It is desperately needed! The outdoor area is, however, very nice and one of the staff lights us a big campfire for our braai. There is a big concrete table with concrete "chairs" and with our gas lamp it gets really cozy. The lodge is worn down, but is has a magnificent view over the 370 square kms Itezi-tezi dam.

We make ourselves a proper irish stew for a change, with vegetables, meat and potatoes from scratch. It takes us close to two hours, but today we have time, the weather is nice and we have enough South African redwine to keep us (Mogens and I) going for a while :-) It has been a long, time consuming and tiring day, but we reach our destination without rushing it. Maybe it was a good thing that there were no more wildlife in the South Kafue. We have concentrated our stay in Zambia around the North Kafue area. Hopefully we are more lucky tomorrow.

 

16.7 .. Musungwa Safari Lodge, South Kafue Nationalpark - Lufupa Campsite, North Kafue Nationalpark

We start the morning with a lovely shower despite the worn huts. The water is warm, and there is plenty of it. What more can you ask? A set of clean clothes is also refreshing. The old set is full of sand (as everything else which isn't packed in sandproof bags..). After breakfast we head for the Itezi-Tezi dam and the gas station we know is situated somewhere around here. We are in need of diesel. We find the gas station allright, but have to pay BEFORE we fill the fuel, in an office a few kms from where the diesel pumps are. Weird.. At the office we are met with typical African mentality and ineffectiveness. The office only takes Kwacha. No Visa. Ok, so we head for the bank situated only a couple of more kms east. But, the bank hasn't got todays exchange rate for dollars yet, so they are unable to exhange our money! We return to pay with the few Kwacha we have left, but this time the people at the office cannot find their receiptbook so we cannot pay. We stay here for about ONE HOUR to pay for 70 litres of diesel. *AAAARRRGGGHHH...* This I do not have any patience with, so I wash our Landy instead of tearing somebodys head off.. THEN we can drive back and fill our Landys! Hrmf...

From the gas station Mogens picks up a hitchhiker that one of the gate guards asks (or demands) that he brings along. Off we go, and meet The Road From Hell! We have 130 kms to go on craters with a bit of tarmac or gravel around! Some of the craters I swear can hide one of our Landrovers completely. We have never ever experienced a piece of something called road this bad. It is HORRIBLE, and I have a tremendous headache when we finally drop off our hitchhiker and reach the main road. TIP: This piece of road between the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam via the Mwengwa Post towards Tutztz and Nalusa should by all means be avoided! This despite it is marked on every map as a road! Take the loooong way around instead!!!

Finally we reach the tarmac road going east/west between Lusaka and Kaoma, Mongu. We turn left towards Hookbridge Gate and into the North Kafue National Park. Bliss! We're finally here! At the gate we are told by a very pleasant woman that there have been Cheetah's in the area the same week. Wow! Can we believe this? Regarding to this woman there is a lot of wildlife in the park. Not to be compared to the barren Southern Kafue. We hope so indeed! The directions to the Lufupa campsite are easy to follow, and we trundle along the road having enough time not to rush it. Big parts of the Northern Kafue is however also burnt, and this is a huge disappointment. Afterwards we learn that it is the game scouts and poachers who do this both to spot the game easier and because of the Tse-tse flies in the area. Burning the undergrowth keeps the flies down in numbers. And I didn't even know we were going to a tse-tse area. Humm..

30 minutes into the park we meet a new Antelope specie, the Puku! We have never seen this one before, and it looks like a shaggy mix of the Impala female but without the white bliss on its forehead and the Lechwe, but without it's characteristical high rump. Zambia has probably the largest population of Puku in Africa. Nice to have met this Antelope too! The road is rather nice ad we also meet some Impalas, Kudus and Warthogs on our way towards the Lufupa campsite. We see a bushfire to the left of us, but too far to be of any danger. We arrive the Lufupa campsite, and it's rather nice with a swimmingpool (for warmer days), billiards, darts and a volleyball "court". But here there are tse-tse flies, and they are ANNOYING! Even though it's winter time down here they bite!

