Safari!

6a00d8341c84c753ef01bb093b9b3c970d-pi (480×640)Seeing the Elephant

by Mary Jo 

Once more I'm crashing toward the end of a story, in this case a Christmas novella scheduled for the A YULETIDE KISS anthology that will be out this October.

Sooooo….I'm also once again recycling an older travel blog, this time of our marvelous safari in Botswana.  Just rereading it made me want to go there again! 

So once more:

On September 8th, 2016, late in the evening, I pressed "Send" to email the manuscript of Once a Rebel to my editor. And the next morning we flew to Africa.  I wrote 7K words that last day in order to have a semblance of an ending.  I do not recommend this. <G>

But the safari in Botswana was wonderful.  Nothing like going off the grid when you've just finished a book!  I'd had no particular awareness of Botswana until I read the first No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith.  Born in what is now Zimbabwe, McCall Smith was a law professor at the University of Botswana for many years, and his love and understanding of Southern Africa are profound.

 

The mysteries are gentle and involve the keen understanding of human nature of Africa 2016 039the protagonist, Mma Precious Ramotswe.  The stories are entertaining, but what made the greatest impact for me was the portrait of a happy and much loved society.  Botswana, once the British protectorate called Bechuanaland, has one of the most stable governments in Africa, and one of the highest average incomes.  The size of France but with only about two million people, mostly from one tribe, it's spacious and beautiful–and a perfect place for a safari.  (I loved watching the giraffes because of their elegant grace and zen-like calm.)

Africa 2016 061We chose Micato for our safari company because of their reputation for taking care of people very, very well, and we were not disappointed.  Under the leadership of a very experienced guide/sheepdog, our journey was smooth as silk, from flying in itty-bitty 10 passenger airplanes to the grandeur of the Royal Livingston hotel on our last days to see Victoria Falls.

Zebra at MoremiWe spent two nights each at three different safari camps, each with its own special character and wildlife specialties.  Since wild animals are most active at dawn and dusk, the usual pattern of a safari day is to be woken at about 5:30 am (bleagh!!!), given a Continental breakfast, then off we'd go on game drives in great big open Land Cruisers to see what we might see.

Warthog 1The drivers have rigorous academic and practical training and are extremely knowledgeable about animals, birds, plants, migration and mating patterns and many other things.  At our first camp, the guide knew that the red lechee deer bachelor herd like to hang out on the airstrip, and he recruited several guests to help clear the strip before our airplane to the next camp could land. 

I'm told that warthogs like the one above kneel and use their broad snouts to excavate for goodies.  Very cool critters!

Lion and truckAt the Savuti camp, our guide could have drawn the family tree of all the lions who had lived in the area for the last couple of decades.  He knew the lion sisters, and their young male half brothers who came for a friendly visit, touching noses in greeting.  Very impressive knowledge! 

Note how close the lioness at the right is to a truck.  The animals get very used to the trucks and feel no threat.  This lioness and her sister ambled down the middle of the road and flopped down to relax in the sand.

Savuti sunsetAfter several hours of looking at wildlife, it's back to camp for a substantial brunch/English breakfast, then several hours of lounging or napping through the afternoon.  Tea at 3:30, then off for a second game drive.  The evening drive pauses for the near-sacred ritual of "sundowners"–drinks and snacks as the sun sets.  Our South African guide told us that for him, it was a time to reflect on the day, but the British had instituted the custom because they like to drink. <G>

Dinner about 8:00, and after dark the camps always provide an escort for people returning to their cottages or tents.  More about that later.

Birds, more of themOur camps:

Created by a river that couldn't find its way to the sea, the Okavango Delta is a vast desert oasis of reeds and channels and wildlife. Our first stop was at Xugana (Ku-ga-na) Island in the heart of the delta.   When I asked our South African guide if the channels were dredged so boats could travel through, he said no, that's what hippopotami were for. <G>)

Traveling by boat, we saw elephants bathing, a breeding colony of birds, a Very Large Crocodile basking on the bank, and elephants swimming happily.  Magical!

