Photgraphy and report by Lyndon Duplessis
High resolution photos available on Flickr!
CHITABE CAMP, SOUTHEASTERN OKAVANGO DELTA
Chitabe Camp is a traditional raised platform camp with spacious tented rooms. As I arrived and sat down for the safety briefing that occurs at every camp some other guests remarked that they thought they had seen me earlier. This drew a bit of a chuckle from me as I knew my brother was staying at this camp and of course it turns out they had seen him earlier. After the briefing I made my way back to my room and settled in before heading back for high tea. It was a typical high tea where I convinced myself that I would take it easy on the snacks and then proceeded to sample everything they had.
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.
The highlight of our evening game drive with our guide Bebe was getting to see a small pack of 4 wild dog. They were relaxing in the waning sun although one of them was obviously a bit hungry and eager to get the others to go on a hunt. Shortly after we left them we came across a couple of lions taking a stroll just as the sun really started to disappear. A delicious chicken dinner was prepared for us as we returned to camp and shortly afterwards it was off to bed although there was a particularly noisy cricket that drew my ire throughout the night.
The following morning we woke up early and had a tasty little breakfast with some poppy seed muffins and toast to hold us over until brunch. This game drive would be abbreviated as we were scheduled to leave on a flight that afternoon, Jason and Sara to one camp, myself to another. We saw some nice birds and quite a bit of general game but a bit quiet on the predator side. On arrival back into camp we had time to finish packing and get in a fine brunch. Unfortunately, as we drove to the airstrip we passed the other guests arriving back into camp and heard about their lion and cheetah sightings just after we had gone. Needless to say I think we all would have traded in that brunch, especially for a chance to see some cheetah. This type of thing tends to happen though when all you have are 1 or 2 nights per camp.
LITTLE VUMBURA, NORTHERN OKAVANGO DELTA
The next camp on the list was Little Vumbura and after saying my goodbyes and after a short flight I was meeting with my new guide, Kay, and we were taking the 40 minute drive to camp. Little Vumbura is actually built on an island so there is a short boat transfer involved as you head to and back from activities. Very good views from the tents out to some classic Okavango Delta scenery. The tents themselves are comfortable with doors separating the restroom area and the shower. As I said earlier it had been about 2 years since I was last in Botswana and as I was meeting some of the camp staff I instantly recognized someone but was having trouble remembering where I had last seen him. Terrible with names but great with faces. Quest was his name and eventually I remembered that he was previously the camp manager at Kalahari Plains Camp which I had visited on my last trip so it was nice to catch up with him. Ironically the two guests I would share game drives at the camp with for the following two days were a couple from England who had been to Little Vumbura 14 years ago and Kay had been their guide then so it was a day of coincidences all around.
Could not resist a small slice of carrot cake before our evening drive and it was mighty tasty indeed. Quite quickly after we left camp we saw a mother hyena with some very young pups. We watched them for quite some time and saw that their den was nearby. After this it was some birding as well as general game including a group of about 5 elephants having fun in a small watering hole and then getting back out and promptly dusting themselves down. We picked out a nice spot and had a sundowner before heading back to camp. As we all had some drinks around the fire in anticipation of dinner the staff entertained us with some songs. Had some more excellent lamb for dinner as well as crème brule and slept like a rock.
The following morning the park-wide wake-up call changed from 5:00 to 5:30 because it was getting a bit darker in the mornings so we got to “sleep in” a bit. After a small breakfast and some tea we were off on our game drive. We spotted a ‘handsome’ group of ground hornbill getting their own breakfast as well as the same hyenas we had seen previously. As we watched them we received radio notification that another vehicle had spotted fresh wild dog tracks so we sped off to try our luck with them. Not too long afterwards they were spotted and about 15 minutes later we had caught up and had a fantastic viewing of a group of 15. They were on the move and we followed for a good while not sure if they were hunting or just avoiding other predators. 5 pups trailed the main group.
As well as the dogs there was a great amount of birdlife in the area and also some general game including tessebe, zebra, impala, wildebeest and hippo. Before wrapping up the drive we were treated to a group of elusive sable antelope. More than a few people I know rank them as the most handsome antelope. The contrast in color between the young ones (brown) and the adult is quite striking.
Evening activity was a boat cruise around the island. Not as much about the game as it is relaxing and changing up the routine a bit. Very nice birdlife and the scenery is excellent. Also got to take a closer look at some of the aquatic plants including the day and night lilies and all the papyrus. One of these days I hope to get a look at the sitatunga, the rare antelope usually found submerged in water eating papyrus.
It was a traditional dinner that night with a good mixture of some of the local meat and fish. We started with some “African Tapas” around the campfire and then all of the staff did some singing and dancing for us. These happen once a week at all Wilderness Safaris camps so if you stay for a decent amount of time you will likely experience it. In fact one of the starters was a combination of peanut butter and some of the delta plants we had just spent the evening looking at.
The following morning I was scheduled to leave but was still able to get in a full morning game drive. It was a good thing because we spotted a pride of 7 lion lounging in the shade. Literally the only time they moved was to get into a shadier spot as the sun shifted their cover. This is about par for the course as far as lion activity during the daytime. At one point a small group of impala wandered perilously close but must have gotten a whiff of the lion’s scent because they scattered quite quickly. It drew a couple raised heads from the pride but it was really nothing worth their effort. After the lions we got to see the sable one last time before heading back to camp and grabbing my luggage for the trip to Selinda Camp.
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