The Lufupa River Camp is situated at the confluence of the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers and offer game viewing areas in the dambos and woodlands of the northern Kafue Nationalpark. Leopard and Lion sightings are said to be regular. Well, we'll see.. The service at the campsite includes that the personell lit our campfire when we want it, and we ask them to start at 18:30. Then we have time for a short gamedrive before our braai dinner. It has been a very long and unpleasant drive most of the day and we are tired, but we have to give the Cheetahs and Lions a try first. We don't however see any cats this evening, but we can tick off a new specie on our list - the Defassa Waterbuck! To be differenciated from the common Waterbuck by its white blaze on the rump instead of the normal white ring on the rump. We also meet this Saddle Billed Stork which I finally get a picture of.

We meet Bushbucks, more Elephants and Pukus along the road, but the tse-tse flies are so annoing that I end up killing flies coming into the car instead of taking photos. We use only one car for gamedriving this evening. We find the river and less flies and stop to take pictures of the game coming down to drink. A lovely Elephant family, lots of huge Crocodiles and a Hippo-soup meet us down by the river. Left: two quarreling males in the evening sun.

When we get back to camp the fire is burning brightly and we prepare our dinner. Every camping pitch has its own concrete block with lights, a water tap and good room to prepare the food. It also has a big wooden table and wooden benches in addition to a sink. We have some very good meat with grilled corn and onions and rice. Camplife can be really pleasant with good company, good wine and the Hippos grunting in the nearby river. Even the tse-tse flies disappears. This night I give a thanks to colder evenings :-)

 

July 17 .. Lufupa Campsite, Northern Kafue Nationalpark

During the night we wake up by the sound of Lions! We see the Lion tracks just beside our camping pitch in the morning. Ok, so they are really here! Today our main destination is the Busanga Plains. Busanga Plains is a wetland area in the far northern region of the park. During most of the year the Plains are flooded and make a perfect but inaccessible bird sanctuary. Now however, during the dry winter season (between July to October) the plains are accessible by four wheel drive and is said not to be missed out if we are in the area. We do not intend to! We start off towards the airstrip where the Lions have been seen early this morning by one of the Lufupa River Camp employees. We drive around the area, but the Lions must have moved on. We find fresh tracks along the sandy road, but no cats. Instead we meet a couple of lovely Grey Crowned Cranes. They pose for us in the river and make a beautiful sight in the sun. My first view of this lovely bird. Birds have never been something I have driven far to see, but after my first meeting with the African birds in Namibia I quickly changed my mind. The African birds, at least, are so beautiful!

Somewhere along the way we take a wrong turn, because we end up on a wide sandy road going straight north. Our heading should have been north-east.. Not quite sure where we are for a moment we drive on (having seen more fresh cat tracks along the road) and end up in Kabang at the Kabanga Post and northern entrance into the park. Definately wrong turn! We meet some local fishermen on our way back to the turn-off to the plains. Their bags are loaded with fish from the river and they have to push their bikes in the heavy sand. Poor guys. They are in for a long walk! Our way towards the Busanga Plains goes directly past the Treetops School Camp. This is the only wildlife camp for school students in Africa! The school has been hosting school children since the 50's. The school is empty when we pass it.

We finally reach the Busanga Plains, and it is much drier than we expect it to be. One of the Lufupa Camp personnell told us the Plains probably still was under water. Well, it's dry, but we can see that it hasn't been dry for a very long time. The area is at this point however, a disappointment. We see only a few Impalas and a Hippo (which is blocking our path completely and we have to drive safely around). In the distance we can count three bushfires and see the people who guard the fires. I don't exactly know how they can manage to control the fires, but hopefully they have considered the slight wind and where the rivers are... It is a depressing sight. This area could have been so nice with abundant wildlife, but the animals seem to avoid it at least at this point of the year because of the several fires. Maybe it's nicer later in the season..

We return to the campsite one experience richer, all in all glad for taking the effort to get there. This is the area Ian & Mogens want to check out in Zambia, and it will be silly not to drive all the way out here. The area is nice if you can look past the lack of wildlife and all the human made bushfires! Next time we visit Zambia it definately will be the Luangwa Nationalpark in the far eastern part of the country. So much to see, so little time :-)

Since we (Ian & Mogens ;-) haven't planned the Zambia trip in detail we decide to return towards Botswana the next day. Nothing is (nor was necessary or possible to) prebook and prepay here, so we are all flexible to leave whenever we want to. This time that is an advantage (even though I like to plan for everything, even the unexpected, before we leave on a trip like this. Yupp, photo safari control freak I am :-). We take a short trip to the river/Hippo pool we found our first evening before we drive back to our campsite and plan our return. Sad as it is, this is the furthest north we planned to go, and wanting it or not we have to plan for our return towards South Africa again. We have, however, another full week to go and much more to explore! Here: one of the male Impalas along the road.

