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Botswana Green Season: January 2013


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Great report. Love the CKGR. And, as long as it's northern California time, I was born in Vallejo.

Plus you live in Oregon, which makes you an honorary Californian because Oregon is where Californians go when they are tired of California prices, right?


These insects are amazing, so colorful - love the photos!

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WOW!!! Great trip report and awesome sightings ....... Your trip report brings back memories of my trip in 2010 to Passarge and Deception while on a mobile safari with Ewan Masson. Whilst we had some good sightings, clearly this is extraordinary!!!! Great stuff.....

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And.....I was there the same time Hari was, although we missed each other by a few miles.


This report is putting a CKGR camping trip back near the top of my list.

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After leaving Passarge Valley in the late afternoon we had to drive back to Deception Valley, which was about a 4hr drive. We did a very long game drive where we tracked some lions, watched some weaver birds, and had a nice picnic in the middle of nowhere. As we drove, we noticed large cement cylinders at the peak of every sand dune. Thuto explained that these were placed there in the 80's to mark a potential route for a pipeline. At one point we drove right past one of these cement markers so Thuto slowed the vehicle down. As he did so, the whole right side of our vehicle gasped, because we had mistakingly disturbed an approximately 7foot snout nosed cobra that had been sunbathing along side the rode. The snake reared up with its hood fully extended and then dashed away into the bushes. It was a very exciting sighting, but unfortunately it was too brief to get any photos.


We arrived back at Deception Valley around 4pm, but we needed to give the setup crew a few more hours to finish setting up camp. So we continued with our game drive. We passed a few vehicles upon entering Deception valley and they told us about some mating Lions in Sunday Pan. Since we had already seen mating lions we decided to pass and pin our hopes on seeing a Cheetah.


We saw lots of yellow-billed kites, pale-chanting goshawk, and black-billed kites. The sky started to fill with lots of dark ominous clouds, but it was clear that Deception valley had recieved far less rain than Passarge. Passarge Valley was full of green grass, but Deception was still brown and rather dry.






We kept our eyes peeled for any wandering cheetah, but we didnt see much. On our way through Deception Pan, Thuto stopped the vehicle and fixed his binoculars on a tree about 750 yards away. He noticed two Oryx staring at the base of the tree.




After a brief moment, Thuto announced there must be a Cheetah under that tree. We were all very surprised at the specificity of his sighting since there was nothing visible under the tree, even with binoculars. He explained that the Oryx clearly spotted a predator under the tree, but since they were so close to tree they must not be afraid of the predator. That rules out everything but a Cheetah.


Sure enough, as we approached we saw a cheetah head look up at us from the grass, and apparently she had caught herself a tasty snack.








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The next morning we did quite a long game drive through almost all of Deception valley but we didnt spot much. In fact, we didnt even spot very many Gemsbok or springbok. Its as if all the game moved on. According to other guides and vehicles we talked to in Deception, the predator sightings had been fairly good for the past two weeks, but then everything went quiet in our two days there. I've heard about some amazing sightings in Deception from others, but we didnt have much luck there.


Thats another reason I would recommend doing both Passarge and Deception valley. If the game is quiet in one area, the other should compensate. Regardless, we had some great sightings of jackal, bat-eared fox, and honey badger. Plus, we did an extended sundowner overlooking Deception Pan that turned out to be beautiful.



















After sunset, we were driving back to our camp when Thuto slammed on the breaks and calmly declared "ah, theres a snake". He got out of the vehicle and starts fishing in a bush when we all see it....a bright green snake sitting in the branches of an acacia bush. Thuto identified the snake as a Boomslang and told us it was the most venomous snake in Africa. The black mamba is the most deadly because its aggresive and bites more people, but the boomslang has the worst venom. Its a hemotoxic snake and prevents blood from clotting. Boomslang bite victims will die from internal bleeding and will cause the victim to bleed from every oriface. Uck!

