Overseas Adventure Travel
Ultimate Africa Tour Review
July 19 through Aug 9, 2022



Due to the length of the review, it is in six parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page. 

Page 1:  Fly to Johannesburg; Karongwe Game Reserve, South Africa; Hwange NP, Zimbabwe
Page 2:  Hwange NP, Zimbabwe; Kafue NP, Zambia
Page 3:  Kafue NP, Zambia; Chobe NP, Botswana
Page 4:  Chobe NP, Botswana; Okavango Delta, Botswana
Page 5: 
Okavango Delta, Botswana; Bwabwata NP, Namibia; Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Page 6:  Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe; Return home



I have always wanted to do an African safari to see the animals in their natural environment as well as experiencing people and culture of this amazing continent.  In 2019, I booked the Ultimate Africa trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (www.oattravel.com) for July 2020.  The summer months are the best time to visit Africa, since it is their winter, which is mild in the day and cool at night.  It is also the dry season, which is very important for game viewing.  OAT is known for their quality tours, and they also allow their guests to experience the culture of the various places they travel to.  They also don’t charge guests who travel alone to have to pay a single supplement.  I have since learned what a great job they do during my Turkey and Machu Picchu/Galapagos tours. 

I was very disappointed when the trip was cancelled due to Covid.  I immediately rebooked the tour for July 2021.  However, it ended up being a good thing, since I met my partner, Cathy, in July 2020.   A few months after we met, she decided that she also wanted to go on the tour.  I was thrilled to have someone to share the adventure with.  It was also cancelled and then rebooked for July 2022.  We were concerned that it would again be cancelled but were relieved when we saw that OAT’s tours to Africa started up again in April 2022.  We still held our breath until we were on the plane heading to Johannesburg.


Day 1 - Fly to Johannesburg

A few weeks before our flight, some friends of ours told us about the Brightline train (www.gobrightline.com)  that travels between West Palm Beach and Miami, with one stop in Fort Lauderdale.  They frequently used it for flights from both of those airports as well as just going to events there and just love it.  I did some research and found that it is fast and inexpensive.  It costs around $22 per person and takes an hour and 12 minutes to get there.  My biggest frustration with international travel is having to drive to and from Miami, not to mention the high cost to park there for a long trip.  Having now experienced taking this wonderful train, I can’t rave about it enough.  I tell everyone about it since I want them to experience it for themselves.  The train travels at around 80 mph most of the way and they have snacks and drinks available.  It is such a relaxing way to travel.

We planned to arrive at the West Palm Beach terminal very early, since we hadn’t been there before.  We upgraded our tickets to premium class, about $20 extra pp, so we could relax in their premium lounge while waiting.  It was really nice with free beer, wine, mixed drinks and snacks.  Premium also provide the same benefits during the trip as well as larger seats.  A great benefit if you arrive early or have a long time to wait for the train after returning from a trip and waiting for the train.


The train itself was very comfortable with reclining seats.  The premium car has two seats on one side and one on the other side of the train.  The standard cars have two seats on both sides since they are a bit narrower.  Both classes have free Wi-Fi and charging stations at the seats.


When the train arrived at the Brightline Miami terminal, there was a free van to take us to our airport terminal.  We were originally supposed to fly to Atlanta and then have a 16-hour direct flight to Johannesburg. OAT booked us on a flight two days early and had to change our flights.  We instead had a 9-hour Air France flight to Paris with a 7-hour layover, then a 10.5-hour flight to Johannesburg.   One of the benefits we have with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card that my friend Jim told me about, was that we had membership in the Priority Pass program that allows entrance into VIP lounges at many airports around the world.  It is an awesome benefit that we enjoyed several times during this trip.  At MIA we were able to use the very nice Turkish Airlines lounge for the wait before our flight.


Day 2 - Arrive in Johannesburg

The flight left just before midnight on a Monday and arrived mid-morning Wednesday.  We fortunately were able to sleep on the flight, so we weren’t totally exhausted.  While in Paris for the 7-hour layover we watched on the airport TVs about the record 103 degree heat they were suffering from.  We were glad the airport had AC.   With the long layover, we used the Air France lounge.  It was a most enjoyable way to spend a long time in an airport.

We then had a 10.5 hour flight to Johannesburg. Since it was also an overnight flight, we slept on on it also.  As we left the Johannesburg baggage claim we found an OAT representative with a sign.  They took our luggage and drove us to our hotel.  OAT had booked us at the Garden Court OR Tambo hotel.  OR Tambo is the airport name, and the hotel is less than a five-minute drive.  The hotel had a very large pool, which would be very popular in the hot summer months.  With it being winter and a relatively cool day, no one was enjoying it.


The room was a good size and quite comfortable. We would only be there one night before heading for our pre-trip extension the next day; but we would also be at the same hotel when we returned from the pre-trip the night before the main tour began.  The only available electric outlets required me to use an M adapter.  I then pluged my European multi-input adapter, which is 220-volt rated into it.  This allows me to have four US plug inputs and three USB ports to use for charging all our electronics.  It is a great device to take on trips.



