Kalahari Magic, October 2010

Howzit?   This next travelogue finds me in Botswana where I’ve spent the last few days in the Kalahari region. This is classic grassland savannah, punctuated in parts by vast glittering salt pans with groves of silvery-grey desert palms and giant, ancient baobab trees that served as meeting and communication posts for some of the early explorers, including Livingstone.   I’m quite sure I’ve had it easier than Livingstone though luxuriating in a tented camp with a bottomless gin and tonic to accompany every fiery sunset!

I’ve had a magical few days -starting with quad biking over the salt pans to arrive at an open air 3 course dinner served under the stars. The next surprise came when the staff informed me that I wouldn’t be returning to camp and I was led to a 4 poster bed that had been erected for me in the middle of the vast, empty salt pan.  I opened my eyes several times during the night to follow the course of Orion’s belt across the Kalahari sky and woke in the morning  to a molten sunrise which climbed steadily over the horizon from between my feet.

I’ll skip over the wildlife sightings we made which on this trip included the brown hyena and the aardwolf (also known as the werewolf!) and lying awake at night in the camp listening to the roar of the lions at hunt.  The highlight of the Kalahari for me has been the hours that I spent with a couple of habituated meerkat colonies. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these delightful social creatures, they are similar to a mongoose in looks and at best a foot long.  Their most endearing feature is being able to stand on tippy toes to survey the plains for possible predators. While the troop is foraging, one meerkat is always on duty as the sentinel, usually finding the highest ground to adopt his tippy toe pose.   Not at all perturbed by my presence I was able to sit amidst them while they scratched around in the dirt for tasty treats.  The sentinel seized the opportunity and before long I had a meerkat perched on my head scanning the horizon. He was there for a good half hour and we settled into the mutual advantage. Suddenly from somewhere above my eyebrows came a panicked bark and meerkats dove for cover in burrows and bolt holes.  I looked up and felt their fear as the outstretched talons of a huge eagle swooped down towards me and I felt sure I was going to be plucked clean off the Kalahari plains!

From the land of the meerkats and San bushmen  now to Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta.  I have another safari trip in my sights  and will plan to write again  after my travels in the wetlands of Botswana.

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