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Kyle Witten in Botswana

Botswana – December 2015


I love taking someone on safari for the first time. My family has never shown much interest in traveling to Africa – boggles my mind but it’s true. I asked my Dad back in February – “Would you like to go on safari?” His response was – “Well I guess I’d like to go before I croak.” So I had us booked on a safari that week. I planned for six nights in Botswana – a quick trip but a great introduction to the beauty and wilderness of Africa. Now all he had to do was wait a few months. Before you we knew it December was here and we checked in for our flights. We met each other in Atlanta and jumped on the 14.5 hour nonstop Delta flight to Johannesburg.




On arrival we were met and escorted through immigration and then handed off to the transfer agent for The Residence. The Mercedes van was great and it had Wifi! Perfect to log in and send a quick email home to let everyone know had arrived safely.



We stopped on the way at Nelson Mandela’s former home and took a picture of the rocks painted with messages that are placed around the trees on the sidewalk.


The Residence is one of my favorite hotels in Johannesburg. This is a small boutique hotel with the incredible food in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. They recently opened five new suites with separate living rooms, private decks and a hot tub, large bath with tub and walk in shower.


Dinner was fantastic! I had the springbok Carpaccio (again) and Dad had the braised lamb shank. We toasted to Africa and I sipped a wonderful Stellenbosch sauvignon blanc.


We were both exhausted and headed straight to bed. I never sleep well the first night so was up at 4am ready to go – but the transfer vehicle was scheduled for 9:15am and breakfast was served at 7am.


We kept breakfast simple – no full stomach on the charter flights – it was going to be hot and bumpy! The next morning we transferred back to the airport in The Residence’s Mercedes S550 complete with WiFi – again!


SA8300 still leaves from gate A27 so after some confusion in the airport and almost going through domestic security we found the right area and made your way through the tourist shops and down to the gate. December is low season so the flight was not full - maybe 20 or so people.





We arrived in Maun and they have updated the immigration process. They now scan the passport instead you having to handwrite a form and they hand write visa! Welcome to the 21st century. We had about a 40 minute wait until our schedule charter flight to Kwetsani.


The plane touched down at Mombo, then Vumbura and final stop was the Jao airstrip.


The game drive from the airstrip to camp is about 40 minutes along sandy paths that are slow going. The heat of the day had set in topping around 100 degrees.


I was thrilled to meet Charmain and Dan Myburg – Kwetsani’s heart and soul – wonderful managers.


Dad and I were greeted at our front door of our tent by a very large elephant below the elevated board walk. I will always remember the look on Dad’s face.



By the time we got to camp (around 4:30pm) the game viewing vehicles were already gone, so we got the safety briefing, check in process, and quick cup of tea and we were off to hook up with our guide on the afternoon drive.


Our three nights and two full days at Kwetsani yielded lion, hundreds and hundreds of red lechwe, elephant, baboon, zebra and a fleeting glimpse of a very skittish leopard. Each night we were lulled to sleep by the sound of lion calling in the distance.




There is not much water left a Kwetsani but did manage a brief mokoro excursion so dad could have the experience. We spotted three different species of reed frog. The lack of water meant driving to Hunda island to do the majority of our game drives. The drive is almost 2 hours – each way. The camp uses a boat to get to the island when the floods are in and the commute is about 20 minutes.


Mokoro in the last remnants of the delta floods



Dad’s first game drive at Kwetsani


 Our next stop was Little Mombo – I saved the best for last and it lived up to its reputation again! This was my fifth visit to Mombo and it really does feel like coming home. The camp has a worn in feel and it makes you feel so relaxed.



We saw black and white rhino on our first afternoon game drive. I was thrilled to see the rhino relocation project is working and they are relaxing in the area and they were very calm around our vehicle.



No night drives at Mombo so were back in camp just after sunset around 7:00pm.


The next morning were up at 5am and ready for the morning game drive. Breakfast was simple with cereals, yogurts, meats and cheeses and freshly baked croissants or muffins.


The rains are late this year and the landscape looked like October - - dry and brown. We did get a few downpours on one morning drive and the day you could see fresh green leaves popping up.


December is all about the babies in the bush. Little warthog piglets, baby impala, young Tsetse and wildebeest and a few buffalo babies.




One of the many highlights of the safari including the Mombo bush brunch was the surprise helicopter flight. Dad had never been on a helicopter and always wanted to I discovered. The flight was 30 minutes and we spotted lion, elephant, giraffe all going about their day as we soared above. The low level flying along the channel was a lot of fun.


