Liselle’s clients enjoyed an incredible safari to Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls, Lagoon Camp in the Okavango Delta, Kwara Camp in the northern Okavango Delta region, Tau Pan Camp in the Kalahari, and Majeka House in Stellenbosch. Their review of each place is helpful, interesting and reads just like an incredible journey entry.
The flight to Victoria Falls from Jo’burg is relatively quick, and our driver initiated us quickly into life in Zimbabwe on the way to the town from the airport. The Falls are shared with Zambia, and the 2-street city of Victoria Falls cannot compete with the touristic overload that became Niagara Falls and Buffalo, perhaps sadly so in a Country that has lost its currency through mis-management. Not that we wish excess upon Zimbabwe, but some utilization of this resource, and development of a greater economic zone might be in order. The past mis-management has rendered ATM’s inactive, as there is no cash to be withdrawn.
Just like Santorini, you cannot stop taking pictures. The ILALA Lodge provided great accommodations, and food and service, but the street vendors were quite obnoxious, following you along any walk in the town, or over the bridge to Zambia.
If you go – take extra currency, none is available at the ATM’s (2018); try set the vendors straight at the outset, before they walk with you for a kilometer; no vendors are inside the National Park, at the walk into the Lookout Café, or at your hotel; and there is no need to pay the extra $45US for a joint Zimbabwe/Zambia Visa. The $5 Zimbabwean Visa is just fine.
Botswana – Okavango Delta
Lagoon Camp had 9 units on the water, all were extra large rooms with an outdoor shower option. Rating: 5 out of 5, including numerous and varied daily animal sightings, from large game to colourful birds. Thankfully, they try separate the “birders” from the “gamers”.
Indoor tub or shower option, but who could miss showering outdoors while looking at the wildlife. Caution, camp is visited by lions, leopards, elephants at night. And we saw two mosquitos in 3 days! Guides at all camps told us they had never heard of people catching malaria, in spite of all the North American warnings to take a 3-week supply of malaria pills. But they do supply lots of repellent, so parts of the year must have the pests!
Our first game drive headed out to see wild dogs, a yawner I thought. But the guides filled us in on the history and future of the pack, told us stories of their hunts, and we gained another appreciation of nature’s survival issues…. Hippo yawns while waiting for us to finish up our “Sundowner” Happy Hour, held nightly at 6:30 or so while on a game drive. The barking of a hippo gathering is a cause for great laughter.
Botswana -Kwara Camp and Tau Pan camps
Kwara Camp… A short light aircraft ride later and with 6 game drives under our belt, with our young competent pilot aptly named Immaculate – 1 year qualified – we were at Kwara Camp to begin the next 6 game drives. The 5am wakenings were becoming old hat, as were the 6 hour long morning game drives and 4 or more hour long evening game drives, far longer than the drives that we enjoyed at the Timbavati Reserve in South Africa a few years back in 2010.
The accommodations were a little more rustic, our tent was on stilts this time, and we only had the elevated outdoor shower, no option of staying out of sight of the baboons, who, if we did not lock the door properly, would take over our tent.
We had seen two mosquitoes at Lagoon Camp over 3 days, and thankfully saw no mosquitoes at all, in either of the next 2 camps. Nice to see that the great government expenditures to eradicate the dangerous pests is having some effect, especially with the effects of Malaria including potential loss of life, not to mention missing out on a 35 day cruise.
We did, however, see stealthy lion tracks in some mornings on the sandy paths between tents.
With our instinctive guide Bale, and tracker “G”, we set sights on the elusive Cheetah, and the prides of lions at Kwara.
Amazingly, we always got to the other side of the narrow rickety bridges, but more amazing was the flatness of the land with few creeks or gulleys, allowing vehicles great freedom. Being a concession, instead of a game reserve allowed for off road travel, at great relative speeds . This permissiveness assisted our chases greatly at Kwara and Lagoon Camps.
Immediately upon start of our 2nd night game drive (and frightfully close to our unfenced and unarmed tent and lodge), our guide decided to follow two prowling lions.
As we were about to lose the lions through a new jungle “island” of bush and trees, we took a vote about continuing the relatively calm stroll through the countryside. We were split 50/50. Our guide Balé applied his 6th sense to stay with the chase, which we did, passing through the brush, and entering a clearing, where senses were immediately heightened.
