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Safari of a different kind...


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#21 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 09:40 AM

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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#22 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 10:56 AM

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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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#23 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 11:35 AM

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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#24 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 12:11 PM

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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#25 TonyQ

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 12:13 PM

Great pictures of difficult to photo species



#26 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 01:52 PM

Sounds a great time!!!  Thanks, GW.


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#27 lillipets

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 02:35 PM

Very interesting. Did you do any night drives? And if so was the "wildlife" bothered by the spotlight?

So far it sounds like a destination I could take OFF my bucket list!


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#28 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 04:55 PM

Have you ever spotted wild horses on safari? Well I was lucky enough to have this rare sighting all to myself, a stallion and mare from the depths of Botswana...

 

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I would assume horses aren't high on the list of expected sightings, unless they are the black and white striped kind and begin with Z so it was indeed a nice surprise to observe both John Sobey and Riana Fourie from African Horseback Safaris, www.africanhorseback.com in such close proximity. It's amazing to see how comfortable they are in the presence of wild dogs and other predators: mine own excitement at spotting something so unexpected on safari had to be "reined in..." And look at those smiles. Amazing what a sugarlump or two can do...


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#29 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 05:47 PM

Taking a break from the strains of hours on foot, I decided to rest up at the World Travel Market Africa Press launch. (For more details see the website here - www.wtmafrica.com). With my press card scanned I took my seat in a packed room and saw a number of other safari goers who had the same idea as me, escaping the heat in the shade and resting their wearied legs. Despite many others, the three speakers representing WTM pointed me out, noting the trademark swatches of red from We are Africa upon my cheek. It caused some good natured banter between us, perhaps they thought I was from the other show, it was just one more thing which made me stand out amongst the crowd after the pith and beard... 

 

Following the presentation, when it came to invited questions from the audience, of course, my hand went up and I sensed maybe nervousness in the panel wondering what my question would be. However, of course, representing Safaritalk interests, I talked responsible and sustainable tourism and conservation issues all of which will be catered for in the new show.

 

Another chap on a walking safari, (on his own without a guide which I wouldn't advise in the undergrowth of the World Travel Market), was Safaritalk member @Soukous. First to recognise me, I initially had no idea who he was but following the secret hand signals and trouser raise which sets Safaritalkers apart from the masses, we joined forces for a sundowner and quality safaritalk before he left me for the less bearded fellows from Encounter Mara, (more of which later...).

 

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#30 Game Warden

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 10:58 PM

An animal whose habits I'd first observed a few years ago, his territory covers a large range and he can be found migrating to the the boundaries of this concession on an annual basis. Seemingly a creature of solitary habits, his loud laughing call resonates throughout the forest like a hyena's chuckle in the night. Now fluent in his efforts to communicate we share his experiences of the lost culture of Tri - pad - vis - or.

 

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The blue fronted Clint Gielink of Okavango Expeditions, www.okavangoexpeditions.com attracted a steady stream of safaristas keen to communicate themselves about self driving in Botswana and thus I left him in peace although had further sightings throughout the three days...


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#31 twaffle

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 06:49 AM

Fabulous, loving every minute of this exquisite safari experience.


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#32 Morkel Erasmus

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 07:51 AM

Loving this. LOL great take on this "safari", Matt! :D


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#33 Game Warden

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 10:58 AM

I wondered at the folly of booking such a safari in the wet season as surely concentrations of wildlife would be dispersed and there would not be the density of game around the mosquito infested river known colloquially as the Thames. Indeed as the light faded many of the so called hard care safaristas could be seen leaving this particular walking area and heading off for their plunge pools and 5 star dinner menus, but I had a sneaking suspicion, based on prior research that there would still be a range of interesting sightings to be made. And thus, guiding myself, (having learnt so much from reading all the Safaritalk trip reports), I made for a particular location, unknown to many in which nocturnal sightings we guaranteed.

 

This was to prove beneficial to me - the SATOA networking dinner, www.satoa.com saw a number of different species migrating from their usual home ranges to this one specific water hole where, safe from poachers and predators they were able to mingle, drink and eat and thus proved not to be shy but completely relaxed in my company. I don't like the idea of an artificially lit water hole, nor one which is pumped but in this instance the lighting and liquids did not affect their behaviour. Well, perhaps the pumped liquids did, but not at first.

 

I stayed on the fringes somewhat concealed in the undergrowth but was so close did not require binos. The presence of rhino could be felt, even if not seen, (for the evening's beneficiary was Save the Rhino International, www.savetherhino.org). A couple of interested guides shared my viewing position and much talk was of Zimbabwe's potential and the increase in visitor numbers to all the parks and reserves most notably Mana Pools.

 

To be honest there are times on Safari when you just don't want to be glued to the back of a camera and just absorb the ambient sound of the night, breath in the smells and wonderful aromas came as dinner was served, a buffet curry with a number of different dishes and red wine and thus, as it got darker and later, despite the continuing number of quality sightings and G&Ts available, I took one last look before the long transfer back to my lodge. But overall day 1 of the safari had been a positive experience, though somewhat tiring and blister inducing...