Mombo Bush Brunch!



Helicopter flight over Mombo – doors off!


The icing on the cake was wild dog on our very last game drive. We were out on a game drive and the camp radioed that naturally the dogs were running through camp. Knowing that wild dog were on my wish list they put the chef in a vehicle and had him follow the dogs and keep in radio contact until we could spot him.


We were rewarded with a wonderful sighting right as they started to lay down and rest. If you have ever track wild do you know they can move quick, fast and far!


Sleeping peacefully on a Mombo morning!


Dad and I curtailing made memories, shared laughs and had an amazing albeit quick safari to Botswana Should you ever get the chance to travel with a parent on safari do it! They are memories that will last a lifetime.

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

Kyle Witten in Botswana and Kruger Private Game Reserves

Mix in four camps in Botswana, four lodges in private game reserves near Kruger, throw in three different hotels in Johannesburg, a journey on Rovos Rail and the Indaba travel show in Durban and you have a whirlwind adventure through Southern Africa.

I flew on Delta via Atlanta. If you can't fly business then seat 31G is best - Economy Comfort. I got to Atlanta early and stopped at One Flew South - great sushi and Thai restaurant in Ter minal E. 14.5 hours later (we had a tail wind) I was back in Johannesburg. My first night was at Fairlawns in one of the villas. The room is huge and the breakfast spread the next morning was abundant and fresh.


Back to the airport and onward to Mau n, Botswana. My first camp was Abu Camp. Abu is pure luxury in terms of food, service and accommodation. It would have been a great place to finish, but for me I was just the beginning.

123 Abu Camp Lane
Please let me change my address to 123 Abu Camp Lane

The focus at Abu is on the amazing group of elephants. You can walk along side on your walking safari or ride. I choose to walk. You can touch and feel these magnificent creatures. Cathy is the matriarch, then Sherini and the new little Warona - He is a ball of energy, ready to romp and play s just like a 2 year old - trouble is he weighs over 200lbs and doesn't know it.

Watch out Warona is coming for you. New little elephant
Watch out Warona is coming for you

 the amazing group of elephants

Mombo was the next stop and its legendary game viewing did not disappoint. I saw the famous lone wild dog that had teamed up with a jackal, and the lioness with a full male' s mane. Hyena and leopard were next on the list as well as elephant and buffalo, and it was only on e hour into the afternoon game drive.

I hope this mane will fool those lions approaching
Mmmmm I hope this mane will fool those lions approaching

Kings Pool - stop number 3. I really liked Kings Pool. The main area was huge will lots of places to tuck away and relax. But relaxing was not on the agenda. I drove to the new Duma Tau site and it is going to be stunning. All of the rooms look out onto the deep lagoon. I did get one game drive in and managed to find two leopard and a lioness moving her cubs - one in her mouth and the other tagging along behind.

Linyanti Leopard    /   Breakfast in the bush at Kings Pool
Linyanti Leopard    /   Breakfast in the bush

Selinda was the final stop for Botswana. General game viewing was a little quite - but hard to judge with only one day. Wild dog are top on my list and they had just denned so the guides new exactly where to fin d them. Thanks to Liz and John for making the experience at Selinda so special. I was glad to see you can still grab a piece of toast off the fire in the morning. The wine tasting event after the night drive was great fun as well.

General game viewing at Selinda
The annual inundation of water is on its way- bags off the floor your going to get wet

Wild Dog at Selinda
Wild Dog at Selinda

Back to Johannesburg and this time a night at The Residence. This is a real gem of a property in the Houghton area..

My first Kruger reserve camp was Tanda Tula. Tanda Tula is a small cozy camp in the Timbavati a short 1 hour transfer from Hoedspruit airport. Lions, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and giraffe it's all there. Tanda Tula is tented accommodation which is not common in the Kruger area.

Farewell at Tanda Tula Bush breakfasts everyday
Farewell at Tanda Tula Bush breakfasts everyday

I then flew to MalaMala. The landscape of MalaMala is so diverse from open plains in the northeast corner to woodland further south and bush country that is perfect for leopard. MalaMala I s the largest game reserve and in two game drives I experienced the big 5. The best was warthog piglets trying to out run a leopard - they won. I was spoiled with a private guide. Matt was amazing, friendly and knowledgeable and excited to show you everything MalaMala has to offer. I spotted great Rhino at Tanda Tula and MalaMala.