Our land cruiser ended up in a 50/50 chance of the warthog’s “escape” route, and “luckily”, we watched the warthog try to make a valiant dash for freedom by passing within 5 feet of our vehicle, but with 2 chasing lioness’ 6 feet behind, he lasted only about 40 feet before being caught in a hopeless struggle for life. Lots of pictures and movies were taken in brilliant sundown lighting, but I will not share those with you here. Needless to say, adrenalin filled the camp that night and the next morning, and when we revisited the site, the 2 lions were back for the remaining 1/3 of warthog, untouched by the night’s hyenas, vultures, or wild dogs. Ribs for breakfast, anyone? We’ll never forget the chilling sound of bones crunching under the pressure of a lion’s jaw.
I cannot express enough how special the trackers and guides are, the extent of their training and understanding of animal life in Botswana, nor can we express enough gratitude to the staff at the lodges, for their devotion to their guests, in spite of having family at home, who they see only for 2 weeks or so every 2 to 3 months. From 5:30 am breakfasts, 11:30 am brunches, laundry and cleanup, and 8:pm dinners and African songs, these staff make the entire experience special each day. Wonderful people.
Our flight to Tau Pan Camp took us through a lightning storm to the airport at Maun, and then as skies cleared, we finished the remaining half hour flight with our seemingly 12 year old pilot Kutlo. “Hey, it’s just like a video game”, he said, and we were immediately comforted, as you can imagine. We had 6 take-offs and whew – landings – in these small aircraft. Great excitement, great scenery, especially with elephants, zebra and giraffe 500 feet below.
Coffee breaks and “sundowners” (happy hours) took on new awareness as we stood in the desert enjoying our break. No longer did we just look for the cheetah, lion, leopard, or elephant. Grounds and bushes were checked twice before having a much needed pee break, especially after seeing how fast the Cape Cobra moved, or climbed a tree. But then to understand the Puff Adder and Python also did well on the desert, well…maybe we can wait to return to camp!
The Kalahari was a more relaxing camp, as with no water and few water holes, less animal life was expected. Elephants, rhinos and hippos need water, so Tau Pan was a scenic stop of grand vistas more than it was a safari. Still, there was abundant life, as you can see. Perhaps a stop designed for 2 nights instead of 3, but the experience was still one that we believe should not be missed.
Cape Town – Stellenbosch – Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, not to mention Boulders Beach
We arrived at the CapeTown airport after a two and a half hour ride with South African Airways. Except for “shaking well” my tomato juice drink as directed, the ride was uneventful, and I was thankful the 2 seats opposite were empty as I opened the newly pressurized can. We sped through customs and the Bidvest Car Rental station to Marylou’s newfound love, the GPS. The accuracy of those things is astounding, and we never heard “recalculating” or “make a legal u-turn” during the 3 days of cruising the Western Cape with the Stellenbosch wine region as our home base.
The accommodations at Majeka House were 5 star, and we were given a small suite off a private pool, shared only with the pool cleaner and one empty room. We were about 10 minutes to the historical town, so we first visited Stellenbosch to see the Sunday life, with antique car rallies, outdoor restauants, shopping and the botanical gardens. Aside from the parking “assistants” who gave little assisance but insisted on a donation to guarantee safety of your car (we vacated in favour of a more distant spot), and aside from the double teaming ATM “assistants” who insisted that your ATM card needed to be re-inserted after your transaction was complete, (we said we were not born yesterday, and they seemed to instinctively know that), we had a nice visit.
We drove up into the hills past a multitude of first class wineries, and targeted the highly recommended and expansive Tokara Winery, with its’ restaurant and tasting room on a hillside to give maximum viewpoints. Lunch was first class, and reasonable, as was the wine. And to top it all off, Marylou enjoyed a walk through the olive orchards amidst grape vines, a great combination of crops, in her mind.
The next day, from Majeka House, we set the GPS and easily travelled to Cape of Good Hope (about 1 hour 40 minutes), but we also stopped along the way for scenic memories, like Simon’s Town on the Coast, and shortly after, Boulders Beach, aptly named. A small fee later and we were walking the boardwalk that led to a major colony of penguins.
We continued on our way for just another 35 minutes to the Cape of Good Hope, its Funicular ride to the lighthouse, and the fabulous Two Oceans seafood restaurant. We learned that there are two capes, including Cape Point, but both are visible and walkable without difficulty. Historians must love this visit, and likely have intimate knowledge of each shipwreck.