Last time I checked in we had been staying in a lodge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe before moving on to a resort in the Chobe National Park, Botswana. We had seen a wide a wide array of wildlife in those two locations, including lions, elephants, giraffes, and hippos, but that would all pale in comparison to our final two stops in Botswana, the first of which, again according to our itinerary by Jess Miller, our travel consultant at RedFoot Safaris, would be:
Day 9-10: Kadizora Camp, Ng12 Concession (Sun, 3 July to Mon, 4 July)
The Mapula and Sekwana Concession, also known as NG12 (an acronym for the broader Ngamiland) is situated north of the breathtaking Okavango Delta, spreading out over 220,000 acres, and is accessible via a 45-minute light aircraft trip from Maun. This Community Concession boasts magnificent delta landscapes, as well as mopane woodlands. In the southern part of the park, visitors will be able to see prolific birdlife (African paradise flycatcher, Carmine bee- eaters, and the endangered wattled crane) as well as giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, lions, wild dogs, and numerous antelope species. A range of guided tours and game drives are on offer. Several villages are encompassed by the concession, and the local communities work in conjunction with NG12 management to sustain the beautiful natural area.
Overnight: Kadizora Camp
The northern areas of the delta feature larger expanses of savannahs punctuated by lagoons and tributaries, and it is on the banks of one of these that a magnificent site has been selected for Kadizora Camp. Beneath a majestic stand of trees and along a peninsula, commanding uninterrupted panoramic vistas of the delta, the camp has been set out to afford each luxury tent absolute privacy.
Kadizora presents 9 Luxury Tents and 4 Standard Tents, each with generous living spaces, and surrounded by sophisticated furnishing, making time between exciting wildlife experiences comfortable and tranquil. In addition to game drives in open vehicle, mokoro excursions, boating (during rainy season) and fishing, we will provide the ideal position from which to explore the endless flow of rivers and tributaries, this tranquil experience permits close encounters with an abundance of bird and wildlife. The camp is reached after a short 40 minute flight from Maun, and Maun is connected to the major hubs in South Africa and Zimbabwe making access relatively seamless.
Sunday, July 3, 2022
We got up and were driven to the airstrip where we discovered that the part about a 40-minute flight definitely wasn’t going to be just any light aircraft trip. We arrived at the tiny airstrip at 11:30am on a windy morning and were soon aboard our chariot to the skies, a 12-seater, single propellor aeroplane and it was tiny. We were only allowed 20kg (44lb) of luggage each in soft bags, because there was extremely limited storage space and it all really had to be stuffed in wherever it would fit. The situation really wasn’t that much different for the passengers either, because I could barely fit when I crouched as much as I could to get into a seat, it was even difficult just getting down the aisle. Once crammed into our miniscule seats and after a very wobbly and sudden take off, another thing I never realised was that this 40-minute flight would include multiple stops on remote runways where the terminal was a shed and in some cases it was a person’s duty to clear the tarmac of warthogs as the plane was coming in. It was a little nerve-racking at first, but after another take off or two on our various stops we were fine and it was a good thing too, because we would be taking a few more of these flights:
Once we had landed we were in the Ngamiland district of Botswana and more importantly the Okavango Delta where we would be staying for a couple of days:
The Okavango Delta (or Okavango Grassland) (formerly spelled “Okovango” or “Okovanggo”) in Botswana is a swampy inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough at an altitude of 930–1,000 m in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. All the water reaching the delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year, about 11 cubic kilometres (2.6 cu mi) of water spreads over the 6,000–15,000 km2 (2,300–5,800 sq mi) area. Some flood waters drain into Lake Ngami. The area was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that had mostly dried up by the early Holocene.
The Moremi Game Reserve, a National Park, is on the eastern side of the delta. The delta was named as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, which were officially declared on 11 February 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania. On 22 June 2014, the Okavango Delta became the 1000th site to be officially inscribed on the UNESCOWorld Heritage List.
