PART 2: ROAD TRIP FROM SOUTH AFRICA TO MALAWI – JUNE TO JULY 2014: ZAMBIA

At last we reached Chirundu Border post into Zambia from Zimbabwe.  BUT…for a goodbye present from the Zimbabwean Border officials, yet another bribe.  Apparently we did not have Interpol clearance for our vehicle.  Yet, they allowed us into the country, without advising us we needed Interpol.  So another 50 USD into the corrupt officials pockets of Zimbabwe,  Without shame…and inside the immigration locale we were told they want 100 USD bribe.  And calling it a bribe. At least we managed to only pay 50 USD. By now the German was spitting mad and all we could do was pay the stupid bribe. We could not get quick enough over to the Zambian side. 

Crossing the bridge over the Zambezi River into Chirundu, you realise the reason why the Zambezi River is called “The Mighty Zambezi”, as it is maginificently Mighty.  Once we crossed this bridge, I felt a sense of calm.  If the reason was a feeling of the familiar, or the after effects of the huge disappointment of our few days in Zimbabwe, I cannot say.  All I know, we were calm and relaxed as soon as we crossed.

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After a quick stop in the village at Chirundu to buy a few supplies from the local market, which I enjoy tremendously, we turned towards the Chiawa Road on our way to our destination Kiambi.  To get to Kiambi, we once again had to cross the Zambezi.  This time on the local pontoon.  Ironically we were some of the last people to cross with the pontoon. As not only was the bridge nearly complete, but the pontoon was sunk by an uneven load with a heavy transport vehicle a few days after we crossed.  But I am glad we got the opportunity to do it the “local way”, as it has been done for many many years.

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After a few kilometres we were at Kiambi.  An oasis after a long dusty day.  Kiambi is set on the banks of the Zambezi with a view over to the Zimbabwean side, leading into Mana Pools.  Lovely cool green grass and trees. Kiambi consists of chalets, as well as tented accommodation and camping.  We decided we would do a bit of luxury and camping on this trip and Kiambi was one of our camping venues.  Of course, as we know the German, things get done just slightly differently and he has “modified” our vehicle at the back with a bed and pull out “kitchen area”.  So we had a kind of mobile home.  Lucky for us we had the camp site for ourselves and we had the best spot.  The ablutions were very clean and always had hot water fed by a donkey. What is nice at this camp site, is that there is a lovely bar with deck, which caters for the campers, specially when the camp is full.  Although we did not need it at this time. And as we were the only campers, we were invited to use the main eating area and bar. 

So in true blood South African style, we had a fire going before you could say “bob is your uncle” .  Now, if there is anyone in this world who wants to tell me that to sit on the banks of the Zambezi, with a glass of wine with your loved ones or friends, with the sun setting, elephants drinking and foraging in full view, Fish Eagles calling as only an African Fish Eagle can AND you hear lions calling and roaring at a close distance, is not special…or boring…I will eat one of my hats.

And now I am at my beloved Mighty Zambezi River and I am at peace….. (to be continued)

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My favourite foods on my roadtrip to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi – July 2014

As a matter of principle and for the reason that I love food, I try and experience local foods whenever on holiday.  Regardless of the German’s dislike of the “stranger” foods and of course he wont touch it.

On our recent road trip from South Africa, through Zimbabwe, Zambia and onto Malawi, I tried to taste some local foods. As we also live in Africa, food are not much different and very similar to other African destinations. The following were my favourite foods. 

  • Spinach served at a truck stop in Bube Village, Zimbabwe
  • The best drinking yoghurt in Chirindu, Zambia, made by  zambeef
  • Along the road towards Senga Bay, Malawi, little fried potatoes which gets made  next to the road by the local villagers and served with salt and some sort of hot chilli.
  • Dried little fish at Salima in Malawi, with a little salt
  • Catfish fillet with a papaya salad at Cool Runnings in Senga Bay
  • Zitumbuwa – Fried banana fritters
  • Beef fillet with a spicey peanut sauce at Mumbo Island

I of course wanted to try the dried mice served on a kebab stick which they sell next to the road in Malawi, but the German would not let me. I might have only tasted a little toe.

