In June of 2003, we visited the African Continent for the first time. From London-Heathrow, we flew into Johanesburg, South Africa and then onto Maun, Botswana. Maun is an "outpost" in Western Botswana - a very small town, but with an international airport. In Maun, we boarded a bush plane (a five-seater) for our journey to the first of three tented safari camps. We spent 12 incredible days on safari, followed by 2 days at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. It was truly the most perfect holiday ever!!
Botswana is a country in Southern Africa that is about the size of
the state of Texas. The population is only 1.6 million, and the people generally
still live in tribal communities. The state of Botswana was granted independence
from the U.K. in 1966, and since that time has been a stable democracy. It is
a very safe destination, and we never felt any threat of harm at all (unless
you count the lions and hyenas!!). The government is very responsible (from
an environmental point of view) about tourism, and has very strict laws in place
with respect to controlling the impact of tourism on the environment. Each camp
is leased (usually for a period of 15 years) and is staffed almost exclusively
by Botswana people. The camps are really difficult to describe, as they are
very comfortable, but are literally smack in the middle of the bush, with no
protective fences or other barriers from the wildlife. It was pretty difficult
to sleep the first few nights with the hyenas calling and the lions roaring
throughout the night.
Clearly, the most important sites were the animals!! We were fortunate
enough to see all of the "big 5" - (cape) buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros,
lion and leopard. We also had great photo opps of cheetah, zebra, baboon, hippopotamus,
hyena, and so many more. Two game drives per day were scheduled so we certainly
had lots of sightings. It is absolutely an amazing, thrilling rush to be 6 feet
away from these magnificent creatures.
In keeping with the overall safari experience, the camps typically
served local food. We had lovely fish, fowl and vegetables as well as venison
(either impala or kudu) and ostrich. Everything was wonderful, and it was served
with South African wines that were really nice. And desserts, well, we don't
even have to go there! The only problem was that you had no opportunity to exercise
and burn off some of these calories - as a result, you come home several pounds
heavier than when you left!!
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