Tanda Tula Rhino MalaMala Rhino
Tanda Tula Rhino / MalaMala Rhino

Mom and baby rhino at MalaMala
Mom and baby rhino at MalaMala

A short road transfer and I arrived at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. If you want total privacy and luxury Ivory Lodge fits the bill. On arrival we had to wait for an elephant to finish his lunch by the pathway before I could get to my room. The room is a real retreat . I took a couple of hours to myself, ordered lunch, which was delivered via a hatch in the living room wall cupboard.

The food was so good - Impala kabobs and curried shrimp. Time for an afternoon game drive - again with the leopard! Next up lion and a few elephant sprinkle in a few kudu and you have a great afternoon drive.

Lion Sands Ivory Lodge A lion I think this shot looks like a painting
No where are you welcomed like you are in Africa I think this shot looks like a painting

Last up was Elephant Plains, a lodge that is priced at a more budget level . The treat here was leopard and wild dog!

leopard and wild dog

I returned to Johannesburg and onto Pretoria for an overnight at 131 Herbert Baker, one of the best hotel experiences I have had. The final leg of my journey was an overnight trip on the luxury Rovos Rail from Pretoria to Durban. The day began with champagne and snacks at the Pretoria station. We were shown to our rooms, which were small but hey it's a train! The food was outstanding and wine selection even better. It was very interesting seeing the landscape of South Africa change from urban Johannesburg, to beautiful farm land finishing up with the rolling hills of Durban. It is a little tricky shaving while the train is moving - but it was great fun getting dressed up for dinner. The staff was so accommodating and friendly and Rohan Voss the owner of Rovos Rail joined our journey!

 Rovos Rail   Rovos Rail

- by: Kyle Witten

Kyle Witten - Safari to Botswana (Moremi and Linyanti 2013)

This safari to Botswana included six camps in six days. I wanted to explore several camps in Botswana that are operated by different companies looking at how camps vary in terms in guiding, food, accommodation and guest experience. I flew on the South African Airways flight that departs from JKF. The economy cabin offers more le groom and seat pitch than Delta Airlines. The flight arrived early in Johannesburg and I passed through International Transit Immigration and Security and connected straight away to the South African Airways flight to Maun, Botswana. On arrival I was met a nd jumped on board the charter light to Xakanaxa Camp.

Kyle Witten - Safari to Botswana

My game viewing experience at Xakanaxa Camp was productive. I saw leopard and lion on the first game drive and then next morning we came across wild dog that were in the third bridge area of Moremi. The tents are classic Meru style tents, the front of the tents zips open to a large and comfortable bedroom and the bathroom is out a back door but part of your tent. The food was simple and wholesome.

Xakanaxa Camp Comfortable bedroom in Xakanaxa Camp

My next camp was Chiefs Camp situated in on Chiefs Island in the Moremi Reserve. I was greeted by the staff singing and welcoming me to camp. I settled in for a delicious lunch and prepared for an afternoon game drive. A large bush fire moved through parts of the concession in late March and some of the area is quite dusty. The afternoon game drive was quiet but the morning game drive gave us an interesting fight among hyena and wild dog!

Bathroom in Chiefs Camp  Comfortable bed in hiefs Camp situated in on Chiefs Island in the Moremi Reserve

I flew north to Kwando Lagoon and again arrived just in time to settle in for brunch. The Kwando Lagoon rooms are big and very comfortable. The décor in the camp is lacking inspiration and contributed a bit t o the lack of atmosphere during meal times. The guiding was excellent hosted by Carlos and his tracker Aaron. We were rewarded with a wild dog hunt. The next morning we spotted all sorts of general game, the tall grasses we still high as the buffalo and elephant are just now moving in to trample it down. This made viewing a bit challenging.

Wild dog looking for something

I continued and flew south again this time to experience Camp Moremi. This camp is a little gem and set in a green oasis. The staff was spot on in terms guest experience I was impressed with how welcome I felt. Meals were very good and the game viewing was productive as well. The down side to the part of the Moremi is the game viewing roads are in bad shape - the worst I have exp erienced in some time. Consequently the guides have to drive slow to avoid bouncing you out of the vehicle.

 Kwando Lagoon rooms are big and very comfortable  Kwando Lagoon rooms are big and very comfortable

I then flew to Dumatau Camp a brand new property from Wilderness Safaris. I first stayed at Dumatau about seven years ago. The old camp was closed and this new camp moved to a sight on a deeper lagoon. I was blown away by this camp. The managers are doing a superb job. The food and beverage were beyond what was expect ed for a Classic camp. The camp viewing was exceptional. We spotted wild dog and a pride of lion with cubs on the afternoon drive, and five male lions on the morning drive. Lots of elephant in the area and one was even eating grass right outside my room.