Baobab treesNext stop was the Savuti Lodge in a very dry and desert-ish area.  To keep the vast numbers of elephants alive until the rainy season arrived, the government had put in watering holes, so we saw a LOT of elephants there, as well as other animals.  Harsh and beautiful, Savuti was memorable, and not only for its lions.  (Baobab trees to the left.)

The last safari camp was in another part of the Okavango Delta, the Khwai River Lodge The other camps had solid cabins, but Khwai used tents.  Multi-elephantsLuxury tents for what Anne Gracie calls "glamping"–that is, glamour camping. <G> 

Besides close views of a lady leopard, there was also the opportunity to take a ride in a mocoro–a traditional hollowed out log boat rather like a canoe.  Except that there is such a demand for mocoros that the government started making fiberglass versions to save trees.  But they looked convincing, and gliding along at water level, poled by young men who had grown up by the river, was peaceful and lovely.  Though the hippo we visited who was so bad tempered that he was expelled from his herd gave us an exciting moment or two. <G>
 
TentRemember I mentioned that we were always escorted back to our quarters after dark?  The last night we were heading back to our tent.  I was ahead with a flashlight to unzip the tent when I heard rustling in the grass.  It didn't sound like a large animal, but maybe hyenas or baboons like to scrounge around in the dark, so I went back to our escort and said I'd heard something, not anything big like an elephant but something.

So he went ahead with his flashlight and returned to say, "It's an elephant."  <g>  Directly in front of our tent, maybe four feet from the entrance flap.  Calmly our escort said the best way in was to unzip an end flap and enter our tent that way. 

Since he thought that was safe, I unzipped thLeopard 1e end and we went inside.  The elephant rustled around the tent for at least half an hour, crunching branches and brushing the canvas.  The Mayhem Consultant took a shower, which showed great sang froid given that there was an elephant maybe four feet away. <G>

But the elephant eventually wandered off and all was peaceful.  Just another night on safari!

Happy splashing elephantMary Jo, adding that "seeing the elephant" was a Civil War era expression for seeing something exotic and wonderful, though it comes at a price. These days the price is only a credit card and jet lag rather than risking life and limb. <G>

Have you ever wanted to go on a safari? If so, where would you like to go and what would you like to see?

100 thoughts on “Safari!”

  1. What a great post, MaryJo; thanks for sharing it again.
    I can recall being nervous of sharing a campsite shower with a small frog or a spider. I don’t think I’d do too well with an elephant nearby…sang froid, indeed!

    Reply
  2. What a great post, MaryJo; thanks for sharing it again.
    I can recall being nervous of sharing a campsite shower with a small frog or a spider. I don’t think I’d do too well with an elephant nearby…sang froid, indeed!

    Reply
  3. What a great post, MaryJo; thanks for sharing it again.
    I can recall being nervous of sharing a campsite shower with a small frog or a spider. I don’t think I’d do too well with an elephant nearby…sang froid, indeed!

    Reply
  4. What a great post, MaryJo; thanks for sharing it again.
    I can recall being nervous of sharing a campsite shower with a small frog or a spider. I don’t think I’d do too well with an elephant nearby…sang froid, indeed!

    Reply
  5. What a great post, MaryJo; thanks for sharing it again.
    I can recall being nervous of sharing a campsite shower with a small frog or a spider. I don’t think I’d do too well with an elephant nearby…sang froid, indeed!

    Reply
  6. Safari is magical! I managed three trips before the money ran out. A favorite memory: hearing lions growl in the middle of the night on my first night there. Ah, Africa! Never made it to the Okavango, though; that would be my next dream safari.

    Reply
  7. Safari is magical! I managed three trips before the money ran out. A favorite memory: hearing lions growl in the middle of the night on my first night there. Ah, Africa! Never made it to the Okavango, though; that would be my next dream safari.

    Reply
  8. Safari is magical! I managed three trips before the money ran out. A favorite memory: hearing lions growl in the middle of the night on my first night there. Ah, Africa! Never made it to the Okavango, though; that would be my next dream safari.

    Reply
  9. Safari is magical! I managed three trips before the money ran out. A favorite memory: hearing lions growl in the middle of the night on my first night there. Ah, Africa! Never made it to the Okavango, though; that would be my next dream safari.

