|My apologies for the significant delay in posting journal updates over the last week. Our connection to WiFi has been limited or none at all.
After our outstanding stay at Kapama, we headed on to Johannesburg, SA (aka Joberg) for two nights. Our private guide picked up us for a visit to the Apartheid Museum which included a special Nelson Mandela exhibition. Both were fantastic! Learned so much about the period of apartheid and the dedication and commitment by Nelson Mandela to end it. From there our guide took us to Soweto (Southwestern Township) this area and famous street were home to both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (both went on to hear Noble Peace Prize). We had a traditional Soweto buffet lunch with our guide and continued to learn about the period of apartheid oppression and the longer term effects it had on the area. In addition, we went up to a memorial that was built in the area to honor the lives of many young people that were lost when the youth began uprising including a young man (16 yo) Hector Pieterson was shot by the police and a photo was captured by a journalist and quickly went viral and caused great upset by showing the true uprising activity that was occurring in the Joberg. This became know as the Day of the Uprising. We were able to visit the home of Nelson Mandela where he live with tow of his wives. Upon his release in 1990, he did go back to that home were Winnie (his second wife) became known as the Mother of a Nation) lived but only stayed for 11 days. He had become very popular, highly regarded and sought after by many. Overall it was a powerful and informative day with our guide, Pat. Unfortunately, Joberg isn’t terribly safe so we opted for dinner in the hotel.
On Monday, it was off to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (aka Vic Falls) via plane. Within 5 min of being in the room to drop our bags off and a visit to the balcony, a huge baboon jumped onto our balcony railing and was walking around. A little to close for comfort, they can be very dangerous! That brought on a ton of laughs because we weren’t able to get the sliding door to lock!
Late afternoon, we were picked up for the sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Very nice....cocktails and light snacks, plus lots of animal watching! The African sunsets are truly beautiful!
Tuesday, it was a private tour of Victoria Falls (Mosi Oa Tunya - The Smoke that Thunders). One of the 7 natural wonders of the world. The footpath tour begins in Zimbabwe includes about 16 view points. It is truly amazing! Now is the low/dry season and the volume of water that flows over the falls is unmeasurable! During wet season, the mist aka smoke is so much you can’t even see the falls! At a few points along the footpath, when the wind blows just right we got drenched from the mist! We weren’t prepared for that ! LOL but by the end of the walking tour. you are back in the sun, out of the mist and pretty much dry with the sun! The footpath is pretty slick so you definitely have to watch your step. I really wanted to get booked on a tour of Livingstone Island which includes the swim to and in the Devil’s Pool at the end of the cliff. I checked 3 times to get in on a tour, but no luck. They fill up fast and there are only 3 tours a day. Bummed but if it was meant to be it would be! After lunch we had a helicopter tour (Zambezi Spectacular 25 min tour) of the falls. WOW! That view from above totally provides a different aspect of how truly massive the falls are and any photos just don’t do it justice! I included a few photos for you to see.
Visited the small town for some shopping and avoided the market (very aggressive sales tactics; they practically follow you to the hotel pushing you to buy their goods. Once on hotel property or in a store, they can’t both you. We avoided that side of the street but did get harassed a little but but luckily they left us along with a strong “No, thank you” from us.
Wednesday it was a drive from Vic Falls to Botswana including immigration (on foot) exit from Zimbabwe and entry (on foot) to Botswana for pick and transfer to our next driver to the Chobe Game Lodge. In Botswana immigration we had to walk across a wet pad of water in an effort to not bring in hand and foot disease to the cattle business in Botswana (on of their largest exports to Europe). Also of note, Botswana has a very highest population of elephants! We made it though but was a bit unsettling at immigration, we left everything but our passports in the transport vehicle and walked through the immigration offices which were pretty much just a shed in both countries.