Dumatau Camp a brand new property from Wilderness Safaris
Dumatau Camp Bed room Dumatau Camp Stairs going down for a great sight seeing 
pride of lions in botswana

The final stop was Mombo. I visited Mombo last year and was anxious to experience the changes I have heard so much about. The guest experience at Mombo has been taken to a new level. Personalized attention to detail, beautiful table settings of scrumptious foods at breakfast - they are doing things right. All the vehicles stopped for a sundowner and everyone's favorite cocktail wa s waiting along with lots of snacks. There is talk that Mombo will be offering bush walks and night drives in the near future - I can't wait to experience this - just what the concession needs.

That final sunset was beautiful as the orange glow o f setting sun reflected on the waters just beginning to creep into this part of the delta. I was guided by my old friend Ollie who I have not seen a few years but we remembered each other and had two great game drives.

final sunset was beautiful as the orange glow o f setting sun reflected on the waters

- by: Kyle Witten

Kyle Witten - Zimbabwe

Exclusive Group Safari to Zimbabwe - Hwange, Mana Pools and Victoria Falls

Program highlights:
# This is a new safari highlighting the extraordinary guides in Zimbabwe who will lead you on this signature 25 year anniversary safari.
# Experience the ultimate walking safaris in northern and southeastern Hwange with Dave Carson and Nic Polenakis and in Mana Pools Nick Murra y will take you walking and canoeing. Game drives in open vehicles are also offered.
# This safari operates as an exclusive group with up to 6 persons per departure.
# Accommodations are a combination of first class, private mobile tents and permanent tente d camps in the parks.

September 2012
I had the pleasure of traveling with three clients on our 15 Days Eyes on Elephant safari to Zimbabwe. We spoke on the phone for months, so it was nice to finally meet everyone face to face at the Airport Sun Intercontinental. We relaxed over an excellent meal, retired to our rooms and tried to sleep - never a success for me coming off the international flight.

Kyle Witten - Zimbabwe
5353 North Federal Highway, Suite 300  Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33308 U.S.A Tel: 800·882·9453  Tel: 954·491·8877  Fax: 954·491·9060

email: ï‚·

The next morning we got together and made our way to Terminal A - no wait a minute Terminal B (check your e-ticket receipt and itinerary!) for the flight to Victoria Falls. After clearing customs Sofret, met us and cheerfully transferred us to an unmarked road near Hwange Town, where we were met by private Guide Dave Carson. We changed vehicles and were off , driving to Sinametela. The landscape in the region is marked by large granite outcroppings, mopane forest and open plains. We stopped for our first walking safari en route. Dave spotted something interesting from high on the escarpment, an impala lying on the ground. We drove down and did our first walk of the safari. We discovered that the impala must have passed due to natural causes, as no lion or scavengers were in the area.

Private Guide Dave Carson

We continued driving through the park and reached our camp by nigh t fall - delayed by a tire puncture that was solved by a can of fix -a-flat because none of the 32 tire irons (spanners) that materialized from good samaritans were the right size. Dave met his high school buddies who he had not seen in years, who happened to be at the stop, carrying an air compressor that you can hook up to a car battery. Can of Fix -a flat, a little air and were on your way to camp. Dave does not know the meaning of a schedule, so be prepared for long but rewarding days. We witnessed a new born elephant just minutes old, welcomed into the herd by the female elephants and their young, and later the final days of a old bull, struggling with each step to make it to water, his tusks and head so heavy he could no longer hold them up.

A new born elephant just minutes old
Life begins

Oh my shattered nerves it was the Three Mohicans - Daniel, Day and Lewis. Lewis was shy and rarely showed himself but Daniel and Day gave us some excellent shots in the morning and evening sun. We also tracked lion on foot with our incredible tracker Felix. There is good work being done by research teams in Hwange and the lion numbers have increased since my visit 5 years ago, during which I did not see one, but this trip we saw lion every single day.

Group of lions in Hwange
Group of lions in Hwange

We bid farewell to Kazuma Trails and h eaded off to Davison's at Hwange National Park - game viewing along the way. We stopped for snacks and drinks at Ngweshla Pan and the amount of game coming to drink was astounding. There were giraffe, warthog, roan and birds all in one shot. We enjoyed a f ew snacks and then headed on to camp.

