Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Royal Treatment

Since our rafting and canoing experience we have had the pleasure of Thomas parents' company. They arrived at the beginning of this month in Livingstone. The course of their holiday with us was planned out from the beginning, which meant we had an itinerary with all the activities clearly described with pick-up and drop-off times. We though had kept a little surprise for them in our backhand, which was a trip the Livingstone Island shortly after arriving at the Royal Livingstone Hotel (where we would be staying the first 2 nights).

The Royal Livingstone was a colonial style haven for us in comparison to the Fawlty Towers where we had been staying so far in Livingstone. Not at all to say that the Fawlty Towers were bad. But when your room is situated with a view out over the Zambezi, with Zebras and Giraffes grassing on the lawn in front of you and staff tending to your every need, then it's just something a little more exclusive.

Anyhow, the first day of their holiday with us we took a boat out to the Livingstone Island in the middle of the Victoria Falls (this was only possible due the low water now in the dry season). Practically standing on the edge of the Falls we could look over to the Zimbabwean side as well as look at the waterfall on both our left and right side. After a short tour of the Island we were allowed to go for a swim in a pool 0.5m from where the water drops into the gorge - which we had rafted a few days earlier. After the swim we had high tea on the Island and were then sailed back to the hotel.

The following morning - after having enjoyed the breakfast buffet - we were taken to the airstrip from where we were to go for our helicopter spin over the Victoria Falls. This was very exciting especially because it was the first time for the 4 of us (Christian P. had tried it before). Unfortunately we could not fit in the 'chopper' so we decided to cluster the risks in such a way that if one of the 'birds' fell down then it would take out a large part of the Pedersen family or a big part of the Fløjgaard family. The Pedersen family took off first and Pernille and Christian were left with a very annoying lady. We all approached the situation with a bit of a laugh, and after taking the piss on her (which she didn't find amusing), and giving her - what in football would haven been a completely legal - shoulder push we did let her have the seat in front. During the entire flight we had a lot of fun with her, this combined with the incredible scenery of the waterfall and the flight through the gorge (just meters above the river) made this one of the most memorable experiences so far.

In the afternoon that day we went to the small Mosi-o-tunya National Park to go on an Elephant-back safari. It was very interesting to try this and see the baby elephants interact with the larger ones. Unfortunately we did not see that many animals, but we got to sit on the elephants whilst they were crossing parts of the river. The dot over the "i" was when after the walk we were allowed to feed the elephants and pet the small one.

The following day we were transferred via the Kazungula Ferry to Chobe Game Lodge. This was the first of 3 all-inclusive lodges we visited during this trip. The lodge is located at the Chobe Riverfront inside the Chobe Game Reserve (GR), which is known for its buffalo and elephant sightings. During our visit we had a couple of game-drives and a boat cruise with our guide, Mr. Bean. On the boat we got an excellent view of the elephants drinking in the Chobe river, spraying water on themselves and crossing over to Namibia. The first time you get quite surprised when you see several 'snorkels swimming after each other through the water. On the game drives we saw a leopard leaving its kill, and the carcass immediately being swarmed with vultures (including Lappet-faced Vultures). After our sundowners we were lucky enough to see 4 African wild dogs followed by 4 male lions. On top of those we also saw several antelopes.

From the Chobe Game Lodge we went to Kasane airport from which we flew to Moremi GR and stayed at Camp Okuti. Which at times employed 3 times as many people as were staying. The flight in the small Cessna was quite a rough one and made some of us a bit woozy, but after being met at the small airstrip by James (who would be our future guide) ready with cold towels and drinks this condition improved. At the lodge we were greeted by a committee of all the staff, ready to wish us welcome and carry our bags - on their heads. As with the Chobe Game Lodge we also here had a couple of game drives and a boat trip. Again we were lucky to see 4 Wild dogs with a kill, which was devoured by a Hyena and Jackal afterwards. We were also fortunate enough to see a leopard in a tree and later on a Cheetah with a kill as well. Unfortunate for the Cheetah it was chased away by Vultures. This was only the 5th sighting of cheetah this year in the area. We were also very lucky to spot lion cubs, from the distance though. On the boat ride we had some nice sundowners whilst watching a Marabou stork colony.

The next stop on our journey with the Pedersen family was our last stop as well. The last two nights we spent at the newly established Xudum Game Lodge a bit deeper into the delta. This was supposed to be another step up on the luxury ladder with private pools instead of those common shared pools ;-) Upon arrival the chalets had an incredible location and were huge inside. Unfortunately the showers didn't work too well and the pools they hadn't finished building. But the service was still good, and they certainly did their best to make Thomas' birthday a memorable one - with several verses of "Happy B'day" (in local language) as well as a couple of "Beautiful Thomasy...". Upon request we can deliver this video when we return to DK. Game-wise we saw another cheetah sitting atop of a termite mound and on the second day we also followed a lion, which was doing its best to sneak up on a couple of zebras and and some tsesebes.

On the 8th we all transferred back to Livingstone together. After the 3 of us had picked up our Hilux at the Royal Livingstone, then we met up with Thomas' parents at the airport and said our goodbyes.

Within the coming days then we will start making our way up to Lilongwe to meet Morten, one of Thomas' friends.

Again thanks for all your comments from back home, it is nice to hear from you. Stay tuned.