FAVORITE MEMORIES FROM MY RECENT ADVENTURES IN AFRICA
IN NOVEMBER 2015, STELLA WENT ON A BOTSWANA AND VICTORIA FALLS SAFARI THERE ARE HER FAVORITE EXPERIENCES.
This year I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to both Botswana and Victoria Falls. This safari combination is a classic and well loved option for many of our travelers and includes many variations. There are lots of exciting activities and opportunities for incredible game viewing, relaxation and adventure. On my safari I wanted to make sure I made it to all of the top Botswana destinations, as well as some of the instant favorites that are lesser known. In fact, I packed in so many wonderful memories, it’s been tough to narrow them down to my absolute favorites. If you are interested in learning more about Botswana, call AAC for details, favorites, and Botswana travel tips! 303-778-1089
STELLA’S TOP FIVE EXPERIENCES FROM HER ADVENTURES!
1. BIG CATS!
While elephants are my all time favorite animal to see on safari, and Botswana is home to some of the largest elephant herds on the continent, I will never forget the two incredible cat sightings on this safari. No one can deny how cute baby animals are. Some of the most ferocious beasts have some of the cutest cubs! This is why witnessing a lion mother move her 4-week-old cubs ranks as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
Our expert guides found the mother lion, her sister, and her juvenile son lazily enjoying morning’s first light. Our guides were well acquainted with this family unit and we sat still and watched, knowing the cubs were hidden nearby. Our guides informed us that our chances of spotting the cubs was very slim due to the mother’s protective nature, so we made the decision to continue on. About 20 minutes after we left, we received a radio call that the cubs were being moved by their mother. Without hesitation we turned around and headed back to their location.
While all the wildlife experts in the area were aware of the cubs, this was their debut introduction to visiting guests! We sat silently in awe as the lioness gently transported her cubs one by one to a new, safer location.
The second big cat sighting was memorable as it was my first time seeing a leopard. These elusive nocturnal creatures are always hard to spot and it’s easy to drive past without noticing. Adding to the excitement of finding this leopard was the fact that I spotted her before anyone else in the vehicle – truly a proud safari moment! After multiple safaris, across several countries where the leopard has always eluded me, I finally found her on my last game drive in Botswana. She was laying on a tree branch in the distance.The excitement of finding what you have been searching for on safari is indescribable and fills you with childlike wonder! As we sat enchanted by her power and beauty, our guides realized that this female leopard was not alone. Her sister was nearby on the ground and still enjoying a recent kill – an impala she had very recently brought home for breakfast. Not only was this my first leopard sighting but it was also my first time witnessing a cat eating its kill making this experience one with many firsts.
2. A VISIT TO DEVIL’S POOL AND LIVINGSTONE ISLAND
Following my visit to Botswana, I continued on the Livingstone, Zambia. One of the activities I added to my stay was the Livingstone Island lunch and a dip in the Devil’s Pool. This is an excursion that is only available and safe while water levels are low. If you are thrilled by rushing water and the idea of peering over the edge of one of the world’s largest waterfalls, low season is the only chance you will have for this truly unique experience.
I made the decision to do this excursion just days before I left. I had always been of the mindset that you would have to be crazy to get into a pool at the top of Victoria Falls and then lay over the edge to pose for a picture. But the opportunity presented itself and I decided to go for it (and that I must be a little crazy)! It was an unforgettable experience to say the least. Devil’s Pool on it’s own wasn’t quite as “scary” as I had expected it to be. It was the swim across the Zambezi to get to the pool that was “scary”. I would stop swimming for just a moment and you could feel the current pulling you towards the edge of the falls, then I would swim harder. If you’ve ever thought about doing this activity, do it! You won’t regret your decision.VISIT VICTORIA FALLS (Zambia Side)VISIT VICTORIA FALLS (Zimbabwe Side)
3. FOOTSTEPS ACROSS THE DELTA AND THE YOUNG EXPLORER PROGRAM
Back in Botswana, one of my favorite camp stays was at Footsteps Across the Delta. This is a rustic camp with just three tents and a maximum of 7 guests, creating an exclusive and private feel to the experience. The main focus here is walking, but game drives, boat cruises, and mekoroing can also be incorporated into the day’s activities.
We decided en-route to camp that we would participate in the Young Explorers program offered at Footsteps. This program is designed for families with kids and we decided that behaving like seven-year-olds for a day was a great idea. The Young Explorer’s Club was quite imaginative. We started by drawing an imaginary animal that was comprised of three real animals; then we named them, discussing where they live, what they eat, and interesting facts about them. I drew the striped-trunked butterfly.
Next, it was time to see how well we did at target practice. It has been years since I had shot a pellet gun, but my aim came back quickly. We then headed out for a short walk and learned about the footprints, tree markings, animal dung, and birds, before we arrived at our stop for sundowners and reverted to being adults. The following morning, we went on a 3 hour walk, looking for the lions we had heard the night before. We were unsuccessful in finding them, but it was still an incredible walk. It was easy to see why the team at Footsteps was just award “Best Safari Guiding Team” for 2016.From my Botswana safari, my favorite guide, Moses, created an awesome quiz. Test your skills to see if you are ‘Smarter Than A Safari Guide!’ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A SAFARI GUIDE?
4. WATER ACTIVITIES
All of my previous safaris have been 100% land based – game drives & walking safaris. I do believe that you will see the most amount of game from a safari vehicle, but there is something really special about being on the water and I was thrilled to finally have a chance to do just that. These activities – mekoroing, boating, and river cruises – allow you to access parts of the Okavengo Delta that you would not be able to access by any other means. It is also amazing that the guides do not get lost in the channels of reeds that they navigate so easily. My favorite water activity was the mekoroing. Gliding across the delta in a dugout canoe and getting a water-level perspective on the Delta is breathtaking. The vastness of the Delta became apparent in an entirely new way, giving a new sense of wonderment that only a special place can provide.
See The Botswana Highlights Safari
5. LEROO LA TAU AND THE ZEBRA MIGRATION
My first night in Botswana was at Leroo La Tau (LLT). LLT sits on a private concession across from the Mkgadikgadi Pans National Park. Every year from April to the first rains in November, Africa’s second largest migration (the zebra migration) arrives in the Pan and stays right in front of LLT.
When we arrived, there were numerous zebras, wildebeest, elephants, cows, giraffes, and many species of birds, eating the green grasses in the Boteli River in front of the lodge. Every room is set on the top of the river bank giving each guest their own private overlook. It would have been very easy for me to just sit on my balcony and watch the wildlife move at their leisure. This is the place to be if you want to see wildlife but want to relax in private.
Tempted as I was, I also looked forward to and consequently enjoyed a boat cruise across to the river to Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Once across the river we switched to 4×4 safari vehicles and enjoyed a game drive filled with an incredibly dense population of wildlife. We viewed more wildlife in 24 hours than in the rest of our time in Botswana, allowing the salt pan to showcase its truly prolific fauna. A few of my favorites were five lions, the largest elephants I have ever seen, and too many species of plains game to count. It was a truly memorable way to start our trip to Botswana.