Davison's at Hwange National Park and giraffe, warthog, roan and birds all in one shot

Davison's is a permanent tented camp in a private concession in Hwange National Park. We witness ed a pride of lions setting up for a buffalo kill just as the sun was setting. You could just make out the silhouette of 16 lions in military formation, waiting for the right moment to launch the assault. We could only here the stampede of hooves in the twilight. It was too dark for photos so we soaked in the sounds and enjoyed the experience.

Dave Carson will do anything for you on safari. He insisted we drive ahead of a herd of Sable and wait under a tree to see if they crossed in front of us, making their way to the watering hole. It was a hot day and I mentioned if Dave insisted on keeping us out under this tree, then we would need refreshments - and Dave delivered them on a silver tray. You can just make out Davison's in the background of the photos. Dave ran to the camp, I was using his binoculars to watch making sure he put enough ice in the G&T.

Dave Carson at Hwange National Park

Hwange is all about elephants in September and we had a spectacular show at Makalolo Pan; Moms, sisters and babies were all enjoying the evening sun and fresh drink of water.

herds of elephants at Makalolo Pan; Moms, sisters and babies were all enjoying the evening sun and fresh drink of water

We departed by charter flight to Mana Pools, one of my all time favorite national par ks. We were met at the airstrip by Nick Murray - the Indiana Jones of Mana Pools. We were transferred to camp and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Desire Murray designs the menus and the food was amazing. My favorite salad was the blue cheese and biltong dressing - yum.

We walked to lion on our first game drive, and discovered a buffalo kill they had not finished eating. We stayed near by to see them return to the kill. This was our first, but not last exercise in bum crawling to get close to wildlife.

Game Drive at mana pools Game Drive at mana pools

We had three extraordinary experiences with elephants. We met Handstand one of the only elephants that can stand his back legs to reach the acacia branches. We also had a very close encounter with Spirit who insisted that we were hiding more pods somewhere in our bag. The final experience was with a bull on the banks of the Lower Zambezi, during our full day of canoeing. Nick Murray has a way with these bulls and can deliver magical moments. I was over come with the awe and emotion of having a bull elephant just 3 feet from me eating acacia branches. This is the magic of Mana Pools.

Handstand one of the only elephants that can stand his back legs to reach the acacia branches
Handstand one of the only elephants that can stand his back legs to reach the acacia branches

We spent two days on the river with a combination of walks and fishing. Who knew I was a fisherman supplying breem (tilapia) for the appetizer at dinner one evening. We stopped to swim in the river, play tennis ball with an ore enjoying the cold water on a hot hot day. Brunch was served on day one, a full English breakfast cooked over a camp fire by learner guides Tan and Dani, along with fresh salads and breads. Day two was salads and pizza.

Swimming in Lower Zambezi/Fresh Breem/Dani - Cracking eggs for breakfast
Swimming in Lower Zambezi            /           Fresh Breem        /      Dani - Cracking eggs for breakfast

The Bushlife Conservancy is directly funded by your contribution when staying at Vundu Tented Camp. This donation goes toward the animals and National Parks employees for the betterment of the park. Several recent examples include transporting a NP member's sick child to the nearest hospital (several hundreds of miles away); the NP anti -poaching team received new tents and backpacks; and improving the NP self-catering lodges. Vundu also serves as the 'head quarters' for wild dog research. The packs are growing large and we spotted some from our canoes and went for a walk go get a better look.

wild dogs at Vundu wild dog at Vundu

Our last morning was a walk to an ancient baob ab tree that is Zimbabwe National Historical site, having served as the burial chamber for a village chief. The inside of the trees are hollow and the body was placed inside and the hole was sealed with stone and mud, the tree would eventually grow over the whole, leaving a scar.

We had a blast with our guides Dave Carson and Nick Murray - two of the best in Africa. I am trying to convince Nick to become the spokesperson for Stoney Ginger Beer, what do you think?

Nick Murray Kyle Witten
Nick Murray                                 /                             Kyle Witten

We finished our adventure in Victoria Falls meeting our special guide Esther for a tour of the falls. Below is picture of our group with Esther. I am taking the picture because I would step one foot closer to Danger Point.

With the guide Esther at Victoria Falls Victoria Falls

The Eyes on Elephant safari to Zimbabwe gave me experiences I have never had. This could have only happened with our private guides Nick Murray and Dave Carson. This safari is a real adventure with up close and personal game viewing experiences with days as adventure filled as you want.

