About Letaka SafarisLetaka Safaris is owner run by a unique team of dedicated individuals, enabling us to deliver a professional and personalised safari experience. Our guides are among the best in the region and will enlighten, fascinate and entertain our guests throughout their journey. We offer scheduled safari departures as well as private and tailor-made safaris. Each safari has it's own dedicated team who look after you as and the camp as our departures are fully serviced with no guest participation.
We journeyed in Southern Africa 10 days in Botswana and 4 in Zimbabwe. Our Letaka Safari guide was Nkosi Sibanda who had showed us the wonders of the Okavango Delta two years ago. Our friend Sydelle and her friend Susan joined us in this adventure. Proving that it is a small world, Evelyn from Israel, who wed met two years ago in Botswana, were also on this trip. We started off meeting the newest member of the Gifford family and getting hugs from his Mum. Enjoying our first African sunset at the Okavango River Lodge was made perfect by our first African Gin and Tonic.
Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta is the favorite part of our safari. Flying in over the delta looking for elephants and giraffe is spectacular, as is landing in the very small airplane on the small runway in the middle of the bush. The wildlife is used to vehicles so one gets up close views without feeling that you are disturbing or altering behavior. Among the first spectacular sightings during the three days was a daytime view of the endangered African Wild Cat. They look much like the average housecat and unfortunately will interbreed with domestic cats, as well as catch their diseases. The next day we watched and listened to two wild dogs that were vocalizing in an attempt to reconnect with their group. Their vocalizations were unexpected not wolf-like howls or any sort of dog-like sound that Id heard before but a high pitched keen. One dog would sound out, then both would listen intently completely ignoring us. At a later time, Nkosi placed us perfectly to watch a successful wild dog hunt chasing impala who attempted but failed to flee through water. We were sad for the impala that was caught and more so for another confused animal standing in the river watching the dogs and not seeing the crocodile who took advantage of the impalas distraction. National Geographic photographers spend months in the field to film what wed just seen in 30 minutes or less.
We watched a group of lions strategically place their sub-adult males in clear view of waterbucks while the females attempted to circle around out of view. It didn't work, thanks to some vocal francolins. It was then that we discovered that the battery on the truck was dead. Not to worry, it is easy to attract help if you tell the other guides that they and their guests will see lions.
Some of the lions we saw were little cubs the last time we were there. Mortality in lion cubs is high so there were fewer in the pride than two years ago but they looked healthy and well fed. Nkosi gave us good long times watching this pride as well as several groups of elephants. I could watch elephants for hours and never be bored.
While we were out looking for wildlife, lions and leopards visited our camp. In fact, each time that the camp staff went out for firewood, they had a spectacular sighting. We thought maybe we should go collect firewood with them. At night, with lions so close, the impala stayed closer bedding down within sight of our campfire.
The next three days in Khwai we could venture out at night to see what might be there. Bouncing eyes meant springhares, more than we could count. Small feline predators such as Genets and Civets are out at night and their glowing eyes helped the diurnal humans find them. We possibly saw bush baby eyes. We sat (in our truck) outside an abandoned aardvark burrow at dusk, waiting until the hyenas and their cubs came out after dark. I am fascinated by hyenas so this was a true treat. As cubs nursed on what we assumed was the alpha female, another hyena was paying very close attention until it was snapped at by the nursing mom. The chastised individual laid down in another spot and several cubs joined her to nurse. An adult of unknown gender (it is hard to tell with hyenas) brought out a piece of well chewed something to play tug with a pile of cubs.
Nkosi found the wild dog den with a pile of puppies outside and helped us spot a female leopard and her older female cub. This momma leopard had a younger cub and it was unusual for her to tolerate her older daughter nearby. It was clear she was barely tolerating the adolescent as she vocalized warnings frequently. Sydelles goal of being the first to spot at least one animal was rewarded when she was the one to find the younger cub.
We had an unfortunately placed campsite in Savuti that meant long drives each morning to the spectacular Marsh. Nkosi and the camp staff made the best of it by packing our lunches each day so we could spend the maximum time out. We observed a group of elephants pass by some well-fed lions who had happened to take their siesta in the middle of an elephant trail. The elephants were almost stepping on the sleeping cats. Elephants cant see that well, but they could clearly smell the lions. The lions werent rousing no matter what. A large number of elephant bones lying near roadways was the evidence of an extended heat wave that Savuti experienced in October/November of 2012. The elephants died returning from drinking, making us wonder if they had died from electrolyte imbalance caused by over-drinking after dehydration.