zitumbuwa  spinachmouse kebab cat fish cool runnings fried potatoesbeef fillet with peanut sauce zambeef yoghurtdried fish

ROAD TRIP FROM SOUTH AFRICA TO MALAWI – JUNE TO JULY 2014

Our long awaited and very carefully planned road trip from Thabazimbi RSA through to Malawi and back down to Hwange, Zimbabwe was here.
The German (other half) has packed everything very meticioulasly, (like only a German can), and away we go, early on Saturday, the 28th , making a pit stop at Lephalale for breakfast and then off the Alldays and then Musina to reach the border post of Beitbridge between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Well, and this is where the fun started. The border post was absolutely chaotic and being the main border post between the 2 countries, with millions of Zimbabweans working in South Africa, due to the economic and political problems in Zimbabwe, it is a nightmare. Thousands of mostly Zimbabweans waiting, with us maybe number 4001. Within a blink of an eye, 4 African gentlemen were upon us, with friendly smiles and “sir, let us help you to pass quicker. A very small fee”. I am not going to elaborate, as we did pay a bribe, but in the end it was a huge amount and after 40 minutes on the South African side and over to the Zimbabwean side, which took another 2 hours, with these gentlemen, who I know started to call ‘Tsotsies”> (slang for thieves and scammers), trying to extract more and more money from us, until I told them in no uncertain language (and not very ladylike), to take a flaming hike. And with no hassles after that, besides the German now in a mighty bad mood, we crossed border into Zimbabwe.

Time to leave
It was now getting dusk, so we decided to stay at the nearest lodge/motel/hotel or anywhere we could find. About 80km from the border we found Bubi and the Bubi Village Motel, which is basically a truck stop and after $60 dollars passed hands, we had a room, with a bath and lots of hot water. Although it is a truck stop, it was very clean and we manage to have a plain but very eatable supper of Beef Stew and Sadza (local name for porridge and which we call pap in South Africa). The road from Beitbridge to Bubi is covered with burnt out truck, busses and motor vehicles and it is not advisable to travel at night on this road further than Bubi.

Runde River

We left the following morning early to reach Masvingo to visit the Ancient City (Zimbabwean Ruins). At $15 per person, it is not really cheap for us South Africans, however, it is really worth the effort as it is very interesting and if you are interested in history , it is a must see. As it was obviously to the whole Zimbabwean nation by now, myself and the German had ‘show us the money”, written on our foreheads and we picked up a guide, or he rather picked us up on top of Hilltop , the enclosure for the King , appointed himself as our guide, with this limp and walking stick and off we went after him. By choice or no choice, we were stuck with him. As by now I was fed up with forever just having to give hand outs, I refuse to pay more than what we would have paid for a registered guide at the reception office. In hindsight, we were happy he latched onto us, as at least we now understood more of the ruins. We visited the Main Enclosure as well and this is where the King’s wives as well as all the other females lived. Only his sister was allowed to live in his enclosure. It is a beautiful ruin, no less beautiful than any other ruins which one might find anywhere else in Europe. As a person who loves history more than modern day life, I loved visiting the Ancient City. And poignantly when we were in the Main Enclosure, we could hear the faint sounds of drums, like it was resonant in the stones in the walls of the City. And I would not be surprised if it could be. However on this occasion, it was merely a nearby village where they had a ceremony and were using their traditional drums.

Ancient City

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ancient city

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ancient city
We decided to make a quick detour and visit Lake Kyle and the little chapel at the dam wall with a very sad history.
A girl and her parents visited the chapel on the road to Mutare, which the Italian Prisoners of War built. It is quite beautiful and the girl,fell in love with this chapel. She begged her father to build her a small chapel exactly like the chapel the Italians build for her wedding day. Stone by stone and little coloured window panes, the little chapel at the dam wall took shape with seating for 12 people, in anticipation of the daughter’s wedding. Sadly she never lived to get married in her little chapel, build with so much love by her father, as in 1970, she died in a car accident. Her parents were heartbroken. But the little chapel has seen many young couples married there since, as her father left it open, so other could have the joy of the little chapel.
little chapel
We left Masvingo to travel through to Harare in order to make up some lost time, spent at the by now hated Beitbridge. As the German did not want to stay in Harare, we travelled on to Chinhoy looking for accommodation close by as I wanted to see the Chinhoy caves. The Chinhoyi caves were discovered in 1887 by famous European hunter, Frederick Selous. Before that, it was thought that the caves were used by outlaw Nyamakwere who threw his victims’ bodies into the ‘Silent Pool’. He was eventually killed by Chief Chinhoyi, who lent his name to the nearby town.

