I can’t believe that my last post was in 2015! It’s been 8 years to the day. So much has happened since then. I have to admit that I have not gone on any more motorcycle adventures. Alas, Rosa sits idle in my garage. I have since become a full fledged neurologist. There just has not been time for motorcycle adventure or for posting with the incredible time demands. Then the pandemic hit, which was hard for all of us, but particularly for those of us who work in health care. The last 3 years have been a blur. I am still reeling. Hopefully we’re coming out the other side. I have started to travel again after years of lockdowns and restrictions. I have always appreciated travel, but I appreciate it so much more now. It’s cliche, but true – you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. I am actually writing this from Manaus, Brazil. The start of a trip into the heart of the Amazon. I will share details later.
I am going to jump right into travel blogging. The first big trip since the start of the pandemic was a trip to South Africa and Botswana to celebrate my friend Mark’s 50th birthday in August and September of 2022. This was a bucket list trip. There is a group of us with our own birthday club. When we turned 40 one by one, the other guys would plan the trip and we didn’t know where we were going until we showed up at the Airport. Mark was first up. He was taken to Costa Rica, Paul was taken on a Caribbean cruise, Jose was taken to Australia, and I was taken to Thailand and Vietnam. My birthday happened to coincide with a Koh Phangan full moon beach party. I won’t say how long ago that was.
For our 50th birthdays, we get to chose. Mark chose Africa. I have travelled extensively through Africa including as part of the my London to Cape Town motorcycle adventure trip in 2008 and a return trip to tour around Southern Africa by motorcycle again in 2010. However, I did not get the chance to delve into wildlife viewing as much as I would have liked during those motorcycle trips. I have always wanted to return. Africa holds a special place in my heart. I have camped across the continent and I am certain that African sunrises and sunsets in the wild are by far the most beautiful on Earth. My friends thought I was crazy, a sunrise is a sunrise and a sunset is a sunset after all, right? But by the end of our trip they agreed. I have wanted to go to Botswana’s Okavango Delta ever since I was blown away by the BBC’s Planet Earth documentaries. I had to go.
Karongwe Private Game Reserve, Limpopo, South Africa (Aug 27 – Sep 1, 2022)
There were three of us for this birthday trip. Mark, Jose, and myself. We divided our time in the Karongwe private game reserve between Shiduli Private Game Lodge for the first couple of nights and Chisomo Safari Camp for the last three nights. Chisomo was beautiful, overlooking the Makhutsi River, and you could watch wildlife wandering by from the camp. Amazing. However, the accommodations are just canvas tents and it was bloody cold at night. Even wearing my down coat from Canada and with the space heater on I could not keep warm. So check the temperatures before you go. It got down to near freezing at night.
Day 1 – Aug 27
The moment we arrived at Karongwe, we were treated to seeing three Cheetah’s walking the fence line from the main road! As if they were saying welcome. We would learn that they are three brothers whose mother was killed by a lion while they were still cubs. They hunt together and are never far apart from one another. They are also accustomed to humans as they needed to be fed as cubs to keep them alive. Our first game drive we saw the three Cheetahs again. We would see them again several times throughout our stay, including an incredible closs up of them devouring a Zebra (teaser). On our first game drive, we also saw a pride of lions, including a lioness who walked right by the jeep and gave a look I recognize from my house cats that said: I’m thinking of pouncing on you!
On that same game drive, we found a Zebra kill site. The pride had brought it down the night before. The male Lion (Zeus) of the pride had eaten his fill. He still had blood on his mouth. So Lions and Cheetahs on our first game drive. I would soon discover that going on Safari is much more than a checklist of trying to see the “Big Five”. What was most rewarding to me was watching animals behave in the wild. This became especially apparent when we got to Botswana. But more on that later.
Day 2 – Aug 28
Morning game drives were early. We would get a knock on the door at 5:30 AM to wake us up. Breakfast was at 6 AM. The jeeps departed at 6:30. So cold! Then we would go on a 3-4 hour game drive, arriving back in time for lunch and then siesta. The afternoon game drive started at 3 PM and we would return in time for supper at 6:30 PM. And then it was supposed to be bedtime, but we often we stayed up by the camp fire drinking beer and solving the world’s problems under Africa’s glorious canopy of stars. A few days of this and we were all used to the rhythm.
After 2 days, we had seen 3 of the Big Five (Lion, Rhino, and Elephant), leaving Leopard and Buffalo for the checklist.
Day 3 – Aug 29
Mongoose may not be par to the big five, but boy are they fun to watch. This mob had taken over an abandoned termite mound. There can be up to 50 mongooses in a “mob” or “pack”. They are social animals and take care of their young as a group.
Another rhino sighting. This one charged us. I’ve never been in a jeep going backwards that fast.
Between the morning game drive and the evening game drive, we moved to Chisomo Safari camp.
You can imagine how good the beer tasted being with such great friends and watching yet another amazing African sunset.
Day 4 – Aug 30
We found the 3 Cheetah brothers again on Day 4. They were devouring a dead Zebra. Because they were accustomed to humans, we were allowed to get out of the jeep and walk up within a few paces of them. Did they kill the Zebra? Or were they simply being fed? I don’t know, but I know that the instinct to hunt and kill in my house cats is so strong (all the birds, squirrels, and mice that have been taken into my house can attest to this) that I wouldn’t be surprised if they did take it down, even though they needed to be fed by humans as cubs. In any case, this was a truly unique experience.
By this time we had rounded out the Big Five with a Leopard sighting by the river when we were having our evening snack/beer and also a Buffalo sighting in the shrubbery. But I have better photos to show-off both of these later. Now that we had seen the Big Five, we could just relax and enjoy.
Day 5 – Aug 31
Now that we had checked off the Big Five, the guys let my “birder” instincts take over. Finally, they let me stop to photograph birds. Yes, I was called “Birder!” but I do like photographing birds. But calling me a birder is akin to them calling me a chess grandmaster just because I koq how the pieces moved on the board. I do not profess to be a birder. But I could see myself going down that “flight” path. Birds are awesome. I had been learning how to use my new Olympus OM-1 camera on this trip, and I have to admit I was loving the AI bird capture technology. The camera was definitely smarter than I was at being a birder!
After driving hours to the very far end of the reserve, we found the pride of lions again. It was great to just see them interacting.
Day 5 – Sep 1
Another sighting of the elusive Leopard. This time I caught it.
It was a magical Safari in South Africa. But it was Botswana that would blow my mind. More to come. Happy 50th birthday Mark!