Archive for the ‘Botswana’ Category

After 7 Years: Callie’s Much-Anticipated First Safari

Posted January 28th, 2015 by Mel Reger



Written by Travel Beyond Travel Manager Callie Robinson

callie

October 8, 2014 was the day I’d been waiting on for seven years – the day I would finally visit South Africa! After working at Travel Beyond as a seasonal employee throughout my high school and college years, I became a full-time Travel Manager in January 2014 and was honored with my first educational trip to South Africa and Botswana for two and a half weeks.

Cape Town

I arrived late at night in Cape Town and woke up to the most serene vineyard and mountain-view outside my room in Franschhoek at La Residence; I was feeling like a queen. The next three days were spent exploring the Winelands and Cape Town. From the delicious food and wine to the picturesque landscapes, I was falling in love with this buzzing city more and more each day. Everywhere you looked there were people from destinations all over the world and multiple generations; I knew this was a perfect city because it has something to offer for everyone!

Kruger National Park

I then flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg to meet up with Rose Loggi, one of Travel Beyond’s Africa consultants. Rose has been to Africa dozens of times, and this was her fourth time to South Africa. I was honored to travel with her and learn so much from a highly experienced traveler and safari consultant. After an overnight in Johannesburg, we boarded a light aircraft flight to get us to Kruger National Park where we would embark on safari. Roughly an hour and a half later, we arrived to a champagne welcome at the airstrip from our guide and tracker from our first safari lodge, Tintswalo Safari Lodge! After settling in, I could hardly wait another second to see the wildlife in their natural habitat for the first time. Our first afternoon game drive was a great success as we saw four of the Big Five, had a delightful sundowner location overlooking a watering hole at sunset, and our guide showed us how to smoke elephant dung and explained that witch doctors in South Africa recommend to do this for sinus relief. Quite the first safari experience!

callie

Kapama Game Reserve

The next stops on the trip included eight overnight visits to a different camp each day in the Kapama Game Reserve, Timbavati Reserve, Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands. I was a little hesitant to be staying at a tented camp on my first trip. I have done a decent amount of camping growing up, but the thought that leopards and hyena could be walking around my tent at night and bugs I had never seen before could be crawling around worried me a little. After my stay at Tanda Tula, my worries were completely erased because of the wonderful staff, beautiful camp layout and location, and my game drive experience (and hardly any bugs in October!). Plus, I was so tired from being on the move each day and learning so many new things, I had zero trouble falling asleep at night. Our first afternoon game drive at the lodge was a dream; we saw the Big Five in one game drive! This does not happen too often and it was a thrilling experience! This is also where I fell even more in love with elephants. I could just sit and watch them for hours; they are so mesmerizing to me.

Mashatu Game Reserve

After our safari in South Africa, we took a flight from Johannesburg to Polokwane and then transferred over the border to Botswana. The sun was beaming its rays on us for the 45-minute drive to Mashatu Main Camp from the border. I was so happy to feel the heat of Botswana after some chilly mornings and evenings in South Africa! On our way into camp, our guide told us that the President of Botswana had just arrived at the camp as well to hear the results of the election that were being decided that night (he won his second term, by the way). How cool! After a wonderful two-day stay at Mashatu with beautiful weather and great sightings, we were able to end our last evening safari with one of the most enchanting sunsets I had ever seen. And, of course, we had some gin & tonic to celebrate!

I cannot wait until I return to these beautiful countries and explore even more of Africa! The Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, and various parts of Kenya are what I hope are my next African destinations. There’s so much more to share but so hard to say the right words – it’s a must-see for yourself! I would highly recommend an African safari is placed at the top of your travel bucket list!

callie

A few things I learned on this trip being a first time safari-goer

-          You really need to pack for all sorts of weather. Being that is was October I figured it would be 70’s all day every day. Morning and evenings drop to 50’s and when you’re riding in a moving, open vehicle it’s quite chilly (even for a Minnesotan).

-          If you see a multi-purpose, unique gift at the curio shop that won’t break in your suitcase, snatch it right away! Each lodge offers different interesting items.

