Seasoned travelers Ellen and Barry, were looking for an authentic adventure in Africa and turned to Wildland for our expertise in planning their South Africa and Botswana itinerary. Here are some highlights in their own words and pictures:
Day 3 – Cape Town: We were scheduled to cook alongside a woman in her home in the colorful Malay section of Bo Kapp, it turned out to be a Muslim family and our great fortune that our day fell on their celebration of Eid when the entire community celebrates the end of Ramadan. We got to cook many more foods with her besides what was on the schedule and then eat with the entire family. She was one of the most delightful women, a real "pistol" as Barry, my traveling companion, called her. And the whole neighborhood was out in the streets festively attired and greeting family. And the food was amazing.
Day 8 – Victoria Falls: We are about to leave Elephant Camp for Botswana. While the original draw in Elephant Camp was its proximity to Victoria Falls the highlight was a visit to a local village and school. Yes petting and feeding the elephants and Sylvester (their rescued cheetah) was amazing but being surrounded by over 50 children hugging me and playing with my camera and asking me my name was an experience I can't quite describe.
Day 10 – Linyanti, Botswana: You do eat every 2 hours on safari but in between eating are some incredible experiences and not always involving animals. It might be an incredible tree or some of the most amazing termite mounds that I have become totally obsessed with and have now driven my various guides crazy as I make them stop constantly so I can photograph them. They're looking for leopards and I'm looking for termite mounds. On our first drive our guide kept leaning out looking over the side of the jeep and I got worried thinking he was checking the tires till he told us he was looking for tracks of animals. Our first night in Selinda was a special celebration for the 50 year anniversary of the British ridding the country of Dutch occupation. The singing and dancing by the staff brought tears and then we danced with them. Only downside was that part of the celebration was to carry out the tradition of the woman washing "their man's" hands and serving them their food. Barry was in heaven.
Day 12 – Okavango Delta, Botswana: Our first night in the Okavango Delta, Little Vumbura was another special celebration with the staff again singing and dancing. On our last morning I spoke with some of the staff about how moved I was by the music and 4 of them performed my favorite song and I videotaped it. Our shared delight watching the playback was something that will stay with me a long, long time. And so many wonderful talks with people about the different countries we have been to: the struggles in Zimbabwe, the pride people take in Botswana. And what we have seen. Our very first sunset by a watering hole.
Day 13 – Okavango Delta, Botswana: We get out of the jeep. The hippos out there in the water looking as the locals call them "giant frogs". Its very quiet except for periodic snorts. A pack of elephants lumber in from the trees to go to the water. They quietly, slowly proceed in a giant mass. My guide suddenly, excitedly points and says "wild dogs". His voice is tense and urgent. The dogs quickly run along the banks of the watering hole. Past the elephants who make a loud screeching sound at them and toss their huge heads warning them. But they undauntingly keep running past when suddenly an impala runs into the water and frantically starts to swim and the dogs keep circling the banks. A crocodile appears seemingly out of nowhere and my guide is alongside me yelling "get the picture get it get it" as the crock advances on the impala who is swimming frantically and the crock gets closer…closer…and BOOOM they're both under water and gone. And the dogs freeze and stare. And its quiet again and the dogs are left kind of like "huh, we did all that work to feed a crock?" And Barry and I are totally in shock. We are leaving tomorrow for our last camp. It will be very hard to leave Africa.
Day 16 – Singita Boulders, Sabi Sands, South Africa: Have come a long way since our first camp when I identified a distant canoe as an African buffalo. Guess I'm making an unconscious transition as I found myself likening the rhythm of the bush to a baseball game: a few brief moments of small plays then a sudden burst of intense excitement followed by long periods of what seems to the uninformed eye like nothing going on. But when those intense moments happen here its life or death and my god its gripping! And the communication that takes place just before and between the different species is better than any tweeting or email system we have going.
Day 18 – London, England: Getting ready to board my last flight home to SF. Barry is gone to get his flight so the trip is really over … It has been extraordinary on so many levels and seamlessly organized. The name of our waiter at our last camp was "Return". I asked him about his name. At birth his nostrils were sealed. They lived far from any hospital but his mother managed to get him to one where they performed a tracheotomy after he had been declared dead. He was named "Return" because he had been returned to them by God. I might have to return to Africa.
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