Diddakoi Walt Whitman
Take me home...Africa 1999 Part OneAfrica 1999 Part OneAfrica 1999 Part TwoAfrica 1999 Part ThreeAfrica 1999 Part Four

 AFRICA 1999 - Part Four

The tents were quite luxurious, especially after the near "roughing it" at Hemingway's. There is a tile floored bathroom with shower, sink and toilet, two twin beds, and a porch with chairs looking out at the front lawn. I unpacked and put a bunch of clothes aside for laundry. In the afternoon we met the other new arrivals to camp - Robin and Jeff, a young couple from Foster City, California. He's a management consultant and she works for Visa. She went to Claremont College in Southern California, so we reminded each other of various landmarks from that area.

My Room At Shinde


My Porch

Shindi Camp

Shindi Lounge

Shindi Dining Room

We also met Carla and Erica, two young women from Gabarone, the capital of Botswana. Carla is a tour operator and Erica is her accountant; they were just doing a girls' weekend away. They're both originally from South Africa, and Carla's stepchildren live in center city Philadelphia. Jim and Alexandra left to go to Vic Falls and then home. Nick has a storehouse at Shindi for his Hemingway camp supplies so he spent the afternoon getting things put away. He planned to drive to Maun (about an 8 hour drive) on Sunday morning.

Shindi's Pet Lechwe

Shindi Dock

Pool at Shinde

Carla, Erica, Gordon, Betsy and I went out for a game drive while Robin and Jeff went on the power boat. Ice drove us - he stopped about 25 feet from a bull elephant who flapped at us and went on eating. We sat looking at him for about 5 minutes when all of a sudden he decided he didn't like that and charged the truck. He stopped about 15 feet away, but it sure got the adrenaline going!

We spotted a giraffe at a water hole, and Ice began driving towards her. Unlike most of the giraffes we've seen, she didn't make an attempt to run away, and we soon discovered the reason: she had a week old calf that she stashed near the waterhole! When the calves are very young, the mothers stay away from the herd and keep the baby hidden until it's old enough to keep up with the others. We got really close to both of them - the calf still had its umbilical cord stump! He was very curious about us - the first vehicle he had seen.


Mama and Baby Giraffe

Mama and Baby Giraffe

We had drinks around the fire pit and then dinner in the lovely open air dining room. The dining room/lounge area looks like a multi-leveled canopied teak tree house - just lovely. I'm sure Ker & Downey would like to do something similar at Pom Pom. Dinner was smoked bream to start, chicken and rice and squash, with kind of a cheesecake for dessert. We all laughed a lot with Gordon recounting the UFO sighting of the night before and Nick egging him on. Paul has a very quick, witty sense of humor as well, so everyone had a fun time. It was an early evening, since I think we were all a bit lagging from the previous evening. When I got to my tent, there was a lovely hot water bottle in the bed! Ahhhhh....

Sunday, May 2, 1999 - Shindi Camp, Botswana
It's 5:30 a.m. and there is a hippo standing directly in front of my tent about 15 feet away eating grass. I sat up in bed and watched and listened - they sound like really big horses. You can hear them crop the grass with their teeth. They also make big deep "who, who, who" noises when they call to one another. At 6:00 tea arrived - the hippo had since trundled off - and I showered and went for breakfast at 6:30. They had the usual cereals, fruit, yogurts, toast, and also will make eggs for you if you'd like. Nick said goodbye, as he was leaving for Maun around 7:30.

Carla, Erica, Gordon and Betsy were going out in mokoros, but I still hadn't had my fill of close up "ellies", so I went on a game drive with Robin and Jeff. Willie drove us - he's worked at Shindi for many years. We saw (surprise) lechwe - after a while it's like seeing a flock of pigeons, they're so common - and then Robin spotted an elephant. We drove up to him, about 25 feet away and stopped. He looked at us and continued eating, moving closer and closer to the car. He got to about 12 feet, stopped, seemed to be considering his options, blew a great sigh through his trunk and continued eating. It was as if he were saying, "You are just not worth the effort of doing a mock charge at this hour of the morning."

Willie drove past the airstrip and spotted lions basking in the sun. We drove up and stopped about 12 feet from a small hillock where three lions were resting, one male, and two females. Willie said this was Brutus, a 3 1/2 year old male and his two sisters. They are from the Shindi lion pride, headed by their father, Caesar. Unusual for lions, since the males are normally driven from the pride, but the females stay. Willie thinks that Brutus will soon challenge Caesar, his father, for control of the larger pride. There have also been sightings of two "foreign" male lions announcing their intentions for the pride.