Chinhoyi Caves
Chinhoyi Caves

Chinhoy is a bustling African town and we stayed at the Chinhoy Motel at the caves. Expensive for South Africans with African amenities. One can see the way it used to be in its hay day and one can imagine people around the pool and bar and wide stoep. But now, the rooms are all rundown with nothing changed since perhaps the 70’s. And what a disappointment that we could not see the caves, as one: they don’t accept ZAR and two: no electricity and the generator not working, so one could not go down the caves.

By now, I was slightly peed off with Zimbabwe, as not only were we ripped off financially wherever they could with inflated exchange rates, but all of a sudden, I was now also informed that our ZAR currency, which by the way is their official currency together with the US Dollar, is not accepted as the government said our rand is to low against the US Dollar for their liking. The CHEEK! Although most of the Zimbabweans are friendly, the feeling I have of Zimbabwe is of a country which is in a time bubble, stuck in the 1970’s.
We left Zimbabwe, to travel on to Zambia, not with a feeling of “yes! We would love to visit again”. But rather a sense of sadness, that a country can deteriorate like that under a Government who is only there to look out for their own pocket, leaving the rest of its people and land to rot.
Another forgotten place

MY 10 TIPS FOR ROAD TRAVEL IN AFRICA

We recently did a road trip through Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi and travelled 5661km. So in lieu of that I leave my few tips for those interested in doing a self drive through these countries.

  1. At all cost try and avoid Beitbridge Border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe.  Not only is it extremely busy, but you will most probably be “scammed”.  As soon as you stop, the “runners” are on you to assist and they will scam you out of huge amounts, under the pretext of “helping you”.  In fact, avoid all “runners” at any border post.
  2. Upon leaving South Africa, ensure you have your Interpol Clearance for your vehicle, obtainable at the SAPS.  It is worth it to spend a few hours in getting it, as you will be spared another bribe to pass the border out of Zimbabwe towards Zambia and further.
  3. Make sure you have US dollars when you travel through Zimbabwe, as they not only inflate the exchange to any amount they want, but at most places they now refuse the ZAR, even though it is their official currency.
  4. When changing money at any of the borders with the “black market” guys, make sure you keep track of your money and do your own calculations, as well as only deal with one person.  Most of the time, you will get a good rate, but they tend to flock around you and in the end you are bound to lose some money.
  5. Keep your vehicle papers together, as it quite confusing at the border posts, as they tend to send you from pillar to post and it can become quite stressful.
  6. Make sure you have all the correct markings and equipment on your vehicles, i.e reflective strips, triangles, fire extinguishers etc, as you are bound to be stopped and asked.  Specifically in Zimbabwe, as they are always ready to fine.
  7. Carry your drivers licence with you at all times, as there are numerous Police Checks on the road. 
  8. Keep to the speed limit, specially close to the villages and through the villages.
  9. Be careful of the bicycles in Zambia and Malawi.  Hundreds of them and should you bump anyone on them, you will be in for huge amounts of money, as well as a big fine and possible lock up until everything has been sorted out to their satisfaction.
  10. Make sure you put fuel in where you can, as lots of filling stations are sometimes without fuel.

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STEVENSFORD GAME RESERVE – TULI BLOCK BOTSWANA

STEVENSFORD GAME RESERVE

 

Long weekend and we are on our way to the Tuli Block in Botswana. A trip which should have taken us two and a half hours, nearly took 9 hours, with 6 hours out of that battling to get through the Groblersbridge Border post. Both sides.  Due to the heavy flooding the area has had, all the border posts on the Limpopo were closed and some in fact are still closed and with our luck, the Groblersbridge only opened 3 days before.  Hence, heavy traffic trying to get through with staff on both sides caught unprepared.  However, I will not complain too much about the standing in the sun and the frustration, as I met some nice people in the que and we had many laughs, as each one had a story or stories to tell…and what the hell..we are in Africa.  If we cannot get appreciate ‘African time”, we do not belong here.

