Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

Safari to Botswana & Zimbabwe 1995-1997

 An angre leopard in Zimbabwe warns me to back off!


For a couple years back in the mid 1990's, I was able to travel to Botswana and Zimbabwe to design two safaris and later to experience the safaris while leading a group.  The below programs are what I was able to put together and implement.  The Okavango region in particular is without a doubt one of the most phenomenal wildernesses anywhere on the planet.


To see more amazing images of Eastern and Southern Africa, click the below links:

Eastern and Southern African Mammals

Eastern and SouthernAfrican Birds

Eastern and Southern African People & Landscapes


Victoria Falls as seen from the Zambia side.



DAY 1: VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE: Upon arrival the group is met and transferred to the spectacular Hotel Victoria Falls where we can rest and relax for the remainder of the day.

DAY 2: DELTA CAMP, OKAVANGO DELTA: Today we fly via light aircraft to Maun and then to the Okavango Delta.

DELTA CAMP (3 Nights: Delta Camp is an intimate fourteen bed lodge situated on an island deep in the Okavango Delta. Accommodation is all en-suite in well appointed reed chalets. The accent is on tranquillity, game walks, fine cuisine, and highly personalized guiding. Spectacular scenery and birdlife complement excellent game viewing. All meals, drinks and excursions are included. Excursions take the form of mokoro trails, birth watching, fun finishing and taking nature/game walks on the islands with your guide.

DAY 5: XAKANAXA CAMP: Today we fly via light aircraft into another region of the Delta - Xakanaxa.
XAKANAXA CAMP (2 Nights): Xakanaxa Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve is tented in the old African style. All tents are en-suite, and activities range from guided game drives to motorboat excursions into the
Okavango. The area is renowned for its big game, especially leopards. All meals and excursions are included.

DAY 7: JACK'S CAMP: Today we fly via light aircraft from Xakanaxa into the vast Kalahari Desert to Jack's Camp.
JACK'S CAMP (3 Nights): Jack's camp is a luxury tented camp located deep in the Kalahari Desert on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans, an oasis of peace and tranquillity.
Accommodation is in twin-bedded safari style tents with individual hot showers and flush toilets. All meals, drinks and excursions are included. Excursions take the form of game drives and safari by all-terrain vehicles allowing you to penetrate the vast landscape.

DAY 10: CHOBE NATIONAL PARK: Today we leave Jack's Camp via light aircraft to Kasane, where we ground transfer to Chobe Chilwero.
CHOBE CHILWERO (3 Nights):Chobe Chilwero is situated in the northern section of the Chobe National Park on a hill overlooking the Chobe River, just outside the Park boundary. Accommodation is in twin-bedded bungalows with en-suite facilities. All meals and excursions are included. Excursions take the form of game drives in the Chobe National Park, boating and optional fishing on the
Chobe River.

DAY 13: VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE: Today we return to the Victorian luxury of Victoria Falls for a restful conclusion to our Okavango expedition! Overnight at the Victoria Falls Hotel



Enjoying a Kalahari Makadikadi sunset with the open bar set out by Jack's Camp




DAY 1: HARARE: After arrival at the Harare international airport you will be met, and welcomed by our representative who will assist in transferring you to the hotel. Afternoon is free. Overnight at Sheraton hotel.

DAY 2: BULAWAYO: We will be transferred from the hotel to the airport for our scheduled -flight to Bulawayo. At the Bulawayo airport, you are met by our representative who will assist in transferring you to the hote1.

HALF-DAY - MATOBO HILLS TOUR: The group will be met at the Nesbitt Castle Hotel and driven south out of the city to the
Matobo Hills National Park which is the legendary place of-the "benevolent spirit which lies in-wait at World's View". It is also the final resting-place of Cecil John Rhodes. We continue to Malema Dam and Nswatugi Cave to see some of the finest rock-paintings in Southern Africa. Matobo Hills also boasts some of the last populations of black rhinos in Africa. We then return through this scenic park with its wonderful rock formations to the city and the hotel.