This is a good time to mention that OAT sends all the guests on this tour an OAT duffel bag with wheels to use for luggage.  The total weight we were allowed was 40 pounds for all luggage, backpacks, etc.  They required this limit and luggage type, since we would be traveling on small planes to get to some of the camps.  We were both surprised that it was adequate for this trip.  It also made it very easy to pack and unpack at each stop.  We only needed basic clothes and nothing for a night on the town.  For those that were continuing to the Cape Town post-trip, they could bring additional luggage to leave in Johannesburg for that part of the trip if they wanted to.

I had originally planned on getting a tour around Johannesburg, but they all started before we would arrive at the hotel.  So, we just hung around the hotel until other people on our pre-tour trip arrived.  We also took a nap so we would be more rested.  It worked out great.  In the afternoon, we went down to Rosie O’Grady bar/restaurant located inside the hotel.  We also watched for the other eight folks that would be on our pre-trip.  They were easy to spot, since they all had the OAT duffel bags.  We had dinner at the hotel restaurant buffet, rather than Rosie O’Grady’s since the food reviews weren’t that great for Rosies’s, although the hamburger we had for lunch wasn’t bad.  However, they were out of several menu items.  The hotel’s dinner buffet was quite good.  We were surprised at how inexpensive food and drinks were in every country we visited in Africa.  Quite a bargain.


Day 3 - Transfer to Karongwe Game Reserve

This was the day that we would be doing the pre-trip Quest for Southern Africa’s Big Five tour.  We would be going to a private game reserve where the likelihood of seeing the Big 5 would be easier.  The big five animial are the lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and cape buffalo.  They are called the big five because they are the main trophy animals that hunters came to Africa to hunt. 

The itinerary in the final document book said that we would meet in the lobby at 10:00 AM to go to the airport.  So, after breakfast, we were just taking our time getting ready when the phone rang just before 8:30 AM.  They asked when we were coming down, since they were leaving for the airport.  Apparently, our driver forgot to tell us that we were supposed to leave at 8:30 AM.  Fortunately, we were mostly packed, so we finished up and raced downstairs.  It wasn’t a good impression for the others we would share the tour with.  We did explain to them that we were early people and why we weren’t there. 

There were only 8 of us on the van to the airport.  We assumed that one couple decide to cancel the trip.  With the airport only 5 minutes from the hotel, we had plenty of time before our 10:30 AM flight.  We were using the Airlink commercial airline that flew Embraer planes that seat 44-50 people.  The plane was quite comfortable for the one-hour flight.  We were shocked when we received a boxed lunch for this short flight.  We landed at the small Hoedspruit airport.

We were finally able to meet our guide for this leg of the trip, Matthew.  As with every one of our guides for this trip, he was a top-notch guy with so much knowledge about the wildlife and trees in the area.  All of the guides were also very helpful friendly and just a pleasure to spend time with. 

After retrieving our luggage, our group got onto a safari vehicle for our one hour fifteen-minute drive to the Karongwe game reserve.  These are open vehicles with structures for seats built onto usually Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles.  We would have them at every camp, but each one was slightly different.  For instance, some had tops to protect from the sun and rain.  Others had better stadium type seating where it was easier to see around the person in front of you.  I must say that I rarely had an issue getting the photos I needed on any of them.  This is a photo of the truck with a different group than ours.

We arrived at Karongwe at around 1:00 PM.  This is a private game reserve that means that it is fenced.  That doesn’t mean that it is easy to find the Big 5, but it is easier than in a large national park that is open, and the animals can roam in and out of it. Karongwe is approximately 23,500 acres or 37 square miles, which means there is still a lot of area for animals to hide.  There are three lodges in this game reserve.  We stayed at the Chisomo Lodge.  It was the largest camp we would stay at with 23 cabins.  It is also the only camp that we had guests that weren’t in our group.  It is a beautiful facility with gorgeous grounds.


As we entered the lodge, we were given a tasty welcome drink.  This would happen at every place we stayed.

The lodge was quite a nice facility.  We were very pleased with it.




There was a nice firepit in the center of a large area next to the lodge.  We would see more of it later.

The manager of the lodge was Reine.  She is such a lovely person with a great friendly personality.  She is also a very hard worker who was constantly busy making life better for all her guests.  All the while smiling and appearing to enjoy what she was doing.  She does like her job, but I am sure it can be quite challenging at times. 

One of the challenges are the baboons that hang around the camp.  She warned us about not leaving food in the room, since the baboons would break into the rooms to get it.  They knew how to open doors, get into refrigerators and just break through the screens to get in the rooms if they wanted to badly enough.  They are a real pest that damages the buildings in many ways.  Reine would go around banging rocks together at times to chase them away.

After hearing Reine’s orientation info, we headed to see our cabins.  Around the pond outside the main lodge were nyala antelopes drinking.  Everyone was snapping away while the nyala didn’t appear to even notice us.  These guys were used to humans, unlike the animals we would see on the game drives.


We also saw monkeys sitting on a roof nearby.

