We had a dark few days in Botswana as the champ (our not so reliable little car) broke down on me in the middle of the Limpopo riverbed. Stuck between two countries, the gearbox selector fork had broken and only fourth gear worked. After see-sawing to and fro in the riverbed, I eventually managed to burn the clutch plate limping out of the river and emerge smoking on the Botswanan side. I eventually got the car to the lodge, where organising a spare part turned into a bit of a mission and a separate trip to South Africa. Luckily the local bush mechanic was able to put everything back together and the car has been running smoothly ever since.
Another thank you and farewell to Tuli Safari Lodge and also Henry and Ecotraining. We managed to spend a few days at Ecotraining at the end of our Botswana stay mainly so that I could do my level 2 FGASA exam and assessment. (And I passed!) Luckily some of my old Ecotraining buddies were also around and we were able to join for some of an advanced birding course. Apart from all the birding, the highlight was definitely seeing a lioness killing a warthog on foot, Hadley's first proper predator kill.
Above: One of our last night in Botswana; we were very lucky to get to spend it around the fire with lots of friends including Steve (one of Jomi's old friends--in age and in length of friendship) and Henry (the legend that has done most of Jomi's and my bush training and assessments).
We left Botswana and drove down a terrible excuse for a road, stopping one night at Marataba to see some of our old friends and co-workers and picking up a few of our last things here. The car now full to the brim, we drove to Johannesburg to find out that our friend, Rachel, had put us up in her company's corporate apartment. It proved to be very useful as the spaciousness greatly helped us repacking all of our stuff into bags and boxes to leave behind.
We said our goodbyes to Rachel and the champ (for now) and flew out on July 29th.
Above: Steve and Sarah enjoying the bush and the fire on one of our sleepouts in Botswana. On their drive in, Sarah asked Jomi and I if there was anything they could bring us. Jomi replied with: booze, chips, and chocolate. When you live in the bush, you figure out the necessities very quickly. See the chocolate in Steve's hands. A rare and miraculous treat in the bush.
We're very excited to be in Zambia because:
-it's both Hadley and my first time visiting the country
-we have almost two weeks of doing educationals or site inspections of some of Livingstone's nicest lodges, reviewing them for a travel company based in NYC
-Zambia is awesome
-there are heaps of new bird species I can see here, like the rare, mystical, mythical shoebill (part stork, part unicorn.)
-we're going to be in South Luangwa for a few months (I think it was mentioned in our previous post) and SL is an absolute haven for viewing leopards and wild dog, two of my favo(u)rite animals to photograph and observe in the wild.
We landed in Livingstone and were picked up by Toka Leya, which is run by Wilderness, a company I did a bit of work for in the northern Kruger a few years ago. It's definitely a well-reputed company, probably one of the best in Africa and possibly going to set the highest standard of any of the lodges we go to. Our accommodation is a ridonculously large tent palace with a view of the Zambezi river that makes me salivate.
The safaris and activities here didn't disappoint one bit, we saw the largest, most terrifying crocodile that has ever existed (the thing looked like a f***king dinosaur) as well as phenomenal birding on the river and heaps of elephants, buffalo and hippo everywhere. Our guide Histon was great and the only thing that dwarfed the croc we saw was Victoria Falls themselves. I can't actually describe the Falls to you so just go. They're more than a freaking mile across.
We left Toka Leya yesterday and are currently relaxing in a backpackers in Livingstone, writing our first review. I've gotten a sim card but am still on ropy internet and signal so hopefully can write another update in a few days when we've seen some of the other lodges and before heading to South Luangwa.
That's all from me for now. Some more below from Hadley!
Ahhh...the kill! This was my (Hadley) first kill! And it was on foot! Such an insane walk. This was actually during a birding course; we were out on the morning walk looking and listening for different birds. As we began to make our way over East West ridge back in the direction of camp we walked past a nice lookout spot. Henry (the legend mentioned above) called for the attention for the guides leading the walk and said why don't we stop here for a few minutes and enjoy the view? Well, good f-ing call Henry. Henry (the legend), Duncan (the legendary birding instructor), Jomi (the boyfriend), Bertie (the backup guide), and myself were the first ones to reach the lookout spot. About 4 seconds later, Bertie points down below us as he whisper/shouts "leopard!". About 10m below us a female leopard was enjoying a nice snooze. As we sat down we obviously gave her a fright and she got up and bolted down the ridge and across the plains. We all sat there stunned. What were the chances that Henry decided to have us back track to take a break here and just below us is a leopard?!?
Well little did we know. As we are sitting there stunned, someone says "lion!". Like um no that's a leopard. But then we look where he's pointing and sure enough, lion. Not just one lion. Five. Five lions. We're sitting there, now completely gobsmacked at our luck as we notice a family of 10 warthogs making their way away from the lions. Cool, clever little warthogs have seen the lions and are now making their way away from them. Well here's the thing. Clever little warthogs? They've got a very short memory. After moving away from the lions, the warthogs start grazing and begin to relax a bit. The good grazing (or their miniature brains) happen to take them in a bit of a circle and what do you know it, now they are headed back in the direction of the lions. We sit there looking at each other, no one saying it unless we jinx it, secretly all hoping the same thing (you get caught up in the moment and its hard to feel bad for the warthogs when they're THAT stupid). They get closer and closer to the lions and eventually the lionesses start to crouch down and creep forward. One of the male lions stands up and brazenly walks forward, seemingly completely unfamiliar with subtlety, about to potentially ruin the hunt. Typical. Thankfully he laid down and the lionesses continued to creep forward. Once the lionesses were about 100m from the warthogs, the little pigs smelled them and it was SHOW TIME. The pigs all run for their little oinker lives. Its 2 adults and 8 little hoglets. Two of the lionesses realize they are too far away and slow to a walk; however, one lionesses (the one that was the closest at the beginning of the chase) kept with it. She is now sprinting to catch up with the hoglets. One of the hoglets seems to trip up and is now noticeably behind the rest of the piggie pack. The lioness sees this and gets a massive burst of speed. She maybe takes six more strides and she is on top of it (see picture). None of us had our cameras so we were able to just watch this entire scene unfold with no distractions from a perfect vantage point (thanks to Henry, the legend). It is the best walk I have ever been on. And all thanks to birding.
Jom and me at Vic Falls!
An African Skimmer! A lifer for Jomi and I both!