KHAMI RUINS TOUR: We drive some
20 kilometers out of the city to the ancient Iron Age complex of the Khami Ruins. Authorities agree that Khami was the capital of the Torwa State which emerged as a power when Great Zimbabwe was in decline. Its dry-stone walling is of similar style to Great Zimbabwe and dates from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Artifacts found in the area date back to the early Stone Age, up to 100,000 years ago, as the fascinating site museum will reveal. Overnight is at the Nesbitt Castle Hotel

DAY 3: GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS - MASVINGO: Depart Bulawayo as early as 6:30AM via Chauffeur drive to Masvingo. Here we can admire the African way of living, as you pass through their small townships, villages and communal farms. You will arrive Manvingo around 10:30 AM and go straight for a tour.


Chapman's Baobab in the Makadikadi


DAY 4: HWANGE NATIONAL PARK: After breakfast we are transferred to Blue Arrow Station where we are met for transfer to Hwange National Park. The national park is over 650 square kilometers and is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. Forests dominated by Zimbabwe teak and mopane, acacia thornbelt and vast grasslands each contain their own unique fauna. With the skills of our experienced guides, we will unlock the secrets of this fascinating wilderness. We overnight at the Detema Safari Lodge

DAY 5: HWANGE NATIONAL PARK: We spend the whole day at the lodge on a fully inclusive basis. Game activities include game drives, walking safaris and village tours. Set atop a Kopje we view the wilds of Africa and her many wild creatures as they drink at the waterhole, Detema has established a reputation for excellence - excellence of services, of accommodation and facilities, and of excellent cuisine. Overnight is at the Detema Safari Lodge.

DAY 6: VICTORIA FALLS: Pick up is from Detema Safari Lodge by our representative for a scheduled transfer to Victoria Falls. On arrival in Victoria Falls we will go straight to the Victoria Falls Hotel before we have the chance to see one of the wonders of the world - the mighty Victoria Falls.


A spectacular Sundowner Cruise sunset along the Zambezi.

SUNDOWNER CRUISE TOUR: The splendors of the African sunset are renowned and this is an unrivalled way to savor the beauty of the moment. We are then transferred to the jetty where you will board one of our launches. We will enjoy a relaxing cruise as the sun sets over the sparkling water of the Zambezi River. As with the falls we can capture the beauty of the sun setting over Kandahar Island with our own eyes or through the camera's lens. As we glide home in the darkness of the African night, there is time to talk and absorb the serenity of one of the most beautiful places on earth.

DAY 7: VICTORIA FALLS: We proceed to the falls, one of the wonders of the world to gaze at the curtain of falling water while the swirling spray billows up from the depths of the chasm below. After the tour we are transferred back to the airport for our scheduled flight to Kariba. On arrival at the Kariba airport we will be transferred to Kipling's Lodge where we will spend two- nights in Matusadona National Park. Overnight at Kipling's Lodge.

DAY 8: MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK: Matusadona is one of the wildest regions left in Africa boasting large numbers of African megafauna including black rhinos! Birdwatchers will find this area full of beautiful and fascinating species! At our wonderful thatched-roof lodge, activities will include game drives, sports fishing, and walking safaris in the raw wilderness of Matusadona. Overnight at Kipling's Lodge

DAY 09: MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK: Today we continue the various safari activities at the lodge and in the park. Overnight at Kipling's Lodge

DAY 10: MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK: Ruckomechi Camp of 10 twin, thatched chalets each with ensuite facilities, an open lounge and a bar right on the Zambezi River. We will dine under an open-thatch canopy. Because the camp only caters for a maximum of 20 guests, personalized attention is a key feature. There is no fence, so game is free to wander through the camp and it does! The area is actually home to a resident pride of lions, the elusive wild dog, leopards, cheetahs, plentiful elephants, cape buffalo, kudu, zebra, impala, and water buck. Overnight at Ruckomechi Camp

DAY 11: MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK: All the Safari activities are included and we can select two activities per day. These include walking safaris, game drives, canoeing, fishing and relaxing cruises on the Zambezi River. We are then transferred by high-speed motor boat to Chirundu where we connect for our road transfer to Kariba for our flight to Harare.




