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Mark Nolting Sending a Snapshot from East Africa - December


Tanzania Guide of the Year

Dec 01 - Mark Nolting was on hand in Arusha yesterday to announce George Mollel (far right) as the 2014 Tanzania Guide of the Year! Past winners Mkenda and Hillary were there to congratulate him. Recent clients who havepraised his skills include the Roeslers, Hermans, the Eig family group, the Vegas and the Skinners. Well done George on the continuing tradition of excelling at the highest level as a wildlife naturalist guide.

 

                                  


More East Africa Snapshots from Mark

Nov 28 - Mark is still in the Serengeti. Today they drove from Four Seasons, leaving behind the elephants at the waterhole, and took a driving exploration to Lobo and Bologonja to northern Serengeti along the Mara River. Saw a huge male lion, a cheetah killing a young gazelle and pride of 12 lions, and big pods of hippo in the river. They finished up at Sayari with a fine dessert at dinner!


                   


                 

 

Mark Nolting's East Africa Snapshots…continued
Nov 26 - Mark is sending us more snapshots from the Serengeti with warm wishes for a happy Thanksgiving holiday! The photos tell the story of his explorations as he travels throughout the Serengeti, enjoying many wonderful lodges and the company of top guides along the way.

            

                 

      

               


                                              


Mark Nolting Sending a Snapshot from East Africa - November

Nov 24 – Mark has reported in from both the luxurious Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and sophisticated Mwiba Serengeti Lodge. He's being guided by Emmanuel Mkenda, a top specialist guide and past winner of the Guide of the Year. During this week he will be visiting more luxury camps and lodges including Pioneer, Kusini, Dunia, Four Seasons, and ending at the stunning Namiri Plains.


                                   

                            

  



Dung Beetles to Gorillas - A Journey to Tanzania and Rwanda by Kyle Witten



Another safari to Tanzania was long overdue and I was excited to experience this incredible safari destination again. Arusha is a bustling hub of activity with streets jammed with cars, safari trucks and a new venture, motorcycle taxis - assemble yourself motorcycles shipped in a box ready for any entrepreneur to start a new business and it seemed everyone in Arusha had the same idea.



I arrived late into JRO and by the time I got to Arusha Coffee Lodge it was around 12:30am. The next morning was an early breakfast  and off to Arusha Airport - for a flight to the Serengeti. Kilimanjaro was clearly visible from the plane window - my first view of this Tanzania icon. We landed and were met by our guide Blessed and took a leisurely 3 hour game drive to Namiri Plains. The camp is in a remote area of the eastern Serengeti – no other vehicles around – it was perfect. The area is a recently opened Cheetah research area and the game did not disappoint. We saw ten different cheetahs over the course of two days and probably 25 lion encountered. Plains game was plentiful. We even saw a bat-eared fox – a first for me.

 

 



I then flew to the northern Serengeti for a night at Lemai Serengeti. We took an afternoon game drive in the Lemai Triangle on the northern side of the Mara River. The landscape is stunning - rolling green grassy plains, expansive views and flat top mountains. Our guide was Lazarus and our first sighting was a leopard tortoise - another first! Our evening game drive was a success - we got the call a rhino was spotted and were off on a Ferrari safari to view a beautiful relaxed black rhino - another first!

 

I returned to Arusha for a night at Legendary Lodge - wow the lodge is beautiful and the rooms are huge! This is perfect all inclusive relaxing spot in Arusha. The next morning it was back to Arusha airport and a flight to Kuro airstrip in Tarangire National Park. We took a slow game drive through the park to get reach our camp – Little Chem Chem. We spotted lion, leopard, elephant, waterbuck, dik dik, reedbuck, zebra, Cape buffalo and wildebeest!

Little Chem Chem is a gem gem. Owner run and managed by Fabia and Nicola they are passionate about their concession that borders Tarangire National Park. They offer morning and afternoon game drives and walking safaris where I saw a dung beetle - another first! We took a late afternoon drive to see a small lion family enjoy their evening dinner - with a few hyena popping up in the distance grass waiting for their turn - which came at about 3:00am with a chorus of howls and cackles right outside my room.

 

Next up was Fabia and Nicola's Chem Chem lodge just down the street on the edge of Lake Manyara.
On the way we stopped at a local school where we met children in grades 4 - 7. We tested their mathematical and geographic skills which was a lot of fun. This is all about the slow safari - we did two walking safaris with our guide and a local Maasai. We dug for scorpions, made a Maasai toothbrush and learned how to start a fire with two sticks all ending with a breath taking sundown on the dry lake bed of Lake Manyara.

 



Our next stop was Mwiba a much lauded new entry in the Serengeti luxury camp market. The main lodge and rooms are stunning - perched over a dry river bed that was dotted with water holes that attracted buffalo and elephant during the day. This area is great for walking with qualified guides and we did a nice walk to one of the natural springs where they have an elevated hide.



On a three night stay you can do an afternoon with the Datoga. They performed a few local songs and then we went into the family's manyata to see how they live - it was an authentic experience - as it can be these days. It was real highlight for everyone. The Datoga were even taking pictures of us taking pictures of them!

 

Our last stop in Tanzania was Gibbs Farm on the edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation area. We arrived early in the afternoon which gave us enough time to do the 1 hour hike to the elephant caves and waterfall. The hike was short but with the altitude and a couple steep climbs you need to take this one slowly.

Gibbs Farm grows all of own local produce used in the kitchen and much of the milk and cheese are from their own cows. The coffee is grown, dried and roasted on the farm and they produce just enough for the guests of the lodge. Lunch was a fresh assortment of greens, salads and quiches all expertly made.

We used a local guide Maleta who took us the Ngorongoro crater for our game drive. The drive time was about 1 hour from the farm to the crater gate. November is low season so there were few vehicles on the crater floor - we saw everything in a short time except cheetah and leopard. The view to the crater floor dappled with sunlight and quenched by a slow passing rain shower took your breath away - an incredible sight.



 

 The last leg of my journey was gorilla trekking in Rwanda. I arrived in Kigali and spent the night at Kigali Serena. A 3:30am wake call for a 4:30am departure to the park entrance. After a brief orientation we were a group of 7 off to trek the Hirwa group. However the Hirwa had other plans and evaded our attempts to catch up with them. Around 1:00pm we relented and got permission from the park to switch groups and found the sabyinyo group at 4:00pm - this was very long day so you have to be prepared - pack plenty of water, snacks, fruit and even a sandwich.

I spent the night a Sabinyo Silverback Lodge. Thank you to Wendy and Finlay for such great hospitality and delish food and hot bath after such a long day and difficult trek. The second trek was much shorter but the terrain was very different. The gorillas were on a steep slope that required you crawl up the mountain side grabbing onto bamboo and vines. The day was bright with sun and blue sky as we hiked through the farm fields and pyrethrum daisy fields to the park boundary - through the mud that attempted to suck the boots right off your feet - reaching the Umubano group. The vegetation was so thick we only saw 4 members but were so close it was incredible.


I stopped for a quick site inspection and clean up at Gorilla Mountain View. My guide Theo and I drove back to Kigali airport to start my long trek back to the states.

This safari to Tanzania was in many ways a safari of firsts - Mt. Kilimanjaro views, bat-eared fox, leopard tortoise, dung beetle, black rhino and gorillas. I visited three areas of the Serengeti ecosystem - no migration sighting but it did not matter, Tanzania wildlife is abundant and I felt thoroughly content with the experience.

