Thursday, August 14, 2014

Africa Trip 2nd Tour July Aug 2014

A photo-chronicle of a great second half of our Africa Safari Tour with Kiboko Adventures and Africa's Child Safaris. Pat and I hope you enjoy it, and that you'll join us again in December as we head for Antarctica.   

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday, August 8th, A'Zambezi River Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe


Neil Sedaka told us that "Breaking up is hard to do".  Tonight, at the farewell dinner, we all told Kembo how very much his work meant to us in this wonderful adventure.  Every day, there were many times when his excellent skills and charming personality got us through the curves thrown at us.  He put up with all of our individual quirks, and provided us with the information and direction we needed.  As Cookie toasted him for us, we all also began the task of saying goodbye to each other.  The friendships we make on these trips are rich ones, and it is hard to say goodbye.

Tomorrow, Pat and I leave for the airport mid-morning, and our flight leaves for Johannesburg at 2pm.  After a 5-hour layover, we fly to London, and then to San Francisco.  Don't expect any posts until we're home and rested on Monday.

I did finish a "Best of the First Tour" video, which can be accessed by clicking on the link.  I'll work on choosing the best of the second tour on the flight home.

The last set of photos, capturing our flight by helicopter over Victoria Falls, can be seen by clicking on Friday, August 8th, A'Zambezi River Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.


ps.  There were some great giraffe shots that were accidentally left out of the end of the album on August 2nd, which have been added now.  Also, I love what Google did to animate the photos of the lions at the waterhole.  Check them out.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday, August 7th, Zambezi River Lodge, Zimbabwe


The good news when we arrived at the Zimbabwe border was that they had lowered the visa cost from $65 to $30 per person.  The bad news was that it took them about an hour and a half to process about 40 visas. There were two groups ahead of us, and they made us all stand in the sun outside a small office for an hour until one of the officials decided to process us in groups, allowing us to sit in our busses while they stamped our passports, deposited our money, and made us receipts.

But the wait was worth it.  A short time later, we checked into the A'Zambezi RiverLodge.   After lunch, Kembo drove us on a tour of the town.  Some are staying on here after this tour ends, and most have optional “adreneline activities” scheduled for tomorrow (river- rafting, lion-walking, helicopter rides over the Falls, gorge swinging, etc.).  Once we were acquainted with the locations of the craft stores, banks, casino, and post office, we headed off to the Falls.

What a wet wonder!  I’m told that in the heavy flow months you get drenched from the parking lots.  But you have a hard time actually seeing the falls.  It’s three months later, and we rent rain parkas for $2 each, and need them as we walk the edge of the gorge across from the falls.  My camera is wrapped in a plastic bag, and Pat and I look like wet hobbits.

To the question of how big is this.  Of the comparison of Niagara, Iguazu, and Victoria: big is measured by height, width, and volume.  Victoria is higher (107 meters), Iguazu is wider (2,400 feet), and Niagara has more water volume (4-6 million cubic feet/minute).

But Niagara freezes.  And Iguazu has boats that take you out near the waterfalls, and has trails at water level.  So what does this have?  Wart hogs, trumpeter hornbills, and bush bucks on the trails.  So there.

To see all the photos taken today, click on Thursday, August 7th, Zambezi River Lodge, Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday, August 6th, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana


Today was our last day in an African Game Park.  And it could not have been better.

Tour guides pray for a day like today.  Game drivers seldom have days like today.  Travelers think today is normal, and tell stories about the day forever.  Let's just say we got very lucky, after lots of people working for Kiboko performed at the highest level.

Let's set the stage.  At 5:45am, we showed up at the front food of the Chobe Safari Lodge.  Kiboko Tours was just one of a number of tour operators who had booked guests at the Lodge.  It's got 120 rooms, and most of those in them were going on a morning game ride for the next three hours.   In the dark, we were assigned our land rovers, and it was lucky that all but one of our friends got into our rover.  We were also lucky that we got the driver who had arranged all of the rover assignments, and was in charge of the drive.

Where the luck paid off at 6pm was in his ability to go beyond the normal racing to key spots where animals were usually found, and his jockeying for position when we spotted something.  Game isn't easy to find, especially in the early morning when part of them is coming to the water holes, and others of them are trying to interrupt those who are coming to get a drink.  It's dusty, and cold, and windy, and he's not driving slowly, and the roads are deep dirt.  

Within the first 30 minutes we had found a leopard and her enthusiastic cub, and once again had to move on not because she evaded us, but because we wanted to find some more animals.  She was perfectly content to let us watch her keeping a close eye on him.
In the next three hours, we found a mother cheetah and two youngsters, fish eagles, sable antelope, giraffes, kudus, buffalo, elephants, a dozens of unique birds.