If antivenin isnt applied within 24hrs, a total blood transfusion is the only treatment. As thuto says "that would be a bit of a nuisance"


And of course, after telling us how deadly the snake is, Thuto attempted to catch the snake. Unfortunately it was now completely dark and we couldnt find a proper stick to help with the snake handling. So we left him alone all curled up at the base of his tree.



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I was impressed with your insect photography even before it was in the beak of the hornbill. Clever sunset shot.

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All these images, insects-snakes-birds-mammals they are all spectacular! Wow. Unlike Pangolin, I'm busy hatching only my first CKGR camping trip based on this report! Terrific report and from what lies ahead, I suspect, even more terrific days still to come!


Did you think your time at KPC was worth it or in hindsight, would you have dived into the mobile head on?

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On our last morning in Deception Valley, we did a short game drive before heading back to Kalahari Plains and our awaiting flight. We passed by the bush with the boomslang and made a quick stop to see if he was nearby. Sure enough, the snake had climbed back into the same bush. This time, Thuto found a good stick and attempted to fish it out of the acacia bush. He grabbed it by the tail and the snake whipped his head around. He puffed up his neck to look more menacing. The acacia bush was too thick and had too many thorns, and the boomslang was content to stay put. Thuto didn't want to hurt the snake, and since it didnt seem to want to leave the bush, we left it alone. Still, it was a neat opportunity to get really close to a deadly snake.








We returned back to Kalahari Plains camp with enough time to respond to a sighting of two lions in the pan in front of camp. It turned out to be a large male and a female coming into estrus. The male clearly knew the female was getting ready to mate, but it appeared the female was a little unsure about how her hormones were making her feel. She would walk away from the male quiet purposefully, then get 100 yards away, stop, look back, and then walk back towards the male. At one point the male followed the female and apparently got a little too close. She turned around and clocked him right in the face with her front paw. The male backed off a bit after that, but he kept following her.


It was very interesting to watch the interaction between the two courting lions, especially since we already got to see what all this behavior would eventually lead to.






Once the lioness got up to move to a new spot, the male would come sniff around where the lioness was just laying down. He would flehmenate to see if the lioness was truly in heat. Flehmening allows the sex pheromones to reach the male lions' Jacobson's organ, which tells him when she is in heat.




With the prospect of mating so close at hand, the male lion was not that interested in hunting.




She may look fierce, but this was just a yawn.




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Did you think your time at KPC was worth it or in hindsight, would you have dived into the mobile head on?


Kalahari Plains camp was definitely worth it. CKGR was the first stop on our itinerary and we arrived there straight from our overnight flight from the states. So it was really great to stay at a more comfortable camp for just 1 night before sleeping in the smaller bow tents.


Also, the game around KPC is excellent. The day we arrived other guests saw a cheetah walk right in front of camp and saw several lions on their game drive. On our way back to the airstrip, we saw the two courting lions only about 10minutes from KPC.


So to answer your question, I would recommend spending 1 night at KPC. This will give you a chance to see any good game that might be hanging around the area before heading into the mobile safari.

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I am stunned by the insects, especially the hornbill with insect, and the snake photos … love them as well. Fabulous trip report and photos.

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Chitabe Lediba


We left the Kalahari and flew back to Maun where we transferred planes and flew to Chitabe Lediba. Our plane took off just as rain was starting to fall, but luckily our flight was very smooth and pleasant. When we landed in the early afternoon, the storm clouds were just starting to form and were rolling in over the concession. We did a short game drive back to the lodge and had tea as rain showered down around us.






Our afternoon game drive was fairly wet and we didnt see too much of note. However the rain stopped long enough for us to have a nice sundowner next to a pool full of hippos. At dinner that night, the air was filled with tons of flying termites. Apparently, after a heavy rain, the potential new king queen termites all fly away to start a new nest. There were probably thousands of them flying around the table as we ate. That sparked a conversation about how tasty the termites were, and by the suggestion of our guide, we all caught some termites, tore off their wings and tried them out. They tasted rather benign and had an after taste similar to peanut butter. Not bad at all.