The people of Rwanda and Tanzania are so warm and welcoming and eager to share their beautiful country and wildlife with you, I look forward to the next visit - another safari of firsts.

- by: Kyle Witten



10-Day Call of the Wild Safari to Botswana


Shared Mobile Tented Safari to Moremi and the Khwai Concession

Program highlights:
- Enjoy an exclusive experience within the Khwai Concession (bordering the Okavango Delta) and the Moremi Reserve.
- This safari is paced for those who really want to concentrate on photography and game viewing from a vehicle. Limited walking is offered plus one full day in the Okavango Delta game viewing by boat.
- You use shared luxury mobile campsites in each area, which lessens your eco-imprint and enables you to meet other interesting travelers during mealtime .


This safari to Botswana began with the non stop Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. I spent the evening at the Southern Sun O. R. Tambo hotel - comfortable accommodation and a very tasty breakfast. The next morning I met with two of our clients and that I had booked on the safari and we made our way by hotel shuttle to the airport. The shuttle was quick and efficient.

We met up with another client and we flew to Maun, Botswana. Air Botswana has a new plane with comfortable leather seating. The overhead bins are VERY small and my back pack back barely fit. Our AAC bags were checked plane side as they are too big for the bins. We arrived in Maun and the C apture Africa reps were there to take your bags and assist us to our charter flight. A quick 25 minutes and we landed and were met by the one and only - Nic Polenakis.

Nic Polenakis on 10-Day Call of the Wild Safari to Botswana

We began game driving to camp around 1:00pm. I was still in my traveling gear so as ked Nic to stop by a tree to change. Pulled on my safari gear and we drove to enjoy two bull elephants eating tree branches.

About an hour into the game drive I realized that my pants were missing - I had placed them on the floor of the vehicle and they had bounced out. I said ' Nic, I think I have lost my pants' We back tracked to no avail and Nic radioed Dave Carson, who found my pants about 50 feet from the elephants we were watching.

We continued game driving to camp and arrived just after sunset - by our choice.

Food and drink were very important to us
Food and drink were very important to us

The camp was set up at the Bodumatau site - a path lit by lanterns and dinner awaited our arrival.

The nights in the camp were very active with a lone hyena passing through every night, hippos snorting and gurgling and lions roaring in the background. You did have to work harder for the game in Moremi.


Bodumatau was his favorite camp.
Sitting around the fire at 5:30am                               Bodumatau was his favorite camp.

How could I forget the 7 hour cheetah vigil - eating lunch in our laps - waiting for him to come out from the bush. After about the 4th hour we were all suffering but could not leave the sight, after all if we left the cheetah would come out.

We moved to Kwai after 3 nights by a LONG road transfer starting with the boat ride on the Delta. The Kwai region is flooded in areas and resembles a land water camp.


There is a very large hole to the right -which we avoided There is a very large hole to the right -which we avoided
There is a very large hole to the right -which we avoided

Kwai delivered - big time. Wild dog, roaring lions, leopa rd, hyenas mating in our kitchen, wild dog at sunset appearing at the pop of the champagne cork, viewing elephant splashing in mud hole. Kwai offers walking with the guide and we walked through mopane in search of elephant. Through the thick leaves

Nic's keen eye spotted water glistening on elephant skin. We were off - power walking through low trees to find the elephants. Can you hide a two ton beast behind a 5 foot tall Mopane? - Yes you can! Nic got us very close. We sat and watch the elephants play in t he mud and splash each other cooling in the heat of the day.


Enjoying a morning coffee and walk to see elephant
Enjoying a morning coffee and walk to see elephant

There he is!
There he is!

Nic "Now if the elephant turns and walks this way, just enjoy it!" Well he did turn and "walked this way" and our handy national park escort was no where to be seen, crouched behind a termite mound.

10-Day Call of the Wild Safari to Botswana


The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix


Listening to an interesting story of the fig tree with spiritual powers.  Building our Swahili vocabulary with words such as jambo, karibu, and asante sana. Falling asleep to the voice and sounds of Africa, the roar of a lion, and the whooping of hyena; most distinctive noises of the African bush. This and much more lay ahead of us on our eye opening safari to the peaceful and friendly country of Tanzania.

Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix

After landing at Kilimanjaro Airport situated outside of Arusha, and catching up on some shut eye at the Machweo Wellness Retreat in Arusha, we met up with our private guide, Jabshir Rashidi. Armed with many years of experience and knowledge on the Africa Adventure Company guiding team, he drove us to Ndarakwai Ranch where we would begin our safari. Skilled at driving he navigated through the buzzing traffic and interesting towns in our super comfortable customized safari vehicle (4x4 Land Cruiser).

Ndarakwai Scenery a Giraffe and  Zebras Ndarakwai Ranch

Ndarakwai, what a lovely place to begin in the foothills of Mt. Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro! After receiving smiles, a moist facecloth and a welcome drink from the staff that greeted us we were briefed on the camp and shown to our tents.  Wow! These tents were great. Clean, comfortable with a great viewing deck, from which later that day we would observe mischievous baboons up to their antics.

We enjoyed great homemade food, a game drive, a walk to see the trenches from WW1, a visit to a local Maasai village where we met the chief who has 9 wives, many children, over 300 goats and sheep, and over 800 cows.

We also got to meet the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones who has committed himself to a bold experiment in self-sustaining conservation and restoring the Ranch’s health to support wildlife populations and creating a compatible balance between the needs of man and the environment. Thomas the resident guide joined us as we enjoyed sundowners in the treehouse observation deck and then after dinner and hand feeding a bush baby with banana, we were treated to a night drive under the African blanket ceiling of millions of stars while viewing nocturnal animals such as the civet and spring hares.

the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones the treehouse

Next on the agenda was a visit to Tarangire National Park which has a long river running through it, being the only source of water for wildlife during the dry season. En route we stopped at the magical Tarangire Treetops Lodge for a delicious lunch at the central dining area which is built around a large Baobab tree that is more than 800 years old. Zebra came to drink from the waterhole in front of the main area.

Scenery Pool Tarangire Treetops Lodge Tarangire Treetops Lodge


We entered the national park and along the Tarangire River we saw a high concentration of wildlife such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, ostrich, baboons and plenty of elephant for which this park is famous for. We went a little off the beaten track and stopped at Little Oliver’s which is an intimate camp located in an area with a high concentration of wildlife. The main area and the 5 en-suite tents have great views over the river bed.

That evening we stayed at the Tarangire Safari Lodge which has spectacular views over the river with its plentiful wildlife and birds among the many acacia tress. After waking up to the sounds of baboon playing in the tree and dik-dik eating between the tents we watched the procession of elephants moving away from the river which could all be seen from our tent. After a large breakfast we continued our exciting adventure.


Scenery at Tarangire Safari Lodge Scenery elephants at Tarangire River

Tarangire Safari Lodge Elephant in Tarangire River


Ngorongoro – where you have several choices for loges in the area. We stopped at Gibbs Farm, Exploreans and Escarpment Lodge along the way – each offering something a bit different in terms of style and experience.   We arrived for our overnight stay at Ngorongoro Sopa.

