Rra Dinare and the Okavango Delta

Off we go to our last tent camp, Rra Dinare.  https://underonebotswanasky.com/botswana-lodges/rra-dinare-father-buffalo

Rra Dinare means “Father Buffalo” in the local language.  Fitting with all the Cape Buffalo we saw thoughout the area.  It was a very short flight cross the Okavango Delta from Khwai to Rra Dinari.  By this time, after three previous flights, I wasn’t leaving imprints of my fingers on the seat back in front of me.

Ken, Lynne and Kay waiting for the plane.

 

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Our stewardess as usual sitting down, not serving her customers.

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On the way to the camp we saw an ostrich and a herd of the ubiquitous impala.  Our guides were NT, assisted by tracker Michael, and Paul who had tracker Lake with him.                   

Ostrich

 

Herd of impalas

The camp was possibly the most luxurious of the four, if not, close to the top.  The staff was excellent, managed by Andy.

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On our afternoon game drive we saw an active pride of lions.

Pride of lions sleeping

Two lion sisters l

A magpie shrike

Magpie shrike

How about a mongoose or two.

Mongoose

Late in the afternoon we  passed a helmeted guineafowl.

Helmeted guineafowl

and another kori bustard.

Another kori bustard

And finally a giraffe.

Giraffe in the later afternoon

 

The African sky was always beautiful in the evening.

Beauriful african sunset

Tree in sunset

After another fine dinner and some quality time visiting, we retired for a good evening’s sleep.  Up and out the next morning, we saw this roan peering out at us from the bushes.

Roan

and another giraffe, a stately creature.

Another giraffe

 

We saw an African Wildcat running across in front of us, but this is the best picture I could get.

African wild cat

A Southern Ground Hornbill, but in a tree.

Southern ground hornbill

That afternoon, we saw some of the destructiveness of the elephants, with this guy tearing up a tree outside our tent.

Elephant outside tent

A little later, a kudu wanted a snack.

Kudu outside tent

Back on our afternoon drive, we saw two zebras strolling to graze with impalas and warthogs.

Two zebras strolling to graze

A young warthog.

Young warthog

Continuing our love affair with birds, a little ground feeder, a blue waxbill.

Blue waxbill

This impressive bird flew overhead.

Big bird

Nothing to do with airplanes, but I have to remark on a study initiated by our fellow traveler Cynthia.  Due to her curiosity, we learned a lot about how to identify scat from the various animals.  Fascinating.

Scenes from our further travels:

A curious cape buffalo.

Cape buffalo

Another eagle in flight, a bateleur.

Bateleur 3

 

“It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog (lion)
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log “  (Courtesy The Beatles)

Lioness yawning

We can’t leave without a picture of the ubiquitous anthill.

Ant hill

And, Aslan and the anthill. (Hint: Narnia)

Aslan and The How

African Fish Eagle and impalas.

Fish eagle and impalas

A hartebeest.

Hartebeest

Back to birds, a southern white crowned shrike.

Southern white crowned shrike

And the last of the big cats we saw, a leopard. He was focused on a nearby impala.  I continue to be amazed at how acclimated the cats were to the vehicles around them, just ignoring them.  I asked for volunteers to get out of the jeep and walk around to see if that got their attention, but no takers.

Leopard 2

On our last morning at Rra Dinari, we declined an early game drive, and instead took a leisurely drive to the airstrip.  The ride was kind of like the ending a Disney movie, driving by a giraffe, then an elephant walking out of a thicket to say good bye.  We spotted two female lions resting under a tree, and a male under a tree behind them.  We drove past them, and up to the male, who raised his head and in a first, growled.  TJ, our driver, pulled around behind the tree and stopped to give us a view of the male.  Faster than you could say Lion King, the male charged our jeep, right at the side where Ken and Gina were sitting.  Ken hit the floor, Gina leaped into Kay’s lap, and TJ hit the accelerator.  A little excitement to end our stay.  

At the airstrip, we saw one of our planes coming in for a landing.  You see the problem below.

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An elephant ambled across the airstrip, forcing the pilot to fly around again.  Saying a sad goodbye to Beautiful Botswana, we flew to the Maun International Airport, and boarded a regional flight to Johannesburg.  

