Early November Trip report, Okavango and Linyanti part 1
This was our 4th trip to Africa and our second time in Botswana. It was the first time in Africa for our daughter and her partner. Previous trips had all been in various types of lodges/tented camps with the smallest being the 3 tent Footsteps in the Delta camp (Ker & Downey). For this trip I wanted to do a mix of mobile safari and camps and our itinerary ended up being 12 days sorted as
7 nights/ days mobile safari with Letaka Safaris , 3 nights Moremi, 4 nights Khwai
3 nights Footsteps in the Delta ( K&D)
2 nights Selinda , Linyanti area ..previously Wilderness camp, now Great Plains Conservation.
By booking in early November we were able to take advantage of reduced season rates. We did a private mobile safari for our first 7 days/nights, then at the Footsteps camp there are only 3 tents so almost like private..and finally Selinda which accommodates about 18 people and was not full when we were there.
The rain was non existent with the exception of a great thunderstorm one morning and I would definitely go again at this time. Weather was hot but not unbearable and a welcome change from the rain here in BC!
This was the best guiding we have ever experienced in our 4 trips. Our guide, Pat, is also a photographer and he worked tirelessly to give us good sightings as well as good positioning. We flew from Maun into Xanakaxa air strip where we were met by Pat. From almost the first moment we headed out we were seeing wonderful animal and bird life. While Letaka appear to be birding specialists the focus was on all wild life, tracking and a complete integration/explanation of the environment. Our camp at Moremi was by a watering hole. Tents were comfortable and outdoor bathroom( attached) worked very well. Hot water for bucket showers was available when ever we wanted..because of the heat we actually found that “air temp” water warmed up enough and also gave us the option of a cool shower. Food was simple but well prepared and the cakes and homemade bread baked by Pula, our chef, were delectable.
Animal sightings included lion, zebra, elephant, impala, warthog, jackal and leopard.....on our first afternoon drive! The 2 full days in Moremi brought us a wealth of elephants, giraffe, baboons, more lions, cape buffalo, vervet monkeys, zebra, impala and birds galore.
After 3 nights in Moremi we drove to the Khwai concession passing through the small village at Khwai. Stopped for a picnic lunch in the shade and spotted a lion having her afternoon nap as well. Encountered a number of giraffe and a large group of elephants having their late afternoon drink at the river plus some beautiful ponds and scenery.
Arrived in Khwai to a large campsite ..then off to check out the 2 lioness and 6 cubs that had shown up that afternoon in the concession.
Our first morning in Khwai proved to be quite exciting and nerve wracking. Started out early and found the family lion group of 2 moms, 6 cubs. They were enjoying the morning sun, playing, yawning, stretching and generally behaving as if they had no cares...over the radio we got news from one of the other vehicles that 3 unknown males were in the concession...and only about 1/2 mile away! Great consternation as these unknown males will kill the cubs if they come on them. Drove off to find the males and they were 3 fine big boys.. looking very fierce. The wind changed and they scented the females and they were off. Even though they weren’t running they made rapid progress and really did strike fear into us for the cubs. A third vehicle had arrived and reported the females and cubs were on the move away from the males. We drove ahead as well to warn self-drive campers who were just having their morning coffee to get in their vehicles because of the lions on the move. Just as we got to our campsite things got very exciting. Pat was calling to our support team to get in the truck....and there was a cloud of dust as one of the females charged through our camp with a male hot on her heels. It appears that one female had taken the cubs ahead and the second female had doubled back and confronted the males. The male backed off and the female ran on and joined the cubs...we tracked them for about a mile as they moved non stop through the bush..the females kept the young ones on track, occasionally looking back but never stopping. They were obviously tired and panting but they continued on to the river crossing where we had seen them the night before. The largest female scouted out the crossing ( I’m assuming looking for crocs) and then the other herded the cubs together and they swam across the Khwai river and back to the Moremi concession...our last sighting of them was them with mud covered legs looking back to see if they were followed. The males drifted off later that day. None of the guides recognized the males so it was quite interesting to try and guess where they had come to..and where they went as we didn’t see them again. We were quite relieved that we didn’t witness the males confronting the females and cubs.
We didn’t expect much more out of the morning after this excitement but we immediately encountered a leopard sauntering down to the river for a drink..and from there we went on to find a pack of 17 wild dogs! What a morning.....
Over our 3 full days we were fortunate to find 2 packs of dogs in Khwai, one with younger pups and a smaller pack with older pups that had been out of the area for awhile and had just returned.
Our afternoon brought hippos, waterbuck, reedbuck, elephants, zebra and a jackal..plus again beautiful birds and scenery. That evening we stayed out after sundowners and did some stargazing. Pat knew all the constellations ( aided by his smart phone app in some cases) and did a wonderful job of showing us the southern skies. A special treat for our daughter was seeing “her” constellation Scorpio as it was her birthday while we were on the trip. Later sitting by the camp fire a hyena actually walked right up to the chair I had just vacated..giving my husband a bit of a start to say the least.
The next morning there were no lions but we did have a leopard with a large cub, up a tree with a kill....we were joking that we couldn’t have asked for more when we encountered the second dog pack. Spent a lot of time just watching them interact. They decided to chase some kudu that wandered by but their efforts were halfhearted as they’d just eaten. It was interesting to see them go into a crouch, signal and then off on the chase.
The remainder of our time with Pat and Letaka Safaris was more of the same...elephants, wild dogs, zebra, giraffe, birds, crocodiles, impala.. a “more of the same” that we never tired of!
Our third morning we did a walk to check out plants, tracks, termite mounds and other neat things that can’t be seen from a vehicle.
Our last morning drive over to the Khwai airstrip was eventful as well...in an almost surreal manner. We stopped at a fair size watering hole where there were some zebra and a group of giraffe drinking with caution as they kept and eye on the dogs that were over to one side lazing under the trees..a wildebeast was there, a jackal wandered by, an elephant went right in and then a herd of sable, 10 of them to be exact, came out of the bush and marched down to drink! We truly were in awe of the variety of wild life we saw in such a short time.
All in all I can say that the team at Letaka Safari not only met our expectations they gave us a family trip full of memories that we’ll treasure. We were on the go but we also had time n the hot afternoon to read, journal write, and sort through photos. If we were interested in something we stayed as long as we wanted. We examined tiny water plants, animal tracks, dung, seeds, leaves and dragon flies. We really felt like time was suspended.
The rest of our trip was at the K&D camp “Footsteps in the Delta” for 3 nights and then a flight to Selinda for 2 nights. Will write a separate report...and hope to be able to link a few photos if I can sort the technology!