-          Don’t be afraid to ask what you believe may be silly questions on safari! Because it was my first time, I had so many thoughts going through my head. The guides love questions and they often prompt more thoughts you didn’t think to ask!

-          Keep a journal and try to write in it as often as possible. Being back for almost 3 months now, I still try to remember fun facts to share with family and friends but the information isn’t as fresh.

 

Posted in Africa, Botswana, Consultant Blogs, South Africa | Comments Off


Big Five in One Drive: Rose’s Trip Report

Posted November 24th, 2014 by Mel Reger



By Travel Beyond consultant Rose Loggi

Rose13

I recently returned from an amazing 3-week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. I couldn’t wait to get back and share all about my adventure!

There were many magical moments on my trip, and I wish that I could share them all with you; for now let’s start with just a few highlights.

Zimbabwe

I began my journey in Zimbabwe, which offers great game viewing as well as the picturesque Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. I especially enjoyed the beauty of the Falls during this time of year, when the water levels are lower (but still quite impressive) because this allows for better photo opportunities since there is a lot less spray.

One highlight of my Zimbabwe safari (well, in fact, of my entire trip) was to sit back and enjoy a “slow safari” one day at Little Makalolo in Hwange National Park. Observing animal behavior for hours while sitting at the log pile water hole, watching hundreds of elephant come to drink and wallow – and with a Gin & Tonic in hand – now what can be better than this I ask? Incredible! This was a tough act to follow for sure, and Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools National Park delivered more WOW moments: a bush walk with specialist walking guide and story-teller extraordinaire Mafaku, who shared tales of his adventures in the bush (complete with termite eating and dung-spitting displays), plus an amazing sunset on our Zambezi cruise. A perfect end to my Zimbabwe adventure!

South Africa

After my time in Zimbabwe I headed off to South Africa which began with a champagne welcome upon landing at the airstrip at Tintswalo in the Manyeleti Game Reserve! I really loved Tintswalo, with just seven beautifully decorated suites, excellent food and service, and incredible game viewing, where we saw four of the Big Five safari animals on our very first game drive. After enjoying a sighting of a stunning leopard, at what we thought was the “end” of our first drive, we took a little detour to come to the aid of another group whose vehicle was stuck…and our good deed was rewarded with an amazing sighting of a pride of 8 lions on the move – simply awesome! Ah, this is Africa, and you never know what you might see around the next bend.

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Courtesy Rose Loggi

Next on tap was the Kapama Private Game Reserve, where my stay at Camp Jabulani included a special elephant-back safari on a rescued elephant named Sebakwe; some of you might recognize him, since he is featured on the Amarula Cream liqueur label. Another nice lodge choice here is the chic and modern Kapama Karula; both lodges offer game drives and bush walks in this reserve renowned for its diverse wildlife, home to over 40 different mammal species.

Timbavati Private Reserve was my next stop, where I embraced the totally different ambience of a tented camp at the lovely Tanda Tula. This is an excellent option for those who wish to experience the wonders of safari while “under canvas”, but with all of the modern amenities (including a hairdryer, ladies). I loved the classic East-Africa style tents, each with Victorian bathtub and outdoor shower, and the communal vibe at dinner was fantastic, dining with your fellow safari goers and sharing stories of your day’s excitement. The bush breakfast the next morning was another rare treat; dining al fresco along the banks of the sand river. What more can I say about the extremely productive and exciting game viewing here other than to share that we saw the entire Big Five on One Game Drive – now this doesn’t happen every day on safari, let me tell you! You can also view game right from the camp, when elephant and other animals come to drink at the dam.

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Courtesy Rose Loggi

My final stop in this area was the northern portion of the renowned Sabi Sand Game Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park. I had high expectations for this reserve, and it did not disappoint. Once again, we saw four of the Big Five on our very first game drive (and #5 the next morning), but much more than simply ticking off the boxes of the animal sightings, a safari is really all about observing and appreciating animal behavior. We started with a sighting of a lone male lion doing, well, what most lion do for most of the day – sleep! We then watched a rhino mom with her baby as she chased away a male rhino that she obviously did not want around. Next up was leopards mating – quite an extraordinary sighting. More sleepy lions, a pride of 10 which is usually 13, hmmm, now where could the others have gone? Well, our question was answered when we came upon a huge male lion not typically seen here, who was feeding on a kill at water’s edge; the 3 lionesses had made this kill in the night and then he came along and stole their meal. Life is hard out here in the African bush! There are tons of great lodging choices in the Sabi Sands, and hats off to Louis at Elephant Plains for finding and sharing these magical sightings with us.