We saw so many antelope that I cant list them all but the second ever sighting of a bushbuck was a highlight as were abundant sightings of the magnificent Sable and Roan antelope. Though there are never enough giraffe or zebra for me, we did see quite a few. The giraffe in particular were less skittish than past visits. It was dryer than two years ago so perhaps they were more focused on eating.
Letaka specializes in birding safaris and though ours wasnt a birding group, we saw lots and lots of fantastic birds. Lilac breasted rollers always got an Oooh and an Aahh. No wonder for a bird whose feathers represent the rainbow and looks like liquid turquoise in flight.
We had limited time in Chobe and were unable to enter at the Ngoma gate on our last day. Chobe may be crowded with day trippers but it is also filled with spectacular wildlife in abundance. Our disappointment was quashed by the boat excursion where we were treated to several groups of swimming elephants. There is nothing more adorable than a swimming baby elephant.
This part of the trip ended in Kasane where we said goodbye to our friends. One of these times we need to do the reverse itinerary so that I stop disliking Kasane it is not the towns fault but its association with the end of the safari that makes me dislike it. From here we transferred to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Cross boarder transfers are interesting enough said.
Our lodge in Vic Falls was beautiful without being snooty. One does notice the grime that one accumulated in the bush immediately upon entering a non-bushish establishment. We were suitable for the dining room after a long shower and change of clothes. The sound of the falls soothed us to sleep. We got up early to view this World Heritage Site before our 9am pick up for Hwange Camp.
Hwange Camp in Zimbabwe is a year old establishment that is structured to be comfortable, but not ostentatious. It was strategically placed and built to provide maximum views of the nearby large waterhole. A baby hippo had been born days earlier and was wonderful to watch. At night, one could hear the hippos and sometimes elephants munching vegetation outside the cabins. We met new friends from the UK on the way to Hwange who were our companions on safari for three days, and made more friends each evening over a scrumptious meal.
The wildlife in Hwange National Park are not as used to vehicles or humans as that in Botswana though the wild areas are contiguous and presumably wildlife from one area can easily migrate to the other. The elephants were testier, the antelope shyer and walking safaris were possible. Coming upon a lion on its kill meant no tragedy for humans, just a scared lion (Brent was a little scared too I didnt see the lion). We saw lots of tracks but few animals while walking though we did see a recently killed civet in a tree probably stashed there by the leopard whose tracks we were following. During our afternoon siesta by the truck, a group of elephants came close by which was quite wonderful. The other group had seen a lion kill a baby elephant on their way in. One guide said that elephants in Hwange often leave their calves behind when they go to drink. This was most certainly not the case in Botswana the mother and entire herd protected and defended calves vigorously. This behavior has been described in studies where elephant herd social structure had broken down due to poaching of the older adults. We dont know if that was what happened in Hwange but seeing different behaviors was interesting.
Our reason for visiting Zimbabwe and Hwange Camp was to see black rhino. Unfortunately, poaching in Hwange has reduced the population from around 45 animals to 4-6. The remaining animals were across the river in another part of the park and so this part of the quest was thwarted. Rhino horn is not medicine.
The trip home was just not that much fun. Leave it to say that weve been lucky in our international travels in the past, but for this trip our luck ran out a bit. Still, we made it home as did our luggage.
Our first guide in Botswana said that you have to leave one animal to bring you back next time. This trip it was the cheetah which we did not see. Well be back though everyone knows that I come back for the elephants.
In preparation for our fourth safari to Africa (and second trip to Botswana), we spent nearly a year researching possible places to visit in Botswana and Namibia for our 6-person custom tour. We then contacted Letaka Safaris. Their staff was incredibly helpful in making suggestions to refine the details of our itinerary. We settled questions of timing, duration, guide availability, transportation and all the many issues that accompany major trip planning from the other side of the globe all via email. Geraldine did a superb job of promptly answering our myriad emails/questions and helping to put our trip together.
