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Botswana Part 10- breakfast with elephants, rhinos, lions

February 11th, 2011 |  by No comments

DAY 12

We get up and in our camp there is not only a spectacular sunrise but elephants join us and are literally inches away from where we are having coffee.

Major gigage on this sunrise

The yellows in the African sky are awesome

Don't turn around but we have company for breakfast

Seth... you might actually want to turn around now...

No need to bring a long lens. I never thought I would photograph elephants with a 14mm

The sun isn't even up yet and I already need to download files

One more frame before I download. Wow and it isn't even 6:30 AM yet..

We eventually get into our vehicles and head out. For some reason there are ferocious flies in the area and even with the worlds strongest bug spray they are landing on us constantly. We have to put on ponchos or towels over our head to keep the flies away.

I invent a new fashion for keeping flies away

The fad catches on and soon everyone is wearing the new look, but no one shows it as well as Michelle

We find some lions, and zebras but the sun is blazing and we decide that we will head in early and edit images. Just before we get ready for our afternoon adventure a thunderstorm of biblical proportions lets loose. The lightning is hitting the ground in the camp and everyone can feel the vibration from the lightning. We make sure that our rooms are not on fire and wait for the rain to subside. It doesn’t subside so we work on pictures until dinner.

I repeat that I am not a birder, but I do photograph the famous Lilac-Breasted Roller

Ok I forget this guys name but I think it is called a Bateleur Eagle

Smile your on candid camera

Hey that is the front door to my tent. Do you guys want to move?

I guess that answer is NO

DAY 13

I got up at 3AM to edit pictures and we head out into the brush around sunrise. We have an intense deep yellow sunrise. We find a pride of lions in deep grass and pull into the grass. We are photographing the lions on the right side of the vehicle and I glance to the left and realize that we have almost run over a lion in the deep grass who is now about 2 feet from the vehicle and no one saw him. I go to photograph him but my 300 mm has a minimum focus distance of 12 feet and he is too close to focus on. I get a bit of a chill on my spine and end up photographing the lion with a 70mm.

I apologize Mrs. Lion. We really did not see you in the grass and now you are really really really close

We get special permission to go out with a guide named Poster who has been working with the introduction of rhinos into Botswana. Over 300 rhinos were killed by poachers last year and 30 just this month. Most are killed in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The horn of the rhino can fetch up to one million dollars. The poaching is highly sophisticated and controlled by organized crime which sell the horn as a ground powder in China where it is a highly prized aphrodisiac. Unlike many of its African counterparts, Botswana takes poaching very seriously. There is anti poaching patrol and the president has assigned military to assist as well. If you are caught poaching the penalty is 17 years in prison and a large fine and that is only if you make it back alive. The president of Botswana has given the military shoot to kill orders for poaching.

Bug spray is useless and we devise our own system of towels wrap around our heads held in place with a baseball cap. It actually worked.  We soon find our rhinos and they are truly amazing animals. We spend about an hour with them photographing the rhinos and joking about a bird named an ox pecker that has a symbiotic relationship with the rhino. Michelle, Jeff and I are cracking up as we realize we are waiting for the birds. Have we been converted into bird watchers? All of a sudden the rhinos move behind a bush and we maneuver the vehicle to go around the other side of the bush to face the rhinos head on. We again burst into laughter because we can’t find the rhinos. How in earth can we miss three 4 ton animals that simply went around a bush.

Poster and the Botswana Rhino Project

The rhinos are amazing and massive

really massive

Anti Poaching Unit has shoot to kill orders if you are a poacher...

Botswana is one of the few countries really trying to protect the rhinos from extinction

Rhino horns sell for over $1,000,000 each in china

In the afternoon we hook up with Russell who is the cousin of Steve. Steve and Brennan run Journey’s Unforgettable which is the company that set up this amazing trip and Russell is one of the owners of Wilderness Safari. They own and run the camps that we have been at. Russell is a fabulous guy and very interested in learning about Lightroom and went out with Jeff on previous safaris in Africa. We meet him at camp and we all hit it off. We immediately head out into the bush with Russell.We come across a bizarre encounter. We find a group of female lions and what we think is a male lion. The male lion turns out to be either a female with a mane or a male without a critical part. They actually do not know if it is a he or a she and will likely do DNA testing at some point.