Signage at Ngorongoro  Ngorongoro Sopa

After breakfast with views, and breathing in the crisp air we jumped into our vehicle and descended the winding road down the side of the rim and then onto the floor of the crater. What a spectacular scene, abundant wildlife and a pristine environment that took our breath away. One stand out experience was watching the lioness who could not find her cub. She walked back and forth in desperation calling and looking. Along with her sister and another cub she walked past our vehicle down the road searching.  Small sounds came from some vegetation nearby and the cub came running out to meet her mother -  a touching reunion between mother and child.

Bird sighting in Tanzania Lioness met her cub

The Serengeti field with Wildebeest hippo pool with wildebeest, birds, and zebras

After a picnic lunch at the hippo pool we ascended the crater, drove through the highlands and across the open plains to our first camp – Namiri Plains. The Serengeti is everything we imagined and more! Two lions greeted us on arrival at camp – this was a great sign of amazing sightings to come. We had a very interesting conversation with Pako at Namiri Plains who is currently working on the habituation of the chimpanzees on Rubondo Island in the south-western corner of Lake Victoria.

A tree in Namiri Plains Namiri Plains

From falling to sleep listening to the unforgettable sounds of lions and hyena at Namiri Plains,  following hunting cheetah on your journey to the next camp,  lions walking right through our season mobile camp sight and an attempted migration crossing at the Grumeti River – the Serengeti lived up to its reputation.

Namiri Plains Namri Plains

The following morning we were off to our next camp in the Serengeti taking time to follow a hunting cheetah along the way.

Cheetah in Serengeti Cheetah in Serengeti

We visited several properties in the Serengeti including lunch at Mbuze Mawi, Pioneer Camp, Migration Camp, Sayari Camp and Lemala Mara – now that’s a whirlwind trip!


One of our favorites was the Serengeti Shared Camp which is a traditional mobile tented camp nicely located between a rocky hill on one side and a large flat topped rock on the other which the local lion frequently lie on and simply watch the people moving around camp. That evening three lions walked past the camp and once again early in the morning (that we were aware off). Hyena outside the tent woke us up a couple of times in the night. This is a camp where many of our AAC clients stay!


Serengeti Shared Camp - Where many AAC clients stay Serengeti Shared Camp - Where many AAC clients stay


Our last night Africa we were so close to the migration we could watch the wildebeest and feel the ground rumbling as they ran past heading south.

Wildebeest Migration heading south two zebra drinking on the river


The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatenda airstrip for our scheduled Air Excell charter flight back to Arusha and the Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.


Wildebeest Migration heading south Two lions playing


This being our first time to East Africa - Tanzania did not disappoint. We had the highest expectations, and we were constantly surprised by the high level of accommodation, food, and most of all service. We have done much international and domestic U.S. travel and the level of service was highest in Tanzania. In hind sight this adventure allowed us to visit a large and diverse group of camps and lodges, as well as get a first-hand view of the logistics involved in traversing Tanzania. We will now be extremely effective in presenting the best and most customized routing of itinerary for our travelers, by calling upon our experiences from this adventure.


Although the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire Parks surpassed expectations with their game viewing and their sustainable camp requirements – it is the memory and impact of the people of Tanzania that we will cherish most…and the Lions… definitely the Lions too!


The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatende airstrip where we bid farewell to Jabishir.  A final departure for our scheduled Air Excel charter flight back to Arusha and the dayroom at Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.

The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix Arusha Airport


Plains and Primates Through The Looking Glass: Experiences in The Serengeti and Rwanda by Ian Flores


This trip was planned to get me to the plains of the northern Serengeti in September and off to see the primates in Rwanda for two gorilla treks. This trip could not have been more action packed from a game-viewing or experiential perspective. 


PLAINS OF THE SERENGETI

I arrived into Tanzania and transferred to the Lake Duluti Serena Hotel. This is a great option after the long flights due to its cleanliness and proximity to the airport. 

It was awesome to meet our AAC Tanzania guiding team member Mkenda at the airport and to catch up since we last met on his roadshow around the US.


 AAC Tanzania guiding team member Mkenda Landing at Tanzania

The following morning I was on the way on the scheduled charter flight (a 12-seater) to the Lamai airstrip in the Northern Serengeti, with a couple of stops along the way. I saw from the plane a spectacular view of Mt. Kilimanjaro above the clouds – a mountain I climbed in 2011 (click here for that trip report)!

On arrival in the Serengeti I was met by Godsend, my guide from Kimondo Camp for the next two game drives. It was fantastic to be in Tanzania and have my game viewing experience from an open vehicle – one of the benefits of flying to the Serengeti versus driving!

Game viewing experience from an open vehicle Scenery with Elephant

The drive back to camp took about an hour and we spotted a fair amount of game including lots of antelope species such as topi, impala, eland and more. 

We arrived in time for a nice lunch followed by our first game drive. We headed out with the sound of seasonal thunder constantly rumbling in the distance with those rain clouds sprinkling over on the Kenyan side of the border. Armed with ponchos and camera we headed out to the Lamai wedge.

Scenery with wildebeest and zebra Rain clouds sprinkling over on the Kenyan side of the border

This is a vast area with very few vehicles to be seen. The scenery was that of what one imagines the Serengeti being: sweeping views of open plains with wildebeest, zebra and other game roaming about. We saw elephants, giraffe, a large range of birds species, and a pair of mating lions.


As the day was drawing to an end, we got the call that cheetah had been spotted. So we left our amorous lions and headed to our next sighting – two cheetah were walking around and playing and chasing with each other with the speed and dexterity only a cat could have. These two brothers were sharpening their hunting skills while playing at the same time. Godsend had thus far delivered ½ of my wish list.

Lion starring at Lioness Two cheetah are playing and chasing to each other

That evening back at camp we compared tales over dinner. One Indian couple had spent 5 hours sitting by the Mara River waiting for a famed river crossing. The stage was set, zebra and wildebeest were all congregated at the edge of the water, the crocodiles were all strategically positioned, the only thing that was missing was the one brave (and not so smart) zebra/wildebeest to take that leap of faith, but it never happened. Another couple echoed their experiences on the previous day whereby they sat for 4½ hours with nothing to show. Little did I know what was coming the next morning...


My stay at Kimondo Camp, a seasonal mobile tented camp in the Lamai wedge to the north northwest of the Serengeti, ideally situated for Migration game viewing for this time of year (September).


Kimondo Camp a mobile tent The bed inside Kimondo Camp

The next morning after breakfast we continued on our tour of the Serengeti, this time crossing over the Mara River into the northern Serengeti. It is amazing how much the landscape could change from wide open plains to the hills peppered with oversized boulders, canyons and hills. This is where we found our next lion encounter. This pride was about 20 strong with different aged lions in the group. They were on top of a rocky hill purveying the landscape and the multitude of wildebeest that were slowly coming closer to their domain.

Two lion cubs on the tree A tree on a rocky hill Lioness at the top of rocky hill

On this side of the river I also saw the beautiful Sayari Camp with its Asian-esque flavor of wooden floors, sliding doors to the bathroom and an impeccable and luxurious setting from which to see the Great Migration!


Sayari Camp with its Asian-esque flavor of wooden floors a beautiful leopard at the top of the rock Bird sightings on the plains


We didn’t stay long enough to if this scene would play out, but shortly thereafter we found a beautiful leopard also amongst the rocky outcrops enjoying the sunshine and a stretch. Of course there was game all along the way, and after our leopard we were on a hunt for the rhino that was spotted the day before.


That was when we received the call: River Crossing! We quickly turned the vehicle around and got the river about 5 minutes before the first zebra jumped in. There were about half a dozen Crocodiles in the water, but only two that were really going in for a meal.


