Sept 4-19 2019 Botswana, South Africa & Zambia Tour

We booked this trip through CruiseOne in October 2017. We booked our air in October 2018 for premium economy on American and British air .

Because we are a Tauck repeat customer, we were given a free night pre tour at the royal Livingstone in Zambia.

We began our journey at 10 am Wednesday September 4. We drove to the airport and checked in. Our bags weighed 46 pounds each...we packed the tauck duffle bags in them as well as a very small lightweight back pack for me to use on the safari portion of the trip. Steve's back pack weighed 10 pounds and Steve's camera bag weighed 13 pounds and my camera bag weighed 4 pounds. We were able to check the bags all the way through and we went to the admiral’s club. We were able to watch the last flight of an MD80 take off for retirement.

We boarded the flight for Chicago. The flight leaving Chicago was our first time on a 787. It left two hours late. We arrived in London and sat in the admiral’s club for the next 10 hours. We took a shower to freshen up a bit. The showers were very nice. We boarded the flight for Johannesburg south Africa on British Airways. To date…this 11-hour flight was our longest and by the time we got to Africa we were exhausted. We arrived in Johannesburg and walked around looking at different shops. We decide to use our priority pass card and went to a quaint little lounge… Mashonzha lounge upstairs. I had water and steve had coffee. It was very nice. We were leaving out of gate B19. We were taken to the plane by a bus. We boarded the next flight for Livingstone. The flight took 1 hour 25 minutes. We got off the plane and went into immigration. There were 3 different lines and of course the line for the KAZA visa was HUGE. We waited well over an hour…we finally got our visa, paid $100 cash and went outside to find the TAUCK representative. He was there but informed us the other TAUCK customers had already left and he would call another van to come and get us. We waited about 15 minutes.  The van arrived loaded our things and we started the drive to the royal Livingstone. We were terribly disappointed that we were not transported to the resort by boat. It was one of the things we had looked so forward too. We did get to see the city of Livingstone and we passed a herd of elephants standing beneath shade trees.

We arrived at the resort, were given fresh cool towels and a lovely drink. We checked in and were taken to room 5058. The room is nice…we have a king bed, a lovely bathroom with a tub and shower and a balcony. The view is pretty good... the river is a bit obstructed but nice none the less. I unpacked and separated the items that go into the duffel bags. We got cleaned up and were going to walk around taking photos… and as we came down the stairs, we were greeted by a small herd of zebras…one was a baby. That certainly brought a smile to our tired faces.

We then went to the Kubu bar overlooking the Zambezi river. We had some wonderful South African wine, watched the hippos’ surface, had a gorgeous sunset, ate crocodile spring rolls, and watched the mist of Victoria falls. We took a few photos, came back to the room and crashed…. tired but happy.

Saturday sept 7, We had booked an animal encounter online prior to our trip. At 6:30 we were picked up and taken to the Mukuni big 5. We checked in and paid…. $540 for the three encounters and $65 for the video. We first went to visit the Cheetahs. There were two…Lily and Magaisa. They had on harnesses and were very well behaved. We pet them and then got to walk with them. the cheetah team included, Haggai, Melvin, Peter and Lee. Next, we went to ride the elephants. We rode Boniface then afterwards we fed the elephants, Tata, Temba, Mouse, Sondela and Boniface. Elephant handlers on duty that day were, Brighton, Guessman and Fanfred.

Then we went to visit the lions…there were 4 of them 3 girls, Lorretta, Anna, and Zdenka and a boy named Eric. We pet them and then we walked with them. Lion walk team comprised of Goodson, Nicholas, Christian and Lunda. We bought the video and the trainers were very good to take our photos with our camera.

We came back to the royal Livingstone and then walked to Zimbabwe. A young man named John, offered his services as a guide and we took him up on it. Somehow, we felt safer with him in charge. We went through immigration then crossed the bridge. We saw all kinds of baboons. We paid John $5. We came back to the royal Livingstone shared a cheeseburger for lunch. At 3:00, we met our fellow Tauck travelers. Chris Mancini, our guide gave us instructions. Then we rode a bus to the 1920’s train and rode the train back to Zimbabwe and to Victoria falls. Unfortunately, it has been a very dry year and the falls were almost dry. We got back on board the train and had a 5-course dinner. We got back to the hotel about 9:30. We had a very full but fun day.

