LBAH Informational Articles

Namibia- Where Desert and Ocean Meet

After my Botswana trip I met up with a different assistant photographer and went to Namibia. My overall observations of Namibia are very positive; great guide, friendly people, interesting desert, and great wildlife viewing. If you like landscape photography, in addition to great wildlife viewing and photography, Namibia is for you.

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Namibia is a desert country, with beautiful sand dunes that go right up to the ocean. There is more to Namibia than desert, but the desert is unique, and is what I will emphasize on this page.

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The people that work in the tourism industry want you to have a nice time, and make the effort to help make that happen. 

Our guide’s name was Frank. He knew many people, was competent, had eagle eyes, and a warm personality. He went along with all of my antics, including how to say “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck” as he practiced his english. You will hear his efforts in videos several times in this page. Hearing his laugh after he attempts this saying was worth the price of admission!

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Frank was one of the best guides I have ever had in my 10 trips to Africa

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Frank worked non-stop, never taking a break, and was ready to go at moment’s notice

His first “woodchuck” lesson

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Our trip started in the city of Windhoek. Going counterclockwise from Windhoek, we hit all of these spots, which you will learn about in this page:

Sossusvlei- sand dunes and stars

Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast- seals and shipwrecks

Twyfelfontein- rock carvings and petrified forest

Etosha National Park- wildlife (especially rhino)

Cheetah Conservation Fund- cheetah

Sossusvlei

After a five hour drive from Windhoek we saw our first sand dunes in Sossusvlei. Of course I had to climb one and leave my mark. After this first dune we spent several days in the Namib-Naukluft National Park exploring other dunes. As we drove around Frank practiced his ‘woodchuck”.

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I was still suffering from jet lag when I put the rock in the sand, so read my message from bottom to top

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Even the t-shirts emphasize the sand in Namibia. In case you missed it, this is a spoof on the insignia for Land Rover cars. 

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Time for some housekeeping after running around in the sand

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The Le Mirage is a beautiful hotel in the middle of the sand dunes. I felt like I was in Morocco after seeing this hotel.

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The hotel comes alive at night

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Camp fires and stargazing were one of the night activities

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There was a spotlight on the waterhole to the right

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We could watch the animals drink at night

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Early evening star gazing

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Late night star gazing

The stargazing was great, and thanks to Cindy’s expertise and late nights, we have some beautiful time lapse photos of the stars at the waterhole

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I signed up for an early morning balloon ride, but it was cancelled the night before due to excess wind. I have gone on several of these in Kenya and Tanzania, and was looking forward to one over the desert. Maybe next time. 

Frank still could not get the second half of “woodchuck” just yet as we drove to more dunes

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The entrance to the National Park

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When we arrived some people were already at the top

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Time to get ready to join these people 

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Part way up and I was pacing myself


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Fun with early morning shadows

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This is the limit of my artistic ability in the sand

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A little more walking and I made it to the top

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The view from the top of a sand dune

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We drove to another location that had some interesting topography with trees

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Some of the trees grew in the middle of the dunes


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Frank took us to one of his secret dunes

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The dunes are almost alive, and in a short time our tracks would be gone

The wind keeps the dunes in an ever-changing state

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We learned about animals tracks. These are from a lizard, the long line is from the tail

Namibia-Namib-Naukluft-Dune-beatleThis beatle was busy digging a nest, little did I know there was something under him

The female that popped out caught us by surprise

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Frank pointed out a spider trap from a dancing white lady spider

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As we left the dunes it was my our first chance to see an Oryx, also known as a Gemsbok

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Time to leave the “Sand Is Fun” area and work our way up the coast

The Skeleton Coast

The waters off the coast of Namibia are cold and rugged.  Due to the ocean conditions, and the high level of shipping and fishing, many of the boats have been shipwrecked.

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The entrance to the Skeleton Coast National Park

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Our first shipwreck was not far from the entrance. Frank asked us if we wanted to swim to it. “I think we will pass this time Frank, maybe next time”.

