Saturday, 25th February 2012
As I explained in an earlier post, my stay at King's Pool was a re-arrangement, owing to flooding having put the airstrip at Savuti-Under-Canvas (my original destination) out of action.
This time, no light aircraft transfer was involved because King's Pool and Savuti share the same airstrip - the oddly-named 'Chobe'. So, Savuti would take me by road to the airstrip where I was to be handed over to King's Pool staff in their own vehicle to continue by road to King's Pool. When I later described this process to my American friend John, he said it reminded him of the inevitable prisoner handover scene in spy movies on a bridge in Berlin!
I said my farewells at Savuti to Lets and the camp management. A second Land Rover was loading-up with the private party returning to their Pilatus aircraft at Chobe Airstrip, but we preceded them along the rutted tracks to the airstrip. As we arrived at Chobe Airstrip, a Cessna 'Grand Caravan' registration A2-BUF was landing but it would be a few days before I had the chance to fly in one of these impressive aircraft.
My Land Rover and driver was already waiting so, with my luggage in the back, I took the front passenger seat and we set off immediately, leaving the Airstrip by a different track which led (after a lot of the usual bumping about) to King's Pool.
The location is named after King Gustav of Sweden (presumably Gustav V) who had a shooting lodge on the site. In order to develop tourism in Botswana, the country has largely eliminated game hunting in favour of 'photographic safaris'. I received the customary welcome, including the 'Welcome Drink' and was conducted to my home for the next three days. This was another huge, thatched structure with a large area of decking outside complete with steamer chairs, plunge pool, outside shower and a round, thatched 'gazebo' with a double mattress. All the rooms overlook a branch in the river and are spaced well apart so that the guest can enjoy splendid isolation.
I'd a fair amount of 'housekeeping' to do, sorting out laundry, copying photographs and the like so it was soon time for Afternoon Tea. After refreshments, we were all keen for our late afternoon game drive and, with other guests, we set off. Our guide was Od (said 'Oh-Dee'). Less than 15 minutes from Camp it started to rain. This was no shower but heavy, penetrating rain. The modified Land Rovers are open-sided and the high canvas roof, whilst effective as a sun shade, offers no protection against incessant rain. We all quickly donned the heavy-duty ponchos distributed by our guide and tried to protect our possessions, particularly cameras. When the guide suggested we turn back, the spirit of adventure seemed to get the better of us and we all elected to press on. But after another five or ten minutes of the downpour, our enthusiasm had been somewhat dampened. Our guide presented the compelling argument that, even if we were daft enough to continue, none of the animals we'd hoped to see were so foolish as to remain in the open so we reluctantly agreed to abandon the trip. When we arrived back at the Camp, we were met by staff with a supply of umbrellas to assist us back to our rooms.
I was amazed at just how wet I'd become, despite wearing a heavy-duty poncho but a shower and a change of clothes quickly restored my good spirits. By the time we met up for the Evening Meal, the rain had stopped and it was quite a pleasant evening. After an enjoyable meal, I retired to bed so as to be ready for the early Game Drive next morning.