Art. # 299
TRAVEL REPORT (Tourism division)
TRAVEL & HELP (Tourism division)
Text by Elke Hoeltzcke and Stefan Rust
Photos by Stefan Rust
(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belongs to Stefan Rust)
Traveling with BirdsConTour or making use of BirdsConTour as a partner in tourism (e.g. guiding) gives reason to scream out loud full of joy, because our mission is: Welfare and conservation through traveling! Doesn’t that give you peace of mind while traveling the world for whatever purpose; pleasure, relaxation, discovery, exploration, getting to know other cultures or building interpersonal relationships?
Travel description: Okavango Tour (Chamäleon Reisen and Pack Safari, led by BirdsConTour)
Country on route: Zimbabwe – Botswana - Namibia
Duration: 13.7. - 23.7.2014
Distance traveled: 1 854 Km
Brun Annemarie & Rudolf
Tappeser Dr. Karl
Seidel Annegret & Joerg
Area: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Person/People of the day: Basarwa People. The San people are also known as Basarwa or Bushmen and are all members of various indigenous hunter-gatherer people of Southern Africa. They are one of fourteen known extant “ancestral population clusters” from which all known modern humans descend. Their “Khoisan languages” have click consonants but do not belong to other language families. Traditionally the Basarwa people live as an egalitarian society without official leader or chief in small mobile foraging groups between 10 to 15 individuals. While men hunt in long tracking excursions using poisoned arrows produced by beetle larva’s to kill their game, women gather fruit, berries, tubers, bush onions and other plant materials. In the past 2 000 years the San were slowly pushed to live in the arid sands of the Kalahari Desert because land that the San used to hunt on was increasingly being used for grazing cattle.
Site/Subject of the day: Batoka Gorge. Batoka is a large and beautiful gorge in Zimbabwe carved by the Zambezi into the strata of basalt rock over hundreds of thousands of years. It’s also a habitat of endangered and rare bird species like the Taita falcon and rare birds of prey like Verreaux’a eagle. Birdlife international lists the Batoka Gorge as an “Important Bird Area” on the basis of its conservation importance. Since years there are plans to build a large hydropower dam that might be realized in nearby future. If this dam is build the whole area up to the foot of Victoria Falls will be flooded and rare bird species will lose their ancestral habitat as well as local people around Victoria Falls and Livingstone will be casualties as they lose their source of livelihood.
Plant of the day: Fireball Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus). The fireball lily belongs to the “Amaryllidaceae-family” and grows from the Eastern Cape in South Africa through KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. It’s an evergreen plant which grows from a bulb with leaves that can stand up to 110 cm. It’s spectacular flowerhead is a huge spherical umbel consisting of up to 200 fiery red flowers. Seeds are kept in a green berry that will turn scarlet as it ripens during July to September. The berries can remain on the plant for up to 2 months. Fireball lilies attract bees, butterflies and birds and are excellent plants for glasshouses or sunny windowsills.
Animal of the day: Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis). The rock hyrax is found across Africa in habitats with rock crevices. Even if it doesn’t seem so – but the closest living relatives to hyraxes are elephants and sirenians. The noisy and sociable hyrax live in colonies of 10-80 animals and the dominant male defends the group and marks its territory. Hyraxes are most active in the morning and evening. In particular Verreaux’s Eagle is a specialist hunter of hyrax but mainly they are preyed on by leopards, cobras, caracals and wild dogs.
Accommodation of the day: Gorges Lodge
Area: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to Kasane, Botswana
Person/People of the day: Robert Mugabe. Mr. Robert Mugabe was raised as a Roman Catholic and qualified as a teacher. Originally graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree he subsequently earned six further degrees through distance learning including a Bachelor of Administration and Bachelor of Education as well as Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Science and Master of Laws. He celebrated his 90th birthday at 21st February 2014. It is his seventh period as President of Zimbabwe. Since the past 34 years of his leadership Zimbabwe has suffered in many measures, for example Zimbabwe dollar had suffered from the second-highest hyperinflation rate of any currency in modern times and people are suffering from Mugabe’s appalling economic mismanagement, corruption and brutal repression.