Our cabin was canvas coated but more solid than the tented cabins we would have in most of the parks.  The nice veranda looked out onto a field in the park where we would see wildlife roaming and playing during the day.



The inside was roomy with a mosquito net around the bed.  All of the cabins we stayed at had the nets, but we never needed them, since it was winter and mosquitos weren’t a big issue.  I am sure that in the summer, they are needed.  We loved the elephant towel animals.  Very African!




Since this lodge had electricity in the room, they did have a small heater.  With it getting into the 40’s at night, we hoped it would do a good job.  More importantly, with the room having power, we could charge our electronics.  Most of the lodges only had solar power for charging batteries for lights at night, so this was a luxury.  The cabins also had Wi-Fi access, which we had not expected.  Not fast, but something.

On our way back to the lodge for our first game drive at 3:30 PM, we saw a monkey drinking water from a faucet.  Rather cute.

This is what the game drive vehicles looked like.  This was a different group, but the same type of vehicle.  There are three rows with three seats each in them, along with one seat next to the driver. 

For this camp, there was another seat mounted on the front left bumper for an animal spotter.  With this being a country that drives on the left side of the road, the driver was on the right side.  This allows for spotting from both sides of the vehicle.  I will show a different pic later that shows the seat better.  Our guide, Mathew drove, and our spotter Gabriel sat in the spotter seat. 


Not long after setting off, we saw our first herd of elephants.  Our first member of the Big 5.  They were grazing and didn’t pay any attention to us.  I liked the little guy who was eating while resting.



Since I first booked this trip, I have watched so many safari reviews on YouTube and other written trip reports.  I always wondered why there were so many photos of birds.  I now know why, since I took way too many bird photos.   Some of the birds in Africa are gorgeous, but most are different from what we will ever see at home.  Birds are also the only thing to take pics of when there isn’t a major animal around.  The first bird we saw was a woodland kingfisher.  He didn’t hang around long, so this was the best pic I could get.

I brought a 70-300 telephoto lens on the trip.  Since it is on my Canon 7D Mark II camera with a crop sensor, it is the equivalent of a 480 mm lens.  I was very glad I had the extra reach, but since most of the camps don’t allow the bush vehicles to get off the road, some of the wildlife was far away.  So many of the photos had to be digitally blown up and cropped for this review to show them better.  Hopefully, they are good enough to give you an idea of what we saw in Africa.

The next bird we came across was the yellow hornbill.  This bird is also lovingly referred to as the Flying Banana.  It is pretty easy to understand where that name came from.  The second pic shows the banana color better after it flew to the ground.


Close by was a red hornbill.  No cute name for him.

Continuing on, we came across a group of impala.  We would see more impala on this trip than any other animal.  They run around in a group and are very easy to identify.  There are many different breeds of antelope.  Impala have three stripes on the rear end, which makes them very easy to recognize. 


As common as they were, I couldn’t resist taking photos of their cute faces.  They did like to stare at us making it pretty easy to get the face pics.

Further along, we saw our first giraffes.  We would see many more, but the first one is special.  They are fascinating to watch.  It was being watched by  a wildebeest


It was a Blue Wildebeest.  I expected to see many more of them during the trip, but we didn’t see many; so, I am glad we saw this one early on.


Nearby was a small group of zebra.  We were thrilled to be seeing so many animals on our first game drive.  We had only seen one of the Big 5, but we were having a great time.

We drove around for a while not seeing too many new things or much up close.  It had been about 25 minutes since I had taken a photo and it was getting close to sunset, when we saw a female lion close by. 


Wow!  What a surprise she was.   She modeled for us for a little bit and then hobbled into the woods.  She had hurt one of her paws and was limping.  We were all excited about our sighting and checked off our second of the Big 5.  Matthew told us if we saw one lion, there were more around, so he started driving around to find them.  He drove into the brush looking for them.  After about 15 minutes, we finally saw the same lion.  We then saw some more of the pride close by.

They all walked out onto the road and started walking slowly in front of us.  We then saw why they were on the road, the male lion was up ahead going that way.  The sun had already set, and it was getting dark, so I couldn’t use my telephoto lens at all.  The iphone camera can take photos in very low light, but even the ones I got aren’t that great. 

We followed them for a while, but the male never turned around to show his face.  We were still thrilled to see these big cats.  It had gotten dark on the drive back to the camp.  Gabriel turned on his spotlight and pointed it into the bush to try to find wildlife.  Matthew said that the light shows the reflection of the animal’s eyes that are hidden.  Gabriel would swing the light back and forth on both sides.  We did see some Impala and at one point we stopped, and he pointed at a Civet cat.  There was no way to take photos in the dark; but it was nice to at least get a quick glimpse of this animal.  It had been a great afternoon game drive!

When we got back to the camp tables were set up outside around a fire.  Our dinner was being grilled and the setting was so special.