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The birds found this ship to be a good place to hang out

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The next ship was a fishing vessel

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Before we left the local artisans carved a nut with some names as souvenirs to take back home

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It was interesting how they did it so easily

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Cindy scored, and got seven of her souvenirs for co-workers at this spot, each with their name carved

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As we continued up the coast we came across these roadside stands. Can you guess what they are selling?

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People leave money when they take one

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They are pieces of salt

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Next stop was the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, which has Cape Fur Seals, which are a type of sea lion

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The hotel is beautiful

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That is the skull of a whale at the hotel

We had lunch here, which gave Frank more time to practice his “woodchuck”. We aren’t making progress as you can see from the video.

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This is one section of the beach, giving you an idea of how many seals are present. There are reportedly up to 100,000 of them. 

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The bulls and the females were constantly interacting

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It was their courtship dance

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When there are females and males interacting, this little guy tends to appear 8 months later

We could have kept going many more miles up the coast, seeing a multitude of shipwrecks, but it was time to turn inland and start making our way to Etosha National Park. On the way to Etosha we went past Twyfelfontein.

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On the way to our hotel at Twyfelfontein we came across desert adapted elephants

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Supposedly, their feet are flatter to make it easier to walk in the sand

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The mother of this calf seemed bothered by our presence at first, as can be seen by her body language

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She calmed down rapidly and  lazily fed with her calf right in front of us

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As the herd slowly moved on the mother took one last nibble from a tree

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We stayed at the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge

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The beautiful hotel is carved into the rocks

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This is the lobby

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Where the rooms were located

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There are two sites in this area to visit. The first is the petrified forest, where we saw wood (now quartz since it is petrified) that was 280 million years old.

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These pieces of petrified wood are located all throughout this area

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Our next stop was a guided tour of the rock carvings. They are up to 2,000 years old, and were performed by ancestors of the San people. 


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Can you see the giraffe, the lion with the human hand at the end of its tail, and the the plain’s animals?

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This one has many carvings, including human foot prints

Our journey continued northwesterly towards Etosha, paying a visit to the Himba people, who number around 30,000 in northwest Namibia. These semi-nomadic people eke out a living with their livestock and selling crafts to tourists. Every morning the women apply a paste called otjize, which is made up of ochre stone fragments mixed with butter and fat to their skin. This gives their skin that red hue. The crown on their heads is called the erembe. So far they have been able to keep their tradition going in the face of changes brought out by the modern world  in their country.

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The morning milking was done, so the women showed us their crafts

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If the Himba continue to resist modernization these boys will become cattle and goat herders when they grow up

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After our visit to the Himba people we continued on the long road to Etosha National Park. Etosha  has been on my radar for quite a while, hard to believe I will be seeing it soon.

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There is a substantial amount of wildlife on the road to Etosha, as evidenced by this elephant crossing sign

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And this warthog crossing sign

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They should have put up a turtle crossing sign also

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Etosha National Park

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Finally, after many days of driving, we made it to Etosha

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This is rhinoceros country. There is a serious poaching problem, fueled by the demand by the Chinese and Vietnamese for powdered rhino horns. They have this misguided, irresponsible, and archaic notion that these horns, similar to our fingernails in composition, have some special medicinal value. Their involvement with many governments in Africa, to illegally kill the rhinos and ship their horns to Asia, will cause the demise of the rhinoceros in Africa. They just don’t care. 

As another example of Chinese disrespect for animals, the guides told us of Chinese tourists ignoring park rules. We observed this disrespect on our trip when we saw four young Chinese tourists get out of their car and approach some wildlife at a waterhole. Not only is this dangerous to them, it also disturbs the animals. The guides took this seriously, and emailed a photo of this to the park rangers at the exit to the park. The rangers can fine these people, and prevent them from returning to the park. After seeing this the guides told us a story of some Chinese tourists that were made to leave the country when they did something like this in the past. 

I have seen rhino in East Africa at the Ngorongoro crater numerous times, along with rhino in northern Kenya and Zimbabwe. These sightings pale in comparison to what I saw at Etosha. The following photos are just a few of these sightings. 

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Our first rhino in Etosha carefully approached us from a distance. This is a male black rhinoceros.

