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  • Writer's pictureBushtracks

Safari Stories from One of Our Own

Kasey Nooris, a longtime Bushtracks Expeditions employee, recently returned from her first safari and we’d love to share her experience.

After over a decade in various office administrative roles while raising her young family, the time was finally right for Kasey to take her first game drive. Traveling in southern Africa’s secret season of mid-February, she enjoyed warm days, periodic refreshing rain showers and few tourists. After a night on arrival in Johannesburg, she ventured to Botswana staying at camps in the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti and rounding out the recce portion of her trip visiting both sides of Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia and Zimbabwe and Bushtracks’ reservations and ground handling offices in all four countries.

1. How did you feel when you landed in Africa for the first time?

I was excited and a little nervous. It was not only my first time to Africa, but also traveling outside of the US, so I had a lot of “firsts” such as going through immigration and customs. That being said, I felt really well prepared by conversations with my colleagues who are expert trip planners. But, after the long flight I was really ready to get to my hotel room to have some down time before embarking on the trip.

2. What was your general impression of Qorokwe and Kwara Camp? Did you have a favorite sighting?

They are both wonderful camps. Qorokwe is on an amazing reserve with a lot of game and a wide variety of animals. My favorite sighting was seeing a lion for the first time. That was pretty incredible. One of my most memorable moments on my first night was the Botswana sunset. There’s this huge horizon and it took about an hour for the sun to set. We don’t have that here in the US! It was unreal. The off roading during game drives was fun. We went off the beaten path in pursuit of game.

Kwara has access to permanent waterways, so I chose the water activities: a boat cruise and mokoro. It felt a little daring because of the hippo and crocodile, but I was so happy I did it.

There are so many channels and lagoons and I saw over 60 species of birds. Kwara is a classic camp with an authentic feel. I also happened to arrive on the weekly “Traditional Night” when the camp staff sings and dances and a traditional feast is served. It was such a special experience.

3. What was it like seeing a lion for the first time?

If I had to use one word, it would be thrilling. There were no words to describe the momentary shock and awe I had. We were in an open vehicle 15ft away which made me feel anxious for a few moments. As you sit there observing them, you can see that they’re not interested in you because they are habituated to the game vehicles. It was an amazing experience.

4. How was your experience at Duba Plains and DumaTau? Any special sightings?

Duba Plains is a level of luxury I have never had the opportunity to experience before. I have never been waited on so attentively. The staff were watching for every need that they could predict. The camp is extremely beautiful, the tents: I don’t even know how you call it a tent! The scenery was incredible as well. I had some really special sightings including lechwe, wild dogs, and rhino. I even saw the wild dogs kill a lechwe. That was an interesting experience! They made a big impression on my trip because I even saw a pair of wild dog mating at my next camp, DumaTau.

The food was amazing everywhere I visited, but the food at Duba Plains was incredible. My favorite dish was an amazing steak dinner of local beef. DumaTau is a completely different habitat. It was raining on the afternoon I was there so my guide used his tracking skills to follow and finally find a pack of wild dog. The mopane forest is thick and visibility can be challenging. However, we did see game and have memorable sightings. We saw two male lions that were brothers, a leopard, and the large pack of wild dogs. There were also hippos and a variety of antelopes. The rivers were very full and a great spot for birding. It was a really stunning environment.

5. What was your experience overall seeing African wildlife for the first time?

I honestly shed a few tears during my time here. These experiences brought up a lot of emotion and it was very moving. These creatures are so majestic and beautiful. It was such a privilege to be able to observe them live out their day. It made me realize that in my life back home, I lack a connection to nature. Since I have been home, I have been craving that feeling of connectedness to the Earth and wildlife. It was really special to be in touch with myself without the interference of technology, such as a phone.

6. How was seeing Victoria Falls?

It is a wonder of the world! It is so huge. You can’t even hear the person next to you speaking, it is so powerful and loud. It was breathtaking. I had an incredible view from the Zim side, and I could see it in its entirety.

7. What were your favorite experiences at the Elephant Café?

It was really cool to get to hand feed the rescued elephants and interact with them. It was meaningful to hear the individual stories of how each elephant came to be in their care and about their personalities. I was really able to connect with them. They are such gentle giants, and you don’t expect that. There was an edge of adventure to the interaction which I enjoyed.

8. What was the culture like in the destinations you visited?

Every person was friendly, welcoming, kind, and genuine. I toured Mukuni village which is a real village where the residents were going about their morning routines, preparing meals, washing laundry, and tidying their rondavels. The people I encountered were very kind. Seeing their single room dwelling and how they do everything outside was eye-opening. I was taken with the ease and contentment in which people lived their lives.

9. Describe the purpose of your trip and the Bushtracks activities and staff you experienced?

My recce (reconnaissance) was planned to make full use of my short time which included visiting various properties and having a safari experience, visiting each of the Bushtracks offices and meeting key staff, drivers and guides, and to spend time with the reservations team in Johannesburg. I experienced many of the activities Bushtracks operates in the Victoria Falls region including a guided tour of each side of Victoria Falls, a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi River, and a luxurious dinner on the Royal Livingstone Express steam train. I visited multiple border posts to understand how our guests experience the movements between countries. I saw the fleets of vehicles and vessels Bushtracks uses to transfer guests on land and water. I very much enjoyed meeting and getting to know my Bushtracks colleagues in Africa and have a much better understanding of all of our facets.

Do you have a favorite moment from the trip?

We drove onto the plains at Duba Plains, and I looked up to see elephants in the background, red lechwe, rhino, baboons, and birds. It was this incredible scene and environment. It was like a snapshot of their world with all the animals in harmony. It was overwhelming to see that scene of animals all together across the plains that you mostly see in documentaries.

10. How was your return home? How did this trip change your perspective of the world?

We’ve been wanting to connect to nature more by going on walks at our local nature preserves. Being outside as much as I can has become much more important to me. It has challenged me to find ways to not take everyday frustrations so seriously and to find joy in the little things. It made me ask myself how I was measuring my happiness and success. I find myself reprioritizing what is important. It sounds odd to me on the surface to say a vacation to evoke all of these thoughts and questions, but it does.

11. Final question, what is your favorite African animal?

It’s funny, until I saw the Rhino, I would’ve said hippo. Those gigantic baby rhinos were just incredible to watch.

Kasey’s Fun Facts

1. Baboons like to dance on the roofs of tents.

2. Warthogs like to burrow underneath tents.

3. Six years ago, 11 rhino were relocated to Duba Plains, there are now 27. They were my favorite.

4. The “sausages” that hang from the sausage tree can weigh up to about 18 lbs. Don’t put a tent under a sausage tree.

5. Hippo can jump rather high for such large animals.

6. Drink the Amarula when it’s offered. You’re welcome.

8. According to my guide at Qorokwe Camp, zebra and wildebeest like to hang out together for extra protection from predators.

7. There is a type of grass in the Delta called Turpentine grass with a strong odor and there is a lot of it at Duba Plains (I’m apparently allergic to it).

8. According to my guide at Qorokwe Camp, zebra and wildebeest like to hang out together for extra protection from predators.


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