The Natural Garden Coach

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Back to Africa - Duba Plains Camp in Botswana

Flying over and deep into the Okavango Delta to Duba Plains Camp

Before I get all involved in spring and all things blooming (yes, some of the daffodils are finally starting to bloom), I thought I'd finish up my series of posts about my dream trip to Africa. Other than a few nights spent on our arrival and departure through Johannesburg, South Africa, we spent 12 days in the bush in Botswana. You can read about the first two places we stayed in my other posts: Muchenje Safari Lodge along the Chobe River and Chitabe Lediba at the southern edge of the Okavango Delta.

We left Chitabe by tiny airplane for our last camp, Duba Plains, which is deep in the heart of the Okavango Delta. It's at the northern end of the delta and most times its 70,000 acres are completely surrounded by water. So the only way to get there is by airplane (in the bush the planes make a low sweep over the dirt airstrips in order to scare away the wildlife before landing!).

Duba Plains reception area

Just so you don't get the illusion that we were really roughing it, above is the reception area. All the places we stayed were similarly outfitted, all cozy and comfortable.

Joe, our greeter

When we arrived at the reception area after a jeep ride from the airstrip, we were greeted by this old boy, Joe. Joe was nicknamed by the staff as he likes to hang out near the tents eating the vegetation. They believed Joe was about 45 years old.

View from our tent

For some strange reason we were given the honeymoon tent (we'd been married for 25 years by this point!). It was the last of six tents and closest to the many water channels. That meant that nights were noisy with the hippos munching and groaning all night. One night Joe (the elephant) hung around our tent making all kinds of noise. But at least he didn't block our path with his body and a downed tree like he did near the tent of some other safari goers one evening. (Don't worry, we were always escorted to our tents and the escort managed to scare away Joe without firing a shot. ;-) )

Stuck again. That pipe on the right is attached to the muffler so that it doesn't drown from all the water one drives through.

I think we had a jinxed jeep during our stay because we broke down numerous times. But our guide, Katembo, always fixed us up quickly. Katembo was one of the best guides we had on the entire trip. He knew so much about the vegetation and animals.

Tssessebe

There were a number of new-to-me animals to be seen, including the tssessebe. And the birds - I collected quite a life list!

Hammerkop

Bee eaters snuggling for warmth one morning

Napping lioness

But Duba Plains is most famous for its lion prides. What makes them unique is the fact that they hunt during the day. We weren't privileged to see that but we became quite familiar with the Tsaro pride. They've been filmed by National Geographic and filmed and studied by the Jouberts for some time now. In 2011, they released a film, The Last Lions, about this pride.

Nursing lioness

The lionesses nurse all the cubs, not just their own. Over the course of our stay we watched the same pride of about nine lionesses and nine cubs. One or two adult males occasionally showed up as well. The day this photo was taken, we noticed that some of the cubs were in bad shape with wounds. One even had a broken foot. Katembo believed they had gotten into an altercation with hyenas, one of the "enemies" of lions.

Watchful mama

One day after we had been observing the pride for a long while, we decided to head off. Unfortunately our jinxed jeep had other plans. This time smoke started to pour out of the engine when we were only about 25 yards from the pride! Katembo very quietly and carefully snuck out on the side away from the lions and popped the hood. It seems one of two batteries was on fire. He got that under control under the watchful eyes of the pride. Though we were very careful (and yes, my heart was pounding), they decided it was too much commotion and thankfully they moved off.

"Supervising" and watching for dangerous wildlife

The other battery in our jeep was also on the blink and the radio wouldn't work so we couldn't call for help. Fortunately, the only other passenger in our jeep was a bush pilot who knew a thing or two about engines. They managed to cobble the batteries together to get just enough juice to call for help. How you tell someone where you are in the middle of nowhere, I'll never know.

Might as well have some tea

Then, when we knew we'd be rescued eventually, Katembo decided it was time for tea! :-) These photo safaris feed you constantly. After a light morning snack before 6am, we always stopped in the bush for a mid-morning tea and snack break. And then back for lunch, then a little snack before heading out for an evening safari, then a snack at sundown with our cocktails, and then back for dinner. It was wonderful. :-)

Sausage tree

Though I kept thinking so much of the landscape of Botswana reminded me of Texas, there was always a surprise, like this "sausage" tree, another important food for wildlife.

Jeff, Katembo, Margaret and Tony from Australia, and another sundowner

We met some nice people on our trip, including Margaret and Tony from Melbourne. She worked at a lion zoo or something there. In this photo we had just finished a boat ride through the water channels. We saw so many interesting things: giant papyrus, jacana, pied kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, all kinds of herons, and crocs, elephants, a lion, and a civet on the banks.

Sunburned, windburned, and oh-so-sad to leave the bush.

I savored our last evening in the bush - the smells, the sunset, the stars. It was the most magical and transformative trip I have ever taken in my life.

I hope you enjoyed my posts about our Botswana trip. If you are ever in as lucky a position as I was to take a trip like this, I say, don't think twice about it. Just do it. You won't regret it.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

12 comments:

  1. I am so happy for you. It looks like a grand trip. I love tea, while the jeep is broken down. What a wonderful adventure. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. What an adventure with the busted Jeep and no radio and lions 25 feet away. Glad you didn't have to walk back -- ha! You are so right that a safari is a transformative trip. I'm grateful to have had the chance to go on one too. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

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    1. Yes, it was quite the adventure, Pam. Thanks for inspiring me to do my Africa blog posts!

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  3. I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to fly over that country and see the animals down below. And to hear the sounds around the water hole at night. I probably wouldn't seep a wink. And I would be a bit frantic if the jeep broke down but I guess a cup of tea would make everything OK. What a memorable trip.

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    1. Jenny, I will admit to having a hard time sleeping most nights. If it wasn't the hippos or elephants, it was the lions or baboons! Or the cold nights in a tent. But tea and gin and tonics were a very civilized (dare I say, British) way to deal with it all. ;-)

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  4. Oh wow what an awesome trip that must have been. you have some great photos i am sure. That one of the close up of Joe is awesome.

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  5. Jean, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Thank you...Great photos!

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  6. It is a informative post , thanks for sharing

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  7. We visited our daughter in Kenya at the end of her Peace Corps stint in 1989. We only had one day at a wildlife park outside Nairobi. We had a wonderful Kikuyu guide - amazing eyesight - and rode around in a tiny ancient jeep. We went off the road, verboten! but he seemed very comfortable. I don't remember all the animals we saw - except two. Uh-oh our guide said very quietly. What do you see we asked, seeing nothing. A hippo - and her baby, he said. Is that dangerous we asked in a whisper. Oh, yes, he said. So for two minutes we sat holding our breath in the open jeep wondering what would happen, what we would do. Stay? Start up and run? The hippo and her baby were still quite a distance away, but even we could then see them coming in our direction - until they turned away. Take a breath. One of our most memorable moments on that trip, but there were many others.

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  8. Awesome photos . . . I love those little bee eaters. How cute:)

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