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Dennis's Trip Report-Caprivi Strip and Hwange, Zim
11/21/2006 12:35 PM
11/21/2006 12:35 PM
Joined: Oct 2006
Joined: Oct 2006
“Travel without an element of danger, is mere sightseeing” (source forgotten)
No stapler, no hemmoraging, no spa-girls, no side trip to Burundi, no Arielle, no baboon attack (well almost), no lost luggage, just another great trip (for the most part) to AFRICA!
Air: Hilo-Oakland-San Francisco-Heathrow-Johannesburg-Livingstone
3 Charter Flights: Susuwe to Kasane, Vic Falls-Hwange Main and return
Road transfers: Livingstone-Vic Falls Vic Falls- Kasane Kasane-Susuwe Vic Falls-Livingstone
Hotels/Camps/Lodges: 1 night Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls 2 nights Ntwala Lodge on the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, 3 nights at Susuwe Lodge also on the Caprivi Strip, 4 nights at Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, 1 night Victoria Falls Hotel.
This trip we saw 19 new species of animals that we had not seen before. Roan, sable, chacma baboon, lesser bushbaby, African wildcat, duiker, eland, bat eared fox, gemsbok (oryx), black backed jackal, red lechwe, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, springbok, springhare, steenbok, tree squirrels, tsessebe, wildebeest. We also saw hundreds of elephants, probably 50 giraffe, zebra, impala, kudu, buffalo, bushbuck, waterbuck, a genet, some hippos, 3 hyena, 10 lions, (not including those on the Lion Encounter), 8 wild-dogs, warthogs, and some vervet monkeys. Birds too many to mention or remember, incredible birding at all 3 places. Also an Egyptian Cobra and a python with a kill (more on this later). Didn’t see any leopards, cheetah or rhino, but I’m more of an elephant than a cat person, so I was extremely happy with what we saw.
Here we go again!
Shortly after returning from my last trip to Zambia in March, I was looking on Luxury Link and there was a 5 night package from Islands in Africa that was dirt cheap, so I bid, I won, I’m going back. With Julian and Rocco’s help in deciding on an extension to the Islands In Africa package, I chose 4 nights at Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, with a night in Victoria Falls before and after the safari. So glad I chose Somalisa, as it is now my favorite tented camp and Hwange, my most productive game viewing to date. (Luangwa River Lodge remains my favorite place on Earth, but Somalisa is right up there).
58 Hours Later, We’re Back in Africa
My friend Tom and I left Pahoa, Hawaii at 6:00 a.m. on October 25, flew from Hilo to Oakland where my step-mom picked us up and took us over to a hotel near San Francisco Airport. Had a nice dinner at Hungry Hunter, went to sleep and the next afternoon we were on our way! Flew VirginAtlantic to London where we had a nice lunch with Mandy (who would be leaving for Zambia in 2 days) and Julian. Good food, good conversation and back to Heathrow for our flight to Johannesburg. No problems with immigration or security at Heathrow, Tom did have to throw out his tube of Ultrathon, I buried mine in my backpack. As opposed to the U.S. security, they were not letting ANY liquids on board no matter what size container. I took an Ambien on this leg and slept most of the way, staying awake only for the dinner and breakfast, missing the ice cream and snack, the only meals I missed on the whole trip! With all the hype of Virgin being so much better than the rest, other than the video on demand, it wasn’t any different from the BritishAirways flights we took in March. (we flew economy so maybe the Upper Class might be better) but there has to be a better way of getting there from Hawaii!
Ah, The Smells of Africa
We landed in Johannesburg, got our bags, went through immigration and went out for a breath of fresh air, African exhaust smells so much better than ours! And the accents of the people asking if we needed a taxi or a luggage cart was music to my ears! Went back in had a croissant and soda at one of the shops and checked into Nationwide for our flight to Livingstone. Nationwide is a great airline, on an hour and twenty minute flight they give you juice, a sandwich and soda or cocktail. My first of too many g & t’s! Arrived in Livingstone and headed for the transit desk at immigration. I think we were the only ones who knew about the $100.00 visa fee. Everyone else was screaming at the poor immigration officer who did her best to remain cool, which comes easy for the Zambian people. We smiled, handed over our $100.00 each, thanked her and now had a three year visa for Zambia, what could be better than that? We were met by our driver who took us over the border into Zimbabwe, soaking up the smells, sounds, colors and vitality of Africa. On the way we saw 5 impala by the Zambezi Sun Hotel and a few warthogs. We paid our $45.00 double entry visa fee to immigration and were over the border in minutes.
Disabled Animals Home
We were dropped of at Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls for our overnight stay. It’s a beautiful hotel complete with television and air conditioning and a door onto a grassy area where you can see the mist from the falls off in the distance. Our first animal encounter was a one legged hornbill hopping on the patio, I gave him some shortbread cookies from the plane which attracted more interest from the giant ants than the bird. Shortly after that there was a warthog limping across the grass followed by a baboon with a stump of a leg. I guess they feel safe here so they all hang around. Also saw a warthog mom with her 3 babies living in a drainage pipe on the edge of the grass. Took a shower and went exploring around Victoria Falls town, went to the gas station (which had no gas) and had a coke light and talked to some Zimbabweans in the little cafe there. Came out to mass of people trying to sell me some wooden carved animals. I explained I was going on safari and couldn’t carry anything, but I’d be back in 9 days to shop. It was 97F at 3:00 p.m.
Went into the Kingdom Casino, very beautiful hotel, but only 5-6 people playing slots so I thought “What the hell, I’ll try my luck here” First pull of the handle and I got a $600 jackpot! WOOHOO! Oh wait, that’s in Zim dollars so I won $2.50 U.S., Oh well, took about an hour to lose $10.00. Came back to the hotel and went to the Palms restaurant for dinner. Had a bowl of butternut squash soup and a filet steak, a couple of drinks and off to bed. Took an Ambien and slept good all night. Woke up refreshed and went up to their breakfast buffet, complete with omelet station and was feeling pretty satisfied.
Handsome And The T-Shirt
Our transfer to Namibia would pick us up at 11:00 so I had three and a half hours to kill so decided to go see the falls in case I didn’t make it back from the safari, I had to see Victoria Falls before I died. As I was walking to the path to the falls, a nice looking kid named Handsome came over trying to sell me a wooden elephant. I told him no but if he walked me to the falls and kept all the other hawkers away from me, I’d give him a t-shirt from Hawaii and $5.00 (I read about doing this on a trip report) so he was happy with the shirt and did keep everyone away. The falls were spectacular! Words can not describe it! The temperature was 85F, the sun was bright and each of the falls had rainbows over them. Spent about an hour walking almost to the end, but as I got closer to the Zambia side, I could see not much water was flowing. Left the falls and Handsome saw me and took me to his friend Oy-Oy’s shop for a soda then back up to the hotel. While I was at the falls he changed into his Hawaii t-shirt and about 10 boys came over saying they would give me their carved animal if I would just give them a shirt like Handsome’s. I could have gotten a suitcase full of souvenirs for free if I had brought more t-shirts with me. Said goodbye to Handsome, told him I’d be back in 9 days and would buy a carved elephant from him then. Went back to the hotel, checked out and waited for our ride to Namibia. The hotel has a policy where if you charge things to your room and pay in U.S. dollars on checkout, you get 40% off the bill, so our dinners, drinks and sodas throughout the day came to $71.00 U.S.