We had adjusted the timing of our trip to coincide with the availability of the owner/guide,
Grant Reed an excellent move on our part and to optimize sighting wild dogs.
Grant has an incredible knowledge of all things bush and shared that knowledge in a way that enhanced our trip tremendously. His easy-going style, excellent people skills and great sense of humor made this a very special and enjoyable experience.
The first part of our trip was a three-night, tent-camp stay in Khwai where highlights included wonderful views of leopard with a kill and our much-sought-after wild dogs. Although we were in Khwai only three nights, Letakas camp staff provided some of the best food we had on the entire trip. I know our two vegetarians were particularly pleased with the extra effort made to accommodate their dietary preferences. The staff saw to everything professionally, cheerfully, and unobtrusively.
The remainder of our trip was lodge-based with excellent accommodations and continuous opportunities for bird watching, game viewing, and photography all equally important for our trip participants.
In total we drove 2200 miles in 23 days, all in an open safari vehicle. This was a decision we had made before the trip, so we were well-prepared for the cold morning drives we encountered.
Our saddest day was the last, when we had to say goodbye to Grant and fly home after our journey-of-a-lifetime when we marveled at so many stunning birds, the amazing waterhole experiences in Etosha, and the breathtaking dunes of the Namib Desert, and, of course, the wonderful wild dog sightings in Khwai.
We would recommend Letaka to others without reservation.
My teenage children and I have been fortunate to have gone on two safaris with Letaka Safaris in Botswana, and we highly recommend this excellent safari operator and this spectacular country. The Letaka guides are knowledgeable and friendly. In their care you will see amazing animals/animal encounters and be well looked after. We saw a cheetah kill an impala and then a leopard take the kill from the cheetah; a lion-hyena battle for a buffalo carcass, a crocodile attempting to steal a leopard's kill, wild dogs feeding their pups, 33 lions on one 10-day trip, 1000 buffalo in the marsh, elephants, hippos, zebras, and really too many creatures to be named. And we saw many beautiful and unusual birds, although ours was not a birding safari.
Thrilling sightings every day - and the Letaka guides know just where to go, when to wait, and when to move on. The Letaka vehicles are comfortable and designed so that everyone has an expansive view. Letaka tented camps hardly feel like "camping," with beds in the tents that are large enough to stand up in, showers and en suite bathrooms. The camp staff take good care of the guests, providing delicious meals and seamlessly moving the camp from location to location. It's exciting to be safe in your tent and hear all kinds of animal sounds outside - a benefit of camping in the bush. With a maximum of nine guests served by a guide, a chef and two camp workers, Letaka Safaris provides a great deal of personal attention to guests. The office staff can help with many trip details and can arrange for additional safari days (beyond a scheduled safari) in Botswana or other nearby countries. We love Letaka and long to travel with them again!
Letaka Safaris organised a 3 week private safari for myself and my wife during January 2014. In summary, highly recommended. If you've got one shot at it, go with Letaka Safaris.
We visited the Moremi, Kwai, Savuti and Central Kalahari game reserves. The guide was Nkosi Sibanda. The trip included game drives, boat cruises, guided walks, chopper scenic flights and some excursions with bushmen to observe various bush craft and tracking skills. E-mail communications with Letaka were always prompt. Overall organisation was outstanding. Catering and accommodation were as good as I've seen on a mobile safari. High quality vehicles. Our principle interest was photography. The knowledge of our guide got us numerous good opportunities and several outstanding opportunities. I would recommend Really Right Stuff Safari Rigs for lens support on Letaka's Landcruisers. The vehicles have a 220V inverter that can be used for charging cameras, laptops et cetera.
I would also recommend a Brunton solar panel and solar battery for convenience and a back up charging system. I asked for a number itinerary changes and additions along the way because certain areas turned out better than expected. Letaka accommodated these short notice changes without any problems.
As expected, it rained a lot. We were never uncomfortable and the team's experience meant we never suffered any restrictions. If you go in the wet season, be sure that everything and I mean everything, can be put in a genuinely waterproof bag or case. We used double waterproofing for vital clothing and equipment i.e. water proof bags inside waterproof bags/cases.
Cleanliness of vehicle
Meet and greet team
Quality of itinerary
Responsiveness of staff