We were picked up from the airport and after about 30 minutes we were at our new Botswanan abode, Kadizora Camp, where we were greeted once more by the staff singing and dancing. The description of the camp stated that we would be staying in a tent, but I knew that wouldn’t really be the case, because, besides the time we camped up in the Andes in Peru and when we got a Wicked Camper in Melbourne, Australia that was full of fleas and devoid of a third gear, Anna has never roughed it, she only does glamping. Our enormous room was predominantly canvas and moored by ropes and wood so I guess it would technically qualify as a “tent”, but it also had a twin bathroom and a clawfoot bathtub. See for yourself:
So, what could we expect to see out here that we hadn’t already encountered on this trip? Well, according to Wikipedia:
The Okavango Delta is both a permanent and seasonal home to a wide variety of wildlife which is now a popular tourist attraction. All of the big five game animals—the lion, leopard, African buffalo, African bush elephant and rhinoceros (both black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros)—are present.
Other species include giraffe, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, hippopotamus, impala, common eland, greater kudu, sable antelope, roan antelope, lechwe, waterbuck, sitatunga, tsessebe, cheetah, African wild dog, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, caracal, serval, aardvark, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, African savanna hare, honey badger, crested porcupine, common warthog, chacma baboon, vervet monkey and Nile crocodile.
That’s a lot of new possibilities (in bold) we could potentially cross paths with here and that isn’t even including the birds! Another good thing about the camping leg of our safari is that we would be going out not only in the morning, but often in the evening as well so once we were there we jumped in another 4WD with poor suspension and checked out the surroundings. Our guide for the Delta, OC, must have had a sixth, possibly seventh sense for being able to track down animals while we were driving, whether it be by scent, track, or even droppings, because over the next couple of days we would see almost all of the good stuff. Not only that, but he was exceptionally knowledgable, telling us easy ways to identify between the sexes of different species among other things. That particular afternoon and evening, besides the regulars we also got to see (and using the correct collective nouns for my own amusement) multiple dazzles of zebras, confusions of wildebeests, hyenas, and porcupines, but it was when we were back at the tent that we made one of the biggest discoveries.
When we returned to camp we were kicking back and chatting with some other people who were staying there, as well as the owner and some staff before we had dinner, when a relatively small elephant approached us through a gap in the fence. All was fine when we went over to take a closer look, Anna even getting a decent photo with it, but it was when my time came to pose out that our pachyderm friend decided to punch me rather hard in the arm with its trunk. I guess I may have got a little too close on this occasion, but at least now I can brag that I’ve been socked by an elephant. Soon after we had dinner and more of a chat, but we couldn’t hang out for long, because another early morning awaited so we walked back from the common area and that’s when I realised there was a python about two metres (6’7″) long coming out of a tree next to our tent. Somehow Anna didn’t even notice when I mentioned it, it was only when we got right up close that she let out a little shriek and got someone to move it out of the tree. A staff member came over with a pole with a hook on the end and was able to coax the python down onto the ground and it slowly slithered under our tent, leading the Dutch owner of the camp to ask me, “You have a python under your tent and you just got punched by an elephant. How are you going to top that tomorrow?”. I couldn’t give a definite answer, but I had a feeling we would. Needless to say I slept well that night, but I’m not sure I can say the same for Anna.
Here are some more videos and and photos, this time on the Okavango Delta:
Monday, July 4, 2022
I guess technically we got a bit of a sleep in compared to the previous two days, but you don’t really notice that extra 15 minutes when you still have to be up at 5:30am. However, before long we had put our tiredness behind us, because this ended up being one of the better days of our safari so far, starting out with seeing a pride of lions almost immediately, their eyes reflecting through the trees and scrub. Soon after our guide noticed some lion footprints on an old tire track on the ground, meaning that there were some in a clearing and it took about another hour to locate them. We had one approach our car when we were staying in Chobe National Park, but these lions looked a bit older and had some battle scars, one even with a large, metal tracking device around its neck. When we asked why, it was apparently because this particular lion had attacked somebody’s livestock so it was to monitor the animal and to be able to notify farmers if it was nearby so they could protect their herds.
After the lions we saw the standard elephants, giraffes, and impalas again, but we also stumbled upon some new species such as a black-backed jackal and ostriches. Seeing the ostriches would provide us with one of our more amusing moments, because we wanted to get up close to one to take a decent photo and the closest ostrich was walking near a zebra, however, our car must’ve startled that poor zebra, because it let out a very audible fart before sprinting away as we were approaching. We managed to get the ostrich photo while setting the scene for a humorous anecdote that I have relayed many times since.
