Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Books, Nostalgia, School, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Africa’s Great Wild Places

When I left Specsavers in 2000 the lovely team I worked with gave me a perfect farewell gift: A book by Chris and Tilde Stuart: ‘Africa’s Great Wild Places.’ Right up my alley. If the Stuarts think these places are special you can bet they are. They have been all over Africa and they don’t flit in and out; when they go somewhere, they stay a while!

I had been to seven of the fifteen places they chose for the book and immediately set about getting to the eighth:

Luangwa in Zambia

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Watched eles crossing the Luangwa as we ate. Little ones submerged except for their trunks!

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Okavango in Botswana

Okavango book June Kay (1)

We had this book at home growing up and I loved it. It describes the Okavango in 1958; Moremi and Chobe weren’t parks yet, but the story about two crazy loons driving a great lumbering gas-guzzling, wartime D.U.K.W amphibious monstrosity led to a fascination and – years later – many trips there starting in 1985. The latest trip was in March 2018. While there I read her new book Starlings Laughing, under her new name June Vendall Clark. I’m pleased to report that exactly fifty years later the Okavango is still the amazing paradise June Kay loved so much.

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Tsavo in Kenya

here

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Kruger National Park in South Africa

First visit in 1968 – a school tour.

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The Kalahari – Gemsbok Park in SA and Makgadikgadi Pans Botswana

1969 school tour and 1996 with Aitch; In 2010 with Janet we saw the Green Kalahari!

Kayak Kalahari Ngami (28 small)

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Etosha in Namibia

Okakuejo camp
Okakuejo camp

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Hwange in Zimbabwe

Probably my favourite. In 1997 we went to Makalolo and in 2010 to Somalisa

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The Namib

Namibia Balloon (4)

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Western Tanzania

This was one area I thought it unlikely we’d get to visit. Then Mike Lello got to go! His son Chris worked in wildlife safaris in Tanzania and arranged a fly-in trip. And lately, wonderful news: My bro-in-law Jeff and nephew Robbie have bought a farm near Iringa. I may not get all the way west, but I’d love to go to the Selous and Ruaha National Park! Time will tell!

More to see:

Uganda, the Serengeti, the Soda Lakes, the Great Selous

Birds & Birding, Travel, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Makololo 1997

Makololo (1).jpg

Aitch’s twin sister Janet and her partner Duncan were running Makololo camp in the wonderful Hwange Reserve in Zimbabwe. Duncan had just recently built the camp for Wilderness Safaris and now they were the camp managers. And they invited us to stay! We flew in to Vic Falls, they picked us up and we had a long slow ‘game drive’ to the village of Hwange; then into the park and a real game drive to the camp in the south-east corner of the huge reserve.

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The camp that Duncan built – stunning wood and thatch comfort with only the four of us in residence. One night a woodland dormouse fell into the soup, poor little bugger! He seemed alright.

– pic from wikipedia – thanks –

Sylvester the grumpy lion chased after us with seeming intent! We didn’t stick around to ask him what was bugging him! We accelerated away from his waterhole.

Saw two firsts, there – two lifers! A Red-necked Falcon and a Caspian Plover.

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Hwange Camp Invasion

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Somalisa interior

Sister-in-law Janet in Maun sent this:

As you know, Duncan is project manager for Beks Ndlovu’s company African Bush Camps. He is currently refurbishing the camp we stayed at in Jan 2010 (Somalisa in SE Hwange). This week Duncan wrote to Beks:

“FYI…Jurassic is causing a nuisance in camp. Broke into the new storeroom to get cabbages and potatoes. Then did the same to the new Acacia kitchen on Monday night. I believe quite a lot of damage and refused to be chased away”.

Beks wrote:
Our project manager who has spent many years in the bush building safari camps sent me a message tonight whilst I was on vacation in Australia.

Jurassic by the way is an elephant that has a seriously warped sense of humor at Somalisa. He eats guests’ soap and toothpaste and refuses to go by our general ground rules . . . He has a mind of his own!

I can’t help but reflect that today we have these encounters with wildlife and here is what I sent back to our projects manager:

“What fun and games… You are amongst very few people in this world that can tell that kind of story?
Do you think your grandchildren might have the same stories in years to come?
Please kindly ask Jurassic to understand we have a new camp to open in less than a week and since he is family he needs to understand FHB ( family holds back)!”
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See Somalisa camp here:
http://www.africanbushcamps.com/camps-safaris/zimbabwe/somalisa-camp/

Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Travel, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Hwow! Hwange is Hwonderful!

One of Aitch’s list of ‘things to do’ once we knew she had cancer, was to visit her twin sis in Botswana. Janet quickly mustered her network and arranged a trip to Hwange, Zimababwe’s world-class national park. Her friends Beks and Sarah Ndlovu of African Bush Camps own a concession and run a very special camp at Somalisa in the eastern area, Linkwasha I think they call it.

Beks calls it his Hemingway-style camp. We called it bliss. Unpretentious tents from the outside, luxury inside.

Hwange, Somalisa Camp

The weather was amazing! Bright sunshine, then huge gathering clouds, then pouring rain and back to sunshine in a few hours. Enough rain to bring out the bullfrogs – the first time I have seen them, not for lack of looking. They were out for their annual month of ribaldry: Bawdy songs, lewd & lascivious pixicephallic behaviour. Also gluttony. Then back underground for 11 months of regrets.

HwangeSomalisa2010 (70) Hwange Cloudburst &  Nightdrive (20) Hwange Cloudburst &  Nightdrive (36)

The rain was spectacular!

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After the rain, sunshine and new spoor on the bush telegraph page-wiped-clean: Aha! The lions have cubs!

There are cubs about . . HwangeSomalisa2010 (40)

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After a good soaking the animals would have to drip-dry. We could get under cover and have hot showers, hot drinks and warm dry clothing.

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Hwange, Somalisa Camp

Hwange has become my favourite of all Africa’s big parks. It is simply fantastic.

Hwange Somalisa Camp

Those sand roads are very special, as were the breakfasts out on the pan.

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Prologue:

I had dashed off an email to Aitch in Feb 2009:

Hi Aitch – As ‘they’ so crudely put it, we need to ‘sh*t or get off the pot’ as far as a decision to get to Okavango (and Beks Ndlovu’s camps) this year. Either soonish (March), or September / October (very hot). We must decide yes or no, and if yes, who could we leave the kids with? Dilemma – K

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So glad we didn’t get off the pot! The kids were fine; We got there in Jan 2010 for Aitch’s last – great, unforgettable – Botswana trip. We’d been once before in 1997.