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He seemed to be unperturbed by our presence and got closer

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They have poor eyesight, but good senses of hearing and smell, which he utilized to check us out

Watch him check us out, using mostly his ears and sense of smell, before he comes closer

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He looked at us this way for a while

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Apparently we passed muster, and he approached

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And came close enough to get this shot

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The horn is nothing more than a big fingernail in composition. I plan on going back to Africa soon to help sedate the rhino, either for transportation to a protected area in Botswana, or to help them cut off the horns to prevent poaching. If you are interested in joining me let know. 

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Driving around the park we encountered this old bull covered in a chalky substance

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This lioness protecting her Oryx kill from the night before, kept a close watch at some people in a vehicle looking at her that were moving too much and standing up

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Even though the Oryx is a vegetarian, it chews bones for the phosphorous and calcium

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Lots of giraffes in Etosha

Before I go on to giraffes drinking, you need to learn some anatomy and physiology of this unique animal. To get the blood all the way to a brain this high there are several adaptations, the most important of which involve the cardiovascular system. Giraffes have a large heart in proportion to the rest of the chest compared to other animals. This is so that it can pump the blood at a pressure of 240mm of Hg (mercury), which is twice that of a human. This high pressure is needed to get blood to a brain that is high above the heart. If there is not a continuous flow of blood to the brain the giraffe will literally pass out.

This system works well when the giraffe is standing, but what about when it lowers its head. All that blood, rushing to the brain at such a high pressure, can burst the cells in the brain. A human brain experiencing a flow of blood at this pressure would experience a hematoma, and go into a coma, rapidly leading to death. How does the giraffe get away with this when it lowers its head to drink?

Giraffe have special one-way valves in the jugular veins, which keeps the blood flowing to the heart and not backwards towards the brain, where it would increase the blood pressure to dangerous levels as the head is lowered.

They also have strong and elastic valves that can expand or contract, and give local control of blood pressure at the level of the brain.

In addition, when the blood does enter the brain, they have a sponge-like structure of blood vessels (it’s called a rete mirable) that diverts the excess flow of blood around the brain, and not directly to the brain, as the head is lowered. The rete mirable does the opposite, and releases this blood back to the brain, when the head is raised. This prevents the giraffe from passing out due to a low blood pressure as it raises its head after drinking.

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The action at Etosha was at the waterholes. Notice this giraffe’s front leg technique in order to lower its head to drink

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This one drank with its front legs in a different position

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We came across some interesting animal interaction at a waterhole. There was a very thirsty giraffe drinking in front of a male lion, with ostrich and gazelle waiting their turn. 

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It seemed odd to us that the giraffe got closer to the lion as it drank, when there was plenty of water at the waterhole further away from the lion. This is another one of those wildlife behaviors that is hard to understand. 

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Apparently the giraffe knew what it was doing, and the lion only glanced that the giraffe while it was in its vulnerable head down position 

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After a short while a playful lioness walked past the male for a drink

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He followed her, as a male lion is supposed to do, as she raised her hindquarters to him

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He checked to see if she was in heat by checking her pheromones

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He lost interest and went back to hanging out by the waterhole

After three great days at Etosha National Park we drove to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Even though there were plenty of tourists, the wildlife viewing was great, and I want to go back to a different part of the park next time.

Cheetah Conservation Fund

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It was time to say good bye to Frank when he dropped us off at the Cheetah Conservation Fund

We said good bye to Frank, but not before he did his final  “Peter Piper tongue twister”, and invited all of us in America to join him on a trip

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The Cheetah Conservation Fund, founded and run by Dr. Laurie Marker, started in 1990

Namibia has more wild cheetah than any other country, and Dr. Marker is trying to save them from the goat farmers that kill them when the cheetah kill their goats. A farmer with 10-20 goats can suffer a catastrophic loss when a cheetah wantonly kills half of the farmers goats. She came up with a novel idea to help the farmers and the cheetah.

She imports and breeds Anatolian shepherds from Turkey. These are large herding dogs that are not afraid of cheetah. The program is working, and now the CCF breeds them, trying to keep up with the number of goat herders that are on a waitlist for one of these dogs.