The trip was wonderful, the scenery was great and the animals exciting.  The best part, however, were the people we traveled with.  Our leaders, Janet and Byron, Sig and Ellen (Precious,) Ken and Cynthia, Roger and Leigh, Kay and her friend Lynne and last but not least, the mother and daughter team, Leslie and Shelda, the Kentucky girls.  We could not have had better traveling companions.

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A stop overnight in Joburg, then another long trip home.  The floor in the Orlando airport was very hard.

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Khwai Tented Camp and The Moremi Game Reserve

After a short, dry and uneventful flight from the Linyanti airstrip, we landed at the strip serving Khwai. Dry flight because Stewardess Precious declined to serve drinks and snacks, claiming the flight was too short. She did pass around a few candies.  Our new guides, Aubrey and Max met us and we motored to the camp.

Hee is Gina as we were loading up (and part of Roger)

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On the way we saw some wildlife as usual.

Some Zebras.

Zebras on way to khwai

Another beautiful shot of an African Fish Eagle (if I do say so myself)

Another fish eagle

We were welcomed to the Khwai Tented Camp by Dudu and her crew.  Another first class camp. https://africanbushcamps.com/camps/khwai-tented-camp/

I was entirely too comfortable.

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And so was Aubrey, one of our guides.

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Dudu, our hostess and the cook.

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We would find during our stay at Khwai, as we did at the other camps, that they have hospitality down to a science.  The staff were invariably well trained, courteous, friendly and helpful. And the facilities were all first class.  I don’t think anyone in the group would disagree with me that we could recommend any of the camps, with the possible exception of Nogatsaa due to the long drive in.  If Nogatsaa gets an airstrip as they are allegedly trying to, that objection would be removed.

Back to wildlife.  A lechwe, baby hippo and cormorant sharing grazing space.

Baby hippo lechwe and white breasted coromant

Grazing is hard work, baby is tired.

Baby hippo sleeping

Lechwe looking at you.

Lechwe

Croc on bank.

Croc on bank

Saddle-beaked stork

Saddle billed stork

Probably the prettiest bird we saw in Botswana was the lilac breasted roller.  My favorite anyway.  A couple flying pictures.

Lilac breasted roller flying

Lilac breasted roller flying 3

Then we encountered the high point of our wildlife experience.  Just as the vulture and other scavenger birds are not attractive, even ugly,  the hyena, a scavenger, is possibly the most disgusting animal.  Aubrey and Max warned us that the hyenas had a unique greeting ritual, and unique it was.  Think of dogs sniffing, then multiply that many times, with accompanying sound effects.  I will not repeat some of the comments heard from the vehicles as we watched the hyenas returning to the den and greeting each other.  I did hear Lynne say “Wes, stop it,” but I have no idea what she meant.

Mother hyena and pups.

Hyena and nursing pups

Pup.

Hyena pup

Group sniff.

Hyena group sniff

After our heartwarming experience observing the hyena, we returned to the camp for another fine meal and a good nights sleep.

Starting out the next morning as usual about 6:30 AM, we had a good wildlife day.  First up was a pack of African Wild Dogs we ran across. A critically endangered species, there are only abut 1,400 remaining in the wild, and they exist only in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa.

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Pack of african wild dogs

African wild dog

Not too much later we crossed paths with three young lions.

Three young lions

Another young lion

Another young lion 2

A Martial Eagle

Martial eagle

It was a regular feline frolic that morning as we spotted (pun intended) cheetahs.

Two cheetahs

Two cheetahs standing

Cheetah walking and looking

Impeding our travels once again, this fellow had some big ones, tusks.

Elephant  out of my way

On the afternoon drive, more cats.  Our guides were alerted to a lion feasting on a kill, so we raced to catch the cat in action.  Well, the kill was probably two days old, and the smell was strong to say the least.  The big cat was cleaning up what was left on the carcass.

Lion with carcass

We stayed much too long watching the guy having his meal and smelling his meal, but finally he had enough and got up to rest, right by our jeep.

