Recently, Hilka Voges (Jenman Safaris Assistant Reservation’s Manager) joined our Botswana Wildlife Breakaway safari in June. Along with one of our fabulous guides, Blessed, they wrote about the tour, their experiences and highlights daily for all of us blog readers to enjoy! Their Botswana Safari is split into 2 blogs… Watch this space to part 2… Thanks Hilka and Blessed!
Day 0/30th May
The day had come and I was on my way to the Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), to join a group of 9 of our clients on our popular Botswana Wildlife Breakaway. Most exciting however, was the fact that I would be accompanying Blessed Chalibamba, one of our most experienced guides here at Jenman Safaris. We met at 7pm at the Amadeus Garden Guesthouse in Vic Falls Town, for a detailed pre-departure meeting, at which all final details before the tour were explained minutely and I had a chance to acquaint myself with the clients, who had flown in from all over the world: Australia, Spain and Germany. This would be a great experience and I went to bed looking forward to getting this tour properly started!
Day 1/31st May
We began the day with a good breakfast, and then headed to the local super market. I followed Blessed all around the store, as I wanted to learn how you best shop for a group of 12 people, as he was doing the grocery purchases for the upcoming 4 days. He loaded the trolley left, right and centre, like a practiced pro; “all you need is a little bit of this and a little bit of that”.. I decided then that this was far too complicated to learn in such a short time and therefore rather focussed on finding some water and insect repellent for myself.
Once done, off we went, direction Hwange, where we would spend our first night at the Ivory Safari Lodge. At around lunchtime we stopped at the Painted Dog Conservation Centre. This place creates awareness about these animals and what can be done to save a species very close to extinction. I was impressed by the local community involvement and the clients supported the project by purchasing some local arts and crafts.
When we arrived at our lodge we were greeted by a herd of elephants right in front of the camp. It was the largest accumulation I had ever seen, and I immediately raced to the bird hide, before unpacking anything, to get an even closer view. Some of the bulls were less than 2 meters away from our hide, and we observed for a good 30 minutes.
Afterwards we set up camp for the night , ate, and went back into the hide to watch the night activities – we saw 3 female lions, some jackals, further elephants, porcupines and warthogs, to mention but a few.
At 9:30 am we left Amadeus Gardens and had a quick stop at the TM supermarket for groceries, water and drinks.
As we drove out of Amadeus we saw our first big game, two young elephant bulls. Very strange in the residential area of Vic Falls from nowhere you just see an elephant. A great way to start a tour. We stopped for a photo and they were so many people also witnessing this rare moment.
Our first proper stop was about 10km before Hwange. This is one of the places you can view the power station and one of the coal mines at the same time. We spoke about the town of Hwange general the people, the coal mine, electricity, and the rail line.
From here we made our way to the Ivory Lodge. Before arrival we stopped at the wild or painted dog project to learn more about these extinct dogs and what this people are doing to save them. Only about 3700 left in the wild and only 600-700 in Zimbabwe.
We finally arrived at our lodge and before we checked in everyone went wow, wow, wow! Why? Because of the lodge? No!Because ofaround 130 elephants in front of the lodge at the water hole, and 3 lions an hour later. Before setting up camp everyone quickly went down to the water hole for some photo opportunity. .
Ok, time to set up camp. At 4:10pm everyone is siting by the waterhole and enjoying the animals and obviously a cold beer or a glass of wine.
Dinner is at 7pm. I am taking it easy on the first day.l prepare rice, veg stir fry and a chicken stew. Dinner went down quick and people went back to the water hole as more animals are coming through.
Day 2/1st June
This morning we had to get up early to depart in time for our full-day game drive in the Hwange National park, the entrance of which is about 25 km away from the Ivory Lodge. Accompanied by Peter, one of the local guides, we were able to spot a lot of game and learn much about this part of the country. After dinner, I spent the rest of the evening in the bird hide again, watching mostly porcupines.
At 7am we had breakfast and then left for the Hwange National park. Saw lots of kudu, giraffe, buffalo, enough elephants, and a journey of giraffe. On this game drive today we saw about 15 different species of game.
At 4:00pm we arrived back at camp and the waterhole was busy with elephants, kudu and impala.
It was a long day and everyone relaxed with a beer.
Tonight at dinner we make spaghettibolognaise, green salad,and some pudding for desert. It was a great day and waterhole for the last time before bed.
It’s been great two days and extremely looking forward to Botswana and Elephant Sands tomorrow. I guess you can tell by the name Elephant sands.
Day 3/ 2nd June
Today we would cross over into Botswana, which meant another stamp in my passport! Yay! The drive to the border lasted around 2.5 hours, and we entered at Panamatenga, a farming region in Botswana. En route, Blessed stopped at one of the local villages, actually more like a family settlement, and we were allowed entry into their homes. This was a humbling experience. 120 km from the border was our lodge for the night, Elephant Sands, a very beautiful and hospitable place. Blessed organised me my very own rondavel (thank you to the management of Elephant Sands, and to Blessed!), which was well equipped, and I particularly loved the outside en-suite shower.
Left Ivory Lodge at around 8:00amand stopped for refueling in Hwange. It’s a mission to get diesel this morning! Finally, we are lucky at the colliery service station. We also used this moment to buy some water and more drinks.
Then we started our journey towards Botswana. On route we stopped at a local village. Had a bit of problems with the language and trying to get some permission to visit a village as l am from Mashonaland west were they speak Shona and now we in Matebeleland north where people speak Ndebele and Nambiya. Finally managed to get words together and permission to come into the village. Interesting how other people live, so different. Amazing though. Spent at least 45minutes here and after that we continued our journey towardsBotswana. Just before the border we saw a head of Roan antelopes, so nervous towards cars, there is a lot of game hunting in this area and this might be the reason. We finally reached the border and entered Botswana.