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Kangal dogs are also used in addition the the Anatolian Shepherds. These dogs are raised with the goats as pups, so they bond with the goats and want to protect them, and the goats get used to them. 

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In addition to the herding dog’s program, the CCF does genetic research and education of the public. Dr. Ann is in charge of the genetics program, and utilizes a sophisticated lab, with capable assistants, to do state-of-the-art genetics research on this species with poor genetic diversity. She has serum from cheetahs that goes back 25 years, and is looking for someone working on a Master’s or Doctorate in genetics to help her do a genetic analysis on this serum. There is a treasure trove of information in this saved serum.


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CCF has its own creamery to help generate funds

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There is a hospital that takes care of the dogs and injured cheetah, in addition to obtaining samples for genetic testing. We are going to help them upgrade their equipment. 

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Their young veterinarian, named Robin, has a great personality and is dedicated to helping the animals at the CFF. Dr. P plans to bring her to California for ultrasound training, and hopefully get them a new ultrasound machine to replace their dated one. 

There are several captive cheetah at the CCF that cannot be released back into the wild. They have no fear of humans, and will approach the goat herds and get killed by the goat herders. They will stay at the CCF for the remainder of their lives, being well cared for, and also used to educate the public.

They are exercised daily with a special set up that pulls a red flag on a pulley. The flag is rapidly pulled around a large circumference early in the morning when it is cool.

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It’s an ingenious mechanism that allows them control the speed and direction of the red flag, taking advantage of a cheetah’s natural curiosity at a moving object

You get to watch them as they are exercised every morning. The following photos show them in action chasing the red flag.


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On my last night I had a chance to do a night drive with a guide from the CCF

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One final sundowner with this guide, before its time to head back home the following day.

I have another Africa trip in the works for 2019, dates and locations to be determined. If you are interested in joining my group contact me at vet@lbah.com

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Botswana and the Okavango Delta

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It’s the people (including our excellent guides and camp staff) that make the trip, and the 14 people that joined me on this trip were some of the best guests I have ever taken to Africa. I would know, I have been taking people like this on trips for decades. Hopefully, we will be traveling as a group again in the near future.

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Four of my guests were from Michigan, one was from Nevada, and the rest from California. This is at Camp Moremi, at the Okavango Delta in Botswana. You will get a chance to see them in action later in this page. 

 The guides in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana, were all outstanding. They are the reason we had a spectacular time, saw more wildlife than we ever dreamed we would, and did it in safety and comfort (with full stomachs).

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These guides were way too serious about their work, and we could never get them to lighten up for a photo

This page, containing a substantial amount of information and photos on what it is like to travel to Southern Africa on a luxury safari (safari is a Swahili word for overland journey), and the wildlife you will encounter.  I did it for those of you that cannot make such a journey, so you can experience it vicariously. If you are interested in going on a trip like this in the future, rumor has it we will be going back to Africa in 2019, exact dates and location to be determined.

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We set up the trip with my friend Sharel at Luxe Travel, using Big Five Safaris in Africa. They  did a great job on the myriad of details and logistics required to make this trip a success.

Wildlife Photography

For you wildlife photography buffs, the majority of the photos were taken with a Canon 1Dx Mark II using a Canon 400mm f/4 D.O. lens, sometimes with 1.4X and 2X teleconverters. After using the Canon 500mm f/4 lens for many trips, I have settled on the 400mm D.O. for my last few trips, and have not regretted it. Its smaller size and weight are a good tradeoff compared to the extra 100mm of reach with the 500mm lens.

My assistant photographer and I also used a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-105 f/4 lens and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. A small amount of photos were taken with an iPhone 7.

Then there is the challenge of getting this equipment though security. Each country is different as to what scares them about what you can bring on the airplane. After traveling through many security checkpoints with no problem, an allen wrench that I use for my tripod was considered dangerous in one country, and was confiscated- go figure. Overall though, security was professional and efficient.

The biggest challenge is using this equipment in the field; getting just the right angle for the photo on moving subjects that could care less about your photo, then getting the guide to stop the moving vehicle in time before the wildlife leave, and then fighting off the baboons when they try to steal your camera. All in a days work for your average wildlife photographer. This page only has a fraction of the thousands of photos we took.

