Category Archives: Botswana

Okavango

For the benefit of anyone reading this for advice on planning your own Botswana safari, let me start off by saying that we would not recommend Camp Okavango. While the experience was fine – lovely even – it’s less of a classic safari experience and more of one geared towards “relaxation.” For the amount of money it costs to “relax” here, you could do any one of hundreds of truly relaxing activities. My two cents: spend that money relaxing in Tahiti. My idea of relaxation is not waking up at 5 am for a boat ride or a game viewing walk, nor sleeping in a non-air conditioned semi permanent structure (nice as it is) in the sweltering heat. It is by no means an unpleasant experience, just not the one I envisioned for my six short nights on safari in Botswana.

So what does Camp Okavango offer? Remoteness, for starters. The landing strip here is not even a dirt patch; it’s so infrequently trodden it is still largely covered in grass. Don’t worry, there is a unionized group of red lechwe that graze/mow for maintenance. And you don’t ever set foot in a car/truck/jeep here – even from the airport…you walk to camp. That’s pretty cool. Before we had even dropped our bags, we saw some baboons!

And unlike most safari lodges, you do not sit in a jeep for game viewing activities. Most such activities are water based. And with the water based activities you are not so much focused on game viewing as you are on maybe bird watching, spotting the occasional croc, and relaxing.

Our first night we partook in a fishing trip. It was certainly relaxing to hang out in this place of sublime beauty, knocking back a number of cold ones while we tried (largely in vain) to catch some supper. Alan won the prize of first catch of the day, and what a catch it was!

Rich then stepped in to show him how it’s done, with little improvement.

Then the pro showed up. Who has two thumbs and caught the only keeper among us? This girl. Not to toot my own horn or anything. 😉

Despite the poor performance on the actual fishing part, we enjoyed the spectacular sunset while we chased our afternoon brews with a G&T.

The next day we tried out another type of boating activity: a trip in the mokoro. These are traditional canoe-like vessels commonly used in the Okavango Delta. We floated along peacefully, admiring the millions of birds ranging from slate egrets, to spare wing geese, to malachite kingfishers and practically everything in between.

We particularly enjoyed these tiny reed frogs that change colors like a chameleon.

Our guide, Stagga, enjoyed them in a different way: as a snack. Just kidding, no frogs were harmed in the making of this post.

On our walk back to camp we were lucky to spot a few giraffes. They are even more graceful and impressive when viewed on foot from a distance of a few meters.

When not enjoying the water based activities, there are safari walks to be taken. Our first one was maybe a little underwhelming, kind of more akin to a glorified nature walk, but it was interesting to learn about some of the flora that tends to get ignored when you’re in the jeep searching for big cats. While you (hopefully) do not get as close to the fauna while on foot, the animals are not all that far away. We saw lots of red lechwe, even more birds, impala, baboons, some buffalo and elephants. We also happened upon a lot of warthogs. Fun fact: warthogs’ tails stick straight up in the air when they run. It’s adorable.

We ventured out a bit farther on our second walk in search of the hippo pool. Worth the distance, for sure. We saw a handful of hippos hanging out, and a humongous croc sliding in and out of the water to hang with the fatties.

From there we boarded our last of the tiny planes to fly back to Maun en route to Namibia!

Practical Info

Camp Okavango is in the heart of the Okavango Delta. There are no game drives here, just walking safaris and water based activities like fishing, motorboat rides and mokoro rides. This means that while the camp is relaxing and the staff are friendly, this is not the place to come if you’re after optimal big-game viewing. Please see our post on Savute Safari Lodge for more general info.

Transportation: We arrived on a seven-seat single-engine Cessna from Camp Moremi. The flight took about 15 minutes and we landed on a grass strip. It is a short walk from the landing strip into Camp Okavango.