At last, we were through and another 45 minutes and we were at Stevensford Game Reserve. Stevensford is about 500km from Johannesburg (and for us from our home around 225km) in the Tuli Block and is a 4500 hectares of unspoilt bush and 3km of Limpopo River. The cottages is set in camp away from the river and in the bush and for the more adventurous, a few camping spots on the banks of the river, with basic ablutions etc.  The cottages are all equipped with their own little kitchen with everything you need, a little boma with braai (barbeque) and small fire pit. The bedrooms and nice, cool and beautifully clean with fresh crisp white sheets .   The chalets get serviced daily and staff lit your fire each night.  All you do is cook your food and relax.

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When we got there, the farm manager told us there was a leopard kill not even 200m from our chalet. Unfortunately, someone or something must have scared it off and the carcass was left.  Other half went to place his night camera, in case something came back to eat or scavenge.  Alas, when we checked the following morning, nothing even touched the carcass and by then the maggots were already busy with their job in cleaning up the carcass.

After checking the carcass we took a leisurely walk along the Limpopo river bank. Tons of birds and this is a twitchers’ paradise.  It is wonderfully quiet and cool under these huge massive trees and you get a sense of peace, which was very welcoming after the hub of city life.

 

We decided to go for a morning ride at the top farm and you basically cross the ‘main’ road to the other side and enter via a gate. We were the only people there and it was just great.  We had great sightings of Giraffe and also some Eland.  And of course some of the usual buck as well as Zebra.  Unfortunately there is no Elephant in this part of the Tuli , which was a disappointment, but I understand that there is quite a lot of  agriculture in this part of the Tuli there is a fence dividing this part of the Tuli from the rest.

However, this is a place of natural beauty. The ocra red of the Kalahari soil is breathtakingly against the white of the Sheppard tree’s bark, and the bright blue sky with the green of the bush.  And here you will have great opportunities for photography when the light is just right in the late afternoon.   It is stunningly beautiful.

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For the next 3 days this little heaven was our home and we just relaxed, walked and went for short rides. You are allowed to go for self drive night drives.   However, if you do, please take in consideration the little night creatures as well as the nocturnal birds as we found a Bronze Winged Courser one morning, killed by a person who went on a night drive by themselves.  This is an uncommon bird to see and it was indeed very sad seeing this beautiful bird dead, because people are irresponsible.

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I will recommend Stevensford as a place of relaxation and beauty and I hope we will get the opportunity to visit again.

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A trip to Durban on the Shosholozo Premier


Usually the easiest to get from Johannesburg to Durban is by air. 55 minutes and one lands at Shaka Intl. We decided to visit our friends in Durban, but thought “let’s make it a bit of a different adventure”. So, after some googeling, I decided to make a booking on the Shosholozo Premier Class train. A little bit aprehensive, as we did not know what to expect. Some mixed reviews on the internet, but we thought we will try it and make up our own minds.

Booking was relatively easy. We took the Gautrain from Midrand and 20 minutes later we were at Park Station. No traffic and only short walk from the Gautrain station at Park to the terminal. For some reason or the other we thought Park Station would be a dodgy place, but surprisingly it was not too bad. Many well known South African fast food outlets and most banks are in the terminal, as well as booking facilities for all the major busses and also car rental.

With great excitement we entered the Premier Class’s lounge and were served with high tea. Lovely refreshments, fruits, biscuits and cheeses, cake, crisps and biltong (what would any South African high tea be without biltong).
We lingered in the lounge until they called us to board the train. As soon as we were in the train, the train left the station. Lovely compartment, with two bunks, white fluffy towels, soft white gowns for use on the train, slippers and the usual bathroom condiments. We were invited to go to the lounge/bar car for complimentary champagne, juice and snacks. There is a cash bar on the train. After drinks, dinner was ready to be served in the dining car. Silver service. The food reminded me of the time when food was served on a regular basis on the train and is kind of “old fashion” fare. 5 Course dinner of soup, fish, a meat dish, desert and the cheese board. It was lovely though and just enough. After all this food, high tea and snacks we just about rolled to our compartment.
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At each end of each wagon there is a toilet and shower to be shared by the guests on board. And it was very clean. I can imagine though if the train is full to capacity it could be a bit of a problem. But during our journey we had no problem. After a quick shower, it was back to the compartment, ready for bed. Our bunks were made with lovely white sheets and the pillows were just right. Blankets are provided as well. And into bed. Took a while to fall asleep, but when we did, it was great. To sleep on a moving train is always relaxing.

