A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kshunter


Dr. Livingstone I presume...

semi-overcast 74 °F

Peter and I woke up really early so we headed to Victoria Falls to do our own sunrise tour. We went to the front desk and got our raincoats and wore our sandals. While near the falls you have to yell at each other because the roar is so loud. We walked along to the end of the path and in certain areas it was like standing out in the pouring rain to be in the falls' mist. Locally, they call it the natural shower. After the falls, we went home and woke up Wil to head out for our day.

Remember the Wil I have spoken of who is engaged and engaging and has enjoyed everything we've done? Well, he must have been left with Lucky at Mala Mala because the surly teen Wil from Boston that I know (and don't particularly love) has arrived in Livingstone. At least for the morning (deep breaths Mom!).

We had breakfast in virtual silence (becuase I refused to allow him to bungee jump off one of the largest free falls into a gorge next to the falls.) The vervet monkeys were wreaking havoc at breakfast as everything is open air. They would run into the restaurant, grab something and run back out. The little gids were in fits of hysterics while cncouraging the monkeys bad behavior while the hotel employees and adults, especially those that lost their food, were not amused. (I found it amusing, must be that I'm a kid at heart.) Interestingly, a hotel employee stood around with a sling shot but never used it. However, I'm sure those monkeys were familiar with him as they kept their eyes on him. Even that little breakfast circus didn't arouse a smile out of surly Boston boy.

After breakfast, we headed on an elephant back safari. This TOTALLY turned certain attitudes around! It was fantastic!!! We learned about the African elephants and got to ride them for an hour plus give them treats and snacks. It was so amazing and they were so respectful of the elephants. The elephants only do 2 safari rides a day and on their off hours are turned out into the bush. Like domesticated animals they come back at snack/feeding time for the next ride. It was really enjoyable and fun to be riding such large lovely animals. We didn't get to be on them alone, we had a ranger that rode and hanled our elephant. My ranger was a delight and we talked about our children, the economy, life in Zambia vs USA, etc while I had my arms wrapped around him so I didn't slide off my large elephant! Towards the end of our ride he asked if I had a Facebook account and said he'd send me a friend request. I told him I'd enjoy that and want to hear if his oldest makes the professional cricket team.

Once we got off the elephants we got to feed them in their mouths as well as by their trunks. It is a tad bit disconcerting to put your hand in a big elephant mouth to give them a handfull of pellets. Wil was a little nervous so at the first elephant he threw the handful in! All I could think of is he is going to choke the poor thing. Once corrected he was able to do it. African elephants truanks are different from asian elephant trunks where they have to fingers so they can pick up anything off the ground. Asian elephants only have one so they can only poke at things. It is odd to have that trunk wrap around your hand to get the pellets.

We were dropped off at our hotel and decided to take Wil to the falls so he could experience the natural shower. He enjoyed it and Peter and I re-did our morning tour. There is a local market on the way back which Peter and I went to. Here things are done by batering and I tried to channel my brother, Scott, to get deals and can honestly say, I'm not Scott but I'm WAY better than Peter! :-)

Peter and I decided that we had spent too much time at the hotel and got a recommendation for a local (traditional) Zambian restaurant in downtown Livingstone. We learned taht is is very safe to walk the main street (and it really is only one street) until early evening but not safe at all at night. So we went to have the local Zambian lunch and had, from the Zambezi river the bream (fish), a chicken in peanut sauce and a beef dish. The really interesting things were the sides! We had pumkin leaves, sweet potato leaves, wiled eggplant, which was very much like a yellow plumb tomato etc. It was all delicious! We then walked down the main street and facade-wise it was like walking down Main Street in the 1950's. The kids were getting out of school so there were LOTS of them in their uniforms looking at us as we smiled at them.

We got back to our hotel around 4:30pm and needed to shower and get to the Royal Livingstone hotel (part of our hotel complex) by 6pm to meet our Land Rover mates from Mala Mala. We had such a nice time with them that we had this evening overlapping and met for a drink on the deck overlooking the river while a man played the flute. I really like them! Too bad they live on the other side of the world. But, what a GREAT reason to go to Australia!

