The Cheetah Brothers

We also had the pleasure of meeting these 3 cheetah brothers out for an afternoon stroll proving that brothers who play together, stay together!

The first brother spotted - no pun intended
The first brother spotted – no pun intended
Bath time
Bath time

Cheetah on the move

It was time to find his brothers

Cheetah brothers on the move

These brothers also proved that they are just like every other male I know – eager to mark their territory!

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Of course everyone had to do the same! Men!

two cheetahs

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and with a final male gesture, the 3 cheetah brothers left us to go off to hunt

Cheetah brother 1

The Big Cats came out to play

Unlike the other safari trucks that I have been in, Lagoon’s trucks are wide open and allow for lots of great game watching opportunities. It also means that you are wide open to all of the elements such as the cool breeze when you are out driving at 6:3o am in the morning to the blazing mid-day sun.

Luckily, I had come prepared just like a good girl guide and had a hat to protect me from the sun and lots of warm layers to put on and take off as the day progressed. Given that you headed out so early in the morning and it is currently winter here in Botswana, the temperatures could be very chilly starting out. Everyone on the truck was given a blanket to snuggle up in and a bush baby to hold on to.

The bush babies were actually hot water bottles that you could use to keep you warm as you were zooming across the terrain in search of game. And zoom you did. The guides and trackers at Lagoon certainly take their game tracking seriously (not that they didn’t at Camp Pom Pom – they were just more fun while they were doing it!). Along with the safari truck being fully open, the tracker sat on a seat which was located on the front of the truck so that he could have a clear visual of all of the animal tracks and be able to guide in the direction that the game appeared to be moving.

Tracker PD on the front with our guide, Bale driving
Tracker PD on the front with our guide, Bale driving

Within ten minutes of embarking on our first game drive at Kwando Lagoon Camp, we came across what was to be the first in many sightings of big cats. Having spent the morning in Camp Pom Pom tracking a leopard with Rams, it was a little hilarious that less than ten minutes in here was a beauty of a leopard, which I am proud to say I spotted first before even the tracker! This picture proves how good my tracking eyes for cats really are – Rams would be proud of me!

Can a leopard change it's spots? or can you spot the leopard?
Can a leopard change it’s spots? or can you spot the leopard?
Stalking with grace
Stalking with grace
Talk about great camaflogue
Talk about great camouflage
Would you want to be a fireman to rescue this kitty from a tree?
Would you want to be a fireman to rescue this kitty from a tree?
We felt a little like she could easily jump into the truck with us
We felt a little like she could easily jump into the truck with us
A lounging leopard feels a little safer to watch
A lounging leopard feels a little safer to watch
How is that for a close up?
How is that for a close up?
On the move again
On the move again
On the hunt for tasty morsels like impala
On the hunt for tasty morsels like impala

 

And this is only a tiny portion of the great sightings that we had at Lagoon Camp. There are lots more wonderful pictures to share ūüôā

Luxuriate at Lagoon Camp

We were met at the airstrip and quickly transported to our new lodge. This camp was certainly very different from Camp Pom Pom which we had just sadly left.

Upon our arrival at Kwando’s Lagoon Camp it was quickly apparent that this was not a bush camp but one that offered a much more luxurious side of being on safari. As we had gotten a very last minute deal through the Maun company, Safari Specialists, our stay here was a real deal for us. It was easy to see why this camp tends to attract a very different clientele from North American, Europe and the Middle East looking for a safari experience that is a little more upper class.

Kwando lodge

A water view of my lodge
A water view of my lodge which was the second one from the right
Certainly more luxurious than a tent!
Certainly more luxurious than a tent!
A massive dressing room
A massive dressing room
My favorite spot!
My favorite spot! A bath with a view
And your choice of an indoor or outdoor shower
And your choice of an indoor or outdoor shower
And a deck to hippo watch from
And a deck to hippo watch from

Lagoon (Kwando) Camp

Once I got my booty shaking butt into the tiny airplane and said goodbye to Rams and Major, we were off to our next adventure in Delta.

We were heading to Kwando’s Lagoon Camp situated on the Botswana border with Namibia along a piece of land known as the Caprivi strip. The Caprivi strip is a ¬†fabulous game-viewing area that ¬†is formed by the Kwando River which carries water from the Angola highlands down to the Linyanti Swamps, the drainage from which reforms into the Linyanti River flowing to the northeast, later becoming the Chobe River as it flows toward Kasane where it joins the Zambezi and goes on to Victoria Falls.¬† The principal game concessions are the Kwando concession, Selinda Concession, and Linyanti Concessions.

