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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Botswana

I never in my life thought I'd visit Botswana. Nothing against Botswana but before I found out that we'd be living in Africa I never gave Botswana (or any African country) much thought. If you had asked me back then to list what I knew about Africa I probably would have said Boko Haram, starving kids with swollen bellies and good wine from Cape Town. 

Now that we live here we are trying to visit as much of the continent as possible. It's not easy to travel as much as we would like because unfortunately one of us has to go to work. Just as Africa is so much more the things I mentioned above, it's also so much more than  Johannesburg and it's important for us to see as much as we can.

Mr. Deep is the one who said that we must visit Botswana and specifically the Okavango Delta. He knew about it from watching nature shows which he has been watching since the days of Wild Kingdom.

What makes the Okavango Delta special is that each year heavy rains in Angola cause the Okavango River to flood and a massive amount of of water pours into the Kalahari Desert. The water attracts all kinds of wildlife. Eventually the water evaporates and recedes until the flooding begins again.

Leading up to the trip there were some tough decisions to make. First, do we or do we not take malaria pills? We filled the script but then decided against taking them. Then, I ran into a friend who had just returned from the same area and said it was very wet and full of mosquitoes. Deciding to take the pills is a big deal because you take a pill once a day starting the day before the trip begins and continue for seven days after the trip ends. Meaning you start taking the pills before you have the chance to assess the mosquito situation and once you start taking them there is no going back unless you want to create the malaria andromeda strain which I don't. Second, what to bring? Due to flying on very (very) small charter planes the luggage allowance per person was only 20kgs/44 pounds. You may think that sounds like a lot but when you have a camera with lots of lenses and a few pairs of shoes, the weight adds up quickly. 

I'm purposely telling you we had to pack light because as you view the photos from our trip you might wonder why we are wearing the same clothes in all the photos. This especially applies to one of us who can be seen repeatedly wearing a green flannel that he has owned since the late 90's. 

We downed our pills, minimally packed our bags and flew, on a regular size plane, from Johannesburg to Maun, Botswana. This was a short flight of only an hour plus. In Maun, we were led out to the airstrip by Anthony who was to be our pilot for the next leg to Chitabe. We boarded a small ten seater plane for the 20 minute flight. We flew low and could see giraffe and elephants from the plane. Even though there were other people on our plane we were the only two passengers heading to Chitabe camp.The plane landed on an airstrip in the middle of nowhere. No airport, no building, no tower, no nothing. Just a long strip of sand. We were picked up in an open air safari vehicle and driven about 35 minutes to the Chitabe Camp operated by Wilderness Safaris. Thompson, one of the managers at the camp met us, showed us the camp and took us to our luxury tent. 

The camp is small and only has about five luxury tents accommodating about 10-15 guests at a time. There are no fences or walls around the camp so we were instructed not to walk alone to and from dinner or in the morning while it was still dark. This meant that our guide had to come and collect us for dinner and breakfast. I guess this rule is meant to protect guests who are innocently making their way to dinner from running into a leopard, lion or angry elephant. We were told that during daylight hours we were free to walk around alone because apparently in the daytime you can easily spot a leopard in your path and simply turn around and calmly walk the other way.  Just to prove they were not joking about safety, each room was equipped with an air horn that we were instructed to blast four times in case of emergency. There were no phones and also no cell phone service so I guess the air horn is preferable to just screaming at the top of your lungs as you are being mauled.  After turn down service, I noticed that the staff moved the air horn right next to our bed. 

In the tent, the walls were canvas like a tent but the floors, windows, bed, bathroom were all real as they would be in real lodge room. There was electricity and solar heated hot water. During the day the batteries that run everything at the camp were charged by the sun and then at night the camp runs solely on battery power. Because of this we could only use the outlets for charging things and for lights. No hair dryers and (gasp) no hair straighteners. So not only will I be wearing the same clothes over and over in the photos but my hair will be looking larger as the posts go on. Laundry service was included and was done by the staff by hand.

Shortly after arriving it was time to go out on our first game drive. We got into the vehicle and met our guide, BB, as well as two other couples one from LA and one from NYC. Americans...we are everywhere. 

We began our game drive and wouldn't you know it one of the first things we saw was a snake. Not just any snake but something called a puff adder which apparently can kill you just by looking at you. I actually wasn't that scared because a) I am brave now and b) I was way up high in the vehicle and quite safe. But, when writing this post and looking at the photos, I was quite creeped when I had to crop the photo of the snake and it was huge on my computer screen. Yuck! 
Small plane to Chitabe
View from the plane
The air strip
Our pilot Anthony

Driving to Chitabe Camp
Mr. Deep practicing a mock emergency with the air horn
The lodge at Chitabe
Ugh!
Because I want you to feel like were there with me
BB our guide at Chitabe. The man knows everything about plants and animals!
Eagle owl. You can tell the type of owl by the pink eyelids.
Leopard sightings on the first day
More to come about Chitabe in my next post. Here is a preview.









5 comments:

  1. Awesome. Love, love Botswana! Like you, I would never have thought of going before living in Africa. And like you I absolutely loved it. Oh, and you got to see a Leopard the first day! My favorites are the air pictures of the Okavango Delta. I have some really good ones too. And don't you love the little cafe across from the airport in Maun? In fact, I just read a Wilbur-Smith type book (by Tony Park, not Wilbur Smith, but similarly unrealistic writing:-) and that cafe, Bonne Arrivee I think it's called, was featured in it.

    By the way, are you sure that picture is of a puff adder? It looks very much like a python to me...

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    Replies
    1. We weren't in Maun for any length of time so we didn't get to check out the cafe. Next time! Our guide said the snake was a puff adder but I could google it and compare photos of puff adders and pythons except that I can't....due to my snake phobia. Glad you are enjoying these posts. Lots more Botswana to come and then next up Zambia. :)

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  2. That is certainly a puff adder. Bites are common because they let you get close and strike without warning.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can gain the knowledge from your site about safari and tour which is really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing valuable information.

    private safaris Kenya  

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for reading my blog and for your comment. I highly recommend Wilderness Safaris which is the company we used for our Botswana trip.

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.