Three Countries in Two Hours
Our driver from Wild Horizons picked us up on time and we were on our way. Checked out of Zimbabwe, into Botswana, out of Botswana, into Namibia. The drive was nice, very scenic though didn’t see much game other than cattle and an occasional impala and warthog. We got to Kasane, a very nice town in Botswana, and met Alfred, our guide for the next two nights from Ntwala Lodge. Took a motorboat trip across the river to Impalila Island to go through immigration. Then it was off to Ntwala.
Over the Top At Ntwala!
After leaving immigration, it was about an hours motorboat ride to Ntwala. Along the way we saw lots of cattle, fisherman and fishing villages lining the shores of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers. Once the rains start, the villagers move to areas not in the flood plain and the next year rebuild their villages from scratch. It was a beautiful ride and saw many birds but no game, other than the resident pod of hippos that stay by the entrance to the lodge. We arrived at Ntwala and were greeted by the hosts Natasha and Dietrich, with a cold hand towel and fruit drink, very refreshing after the ride. The lodge is reached by walking on a raised wooden pathway opening into a beautiful entrance with dining room, library, wine cellar, and a deck over the river. We were shown to our chalet, more the size of a small house. There was a huge sitting area, large beds surrounded by mosquito nets, a closet and shelves for unpacking, a writing area with desk, fully stocked wet bar with ice, wine glasses, cocktail glasses, snacks, huge bathroom with a gigantic tub, two sinks, an indoor shower, outdoor shower, recessed lighting, our own private plunge pool with deck chairs, a deck over the river with hanging chairs, very, very nice, the only thing missing was a feeling of Africa. Other than the mosquito netting and a large print of an elephant, it could have been on any river in the world. Each chalet (four) has their own guide for the duration of your stay. Lunch was chicken legs in a sweet bell pepper sauce, very good.
Over the River and Over the River
After lunch we went back out on the river for sundowners and cruising around the island. Still no game and with the motor on the boat running, you couldn’t hear the sounds of Africa! There were a lot of beautiful birds to see. Sundowner finger food was biltong and peanuts....what????? A fancy place like this and they serve beef jerky and nuts? Truly disappointing! Alfred our guide was a nice enough guide, a bit wet behind the ears, but with no real game to point out it was hard to tell, and very formal. Dinner was cold avocado soup, steak in a balsamic reduction sauce, vegetables and chocolate soufflé for dessert. Took a dip in the pool after dinner and went to bed. The power goes off at eleven and the room got quite stuffy with no air flow. The next day we had breakfast and took off for Chobe Park in Botswana in the motorboat. We saw quite a bit of game, impala, warthogs and hundreds and hundreds of elephants drinking out of the river and more coming over the hills to drink. It was truly an incredible sight to see so many elephants at one time, I was in heaven! Spent a few hours there, then back to the lodge for lunch, which was a pork filet with yogurt dill sauce. After a siesta and swim in the pool, Alfred and I went to visit a fishing village. It was quite interesting, though most of the villagers were either out fishing or hiding as I only met 3 people there. Sundowners on the river and the finger food was biltong and peanuts.....what????? Twice in a row! I don’t like biltong anyway, so Albert ate the whole bowl. Back to the lodge for dinner, lamb chops in eggplant and onion, and a chocolate flan for dessert. Back to the room, took a dip in the pool and went to bed, heading to Susuwe Lodge in the morning.
Thoughts on Ntwala
Ntwala is a very beautiful lodge, though needs more African touches. Food was excellent other than the finger food at sundowners. The hosts were friendly enough, though when dinner was served they disappeared. There were 2 other people there and in order for us to talk and compare notes on our days, we had to shout across the patio where we dined. I enjoy eating with and talking to the hosts and other guests, hearing their tales and life in a safari lodge. The guide needs to loosen up and have fun so the guests can have fun also. The only activities there are by motorboat, no canoeing, no mekoroing, just motorboating on the same stretch of the river time after time. I think if you are on a honeymoon or romantic getaway and don’t care to see game, want to stay in your room the whole time, it would make for a nice stay, but for me, I didn’t care for Ntwala and would not return.
On The Road Again
Got up and had breakfast, said our goodbyes and back to the motorboat on our way to Susuwe Camp. Today it would be out of Namibia, into Botswana, out of Botswana, into Namibia. I ended up with 28 new stamps in my passport this trip. The cruise to Impalila Island was a bit more productive...we saw a crocodile! Then across the river to Kasane and were met by Patrick and Amanda who would drive us to Susuwe, a three and a half hour drive. They are a nice couple who will soon be opening “Joe’s Beer Shack” in Livingstone. Had great conversation along the way. Drove through Chobe Park and saw elephants crossing the road...cool! The drive along the Caprivi Strip was nice, many villages along the side of the road. stopped in Katima Molilo for a rest break and soda and met Beaven our guide at the entrance to the National Park. It was about an hour drive through the park to the lodge, then a short 2 minute boat ride to Susuwe Island Lodge. We saw some kudus, impala and baboons on the way in.
Susuwe Island Lodge
The lodge is very beautiful with a three story observation deck to observe the birds which were plentiful around the lodge. There’s a big open area for seating around the fire, a bar, gift shop and a view of the river. The room was nice, nothing too fancy, beds, large shower, double sinks, private plunge pool and lounge chairs and windows all around to catch the breezes-it was hot here. The lodge is overlooking the Kwando River. Sean, the manager, is a young guy who had run the place for six years. The staff was very friendly and it was a comfortable place with lots of African touches.
After a nice lunch of warm vegetable salad and cool fruit salad and a short siesta and dip in the pool we went for our first night drive. Beaven was a nice enough guy, knew his stuff but it was hard to get anything out of him other than “led rechwe” “kudu” “impala”. He did open up a bit at sundowners though. We saw a few wildebeests, red lechwe and some impala. Stopped at a hippo pool for sundowners and there was an albino hippo in the pool. This poor thing had to be the ugliest animal in all of Africa and how she got a boyfriend I’ll never know, but she was butt-ugly! Finally got some good sundowner finger food, chicken wings with chutney sauce...I was happy! The sunset was beautiful and we set out on our night drive. Ooops, the spotlight doesn’t work! What??? So it was straight back to the lodge seeing nothing. I was pissed but kept my mouth shut. Dinner was on the deck of our room and the table and deck was decorated with all these carved animals (which I didn’t notice at the time due to a few g & t’s and half a bottle of wine. Dinner was an excellent chicken breast stuffed with feta cheese and spinach, fried camembert cheese and sweet chili sauce and an apple custard for desert. I staggered to bed and slept well.