Over the next 40 minutes we watched zebra and wildebeest jump in and swim for the far side, we saw several attempts by the crocodiles to take down full sized animals, and eventually took down a young wildebeest. This is a very raw moment that shows the power and beauty of nature at its most elemental state.

Zebra and wildebeest crossing the river Group of wildebeest and one zebra crossing the river

wildebeest crossing the river Wildebeest going up from the river

PART II - PRIMATES

This had been an action-packed day in the Serengeti and from here I went directly to the airstrip for my charter flight to Rwanda – home of the highland gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park. The scheduled charter flight from Mwanza to Kigali was about 1hour 15 minutes with great views of Lake Victoria along the way.

In Kigali I stayed at the Kigali Serena Hotel which is a fine option. This business hotel offers a clean place, great dinner and breakfast options, swimming pool and everything you could hope for in hotel before heading out for a gorilla trekking experience.  I also saw the Hotel des Mille Collines which is a step down that feels that has modern elements to it while still an older feeling hotel. Lastly, the Flame Tree Village is a great option for a more boutique hotel type of stay, with nice rooms (I definitely recommend the suites), pool area and bar.

The gorilla trekking was going to be the cherry on the safari cake for me. This is an experience that after having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, was something that I knew I had to do at some stage in my life. The time had come.


We drove around the city seeing some of the different sights. What struck me was how clean everything was, only to find out that the last Saturday of every month everyone participates in a general cleanup clearing the streets and parks of any litter. I was also amazed at how much construction and development was going on. It gave a sense that Rwanda in general, but Kigali in particular was moving forward with its growth after a horrific epoch in its history with the genocide of about one million people in less than one hundred days.

The drive to the Volcanoes National Park area was about 2½ hours winding through the Land of 1000 Hills. Along the way you drive through eucalypt forests that were imported from Australia and have done very well in that wet environment.


eucalypt forests at Volcanoes National Park Volcanoes National Park

My accommodations were at the Gorilla Mountain View Lodge which is a great our entry level option property for clients looking to use as a home base for the gorilla trekking. The cottages were large, as were the bathrooms, with enough hot water for two people and fireplace. It did have a little space heater that was sufficient enough to warm the room for sleeping. The main area of the lodge has two large fireplaces inside the lodge with chairs around for people to use while reviewing their pictures on iPads or conversing with other trekkers. Dining was in a large room that was served buffet style and individual tables.

Gorilla Mountain View Lodge large bathrooms of Gorilla Mountain View Lodge a large room with 3 bed at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge


Other properties I saw were Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, the luxury upmarket stay at a lodge with beautiful rooms, views and great taste in décor. It is as far from the park headquarters as Gorilla Mountain View. One thing to point out is that it is a steep climb from your vehicle to the lodge entrance, so be prepared.


Lastly, Jack Hanna’s House is a lovely that only has two rooms and feels like you are at home. The wood floors, lounge area with fireplace, long wooden kitchen table and more make this a comfortable option for a romantic stay for two or a homey stay for a small family. All three options are great and suit different styles of travel and budget ranges.


Bathroom in Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Bedroom at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Mountain view from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Sabinyo

a bathroom in Jack Hannah's Lounge area with fire place in Jack Hannah's Bedroom of Jack Hannah's
Jack Hannah's

We set out on the short journey the next morning at 6:30am to the park headquarters where we would find out about the gorilla family we were assigned to. I had put in a request for the Susa group on the first day because it was the largest of the different gorilla families and as it was known as one of the harder treks.

On arrival there are singers and drummers filling the air with a festive spirit as tourists, guides and trekkers alike come to find where they will be trekking that day. It’s a bustling atmosphere where you can purchase souvenirs, use bathrooms, get coffee/tea and just enjoy the anticipation of what’s to come. I was eventually told that I got my first choice group… Susa. You can put in request, but it isn’t always a guarantee for many reasons.

Singers and drummers  Tourist, guides and trekkers

I met our gorilla trekking guide, Patrick, and the rest of our motley crew. There are 8 trekkers per group. We were briefed and after some introductions and other general questions we headed off to the hike.

Our trek started alongside the forest where the farming land ends and the natural gorilla habit begins. Here we were briefed about the particulars in gorilla etiquette such as no pointing, no touching, no running, and of course, no flash photography. We started our way through a bamboo forest.

Trekking at bamboo forest Green valley’s lush with vegetation
trekking at bamboo forest

Once we were out of this unique setting we trekked into some pristine forest that opened up to green valley’s lush with vegetation, red ash trees and tons of foliage. This is where we came upon our first encounter after about 2½ hours of trekking. For the next hour we spent our time admiring the beautiful highland mountain gorillas in their habitat.

They were playing, sleeping, foraging, preening, and just being gorillas. We had ample time to photograph them and follow them around as they wandered. The experience was amazing and humbling at the same time. It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. The whole day took us about 6 hours before we were back at our vehicles, but we were only going as fast as the slowest person.

Gorilla close up picture Gorilla with baby It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. a masculine gorilla
It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. 

The second day of trekking was a vastly different experience in almost every way. Our guide was the renowned Francois, one of Diane Fossey’s original porters. Our gorilla family, the Amohoro group, was much closer and the overall experience was much more laid back. The word “Amohoro” means peace and everything about this trek was just that.

It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. Our guide was the renowned Francois, one of Diane Fossey’s original porters.

Gorilla family,Amohoro group.

Francois our park ranger, is such a large personality, someone who has been in trekking through these forests for the last 32 years amongst the gorillas. He is not bashful or shy and is engaging everyone and getting them out of their comfort zones by having them imitate gorilla vocalizations that means “good morning” or “every-thing is ok”. I saw him swinging from a bamboo, eating plants and roots just as a gorilla would.

The trek was shorter this time around only being an hour long and the gorillas this time were just hanging around then on the move. The lighting was much better as we were more out in the open and of the five silverbacks of the group we got to see four of them. There were babies, blackbacks (aka teenagers), mothers, young ones and of course the silverbacks. The whole experience would not have been the same if I didn’t have this second this second trek and really allowed to absorb the whole experience on a different level.

I was told that tourists don’t trek the same family twice in a row because the gorilla start to recognize them and feel comfortable enough to approach them. As Francois had been doing this for over 30 years I asked if he personally knew all the gorillas. His response in that moment encapsulated the whole history of gorilla conservation, research, tourism and everything in a single phrase. He said, “We know each other”.

Combining the Plains of the Serengeti with the Primates of Rwanda is, in my opinion, the best way to see East Africa and really get the best wildlife experience with a true adventure!

A gorilla mother and her baby

- by: Ian Flores



Eyes of the Elephant Safari to Zimbabwe by Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou


Our safari to Zimbabwe started with an overnight at the African Rock Hotel in Johannesburg. The hotel is in close proximity to the airport and a great option for overnight stays. The staff was friendly and the food was great! After a delicious breakfast we were ready to start our adventure in Zimbabwe.


Our flight to Harare was a little less than 2 hours. Our guide Nick Murray met us at the airport and together we boarded our charter flight to Mana Pools, and already enjoyed the fantastic scenery of Zimbabwe from the air (just over an hour flight).

