Burke Family Trip to Namibia

burkes

Itinerarymap

  • 1 night- Windhoek, Namibia
  • 3 nights- Wolwedans Dune Lodge, Namib Rand Reserve, Namibia
  • 3 nights- Kwara Camp- Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • 3 nights- Lebala Camp- Linyanti, Botswana

Reflections from Debra Burke:

As a group we were senior parents, not-far-from- mid-life “kids” and their spouses, and an adult grandchild (seven of us in total). We left different corners of the US to fly up to Wolwedans Dunes Camp in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in Namibia, where we spent three nights; then flew on to two Kwando Safari camps in Botswana (Kwara Camp in the Okavango Delta next to Moremi Game Reserve, and Lebala Camp adjacent to the headwaters of the Linyanti marshes that form the boundary between Botswana and Namibia).We spent three nights in each of the Kwando Safari camps.

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On these family trips, the biggest challenges are never to do with the new surroundings, but with how to enjoy each other?s company when some want to stop and take photographs or just take things in quite slowly; while others have a different (faster) rhythm. One groupfeels rushed, others get frustrated when their natural cadence gets slowed down. Things work best when we go places that allow for each of us to take in all the newness at our own pace. At two of the three safari camps on this trip, there were plenty of guides and vehicles so that we could split up and have the “birder”/photography vehicle and guide; and the faster-cadence rig and guide. At the final camp in Botswana, there weren?t enough guides to allow our group to split up, so the main photographer among us was conscious of not taking too much time for each photograph; and some of the others, worked at being patient when we lingered a little at each sighting of wildlife.

We went from late fall in the US to the southern hemisphere?s late spring. We left snow and cold for heat and dryness (and sometimes strong winds) in Namibia. The wind creates beautiful features on the landscape of the Namibian desert. The orange-red sand dunes are spectacular. Not many mammals were able to blend in with those colors.

We saw Oryx, Steenbok, Springbok, Jackal, Bat-eared Fox, and Ostriches. The water hole at Wolwedons Lodge attracted lots of birds and mammals such as Oryx. The Oryx would come and drink, but they are known for being able to go completely without water. Vegetation-wise, the highlight in Namib Rand Nature Reserve was seeing the Quiver trees.

They?re very unique looking succulents. In the forest of Quiver trees, we stumbled onto a prehistoric looking “moving rock”. It was very much the color of the surrounding rocks, but it was able to leap. We eventually were able to look it up in a book back at the lodge (it was a first sighting for the guide as well) and were pretty sure it was a toad grasshopper. Sunsets in the dunes were incredibly special because of the way the light lit the sand. On the last day at Wolwedons, a photo was taken of all of us in our Global Sojourns underwear; red dune in the background.

Flying to Botswana from Namibia brought us to a great deal more humidity. It was the start of the rainy season and a good time to see more than the usual numbers and variety of birds. The early morning wake-ups at the safari camps (for getting out before the heat) weren?t overly difficult because the birds and other forms of wildlife were sounding off early on. I love hearing all these voices. We taped all the evening frog noises and may somehow insert them into a slideshow. With all the moisture and extra pools of standing water, I kept feeling like we should be aware of lots of mosquitoes, but I never saw a single one. One guide mentioned that there?s an on-the-ground spraying for mosquitoes that takes place something like twice a year. I was guessing that maybe there were just more insect eaters to keep populations down. We saw a huge hatch of termites which I learned need to hatch in such huge numbers in order to survive all their predators – birds, mammals,reptiles.

Everywhere we were in Namibia and Botswana, we saw Ostriches. They?re somehow incredibly amusing when they?re running. In Botswana, we saw huge groups of giraffes, zebras, elephants and Impalla. Wildlife was easy to come across. We were able to watch three cheetahs stalk and kill baby Tsessebes. We missed the final chase because we took an excursion. We returned to where the cheetahs had been eyeing the baby Tsessebes just after they took the tsessebes down. Interestingly, the heavily panting cheetahs, though very hungry, had to wait quite a while till they could begin eating because, after the chase, they were in too much oxygen debt to be able to digest anything.

I assumed that an animal would be dead when any devouring began, but we kept hearing the cries of the Tsessebes when they were first being eaten. This was harsh reality in front of us.

One Botswana guide emphasized how important it was to experience being out with wildlife in addition to reading what scientists write about animal behavior. He felt scientists came to some wrong generalizations by often not actually being with animals in their actual environment. The guides at these safari camps sometimes go for months without seeing their wives and children, only to get a few weeks off. Some came from cities and are themselves incredibly grateful to be in the bush with all its wildlife.

Reflections from Greg Burke

This was our second family vacation to Botswana, and our first time in Namibia. The first stop of our two week adventure was three nights at Wolwedons dune camp in the NamibRand nature reserve. A vast open desert of beautiful red sand dunes and amazing views that go on forever. The setting here is expansive. It was a great place to unwind and get centered after a long two days of air travel and busy airports.

The lodge is set on a ridge top of red dunes overlooking a vast desert valley surrounded by large dry mountains of distance and scale that is hard to grasp. The open tent like rooms built on what looked like teakwood decks were rustic but very comfy each with it?s own bathroom, shower, and solar hot water and lights, and a view to die for. The food served here is first class gourmet four course dinners, breakfast and lunch is simpler but better than anything I?m used to. We didn?t expect to see a lot of wildlife here but was surprised to find an abundance of Oryx, a very large colorful antelope with long straight horns and distinct contrasting markings , able to survive, even thrive in this harsh environment. we also saw zebra, springbok, steenbok, and quite a variety of birds. The only drawback I can think of would be the intermittent wind at this place, but it?s the price of admission if you want sand dunes.

Our time in Botswana was divided between two lodges run by Kwando. The first one, Kwarra camp in the Okavongo delta then onto Lebala camp further north near the Linyante river. Both these places have a similar atmosphere as far as how they are run and set up. Our first trip to Botswana was thru Wilderness safaris and their food was a step up from the Kwando lodges, [also reflected in the price] however I enjoyed my time more at the kwando camps due to a more laid back style and friendly approachable staff that shares the hardy family style meals with the guests. The daily routine is based around the game drives and the best time to see the wildlife, of which there is an amazing variety. You won?t be disappointed. It would be easier to list what we didn?t see. The guides are very knowledgeable about the birds and wildlife and share it enthusiastically. One thing I really appreciated about the guides was their catering to the needs of photographers by always trying to get into the best position with the sun behind us so as not to be shooting into the sun.. Rather than go on an and on, please check out my photos from this very memorable trip.

A big thanks to ?Global Sojourns? for organizing all the details that made it all work so smoothly. I Hope to get back there again someday…

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