There’s a Crocodile In The Pool!
Got up early and went out on the deck to see if I could see any game across the river. The table and all the decorations were still on the deck and as I was about to put my feet in the pool I noticed a crocodile! I yelled for Tom, “there’s a croc in the pool” He came running out and said “it’s made of wood you [censored]” Oh, well no more wine for me and was glad I didn’t blow the whistle to alert the staff of the impending danger!
How Do You Hide 2,493 Elephants, 24 Lions, 2 Packs of Dogs and Everything Else?
After breakfast we took off on a game drive and saw 3 buffalo (more on these later), one had his face to us, the other two were turned the other way. The one with his face to us, lifted his head, looked at us for a minute then head went back down to graze. Also saw 12 red lechwe and a few impala. I asked Beaven where all the animals were, and this was the conversation:
“Beaven, where are all the animals?’
“They went to Angola”
“Why did they go to Angola”
“Because of the rains”
“When did it rain?”
“It rained last night”
“Can we go to Angola to see the animals?”
“No, we can not go to Angola”
“If it rained last night, they must have left this morning and could probaly catch up with them”
“We can not go to Angola”
“No, but if we catch the parade of elephants followed by the lions, followed by the dogs, followed by the giraffe, followed by the zebra, we should be able to see the slow ones”
“We can not go to Angola”
“I don’t want to go to Angola, but if we head towards Angola, we can see the line of animals....which way is Angola?”
“Angola is to the right”
“Then why are you turning left”
“We can not go to Angola”
“Next year I will go to Angola and wait for the parade”
“O.K., but we can not go to Angola today”
So that is how it went...
Yikes, the Nature Trail
On Susuwe Island there is a nature trail. After a lunch of a pizza type thing and being assured by Sean that the nature trail was perfectly safe, Tom and I took off on the hike. Snakes are my biggest fear, so I was looking everywhere for a snake. Tom said it’s an island and snakes don’t live on islands. I saw lizards, so if they are there, snakes must be there too but we didn’t see any snakes. Now I barely know left from right, let alone North, South, East or West, we got lost. We were walking along what looked like the path, Tom said, we’re going the wrong way, I said no, this is the trail. Well, it was a hippo trail with fresh hippo tracks. We were in the middle of nowhere, hearing all sorts of noises and knowing there is a hippo behind the tree just up ahead, we froze. Now what? We stayed there for a bit then decided the noise behind the tree must be a lizard and made our way back to the lodge, walking in a stream as we never did find the path again. Took a dip in the pool and then off on another night drive.
Night of the Dead
We took off on the night drive and Beaven assured us that the spotlight was working tonight. We passed the same three buffalo doing the same thing as they did the night before. We saw an elephant! I asked Beaven to turn around so we can see the elephant but he said there was no place to turn around. We were in a fricking LandCruiser which can turn around anywhere, but it turned out, that would be considered “off roading” which wasn’t allowed in the park. I asked Beaven if he saw a pack of wild dogs, could he go off road, “No” how about a pride of lions? “No” a martian in a spacecraft? “No”
That is a big negative if you can’t even go off road to see an exciting sighting. Oh well, the only elephant in the whole park, and he was behind us. We drove for awhile, seeing nothing else except an Egyptian Cobra crossing the road. It was about 6 feet long and the way it slithered really creeped me out....nightmares for sure tonight! We came around a corner and saw a troop of baboons who are always fun to watch, so we stopped for awhile then continued on. Around the next bend there was a baby impala being strangled by a python snake. The poor thing was already dead and his mom was nearby giving that god-awful scream that impalas make. It was so sad. The snake let go of the impala and slithered away...now I know I’d be having nightmares and wouldn’t ever set foot out of the vehicle again. We decided to come back later and see if the hyenas (who hadn’t been informed of the mass exodus to Angola) would be eating the dead baby impala. Now, if that wasn’t sad enough, we got to the lagoon and saw a “hump” in the water. We got out of the vehicle and went to the water’s edge and it was a baby elephant who had drowned. So sad, you could see his ears flapping in the current of the river. Too sad to watch for long and I didn’t even take a picture. Farther up the road we came across a dead buffalo, which wasn’t nearly as sad as the dead impala or the elephant, but it was still dead.
Oops, I Think We Went 11 Kilometers Per Hour
We putt-putted along at no more than I swear, 10 kph through this dead, yellow grass for a half hour. Even I know, that this grass has no nutrients and animals do not eat it.
“Beaven, do animals like this grass?”
“No, nothing eats this grass”
“Then why have we been driving through this grass for thirty minutes?”
“We are looking for game”
“All the game went to Angola, and what is left do not eat this grass”
“I will turn around soon”
So after another fifteen minutes when we found a turn around spot, we putt-putted back on the same road for 45 minutes. What a waste of an hour and a half. We had sundowners on a bluff, though the sunset was nothing to write home about. The finger food was little potatoes wrapped with bacon, quite good! We got back to the dead impala and now the python had consumed the poor thing’s upper body. The mom impala was still bleating and the baboons were in the trees making quite a racket. It was amazing to see how much this snake could fit into it’s mouth. As you can tell, I like my food but there is a limit to how much I can eat at one time. Turned on the spotlight (it worked!) and only saw springhares (they weren’t invited to Angola) and came across six elephants.
“Beaven, Stop! There’s elephants”
“I can’t stop, we have a puncture”
So out of 2,500 “alleged” elephants in the park, we couldn’t stop and see them because of a puncture and no turn around place. Back to the lodge and had butternut squash soup (my favorite), pork filet and creme brulee for dessert. The lodge sets out a plate of food for a genet every night, and he came to eat. Very beautiful animal (also not invited to Angola) and at this point , him, the springhares, the red lechwe , the three buffalo and the hundreds of tree squirrels that live at the lodge were considered “The Big Five of the Caprivi Strip”
Take a Walk On The Not So Wild Side
This morning after breakfast we went on a walking safari. Surely we’d see some game when we got off the road. We saw some hippos, red lechwe and some kudu and thousands of milipedes which smelled when you stepped on them, which was hard not to do. It was hot (89F) but it was good to be out walking. After an hour, we went back to the truck and back to camp. What??? It’s only 9:30 and the afternoon game drive isn’t until 4:00, what a waste of a day this was. We had brunch-eggplant benedict and a huge chef’s salad, very refreshing. Tom went to take a nap, I watched some birds for awhile and tried to teach the squirrels how to eat the peanuts I had brought with me to feed the elephants, but since there were no elephants I still had the bag of peanuts. The squirrels in California love peanuts, but these guys didn’t know what to do. Finally one squirrel bit off the end of the shell and sucked the peanut out of the shell. (It’ll be in my pics when I post them) Anyway, thinking it would be better to be bitten by a snake or trampled by a hippo than to sit around the lodge doing nothing, I decided to take the Nature Trail again, this time solo and confront my fears. I made it about half the way on the correct trail before all the noises came around me, every stick was a snake and the plopping in the water must be crocs. I froze for a good while then forced myself back to the lodge, took a dip in the pool, washed some underwear and waited for four o’clock.