We departed on an 11-seat Cessna for the half hour flight to Maun. From there, we took a much larger Air Botswana turbo-prop for the ~2 hour flight to Johannesburg, where we nearly missed our connecting flight on South African Airways to Windhoek, Namibia. There is a direct flight from Maun to Windhoek that left much later in the day. I’m not sure why we didn’t take that flight. It could’ve been sold out by the time we finalized our itinerary, or…

Accommodation: There are spacious permanent tents with en-suite facilities. As at Camp Moremi, each tent is on a raised teak platform and has canvas sides, a comfortable bed, etc. There is electricity (from a generator) in each tent during the day, but only battery power at night to provide enough light. So don’t forget to charge those camera batteries during your siesta break!

The property has a grassy lawn with a small pool. All meals are served in a thatch-roofed, open air dining space.

Food and Drinks: Hunger was not an issue. Breakfast is served at 6 am and is mainly cold fare, such as cereal, fruit, yogurt, excellent bread, juices, coffee, etc. Perhaps pancakes or crepes would be added. Brunch is around 11 am, and this includes a lunch buffet plus eggs cooked to order. Afternoon tea is at 3:30 pm, and there are always snacks. During the afternoon water excursion, sundowners are de rigeur. These take place around 6 pm (seasonally variable, I presume), where you imbibe a gin & tonic (or perhaps wine or beer) and have more snacks. Things like biltong (local jerky), cookies, chicken wings, whatever. Back at the lodge, pre-dinner cocktails with snacks are up around 7:30 pm. Dinner is at 8 pm, and this entails a plated appetizer plus a buffet and a plated dessert. In general, the breads were excellent and the food was very good. It was here that we first tasted the genius of Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree.

Activities: You can choose among (1) walking safaris on a nearby island, which are almost always done in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat; (2) motorboat rides where you see birds and possibly crocodiles, hippos, etc.; (3) mokoro rides which are punted and very peaceful; or (4) fishing. We did two walking safaris, one mokoro ride and one fishing trip. On the fishing trip, I got nothing to keep while Jenni caught a 6-8” bream that we enjoyed at dinner.

October 15-17, 2014 (Wednesday-Friday)

Moremi

Our next safari stop was Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve. This time we had to board a seriously small airplane. Six seats. Including the pilot! Our luggage barely fit, not to mention our bodies. I can’t say this leg was as pleasant as the one to Savute. My motion sickness did not jive with the world’s tiniest plane. I suppose our luck on the flight in was somewhat foretelling, as our game viewing at Moremi got off to a very slow start.

Case in point: we were maybe fifteen minutes into our first game drive when Grass, our guide, received a call on his radio from another guide that there was a leopard nearby. We turned around and the search was on. We got the teeniest tiniest glimpse of her, and Grass started maneuvering the jeep trying to get closer.

That’s when we got stuck. In an open-sided jeep, in a giant mud puddle, in the wilderness, with a leopard nearby. And maybe five minutes after we got stuck, another jeep from our camp got stuck just a few feet away from us! We had to wait for another, bigger jeep to come and drag us out of our respective ditches. I was really skeptical it was going to work, but by some miracle we all got out of there! And unmarred by leopards, no less. It wasn’t as scary as it all might sound, though I was legitimately fearful that we were going to miss the chance to spot a wild dog or a cheetah. Anyway, it made for a funny story and only took maybe a half an hour out of our game drive.

From there, however, the game viewing kind of dried up. Our guide supposed our bad luck was likely due to the strange weather we’d been having. Maybe so, because on the next couple of game drives we had hardly any big game sightings. A bit of a bummer, but that said, it gave us lots of time to slow down and really appreciate the scenery and some of the less “glamorous” animals.

There were, of course, the usuals like water buck, wildebeest and impala…

…elephants…

…those beautiful zebras…

…and loads of birds. All sorts like storks, ibises, egrets, herons, geese, ducks, bee-eaters, kingfishers, lilac-breasted rollers, hammerkops, hornbills, guinea fowl, African fish eagle, vultures, owls…

We even spotted an owl with a baby in her nest, and a mama vulture and baby in nest!