Map of the Linyanti area - Lagoon Camp is located in NG 14
Map of the Linyanti area – Lagoon Camp is located in NG 14

It took us just under an hour in our tiny plane to make the trip to the Linyanti/Kwando area and arrive on yet another sandy airstrip literally in the middle of bush.

This concession proved to be jammed packed with lots of game to watch and proved to be vastly different landscape than the heart of the Delta that we had just left. Kwando reminds me more of Chobe, which it sits just south of and some like the Kalahari desert that I love so much. We certainly couldn’t had two such different camps to visit on our Delta adventure.

Dance party on the Air strip!

It was really hard for me to leave Camp Pom Pom. Not only because of the beauty of the place and magnificent wild animals. The hardest part was saying good bye to my new friends, particularly Rams and Major who had been my constant companions for three full days.

And I wasn’t the only one wishing I didn’t have to go. During our morning game drive Rams threatened several times that he was going to get lost and we wouldn’t make it back in time for our flight out to Kwando Camp Lagoon. I would just have to stick for another day or two! It was certainly nice to feel wanted.

In fact, that morning before we headed out on our game drive I went to join all the guides, trackers and polers who were huddled around the fire for warmth to say a quick goodbye. It took me ten minutes and I couldn’t depart without giving each of them a hug. It seems that I had left an impression on each and every one of them. I guess you could never call me a wall-flower. In fact, one member of the staff called me “a bouncing bundle of joy”!

But alas the time finally came when we needed to head out to the air strip and ensure that Pom Pom International run way was clear of wildlife so that it was safe for the plane to land. This inspection involves driving from one end of the run way to the other ensuring that there were no beasts lurking either on the run way or in the bushes down it’s sides. Once we had completed our inspection, Rams parked the truck and we got out to stretch our legs.

Well, you know me, one thing lead to another and before you know it Rams, Major and I are having our own private farewell dance party on the air strip! Proving that I really can dance any where!  

Dance party

Airstrip dance party

airstrip booty shaking

 

Let’s just say that I left my unique mark on Camp Pom Pom and I simply can’t wait to go back ūüėȬ†

 

Bush Fire in the Delta

While at Camp Pom Pom it became apparent that a bush fire was rapidly spreading in our direction. As we enjoyed our sundowners and then returned to camp it was hard not to miss the huge plumes of smoke and golden glow on the horizon that was not a result of the sunset.

Upon returning to camp, Rams, Major and several other guides set off in a truck to track the fire and determine which way it was heading. So while we enjoyed a scrumptious meal four of the Camp Pom Pom employees were heading straight into smoke.

While back in North America a bush or forest fire is considered an emergency situation, in the bush here it is considered a natural part of life. Here a fire might be started by someone’s careless toss of a cigarette or match. Or it could be the result of a lightening strike or the sun reflecting off a piece of glass. That is why it is so incredibly important when you are in the bush to never leave anything carelessly behind. It can be life or death for environment.

However, unlike when a massive forest fire sweeps through terrain in North America, a fire here in the Okavango causes re-growth, regeneration and species control. So the only concern with the fire was which direction it was headed in and were our guest tents in any danger either from the fire or the exodus of wild beasts staying ahead of the flames and heat.

Although Rams and crew went prepared to fight the fire if need be there was no need. Due to the types of grasses & reeds that flourish in the area and copious quantities of marshes, swamps and flood-lands Camp Pom Pom and its inhabitants were safe and secure.

Well, sort of!

While Major was off with Rams being a hero, I had my own personal hero to safely escort me back to my tent at bedtime…Max. What Major didn’t know, couldn’t hurt him ūüėČ

Of course Max was a perfect gentleman and to be truthful, I have never had such a proper escort home at the end of a long day. He even escorted right to my tent doors and unzipped them for me! Be still my beating heart!

Actually, Max had a real motive for getting me through those tent doors.

Oh stop imagining things that you shouldn’t!

He wanted me safely in the tent because he didn’t want me wandering Elephant highway on my own! You see during our walk to my tent my independent self reared its ugly head and at some point I had slipped passed Max and was walking ahead of him on the path. ¬†Definitely a no-no!

But the ever gracious gentleman simply informed me from two feet above my head that I needed to careful that I didn’t accidental walk right into an elephant. The reality is that the path had gotten its name not just for fun but because elephants actually do wander down it especially at night. Ooops! and in a move that even Buche would be proud of, I graciously ceded the lead to my fearless seven foot tall Max and quietly followed him the rest of the way home.

I know, will the miracles never cease.

The next morning, following a much more peaceful night’s sleep as the hippos were a tad quieter, it was time to head out on one last game drive with Rams before flying off to our next safari camp.

