What’s happening in the Okavango Delta?

After nearly 30 years of low flows, interspersed with occasional average flows and then the highs of 2008 and 2009, this wetland is receiving a record inflow in 2010 – a hugely important event for the biodiversity of the Okavango and northern Botswana in general.

The flood is an eagerly anticipated annual phenomenon. The level of each year’s flood is primarily dependant on rainfall in the catchment areas in Angola as well as rainfall over the Delta itself and there is a distinct short and long term cycle to the inflows and flooding patterns of the Okavango and associated river systems.

The extent and duration of the previous season’s rainfall and flood also have a major effect on the ensuing season. As 2008 and 2009 were both above average flood years, this has collectively led to this so-called ‘super year’ of 2010. These “wet” cycles usually last 10-15 years, so 2010 is about
three years into the wet cycle, moving out of the dry cycle experienced between 1985 and 2005.
What is truly exciting is that the water levels of 2010 are going to be on a par with those last seen
in the 1970s, primarily due to the following:

• The current high water tables as a result of both 2008 and 2009 inputs from flood and
• Increased inflows from the two feeding Angolan rivers (Cubango and Quito) in 2010 which
have arrived earlier than usual in the Delta.
• Above average rains over the Okavango Delta itself, with intense rainfall events as late as
April (rainfall recorded exceeded 890mm for the season).

This very special occurrence, cyclical in nature, is much needed in maintaining greater biodiversity.  The annual flooding regimes retain the very essence of the Okavango Delta – a veritable Garden of Eden. The effects are fantastic, as large grassland areas and floodplains that have not been inundated for many years and even decades, become flooded, and a continued recharge of groundwater takes place. The Okavango Delta will be gradually inundated with crystal clear, lifegivingwater. Islands will be rejuvenated and distal lakes like Ngami and Mababe will fill. Linked to Mababe and fed from the Linyanti/Kwando system the Savute Channel can be expected to have a major increase in flows, resuscitating the famed Savute Marsh at the terminal end of the channel.

The Selinda Spillway has now also joined up with the Savute Channel for only the 2nd time in 30 years.  Grassy plains can be expected to be flooded by mid 2010, and important changes in vegetation structures and the resultant movement of animal life will occur. All over northern Botswana the effects will be felt, but for Wilderness Safaris concessions, we are working hard at preparing (and
in some cases already prepared) for these changes to this unique wetland.

Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account of Africa – Part 5

Malawi Background: There are 12 million people in the small country; 1/2 million in the capital so there must be a lot of people per square kilometer in the rest of the country.

There are 12 tribes. Chewa is the largest and is in Tanzania and Mozambique as well. It is their language, Chechewa that is the national language but The Queen’s English is taught in school and widely spoken. Others are Yawo, Sena , Lomwe in the Southern and central areas. Northern tribes are Ngonei, Tumvuka, Tonga, Ngonde, Lambiya, and Sukwa. I don’t know what the other 2 are. Some tribes have the wife going to the husband’s home after a dowery to the bride’s parents and the children would stay with the father in case of a divorce. Others have the husband going to live with the wife’s parents and the children would stay with the wife in case of a divorce. There is no dowery. The husband is just for procreation! In Michael’s case, his is a matrilineal tribe, the Lambiya. He is the chief’s oldest son, but his children would NOT inherit the Chiefdom. His sister’s son(s) would. And in times past, he would have had to pay for her kids schooling to be sure they went to the right schools and had the best education while his kids would have been taken care of by an uncle who wouldn’t necessarily do right by them.

