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.
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
During our game drives here are some of the creatures that we encountered
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.
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.
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!
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.
We didn’t even interfere with nap time!
Or using nature’s scratching post….
and then settling down for her own cat nap
Just as we were heading off for our own break, sundowners with the other guests, when Major and Rams came up with another find
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….
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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 🙂
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
Even when there wasn’t any game in sight the scenery was beautiful
During our drive, Rams and Major discovered very fresh leopard tracks so we were soon on the hunt for her.
What we did find were these beauties
With the sun going down it was time for “sundowners”, an African term for drinks at sunset
and heading back to camp for the evening where we spent the evening on an eating safari and relaxing around the campfire
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.
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!
My lion adventures started with the educational tour of the Lion breeding program at Antelope Park. The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is one of the world’s leading conservation programs to help save the African lion from extinction. This program is dedicated to the facilitation and promotion of sound conservation and management plans for the African lion. It takes a responsible development approach to saving and revitalizing the species while also providing substantial social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits.
The program’s primary focus is the breeding of lions and a four stage release program that acclimatizes the lions through 4 stages to the ultimate goal of release back into the wild. The lions for the initial breeding program produce cubs that are removed from their mothers at the age of three weeks old. The purpose of this is so the cubs are brought up to respect their human handlers. It is this fact that made my walk in the bush with them possible but more about that later.
The program also does research into the effects of FIV (feline Immuno Deficiency Virus, the equivalent of HIV in lions). During my tour I was told that the program had successfully produced FIV-free cubs born from lions who are both infected with FIV. While there is no known cure for FIV research for treatment and prevention is on-going at Antelope Park through the ALERT program.
My educational tour included the opportunity to get as up close and personal with adult lions as you can get. I am happy to admit that while visiting the adult lions enclosures, I was the only one who held my ground at fence, not running quickly away when a somewhat cranky male lion sought to assert his authority.
This picture was taken just before Poppa Lion decided to rush the fence to assert his dominance. Let’s just say that I was close enough to him to smell his rather stinky breathe but loved every moment of it.
Following my personal tour of the adult facilities, it was back to the main center where I had to participate in a twenty minute lecture before heading out on the Lion Bush Walk.
The lecture included more information on the release program which is comprised of four stages as I mentioned. The first phase is the breeding program and removal of cubs from their mothers at three weeks old. The next stage is introducing the lion cubs to the bush and hunting environment. Once they are about six months old they are ready to be taken out into the bush twice a day for the development of their hunting instincts. These are the lions that participate in the bush walks with humans up until they are about 18 to 20 months old.
The purpose of the bush walks are for them to gain exposure, confidence and killer instincts so that they can make their own kills for food rather than be dependent on feeding by their human handlers. The bush walk takes place in an actual Savannah that is inhibited by all of the game that one would normally encounter. Here the lions have the opportunity to learn and practice their natural killer instincts…the guides are along to ensure that the accompanying humans don’t become the prey!
Once these lion cubs mature and become proficient hunters they are then released into Stage 3 of the program. This involves moving them to a new enclosure where they will no longer have any contact with humans. The enclosure is large and contains a variety of species so that the lions can continue to hone their hunting skills. This program is extremely expensive as we were told that a single zebra or wildebeest costs approximately $1,000 dollars and the lions often kill at the rate of one or two per day.
As the lions mature and mate new offspring enter the cycle which have no human exposure. As the hunting skill level increases, other natural predators and scavengers are introduced to the environment to provide competition to the lions. The goal is to make them totally self-sufficient within an environment that replicates the wild. Cubs who grow up and mature in this stage will then be ready to be released into the wild ensuring that this species will no longer face possible extinction.
The program will take many years to complete even one full cycle and release program and as I mentioned extremely costly to undertake. However, it is the African lions best chance at survival in their native environment.
In preparation for the bush walk we were given the following instructions:
Never get too low to the ground with the lions. You need to keep your eye level above theirs in order to establish dominance.
Never stray or wander away from the group as you will find yourself being stalked as prey!
Always carry a large stick which can be used to distract the lions if they are attacking one of the humans on the bush walk!
If the lion jumps on you don’t panic, the guides are trained to get them off of you but be prepared to suffer some heavy gashes from their paws or jaws!
Never run from a lion cause that just makes it fun for them to take you down!
I am currently trying to figure out how to add my experience from last weekend in the bush to my resume. How does one actually capture the unique challenges and skills adaptation that one has to make when you are literally facilitating in the bush????
Perhaps after reading this entry you will have some suggestions for my resume update!
Saturday morning started early for me after the late night. But it started in an amazing way that can only be experienced in the bush. I got up and opened my bedroom door at shortly after 5 am so I could watch the animals come to the watering hole to begin their day. And come they did.
Following a very cold shower, no shampoo and an attempt to wash my very fine hair with a bar of soap, it was time to head to the dining room/workshop facility.
As you can see, not a wall in sight! A facilitator’s nightmare for sure. Plus, there was only one electrical outlet and the only power you could access was if you actually requested them to turn on the generator. The next hour was spent figuring out how to actually proceed for the day based on the resources (or lack there of) available.
As I usually one capable of thinking quickly on my feet, I came up with a Plan B that I thought would work. I also had the wonderful assistance of Lawrence and the Kuru ladies to assist with set up. The next hurdle was that the meeting was scheduled to begin at 8:00 am. Remember that this building was also the dining area for the lodge and campers. Breakfast was served at 8:00 am…you get the picture. I was caught between trying to grab some breakfast and greeting those arriving for the strategic planning session. So it was a slightly stressful start to the day for me to say the least.
After downing a yoghurt and a bit of granola, it was time for the facilitator to do her job! Due to the language issue, I had planned on a large part of the strategic planning work to be done in groups so there would be less need to translate back and forth between the languages. However, I had counted on the use of laptops to record the group decisions so that report back could be faster and require less translation….but all of that had to be re-thought based on the facility and lack of power.
Oh well, when facilitating in the bush one works with what one has. After a quick welcome and brief explanation of the process for the day, we were off and running with strategic planning!
Thankfully, Bush people are happy to work under any conditions so all were happy to spread out far and wide to find spaces to tackle their assignments, coming back under the main roof for report backs and instructions for the next task. All in all, the progress was remarkable and far exceeded my expectations. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever worked with a more diligent group who whole-heartedly embraced their assignments once explained to them through a translator. Even without the access to resources, we were progressing right on schedule. Recognizing the need to keep momentum going, I constantly adapted each of the assignments and kept the agenda moving.
Obviously, our team work and good spirits attracted attention. About mid-morning our strategic planning group received three additional participants who stuck around for at least an hour and distracted not only me but just about everyone else with their antics!
I have now been facilitating or participating in workshops and had warthogs, baboons and ostriches drop by for a visit. Please tell me how I could ever reflect this on my resume????
These ostriches actually stuck around for a long time, entertaining us with their dances and even settling in for a bit of a nap in the fire pit approximately two feet from the building. Perhaps they would be interested me in coming out to facilitate for them 🙂