 Sunday September 8, we had breakfast at 6:30 then we boarded a bus to go on a tour of Victoria Falls. Along the way we saw mongoose, baboons, monkeys, zebra and giraffes. The Falls were very disappointing. The lack of rain and the use of the falls for electricity left them a trickle. We boarded the bus to go on a walking safari in the rhino sanctuary in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. We saw 10 Rhino including a baby. Then we went on a driving safari. We saw impalas, kudu, waterbucks, wildebeest, giraffes, zebra, and warthogs. We drove to the David Livingston resort where we boarded the lady Livingston boat and we had a lunch cruise on the Zambezi river. We went through the Moremi game reserve. We saw elephants, hippos, warthogs and crocodiles. We came back to the Livingstone resort and had dinner at 6:30. It was another busy yet wonderful day. Every trip we take…I have a cry day…days of complete and utter astonishment and joy that I am here. Today was that day…but I have a feeling there will be more days like today.

Monday sept 9, we got up this morning and had breakfast then boarded the bus for the border to Botswana. We took a ferry across the Zambezi river, then got onto buses that took us to a motorboat on the Chobe river in the Okavango delta. They also served lunch. This cruise was even better than the one the day before. Then we took the bus to the Kasane airport. We were greeted by Giraffes as we drove into the Belmond Khwai River lodge. We checked in and were assigned room 14. Our room is magnificent…the view is incredible. Our driver Mr. T took us on a game drive, and we saw hyenas, elephants, giraffes, zebra…so many! and then we had dinner back at the lodge.  

Tuesday sept 10, We got up this morning at 5:30 to go on a safari at 6:30. Today we saw wild dogs and lions and a leopard. There are so many amazing animals! We stopped for a coffee break in the bush next to hippos! We went back to the lodge for lunch and went on an afternoon safari. We stopped for sundowners, then we had dinner at a BOMA.

Wednesday September 11, we got up at 5:30 and went on a 6:30 safari. We saw 5 hyenas with babies and 2 leopards. We then had lunch. We flew to our next camp…Belmond eagle island lodge. We were assigned room 4. The room is simply amazing. As we were sitting on the deck looking at the view, an elephant decided to eat the palm tree next to the deck. I could have touched him!!! We went on a mokoro ride on the little pond. We had sundowners then dinner and retired to our rooms…. another day of amazing sights.



  • Safe and wonderful travels!!! We can't wait to hear about your great adventure!!!!!

  • You two look so cute. Enjoy, enjoy!

  • Good to hear you arrived in blighty. Just chill out when you get to the Royal Livingstone, the massages were great.

  • edited September 2019

    Hey, I think i know that family of zebra! :D

    At the airport did you get in the line for a regular visa or the one for the KAZA visa? When we were there the line for the regular visa was really long, but there were only about a half dozen people in the KAZA visa line and we were second!

  • Sorry for my ignorance Alan, which is which. We had visas in our passports from the visa service when we took the tour.
    We always make a point of walking very fast whenever we leave the plane so we can get to the front of the line. A small backpack and sensible shoes help instead of a wheel along carry on. We leave a bathroom stop until we get tp baggage claim. We have on occasion had to wait for other people. We arrived two days early on this tour to allow time to recover from jetlag and to site see. This was our fourth time to Africa so we knew how tough the early morning starts can be when you are already trying to deal with time differences .i guess one of f those big zebras could be hte baby one we saw.

  • edited September 2019

    cathyandsteve, 7:53PM edited 7:55PM. We were in the line for the kaza visa.We were near the back of the plane... .A plane had just arrived and unloaded before we are the SECOND plane full of people in line.