Malawi is chiefly an agricultural country with very little industry. For export they grow tobacco and tea. Almost all of those two crops leave the country. The tobacco is cured and sent out in its entirety. It is processed outside the country. Not many of the Malawians smoke; probably cannot afford the cigarettes. Other large agricultural crops are sugar cane and macadamia (Michael says he doesn’t see macadamia nuts in the stores either.) Other industries are sunflower cooking oil, plastics, cement, and tourism, which is growing rapidly. For food the people raise cassava, vegs, sweet potato, bananas, pineapple, mangos and other fruits. Everyone has his own plot of corn and there is lots of clearing of land for this. Even if you live in the city and work there, you will have a plot of land where you grow your own corn; you are considered very, very poor if you have to buy corn. They use it to make flour from which a staple is a type of mashed corn, sort of like our mashed potatoes.

There are 4 good colleges/universities in the country.

Modes of transportation is mainly bicycles and walking. There are bicycle taxis which will take you from the main roads to your village up to 10-15 kilometers for $1.50 to $2. That would be one difficult job!

Most people make $50 to $100 per month. They live hand to mouth. Most houses are mudbrick or fire hardened brick with thatched roofs. A few have windows, most are just about 12×12 and only a door. There is no electricity to most of the villages and water is pumped from the village well. They use wood and charcoal to cook. Probably don’t need fire to keep warm, even in winter.

The country is 85% Christian and 15% Muslim.

Approx. 12% of the country has HIV/Aids, which is pretty good. Some of the African countries are three times that and more.

Education is mandatory for primary 1-8 grades. They have to pass a Standard 8 Exam at the end of 8th to be allowed to go on to Secondary school which they call Secondary 1-4. They must pass an exam after Secondary 2 to go on to Sec. 3. Another after Sec. 3 to go to Sec. 4. After Sec. 4, they have to pass an exam to go to college/university. If they fail, they cannot repeat the class at the same school, unless, of course, it is a private school, which will be happy to relieve you of some more of your money. Therefore, most students, when they don’t pass, drop out of school at that point.

Michael doesn’t own a refrigerator.

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Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account from Africa – Part 2

I was picked up at 5:45 a.m to transfer to the airport for my flight to Malawi where I am staying overnight at Heuglins Guest House. Again I have a suite but not as sumptuous as the House of Waine.   Was met by my guide for the next 9 days, Michael.    I was told Michael is among their best guides but I imagine they tell all the guests that.  I told Michael I wanted to see it ALL – insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, and plants.  I shall put him thru his paces and see!  Have a living room/bedroom, a second bedroom with access to a patio with table and chairs and lounge chair, and bath.  This one has mosquito netting, which I didn’t need to use, but I did.  I love being enveloped in the netting–maybe it has something to do with reminding me of the old colonialism.  

There was a pool and I heard it calling my name.  While I was out by the pool, I saw 3 Redbilled Woodhoopoe hopping around one of the large trees and being very noisy. 

I am the only one here  and dinner was handmade rolls, butternut squash soup which was really divine, sliced pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes, onions, and carrots,  a slice of fried eggplant, and homemade apple sauce.  Dessert was apple crisp.  The chef personally served me.  I asked if I could take him home with me and he said “Yes.” 

I thought of you, Pat H., when I went back to the room–knowing your penchant for lizards!  On the wall was a medium sized gecko and in the bathroom a small one, and an even smaller one peeking out from the bathmat hanging on the tub.  You would have run screaming from the room, no doubt!

I was given a folder this afternoon by Wilderness Safaris with my itinerary while in Malawi made out of — are you ready for this???? — recycled elephant dung!  I have no idea if it smells–will let anyone who wants to, check it out when I get home.  I am sure it doesn’t tho. 

This morning you will be transferred by road (8 hours with picnic lunch and stop for ATM)  to Lujeri Lodge for a two night stay.  This is in the southern part of the country. 

There are lots of flame trees and flamboyant trees (Royal Poinciana or Delonix regia) here which I just love.  GW, would they grow in Rvsd at all?  Remember the novel,  Flame Trees of Thika.  I think of that every time I see the flame trees–don’t know their genus right off hand. 

Early in the drive we passed a mountain called Smiling Mountain.  About 1/3 of the way up the hill is a very large cave.  When you look at the mountain from a distance, it appears to be smiling at you. 

