Clients Trip Reports – October – November 2015 (Southern Africa)
Deluxe Flying Safari to Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast, Damaraland, Ongava-Etosha and Okonjima
As previously mentioned, we had a fabulous trip to Namibia and you and the company did a fantastic job. We have no complaints whatsoever. The entire planning and interchange went flawless and all of our questions were answered. We would gladly re-book with you and the company at any time.
…Our first flight on Wilderness Safaris was to Little Kuala in Sossusvlei in southeastern Namibia. The flight was amazing, flying over awesome rugged desert scenery. Our guide met us at the air strip and transferred us to Little Kuala which is an amazing desert camp of 8 units that are decorated in a beautiful desert motif with lots of stone, rock, and thatched roofs. The units are air conditioned, have a huge king bed, and windows all around looking out to the desert scenery and maintained. We met for a sunset drive up to an elevated area and I did a time lapse of a gorgeous sunset then we returned to the lodge for a delicious dinner of ORXY!!!
The next morning we awoke after a fitful night’s sleep for 5 AM official wake up and 5:30 breakfast and then headed out to the desert with guide Anton. I did a time lapse of the sunrise, and then we drove to the famous Sossusvlei Dunes, which are made up of red sand and rise high into the skies, some at over 900 feet. Many tourists but we got there in time for some fabulous shots of the dead trees and the dunes…
Hoanib Skeleton Coast ~
After two nights in Sossusvlei, we were off to Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. Upon arrival we unpacked and then headed off for an evening game drive. We drove along the river bed of the Hoanib River, seeing giraffe, springbok, the pied crows, and finally, tracking one of the 150 remaining lions in Namibia, three brothers. They were sighted at a certain area and we managed to find the three brothers who are just strolling through the high grass and shrubs, and finally laid down for some of us to get great photography. Back to the lodge for dinner and sleep. The room and the facility are amazing. Large tents, large central lodge, modern rooms, and great staff.
The next morning we rose early, and climbed into our safari vehicle for our first full day…Our drive is again through the Hoanib River bed, through fantastic desert scenery, and through and over huge areas of huge sand dunes. We make a stop for morning tea on the top of a huge sand dune, and after tea, coffee, and cookies, we all take off or shoes and run down the dunes. Our guide, Francoise is an amazing driver and actually drives down the steep dune, picking us up at the bottom as we make our way towards the ocean. We explore one of the planet’s driest deserts in the amazing 4 x 4 vehicles that have the ability to go through steep and rugged terrain, and sand. We see the breathtaking landscape, and many springbok, ostrich, and oryx. We arrive at the coast where we see a lagoon with a huge flock of flamingos, as well as an island of cormorants. Then, finally, we stand on the beach of the Atlantic watching the waves roll in, and then, drive to another beach where the staff has gone ahead and set up tab le chairs and a wonderful lunch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Skeleton Coast. It is so named because of the many skeletons of ships that have crashed on the reefs and shores in the heavy fog, which occurs every day of the year. The fog nourishes inland plant life up to 100 km, sustaining life for plants as well as animals.
After a fantastic lunch we walk down the beach to photograph one of the wrecks that has washed up on shore. Now, it is only a heap of rusted pieces of the ship…
The following day we had an amazing 30 minute flight with our pilot Mark Stephens. Francois drove us out to the airstrip and we boarded the 12-seater plane and took off for the 30 minute flight seeing trip to the Skeleton Coast. We reached the coast in an amazing 15 minutes (which is normally a 3 hour dive!). The pilot did maneuvers that allowed each side of the plane to see the coast, the seal colony, and the endless dunes. We returned to the airstrip at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.