The food was very good as it was at every camp.  Each camp had a nice mix of protein, vegetables, salads, bread and desserts.  Some foods were the traditional recipes of the area and others were what we would eat at home.  I will say that we enjoyed their various salads the best.  The combinations of delicious ingredients that were so different from what we have had made every days meals interesting and such a pleasure.  Cathy and I both love vegetables; but someone who doesn’t might have a different opinion of the food options.  I certainly didn’t love every item that was served, but thoroughly enjoyed most of them.  No one went hungry on this trip.

At the end of the meal, some of the staff sang a local song for us.  We felt like we were in Africa.  After the dinner entertainment, we went back to our cabin.  Our mosquito netting had been set up around our bed.  Also, in our bed was what was called a bush baby.  This is a hot water bottle with a soft cover to keep the bed warm that is put under the covers.  It was a welcome treat, since we hadn’t been in the room after the game drive, it had cooled down significantly.  I turned on the heater to its highest setting hoping that it would keep the room from getting too cold during the night.  The bed had blankets and a comforter to make sure we kept warm in bed.

We went to bed early after a most exciting and enjoyable day.  We were looking forward to the next day’s adventures.


Day 4 - Karongwe Game Reserve, South Africa

We woke up early.  The room was cold.  The heater hadn’t done much.  To our surprise, the bush baby did stay warm for quite a while and even had some warmth in the morning.  At this camp the morning game drives started just before sunrise at 6:00 AM.  We always set our alarm clock 15 minutes before the wakeup call.  In the bush a wakeup call is someone walking to your cabin and yelling “Wakey Wakey”.  It was easy to hear through the canvas walls.  We quickly dressed to keep warm and then headed to the lodge for coffee and baked goods before our drive.  Breakfast would be after we returned from the drive.

The temperature was in the 50’s when we climbed onto the truck.  On the seats was a blanket and a bush baby to keep us warm for the morning drive.  With us driving around in an open vehicle, it did help a lot to keep us comfortable.  Cathy and I had both purchased lightweight puffer jackets for this trip, since they would keep us warm in the expected temperature range and they would compress nicely for packing.  We had not considered the windchill on our faces and hands, so we had not brought gloves.  A big mistake! 

The sky was cloudy for our sunrise as we began our drive.  The drives start early to see the animals that are active before the heat of the day arrives.  We saw some impalas and kudus, but it was still pretty dark.  We also saw some baboons in the trees, but not real close for good photos. 

The below photo shows where Gabriel was sitting on the front of the truck during the drive looking for wildlife.  Both Gabriel and Matthew would watch for tracks of animals they were looking for.  They would occasionally stop to show us what the tracks looked like.

After over an hour driving around, we saw the back end of a white rhinoceros walking in the bush. 

It became a running comment about seeing the animal butts throughout the trip.  There were even souvenirs in the stores with the Big 5 butts.  We had experienced our first example the previous night when the male lion never turned around to look at us.  We hoped that we would get to see the rhinos face.   Matthew headed into the bush to try to find where the rhino was going.  We lost him but found him about ten minutes later walking down the road.

We really wanted to see his head.  He finally stopped to look for something to eat.  He turned his head, and we got a profile shot. 


In many reserves they cut down the rhino horns to make the rhino less appealing to poachers, who sell horns to middlemen who eventually receive about $30,000 a pound for them.  The largest purchasers are the Chinese who believe it is an aphrodisiac and cure all for some ailments.  It is so sad that these animals are becoming extinct for a horn that is made of the same material as fingernails, keratin.   Trimming your fingernails is a much cheaper way to go if you think keratin is a cure all.

The horn grows back, so they have to trim them about every six months.  I watched a video on the plane on the way to Johannesburg that showed the process used.  It is painless to the rhino, just like cutting our fingernails is, unless they cut too deeply.

The rhino finally turned his head toward us for a moment before lumbering back into the bush.  We were thrilled to check off the third of the Big 5, but really wanted to see more of the rhino.

We continued our drive occasionally seeing various antelope species and birds, but nothing too photo worthy due to distance from us or out in the open.  If you are going to do a trip like this, you should not expect it to be like driving through Lion Country Safari which is in Palm Beach County close to where we live.  There is a lot of luck involved in animal sightings, even with highly trained guides/trackers.  You need to be able to appreciate the amazing environment you are in when not seeing the animals you are looking for.  Matthew would tell us about the vegetation we were seeing as well as other interesting info about the area.  Unfortunately, if you were in the back of the truck, it was difficult to hear him.  Later on, at another camp, we used the whisper devices on a game drive.  This is where you have a device with earbuds that lets you hear the guide’s comments.  I wish we could have used them in all the camps.

After driving for a while, we came upon a solo kudo with a nice set of horns.  Kudus were my favorite antelope species, with their gorgeous, curved horns.  They apparently grow an additional curve every two years.


We continued driving around in our search for the Big 5.  The terrain was quite pretty.  I liked this area where we were able to look down at the slowly disappearing river.  By the end of the winter, they can totally dry out making it difficult for animals to find water.

At around 8:30, the guides spotted a leopard in the thick shrubs.  The below photo shows what we could see after they spotted it.  The leopard is in the middle of the photo, and I had to blow this photo up some to show it.