We visit the reception at the Lufupa River Camp and check us out from the campsite from the next morning. Their terrace is overlooking the Lufupa river and we decide to have a G&T here and soak up the fresh river breeze before returning to our campsite. Our braai is excellent as always and we take some time removing some kgs of sand from inside our Landrovers and tidy them up a bit. It is needed! They are more than filthy, but they do an excellent job! Mogens' vehicle has however developed a strange noise and some rattles from our trip over The Road From Hell, but it sticks together still. We plan to leave early bird in the morning and drive all the way back to Livingstone again in one go. It is a hefty long trip, but we have planned for a lot of tarmac, not quuuuite sure though, if the maps tell the truth. We jump early to bed!

 

July 18 .. Lufupa Campsite, Northern Kafue Nationalpark - Maramba River Lodge, Livingstone

We get up early and leave Lufupa at 7:10! *Groan* Our destination for the day is still Livingstone, hopefully before sunset. I have my doubts, but hey - we'll give it a try. On our way out we can add yet another specie on our list, the Sidestriped Jackal! Ian gets a lovely picture of it crossing the road only 20-30 meters in front of our car. The North Kafue National Park hasn't shown us a lot of animals in numbers, but the amount of (for us) new species has been impressive! Elephants have torn up a big tree and put it nicely across the road since we arrived, so we have to find a detour into the bush to get passed it. And just on the other side we finally get a picture of the Roan Antelope! We are so excited by the sight, that Ian reverse the car directly into Mogens' to get a proper view of the animal. The enthusiasm is still here :-)

We see a lot of different animals on our way out, Kudu, Elephant, Puku, Impala, Reedbuck, Zebra, Warthog and lots of cat tracks. But still no cat... This nationalpark could have been lovely if it wasn't for the heavy burning. We tell the Hookbridge Gate officer about our experience in the park and he asks us to write this down in his Visitors Book. The burning is a common problem and the more tourists who complain the bigger pressure the governing Zambians get to handle the problem. (Even more annoying for me was however the Tse-tse flies. Highly annoying beasts!)

We choose to drive the 300 kms detour via Lusaka to Livingstone instead of choosing The Road From Hell again. None of us wants to try that one never more. From Hookbridge Gate to Lusaka we find a spotless, wonderful tarmac road. Boring streches, yes, but highly comfortable! We find a gas station and a bakery outside Lusaka and have a light lunch before entering the capital of Zambia. What a chaos! Lots of people. Everywhere. Selling everything thinkable to whoever wants to buy! It doesn't matter if you sit in your car driving, or queueing. If you want a painting, you get it. Or what about shoes, sunglasses, big sacks of rice, a carwash perhaps? WOW! I wouldn't leave the car for money! I would get lost in an instant! Highly entertaining to watch from our car, though!

Mogens has a GPS in his Landy so he guides us through Lusaka and out towards Livingstone in the other end. After his, it is just boring driving all the way. Ian stops along the road to buy "some" oranges and comes back with 35-40.. buying a whole bag. We will not starve, for sure :-) It takes us 12 hours from Hookbridge Gate via Lusaka to Livingstone. And we do not waste any time, just nibbling some crackers in the car as we go. The last strech of road we know is the detour out on the wiggly, windy and sandy path around the road works on the highway. Not recommended in in the dark, but we have decided to reach Livingstone and have phoned the Maramba River Lodge and got a vacant campsite for the night. We reach Livingstone just before 9:00 in the evening, in time to get dinner at one of the Bradt Travel Book recommended Indian restaurants in Livingstone. 22:15 we drop dead in our tents. Exhausted!