Site/Subject of the day: Victoria Falls NP. It is situated in Hwange district on the western tip of Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls National Park and UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site was added to Ramsar List of wetlands of International Importance. It protects the south and east bank of the Zambezi River in the area of the world-famous Victoria Falls. A notable feature of the park is the rainforest which grows in the spray of the falls, including ferns, palms. Liana vines and a number of trees such as mahogany not seen elsewhere in the region.
Plant of the day: Zig-Zag-Terminalia. This native small tree with a flat crown and horizontal branches grows in Zimbabwe’s dry wooded grassland and mopane savanna. The tree is growing under internal control mechanisms. Toward the periphery of the canopy, a radial gradient of increased dominance becomes expressed, resulting in a zigzag effect. The leathery leaves are clustered on dwarf lateral shoots.
Animal of the day: African Wild-Dog (Lycaon pictus). Usually only the alpha pair testifies offspring. The other sexually mature animals of the pack have an altered hormonal balance, which usually leads to a temporary infertility. This largest African dog is regarded as very endangered species due to habitat loss and poaching. As they need large territories most of Africa’s national parks are too small for a pack of wild dogs, so the packs expand to the unprotected areas. A smaller but apparently secure population of several hundred individuals are found for example in Zimbabwe (Hwange National Park).
Accommodation of the day: Chobe Safari Lodge
Area: Kasane, Botswana
Person/People of the day: FIFA Winning Team. The winning team consists of many well-trained and talented individuals who are able to combine all their knowledge and skills to a successful whole. These include not only the talent and hard training of each individual, it is rather important to play as a team so successfully that all these strengths lead to a successful superiority and thus the victory via the opposing team (for example Germany in the FIFA World Cup) can be achieved.
Site/Subject of the day: Germany. Germany, the homeland of the winners, is a medium-sized country, which is located in the west of Europe. Currently, the land and its inhabitants are in state of overwhelming pleasure because of its superior victory at the FIFA World Cup. Since long the sophisticated inhabitants of this country haven’t been seen in such a good and positive mood.
Plant of the day: Bloodwood tree (Pterocarpus angolensis). The locals refer to this magical tree as the Kiaat, Mukwa and Muninga. If any part of it is damaged, dark red colored sap oozes from this part of the tree and it appears as if it starts to bleed. The red sap is used for many medicinal purposes such as blood ailments, eye problems, stomach issues and to promote the production of breast milk for the locals.
Animal of the day: Armadillo (2014 Brazilian FIFA mascot). The 50 cm long armadillo had the Portuguese name “Tatu Bola”, with the word “Tatu” means Armadillo and “Bola” ball, as the armadillo rolls together like a ball. Nevertheless, the “Tatu Bola” by the FIFA was assigned a different name. The new and preferred name by the FIFA is “Fuleco”. Unfortunately, no one from the FIFA did know anything of the real meaning of the name: :Fuleco” in the Brazilian slang means “ass”.
Accommodation of the day: Chobe Safari Lodge
Area: Kasane to Nata, Botswana
Person/People of the day: President Ian Khama. Ian Khama has been the President of Botswana since 2008 and he also is de facto the Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato tribe. It is said that he felt to do what was right for the country even if he made some unpopular decisions and even if an authoritarian style of leadership has been accused to him. On the economic front, Khama has been a vocal proponent of in moving Botswana away from its overreliance on diamonds and diversifying its economy, especially to the agriculture and tourism sector.
Site/Subject of the day: Kazungula. Kazungula, a village in the far north of Botswana on the south bank of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, links Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Its landscape is home to a large population of big cats and other predators and it supports a vital wildlife migration corridor.