I don’t know how anyone can spot an animal like this in the wild while moving down a road.  They are so talented.  The leopard quickly disappeared.  We started down the road to try to go where they thought the leopard would come out.  We drove around for ten minutes when we saw the leopard coming down the other side of the low hill.  He was slinking through the underbrush, and we would get occasional views of him.  I was quite lucky to get a full facial shot before he disappeared further into the bush.


We were all so excited about seeing the most difficult of the Big 5 to find.  In one of the parks we went to, they have 1,000 lions and only 70 leopards. This explains why they are hard to find, plus they do slink around on their own and are not as easy to spot as a pride of lions.  It is easier to find them in a private reserve where we know they are there, but they aren’t easy to find anywhere. So, we were thrilled to see one at the beginning of the trip.

Not far away we saw some more giraffes.  This time they were in the sun and much closer to us.  We just loved watching them.  They walk so gracefully.


We drove around some more and about 15 minutes later we spotted some mongoose on a termite mound not that close to us.  They were running around on it and going into holes they dug.


We then returned to camp around 9:20 AM.  This was the only camp that had a ramp that made it easier to get into and out of the trucks.  It was a great benefit, especially for some of the shorter folks on the trip.  Even though Cathy and I are taller, the vehicles still required us to be very careful. 

We were ready for our breakfast.  With the sun up, the temperature was rapidly increasing.  We would only get to a high of 73 that day, which was perfect.  It did get warm though when in the direct sun for a while.  After breakfast, we walked around the grounds.  They had some unusual and beautiful plants all around.

We went back to the cabin and took an hour and half nap.  We woke up refreshed.  We sat on our balcony looking out at the field behind us.  Some impalas were running around the field.  My camera was inside so we just watched them play.  Some ayalas were walking around the cabin next to us.  We were enjoying our cabin’s location along the wilderness.


Before our late lunch, we checked out the swimming pool area.

Our missing couple finally arrived a day late.  They told us how their flight had been cancelled for a rather lame excuse from Newark and they had to stay at the airport until the next day.  We felt so badly that they had missed two game drives, but were glad that they would be along for the rest of the trip.  It’s probably a good place to put photos of all the people who were on the trip with us.  We wouldn’t meet four of them until we got back to Johannesburg for the main trip.

John & Christy                                                               Sharon & Bob

    Kay & Jack                                                             Marianne (Niece) & Ann (Aunt)

Shulamith                                                    Jody       

Karen & Russ

Here is a group photo of the ten of us taken by Matthew before our 3:30 PM game drive.  Gabriel also took some with Matthew in the pic.  We had a really great group of well-traveled people to share the trip with.  Everyone had so much fun, and we laughed so much during the whole trip.  We had lucked out and were so grateful to find these new friends.


 Not long into the drive we came to a group zebras and waterbucks.  The waterbucks have a longer fur than the other antelope species we had seen.  They also have what looks like a target on their rear ends.  Not a desirable marking to have if there are hunters around, but animals can’t be hunted in the reserves.  Most of the countries have laws about hunting for any of the wildlife.


The zebras we saw on the trip were the most predominant in Africa, the plains zebra.  They have a brownish hue to them.  We loved their manes that made them look like they had just come from a barber shop.  I liked the pattern on their faces.


All along the roads we were driving, we kept seeing dug out areas.  We asked Matthew what they were for.  He told us that it helped take water off the roads during rainy season.  Made sense to me.  We were just glad we wouldn’t see them in action.

Along the roads were fever thorn trees.  They had long white thorns.  I was always worried about the truck getting too close to one of them while driving near them.  It was never an issue.

We stopped at an old sycamore tree where Matthew told us about a big wedding they had there.  It was a pretty area.

We drove around for almost 45 minutes seeing an occasional antelope, when we came to a herd of Cape Buffalos.  The final member of the Big 5.  They were across one of the drying up rivers.  Some were taking a drink.  Another truck had beaten us there.  I am assuming that they were the ones that told Matthew the buffalos were there.  When they left, we moved to their better spot.



 After this sighting, we headed back toward the camp.  It was late in the day and getting darker.  We didn’t see much on the drive back but were thrilled that we had seen all the Big 5 so quickly.

We still had another full day at this camp.  We didn’t know then it would be the highlight of the trip.


Day 5 - Karongwe Game Reserve

We woke up to another cold morning.  It was 54 degrees when we boarded the truck for our 6:00 AM drive.  We were greeted with a gorgeous sunrise.  We would see so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets during this trip.  The real thing is so much better than what a camera can capture, but they are still representative of what we saw.

Early in the drive we were driving along a road next to main road that was separated by an electric fence.  Matthew said that the cheetahs like to hang out around there sometimes.  He stopped to look at something.  When we started to move, there was a horrible sound, and we didn’t go anywhere.  He tried several times, but he had a transmission issue.  One member of our group, Jack, who seemed to be knowledgeable on so many things, especially vehicle related, knew exactly what it was by the sound.  His knowledge would be very helpful later on.