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Sometimes that moving vehicle was a boat

Africa

The continent of Africa has almost a billion people, and is growing rapidly. They want to be part of the modern world, and are developing all of their resources as fast as they can. This burgeoning human population has caused the decimation of all the big cats, the giraffe, the elephants, and the rhinoceros. Add to this the huge poaching problem due to the demand from China and Vietnam for elephant tusks and  rhinoceros horns, (and jaguars and tigers in other countries for their body parts) and you have a bleak future for these animals.

There is a glimmer of hope in China. The demand has come from the growing middle class and their interest in showing off their wealth in the form of Ivory carvings. Added to the unique blend of corruption and crony capitalism that is China’s economic model, and you have a huge demand. As of the end of 2017 China has banned ivory carving, and has closed down businesses that carve ivory. It remains to be seen what will happen in such a large country, with complex business relationships, and a long tradition of ivory carving.

The December, 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine has more detail on Africa’s modernization, and also how the Chinese are poaching jaguars in South America.

This is why I tell everyone who has an interest in going to Africa to see the wildlife, that it is well advised to go now, while the spectacle and the wildlife are still in abundance, and the infrastructure to travel safely and in comfort is still there. The country of Botswana is at the forefront of conservation in African wildlife, and a good place to see these animals.

The Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta in Botswana gets its water from two rivers that flow from Angola, the country just to the north of Botswana. Angola has been the victim of tremendous political unrest, and it is still not settled. These people need important resources like water to rebuild, and there is worry that the people in Angola will use so much of the water from the rivers that supply the Delta, that the Delta is in peril. The November, 2017 issue of National Geographic (Nat Geo) magazine lays out the troubles the Okavango Delta faces in regards to water replenishing the Delta each year. The potential changes here are another reason to go now.

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The Okavango Delta is the the northwest corner of Botswana, adjacent to the northern part of Namibia, and just below Angola 

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The view of the Okavango Delta on our flight from Zimbabwe

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The two camps we stayed at in the Moremi Game Reserve are circled. After or four nights at Camp Moremi (rightmost circle above) we flew to Camp Okavango (leftmost circle above). The blue lines are waterways, where we spent significant time. In the center is Chiefs Island, where we went on walking tours.

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The Moremi Game Reserve has great wildlife viewing. I will be showing only a few of these animals on this page. 

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This is the wildlife sightings board at the entrance to the Moremi Game Reserve. The section on GPS is circled to remind everyone to turn off the GPS function of your smartphones and cameras. If you don’t, and you post animal pictures on social media, the poachers can track the animals you photograph using the GPS coordinates attached to your photo. 

Let’s get on to the story and photos.  This page has 14 separate sections on this trip, ranging from our adventure at Victoria Falls, to our camps, to the wildlife we photographed.

Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls (including swimming in Devil’s Pool at the edge of the falls)

Victoria Falls Entrance

The Victoria Falls airport is nice, too bad it took almost 2 hours to get through customs. Welcome to Africa!

Camp Moremi

After  two days at Victoria Falls we flew to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, staying at Camp Moremi for the next four nights. After Camp Moremi, we stayed at Camp Okavango for three nights.

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This camp is in a remote area surrounded by wildlife

Camp Okavango

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Our second camp was also in a remote area surrounded by wildlife

The fun people on our trip

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Dominic and Michelle have been on many trips with me, with many more to go!

Zebra in action

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The calm before the storm

Elephant

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If it wasn’t for the Chinese the elephants would not be poached for their tusks

Hippos

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They are fun to watch, just keep your distance

Cape Buffalo

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Their nickname is Black Death, so keep your distance from them also

Lions on the airstrip

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Time to move so the passengers can unload

Leopard on the hunt

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This female leopard loved having her picture taken

Wild Dogs

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One of the most successful predators in Africa is the wild dog

Black Mamba

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We encountered this dangerous snake while on a hike

Delta Birds

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The reeds of the Delta harbored many colorful birds like this Malachite Kingfisher

Cape Town diving with the Great White Sharks (well, not exactly)

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I learned about Great Whites, but not from diving with them

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Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Once we got through customs and brought our bags to the hotel, our African adventure started by going on a sundowner cruise on the Zambezi river. It was a great way to start the trip.