Plant of the day: Ebony Diospyros. The finely-textured ebony is a black wood, dense enough to sink in water. It has a long history of use, with carved pieces having been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs. Nowadays many species of ebony are considered threatened because the trees have been cut down illegally.
Animal of the day: Bushbuck. This widespread antelope is found in rain forests, montane forests, bush savanna forest and woodland. Bushbucks are basically solitary animals and will never be found in an area of close proximity to Nyala because Nyala will always drive them away. The bull is regarded as the most dangerous medium-sized antelope, as it will hide in the bush after being wounded and charge the hunter when he comes looking for it, impaling he hunter with its sharp horns.
Accommodation of the day: Planet Baobab
Area: Gweta, Botswana
Person/People of the day: Thomas Baines. Thomas Baines (November 1820 – May 1875) was an English artist and explorer of british colonial southern Africa and Australia. In 1858 Baines accompanied David Livingstone along the Zambezi, and was one of the first white men to view Victoria Falls. Baines is today best known for his detailed paintings and sketches that give a unique insight into colonial life in southern Africa and Australia. Between 1861 and 1862 he painted a group of Baobab trees in Nxai Pan National Park (Makgadikgadi Pans) that became famously known as the ‘Baines Baobabs’.
Site/Subject of the day: Makgadikgadi Pans. Makgadikgadi is a series of pans that cover an area of 12 000 sq kms, part of the Kalahari Basin. For much of the year, most of the area remains waterless and extremely arid and no vegetation can grow on the salty surface of the pans. The whole area is a relic of what was once one of the biggest inland lakes Africa has ever had. Humans have inhabited areas of the pans since the Stone age, and inhabitation has continued to the present day.
Plant of the day: Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata). The baobab is found in the savannas of Africa and India, mostly around the equator. It can live up to several thousand years and store massive amounts of water in its stem to cope with seasonal droughts. The trunk can be thickened by several centimeters due to the water storage. The tree’s fruits are large pods known as “monkey bread” and are rich in vitamin C.
Animal of the day: Meerkat (Suricata suricatta). The meerkat or suricate, belongs to the mongoose family. Apart of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, they live in Namaibia, in southwestern Angola and in South Africa. Their ears are small and can be closed to prevent dripping of sand while digging. Meerkat young learn by mimicking adult behaviour, though adults also engage in active instruction. For example, meerkat adults teach their pups how to eat a venomous scorpion: they will remove the stinger and help the pup learn how to handle the creature.
Accommodation of the day: Planet Baobab
Area: Gweta to Maun and Moremi NP, Botswana
Person/People of the day: Kololo tribe. The Kololo reached the Zambezi during the 1820s, after being pushed north from their homeland in South Africa by the aggressive Zulu expansion. About 1840 under Kololo chief “Sebetwane” they conquered the Lozi kingdom, which had been built up in the 18th century, and then dominated western Zambia.
Site/Subject of the day: Usage of Okavango River water by different countries. Angola, Namibia and Botswana share the Okavango River Basin. As a result of this, there have been concerns about possible conflict over use of the river’s water. Namibia for instance, has proposed a project to build a pipeline to divert water from the river into Namibia to help relieve the drought. Botswana, however uses the Okavango Delta for both tourism income and as water source for farming and diamond mining. At least Angola planned to build a dam at the upper river for the use of hydroelectric power. To deal with such issues, in 1994 Angola, Namibia and Botswana signed an agreement to form the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), to provide advice to the three countries about the best ways to share the Okavango River’s resources.
Plant of the day: Crocodile Bark Diospyros. It is only known from the Zambezi, Shire, Luangwa and Sabi River valleys and from a few localities on the coastal plain of northern Mozambique and Tanzania. The bark is deeply fissured longitudinally and cracked transversely and looking like Crocodile skin. It grows on hot dry woodland or riverine fringes, often on termite mounds.
Animal of the day: Puku Antelope. Only a small puku population is being found in Botswana. Puku are part of a grazing fauna that is important in structuring grassland communities and supporting populations of large predators, such as lions and leopards, and scavengers, such as vultures and hyenas. They prefer plants containing high crude protein value.