On arrival in Mana we began game viewing immediately. Our first sighting 15 minutes from the airstrip was Fred (Astaire because he can dance!) who then promptly went onto his hind legs (not once but twice!).  What a nice introduction to Mana Pools, wow! We enjoyed a lovely sundowner at the Zambezi River and continued our afternoon game drive with many nice elephant, jackal and buffalo sightings. We enjoyed a very nice dinner at Vundu Camp and a restful night listening to a hippos and birds through the night.

Dancing elephant at Mana pools. Dancing elephant at Mana pools.

Dancing elephant at Mana pools. Dancing elephant at Mana pools.

Next morning we went on a shared walking safari with Alistair Chambers who took us on a quest to find the wild dog den. It was a great walk, cool morning and Alistair led us – barefoot – which was a wonder to all the Americans! We got to the den and crawled on our behinds, the dogs were behind heavy brush – however we could see the puppies and also the minders who were left behind to take care of them.  While we were sitting there the rest of the pack came back and we could hear the whole greeting ceremony!  Lots of chirping and retching….once the rest of the pack realized we were there a lot of loud growling ensued and after a while Alistair pulled us out slowly.  It was an amazing experience!

In the afternoon we drove around with Nick Murray until we found Mudzi. We parked the vehicle and the second walk of the day began. Our walk involved walking over that fine Kalahari sand which is like walking on a beach – challenging.  When we got to Mudzi – he was with a whole lot of other elephants: Some juveniles, some females with young calves.

Herd of other elephants: Some juveniles, some females with young calves at Kalahari sand Eyes of the Elephant Safari to Zimbabwe by Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou

Mudzi was close to the river waiting for water to seep up through the sand and very busy drinking and almost dozing. We walked to the river bend and sat down in front of the ellies, only a few feet away from them. We were closer than we ever imagined being to a wild bull elephant but it was so peaceful it was surreal! We then pulled back a little bit and sat around some trees, sometimes on buffalo poop and many thorns, but we did not care. All we cared about was the amazing elephant sighting we had a chance to experience.  We spent the next two + hours sitting with the ellies. We actually got mock charged by a mommy and managed to take a short video. It was amazing that one ‘Hey’ from Nick was all it took and she backed off and walked away like nothing had happened (while we were already behind the trees)!

Close ecncounter of Mudzi the elephant sat down in front of the ellies, very close to the elephant

Next morning we had a morning game drive and came back to camp to collect bags and say goodbye to the staff.  Nick drove us to Mana West where the Ruckomechi vehicle met us. Both of us cried when we left Vundu. Nick was lovely and gave us lots of hugs and told us we could come back, but I think he was a little overwhelmed with the two crying woman on his hands!

We left Mana West and drove slowly to Ruckomechi – our guide was Gadrick. Upon arrival at Ruckomechi we enjoyed a greeting committee of 3 elephants roaming around the main area of the camp. Even when we returned for our high tea we found the elephants were in camp and walking around the dining room area!  Elena had to move from her seat because one of the ellies started to walk in her direction.

For our afternoon we choose to enjoy a flat bottom boat ride. It was lovely being out and the Zambezi river was truthfully awe-inspiring – very wide with lots of islands.  It was a little windy so the water was a little choppy and a little brisk. Again, we had some fantastic elephant sightings, saw ellies roaming around on the islands. Lots of hippos and crocodiles completed the idyllic atmosphere of the river. When the sun was starting to set we came round the bend and could see a lovely little fire on the banks.

Elephant sighting with beautiful sunset at Zambezi river

We had wonderful sundowners with a chef actually cooking wings for us over the fire.  The vehicle was waiting for us and the gentleman who had driven the vehicle then took the boat back to camp.  So after very nice sundowners (gorgeous sunset) and a walk through the ‘adrenaline grass’ to water the daisies we were off on a night game drive. Dinner was delicious as always, the food is definitely one of the wonderful elements of the entire safari experience.

The next morning we had breakfast and a game drive, came back to camp for nice brunch and then onto  Mana West for our scheduled charter flight departure. We very briefly saw a lovely young female leopard (our 1st leopard sighting on this safari!) right on the side of the track – gorgeous but we were both so taken aback no photos were taken. What a nice farewell sighting for our departure from Ruckomechi!

From Mana the flight took about two hours to Hwange. We were lucky and got a Caravan plane.  On arrival in Hwange we were met by Themba who was our guide at Little Makalolo. He and his lovely wife Bee manage Little Makalolo Camp.

Our first afternoon we sat at the log pile elephant hide! It was probably the most perfect afternoon for this experience – clear sky with fluffy white clouds, tons of elephants coming in drinking and moving off with other elephants waiting to come and drink, and all the reflections of the sky and elephants in the water of the waterhole!! We could have sat there for hours.

Themba is a larger than life character who turned out to be a really great guide and saw things in the bush that ‘normal’ human eye cannot spot.

with the guide, Themba at Little Makalolo we sat at the log pile elephant hide! at Little Makalolo

reflections of the sky and elephants in the water of the waterhole! at  Little Makalolo

Continued on for the afternoon game drive and went and saw the site for the future Linkwasha Camp – which will be in the same approximate area of where the original Linkwasha was. Beautiful location with a wide open plain, the water hole is close to camp which will definitely be a big favorite. We had sundowners here again the ellies came down to drink while we had a lovely drink. Nice dinner with everyone sitting around the fire and lots of buffalos very close to the dining area.

The next day we went out early and first sighting of the day a female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl!  She was a distance from us but then Themba (the eagle eyed) saw that she had cubs hidden in a tree across the track behind our vehicles.  She eventually made her way across the track and called to her cubs so we saw the whole family! It was fantastic and everyone around the sighting was over the moon. We say some plains game and came back for brunch and enjoyed a nice siesta!

We had a great afternoon drive – and went and saw Davison’s camp which is a lovely alternative option in Hwange. The upstairs deck is a great addition to the renovated main area allowing travelers a fantastic view of the waterhole.

female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl! female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl!

Again nice sundowners, and great dinner at Little Makalolo for our last night at the camp. The next morning we left early to begin the drive to Hwange Main game viewing along the way. This turned out to be a great morning as we saw a very handsome lion pair (beautiful black maned lion and his lady love).  They were walking on the side of the road so we kept up with them for some time.  Fantastic photo opportunities and considering our only other lions were a few moth eaten, lazy lionesses at Vundu we were very happy to see them. We also had a fantastic ostrich sighting here – one poor male wooing two females – he was all over the place!  Lovely to see the joy of the mating dance!

 very handsome lion his lady love lioness

On arrival at Hwange Main we were met by Lauren who drove us through to Ivory lodge which is an excellent addition to the Mother Africa voluntourism itinerary. We also went and saw Khulu Ivory which is looking gorgeous.

Departed by road to Bulawayo, which was about 2 hours. Continued onto Amalinda which is about 20 minutes away – what a special place!  The camp is built among rocky outcrops and offers a wide variety of activities including walks to rock paintings and a cultural opportunity to visit an orphanage. We had room 7 and 8 set in the one corner close together so this could also work for older kids. Room 7 has a little wooden bridge to the door and a lovely outside patio and an original rock painting inside the room, what a treat! Both rooms were gorgeous (the electric blankets on the beds!!). And the first hair dryer on the trip!!!

a Red Big Rock Amalinda Lodge built among rocky outcrops

a couple rhinos

After breakfast we went off to Ethandweni and met Lucien who is in charge of the orphanage. What an extraordinary man!  It was incredible what has been achieved and how well organized the orphanage is. We walked around the orphanage and looked at the rooms, the vegetable gardens (with the roster of who is on ‘baboon watch’) and met a few of the children.