With us being stuck next to the highway, Matthew was able to wave down one of the camp employees that was coming to work.  We were very lucky that we broke down where we were and when it happened.  The employee went to the camp and came back with a new safari truck for us.  We didn’t lose more than 15 minutes in the whole process.

We saw an older kudu with some long horns; as well as a Cape Buffalo drinking by himself. 


A half hour later we saw a waterbuck with huge antlers.  I wish he had been closer.

We then drove over to a lake to see hippos.

There were also quite a few crocodiles laying out on the side of the lake.


It was a challenge to try to get photos of a hippo with their mouth wide open.  I would see one open his mouth, but by the time I pulled up my camera, the mouth was shut.  I learned to just have my camera ready to capture the moment.


There was a small island in the middle of the lake that some of the hippos decided to lay out on.  They are large animals. The full-grown females average 2,900 pounds and the males 3,300 pounds.  We saw some that were much bigger than the others.


We stopped at an area where we met a security guard with a rifle.  We were going to take a walk in an area frequented by elephants, so they wanted to have protection with us in case there was any trouble.  Matthew told us about the various trees there and showed us how the elephants rub against the trees to scratch; as well as to knock them down to get to the leaves.  They also dig pits with their tusks to get minerals they need from the ground.

I was also able to get a good closeup of the long thorns on a fever thorn bush.  Ouch!

Before we went back to the camp, we saw a giant kingfisher bird.

After lunch, one of the game reserve employees talked to us about how they protect the park against poachers.  She told us that the programs they have put in place have made a big difference.  They have a security system that alerts them if someone breaks in.  They use drones and dogs to find the poachers and they call the army, if need be, to bring out a helicopter to catch them.  She is armed while on duty and can take of herself very well.  She loves her job and poachers do not want her to find them. 

She had two dogs with her.  One of them was friendlier to humans, so she introduced us to him.  The other stayed in his cage. 

At 3:30 PM, we headed out to our last afternoon game drive at this camp.  It was a beautiful day and 79 degrees.  The scenery was stunning, and we would see lots of animals.  The ground was really dry in areas, making it less desirable for grazing.

We saw another flying banana in a tree. 

We got a fleeting glimpse of a warthog.  We were disappointed we couldn’t see more of him.  We also saw a rhino in the trees; but it wasn’t where I could take a photo of it.

It had been a slow game viewing afternoon and the sun was going down around 5:30 PM.  Matthew got a message, and he was racing to a viewing site.  There were other trucks at the spot when we got there.  Gabriel told us to get out of the truck and follow him.  He said to walk slowly and stay behind him.  We got into a clearing off the road sheltered by trees.  In the middle of the clearing were two cheetahs dining on their recent impala kill.  We couldn’t believe that we were standing fifteen feet away from these two very dangerous animals taking photos of them enjoying their dinner.  What a sight!


The large white object is the impala’s stomach.  They don’t break it open until after they have finished the good stuff.  They don’t want the contents of the stomach all over the tasty parts.

I was taking so many photos of this amazing event, as was everyone else.  One of us started to bend down to get photos from a different angle.  Gabriel told him to stand up, since the cheetahs might think he was wanting to go after their food.  Good to know!  The cheetahs are such beautiful animals and ones that I had so hoped to see.  And to see them like this was incredible.  Their faces were covered in blood from the kill, raising up regularly to make sure no other animal was trying to swoop in and take it from them. 



I liked this photo of the cheetah licking his lips.  He was enjoying his dinner.

Before we left, Matthew had to pose in front of the cheetah's dinner table for us.  This was so special and certainly the highlight of the whole trip.  No one seemed to be disgusted by this viewing because it wasn’t disgusting.  It was experiencing what goes on every day across Africa.  It was real life and survival in this environment.  We certainly were hesitant as we walked closer to these big cats, but they had no interest in us at all.  It was a once in a lifetime experience.

When we got back on the truck, some of the group were looking at their videos they took.  Darn, I couldn’t believe I didn’t take one.  Fortunately, Jack shared his with me.  It really shows what we experienced and you can hear the sound of the cheetahs chewing through the bones.  I’m so glad I have this to remember it by; and to share with the readers of this review.


We stopped for a sundowner at around 6:00 PM.  We did this most evenings when on a game drive.  They would find a safe place for us to get out of the truck.  They would then set up the beer, wine, cold drinks and snacks to watch the sun going down.  It is a treat, especially after what we had just witnessed.   We also had a glorious sundown to watch.


On the way back, we were hearing a clanking noise in the left rear wheel, which was right next to Jack.  He told Matthew we have a problem.  Gabriel came around and discovered that we had a flat tire.  They were going to have to change the tire in the dark.

We gathered for our farewell dinner at 7:00 PM.  As always, the dinner was tasty.  For dessert we had an African specialty that we would end up having at a couple other camps, Malva Pudding.  It is a sweet pudding containing apricot jam and has a spongy caramelized texture.  It is served with a delicious cream sauce.  It was so good. 

