Kyle Witten in Botswana
Botswana – December 2015
I love taking someone on safari for the first time. My family has never shown much interest in traveling to Africa – boggles my mind but it’s true. I asked my Dad back in February – “Would you like to go on safari?” His response was – “Well I guess I’d like to go before I croak.” So I had us booked on a safari that week. I planned for six nights in Botswana – a quick trip but a great introduction to the beauty and wilderness of Africa. Now all he had to do was wait a few months. Before you we knew it December was here and we checked in for our flights. We met each other in Atlanta and jumped on the 14.5 hour nonstop Delta flight to Johannesburg.
On arrival we were met and escorted through immigration and then handed off to the transfer agent for The Residence. The Mercedes van was great and it had Wifi! Perfect to log in and send a quick email home to let everyone know had arrived safely.
We stopped on the way at Nelson Mandela’s former home and took a picture of the rocks painted with messages that are placed around the trees on the sidewalk.
The Residence is one of my favorite hotels in Johannesburg. This is a small boutique hotel with the incredible food in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. They recently opened five new suites with separate living rooms, private decks and a hot tub, large bath with tub and walk in shower.
Dinner was fantastic! I had the springbok Carpaccio (again) and Dad had the braised lamb shank. We toasted to Africa and I sipped a wonderful Stellenbosch sauvignon blanc.
We were both exhausted and headed straight to bed. I never sleep well the first night so was up at 4am ready to go – but the transfer vehicle was scheduled for 9:15am and breakfast was served at 7am.
We kept breakfast simple – no full stomach on the charter flights – it was going to be hot and bumpy! The next morning we transferred back to the airport in The Residence’s Mercedes S550 complete with WiFi – again!
SA8300 still leaves from gate A27 so after some confusion in the airport and almost going through domestic security we found the right area and made your way through the tourist shops and down to the gate. December is low season so the flight was not full – maybe 20 or so people.
We arrived in Maun and they have updated the immigration process. They now scan the passport instead you having to handwrite a form and they hand write visa! Welcome to the 21st century. We had about a 40 minute wait until our schedule charter flight to Kwetsani.
The game drive from the airstrip to camp is about 40 minutes along sandy paths that are slow going. The heat of the day had set in topping around 100 degrees.
I was thrilled to meet Charmain and Dan Myburg – Kwetsani’s heart and soul – wonderful managers.
Dad and I were greeted at our front door of our tent by a very large elephant below the elevated board walk. I will always remember the look on Dad’s face.
By the time we got to camp (around 4:30pm) the game viewing vehicles were already gone, so we got the safety briefing, check in process, and quick cup of tea and we were off to hook up with our guide on the afternoon drive.
Our three nights and two full days at Kwetsani yielded lion, hundreds and hundreds of red lechwe, elephant, baboon, zebra and a fleeting glimpse of a very skittish leopard. Each night we were lulled to sleep by the sound of lion calling in the distance.
There is not much water left a Kwetsani but did manage a brief mokoro excursion so dad could have the experience. We spotted three different species of reed frog. The lack of water meant driving to Hunda island to do the majority of our game drives. The drive is almost 2 hours – each way. The camp uses a boat to get to the island when the floods are in and the commute is about 20 minutes.
Mokoro in the last remnants of the delta floods
Dad’s first game drive at Kwetsani
Our next stop was Little Mombo – I saved the best for last and it lived up to its reputation again! This was my fifth visit to Mombo and it really does feel like coming home. The camp has a worn in feel and it makes you feel so relaxed.
We saw black and white rhino on our first afternoon game drive. I was thrilled to see the rhino relocation project is working and they are relaxing in the area and they were very calm around our vehicle.
No night drives at Mombo so were back in camp just after sunset around 7:00pm.
The next morning were up at 5am and ready for the morning game drive. Breakfast was simple with cereals, yogurts, meats and cheeses and freshly baked croissants or muffins.
The rains are late this year and the landscape looked like October – – dry and brown. We did get a few downpours on one morning drive and the day you could see fresh green leaves popping up.
December is all about the babies in the bush. Little warthog piglets, baby impala, young Tsetse and wildebeest and a few buffalo babies.
One of the many highlights of the safari including the Mombo bush brunch was the surprise helicopter flight. Dad had never been on a helicopter and always wanted to I discovered. The flight was 30 minutes and we spotted lion, elephant, giraffe all going about their day as we soared above. The low level flying along the channel was a lot of fun.
Mombo Bush Brunch!
Helicopter flight over Mombo – doors off!
The icing on the cake was wild dog on our very last game drive. We were out on a game drive and the camp radioed that naturally the dogs were running through camp. Knowing that wild dog were on my wish list they put the chef in a vehicle and had him follow the dogs and keep in radio contact until we could spot him.
We were rewarded with a wonderful sighting right as they started to lay down and rest. If you have ever track wild do you know they can move quick, fast and far!
Sleeping peacefully on a Mombo morning!
Dad and I curtailing made memories, shared laughs and had an amazing albeit quick safari to Botswana Should you ever get the chance to travel with a parent on safari do it! They are memories that will last a lifetime.