Lion resting after eating

This is how close he was, as Gina took the shot from behind me in the LandCruiser.

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Which brings up a point we all discussed at one time or another.  These are wild animals, in their natural habitat.  They were almost completely oblivious to our presence, having become so accustomed to the jeeps riding around them.

Later we saw this cute little fellow, a jackal in the late afternoon sun.

Jackal

More elephants.  This young guy looks like he has a deformed trunk.  Compare to his friend in the second picture.

Elephant with deformed trunk

Elephant with deformed trunk and friend

We passed a herd of another member of the antelope family, wildebeests in the later afternoon sun.

Wildebeest herd in late sun

The national bird of Botswana in the late afternoon sun, a Kori Bustard

Kori bustard

As we went for our sundowner, we were joined by Cynthia and Ken.  They had left us after Nogatsaa, staying at other camps.  Their camp at Khwai was close by ours, so we could have a reunion.  And, I know they were glad to be present for the poop spitting contest.  In fact, their guide, Sinka, instigated the whole thing,  seeing who could spit lechwe poop the furthest.  Supposedly, the lechwe poop was sterile, and no harm would come from putting it it your mouth.  We travelers were more than willing to take their word for that.  If fact, Aubrey, one of our guides, wasn’t keen on the idea either.  But, Max and Sinka had a spirited contest, with Max coming up short.  Here is Max with a valiant effort.

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Gina and Cynthia together again.

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A sunset to finish a good day.

Another african sunset

The next morning, the group went to the village of Khwai.  Janet had some gifts she wanted to give the kids.  Sig and I elected to stay at the lodge, Sig not having much choice and me just being lazy.  We went through the village on each game drive and across a rickety bridge to get to the Game Reserve.

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The village was stretched out along the dusty road, and was very poor.  The residents were supported by government grants and by profit sharing from the safari camps in the area.  The only electricity was in the municipal buildings.  The homes were mostly small concrete structures or thatched huts.  The inhabitants cooked on fires in from of their homes, and the same fires provided  heat.

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Some scenes from the visit to the school courtesy of Gina.

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Lunch was served for the group in the bush.

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Ladies enjoying the break.

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On the afternoon drive we saw wildebeests.

Wlldebeest running

And giraffes.

Giraffe  can I help you

Two young zebras in the sunset.

Two young zebras at sunset

And to finish the day, elephants walking in the beautiful African sunset.

Elephants at sunset 2

The next day we said goodbye to Khwai.  Our two guides Aubrey and Maxwell, and fine ones they were.

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Waiting to load up for the short flight to Rra Dinare, our next camp.

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More to come.

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Linyanti Swamp

Arriving at the dirt strip serving the Linyanti Bush Camp https://africanbushcamps.com/camps/linyanti-bush-camp/, we were met by our guides, Eschee and Chris.  They loaded us up in the ubiquitous LandCruisers and off we went on the 30 minute drive to our home for the next three days.  Along the way we saw some zebras.

Zebra herd
Zebra

We were met at the camp  by Cassie, our hostess, and her crew.  Receiving our orientation, we were escorted to our rooms to unpack and rest before heading out on our first game drive in the Linyanti Swamp.  

The entrance to the Linyanti camp

Entrance to Linyanti Camp

The lodge was quite nice and open. The ladies were enjoying a snack before heading out.

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We saw a lot of wildlife at Nogatsaa, but it seemed on this first drive at Linyanti, there was more to see.

An impala (with the McDonald’s emblem on the rear;

Female impala showing mcdonald butt
Giraffe framed

A male kudu.

Kudu in  bushes 2

A carmine bee-eater.

Carmine bee eater 4

Lilac breasted roller.

Lilca breasted roller3

As long as we are looking at birds, here are some white-faced whistling ducks:

Whitefaced whistling ducks 2 w reflection

And a black-bellied starling taking a bath:

Black bellied starling bathing

Warthogs were a regular sight, really attractive animals. Only a mother could love this face, mother warthog that is:

Warthog   only a mother could love

Breakfast at the Linyanti Bush Camp. We had a nice light breakfast before hitting the LandCruisers as the sun was coming up.

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Sunrise over the linyanti

Sketch of an African Open-billed in the early morning light.

