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Where to go on a weekend in South Africa?

Dec 24th, 2009 01:08
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Southern Africa is becoming a new long-weekend destination for the 
British. There's no time difference, the flights are overnight (both 
ways), and you waste no precious daylight hours travelling.
The good news is that the aeroplanes depart around 8pm, so dinner; 
sleeping and breakfast are at the right time in the right order. The 
pleasure in travelling or sleeping overnight on a plane to South 
Africa however is that you wake-up to a different and dramatic 
landscape; fresh air and smiling warm faces and if you are lucky, some 
snarling animals as well. 
BEFORE YOUR GO 
The best way to travel on your weekend is to pack light and travel 
easy. The out-going flight is on Thursday, so carry a bag, small 
enough to smuggle in and out of your office: 
	Hand luggage can include your binoculars, camera and 
travel 
books you'll need on safari
	Arrive at the airport well before time to have a glass 
of 
champagne and some smoked salmon at the Caviar House. 
	Travel in the loose chinos or combat trousers you'll 
wear for 
game drives, plus the baggy cotton or fleece jumper
	Take a pure down baby pillow: it squashes up small, 
you can 
cosy up to it on the plane and it's invaluable in the camps where 
pillows are hard.
JOHANNESBURG - MAUN
Your wake-up call is a few thousand meters above Johannesburg. You 
have the choice to eat on the aircraft or at the airport café that is 
decent and above the excellent book- shop. Buy Sasol's illustrated 
guide to the birds of southern Africa and the Sasol mammal book. This 
is the old Africa hand's library; your guide will be dead impressed.
From Johannesburg, there's a comfortable connection to Maun in 
Botswana. The two hour flight allows another opportunity for a nap or 
a quick introductory lesson from your book. At Botswana, we change 
into another plane for the last hop to adventure. The time to go to 
Botswana is in our summer when the Okavango Delta swells with water 
from Angola. 
OKAVANGO DELTA
There is mystery and romance of the Okavango's waters. Much of the fun 
in viewing wildlife here is by a boat. Some prefer the big boat but 
the sound of silence is so potent that I prefer the traditional 
makoro. As we glide slowly above water, Hippos pop up on each side. We 
paddled to a far island where birds chatter volubly in the reeds. On 
ground, there is a herd of buffalo munching the water meadows and 
there are tracks of lion and elephant.
I spent my afternoon watching a fluffy, magnificent prince among 
raptors � the rarest, Pel�s fishing owl. He stood there contemplating 
us as I looked at him through my binoculars and hurriedly reading 
notes in my bird book. In the sunset, that was one of the most 
spectacular, we could see a lion pride feeding on a zebra.
En route to the tent we met the mamba, rampant, while I was withering 
along behind the camp manager. But when someone freezes in the bush, 
you shut up and freeze. The mamba dropped from its striking position 
and slithered off. I saw the swish of the most scary tail in Africa. 
Quite as bracing as my pre-lunch shower. 
MOREMI WILDLIFE RESERVE
The next day, I flew to Khwai River Lodge in the Moremi Wildlife 
Reserve that has a drier, harsher environment.  Moremi lies in the 
centre of the Okavango Delta. It is undoubtedly one of the world's 
most beautiful wilderness areas. Moremi is a place of lily-covered 
wetlands, grass plains and forests, where even at the busiest time of 
year you're likely to be the only spectators at even the most dramatic 
animal sighting.
The lion were at Khwai. Actually, the whole drama of life and death 
was at Khwai. Wild dogs are back here � a rare treat � and a pack 
drove a baby water buck into the river. The baby made piteous juvenile 
water-buck noises, its mother was frantic, the wild dog hovered at the 
river's edge. And the inevitable happened: the arrow-like ripple in 
the river, the black little eyes (nature's periscopes), the snap, the 
squeal, the    thrashing hooves, the closing of the waters and Mr 
Crocodile had served  himself dinner. 
The next morning, while on a drive with our guide, we breakfasted with 
the lion. We were watching birth of a water buck in the reeds by the 
river�s edge when our guide heard the roar of a lion in the distance. 
Just as lechwe began its precarious journey in the wild, we drove into 
the wilderness.
The pride sat at their table without knife and fork but tidily eating 
their breakfast, a zebra. A few feet away and in our Land Rover, we 
opened our packed sandwiches. The lionesses regarded the vehicles with 
a lack of interest bordering on contempt; were one to get out, 
however, the time span between touching the ground and becoming a 
second course would be minimal. 
CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
Our next flight hop was to Chobe, often described as one of, if not 
the best, wildlife-viewing area in Africa today. Savuti boasts one of 
the highest concentrations of wildlife left on the African continent. 
Animals are present during all seasons, and at certain times of the 
year their numbers can be staggering. Its uniqueness in the abundance 
of wildlife and the true African nature of the region, offers a safari 
experience of a lifetime.
The most remarkable feature of the Chobe National Park is its huge 
concentration of elephants. But it's not just the elephants that make 
this special park worth visiting. It's so wild, a leopard made a kill 
in the Car park just before I. arrived and blood stains from a wild 
dog kill were still visible nearby. 
Savuti Channel, a strange waterway that seems to have a mind of its 
own, bisects the park. The channel was dry for one hundred years, then 
flooded abruptly in the 1950s and remained flooded till the 1980s, 
when shiftings of the subterranean tectonic plates caused it to dry up 
again.
The journey home is a sleepy crash- out, arriving back in good time in 
the morning. Jet lag? Ah, you don�t need to worry about that. There's 
nothing but buzz, excitement and a heightened sense of living; about 
going so far and seeing so much. 
Harish Kohli
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