Plus, there were a lot of new animals in this area that don’t live near Savute, and thus were first time sightings for us. The biggest: hippos! We never got to see one fully exposed because they kept hiding in the water (again with our luck!), but you can get a sense for how rotund those bodacious babes are.

And the scariest: a big ‘ole crocodile!

One evening, while Ronnie and Rich went on a boat ride, Alan and I wound up getting a jeep all to ourselves and taking a private game drive. It was super relaxing, and – dare I say – maybe even a little romantic. Since there weren’t any cat sightings we saw basically no other humans nor jeeps the entire time we were out. And while the game wasn’t terribly exciting, we did see some kudu, elephants, loads of birds, red lechwe and a number of monitor lizards.

And one thing I haven’t mentioned yet, on all the evening game drives there is a stop near the end where you post up to have a cocktail and some snacks. Having one such sundowner just the two (OK three, including Grass) of us was really lovely. It helped to have a spectacular sunset with red lechwes and elephants roaming around us in the distance. I still find myself craving gin and tonics around sunset each night.

Bonus – there were elephants on the runway when we drove home that night!

Our luck felt like it was going to turn on one of our morning drives. After a really slow start where we saw hardly anything at all, we caught a couple of spotted hyenas quite close to the “road.” These were so much cuter than I expected! They look like dogs!! (Everyone else says these are ugly, but I just can’t see it?!)

While we were stopped taking pictures and admiring the hyenas, we got a call that another jeep had spotted a pair of cheetahs. It was a ways away, and in the opposite direction of camp (where we were headed back for brunch), but we went for it given the disappointment of our first two drives. Talk about a wild-goose chase. We drove around in circles for over an hour trying to find those suckers, but they were nowhere to be seen! It was not for lack of trying. Grass was a bona fide safari detective out there, monitoring the vultures, examining the impala corpses, checking for footprints, and using the binoculars to search for camouflaged cheetahs in the bushes. I like to think we drove by them ten times as they snickered at us from their hideaway in the underbrush.

All in, this ended up being a six and a half hour game drive (not super comfortable on those bumpy jeep rides and in the sweltering heat), but I suppose it worked out for the best because on our (long) drive back to camp we finally spotted some other new animals: baboons and vervet monkeys! And every camper is a happy camper when they get to watch monkeys run around, am I right? Or am I right? (I’m right.)

P.S. If you’re wondering just how bumpy the rides can be, take for example the quality of some of the “bridges.”

Those baboons were way smaller than we expected, and they are much smaller than the baboons we saw in Namibia and South Africa (and stay tuned for those, because we have quite a crazy baboon story from SA!).

Fun fact, you have to hide any food and your medicines in a cupboard at Camp Moremi. The baboons think these are baboon candy, and they’ve learned how to break into the rooms to get them! Crazy, right? We lived in perpetual fear of a baboon in the room.

The monkeys are the best, though. I don’t think anyone can watch monkeys and not feel some sort of human connection. It’s hard not to think of the similarities between us and them as they stare off into the distance or care for their young.

Alan and I were even lucky enough to walk by a group of monkeys at camp as we were headed to leave the next day. We watched a teeny tiny baby monkey (bonkey!) learning to take his first steps. He was so small the blades of grass knocked him over! It was beautiful. I could barely tear myself away in time to catch our flight.

The camp, by the way, was home to a lot of animals. In addition to the monkeys (and the occasional intruding baboon) there are resident bushbucks, and they look just like miniature Bambis with their white spots. They roam around the rooms and pool area and are just too cute.

But the real highlight of our stay at Moremi came at the very end of our very last drive. We found three adult lions. One male, napping in the shade, and nearby, a male and a female lion doing the pre-sexy time dance. Bow chicka-bow wow. We watched for a while as the male checked out the female, sniffing around and making his intentions known.