It is a transexual lion

She and she are coming closer

Oh NO. There is that running little move right towards us

Really right towards us. Like two feet away

The cubs are so cute

Mom cuddles with cub

Mom tells other female to back off!

We want to take one home:)

As you can see, more major gigage on lions

Comical and cute

Way to cute

Ok already. I could show you 100 more lion images like this but time to move on...

Russell is an avid birder and even has an iphone app that he helped develop to identify all the birds in Africa. Michelle, Jeff and I are really getting scared that we are getting infected with bird watching. We can even call out the names of a few birds and the really scary part is that we admit that we may like it…..

LAST PART TOMORROW

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Botswana- Part 9- Mombo, lions, giraffes, and sunsets

February 10th, 2011 |  by No comments

DAY 11

I am up at 3AM writing this journal and we plan to head out around 4:30 AM. We will pack and stay out in the brush until we meet our small puddle jumper to take us on to our last camp. I awake to find a spider eating a frog on my veranda. I have no idea what kind of spider it was but this was one nasty looking big spider. We board our vehicle and head out into the bush. For whatever reason most of the animals are hiding. We drink beers before 8 AM and soon find a group of zebras.

7:30 AM and we need to get our creative juices flowing so we crack the beers. I believe Jeff was on #2

I have tried to make a photograph of zebras that is a conglomerate of all the diagonal lines. I have tried for days and simply haven’t had a large enough grouping of zebras to make my picture. Jeff volunteers to be a zebra herder and jumps out of the vehicle and starts to practice zebra herding. He definitely finds a calling in life and is talented at the art form of zebra herding. He roams the plains with black mambas and other deadly creatures and begins to herd the zebra into formation. The only problem is that while different groups of zebras will be in an area, each group has it’s own dominant male and they don’t like to get too close. Jeff has definitely become a qualified and certified Botswana zebra herder but he can’t quite herd all of them together.

20110126_VumbraPlains_0013

Jeff herds zebras

Nice job Jeff. Now please turn them around

Thanks Jeff. Now get the group together

We make some pictures and eventually head to the wonderful airport. The airport is quite amazing. The baggage area is the place on the runway that the bags are placed. The waiting area is a portable step for the airplane and best of all moments before a plane touches down the actual runway needs to be cleared of baboons, elephants and a leopard . We get on our puddle jumper say our goodbyes and take a 10 minute fight to Mombo.

Baggage loading area at the International airstrip in Vumbra Plains

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Mombo is another luxury camp, Folks like David Rockefeller and a gagle of celebs all come to Mombo to see Africa. The place is amazing. Mombo Camp is situated on Mombo Island, adjoining the northern tip of Chief’s Island, and is within the Moremi Game Reserve in northern Botswana. The camp offers abundant wonderful wildlife viewing, arguably, year round the best wildlife viewing in Botswana. The highlight here is the concentrations of plains animals and all the predators – including the big cats! Lion sightings are particularly good. Mombo is built under the shade of some large shady trees and overlooks a wonderful floodplain that teems with wildlife. The camp has 9 comfortably furnished, luxurious tents, raised off the ground. The guest’s rooms and the walkways that connect the rooms to the living area are up to 2m off the ground, allowing animals to wander freely through and under the camp. The canvas rooms are spacious and well appointed and have en-suite facilities under canvas and an additional outdoor shower for those who enjoy a shower under the stars. The dining room, pub and living area overlook the open plain in front of the camp and there is a plunge pool. The wildlife viewing in the area is excellent and guests can see lion, leopard, large herds of buffalo, wild dog, elephant, rhino, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

Mombo... A little more than your average tent...

Every detail was addressed at Mombo and the staff was FANTASTIC

We arrive drop off our bags and head out with our new guide Moss. We find a large pride of lions and an array of other animals and soon it is sunset and we see one of the most breathtaking sunsets. The sky is yellow and red and anything and everything in front of it is magnificent. After sunset we head back to camp and have dinner and call it a night.