We are currently ending our time in Livingstone in a grand ballroom watching a movie screen viewing of the World cup match of Uruaguy vs. Ghana. I have to say I'm rooting for Ghana, an African country should win the World Cup! The hotel also has a large screen up next to the pool at the outdoor bar too. I love it!

Tomorrow we head to Botswana for our final days on safari and in Africa. We are goign deep into the bush into Chobe National Park and selected a resort that has only 7 rooms which are individual structures like at Mala Mala. Of the secen only one is a family structure (which we got!) where Wil will have his won room with his own entrance. However, they pride themselves on being off the grid so there is no internet. Therefore, there will be no more updates until we return to the States on July 7th. We will do it the old fashioned way and write it down and post it once we're back online. The guide in Chobe has big shoes to fill with Lucky. I'm excited to see the differences!

Until our return...

Posted by kshunter 23:09 Archived in Zambia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Final Day in Mala Mala

Next stop Johannesburg

sunny 74 °F

Our last day at Mala Mala was sad but exciting. We have had an amazing time and I can't imagine that anything else will live up to this but I am interested in new adventures.

We began our day on a morning safari drive knowing we had to come back early to catch our flight. Today we saw the leopard again with her two baby cubs which was so fun to watch. From here we drove through the bush, came around a corner and saw two giraffes. They were two males and were semi-fighting by hitting each other with their horns.

Our final animal sighting was zebra on the way back to camp to gather our things and head out. After staying at such a swank camp it was really interesting to see Wil react to the constant service. Wil waited with me last night for about 20 minutes because he didn't want Lucky to have to walk him to our area and then walk me later. He couldn't believe the laundry service where we put our laundry in a bag in the morning and it was folded back in our room. We both burst out laughing asking how that was different than home for him?

Mala Mala is known as the best big game viewing in South Africa and it certainly lived up to that however I didn't realize how lucky we really were. When we were talking to guests arriving they were talking about how they have been to Mala Mala many times and have never seen a cheetah or a leopard etc. I had no idea we were spoiled with seeing everything there was to see. In the bar there is a board where you get points for what you see based on its prevelance such as a cheetah is 200 points (the most points) and a buffalo, 10 points. The funniest thing is it was written on the board Kobe 200 points for a Kobe Bryant sighting since he was such a wet blanket about being there with the unwashed masses.

Our last drive with Lucky was to the Mala Mala airstrip. Our little charter flight came in, we got a water out of a cooler and got on the 10 seater looking into the cockpit. While pulling up into the air we watched 3 giraffe eat nearby trees. The perfect last sighting while leaving the bush.

A short hour later we landed in Jo-burg, as the locals say. Wil needed a down afternoon so he opted to stay in the hotel room, play on the pc and watch tv. Peter and I headed into Johannesburg to the Apartheid Musuem which was sad and inspiring all at the same time. The real shock came on

our drive back to the hotel when our driver (our age) said to ask him anything about what we saw and I asked him about the 80's. His picture is in the museum as he was arrested as a 14yr old and tortured over 2 weeks. There were a couple of laws that got a lot of kids. 1. There was a curfew from 5:30pm-6:30am and if you were out and caught, you were arrested. 2. You were only allowed to walk with one other kid (or they thought you were conspiring to do bad things). Therefore if three or more kids were out they were arrested. I can't imagine that happening to Wil as he is 14yrs old.

This evening Peter and I went to the hotel bar and had the local beer and some jerky. (Bar snacks are interesting in other countries!) Wil came down later got a burger and we're preparing for our next day heading to Livingstone, Zambia tomorrow. It will be nice to sleep later than 6:30am but I will certainly miss the morning coffee service.

Posted by kshunter 11:46 Archived in South Africa Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Safari - Day 4

This doesn't get old!

sunny 74 °F

This morning started out slowly in terms of finding animals. We have come to joke with Lucky that he calls for animals to be dropped into places, by delivery van, because they are just always there. Not today...we drove quite a bit without easily finding anything. Interestingly we were looking for an elephant. Who knew they could hide!?