The trip was ending, so sadly we drove to the Bulawayo Airport (a very impressive clean and tidy small airport) and flew back to Johannesburg. SA Airlink served us the best meal out of all our flights – a very nice cold chicken salad with a beautiful blueberry mousseycheesecakey pudding and crackers with cheese (and this is a very short flight about an hour and 20 minutes)!

After both of us having been on many safaris we can confidently say that Zimbabwe is one of the best safari destinations offering superb wildlife and cultural experience! We will be back!!!

- by: Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou



6 Camps in 6 Days




Kerry Purcell & Cinthia Lherisson in South Africa – May 2014

This was Cinthia’s first trip to Africa and Kerry was heading ‘home’ after being away for 6 years so when we heard the news about our South Africa safari we were beyond excited to say the least. 

We flew out of Ft Lauderdale on Delta Air Lines to Johannesburg, via Atlanta. After a long flight, we were met by a smiling rep and transferred to the Southern Sun OR Tambo Hotel close to the airport. This is a lovely hotel with clean, comfortable rooms and all the amenities you could need. They offer complimentary Wi-Fi, so we were able to contact our families. Breakfast in the morning was fantastic!

 

We took the complimentary shuttle back to the airport for our South African Express flight to Hoedspruit airport near Kruger. The airport is a really small building with an airstrip. Even though we weren’t in one of the game reserves, with the smell of the flowers and bush around you, you really begin to feel like you’re in Africa.

We were transferred by an air-conditioned van to Ngala Tented Camp to a warm welcome and cool face clothes. We staying in the river view tented rooms and they are stunning! Lunch was served on the verandah overlooking the river bed. Due to the time of year, the river is pretty much dry, which is fortunate for me because I got to sit on my verandah and watch a bull elephant come down the opposite side of the riverbank and make his way to right outside my tent! Luckily he decided to stick around and Cinthia and the rest of the camp got to see him by the main lounge before our evening game drive. 

  


The camp also has free Wi-Fi. The staff call it bush Wi-Fi because the signal is not extremely strong, but it’s functional.

One of the highlights of the stay, besides our rooms and the food, was seeing old George, the resident warthog, standing in the middle of the path the following morning preventing Cinthia and another couple from getting past. After much shouting for George to move, he eventually let them past and we were off on our morning game drive. We had the pleasure of finding a pride of 6 lion out for a late morning walk. What magnificent cats!

After our morning game drive, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then we were transferred to the airstrip for our 9-seater charter flight to MalaMala Game Reserve. Cinthia and I have never flown on one of these small charter flights, so it was an experience we were a bit hesitant about. We had nothing to worry about! The pilots were great and the take-off and landing were smooth.

We were met by our game ranger, Dave, and transferred to MalaMala Main Camp in time for lunch out on their main verandah overlooking the river. The camp is large and there are beautiful trees and bougainvillea just about everywhere. Our room was lovely and it had his and her bathrooms, which is always a plus when you have 2 ladies sharing a room. All the amenities you would need are there. We had the pleasure of seeing another bull elephant down by the river from our verandah. The camp has free Wi-Fi throughout, but the signal is definitely better by the main lounge.

  

We had an evening game drive and got to experience off-roading African bush style! Our game ranger was awesome! We got to see a beautiful female leopard and he showed us how to spot chameleons in the bush at night. We even got to hold one!

The morning game drive started out with us seeing up close 2 white rhino still dozing in the bush. We saw impala and kudo by the dozen and some zebra. Then we had the pleasure of seeing a baby rhino with its parents. We drove for quite a while thinking that we weren’t going to see anything else until we came across a couple of buffalo. We stopped and watched for a bit and then took off thinking that was it. Boy - were we wrong! We came round a bend and ended up surrounded by over 100 buffalo! Incredible!!

 

We were transferred to the airstrip and reluctantly said goodbye to Dave. We had another small charter flight to Satara airstrip in the Kruger National Park. On arrival we were met with a beautiful spread of refreshments and snacks and an air-conditioned van for our transfer to Singita Sweni.


Singita Sweni is a hospitality experience like no other! You immediately feel welcome and nothing is too much for the staff. The rooms are made of glass, metal and wood with the cutest vervet monkeys running around on your roof like they are trying to welcome you home. The rooms have all the modern touches you could think of and of course, free Wi-Fi.

  

For our evening game drive, we were provided with fluffy, warm ponchos with hoods. It was definitely cold in the evenings and these ponchos were such a treat. Our ranger, Chris and our tracker, Andrew were fantastic! We were also joined by a Swedish-German couple who we got along with from the start. We off roaded into the bush and down into a dry riverbed to see a pregnant lioness with a kudo kill. 
The smell was not great, but it was an experience to see and hear. Chris had a sick sense of humor and decided to turn off the lights so were could get the full effect in the pitch blackness. Needless to say, we laughed throughout the game drive and through our incredible, delicious boma dinner.


For the morning game drive, we were given hot water bottles. Yeah!! It was cold. Chris and Andrew took us back to the lioness kill to see if any another predators had shown up, but she was still on her own. 

We then said good-bye to our new friends and moved to another vehicle for our transfer back to the lodge and our transfer to the Satara airstrip for our charter flight to Skukuza airport.

We were met by our game ranger and tracker and transferred to Lion Sands Narina Lodge also in Kruger. The lodge is lovely and the rooms large and comfortable. All your amenities are provided and free Wi-Fi, but the signal was definitely better in the main lounge areas. 

Lunch was great and was held on the open verandah by the main lounge. We joined a Swiss-French family on the evening game drive and got to see a leopard, a mom and baby white rhino and a bull elephant.  The family group of Lion Sands hospitality is excellent.

  

After breakfast we were collected and transferred to Mpumalanga Airport, approximately a 2 hour drive. The transfer was very scenic and we got to pass through Hazyview. We really liked Mpumalanga Airport. It’s small, but has everything you need.   Our visit to the Kruger area covered all three access airports.

We caught the direct flight to Cape Town. On arrival in the afternoon we were met by a Representative and transferred to the Cape Grace Hotel. This hotel is stunning and the location is perfect because it’s a short walk to the V&A Waterfront. The rooms are stunning and we had the most beautiful view of the harbor and Table Mountain. 

That evening we took a walk to the waterfront and did some shopping before having an incredible meal at the Harbour House. Lightly breaded calamari and Mozambican prawns – awesome!!!

The following day we started early with a great breakfast in Cape Grace’s Signal Restaurant. It was going to be a busy day for us as we had quite a number of properties we needed to see before arriving at our hotel in Franshhoek. 

Our guide, Janice, took us to the top of Signal Hill and the view of Cape Town is spectacular. 


Franschhoek in the winelands was our final destination today and it’s only an hour away from Cape Town.  At Franschhoek Country House we enjoyed a nice dinner at their restaurant, Monneaux. The staff are wonderful and friendly, they offer complimentary transfer to the little town if you would like to dine at any of their local restaurants or shop.

Our room was beautiful and the beds so comfortable.

The following morning was our last day in South Africa. We decided to have breakfast in Franschhoek’s town and we were told The Pancake House would be open. What an unexpected surprise!! We met the owner, Gideon, an eccentric character.

  

As we hadn’t been up to Franschhoek Pass, he offered to drive us up after our breakfast. What a way to end our trip!!!