    Well that explains it. That and the fact the KAZA has gained wider acceptance, especially since the sticker shortages of a few years ago seem to have been resolved, really sealed it. We flew into Livingstone on SAA, though we were late departing Jo'burg, we still took off minutes before the BA/COMAIR flight which landed right behind us at Livingstone. Plus we were in the front of the plane and hot footed it to immigration- from plane to visa to luggage to Tauck transfer- 15-20 min. at most.

    Sorry you missed the boat transfer and water arrival but I don't think you had any choice. By now you have had the lunch cruise which departs from the same place and you'll see much of the same stuff, so you really didn't miss too much except the musical performance when arriving at the Royal Livingstone- you may have been met with that anyway.

    British, I may be wrong, but I don't believe we could get a KAZA visa (we planned and made an excursion into Zimbabwe so needed the KAZA or the more expensive multi-entry Zambia visa.) via the embassy in DC or via the e-visa process. As you know I had activities planned the afternoon of the day we arrived. As it turned, because of our flight arrival, aircraft seating, etc. we didn't need to get a visa ahead of time anyway. It also helped that we had a good, full, night's sleep at the Continental in Jo'burg before heading to the airport and flying to Livingstone a day and a half early.

  • I’m not suggesting people ‘push’ past others. We are very fast walkers, we walk for exercise pretty fast almost every day but also notice when we are in the city that we easily are able to get from place to place more quickly than most people around us. When I was working, my job involved being very fast on my feet at times. We both find these days that walking slowly like when in a group and site seeing gives us a kind of backache. Now uphill, that’s another story, I’ll find out how good or bad I am at that when we hike in Rwanda, heat and elevation makes me think I will find it a challenge.

  • Wow already low. I wonder what Botswana will be like? When we were there in a September the waterways were very shallow and when we did the small canoe trip it was difficult going. We were charged by a lone hippo and the guides had to curtail the ride. I must admit I was frightening to death, so much so that if we do that tour again I may pass on the canoe ride.

  • British, I think it was the same hippo that didnt like me!! When his ears started twitching and then bobbing up and down in the water, the canoe guide hightailed it out of there. Everywhere we went after that our fellow travelers teased me that the hippo was still looking for me :D

  • edited September 2019

    Except for the low water level and no boat arrival, it sounds like things are off to a good start!

    British, 9:31AM. Wow already low. I wonder what Botswana will be like?

    When we were there this past May the flow over the Falls was reduced a little from normal but still decent. However, at Eagle Island Camp in Botswana, the only water was in the stream (a tributary of the Okavango River) just past the Fish-Eagle Bar. We were only able to travel a few hundred yards by mokoro and ran aground a couple of times before we had to turn back. It is a shame, but from cathyandsteve's description of the falls, I think there will be even less water at Eagle Island. Hopefully, the water level at the Khwai River Camp will be ok.

    Except for the causeway leading to and the Fish-Eagle Bar itself, the grassy areas between the "tents" and the stream and on the far side of the stream are normally flooded in the spring and (early to mid?) summer. In May, we experienced water levels like in my photo below and the Camp's website banner photo at this link: If you scroll down there is a video of the surrounding area that illustrates normal flood water level.

  • Cathy, Chris was our Tour Director, he’s really nice, and handsome! He lives in Arusha.
    By looking at Alan’s photo, it’s much drier there in May than we had in a September. We actually found the Victoria Falls more interesting when the rocks were exposed than when we saw them at high levels when we saw them from the Zimbabwe side several years before. In Zambia we could see a guy fishing at the top of the falls like we had seen on a TV documentary.
    The animals must be having a really hard time in Botswana if it is so dry already.
    Cathy, thank you so much for all your photos, it’s so helpful for people who have yet to go and nice to see you two enjoying yourselves.

  • Great shot of the rhino and baby! I don't know how may rhinos or herds of rhinos there are in the sanctuary, but there wasn't a baby in the group of 10 or so that we saw. Our guide didn't get us in as good a position as the other guide and group, so I wasn't able to get a good shot of this slightly older juvenile. It kept bumping heads with and nuzzling her momma.

    Buckle up, you ain't seen nothing yet!!! More to come on this great tour!

  • edited September 2019

    At only 3 months old, the baby rhino wouldn't have been born when we visited.