Apparently, the Mrs. had a bit of a headache and was none too impressed. There was some back and forth roaring, until finally they plopped down for a nap. Solid way to close out our stay at Moremi!

Practical Info

Camp Moremi is in the Xakanaxa area of the Moremi Game Reserve. It offers both game drives and water-based activities. For more general information and background, please see our post on Savute Safari Lodge.

Transportation: We arrived from Savute Safari Lodge on a six-seat single-prop Cessna 206 for the half hour flight to Xakanaka Airstrip. From there, it’s a 10-15 minute drive to Camp Moremi.

Accommodation: There are spacious permanent tents with attached facilities. Each tent is on a raised teak platform and has canvas sides, a comfortable bed, etc. There is electricity (from a generator) in each tent during the day, but only battery power at night to provide enough light to find your way to the bathroom. So don’t forget to charge those camera batteries during your siesta break!

The property has a grassy lawn with a small pool. Breakfast, lunch and tea are served in the boma, while dinner and cocktails are served upstairs in a rather sumptuous space.

Food and Drinks: Hunger was not an issue. Breakfast is served at 6 am and is mainly cold fare, such as cereal, fruit, yogurt, excellent bread, juices, coffee, etc. Perhaps pancakes or crepes would be added. Then the morning game drive often includes a tea break with a light snack. Brunch is around 11 am, and this includes a lunch buffet plus eggs cooked to order. Afternoon tea is at 3:30 pm, and there are always snacks. During the afternoon game drive, sundowners are de rigeur. These take place around 6 pm (seasonally variable, I presume), where you imbibe a gin & tonic (or perhaps wine or beer) and have more snacks. Things like biltong (local jerky), cookies, chicken wings, whatever. Back at the lodge, pre-dinner cocktails with snacks are up around 7:30 pm. Dinner is at 8 pm, and this entails a plated appetizer plus a buffet and a plated dessert. In general, the breads were excellent and the food was very good.

Activities: The primary activity is a game drive, which takes place in the morning (~6:30-11 am) and again in the afternoon (~4-7 pm). Camp Moremi also offers motorboat rides to the nearby lagoon. Game drives are in open-sided Toyota Land Cruisers, and each guest gets a “window” seat.

October 13-15, 2014 (Monday-Wednesday)

Savute

We’re back with Africa posts! Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one, and loaded with pictures. We had 1400+ photos from the first two days alone. Needless to say, editing and sorting through the 100s of shots of the same animal took us a while! Anyway, let’s get to those animals, shall we?!

Africa. Our final continent (of five visited) on this trip around the world, and the last non-Antarctic continent left for Jenni to cross off her bucket list (Alan had already been to Africa, but none of the countries we visited this time). And something tells me this won’t be our last time on this incredible continent.

After a not-so-quick layover in Johannesburg where we met up with Alan’s mom and Rich who accompanied us on our visit to Botswana and Namibia, we were ready and amped up for some game viewing. To Savute Safari Lodge we went. And wow, did Savute come through with a phenomenal first couple days on safari! (Which, by the way, was my (though not Alan’s) first ever safari, and I walked away after two days saying, “even if that’s all the safari I ever do, I am happy!” Luckily there was even more to come on this trip, and I’m hoping more in my life down the road!!!)

It’s worth noting that just getting to these places is an adventure. After flying to South Africa we had to spend a night in Jo-burg in order to catch the early morning flight up to Maun, Botswana. From there we moved to the tiny planes (too close for missiles, switching to guns). This one was small for sure, but the 11-seater was just getting us prepared for the truly microscopic planes yet to come. Once I got over the initial fear on that tiny plane, I felt like a little kid. I might have had more fun on the plane than I did on the actual game drives. (Not really, but…) You guys, you see ANIMALS FROM THE AIR. It was one of the coolest things ever. As we were nearing the “airport” (read: strip of land with fewer trees and animals) I was yelling out almost every few seconds exclamations like, “Holy shit, an elephant!” “Oh my god oh my god it’s a giraffe!” “Alan! ALAN! That’s a ZEBRA! Do you see that ZEBRA?” The pure, unadulterated, uncontainable excitement of a three year old. And I’m not the least bit ashamed.

