Why would you want to go to Africa twice?
Why would you go on Safari twice?
There are a lot of answers. We love the multisensory experience. We appreciate the life perspective it provides. We fell in love with the animals and wanted to see them one more time. We already had all of our shots!
In June of 2007, our great friend Andy Biggs, expertly (and safely!) led us through our first trip to Africa. As we’ve posted on our blog before, Andy is a fabulous photo guy (check him out at http://www.andybiggs.com/ or you can see his animal photos for the next few months at your local Bananna Republic). Andy came to Seattle to give some workshops at a local camera store in September. At that point, the next big Norton Adventure was not scheduled. We ate dinner on the deck and started to plan this amazing trip. Andy selected the group...8 folks in total, living in Bangkok, Beijing, London, NYC, Philly, Houston and Seattle. After switching to tea on our last safari due to the instant coffee, we brought 6 pounds of Starbucks coffee, travel mugs and 2 French presses to ensure our world travelers all could experience the best coffee possible in the bush.
While we will spare you a map, we will tell you that Botswana is located in the southern portion of the continent of Africa. It borders South Africa (the point of entry for us), Namibia and Zimbabwe. We accessed Bots via Johannesburg, South Africa, flying in on a plane carrying 80 other people into Maun (the capital). It appeared that many of us were flying in for safari, but most of the others were staying in lodges. The eight of us, on the other hand, would be staying in tents in the bush, and we were all excited about it (in all seriousness). Our suspinions were confirmed on the way home through Maun, as each of us was in dire need of a good long hot shower, while our fellow plane riders were looking well pressed and, um, not nearly as dirty and smelly!
The experience of safaris in East Africa compared to Southern Africa are very different in several ways. The vehicles in Tanzania are vans with “pop-tops” - while in Bots you are riding in open land rovers (you are much more easily accessible for dinner in Southern Africa than East Africa!) The guides in Tanzania are really good – but the guides in Botswana absolutely incredible. Finally, for all our fellow wine lovers out there, Botswana has a much better selection available!
Here's Jennifer demonstrating the best way to drink coffee while showing off the Land Rover
Immediately after clearing customers in Maun, we were whisked off to our small charter plane for our group and took a flight out into the bush. We would no longer see any paved roads, electricity, and running water (well, we did run across a flush toilet at the “dock” for our boat ride, which generated considerable excitement...). On the other hand, those days were filled with great conversation, amazing smells, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, animals, animals and more animals. Just what we were up for!
Boarding the bush plane in Maun - That's Andy being himself behind us
Our experience in Botswana was by land (safari vehicle), air (helicopter minus doors and windows as well as the great charter bush planes), and water (boat ride on the Okavango Delta).
Laurence, Susan & Jennifer just moments before takeoff
Where we were in Botswana, there are significantly fewer people than we experienced in Tanzania. It also has much more intimate animal interaction, and a wee bit more roughing it. Collectively as a group, we had enough photo lens length to cover miles, but as often as not it felt as if we could reach out and touch the animals. We did have the distinct pleasure of a hyena sleeping up against our tent and were thankful not to have more than one night with rain. Can you imagine the smell of a wet hyena?
Our travel group really was a lot of fun. Here is a pic. We had a lot of laughs, kept each other honest and gave each other a hard time. The trip really wouldn't would have been the same without: Andy, Sao and Rob, Susan, Trevor, and Crazy Al. We were excited to reconnect and make more bush friends.
Front Row (Left to Right): Jennifer, Sao, Nick, Adrien
Back Row (Left to Right): Susan, Laurence, Rob, Trevor, Des, Andy, Neil (Al took the picture)
Our guides were truly amazing. All had great Southern Africa accents (British-like), all were highly educated and could name every animal, bush, sound and footprint. They loved to tease and spar with all of us and each of us would have loved to bring them home to experience our daily lives. One of our guides, Nick, is from Zimbabwe. Nick is one of the most positive people you will ever meet. He spoke eloquently about the conflict going on right now in his country - and, in his positive way, allowed us to understand and empathize the struggles he and his family face.
Our 4 amazing guides: Nick, Neil, Adrian & Des (photo's courtesy of Rob & Sao)
"I am very luck" was a quote uttered early in the safari from our fellow traveler Rob, the kiwi, living in Beijing and married to Sao, who is in Thailand. The quote is from his driver, and it really was how all of us felt about our Botswana adventure.
If you are thinking you want to go to Bots or Tanzania to safari and want more details let us know. We love the bush in Africa and hope to return some day.
Laurence getting up close and personal with an elephant
Big yawn while watching us
Here we are enjoying another beautiful sunset during sundowner with our safari friends