Hello and welcome to my blog. This is a compilation of travel stories, photos and places that I have visited over the years (although once in a while I will include places that I WANT to visit!). I love to travel and am also a bit of a "foodie" so every now and then I will probably start talking about my favorite restaurants too. Enjoy!

Sunrise at Kruger National Park, South Africa

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Birds of the Okavango

What I had heard prior to visiting Botswana and the Okavango Delta was that it has an incredible variety of birdlife. I must admit that I was not that excited about seeing a bunch of birds, but thanks to Water (our fabulous guide!) we saw such amazing birds and learned a ton about bird calls, nesting habits and how to identify males and females. An interesting note about the bird kingdom is that the male of the species is usually the more brightly-colored and beautiful of the two sexes. Did you know that? ;-)

Typically on a “safari” you focus on the animals, but Jason and I were fascinated and quickly lost track of how many species we saw throughout our visit, although when the bird-watching couple from Johannesburg joined us on our second day they reported we had seen over 92 different species of birds in one day! This couple was on a mission to spot a Pels Fishing Owl – apparently one of the hardest birds to spot since it is only located in certain climates and is close to becoming an endangered species. We did manage to catch a glimpse of one in a tree but unfortunately could not get a good photo (need to invest in a better telephoto lens!!!).

But, I was able to get a good selection of pics of some gorgeous birds of the Okavango so I hope you enjoy!

(Saddleback Stork landing in a tree)

(Ruff Sandpiper)

(Pied Kingfisher)

(Pelican Nest)

(A second Pelican Nest!)

(Little Bee-Eater)

(Grey Hooded Kingfisher eating a Frog!)


(Flamingo in flight)

(Probably the most amazing bird ever -- the Fish Eagle!)

(Fish Eagle at dusk )

Anyone else a bird fan now? :-)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Okavango Delta Part III: Xakanaka Camp

We made it!!! When we finally arrived into Xakanaka Camp at almost 11am on Tuesday (after flying in from Maun and a morning game drive), we were shown to our tent to get settled and shortly after met for brunch at the main eating area. The concept of the camp is really well done in my opinion. It is all-inclusive which means your accommodation, meals, drinks (including local alcoholic beverages), and game activities are included in your cost. The only additional charges are your purchases of curios in the shop and tips for your game guide and camp staff at the end of your stay.

A typical day consists of a 5:30am wake-up call, gathering at the bar area for a light breakfast, and then off for a morning game activity (usually a game drive).Upon returning from your morning activity, you gather for brunch in the communal dining area. This is where all guests and staff members congregate twice a day for meals (brunch in the morning and dinner at night). After brunch is “siesta” time from about noon to 3pm – this is the heat of the day and most animals are either sleeping or hiding in the shade to protect themselves from the elements. With a 5:30am wake-up call each morning, the siesta’s were actually quite necessary…!

At 3pm you gather once again by the bar area for tea and a light snack before heading out for your afternoon game activity (either another game drive or a boat ride around the Delta). Once you return from the afternoon activity, you are escorted back to your tent by your guide and you set a pick-up time for dinner. Your guides act as escorts at daybreak and after nightfall because the camp is unfenced and they often come across hippos within the campsite at night – since hippos are one of the deadliest animals, the camp is very careful and wants to ensure your safety at all times which is good to know.

Now originally I was concerned about staying in a tent in the middle of the bush, but this was really more of a permanent structure – it is up on stilts with wood floorboards, a deck, king size bed, dressing table, nightstand and electricity. The bathroom is located off the back of the tent and was open-air at the top (which means that animals can and will enter at some point – and pretty sure something did on our last night but not exactly sure what it was…!). There is running water (hot and cold), a shower, sink and toilet so you can hardly call this “roughing it” – not that I minded at all! It was the perfect combination of rustic and luxury accommodation in my opinion. Check out their website for pics of the camp – this place is really awesome!

Our tent, named after the Sable Antelope, overlooked a channel of water from the Delta in the foreground and the grasses of the Delta for miles beyond. During the night we could hear the Hippo’s passing by our tent – they come out of the water and onto the land at night to eat the grass. I must admit I did not sleep very soundly the first night and counted 4 Hippos passing by in the middle of the night! One actually sounded like a human’s footsteps coming down the path and I was seriously expecting it to walk right up the stairs and into our room! When I mentioned that to our guide, Water, the next morning he said the hippo was probably stalking something. Apparently hippos DO stalk things (just like cats!), and when they are stalking something, there footsteps are very slow and measured which can often sound like a human walking slowly. But, when these hippos enter the water they sound something like a submarine submerging in the water – it is pretty loud and somewhat unnerving in the pitch-black African night!

(Here is a sneak peek of a Hippo photo from a game drive)

After we settled in our tent on the first day we headed to brunch and were treated to the first of many delicious meals cooked by the staff. That morning was bacon, sausage, salad, and a yummy pasta dish that was some sort of macaroni/lasagna combination. The communal nature of the dining area is actually a nice way to get to know the people who run the camp and also other guests. We met a couple from Johannesburg who were there for a week and were there for the bird-watching (this is the same couple that we shared game activities with for the next day and a half). A nice German couple arrived the second night and had just come from the Serengeti where Hyena’s had tried to come into their tent during the night! Ugh! Side note: The thing about going on a safari that I can promise – you will ALWAYS have a great story to tell upon your return (whether it is being charged by an elephant or stalked by a hyena, maybe not, but you never know!).

