Monday, January 16, 2012

Life in Botswana: Safari, October 1991

Another excerpt from my parent's memoirs, Life in Botswana:

Two days after Sarah left, we drove to Nata and Kasane (Chobe) where we left our car and flew to our favorite camp, Selinda, which has only three two-person tents. Selinda is an outpost near where the Kwando River, coming down from Angola and Namibia, makes a sharp left turn and becomes the Linyanti & Chobe Rivers. We stayed here four days, for our last visit. We saw a pride of 18 lions the first day, and groups of them on subsequent days. 

One day we saw two lionesses stalking several warthogs, charging them, chasing them past both sides of our open Land Cruiser, but failing to catch any. In addition to the lion we saw a cheetah, hippo, including a pool of 50 near the camp, elephant, zebra, impala, red lechwe, wildebeest, many tsessebe, two kinds of jackal, porcupine, crocodiles, genet cat, civet cat, water buck, spring hares, giraffe, bat-eared foxes, African wildcats, a deadly black mamba snake, two types of mongoose, hyena, a honey badger,bush babies (night apes), scrub hares, warthogs and an aardwolf. From this experience we would now recommend October as the best month to visit northern Botswana. 

The birds are spectacular at Selinda at any time of year. After our evening game rides we would take hot showers in roofless reed enclosures open to the stars above - a feast for the senses. Just-after-dawn game rides with cool, fragrant, moist air, sounds of awakening birds, and the lazy pace of the animals or the evening rides with their spectacular sunsets and, after dark, the glittering eyes of a hundred impala or of one cat, frozen by the lights from our vehicle - these are sights that will remain with us always.

Flying back to Kasane, we were met and taken to our car. We then set out for Namibia and the Caprivi Strip. We crossed the Chobe River at Ngoma Bridge and drove to Katima Mulilo, a small town on the Zambezi River across from Zambia, and stayed at a nice lodge. The next morning, after buying petrol and some groceries, we drove westward about 300 km (200 km gravel) to Popa Falls, a delightful National Parks camp on the Okavango River, where we stayed the night. The next day we drove 200 km more on gravel, then 200 more to Namutoni Lodge at Etosha National Park. The lodge was once an old German fort.

We were in Etosha six days and loved every bit of it. So much so that after leaving Botswana next month we will visit Etosha again. We saw hundreds and hundreds of springbok, zebra, wildebeest and gemsbok (oryx). We saw also ostrich, spotted hyena, giraffe, steenbuck, kudu, red hartebeest; two male lions lying under a bush; black-faced impala and Damara dik-dik; and birds of all kinds, including Kori bustard, korhan, francolin, vultures and marabou stork. The many different pans and waterholes at Etosha , especially the vast Etosha Pan itself, were beautiful in a way hard to describe. As you probably are aware, a pan is a former lake bed or pond which is now rarely filled with water. The edges of a pan resemble shorelines, a gently sloping sandy beach leading up to ground-hugging plants of subtle shades which nevertheless contrast vividly with the white of the pan. The pan itself is absolutely flat and devoid of plant life. Animals, even in great numbers, are dwarfed by the large pans at Etosha. Incredible views!



There are also forest and scrub areas in Etosha. While traveling from one camp to another in the park we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a herd of elephant, called a breeding herd because it consists of female and baby elephants only. Nancy was driving and she rapidly drove backward to get out of the way of an enormous elephant walking down the middle of the road straight at us, flapping her ears in anger. Reverse is not Nancy's best gear but weaving in wide S curves, slalom-like, she got us out of danger. At Okaukuejo camp, which has a water hole lit up at night, we saw many groups of elephant arrive for drinking and bathing, and it was interesting to see the "pecking order" which they have. A high point was the sight of seven black rhinoceros coming to drink. The next morning a lioness crouched nearby, watching the water hole, and every animal stayed away.

We then started our drive home, all on paved roads, southward to Windhoek and Keetmanshoop, then across into South Africa to Upington, then to Kuruman to visit the Moffat Mission again briefly. At the Kuruman "Eye", a large spring, we met an American couple our age, wearing leather jackets and riding a 1100cc Honda motorcycle. They are from Minnesota and were touring to see for themselves what is happening in South Africa. We returned to Gaborone in the morning.

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