Before returning to camp OC received a call from another vehicle stating that there was a cheetah sighting in the area so we weren’t going to miss an opportunity like that. Again, it took about an hour to track it down, but we eventually found its location, the cheetah just relaxing majestically on a rock before quietly strolling off.
In the afternoon we took a different approach; instead of getting back in the car we put on our ugly sun hats once more and had some other guides takes us out on the water in a mokoro, a type of traditional canoe that is propelled by a man standing in the stern pushing it along with a stick. We mainly just saw an array of birds as well as some incredibly beautiful flowers, plus the token elephants and hippopotamuses again as well. Upon return we had dinner, and then went back to our python-free tent for one last night at Kadizora Camp.
Some videos and photos from that Monday:
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
The next in a long line of exceptionally early mornings had presented itself so we went out for another drive before moving on to our next camp. We saw all of the usual suspects again and I have no idea how he managed to do it, but OC, who by this point seemed to be able to communicate telepathically with animals in order to find out their locations, managed to track down another incredible sight that morning; after noticing the tracks in the dust it took almost two hours to find it, but he brought us to a leopard. Generally leopard skin is thought of as pretty trashy among fashionistas, but it looks absolutely stunning when you see it on the animal up close. This spotty feline had recently been in a fight, because you could still see the blood and cuts on the right side of his face, but those battle wounds didn’t make him look any less superb.
We figured that when you’ve already found something that cool and you have a plane to catch, it’s time to pack it in so after completing our drive around the Delta our incredible guide took us to the airport, helped us chase some warthogs off the runway, and after several stops and a little over an hour later, we were at our next home for a few nights, again according to our itinerary:
Day 11-13: Lagoon, Kwando River (Tue, 5 July to Thu, 7 July)
Meandering through the spectacular Caprivi Strip in northwest Namibia, the Kwando River rises from the central Angolan highlands forming the boundary between Namibia, Zambia and Angola. The area surrounding the Kwando River is known for its protected game reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. It offers excellent game viewing with the perennial waters of the river attracting plentiful wildlife including large herds of elephant, hippos, crocodiles, red lechwe, turtles, zebra, impala, spotted-necked otters and over 400 species of bird. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing stay at one of the many lodges set on the banks of the river and soak up the spectacular views of wild Africa. Popular activities include: game viewing, bird watching, fishing, and camping.
Lagoon camp lies on the shady banks of the Kwando River, nestled beneath towering ebony and marula trees. The densely forested site is home to a wide variety of birds and mammals; the stunning views and close proximity of wildlife all contribute to the pervading sense of calm. The area has a well-earned reputation for big game with seasonal large herds of elephant and buffalo. In the winter herds of up to a thousand are not uncommon and large numbers of elephant drink at the river bank in full view of the main camp deck. This vast concentration of game attracts the attention of large predators, including the Lagoon wild dog pack who regularly den close to the camp. A highlight is also the afternoon boat cruise and seasonal fishing is also available.
The camp has eight expansive tents all with private decks, living area and bathroom facing onto the river. All have inside and outdoor showers and one tent includes an additional twin room for family use. The main thatched areas of the camp include a bar/lounge, dining area, curio shop and second-level library overlooking the river. The camp also has a plunge pool and outdoor deck with a swing.
We thought the previous camp was a little decadent, but this one may have even been more so! Once we were settled in we were taken for a look around the general area, then on an evening drive where we spotted another couple of lions among the regular creatures, before returning to camp for dinner and yet another birthday cake for Anna, but each time we wanted to move either to our tent or from it to another area of the camp such as reception or the dining area while it was dark, we needed to be chaperoned by one of the guides due to the sheer amount of dangerous animals that could enter the camp.
