Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Africa: Sands of the Kalahari

These photos were all taken in the Kalahari Desert, where we stayed at Kalahari Plains in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This camp is one in the Wilderness chain of safari camps (click HERE for the Wilderness website).  We met fellow guests who were staying at a string of Wilderness camps. The company has its own fleet of small aircraft to pick up guests at airports and to shuttle them between camps. It's also known for stressing local culture. At Kalahari Plains, we were met by a number of the women employees singing a cappella in either Swahili or a local tribal language. There was also "dancing Bushmen" at one dinner, and the bush walk (see photo below).  
       For more photos from our early 2016 Africa trip, keep scrolling and hitting "older posts" when you get to the bottom (before the canal boat photo). Click HERE for a written account of the trip, along with links to Kalahari Plains and all the other safari lodges and camps we visited. 
Northern black korhaan.

Black-backed jackal.

Black-headed heron.

Some watering holes look a lot like mud puddles. . 

This was our introduction to kudus, We later saw these antelope
alive and well elsewhere in Botswana.

An oryx, also known as a gemsbok.

Adbim's stork.

Southern giraffes; in Tanzania we saw
Maasia giraffes. We were told there are seven
different types of giraffe. The southern
giraffes' color is a bit more muted than
that of the Maasai. We saw only those two types.


Our canvas-walled cabin at Kalahari Plains. We slept every night
under the stars on the raised deck. The staff put mattresses on the
floor for us and made up very comfortable beds. No dew, so
everything was dry when we woke up.

One night at Kalahari Plains, dinner was served outdoors. The bonfire
is a ritual at most safari camps. Everyone sits around and chats before dinner.

This San Bushman, an employee at Kalahari Plains safari camp, traded his
 usual clothes for traditional Bushman attire (no idea if anyone still wears loincloths
in real life) to take us on a walk in the bush. Here he's demonstrating
how to make a simple snare for trapping small game.

Black mamba snakes aren't always black.

Our guide guessed that this black mamba was more than two meters long. 

Africa: Okavango Delta

Here are photos are from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where we stayed at Machaba Camp, our favorite of all the safari camps and lodges we visited during our four weeks of safaris. We were there Feb. 3 to 6, which is in the rainy season, so a lot of the understory plants were green and leafy, giving animals better cover and making them harder to see. Oddly, the dry season later in the year is when the Okavango floods because that's when the water from the rainy season in Angola reaches the Kalahari.  The Okavango is part of the Kalahari, the world's largest expanse of a single type of sand. All that flood water eventually disappears into the sand.  For more about our African trip, keep scrolling and hitting "older posts" or simply click HERE.

One of the nicest things about Machaba Camp is that all drinks are included, so guests are free
to make themselves cocktails anytime.  Few, however, take advantage of this. Getting up at 5 a.m.
every day means you don't want to over-imbibe in the evening. This is half of the main tent; the
other half is a dining area.

Knob-billed duck.

Sacred ibis.

African jacana.

Hippos could often be spotted in the Khwai River
beside Machaba Camp.

Wattled crane.

Female antelope and their young.

Bearded woodpecker.

Baboons formed a line and took turns jumping over a stream near Machaba Camp.

Female impala.

A male elephant amid the damage done to woodlands by elephants. They strip trees of bark
and they knock over trees. The fallen trees, however, are quickly put to use by a
variety of insects and provide cover for small animals.

The peaceable kingdom. Zebra and giraffes in the Okavango Delta.

Notice the tan stripes between the zebras' black stripes. These "shadow stripes" are rarely seen
among zebras in Tanzania. We were told that it's a normal genetic variation.

Female kudu.

Steenbok, one of the smallest antelope.

A female impala and her calf.


A waterbok or waterbuck, one of Africa's many majestic antelope.

On one morning's game drive, the camp staff had breakfast waiting for us in the bush. The
woman was camp guest who had skipped the game drive but caught a ride with
staff to meet her husband and everyone else for breakfast. 

Cormorants in Africa have to dry their
wings just like cormorants in the Americas.

Our guide, Shaun Malan, spotted this lizard in a tree while driving past. It's a flap-necked chameleon. 

Instead of a game drive one morning, we had a mokoro safari,
with a guide poling our little boat (fiberglass, not wood) along
a stream that's seldom visited by hippos. 

Our guide spotted this little frog
from 30 or 40 feet away. It's
about the size of my little finger.

The Okavango Delta offers one dreamscape after another.

Black and white kingfisher.


Tsessebe, yet another antelope.

The tsessebe is the fastest antelope in Africa.

This beautiful leopard is known as the Machaba female because the camp is within
her territory. She hadn't been seen for several weeks before this
nighttime sighting. Our guide shone a spotlight on her, allowing
me to get this photo without a flash.

We saw the Machaba female again the next morning, this time
with her year-old male cub. One of the advantage of using guides
based at the safari camp is that they often know the life stories
of some of the animals.

African wild dog.

A dwarf mongoose looks out from its home in an abandoned
termite mound. We also saw banded mongoose here,
 but they were on the move and I didn't get a good photo.

Female waterbok. 

A fish eagle about to take off.