Also, the non-animal views were pretty spectacular themselves.

The airport, and I truly use that word lightly, was rustic. No chic to this shabby, folks. Though the animals quite liked it. There were a couple of hornbills to welcome us, hanging out alongside the runway as we unpacked our luggage. We spared no time getting out there to see the animals. Having arrived a bit late due to a delayed flight, we were transferred to a game drive jeep before even visiting the camp, and headed off for our first (land-based) game viewing.

We saw tons of game! Elephants, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, warthogs, galore!

But why hold out any longer. You guys, we saw lions. EATING an ELEPHANT. TONS OF THEM. AND BABY CUBS. Oh my god, if you’ve ever seen me turn into a non-communicative animal-obsessed being around puppies, you can kind of imagine how fixated I was. Granted I had to keep pretty quiet and not, you know, jump out of the jeep and run to cuddle these adorable little fluff ball killing machines, so it was restrained, but oh, was it joyful.

There was a whole family there. Lots of mamas, and a whole litter of oversized kittens.

And then there was papa. And he was a looker. He kind of hung out away from the rest of the family. And when he stood up and walked around it was just breathtaking.

We watched in awe as he downed some water and immediately peed it all out (ha!), and then just ogled him in his royal, powerful presence.

And they are all so unfazed by the presence of humans and these big ole jeeps coming right up to them. They barely bat an eye when the jeeps turn on. Though at one point a mama cat stood up from her catnap and started walking straight towards me, eyes locked. I’m not going to lie; I panicked a little and maybe started to maneuver in my seat so that I could hide behind Alan.

And can we talk about how insanely cool it is that we saw the one documented pride of lions in the world that stalks, kills and eats elephants?! Some of you may have even seen the film coverage (NatGeo or Animal Planet or something?). Well, that was shot here. We even saw a guy who films documentaries on these cats.

Of course lions weren’t the only highlight. We saw tons of elephants, the majestic beasts that they are. Good golly are they big in person.

And everything about them is huge. Sorry to be crude. But their man bits literally drag in the water as the cross!

One of the pleasant surprises was how many bird species we saw. This is the only type of animal I could not even remotely name with confidence or identify when we saw any. There are so many! I clearly don’t have the memory capacity required of a safari guide. So, there goes my back up plan of leaving the world of law for the Serengeti.

Of course, Pumbaa and his cousins showed up. Warthogs are cool little things. Never realized they get down on their elbows (do warthogs have elbows? If they did, that’s what they’d be leaning on) to eat.

Also, how cute are these mongoose? Adorbs.

I adored the giraffes. They may have been my favorite. Because they are weirdly at once graceful and awkward. They’ve got these gangly old limbs and crazy necks, requiring them to spread their front legs open in order to reach down and drink water, but when they run it’s stunning. It’s like watching movement in slow motion. They remind me of ballerinas. You just watch how they move and you have to stop to admire it.

But I also loved the zebras (too hard to really pick a favorite I guess). They are so beautiful and they look fake. It’s hard to believe you’re not looking at a hologram of a mythical creature, and that a rainbow colored unicorn is not going to pop up right next to them. Right? God, they are just beautiful, beautiful creatures.

But nobody is going to disagree that the leopard sightings were a MAJOR highlight. We thought we were lucky when we spotted the first one, off in the distance and lying down, camouflaged by the grasses around him. And when he stood up and walked toward the jeep I was kind of jumping up and down (in my heart, so as not to spook the guy). This was my first leopard sighting in the wild and I was blown away.