Cinthia and I got to experience the friendliness of the people of South Africa, being on safari in the beautiful African bush and sightseeing in Cape Town and Franschhoek. This was just a taste for Cinthia and she definitely wants to bring her family one day. To me, it was a reminder of why I love and miss South Africa and will hopefully return with my family.

Thanks AAC for a wonderful trip!!



- by: Kerry Purcell & Cinthia Lherisson


6 POSTCARDS from the AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013


Alison and Nicholas Nolting / Susan and Elizabeth Clemons / Anne and Caitlin Hampton

Matobo Hills and Hwange
- Zimbabwe is a country rich in wildlife and pristine ecological surroundings, one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to see the Big 5 in pristine wildlife areas.
- The uniqueness of this project arises from its truly magnificent ecological surroundings coupled with the communit ies living around Matobo and Hwange.
- Mother Africa is established to assist communities and conservation near Amalinda in Matobo Hills including WhiteWaters and Ethandweni .
- Children in the Wilderness is active with the Ngamo and Ziga communities around Hwange Park, situated near to their safari camp, Davison’s.


"So you may be asking, what kind of trip was this! 
This was a  “purpose-driven safaris” tailor-made for unskilled mothers and their student  children who wished to donate their time and leave a la…sting and tangible impression on Zimbabwe, in so many ways.

And that we did! We sourced over 6 large duffel bags of Grade 5-8 books for  both schools we visited. We acted as a “connector” in the classrooms  and community helping the next generation of children in Zimbabwe who are the future of their country.

We all came away with a mutual acceptance of one’s culture, beliefs and the lives they lead."

Alison Nolting – Trip Leader
Alison Nolting –  AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013


Lizzie Clemons
Lizzie Clemons,  AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013


Anne Hampton
Lizzie Clemons,  AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013

- by: Alison Nolting


Mark and Alison Nolting in South Africa



South Africa 2013
Mark and I cemented key partnerships in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.  The weather was stunning with meals enjoyed outside with stunning ocean views and green, lush vineyards.   We were there for two weddings - and the funeral of leader Nelson Mandela.

November 28, 2013 in Cape Town                                Bakoven Luxury Apartments near Camps Bay
November 28, 2013 in Cape Town  Bakoven Luxury Apartments near Camps Bay


November 30 – Constantia Winelands Wedding

Constantia Winelands Wedding 


My brother, wife and lovely daughter – my niece
My brother, wife and lovely daughter – my niece


December 02, Meeting Wilderness Touring – lunch at the Boat House by chef Bruce Robertson
Meeting Wilderness Touring – lunch at the Boat House by chef Bruce Robertson
                        

Meeting our Cape Town Guides -  Andrew, Lucia, Janice and Lazarus
Meeting our Cape Town Guides -  Andrew Meeting our Cape Town Guides -  Lucia Meeting our Cape Town Guides -  Janine Meeting our Cape Town Guides -  Lazarus


December 03, Meeting the Singita Operations
Meeting the Singita Operations


Meeting all at the Asilia Office and Operations
Meeting all at the Asilia Office and Operations


December 04, the Cape Grace 5 start Hospitality
the Cape Grace 5 start Hospitality


Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace
Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace 
Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace


December 05, Visiting Colin Bell – Conservationist and author of “ Africa’s Finest”
Visiting Colin Bell – Conservationist and author of “ Africa’s Finest”


Ellerman House and their 6 start Wine Cellar!
Ellerman House and their 6 start Wine Cellar!


December 06, Iliso Care Society in Kaylicha Township – visiting with Vivian
 Iliso Care Society in Kaylicha Township – visiting with Vivian


Visiting the Winelands–Delaire and Bablyonstoren
Visiting the Winelands–Delaire and Bablyonstoren


December 07,  country wedding in Kwa-Zulu Natal
Good to see Yvonne and Blessing.

country wedding in Kwa-Zulu Natal Good to see Yvonne and Blessing.


 Nelson Mandela memorial–a country in mourning
Nelson Mandela memorial–a country in mourning


December 08, the Saxon Hotel – 6 star hospitality
the Saxon Hotel – 6 star hospitality


December 08, Johannesburg Wilderness Safaris
Johannesburg Wilderness Safari

- by: Alison Nolting


Going Green in Botswana


January 2014
There have been some amazing specials as incentive to travel in Botswana ’s Green Season: November thru mid-April. This is the Wet season when there is more daily rain, and afternoon and overnight thunderstorms are to be expected. Ironically, this is also the low flooding season as the waters have not made it to the Delta from Angola yet. Yet, these amazing rates have lured wildlife enthusiasts in their non-Peak season. I was going for a firsthand look during this time period.

Botswana ’s Green Season, this is a big tree

I flew via London to arrive into Johannesburg early enough to connect with the flight into Maun, Botswana and onwards to my first safari camp. A preferred method for many travelers from the US is to go directly into Johannesburg, spend the night and then continue the following day. This routing allowed me to also see first hand some rest areas in London and Johannesburg.

In Johannesburg I had a pass to one of the many club lounge areas, in particular the Bidvest Premier Lounge.  This is a great place to kill a few hours with access to showers, appetizers and snacks, and wide range of drinks (alcoholic and non).

Onwards to Maun…

I arrived in Maun and was surprised to find out that there was free Wifi available (for 10 minutes) so it was my last bit of communication before connecting with my flight to spend six days in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti areas of Botswana. In this time I would stay at a different camp each night in Wilderness Safaris’ portfolio of Classic and Premier level camps.


Arrived in Maun  Arrived in Maun
Arrived in Maun

My trip included a night at each of the following camps: Vumbura Plains North, Little Tubu, Xigera, Chitabe Lediba, Mombo Main and Kings Pool. I was also to get a look at Little Vumburra, Tubu Camp, Chitabe and Duma Tau. They are all in the Okavango Delta except for Kings Pool and Duma Tau, which are located in the Linyanti.

My introduction into both Botswana and the Okavango couldn’t have been better than my first camp, Vumbura Plains (North) Camp! This is a premier level camp in which the rooms are not so much a tent as it is a compound! As you enter your private area you immediately see un-obstructed views of the Delta. On further investigation one will notice outdoors sala with an L-shaped couch, private plunge pool and small breakfast table. Oh year, there’s also an oversized tent. As you enter there is another sunken lounge area with minibar stocked with your preferred beverages, king-sized bed, open shower (with optional drapes for privacy), bathroom, desk and dressing area as well as bathroom. If that isn’t enough you also have a second outdoors shower. This is a Premier Camp for good reason.


Vumbura Plains (North) Camp - rooms are compound, L-shaped couch A breakfast table - Vumbura Plains (North) Camp
A leopard brings a baby leopard Elephants are walking in the river plains

The staff was attentive and my guide, Moronga (aka Mork) has been guiding for over 10 years. The game viewing was very productive and we found a pride of 4 lions on a zebra kill on our first afternoon game drive. Mork spun a tale about a larger pride of 8 that was split up the week before, presumably by a buffalo. In any case, two sister lionesses each with two offspring (1 boy and 1 girl each) had been split up and each lioness ended up with her sister’s youngsters. According to Mork, if they don’t meet up again soon they could end up as their own prides in their respective right, in which case they could be confrontational. It’s these dramas that unfold in the heart of the Delta that are only made known to you by your guide.

After my morning game drive the following day and finding the lost sister and two other cubs on a kill of their own, I was off to my next camp… Little Tubu!