All the animals were out in force to gobble up as many termites as possible. My brother's room was situated nearby a termite mound and he had a spotted genet on his porch munching on termites for quite a while. When we went back to our room we had a small owl perched on the walk-way rail.




The next morning the skies were clear again and the only sign of the termite hoard from the night before was a pile of wings on the walk-way on the way to breakfast. We went on a morning game drive with the task of finding some leopard or spotting the wild dogs. We drove around the area by the airstrip and found lots of leopard tracks but they went in many different directions. We likely saw tracks from 3 individual leopards, but there was too many tracks to figure out which way they went. We got a call from another vehicle that picked up wild dog tracks near the airstrip but had not found the actual dogs yet. This was quite promising since we had heard the night before the dogs hadnt been spotted around Chitabe for 2 and a half weeks. We decided to head to the airstrip to see if we could have any luck.




Chinese Latern flower





As we drove around the airstrip, we again found leopard tracks, so we kept our eyes peeled. As we drove past a clump of bushes, we heard a francolin screaching. Thuto stopped the vehicle to listen and watch, but we didnt see anything. Thuto moved the car forward about 10 feet and there sitting in the middle of the bushes was a beautiful african wild cat. This was the third wild cat we had seen on this trip, but it was by far the best sighting. This cat was sitting about 20ft from the vehicle in broad day light. It just laid there for a few minutes, perhaps curious about the vehcie, and then it slinked away through the bushes.





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Beautiful photos. The knob-billed ducks are a great find.

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After having seen so many fresh tracks in the morning, we knew something had to give in the afternoon. We set off with much anticipation and enthusiasm. However, 10 minutes into the game drive we pull up with a flat tire. My brother-in-law loves working on cars so he jumped right out and helped Thuto change the tire. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes to change and we were back on the road. Only the caveat being we no longer had a spare tire :(


Further up the road, we noticed several Burchal's Starling squawking like crazy and staring down at a bush. Thuto surmised there may be a snake in the bush. So he got out to investigate and found a small 3-4ft rock python, our 3rd snake of the trip.






After the snake, we got a call in on the radio that a lioness with 3 cubs had been spotted near the airstrip, so we headed in that direction. We soon found the lions lounging under a small tree. We sat patiently for awhile watching the cubs hoping they would wake up and start playing.




All was quiet and tranquil in the vehicle when all of a sudden a short message came in on the radio. Thuto, who had been sitting on the edge of the car, sprang into the drivers seat and shouted to sit down and hold on. He gunned the engine and we flew away. Tearing up the road we asked Thuto where we were going. He told us a nearby vehicle was rounding a corner and spotted a lone wild dog who had just taken down an impala. Just as he said this, we pulled into a clearing and sure enough, there was a wild dog tearing into a fresh impala carcass.












As the wild dog was feeding, it kept looking around for the rest of the pack. It would take a few bites, then trot around the clearing with its head held high to try and spot the other dogs. Surprisingly, it wasn't whooping or calling to attract the rest of the pack. Finally, after a few minutes, the dog ran off to go get the rest of the pack.


While the dog was gone, we heard some baboons alarming in the distance, signifying some other predator was in the area. We knew the lioness and 3 cubs were nearby so we figured that is what the baboons were alarming about. A few minutes later, we heard some rustling from behind the vehicle and we all turned to look, expecting the dog pack to come running up. Instead, we saw a female lion walking straight towards the kill with her head held low. The lioness jogged towards the impala carcass, grabbed the kill, and quickly trotted off.




As we started to move the vehicle to follow the lion, we saw through a clearing in the bushes that the rest of the wild dog pack had just arrived! They watched as the lion ran off with their kill.






