Photgraphy and report by Lyndon Duplessis
High resolution photos available on Flickr!
SELINDA CAMP, SELINDA CONCESSION, NORTHERN BOTSWANA
The flight schedule is usually pretty dependent on which guests from which other camps are heading where at which dates so you are just as likely to have a direct flight to your next camp or you might need to pick up some other passengers along the way. My flight to Selinda required about 3 such flights but they were all extremely short, none longer than 15 minutes, and loading and unloading occurs quite quickly so it’s not much of a hassle. Once we landed at Selinda I was picked up by my guide, Lets, and we took the short 15 minute ride to the area where the vehicles are parked. Even though it is not in the Okavango Delta like the previous camps located on their own islands a boat is needed to cross the Selinda Spillway to get to camp. This takes between 10 and 15 minutes so a bit longer than most but not at all unpleasant and in fact gives you some birding opportunities going to and from camp.
The camp itself has a very spacious main area with a brand new pool that was actually just being finished as I arrived. The main areas and the tents are all raised but the pathways are not. The tents are very nice with plenty of space, especially at the back in the restrooms where they have a big bathtub in the middle. There are some innovative additional items such as a yoga mat and binoculars that you can take with you on your game drives.
Images courtesy of Great Plains.
I was the only guest at the camp for the entire first day so I literally had the entire place to myself. After brunch with the managers they convinced me to concentrate a bit on the birdlife in the area and I went out with a checklist for the first time. Most camps have a generic checklist with all the bird, mammal and reptiles found in the area but I hadn’t seriously kept up with them on any of my previous trips. After the evening drive I had seen 54 different species of birds and I kept that list nearby for the rest of the trip. It helped tremendously that Lets was an expert birder and anything I spotted he could quickly identify. Dinner at Selinda is usually a choice between two or three starters and entrees followed by desert. That night I had some wonderful grilled bream.
I marked off another 20 birds on the next day’s first game drive and as we stopped for high tea we spotted a group of elephant heading towards some water. We were able to approach them on foot and get a great view of their crossing. On the afternoon drive we spotted the first jackal of the trip which I made sure to mark in my checklist. Another highlight was seeing a lone sable antelope. He was a bit shy but we managed to get moderately close for some pictures. There were a good amount of elephants and plenty of birds including two pelicans we spotted as we were enjoying our sundowner. Following dinner that night we did a bit of stargazing and I must say, even a poor night for stars in Botswana is breathtaking. If you see them with little to no moon it is borderline blinding.
Final morning at Selinda got started on a unique note. I got my regular 5:00AM wakeup call and actually spotted a hippo from my tent. I crept out to get a closer look but made a little bit too much noise and he trotted off. Usually they come to pick you up 30 minutes after the initial wake up but when no one came for me I thought there might be a hippo too close to my tent for them to safely pick me up. About 20 minutes later my suspicions were proven correct as I was collected and told there had been a hippo doing some feeding nearby.
Got a nice close-up of a big male elephant standing right by the road in the early morning sunlight. He was calmly feeding, looking mighty dusty. Saw some more birds as we cruised near some water and actually picked up some fresh wild dog tracks heading in the opposite direction we were headed. I had a scheduled inspection of Zarafa Camp so we didn’t stick with the tracks but Lets radioed it in to the other vehicles. Zarafa is quite spectacular with only 4 rooms but boy are they massive and luxurious. They are in the process of building a two-room adjoining suite that should be open shortly. Also have a rather large barge that they take out for sundowners. It looks like the reputation of the camp is well deserved as it is extremely impressive. By the time I was finished with the inspection the other vehicles had spotted the dogs and we later found them before heading off to the airstrip. 7 in total they looked exhausted and were just lying down under some trees and brush actually very near the concession manager’s house.
DUMATAU CAMP, LINYANTI CONCESSION, NORTHERN BOTSWANA
Almost felt guilty taking a flight from Selinda to Dumatau seeing as it couldn’t have been much longer than 5 minutes. Ran into the same couple from England (Scotland originally) that I had gone on activities at Little Vumbura with and we were joined by another couple from Switzerland. Quickly it was noticeable that there were a good amount of elephant in the area but apparently it pales in comparison to the dry season when they are really all over the place in huge numbers. Saw some kudu which apparently the wild dog in the area tends to prefer or even specialize in taking, specifically the small ones. Speaking of which we spotted a wild dog who promptly disappeared into the bush. Took us a while of tracking him but eventually we caught up with the majority of them and saw about 7 of them fairly briefly in the road. They were on the hunt and moving fast. Wound up taking our sundowner near the channel in the hope that the dogs might chase something toward it but unfortunately it did not materialize. Apparently that is a favorite tactic of theirs and they are highly, highly successful hunters.
Dinner was great because we got to go out onto their floating deck right in front of camp and eat under the stars. Both lamb and chicken were served and they were both quite tasty. Not to scare anyone too bad but before and after dinner I found lone scorpions in my room. It was the first time I have found one in a room and to have it happen twice was quite a coincidence. The staff was quite thorough in going through my room afterwards and I didn’t have any more visitors.
Images courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.
Our first order of business the next morning was to go to an elephant carcass that was about 12 days old. He had been wounded by another elephant and died after having his chest deeply punctured. The stench was palpable from a distance and got almost unbearable upon arrival but there was still some meat on the guy and that meant hyenas as well as vulture were still around in pretty good numbers. After this we drove to the Linyanti Swamp and saw some elephant as well as plenty of birds. A short drive from there is the mixed open woodland that is one of my favorite spots in southern Africa. As we returned to camp we were rushed to a boat as there was a group of elephants in the process of crossing the channel right in front of camp. We caught the tail end of this and then went on a short cruise were we spotted some lone bulls crossing and managed to get quite close.
That evening we had a proper cruise on their larger, slower boat and were treated to a fantastic show with an amazing amount of elephants crossing in separate, large groups. There had to be over 200 in total and it happened directly in front of camp as well. We got to enjoy the spectacle with some drinks in hand and plenty in the way of snacks as well.
Final morning drive was excellent as early on we were told of a lion killing a small giraffe near Savuti Camp and although it was a bit of a drive we started heading that way. We made it and got to see 2 adult female lions with 3 small cubs feeding. A bit gruesome as the cubs especially were covered in blood but quite unique. The mother looked exhausted most likely from the hunt followed by dragging the carcass into some shade/brush to protect the kill and then presumably opening it up to allow the cubs to feed. It didn’t look like she had even begun to feed herself at that time.
Overall it was an exciting and productive trip for me as I got to see some great new camps. Even after some heavy rains this year the green season delivered excellent game viewing and scenery. As I said earlier the guiding was especially fantastic which was a large reason for the game viewing and between that, a bit of luck, and a little bit more time at each camp guests should experience similar or better results on that end. The sheer amount of wild dog was likely worth the trip itself. I managed to avoid the rain outside of two very light showers that did not affect any of my activities and at no point during the trip did I have an uncomfortably hot night. During midday it can become a little bit toasty but that’s what fans and swimming pools are for.
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