Some videos and pictures of the leopard from that morning, plus some around our new camp (I didn’t bother with the lions, because there’s plenty more of them soon:
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Now that we were in our new camp there was a mixture of feelings; we didn’t need to be chaperoned out to the main dining area for breakfast with the other guests until 6:15am, which meant that we could sleep in until 5:45! On the other hand we had been squeezing onto small aeroplanes and spending around five hours a day, sometimes both in the morning and evening, for the past five days in old, unmaintained 4WDs, either bouncing around on bumpy, pothole-covered dirt roads or veering off in any direction over rough terrain so seek out any variety of fauna and my back was now sheer agony. It was impossible to get comfortable at all, let alone find an effective way to get the pain to subside, and now we had a couple more days where we would be doing exactly that again, but this time for longer periods and confirmed twice per day. Just getting from the camp to where there would be any animals was about an hour-long drive and I was now at the stage where I had to either prop myself up with my hands or hold onto the bar above me and hoist myself up a little so nothing else was touching the seat just to take the pressure off my back. Don’t get me wrong, the pain was definitely all worth it in the end for a once in a lifetime experience and I would do it all again the same way in a heartbeat, but when you’re running on very little sleep and everything from your lower back and down through your buttocks is a constant combination of excruciating aches, stabbing twinges, and spasms that compound with every bump, you begin to think that maybe just a day off to rest and recover might be kind of nice. Still, we were going down the dirt track again, this time in the Ngamiland West subdistrict of North-West Ngamiland, Botswana.
Our ride from this camp was a slightly different setup, the 4WD was equipped with a seat attached to the front of the bonnet where a guide, Vinnie, would sit with a torch and see what he could spot while our other guide, Ike, kept a lookout as well while he drove. That day on both the morning and evening drives we saw all of the customary audience once more, but one new thing we encountered was what at one point seemed like hundreds of vultures and eagles circling, but we never located what they were actually looking for. Not yet, anyway. There were a few old elephant and hippopotamus skulls on the ground (the elephant skulls with the tusks removed by proper officials in an effort deter poachers), but they definitely weren’t what the birds were interested in. However, a brief, yet intimidating moment was when we encountered a large male elephant on musth:
Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull (male) elephants characterised by highly aggressive behaviour and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones.
Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be on average 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times (in specific individuals these testosterone levels can even reach as much as 140 times the normal). However, whether this hormonal surge is the sole cause of musth, or merely a contributing factor, is unknown.
Scientific investigation of musth is problematic because even the most placid elephants become highly violent toward humans and other elephants during musth.
Now to elaborate on the whole becoming “highly violent toward humans and other elephants” aspect, here’s a little information about the behaviour of elephants while on musth:
Musth is linked to sexual arousal or establishing dominance, but this relationship is far from clear. Wild bulls in musth often produce a characteristic low, pulsating rumbling noise (known as “musth rumble”) which can be heard by other elephants for considerable distances. The rumble has been shown to prompt not only attraction in the form of reply vocalisations from cows in heat, but also silent avoidance behaviour from other bulls (particularly juveniles) and non-receptive females, suggesting an evolutionary benefit to advertising the musth state.
Cases of rogue elephants randomly attacking native villages or goring and killing rhinoceroses without provocation in national parks in Africa have been documented and attributed to musth in young male elephants, especially those growing in the absence of older males. Studies show that reintroducing older males into the elephant population of the area seems to prevent younger males from entering musth, and therefore, stop this aggressive behaviour.
The particularly large pachyderm we encountered was displaying all of the signs, particularly the rumbling and aggressive behaviour, as well as its junk swinging around and secreting as it ran. I tried to film him, but wasn’t able to catch a whole lot as we decided it would be best to get away from him posthaste!