 

July 19 .. Maramba River Lodge, Livingstone Zambia - Sua Pan, Makgadikgadi area, Botswana

It takes some effort to get out of my sleeping bag this morning, but knowing we're on our way back to Botswana gets me up and going. We skip breakfast for now. Big surprise on the border! It takes us only 1 hour to get over. No troubles at all! We only pay the police 20.000 Kwacha (why, I don't know) and USD20 for the ferry crossing and off we go! We end up on a much smaller ferry with room for one truck and one car only, but who cares! In Botswana we have to desinfect both the car tyres and our feet! The Botswanan don't think much about their Zambian neighbours and their Hoof and Mouth disease.. It's good to be back! There is something about the Botswanan people which gives me a pleasant feeling of being welcomed. Especially compared to the Zambians.. We head for Kasane and of course the Hot Bread Shop. Beef pies and apple tartes here we come! Breakfast has never tasted better :-)

We decide to head for Nata and the Nata Bird Sanctuary which also holds a campsite. But what a piece of road between Pandamatanga and Nata! Potholes all the way! Not as bad as The Road From Hell, but being Botswana this is unusual. Before we reach the bad part of the road there is however a traffic info tent with officers stopping everybody from entering the road before they are fully briefed. The road will, at some stage, be repaired - but nobody knows exactly when. The traffic police do however feel the need of informing everybody about the bad road conditions, because this is actually the main road to northern Botswana and Kasane! We spend about 3 hours on 150 kms.. and just outside Nata, when the tarmac is back and road is driveable again we get stopped by the police for speeding! They really know where to place themselves... 460 Pula (NOK450). Luckily MUCH cheaper than speeding in Norway...

We find the Nata Bird Sanctuary and decide to spend the night out on the Pan instead, since it's passable. The waterlevel has receded and it's now possible to get to the bird hide on the edge of the pan. We drive 8 kms out on the Sua Pan, and it is FANTASTIC! The Pan is filled with water and looks like a huge lake. During the dry periode this Pan is bone dry! And the sunset? Magnificent! We meet some other tourists visiting the bird hide, but most of them leave before the evening. Only one other Swiss couple decides to stay on the Pan for the night.

The Sua Pan is a large natural topographic depression within the Makdagikgadi. The salt pan is one of three large pans within the area. The Sua Pan was first described to the European world by David Livingstone, and stone age tools have been found here.

Having a braai out here on the pan is really something! Little birdlife and animal life today, but during the night we hear the Hyenas. It's an amazingly quiet sensation, just like the Etosha Pan in Namibia. You feel completely alone in the world but for the starlit sky and the moon. I go to bed in the tent and put my head outside to watch the stars. You feel kind of small in the world then :-)

 

July 20 .. Sua Pan, Makgadikgadi - Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Serowe

We marvel the sunrise from our tent, having been woken up by the Hyenas earlier. It's very cold out here on the pan, coldest morning we have had so far. Mogens has been freezing in his tent during the night. We have a slow start both because of the temperature and the beauty of the sunrise and the fantastic cloudformations we are witnessing. Not a bad choice at all to stay out here on the pan, even though there are no water, no ablutions, nothing. I have got myself something we think is a Spider bite. My arm is swollen and red, but it doesn't hurt. The camp manager at the Nata Bird Sanctuary thinks the same. There is nothing we can do about it, so we aim for Francistown for lunch. We end up at Wimpy's having a full burger menu followed by a cappucino. Civilization and fastfood :-)

After visiting Francistown we head for Serowe and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary situated just outside town. In Serowe we first do some serious shopping. We need both food and water. We drink a lot despite it's not that warm. It's dry though. We find a huge Spar shop situated in a shopping center! We who thought Serowe was a tiny little town, but the Botswana Defence Force situated here makes it a populated place indeed. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary is a community based wildlife project established in 1992 both to assist in saving the vanishing Rhino and to restore an area formerly teeming with wildlife to its previous natural state. This will of course again provide economic benefits to the local Batswana community through tourism. The area is covering approx. 4.300 hectares of Kalahari sandveld and the Sanctuary is centered around the Serwe Pan, a large grass covered depression with several natural water holes. The Sanctuary has its own campsite and chalets, and we are heading for the campsite. We are in for a big surprise!

The campsite is very nice and big with secluded pitches for everybody. We have our own braai area, water tap and bins. The ablutions are in short walking distrance and very nice and clean, with showers and electricity. There are no predators here. We go directly out for an afternoon gamedrive, but are warned that the Rhinos, despite their numbers now exceeding 40, can be difficult to spot. This is not a zoo...

