Marketing maestro Tamryn Russell recently returned from a trip through our camps, so we caught up with her to find out what she saw…
Which camps did you visit?
“We were lucky enough to visit all the camps. We started up at Mapula Lodge and then worked our way through, via Khwai Private Reserve, the Uncharted Africa camps and ended off with Meno a Kwena, overlooking the beautiful Boteti River.”
What was the best sighting of your trip?
“That’s an easy one to answer!
Definitely the leopard and cheetah sighting at Mapula Lodge as it was my first ever sighting of both species. We had spent two nights at the lodge and while we had seen the most gorgeous journey of four or five giraffes, each with a baby – one baby suckling from its mother against a hazy morning sunrise stood out the most.
Our guide Costa worked to find us our first big cat sighting of the trip, and we were rewarded twofold! Firstly, we found a leopard resting within the shade of a bush – he or she must have just been hunting as it was panting very heavily and cleaning itself. After a few minutes it wondered off into the thicket and we lost sight, but our second reward was not far off!
We headed off to find a shady spot to enjoy our morning coffee and as we were reversing into the shade of a tree, we spotted a herd of elephants in the distance and suddenly Costa shouted “leopard!” We all immediately sat to attention and saw this little head popping out amongst the tall grass (how Costa saw it, we’re still not sure!) He started the car up and as we slowly made our way towards her, we realised that it was actually a cheetah with her cub! Double whammy! We were very lucky in that they had just eaten, their bellies were hanging towards the ground and they were super chilled, walking alongside the car before making themselves comfortable in the shade of a big bush.
We were also lucky enough to see two of the four Kalahari lions that have formed a coalition within the Makgadikgadi and Uncharted Africa concessions relaxing under a tree after our morning with the meerkats – one of the lions had his black mane starting to come in, and it was beautiful to see.”
What was your most memorable moment on the trip?
“Each camp was memorable! But barring the afore mentioned sightings, another highlight would have to be the elephant welcome we received at Hyena Pan.
We arrived at camp around 16h00 and as we made our way into the main area and pool area that overlooks the pan outside camp we were greeted by a breeding herd of about 50 plus elephants in the pan, right in front of camp, and they just kept on coming to drink. Big females with their little babies, adolescents, you name it, they were there. There were so many and there was so much going on right there in camp that we decided not to go out anywhere. We were rewarded with such a show! It’s amazing to see how relaxed they are. The show even carried on after dinner with a smaller herd appearing from nowhere while we sat around the fire.”
Did you have a favourite camp from those you stayed at?
“For me that’s like answering which of my nephews are my favourite! As clichéd as it might sound, each of the camps has its own unique charm that sets it apart, which is also what makes them so special.
You’ve got Mapula Lodge with the Xaraxai lagoon right in front of it, and the chance to head out on a mokoro and spot the tiny reed frogs that call the channels of the Delta home. Then there’s fun and funky Hyena Pan with the elephants (and various other wildlife) right outside camp. Sable Alley has its own resident pod of hippos which ‘join’ guests for dinner by grazing under the floodlights outside the main area. The Uncharted Africa camps are home to the adorable habituated meerkats, amongst many other things, and then you have Meno a Kwena. Meno is like your home away from home overlooking the Boteti River, where guests don’t even have to leave the camp as the wildlife comes down to the river to drink and you’re woken during the night by the sounds of the elephants swimming in the river below. And that’s not even mentioning the games drives and other activities we experienced at each lodge during our stay.”
What surprised you most about this trip?
“How quickly the weather can change! We experienced all four seasons on our first day at Camp Kalahari. We arrived in summerlike climes, to gorgeous sunshine, and we were enjoying swims after lunch, but by teatime the weather had completely turned and there was a torrential downpour for about 20 minutes! I must admit as we headed out for sundowners and the sun tried desperately to break through the clouds, it made for some spectacular photo opportunities. On the one side of the vehicle we had a few zebra and wildebeest against a green and very dark grey background and on the other side the sun in all its shades of yellow and orange, fighting to break through the clouds.”
What advice would you give someone about to embark on a similar foray?
“Pack light and airy clothes; lots of rehydrate; an empty camera with spare batteries or clear cell phone memory for the endless great photo opportunities that await. Oh, and you’ll need a fun, adventurous attitude!”
Tam is currently dusting herself off in our Cape Town office. You can see the video of her cheetah sighting over on our Uncharted Africa social media pages.