Stopped in Panamatenga for lunch, one of the few places in Botswana where they do farming. They have 3 big massive farms here. We continued our journey after lunch to elephant sands. Got there and put up camp and relaxing time at the water hole now.
Within half an hour our first elephant came down to drink. It’s a big bull, he looks so thirsty and might have walked a long way for a drink.
At 18:15 it’s time for a drink and chat about Botswana: History, economy, people, HIV, diamonds, and everything else. There are lots of questions, which is good as well.
Tonight Elephant Sands makes dinner for us. They have quite a variety on the menu. Spare Ribs, chicken, potato bake, pap, gravy, and about 4 different salads.
During dinner another bull elephant comes to drink. We can see the water hole from our dining table. This is a great place. A bit cold though!
Day 4/ 3rd June
After an early morning departure, we made our way through to Nata and onwards onto the Makgadikgadi pans, where we enjoyed a lengthy breakfast, with an incredible view of the salt pans and hundreds of flamingos. Despite getting bogged down for 2 hours afterwards, it was well worth the effort, and this early morning experience remains one of the highlights of my trip. We had to stock up in Maun, as the next three days would be spent at our own JenmanKhwai Camp, deep in the African bush, and part of the Khwai River concession, hence no fences that keep the wildlife at bay as is the case in a National Park.This was as wild and as authentic an experience as I would ever get! An example: whilst preparing our dinner we were entertained by elephants: in the camp! Blessed told me then that this was not uncommon an event at our Khwai Camp: “And the minute it gets dark the animals take control. Most of them you can’t see, but you can hear them loud and clear.”Very true!
Early morning drive to the Makgadikgadi salt pan for a full breakfast and also to have a closer look at these pans. 7:45am breakfast right on the pans. Beautiful here and a lot of flamingos are here as well for breading and feeding.
9:30 am we are done with breakfast and ready to leave. On our way out we got stuck,oops! Dug and worked on it and later got out. Our Isuzu has got an amazing 4×4.
12pm stopped at the little town of Nata for diesel and lunch packs. We are a bit behind schedule now as we got stuck earlier. About half an hour from Nata we stopped for lunch, another good spot on the side of the road.
At 16:00 we are in Maun. Shopping and stocking up for the next 3 nights in the bush. Also time for clients to buy, water, drinks, money and internet.
At 19:30 we finally got to the lodge. We are 2 hours behind schedule and quickly made dinner. A veg stir fry, rice and fruit custard for desert! Yum!
Day 5/ 4th June
I awoke to an incredible sight. This setting was simply amazing, nothing but bush & nature, as far as the eye could see& the ear could hear. We spent this entire day within the Khwai River concession, on an extensive game drive. When we came back to the camp, Blessed surprised us all by grilling a delicious fish on our campsite fire. Fish in the bush was a first for me, so tasty though!
We have a 7:00am breakfast and leave for the game drive at 7:30am.No rush today, as it’s a full day game drive. We see many elephants , zebras and all the other plains game, still no leopard though, perhaps tomorrow in Moremi.
We saw some rangers and told us that they have spotted 2 white rhinos in the area. It’s the first time in about 14 years that a rhino has been seen here. The big question remains, where did they come from? No answers at the moment.
At 16:00 we are back at camp and time to relax and enjoy the snack platter.
Dinner at 18:30 pm. Roasted fish in foil and topped with a mushroom sauce, green salad, baked potatoes with feta cheese.
Day 6/ 5th June
This day was spent on a full-day game drive in the Moremi National Park, named after the famous Chief Moremi. We enjoyed our lunch packs in the shade of a beautiful baobab tree & returned back to camp having seen enormous amounts of bird- and wildlife.
We leave camp at 7:30 am to go on a game drive to Moremi. We normally use the North gate but today we using south gate. There has been a lot of water in and around Moremi and the North gate is flooded and now the south gate is a better option. It’s very quiet in Moremi in terms of game as the water level is so high. Saw many elephants, birds and all other plains game.
18:00 back at camp. Been a long day and time for shower, tea and. Relaxing before dinner.
Day 7/ 6th June
Today we had to leave this wonderful camp to head back towards Maun, where we were to spend the night at the Thamalakane Safari Lodge. The afternoon provided an absolute highlight for me, as I was able to fly over the delta in in 5-seater plane. Not only did this flight explain the whole ecological system of the Okavango from above, but at times we were flying so low that I could see the elephantsplayfully spurting water at each other. In addition, I’d always wanted to sit beside a pilot, and even that wish was granted! Needless to say it was one of my favourite days. One of the clients, Monica from Spain, said to me afterwards: Each day on this safari presents a unique adventure, and this makes the tour so special.
After 3 nights of staying in the bush and enjoying all sounds of the wild, we go back to Maun today. It is a very short driving day and we have a bit of a lay in. At 9:30 we leave camp for Maun. Elephants, as usual, are on our way.
11:37 we arrive at the Thamalakane Lodge. A beautiful lodge right on the Thamalakaneriver. This afternoon after lunch we drive to town for a scenic flight over the delta. An hour of exploring the delta from the air. I think if Livingstone was here, he might have used the same saying, it’s so beautiful it must have been gazed upon by angels during their flight.
Today the lodge caters for us, so no cooking. Yay.A break for me. Everyone had all sort of great food, but l had a Botswana fillet steak with mushroom. My favourite!