Just a few minutes out of the campsite the wildlife appears! Steenbok, Duiker, Warthog (right), Oryx, Kudu, Ostrich and different bird species one after another. And suddenly we see a dark grey rock moving! It is a Rhino! And it's not just a Rhino, but a mother with her baby! We stop our vehicles and climb on top of our Landys to get a better view. We are perfectly situated, and the mother and her baby pass just on the other side of some bushes from us. The mother has a very long and spikey tusk! Suddenly an idiot comes by in his private vehicle and drives off the path, which is strictly prohibited, to see the Rhino's better. He of course scare both animals and they disappear. But we saw them, and they were rather impressive! Afterwards we report the incidence to one of the Defence Force officers who provides the Sanctuary with 24hr protection. We even have a photo of his cars licence plate. We have had enough from stupid and egosentric South African men... The gamedrive is however excellent, and we had never expected this from the Rhino Sanctuary. The area it covers is huge, and we never feel the fences which in fact go around the whole facility.

In the evening we have another very nice braai, but our winestore is getting low. Time to find South Africa again :-) It is COLD and we have to find our woollen clothes and fleece before entering the tents for the evening. This will be another freezing night, so my layers are many inside the sleeping bag. We go early to bed because of the temperature drop and read a bit before we go to sleep. With no predators around it surely will be a quiet evening.

 

July 21 .. Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana - Shuari Lodge, South Africa

We wake up early at 6:00 with ICE on our tents! Mogens is already up and walking about. He hasn't brought woollen clothes for the trip and has been freezing cold all night. Ian puts on both sleeping bags and go to bed again while Mogens and I pack his Landrover and go out for a very early morning gamedrive. Hopefully the motor warms the vehicle quickly, because Mogens really need to thaw!! At first there is no movement anywhere. The wildlife is quiet and we are quiet. No wonder, the animals have probably frozen to the ground... But after half an hour things are starting to happen and our cameras have stopped fogging. The common Waterbuck appears, and then we see both Zebra, Oryx and Wildebeest. And finally I get a proper picture of the Grey Lourie with its crest fully raised. Yess! :-) The bird is lovely in the early morning light.

We take the same roundtrip as yesterday evening, and adds another loop just to be sure we cover most of the area. Among the bushes we also spot the Longtailed Shrieke and the Crimson Breasted Shrike. The gamedrive is far from a total waist of time despite the freezing temperature. Back at our campsite Ian is still dozing in our tent, happily warm. But now he has to get up. Fried eggs and bacon and hot hot coffee on the breakfast menu. We take our time and have a lovely and warm shower before we leave the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. A strongly recommended stay!

We head for the border crossing at Martins Drift to enter into South Africa again. The crossing is done in 20 minutes and is totally hassle free. We take a phonecall to Amanda & Paddy, some friends we met in Botswana 2007 who among other things work as safari guides and run their own safari company, Blackpot Safaris. We plan to visit them later this week if they have some sparetime. They are building a new lodge, the umSiSi House in the area of Mpumalanga, just "around the corner" from Krüger Nationalpark. They would love to have a visit, so we put this into our agenda as well.. The plan is now to head for Krügers Orpen Gate and spend 2 days through the Krüger Nationalpark to Nombi Gate, the closest exit to umSiSi House and our friends.

Our first accident..

Mogens gets robbed! We are on our way from Martins Drift towards Orpen Gate, a long stretch of about 627 kms. When we get to Mokopane we plan to have some late lunch/dinner. When we stop on a red light (yes, civilization for a moment) it happens. Two men opens both front doors at the same time and one of them snatches Mogens' Ipod. Luckily he holds on to his bag with all the photogear and saves everything in it. Annoying anyway! TIP: lock all your doors when driving through populated towns in South Africa! We stop on the nearest shopping mall which has a parking guard and have a pizza at Romany's. We also buy a detailed roadmap of South Africa. There excists unfortunately not a Bradt Travelbook of South Africa..

We drive on and find in the end a hidden lodge in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, the Shuari Lodge. It is pitch dark and I am a bit afraid that we just have to sleep along the road in our tents. Not very tempting thinking about the robbery at daytime.. The manager of the Shuari Lodge has already gone to bed, but wakes up and is very pleasant indeed. We get two lovely and big rooms and a guided tour inside the lodge. She is very proud of her establishment. Luxury in the mountains! I don't expect this when we take off the main road and follow the well worn sign to the lodge... We even get coffee and carrot cake before we go to bed, and LOTS of warm water in the showers. The bed is heavenly after 11 nights in our tent and variable ablutions. I feel clean again, and drop down as dead on the bed :-)

 

July 22 .. Shuari Lodge, outside Tzaneen - Shimuwini Bushweld Camp, Krüger Nationalpark

Up and totally refreshed at 7:30. The plan is to have breakfast along the road in the mountains. The air feels clean, the view over Georges Valley is beautiful and the sun is shining. Breakfast tastes great out in the open. We head towards Tzaneen, then it happens:

Our second and last accident..