There are shamans in the villages and they advertise with flags, yellow, or blue or red with a cross on the flag.   Michael says few people frequent them anymore, except the believers and those who can’t afford to go to a doctor/hospital. 

Remember my mentioning needing wood; there were many, many markets along the drive and there were lots of bicycles with wood cut in 1 1/2 feet lengths and stacked behind the bicyclist and actually climbing over the head of the cyclist.  They have a rack attached to the bike that carries the wood behind the cyclist and over his head.   Also saw cyclists carrying up to 200 kg (yes kg, not pounds) of potatoes on his bike.  Lots of vegetables, fruits, charcoal, pottery, etc., as well. 

Also saw a car coming from Lake Malawi with about 6 or 8 fish tied to the passenger side mirror on the outside of the car.  I guess he didn’t want to smell up the inside of the car. 

The road parallels the Mozambique border for quite a while.  On the Mozambique side you can still see bombed out buildings which haven’t been replaced, even tho the war ended about 15 years ago.  According to Michael, even tho only a road separates the two countries and the Mozambique villages are very far from any other Moz. cities, they were attacked and Malawian citizens were never harmed.  I mentioned that surely a stray bullet or bomb must have hit Malawi.  He says not.  And when I asked about why the villages were attacked when they were so far from other Mozambique civilization, he replied, “They vote.”    The Mozambique peoples use the Malawi water and goods and trade as if there is no boundary. 

We drove through the Rift Valley for much of the day.  It extends from Lebanon to Mozambique, through Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique–not sure of others. 

Saw 2 pied crows along the way.  Malawi birds don’t seem to like to be on power or telephone lines as I didn’t see one on a line all day.  However, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of the lines. 

The people who don’t want to walk or cycle to the markets sell by the road.  One of the unique items we stopped to look at were bowls of fried termite flies.  They are dark reddish brown and about an inch long.  People fry them with tomatoes and onions.  I made Michael promise not to have those for me during the trip.  I was so grossed out, I forgot to take a photograph.  How often does that happen?!

All day long, after leaving the Heuglin’s House, I saw all of 9 other caucasians and 7 of those were in the former capital, Blantyre. 

There were Eucalyptus trees planted everywhere to be used for firewood since most of the endemic trees were all been cut long ago. 

We were headed to a tea plantation in the south near Melanje.  In the south there are large to immense tea plantations and a few coffee plantations.  The staff are paid monthly and are expected to pluck 40 kg of tea leaves per day–think of it, that is almost 100 lbs!  Granted, the leaves still are dried yet so have water in their leaves when picked, but 100 lbs per day??   The baskets are weighed and if the person picks more than the 40 kgs, they are paid extra for that amount.   There are sirens that go off at 5 a.m. to get the workers up, one at 6 a.m. to have them assemble, and again at 5 p.m. to tell them ‘quitting time.’  I can hear them from the lodge.   Reminds me of the muslim call to prayer by the imams. 

I am in the middle of an immense tea plantation called Lujuri Tea Estate.  I am at a 100+ year old colonial lodge that was used in the past to house guests of the plantation.  It is in a hilly area adjacent to the Mulanje Mountains and just gorgeous.  It has 4 rooms for guests, a huge kitchen, dining area, and living room,  The veranda runs around 3 sides of the house.  The two sides are bout 10-12 feet wide and the front is about 20 feet wide.  The front right hand corner is enclosed with windows which open for breeze but can be closed when it rains.  There are two sofas, 3 chairs, and a cocktail table plus about 8 or 9 metal chairs for people to sit in when wet from the pool in that area.  Very comfortable.  The rooms have 20 ft. high ceilings with imprinted tin ceilings.  There is a large, lovely garden on all 4 sides of the Lodge.  Rooms are quite large, but the size is going down as I go from lodge to lodge.  There is no internet and the lodge is in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it but tea.  It would be an ideal place to get away and write the great novel that is bursting to get out.  There is a pool on my side of the house and I headed for that quite quickly as it is really hot and humid here.  The rooms only have a fan.  Joan, I thought of you last night.  When I went to bed, my alarm clock said 87.7 degrees.  The fan ran all night and when I got up, it was 86 degrees.   Only night in years I have slept without a sheet or blanket.  The windows have to be closed to keep out mosquitoes and other insects which would be attracted to the lights.  Tonight I will open the windows after I turn out the lights to see if that helps.  