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On the cruise we had our first encounter with guides from Zimbabwe. They were fantastic in their warmth, knowledge, and professionalism. 

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I kept an extra hand on my camera when this guide asked if he could take a photo. Didn’t feel like losing my camera in the river so early on my trip!

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There is wildlife all along the banks of the Zambezi

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It was a good start to our trip, and was an inkling of what was to come

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The hippos put on a show with their territorial displays of fighting

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Hippos are dangerous, and will attack a canoe and capsize it. This one thought about it, but then realized our boat was a little bigger than a canoe.

The next day we went to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls to swim at Devil’s Pool at the end of the falls. During certain times of the year, when the water level is lower, you can swim to the very edge of the waterfalls with a guide.

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On the walk to Devi’s Pool you go past the gorge of the Zambezi. Zimbabwe is on the right, Zambia is on the left, separated by the Zambezi river below. 

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This is my view from the picture above. It is Victoria Falls, with some people at Devil’s Pool at the top right of the picture, which is our next destination after a short hike and swim. 

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A closer view of the water raging over the falls

If you are looking for something fun and adventurous to do in Africa, try hanging over the edge at Devils Pool at the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side of the falls.

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The trip starts off with a briefing by the guide on your short boat ride to the pool

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This is the sign you see upon arrival at Livingstone Island, where the Devil’s pool is

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A little liquid courage to help keep you going

The people at the top right are at the Devil’s Pool

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The view from the rocks along the trail to the pool

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As you get near this is one of the views you see

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The rapids alongside the pool

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Another guide, who was not too good at focusing, used my camera to obtain the following shots and video

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Last chance to change your mind

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The final view of the pool before you enter

Our last minute instructions

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The guide dives in first

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He mentioned earlier not to worry about the little fish that nibble on your toes

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He sits on the edge and gets ready for one of us to show up. CP gets volunteered to go first. 

We weren’t allowed to jump in

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Ready for the rest of the group to join me

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Group shot time

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We had the chance to hang right up to the edge

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Out guide getting some shots over the edge

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One of the photos he took

Our last video before we had to leave

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Before we left they gave us a gourmet breakfast

After the morning dip in the pool we took a tour of Victoria Falls (Vic Falls) from the Zimbabwe side. There is a national park that gives you tremendous insight into these falls, one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

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Victoria Falls was named for Queen Victoria by David Livingstone (from the “Doctor Livingstone I presume” fame)

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The view of just one part of the falls from the Zimbabwen side. Pictures can never do justice to the real thing, and I would need to make this photo as large as a wall to give you an idea of the immensity of Victoria Falls. 

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This is the same view, taken 22 years earlier, when I went to Zimbabwe on my black rhino trip. I think I did a pretty good job getting a similar view. 

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Camp Moremi- Okavango, Delta

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There are few roads, so the best way to get from Victoria Falls to Camp Moremi is by flying

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Walking to your room, you never know who or what (a bushbuck) might be waiting for you at these camps. You are in the bush, surrounded by wildlife, and can hear the lions and other animals at night. 

Camp-moremi-bed-BotswanaOur rooms at Camp Moremi were luxurious

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There was a souvenir waiting for us, courtesy of Luxe Travel and Big Five Safaris

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The daytime dining and meeting area

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Speaking of food, the cuisine was great and plentiful, even for a vegan like Dana

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The pool beckoned during the mid-day heat

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We used these powerful motorboats to explore the waterways around the camp

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It was like being in an everglades boat


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The boats are flat bottomed, so we could go right up to the vegetation at the edge of he river

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Photo op with Dana, my assistant photographer

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Photo op with Lets and Kops

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The had a beautiful bar/lounge/meeting room, and one night Dr. P gave a presentation

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Lets gave a presentation on another night

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Before dinner the cooks and wait staff would tell us what was on the menu, and then do a native song and dance

The staff at Camp Moremi saying good bye to a couple and telling them how they appreciate them coming here on their vacation. These are gracious and appreciative people!