After dinner began our packing since we would be traveling back to Johannesburg the next day to begin the main trip.  We still had one more game drive in the morning.


Day 6 - Karongwe Game Reserve & Fly to Johannesburg

After yesterday’s big finale, we assumed that our last game drive would be a slower day.  Once again, we were up early for our 6:00 AM game drive.  We had another beautiful sunrise. 

We drove up to a spot where we saw a hyenna standing above a gulley. Another truck was already there.  I have mixed feelings about hyenas.  They are very sneaky opportunists and a bit ugly.  But I am fascinated by them and was thrilled to finally see one.  They are quite impressive in how they survive by stealing from other kills and join together to get their way.  This guy was all by himself.  We weren’t sure why he was just standing there.   Matthew told us that at the bottom of the gulley was a dead giraffe that probably fell down and died.  Her baby had also died with her.  There wasn’t much left of her, but this hyena was still contemplating what he should do about it.  It gave us all a good opportunity to take pics of him.  When the other truck left, we were able to get closer to him.


Not far away, we saw a herd of elephants.  It seemed like every herd had babies. 


Continuing down the road we saw some more giraffes.  As we were watching them do their thing, two of them began fighting by swinging their necks and striking the opponent.   This seems like it would be painful for both parties.  Matthew said that this could go on for hours.  I did take a short video to show what was going on.  Since I was using my iPhone camera, I couldn’t get as close a shot, but it does show how they fought.



I took some photos of the beautiful mountain range in the distance.  Since we live in flat south Florida, we really appreciate any mountains we see.

Nearby was a herd of female kudus.  They didn’t have horns like their male counterparts, but they were still a treat to see.


After driving around for about a half hour searching for game, we really lucked out.  We saw a leopard walking out of the brush and onto the road.  We couldn’t believe it.  He was just walking along the road looking back at us every so often.  It was a real treat.  We were so thrilled to be able to get some good photos of this reclusive cat.  After about five minutes of walking along the road, he headed back into the bush.  Wow, what a treat for all of us.  It would be the last time we would see a leopard on the trip.  They are so beautiful!  We are so glad we took the pre-trip or we wouldn't have seen all of the Big 5.



As we continued our journey, we were hearing a clanking noise.  It became more frequent.  Jack knew there was something wrong.  He leaned over the side to look at the left rear wheel and saw that it was wobbling.  The bolts holding the new tire were coming loose.  He told Matthew to stop the truck.  We all had to get out of the truck, so that Matthew could jack it up and retighten the wheel.  It is a good thing that Jack knew what was going on or there could have been a big problem with the wheel falling off and tipping the vehicle over.  Thank you, Jack!

After seeing some more crocodiles and impala, we headed back to the camp to get ready to drive to the Hoedspruit airport and fly back to Johannesburg.  We were on the same type of AirLink plane and once again had a small box lunch for our short flight.  I liked this airline.

We stayed at the same Garden Court OR Tambo hotel as we had four days earlier.  We enjoyed being in a hotel with a real heater for the night.  We were also excited to start the main Ultimate Africa tour and meet the other four people that would be joining our group.


Day 7 - Transfer to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

We were supposed to meet in the lobby at 8:00 AM to head to the airport for our flight to the Victoria Falls airport, where we would drive to our lodge in Hwange National Park.  The whole group was waiting in the lobby.  We had previously met two of the new people, Ann and Marianne, the previous night and we were able to meet the other couple that was joining us, Russ and Karen.  We were wondering why we weren’t loading onto the van to go to the airport.  At 8:10AM, the OAT representative finally showed up.  She was the only OAT person I have ever met that wasn’t friendly, plus she was late.  She didn’t tell us much before leading us to the van.  When we got to the airport, she quickly told us to just show the ticketing agent our passports.  She wasn’t a good representative for OAT.

This time we were on a different airline, FastJet.  They used the same type of Embraer plane.  They also provided a box lunch during the flight.  The view out of the plane window was quite nice.

We landed at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe which has a very nice modern airport.  We went through immigration and purchased $45 double entry visas since we would be returning to Zimbabwe at the end of the trip.

We then got to meet our trip experience leader, Vitalis Chipunza or Mr. V.  Boy, did we luck out getting Mr. V.  He was such a great guy and so knowledgeable.  He is the most positive and happy person I have ever met; and that is saying a lot.  He couldn’t do enough to help us.  He also addressed any issue that came up quickly without getting flustered, which helped everyone.  He is a gem. 

Inside the terminal there were some very nice African wildlife statues.


As we left the terminal, we were greeted by a group singing African music.  They were looking for tips.

We boarded the bus for a one-hour drive to the entrance of Hwange National Park.  Hwange is the largest park in Zimbabwe covering 5,600 square miles.  It is a very big park.  Mr. V gave us a recap of the upcoming itinerary for the park we were visiting, with emphasis on the current days schedule.  The OAT final document book had said that we would have a 45-minute drive to our camp.  Mr. V told that it would be a two-hour drive in the open vehicle.  That is a long time on a bumpy, dusty dirt road.  Mr. V told us that the Ultimate Africa itinerary has three circuits which go to different lodges in each park.  It allows OAT to have a new tour start every day if they want, since we would be in each park for three days.  I was not thrilled that it would take a two-hour drive to get to the camp.  But as the positive Mr. V told us, we would be deeper in the park where there would be more wildlife, plus it would give us a chance to see more of the park on the drives.  I have to say he was right, and it probably worked out well for us, since it was our first game drive in Hwange also.

