Starting Mark

A beautiful morning on Upper St Regis as we leave for BTV to catch our flight to JFK. Why BTV when there’s a direct flight from SLK? Because we’d have to check our cameras on the small Cape Air Cessnas. Can’t do that! \240And of course we could drive to JFK, but who wants to leave a new car there for 2 weeks? \240It’s a nice trip to BTV…

The only way Ellen will visit NYC is if it’s necessary to get somewhere else.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Last evening the flight landed on time but getting from the gate to the hotel took almost 2 hours - over a mile walk to get our bags, then more walking to the AirTrain, then a van to the hotel. This morning we were overly cautious and took the 4AM shuttle to the airport, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy early breakfast in the Virgin Atlantic lounge. On board is comfortable but Virgin Atlantic “Upper Class” is very purple!

O.R. Tambo International Airport, O.R. Tambo, Kempton Park, 1627, South Africa

Landing at Heathrow last night. \240We had to disembark, walk a mile, go through a MickeyMouse carryon inspection that took 45 minutes, then walk back to the SAME gate, SAME aircraft, and SAME seats! Crazy.

But now we are in AFRICA🤪! No pix yet, we are just going to clean up, hang out at OR Tambo airport area with our friends. There are actually some birds here so Ellen may get out her camera. Tomorrow we fly to Polokwane then drive to our first safari lodge, Mashatu in \240Botswana.

Gavin, Dale, Ellen, Elaine, Charles, Barbara at dinner in Johannesburg.

Polokwane International Airport, Gateway St, Polokwane, 0700, South Africa

Made it to Polokwane with our entire group of 9. The last two just arrived at noon in Johannesburg, had quick shower in Gavin’s room, then back to the airport for our Airlink flight to Polokwane.

Saps-Pontdrift Border Crossing Police Station

It’s about a 3 hour drive from Polokwane to Pont Drift, initially past some very dense and poor neighborhoods, then large game farms and stunning scenery and huge rock outcrops- kopjes. We checked out of South Africa at the border station and walked in “no man’s land” to the edge of the Limpopo River - which was flowing!

In 2018 \240we just drove across the dry river but today we had to take the cable car.

Our old friend Bashi met us at the border and drove us the 30 minutes to fabulous Euphorbia lodge

Impala right outside our room!

The evening game run brought us so close to animals you could use your cellphone.

Mashatu Lodge

Not the big 5, but it was great to spend some close time with the big cats just depending on their good will.

White fronted bee eater. Didn’t see any bees, but I guess he did.

Tons of guinea fowl with an impala.

Bashi calls these “flying chili peppers” - red billed hornbills.

Mashatu Game Reserve

What a fabulous morning!

Baboons and this lilac breasted roller were fun to see, but

THIS was the real reason we came back to Botswana: THE BAT EARED FOX😲. \240Ellen was ecstatic!

Brown hooded kingfisher aint too shabby,

and we love the Verreaux’s eagle owl too,

And a troop of elephants is a magnificent sight,

but really, the bat eared fox is the best of all.

We got to spend the afternoon in a half buried shipping container on the edge of a small pond.

We had lots of visitors.

If you think you know what “mudslinging” is wait till you see this video.

Mashatu Lodge

After breakfast we ran across a herd of nervous impala. Bashi determined a leopard was in the area, then Albert spotted it. We watched the leopard stalk the impala, but a male impala spotted her, snorted alarm, so she gave up.

It was very dry, but there were a surprising number of giraffes that somehow found enough to est.

We found many interesting birds and an elephant shrew (pix later) after much pounding on these rough roads - when we used them.

Siesta time every day in our very comfortable room.

“The Nest” at the main lodge building had \240a great view.

Sunset in the bush

This was Gavin’s last safari that he would lead

and also our Last Safari (probably). We were so happy to have Bashi as our guide again.

V4FW+R4 Pont Drift, Botswana

Last morning at Mashatu - in the blind! These photos all taken with iPhone - much better ones with big camera I’ll add later.

Red billed quilea

Bashi’s truck.

Crossing the Limpopo

Dale at SA Botswana border

Ulusaba Private Game Reserve - Rock Lodge

Arrival at the Rock Lodge of Ulusaba after flight from Joburg to Skukuza.

Our guide Tom and tracker, Cepo

This place is not for people who don’t do stairs.

Main lodge room.

First evening game drive we found Ravencourt male sitting under his kill. After waiting a bit:

If that wasn’t special enough we then moved into the middle of an elephant herd. Watched a 2 day old baby shakily walk, and a tussle between two females.

Ulusaba Private Game Reserve - Rock Lodge

Mom & son have a special relationship.

This father & son team are causing chaos in the Sabi Sands lion prides.


Elaine & Dale were next door in Rock Lodge

Granite outcrops (kopjes) are everywhere.

We visited the flatland lodge at Ulusaba.

Fantastic! Our ranget Tom found some Secretary birds!

And even a pck of wild dogs.


These ladies( Dale, Ellen, MaryAnn, Elaine) plus me were in the “bird” Land Rover with ranger Tom and tracker Sepo.

Little Bee Eaters

Pearl Spotted Owl

Our ranger Tom at the entrance to Rock Lodge.

Our last full day at Ulusaba was full of some very special sitings. This giraffe was beautiful iin the early afternoon light.

Extra special was seeing a female saddlebill stork (sorry no pix here yet).

We’d seen this elephant herd before, but we never got tired of seeing these magnificent critters, especially the 3 month old baby.

I was initially shocked when we saw some rhino earlier that had been dehorned to discourage poachers, but we lucky today to find three with their handsome signature horns intact.

Maryanne, the pro photographer

Celebrating a great safari.

Since it had warmed up, our final dinner was set up out on the open porch. \240All the staff were so gracious and friendly - what joy to be with them.

We had one final game run on Sunday before our departure. It involved a lot of bush bashing in our rugged Land Rover - was which was by far the most comfortable safari vehicle we had ever been in.

A last look from Rock Lodge.

We thought our game viewing was over when the 9 of us piled into the Sable Tours van for the transfer to Skukusa airport, but 1 minute into the ride Ellen spotted two rare Southern Ground Hornbills!

Leaving beautiful Skukusa airport in Kruger National Park for Johannesburg.

and later that evening, Delta 201 to Atlanta.