Thuto asked us who we would rather follow, the lion with the kill or the pack of wild dogs. We unanimously said to follow the dogs knowing that they would surely go back on the hunt.


The dogs seemed a bit stunned at what had just transpired. They milled around a bit, and the sub-adult pups begged the one dog to regurgitate some food for them.






It wasnt long before the dogs regrouped and ran off with purpose to go back on the hunt. We chased after them, crashing through the bushes and running over logs.






The dogs were moving fast, but we were able to keep a few of them in view. However, the dogs soon ran into a thick mopane forest that would make it almost impossible to follow them. It was at this point that we remembered the earlier flat tire and the fact that we no longer had a spare. We prayed that all our tires stayed in tact for the rest of the hunt!








We decided to skirt the edge of the mopane forest and hope the dogs emerged. Sure enough, the dogs luckily started running along the edge of the mopane just like us. When the dogs finally left the mopane they fanned out and went in all different directions. The majority of the pack went left and two other safari vehicles followed. Thuto noticed two dogs break off right and we decided to follow them. The dogs were really moving fast at this point and it was getting harder to keep up. We broke through into a clearing just as two dogs pulled down an impala. Two other dogs emerged from the bushes and helped bring it down.




This time, the rest of the pack showed up really quickly and the feeding ensued.










From start to finish, the impala was consumed in 5minutes. It was very impressive and really exciting to watch. As the dogs lounged around gnawing on bones, we had some time to reflect on what we just saw. Thuto said when he saw the pack arrive to witness the lion stealing their kill, he was worried a fight would ensue. He said the lioness would have surely killed a couple of the dogs. Luckily, that didnt happen and instead we got to watch an entire wild dog hunt. A really special memory.


As darkness fell, we had to leave the dogs because none of the guides knew exactly where we were and we had strayed quite far from camp. It turned out to be about an hour drive back to camp. About 20 minutes away from camp, the car started driving strangling. Thuto stopped the vehicle and we all leaned over the side to inspect the tires. That is when we noticed our rear tire, the same one that went flat earlier in the game drive, had almost completely come off the axel. It was missing 3 out of 5 lugnuts, and one of those had almost worked itself completely loose. We made a quick fix of the problem by borrowing 1 lugnut from each of the other tires, but we realized how lucky we were that didnt happen during the hunt. That would have been extremely dissapointing.


Video of the whole thing:

Edited by umiami05
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The next morning we were still brimming from the excitment of the night before and joked with our guide, Thuto, that we expected him to deliver an even better sighting.

We decided to head back to the area around the airstrip since that is clearly where all the action had moved to in Chitabe's concession. The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon and we were driving east, so the glare must of really affected Thuto's vision.


My future sister-in-law calmly asked Thuto if he was planning on driving over that Leopard that was laying on the road in front of us. Thuto stopped the vehicle and peered ahead but still couldnt see anything because of the sun. He turned back around to see if maybe she was joking. We all assured him that indeed there was a leopard and she was sitting right in front of us. Thuto, with renewed effort cupped his eyes and looked hard right in front of us, and then he started laughing. The leopard was literally about 10 feet in front of the vehicle, right between Thuto and the sun.




While we were watching the leopard, we heard a lion roar not too far away. This caused the leopard to become more alert and she hurried off to find a suitable tree to climb. On the way, she stopped to drink some water in a puddle.














Once the leopard looked comfortable in the tree, we decided to continue our search for the wild dogs. We saw some hippo in a pond who put on some nice displays for us, but we didnt find the dogs. On our way back to camp, we responded to a call of two sleeping male lions. They must have been the ones roaring early, that caused the leopard to flee the area.




Giant Eagle Owl






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Since arriving at Chitabe we had seen Lion, wild dogs, and leopard. So on our last afternoon we decided to see if we could spot a Cheetah. Apparently, a guide from another camp had seen a Cheetah on the edge of the concession the day before. So we headed in that direction. On the way, we got another flat tire. Interestingly, it was the same rear tire that we had had troubles with earlier. Again, we quickly changed the tire and continued on the game drive.