    Reply
  10. Safari is magical! I managed three trips before the money ran out. A favorite memory: hearing lions growl in the middle of the night on my first night there. Ah, Africa! Never made it to the Okavango, though; that would be my next dream safari.

    Reply
  11. Kareni, I think I’d take the elephant over the spider! The Micato people were so good that when our escort said just unzip the end of the tent, I believed that we’d be okay. And we were.

    Reply
  12. Kareni, I think I’d take the elephant over the spider! The Micato people were so good that when our escort said just unzip the end of the tent, I believed that we’d be okay. And we were.

    Reply
  13. Kareni, I think I’d take the elephant over the spider! The Micato people were so good that when our escort said just unzip the end of the tent, I believed that we’d be okay. And we were.

    Reply
  14. Kareni, I think I’d take the elephant over the spider! The Micato people were so good that when our escort said just unzip the end of the tent, I believed that we’d be okay. And we were.

    Reply
  15. Kareni, I think I’d take the elephant over the spider! The Micato people were so good that when our escort said just unzip the end of the tent, I believed that we’d be okay. And we were.

    Reply
  16. Sounds like a magical trip, Mary Jo! I went on safari in Kenya many years ago and we did the same thing as you – visited three different places for a night or two at each one. So much to see! My favourite memory is that one camp had a tame mongoose who wandered among the tents 🙂

    Reply
  17. Sounds like a magical trip, Mary Jo! I went on safari in Kenya many years ago and we did the same thing as you – visited three different places for a night or two at each one. So much to see! My favourite memory is that one camp had a tame mongoose who wandered among the tents 🙂

    Reply
  18. Sounds like a magical trip, Mary Jo! I went on safari in Kenya many years ago and we did the same thing as you – visited three different places for a night or two at each one. So much to see! My favourite memory is that one camp had a tame mongoose who wandered among the tents 🙂

    Reply
  19. Sounds like a magical trip, Mary Jo! I went on safari in Kenya many years ago and we did the same thing as you – visited three different places for a night or two at each one. So much to see! My favourite memory is that one camp had a tame mongoose who wandered among the tents 🙂

    Reply
  20. Sounds like a magical trip, Mary Jo! I went on safari in Kenya many years ago and we did the same thing as you – visited three different places for a night or two at each one. So much to see! My favourite memory is that one camp had a tame mongoose who wandered among the tents 🙂

    Reply
  21. WOW! What a wonderful post. Thank you so much. I have never been on a safari and at this point will never be on one….but sure would love to go. I would want to touch all those wonderful animals.
    I have been lucky enough to touch an elephant and pet a baby tiger. Those events were all many years ago.
    And looking back, I think being able to see them all where they belong is much better than being able to touch animals who have been put where we can touch them. They need to be able to touch the ground where they should live.
    Aren’t we lucky that there are beautiful animals here for us to see. I wonder where they will be in the future?
    Thanks again for your lovely post and pictures.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

    Reply
  22. WOW! What a wonderful post. Thank you so much. I have never been on a safari and at this point will never be on one….but sure would love to go. I would want to touch all those wonderful animals.
    I have been lucky enough to touch an elephant and pet a baby tiger. Those events were all many years ago.
    And looking back, I think being able to see them all where they belong is much better than being able to touch animals who have been put where we can touch them. They need to be able to touch the ground where they should live.
    Aren’t we lucky that there are beautiful animals here for us to see. I wonder where they will be in the future?
    Thanks again for your lovely post and pictures.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

    Reply
  23. WOW! What a wonderful post. Thank you so much. I have never been on a safari and at this point will never be on one….but sure would love to go. I would want to touch all those wonderful animals.
    I have been lucky enough to touch an elephant and pet a baby tiger. Those events were all many years ago.
    And looking back, I think being able to see them all where they belong is much better than being able to touch animals who have been put where we can touch them. They need to be able to touch the ground where they should live.
    Aren’t we lucky that there are beautiful animals here for us to see. I wonder where they will be in the future?
    Thanks again for your lovely post and pictures.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