    Wow, you must have an upscale group!

    Yes, when the train stops on the bridge, so if you walk past the sign in the middle of it, you are "technically" in Zimbabwe, but you aren't truly there until you have your passport stamped! :)

    Don't say I didn't warn you about the walk and the aggressive vendors on the way to Zimbabwe!! :o Be sure you are ready for the ones at the Zambezi River crossing. :o Aggressive vendors and touts are often a fact of life when you mix rich tourists with people from poor, third world countries.

  • Yes, agree with Alan, you must be with a fancy group, I’ve been on a couple of land tours recently when I’ve been the only woman in a dress and others have worn as casual as cut off jeans at the Welcome dinner. Groups vary greatly,it doesn’t matter, you will 99% never see these people again. It doesn’t say anything about them or you in real life. People are not the same on vacation as at home. My best example are friends who love to dress up and yet their home is like a pig sty, but that doesn’t matter either. By the end of all my Africa tours, no one cares what they look like, no makeup, grungy hair and so on. Even with a hat on your hair gets ratty in the wind and blowing dirt. I love it, no one cares, no one is looking at you. Remember no hairdryers at Camp Kalahari and you will be sleeping overnight out in the desert with you day clothes on, you getup as you are, eat breakfast there if I remembered correctly and go back to camp.
    Re vendors by the train, I think I mentioned that, I bought stuff and chatted to the guys, but their stuff is poor quality and I think I mentioned that. At the restaurant, the more dressed up people were not on the Tauck tour, when I was there, I noticed most of them were British.
    Very important. Do not cave in and give money to people pestering you, that is the very worst thing you can do, it encourages them even more, any tour director will tell you that. When we were on our first safari we were strictly told not to give stuff to begging children by the roadside as it discourages them form attending school and that is not what their parents want these days. The kindest thing you can do is give a fair price for crafts you are buying from them, bargain a little because that is the custom, but don’t screw them over. If you ever go to India, you would never survive the hordes of people around you begging for money.
    Sorry, I thought you understood that duffels are checked, there is no room for more than a small bag on the little planes. I knew that it’s just plastic shopping bags are banned, but I am not going to take ziplocks because you never know in these countries when a customers officer is having a bad day or takes a dislike to a particular American. You do have to be careful when you get to Moan about checking what is in your carry on, it’s a more regular airport and some people had things confiscated from their carry on on our tour.
    Cathy, your blog is wonderful. Continue the great work, lots to learn, you’ll be a pro in no time

  • edited September 2019

    That big fella visited camp when we were there. Those hyena cubs are really young! Spotted Hyena cubs are born with dark coats that start to lighten up at three weeks. A typical litter is 2 - 3 cubs. It looks like there are 4 in this photo, unless, they are from two separate litters.

    Update My wife informed that it could be a "nursery den" with cubs from more than one mother. She just read Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens. It is true story about a young American couple who literally spent their honeymoon and the next seven years studying Brown Hyenas and Lions in a remote and totally devoid of humans area of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.

  • Memories memories, he was probably one of the little cubs we saw. It was a bigger litter. I know only one pair breeds in a pack and hey, females rule in Hyena life!

  • edited September 2019

    Wonderful photos Cathy,
    Recognize Chris from the back with his bag of Tauck goodies

  • edited September 2019

    cathyandsteve, 2:41PM, Thursday September 12, today we . . . wild dogs with puppies…

    I feel shortchanged!!! I wanna go back!! We only had two leopard sightings - one through the bush- no photo- and one about 6-8 feet away, but is was a night shot. No Hyena or Wild Dog pups either!!! :/:/

    Actually, the only wild dog pup in your photos (the one in your second post after the sunset) is a juvenile. All the other pups in your photos are hyenas. :) (hyena- spots, short back legs vs wild dog- splotches and bigger ears)

    Great shots!!

  • You ladies need to practice jumping- here is real jumping:

  • 😀😀🤪🤪🤪😂😂😂😂

  • Thank you for a great blog.