Little Tubu Camp - an open area bedroom Little Tubu Camp - outside chairs
Meeting new friends a little green frog

Little Tubu Camp is a brand new tent that only opened June 2013! Just like Vumbura the two different camps are connected by a single boardwalk, but that’s about it. Little Tubu only has three tents and is great for small groups or a larger family. The bar is made of an old tree and fits beautifully into the camp making it a natural congregational area. The tents are large for the Classic Level standard and includes all the usual details you find in the type of rooms – writing desk, outside chairs with great views, en suite and double basin vanity, and of course, an outdoor shower.

The camps are located on Hunda Island which renowned for their population of leopards (if this is on your game wish list). This is also where we had our Boma night! This is a festive occasion that happens at all the Wilderness Camps every Monday night! There is lots of singing and joy in the air as you enjoy your evening cocktails before your special dinner. This is an experience that will put a smile on any face.

I continued by charter flight again to my first of two camps in the Moremi Game Reserve, Xigera Camp. This is a great camp to begin or end with if you are on a small circuit of camps around Botswana . Xigera is a water-based camp that offers lots of great water experiences including game viewing by boat and makoro rides. The camp has a very relaxed atmosphere that I think is partly due to the management team I met – Neuman and Rauve. There are a lot of trees that offer ample shade and the breezes that come through camp make it a nice place to miss a game drive and read a book or sleep in. This camp is run on an advanced system of solar panels, purpose-built batteries and generators (just like Mombo, Duma Tau and soon Vumbura Plains).


game viewing by boat and makoro rides game viewing by boat and makoro rides

I said farewell to my new friends and continued to the eastern part of the Delta at Chitabe Lediba.

The camp is a beautiful and open with what is now the “standard” sweeping views of the Okavango Delta. The camp is shady and just like all the other camps I’d visited I was given an introduction with safety briefing. Part of this is the relaxed philosophy to help yourself to a drink behind the bar if there isn’t anyone around. This kind of attitude makes you feel like you are at a friend’s house and feels inviting. This is something conveyed by the staff as well.


Delta at Chitabe Lediba Delta at Chitabe Lediba
a leopard resting air game drive

My guide here, Gordon, was stellar. He is another cool character that is relaxed in his manner and elaborates and enunciates perfectly. However, if a guide is well-spoken but can’t find any game, then it’s not enough. However, this was not the case with Gordon. As we did our afternoon game drive we explored the area finding playful hippos in the water, herds of elephant drinking and foraging as well as reading animal tracks and listening for tell tale signs of predators in the area – animal alarm calls.

We were enjoying sundowners as we noticed a tower of giraffe slowly meandering our way out of the bush. Oh, I almost forgot to mention each and every place had the most stunning and spectacular sunsets that literally changed in color from moment to moment. Purples and oranges blazing in the sky as you start making your way back to camp for pre dinner drinks and dinner. Dinner at all the camps was communal and very jovial. I did not have a bad meal at any of the camps.

The next day we found a beautiful leopard resting in a tree after a long and unsuccessful night of hunting. You see a leopard it feels like you have won some sort of karmic prize. These elusive cats are elegant and seductive. Spending time here was one of my highlights. From here it was off to find a pride of lion, lots and lots of elephant, hippo, and more.


I next flew to the famed Mombo camp. Of all the places I was visiting this is the one that I was holding the highest expectations for from all the feedback I’ve heard over the years from clients and colleagues. All I can say is… Believe the Hype!


Welcome to Mombo Camp Mombo camp
Wild Dogs resting Some lion watching while the one lion is jumping over the water

From the moment we got off our plane our guide told us to be quiet and quickly get in the vehicle as there was a pride of lion right by the runway… are you kidding me?!?! Awesome! We got in and made our way to spy on these relaxed beasts. In fact every moment spent in that game vehicle was amazing.

Our specialist guide, OB, who is now based out of Mombo, has 17 years of experience. The two most used phrases he used were, “Oh my god” and “Wow!” Here is someone who has been doing this for a long time and yet he gets as excited as a first time safarier. He embodies passion for his job and gets you excited.

There were so many highlights here but the other one that stands out was finding and following a male lion completely in his prime and oozing the confidence that only a male lion can. He was roaring and letting it be known to those unwanted intruders that this was his home, and they’d better leave or come and talk to him about it. I’ve never experienced hearing a lion roar so close to me. It vibrates in your chest and in the floorboard of the vehicle. It is equally impressive and unnerving and reminds you of your own vulnerability and still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

Game viewing aside the rooms here are very long and comfortable. There is an outdoors day bed, indoor and outdoor showers, comfortable bed and everything else you could hope for. The rooms are elevated so the game viewing doesn’t just have to happen in a vehicle, it happens out your back door.

The camp is number one when it comes to details from the coffee beans on your bed that spell out, “Welcome to Mombo” to the little mason jars of snacks you can bring with you on your game drives. The staff is genuinely friendly. They are proud to be there and it shows. However, accommodations and service aside, you go to Mombo or Little Mombo for the unparalleled game viewing.

My last stop on this whirlwind tour was Kings Pool. This was the final leg on my stop and apart from Vumbura and Mombo the only other Premier Camp. Kings Pool definitely had the biggest “wow” view as you enter into the camp after getting out of your vehicle. You arrive into camp and walk up two or three steps only to see this beautiful river. As your eyes wander down closer you can see this very big and inviting semi-circular couch that could sit around 20 people with a fire pit in the middle and a hippo filled river just in front.


Semi-circular couch in Kings Pool Kings Pool Boat
Some wild dogs sleeping hippos playing hide-n-seek in the river

These rooms were also large and my second favorite after Vumbura. Instead of it being long like Mombo it was like a large square with two shower heads, bathroom area, lounge area and outdoor private plunge pool and day bed. From here you can hear and see the hippos playing hide-n-seek in the river. It’s a great water and land camp. For my evening activity we went out on a two tier barge where we had our sundowners and cruised amongst the tall grasses and pods of hippos.

The following day on my way to inspect Duma Tau we found a pack of 18 wild dogs! This was another one of my highlights. They are much more active than lions and leopard from a game viewing point of view. They are forever moving, adjusting, scratching, getting up and laying down in a different spot. If you made a noise they would look to see what that was. Other activities you can do from Kings Pool are fishing, viewing elephant from a hide and nature walks.


Kings Pool Outside Kings Pool Dining Outside
A small boat and big boat one lion versus group of wildebeest

This was the perfect way to end such a short and sweet trip. Botswana in the Green Season is awesome.

The other amazing thing was all the babies we saw. Baby warthogs, hyenas, elephants, lions, hippos, tons and tons of baby impala and more. There were more types of birds than I could count. If I lived around here I could easily become a birder.

The last thing I learned on this trip was to never say goodbye. It’s not because of cultural differences or anything like that. It’s simply because you don’t know when you will run into these people you meet on safari again. On six of my seven charter flights I had the same pilot whom I sat next to. She was a great Australian girl who had been on the reality show Bush Pilots. We had great conversation and shared a few laughs. Another was a couple on their honeymoon, whom I ran into on four separate occasions. I learned that in Botswana it’s never about goodbyes, but what’s next.

On top of everything else I mentioned, a huge incentive for many people is that traveling this time of year can potentially save you thousands of dollars per person. If you want a premier level safari trip at a fraction of the price with world class game viewing, then there is no question about doing this, but when.

Go… you’ll thank me later.

- by: Ian Carlo Flores


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