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My First African Safari in Southern Africa & the Okavango Delta

Elephant herd, Botswana. Photo by Kathleen Cameron

Bushtracks’ traveler Kathleen Cameron, just back from an August 2014 African safari in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa with her family, shares her impressions and photos from her first African safari. Since childhood, Bushtracks’ traveler Kathleen Cameron has dreamed of going to Africa. She remembers poring over her Grandmother’s tall stack of National Geographic magazines and thinking “someday I’ll see these beautiful birds and animals in person and meet the people who actually live there.”  So, when family members suggested going to Zambia, Botswana and South Africa this August, she jumped on the bandwagon, or, in this case, the Land Rover! Traveling with two sisters, their spouses and her 25 year old nephew made for a wonderful adventure, and lifelong memories. Here, freshly returned from her trip, Kathleen recounts her safari and exciting wildlife encounters.

I saw many wild animals and faced many personal fears, especially at midnight one evening when a couple of elephants bumped up against my tent as they moved around munching tall grasses and groundnuts. It was 20 minutes of terror, but I survived without a call for emergency help via the blow horn at my bedside (everyone had one)! I preferred my daytime visitor, Mr. Warthog, who was just outside my room also munching nuts! This experience happened in the Delta after I had a few game viewing episodes under my belt and had learned that the animals weren’t “out to get me!” I’m glad it didn’t happen on the first night!

“Mr. Warthog,” visiting outside my tent in the Okavango Delta. Photo by Kathleen Cameron

Other encounters took place from the safety of our Land Rovers, those amazingly versatile vehicles that plow through tall bush and deep watering holes in search of wildlife. They always found some creature at which we would marvel, like a crocodile devouring an unfortunate impala (I almost cried) or a pride of 9 lions sleeping on the beach after a Cape buffalo kill, tummies bulging. Anna at Bushtracks didn’t exaggerate about the abundance and variety of animals to view.

Lionesses lounging after a meal, Okavango Delta. Photo by Kathleen Cameron

In the Okavango Delta, my sister and I were partners in our mokoro, a dug-out canoe. I was satisfied with the small frog, colorful chameleon lizard and juvenile crocodiles that we spotted as we were poled through tall papyrus in hippo territory! We did hear pods of hippos grunting in the distance which was good enough for me! As you know, hippos are actually considered the most dangerous animal in Africa, except for mosquitoes (and, yes, I did take malaria pills throughout!).

Mokoro ride in the Okavango Delta. Photo by Kathleen Cameron

Soweto and the Apartheid Museum were very interesting. Apartheid lasted way too long and didn’t really end until 1996. There is still so much poverty in the area. We saw tiny huts with metal roofs, outdoor fires with soup kettles and clothes drying on posts. It made me feel more fortunate than ever and more compelled to help others.

Sundowner surprise. Photo by Kathleen Cameron

On our last Sundowner at Little Tubu in the Okavango Delta, one of the guides disappeared over the hill and popped out transformed into his traditional Bushman garb. He proceeded to build a fire with 2 sticks in 2 seconds, danced and chanted tribal songs. What a delightful surprise and a great cultural experience! Botswana hires only local people to work in the safari camps and lodges and they are very experienced, knowledgeable and gracious hosts, trackers and guides.

I thought that Bushtracks did a very good job of organizing our trip. All of our air and van journeys were on time and our guides were always prompt in meeting us and were especially gracious. We sailed over the Zambian border with no problem. The trackers and viewing guides were excellent, very knowledgeable and experienced. They really helped put me at ease in all regards. I loved our outstanding lodges and camps (Kwando Lebala is my favorite) with comfortable accommodations, great meals and wonderful hosts. I will recommend Bushtracks to others who are looking for an African adventure!

How to Start Planning Your Family Safari

The first version of this article was posted on 12 Sep 2014 at 12:10 PM.


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