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After a peaceful sleep with just waking up now and again when the train screeched to a brake, we were awake and ready for coffee, which gets served in your compartment, but which we chose to have in the lounge car, enjoying the scenery as we travelled through the misty Natal Midlands. Breakfast is served just after 7. And again we did not go hungry. Another leisurely coffee in the lounge and we arrived at the outskirts of Durban. Another half hour and our enjoyable journey came to an end at NMR station in Durban.

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All I can say, I am ready for a journey on the train to Cape Town in the not so far distance, as not only is this a relaxing way to travel, but it is also a great experience. Our only regret is that we travelled through the night, so we could not enjoy the scenery. The journey from Park Station Johannesburg to Durban takes just over 12hrs and the journey to Cape Town takes 25 hours approximately. Arrangements can also be made to have your vehicle piggy ride in the back of the train.
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Mashatu – Home of the Giants

 

Mashatu Game Reserve is located in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve of Botswana bordering South Africa. It is the embodiment of all that defines Africa. Space so open and vast, taking it all in is almost too much; majestic skies open to the universe and unfettered by smog; a quiet so loud it thrums with life; and unexpected adventure .

Mashatu’s camps are an expression of the warm hospitality of Africa’s people. Relaxation is key, regardless of whether your choice is the luxury of Mashatu Main Camp, or the rustic appeal of Mashatu Tent Camp.

Safari vehicles meander into the bush twice a day, bringing visitors into close contact with an Africa that is largely known only in wildlife documentaries and glossy books. But this Africa is real, and distinctly tangible through all six senses.

Mashatu Game Reserve is a place to connect you to the essence of what life is meant to be. Uncomplicated, bold, and beautiful.

The Mashatu Tent Camp (and my favourite)  – Just 15 minutes from Mashatu Main Camp is a refuge.  The Mashatu Tent Camp is almost one with the environment – just blink and you might miss it! This is the leisure choice for the guest who seeks the ultimate one-on-one bush experience, or who prefers a more intimate environment with never more than 14 companions (and no children under 12 years of age).

8 completely private comfortable tents are tucked under the branches of enormous trees, accessible via meandering pathways. The tents are themselves spacious and comfortable (enabling adults to stand upright). Each unit is mounted on a concrete platform, and has its own private outdoor en-suite facilities (including W.C and shower). Have you ever showered under the stars?
Instant camaraderie is a by-product of this characteristic camp. Meal-times are shared without pomp and ceremony, either in the open-air thatched gazebo, or in the boma overlooking a floodlit and popular waterhole. A plunge pool provides a refreshing break from the unrelenting sunshine typical of the summer months.

Clients may remove themselves further by visiting the hide, also overlooking the waterhole. The sturdy and shaded structure enables bush enthusiasts to sit quietly and to obverse animal species going about their day. And the best part – the animals are completely unaware that they are not alone. It is humbling indeed to be an observer, standing where the world is perfect

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Kruger National Park

As usual, other half and myself try and spend time quietly during the Holiday season and specially during the Christmas period.  This year, on the spur of the moment and an unexpected day off, I phoned and miraciously managed to get a booking for Kruger National Park.  Staying at Satara camp, Letaba Camp and Olifants Camp.  I was quite excited, but was really surprised that the costs of going to our National Park has become so expensive.  Not only that, upon entering an amount of R62.00 per person per day has to be paid for Community Levy.   This pushed the price up by nearly a R1000.00 for the few days we booked in. I have mixed feelings about the Community Levy.  How can a 2 year old also be liable to pay a levy of R62 per day?  This was a question a guest raised at the one camp.  Not only that, but, I can see the writing is on the wall and SANP is definitely following Nambian National Parks, specifically relating to Etosha, where it has become so expensive for South Africans, we can hardly go there.

