Xudum in Okavango

Another trip to the Delta!

Aitch and I flew from Maun to Xudum in 2001 when Janet & Duncan were running the show for Landela Safaris. We landed on the nearby bush strip.

 

After a few days in camp they had business in Maun and we accompanied them on the drive out of the Delta to Maun in the Land Cruiser. Rickety bridges, deep water crossings with water washing over the bonnet onto the windscreen.

On the drive back to camp after the day in the big smoke of the metropolis of Maun we entered a Tamboti grove and saw two leopard cubs in the road. They split and ran off to left and right, then ran alongside of us on either side for a minute calling to each other before we moved off and let them be.

We enjoyed mekoro trips, game drives & walks and afternoon boat trips stretching into evenings watching the sunset from the boat while fishing for silver catfish or silvertooth barbel – I forget what they called them. Later, wading in thigh-deep water sorting out the pumps. Only afterwards did I think hmm, crocs.

Xudum (5)

Visited Rann’s camp for lunch where we first heard the now-common salute before starting a meal: “Born Up a Tree”.

Janet moved us from camp to camp as guests arrive, filling in where there were gaps in other camps. We transferred by boat, mekoro or 4X4 vehicle. One night we stayed in a tree house in Little Xudum camp.

Okavango Xudum Camp

Lazy days in camp drinking G&T’s

Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge

Getting into the Okavango Delta is awfully expensive.

A cheaper way is to fly in to Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge, get on a mokoro and disappear off into the wild with a guide who knows where he’s going and what he’s doing. In 1993 Aitch and I did just that, spending a night at Oddballs, where you are given a little dome tent to pitch on the hard-baked earth.

You get visitors:

The name is ironic, see (“contrary to what is expected, and typically causing wry amusement because of this” – I made a quick check, don’t want get ironic wrong). While in camp you stock up on the meagre supplies available in their shop (like potatoes and onions), a tent, a braai grid, add it to the 10kg you’re allowed to bring in on the high-wing Cessna 206’s and you’re away! 10kg doesn’t go far when you’re a books, binocs and telescope junkie!

We enjoyed six nights out on the mokoro in the care of a wonderful man named Thaba Kamanakao. We chose to sleep three nights under a jackalberry and three under a mangosteen, minimising packing up and moving. We had little food, but Thaba provided us with the fish he caught in his gill net each night. I ate the barbel and he and Aitch the bream. Lucky me, it was delicious! He also loved barbel, but his lifestyle advisor – a sangoma? – had told him he wasn’t allowed it! The first night we were joined by Pommy doctors Louise and Richard and their guide “BT”.

OddballsOkavango (7 small)

When we moved camp from Jackalberry Camp to Mangosteen or Squirrel Camp we decided we needed a bath, so Thaba took us to a stunning clear lagoon, carefully checked for big things that could bite and then stood guard on the mokoro while we swam and rinsed – no soap, please! (Anyone going: You MUST take a diving mask! Next time I’ll pack some small swimming goggles and an underwater camera. The clarity of that water is awesome).

Beautiful underwater pic by David Doubilet to show what it looks like.

OddballsOkavango Camp
Squirrel Camp

Days were spent birding, hiking, short mokoro trips & loafing in camp, where the squirrels and birds kept us entertained for hours.

One night a herd of eles moved in and we lay listening to their tummy rumbles. We kept dead quiet and just peered at them in the moonlight as they had a little baby with them and we didn’t want to upset mama.

Botswana Oddballs Savuti (2 small) still life with sausage tree flowers

Then we headed back reluctantly for a last night at Oddballs. Warm showers under the open sky, big hearty hot meals prepared for us, ice cold beer & gin’ntonics on the deck watching otters in the lagoon. Comfy chairs.

And suddenly it dawns on you that, even though you do have to pitch your own tent again, Oddballs really IS a Luxury Lodge!

Oddballs (5)

151 Elephants

We spent a few hours in Hluhluwe Game Reserve on my first visit to Jess on her course. We got in for free using our new Rhino Card. For ages now we have battled to see eles in KZN parks. In fact in Mkhuze last year I offered the kids a reward if they spotted fresh ele poo!! Not even the live animals themselves! Nothing.

As always Jess was the spotter: “Dad! Elephants! Stop!” She does NOT want to get close, so we stopped a good 200m away and watched as 30 eles of all sizes sauntered past on a road across a streambed from where we were parked. In another first, I was without my binocs! The last time that happened was 2003. I only had my spares that live in the car, not my proper Zeiss’. Can’t believe what getting ancient does to one.

Then “Dad, there are more” – and then more. And more. They were all headed for the Hluhluwe river so we found an overlook on a bend and watched and counted.

Hluhluwe Jess May17 (24)

Hluhluwe Jess May17 (18)

We counted 150 eles! Our ele drought has been broken. One teenage ele took exception to the presence of the warthogs, rushing them, shaking his ears. They basically ignored him, scampering away at the last minute and trotting straight back to their positions in defiance of him.

On the way out a lone ele ran out of the bush across the road right in front of us, making it 151.

 

 

 

Cape Vidal Camping

So I took these –

Cape Vidal Apr17 (50)

to here –

and when they saw these harmless creatures –

they squealed and ran out of the campsite shouting “I’m taking an uber home!”

Cape Vidal Apr17 (71)

’twas like casting pearls before swine . . . .

Ken Gillings’ Hysterical Tours

Dear old Ken died too soon. His tours were hugely educational – and such fun. You had to listen carefully or you’d miss his wicked Sergeant-Major little asides and throw-away comments. We should have recorded them all. Well, here’s one, anyway.

We walked the Fugitive’s Trail from Isandlwana to Fugitive’s Drift. Ken arranged for a local man to take us to the start and fetch us at the end in his taxi – a shiny new Toyota Quantum like this:

Toyota Quantum

On the way we stopped to look at something and Ken ordered us to hop out of the taxi. Then he paused, gave a slight grin and said “You could call that a ‘quantum leap'”.

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Our traipse along the trail was not uneventful. Once again a bunch of pale people were out of their depth. Also, our average age was way above that of the pommy soldiers, and we had no horses. Even though we weren’t being pursued by victorious Zulus, panting was heard and hearts fluttered. Some had to lie down a while.

We walked from the mountain to the river:

Fugitives Drift down in the valley on the left

Fug Drift (39)

We were a bit slower than the fleeing poms at the uMzinyathi (Buffalo) River: Didn’t want to get our shoes wet:

Once again a bunch of bumbling Wit Ous cross the Buffalo at Fugitives Drift

After one tour I thanked Ken for a wonderful weekend and awarded him the Victoria Cross for his brave endeavours:

VC from Isandlwana 21km

The one on the left. I had earned it by running a 21km half-marathon from Isandlwana to Rorke’s Drift.