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A BOTSWANA BIRTHDAY LIKE NO OTHER BY PETE OXFORD

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Glenn wanted to celebrate his 60th, with friends, in Botswana. He came to us to put it all together. It was a roller coaster with Covid-19 raising its ugly head at every turn. Finally, it happened, and a group of long-standing college friends and spouses had the trip of a lifetime to celebrate Glenn’s 62nd – it didn’t matter and was well worth the wait!

We carefully chose three luxury camps in the incomparable Okavango Delta, one of the planet’s last great wilderness areas, raw and exciting – as Africa should be.
It began with a kill (a little one) as we spotted Africa’s largest owl, the Verreaux’s Eagle owl, perched on the sturdy bough of a low tree, flashing its pink eyelids while clutching a mouse after swooping down to catch it. Two gorgeous bull giraffes were next as they stood flank to flank in the sunset, facing each other in a classic head-butting standoff. It was a good start.

Spotted hyenas are seemingly becoming harder to observe yet one was spotted by the guide as it ears twitched above the grass. It was an incredible spot and as we drove closer to have a look, we could see that there were two of them. My excitement grew as we watched one of my all-time favorite animals feeding on a large carcass. One left and the other effortlessly picked up the carcass. I reasoned it would find a place to hide it underwater which it did, leaving just enough poking above the surface to be interesting enough for an African fish eagle to land and scavenge, all the while being mobbed by an irate blacksmith plover ‘plinking’ away in its aerial aggression.

Elephants were everywhere and soon became very familiar as an expected addition to the landscape, some choosing to give us some rather close inspections before ambling away to continue calmly feeding.
The actual birthday came early in the trip and, like any celebrity, a helicopter flip seemed to most fitting activity. It was Glenn’s first helicopter ride and with the doors off on the chopper it was quite thrilling for him to see the vast expanse, dotted with large mammals from the air. We even got to see the hyenas again!

Cats are high priorities on anyone’s Africa wish list and here we totally excelled, beyond even our best hopes. Leopards were regularly seen, all spectacular views. We got to see them calling from a few meters, posing as if they were paid models, hunting warthogs, and even crawling under the vehicle and out the other side, slinking to squirm under like only a leopard can do. Why she simply did not walk around us we will never know.

Lions were definitely ‘on form’. Over a couple of game drives, we spent the entire time watching a whole pride ravenously devouring an adult male giraffe, their bellies gorged. We became part of the furniture and sat close by in awe as they walked around us, ate, rested, played, fed, and interacted with each other. Amazingly we got to see another adult giraffe pulled down by a different pride and spent a long time immersed in the primordial spectacle. Not one, but two giraffes killed by lions is unprecedented in all our 50+ trips to the Delta.

Cheetah often harder to spot than leopards, were outstanding. A family of five put on quite the show, firstly relaxed, in gorgeous light, allowing us real quality time to watch their behavior, they would even climb a small dead tree for us, pose and give chase to a herd of impala only having to walk away unsatisfied. There was not much else to hope for, particularly after we finally got to see a previously unknown pack of wild dogs – at the airstrip before our last light aircraft charter flight!

Throw in a black mamba, a honey badger, serene mokoro rides through the lilies and it really was quite the trip.Our last stop was the inimitable Victoria Falls, from the grandeur of our colonial hotel to the drenching spray of the falls in full flood, to the huge variety of quality crafts in the Vic Falls artisanal market what can we say?
Simply that we look forward to our next African adventure together. See you in Uganda Glenn and Erika!!

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