A safari to an African country with teeming wildlife treasures
Botswana is boxed in on its northern and western borders by Namibia, on the south and southeast by South Africa, and by Zimbabwe on the northeast. Economically and politically Botswana is a placid country today in a continent often plagued by terrorism and internal strife. Topographically, it is flat as a pancake and almost two-thirds of it is dominated by the Kalahari Desert.
Beginning in March, though, and peaking between June and August, one of nature’s greatest spectacles unfolds here. Heavy rains in Angola and Namibia to the north cause the Okawango River, the third largest in Africa, to flood and rush south to create a vast “inland delta” in Botswana that attracts a procession of hundreds of thousands animals, from menacing hippopotamuses to delicate, gaily colored birds.
Because of their lumbering girth, hippos can’t swim—their bodies are too heavy to float—but as they plod along southward, they dredge up dirt and create essential canals that distribute the precious water. From the air, these canals resemble green fingers that spread in all directions and revive a vast portion of the Kalahari Desert.
As a bonus, to mark their territory male hippos defecate while flicking their stumpy tails and in the process become unwitting spreaders of nutrient-rich manure.
Safaris may bring images of naturalists and explorers with pith helmets, swatting mosquitoes as they clear a path with machetes. Modern-day versions of safaris are far more genteel. Most take place in huge wildlife preserves that offer amenities like air-conditioned tents and hot tubs, restaurant meals, rides in open-air Land Rovers, and daily “sundowners” when participants ooh-ahh about the sights of the day over shots of Amarula, a South African liqueur, or just gin and tonics.
Still, getting to these camps can be a schlep. We flew from Johannesburg to Maun, a small town that is the gateway to the Okawango Delta. After an overnight stopover at nearby camp we took a claustrophobic 14-seat propeller Cessna and then a tiny four-seat helicopter that seemed to graze the ground and rattle as if it were about to come apart, for the last leg to our second camp. A similar sequence took us to our third camp near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and then back to Johannesburg aboard an adult-size jet at the end of our trip.
Our ten-member group, plus the driver, included two American couples, including us, plus three from South Africa. We were fortunate to have Charlie and Lois Hardy, two South Africans who are veterans of dozens of safaris, and inveterate naturalists. Their expertise was awesome: They would explain how giraffes have specially designed bodies to facilitate digestion, and then spot the nest of a left-handed, cross-eyed galootee (LOL) or some such barely visible feathered critter.
Stew and I, our ornithological expertise limited to birds larger than chickens, furiously took notes and photos. We are grateful to Charlie and Lois and the expert drivers, who graciously accommodated our ignorance.
There were two “game drives,” or outings, daily, aboard open Land Rovers that lasted approximately two hours each, at sunrise, and shortly before sunset. Those are prime times for watching and photographing animals because of the rising or fading sun. Vestiges of Victorian Britain also required that we pause punctually at four o’clock for High Tea before the last game drive.
Compared to our previous safari, in South Africa, five years ago, our animal-watching experience in Botswana seemed to include more birds but fewer of the Big Five animals (no rhinoceros or leopards). One highlight in South Africa was the sight of a leopard napping next to a half-eaten warthog. There were many more hyenas in South Africa too, including a family with four or five pups hiding under a culvert. In Botswana we did see our first jackal, though from a distance.
Frequently during our game drives, Stew and I would find ourselves immersed in what some would call “moments of Zen,” when the driver shut off the Land Rover’s engine—and us the extraneous machinations of our minds—and we would silently, almost reverently, admire a family of elephants, or marvel at a bird with plumage only an Impressionist painter could imagine.
Our friend Myron who went on a safari with his husband David several years ago described it as life-changing experience, and he was right.
The very last stop on our trip was Victoria Falls, fed by the Zambezi River and on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, twice as high and wide than Niagara Falls.
A visitor’s trail takes you to the edge of the falls where you are stunned by a multi-sensory experience: The sight of the torrent of water leaping forward and down just a few feet from your toes; the deafening roar of the water; and the coolness of the constant mist—which can be seen for several miles and indigenous Africans called “Thundering Smoke”—that falls on your skin and soaks you if you remain standing for long.
