Botswana June 2023: Part 2 Duba Plains

Friday 2 June 2023 – Maun to Duba Plains: Roger

We all met for Breakfast at 0900 then headed to the terminal just across the road to check in for the flight to Maun in Botswana. Kirstie and Celeste had to go and get their bags, which had come in on a morning flight from Dubai. The rest of us checked in and headed through to departures. Keeping us informed on WhatsApp of their progress until Kirstie’s battery went flat, they came trotting up just as boarding commenced.

Airborne on the Airlink e190 jet we headed north, landing in Maun an hour and a half later having enjoyed a snack and a brew handed out by friendly staff along the way. Maun airport has undergone an upgrade since we were last here in 2017 – there is even a carousel for the baggage. We were then met by someone representing the camp, who took us to check in where we dropped our bags. Everyone now goes through security before boarding their small planes to be distributed to the many camps in the area. The 8 of us mounted a Cesssna 208B Grand Caravan along with another couple who were heading to Kings Pool camp another 35 minutes south of Duba Plains where we were bound. We joined the queue to take off with 6 or so planes in front of us and another 5 or 6 behind us distributing the many happy campers to the camps spread out through the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari Desert to the south. Flying northwest  we crossed an expanse of land, some desert, some farmland and some full of waterways.

Beau, Celeste, Sylvia, Katrina, Beka, Kirstie, Victoria

Interestingly the Cubango and Cuito rivers originate in Angola, where the monsoon rains flood the area each year and 11 squae kilometres of water makes its way to the Delta. Originally the water flowed to lake Makgadikgadi until an earthquake raised the land and made that lake a salt pan. The water now sits in the Delta and evaporates before the next lot of water arrives in April to June.

Arriving at the camp to a singsong from the staff, we were shown to our tents, which are more like houses than tents. Then it was back to the rather luxurious dining, lounge, wine cellar and library where we mounted the two Toyota Landcruisers  for our first game drive. There were warthogs and kudu’s hanging around the camp as we drove out and crossed the longest bridge in the delta to get off the island, passing a boardwalk that ended up at the river for what looked like the ‘swim with the crocodiles’ entry point but turned out to be the launch point for the river boat tour.

Next the track headed through water where we had to lift our feet as the water sloshed around the floor of the vehicle. The water here contains lots of tanins, making it black and giving great reflections like that of the Rio Negro (black Amazon). Sloshing through the water  we eventually reached dry land. The land here is made up of sand but like any desert in the world, add water and you have lush grasses and other vegetation.

There are an abundance of antelope here; the first we spotted were tsessebe gathered together in a small group. A monitor lizard headed off into the grass as we approached, this was followed by a herd of red lechwe of which there were hundreds. We roamed around spotting a couple of bateleur eagles high in a sausage tree.

As the sun set we stopped for sundowners, where the guides produced a table and a range of drink for us to enjoy as the sun set. The sun set surprisingly  quickly giving some amazing reflections in the dark water. It was dark as we headed back to the camp, the drivers having kidded about if they couldn’t find the bridge we would be out all night.

Arriving back at the camp we gathered around the fire on the deck for a drink and a yarn before being seated at the long dinner table for a very delicious five course meal, served with a choice of very nice wines and any other drink one might desire. They even catered for the vegetarians and vegans amongst us. Day one over we were all escorted back to our respective tents. There is a rule around these places that after dark one must always have a staff member as an escort.

Saturday 3 June 2023 – Duba Plains: Roger

Just after 0600 there is a knock on the door and coffee and hot chocolate delivered with “I’ll be back in 30 minutes to pick you up”. At around 0645 we all gather at the dining area for another coffee, this time in a insulated mug to take on the drive. Just as first light arrived we were headed out along the dusty track past the local kudu and warthogs.

Crossing the bridge and diving through the deep water we see lots more game and bird life. Soon we were stuck and had to be pulled out by the other vehicle. Eventually we came across a small pack of wild dogs, who looked pretty well fed as they lay around in the shade ignoring us. We continued heading southwest being stunned by the vastness of this wilderness area and the amount of game it holds.

There are huge mobs of red lechwe, who dominate the the plains, often in male or female groups sometimes numbering into the hundreds, occasionally herds of mixed male and female; no one is quite sure for the reason why they mix in such a way

We returned back to camp midday for a siesta then headed out again in the evening spotting more of the plentiful game in this area. We stopped again for a sundowner in a great spot observing animals and birds as we enjoyed our drink.

Sunday 4 June – Duba Plains: Sylvia

We were woken again at 6 and enjoyed our hot drink and bikkies while getting ready to head out for another day exploring this amazing Delta area. The sunrises and sunsets are incredible here. Photos really don’t capture the incredible red of the sun and this morning was no different. We watched it rise, with a palm tree silhouetted in the middle of it.