Sketch of african open billed

Verraeux’s Eagle Owl

Verraeux s eagle owl

The first afternoon, some of us went on a mokoro safari in the swamp.  The mokoro is basically a dugout canoe, with a guide/poler on the back.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mokoro

Here we are loading up.

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Kay and Lynne enjoying the ride.

Lynne and Kay in mokoro

The photographer at work in the mokoro.

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While stopped watching the scenery in the mokoro, I saw a nice stick floating past me.  I picked it up, and thought “what a nice walking stick,” then realized I would never get it back on the plane with me, so I tossed it in a clump of grass next to me. From the back of the mokoro, I heard Gina say “that is the guides pole,” he had lost hold of his pole.  So I floated it back to him.  Another exciting story from our trip.

A sparrow weaver’s nest.  The male builds nests and female picks one she likes. (Sound familiar?)  They are always built on the west side of trees, and were used for directions by natives in the delta.

Sparrow weaver nest

A lechwe in the swamp. The lechwe use the swamp to escape predators, making use of knee deep water holes to hide. Knees have a protective  covering which helps the lechwe run fast in the water.

Lechwe

African Fish eagle on mound.

African fish eagle on mound

Red-billed Spur Fowl.

Red billed spurfowl

Shelda and Leslie in the mokoro, obviously enjoying life.

Shelda and Leslie in mokoro

A little bee-eater flying by.

Little bee eater in flight

Trees on the bank.

Trees on the bank texture

Sunset from the mokoro.

Sunset from the mokoro

After the mokoro ride, the rest of the group joined us for a sundowner, our late afternoon wine and beer break.  Soft drinks also available.  The motley crew:

Sundowner in Linyanti swamp

Our guides enjoying the sundowner.

Guides at linyanti sundowner

On the way back to the lodge that evening, we saw honey badgers in their den,  but it was too dark for a decent picture.  After another fine dinner, we retired for a good nights sleep.  Next morning back up and at it again. Impalas in the morning sun.

Impala in the early morning sun

Vervet monkey.

Vervet monkey 2
Vervet monkey

Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Grey heron and little egret

African Fish Eagle.

African fish eagle

Arnot’s Chat.

Arnot s chat

We were riding along one of the dirt tracks with Chris driving and looking side to side for game, when Gina hollered from behind Chris “Watch Out!,”  a large elephant was blocking the path just at a curve ahead of us.  Chris said it shook him up a bit.

Elephant blocking path

We were much too close to him.  He would probably have come out on top in a collision.  We waited patiently until he decided to walk on.

The last night in Linyanti, we were treated to dinner in the bush.  Gina and I had taken the afternoon off, so we were ferried out to dinner along with the heartthrob of the camp, a young French helicopter pilot who was staying at the camp.  The young man was four months into a three year contract to fly for the camps in the area.  Some of our group took flights over the swamp with the young man.  Not my cup of tea.

Our table in the bush.  Cassie and her group went to a lot of effort to set up away from the camp, another example of the excellent hospitality we received at each and every camp.

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The next morning we went on an abbreviated drive, then off to the Linyanti air strip for our next adventure.

A pretty landscape:

Monet vision of pond and landscape

This is yours truly eagerly awaiting our next flight.

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 Here are Precious and Janet having fun before takeoff.

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Next stop – Khwai Tented Camp.

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On to Botswana and Nogatsaa Pans Camp

On Monday 8/12, we were picked up about 11:30 AM from the Victoria Falls Hotel and began the trip to our first tent camp. The trip to the Airport where we were meeting our drivers to the tent camp took about an hour plus time for stops at the border crossing from Zimbabwe to Botswana.

The guard checking the driver’s documents:

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Border guards taking a break under the tree:

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We changed to another vehicle on the Botswana side and continued to the Kasane International Airport.