  • Yes thanks Cathy for you wonderful, info. I told you Africa was more than just seeing animals. Have you got the bug?

  • Great photos! Which camp did the warthog visit?

  • British -

    We have visited Africa twice and have caught the bug! Am trying to figure out exactly what that means, though. I feel drawn to Africa now but don't know why. Any ideas?

  • edited September 2019

    Why we are drawn to Africa? Growing up in England I feel we got a lot more exposure to Africa than maybe if we had been living in the US. We saw news footage of things like the queen visiting the former colonies with people dancing and wearing strange clothing. Everyone talked about Africa as being the mysterious dark continent but if you visited there it got ‘in your blood’ or I guess your soul and you had to go back. As children there was a weekly show about animals presented by Desmond Morris, the guy who wrote ‘The Naked Ape’ and of course the wonderful David Attenborough. Back then I never dreamed I’d be able to leave the shores of England. My parents were working class, we vacationed every year in England or Wales. We once took a day trip to France across the English Channel, I was so excited.
    We married young, trying to travel when we could, shared a love of nature and biology and I loved Geography, Geology, and learning about other countries while I was in high school. I love the different landscapes and plants and trees you see in countries with climates than the one we are used to.
    We had our children while we were relatively young. We did the traveling with them that we could afford, they even got to go to Japan under the age of ten. I can remember going out to buy our first color TV because Attenborough’s Life on Earth was about to premier. It was a twelve inch screen, it was very heavy to carry. But we saw all the wildlife in color.
    The first time we went to Africa, on the last day we literally cried and did not want to leave. It’s just something inside you that makes you feel different. Being there, the landscape, the people, the animals are a bonus. Every time we go it’s different. We love meeting the passionate tour directors we have had and the fantastic safari drivers who take so much trouble to make sure we see all the wildlife, turn the trucks around so everyone gets their turn at great camera angles. We feel so bad for them when people who get so excited about spotting their first animals, will a few days later, turn up their noses and say, oh it’s just zebra, drive on, no need to stop, we’ve seen those before. The drivers are all so different and each have their own special interests. One I remember well talked about politics with such passion, he once made me laugh when he said African men were lazy and the women did all the work.
    We have been lucky enough to visit a hospital in Karatu that now serves a huge population of peoples in rural Tanzania. We send money when we can, they save hundreds of lives each year now with such simple things as providing medicines to epileptics who have never been able to have medicines before and young mothers who really did need a Caesarean to save their life and that of their baby. We have been inside the homes of The Maasai people and in a cardboard home of a proud woman and her children in a shanty town, it was spotless. And the school children at the school. We have been to a village where elephants regularly trampled over their crops, but a charity provide a well nearby, so the elephants drank form there instead. We have met with villagers where the women walk around bare breasted and talked to us about their life in the village in the harsh desert area.
    We’ve been just as glad to be there on safari drives where we might only see one or two animals all morning, because we just love the whole experience. The safari vacations are also the easiest vacation to pack for— I don’t know why Tauck now takes you to stay at places like the Four Seasons, do I really need to pack something decent to go to dinner there now, that’s a pain!
    As soon as we have gotten home from Africa, we want to go back, just three months to go. It’s a good job we don’t have a bucket list, there’s no way we could get through it, we keep going back to African instead.

  • edited August 2020

    We recently returned from our Tauck African Trip to Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. It was a great trip! I thought I would give my perspective of photography on this trip while it is fresh on my mind. I consider myself a serious amateur photographer. I have shot with DSLRs for years now starting with the Canon 10D, then the 5D, 5D MK II and the 5D MK III. I own about a dozen lens give or take and numerous Canon Accessories. I bought my wife a Canon Rebel T7i for Christmas. She is not a technical photographer but has a good eye.
    The equipment we took on this trip was the 5D MK III, a 100-400IS L II, a 24-105L, a 35IS prime and an 85 1.8 prime as well as external flash. For Cathy we took the T7i, a 28-135 and the 18-55. The only lens not used on this trip was the 18-55. For the game drives, I had the 100-400 on my camera and Cathy used the 28-135 (45-216 equivalent). Shooting dual cameras worked out well for us. Between us, we took close to 5,000 pictures.

