Our Africa adventure began with a late start due to vagaries of the weather over Atlanta where we had to spend the night and get on another plane for Johannesburg the following day. We made good use of our unwelcome delay and visited the impressive Martin Luther King Jr. National Park and listened to his inspiring speeches and sermons as we wandered around the grounds.
It’s June 12th. By luck and perseverance all seven of use were able to get a seat on board Delta Airlines’ once daily 16 hour flight to Johannesburg. Ellen had found us lovely lodging 20 minutes from the airport. We stayed in thatched roof cabins surrounded by lush vegetation. For dinner I ate ostrich meat and vegetables, both surprisingly delicious.
It’s June 14th. At last we’re on the final leg to our destination—Maun, Botswana, where our safari begins. I turned 70 today. Hard to believe. I never imagined I’d make it this far, given my history.
We joined the rest of our small group in time for a celebratory dinner. I ate kudu for the first time, a large antelope, along with many delicious vegetables. We went around the table introducing ourselves—all thirteen participants, plus Deborah Stephens, our trip leader.
June 15th, our much anticipated departure day into the bush in the northern part of Botswana called The Okavango Delta where there is a heavy concentration of wildlife, including over 450 species of birds. The Okavango is the largest inland delta in the world. We will be camped on the eastern border of the Moremi Game Reserve.
We had to make sure we kept out zippers closed at all times to keep out the mosquitoes, monkeys, spiders, and snakes. One of the group saw a puff adder snake lying right next to Joanie and Gordie’s tent door—fortunately zippered tightly.
In the middle of the night when I went through the zippered back of the tent to pee, the wind was gusting forcefully. As I sat on the toilet, the wind blew the structure down on top of me, toppling me and the toilet onto the ground, with the canvas on top of the pile. I called my roommate, Tina, for help. We couldn’t stop laughing at the comical scene.
Another “bathroom” adventure occurred when the two men, Paul and Jim, who shared a tent, came back from an outing and found monkey poop on the “floor” of their “bathroom.” The monkeys obviously dropped down from the tree branches to check out the structure
Surely you must be wondering how we can get so close to the animals without them becoming fearful. These wild animals are so used to the safari vehicles that they don’t view them as a danger. We are not allowed to get out of the vehicles without the supervision of Peace or David so that we don’t appear like predators—or potential prey.
The light is starting to dim. It’s time to return to camp and get ready for dinner, made by our fantastic staff of 8 helpers who do the cooking, washing the dishes, washing and ironing our dirty clothes, setting up and taking down camp every three nights, making our beds and putting hot water bottles between the sheets just before we go to bed each night.
Before and after dinner we sit around the campfire and tell stories. David assures us that we’re in for some more excitement tomorrow with the leopard and lion tracking.
Our routine involves being woken up by the staff at 5:30 in the cold and dark morning. The wake up person pours warm water into our little canvas basins suspended from poles in front of our tents. We put on our headlamps and quickly wash up, get dressed and prepare our gear for the day and then grab a cup of coffee and head to the fire to talk about the sounds we heard in the night—including snoring sounds made by two-legged creatures—and our plans for the day.
David is keen on tracking the same leopardess that we saw last night. I am amazed that he thinks he can find her again. I soon discover that David and Peace have such an intimate understanding of the wildlife here that they know how to think like the animals that they are tracking and can find them no matter how well they are camouflaged.
David says he knows the leopardess well since she was a small cub. He tracked the mother for years. Whilst all the leopards look roughly the same to me, David and Peace recognize each one of them by the markings on their bodies, along with any scars or other signs of injury.
June 17th we get a special surprise, a ride in a mokoro, formerly a dugout canoe, now made of fiberglass to save the trees, propelled forward by a long pole that reaches the floor of the Khwai River.
June 18th. Today we move our camp to Savuti, part of the vast Chobe reserve where we’ll remain for the next three nights. Stay tuned for amazing close up views of some very impressive animals, like wart hogs, cape buffalo, wildebeests, kudu, baboons, monkeys, lots of lions, giraffes, zebras, and elephants. Some of the photos will be taken with real cameras by fellow travelers who have generously offered to take some shots for me. Here’s a preview of what you’ll see—in the case below they are simply tracks:
I hope you will continue to travel with me. It makes me happy thinking that I’m bringing this once-in-a-lifetime trip to you virtually.