Accommodation of the day: Mankwe Bush Lodge
Area: Moremi NP and Okavango Delta, Botswana
Person/People of the day: Zulu. The Zulus use the rhizome of the Mother-in-law’s tongue plant as a protective charm.
Site/Subject of the day: Dangerous human bite. The bacteria and other microflora in the human mouth are as dangerous, if not more, than those of most other carnivores. Therefore a wound caused by a human bite can become septic, often resulting in gangrene.
Plant of the day: Wild cucumber (Cucumis metuliferus). To counter an infection caused by leopard bite, the Zulus boil the urine from a killed dassie (rock hyrax) together with the leaves of the Wild cucumber and then syringe the liquid into the wound.
Animal of the day: Blow-fly maggots. During the First World War, surgeons found that wounds of soldiers that were exposed to blow-fly maggots healed much quicker and cleaner than wounds without being exposed to maggots. This is because the continuous probing and groping of maggots within a wound, pouring out their digestive juices, which effectively dissolve infected and dead tissue simultaneously kills off all bacteria.
Accommodation of the day: Gcadikwe Island Camp
Area: Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Person/People of the day: Okavango People. Some people in the Okavango Delta believe that if a person offends one, his stomach can be made to burst. A curse will only be effective with the help of a witchdoctor.
Site/Subject of the day: Mould. European farmers often use an old slice of bread to “breed” mould on. This thick and greenish-grey mould they use to disinfect external wounds. This doesn’t surprise, because the most widely used antibiotic, penicillin (penicilium notatum), is produced from mould. Sir Alexander Fleming, a Nobel Prize-winner, first named Penicillin in 1929. Penicillin has saved millions of lives. After intensified research, production followed and by 1943 an ounce of penicillin cost about US$ 20 000 and mass production lead to the same amount costing only US$ 3.-. in 1974.
Plant of the day: Devil’s thorn (Dicerocaryum eriocarpum). This plant contains saponin. Saponin-containing plants are often used to treat skin diseases and even syphilis or gonorrhoea, since they kill and remove certain micro-organisms.
Animal of the day: Leech. Mistakenly thought that an excess of blood caused fevers and other illnesses, leeches were used for centuries as a blood-letter. When a leech bites, it secrets a strong anticoagulant from its salivary glands called ‘hirudin’, which prevent the clotting of the host’s blood while flowing from the incision. Additionally a substance is secreted which causes dilation of the capillaries around the wound and strong enzymes that are present in the secretions have the function to dissolve infected and dead tissue as well as bacteria. Therefore, leeches are even used today in medicinal practices.
Accommodation of the day: Gcadikwe Island Camp
Area: Okavango Delta and Moremi NP, Botswana
Person/People of the day: Bamangwato tribe. Between the years 1875-1923, the Bamangwato (or BagammaNgwato) had grown to become one of the eight “principal” Tswana chieftaincies of Botswana. As often, the reason was a natural population increase and the influx of refugee tribes from South Africa and Rhodesia. The Bamangwato ruled over majority Bakalangathe (the largest ethnic group in central district) and others such as the San, Bitwa and Tswapong. Serowe is capital of the Bamangwato.
Site/Subject of the day: KAZA (Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area). KAZA is situated in a region where the international borders of 5 countries (Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe) converge. It includes a major part of the Upper Zambezi basin and Delta. The whole area consists of 36 national parks and game reserves. The largest population of African Elephants (250 000 animals) can be found in this area. KAZA was established specifically to provide the resident elephants to move freely in their natural habitat.
Plant of the day: Large-leaved Star-Chestnut. This medium-sized deciduous tree is native to hot and dry regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The Large-leaved Star-Chestnut is an important species because of its potential to produce ‘Karaya’ gum, which has several applications in industry. ‘Karaya’ is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive.