This wild dog has attained celebrity status. He has been adopted by a family of Jackals at Mombo

Impala's block the road

A large pride of lions and yes we are very very very close

Yup very close indeed

but they are just so cute

Just look at that face

And they really love to cuddle

On the way back to camp we find giraffes at sunset

I get out of the vehicle and try to photograph the giraffe from the ground to get the sun in the right spot. He won't see me. YEA RIGHT. They bolted just as soon as I started to shoot

Do we really have to have another insane sunset YESSSSSS

Just more sunset

Moss our guide scans the horizon

Back at camp an elephant crosses with the last rays of light

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Part 7 – the day of the leopards..

February 8th, 2011 |  by Comments off

Painted Reed Frog in my plunge pool

Elephants are everywhere

DAY 9

We get up early and head out into the bush. We see a warthog family coming out of a den built by an anteater that dug into a termite mound. We encounter wildebeest, zebras and elephants but nothing really too excited. We plan to head back to camp and eat breakfast, edit and relax and then…

A dazzle of zebras

Elephants are amazing animals to watch and interact with

If the early morning was a lull the late morning certainly made up for it. Seeing a leopard is rare but we encounter two leopards. We followed both of them and we were touching distance. It was beyond incredible to watch these sleek and beautiful animals on the ground hunting and in the trees. I filled two 32 gig cards which I have never done in my life. We were up at 4 AM and the plan was to be back for lunch at around 11:30 but it was well past 1:00 when we finally left the second leopard who was passed out in a tree in the hot sun.

Two leopards in one afternoon made for some incredible shooting

Patterns and color

Close enough to touch but not a good idea....

Time to go up that tree....

Gee the leopard is right above us and looking at me

Coming down...

Yum, three photographers would make a nice meal

Back off

Back up the tree

Almost time for a nap

Yup it is nap time

We eat quickly and edit and head back out around 4 PM and find elephants, rainbows and we encounter an entire den of hyenas. The little ones come up to the vehicle and start to chew on our tires. I can photograph the pups with a 24 mm while the parents watch. It was another incredible site. On the way back to camp we find some giraffes and then have a spectacular African sunset.

Rainbows were common

more rainbows..

Hyenas come up to the vehicle and chew on the tires

close enough to shoot with a 24mm

Mom not so happy about me shooting with a 24mm

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Part 4 Savuti – Wild dogs, scary lion encounter, cheetahs and more

February 5th, 2011 |  by Comments off

Savuti Camp is a comfortable camp providing accommodation in 7 walk-in tented rooms with en-suite facilities. Each room is raised off the ground on wooden decks. The camp has a thatched dining area, bar and plunge pool, all on raised wooden decks.  Wildlife in the area includes all of Botswana’s big animals and is one of the best areas in the country to see predators. There is also a good concentration of plains game in the area.

We waste no time and head out with our guide Lazi within 45 minutes of arriving at the camp. We soon encountered giraffe and zebras but Lazi told us we have to keep the vehicle on the trail and can’t go off road. Once he realized we were not the typical snooty tourists he quickly loosened up and we were deep in the bush off road before a torrential downpour of epic proportions.  Lazi grew up in the area and said he had never seen such rain, lucky us! The rain was so hard and flooding was severe so it took us a few hours to get back to camp.

A storm of epic proportions. We need an ark instead of a 4x4

Sparring zebras in Savuti

Giraffe and Zebra look at us and wonder why we are in vehicles with the top down in pouring rain?

We arrived took a hot shower and Michelle and I grabbed a quick dinner and Jeff just passed out. The camp is a bit pretentious and Michelle and I got scolded for not staying in the dining room for desert. We are a bit of the talk of the camp for several reasons. Before the scolding, Michelle and I dine with a couple of folks from Hawaii. The wife asks where are we from and I said Miami and Michelle says LA. She then says but where do you live now? Again I respond Miami and LA. The couple thinks we are married and we have a good time with it as we both start to talk about Jeffrey the boyfriend. The couple has no idea what is going on and we think that Michelle and I were husband and wife and we were staying with Michelle’s boyfriend Jeff. For a stuffy camp that alone was quite the talk. On top of all this we let the managers know that we don’t care about the rain but we don’t want any tops on the vehicles because they impair the shooting and we want to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and not dine with folks in he dining room but rather eat and edit images in our rooms. Typically guests wake up at 5AM…I think you can get the picture….