Mogens' Landrover stops, completely! The rear differentials don't work anymore, and we are stuck - 6,7 kms from Tzaneen! We call Bushlore to see if they have a quick fix to the problem. It is no surprise that they don't.. They cannot at all provide another Landrover from any car dealer in the area. The closest they get is to drive a Landrover up all the way from Johannesburg. That takes several hours - IF they find a spare one...! Two hours later - and the news is that we will get a new car delivered at Phalaborwa Gate to Krüger Nationalpark! Wow! Unbelievable! We just have to wait a bit more for the tow car to collect the damaged Landrover. We put all of Mogens' luggage and what he needs from the Landrover into our car and waits. Another hour passes by, and the tow car finally appears. Bye bye Landy. We think something serious started to go wrong when we drove The Road From Hell. Luck above all luck, this is close to civilization. Just think about this happening in North Kafue...

We reach the Phalaborwa Gate to the Krüger about 2:00. No sign of our new Landrover. We call Bushlore again, and learn that they do not at all have any other Landrover for us. Just a normal car, which is of no use, because Mogens needs the tent and camping facilities! We decide not to trust Bushlore anymore and just tell them that we don't need any car at all. We decide to put Mogens in a lodge instead for the remaining few nights.

At the Phalaborwa Gate reception we learn that every campsite and lodge in Krüger that we try on our preferred route through the park is fully booked weeks ago. Oh... We do, however, find a vacant hut in the Shimuwini Bushweld Camp. Not in the right direction of where we want to go, but still in the park. The choice is better than staying outside Krüger, so we accept. With three of us in the car and all the equipment and photogear it gets crammed. I am SO GLAD that we have had two vehicles so far. The company is nice though :-)

We are a bit disappointed by Krüger driving north west towards Shimuwini. Except from this Elephant trundelling happily along and across the tarmac road, we spot only some Kudus and Impalas and something resembling a PENGUIN in a tree..?!? (private joke for sure ;-) It is of course a Hawk or an Eagle of some sort, but too far away to see clearly. All the main roads in Krüger are tarmac, and that feels a bit strange thinking about the gameviewing in Moremi, Chobe and Kafue all on sandy paths and the feeling of being in the bush. This is a bit too civilized for me. Even the roads marked for 4x4 vehicles only are better than any of the main roads in Zambia, to put things in perspective. No wiggly, windy, humpy bumps here...

When we reach the bushweld camp we understand that it doesn't have a restaurant! We have thought so and therefore didn't buy any more food in Phalaborwa before entering the park. Well, we have to eat leftovers and the bits and pieces we find in our fridge. It's time for a fridge-cleanup!

Dinner ends up being crackers, cheese, Nutella and vegetables. Hurrah, a vegan braai with chocolate for dessert :-) We survive, especially when we find a forgotten gin at the bottom of the fridge. We have for sure some luck left :-) The huts are big and can sleep 5 people and have a very nice view overlooking the Letaba River. No animals down here, but hey - we're in the park although a bite remote!

 

July 23 - Shimuwini Bushweld Camp, Krüger Nationalpark - Timbavati Safari Lodge, private area just outside Krüger Nationalpark

Another night in a proper bed. This is starting to get more than luxurious :-) Eggs & bacon for breakfast (decided yesterday to save it for today) and head for Olifants River Lodge. Mogens has stayed here many years ago, and the lodge is situated in a very interesting area for game, along the Olifants river. It seems we can reach it in time for lunch. We give it a try. We see much more game today! And a Brown Snake Eagle sits calmly on its branch and waits politely until we have got our photographs of it. On our way to Olifants we see a lot of both Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Kudus and Duikers. It ends up being a very pleasant trip towards our destination. Not far from the River Lodge we see a lot of Vultures in a tree, and not far from it we see a dead Impala. There has to be a cat in the area! We wait a bit along the road to see if anything happens, but I guess the cat will guard its kill and wait until the afternoon before showing itself. We drive on.

