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Botswana by Sue Williams

Sue Williams travelled on our 'Botswana's Desert & Delta (Mammals)' holiday and submitted this entry to our writing competition.

Lion cub, Botswana by Sue Williams

‘But where are you going to plug in the straighteners?’ That was the response from my work colleagues when I told them that I was once again going mobile camping in Botswana. Now I appreciate that you guys do not know me from Adam – as the saying goes – so let’s just say that I am more likely to ‘stress’ about the fact that the local council is chopping down more trees or building on ‘green’ space than I am about my hair. Add to that the fact that I have straight, short hair and you can see how silly the question was. Unfortunately I am used to silly questions when it comes to my trips to Africa, so now I just smile and humour people. Smug in the knowledge that I know how welcoming the people are, how breathtaking the landscape is, how very special the wildlife is and how good a tour operator to Africa Naturetrek is (ok, I know, but I really want to win this competition).

In April 2011 I took a Bargain Mammal trip to Botswana, mobile camping out in the open. I have stayed in some really nice lodges in Africa, but nothing beats mobile camping in the bush. You really do feel at one with nature. I love the sounds of Africa at night and it doesn’t get any better than lying on your bed with just a bit of canvas between you and the sounds or having something large brush against your tent at night. I nearly fell out of bed at that point, but it was brilliant – if only I could have seen what it was.

However, let me take you back to the start. We arrived at Maun pretty much on time and, as I’d been there before, I got through pretty quickly. I also recognised the ‘uniform’ of our local guide and introduced myself to Joe. In my humble opinion I think you can tell how good your trip is going to be in those first few seconds when you meet the guide for the first time. I knew it was going to be good straight away – Joe held out his hand with a big smile on his face. ‘Excellent, I’m a Liverpool fan too.’ I was wearing my Liverpool F.C. polo shirt - another trick I’ve learned on my various visits to Africa, they love football, so showing your colours is a good conversation starter.  Let me stress though, it was not because he was a red that Joe was such a good guide. It was more to do with his patience with us all, or his willingness to stay out late to try and find us another wonderful sighting.

On the tour we were lucky enough to see a plethora of animals. At one time we were so close to an Elephant that I could almost smell its breath. I lost count of the Cheetahs we saw, and my first Serval was sighted - it was only a fleeting glance but, hey, it counts. The highlight, though, has to be the time we spent with a Lioness and her two cubs playing together. We had spotted the Lionesses in the morning, but she did not want to show us her cubs at that time. However, later in the day they were there for everyone to see, playing together out in the open.

The animals, as always, were extraordinary, but one of the things I’ll remember most about this trip is the people. When we had all gone through Maun Airport it became clear that one member of our group’s luggage had not made it. This could be a major trauma to most, but the man whose luggage didn’t make it just took it all in his stride. To the group’s credit everyone pulled together - toothpaste, shampoo, shirts, trousers, even pants ... whatever he needed someone in the group provided. To me that’s what makes a trip that bit special. There was a bit of competition as we split into two groups – the numbers dictated that we had two vehicles – but at the end of the day we all sat around the fire and stayed up late drinking, laughing and telling each other tales of former trips and, in the guide’s case, stories of how wonderful the Okavango is.

Personally my favourite story was the one about how during one trip, during a drought period, a guest was taking a ‘bucket shower’; they’d soaped themselves up when the water ran out – an entrepreneur Elephant had sucked up the water from the bucket. That, my friends, is why I love taking my trips with Naturetrek.

Read more about our 'Botswana's Desert & Delta (Mammals)' holiday.