And, again, I am the only guest here!  There is a chef and an assistant chef/house cleaner.  We arrived about 3:45 p.m. and after the dip in the pool I was on the veranda looking at the view of tea plantation and mountains.  About 5 p.m. the asst. chef came and asked if I wanted to have tea.  I thought it would be a travesty to ask for iced tea since I knew that was not what he was offering.  I quickly said “yes, please.”  In a few minutes  I had a tray with a tea pot and cozy, milk, sugar, tea strainer, cup, and spoons.  There was also a thermos of hot water with tea bags if I preferred.  They are VERY proud of their tea here.  I had the teapot tea since tea bags just didn’t fit in with my vision of ‘tea on the terrace.’  It was a bit bitter for me but I drank 2 large cups anyway and watched the sun begin to dip behind the mountains and watch the greens of the area fade to grey.  (Doesn’t that sound a bit Moody Blues-ish??) 

Michael has had malaria 8-9 times; the chef has had it less than 10, and the asst. chef has had more than 10 times. 

Michael was amazed at my Kindle which I was reading before dinner, as was Naftali in Nairobi. 

Dinner was at 7:30, a most civilized hour and was on the veranda where it was cooler.  Had Lake Malawi fish fried just perfectly, roasted potatoes that were crisp on the outside and perfect on the inside, carrots, green beans and zuchini,  a slice of fried eggplant, and a salad of very small chunks of cucumber and tomatoes.  Yes, I ate the salad and so far no problems. 

Jan. 6th.  Birds began their songs about 4:35, just before sunrise.  Got up about 6 and opened the windows and turned the fan up really high to get the heat out before it turns really hot.  It is misty this morning but doesn’t obscure the mtns, hills, and tea. 

After shower, took computer out on the veranda to write the background and yesterday’s info.    Breakfast will be in a few minutes at 8 a.m. on the veranda.  I could really get used to this, I think.  But probably would be bored after a week.

Seductive Sussi & Chuma at Victoria Falls

Sussi  & Chuma is a luxury lodge located on a river bend on the great Zambezi River just 12 kilometres from Victoria Falls. The lodge is named after David Livingstone’s two faithful companions who returned his body to England following his death in Zambia. The property includes the main lodge which has twelve tree houses, interlinked by raised wooden walkways, and two private houses which may be booked exclusively for small groups or families.

Each of the luxury air-conditioned tree houses are raised off the ground up to the ebony trees’ canopy level with spectacular views across the Zambezi River and provide comfortable accommodation with en-suite shower, bath and private viewing deck.

The main area of the lodge has a bar, lounge and large deck where guests can enjoy open-air dining and there is also a refreshing swimming pool and spa offering a relaxing range of treatments and massages.

The lodge provides a variety of activities which include: game drives in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park where you might see elephant, buffalo, giraffe and zebra; guided tours of Victoria Falls; cultural visits to the local Simonga Village and romantic sunset cruises on the river.

Malaria-free family safari

Riverdene Lodge is a high quality safari property located in South Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve. This particular reserve is a huge conservation and responsible tourism success story and has wona colelction of  international awards. Shamwari is a Big Five reserve with elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard all present as well as cheetah, hippo, giraffe and smaller plains game.

Riverdene Lodge is a colonial styled property with just nine inter-leading rooms making this the perfect destination for a family safari. All of the air-conditioned rooms have full en-suite bathroom, televisions and private  balcony looking out over the savannah.