But it kept getting better. Later, we saw a leopard – super close up – stalking some guinea fowl! He never did make the move, but it was still neat to see, and the real-life suspense can’t be beat. The leopard even used one of the jeeps to hide behind as he crept up on his prey.

We followed him around for a while as he made his way through the wilderness. Though a freak 10-15 minute hailstorm (seriously!) eventually made us lose him. That was strange. One minute you’re dripping sweat in the 90°+ heat, and the next you’re shivering, struggling to get a poncho on as you’re being pelted by big cold pebbles being flung into your head at a 45-degree angle.

One of the things I hadn’t appreciated about African game is the number and types of antelope. There are practically millions. Impala are ubiquitous. The guides joke that they are McDonald’s for leopards since they are a quick meal and they’ve got an “M” pattern in white on their bums.

Wildebeest also abound. (Apparently one of the “ugly” five, but I argue they’re kinda cute!)

Waterbuck showed up occasionally as well. I thought these were neat because they have big white circles on the fur on their bum, which helps them to follow each other in a herd at night, given their poor eyesight, especially in the dark.

We also saw the tsessebe, known as the Desert Ferrari due to its speed. I thought their faces looked like leather. I know, I know. Leather is animal hide, but it looked like a piece of a leather jacket sewed onto their faces.

The littlest antelope we saw at Savute were definitely the steenbok. These minuscule little creatures would barely come up to a tall person’s knee. Alan and I joked that these are the prostitutes of the antelopes because it looks like they are wearing too much makeup. Look at those eyes!

One evening we saw an enormous herd of Cape buffalo walking in a line that seemed to stretch for miles and miles (farther than the eye can see). There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them, making their way back to a safer place to sleep for the evening.

But my favorite of the antelope was the kudu. These guys are beautiful with their lovely white fur patterns, and especially the males, with the curlicue antlers.

The lodge itself…Damn you guys. I’m writing this from the other side. From the real world side, where I now pay rent on an apartment and am facing the prospect of working a real Monday to Friday job again. And this seems like a distant memory already. Oh, that lodge felt like a honeymoon suite. Except for the combo of the lack of aircon and the sweltering heat. Oh, and the spiders the size of pancakes that seemed to like to pay me a surprise visit every time I used the shower. Ok, small pancakes. But big and terrifying to an arachnophobe like myself, all right? Anyway, I suppose nature is where it is. And it was worth it for the incredible experience amongst the animals. From our room we could see elephants coming to the water, and I woke up one morning to a view of Cape buffalo from the bed. Do I feel spoiled? I do.

And the dinner setting was unreal. There is a water hole formed from a borehole on the property, and the water in it is a bit salty so the elephants are really drawn to it. And they show up just as dinner is being served. From your table as you feast (on specialties like springbok carpaccio and impala pie!), the elephants come strolling through by the dozens to drink up from their watering hole.

Practical Info

Deciding where to go on safari can be quite a daunting task. Even once we chose Botswana, the options seemed overwhelming. There are several regions, and within these are various concessions and countless camps and lodges. And the nomenclature gets confusing because folks will talk about names as though they’re entirely separate, even if one lies within the other…such as the Moremi Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta. Some safari destinations vary greatly with the seasons while others are more consistent year-round. October tends to be the end of Botswana’s high season, and it is also the hottest month of the year.

Safaris are usually pricy, and Botswana usually falls on the very pricy end of that spectrum. Part of what you pay for is access, since Botswana’s safari areas tend to be less crowded and more remote than most others. In addition to the high costs of the lodging itself, you can expect to pay a bit for internal flights on bush planes.

We chose a six-night package with Desert & Delta, which allowed us to pick and choose from their several properties. We spent two nights each at Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Moremi and Camp Okavango. I would classify Desert & Delta as midrange, for Botswana. Which means it’s massively expensive (each night is the equivalent of an overwater bungalow in Tahiti or the Maldives at a nice resort), yet there are plenty of options that cost double and more. Our package included accommodation, all food and drinks (except premium brands, but e.g. Glenfiddich whisky was included so it wasn’t exactly well drinks), two activities per day (typically game drives), laundry, etc. It was all very comfortable and well done.

