Summary of our trip — week 1

Please see the main page of my African camping/safari adventure for some background on this trip.

Day 1: Marakele National Park

We arrived in Johannesburg after a long couple of flights from New York. Our guide, David, and my wife's dad, Pascal, picked us up at the airport in David's SUV.

We went to David's flat in Johannesburg and moved all our stuff from our suitcases into the Cheetah — the beautiful high-tech camper that we'd be sleeping in all over Africa. From there, we drove a few hours to our first camp, Marakele National Park.

Highlights: For our first night in South Africa, we drifted off to sleep to the dulcet tones of warthogs oinking in the forest behind our campsite; cute!

Day 2: Khama Rhino Sanctuary

We woke up in Marakele National Park and watched an ostrich casually walked right through our neighbors' campsite. We went on a brief safari that morning in the park, where we saw wildebeest, impala, warthogs, baboons, servet monkeys, and zebras.

In the afternoon we drove to the South Africa / Botswana border and made our way to our campsite at Khama Rhino Sanctuary.

Highlights: We're pretty sure a rhino stomped through our camp in the middle of the night! We heard heavy thudding footsteps in the dirt, and something big scratching itself against a tree. So cool! In the morning I woke up to a beautiful southern yellow billed hornbill squawking on a branch right outside the screen window of the Cheetah.

Day 3: Nata Lodge

In the morning we drove around Khama Rhino Sanctuary for a brief safari, where we saw impala, wildebeest, ostrich, etc. No rhinos, unfortunately, but we weren't too disappointed! The sanctuary is a beautiful place to drive around on safari.

In the afternoon we drove to Nata Lodge (Botswana), our camp for the night.

Highlights: Nata is a very comfortable campground with a nice bar, a beautiful garden full of birds just beyond the reception area — and even a swimming pool! That evening as we were having dinner in our campsite, something jumped from the ground into a tree right next to me, and I turned to see a bushbaby looking back at me! We watched him hop from branch to branch for a few minutes before he disappeared. This was one of my favorite animal sightings of the whole trip.

Day 4: Kubu Island

In the morning we took the long rocky drive to Kubu Island (Botswana), and we camped there that night.

Highlights: Kubu is the most remote, quiet place I've ever been in my life. The stars were unbelievably bright that night, with a clear view of the Milky Way; truly breathtaking. Before going to bed we hung our trash bag in a tree and woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a little jackal (or maybe a fox) jumping up to bite into the bag! We scared him off but I think(/hope) he got a scrap of the steak we'd cooked that night!

Huge baobab on the road to Kubu Island, Botswana — photo by David Philippe, IKAMU

Our campsite on Kubu Island

Another view of our campsite

Kubu Island sunset

Day 5: Senyati Safari Camp

In the morning we left Kubu Island and drove to Senyati Safari Camp (Botswana), where we set up camp for four days — this was the longest time we'd stay put during the trip, but we filled up the days with great activities.

Highlights: Elephants on the highway on the way to Senyati! A big baboon walked right past the camp reception office as we arrived! Senyati has a wonderful open-air bar with a huge balcony overlooking a watering hole where dozens (sometimes hundreds) of big animals congregate every evening. We saw dozens of elephants, impala, zebras, a handful of giraffes, and one night a huge herd of water buffalos, all from the comfort of the bar balcony with a drink in our hands. One night we could just barely see four hyenas in the darkness stalking a herd of impala. For whatever reason they didn't attack at the time, but it was thrilling to watch. Watching this watering hole from the bar was our favorite activity every evening while we were at Senyati, and it stands out as a huge highlight of the whole trip.

Our campsite at Senyati Safari Camp

Elephant watching from the bar at Senyati Safari Camp

Lovely sign in our campsite's private outdoor kitchen

Day 6: Chobe National Park

Sarafi along the Chobe River in Chobe National Park (Botswana).

Highlights: Breathtaking safari; we saw so many animals. Elephants, hippos, giraffes, impala, kudu, warthogs, zebras, water buffalo, banded mongoose, eagles, storks, servet monkeys, and much more. This is a sad highlight, but we passed by a huge dead elephant on a narrow dirt road in the forest; we had to drive up onto the bank of the road to get around it, just inches away from it. Being so close to such an enormous, freshly dead animal was fascinating, but of course very sad.

Elephants in Chobe National Park

An elephant right alongside our car in Chobe National Park

Giraffes in Chobe National Park

Follow that warthog!

Day 7: Zimbabwe/Victoria Falls

Drove to Zimbabwe for the day and then back into Botswana for another night at Senyati Camp.

Highlights: Victoria Falls! And then we walked over a bridge toward Zambia, but stopped at the halfway point before the border crossing. Then we stopped in for a fancy drink at the outdoor restaurant in the courtyard of the Victoria Falls Hotel. This was by far the most civilized day of our trip!

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Marjorie at the Zambia border on the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Next: A summary of our trip: week 2 — our day-by-day schedule, where we camped, where we went on safari, etc.

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