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We got a snack at the airport (I shared a grilled cheese with Lynne) and the last two members of our group, Roger and Leigh, flew in and joined us.  We loaded up in a caravan of SUVs and pickup trucks and headed out to the Nogatssa Pans Tent Camp.  It was a delightful, 2 1/2 hour drive on dusty, sandy trails (I wouldn’t call them roads.)  Our introduction to the Kalahari sand that covers this part of the country.  Janet had warned us that it would be dry and dusty, and she didn’t lie.  We arrived at the camp dusty and dry, and met in the large tent lodge for our orientation.  We were instructed that we were not to walk from our tent to the lodge unaccompanied, as animals, particularly elephants roamed freely through the camp.  After being there about an hour, Sig wandered by saying “where is my wife?”  As it turned out, one of the vehicles had a flat tire, leaving Ellen, Shelda and Leslie stranded for a while.  Two of the drivers hustled back and brought them to safety.

We were taken to our tents to freshen up and get ready for the first game drive.  These were not your typical Boy Scout tents.

Tent

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Truly luxurious tenting.

Elephants everywhere

4 elephants

2 young elephants                                       Two young elephants

We found out why we were not to walk by ourselves, when 15 elephants paraded between our tent and the next one in the middle of the afternoon, on the way to the water in the pan.  There were usually elephants around the pan in front of the lodge.  One evening we were sitting around a campfire in the boma, an open area outside the lodge, there was a family of elephants drinking at the water hole.  One big guy got curious, and started walking over toward us.  He kept getting closer and closer, and Ken, who has bad knees, bailed out, and went up the stairs.  The rest of us sat there for a couple of minutes watching as he approached the boma.  There was just a border about a foot tall surrounding the boma.  When he got within a few feet of us, we all started to bail out.  Bwana Byron stood up, waved his arms wildly, and shouted loudly “Hey there, Hey there.”  The elephant missed a step, then turned and went the other way.  Saved once again.

We saw our first giraffe that day

Our first giraffe

Think if you are that tall, how hard it is to get down to drink

Giraffes at water hole

Our schedule was to get up at 5:30 AM, a staff member would come by the tent and wake us, then would come back at 6:00 AM to lead us to the lodge tent for a quick breakfast,  In the Land Cruisers at 6:30 and out on a game drive.  A stop in the middle of the morning for coffee or tea, then back to work.  We would return for a delicious lunch about 12 noon.  After a little rest, afternoon tea at 3:30PM then back to the Land Cruisers.  A stop during the late afternoon ride for wine and beer, back to the lodge about 7:00 PM for dinner, then crash.  A busy schedule that was duplicated at all four tent camps, but nobody complained.  We never knew what we would see while cruising around

Tree at sunrise                                                                                                                                                         Tree at Sunset

 

First lion

 

                                              Our First Lion

 

Little bee eater                                                 Little Bee Eater

Cape buffalo and oxpecker flying               Cape Buffalo (notice Oxpecker flying in from right)

 

Oxpeckers on cape buffalo                                        Yellowbilled Oxpeckers

 

Oxpeckers on and leaving

 

Waterbuck 3                                                                                                                                                                     Waterbuck

Southern Africa has several varieties of antelopes including the Waterbuck above.  We saw most of them during our travels.  Here is an attractive website: https://animalsake.com/african-antelope

Again, elephants were all over the place, nice reflection

Elephants reflected in pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lion in headlight

 

 

 

 

                        The guide took us out beyond the pan in front of the lodge where a pride of lions were sleeping.  No mercy.

 

Pencil sketch moon over tree                                Moon over Tree (pencil sketch)

 

For those of us who were new to the safari experience, I think 8 out of the 14 in the group, everything we saw was new and exciting.  It was nice to see the the experienced members of the group appeared as excited as we were.  I can understand why some of them go back year after year.

Saw our first kudus at the Pan watering hole;

Kudus at watering hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also a beautiful sable:

Sable

 

Our group getting ready to leave the Nogatsaa Pan Camp.

 

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We endured the brutal 2 1/2 hour drive back to the Kasane International Airport, where I faced the reason I never wanted to go on one of the Hodge’s safaris, flying in a small plane.  Luckily the plane did not have cloth seats.

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On to our second camp, the Linyanti Bush Camp.  Stay tuned.

