Luke Marks, 14 yrs, travelled with his mum Amanda Marks, director of Tribes Travel, on a research trip in late May. It was obviously a very special week and Luke wrote quite a lot about all the places he saw. We thought you’d like to read what a teenager thinks of Botswana, so here are his views. All the words and photos are his own (other than the shots with him in of course).
22nd and 23rd May 2015:
Nxamaseri island Lodge, Okavango Panhandle
My thoughts on Nxamaseri Island Lodge:
Overall, the lodge was very nice. The room I was sharing with my mum was spacious, and because it was open fronted, it let a lot of air in. Because of the room being open fronted, it made me feel closer to nature. There was plenty of storage space, and the bed was also very comfortable, and I was able to get some good nights sleep. Also, the open fronted aspect of the room meant that you could hear all the animals, which helped me to get to sleep. In the bathroom, the shower was very nice, and it was also very big, which was good. The toilet was fine. The only part I didn’t like about the room was the fact that the bathroom had no door, and I felt a bit uncomfortable with this, as I was sharing the room with my mum. Tiaan, the manager of the lodge, was very nice and friendly, and so where all the staff, Including our guide, Adam. The food that was provided was really tasty.
About Adam, our guide:
Adam was born and bred in Nxamaseri, and still lives there now with his wife and three children. He stays in the staff quarters when he is working, but sometimes gets some time off, to go home. Because he is a guide, he can speak several languages; English, Hambukushu, and Setswana. He’s been a guide since 1995, so is experienced at what he does. He loves his job,and his favourite part of it is birdwatching. He also loves to see his favourite animal, the Sitatunga Antelope. September and October are the better times to see the antelope, as the water level has gone down, because they live in shallow water.
Adam told us a short story about when he was eleven. He went to the toilet, and when he had finished
his business, he went to wipe his bottom with what he thought was a stick, but it was actually a snake.
He went to snap it in half, but after he had tried and not succeeded, he realised what it was. The snake
riggled up his arm, and he was really scared. His friend tried to see if he was okay, and he ran home to his father. They then went to the clinic to get him some medicine from the shop.
Our visit to the Tsodilo Hills:
We arrived at the Hills, and met our guide, Phetolo. Once we had met him, he hopped in the car, and
Adam drove us through the gate. Phetolo took us around the base of the hill, and we got to see some beautiful rock art. The Bushmen had used various things to create the paint that was used, such as animal fat, and rocks. The rock art was painted on to the hills, which were made up of a mixture of quartz, mica, sandstone, and granite. The paintings where ancient ; the red paintings where around 3000 years old, and the white ones where around 1,500 to 1,800 years old. The paintings showed great
skill, and it is amazing how they have been preserved for so long. There were lots of different animals painted on the rocks, such as giraffes, elephants, monkeys, antelope, rhino, and there was even a penguin, and a whale, which was quite a surprise. My favourite were the rhinos because they looked very well preserved, and were the best painted.
25th May: At Sandibe Safari Lodge, Okavango Delta
Sandibe was a luxurious place to stay. My room was very nice, and had its own pool. The rooms were designed to look like weaver bird nests, and the main area was made to look like a Pangolin. I went on two safaris; a night time safari, and a morning safari. I managed to see a lot of animals, including lions, zebras, elephants, giraffes, and birds. The food there was very tasty, and overall a had a good time.
24th May: At Gunn’s Camp, a water camp in the Okavango Delta
My room at Gunns was really nice, it was basically a luxury tent on stilts. The main area of the camp was really nice, and the so was the bar and the dining room. There was a pool, which I never got round to using, that looked inviting. The staff were very humorous and friendly, and gave off a good atmosphere. Our guides, Mike and Titus, were really helpful, and very informative. We went on a boat ride, and a mokoro while we were there, which was very exciting, as we got to see a lot of animals, including giraffes, zebras, warthogs, and many more. We even saw elephants crossing the water which is very rare. We also went on a nature walk, which was also very fun. Our guides pointed various things, and animals out to us, which was very interesting. My favourite part about staying at Gunns was going on the mokoro, because it was very relaxing, and I got to see a lot of wildlife.
