Delta Sky Club in ATL International Terminal has a great outdoor patio. Ellen said it was too boring, but its unclear how she knows since she didn’t enter.
Leaving ATL for Paris on Air France 777-300 flight 681 on runway 9L.
Wow! This aircraft has a video camera that provides a forward view!
A beautiful dawn over Paris as we approach Charles de Gaulle airport.
Right on glideslope and localizer.
Boarded next AF Boeing 777 bound for Cape Town. Somehow we have middle seats. Ellen was unsure if she wanted the seat barrier removed.
Its sunny here in Paris but our internal clock says its 4AM. Eleven hours to Cape Town! They just sprayed us with insecticide. OK maybe we can get some sleep.
10:34 Taking off on 08L. 5988 miles.
11 hours some sleep and Pulp Fiction layer we arrive on time in Cape Town. Landed 10:25, had bags and in hotel shuttle by 11:05 - efficient. Ellen is freaked because the shower is see through but we aren’t going to complain.
Nearly recovered from flights to Africa after night at very nice Verde Hotel. Waiting to board flight from Cape Town to Maun.
Nice flight over Cape Town and the Kalahari Desert to Maun. Wow, its almost a city! Well, it has a paved road or two and an impressive busy airport. Last time I was here in the 1960s there was just a dirt airfield and all unpaved roads.
Lots of birds at our hotel. And flying foxes!
There are 10 people in our group, 5 are hardcore birders. They spotted 40 different kinds of birds just at our hotel in Maun. This morning we left Maun in a Cessna Caravan turbprop for a 10 minute flight and 40 minute drive to our first location in the Okavango delta, Stanley Camp.
Looks like the camp is in the water, and it is during the annual flood but it is dry this time of year.
Our comfy tent.
Couldn’t get to breakfast early because there was a buffalo on the path.
Encountered a herd of 2000+ buffalo, plus zebra, giraffe, red lechwe, bushbuck. Lots of birds.
This buff has two red billed oxpeckers on his head as well as the egret on his back. PM not much - fish eagle.
This morning drove 4 hours and saw a small herd of buffalo, red lechwe, and a few birds, including this goofy looking saddle bill stork.
We had a rain storm that soaked us despite the canvas top on the Land Rover, but produced a lovely rainbow.
This morning’s excitement started at 7 AM when the vehicle wouldn’t start. They changed the battery but it died 100 meters from camp. A mechanic arrived in another vehicle but instead of moving us to the other vehicle as I suggested they swapped batteries. 30 minutes later we stop and it won’t start. Great! TT radioed and got a nearby car to give us a push start. Off we went again but TT wisely said he would not turn off the engine when we stopped for photos. I mentioned to TT that as the battery ran down the radio would stop working. Sure enough, he made a few calls but we got no response. Around 10:30 we stopped for a potty break, and at 10:35 the engine stopped. The battery was stone dead, we couldn’t radio, and the African horizon was empty except for some giraffe in the distance. I asked TT, “how far is camp? What’s the plan” he said we were 5km from camp, and the plan was he would walk to camp. The walk involved going through waist deep water so we agreed we didn’t want to walk. TT returned in an hour and we returned to camp in time for lunch, relieved our wait in the bush wasn’t much longer.
We did see buffalo, elephants, giraffe and African ground hornbills so it was not a total bust.
Can you believe this? For the evening game run they put us in the same vehicle, supposedly with a new alternator. Two miles out it failed again - dead battery. Fortunately our other vehicle was nearby and we all climbed aboard, except for Gavin, who went with TT in a staff car. After that, Ice gave us a great game run with a nice long stay in a buffalo herd, elephant, tsetsabee, and of course, birds.
This is the dry season in the Okavango Delta but the roads are still pretty wet. Sometimes we have to lift our feet because the water is so deep it comes over the car floor.
Another amazing day in the Okavango. We saw a pack of hyenas, who were harassing a wounded lion. We dont know what happened because we left the area and went on a wonderful bush walk. We learned about many plants that are used by the local culture to cure everything from a cold to cancer. We also saw a herd of elephants.
At lunch back at camp there was an elephant near the pool. A lady was warned about it by Mike but she walked to the pool anyway. The elephant thought she was much too close and charged her, hitting her in her back with his trunk and grazing her side with a tusk. She was foolish to try to get so close and very stupid to turn her her back to the elephant. Also very lucky the tusk didn’t go through her back.
After our afternoon nap we saw an amazing display of swooping carmine bee eaters.