We have been switching the group around for each activity and this morning we were in a vehicle with Victoria and Beau worth Mots as our guide. Our guides are incredibly talented… They drive in really difficult terrain, through deep water, sand and all sorts while keeping an eye out for game, answering our (at times inane) questions, and at night spotlighting too. And then when we stop they pull out tables and table cloths and set up breakfast, or in the evening drinks and snacks.

It was cooler this morning as we set out and we drove past the usual mobs of red lechwe, kudu and tsessebe. The starlings looked particularly resplendent with their feathers glowing an iridescent blue in the sunlight. We had spotted a large herd of buffalo in the distance and were heading towards them. We stopped to admire a side-striped jackal and noticed that one of the buffalo was straggling behind and limping. We talked about how it would make an easy meal for a lion and joked about calling the lion so it could order take-out. Only a minute or two later Beau called out “lion” and we saw a young male stalking behind.

The chase was on… We were treated to a ring-side view, first to the stand off between the lion and the buffalo, which was impressive in itself, and then as the lion jumped on the back of the buffalo, brought it down and clamped his jaws around it’s neck. Mercifully it was all over remarkably quickly.  I was a mix of emotions, coursing with adrenaline, understanding that the lion needed to eat but still sad for the buffalo. We quickly noticed though that it had a completely broken back leg so would not have survived long anyway. Some small relief.

The guides have been telling us about how two new males lions have recently arrived in the area and have been creating havoc with the local prides, including killing another young male recently. Unsurprisingly this one was looking pretty cautious. We even heard some calling in the distance… but eventually he settled in and started to rip the tough skin under the belly so he could benefit from his exertions.

We decided it was time to go and have a break for breakfast ourselves. Luckily there was no meat on the menu – some on the vehicle had decided to go vegetarian for a bit… not sure that will last long. We stopped beside a waterway and obviously bothered a hippo who promptly exited the water and ran along the bank to a deeper pool. It is incredible the quality and tastiness of the breakfast our guides are able to unpack and assemble in a very short time – granola and muesli, fruit, eggs, muffins, mini chocolate pastries, cheese, tea and coffee. And it is always good to stretch the legs too.

After breakfast we decided to go and check out the area where we had heard the other lions calling earlier. No luck with the lions but we did pass by a secretary bird, pacing in the medium height grass, searching for snakes, lizards or frogs to eat. We also came across a mother and baby rhino and were certainly bemused when the baby decided to run after the car as we were leaving, his mother trotting along behind; obviously curiosity got the better of him.

We headed back to camp – it takes about an hour or so to get back there from where the rhino are. We stopped along the way admiring all sorts of different wildlife, including my favourite, the malachite kingfisher. At one point we stopped so Roger could be photographed holding up an elephant thigh bone – it really gives some idea of how huge these animals are.


We came across a large herd of elephant standing on the side of the water channel. They were all packed together looking like they were waiting for the ‘cross now’ signal. Eventually the lead ele decided it was safe and they all crossed over safely, including the wee baby that was with the large herd – at least 25 of them.

After lunch we all had our siesta time. I chilled out in my room and leveraged the weights that were available to do a workout. Roger, Victoria, Beau and Celeste sat in the lounge area and took full advantage of the open bar. Beka and Katrina went for another run on the airstrip, ably guarded by Owner in the land cruiser and Kirstie chilled in her room.

After ‘high-tea’ we headed off for our afternoon activities. Today we split up: Roger, Kirstie, Celeste and I went on a relaxing boat ride. The flood waters will continue to increase each day until the end of June or July before they start to recede. It was very peaceful heading up the channel, flanked on either side by various grasses and papyrus. We spotted numerous birds and saw a few elephants, including a large bull munching papyrus on the side of the channel just a few metres from us.

Eventually we got to a large hippo pool and sat there while the sun set enjoying the snorts and grunts of the 11 or so hippo (including a few babies) that were in the pool, before heading back down the channel to camp. The reflections of the sunset and the large blood red moon as it was rising were spectacular and incredibly difficult to capture effectively on camera.



Arriving back in camp we were advised that the other crew had been stuck in the mud and would get back in 20 minutes or so. They eventually arrived back, barefoot and with their pants rolled up above their knees, full of excitement to share their story. Apparently they had been with the wild dogs on a hunt (hey had caught a baby lechwe)and had got stuck in the mud twice. The rangers had come to rescue them the first time and got stuck as well. Only a few minutes after the first rescue they were stuck again – and this time firmly. They had to get out of the vehicle and walk through the ‘crocodile infested’ water to get to land so they could be transferred on to another vehicle to be brought back to camp. Owner eventually arrived back in camp after ring extricated from the mud at about 9:30pm. Apparently someone gets stuck about every 5 days here as the floodwaters arrive.

