THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES A. BONDOUX

SOUTHERN AFRICA: SAFARI AND CAPE TOWN

Underwing Lunch

While our pilot handles paperwork at Polokwane, we enjoy lunch in the shade.

Baby Elephant

Our guide guessed that this newborn is less than two weeks old.

Warren Snodgrass

Warren #1 spotting African game.

Elephant at Deck

Local elephant in front of our tent's deck at Chief's Camp.Kathryn was almost able to reach out and touch him.

Benjamin

Guide Benjamin at Chief's Camp. The impala are so plentiful and ubiquitous that he calls them "cockroaches".

Lion Footprint

Unmistakable clue, tracking a lion.

Lilac-breasted roller

A really, really colorful bird: the lilac-breasted roller (the male performs rolling loops as part of his courting ritual).

Basadi

Basadi, the manager of Chobe Chilwero Lodge, made sure we were pampered.

Sunset

We had dramatic African sunsets every day. This one, overlooking the Zambesi River, was at Livingstone, Zambia.

Juvenile Leopard

Young leopard on ledge, playing with pilfered hot water bottle.

Launch

Kathryn aboard launch as we prepare to cross the Zambesi River.

Warren Eads

A safari requires cameras: lots of clicking. This is Warren #2 capturing memorable images.

Russell Gammon

Russell Gammon greeted us in Livingstone, and led us on our walk to Victoria Falls.

Arrival at Lodge

Warren #2 and Klaus grateful for refreshing cloths on arrival at Chobe Chilwero.

Oxpecker

Oxpeckers at work cleaning the hide of their host.

Mark

Superguide Mark at Singita.

The point of the Safari was to view African wildlife in its home habitat, and to bring back a few pictures. To see a gallery of my favorites, click on WILDLIFE PHOTOS

We tacked a visit to Cape Town and an exploration of South Africa's wine region onto the Safari trip. That part of the journey appears at CAPE TOWN



Victoria Falls

Curtains of water and mist at spectacular Victoria Falls.

Russell Gannon, our guide at Livingstone, Zambia, kicked off the safari with a walk to Victoria Falls, from our spectacular hotel, The Royal Livingstone, and back. Then, while zebras grazed on the hotel lawn and giraffes browsed the tall trees, we sipped our sundowners and listened to Russell spin tales of David Livingstone, the high-energy, tough and restless Scottish explorer, missionary, and anti-slavery activist. Livingstone remains widely admired in this part of Africa. Russell lives across the Zambesi, in Zimbabwe, and hopes to someday recover his 45,000-hectare game farm which was confiscated by the government under pretext of land reform

Our little group of five couples had arranged through Bushtracks for a 10-day trip, staying three nights each at three so-called Camps: Chobe Chilwero and Chief's Camp in Botswana, and Singita Boulders in South Africa. To get to Chobe Chilwero, we crossed the Zambesi River in a Bushtracks launch, passing a four-way border between Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana.

Group Photo

At the Singita "Air Terminal": From left Jim, Klaus, Rensha, Warren #2, Cheri, Kathryn, Barrie, Lin, John, Warren #1.

Chobe Chilwero sits on the bank of the Chobe River, adjacent to the huge Botswana Chobe National Park. We were almost at the peak of the dry season, which is perfect for sighting lots of game: the animals come down to drink at least once a day, many of them crossing to mid-stream islands, and the tall grass that might impair good viewing is dead. Mornings were filled with game drives in Toyota Land Cruisers, and afternoons with river cruises on fast launches. The highlights included a leopard calmly changing hunting location, a pride of lions feeding on a juvenile elephant, and numerous elephants, hippos, warthogs, and giraffes.

On the fourth day we flew from Kasane airport to Chief's Camp, a one-hour flight in a single-engine Cessna Super Caravan. Situated on an island in the Okavango Delta, the camp's accomodations are tents (very elaborate tents, though) permanently erected on raised decks. The wildlife comes through the camp at will, and one is escorted to and from one's tent during the hours of darkness to avoid unexpected encounters. Hyenas, hippos, baboons and elephants all came in close proximity to our tent during our stay. The highlight sighting was a pride of lions, consisting of two males, two females and four cubs, relaxing in a family atmosphere close to a convenient watering hole.

They had to clear a giraffe from the airstrip before our chartered plane could land to pick us up. The flight to Singita in South Africa required three hops: to Maun to check out of Botswana, to Polokwane (ex-Pietersburg) to check into South Africa, and finally to Singita. Boulders at Singita is an absolutely spectacular 12-room affair which has repeatedly earned the crown of "Best Resort in the World". Highlights of our sightings in the Sabi Sand private game reserve surrounding Singita include a juvenile leopard hanging out near the lodge, a cheetah, numbers of rhinoceros, a large herd of African buffalo, a rare pangolin, and a very rare family of African wild dog.

The game at Chobe and at Singita was very nonchalant about our voyeuristic presence, while the wildlife at Chief's Camp seemed a lot more skittish. We saw countless numbers of various antelope species, including impala, kudu, red lechwe, sable, puku, waterbuck, tsessebe, bushbuck, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, and nyala. After repeated sightings, we became quite good at identifying them all. Other species we sighted not mentioned so far include jackal, bat-eared fox, vervet monkey, bushbaby, mongoose (both banded and white-tailed).

So far, I've slighted the birds, of which we saw many species. Having associated with birders on a number of previous travels, we seem to be evolving involuntarily into "twitchers". But we were delighted by the colorful lilac-breasted roller, the southern carmine bee eater, the African hoopoe, the tawny eagle, the slaty egret, the Goliath heron, the Egyptian Goose, and the polygamous red-billed buffalo weaver. I particularly enjoyed watching the busy red-billed oxpeckers busily clean the hides of all the antelope and giraffes of parasites.

Everywhere we stayed we had gourmet meals. Two of the camps put on "Boma Draii", traditional South African-style alfresco barbeque dinners. Exotic fare sampled by Kathryn or myself include crocodile tail, kudu carpaccio, ostrich steak, roast oryx, and ostrich sausage. Open bar, unlimited fine wines, and laundry service were all included in the cost of lodging at all of the camps.