Jeff and Lise,
We are sorry to report that we are home. We are thrilled to report that every aspect of the trip was amazing. I am in the process of downloading photos as we write this and can’t wait to go through them and relive every minute. We can’t thank you enough for the superb job you both did in putting this trip together, staying on top of everything, making sure we were well informed as to what we would need and what we should expect. With all the changes in venues and connections that needed to be made there was not even close to a blip along the way after the first SAA excitement. Jeff we can’t thank you enough for being on top of the flight change information and Lise getting us picked up and taken to our J’burg lodgings on short notice was much appreciated. Although leaving a day early was a bit of challenge it was well worth it and we appreciated the time to acclimate our bodies to the time change.
Lion Sands was spectacular. We saw Zebras, Rhinos and Warthogs from the time we turned off the road on to the property. Every aspect of our stay was first rate. The staff was wonderful, the room beautiful and food superb. We were really getting used to having a butler to look after our needs, we were sorry to leave Jeffery behind. Our ranger Simon was amazing. He was literally born on the property before his family was moved to create the park and he knows every inch of it. His knowledge of where the different animals would be and his anecdotes about them and their habits made our game rides exciting and informative. Our tracker was Levi, Simon’s nephew and together they were able to show us the big five in the first 24 hours. The great thing about being on a private reserve was that there were fewer vehicles around and the rangers had much more freedom to pursue game off the regular trails. This really allowed us to get up close and personal with all of them, including having a leopard snag a rabbit within feet of our vehicle. Heart stopping to say the least. On our last game ride, we put in a request to see Zebras and Simon knew what grass they preferred to eat and went to that location. As if on cue a group of Zebras appeared in the distance, grazed their way across the road right in front of us and headed into the woods. Simon anticipated their next stop and drove to a water hole where the Zebra’s appeared and stopped for a drink. This was followed up by a week old baby rhino sighting. That was quite something. Simon also introduced us to Amarulo on one of our game drives and we were hooked for the rest of the trip. If we had to leave Africa at that point we would have been quite satisfied.
Lise your advice/insistence that if we were coming to Africa we needed to see Victoria Falls was spot on. Although it made for an interesting array of travel connections the brief stop at VF was breathtaking. Our pictures, as beautiful as they are, don’t capture the awesomeness of the site, sound and spray. We would have made a huge mistake in not seeing this natural wonder if you had not given us the proper nudge. The travel for the day that included, cars, planes and boats was amazingly flawless. Seasons in Africa in South Africa and Bushtracks Africa in Zambia and Botswana were on time, informative and friendly. The people from Bushtracks did a great job of the tour of the Falls and were extremely helpful in getting us through the immigration transfers from Zambia to Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge is a bit of a misnomer. It really is a luxury hotel. Again the staff was wonderful and the food terrific. The room was wonderful also. The one downside is that it really is a bit too big. The number of vehicles from there and other local tour groups makes game viewing a bit too congested and competitive to really soak it in. The restrictions of being in a National Park make getting close to some animals impossible. That being said we saw the cutest baby leopard up a tree, tons of elephants and we got great shots of a huge crocodile and a pod of hippos. The chance to watch Giraffes drink was worth the trip alone. Chobe has all female guides and ours proved to be as knowledgeable, friendly and outgoing as any of the ones we had on our trip.
We knew things were going to get a bit less formal from there when our pilot from Safari Air greeted us at Kasane Airport. Mark looked to be about 18 and was dressed in shorts, sneakers and a baseball cap. We knew we weren’t in New York any longer. Our six seat Cessna flight to the Okavanga Delta ended on a grass airfield with Elephants grazing along the side. Amazing. We were greeted by Johnson, our young guide for our stay at Camp Okavanga. We took about a 40 minute boat ride through the Delta, seeing birds and a baby crocodile. We still don’t know how the guides can tell which path through the papyrus to take but they were flawless. The island setting and smaller venue make Camp Okavanga a much more intimate experience. The management staff, Robin, Monica, John and Kelly made us feel like family and they spent a great deal of time interacting with all of us at meal times or just sitting around the fire after dinner. Our luxury tent was just that. It was great. The food and wine again were wonderful. We were introduced to the term “Bush Babies” for our hot water bottles for morning boat rides and bedtime. They were a really nice touch. On our first afternoon we took a Mokoro trip around the Delta. That was a nice relief from the bouncing of game tracking jeeps. The game activities at Okavanga are by boat and on foot. We saw a small variety of game, adding the Red Lechwe Antelope to our list of animals sited. The walking safaris were a great change and we were able to enjoy knowledge of the guides in the areas of plant life, birds and animal behavior. I think if this had been our first camp we would have been more concerned by the lack of game, but coming in the middle it was a great change up.
Safari Air again picked us up right on time and we returned to the Chobe National park and the Savute Safari Lodge. Like the other Desert & Delta camps we stayed at the staff was wonderful. Ollie, Candy, Fred and BK were so friendly. Like in all the other camps when we returned from game drives we were met with warm wet towels and wide smiles. It just makes you feel great. Savute’s location is amazing. Sitting on the edge of the newly flowing channel and with the much desired water hole just off the dining porch it was a wonderfully entertaining place to hang out. We were mesmerized by the behavior of the Elephants that were constant visitors to the water hole. We were that last ones to bed every night as we just couldn’t stop watching the interaction of the various herds. We think everyone should see this. The accommodations, food and service were again flawless. We will be working off the extra pounds we put on for many weeks to come.
Our guide while in Savute was Baba. Much like Simon from Lion Sands, Baba proved to be a tremendous guide. We enjoyed his knowledge, sense of humor and insight into the changing life in modern Botswana. We took some of the most amazing photographs of Leopards and Lions here. That coupled with the Elephant show should make the Savute Safari Lodge and must stop for everyone going to Africa.
We were sorry to have to head home, but again the connections from Savute to Maun and then to J’burg were right on time. We can’t thank you enough for putting this package together for us. It was flawless every step of the way. The staffs everywhere were extraordinary and we ended up exchanging emails with several of our safari mates from various continents around the world. That was an unanticipated bonus.
Please feel free to use us as a reference for anyone planning a trip to Africa. We went in to this thinking it was a once in a lifetime experience and now we are trying to figure out when we can go back. We hope it is sooner rather than later.
Jim and Elizabeth