..and Through The Woods (Almost)
“Beaven, do you have bushbabies here? I’ve never seen a bushbaby”
“Yes, we have hundreds”
“Did they go to Angola?”
“No, bushbabies do not go to Angola”
“Then can we see some?”
“Yes, they live in the woodlands, and we will go there”
“O.k., but don’t go to Angola”
“No, we can not go to Angola”
So off we went to the woodlands, crossing through the same dead grass which is plentiful in the park. We drove for about an hour and a half, all of a sudden Beaven turns around and says:
“There is nothing here”
“Don’t bushbabies come out at dark?”
“Yes, but they are not here”
“But it’s not dark so how do you know?”
“I just know”
”Did they go to Angola after all?”
“No, bushbabies do not go to Angola”
We stopped at a sundowner spot which overlooked nothing. The finger food was cheese in pastry, very good, and I had a couple of double g & t’s as I was so pissed we wasted another 3 hours seeing nothing. There were some tracks of giraffe and zebra and Beaven pointed them out to us.
“When were they here?”
“Not long ago”
“Can we find them?”
“No, they have gone”
On the way back to camp we did see an African wild-cat, which was just beautiful, looked just like a house cat! Other than that, nothing! Dinner was steak or pork filets and vegetables and chocolate pudding. If I had my own car, I would have left this place then (or two days ago) but thank God, tomorrow we’d be leaving!
Oh, Wait I Forgot the Best Part
Every night at sundowners, Beaven would pull out a folding wooden table, cover it with a brightly colored tablecloth and arrange a complete set of wooden animals on the table, then the food and drinks. I guess seeing wooden animals at sundowners were supposed to make up for no animals at game drives. We did get a good laugh at the care Beaven put into arranging the animals, beads and seed pods on the table.
I Think I Have Figured Out The Caprivi Strip
I don’t think there are actually any animals other than the ones with hooves and an occasional elephant on the Caprivi Strip.
The roads all have loads of elephant poop along side the roads, but on our walking safari, we saw no elephant poop. I think that they import the elephant poop from Chobe and they have this big truck that spreads the elephant poop along the roads so that the tourists think there are 2,500 elephants in the park. We actually saw a big truck on our way out and I thought “Aha, the elephant poop truck”, but it was the soldiers collecting firewood.
We saw the same three buffalo in the same spot on each game drive. I think they are made of wood and stuffing and there is a sensor in the road and when you hit the sensor the guide yells “buffalo” and the one buffalo raises his head, then puts it back down, kind of like the animatronics at Disneyland.
They have a person who goes to all the sundowner spots and stamps zebra and giraffe footprints into the sand so the guide can say “Zebra were here” “Giraffe were here”. It could be the same people that are spreading around the elephant poop, but it could also be a specialized job.
I also think, that if someone opens up a lodge on the Angolan border, they would make millions. No safari vehicles would be needed, just a large deck overlooking the trail that all the animals use to get to Angola.
Thoughts on Susuwe
If this were my first trip to Afica and I only stayed at the above two lodges, I don’t think I would have gotten the urge to keep returning to Africa. Susuwe Lodge itself is beautiful, I’d love to see a similarly built lodge on the Luangwa River, but there just wasn’t any game other than animals with hooves. Even at South Luangwa in the Emerald Season when the pans were flooded, there were animals to see, so I didn’t really buy the “rains drove them away” story. The lodge has been in operation for 6 years, so obviously there must be something to it, just didn’t happen for me. During the three nights/four days we were there, we only saw one other vehicle...says something for the location I think. (though at Hwange we only saw five vehicles in four days and that location is the best so far) The food was good but again we were put at tables by ourselves with no interaction with the host. (there were no other guests there until the last night, and they were from France) The game drives were short, most in the 3 hour range which left too much downtime. Even if there were no game, it would be nicer to be out on the barren plains than be confined to the island. Beaven could have been more enthusiastic and possibly sped up a bit on the return through the nothingness and gone elsewhere. It must be hard to be a guide with nothing to show, but put a little effort into it and make us think there is something around the next bend. Tom kept saying “At least we’re in Africa, I kept saying “what a waste of money this is, I’d rather be in the Mojave Desert, at least they have camels!” Obviously I would not return to this camp, and wouldn’t recommend it or any other lodge in this area. It is my fault for not doing any research on the area before bidding on Luxury Link, but the web-sites of course showed plenty of game. I think I’d be more pissed if I had paid full price and had the same experience.
Nothing But Heat
We left Susuwe this morning, and it’s the only safari lodge I’ve ever been happy to leave. The ride to the airstrip was uneventful of course and I could have done cartwheels when I saw our plane approaching. Moremi Air picked us up in a 6 seater plane and the pilot was very nice. We had a short flight to Katima Molilo to go through Namibian immigration. When we got there, there was no immigration officer. Our pilot went to ask someone in the airport and was told his car broke down and we would have to wait. After another plane landed about a half hour later, the man in the control tower went to pick up the immigration officer. I decided to take a walk and when I got to the gate, the police officer said:
”There is nothing to see here, all we have is heat. Nothing but heat. This is a miserable place and there is nothing to see but heat.”
Not a good candidate for the Katima Molilo Tourism Board.
Well, he had that right, it was hot! (99F)
Your President George Bush
Finally after fourty-five minutes the immigration man made it to the airport and we walked into his office. He said:
“This is all your President George Bush’s fault. He did not send aid this month and my car will not go. If your President George Bush had sent aid, I would have a car. You will give me aid to fix my car?”
I looked at Tom, Tom looked at the pilot, the pilot looked at the immigration officer who broke out in a belly shaking laugh and said “Just a joke, I like saying that to Americans.” We talked for a few minutes, he stamped our passports and said “well, I’m done for the day, I need a ride home. Please when you see your President George Bush, can you tell him to send aid so I can get my car fixed” We shook hands and the three of us in the plane laughed all the way to Kasane.