Back at camp we were treated to a six course degustation menu prepared by the group head chef for Great Plains Conservation group at the interactive chef’s table. The food was superb, as it has been the whole trip. With both Beka and Katrina being vegetarian and Beka also dairy and gluten free, the base of all of our meals has been ‘vegan friendly’. Generally with the addition of a protein for those who wanted it. Tonight we had 5 fully vegan dishes and one with a small piece of perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken. The completely vegan desert was one of the best I have ever tasted, a mix of multiple different flavours and textures. Thankfully the portion sizes have all been small and even after six courses I felt satisfied rather than stuffed. But ready for bed anyway after another exciting day int he Botswana bush.

Monday 5 June – Duba Plains: Roger/Sylvia

All the animals here have special ways of crossing water. I think it is part of their ‘avoid the crocodile’ strategy. Elephants gather on the shore and then all head through together, rhinos tend to hang around then stroll through, but only through relatively shallow water, the red lechwe, reflecting in the morning light, conduct almost a form of ballet, leaping as they go through the water. The funniest of all are the baboons, some leap and others stand up and walk through on their hind legs, their arms tucked up, looking like humans who don’t like cold water. We saw all of these here at Duba Plains this morning.

We went to check out the buffalo remains from yesterday. Sure enough the rogue lion brothers had moved in and got hold of the carcass, of which what little they had left had been moved into the shade. They looked very well fed as one chewed on the remains of the head, the other flopping down with an overfull look. A little bee eater looked on waiting to strike.


Vultures and jackals picked at the scraps from the original kill location.

We stopped for breakfast overlooking another expansive landscape. As we moved off from here we spotted a dust cloud as a herd of around 160 buffalo made its way towards us heading for the water, the leader out in front not wanting to be messed with.

As we headed back to camp our guides mentioned they had seen some lions lose tot he airstrip. Being seasoned safari-goers Roger and I were not surprised when we ended up at a lovely spot all set up for a picnic lunch in the bush – the lions were a decoy. It is always nice to eat out in the open. As we headed  back to camp after lunch we spotted a sounder of warthog all snuggled up to each other, facing in opposite directions as they slept in the sun, as if they were playing a game of sardines. 

After our usual afternoon rest, Roger, Kirstie, Celeste and I headed out on the vehicle while Victoria, Beau, Beka and Katrina took their turn on the boat. Having crossed the bridges and made our way through the water we came across a number of burchell’s starlings with their bright purple, turquoise and navy colours, a couple of which Roger was able to shoot in flight. Their shapes make them almost unrecognisable as birds.

Next we ran across a gang of banded mongoose, who we had only seen in the distance before. We spotted a group of kudu standing in the bush, where they tend to hang out. We then checked up on the wild dogs, who were looking rather relaxed and not at all hungry, as the five of them lay in the shade.







After watching them for a while we headed off a few hundred metres to enjoy our sundowner drinks, only to be joined a few minutes later by the wild dogs, who must have gotten curious and come in for a closer look.

The sun down we headed back to the camp for dinner. After having a few drinks and enjoying a spicy tomato soup and our main course of a variety of tasty curries, we moved over to the lounge area where Kirstie had put together a little video presentation to celebrate my 70th birthday that had occurred a week ago, before I left New Zealand. Back at the table, the chef produced a birthday cake that catered to the dietary needs of the whole group – vegan, gluten free and, despite that, remarkably delicious. The staff also serenaded me with their impressive harmonies.


10 thoughts on “Botswana June 2023: Part 2 Duba Plains

  1. Julie Riley says:

    Congrats on your 70th Roger! Thanks for the post – riveting reading and pics, very timely as I read Cry of the Kalahari, right now! Keep them coming, cheers 😊

  2. Max Allfrey says:

    Happy Birthday Mr James, looking good. What a trip…

  3. Selena & Bruce says:

    Spectacular post, absolutely love the variety of animals you all photographed for us. Happy Birthday Roger.

  4. Marie Carmen et Rémi says:

    Happy Birthday Roger.

    only one word : Splendid!!!

    These photos are medicine where it all began…

  5. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    Wow, what a great trip and i loved the pictures. Riveting read

  6. Jodi says:

    What a great way to celebrate your birthday!
    Fabulous pictures and thanks for sharing!

  7. Rod Emmerson says:

    Great pics ! and Happy Birthday Roger 👍🥃🥃

  8. Alister Johnston says:

    spectacular enjoy

  9. Stan says:

    Nice pics of the wild life

  10. Rosie says:

    WOW!! Fabulous adventures and amazing photos – yet again.
    Especially loved your clever shots with the reflections, and the birds in flight. What a great way to celebrate your 70th Roger.
    We did the same for ours, and still have wonderful memories of Botswana. Thank you both for another great blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.