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Amarula was a popular drink in the field

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They don’t call it a delta for nothing

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As we drove the delta around Moremi we saw an interesting landscape

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Sunsets were colorful

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The sun would change its hue as it set

Our 3 main guides were fantastic. They were lots of fun, always had a smile on their faces, had eagle eyes when it came to spotting wildlife, and always had something to eat and drink for us.

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Lasty Lets Kops

After Camp Moremi we flew to Camp Okavango

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Camp Okavango- Okavango, Delta

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After four nights at Camp Moremi our next stop was Camp Okavango, with another set of great guides and staff

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At this camp there are no Landcruisers. If you walk, it’s with  an unarmed guide, since no guns are allowed

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The mokoro rides are with a guide that moves you through the reeds with a large pole 

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They had powerboats just like at Camp Moremi, and took us to the islands in the area for our walking tour

Our rooms were large, luxurious, comfortable, and with a huge bathroom and shower. The shower was so large we could have had a party in it!

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Our veranda

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The well stocked bar, open 24 hours

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One of the areas to relax at mid-day during the heat, and also after dinner

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There was Internet access, but no WiFi. We told them never to get WiFi, this way people could interact instead of putting their noses in a phone.

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The location of the campfires and star gazing after dinner

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Dinner for 15, with a few guides and staff added in

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Another camp with outstanding cuisine

How our meals were introduced each night. This night we were having broccoli as our vegetable, with an mmmm of approval from the rest of the cooks and staff

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After our meal announcement it was time for a song and a lap before eating

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Speaking of song and dance, even when they surprised us with brunch in the bush there was singing and dancing

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After our mokoro rides it was time for drinks

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Remember these guys? They are still not smiling as they get our sundowner drinks ready.

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And more singing and dancing after drinks

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And more singing and dancing after drinks

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And a little more singing and dancing

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Dominic showing them the proper way to dance

Dominic has rhythm!

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Grota always had a smile, even when she was delivering water her way 

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Leina, the camp manager, helping out

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My namesake

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What a cool name!

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Kaizer trying to focus with the 400mm (he wasn’t very good, but I didn’t say anything since he was carrying my camera for me)

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Lokang  pushing us in the mokoro

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Zak explaining animal sounds

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Owner keeping an eye out for elephants

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Too bad we could not stay there forever, and after 3 nights Zak waved good bye to us as we flew to Cape Town for our Great White Shark cage dive

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Botswana 2017 Guests

A few photos of the peeps in our group doing their thing, some of them courtesy of Hal Gosling. Don’t miss the two videos of Dominic; one singing in a canoe, the other dancing with the locals.

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Dominic singing “Amore”

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The Active Zebra of the Okavango Delta

The zebra in this part of Africa are called the Common Zebra, also known as the Burchell’s Zebra. These are the same ones you see throughout East Africa. The other species of zebra I have seen on prior trips are the Grevy’s Zebra in northern Kenya.

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Zebra’s faces have lots of expression

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Zebra have this uncanny ability to turn their butts to you as soon as you pull out the camera. Be prepared to get a lot of these shots as you are learning how to quickly photograph their faces

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Zebra are plentiful, and frequent locations that might surprise you. This is at the Livingstone hotel in Zambia, on our way to the Devil’s Pool. 

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My wish to see a little bit of zebra action came true when we encountered these males

Zebra stallions are aggressive and domineering animals that want to have a harem. They will fight other male zebras for this opportunity.  Even though I have never seen this, some of these fights lead to serious injury and death.  This aggressiveness is one of the reasons this “horse” has never been tamed.

The following male stallions decided to test each other’s strength and assert their dominance. Following are just a few of the photos I have, that took place as they sparred with each other. As the sequence goes on I concentrate more on their faces.

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When we first came upon the herd of males and females we saw these two males like this, thinking they were being nice towards each other. Not quite, as you will see from the following sequence of photos.

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Elephants of the Okavango Delta

The waterways of the Okavango Delta attract large numbers of elephants for obvious reasons. You will frequently see them on land, on the islands, at the water’s edge, and in the water. We saw them from our vehicle and our boat, and we even walked amongst them. If you are an elephant fan like us, you will be in heaven.