There are two comfortable lounges and a rim flow swimming pool where guests can relax and enjoy the scenery in between game viewing activities. Meals are taken either in the indoor dining room or on the thatched deck which overlooks the Bushmans River.

Game viewing is excellent all year round and drives on the reserve in 4×4 vehicles bring you close to the incredible diversity of wildlife under the skilful guidance of your ranger. Game walks are also included and the Born Free Foundation Centre is a must, where guests can learn about the rescued big cats and visit the animal sanctuary.

Take the family to South Africa for a safari.

For the ultimate adventure take the kids to Africa for a family safari holiday that will inspire and encourage inquisitive minds, entertain even the most hyper of children, and put a smile on the face of all of the family as there is something for everyone.

South Africa for a family safari is the perfect choice of destination. Ignore the quick intake of breath when telling friends and family that you and your troop are heading off on safari, as no matter what their age Africa has a destination suitable for all. South Africa is especially suitable for families as it has everything from wildlife sanctuaries to game parks, vast caverns along the coast flanking sandy beaches and of course it is mostly a malaria free zone.

Boredom is simply not an option in South Africa. If you start out in Cape Town there are simply too many things to do. Whether you opt for a visit to the penguin colonies in the morning followed by lunch at a fabulous beachside restaurant and then a trip up Table mountain before dinner, there are still wildlife sanctuaries, museums, aquariums, local markets and boat trips all vying for your attention the next day.

The Blue Train out of Cape Town

The Blue Train’s maiden trip was in 1946 and it soon became known as being the epitome of luxury rail travel. The Blue Train is comparable to some of the world’s finest five star hotels as it offers luxurious accommodation with private en-suite bathroom facilities with views from the window that are second to none and everchanging.   

Perhaps the ultimate touch of luxury is the unintrusive personal butler service in addition to that the Blue Train also prides itself on the fine cuisine on board and a broad selection of South African wines. As the train chugs through some of South Africa’s most spectacular scenery you could be forgiven for forgetting that you are on board a train. This yesteryear engineering has had a touch of refining by way of a sophisticated suspension system to ensure a smooth trip and additional safety. The Blue Train mainly runs between Glorious Cape Town and Pretoria in both directions, with also the occasional alternative routes of Durban, Pilanesberg and Kruger etc.

A spectacular and affordable 10-night South African safari…

Experience the best of South Africa’s bush and seashore on this amazing 10-night/11-day itinerary – from the remote and scenic northern region of the Kruger National Park at Pafuri Camp (a baobab dotted landscape with spectacular wildlife and cultural sites seen on game drives and walks) to the endless white beaches of iSimangaliso Wetland Park at Rocktail Beach Camp (South Africa’s best beach experience with quiet sandy beaches, prolific marine life, diving, snorkelling and community visits) – with a night spent in the bustling cityscapes of Johannesburg in between.

Scheduled departure every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Monday departures:

  • 4 nights Pafuri Camp
  • 1 night TIntswalo at Waterfall or The Grace in Rosebank
  • 5 nights Rocktail Beach Camp


Wednesday & Friday departures:

  • 5 nights Pafuri Camp
  • 1 night Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace in Rosebank
  • 4 nights Rocktail Beach Camp


The price of the featured itinerary is from £1,820 per person sharing. Opulent Africa standard booking terms and conditions apply. Accommodation subject to availability at time of booking.

Monday departures

Day 1

Road transfer from OR Tambo International Airport to Lanseria Airport. Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Lanseria Airport to Pafuri Camp.

Accommodation: 4 x nights @ Pafuri Camp (FB).

Days 2 – 4

Daily scheduled activities at Pafuri Camp (FB).

Day 5

Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Pafuri Camp to Lanseria Airport. Road transfer to either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank. Accommodation: 1 x night @ either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in

Rosebank (BB).

