A Cruise down the Chobe River

Posted August 29th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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PHOTOS : CHOBE SAFARI

DSC_8719Our first activity after checking in at the Hotel Chobe Marina at Kasane was book ourselves for a river cruise down the Chobe River.  We had booked a lovely cottage at the Chobe Marina with three separate bed rooms overlooking the Chobe River.  The hotel was larger than I expected and very upscale , especially compared to the tents that we were occupying at Okavango.  The first thing we did after checking in was to go to the Activities office and choose between safaris and boat cruises as our activities for the next two days.  Our very first activity was to begin immediately: we were going for a three hour cruise down the Chobe River.
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Life in Botswana

Posted August 27th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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BotswanaI confess, I was singularly ignorant about the history of Botswana before my trip. But I soon learnt that Botswana had been a British protectorate (not a colony) from 1885 till its independence. Worried about a Boer (Dutch) invasion and getting incorporated into neighbouring South Africa, the leaders at that time, asked the British to protect their country.   Eighty odd years later, in 1966, under the leadership of the Botswana’s first Prime Minister, Seretse Khama, Botswana gained its independence from Britain.  At the time of independence, Botswana was a poor undeveloped country with no natural resources and only about 10kms of tarred roads in the entire country.  Given that they did not have any gold or diamonds, Britain granted them independence with minimal fuss in comparison with other countries that had to struggle for their freedom from Britain.  However, in one of those bizarre twists of fate for which I am sure, the Batswana are devoutly grateful; diamonds were discovered in Botswana just one year after independence.  The Botswana government made a joint deal with DeBeers for diamond mining rights making it one the world’s foremost suppliers of conflict free diamonds.  And they actually used their burgeoning fortune from the diamonds to develop the country financially and socially making it one of the economically strong countries in Africa. Continue Reading »

All Creatures Big and Small

Posted August 26th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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PHOTOS : Inyati Lodge at Sabi Sands , South Africa

The impalas were the most common antelopes and indeed the most common animal that we saw.  They were rather smaller than the common American deer and with three black stripes on their rump forming an M shape – the safari guides called them Mcdonalds!  Impalas move in large herds: each herd consisting of  one stag (with antlers) and about 30+ does and fawns. Once the male kids are grown up enough, they are banished from the main herd and they form their own separate “bachelor clubs”.   Although these young bucks maintain their independence by keeping to a separate group, they tend to stick close to the main herd because there is safety in numbers. Occasionally, during the mating seasons, one of the young males would try to lure a female away from the alpha male.  The “man” of the family is aware of the shenanigans of the youth so he keeps a strict watch on his harem, each time a young male comes too close, he will promptly trot over and nudge the female back into the fold. Most of the times the young males are chastened and go away to indulge in mock fights with the other males.  Occasionally one of the young males might challenge the alpha male for the leadership of the herd and then these mock fights come in handy. Continue Reading »

Safari Camps

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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PHOTOS: Okavango Delta

The highlight of our African adventure was undoubtedly the stay in the safari camps and the game drives at these camps.  We spent three days (and three nights) at the Pom Pom Camp at the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Seejo & I splurged for another three days at the Inyati Game Reserve at the Sabi Sands Reserve (part of Kruger National Park)  in South Africa at the tail end of the trip. In addition we also went for an early morning game drive at Chobe National Park.   Wildlife was abundant in all three places and we were lucky enough to get to see an amazing variety of species.  I found that there was a world of difference in observing an animal in its natural habitat as opposed to the zoo.  It was fascinating to see how each and every creature has adapted to its surroundings and utilizes them as best as it can to either get its food or avoid being food.

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Birds in Botswana and South Africa

Posted August 23rd, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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I have another post to describe the animals that we saw on the safari, but I thought I should show you the  bird life that we encountered.  Needless to say, variety abounded.   I have tried to name all the species that we saw but I am sure I have a few wrong. I’ll try and update as I get more information.

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1. Spotted Eagle Owl 2. Black-collared Barbet 3. African Scops Owl

4. Pied Kingfisher 5. Bateleur Eagles    6. Crested Barbet

7. African Pied Wagtail

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A Leopard Hunt

Posted August 22nd, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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DSC_6302I was sitting snugly between my mother and Seejo while we were on our “night safari drive”.  It was pitch dark outside and I was lazily following the beam from the huge spotlight that Peter, our tracker, was  flashing from side to side.  There was a slightly chilly breeze but I was wrapped up well with the warm blankets that the folks at Pom Pom camp had provided.  The evening’s safari, thus far, had been rather disappointing.

The Okavango Delta covers about 16,000 sq km and in that area there are only about 20-25 camps with each one accommodating about 20 odd guests.  Each camp, therefore, has its own private concession area where they can take their guests for a safari tour withoutDSC_7529bumping into guests from other camps.  For the tourists, it translates into a very personal safari experience where you do not have other vehicles waiting bumper to bumper to observe the same group of animals.  But it also means that animals have a large area to move about freely.  In most cases, the sheer population of animals ensures that you will see many of them eventually but that evening they were proving to be particularly elusive.  Our guide, Shaku, had driven quite far away from the camp  that day so we had longer night drive than usual.   It was our last evening/night safari and I had hoped to see  some of the wild creatures that we hadn’t seen so far but other than the ever present impalas , some kudus (large antelopes with a camel like hump and white stripes) and a horde of monkeys,  we hadn’t come across anything else. Continue Reading »

A Mokoro Ride

Posted August 21st, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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The Delta

PHOTOS : BOTSWANA

The best way to really experience the Okavango Delta intimately is a mokoro ride. One of the reasons for opting for the  Pom Pom Camp in Botswana was its ability to provide both the land safari and the mokoro safari.   A mokoro is a type of a canoe that has been carved from a single tree trunk, although due to conservation efforts fiberglass is being increasingly used nowadays.  Generally, it can accommodate about two people and a poler who stands at the rear and steers the mokoro using a long pole.  We started at around 7:30 am, a little later than the usual safari, to give the hippos a chance to go into deeper waters in the daytime. The hippos are notorious for overturning the mokoros so it seemed like a good idea to avoid them.  The point of the mokoro safari, unlike the land safaris, was to steer clear of the bigger animals and take time to appreciate the smaller creatures, the birds and the plant life that the delta offers.

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