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Evidence of their presence is everywhere

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They destroy trees as they go about their normal routine

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Walking amounts them was one of the more thrilling ways to see them. This one was not happy with our presence, and our guide made us lay low for a few minutes, then carefully circle past him, giving him wide berth.

As we drove around the Moremi Game Reserve we encountered elephants frequently. They were usually in large herds, with many youngsters of varying age. The herd was led by a female elephant who had substantial wisdom on finding food and water.

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Elephant herd crossing a stream

This young male is in musth, as evidenced by the fluid draining from his ear behind his left eye. This is the equivalent of being in heat in the elephant world. When males are in this state they are more aggressive. This male showed his irritation with our presence by shaking his head and ears, and then trumpeting loudly. Our guide knew he was just showing off, and after a few seconds of this, he went back to eating.

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It talks a lot of munching to fill up this stomach

We saw many elephant on the islands and the waterways of the Okavango Delta. They were quite peaceful, and we were able to get amazingly close in our boats. The high speed boats let us cover a substantial part of the waterways near our camp, yet we still only saw a small fraction of the Delta.

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Hippopotamus of the Okavango Delta

They look so cute and adorable, especially when they are cuddling in the water. Don’t be fooled by their “three stooges” look, they are quite dangerous as most people know. They are responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other larger mammal.

You don’t want to get between them and their escape route, a bull’s territory, or females with their young. From the stories I heard from guides and other guests, the biggest danger is when you are canoeing in the water and don’t see them, when all of a sudden one emerges near or under your canoe. The hippo panics and attacks the canoe, usually tipping it over, and possibly biting the occupants.

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They are rarely alone, unless it is a male that has been pushed out of the group by the dominant bull

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Threat displays are common

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Fighting amongst the males is common

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They have a smirk on their faces, and sometimes remind me of the three stooges

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Their skin is sensitive and will burn if they are out of the water for too long

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Do you see the five birds in this photo?

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The five birds are still present

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Cape Buffalo of the Okavango Delta

Cape Buffalo (some people mistakenly call them water buffalo) are know by two other names; African Buffalo, and Black Death. The Black Death comes from their propensity to consciously charge hunters after they have been wounded in an attempt (successfully sometimes) to kill the hunter.

We took the powerboats to an island for a walking tour with our guide. We encountered a herd of Cape Buffalo at our landing site, and had to wait from them to pass. This gave us an opportunity to photograph them up close, while they were calm (although inquisitive about us based on their stares), and from the safety of our boats.  Once they moved away we walked around the island. Africa is a whole different place when you walk around with an experienced guide that points out the the details of this complicated ecosystem you miss when riding in a vehicle.

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We could see them in the distance as we neared our landing spot

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The large bulls kept an eye on us as the herd grazed unworried

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As we got closer, they came to the water’s edge

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As they slowly walked past they would stop their grazing and stare at us

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The large bulls came up to the waters edge to look at us

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We waited until they moved on and then disembarked on to the land for our tour with Zak

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Our guide kept a tab on them as they grazed

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After one final check with the binoculars we moved on for our walking tour

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Our first observation was a large den, probably from an aardvark

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Lion tracks were easy to spot in the soft sand

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Zak taught us about animal tracks

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From the elephant tracks were learned how to tell which foot we were looking at, and the size and age of the elephant

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Do you see the lion track in the center of this elephant track

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This view makes it easier to visualize

As we continued walking Zak heard the alarm call of a bird, and said that it was a reptile alarm call. I though he was pulling our leg. He said that in this area it was either a lizard or a snake. I remained skeptical, even when we saw the skid marks of a reasonably large snake in the area. My skepticism rapidly vanished when another guide in our group called us over to him just 50 yards away. They were looking at a Black Mamba snake in a tree.

Click here to go to my Black Mamba page. I never dreamed I would be standing this close to such a dangerous animal. I have only seen one once, and it was in Kenya when I was on an Earthwatch project monitoring the lions in Tsavo National Park. I will show that old photo, along with the new ones, when you follow the link. 

 

 

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