Not far from the Engelhart Dam we visit a signposted birdhide. This is a lovely spot! There are already 6-8 people here, but the birdhide is big enough and the view is marvellous! A lot of Hippos in the river, Elephant families with babies drinking and mud bathing along the river and playful Mongeese just below the birdhide. Ian takes a video of the scenery, suddenly remembering his new camera has a video function.

Olifants River Lodge is for me a little disappointment, even though the lodge itself probably is nice. It is, however, situated much further from and too high above the river to be of any gameviewing use. But the view from the verandah is spectacular over the area and the burger for lunch tastes very well after our rather low food intake the last 24 hours :-) We leave Olifants and plan to get to Orpen Gate and out of Krüger today. The lodging in the park is already overbooked, and no magic helps. But suddenly things get more interesting indeed! Just beside the tarmac road we spot this Rhino couple! Having seen only a handful of Rhinos in total on all our trips to Africa this is a welcoming sight. Four Rhinos in total the last few days is amazing! And best of all, we are more or less alone to spot them even though they are very close to the road!

Not far from the Rhino couple we also meet a Black Backed Jackal not far from the road. The wildlife must be very accustomed to vehicles, because they don't seem very afraid even though there is a lot of traffic on these roads all day long. Not far from Satara, on a bridge over the river, there is a huge traffic jam. There just has to be cats in the area. We cannot see what is happening, and the road is blocked in both directions. We ask the nearby cars and they confirm that there surely is a Lion pride relaxing visible from the road in the front.

I just have to laugh and climb our Landrover to take a picture of the traffic jam instead. No need to try and spot the Lions. They are not to be seen from here. I remember the one full hour Ian and I had with "our" Lion pride in 2007 just above Ihaha campsite in Chobe. All alone with the cats with no traffic at all. This is surely quite something else. The traffic slowly moves on when one of the cars in the front decides to leave. We see the Lions while driving by, but there is no need to stop. They are too far away anyway. For people having never seen Lions in the wild this may be interesting, but we keep heading for the gate.

Another surprise awaits us 4-5 kms from the Orpen Gate. Two huge Rhinos are suddenly running very quickly between the trees. Ian slows down to try and take photos of them, but suddenly the male turns and heads in our direction. I don't know what scared them or what they are planning - I just know I don't want to wait and see. Running Rhinos are definately more scary than running Elephants! We hit the accellerator and move on. We only have one Landy left... Now SIX Rhinos in a few days! Not bad at all :-)

We leave Krüger Nationalpark and find a vacant hut at the Timbavati Safari Lodge situated in the private Timbavati Game Reserve just beside the Krüger border. It is a great all-inclusive lodge with big rondavels and all facilities needed. We enjoy a very nice braai toghether with all the other guests outdoors in the lodges boma. Very pleasant and great company! We skip both the bar and the swimmingpool and head for our rooms. We have a lot of pictures to rename and photogear to charge. This is our last night in a lodge. Tomorrow we will visit Paddy & Amanda in their new home in Mpumalanga. The Timbavati bed is to be enjoyed! :-)

 

July 24 .. Timbavati Safari Lodge, private area just outside Krüger Nationalpark - umSiSi House, Mpumalanga

Up 7:00 sharp and breakfast in the lounge. We decide not to rush at all and will skip Krüger today. Instead we will visit the recommended Cheetah Project (or Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre) just 10 kms from Timbavati. The centre is a small section of a private game reserve, Kapama in which they have among other species Cheetahs, Barbary Lions, Wild dogs etc. Some of the animals are here specifically for breeding, others because they have no where else to go. The main purpose is however in the end to be able to release these animals back into game reserves if possible. We are told they do a great job, and when we hear that the Project also has King Cheetahs Ian & Mogens decide to drop in for a visit. I am more reluctant. After having experienced animals in the African wilderness for three weeks it feels kind of wrong to conclude our trip with visiting animals in captivity.. Well, I'll give it a try..

I get impressed! This is really a well worth visit! We first start our roundtrip in an information centre where we are shown a video of how this project started and its accomplishments so far. And they are not few! This a very professional organization with a defined purpose indeed! After the intro we are taken on a gamedrive on the premises. The area is big! Much bigger than we expected. I imagined more or less a zoo, and parts of it definately gives the impression of a zoo, but taken to quite another level. They have lots of animals!