Rams was intent upon finding the elusive leopard and we headed out. During our search he also took us to view the bush fire from a safe distance.

bush fire 1

 

bush fire 2

 

bush fire 3

 

 

burned area

As we drove around the periphery of the bush fire it was amazing just how birds were viable and actively flying around. According to Rams, the birds are drawn to the site of fire in order to feast on the escaping insects that are driven from their homes.

I was able to capture this incredibly beautiful bird who seems to have all of the colors of the rainbow, the Lilac Breasted Roller

lilac breasted roller

 

While the leopard remained elusive, these lovely giraffes were only too happy to pose for us and bat their beautiful eyelashes.

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giraffes Pom Pom

 

Proving two heads are better than one!

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and finally, I was able to say good bye to my lovely hippo hostess

happy hippo

Wildlife at Pom Pom

During our game drives here are some of the creatures that we encountered

Beautiful birds

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We may have been on the search for the elusive leopard but someone else was not so shy! But they were incredibly difficult to spot as the color of the grass perfectly camouflaged them.

 

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The first one was soon joined by a second female, who according to Rams was a three year who was wearing a monitoring device. She is part of a research program that is assisting to identify the migration and breeding patterns of these wild beasts.

 

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These two certainly were on friendly terms making me a wistful about getting out of the truck to join them! But even I know how deadly that would have been and in truth it was such a pleasure to sit and watch them for at least half an hour as the sun went down casting them in a golden light. Truly a beautiful sight!

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Obviously neither of the two safari trucks caused the least bit of concern in these two magnificent females. As long as we kept reasonable quiet, didn’t stay up in the truck or move suddenly it was like we weren’t even there at all for them.

 

 

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We didn’t even interfere with nap time!

 

 

lion 1

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Or using nature’s scratching post….

 

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and then settling down for her own cat nap

repose

Just as we were heading off for our own break, sundowners with the other guests, when Major and Rams came up with another find

King of the beasts

We should have known that with two such beautiful ladies around that a virile African man couldn’t be too far away. And what a man he was! It was really hard to resist him….

Poppa lion

But I had promised Rams that I wouldn’t get him into trouble by being eaten by a lion so I sat still and just enjoyed watching this magnificent creature in his natural element. It was truly breath-taking. Sadly the sun was quickly going down and with it the opportunity to take more pictures. Oh well, all in all it was a successful day on safari.

Mokoroing we go!

Following an entire night long hippo party taking place in our front yard/lagoon – there was a herd of twenty of them who splashed, sang and frolicked all night long, thank you very much! If you have never heard hippos singing it is a sound not to be missed, although it will keep you awake at night. To be fair, there were lots of others guilty of violating the sound curfews including elephants, jackals, hyenas and big cats. But who wants to tell them to hold the noise down? Not me for sure!

Hippo Party Land
Hippo Party Land

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Following our wake up tea and coffee ensuite in our tent and gathering for a light breakfast in the main lodge, it was time to venture out into the site of last night’s party as the sun was coming up.

Our morning activity was to explore the water ways right off our camp site in the Okavango’s main mode of transportation, the Mokoro. The mokoro is a dugout canoe which is about¬†¬†20 feet (6 meters) in length and normally crafted from the trunks of trees which have been hollowed out by hand. Although now the government is promoting the use of fibreglass Mekoros so that there is less strain on the tree population in the Delta.

Our transport awaits
Our transport awaits

Mekoros are¬†used by¬†many of the local people¬†of the Okavango for traversing and fishing the channels. They are now one of the iconic symbols of the Delta and are a popular way for guests at camps to explore the Okavango while on safari. Traditionally the mokoro transports two people along with a poler. The poler stands at the back and uses a pole to propel the boat forward with a long pole called a ngashi. It is amazing how silent these boats move and how quickly! But one had to wonder who would get the right away if we encountered one of the “hung over” hippos among the reeds.

Getting settled for our Mokoro trip
Getting settled for our Mokoro trip
Heading out
Heading out

The beauty of being on the water among the lily pads and reeds was incredible!

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Lily pads and touch me nots
Lily pads and touch me nots
I think a hippo is hiding in there
Playing hide and seek among the reeds

I tried kissing this guy but he didn’t turn into my handsome prince but it was worth a shot!

My handsome prince
My handsome prince

The perspective from being so low down was amazing…

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Major who is poling needs to duck
Major who is poling needs to duck
Just one of the beautiful water lilies that we paddled by
Just one of the beautiful water lilies that we paddled by
Peek a boo!
Peek a boo!

 

Termite Island
Termite Island

After a couple of hours of silently or not so silently moving around the waterways with Major providing us with all of the fact about local flora, fauna and wildlife it was time to stop for a “comfort break” – a trip into the bushes to relieve full bladders and our mid morning snack! I told you it was an eating safari too!