Back To The Falls and Onwards to Somalisa
The flight from Katima Molilo was smooth and we arrived at Kasane Airport and were picked up by the transit company for the drive to Victoria Falls Airport. When we got to VF, the driver took us to Ilala Lodge and said our flight was delayed and someone from the tour company would meet us and explain. A very nice man from the company and a woman from the air company greeted us and said the flight would be delayed three hours, but they would buy us lunch at Ilala and send a driver when we were to depart. No problem, we had lunch, I walked around the craft market telling the hawkers I was from South Africa and had no use for their goods. We were picked up and taken to the airport and boarded our 6 seater (me in the co-pilots seat, pretty darn cool!) Sidney was our pilot and he was a very funny man. Told us he had 1 parachute and 1 vomit bag and they were his. I got a cramp in my leg, but was afraid to move and step on the pedals and cause the plane to crash. After a short 45 minute flight we were at Hwange Main Airport.
Willy and Heaven On Earth!
We were met at the airport by Foster, our guide at Somalisa in a World War Two Jeep Willys, which would be our safari vehicle for the next 3 days. This has to be the best of all cars to be on safari in. Small, low to the ground and powerful. Great fun and we enjoyed every minute in “Willy” the jeep. The drive to Hwange National Park from the airport is about a half hour. We checked in at the park and were on our way. Within 5 minutes from the gate we saw a herd of giraffes, kudu, impala, warthogs and some elephants-more than we had seen the first five days of our trip. I told Foster of our disappointing game sightings at Susuwe and the reason given, with a rip-roaring, belly shaking, deep African laugh and tears rolling down his cheeks he had to stop the car. “Angola....Angola.....HAHAHA...Angola, nothing goes to Angola, there’s too much poaching there and the elephants don’t go anywhere near Angola!” After composing himself, we continued on and stopped at one of the waterholes for sundowners and Foster said, “Just wait, Oh My God, you will see elephants!” Sure enough, within minutes we were surrounded by elephants on the way to the waterhole. They passed within 20 feet of Willy and us, standing near Willy’s bumper, and stuck out their trunks to sniff us on the way to drink. It was so exciting that I can’t remember what the finger food was, I was too focused on watching the elephants! On the way to camp we passed two more waterholes filled with all sorts of wildlife drinking water. A great start, but it only gets better.
Somalisa, Somalisa, Smile
We arrived at Somalisa and were greeted by Bobby and Milena, the hosts at Somalisa. They’re a young couple, him Zimbabwean, her Australian-very nice and good company. They both used to work at Lion Encounter at Vic Falls, so we got some information about the place before going on that adventure at the end of the trip. We were given a cool towel and a drink by Naomi, a shy Zim woman with the most beautiful smile and shown around the camp. There’s a large sitting area with library and bar and comfortable couches and chairs, pipes and cigars if you’re into smoking, dining area, fire pit and swimming pool. There are six tents with nice beds, table, outdoor bucket shower and toilet. The trails leading from the lodge to the tents are made of elephant dung and the place is nicely decorated with a lot of African touches. When building the camp they incorporated many of the fallen trees into the design...very nice. This was my first experience with bucket showers and the boys filled them with warm water whenever we wanted a shower-I’d like to install one at my house, very cool! Dinner was served at a large dining table with the hosts and Foster eating with us at every meal. We had quite a few interesting, funny and happy conversations while eating. The first nights meal was ham and cheese crepes, pork roast, fresh green salad and the most amazing red pear in a brandy and cream sauce. Very good!
Turn Down The Lions, I’m Trying To Sleep
After a great dinner and conversation we were escorted to our rooms by Bobby carrying his rifle. “There’s lions in the area.” Just got into bed, lights out and heard the most bone chilling lions roar that shook the tent, followed by an elephants trumpeting and more roars of the lions coming from the front of the camp. It was still quite warm so we only had the screen part of our tent zipped and it was scary to say the least. The lions kept up the roaring all night long, making it hard to get a good nights sleep, but other than the hippos grunting, this was the coolest noise in all of Africa. Bobby woke us up at four thirty and said the lions are at the waterhole in front of the swimming pool. “Do you want to see them?” Of course we went and they shined the light and there were 7 lions all around 5 adults and 2 sub-adult cubs, followed by three hyenas. The lions would chase the hyenas then roll around on the ground playing. This was just too cool to watch! After the lions walked off into the brush, Foster said since we’re up we might as well get an early start. so after a quick change we were off.
Foster was our guide while at Somalisa. He has twenty six years guiding experience and is the first senior guide in all of Zimbabwe. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever met a nicer person in all my life. After twenty six years of guiding, he still has an enthusiasm that comes through his pores. His passion for all of the game is incredible. At each sighting it was “Oh My God, a roan” Oh My God, a giraffe” “Oh My God, look at the elephants”, like someone on their first safari, still full of excitement at all that he saw and showed us. He has a laugh that will not be forgotten and a spirit that can not be beat. I’ve never had a more enjoyable time in my life. He’s a friend and one that I will remember always and hope to see him again soon. Foster made sure that every minute of our time there was for us- what we wanted to see, what we wanted to do and not worrying about what time we have to get back for dinner-if we were having fun, no need to run off, dinner could wait, what we were doing couldn’t. If you could bottle his joy, experience, and love of life, the world would truly be a better place.
Foster and his family have a sesame seed farm in the Jerera region of Zimbabwe and is opening a cultural village where guests can stay in a small lodge, then go to the village during the day and live the life of a Zimbabwean villager. I will definitely be doing this once he gets it up and running sometime in December. With Foster and his family running this, it should be a first class, not to be missed experience. We met his brother and he’s just as fun, funny and passionate about life as Foster. His brother is also a guide but does private safaris and I think time spent with him as a guide would be most enjoyable.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest park, covering 14,600 square kilometers. At the entrance to the park there is a campground with small chalets for camping for those doing a self drive. All you have to do is sit by one of the waterholes and the animals will come to you. At sundowners one night there were seven different animal species all around one waterhole. There are 64 boreholes in the park, 6 on the main roads and the rest scattered about. They are paid for by grants and donations to the Hwange Trust, no government involvement. Each borehole has three men/women manning them and their salary, lodging and food is paid for by the Trust. They are experimenting with solar panels to supply the power to run the pumps, but so far all the panels have been stolen. The park is very diverse in it’s landscape. Teak forests, mopani forests, dry plains, grasslands and granite outcrops and we didn’t go five minutes without seeing some type of animal. It is the most beautiful park I’ve been to, the only thing missing is the hippos, but there’s no river for them to live. During the time we were there we only saw a few vehicles from The Hide, another lodge in the area, and three self-drivers. It was so nice having the park to ourselves, a shame though, that more people don’t go there and support the game there
There is supposed to be one hundred and five different species including cheetah and leopard, but we didn’t see any of these.