- by: Kyle Witten

Safari to Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta

This vacation began with a text message 'all of your flights are cancelled'¦..this is no joke'. The Iceland volcano was set to spoil a vacation that I planned for a year and a half. Thankfully I booked by my flights with AAC and Bill jumped into action and rebooked us on Delta, last minute.

We spent two nights in Johannesburg due to the flight change. The first night at African Rock Hotels, the rooms were clean and fresh, the host was very homey and the food was delicious. It is a great one night stay. The second night we spent at Athol Place - in my opinion the place to stay if you arrive in the morning and leave the next day. The rooms are huge and the food and service are outstanding . They drove us Melrose Arch for lunch and some people watching.

The next morning we flew to Maun, Botswana and a further 1 hour charter flight to Jack's Camp situated in the Makgadikgadi Pans region of Botswana. Upon landing I knew we were not in Kansas anymore. The landscape is VAST and no picture or description can do it justice.

Standing at the edge of a Salt Pan the size of Switzerland!
Standing at the edge of a Salt Pan the size of Switzerland!

Safari to Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta

Green season was off and running with the zebra and wildebeest migration - the last in southern Africa. They were everywhere, felt a little like the Serengeti. The late afternoon storms delivered the most amazing sunsets and a thrilling night as the canvas tented breathed with gusting winds and lighting fired up the night sky.

Hyena scent marks on a blade of grass - great eyes Super!
Hyena scent marks on a blade of grass - great eyes Super!

Our guide was Super Sande and was an awesome guide, he could spot a hyena marking on a blade of grass from the safari vehicle, at 25 miles an hour.

Family of meerkats standing on Kyle Witten Family of meerkats standing on Kyle Witten

One of many highlights at Jack's is the opportunity to visit the habituated family of meerkats. We drove out after an early morning breakfast and sat on the mounds by their wholes and waited for them to wake up. They want to be on the tallest object to look for predators and now you are the tallest thing around. The photos say it all. The camp has a very relaxed attitude, no staff and guide uniforms, everyone is dress ed in whatever is comfortable, it does not feel like a corporation. If felt like a n old world safari camp - including the toilet! My only criticism is that there is no where to kick back an d take that much needed 2:00 pm snooze. Antique furniture is not made for 21st century bodies.

Safari to Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta Safari to Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta Safari to Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta

The drive to the Masai Mara was long and extremely exhausting, but thanks to our tra veling companions an Aussie couple and a British Dad and daughter, made the long drive less strenuous. Our guide Stephan was a bit quiet and non talkative at first, but we quickly started joking with him and brought him out of his shell. The first Swahili words he taught me (at my request) were 'pole'¦pole', I found myself saying this on a daily basis. His answer was always 'Akuna Matata'.On our very first afternoon game drive, the first animal we saw was a lioness!! Now I realized why our clients keep coming back over and over, the feeling of respect you get from being so close to such a magnificent creature is second to none.We saw all the animals that were on our list, elephants, wildebeest, giraffes, zebra, lots of baboons, impalas and buffalo. In a way it kind of spoiled it for any future game drives as we found ourselves

The one animal we did not see in the Masai , but were lucky enough to see in Lake Nakuru was the black rhino. Our game drive was cut sh ort due to bad visibility and floods. Fortunately enough, seeing the black rhino made up for the bad weather and other expectations.

The next camp was Vumbura Plains in the Okavango Delta. The food at this camp was amazing. Wayne, the chef was new and dazzling everyone with his creations. Benjamin the assistant manger in training prepared a special private dining experience, lots of candles, lanterns, great food and sounds of Africa just beyond the deck. We did not see any lion or leopard, the grass was too tall, but we did lots o f elephant, hyena, giraffe, plains game, even a ground hornbill flying! Lots of babies and even a charging 3 month elephant - we could not help but laugh at him.

Charging baby elephant
Charging baby elephant

Safari to Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta
A herd of beautiful Sable
A herd of beautiful Sable

We bid farewell to Botswana an d enjoyed Cape Town for a couple of nights at the One & Only. We stayed in the Island Suites. The rooms were amazing but , no view whatsoever. If you stay book a room in the Marina Rise building, with views to Table Mountain. We had a memorable dinner at Maze and Nobu (don't forget to take the cardboard off the knife) . On our full day we took a cab to Table Mountain, followed by a pool side lunch at the hotel and an afternoon of more relaxing.

