Sunday, September 15, 2019

No. 71 - Botswana - Our Overland Trek Continues through South Central Africa

We arrived in Victora Falls were we spent three nights at a local hotel preparing for our next overlanding trek.  This time we would be using a Nomad Safari Overlanding Tour...sorry Dragoman, your dates didn't work out for us.  We stayed two nights at the N1 Hotel which offered a much better rate and was quite nice.  Fungai met us at the airport and took us to the hotel.  For two days, we lounged by the pool, took short walks, and ate a few really nice meals.  The warthog steack was great.  The Kudu tasted like liver and had a fishy yuk!  

We transferred early morning to the Rainbow Hotel and were reunited with our left luggage...stored there before we toured Zimbabwe.  This was our joining location for Nomad and spent the day enjoying the pool and facilities.  We met our crew during the day and got the trip formalities out of the way.  Our driver/guide's name is Fungai.  Another one.  He is from Zimbabwe.  The hotel was lovely.  Fresh, clean, and nicely decorated rooms, and a really nice pool and lounging area.  We sorted through our gear, organized it once again, and then headed out to dinner.  We invited Fungai I and his wife to join us for one last evening together.
It was an early morning loading up and getting to know a new truck design...similar to Dragoman, but different enough to add some anxiety to the learning curve...the truck has individual lockers instead of one big storage compartment, and it required some skill and patience to get everything stowed.  We all remarked, after having been without the bulk of our luggage for three weeks while traveling in Zimbabwe, that we truly did not need it all...and WHY were we carrying it along with us???  Our group was all very nice and we started off with big smiles and expectations for a grand trek.

It was a short drive to the Botswana border, a quick immigration process, and we were at a modern shopping center by noon.  There we purchased water, drinks, and lunch.  An hour later we were checked into our camping lodge, setting up our tents and getting ready for the noontime game safari.  We rode into Chobe National Park on traditional safari vehicles with open sides.  Great views and access to whatever would come our way.

Our driver took us straight to the river and we were met by well over a hundred elephants drinking and frolicking in the water.

This was a first for us...seeing a giraffe bending down to drink water.  We never imagined the positioning of its legs.
And of course, our luck still held and we came across a leopard, resting fresh from his kill.
He had nabbed an adult impala and has hauled it up into a nearby tree for safekeeping.
There was a large herd of kudu waiting their turn into the water.
And...nearby we found a small pride of lions resting under a tree and in the shade from the hot afternoon sun.

On the way to the docks, we were escorted for a short time by these two.

Following our hugely successful viewing, we were dropped at the marina where we boarded a river party boat for a three-hour sunset cruise.  The animals were plentiful as they grazed on the newly annexed Botawanan island.  We watched buffalo and antelope, then several herds of elephant, and gazed upon a huge Nile crocodile, 

Black-necked Ibis.
Elephants are great swimmers.
Maribou storks.
Lots more elephants.

Hippos our of the water.
And, plenty of waterbuck.

It was a great way to end the day, with the red sun setting on the western horizon. 

We headed back for a great welcome dinner of traditional food, followed by a rather lengthy introduction to the tour seems our crew leader is a bit OCD...and a bit of a strict parent.  LOL.  His list of rules...and the punishment if not followed a lukewarm response from us and most everyone else.  He would need to warm up a bit from here on out to survive the stern looks and rough first impression.

A 7am departure got us halfway across Botswana by noon and to the desert town of Nata.  We had a quick truck lunch, settled into our campsite lodge, and were off and running a few hours later for a safari of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and Nata Game Sanctuary.
The park road into the pans.
Barren, hot, salt flats and a glaring sun.  There were a few critters...wildebeest and some gazelle.
We stopped to feel the crust.
And taste it...ick...nasty.
The cactus, whole branches are peeled and ate, tastes like cucumber.
Botswana's national bird, the Great-necked Grey Bustard

We reached the largest of the salt pans...nothing but white to the horizon.
We enjoyed a spectacular sunsets with some cool beverages.

And then drove back to camp in the dark.

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