Botswana

But wait, we are not finished yet! I topped off my adventure with a visit to Mashatu Game Reserve, located in the secluded and beautiful Northern Tuli block of Botswana, bordering South Africa and Zimbabwe. This picturesque area with panoramic views has many diverse habitats, with exciting game drives across the riverbeds, forests, hills and plains; a true off-the-beaten-path wilderness experience. In addition to game drives, Mashatu offers additional activities as well: observing animals from a photographic hide, exploring on foot on bush walks, experiencing a safari by mountain bike, or galloping through the plains on horseback. It is difficult to say what I enjoyed most at Mashatu; maybe it was the magic moment spent viewing some astonishing animal behavior, with lion chasing hyena, jackal and other lion from a kill, or maybe it was the more serene and surreal sunset on the final evening while I said goodbye to Africa for now…until my next visit.

“All I wanted to do was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.” – Ernest Hemingway

Posted in Africa, Botswana, Consultant Blogs, South Africa, Travel Planning, Zimbabwe | 1 Comment »


The ‘Profoundly Striking’ Makgadikgadi Pans

Posted October 27th, 2014 by Molly Demmer



Kota Tabuchi

Written by Kota Tabuchi, Travel Beyond’s Managing Director of Africa.

This August, I led a group of 40 travelers on safari in Africa, almost all whom had never been to Africa before. As they enjoyed their time in the Okavango Delta, I slipped away from the group to revisit an old favorite: the place that made me fall in love with Africa back in October 2001.

The Makgadikgadi Pans is an ancient lake bed roughly 45 minutes by light aircraft southeast of Maun, Botswana. During the dry season, the lake bed is a dry salt pan, roughly the size of Switzerland. Back in 2001, I was a college student in Lugano, Switzerland at Franklin University and ended up on the Botswana “Academic Travel” program (a 2 week faculty led journey that takes students across the world). When we visited the Makgadikgadi, we contacted a guide from Jack’s Camp; a man by the name of Super. He took us on quad bikes to the middle of the pans for a sleep out under the African stars. In 2001, I was a fairly irresponsible college student and placed academics on the backburner. However, on a warm October night in the middle of the pans, I had a pivotal life moment – something about this place was profoundly striking. In short, this single night was the catalyst to my stewardship towards conservation and drove me to pursue a career in my current field.

Fast forward to August 2014, when I revisited Jack’s Camp and to my surprise, Super met me in the dining hall and introduced himself. I recalled the story that I just mentioned – he remembered my group and got very emotional about how his connection with me and the place in which he guides led me to where I am today. We quad biked into the pans for a sundowner, and Super took me on a game drive. We inspected their sister properties (San Camp and Camp Kalahari), visited the habituated meerkats of the Kalahari and walked with the San Bushmen. Like 14 years ago, I found immense beauty and spirituality in this enormous emptiness. No wind, no noise, no light pollution, and stars packed from horizon to horizon. I relived that special day 14 years ago – it was magical.

The Makgadikgadi remains a very unfrequented area of Botswana – perhaps because it isn’t as wildlife dense as the Okavango or perhaps because people haven’t heard about it. But I can assure you that it is a stunning destination and one with considering if you ever choose to (re)visit to Botswana. San Camp was my favorite of the Uncharted Africa’s portfolio in the Makgadikgadi – a simple and tastefully decorated tented camp on the fringes of the pans overlooking the vast nothingness. I yearn to return with my family to San Camp someday to share the emotional journey that this place delivers.

Interested in learning more about Botwsana or the Makgadikgadi Pans? Contact us.

Posted in Africa, Botswana, Consultant Blogs | 1 Comment »