During the evening boat ride at Chobe we saw over two hundred elephants at one time. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. They would come down the hill and into the river in herds of twenty to fifty and just frolic and play.
There was one young calf that kept plopping down in the mud and getting stuck. The older elephants would help him out and he would run right back in and get stuck again. We watched the sun go down and took some amazing photos of elephants against the setting sun.
Date of safari: 8 June to July 4 2008 for 27 days – Marden Phelps
Safari Company Performance
I looked at many companies, on the internet, when I began planning and they were one of several that offered the kind of safari I was looking for. I wanted to do participation camping because my daughter and I had done that in East Africa, about five years ago, and loved it.
I emailed a number of companies and explained what I wanted and Jenman Safaris was not only the first to respond but they offered a number of suggestions that proved very helpful. I checked them out on every web site I could find and heard only good things (well, with one exception) then sent them a suggested itinerary. They responded with what I believed was an excellent price and the planning of details followed.
The entire experience was wonderful. For over a year, during the planning, they responder to every question and concern in a timely and helpful manner. We made several changes to the original itinerary, at their suggestion, and the safari proved them right in every case.
We did do a participation camping safari (although we spent some nights in lodges) and the Jenman equipment was great. The tents were in good condition, the sleeping bags clean and warm and the food trailer was wonderful. We had cold, or at least cool, drinks all the time and the food preparation was very organized.
We had only one minor hitch in the whole safari and that was the failure to make a hotel reservation in Johannesburg for our last night. Jenman caught their mistake and we worked things out with no real problem.
The biggest problem we had was not Jenmen’s fault. The airline lost my wife’s luggage and we had to go shopping (what a terrible ordeal for a woman) because the luggage didn’t catch up to us for ten days.
Our guide, Chauntel, was great. She was very knowledgeable and had prepared well for our safari even though she had not been to all the places we visited on a regular basis. Her game spotting ability astounded us.
She did a really good job with meals. The food was plentiful, well-prepared and tasty. It amazed us how she could drive all day and then put together a great meal in the time it took us to set up camp and wash up.
When we met her, in Lusaka, she had a suggested revision to our safari that made a major difference in the canoe trip, on the Zambezi, and greatly enhanced our experience. I am 65 and my brother-in-law is 63 and yet we didn’t mind being “bossed around” by a 29 years old so that tells you something about her people skills.
In Kafue we saw many kinds of antelope. Kudu, waterbuck, impala, puku, bushbuck, steenbok and even oribi. There were crocs and hippos and birds of every kind. Monkeys, baboons, warthogs, hyena (one), mongoose and bush-babies filled in the niches. It was interesting to see the mixture of animals with several species intermixing in a small area.
The game viewing at Mahangu was spectacular. We saw sable and roan antelope at very close range. Kudu, impala, reed buck, bush buck giraffe, warthogs, baboons, elephants, lechwe and hippos all obliged us with an appearance.
The birds of Africa are amazing. We were astonished at the numbers, colors and variety. Some of them are much like birds we have in Idaho. The fish eagle and many of the herons and cranes are mirror images of our native birds but then there are the bee-eaters, lilac-breasted rollers, wattled lapwing and dozens of others that look like children painted them with the biggest crayon set imaginable. We recorded well over one hundred species that we identified and photographed and we are not even “birders”.
Although we did a lot more driving than most tourists do we had a fairly typical pattern for days we were looking for wildlife. We would get up about 6:00 AM (sunrise was around 6:30) and have a hot chocolate and some toast and jam and set out for a game drive.
At about 11:00 AM we would return to camp for lunch, or sometimes have sandwiches under a tree, and nap or write in our journals for a couple of hours. Then out for another game drive until sundown and back to camp for dinner and talk around the campfire.
On travel days we would get up about 6:30 AM and while Chauntel made breakfast we would take down the tents and stow them on the truck. Then we would eat and wash dishes and hit the road. The drives often took several hours but we had great experiences along the way.
We would stop to buy sweet potatoes or watermelon from a road side vendor, slow down, or stop, to let a herd of cattle or goats move off the road, dodge pot-holes that were deep enough to lose our trailer in and laugh at the kids who stood by the road and threw a little sand in the holes then asked for a donation.
Upon arrival at the next camp we would set up tents while Chauntel fixed dinner or lunch if the drive hadn’t taken very long, and then clean up and do whatever we had time for. We usually sat around the camp fire and talked about what we had seen that day or what we hoped to see tomorrow.
We visited Elephant Trails at Livingstone. It is a place where they have trained African Elephants to allow people to ride them out into the bush. It is not really exciting but it is interesting and you get to really learn a lot about elephants and their lives.
We also visited a project, in Zimbabwe, called “Lion Encounter” which is working to reintroduce lions into the wild. It is a long term project that plans of breeding lions away from human influence and allowing them to learn to hunt and naturally form prides then they will be introduced into area that used to have lions but don’t anymore. It is a very ambitious program and is funded by donations and tourist dollars.
Our visit to Victoria Falls also merits special mention. It is hard to describe a scene that you really can’t see and that is what I am trying to do. There is so much mist that you can only see small segments of the Falls from any one vantage point and taking pictures involves risking drowning your camera.
However, it is all worth it when you stand at the edge of the gorge and watch the water plunge downward. The roar of falling water, the rainbow arching over the gorge and the almost rain forest vegetation all shrouded in the mists give an almost unearthly feeling.
Tips & Advice
Do your homework. I read dozens of journals, guidebooks, and travel sites to gather information.
Useful items to take with are a braided stretch clothes line that could be put up anywhere to dry laundry. Our headlamps and a battery operated lantern that we hung in the top of our tent. Binoculars and camera gear are also very important and a journal, if kept, will be a great reminder of experiences that otherwise will soon fade.
FIND A GOOD COMPANY AND FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE! This is one time that cheapest is probably not the best and you don’t want to sit in a plane for that long and not have a good experience between flights. Spend as much time as you can because however long it is it will be too short.
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