Back at the lodge by 9:30am, we had the rest of the morning and early afternoon to relax and enjoy the lodge and our gorgeous rooms.  Another great restaurant lunch, a better experience with wifi, and a short mid-day game hunt around the lodge (a Monitor Lizard was the the one thing new).
At 3:00pm, we all boarded a river cruiser to ply the Chobe River and islands in search of everything which found safety in, near, and above its cool waters.  That's just about everything on land, and even more in water.

Finishing the day with a scrumptious meal, and a birthday celebration for our friend Jill, we're all headed for bed.  Tomorrow, we head for Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  Thankfully, we get to sleep in, and don't leave until 9am.

To see all of the many photos taken today, click on Wednesday, August 6th, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana.

Tuesday, August 5th, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana


Chobe Safari Lodge is located "on the doorstep" of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.  Yea, like most of you, I had little idea there was a door, let alone a doorstep.  People move around quite a bit in this area.  Mostly from traditional rural to urban (meaning mining holes, parks, shopping centers, schools, and hospitals).
At least half of the two-million people who live in either Namibia or Botswana live in clusters of one-family villages.  Compounds are what we've decided to call them, as they really are an extended family set of huts, surrounded by a fence built from branches, that facilitates the family social dynamics.  Polygomy is practiced, and it's not unusual for marriage to await the birth of several children.  Women do seem to be much more in control of their lives recently, with many pursuing small businesses in the crafts and service industries.  The birth rate is dropping, and both countries are serious about stopping HIV/AIDS.  I saw a huge poster for a campaign to achieve no new cases in one town featuring the Mayor saying that wearing condoms was the right thing to do, because he did it.

We drove on a long morning and early afternoon on Tuesday across the Namibian border and into Botswana (shoes cleaned, thank you).  Almost before we knew it, we were being handed the traditional lodge sweet drink, and handed our room keys.  Then came the frustrating four hours trying to get the wifi to do anything except download a few emails.   Baths, swims in the pool, a long dinner and native dance show later, I finally got the wifi to help me upload a few photographs.

To see the few more photos taken today, click on Tuesday, August 5th, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana

Sunday-Monday, August 3-4th, Ndhovu Safari Lodge, Ndhovu, Namibia


I can’t imagine a better way to finish the Namibian segment of our tour of southern Africa than to have stayed at Ndhovu Safari Lodge.  It’s located just outside the Mahango Game Reserve, on the banks of the Okavango River.  From the 10 luxury tents, we can hear the Hippos congregating in the river, and see elephants on the island 200 yards away. 

We arrived last night, after the longest drive of the tour - 690 kilometers.  Thankfully, it was on fairly good roads, along the western section of the Caprivi Strip.

Today, we went for a game drive with the Johan, local manager, who pleased Pat by stopping and identifying lots of birds.  Usually, birds take a back seat to the more sought after sights with four legs who roar, jump, or pose a threat.  But with only five of us on the drive, the scales tipped toward the birds.

Now, the river has a natural calming and slowing effect, as its meandering blue current drifts by after lunch.  Some are napping, others are reading  (Pat is), a few are drinking, and I’m relaxing on the deck in front of the restaurant, laptop in my lap typing this.  I really am trying to slow down.  With no hope of getting through to the internet, this is the third day’s journal which will be written anyway so I don’t get too far behind.  With only five days left before heading home, I hope to get this off before boarding the flight.

In an hour, we’re going on a river cruise leaving from the Lodge.  We’re expecting to see some hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and more birds.  But when you wake up each morning to the bellowing of a dozen hippos out in front of your tent, it won’t be disappointing if we just roam around slowly in the early evening breeze.

Tomorrow, we leave for Botswana, and Chobe Safari Lodge.  It's one of the gold standards in game safari location, said to hold 80,000 elephants alone.  It's on a river again, as most of northern Botswana s lodges are either on a river or a in the middle of a delta (for which you must fly into).  Botswana is also very concerned about their cattle getting hoof and mouth disease, so they require very one to get off the bus upon entry into the country, stamp their shoes on a treated pad (and I mean all their shoes - even those you have in your luggage), and walk to their bus on the other side.  You should have seen us carrying plastic bags of cleansed sandals and flip-flops.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Sunday-Monday, August 3-4th, Ndhovu Safari Lodge, Namibia.  