Of course we got lost getting to Kruger, as other half chose to follow the very intelligent woman with her irritating voice on his GPS.  Shortest route to be followed:  gravel roads for 45km.  I was glad though to see traffic cops just inside the Orpen Gate, as speeding is prohibited in Kruger.  Speed limit is 40km per hour.

After checking in at Satara, we decided to rather have supper at the restaurant as it was late already.  Meal was okay, but definitely over priced.

The following morning, we left at 5 in the morning to go for our game drive and breakfast at Tshokwane picnic spot.  Always a favourite, with boerewors (sausage), pap and sheba (sauce), the most popular.  Here you get a huge serving and it is very  affordable at R30 per person.  If you are lucky, you can also have a huge slice of milk tart.  Many people come here and sort their own breakfasts out.  However, be careful of the vervet monkeys, as they are real little thieves and are getting more aggressive. This is due to visitors feeding them and now they decided to take what they want.

Exciting sighting at Satara – leopard.

We stayed for 3 nights at Satara and then moved down to Letaba. I can honestly say that the ladies in the reception area where one booked in, were among the most unfriendly people I have ever met.  This is not good PR, Sanparks!! Dinner at the restaurant again.  Never again.  Expensive, and basically pub grub.  Pub grub is fine, but then one should charge pub prices.

I visited the Elephant hall, which is always interesting.  This tells the story of the various Great Tuskers of Kruger.  And is definitely worth seeing.

Exciting sighting at Letaba – none.

After Letaba we went to Olifants, which is not a very large camp, but to me, the most beautiful.  It is set high up on the banks of the Olifants River and has got the most stunning views.  For some reason we were upgraded to a newer chalet fully fitted, which was very nice…and appreciated.  At Olifants, one can just sit at the viewing deck at the restaurant and just drink in the view. It is honestly one of the most beautiful views.

Exciting sighting at Oilfants – none.

We left the following day, down to Skukuza on our way out of Kruger.  A rainy, blustery day.  Most disturbing site of a White Rhino trying to get across the road, but because the motorists had their vehicle lights on, he became extremely disorientated.  Are people just too dumb?  Or stupid? We left the sighting, as I could not handle it.  Even after telling people to put their lights off, they kept it on, cameras flashing.  Also saw some stupid idiots cornering a mother warthog and small babies trying to cross the road, while they take pictures, the mother was getting extremely flustered and stressed, as she could not find a safe place for her little ones.  No people!!

On our way we had a fleeting sighting of wild dogs, as once again a traffic jam was caused, by inconsiderate tourists and visitors.  Some even hooting.  More like a traffic jam in the middle of a city, than people who appreciate nature. We left…in disgust.

To be very honest, I am aware that this is not a very positive review of Kruger.  But, it was a huge disappointment.  I feel it has become too commercialized in Kruger.  Things are “lacking” in some of the camps. People no longer have respect for the wildlife and actions towards the animals too invasive. It has become way too expensive for what it is.

I am not saying Kruger National Park is not beautiful and mostly unspoilt. If you are lucky you could have wonderful sightings.  Birders can have excellent birding opportunities.  Maybe I got spoilt by the smaller private game reserves, I don’t know.  This time around, it just was not a good experience.  Which was disappointing, as I have visited Kruger on numerous holidays and always loved it.

Will I visit Kruger National Park in the near future again?  My answer – I cant say I will.

http://www.afriqueescapades.co.za

Thornicroft Giraffe in South Luangwa

Thornicroft Giraffe in South Luangwa

The Rhodesian or Thornicroft giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis thornicrofti) is a subspecies of giraffe endemic to Zambia. Its habitat is restricted to the Luangwa Valley in eastern Zambia. An estimated maximum of 1,500 remain in the wild, and there are no captive populations.

The species was originally named after Harry Scott Thornicroft, a commissioner in what was then North-Western Rhodesia and later Northern Rhodesia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodesian_giraffe

I was very fortunate to have seen these Giraffes on my recent trip to South Luangwa.

“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” Eudora Weity