Off We Go
After being woken up at four thirty, watching the lions in front of the camp and a quick change we were off! Drove about a minute to the top of the ridge near camp and saw three lionesses laying in the grass. The lions here were in great condition, not torn up and scratched like the lions in South Luangwa . Beautiful creatures! As we were in “Willy”, low to the ground and no doors, Foster didn’t want to get too close, but we were about twenty feet away and watched them for about an hour. Drove around the park and saw many elephants, zebra, giraffe, sable, kudu, a lot of black sided jackal and a bat-eared fox hole with two babies peeking out of the hole. Got back to camp and had cereal, fresh fruit and eggs benedict for brunch, then our first bucket shower, a short nap and we were off again. Went back on the hill and two of the lionesses were still there, so watched them for awhile the to one of the waterholes where there were seven different species all around the hole. It was incredible! Thirteen giraffe, scores of elephants coming from all directions, baboons, zebra, impala, kudu and Foster noticed something on the small hill which had attracted the giraffes attention, so we drove up to the hill and there was a lioness watching all the action. Foster said they had killed a giraffe a day or two before so weren’t too hungry. Had meatballs in a sweet mustard sauce, very good and a few g & t’s.
Add This To My “Top Ten Life Moment” List
When we returned to camp around nine, Melina said we would be eating out on the pool deck and were having some special guests joining us. I thought, “Cool” more people to talk to. We had a cocktail then to the candlelit table near the pool, sat down and within minutes an elephant came up to the swimming pool and started to drink not six feet from us. WOW! This was so cool, it doesn’t get any better than that. I was told we had butternut squash soup, beef strip and noodles and a date cake for dessert, but I was so transfixed on watching and listening to this elephant it could have been anything! Soon another elephant joined the first and we now had two elephants drinking out of the pool!
(If anyone has never heard an elephant drink, you can’t hear any sound while he is sucking up the water with his trunk but when he pours it down his throat, it sounds like one of those powerful toilets flushing that they have at Heathrow Airport.) After dessert the elephants walked off and it took days for the smile to come off my face. Truly a spectacular time and my favorite memory. Melina told us the next morning that we didn’t even blink, just stared at this magnificent creature so close to us. AWESOME!
Another Great Day in Hwange!
Got up at five and started our game drive at five thirty. Went to different areas of the park and more water holes and saw more game: eland, roan and slender mongoose, each time Foster saying, “Oh My God, there’s some eland” Oh My God there’s some roan” Every sighting was exciting and fun with Foster! I think even Susuwe would have been better if we had someone like Foster as a guide. Stopped at the waterhole on the way back to camp, and this time there were six different species: zebra, elephant, giraffe, wildebeeste, baboon and roan. Each game drive was better than the last! Foster took us into the bush to try to see more animals up close, one time too close (another chapter coming up) and it was exciting to be on foot! Saw a herd of fifty plus wildebeests on the way back, and stopped and watched the bat-eared foxes for awhile. Lunch was salad, sandwiches and a spinach casserole which was delicious. I stayed by the pool for siesta, hoping an elephant would come up, but no luck, just hundreds of dragonflies. Just soaked up the sun and sounds of Africa. Drove around checking on our favorite bat-eared foxes and herd of wildebeests and back to a waterhole to watch the animals come to drink. Had some g & t’s (they were free at this camp, as was beer, wine and rum and cokes) and a cheese and cracker platter for finger food. Three types of cheeses (brie, cheddar and feta) It started to rain so we cut the time at the waterhole short and went back to camp. Beks and Sophia, who own Somalisa, Linyati Camp and do private safaris stopped by for the night. Very interesting couple living a life I would love to lead! Had stuffed chicken breast, green salad and bananas foster for dinner, then I went to the pool as another elephant stopped by to drink. Had a couple of Amarulas by the fire, talked story and watched the elephant. Soon another elephant came to drink, but the first one wouldn’t let him in and they started “wrestling” and the sound of the tusks hitting together, the ears flapping wildly were such sweet music! Finally they ambled off and I did the same.
This was one of the funniest elephant encounters I have ever seen. There was a young bull elephant along side of the road and we pulled up to watch him. He kicked dirt at us with his right foot, then kicked dirt at us with his left foot. When we didn’t move, he grabbed a tree about 10 feet tall and 3 inches in diameter and tried to pull it out of the ground. When that didn’t work, he leaned his whole body against the tree, the whole time staring at us, then the tree snapped and he picked it up with his trunk and threw it at us. We still didn’t move, just laughed and the elephant was so frustrated he kicked more dirt at us, trumpeted, flapped his ears and then backed off into the bush. Foster said “Did you get that on video?” “No, so can you tell him to do it again and I’ll video it this time.” Foster gave a big belly laugh and said “No encore performances from this bull.”
The All Day Hunt For Rhino
We agreed at dinner that we would stay out all day and hunt for the rhino. Tom also wanted to find an ostrich so we were on a quest. It rained most of the night and the temperature went from ninety-nine degrees to fifty eight overnight. To make matters worse, Bobby had to take “Willy” to pick up some guests and we’d be stuck doing an all day game drive in the Land Cruiser. After a breakfast of cereal, fruit and toast, we set off. It was cold and the most annoying rain I have ever seen. Not like rain, not like sprinkles, just drops of water falling from the sky at random. Strangest thing I’ve seen and after hours of being in this rain, we weren’t wet. We drove to the first waterhole in the park where the rhinos allegedly drank daily. We got there at eight and asked the pump boys if the rhino had come today. “Not today.” Foster decided if the rhino would not come to us, we’d go to the rhino, so we parked the car and went on a two hour rhino walk. I was thinking if a rhino charged and gored Foster, I’d never find my way out of this bush. No luck with the rhino though, so we headed up into the hills and met some researchers who hadn’t seen the rhino today either. We drove on and there to the right was Tom’s ostrich...one of us was happy, and it wasn’t me! And of course Foster said “Oh my God, an ostrich!” We pulled into another waterhole for lunch. The lodge made about twelve sandwiches and muffins to tide us over. Foster called to one of the pump boys who came over to the car and was talking to Foster about the rhino. I offered the kid a sandwich and muffin and he devoured them in one bite each. Next time I come here, I’m going to bring some granola bars or something for these poor kids to eat. Had a nice conversation and off to the first waterhole and wait for the rhino. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun was bright. Near the pond there was a Giant Kingfisher, the first Foster had seen in Zimbabwe and a crocodile. I went and tried to antagonize the croc but he just laid there and I was less than six feet from him and nothing! We all fell asleep by the pond and asked some researchers to wake us if rhino came down. After an hour, nothing so we continued our quest for the elusive rhino. As the sun was setting and I was getting hungry, we stopped by another waterhole to watch the animals come to drink and have sundowners. Tonights finger food was chocolate brownies and leftover date cake. The date cake was most excellent with dinner, even better at sundowners. We were having a lively conversation when all of a sudden Foster got the most serious look on his face and said:
“I have some very bad news for you Dennis”
Not knowing what was going on, I said “What?”