    Reply
  24. WOW! What a wonderful post. Thank you so much. I have never been on a safari and at this point will never be on one….but sure would love to go. I would want to touch all those wonderful animals.
    I have been lucky enough to touch an elephant and pet a baby tiger. Those events were all many years ago.
    And looking back, I think being able to see them all where they belong is much better than being able to touch animals who have been put where we can touch them. They need to be able to touch the ground where they should live.
    Aren’t we lucky that there are beautiful animals here for us to see. I wonder where they will be in the future?
    Thanks again for your lovely post and pictures.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

    Reply
  25. WOW! What a wonderful post. Thank you so much. I have never been on a safari and at this point will never be on one….but sure would love to go. I would want to touch all those wonderful animals.
    I have been lucky enough to touch an elephant and pet a baby tiger. Those events were all many years ago.
    And looking back, I think being able to see them all where they belong is much better than being able to touch animals who have been put where we can touch them. They need to be able to touch the ground where they should live.
    Aren’t we lucky that there are beautiful animals here for us to see. I wonder where they will be in the future?
    Thanks again for your lovely post and pictures.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

    Reply
  26. Your trip sounds fabulous! I would love a safari like that. On a tour in India I was jumping up and down just seeing domestic camels and elephants on the road.

    Reply
  27. Your trip sounds fabulous! I would love a safari like that. On a tour in India I was jumping up and down just seeing domestic camels and elephants on the road.

    Reply
  28. Your trip sounds fabulous! I would love a safari like that. On a tour in India I was jumping up and down just seeing domestic camels and elephants on the road.

    Reply
  29. Your trip sounds fabulous! I would love a safari like that. On a tour in India I was jumping up and down just seeing domestic camels and elephants on the road.

    Reply
  30. Your trip sounds fabulous! I would love a safari like that. On a tour in India I was jumping up and down just seeing domestic camels and elephants on the road.

    Reply
  31. Karin, this post first ran five years ago–quite some time! We saw many wonderful things in Botswana, but the elephant blocking entrance to our tent is definitely the most memorable tale!

    Reply
  32. Karin, this post first ran five years ago–quite some time! We saw many wonderful things in Botswana, but the elephant blocking entrance to our tent is definitely the most memorable tale!

    Reply
  33. Karin, this post first ran five years ago–quite some time! We saw many wonderful things in Botswana, but the elephant blocking entrance to our tent is definitely the most memorable tale!

    Reply
  34. Karin, this post first ran five years ago–quite some time! We saw many wonderful things in Botswana, but the elephant blocking entrance to our tent is definitely the most memorable tale!

    Reply
  35. Karin, this post first ran five years ago–quite some time! We saw many wonderful things in Botswana, but the elephant blocking entrance to our tent is definitely the most memorable tale!

    Reply
  36. Annette. it was not recommended that one touch the animals we saw on safari! Many were used to having people nearby, but that’s not the same thing as tame. Many African countries are making impressive efforts to maintain their wildlife, both as part of their heritage and because it’s good for bringing tourist dollars.

    Reply
  37. Annette. it was not recommended that one touch the animals we saw on safari! Many were used to having people nearby, but that’s not the same thing as tame. Many African countries are making impressive efforts to maintain their wildlife, both as part of their heritage and because it’s good for bringing tourist dollars.

    Reply
  38. Annette. it was not recommended that one touch the animals we saw on safari! Many were used to having people nearby, but that’s not the same thing as tame. Many African countries are making impressive efforts to maintain their wildlife, both as part of their heritage and because it’s good for bringing tourist dollars.

    Reply
  39. Annette. it was not recommended that one touch the animals we saw on safari! Many were used to having people nearby, but that’s not the same thing as tame. Many African countries are making impressive efforts to maintain their wildlife, both as part of their heritage and because it’s good for bringing tourist dollars.

    Reply
  40. Annette. it was not recommended that one touch the animals we saw on safari! Many were used to having people nearby, but that’s not the same thing as tame. Many African countries are making impressive efforts to maintain their wildlife, both as part of their heritage and because it’s good for bringing tourist dollars.

    Reply

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