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Have you ever thought about getting away from it all and trying your hand at wildlife? I decided to and to get to the real game I needed expert help.
Furom Safaris now run superb guided trips to Botswana getting you in to see the incredible game sightings in the best viewing reserves in the world.Jap Nel of Furom Safari's and I met in Pretoria and set off towards the Botswana border at Martins Drift. I was surprised after hearing so many stories of African border posts how easy the whole process was, although we had to surrender or eat our cheese and meat products. Botswana has a huge cattle business and does not want foot and mouth disease into the country.
Our first night was spent in a tented camp at the border called Kwa Kenong Lodge. I cannot remember being asleep for that long and after a brief traditional breakfast of coffee and rusks we were on our way by 6.15am. The morning was spent driving to Serowe where we bought supplies. The tar roads were in good condition but had both cattle and donkeys roaming at the side of and sometimes on them causing us to be very cautious but all great for photographing.
Our Land Rover Defender now not only looked the part, loaded with tents, food, fuel and water, with roof racks full to the brim, but also felt right as we left the tar road at Letlhakane. Although marked on the map this is only a very rural traditional village with mud huts. The people live very simple lives;
subsistence farming and all were extremely friendly.
The first need for the four-wheel drive vehicles was as we dropped down from the village over a rocky and sandy track. We eventually came to Mmatshumo, a village spread out over a wide area amongst large shady trees. The huts were all fenced off in Kraals, branches pushed into the ground in a simple yet effective manner to keep both livestock in and predators out. There are few areas in the world that lose cattle to lions and hyena, but they do here.
After a further ten minutes we stopped to observe a tradition of Furom Safaris. We turned around a bend and before us we saw our first view of the Mgadigadi Pans, we all disembarked and enjoyed a nice cold beer in the afternoon sun.
Travelling with Jap was really interesting, he has a great knowledge of the bush, and he had been brought up in it on a farm and had then joined the South African Army finally leaving at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. All this and he is still not forty. He was able to track animals, even telling us whether an elephant was in heat or not by the footprints; the cracks in the sole of their feet get bigger. This is just the sort of specialised knowledge that I wanted.
We continued on and came to the saltpans, which were muddy after recent rains, luckily for us though, the previous year they had actually been flooded. We tried to stick to the tracks but had to use GPS readings because some tracks went off at different angles, signposts were not in plentiful supply. Our navigation was good and we soon came to one of the veterinary fences that prevent wild life entering into cattle country. We were let through a gate and
took a Northerly route across the wide expanses of saltpan before coming upon our destination for the night at Kubu Island.This rocky out crop where baobab trees glisten in the bright blue sky which meets the white surface of mirages of the salt pans was to be our camping site.
The night was spent in a tent, which we erected before setting about lighting a fire for cooking. Jap did the cooking and set up the shower at the side of the Landy. We had bags, which probably held a gallon or so of water that had a half-inch flexible pipe leading to a showerhead. The bags were placed on top of the vehicle roof and the sun heated them up. Now I am not saying that they were hot, but after driving through a hot and dusty land a nice luke warm shower is a really delightful experience.
We enjoyed sundowners, except we had to do some photography as well because Kubu is one of the most incredible places in the world for sunsets over the flat pans with the huge baobab trees in the foreground. All our camps were in the form of a triangle formed between the two ground tents and the two vehicles and at the widest end the fire. This gave us a degree of security from marauding animals. Jap told us whilst we enjoyed another beer, ironically enough called Lion, about the occasion when he and his young son had just come out of the shower when a hyena ran through the camp, he was not sure who had the greater fright.
If you enjoy a lie-in in the morning then frica is not for you; we rose with the sun and fell into bed early every evening.We travelled through herds of springbok as we crossed to the other side of the pans passing through another veterinary gate before entering thick bush. Our destination was a lodge in Maun where we were to stay in chalets but on the way we saw game all the way. Botswana is still a wild unpopulated country where you can see elephant at the
side of the main highways.
The next few days were spent travelling through the Okavango Delta probably the best area in the world for viewing game. Jap was able to get us into the positions where we could view all the game at very close quarters. The highlight was watching lions mating at the side of the vehicle oblivious to the noise of cameras clicking away and busy snappers changing roll after roll of film.
The next day we travelled to Japs favourite Savuti that is part of the Chobe National Park. Here herds of elephant crossed our path; film was now being used at an amazing rate. We were able to visit ancient bushman's paintings before setting up camp in this most special of places.We travelled through the park to the northeastern corner and stopped at another lodge before having a sundowner cruise on the Chobe River, cameras compulsory. The next day was spent on the river again this time watching the tremendous bird life and amazing wildlife, getting close to crocodiles and being charged by hippos, it was fantastic. For a small fee a day trip across the border to Victoria Falls can be arranged for another photographic splendour that this part of Africa has to offer.The next part of the journey is back to the Mgadigadi Pans where game and especially bird life can be prolific with huge colonies of flamingo and pelicans as well as one of the biggest salt pans in the world stretching for as far as the eye can see.
It was sad but our next day was back to Martins Drift where we spent a final night along the Limpopo River before driving back to Pretoria and civilisation.The idea of these photographic tours is to allow anyone who wishes to try wildlife photography to have a chance of a lifetime. With Furoms specialised knowledge you will not only learn about game and how not to disturb it but also how to find it and with help of the resident expert who accompanies the trip learn one or two new tips, like how do you get the shot of a lion yawning? Go along and find out.
Most major airlines will offer you a direct service to Johannesburg International from Heathrow. I flew with South African Airways for around £380.
Anti-malaria tablets are a must. We also used insect repellent. Consult your doctor and check on local conditions. Cholera was around when I visited and although not usually present do check. I took a good medical kit, Furom also carry a good range of medicines with them.
What to take
A soft kit bag with twenty kilo's maximum
weight. I wore T-shirts, and shorts with andles. A good pair of boots for the
night-time to prevent scorpion stings. A raincoat and a sweatshirt with a long
pair of trousers are also worthwhile. Do not take too many clothes you will not wear them. Film is available only in the bigger towns and not always a great choice so it is advisable to take plenty. Furom send out a list of what to take when you book including a guide on film usage.
Set up in 1995, they are the only suppliers
of 4x4 adventures like this. They also offer other trips with lodges and varying destinations throughout the continent. They can be contacted at:
21 The Lawns,
Web site: http://www.furomsafaris.co.za