The next day we went to Majeka House in Stellenbosch after enjoying the Cheese Festival in Stellenbosch. Not much cheese in Stellenbosch, so hit Le Cottage From age for a healthy dose of fat and cholesterol as only South Africa can deliver!

The room a Majeka was comfortable, nothing over the top, but perfect the one night. The dinner that was cooked just for us was amazing. I was really impressed with the quality and presentation.

The following morning Thomas drove us to Bushmans Kloof - the place to end a long trip. One tip brush up on your Afrikans! The lodge room, food and service are beyond top notch. There is so much do at Bushmans Kloof including mountain biking, hiking, bow and arrow target practice, canoeing - none of which we did. We did move further than the kitchen on an afternoon hike to the rock paintings and never left the room after that - expect to eat. We booked the Riverside Suite which is basically a house, with three verandas and a private infinity pool, living room, bath and bedroom. It was heaven for 3 days!

Fluffing the pillows on one o f our verandas This was the spot for an afternoon snooze
Fluffing the pillows on one o f our verandas                     This was the spot for an afternoon snooze

The one day we actually moved.
The one day we actually moved.

- by: Kyle Witten

Elephant Extravaganza - South Africa

I have been to South Africa several times but it is always new and special to be part of someone's first safari!

Our safari began with a full day to relax and recover at the ever elegant Saxon hotel in Johannesburg. W e approached the entrance to the hotel - concealed behind a huge wooden -door gated entrance. The door opened to reveal a beautifully landscaped space. We were greeted warmly and our bags were taken to our room quickly. The Saxon is beyond words. We enjoyed an hour at their magnificent spa. Go for the hot stone therapy back and shoulder massage - just like heaven! Lunch was great on the courtyard; the best club sandwich ever and a seafood salad with prawns, lobster and langoustines on a bed of arugala.

The Saxon
The Saxon

The next morning we were transferred on time to the airport to board our flight to Hoedspruit. We were met by Ray, our guide from Camp Jabulani and we literally crossed the road and were in the Kapama Game Reserve. The reserve is very close to airport but we heard no noise from aircrafts at all.

Kyle Witten in South Africa

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Kyle Witten's Elephant Extravaganza - South Africa

Camp Jabulani gets high scores for accommodation, food and service. Rudolf is the chef and his wife Lezan is the manager and together they run a fine camp. The draw to Jabulani is of course the elephant back safaris and intimate interaction. The first afternoon we enjoyed an introduction to the elephant team, touching, feeling and feeding. We saddled up and we went on a game drive/walk - we saw general plains game during the walk. The ride ended with surprise sundowners at a watering hole. After a few G&Ts and Amarula we finished with a very productive night drive.

Kyle Witten's Elephant Extravaganza - South Africa

The next day we went to the Hoedspruit Cheetah Conservation Center. We met the founder, Letta and she gave a very informative ta lk and took us to the king cheetah which she raised from a cub. Jabulani's guests have free reign to enter the hold with her, touch and interact with the king cheetah. They release about 50 cheetahs a year back into the wild.

King cheetah
King cheetah

That afternoon we did a game drive to another sundowner spot. The elephant team met us and we enjoyed an elephant-back night walk - complete with our own spot light. The walk ended at the elephant enclosure where they sleep at night.

Fortunately, the elephants are out in the bush all day being elephants, and sleep in the corral only at night. 
You will likely not see wild elephants near this camp as they are wea ry of the 'trained' team and tend to stay away.

Elephant-back night walk

We then took a very hot and bumpy charter flight to Private Granite Suites at Londolozi - about 15 minutes. We were met by our tracker Like and drove to camp. On arrival we were greeted by Kerin and her team - headed up by Cry. The food was outrageously good, prepared by the chef - Eric, self trained by his father who was the chef at Singita.

Cry - staff village visit
Cry - staff village visit

Our room was unlike any I had ever seen before; living room, bedroom, dressing area, bathroom, deck, private plunge pool, outdoor shower and lounge area. I had pre arranged a private dinner in the room. I pulled Kerin aside to be sure it was going to happen. She said yes, we are doing it for everyone tonight. After the night drive we were greeted and told to go the rooms and when we were ready for dinner, we were to dial 9. The room was dark, l it only by candle light and the table was dressed in front of the picture window (lanterns hanging from the trees outside). Candles everywhere, rose petals on the bed, bubble bath and a bucket of champagne. We went from room to room - amazed with what they had created.