Upon our eventual return to the camp, I don’t think there were any other guests remaining so we were treated to a private, candle-lit dinner in our tent, where we reflected on our day of circling vultures and horny elephants over another great meal:
Thursday, July 7, 2022
We were on our last day of our safari and when you go on an adventure like this, it’s best to go out with a bang and that’s exactly what happened. Yes, my spine and everything in its general vicinity still hated me, but it was only one more day so we were up at 5:45am again, had breakfast, and back in the 4WD for another exceedingly bumpy and painful journey out into the wilderness. Beside a bat-eared fox, we didn’t encounter anything new, but the vultures and eagles were still circling so when we drove past a jackal with the side ripped out of it we thought we had found the reason why. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
After having lunch and trying to stretch out on the bed we were once again in the 4WD at about 4:00pm and didn’t really see much besides more jackals, impalas, and some wildebeests feeding, but one thing was different — The birds were no longer circling, they were all in trees in the same particular area. We drove in the general direction of the trees and as we did so we encountered a lioness, and then another, and another. Some were just walking around, others were laying in the grass, and one in particular was laying on the dirt path, blocking our way until it eventually moved enough for us to be able to veer around it and proceed and that’s when we hit the mother-load. We could sort of detect a bad odour in the air and almost immediately found ourselves next to a lion feasting on what remained of a rotting hippopotamus carcass. The lion would occasionally pull at the legs of the carcass, but mostly lick it, our guides telling us it was in an effort to soften the skin, because the hippopotamus had been dead for somewhere between four to seven days. The grassy contents of the hippo’s stomach were strewn over the ground and the smell was awful, but it was when we pulled around to the another side to catch it from a different angle that it got truly horrendous, because we were now very close to, and downwind from, a rancid, decomposing hippo carcass and its half-digested final meal spread out beside it. There was also a bit of a miscommunication between myself, Ike, and Vinnie, because they kept our vehicle in the same position as I filmed the feast while Anna was gagging due to the putrid stench, yet I was only continuing to film due to us being in that spot. All the while I had been completely content with driving away from the general proximity of the funk of a decaying hippo and its fetid last supper so when we came to the realisation that there had been a bit of a misunderstanding amongst myself and the guides we moved on. As we drove away in a different direction from the all-you-can-eat, week-old, deceased hippopotamus buffet we passed more and more lionesses waiting for their feed, but soon the worst possible scenario became a reality; we ran out of fuel. These vehicles have a secondary fuel tank, but more than likely due to a lack of use or servicing, our car was unable to connect to it and now we were completely stranded about an hour and a half drive away from our camp with a pride of lions nearby. Ike radioed back to the camp to tell them our situation and we waited for the fuel to come, but it was getting dark and our potential predators were getting harder and harder to see. Several times we shone a light into the darkness only to see a sea of eyes reflect back, but fortunately they were mostly impalas. After about two hours a car carrying our fuel found us so we filled the tank and got our of there, arriving back at the camp about 90 minutes later, much to our relief.
This time I’m going to mix it up a bit for dramatic effect, first the photos first and then the videos of the last day of our safari. Just a word of warning, if you have a weak stomach, you may just want to keep scrolling past this section, especially the videos:
Friday, July 8, 2022
The day was here where we would finally get to sleep in! We were leaving Botswana, our African adventure was almost at an end and again we had to take a small plane and make several stops at almost non-existent airports again before we could return to Cape Town, South Africa. I donned my t-shirt that consisted of a map of the African continent made entirely out of QR codes so when anyone tried too long to take my photo with a phone it would attempt to open the video for ‘Africa’ by Toto, a song we had both had stuck in our collective heads this entire journey, and by mid-afternoon we were back at the V&A Waterfront Hotel, the same place we stayed when we had begun this journey almost two weeks earlier.
I mentioned when we first arrived in South Africa that it was my goal to eat a smiley while we were there. During that time we had spent in Cape Town at the beginning, we had really only eaten at more westernised African restaurants so we figured we’d have a better chance if we found somewhere more traditional, yet still near our hotel so we discovered Pitso’s Kitchen for dinner, a place that had smileys on the menu, but unfortunately they had run out when we arrived. Instead we ordered the chicken feet and braised beef tripe among other dishes before we hit the town. After our much needed sleep in that morning and also now devoid of jet-lag, we were finally able to enjoy a normal night out in Cape Town, one that just happened to be on a Friday so we went to several of the bars on the Waterfront, had some drinks, and Anna found herself dancing in my jacket with some of the locals under the heat-lamps on another freezing night, followed by a full night’s sleep, a perfect way to wrap up our African safari adventure:
Despite our hellish overnight flight home that consisted of more than ten hours of the ear-piercing screaming, crying, and laughing of three young children while they kicked the back of our seats the entire way, our safari was by far one of the coolest times of mine and Anna’s lives. We might not have got see to the elusive white rhino, or any rhinoceroses for that matter, but what we did encounter were creatures I never once believed I would get to see outside of a zoo and I also never thought I would find myself in an environment where there were turds at least the size of bowling balls everywhere! A big thank you to Jess Miller at RedFoot Safaris for putting this all together for us over two years ago and then making sure all of our bookings were still in place when we were finally able to travel again. Also, a big shout out to our mate, Guy Cawood, for putting us in touch with Jess and also providing all of the tips for South Africa. Anna’s begun researching another African journey already, this time further up north in the hope of seeing some gorillas.