    My first surprising observation was that I was the only one using a DSLR in our group. Many were shooting with small point and shoot cameras. Several were only using their phones. One person had a higher end bridge camera. I wanted to document this trip as well as I could. I expected it to be a photography heaven and it did not disappoint.
    To say I was happy with the 100-400 would be a big understatement. The sharpness, color rendering and quick focusing of this lens is incredible. I seldom wished for more than 400 on the far end. The guides got us closer to the wildlife than I expected. I did take a 1.4 extender, but never used it.

    It is very dusty when you are out in the safari vehicles. Changing lens in the dusty environment is not a good idea. We put the lens of choice on for the day and did not change. Also, we kept our cameras covered when we were not using them. We used the blankets that were provided for the morning coolness. The ATV drive was nothing but a dust bowl, so we took extra precautions to keep the camera out of the dust.

    I used the 24-105 when I knew we were taking excursions that would not require a telephoto lens. The 35 2.0 IS was primarily used for low light situations such as a group dinner, photos of our rooms, etc. The 85 1.8 was used for a few portraits. Cathy exclusively used the 28-135.

    We also took our laptop on the trip and downloaded our pictures every night. I took two 64 GB memories for my camera and two for Cathy’s. We never used the second memory. We also took a spare battery for each camera but never needed them as we were able to recharge our batteries as needed. We took an external hard drive to back up the computer in case of a crash. So, we were ready for most disasters, but luckily did not need our back-ups. I shot all Raw shots and Cathy shot jpg. Probably if I had it to do over, I would have had Cathy also shoot RAW. This allowed for quick tweaks on the pictures in Camera RAW as I downloaded them.

    I was very pleased with our choices in equipment to take and am very pleased with our pictures. We are still sorting through the pictures deciding what we want to print and what size to print. This was a very photography ripe trip. I do not understand people trying to document a trip of this magnitude using a phone, but we are all different and have varying goals.

  • Hello Steve, your photos are lovely. I take lots of landscape photos on these type of tours as well as the animals. It helps me remember more about the tour if I want to look back at my photo books. Even my children are not that interested in my photos but my grandchildren are. Our youngest age two walks through the door saying he wants to see pictures of animals and we have to get the iPad out to show him as well as walk around the house to see anything animal. We buy animal books in these kind of countries to help them learn about them and when we visit Costa Rica we get ones that have English and Spanish in the book. That’s helping my hubby and I with our current Spanish lessons too. Apart from that, no one else is interested in our photos. maybe that is the same for most people. So phones are probably sufficient for them. The only time we used a phone for photos on this trip was when the guide took our photo of us jumping in The Kalahari, it was probably something like an iPhone 3 and I think the quality is pretty good. Other than that, I’d be afraid to use a phone in case I dropped it while taking a photo if the vehicle moved unexpectedly and I did see that happen. My older camera was ruined in Namibia by the sand, despite being very careful and keeping it in a plastic bag, it got some dust or sand around the lens that goes in and out, I have not much clue about my camera, but it’s not one that I change the lens on, it just goes in and out. Anyway, it would no longer close properly and it had some great service for us over the years, so my hubby bought me the equivalent exact same model that now is so much better. When we went to Europe this summer on the river boat, we did not take cameras just our phones for the first time ever. Our photos were fine, I still made a great photo book suffice for our needs. I guess this is what many people want at the most these days. The camera enthusiasts on the tours are interesting to talk to and learn from and often share photos with the group, so that’s very nice.
    Don’t forget you can enter your photos in the Tauck photo contest and maybe win a travel voucher.

  • edited September 2019

    Glad you had fun shopping Cathy. Now tell me, that photo of you with the elephant—-was it just hanging around camp? I nearly died of shock when I saw it next to you.
    Did the tour director give everyone a copper bracelet like he did our group? How many people were on your tour?

  • Really wow, I can’t believe no one else slept in the desert, that was my favorite thing of the whole tour!. I think there were about fourteen or fifteen total in our group.

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