We picked these three properties because we thought it would be nice to see different areas. Wildlife and landscape can vary quite dramatically. Savute Safari Lodge is in Chobe National Park. Camp Moremi is in the Moremi Game Reserve. Camp Okavango is in the Okavango Delta. With the benefit of hindsight, we would say that Savute was amazing, Camp Moremi was good and could be great with better luck, and we would advise skipping Camp Okavango. I did not realize there were no game drives at Camp Okavango, but only walks or boat rides. Nor that it seems most water-based game viewing does not offer nearly the same prospects for big-game viewing. If your goal on safari is to see as much big game as possible, definitely do not go to Camp Okavango.

The game viewing at Savute was by far the best, and the river/watering hole adjacent to the lodge drew a steady stream of elephants and sometimes Cape buffalo.

Transportation: We flew from Paris (Orly) to Heathrow and then took a redeye to Johannesburg on an A380. Quite a plane, that is. In Johannesburg, we stayed at a hotel right by the airport (the Intercontinental is at the airport and a lot pricier) and just took the hotel’s free shuttle both ways. The Gautrain is well-regarded if you want to explore some of Johannesburg.

We departed from JNB for the ~2 hour flight to Maun, Botswana on a turbo-prop Air Botswana flight, which had four seats per row. There we went through immigration, and we were met by a representative of Desert & Delta Safaris and then transferred to an 11-seat Cessna for the 45 minute flight to Savute. From the Savute airstrip, it is perhaps a 20 minute drive to Savute Safari Lodge.

We departed Savute on a six-seat, single-engine Cessna 206 for the half hour flight to Xakanaka Airstrip to stay at Camp Moremi. This was a tiny plane!

Accommodation: Savute Safari Lodge may be called a “lodge,” but it felt more like a camp. Perhaps if the cabins are all wood/glass rather than permanent tent structures then one calls this a lodge? Anyway, each couple gets a very spacious cabin with en-suite facilities. Our room #6 was closest to the common areas, where there is a building with a bar and lounge, a small pool, and an outdoor covered area for lunch and dinner. There is electricity (from a generator) in each cabin during the day, but only battery power at night to provide enough light. So don’t forget to charge those camera batteries during your siesta break! Note that there is no air conditioning, and the fan only works while the generator is on.

In Johannesburg, we stayed at the Premier Hotel O.R. Tambo, which is very near the airport and has a free shuttle.

Food and Drinks: Hunger was not an issue. Breakfast is served at 6 am and is mainly cold fare, such as cereal, fruit, yogurt, excellent bread, juices, coffee, etc. Perhaps pancakes or crepes would be added. Then the morning game drive often includes a tea break with a light snack. Brunch is around 11 am, and this includes a lunch buffet plus eggs cooked to order. Afternoon tea is at 3:30 pm, and there are always snacks. During the afternoon game drive, sundowners are de rigeur. These take place around 6 pm (seasonally variable, I presume), where you imbibe a gin & tonic (or perhaps wine or beer) and have more snacks. Things like biltong (local jerky), cookies, chicken wings, whatever. Back at the lodge, pre-dinner cocktails with snacks are up around 7:30 pm. Dinner is at 8 pm, and this entails a plated appetizer plus a buffet and a plated dessert. In general, the breads were excellent and the food was very good.

Activities: At Savute Safari Lodge, everyone does a morning game drive (~6:30-11 am) and an afternoon game drive (~4-7 pm). At certain other properties, including our next stops, there could be game walks and/or water-based activities. Game drives are in open-sided Toyota Land Cruisers, and each guest gets a “window” seat.

October 11-13, 2014 (Saturday-Monday)