We pulled into a wide open field that looked like perfect Cheetah territory, so we kept our eyes peeled. We saw two gutsy steenbok chasing each other in the open. We were hoping the Cheetah was nearby and hungry.


A few minutes later we spotted the male Cheetah walking across the field. He looked slightly full but we had hopes he might spot those steenbok and feel like a snack. Unfortunately he was more interested in marking his territory and taking a nap.








On our drive back to camp we again got another flat tire. The same rear tire as before. We started getting suspicious that something was wrong with the vehicle that was causing the flat tires. Since we longer had a spare tire, we called another vehicle to come lend us theres. SInce it was very dark at this point, we all got out of the vehicle and milled around. Then we got a call from the other car that he spotted a lioness about 300 yards from our location. We all stood much closer to the car after that.


We again fixed our tire and headed back to camp. On the way we saw another kill, but this time it was a bird catching a frog.






About 5 minutes from camp we got another flat tire! Again, it was the rear tire. Another vehicle from camp had to come pick us up since something was definitely wrong on our car that was causing all these flat tires. Of course we teased Thuto that it was his fault we got 3 flat tires in one game drive. The next morning we were in a new vehicle while the other was being looked at by the mechanics, and of course, we didnt get any more flat tires. :)

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While we were changing one of the flat tires the night before, we heard wild dogs whooping in the distance. On our final game drive at Chitabe, we decided to explore that area in the hopes of spotting the dogs.


We headed out at 5am, just at first light. We got to the vicinity of the whooping dogs the night before and starting looking around. We quickly spotted 3 lions, 2 females and 1 sub-adult male, laying in the grass. The light was hitting the lions perfectly and they were laying in a field of grass with little white flowers. It was a very pretty scene.






We continued on our quest to find the dogs and started working the area. We came around a bend in the road and spotted the entire pack on the trail.




They didnt seem to be hunting, but rather were sniffing around the road. We spotted some leopard tracks about a 100 yards away and Thuto surmised they might be interested in chasing that leopard away. The dogs made their way down the road and ran smack into two more vehicles from a neighboring concession. They had been looking for the dogs too. Apparently, the whole pack was in the neighboring concession the night before when they got into a territorial fight with another pack. Several dogs got separated and were whooping to re-find the pack. This also explained the dogs current behavior. They were re-marking their territory and asserting their dominance.




Unfortunately, with the arrival of these two new vehicles, there were now a total of 3 vehicles following the dogs. In Botswana, the rules state that only 3 vehicles can be on site at any given time. So if a fourth vehicle arrives, we would have to leave since we were the first on the scene. When we first spotted the wild dogs we radioed the other Chitabe guides and notified them of the sighting, so we knew they would be arriving soon. Within 4 minutes, another Chitabe truck arrived and we had to leave the dogs.




This was a major disappointment since we were the ones that found the dogs in the first place. But we had such an awesome experience with the dogs previously that we consoled ourselves. Later, we ran into the same Chitabe vehicle and learned that the dogs had been chasing Red Lechwe through the water all morning. That would have been really cool to see. But I am also glad that Botswana instituted the 3 vehicle per sighing rule. Its that feeling of remoteness and isolation that makes Botswana such an awesome destination for safari. Seeing 4 or 5 vehicles surrounding wild dogs would really ruin the experience.




With our time nearly over at Chitabe, we headed for the airstrip to catch our flight to Duba Plains. We were greeted there by a large breading herd of Elephant that were crossing the airstrip. It was a great send-off from a magical stay at Chitabe.


The density and diversity of predators at Chitabe is amazing. Within a 24 hour period we saw wild dogs, lion, leopard, and cheetah, as well as a large variety of hervores, primates, and birds. I have heard great things about Chitabe from other SafariTalk trip reported, and I must say, it certainly lived up to its reputation.