First we meet is a Tiger! Yes, a Tiger in Africa :-) The animal has been in private ownership and badly looked after. He has got almost no teeth left, both because of this and his age, and can only lick his meat.. We also get to see the Caracal up front and have time to study it more thorough than our glimpse of it in the South Kafue. The Caracal is beautiful. But nothing can be compared to the Cheetahs and their cubs. Wow they are GORGEOUS! :-) Check out our photo galleries for more pictures of these lovely cats!

Further into the area we meet different kinds of birds as Vultures and Marabou Storks gathering here because of the easy access to food. We spot Zebra, Sable Antelope and Wild Dogs and their puppies! Wow are we lucky! I have never seen Wild Dog puppies before, and even though I actually find them a bit creepy they are kind of cute :-) None of them can compare though, with the beautiful Wild Dog we saw in front of our car in the northern part of South Kafue. That one was a true beauty. I have got another view on Wild Dogs after this trip! The visit at the Cheetah Project ends up beeing a big success for everybody and well worth its 110 Rand per person.

Before we leave we have a pleasant lunch in their café and I buy myself a wonderfully decorated Ostrich egg. The curio shop arrange for it to be shipped to me. That way I have at least a hope that I can get it to Norway in one piece :-)

We leave the Cheetahs behind and start our trip towards umSiSi House and our friends near Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province (formerly Eastern Transvaal). We have heard about this new, planned lodge of theirs via e-mail and are curious to see how far they have come with their private project. We are not disappointed! After having taken a detour we finally find their property, and WOW what a beautiful place situated on a hillside with a lovely view over Peebles Valley. Check out the umSisi House below right (click logo) to see the lodge finished and opened!

Its nice to meet Paddy & Amanda again and their two gorgeous Boxers named Bella and Saxon. The lodge itself isn't finished yet when we visit them, but we can see it will be an impressive building of 800 sqm! Chaos rules and we are here in the middle of the project but both Amanda and Paddy looks like this is a walk in the park. We get a guided tour of the gardens and building project. I am impressed! We get umSiSi House's campsite No.1 and are highly satisfied with the facilities :-) Since Mogens doesn't have nor his car or tent Paddy books him into the nearest lodge just 15 minutes from their property. But first we all have dinner together, and Paddy the Chef cooks us a gourmet dinner served with some delicious redwine. We go through a lot of pictures, both from our present trip and pictures from our common trip to Botswana 2007 when we first met Paddy and Amanda. We have a really pleasant evening in great company and have an Amarylla nightcap before we go to bed, for the last time in our tent in Africa this year. Tomorrow we will have to head for Johannesburg and our plane trip back home.

 

July 25 .. umSiSi House, Mpumalanga - Johannesburg, South Africa

It is our last morning, and we have a lovely view from our Campsite No. 1 :-) We get invited into the house for fresh juice and toast for breakfast despite our hosts busy morning. Having already picked up Mogens from his lodge, we are going to pack our bags while Paddy and Amanda are doing some errands in Nelspruit. The Landrover looks like a disaster zone from an ongoing war and definately needs to be dealth with! We throw everything out on the lawn, remove about 2 kgs of sand and dust and de-dust our equipment as good as we can. Our Landy finally looks representative and our bags are packed. It is time for our last shower! Before we leave Paddy and Amanda, having come back from their trip, insist on serving us homemade hamburgers for lunch. Paddy: I am glad I don't live here! I would grow fat in less than a month! You really know how to cook! THANKS A LOT :-) We unfortunately have to leave at 15:00 and take farewel with our friends knowing that we will come back for a visit some day.

We reach Johannesburg airport after an eventless trip on tarmac all the way. It takes us four hours only interrupted by a quick stop on a gas station for some snack and drinks (and a horrendous milkshake which tastes perfume instead of strawberries..!) We leave our trusted Landy with Budget and check-in on our on time scheduled flight. We get stopped and told we had too much luggage and had to pay for the overweight. What? This time we haven't bought anything!?! Mogens and his Platinum KLM card saves the day and all three of us even get access to the KLM lounge. Amazing what a piece of plastic can accomplish :-) We board 22:55 on time and off we go! It's not our last time to Africa for sure. We already discuss Malawi and the eastern parts of Zambia and South Luangwa Nationalpark. Who knows :-)

 

July 26 .. Amsterdam, Netherlands - Stavanger, Norway

The trip goes smooth, with a connection to Stavanger in reasonable time. Both us and our luggage land 16:40. Home sweet home... Next up? Planning our following trip to Africa. See you there!

Marianne :-)

 

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