Here are a few images from these wonderful expeditions!




One of my favorite antelope of all is the Black Sable.  We saw this one during and early morning game drive of Chobe National Park in northern Botswana.  We saw several during this particular drive.



Amazing Victoria Falls seen from the Zambia side. 



The Cape Rock Hyrax or Rock Dassie (Procavia capensis) was commonly seen in and around the kopjes of Zimbabwe.  This one was seen in Hwange during a walking safari.






This massive Nile Crocodile was close to 4+ meters in length!  Gives one chills...



The bush plane is an essential tool in getting around the Okavango and the Kalahari desert.  This one landed me in the Makadikadi Pan National Park for a stay at Jack's Camp.



This pilot-in-training was reading up on the many quirks of the various bush runways in the Okavango.  I read through the booklet myself.  It was fascinating the read about the "pride of about 20 lions who like to snooze on the runway and chew on the plane's tires while the pilot is away..."



Seeing the greater Okavango Delta from the air is a spectacular sight.  The massive wetlands stretch for hundreds of kilometers in all directions and is completely wild.




An Okavango sunset.



Surrounding the ancient lake bed at Makadikadi Pan, it is still possible to find hundreds of arrowheads and stone tools dating back hundreds of thousands of years.



After a two hour ATV ride through the Makadikadi Pan, we found ourselves at this fully stocked bar in the middle of the greatest salt pans in the Kalahari.  We enjoyed a spectacular sunset with an open bar all night long!  A couple hours later, our beds arrived and we slept under the Kalahari stars that evening.  It was cold but we had bead warmers....



Although I am generally opposed to "tearing it up", I did have a blast driving this ATV throughout the Kalahari.



"Joe" was my Bushman guide for a fascinating ethnobotanical walk through the Kalahari.  We ate a bushman breakfast of tubers and grubs that he found on our two hour buffet walk.  Absolutely fascinating experience!




The famous Chapman's Baobab.  This fantastic tree also served as a postal stop for well over a hundred years!



A close up view of a Hippo!




We had must traveled directly over this Hippo with our mokoro when he decided to leap up and belch out a horrifying warning!  Even my mokoro guide was terrified about this one.  He said that this sort of thing was his greatest fear.



A couple regal male Lions at Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.



We paced this African Leopard through the bush for a couple kilometers in Hwange one morning.  He finally had enough of us and jumped up on a kopje and gave us a very convincing warning to BACK OFF!



A slighty broader perspective.




This elephant in a Zimbabwe game reserve was very confused.  The Black Rhino he was mounting did not seem to mind that much either.  Each to their own I suppose...




Birding in the Okavango was outstanding!  This Green Pigeon and African Darter were seen along the banks of the Okavango Delta.



There is only one place in southern Africa to see Puku in the wild.  These were seen in the Chobe.



Nyala were seen in several reserves in Zimbabwe.  This spectacular bull had a herom of at least two dozen females!



We came across this young Greater Kudu during a walking safari in the Okavango near Xakanaka Camp.  It was frozen in fear and tried to blend in to its scrub surroundings.




The Lilac Breasted Roller was a very common bird seen during my stays in Botswana and Zimbabwe. 



Yellow-billed Ducks were another common bird seen in the Delta.




We saw this Hook-billed or Black Rhino with several others in Hwange during our first day in the reserve.  I am scared to think that happened to this magnificent animal and his peers when Mugabe opened up the park to wholesale hunting to feed his starving military.



The Mokoro Trails are an amazing wilderness experience.  This guide was killed the following year by a huge Nile Croc during a cruise with two elderly tourists.  If only the tourists had known what to do, he would have survived. 


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To see more amazing images of Eastern and Southern Africa, click the below links:

Eastern and Southern African Mammals

Eastern and SouthernAfrican Birds

Eastern and Southern African People & Landscapes