Game Warden

Safari of a different kind...

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Itinerary:

 

Arrived Monday. 5 nights 5 star lodge in a widerness area a long way from London. (Note, despite Safaritalk never accepting freebies or backhanders, certain members take note... this was indeed a freebie. I did not even have to tip.) To be honest I did find the food disappointing and the wine list lacking in choice - the manager insisted on sitting with me at mealtimes. Luckily I was the only guest and could escape from the table when needed. However freedom to use the kitchens and make my own tea and coffees was a bonus. I would have prefered a solar heated bucket shower which I feel to be more sustainable on water resources, but, after a hard day on safari a warm shower was appreciated. I found that the manager's accomodation was located too close to that of the guests and what I thought to be lions somewhere out in the wilds I now realise was her snoring...

 

I was not impressed by breakfast, which in fact at 6 am was a quickly gulped black coffee and that I had to make myself...

 

Game drives began early when still dark, I had insisted on this and my private vehicle collected me at 6.15 sharpish but there was little of interest to see close to the lodge and it was only after 5 minutes did I see any signs of life. Alas it was cold and wet every morning which I believe caused the wildlife to remain hidden for the first part of each drive... The driver/guide was talkative but did not enthuse me much and I was expected to tip everyday day. Which, I thought unfair as the first drive of the morning lasted but five minutes but what else could I do?

 

What I had not expected was that I was to join guests from a number of other lodges on the main game drive of the morning. I had requested a private vehicle but instead found that there were too many clients crammed into the vehicle which meant that photographic opportunities were limited. The driver drove very fast and any commentary the guide provided was garbled and made no sense. In fact there were a few points when we stopped in which I looked desperately for any signs of wildlife but as more guests from other lodges crammed onboard I gave up and let the swaying movement lull me to sleep...

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hehehe :D

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good TR thus far! Eagerly waiting the next installment......

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As a repeat customer, everything seemed most familiar to me and the walking part of the safari was not as strenuous as some I've read about here. Alas, safari headwear is no longer a popular fashion accessory, and neither did I see a single bowler. My grandfather who did many walking safaris in this location pre and post war would be turning in his grave that no one wears them anymore. It was incredible how popular walking safaris are in this area, to be honest I think it is being oversold as a walking destination and I could see the looks of frustration on many faces. However, I could tell the real enthusiasts among the crowd, the sparkle in their eyes when they saw me, they knew. They got it...

 

Back in the real heydey of safaris there were many hirsuite explorers, alas now, I saw few others who were keeping this adventurous tradition alive. You could feel the kinmanship amongst us though upon passing by someone with a moustache but I feel that most are pretenders just growing for Movember. Don't they realise a beard is not just for Christmas? If I had the money I'd sponsor them not to shave at the end of the month in preparation for Decembeard...

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To see the changes which have occured in eastern area of the large concession known as London were impressive. I'd known this in the mid 80s when there was little sign of human encroachment and even in the year between this and last the new tracks which have been cut through the undergrowth were obvious signs of increasing pressure on the environment... The draw of the Excel center and the World Travel Market brings tourists from around the world though few respect the safari dress code. Unlike myself of course, but heavy jacket was mandatory in the chill early morning. It was obvious to me who was up for the earliest of game drives, those who don't get what safari is all about were still tucked in their beds and missed all the early action...

 

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One of the better trip reports I've read. Excellent primate viewing I presume.

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Fabulous, entertaining, takes us to a new safari location. So tired of Mara, Mana et al! :D

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What a start...sorry you were squashed in the vehicle with these overlanders but I hope you still had some unique sightings to yourself ;) look forward to more!

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Shame about the game drives but that's what you get with freebies I suppose. Accommodation sounds okay, but not sure about that manager. Doesn't sound like a good place for honeymooners.

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fascinating TR! waiting eagerly for the next instalment, and yet another spot to add to the growing must-go safari places.