We stopped the truck and the cameras snapped away. After a few minutes one of the females came down and walked right in front of the truck. She sat for a few moments, sniffing the wind, then continued walking away. Shortly after, Brutus arose and followed her. He stopped in front of the truck and raised his head, baring his teeth and smelling the air. Incredible! He continued to follow his sister and they disappeared into the taller grasses. The second lioness waited a few moments, then slipped down off the hillock. She went the opposite way around the truck, much to Jeff's dismay, who was sitting closest to the open side! The three cats continue to walk away casually, and Willie drove the truck to give us a better view.

The first lioness sat down on a nearby hillock, and right on cue, Brutus appeared and climbed up as well. The two of them pawed and played with each other like kittens. After a few moments, the second lioness arrived and the three of them fell in a heap. They all played for a few minutes, and then went off into the grass, so we decided to leave them in peace.




We drove to a lagoon on the other side of the camp and saw 2 hippo ponds. The babies rest their heads on their mothers' backs and lift up and down in the water. At times it looks like there is nothing in the pond, and suddenly there are 15 pairs of ears, eyes and nostrils looking at us.

Lunch was a selection of pizza, quiches and salads. Carla and Erica left to go back to Gabarone via Maun. After our siesta, we went out in two vehicles - I was with Ice, Gordon and Betsy. We found a pregnant giraffe - she was not very concerned with us at all. While we watched her cross the road, a young hyena was coming down the road towards us. She seemed to believe that if she crouched down low, we couldn't see her. She stayed with us for a while and then left. Later, we came across a group of three younger female giraffe having an early supper. We had our "sundowner" on the airstrip! It was a nice place with lots of lechwe to pose for us.

After a nice shower, I went back to the fire pit. We have no new people in tonight, so there are only five of us plus staff. We had a repeat dinner for me - I believe that this is Ker & Downey's way of reminding one to go home. We had tomato soup (hot this time, as May signals the beginning of the winter season), lamb chops, squash with corn, scalloped potatoes and peas, with lemon soufflé for dessert. We discussed earthquakes in Northern California, transportation systems and whether Dan Quayle should run for election of anything.

As we were sitting and finishing our dinners, Ice spotted two eyes in a tree right next to the dining room. Jill took her lamb chop bone and put it on a plate and set it on the floor about three feet from the table. After a few moments, a young genet came down across a tree branch, scurried across the floor, grabbed the chop and ran back up the tree. Genets look rather like rangy house cats with raccoon faces and a less bushy raccoon tail. After dinner, Paul took us all out on the motor boat and we saw a couple of crocodiles on the banks and swimming. We could also see the Big Dipper! Very odd to view our Northern constellations from the south - very low in the sky, as they are only seen on the horizon down here. Orion was back, complete with both shoulders, so Gordon's theory of one of Orion's shoulders going nova has been disproved.

Monday, May 3, 1999 - Shindi camp and beyond
I heard the hippos but didn't see any this morning. I had tea and went to breakfast and then went on a game drive with Ice, Gordon and Betsy. Robin and Jeff went with Willie in another car. At first we didn't see much, although there was a jackal prowling for plover eggs near one of the ponds. He really didn't care much at all about our being there and came up close to the truck.

After about 1 1/2 hours both trucks ended up tracking the lions to a spot on the other side of the airstrip. We both pulled up at the same time and the lions pretty much raised their heads and then flopped back down again. It was the same three we saw the day before, but they had killed and eaten and were sleeping it off. We were parked about 15 feet from them - one lioness never even looked up at us. The lion looked at us and then slumped back down. The second lioness got up and walked to the space between the cars and stood and sniffed the air (posing nicely, I might add). Then she walked back and dramatically threw herself back into the tall grass. After 15 minutes or so, Willie's truck drove off and we moved our truck forward a bit. The male lion lifted his head and posed, and then came up to the truck - 3 feet away from me!! He just looked at us and then plopped down in the shade that the truck was providing. His stomach was so distended - Ice thought the three of them probably caught a lechwe - and he was very uncomfortable because he'd eaten too much. After a bit, we moved the truck back to the road, and a couple of minutes later the male got up and walked to the shade of some nearby trees. As he laid down, the first lioness got up and followed him. Then the second lioness sat up, looked at both of them and fell back down into the grass! It was comical -she was just too full to move!

We left them alone and drove to the hippo ponds that Gordon and Betsy hadn't seen. We came to the big pond and watched the hippos for a while - probably 20 or so of them - and them Ice drove right through the middle of the pond! The water in the middle was only about 3 feet deep, but it was quite impressive. On the way back to camp we saw a lovely herd of seven giraffe.