A highlight was instead of having breakfast at the lodge we took our breakfast out into the bush. We drove from 7am-9am looking for animals and the only thing we saw was a small group of rhino run across our path. We eventually came to the former airstrip, just a large grassy field, and had our breakfast picnic. It was wonderful, warm and sunny and we all were peeling off layers of fleece and long sleeves. (It gets quite chilly early in the morning especially when driving in an open air Land Rover.)

Tracking did pick up after breakfast and we stayed out quite late on our morning drive tracking a female leopard. She was hunting and Wil is still hoping to see a kill. Sadly (for him) she never chased anything and we headed back in for lunch.

While lunching on the deck overlooking the bush, an elephant walked by. Seriously, a big huge bull (elephant) was walking down the river bed and everyone got up for pictures. The people that work here don't give him a second look but all the guests were up and taking pictures. Elephants just don't walk past our work in MA.

The afternoon was much more successful in terms of animals sightings. We got to see a group of rhinos drinking and they tend to be skittish animals. We drove partially into the river to watch them and when the mama rhino left she called for her kids and they went running after her. If only Wil listened so well....but I guess he doesn't fear being eaten by anything else.

We also followed another pride of lions in hope that they would hunt. They didn't but just moved from one location to another so we moved on.

Finally, we decided to head back to camp and on the way we saw a jackel and a wildebeast on MalaMala's private runway. We had Lucky turn out all the lights on the Land Rover to get a good look at the stars. It was amazing! I have never seen so many stars! The Milky Way looked like a river of stars. It was beautiful! Lucky also taught us to navigate on the southern cross.

It is hard to believe this is our final full day in MalaMala. Tomorrow we are going to go on a short early morning drive before checking out and flying to our next adventure.

Posted by kshunter 12:06 Archived in South Africa Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Observations and a Day in the Life on Safari

I realized that we were doing so much talking about what we were seeing animal - wise but none about what is happening, what we're experiencing, expectations etc. Here are some general observations about the African bush.

It is winter here and although 40's at night it is quite pleasant (t-shirt weather) during the day in the sun. It is also their dry season so while driving through the bush you see lots firebreaks.

The landscape is not Out of Africa but dry and grassy with tall trees, some cactus, small bushes etc. I guess they call it "the bush" for a reason. The grass is short in some areas and really tall in others, it is hilly and there are some rock outcrops. There is this one bush/tree variation that has long thorns that look like it is covered with white toothpics.

The safari vehicle is a Land Rover and is amazing! It is a 4 row totally open air vehicle that can move over trees, climb sand dunes (coming up out of the dry river bed) and just about navigate anything. At one point I thought we were stuck and while trying to get up a sandy incline had the same sensation as when driving on snow. You can feel yourself slipping but know exactly when the wheels grip and you're not sliding anymore.

There have been zero mosquitos! We're taking malaria pills just to be safe but honestly, I bet it wouldn't matter at all.

There is a time between dusk and nightfall that the bush becomes totally silent. No birds, no crickets - nothing. It remains that way for a minute or two and then all the sounds come back.

Yesterday when the head female lion came over (we saw a pride of 9 lions) to check us out and walked right up to the vehicle my adrenaline spiked. She calmly looked at Wil and I kept thinking...please don't eat him. That would ruin my trip. The whole time Lucky kept saying, "Don't move!"

The first morning when we saw the cheetah chase the impala it was very exciting but I couldn't decide who I was rooting for. I don't like blood and guts (can't even watch CSI) but I've heard a kill is something impressive to see. My feeling is I got the best of both worlds where I saw the exitement of the chase but no blood or guts.

As for our typical day it goes as follows...

We receive drinks to our room just before 6:30am. It is whatever you choose and we get a pot of coffee, pot of tea and an orange juice. We sip on that while we get ready and then head to the breakfast room (in the Main Lodge area) for 7am. We do EVERYTHING with our ranger, Lucky. He meets us at breakfast and eats with us.

From breakfast, we head to our safari vehicle for our morning drive. It is old time tracking where Lucky can tell us what animals are where by tracks and we follow the tracks, drive into the grassy area etc. We drive from about 7:30ish- 11:30/noon. We have some free time until lunch at 1pm, which is served on a large deck overlooking the river and the bush.