Saturday, August 2nd, Namutoni Resort, Tsumeb, Namibia


Even with Kori Bustards, Zebras, Steenboks, Guinea Fowl, Mongoose, Hardebeests, Wildebeasts, and Kudus, we felt somehow that the first game drive of Saturday’s entry into Etosha National Park was a bit weak on interesting things to see. 
Remembering that some of our group was seeing their first real game, the original group was eager for more exciting experiences out of Kiboko.  We kidded Kembo that he had sent the wrong emails out to solicit wildlife participants. 

Then, while all of us were focusing on some impalas drinking out of a watering hole we were pulling up to, Kembo asked us to be very quiet and look to the left in the grass.  As we watched, a leopard was stalking the impalas slowly about a hundred feet from the truck.  As some of us got a couple of shots, a alerting grunt came up from one of the impalas, and they all saw the leopard.  With the element of surprise taken from him, the leopard turned and headed back into the heavy brush.  We all started breathing again, and we knew we’d seen a rare event.

Just outside our resort (Namutoni Camp) as we reached it, we came across a giraffe which had been killed by lions a couple of days earlier.  A single female lion was eating, and both jackals and hyenas were circling and waiting for a chance to get there shares.  We watched for about 30 minutes as she continued to try to tear off a leg, and defend the kill from the scavengers.

Our last encounter was much more heart-warming, as a large gathering of mother and calf elephants made their way from a watering hole to the treeline just in front of our resort.  Few sights are as cute as baby elephants scampering around under the mother’s massive legs.

To see the rest of the photos taken today, click on: Saturday, August 2nd, Namutoni Resort, Tsumeb, Namibia.


Friday, August 1st, Halali Resort, Etosha National Park, Namibia.


The drive from the Ugab Terrace Lodge to the Halali Camp Resort on the western edge of Etosha National Park was called by one of our travelers “the most boring of our drives”.  He likened it to one of the endless expanses of the province of New South Wales in Australia. 
Except for the Himba village we visited,
and the thousands of springbok, zebras, and elephants, it was uneventful. 

Unless you were searching for rocks.  I think that Kiboko ought to take advantage of the remarkable geology in this region, and develop and include a component of it into their tour.  To help out, I delivered a short lecture to the group overlooking the terrace before last night’s dinner.  Kembo asked me to write up something he could use in the future, so I’m including the text here.  Too bad I can’t include the diagram I made for the presentation, with the assistance of Susie and Eugene’s flip chart.  Thanks to all.

The Colliseum of Continental Crash and the SuperBowl of Subduction.
The world’s continents began about a billion years ago when three giant upper mantle pockets of magma pushed enough lava through the earth’s crust to create land plates over a several thousand miles across.  They were the South American plate, Congo plate, and the Kalahari plate.  They were located near the South Pole, were separated by hundreds of miles of ocean sea floor, and the whole thing was called Rodinia.

About 500 million years later, the Kalahari plate started moving toward the Congo plate, and the South American plate moved toward both.  They all met at the point where we are standing, the Ugab River Valley.  In the collision, the Kalahari plate was forced down under the Congo plate, bending and folding great sections of the sea floor, which can be seen throughout the Damara mountain region.  They look like very wavy multi-layered ribbons of rock topping granite slabs of mountain.  The resulting super-continent was called Gondwana, and it was the world’s first mountain building experience.  For almost a half-billion years, rock and roll was the tune on these table tops for as far as you could see.  

Four hundred million years later, it all broke up.  After erosion and glaciers lowered and flattened the mountains, a deep ocean split in the earth (Mid-Atlantic Ridge) heightened by the entire continent passing over the South Pole and heading north deposited South America, Australia, India, and the Antarctic half way around the world to their present locations.   

As we drive across five hundred miles of otherwise boring territory, it’s what happened here over the past billion years that should cause us to gasp in amazement.  Too bad it isn’t very photogenic.

To see all of the photos we took today, click on Friday, August 1st, Halali Resort, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Thursday, July 31st, Ugab Terrace Lodge, Ugab, Namibia


This morning, we drove out of Swakopmund, and up the Namibian coast.  We passed a desalination plant, providing water to the desert-parched country, and a shipwreck (one of many who underestimated the winds and storms).

We stopped at a Herero tribal crafts stop, a tribe which suffered the loss of almost three-quarters of its population in the period from 1904 - 1907 in a rebellion against the occupying German colonists and military.
We arrived late in the afternoon at the Ugab Terrace Lodge, a beautifully designed set of cliff- perched cabins with to-die-for views overlooking a long limestone mesa in front of the deck, and several tabletop plateaus down the valley.  It reminded us of Monument Valley in Arizona.

While we're only staying here one night, it was one of the most breath-taking vistas of the tour, and we thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of Eugene and Susie, the managers.

To see the photos we took today, click on Thursday, July 31st, Ugab Terrace Lodge, Ugab, Namibia.