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#34 Game Warden

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 03:47 PM

Next morning was much of the same. Except with more rain and very noisy overlanders on the game drive vehicle conducting the transfer into the centre of the concession. Next year I will have to think about fly camping closer to the water hole... Another excellent bush breakfast in the company of various guides preparing for the day with Safari clientele. No sight of the dreaded porridge pot, just hot coffee and tea, sausages, bacon, poached eggs, toast etc. 

 

It was an important morning as I'd really be in the thick of things at the World Responsible Tourism Awards, www.responsibletravel.com/awards. I had previously arranged to meet two other travellers and conduct this part of the safari together to avoid paying a single supplement. The first, who is still searching for reliable leopard sightings decided to dress in an unconventional manner for a foot safari: he'd obviously not read the most important Safaritalk topics about what to wear on Safari so I lent him the ST pith to keep the sun from his eyes...

 

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You'll know this first timer better as @PersonalPangea, (Alex Walters), from Great Plains Conservation, www.greatplainsconservation.com full of witty banter and a skilled bush raconteur - therefore good fun to have accompanying you on safari. Great Plains were nominated for "Best for Responsible Wildlife Experiences" and we'll see what happened a little later on in the report.

 

Having trekked all the way from the Masai Mara, Sean Anderson also joined us to complete a spirited trio of adventurers. Sean is MD of Encounter Mara, (@Encounter Mara), www.encountermara.com and had partaken of the bush breakfast with me earlier: he was keen to get the morning's trek underway. Sean was representing the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, www.maranaboisho.com which had been nominated in the "Best Destination for Responsible Tourism" category.

 

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I think he found these early starts somewhat chilly and was also in awe of the Safaritalk pith which he wrestled from Alex in order to have his picture taken...


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#35 PersonalPangea

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 04:09 PM

Clearly embarrassed to be wearing a sharp suit!


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#36 Game Warden

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 04:12 PM

And how sharp it was @PersonalPangea. Luckily the ST pith blunted the edges just a touch...


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#37 Soukous

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 05:43 PM

Quite a safari @Game Warden, keep it coming. 

You'll be escorting tour groups next year


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#38 Game Warden

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 12:14 PM

Before the awards ceremony itself, BBC HardTalk presenter Stephen Sackur hosted a round table discussion on carbon footprints in high end tourism - the panel comprised of Gerald Lawless, President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group, Johan Lundgren, Deputy Chief Executive, TUI Travel PLC and Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism in the Cabinet of South Africa.

 
In a well presented and moderated discussion with some searching questions from Sackur in his usual HardTalk style, the panelists discussed the issues but to be honest, as a layman in the industry and not privy to all the various legislations and regulations, a lot of it sounded like green washing to me: and Stephen Sackur picked Gerald Lawless up on the point of sustainable water use, what does it matter if you have little badges saying not to change the towels or sheets when you have a huge golf course on the hotel grounds which sucks up unsustainable amounts of water to keep the fairways green.

 

So when Sackur opened the debate up to the floor and invited questions of course my hand went up, and as the last question to be asked, standing with the spotlight upon me, (and perhaps @PersonalPangea and Sean dreading what I was going to ask), I basically said that what they were saying really sounded like a lot of greenwashing and so how could they engage the sceptical consumer audience and not only show them but prove to them their commitment to cutting the carbon footprint of high end tourism... you'll have to ask Alex if he was impressed but I think that it made the panel think and it drove some good discussion - exactly the kind of thing that ST represents. It certainly made the audience and panel look at me in a different light, if only to look at the beard and nothing else... 


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#39 Game Warden

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 12:49 PM

Alas for Great Plains Conservation they did not win their category and neither did the Mara Naboisho Conservancy though were highly commended. In all some very worth winners and full more details of the nominees, winners and event itself click here.

 

So, it was back to safari: one can only watch so much wildlife from a comfy chair on the deck and following a few handshakes, mingling and beard appreciation it was back on with the gaiters and back out into the wilderness.

 

First sighting proved to be another of the Encounter Mara pride: the young Simba, Chris Tinkler. One did not have to worry about approaching too close for after eating breakfast he'd take to the shade of the Kamili Safaris stand and proved an easy lion to photograph. Chris has migrated to the Mara from a long guiding background in various savannahs and hopes to encounter many more Safaritalkers in the Mara soon...

 

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#40 Game Warden

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:47 PM

It proved to be a tiring hike from Kenya to Namibia and wiping the sweat from my brow, the sun beating down upon the antique pith and I had to stop of en route to dunk it in water to cool my head. (Not to mention a quick beer...) I was worried that 60 years of patina would run into my hair into my beard but to be honest, it was such a mess I doubt it would have made any difference.

 

In front of towering sand dunes and gushing waterfall was an oasis of calm and reclining at peace was this desert-rose with the classification of Leanne Gosford - an endemic flowering species from the Namibia Tourist Board - www.namibiatourism.com.naI contented myself with taking a photograph rather than picking this flower and placing it within the pages of book to dry - I'm sure I made the right decision.

 

 

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It was not long before others stopped by to admire the flora of Namibia and so I bade farewell, took one last lingering look over my shoulder but she was gone. Was she real or had she been just some shimmering desert mirage in my memory?


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"Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you." - African proverb.

 

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