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

LuangwaWithKids (26)
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

Canoe & Kayak, Sport, Travel, Travel Africa

We Kayak the Kalahari

As a schoolboy I was keen on kayaking and was tickled by a cartoon depicting a kayak on dry land trailing a dust plume with the caption Kalahari Canoe Club! I kept that on my wall for years. Kayak’ing in the desert was just a joke, right!?

In January 2010 we got to the Kalahari to hear the Nhabe River was flowing strongly into Lake Ngami and Aitch’s twin sis Janet and boyfriend Duncan had organised us kayaks! Hey! Maybe you really could kayak the Kalahari!

Kayak Kalahari Ngami (28 small)

A reconnaissance trip to the area with GPS found us a put-in place where we could launch – no easy task as this Kalahari “desert” was knee-deep and chest-deep in green grass after the good rains. We returned the next day with two vehicles, four yellow plastic expedition kayaks and lunch, and set off on the beautiful river, flowing nicely between overhanging trees. It was my idea of Paradise! Green green everywhere, with plants, flowers, grasses and birds all putting on a spectacular show.

– bee-eaters starlings storks and wahlbergs eagles after “flying ants” –
Kayak Kalahari Ngami (17 small)

everything was green –

Kayak Kalahari Ngami (24 small)
Kayak Kalahari Ngami (10 small)

Five Giant Eagle Owls peering down at us blinking their pink eyelids from one thorn tree – that was special! As was a big green snake, I guessed over 2m long that came towards me on the bank as I drifted towards it. I was amazed it kept coming. When my kayak’s prow beached it still came on up to about a metre away, grabbed a small shrub in its mouth and only then beat a hasty retreat. A Kalahari Vegetarian Viper? I was thinking till I heard a loud hiss and saw the big flap-necked chameleon he had caught (together with some leaves) in his mouth. I had missed seeing a chameleon in that tiny green shrub! My guess is he was an Angolan Green Snake.

Another memorable sight was rounding a bend and seeing four cows drinking: One all-black, one all-brown, one all-white and one all-tan. They looked so striking against the lush new green backdrop that we remembered the camera but we had drifted past in the current and by the time we paddled back against the current they had dispersed. Here’s the white one:

Lunchtime we ate  on the bank sitting on the kayaks. I remember hardboiled eggs and very tasty sarmies.

Kayak Kalahari Ngami (20 small)

The girls then turned back as the paddling would be much slower against the current while Duncan and I headed on, determined to get into Lake Ngami. And we did. How spectacular! The trees fell back and the sky opened up and huge reed beds stretched in every direction. Fish eagles cried, ducks scattered before us and herons and cormorants and waders were all over the place. At first we were still in a channel, but after another kay or so we could branch into other channels and lagoons out of the main current. Way too soon we had to turn back to get back upstream to the girls and the vehicles.

ngami-cattle-guy_upfold
Guy Upfold got a shot of cattle wading in Lake Ngami as it was filling up after rains.
I use this to show what it looked like when we got out of the river into the lake.
He’s a bird photographer, so he called the shot ‘waders’ – I liked that!

This is a trip crying out for a multi-day one-way expedition with seconds collecting you at a take-out point on the lakeshore. To do it though, you have to be free to leave at short notice on those rare occasions when the river is up. Roll on, retirement!

Kayak Kalahari Ngami (54 small)

Or else you’ll be reviving the old Kalahari Canoe Club – with plumes of dust!