27 April 2011

Mom Goes on Safari

At the end of March my Mom traveled from Florida to Gaborone to visit Africa for the first time.  It took a little convincing.  You know the barriers we all have: money, time, etc.  The thing that convinced her was when I told her that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that she couldn't let pass - and added that Abigail's parents came and brought her 80 year old grandmother!  Well, if grandma could do it, so could she!

Our itinerary started in Maun in northern Botswana.  We'd start with a 6-day safari in the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve and then Dumi would pick us up in Kasane and drive us across the border to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, then we would drive across Zimbabwe to Bulawayo and back to Gaborone.

The plane we took from Maun to Kanana Lodge was a tiny puddle-jumper that gave us an extraordinary view of the Delta waterways.

Not 5 minutes into our first game drive we came upon a classic -- a truck stuck in a flooded gully.  Luckily that didn't ever happen to us despite crossing that flooded road numerous times. (For the record, those people in the picture did get towed out).

One of our first sightings was of an elephant, coming too close, which spikes my blood pressure every time.

We had some fabulous sightings... This might be my best Impala picture.

Our next game drive was on a motorboat.  Water safaris are what makes the Delta so unique.

We wound our way through the reeds to an open clearing where our guide, Moja, suggested we go fly fishing.  Although not normally our thing, we thought we'd try it, and Mom was the first one to catch something (a brim fish).  Pretty impressive!

As it turned out, Moja had a plan.  He took a reed from the water and skewered the fish onto it (not my favorite part).  Then he waived the fish in the air and caught the attention of two Fish Eagles watching from the trees. 

Moja threw the fish high into the air and both Fish Eagles dove for it.  One got it.

Fish Eagle in flight

On another land safari we ran into the Tsessebe, considered to be the fastest in the antelope family.


We found a tiny male Reed Frog that was so cuuuuute!  The male is green (below) and the female is spotted (on a reed above the lily pads).

Kanana Lodge was great, due in large part to the excellent staff and Olivia's superb management.  You can tell she is a very engaging story teller!

One afternoon all the staff brought an entire set of tables and chairs and arranged a full bar and hot lunch out in the bush.  We were greeted with traditional singing and treated to an amazing meal.

On another of our boat trips, Moja took a water lily and started peeling the stem.  We wondered what he was up to.


He took us to a little island where we got onto a mokoro (traditional canoe).

It was a completely different feeling being amongst the reeds in the water.  It was so still and peaceful.

Then, before we knew it we were off to the second camp, Okuti, which is in the Moremi Game Reserve.

On our very first safari with our new guide we saw two Lionesses - Mom's first lions!

We had a lot of fun with our guide Isaac and guide-in-training, OT.

We saw many birds and animals with them.

Red-billed Hornbill


We really liked Okuti Lodge.

Banaki was a sincerely friendly and helpful manager.

Pearl, who worked on staff in food service, won a scholarship to work for a year at Disney World in Orlando - about 45 minutes away from where Mom lives.  So they will have a reunion in the States soon!

On our last game drive we hit a typical road block in the bush.

A herd of female Impala

Amazingly, we finally saw what Mom had been waiting for -- the king of the jungle.

At the end of our safari we flew back to Kasane where Dumi picked us up and drove us to Victoria Falls.  The first night we went to The Boma, a fun restaurant that was more about the "experience" than anything else.  It was pretty "tourist-y" but they had great food and did some fabulous classic Zimbabwe singing.

The next day we were off to Victoria Falls.  The end of March is the end of the rainy season, so the falls were full.  That made for dramatic viewing, but it also created a lot of spray and we got very wet!

On our way out of Vic Falls we stopped at a village where Dumi is building a small medical clinic.  We met with the village Head Man, Mr. Mpofu.  He showed us around his compound.

This is the site where the clinic will be.

Then we were off to Bulawayo to spend the night.  The next day we made the 9 hour drive back to Gabs.  On the last day before returning home, Mom went to Sanitas, our ourdoor garden restaurant.