Animal of the day: Aardvark. The very shy aardvark emerges from its burrow in the afternoon, and forages over a considerable home range encompassing 10 to 30 kilometres. Both, smell and hearing are involved in the search for food. They zig-zag as they forage and will usually not repeat a route for 5-8 days as they appear to allow time for the termite nests to recover before feeding on it again.
Accommodation of the day: Mankwe Bush Lodge
Area: Maun to Ghanzi, Botswana
Person/People of the day: San people. The indigenous hunter-gatherer people of Southern Africa, are also known as Bushmen or Basarwa. They have provided a wealth of information for the fields of anthropology and genetics. They lived in small mobile foraging bands. Traditionally, the San are an egalitarian society and women have a high status in San society, are greatly respected, and may be leaders of their own family groups. Their economy is a gift economy, based on giving each other gifts regularly rather than on trading or purchasing goods and services.
Site/Subject of the day: Dqae Qare San Lodge. The Lodge is owned and run by the San people and set up to support the local San D‘Kar community through employment and to ensure their cultural survival. It is situated on a game farm in the heart of the Kalahari and stocked with a wide variety of African plains wildlife including Giraffe, Eland, Kudu, Gemsbok and Zebra. Accommodation options for all tastes are available and guests can share the culture of the San people and their extraordinary knowledge of the Kalahari.
Plant of the day: Devil‘s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens). It is mainly found in the Kalahari region. The fruit is dispersed by animals, and it may take several years for all seeds to be released from the hard fruiting body. Mainly the San people have made use of the tubers of this plant for medicinal purposes for centuries. The large roots are used to stimulate digestion and to reduce fever and European colonists brought devil‘s claw home where it was used to treat arthritis.
Animal of the day: African ground squirrel. These squirrels are very social animals and live in colonies similar to North American prairie dogs, and have similar behavior. Their burrow can have up to one hundred outputs and may extend up to 2000 square meters. The Meerkats, which are usually potential hunters of the ground squirrel, sometimes share the burrows even with them. They protect the squirrels from predators such as snakes and take advantage of the prefabricated dwelling.
Accommodation of the day: Dqae Qare San Lodge
Area: Ghanzi, Botswana to Windhoek, Namibia.
Person/People of the day: Herero people. The main Herero group in central Namibia was heavily influenced by Western culture during the colonial period, creating a whole new identity. They speak the Herero language which belongs to the Bantu languages. Cattle herding is the most significant and substantial activity for the Herero people. They rate status on the number of cattle owned. Herero practices include keeping a „Holy Fire“ (sacred shrine) which is located at Okahandja and is the place where the Herero worship God.
Site/Subject of the day: Seeis. The small settlement „Seeis“ is situated east of Hosea Kutako International Airport. It was a populated outpost at least since German colonisation in the 1880s. On 15 February 1904 the Herero defeated a German troop under the command of „von Fischel“. This event is known as the „Battle of Seeis“ and today on Seeis cemetery there is separate section of German war graves from that period.
Plant of the day: Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma ). The strange-looking quiver tree (kokerboom) is an icon of southern Africa‘s most arid and rocky habitats. The name „quiver tree“ was used by the Bushmen, who hollowed out its soft branches and used the outer hard bark as a quiver.
Innumerable birds are attracted to the nectar of its flowers. Among them are Mousebirds, Dusky Sunbirds and the Pied Barbet, which is specialized on expanding holes in the tree trunk and there to build its nest.
Animal of the day: White-tailed gnu (Black wildebeest). The black wildebeest is characterised by its white, long, horse-like tail. It is a fast runner, (speeds of up to 80 km/h) and communicates using a variety of visual and vocal communication. It shows well-developed orientation behaviour towards solar radiation which helps it thrive in hot, and often shadeless, habitats. The species was almost completely exterminated in the 19th century but has been reintroduced widely even outside its natural range in Namibia.
Accommodation of the day: Onjala Lodge
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