For the afternoon drive we drove along the riverbed once again and saw the three lion brothers lazing in the shade, and then the two elephants, Charlie and Arnold, and many photo ops. We got so close to Arnold that he did a mock charge of our vehicle only 10 feet away but Francois managed to put the car in reverse and then got free and back onto the “road”. Finally, we drive to the top of one of the volcanic mountains for an amazing sunset and sundowner. I attempted yet another time lapse. Then back to the lodge for dinner of kudu once more!…
Serra Cafema / Kunene Region ~
Today was a long travel day om our way to Serra Cafema Camp…The flight to the north of the country was 1:30 hours flying over desolate sand dunes and forbidding volcanic formations. We landed at an airstrip in the absolute middle of a vast sand desert and were met by the staff and our drive Albert. The drive to the lodge was through unforgiving desolate country of sand and volcanic formation like being on the moon. We arrive, first seeing the Kunene River, which separates Namibia from Angola and our camp along the green strip of the river, and on arrival, we are given cold towels and drinks and brought to the room. The room was so unique- situated right on the Kunene River looking across the river at Angola. We had a huge deck, bedroom with mosquito netting, living area, and bathing area and indoor and outdoor shower. I was so hot I took an outdoor shower. Then a rest, and some dinner and to bed.
Himba Village. ~
Early morning departure for the Himba village. After driving through spectacular desert scenery, we arrive at the Himba village. This is nothing more than a circle of small enclosures approximately 4 feet high and domed. The tribe is nomadic and there are approximately 20 women and children there. They range in ages from young children and babies to older women. All of the woman have their skins covered with red ochre and their hair plaited with cow fat and red ochre. They do this to take care of their hair since they cannot bathe in the water. Water and food are partially supplied by the Wilderness Conservancy and funds from tourism which are part of our tourist fees. They also raise goats and cattle and sell crafts made from local materials. We are first given a small orientation talk by Albert, our guide/driver, and then we introduce ourselves with the few Himba phrases we have been taught by Albert. Then we start taking photos.
We spend about two hours at the village doing photography and buying crafts. We buy a small Himba doll covered with ochre, as well as a small basket and a small bracelet. Then we return to our camp by way of a deserted Himba village and a very picturesque drive through volcanic rock, sand, schist, and amazing scenery.
We take a rest after lunch from 2-5. Instead of resting, I try fishing I (feeding the fish with endless bits of bait), and then throwing out bread of photos of the birds. Took some great weaver shots. We then assemble at the rovers and take off across the desert to the 6 parked 4 x 4 quad ATV’s. Albert gives us a lesson on the controls. Carol decides to ride on the back of Albert’s vehicle. We all take off across the desert on trial runs, and then on real runs, learning as we go, shifting up and down with the foot pedal and going up and down precipitous dunes and rocky roads. I am quite nervous about all of this!!! Finally we stop for a brief sundowner and drink and then ride the 4 x 4’s back to the lodge.
Desert Rhino Camp & Desert Rhino Trekking ~
On the road by 6:30 AM. We see a small elephant family near the lodge, take some pictures then drive far west into area 4 of the huge park in search of rhinos. Professional trekking precede us by 30 minutes and begin their search. They have an amazing ability to find a needle in the huge haystack that is this park. Amazingly they find first a large male and then a mother and year old rhino. We drive to about ¼ mile and then walk towards them quietly, and get some good photos.
Ongava Game Reserve ~
Tiny plane to Doro Nawas and then transfer to Caravan plane to Ongava Tented Camp. In time for lunch. We are picked up by Rios and driven to the lodge and are in the first room, #4. On our afternoon game drive we see giraffe, purple roller, black rhino at water hole and a female lion on an old kill. The camp has an amazing water hole which seems always to be active with water buck, zebra. Guinea fowl, hartebeests, etc.
The following day we go to Etosha. We see three water holes, and tons of impala, hartebeests, Oryx, Wildebeests, giraffes, and a family of 42 elephants, playing and drinking and bathing in the mud turning themselves white with the calcium hydroxide (chalk) of the water hole They push all others away from the hole. Also, a lot of ostriches. We return to the camp and have lunch and rest. Afternoon drive with same couple, and we see fantastic 7 member lion pride with two females and 5 younger lions. Then, off to see a humongous rhino and horn with a baby. We finish the day with a great dinner and bed.
Today we drove 2 hour from Ongava to Okonjima, famous for its Africats Reserve.
The AfriCats Reserve is a place where leopards and cheetahs are rehabilitated and hopefully raised and trained to return to the wild. There is a constant struggle throughout Africa between farmers and wildlife and many of these cats have lost their mothers to a farmer’s gunshot. The leopards and cheetahs are sent here from all over Namibia to be raised and if possible, returned to the wild.