When we returned to camp after dark we saw hyenas walking along the path to our tents, so we were just as happy to have the guides go first.
Scene of elephant attack.
Our last morning at Stanley Camp. This morning we saw an African Eagle Owl with a baby. Their pink eyelids are so weird! On the drive to the airport we saw zebra, elephant, impala, red lechwe, and several tsessebe, one with a tiny day old baby - so cool!
We them piled into three small Air Van aircraft and flew northwest 100 miles to Nxamaseri airstrip, transfered to a truck then a boat to get to Nxamaseri Island Lodge. (Actually it is an island only in the wet season so the boat trip was just for show. )
Overflying the Moremi Game Reserve
Nxamaseri is less than 20 miles south of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia.
Our room at Nxamaseri
After lunch we relaxed on our private porch until 4pm, time to board boats for an initial exploration of the Okavango River. Amazing place: we saw giant kingfishers, malakite kingfishers, pied, woodland, striped kingfishers; fish eagles, hippos & crocodile.
The only other guests are Flora (Flo) and her flight instructor Mike who are touring Southern Africa in a C182. Mike is a South African Air Force retiree; Flo is a youngish Dutch lady who smokes too much. Their next stop is Vic Falls in Zimbabwe.
Malakite Kingfisher on papyrus.
Day 2 at Nxamaseri
Boated to the Okavango main channel and went for a short bush walk in an island where we saw the highly endangered Pell’s Fishing Owl. Also, lots of birds and crocs.
In the afternoon all nine of is were crammed into a truck with 3 rows of seats and we drove to some ponds in a cattle farming area. There were lots of white faced ducks, knobbed geese, spur winged geese, black heron, pink backed pelican, jacana, skimmers etc.
Not a great place to swim. At another camp an idiot tourist swam despite the warnings and was eaten by a croc. Her two teenage children who refused to go in the river saw the whole thing.
White fronted bee-eaters
Rode up the Okavango River at 20kts to the Red Cliffs where we saw carmine bee eaters swooping and digging burrows in the cliff.
Ellen’s scarf blew off but Nine saw it go and retrieved it from the river.
Our boats have 70 hp Yamahas - the locals travel in mokoros. Locals illegally burn the papyrus. The smoke is in camp and bothers Ellen.
Evening photo run on the Okavango
Drove to.Tsodilo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage site, “mountain of the gods.” Hiked up Female Hill to see the awesome rock paintings, some 3000 years old.
Easy to see why the San people considered them spiritual places. It was only 300’ vertical but kind of a scramble over rocks and boulders. Fortunately there were stairways over the worst parts, dedicated by the President of Botswana only three weeks ago.
We returned to Nxamaseri in time for our last birding run on the Okavango. Nothing new and lots of smoke... Ellen couldn’t go to dinner she got so filled up. At dinner we met Brad, the owner, who arrived in the Bell Long Ranger we had seen from the river.
Nxamaseri dock at evening.
Last morning in Nxamaseri
This morning took some pictures of birds around the camp. We fly to Maun and then Cape Town at noon.
Andrew of Helicopter Horizons and Brad did a photo shoot of Tsodilo Hills this morning. I should have wangled a ride!
We say goodbye to Nine, our trusty guide at the Nxamaseri airstrip. The strip is too short for the Cessna Caravan, so once again we pile into three Air Vans. With 3 or 4 passengers plus pilot, our heavy luggage and high density altitude these planes (one 300hp IO540) barely make off before the end and the trees. Fortunately a sllight left turn revealed an open field which gave us room to climb. We observed vast areas of the delta burning as we flew to Maun for our connecting flights.
Boarding Airlink at Maun International \240for Cape Town:
Our same guide, Peter, took us to the marvelous Kirstenbosch Gardens at opening hour. It was raining lightly and blustery but the light was lovely for photographing the plants and birds.
The Bloomslang Canopy Walk
Had “Lamb Bunny Chow” for lunch at the Moyo Restaurant in Kirstenbosch Gardens.
Our Boer guide, Peter, picked us up at 7am at our hotel in Sea Point and gave us a tour of South Point and Cape of Good Hope via the spectacular Chapman Peak drive. On the way passed through many scenic villages including Houts Bay.
In Cape Point Reserve we saw eland, endemic Bontebok, ostrich. Took the fenicular up Cape Point and photographed cormorants nesting on the cliff ledges.
In Simontown we saw the local African penguins.
Last day in Africa - just enjoyed \240a quiet day around Sea Point before the long flight home tonight.
Running the luxury shop gauntlet at Charles de Gaulle. Next stop USA.