Having returned from a wonderful trip to the Chobe River in Botswana, I am offering my views both on the journey and the logistics involved.
My friend, Barbara Fleming (http://www.flemingsafarico.com/), arranged this trip through CNP Safaris and Lou Coetzer. I flew out from JFK International Airport on May 20 on a direct flight to Johannesburg utilizing South African Air. First, in regards to the trip, I must pray South African air, everybody was cordial, and they took good care of you on the plane. Each seat had an individual headset and monitor which gave you movies, television shows, music and more. Along with a pillow and blanket, the meals were decent, and you had your choice of beverages ranging from water right through spirits all which were free. Immigration in South Africa was easy. We landed the next day after we left and, we stayed overnight at a hotel attached to the airport. The next morning we returned to the airport when usually you would board a flight to Kanasne, Botswana. When CNP first try to book the flight, it was full, so we ended up being booked to fly into Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. From Victoria Falls we traveled by motor vehicle to the border of Zimbabwe and Botswana, where we went through exit immigration and arrival immigration. After Changing cars, we then drove to our hotel the Chobe Safari & Bush Lodges (http://www.chobesafarilodge.net). Upon arrival, we were assigned rooms, received a welcome drink. Immediately, after settling in, we grabbed our camera equipment and went for our first trip on the Chobe. CNP utilizes a custom-billed flat bottom boat and custom-billed photographic chairs with a custom-designed “tripod” column that is equipped with a Wimberley head and also allows the: to be extended both upwards and downwards. CNP also supplies professional Nikon equipment for the use of the participants. To give everybody a chance photographing from the front of the boat, for the first two trips, you used the seat that you were assigned, and for each succeeding trip everybody moved one seat up, and of course, the front person transferred to the last position.
The average day started at around 6 AM with coffee; then we will head out onto the Chobe varying locations. We would photograph, and had an instructor available to help with any of problems. We would return to the dock in time to have a late breakfast. After breakfast, the group would gather in the board room four a lecture and/or instructions plus download our images from the morning’s event. There was time, for a rest before the afternoon’s trip. We would leave by 3 PM at the latest or earlier depending on the distance that we need travel on the Chobe to get to a location. Returned to the dock around 6 PM, where we went to our room freshened up before meeting for supper.
We follow the same itinerary daily, except for the last day, where we left for the morning shoot, returned, finished packing up, checking out, and being driven to the airport we would board the plane for the flight back to Johannesburg. The nicest part was at the airport actor Kasane; we were able to check our bags right through to our final destination plus get our boarding passes. This allowed us once we arrived went through immigration and customs to be in the Johannesburg airport behind security. Two of us bought a day pass at the paid lounge. The lounge offered, showers, free food ranging from snacks to a full meal, and free drinks including alcohol.
An interesting event occurred at the departure gate, where everybody was patted down in their carry-on luggage was inspected. The flight home started off with a meal, then lights out until about two hours before we arrived at JFK, where another meal was served. Immigration and customs at JFK were easy and well-organized.
Included in the cost of the trip was everything from when you arrived in Johannesburg and until you left, excluding tips for the guides and helpers. The cost of the flight from JFK to your Harrisburg range from $1000 to $1400, depending on when you booked.
The rooms Chobe Safari Large were large with two double beds side to side, mosquito netting, available, a work desk, stall shower and a large bathtub. In each room were a fan and air conditioning. Breakfast and supper were buffet style with multiple items available for your gastronomical pleasure. There were omelets and eggs cooked to order, cheeses and bread, different juices, coffee or tea. At suppertime, you could have a different soup every day, salads, stirfry, at least 4 to 5 varieties of meat, fish, and vegetarian.
Two nights, we ate and the other dining room which was more formal with table cloths and prepared appetizers and entrées.
Alcoholic beverages and wines were available, which you were charged separately for, and their prices were very reasonable.
Because Lou had a passport difficulty, we started off first with Johann Grayling as our leader until Lou arrived.
Our group consisted of Barbara, her husband John, Melissa and me from the states, plus Bruce who was a South African and for what I am appreciative of a birder that help me identify all these unknown birds that I observed. We had to great captains on the boat, Kawana, and Mokamba, who knew the river, how to position the boat to obtain the best pictures and could identify flora and fauna for us.
I learned a lot including new ways to set up my camera and post process my images. This was a trip of a lifetime and God and health willing, and I am planning to return next August to the Chobe and then an extension trip to view leopards and cheetahs.