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Wow, that video of the wild dogs was fantastic! I hope I'm as lucky at Chitabe as you. I have a question: you mentioned near the end of the video that these dogs hadn't been seen for about 2 weeks? I think there is more than one pack being seen at Chitabe now, including the smaller pack that had the new female alpha and denned late, and then a larger pack. This must be the larger one. I know my agent Bill Given was just at Sandibe this month, same concession as Chitabe, and they saw both packs and saw Chitabe vehicles all the time so they were seeing the same sightings at least some of the time. I'm not sure of the dates though so I don't know if they were there the same time as you. I am now going to continue with the rest of the report you've added after the dog video.

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Apparently they are seeing 3 separate packs in the Chitabe area now. The Sandibe concession does overlap with Chitabe but I dont think they are identical concessions. So its possible that the two weeks prior to our arrival the dogs were closer to Sandibe.... Its also possible that the guides tell you the dogs haven't been spotted for 2 weeks because they dont want you to get your hopes up ;)

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Wow, that's cool that they are seeing 3 separate packs now. I know from Bill that the one he saw with the younger pups from the new alpha female that had denned in November is quite small - he said it was 3 adult dogs (there was a 4th the week prior) and 3 pups (4 to 5 months old) when he saw them. Hopefully I get to see some of them.

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Unbelivable pics and video! You made me feel like I was there all over again (went in Nov) ~ aren't the dogs incredible; but loved the lioness stealing the impala!


OK. I have to ask you this as I am so not a photographer - HOW do you make your images so SHARP, AND how do you frame them with the black strip? Love it and always eager to learn.

Thanks on that one..


Chitabe was one of my favorite concessions. You captured (much better) everything I loved about it! I felt I was there with you. Amazing.

Thank you ~~ and Safarichick, now you know what you have to look forward to!


GL just watched your video (my hubby, safari convert, and companion this past Nov) He just looked at me and said, "AMAZING" when are we returning?

(thanks for that one big time!)



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3 dog packs in Chitabe! What tremendous breeding success. You really excel at "dining shots" whether it's birds or dogs as diners and antelope or frogs as the meal. I'm sure that leopard would have run off as the vehicle approached, but glad you spotted it before there was a close call.

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OK. I have to ask you this as I am so not a photographer - HOW do you make your images so SHARP, AND how do you frame them with the black strip? Love it and always eager to learn.

Thanks on that one..


graceland, thanks for the kind comments on the photos. In the past 3 years, photography has turned into a big hobby of mine and there is no better place for that then Africa.


The best way to get sharp images is to get good camera gear, such as a dSLR. I primarily use a Canon 7D and a canon 100-400mm lens. This equipment costs a lot, but in photography you usually get what you pay for. I try to buy all my camera gear either used or refurbished. There is a great photography forum that has a buy/sell/trade topic that is full of trust worthy people. I buy almost all of my used lenses on that site. (http://www.fredmiranda.com)


I edit all my photos in Adobe Lightroom 3, which is a combination photo editing and photo organization software. I also got a free plugin for Lightroom called LR/Mogrify. The black border and the copyright watermark are simply options when you save each photo after editing. (http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrmogrify2.php)


At Kalahari Plains camp, there was an advertisement in their curio shop for an independent service that will go through all your safari photos, select the best ones, edit them, and compile them for you. That could be a good option for people who either dont have the time or the expertise to edit photos. I think my father took down the information. If you like, I can post it on the forum.

Edited by umiami05
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In addition to those 'dining' shots, you also have a superb collection of action shots. The dog with all 4 feet in the air is tremendous. The video was riveting - I am queasy about kills so skipped through that, but there were so many stories unfolding in tandem and the animals seem to be completely unperturbed by the people & the vehicles. You planned your itinerary very well and had great safari luck. Wonder what Duba has in store for you...

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Great story telling and supporting photographs and video. What a rewarding adventure.

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