Me, Mom and Jane

Perhaps it won't be a once-in-a-lifetime trip after all and Mom will return for more adventures in Africa.

20 April 2011


At the end of February (ok, I'm a little behind in my blog posting), I went to Namibia with friends Rene, Nita and Dumi.  It was an awesome road trip.  It took us about 12 hours to drive from Gaborone to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

Windhoek (Wikimedia pic)

We went in part to job hunt in Windhoek.  Nita and I were "retrenched" from the Hospital at the end of January and everyone else still employed there is also looking for work since the hospital is for sale and the future is uncertain.  The four of us stayed overnight in Windhoek at Londiningi Lodge, arriving in time for a lovely happy hour.
Dumi, me, Rene and Nita

Windhoek is a very modern city, similar to cities in South Africa, which is not surprising since Namibia was a German colony until WWI when it was placed under a British mandate and given to South Africa to administer.

The next day Nita and I made the Mall - and cappuccino - our first destination.

For dinner we went to a very cool landmark restaurant, Joe's Beer House.  We had a variety of game meat and shots of something green and delicious but I can't remember what it was (a bad sign).


The following day we made the 4 hour drive to Swakopmund, a beach resort town on the west coast of the country.  The drive there had dramatic scenery changes.  We started with greenery all around us and bit by bit the greenery was replaced by brush and then sand.

We didn't need any notification that there was sand everywhere, but I guess a good sign never hurts.

Swakopmund is a charming little beach town.  It was very windy, which we learned is the case most of the year there.  Despite the chilly weather, kids were playing in the water as kids do everywhere in the world.

We stayed in Swakopmund with Dr. Honest Dewa, his wife Rufaro and son, Zviko.  They're Zimbabwean and like many, many Zim professionals they left that country because of the economic disaster and political uncertainty.  Dr. Dewa has a job in Swakopmund but his wife, who is a nurse, has been waiting a long time to be registered to work in Namibia.  We too discovered that getting registered with the Namibian Health Professions Council can take up to 6 months.

The Dewa's took us to The Tug restaurant at the end of the pier for sundowners.

After walking on the beach to the Tiger Reef bar for round two of sundowners, we headed to Neopolitana Italian restaurant for dinner, which made little Zviko very happy!

The next day we headed to Walvis Bay - about half an hour down the coast.  Walvis Bay is the major harbor and industrial area for Namibia.  The fishing industry is the area's biggest employer but there is also a big salt refinery plant and oil and gas exploration.  We went to see the hundreds (thousands, according to what I've read) of flamingos at the Lagoon.  The flamingos use Walvis Bay as a stopping point on their way to and from the Arctic Circle. 

The flamingos were a bit far away so I decided to walk closer to the water for a better look.  As it turned out, the sand was coated in oil (guess the oil exploration is going well) and I slipped and fell in the muck.

Walvis Bay, and actually the whole coast of Namibia, is known for its spectacular sand dunes.  The big dune in the area is Dune 7.  Dune 7 is steep and high (about 130 meters or 426 feet) but we all managed to get to the top.

On the way up...

Don't look down...

At the top!

View from the top.

View from the back side of the dune.

Coming down was surprising.  I thought it would be a slippery, fast slide down.  Instead you couldn't make any headway on your behind - so we all ran down.  Fun!

Big thanks to Dr. Honest and Zviko for staying down and taking pictures.

After the climb Nita wanted to go quad biking.  I said no way.  Being unemployed and without health insurance makes me a bit wary of driving up and down steep sand dunes.  So I went to watch.  Right.

Honest, Dumi, Andrew and Brendon, Rene, me and Nita

That night Honest and Dumi organized a Braai on the beach.
(From front left going clockwise) Andrew, Brenda, Honest, Prosper, me, Rene and Dumi 

We had chicken, boerewars and steak.  We needed all that because we were freezing!!

Brendon was one happy camper.

The next day was a drive back to Windhoek and one more night at Londiningi before heading back to Gabs.  Namibia stole our hearts.