Mike, our guide:
Mike’s home is in Etsa, in the panhandle. He has a wife, and 5 boys, although he also has family living in Maun. He lives with the other staff on the camp at Gunns while he as working, but only gets to see his family every three months, for three weeks. He really enjoys his job, and his favourite part of it is going out on the boats. His favourite animal is a Giraffe, because they don’t attack humans, and are basically harmless. On the other hand, he doesn’t like warthogs, because they sometimes chase humans.
A short story about Mike:
When Mike was eleven, he went out to try and find a lion, with his friends because he had never actually seen one in the flesh before. They eventually managed to find one, and attempted to kill it. They then approached the lion, thinking that it was dead, when in actual fact, it was still alive. It suddenly started making loads of noise, and the boys ran up a tree, and after a while they realised that they couldn’t get down, so they had to wait for ages for Mike’s uncle to come and rescue them from the tree.
26th May: At Little Tubu Camp, Okavango Delta
As you can tell by the name, Little Tubu was a small camp, however sometimes small is better. The tents were very nice, with a lovely outdoor shower, and your own balcony. The main area of the camp was also pleasant. The wildlife in the area was really good, as we got to see leopards! We also saw giraffes, elephants, warthogs, and even some hyenas. Our guide Seretsi was really funny, and we had good banter with him, and the rest of the staff, who were also nice. Overall, i’d give this place a 9/10 rating.
Seretsi, our guide:
Seretsi was a really funny guide, and he was an expert at spotting animals and birds. On our first day, he helped us to find our first leopard of the trip. He’s been working at Little Tubu for quite a while, but is from Seronga, at the bottom of the panhandle. He has three sons, and is also married. His favourite animal is a pangolin. He told us some good stories, for example, when he was on a game drive, he came across a leopard. The leopard ran at the car, and started growling and yelping, and all the people in the back were screaming, and telling him to drive faster, but he couldn’t, as the vehicle he was in wasn’t very powerful.
27th May: At Stanley’s Safari Camp, Okavango Delta
Walking with Elephants
We left Stanley’s Camp, and drove to the area where we would meet the elephants. We met a volunteer, called Tim, and he talked us through how to keep safe around the them. His girlfriend was also there, and she was helping him out. After Tim had finished talking to us, he took us to towards the elephants, and that was where we met Sandie.
She and her husband Doug took on the elephants, and spend all their time with them. Sandie brought out the first of the three elephants, Jabu, and told us about his history, and what he’s been through, which was really fascinating. She let us come up and touch him, and I was really surprised at how much he didn’t mind it. It was amazing how tame he was. We also were allowed to take photos with him which was really nice as well. Sandie told us that the elephants knew over 85 words! For example, Sandie could tell Jabu to lift his trunk up, bring his ears out, or even rap his trunk around her.
After we had finnished watching Jabu, Sandie took him back to Doug, and brought out the next elephant, Morula. Once again, Sandie told us about her past, and how she was rescued, and got her to do some tricks, like lying down, and even waving at us! We were allowed to take photos with her, and she clearly didn’t mind, as it looked like she loves a bit of attention. After seeing Marula, we walked back to where Jabu was, and that was where we met the last of the three elephants, Thembi. Doug was looking after him, and he told us a bit about his past. Doug had somehow managed to train Thembi to take off peoples hats, and then put them back on peoples heads, which was spectacular!
28th May: Selinda Camp, Linyanti area
Selinda Camp was really nice, and had a beautiful setting. The main area of the camp offered a good view of the spillway. You could hear a lot of hippos sometimes, and Lizzy (the manager) said that sometimes, they can even come right up to your rooms! Once again, the rooms were nice here, and the balcony had a great view. All the staff were really nice, and friendly. Also, the food was really good. When we were going out to look at another nearby camp, we came across loads of elephants playing in the water, which was really funny to watch.
Lizzy, the camp manager:
Lizzy was originally from Francistown, and still lives there now with her 3 children. Although she spends most of her time managing various camps, her kids sometimes come out and visit her. She can speak 5 languages, and is currently studying two more! She loves every aspect of her job, especially hosting guests. Her favourite animals are wild dogs, because of their social structure and behaviour.