Private Granite Suites at Londolozi
Private Granite Suites at Londolozi

Jules was our guide and the game viewing here is spectacular - leopard and lion on every game drive, elephant, wildebeest, buffalo, hyena, eagles, giraffe, hippo, plains game (you name it, we saw it !). On the first night game drive we were lucky enough to have a male lion chasing a female, darting in front of our vehicle. They were mating and what a sight to see and hear from 5 feet away.

Elephant Extravaganza - South Africa

The next stop was one of my favorite cities in the world, Cape Town and we stayed at the boutique guesthouse, Kensington Place.

We spent 2 days with our guide Thomas exploring the peninsula and visiting the wine lands (Waterfront and Solms Delta estates). We enjoyed dinner at The Showroom Restaurant and Baia on the waterfront. Cape Town never disappoints even with dreary weather it is the most beautiful city.

Thomas – Cape Town guide
Thomas – Cape Town guide

Lastly was Grootbos Nature Reserve. This reserve boasts some of the last milkwood forests on earth. And you can help revitalize the forest by planting a tree!

Grootbos Nature Reserve

September is the peak of whale watching season and Walker Bay lived up to its reputation. The whales come to within 30 meters of the DeKelders shore. We could see whales breeching (count to 13 and they will breech again) mating groups, moms with their babies. We enjoyed a scenic flight over the bay to see the whales from the air. There must have been 20 in short the time we were over the bay en route to Cape Town to fly home.

September is the peak of whale watching season

I have visited South Africa in April, May and September. From a game viewing point of view this September safari was the best. The bush is thin and dry which makes game viewing and pursuing easier. We saw the whole range from 105 degrees in Kapama game reserve to 39 in Cape Town. A visit to the Cape is always a mixed bag. If you are asking yourself 'When should I go on vacation?' I would pick the off season in the Cape; you will hit whale/shark season June -October and capture incredible photographs of the storm clouds rising over the mountains and stretching out to sea.

South Africa is also attractive due to the current Rand to dollar exchange rate. You can eat in some of the best restaurants in Cape Town and spend $1.00 on a glass of wine and racks of lamb for $15.00 - try that in the US. Given today's economy we all trying to save a few dollars, and remember an investment in travel does not loose any value.

Traveling to Africa is naturally a passion for me. I am always impressed with the camps that accommodate so few people can change the lives of so many people in the surrounding communities; the staff village at Londolozi for instance where they have installed a computer lab to teach life skills. Our butler Cry worked his way up and is now being promoted to management at Private Granite Suites. We must continue traveling to these reserves and parks in order to conserve the natural habitats and most importantly to ensure that we brighten the future of other people.

- by: Kyle Witten

Kyle's Tanzania Trip Report – May 2007

My first safari to East Africa began with two nights at Ngong House in Nairobi. The first morning we toured the Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum and the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. You can feed thegiraffe at center and they are much bigger close up!

Kyle's Tanzania Trip Report Ngong House in Nairobi

The next morning I departed by scheduled flight to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. I was met by my guide Hillary Mandia and we drove to the Ngorongoro Crater.

My Guide HilaryElephant in Crater Shifting Sands
                          My Guide Hilary                                    Elephant in Crater / Shifting Sands

The next morning game drive began at 5:30am and we made it the gate by 6:00am. We were the only vehicle on the crater floor for about two hours. We exited the crater after about 4 hours and descended on the Serengeti Plains. The view from the crater rim to the Serengeti defies words. We made a side trip to the Shifting Sands and then onward to Kirawira Camp in the western corridor of the park.

We drove through pockets of the migrations at least three time – all of which we were the only vehicle around surrounded by wildebeest and zebra. One of the highlights of the Serengeti was the hot air balloon ride over the plains. The champagne bush breakfast at the end of the balloon ride was excellent.

Champagne Breakfast   Migration Kirawira Camp
             Champagne Breakfast                                       Migration                                          Kirawira Camp

From the Serengeti we drove to Lake Manyara and stayed at the Lake Manyara Serena - amazing views of  the lake below. The next morning we game drove through the park and passed through Mto Wa Mbu  village. The village is real slice of Africa. My last stop was Tarangire Park. I loved this park. Where else can  you unzip the front of your elevated tent and watch the sun go down over the Rift Valley Wall from the  comfort you bed – sherry in hand.

Lake Manyara Serena Mto Wa Mbu  Tarangire Treetops
            Lake Manyara Serena                                    Mto Wa Mbu                                    Tarangire Treetops

- by: Kyle Witten