The Okonjima Lodge has a special exclusive private villa which we have to ourselves. Complete with foyer, living room, high vaulted ceiling, our own bedroom with two king sized beds, thatched high roof, separate bath room separate sinks, toilet overlooking the water hole, our own private pool, and animals walking in front of our unit all day long including kudu, warthogs, impala, all sorts of birdlife, food to feed the birds to attract them for photos, and out own fully stocked kitchen wine cabinet, microwave, expresso maker, coffee maker, stove, sink, etc. Now for the best of all- we have our own private housekeeper and our own private chef.
This afternoon, we departed with our new guide Michael and his tracker Paulus. Paulus wields a tracking antenna and receiver. The game drive was from 4 to 6:30 and we tracked and found a gorgeous female leopard with collar. We spent an hour with it and got some great shots.
The next morning, we left for the game drive at 6:00AM. Our guide and a tracker started to track cheetahs with telemetry (antennae). We found the general area of the cheetahs and alit from the safari vehicle and walked about 1/2 mile over open veldt to find three, 9 year old cheetahs lying down. We were able to approach them to within 6-9 feet! They looked at us and went back to sleep! They were totally safe to view. One of the cheetahs this morning had been kicked by a zebra and was limping. The cheetah had already had a metal plate installed in its hind leg!
We spent about 30 minutes standing right next to the cheetahs! I took pictures of Carol with Cheetahs just behind her! She took pictures of me too. After this fabulous experience, we were driven back to our private home and our chef prepared a fabulous breakfast.
Afternoon game drive with Paulus (tracker) and Mike for a leopard feeding. The leopard was found by a farmer who thought it was a cheetah He showed it to his boss and also thought it was a cheetah. He called the Africat people to pick it up. The leopard (named Wahoo) has been raised by Africat and is now 17 years old. We view from a blind with fascination. It is a gorgeous animal.
Then we went into another several hundred acre enclosure and saw no less than 5 more cheetahs, and got within several feet of all of them. They were all orphaned, their moms killed by farmers. They don’t know how to hunt, and they have tried many times to train them to hunt but mostly have failed. So they are being raised here for their entire lives.
Many interesting stories. This is a wonderful country. The desert dunes and mountains and scenery are awesome and the desert adapted elephants, lions, and rhinos are truly wonderful stories. The day we visited the Himba people (Serra Cafema Lodge across the river from Angola) was unforgettable.
Dale Davis, Nov 2015
Photographic Exploration Privately Guided Safari by Ona Basimane Group Safari to Botswana
Hi Kyle and Staff,
I am home from a wonderful 10-day trip to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana on the first-ever safari trip with a photographing emphasis, led by Ona Basimane. I had great times with Ona, and enjoyed meeting and being with Ed and Jim. We were a very cohesive group, up for anything that Ona wanted to try. Ona is funny, knowledgeable, creative, and very enthusiastic.
There is definitely a market for this photographic trip; we have all traveled to Africa with those participants who have great cameras (and are not in the Canon Sure Shot or iPhone camera crowd). This trip is for them. Ed and Jim are big photographers, while I am an amateur at best. Ona can really talk cameras, and did so with Ed and Jim. I have no idea what an F stop is. However, I took the best photos of my life, thanks to Ona and his advice. He also held mini seminars for us in the afternoons or evenings, to go over how to capture birds, cats, etc. And, when we were out shooting, he always positioned the Land Rover so we shot in the best possible light and from the best angles for everyone. For the few times that we ever saw any other safari vehicles, this set us way apart from other guided experiences…
The best part of my trip was that with only three of us in the Land Rover, we could almost always have a clear shot without getting in anyone’s way. (If there are more than 6 people on this trip, they will be crowded into the safari vehicles and shooting over the heads and shoulders of people next to them.)…
…We visited three very different zones of the Okavango Delta: the northern Linyanti Confluence, which is chock full of elephants this time of year, where the Linyanti flows into the Chobe (which joins the Zambezi outside Kasane); the Gomoti Tent Camp, smack in the middle of the arid, burned out Kalahari part of the Delta in the Moremi Game Reserve, where cats and different wildlife can be found; and the Jacana Camp in the very upscale Jao Concession in the wetlands. Toka Leya is an added experience–in Zambia on the Zambezi River, it is a luxurious tent lodge where it is possible to walk out to see 8 out of the 10 white rhinos in the entire country. I always read about where I am going and where things are located before I go places, and even I missed the great significance (and genius) for how this trip is put together…
Cheryl White, Nov 2015
Wildlife Safari to Southern Africa including Mashatu and Sabi Sand
We were 100% pleased with our safari arranged by AAC. From being expedited through customs upon arrival in Joberg to having access to the private lounge in Joberg during our layover on the way home, your services were beyond what we could have hoped for. Both camps were comfortable and served by terrific guides and staff.