Day 6

Road transfer from either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank to OR Tambo International Airport.

Road transfer from Richard’s Bay Airport to Rocktail Beach Camp. Accommodation: 5 x nights @ Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Days 7 -10

Daily scheduled activities at Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Day 11

Depart Rocktail Beach Camp under your own arrangements.

Wednesday & Friday departures:

Day 1

Road transfer from OR Tambo International Airport to Lanseria Airport. Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Lanseria Airport to Pafuri Camp.

Accommodation: 5 x nights @ Pafuri Camp (FB).

Days 2 – 5

Daily scheduled activities at Pafuri Camp (FB).

Day 6

Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Pafuri Camp to Lanseria Airport. Road transfer to either Tintswalo at Waterfall OR The Grace Hotel in

Rosebank. Accommodation: 1 x night @ either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank (BB).

Day 7

Road transfer from either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank to OR Tambo International Airport.

Road transfer from Richards Bay Airport to Rocktail Beach Camp. Accommodation: 4 x nights @ Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Days 8 -10

Daily scheduled activities at Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Day 11

Depart Rocktail Beach Camp under your own arrangements.

General Inclusions:

• Road transfer from OR Tambo International Airport to Lanseria Airport.

• Return scheduled light aircraft transfer: Lanseria Airport – Pafuri Camp – Lanseria Airport.

• All accommodation on a shared basis.

• All meals at Pafuri Camp, Breakfast at Tintswalo at Waterfall OR at The Grace in Rosebank; Dinner & Breakfast at Rocktail Beach Camp.

• Scheduled twice daily lodge activities at Pafuri Camp as well as Rocktail Beach Camp.

• Road transfers from Lanseria to Tintswalo at Waterfall OR The Grace in Rosebank.

• Road transfers from Tintswalo at Waterfall OR The Grace in Rosebank to OR Tambo International Airport.

• Road transfer from Richard’s Bay Airport to Rocktail Beach Camp (one way).

• Relevant park fees.

• Accommodation taxes, the applicable Tourism Levies and all relevant Value Added Tax (VAT).

General Exclusions:

• Any other meals not specified.

• All drinks, laundry and porterage.

• Any tours/excursions which are not standard daily lodge activities.

• Scheduled flights, airport taxes and related tickets between Johannesburg – Richards Bay – Johannesburg.

• Onward road or air transfer from Rocktail Beach Camp.

• Cancellation, baggage and medical insurance.

• Staff gratuities.

• Any new Government taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control.

• Visa fees where relevant.

• Any items of personal nature.

• Luggage is restricted to 20 kg per person (maximum in a soft bag/s including camera equipment and hand

luggage). If these limits above are exceeded, the excess luggage can be held (or forwarded to the point of exit) for your flight out at the end of the safari. Kindly note that the additional cost incurred will be for your account.

The Canvas Clan

Maggie and George McCleevey have just got back from a walking safari in the South Luangwa National Park.  They had a fabulous time and as George so succinctly put it the holiday ‘stretched his legs’.  After retiring the couple decided to throw their cares to the wind pack their holdalls and set off in search of adventure and the African gentle breeze to blow away years of hard work in Dumfries.  Looking ten years younger they returned and told us with childlike excitement on their tongues about what a fantastic time they had.

“The best thing about sleeping in a canvas tent was the noise at night, the snufflings nearby and twigs breaking under hoof to punctuate the night air.  On a couple of evenings we even heard lion calls before we eventually fell to sleep in the early hours before being awoken the next morning by a troup of monkeys helping themselves to the muffins and coffee kindly let outside our tent.   

When we left camp the first morning on foot we both felt that sense of ‘excitement and vunerability’ that you mentioned and we relish the memories of our first encounter that day that was a pride of lion snoozing in the shade their bellies clearly full after a large lunch that we later found being picked over by vultures.   The trip was invigorating yet comfortable and we have so many photos that will look fabulous in our studio.”

Maggie and George