22 family members arrived in Johannesburg on June 26 early morning – some straight from San Francisco while most had enjoyed some days in Amsterdam. Olivia, John and the girls flew in from Athens, Greece – more on that in a different post.
From Johannesburg the family flew to Maun in Botswana where they connected to smaller planes able to land on the airstrip near the first of two camps – Xigera. The property, located in the Okavango Delta, is owned by Wilderness Safari and overall this was the first Africa trip in a while where the family didn’t stay at AndBeyond properties.
The transfer process and security procedures in Maun were rather chaotic but all made it out of there in time in three separate planes and arrived at Xigera Camp mid-afternoon just in time for a quick game drive which at the end brought a head-to-head with a (luckily) friendly elephant bull – close enough that the trunk came inches away from a couple of faces. Nature at its best.
The following four days were spent around the delta and in it. Part of the time were in traditional open safari vehicles but the water was the main attraction and the family came to spend a fair amount of time in makoros and in the fast boats through what seemed like an endless maze of little water ways that somehow all found their way back to the main waterway that will let you reach Maun in approximately eight hours.
The camp itself it built on stilts above the wetlands below. The animals are free to roam throughout the camp and sand traps revealed the presence of nightly visitors every morning at sunrise. Some were spotted “in person” – elephant and hippo. Hard to hide. Even at night… The camp was beautiful and built in a nice tent style. The staff was wonderful and took very good care of all.
John’s birthday was celebrated on the last evening at Xigera and the staff not only celebrated him with song and dance but had also left him a couple of presents in the room; which was a very nice touch.
It was time to pack up and continue the journey June 30 and three planes picked the family up mid-morning before making the two-stop journey back to South Africa. The first stop to go through customs and immigration while the second stop was for refueling. After almost five hours the planes arrived at Londolozi airstrip where the last two family members – Andrew and Lucy – joined for the remainder of the trip.
Londolozi – a Zulu word that roughly translates into “protector of all things” is an icon amongst all the African safari camps. It has been around for years and has been instrumental when it comes to wildlife preservation and rehabilitation. Their leopards are known world-wide although they did prove quite hard to find. The resort as stunning and and the whole camp is very professionally run.
The first game drive brought a pack of nine sleeping lions just about a mile from camp. The looked undisturbed but the crocodiles that they shared the water hole with. Three unrelated young lion brothers had killed a water buffalo kill – something that was revisited on several occasions reminding all the the smell doesn’t improve as the days go by.
There were many other sightings over the five days. Lots of giraffe, wildebeests, birds incl. fish eagles and Penny’s beloved lilac-breasted roller, elephants and water buffalo. There’s supposedly a lone ostrich that no one spotted, and rumor has it there’s a petition to get her a male ostrich to keep her company.
The leopards were hard to find but patience and some luck brought the good first sighting just as the light was disappearing on the third day. Good excuse to stop for a sundowner once the leopard had had enough of our company. The second good sighting actually happened on the way back from a morning drive with a leopard chomping on a fresh kill. Wonderful to see these precious cats in their natural environment.
After a great 4th of July celebration on the riverbed, it was time to start packing. The following morning it was off to Johannesburg with evening flight waiting to take most back to the US. Olivia left her wedding ring in the room but luckily she was staying behind in Johannesburg for a few days to see old friends so the ring and its rightful owner got reunited after a couple of days of separation.
As written before there is no place like Africa and it’s safe to say that all are looking forward to go back sometime in the near future.
For a more visual story there are some select photos from the trip here.