After lunch we have more free time until 2pm when tea is served and then we head out on another drive from 2:30pm-6:30/7pm. It may seem like a lot of driving and I was worried about that but it simply flies by, even for Wil.

Cocktail hour in the main lodge is at 7pm (or really any time as the barman is always around). 8pm is dinner and they serve it in the boma which is a round 18ft high wooden stick fence. Mala Mala was originally a hunting lodge and the boma was where they stored their kill. Even though it is chilly, there is a very large fire in the middle, they have blankets on every chair that you can drape over your shoulders and they offer you a hot water bottle for your lap. After dinner people often go back to the bar or down to the Monkey Room which has a satellite tv, a library etc. From here we head back to bed however we aren't allowed at night to walk ourself to our room. Lucky has to walk us back in the event we encounter (and we do!) wild life as there are no fences around camp.

There is so much more but it is lunchtime so I have to go!

Posted by kshunter 03:28 Archived in South Africa Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Safari Day 2

The Big Five in One Drive

overcast 65 °F

Today was our first full day on safari, and we basically saw in one day what many people do not get to see in a whole week! Our rangers name is Lucky, which is very fitting for how are day went.

After an early breakfast, we headed into the bush at 7:30am local time. Initially, there was not much to see because it was so cold, and the animals were not very active. However, about an hour in, we heard that other rangers had found two female cheetahs, which are very rare to see. We sped over to the area and tracked the cheetahs for about 30 minutes, when we realized that they were stalking a herd of impalas. We actually got to see the larger of the two cheetahs attack and chase the impalas but she missed the kill. It was extremely exciting to see how fast the cheetah could accelerate! After the failed attempt, the cheetah was so tired that she simply laid down to rest for a few hours.

After the cheetah, we moved to a different area and saw a full herd of buffalo. There must have been 200 buffalo in the herd. Interestingly, there are small birds that move with the herd and land on their backs to eat the ticks and flies that are attracted to the buffalo.

While driving back to the camp for lunch, we also ran into a pair of young warthogs, more impalas and a couple of water monitors (lizards). It was a great morning!

However, it got even better in the afternoon! We managed to see the Big 5 game: elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion in one afternoon drive. First, we tracked and found two female leopards. They were not together but we found out that they are siblings. They are spectacularly beautiful. We found out later that the second one was hunting and eventually found a hare that she took back to her cubs (more on that later).

Second, we traveled about 5 minutes to find a full herd of approximately a dozen elephants. There was even one very small baby elephant. The alpha female elephant gave us a dirty look that made our ranger a bit nervous, and he moved us a bit further away because elephant can be very dangerous if they charge.

After the elephants, we saw a pride of nine lions. They had fed very recently and were, therefore, extremely lazy. They were all lying around asleep. We sat and watched them for a long time. After a while, a kudo (large antelope) walked near by and many of the lions woke up and thought about going after it, but it never got near enough. However, that got them up and they started moving around and grooming each other. At one point, one of the females came within about 3 feet of the vehicle. We were all a bit frightened and Lucky told us not to make any sudden movements. We were all relieved to find out that she just came over to relieve herself (she peed)! We literally could have touch her head had we reached out of the jeep.

We left the lions and were joking with Lucky that the only thing we needed to see to get the Big 5 in one day was a rhino. Sure enough, as we were driving back, we rounded a corner and ran into a small group of four rhinos! The rhinos were a bit more skittish and moved away, but we were able to chase them for a while and get a few good photos.

At this point, we were extremely excited to have see the Big 5 game animals in one day when many people do not see them in a full week. As an added bonus, we stopped by the female leopard's den and were able to see one of her two young cubs. He seemed to come out for a few minutes just so we could get some photos! He was extremely cute, and we hope to go back tomorrow to see if we can see more of them.

As we were headed back to camp, we saw another lone buffalo on the road, which meant that we had seen the Big 5 animals all in one afternoon!

As an added bonus to our already amazing day, we met the owners of the camp in the bar before dinner, and they asked us to join them. We learned lots about the history of the area, the camps and South Africa. It was really fun and was the perfect ending to a spectacular day. We have no idea how they can top it tomorrow, but we are sure that they will find a way!

Posted by kshunter 12:35 Archived in South Africa Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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