Foster, with a deadpan expression said “The rhinos have gone to Angola!”
We all laughed ourselves sick and went back to camp. We had two new guests, so the camp was no longer just ours. An interesting couple, she a travel agent who does specialized African safaris to places like Cameroon, Gabon and Angola(!) and had some interesting stories to tell. I think he was her boy-toy and just had fun while he could. Dinner was lamb chops, couscous, veggies and chocolate pudding. Had an amarula, watched the elephants drink from the pool and went to bed...it was freezing in the tent that night!
The Elephant Whisperer
On the way back to camp the day of the rhino hunt, Foster stopped the car near a big, old bull elephant and said “Do you want to get some good pictures?” “Sure.” Tom, being the smart one stayed in the car . Foster grabbed his rifle and off we went to see this old elephant. Foster knew him by name and pulled two sticks off a tree and now he was camoflaged and I wasn’t...hmmm, something wrong with this picture! We got about 20 feet from this thing and I stepped on a stick “SNAP!” and the elephant came at us. Foster raised his sticks and the elephant stopped. He said, “Take a picture, take a picture” So I was taking pictures and for some reason the flash went off and the elephant took three more steps towards us. Foster said “Take a picture, take a picture” I said “Foster, I’m trying not to crap my pants, I can’t take a picture!” The elephant came closer until he was I swear ten feet from Foster, I took some pictures, shaking and looking for an exit if the thing trampled Foster. Then Foster threw up his arms, shouted something in Zimbabwean and the elephant walked backwards twenty steps and disappeared into the bush. “Ah, that was exciting wasn’t it?” It really was, my heart was racing, I was bone white, yet we laughed all the way back to the car. Tom said he heard yelling and was about to drive off. When we got to the car Foster said, “I know that elephant and as long as you didn’t run, you were safe.” “I like to do that with Americans and Japanese, they appreciate being so close, but the French, that’s another story, the French really do crap their pants.”
Sad to Leave Somalisa
Got up this morning and had a good breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and fruit and said our good-byes to Bobby and Melina. It was sad leaving here but knowing we’d be back. Our plane wasn’t until eleven, but Foster insisted we leave no later than seven so that we could continue our hunt for rhino, just in case they came back from Angola in the night. So our last day we still get a four hour game drive. Stopped at the ponds and said our good-byes to the giraffes, wildebeests, bat-eared foxes and anything else we saw along the way. We spent some time at the “rhino” pool, but still no rhinos. Foster said “Next time for sure, Oh my God, next time for sure!” There’s a Painted Dog Conservancy just outside of the airport at Hwange and I told Foster I’d like to visit there on our way since we didn’t see any wild dogs this time. “No problem, we’ll go there” Drove through the park gates and headed for the Conservancy and we saw some kudu on the side of the road. We stopped and watched them for awhile and I noticed something just ahead on the side of the road. I said “Oh My God, wild dogs” Foster looked and sure enough, there were eight dogs along the road. Five adults and three pups, one of the adults wearing a collar. We drove up and parked watching these fantastic animals. We were there about twenty minutes when some people walking on the road scared the dogs and off they went. We went to the Painted Dog Conservancy, met a nice man who was in charge, “Xmas” (Don’t you just love African names?) who told us all about the project, how they took in and released the dogs. Very interesting. They had eight dogs there in three seperate cages and two stages of release. A great project funded by a grant and donations.. The dogs were so beautiful up close, even seperated by a fence, they had that wild, far off look in their eyes. Another incredible experience!
Thoughts on Somalisa
Everything about Somalisa was magical, beautiful and an amazing place to stay! The hosts Bobby and Melina were a lot of fun. We talked about everything even filling them in on the latest Hollywood gossip that they missed living out in the bush. Such class for such young people, they will get whatever they wish for in life. Not enough good things can be said about Foster, he made the whole trip. Incredible guy! Willy the jeep, what a way to safari! We lucked out by being the only ones in camp, otherwise we may have been stuck in a Land Cruiser. The setting of the camp, the tents, the bucket showers and scoop water, Gossie’s cooking, Naomi’s smile, the elephants and lions....everything about Somalisa was exceptional and I miss being there already. I will go back...
Back To The Falls
After the Painted Dog Conservancy we went to the airport and waited for the plane. It was sad leaving Foster, but promised we’d be back to see him and his new project. With heavy hearts we boarded the plane and waved good-bye to Foster. Our pilot from Sefofane was a nice young guy who informed us that it would not be good to crash on the way to Vic Falls as there are only two villages on the way. I told him since I paid to fly, if we crashed, he’d have to carry me as I wasn’t walking. We didn’t crash and arrived in Vic Falls in about fourty five minutes. We were met at the airport and taken to the Victoria Falls Hotel. The Victoria Falls Hotel is very beautiful, old style colonial and pretty darn stuffy! We waited for our room to be prepared and had lunch in the restaurant. The staff all in their black jackets and ties, the A&K crowd in their Banana Republic matching outfits...too much for my taste! Lunch was o.k. Large rather tasteless Monte Cristo Sandwich. Got our room and since Tom didn’t go to the falls on our first stop, we went to see the falls again. We took the back way in and didn’t get hassled too much but on the way out we were bombarded by people selling elephants, wanting our shoes, our pants, our shirts, anything. I gave one guy a hat and told him the same as I told Handsome, but he didn’t do much to keep the others away. Finally I asked one if they take money from Finland. “Helsinki?” he asked. Crap, I wasn’t sure where Helsinki was but this Zimbabwean guy did so I said “Yes, all we have is Helsinki dollars.” Well, they are useless in Zimbabwe (if they even exist) so that got the majority of them off of us. We made it to the hotel and decided to just stay in for dinner. Too exhausted to get dressed for dinner so ordered room service. Nice steak, very well cooked and cheaper than ordering at the restaurant.
Tomorrow I’ll Be A Star
You could not go to a shop in the Victoria Falls Hotel and buy a coke and bring it back to your room, everything had to be by room service. This was getting old fast so I decided to go find a store and buy a bottle of rum and some cokes and just chill out in the room. I went down and asked the doorman at the hotel where I could find some rum.
He said, “the bottle shop at the market was closed.”
“How can it be closed, it’s not even time for sundowners yet?”
“The bottle shop closes at four thirty.”
“Where can I get some rum?”
“No, I want my own. Do you have another suggestion?”
“You can take a taxi farther than the market to the bottle shop that doesn’t close at four thirty”
“Fine, call me a cab.’
He called a cab and told the guy he was to charge me not more than five dollars each way, that I was to be brought back in one piece, with all my money and a bottle of rum or he would hunt him down.