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Southern Africa

It was a mighty long airplane ride, 25 hours travel from Orlando to Johannesburg, via Dubai. We were at dinner for our anniversary three days early on August 2, Friday evening, when I got a text from my oncologist and friend, Dr. Hodge, saying he had a deal for us and to call him. I said i would call him in the morning, having an idea what he wanted and not being too excited at the thought. I called hm Saturday morning, and to make  a long story short, a couple had dropped out at the last minute from a photographic safari he was leading to Southern Africa, Victoria Falls and Botswana. He would give us a deal if we wanted to go. Byron had been trying to get us to join him on a safari for several years. Why not. Gina went out to show a house, and when she returned I was working the Emirate Airlines web site. We got every thing ready in four days, and the Emirates driver picked us up at home and delivered us to the Orlando airport. The Emirates flights in business class were very comfortable and showed us that the only way we would take flights of that length was in Business Class.
Arriving in Johannesburg, we were met by the driver from the Witwater Guest House and delivered to our lodging. A delightful oasis in the middle of a “transitional” in other words depressed area 10-15 minutes from the airport. https://www.witwater.com/guesthouse_home.html

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We had a full day there to rest and mainly laid on lounge chairs under a tree and read. The rest of the group arrived that evening, and after a good meal and a nights sleep, we went to the Johannesburg airport to fly to Victoria Falls.

The Vistoria Falls Airport, in Zimbabwe, was a treat, or rather a nightmare.  A new airport, but the procedures for handling passengers through passport control were non-existent. Finally out of the airport, we were conveyed to the Victoria Falls Hotel, a grand old hotel dating back to the turn of the 20th century. http://www.victoriafallshotel.com/

Victoria Falls Hotel pan

Victoria Falls Hotel entrance

Skin on the walland stair of Vic Falls Hotel

Gina’s gin bar:

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Looking toward the Zambezi River

Victoria Falls Hotel looking toward river

Looking at the Bridge over the Zambezi

The first evening in Victoria Falls, we took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zambezi.

We were greeted at the dock by a native group (well, they weren’t all native):

Africans and the girls at the Zambezi dock

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The first thing I managed to do was to lose the sunshade from my 55-200mm lens in the river.  Way to start out! I heard a clank, and watched it slowly sink into the river.

As soon as we left the dock, we saw our first elephants in the wild, coming down to the river to drink.  We were excited, not realizing, being new to Southern Africa, that in Botswana, we would see elephant poop and indeed elephants everywhere.  Botswana has somewhere around 130,000 elephants roaming around the landscape. We also saw our first hippos:

Hippos in the Zambezi

African Jacanas being observed by a crocodile:

African jacanas and croc

A Jacana and an Egyptian Goose:

African Jacana

Egyptian goose

As will become obvious, one of the most exciting things for me was the new birds I would see during the trip.   A bird nerd you might say.  You might, I wouldn’t.

Sunset over the Zambezi River:

Sunset over the Zambezi

Next morning we took a walk to the little town of Victoria Falls.  Byron and I were resting on a low wall beside the sidewalk, when the warthog squeezed out of a culvert and walked in front of us:

Warthog in culvert

Some views from our walk:

Not your everyday rhino

Sculpture in vic falls

Sculpture and musicias

Beelongings on bike

Following our jaunt into town, we returned to the hotel, and caught taxis to the entrance to Victoria Falls, in Lozi: Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Falls

 We paid the modest admission fee, and walked down the path to the falls.  We passed the statue of Livingston, and of course someone, I think Sig, said “Dr. Livingston I presume.”

Livingston statue

Part of the group at the falls:

Some of the group at the falls

A lovely (and loving) couple:

Gina and i falls and rainbow

Some beautiful pictures of the falls or maybe pictures of the beautiful falls:

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Falls and foliage paint2 2

Falls and foliage paint2

Falls and rainbow 2

Falls and rainbow

Falls painterly2

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The Falls were a truly awesome sight.  Our taxi driver was waiting for us and returned us to the hotel, where we had dinner in the Jungle Room, an outdoor cafe, protected by a roving guard to keep the baboons away.  Undeterred, they would jump on the tables and steal food. The guard is on the left.

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The next morning, we boarded a small bus and headed for the Botswana border.  That is a story for another day.

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