(The Boma or Campfire)

Jason and I explored the camp and spent one siesta time by pool area having a beer and enjoying the Delta scenery. I played around with our camera a little bit to see if we could capture the beauty of the scenery with our new lenses and filters – not too bad for a couple of first-timers if I don’t say so myself! Here are some of the pics of the scenery from the campsite.

(Below is the dock for Xakanaka)

(View of the Delta from the Pool Area)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Okavango Delta Part II: Our Guide, Water

Our guide, Water, was born in the Okavango Delta in a village called Gio. His tribe is called the Bayei tribe (BYE-AYE-EE) and they are known to be “Water People” due to their location on the Delta. Water’s given name is actually Tumeletso (Tumi-le-TST-so), but as most African’s do, he gave himself a second name so tourists like us can pronounce his name! Water has been a Guide for more than 18 years and before that was a Poler for the Makoro boats for many years.

He grew up in the bushveld around the Delta and is a master at birdspotting and of course tracking animals, although has lived through some harrowing experiences. Facing down a lion head-on (and living to tell about it!) is not such a scary experience according to him, but surviving a brutal elephant attack while on a game drive 8 years ago was his worst nightmare come true. An interesting factoid that many people don’t know is that Hippo’s are actually the most dangerous animals in Africa – they kill more humans per year than any other animal. But, in my experience (and in Water’s expert opinion), Elephants are really the animals to watch out for when going on a safari – so if you come across them on a self-drive or a game drive of any sort, keep your distance, be aware of your surroundings, and be ready to bolt at any second!

Okay, enough trying to scare you… Jason and I had such a wonderful few days getting to know Water throughout our game drives and over meals at the camp. We were very sad to say goodbye but we hope to be back again and will definitely request him as our guide again. If you make it to Xakanaka Camp, I highly recommend asking for him as your guide! And to our friend Water – we will hold you to your promise to find us a Leopard next time!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Okavango Delta Part I: Getting to Xakanaka Camp, Moremi Game Reserve

I am finally sitting on my balcony at the Xakanaka Camp (pronounced KA-KA-NA-KA) in the Moremi Game Reserve on the Okavango Delta in Botswana! (Whew, what a mouthful!)

We were originally supposed to spend three nights here but during our inbound flight on Air Botswana from Johannesburg to Maun, we were re-routed to Gabarone due to “technical difficulties”. We landed and were essentially stranded at the airport for 3 ½ hours without much concern from the airline. They made us head through customs at Gabarone and pick up our luggage and told us to just wait at the airport until they called us for our next flight – no new boarding passes, no flight time or flight number, no assigned seats. Finally a woman came by with a “boarding card” that just had “MAUN” scribbled on it so we could pass through security to eventually board our flight. So, when in Africa and stranded in a random airport, you find the closest bar and have a drink!

By the time we arrived in Maun almost 5 hours later, it was too late to fly to our camp because the runways are not lighted and we would not be able to land. And so our African journey began on a slightly sour note as we were introduced to a new kind of “Africa slow”… But, according to the locals who were nice enough to help us out and give us some guidance, the fact that we even made it to Maun that day and did not have to stay in Gabarone for the night was a small miracle. Note for the future: spend the extra money to hire a charter plane from Gabarone or Kasane into the game park and avoid Air Botswana altogether (South African Airways and British Airways both fly to these cities)!!! Upon arrival in Maun, we were put up for the night at the Maun Lodge, and while the staff was very courteous and friendly, the room and the food was average at best. But, after traveling for over 40 hours straight to arrive in Maun, I was just happy to have a bed where I could lie down and finally get a good night sleep!

In the morning (at the crack of dawn) we headed to the airport and boarded our little Cessna charter flight to Xakanaka’s private airstrip - literally a dirt runway in the middle of the bush, seriously in the middle of nowhere!

What an experience flying over Botswana in a little 4 seater plane – there is really nothing like it…

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Hello everybody and welcome to my first travel blog! I am sitting at a pub in Heathrow airport (drinking a pint of course!) waiting for my flight to South Africa. I am about to head home for the holidays, but will be adding some fun new adventures in Botswana and Zimbabwe on the way. What started out as a daydream about all the great places that I will be going on this trip, became a private trip down memory lane to some of the awesome places that I have been fortunate to visit so far. And with that my idea for a Travel Blog was created. I am not a writer or a photographer – I’m just a girl with a passion for traveling …

My obsession with travel began at age 8 when my family emigrated from South Africa to the United States. My brother and I thought we were just going on a year long around-the-world adventure with London as the first stop! Our trip included stays in London, Toronto, Vancouver B.C., Los Angeles and, finally, the San Francisco Bay Area (which is where we settled for good). When we landed in London and took that first double-decker bus ride, I was hooked -- the buzz of the city, the lights, the architecture, the London Bobbies, and my first Andrew Lloyd Webber play (Starlight Express, which was my choice because of the roller-skates…). I felt like the luckiest kid in the world! And my love of travel was born... I vowed at that point that when I grew up, I would travel around the world just like my parents and see as many new places as possible. So far I have done pretty well, but as I check one new place off the list, it inevitably grows by at least 3 more.

Unfortunately, since TRAVEL = TIME + MONEY and most of us have to work full time, this blog is going to be a compilation of new places I am visiting, some old favorites from past trips, and my ever-growing list of places and things I still want to see. Of course, travel and food go hand in hand so I will probably include some of my favorite restaurants discovered during my travels as well. J I hope you enjoy my ramblings, and please bear with me as I begin my adventure as a burgeoning travel photographer!

South African Wildflowers