We stopped on the other side of this termite mound and stretched our legs while the polers/trackers set up our morning tea/coffee break.

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Our morning stop also included some fun including posing with a giraffe skull

 

Giraffe skull
Giraffe skull

 

But soon it was time to get back in our mokoros and start the trek back to camp but first we paid a closer visit to a friend who joined us for our morning break.

Let's hope he likes having his picture taken
Let’s hope he likes having his picture taken

 

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A sea of water lilies
A sea of water lilies

 

Beautiful grasses waving above our heads
Beautiful grasses waving above our heads

 

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Heading home
Heading home

 

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Traffic jam on Hippo Highway
Traffic jam on Hippo Highway

 

Land in sight
Land in sight

 

Back at Camp Pom Pom
Back at Camp Pom Pom

Once we were safely back on land it was time to eat again! It was now just after 11 am and after being out on the water since before 7 am the amazing culinary staff of Camp Pom Pom had a wonderful brunch just waiting for our arrival.

With full bellies from brunch it was back to our tents and a couple of hours of relaxing before we headed back out for our afternoon game drive.

 

Safari time at Camp Pom Pom

Safariing is hard work! Now granted all you have to do is get dressed properly, make sure that you have visited the loo and show up on time, it still really hard work.

I have been on numerous game drives since coming to Botswana last September but I have never actually been on safari before. Luckily, I had a wonderful introduction to it at Camp Pom Pom. As I mentioned before, we completely lucked out with our guide, Rams and tracker, Major.

The happy trio of Rams, me and Major relaxing during Sundowner time on Safari
The happy trio of Rams, me and Major relaxing during Sundowner time on Safari

Rams, as I noted earlier, was a sweetheart who shares many similarities with Buche, including driving styles and went where others feared to tread…including Buche, who was dismayed when I showed him these pictures,

Did I sign up for a water safari?
Did I sign up for a water safari?
Is this a Safari truck or a boat?
Is this a Safari truck or a boat?

So while Rams navigated us around land, water, mud, airstrips and just about anywhere else you could throw in, Major spent his time amusing us and being on the look out for wildlife.

Major's winning smile
Major’s winning smile

Major also has other claims to fame. Check out his singing on this YouTube video posted by a previous camper http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHSvKoUFd0U

With these two capable gentlemen taking care of us and catering to all of our needs, we happily set out for our first game drive after a huge brunch and a siesta. They don’t call this an eating safari for nothing!

Shortly after leaving camp we crossed Pom Pom International Bridge and let’s just say that Cheryl almost made history and became famous

Pom Pom International Bridge
Pom Pom International Bridge

While this bridge is remarkable in its construction having been built by the staff of the Camp Pom Pom and capable of withstanding a huge heavy safari vehicle stopping mid way on it so that the wildlife and birds can be viewed, it is a bit of a rough ride. Being a short, round bouncy person, I found it a bit of a challenge to not bounce right out of the safari truck straight down into the swamps and wetlands joining the birds, crocs and fishes. When I queried Rams if he had ever lost a guest out of the truck, he prompted responded no but figured that I might be his first! In that case, I would become famous and perhaps they would even rename the bridge after me ūüôā

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So with me still safely in the truck and Rams prepared to check his rearview mirror every so often to ensure that I was still on board, we set out to find some wildlife.

It didn’t take long to start spying lots of great game

Elephants galore
Elephants galore

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Even when there wasn’t any game in sight the scenery was beautiful

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Impala bum view
Impala bum view

 

In my opinion, ugly birds!
In my opinion, ugly birds!

 

up close and personal with the ugly bird family
up close and personal with the ugly bird family

During our drive, Rams and Major discovered very fresh leopard tracks so we were soon on the hunt for her.

Dedicated trackers checking the leopard tracks
Dedicated trackers checking the leopard tracks

 

What we did find were these beauties

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With the sun going down it was time for “sundowners”, an African term for drinks at sunset

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and heading back to camp for the evening where we spent the evening on an eating safari and relaxing around the campfire

our candle lit dining room
our candle lit dining room

With full bellies it was soon time to be escorted back to our tent for the night so that everyone could be well rested for the next day’s adventures. Once night had fallen on camp no guests were allowed to walk alone with out a guide or tracker to escort them as the likelihood of meeting an elephant on the pathway to the tents was incredibly high.

Elephant highway
Elephant highway

So safely escorted home it was time to put on the thermal underwear and climb into bed as the morning activities started bright and early with wake up at 6:00 am with the delivery of coffee and tea to the tent! Now that is service!