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…
…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!
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)