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Wildlife viewing was limited and I shall proceed with some pictures, but first I must make mention of the excellent breakfasts everyday. They were excellent. (There, that's my mention.)

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Chocolate covered strawberries and champagne excellent?

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why does your ID label locate you in Portugal?

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Because that is where I'm from and ST HQ is located.

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top report @@Game Warden

original perspective too

you should get out and about more often

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Great stuff, can't wait to see what 'wildlife pictures' you come up with! :D

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Great stuff, can't wait to see what 'wildlife pictures' you come up with! :D

Ask @@samburumags - Lesser bearded Game Warden :D

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Forgot to slip in: the first aircraft on stand that I saw landing at Gatwick was Norwegian.com's Karen Blixen :) No photos but here's a link - you will understand why it is has relevence to the report a little later...

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Enjoying your safari in the large concession known as London! Quite funny, the words and your photo!

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Following the bush breakfast, wildlife spotting began in earnest - was I going to use the check list technique? After all, WTM is known for 15 minute time limits with each animal so I'd have to play it by ear. Of course I did have a general idea of what I wanted to see and photograph, even scheduling when the best opportunities would be, knowing the habits of some of the creatures and ecosystems they inhabit. On foot I was surprised by how close I could approach and how habituated the wildlife was to the presence of the old GW, it turns out they weren't shy at all as some of the following pictures will prove and I wonder how positive human interaction would be for them. Would it change their habits at all? Some obviously, unused to close proximity were a bit skittish at first and took a little while to relax in the presence of humans...

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So the first of my memorable wildlife sightings was Ryan Wallace from We are Africa, www.weareafricatravel.com, the new show in Cape Town. I spent a long time observing his habits and discovered that due to previous interaction with safari tourists he was quite habituated and comfortable in my presence. I obviously did not initiate contact and allowed him to approach me: not meeting his gaze and with submissive body language was thrilled when in an animalistic display he daubed stripes of red colour onto my cheek. I felt that I had been accepted by the old dominant silverback who from that moment on treated me like one of his family group...

 

(What do the swatches of colour represent? An invite to the exclusive show in Cape Town next May to which selected operators, camps and lodges are invited, matched to hosted buyers and members of the press. So for Safaritalk to be invited and for me to represent us all is quite a coup, bearing in mind the niche audience and reach that this website, (and now magazine), has. I am grateful to many people who supported Safaritalk and whose words on our behalf led to the meeting with Ryan and therefore the invite itself and be rest assured Safaritalk will be a positive addition to the show. I will be representing responsible, eco and sustainable tourism and conservation interests and promoting the ST name.)

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It was clear at my second sighting that this particular species was on the checklist of many tourists as there was a steady flow of walking safaris bunched together aiming for a better view. Whilst not as severe as the congestion at the Mara crossings, I felt that local rangers needed to establish some kind of control...

 

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Of course, it's Sue Smart from Kwando Safaris - www.kwando.co.za - I could see that this alpha female was always alert and scanning the horizon for any prey species and so limited my time spent at this sighting so as not to deny her the opportunity or interfere as we've seen, alas, so many examples of previously.

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This next particular animal is one whom I've enjoyed watching on previous occasions and perhaps somewhat like Big Cat Diary I have decided to name, being so familiar. Do you agree with naming wildlife? That's perhaps best discussed elsewhere, but in this particular instance I feel quite justified in giving this old alpha male the name of Vasco Galante...

 

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I think this particular male is suffering the ravages of time and his mane is somewhat scraggy but as you can see from the above photo, (which didn't require the use of a new Canon 200-400 F4 like @@twaffle uses), he certainly is habituated to humans in close proximity although it can be difficult to make sense of his calls - it would need much more time to study than I've had available although being exposed to other wild animals that use the same form of communication I could decipher some meaning from it. If unable to catch a glimpse in the wild you can always expect to see updated sightings at the following website - www.gorongosa.org...

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Great pictures of difficult to photo species

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