Lunch was bobulie, rice, salad and papadums (again!). I asked Paul and Jill some questions about their clientele and other camps. Botswana traffics in luxury safari experiences, rather than the mass tourism of other countries like Kenya. While one could go on some other safaris for $80 a day, it would not be the more personal attention given in the Botswana camps. In addition, the areas suffer from having too many people impacting the environment. Paul and Jill said that when they have new arrivals at the camp, they only know how many people - no other details unless the guests have specified dining or accommodation requirements or have asked questions about the camp. Many of these people come on safari with (poorly) preconceived ideas about being out in the bush, and are often the most difficult, although sometimes they loosen up once they arrive. They also far prefer guests who are louder and more outgoing, since people who are quiet may be that way because they are not having a good time.

I said goodbye to everyone, bought some souvenirs at the gift shop and went to pack. When I was ready to leave I came out to the fire pit and signed the guestbook. Ice was driving us to the airstrip - Brown (another guide) and Helen (dining room waitress) were flying to Maun on my plane as well. We arrived at the strip and Ice went to chase the lechwe off the runway. A couple of minutes later the plane appeared and landed - two middle-aged Australian women were arriving for two days. Geraldine was the pilot again, and I "got" to sit in the co-pilot's seat. A bit unnerving to see the wheel in front of me turning with no one touching it. The flight was a little bumpy, but it was only 25 minutes to Maun. I decided I could never be a pilot because I'm too short to see out the front on the plane. Geraldine said they could always get some booster cushions for me.

At Maun one of the Ker & Downey reps greeted me and got my ticketing arranged and bag checked. I had an hour before the flight to Jo-burg, and talked with another man waiting for the same flight. He lives in the UK, and produces wildlife films in Botswana for National Geographic and others. The planes were getting larger again - a 48-seater turbo-prop. The flight took about two hours, and we landed at sunset in Jo-burg. I checked in with the British Airways desk - they said they would make sure my checked bag made it to Philly. I have to say that the British Airways lounge in Jo-burg was the nicest airline lounge I've ever seen. Light woods, new comfortable chairs and sofas, tables, soothing fountains, a wine bar, snacks, drinks, TV's, showers with fresh fluffy towels. Wow. I took a quick shower and changed out of my shorts into long pants for the flight. I had a couple of hours to wait for the flight and read and relaxed a bit.

The flight was a 747-400, and it was only about half full. I had an aisle seat with an empty middle seat between me and a young woman in the same row. After take-off they served dinner and I watched a movie, "Hillary & Jackie" about Jackie Du Pre, the famous cellist. I took a sleeping pill and slept for about 5 hours.

Tuesday, May 4, 1999 - London and beyond
It was an 11 hour flight to London and we arrived a few minutes early. I had to change terminals to the dreaded Terminal 3. All of the International British Air flights leave from Terminal 4 - except Philadelphia. I found the lounge - luckily they had shower rooms there as well - so I took a nice hot shower and dried my hair with a blower - first time in two weeks! I read until the flight was ready to leave.

We had a 777 again, and left about 20 minutes late. Again, I had a window seat with an empty middle seat, so there was a bit more room. The flight was about 7 hours, and I read, slept and wrote most of the way home. We arrived about 20 minutes early despite our late take-off. I went through immigration and collected my bag and they stopped me at customs - first time in Philly. After looking through my collection of dirty t-shirts, underwear and socks, the customs guy figured there wasn't going to be anything else too exciting to find.

I left customs and Richard was waiting for me! I hadn't had a chance to call him since we left London around 5:00 in the morning and I didn't want to wake him up, so I was surprised that he had taken off from work to come and get me. We drove back to my place and caught up on things - I think he really did miss me. The cat also let me know that my disappearing act was not appreciated. Richard had to go back to the office so he dropped me off at the camera shop so I could leave my thirty rolls of film to be developed. I went home and unpacked and read mail and let the cat sit on me for a couple of hours and then met Richard for dinner at our local Mexican place.

I have to say that this was a wonderful vacation. Everyone was so nice and the accommodations were terrific. If only it didn't take so long to get there and back! The only bad part: apparently one of my cameras (the new one!) started malfunctioning halfway through the trip - it only imprinted the bottom 2/3rd's of each frame! The really bad part is that was the camera I was using with the telephoto lens to get all my nice close up shots of the elephants, lions, giraffes, etc., and it messed up 12 rolls of film! After being depressed for an evening, I looked at all the negatives of the bad film, and figured out that I can salvage a few by enlarging and cropping them. I was very glad I had the other camera and thought to take pictures with both!

I definitely plan to return to Africa again. In between dive trip to the other side of the world, of course! So many places, so little vacation time.... *sigh*