DAY 6

I got up around 3 AM to do star trails and then our official wakeup call came at 4 AM. We had cup of coffee and headed out. On the way to the vehicle Jeff gets scolded  for not coming to dinner at all and he was reminded by the manager that Michelle and I missed desert. Jokes were flying on every front but  we had great fun with Lazi who had a standard line of 50/50 chance for just about anything from seeing a lion to the same answer whether we would get eaten by a lion.

Soon we encountered more rain but it stopped just in time for an unbelievable male lion encounter. We followed him through the brush as the rain stopped and we had gorgeous morning light. We would get ahead of him and he would walk toward us checking out his territory. At one point he started to run towards us and I actually put down the camera which I don’t normally do when I am shooting but I seriously thought I was going to be eaten as I made direct eye contact and he started to come towards me. He turned at the last second but my heart was racing.  We all joked with Lazi afterwards saying I guess it was 50/50.  We followed the lion into the brush  and he suddenly stopped and roared as lions do. I wish I had a tape recorder because the sound up close is like nothing you have ever heard. The roar is super deep and you can feel the voice resonate through your body. Full frame head shots of a roaring lion with a 300 mm 10 feet from the lion and it just couldn’t get better.

Gorgeous light as we see the male and he walks towards us

He keeps on walking and getting closer. Lazi comments that it is 50/50 whether he eats us:)

He gets closer yet and my lens won't focus this close

He turns makes eye contact and roars. He is less than 5 feet away and our vehicle is not started

OK now I am scared... Michelle and Jeff taste better than me. Why don't you look at them...

Too close for comfort and a growl and the eye contact is with me not with Jeff or Michelle. I think he is coming into the vehicle and that can't be good. I actually stop shooting and Lazi jokes that it is 50/50 whether he eats me...

Lazi wants to look for leopards and we head towards the water.  Lazi gets a call on the radio that the endangered African Wild Dogs have been sighted and asks if we want to see them.  Kind of a no brainer.  He tells us to hold on to our gear because we have to go extremely fast so as to not miss them….”Wild Dog Speed” and it was.  We encounter African Wild Dogs that just killed an impala. A gruesome but incredible site. The dogs were quite fierce and scared Michelle more than the lions.  She had her legs over the side arm rest and Lazi advised her to keep all limbs inside the vehicle.  The vulchers were covering the tops of all the surrounding trees, just waiting for they time to enjoy the kill or to eat Michelle.

Wild dogs eating an impala

Devouring an impala does not take very long

Happy after dinner

We head back to camp for our own lunch and I do my normal keywording and editing before our afternoon safari and photograph some of the beautiful African water lilly’s around the camp.

incredible color in African water lilly's

The lilly's are every color in the rainbow

At 4 PM we get into our Range Rover with Michelle in front being the bug breaker and me in the second seat and Jeff in the third seat. We hear that there might be a Cheetah at the airstrip. We race and I mean race in the 4×4 powersliding on the wet roads to the airstrip and as we head down the strip. Sure enough there is a cheetah right on the runway. Gorgeous and strong they are the fastest mammals on earth attaining speeds of 70 mph. We are so close that you can reach out and almost touch him. At one point he sprung to life and saw an impala but the impala bolted away and the cheetah was to far away to make the kill. At one point Jeff stuck his head over the back of the Range Roger and got a very quick reaction from the Cheetah who looked like he was ready to attack Jeff. It’s generally recommended that you don’t lean out of the vehicle in any direction. We stayed with him until sunset and headed back to camp.

The cheetah is all muscle and beautiful and a bit scary when they stare you down

Nice set of choppers

Before landing an aircraft always remember to ask the cheetah to get off of the runway

Upper level atmospheric rainbow on the way back to camp

Just another incredible sunset

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Categories: Creativity, Photo Trips