My dream was to be able to see cheetah close up. We saw a group of 3 brothers on 2 separate occasions in Mashatu. We were enchanted by 2 lionesses lounging and playing with the 3 week old cubs of 1 of them in Tanda Tula. I thought my heart would burst with joy!
The leopard sightings were almost routine! Almost every day we had great, clear, relaxed encounters with these normally elusive beauties.
We also came away with a new respect and affection for hyenas thanks to the many experiences we had with them. We are missing the lullaby of their calls in the otherwise silent nights. Elephants, of course, never disappoint. Even the ubiquitous impalas never fail to fascinate.
Thank you for everything!
Linda Andrews, Oct 2015
“Great Wilderness” Group Safari to Botswana and Mana Pools Flying Safari
My trip was fantastic! Mana Pools is stunning–the wildlife & landscape spectacular — a wonderful introduction to Southern Africa.
I thoroughly enjoyed my flight to get there! I was the only passenger on a little Cessna so got to be the ‘copilot’ how fun! And watch them chase zebras off the airstrip before we landed.
My guide, Gaddy was wonderful–his knowledge and enthusiasm tremendous… Vundu Camp and Mana Pools is very special to me. A hippo lived in the river just below where my tent was situated and listening to him grunt all night was one of the highlights of my trip.
Elephants hold a special place in my heart. Seeing so many in Mana Pools and coming in such close proximity to them — many with young babies–was beyond my wildest dreams! An experience I will cherish for a lifetime.
Botswana was also amazing. We saw so many animals; 3 cheetah, 5 leopard, painted dogs at each camp, giraffe, lots more ellie’s, zebra…we were often the only vehicle which made these encounters even more special — I really appreciated being the only ones there & not being over crowded. I have worked as a naturalist on board whale watching boats — often there would be ten or more of us lined up waiting our turn to see the whales … the magical experience of seeing whales in their natural habitat somewhat lessened by the presence of so many boats.
As with most adventures, the guide is the key. Andy was outstanding. His knowledge of the animals and their environment was impressive. His uncanny ability to pilot a land rover over all kinds of terrain while simultaneously tracking and spotting animals invisible to most mortals was amazing! We were lucky to have him!
I loved all the different perspectives on this trip; air, foot, vehicle, boat, such variety. The only thing missing were night drives to search for nocturnal animals.
This Safari was a lifetime dream of mine. The first report I ever did in school (I was 8) was on Kenya — I have wanted to visit Africa ever since! Thank you for making my dream a reality.
Thia Bunker, Oct 2015
Best of Southern Africa including Private Game Reserves and Cape Town
Steve, Katie and I had a wonderful trip to South Africa! We loved it! The entire trip was flawless – all of our flights were on time; we were promptly greeted by your rep when we landed at Joburg airport; as well as when we landed in Cape Town. Clive was a fabulous driver for our 3 days in Cape Town and we really enjoyed the sites and his in-depth knowledge of the Cape Town area, including the wine region. The Table Bay Hotel was awesome too!
Lion Sands was absolutely beautiful. I would highly recommend Lion Sands Private Game Reserve to all of your travelers. The accommodations and food were incredible, and the service was impeccable!! I would go back to Lion Sands – we absolutely loved it! It truly exceeded our expectations!
As you know, I utilized Africa Adventure Company 12 years ago for a trip to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe with my friends and you did such a fabulous job, hence why I utilized you again. You and your team do an excellent job and I will highly recommend AAC to others.
Thanks again for a fabulous trip!! We loved it and will have fond memories of this trip for years to come.
Kelly O’Neill, Oct 2015