The cabbie agreed and off we went. He was a very nice guy, interesting and fun to talk to and when the first bottle shop didn’t have rum, he said for five dollars more, he would take me to the bottle shop in his township. We pulled up to the bottle shop in the township and all the locals were drinking their beer in the parking lot. Everyone stared at me and the cab driver and we went into the shop and there was rum! Everyone in the shop shook my hand, told me hello, asked about America and if I loved Zimbabwe and please come back. Another nice experience. I asked for some Coke to go with the rum, but they didn’t sell their Coke as take out, but the lady would find a jar to put some in. I declined and said I’d get some Coke elsewhere. On the way back to the hotel, the cab driver (wish I remembered his name, he was great!) said:
“Tomorrow I will be a star!”
“I brought a white man to the township....all the way from America. I will be the star!”
“Cool”, I thought, helping someone by just searching for a bottle of rum. Got back to the hotel and the cabbie said:
“Fifteen dollars for the ride and fourty dollars for the rum” Fifty five dollars for a bottle of rum and we still had to get room service to bring the Cokes! It was the best fifty five dollars (plus tip) I’ve ever spent, got to see a piece of Zimbabwe that most people don’t...rum hunting in a township, most excellent!
That’s Why They Put Those Signs Out...
I had carried a bag of peanuts all the way from Hawaii, through California, London, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and decided I wasn’t going to bring them back. When we woke up this morning, I saw a bunch of baboons on the lawn in front of our room and thought I’d give the peanuts to them. Tom said, “There’s a sign that says DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS” and of course I said “They don’t mean us” so threw some peanuts to the baboon nearest to the hotel. WHOOSH! Twenty more baboons were under our second story window waiting for peanuts. “Check this out, this is cool!” Tom grabbed some peanuts and he threw some out his window. Quicker than anything the baboons were on the balcony next to my window. I said “Oh, SH*T!” and ran into the bathroom. There were baboons trying to get into the room! Tom managed to dump the bag of peanuts on the lawn, shut the windows and we were stared at by all these baboons hanging on the ledge trying to get into the room. Quite a scary experience. Finally they jumped down and I came out of the bathroom and got ready to go on the Lion Encounter.
Walking With Lions
The van from Safari Par Excellence picked us up at six thirty to take us to the Lion Encounter. We were shown a short video, signed waivers and told of the dangers we would face, then off to see the lions! Some of you reading this think it’s politically incorrect or whatever to be doing this, I saw it as a chance of a lifetime, didn’t know all the answers as to right or wrong, but I wanted to do it and I did. It was an incredible time and I enjoyed every minute spent with the lions, don’t regret it and would do it again. There are four stages in this rehabilitation/release program. First stage is breeding and the Lion Encounter walks where they get the money for to support the program. Second stage is the lions go to an area with game and human contact and are taught to hunt. Third stage is the lions are put in a ten thousand acre area with game and no human contact. Fourth stage is the release. They currently have fourteen lions ready to be released. Seven into Zambia and seven into Zimbabwe are scheduled in the near future. CITES is watching the release program and if successful will offer grants to keep the program going. Any area or country that then needs lions will be offered them. The lions who don’t make it past stage two are sent back to the breeding program. They said they don’t sell to zoos or canned hunts, but I didn’t understand what happens if they have too many that don’t make it past stage one. Anyway, it was great! Came upon our first three lions aged twelve to fourteen months old. We all got to pet them, hug them and take our pictures with them. We spent about a half hour with them, then walked around (holding their tails) for awhile. Most of the time the lions were laying down trying to sleep as they do in the wild, and as most house cats do too. Then to the other part of the compound where there were two cubs four months old. They were the cutest things! Just like house kittens, playing with each other and full of mischief! We got to play with them, take pictures and enjoy watching their antics! Their fur is rougher than I thought it would be and they purr. Cute, cute, cute! They walked with us for a short time, then to the lodge for breakfast and back to the hotel. It was fun, exciting and I can say I petted lions, one of the highlights of this trip. Such beautiful animals, I hope the program is successful so more of these creatures can be released back into the wilds of Africa.
It Can’t Be Over So Soon
We were picked up at the hotel, back through Zimbabwe immigration, into Zambia (three year visa stamp) and to Livingstone Airport. Had an hour and a half wait then boarded Nationwide for our flight back to Johannesburg. Another sandwich and juice on the plane and soon we were in Joburg. Checked in, got our boarding passes and had pizza in one of the shops, then souvenir shopping at Out of Africa, a great shop at the airport. I always wondered how come all the carved wooden animals always looked the same, and how they made so many of them. Tom saw an employee come out of the side door of the shop on the way to the trash bin carrying all these boxes marked “MADE IN CHINA” Hmmmm.....not hand carved in Africa after all!. Boarded our plane, took an Ambien, woke up in London, short layover and back to San Francisco. The worst part of the whole trip was the two hour commute from SFO to the East Bay! Take me back to Hwange! Spent a few days with family and then home to Hawaii. The dog and cats were glad I was home, I sure wasn’t!
Comments on the Present and Future of Zimbabwe
I am in no way political. I study the issues and vote, that’s all. But from comments from everyone I spoke to on the political and social status of Zimbabwe, this is what I learned. Don’t judge a country by it’s goverment. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, the people were friendly, helpful and kind. Other than the hawkers hounding you to buy their souvenirs at Victoria Falls, I felt safe the whole time, even in the township. The people are hungry for tourism and go out of their way to ensure you have a good time and return. From talking to many people, from Handsome and boys on the street, to taxi drivers, lodge workers, security guards, shopowners to businessmen, all feel that their country will be right again and things are getting better and will continue to get better in the future. They say Mugabe will not be in power forever and when he is out, Zimbabwe will be reborn, even better than it was. Tourism is picking up, Ilala Lodge had a ninety-five percent occupancy rate while we were there. There are stores, lodges, camps and businesses opening up. Hwange National Park is run by grants and donations, not the government, and probably other game parks do the same. The markets and stores are continuing to have more and more food to sell, the main shortages are flour and rice. They do have gas supplies there, the problem is to buy gas, it has to be in foreign currency. All the companies have foreign currency accounts which when making purchases such as gas, has to be approved by the government. It used to take three or four days to get approved, it’s now taking ten to fourteen days, which is making a crunch on the people dependent on gas. Inflat
Re: Dennis's Trip Report-Caprivi Strip and Hwange, Zim
11/21/2006 04:05 PM
11/21/2006 04:05 PM
Joined: Oct 2006
Joined: Oct 2006
I agree it would have been worse to do the trip in reverse!
just got the pictures up.www.kodakgallery.com/dennisinzambia
click on caprivi album
Re: Dennis's Trip Report-Caprivi Strip and Hwange, Zim
11/22/2006 07:46 AM
11/22/2006 07:46 AM
Joined: Aug 2006
Joined: Aug 2006
Wow! What a great trip report. I really enjoyed reading it all. It must have been such a great experience!
I'll check out the photos now.
I'm going to South Africa in January, and staying till the end of February. I can't wait!!