We left the bus and stopped for a restroom break.  They also had a cooler with drinks for us.  I got the local Zambezi Beer.  I love trying any local beer.  It was a good one.  But then again, most are.

We boarded two safari trucks.  These were different from the ones we used in Karongwe.  They had a sun/rain roof on them and no spotter chair in the front. 


We were in the second truck following the first one that had a trailer with all our luggage in it.  This meant that we would be eating their dust at times.  It was a long drive, and we were watching for wildlife.  Our guide/driver for the drive was Patrick.  Since we now had two vehicles, we would have Patrick as our guide for this afternoon drive and the next days drive. 

We would change guides for the rest of the drives.  We also moved forward to the row in front of us for each drive, so that everyone had a chance to experience each row.  It worked our quite well.  The biggest challenge is remembering which vehicle we were in and where we were sitting on the last ride.  But then again, it really didn’t matter, since all the rows had good views of the wildlife.

Not long after we began our drive, we came upon a group of ground hornbills on the road.  There are many varieties of hornbills in Africa.  They aren’t particularly pretty, but it is always special to see wildlife that I have never seen before.


We would see lots of impala feeding in the fields, as well as occasional baboons.  After all, we were in Africa.  Patrick slowed down the truck when he saw the other vehicle ahead of us stopped next to an elephant.  Now that is pretty cool!

The elephant was drinking water out of one of the pools that is supplied with water by a solar-powered pump.  Hwange had many of these ponds around the park.  I’m sure the animals appreciate them.  It is also good for the tourists, since it makes it easier to find wildlife.  We then got our turn to get closer to the elephant. 

Close by was a giraffe drinking water from a different pond.   It is a difficult pose to get into to do such a regular activity.  It is also when they are most exposed for an attack from a predator.

Not far down the road we saw a kudu with a gorgeous set of horns.  He was far away, but I wanted to include his pic in the review.


Close by, we came upon the most popular and frequently photographed bird, the lilac breasted roller.  They are so gorgeous.  We were surprised that this one posed for us for a short time, since they normally would fly off before we got close enough for a good pic.  I had hoped to get a photo of them flying with their beautiful blue wings, but that wasn’t going to happen that day.

About 15 minutes later, we came upon a group of elephants having an afternoon drink.  The sun was going down and it was almost time for our sundowner drinks/snacks.


We headed back toward the camp, but before we could stop for the sundowner, we spotted a couple hyenas snacking on a dead elephant.  It was after 6:00 PM and the sun had gone down, so it was difficult to get good quality shots of them; but it does capture what we saw.  I was also glad that we finally were able to see the side of the hyena, since the first one we saw had never moved where we could see his profile.


As we were watching the hyenas, we were also taking photos of the beautiful sunset.  We would have many more during this amazing trip.

We were very glad when we finally arrived at the Makalolo Plains Camp we would be staying at for three nights.   It had been a very long day.  This was a much more rustic camp than Chisomo.  It was a real tented camp in the wilderness.  There was a charging station on a table where there were several power strips we could use to charge our electronics.  I had brought a G adapter for Zimbabwe to plug my multi-port adapter into.  It came in handy since most people were using the US ports.  Since the camp was run on generators for power, after dinner they were turned off until just before breakfast.  So, we had to plan when to charge everything.  The photos below are from the next day when there was sunlight.


We had a nice dinner and headed to our cabin.  As would be the case in all the camps, we had an escort with a flashlight to take us to our cabin.  Since there were no fences, they didn’t want us to be in any danger.  There was no power in the rooms, other than lighting from the solar power for each cabin that also powered the water heater.  We found that the water was hotter during the day while the heater was being powered.  We decided while moving around the room with lighting that wasn’t that bright, that we should have brought a flashlight as OAT recommended.  I thought that my iPhone flashlight would be adequate; but a bigger one would have been better.

The room was quite comfortable.  Housekeeping would open the screen flaps in the morning for ventilation and shut them at night to keep the warmth in.  I can’t imagine how hot it would get in these cabins in the middle of summer; but it was fine while we were there.  They even had a couple of chairs to sit in.  This was the only camp with two upholstered chairs.




Since the bathroom had to be the same width as the room, it was huge.  A canvas flap could be lowered for some privacy.


This is what the solar power station and water tank looked like for each cabin.

We had our bush babies in the bed and way too many blankets and a comforter.  We ended up taking off all the blankets because they were heavy and not needed with the thick comforter.  Even though the tent got pretty cold, we slept great in the warm bed.  It would be cold when we woke up, but we had gotten used to the routine at the Chisomo camp and it didn’t bother us anymore.



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