Chobe Game Lodge is on the Chobe River and the only lodge in the Chobe National Park. It nice, very Moroccan looking in decor and the rooms were very lavish with 2 full bathrooms, refrigerator and huge patio. Our event was at 4pm was a river cruise and included another beautiful sunset. We also were fortunate to see a large herd of elephants drinking at the river bank, along with monkeys, antelope and hippos in the water. It was really neat! The morning game drive the next day was pretty uneventful, nothing new to see other than a dwarf mongoose. The mid-morning activity was another river cruise...we saw the elephants again but this time they came running down the hill to the river edge and got in to swim and cool off! Some elephants got completely in the water...we hadn’t seen that yet! They were splashing around and using their trunk to put water on their backs to cool down, even the little ones. We saw probably close to 100 elephants, it was spectacular! The 4pm afternoon game drive included catching a small provide of lions near the rivers edge. It was really nice to see unfortunately when we arrived there were close to 18 other vehicles and some had surrounded 2 lioness and 2 cubs between the river and the rest of the pride further up on the bank. It was very frustrating to see and the lions were calm but the cubs seemed unsure how to get around all the cars. We did learn that because it is a national park, there are generally no rules about spotting and viewing animals. At Kapama (private reserve) they had rules about how many trucks could view animals at at time (2-3) and big 5 is just 1 car at a time. After viewing the lions, we drove back towards the lodge for dinner. Most of the camps/lodges have the same timeline of events...first drive (abt 3 hours) starts at 630am followed by breakfast; lunch at your leisure; 330pm high tea and 4pm game drive (abt 3 hours) and then dinner begins around 7pm - 730pm. Of note, Chobe did include the mid morning cruise which was a nice addition, those were great and fairly peaceful. Our last morning at Chobe includes a sunrise river cruise which included lots of bird watching but we did see several hippos, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles and Cape buffalo. We have NOT yet seem a hippo completely out of the water!! I was also pushing to see a leopard in a tree..I know that is a lot to ask for!
For transfer to our next location, Camp Moremi, in the Okavango Delta, it was a light aircraft (12 person Cessna plane) a 55 min flight. Camp Moremi is located along with others in the Moremi Game Reserve in the delta. We survived the flight and were greeted at the gravel airstrip by our guide, Wise. Peter and Bev from Perth, Australia were also joining us for drives the next 3 days (they were great fun). This is a nice reserve including both dry land and many lagoons, great for animals! This camp has just 12 “tents”..these are upscale thatched roof tents with canvas and screen walls; power is only on from 5am to about 1030pm. It is beautiful! But no AC and just 1 ceiling fan; beds are covered with netting, and even the shower provides you a view of nature. The facility is terrific and the food was also outstanding! In the mornings, you must be picked up from your room by your guide and in the evening after dinner, you are escorted to your room....animals roam this camp ground! At dinner the welcome you with some traditional Botswana song and dance, it was great, we hadn’t experienced anything like that yet. In addition, everyone in the camp eats dinner together at two large tables. Great way to engage with other guests and share stories (guests from Australia, Switzerland and Canada). Our first drive was at 4pm and we told our guide, Wise, we needed to see 1) hippo out of the water; 2) a leopard in a tree; and 3) a cheetah (that wasn’t likely). Uneventful game drive, we saw zebras, giraffes and more elephants, impala, monkeys and baboons. We did however track a pack of wild dogs on the reserve, they are very vicious and the pack includes about 20. We did get a glimpse of 3 and yes they move very very fast! No photos! Morning drive was outstanding, Wise spotted at leopard cub (abt 4 months old) in the limbs of a sausage tree..great spotting...it was very hard to see. We assume the mother was out looking for food while the cub staying in the tree. The cub moved around in the tree for a bit and then jumped down to a new hiding spot. We got great photos! Thrilled to see that leopard! Once we were done viewing, Wise radioed in to the other guide on what he had spotted. Still no hippos out of the water and no cheetah. This was our last morning game drive of the trip. We had high expectations for our final afternoon drive at 4pm...hippos out of the water, cheetah and we added an aardvark (typically found at night). Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of these on our last game drive but enjoyed our sundowner cocktail at a lovely spot to see the sunset. Camp Moremi was great and the guides and staff we’re terrific! I hate that my African Adventure was coming to and end. It has been a spectacular trip of a lifetime! We are grateful for the wonderful hosts, guides, rangers, trackers and staff that have made this trip beyond memorable, especially our new friends from Kapama Karula in Hoedspruit, South Africa, Chobe Game Lodge on the Chobe River and Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve, both on Botswana. You welcomed us into your camp family with exceptional hospitality, facilities, meals and local traditions. Each game drive or river cruise was a unique experience and we always returned to camp with a story to share, laughs and memories to last a lifetime.
Our African adventure is about to come to an end as we board our final flight to Atlanta. It has been a spectacular trip of a lifetime! We are grateful for the wonderful hosts, guides, rangers, trackers and staff that have made this trip beyond memorable, especially our new friends from Kapama Karula in Hoedspruit, South Africa, Chobe Game Lodge on the Chobe River and Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve, both on Botswana. They welcomed us into their camp family with exceptional hospitality, facilities, meals and local traditions and touched our lives. Each game drive or river cruise was a unique experience and we always returned with a story to share, laughs and memories to last a lifetime. We have been in 5 African countries, 7 airports/airstrips and a total of 13 flights. We have been on commercial planes, light aircraft, helicopter, bus and boats. We have many many more photos and videos to share (no WiFi the last several days). We are eternally grateful for this opportunity and experience!