Writer's Cramp Winner
|I read the leaflet the travel agent had given me. I was looking forward to the holiday but wanted to be safe.
The Kalahari Desert is 930,000 sq. km. of semi-arid savanna in the south of Africa. It covers most of Botswana and ventures into Namibia and South Africa. It is not considered a 'true' desert because of the amount of rainfall; 5-10 inches annually, mostly falling from late November through to early April.This is known as the green season. It is famous for its red sand. There is no permanent surface water.
The northern part, mainly in Botswana, is home to much wildlife, including the big five. It's sure to exceed every wildlife photographer's wildest dreams! Take an open-door helicopter trip under the guidance of a professional wildlife photographer for those aerial shots. Whilst it is possible to get quite close to animals on the Landrover safaris. It is advisable to take a good telephoto lens for those close ups.
Tented Safaris take you back to the golden age of exploration, whilst offering a full service experience. The food is local for that taste of the real Africa. Night safaris are possible. See the animals around the waterholes, silhouetted against the impressive sunsets. Then sit around the campfire with your favourite tipple and discuss what you have seen with your fellow travellers.
What to pack depends on the season, but layers are recommended. Even the hottest days, 100 degrees or more, can get quite chilly when the sun goes down. And waterproofs are essential during the green (wet) season. And don't forget a waterproof backpack for the camera gear.
DO NOT bring camouflage clothing; it is forbidden. We need to see where you are to keep you safe.
Botswana is the safest, most laid back of countries in Africa. Follow the advice of your experienced guides and enjoy the best of what Africa has to offer.
I was awoken by the bright sunlight shining through the cracks of the tent. According to my watch it was not even seven. A feint rustling alerted me to the presence of wildlife close to my camp. A loud hollering started and I peeked out to see our bearers chasing away a warthog which had been rummaging through the rubbish bags.
Precious was sitting by the fire. Her brightly coloured robes were hitched up as she stirred the pot. I could smell the warm spices drifting on a slight breeze. A head of curly hair peeped from the cloth carrier on her back. "What's his name?" I asked.
"It is a girl, bibi. She is called Desiree," Precious said. The woman dropped some dark looking sausage things into the pot. "Mutura," Precious named them. "With matoke."
I had no idea what these thing were but they smelled delicious. As the group gathered around the table Precious ladled out the matoke into bowls. The mutura was sliced and added. Flatbreads appeared and were served alongside. The matoke tasted of bananas. Professor Jessop ate his with gusto but his wife Veronica merely nibbled on the flatbread.
After breakfast we climbed aboard the old landrovers. They rattled and creaked their way over the Savannah. A strong smell of diesel soon took away the aftertaste of our breakfast. A heat haze wavered on the horizon. I removed my bandana and used it to wipe the sweat from my forehead. As we pulled into an area of scrub I could see a waterhole in the distance.
"Stay in the vehicles until we have scouted the area please," our guide instructed. Slinging a rifle on his shoulder he joined two of the bearers.
As they circled the area, binoculars and guns at the ready, I sat nervously. I wanted to see the wildlife, but at a safe distance. The idea that a big cat might jump out and eat me was at the back of my mind.
"OK. If you will stay close together and follow me we will go see the waterhole." I stayed close to our guide, named Angus of all things, as we approached a stand of shrubs. "Stay behind the bushes. We are downwind but if they see you they will scatter." He was talking about a group of antelope partaking of the water.
I set my camera lens to telephoto. Looking through the viewfinder I focused in on the animals and snapped. Angus pointed over to the left. A movement in the bushes turned into golden fur; a lion was stalking. I watched with a mixture of excitement and disgust as the lioness pounced on the smallest of the antelopes. The others ran for their lives. As the rest of the pride joined the mid day carvery Angus held his rifle steady. When one started to look in our direction he signalled that we should back away.
It was still only half ten when we got back to camp but the heat was unbearable. "Can I take a shower?" I asked Angus. He signalled to a bearer, who rushed off with a large barrel. After about twenty minutes he reappeared and said "Shower ready." I followed him and found a windbreak with a contraption of metal, cloth and string above. He mimicked pulling the string.
The water was cold and came out in a rush but it was refreshing after the mid day heat. As I wrapped my towel around me something caught the corner of my eye. I froze as a forked tongue flickered into view. I let out a muffled scream. A shot rang out and five feet of snake dropped beside me. I ran from the shower and back to the relative safety of my tent. The flap opened and Precious asked "You okay Missy?" I was still shaking. A part of me was ready to pack up and return to Nairobi.
The evening safari convinced me I was right to stay. The sun was lower in the sky and a breeze relieved the intense heat of the day. As we drove back to the waterhole the sky changed from blue to yellow and orange. The haze had lifted and shapes were silhouetted against the sky as it turned to burgundy and purple. The obvious outline of a herd of elephants appeared from behind a stand of trees and crossed the trail ahead. I snapped away with my camera.
Taking the same place where we had been earlier we watched as the circus unfolded around the waterhole. Large and small the animals crowded around for their nightcap. Elephants shot water from their trunks, spraying unwary warthogs nearby. Zebra and antelope vied for space. I ran off a hundred shots before it became really dark. As lanterns were lit we followed Angus and his men back to the vehicles. The guns were at the ready as we marched single file.
Returning to camp we were met by Precious and a great steaming pot of goat stew. "No snake," Precious said as I turned in for the night. I was glad she had checked.
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