In 1855, Dr. David Livingstone was the first European to see the falls. He wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” And so he named them after Queen Victoria.
IN 1864, Livingstone returned to Africa and disappeared from view until New York reporter Henry Morton Stanley found him in 1871, in western Tanzania, and famously exclaimed, “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”
When we came across a larger-than-life statue of Livingston at Victoria Falls, that famous exclamation rang in my head.
Below are a number of photos of our safari. To enlarge these photos on your computer, click on each of them. Then you can leave a comment by clicking the icon on the lower right, or the “X” on the upper right-hand corner to go to the next shot.
And that’s it, folks.
20 thoughts on “Botswana, I presume”
Loved your photos!
Oh my! I don’t think anything has ever captured me so completely! I”m gobsmacked by your photos and descriptions – “Frequently during our game drives, Stew and I would find ourselves immersed in what some would call “moments of Zen,” when the driver shut off the Land Rover’s engine—and us the extraneous machinations of our minds—and we would silently, almost reverently, admire a family of elephants, or marvel at a bird with plumage only an Impressionist painter could imagine.”
Would you please email me the tour company, and tour you booked? I so want to know more!
Thank you in advance!
A friend in South Africa, who coordinated our previous safari, helped us put this one together. Ngwe Safaris, firstname.lastname@example.org and the person we dealt with was Leanne. But feel free to do your own research, because there are many companies offering safaris of all types and costs. Good luck.
Is there a way to enlarge the pictures? I think I missed some of the details that you described in your captions.
Sharon, It depends on how you are viewing the photos, cell phone, tablet or computer. Let me know and maybe we can figure out something.
I am using a computer to view the photos. Thanks for your help.
Sharon: To enlarge the photos, go down to where the photo gallery starts, drag the cursor over the first photo and click on it. That should enlarge the photo and the caption. To leave a comment about that particular shot, click on the comment icon on the lower right-hand corner, and that’ll take you to a comments form. To go to the next photo, click on the “X” on the upper right-hand corner and that will take you back to the photo gallery. Try that and let me know.
I have no idea why, but, when I scrolled back up to the pictures to try your suggestions, I found the pictures enlarged. This was the first time that the pictures were enlarged. Thanks for your help.
I was so exhausted after reading about your safari that I had no option but to lie down on the sofa in front of the fan. The photos were amazing, but I think I’ll settle for streaming something about a safari while consuming some mind-altering substances. Or maybe just going to the zoo. The “claustrophobic 14-seat propeller Cessna” struck me as scarier than any of the wildlife.
Oh, you tire too easily… What would have really rattled your nerves was the ride in the four-seater helicopter (including the pilot), where there was hardly any room to sneeze. Fortunately, the two or three helicopter rides were only 15 minutes each.
What a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you. A tour of national parks in the U.S. like you and Steve took several years ago is on our bucket list!
What a trip! Incredibly beautiful and “other worldly”!Your photographs are magnificent. I tried to enlarge themto look at them in detail but it wouldn’t let me do that. Anyway, thanks for taking me along through your blog! Barbara San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” Helen Keller
To enlarge the photos, go down to where the photo gallery starts, drag the cursor over the photo and click on it. That should enlarge the photo and the caption. To leave a comment about that particular shot, click on the comment icon on the lower right-hand corner, and that’ll take you to a comments form. To go to the next photo, click on the “X” on the upper right-hand corner and that will take you back to the photo gallery. Try that and let me know.
Gorgeous pictures!!! You’ve really got an eye.
Roma Sur, CDMX
Where unpublished photos are piling up on my SSD.
Thank you! Hope your home project is going well. Al
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My project is finally going. Contractor started today with interior plaster and will get to exterior repairs and paint soon enough. Cheers!
Great stories. Enjoyed the photos.
Thank you! I’m glad you liked the pictures!