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Am I my brothers' keeper in Namibia?


urologysteve
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This is my trip report from my June/July trip with my 3 older brothers (Paul, Phil, David and myself- Stephen). As a background, we are all between 40-50 years old. None of them had ever been out of the western hemisphere. One had never been out of the lower 48 in the US. This was a gift I had to them and wanted to do while we were all still healthy and able. I did a journal of the trip and then shortened it to this trip report, but it is still quite long. I apologize. I will try to do a couple of pictures as I go along and then add some at the end. Sorry, again for so much writing. Hope it isn't too boring.

 

We started in Nashville on June 27th. Arrived at the airport 2 hours early to find out our plane was delayed an hour. I had built in a 2:45 layover in Atlanta just in case. My concern was over further delays. We had delta provisionally book us on another flight in case something further happened. Turned out it was a good idea. We flew out on the second flight (which actually left before the first) and got to Atlanta 35 minutes before the original flight landed. We had a 1 hour and 15 minute layover, so would have been pushing it had we waited another 35 minutes. A miss would have put us in a bind. Brothers didn’t care, I stressed.

 

The flight was rougher than any other I have flown (except for the 6 seater Cesna I flew in Alaska- another story for another time). 14 hours and 35 minutes of painful butt cheeks. I watched 5 movies and walked around 17 times- it wasn’t enough. We experienced about 4 hours of turbulence from hour 10-14. Phil lasted about an hour of that before he was puking in the bathroom. The Dramamine was too little, too late. He became a little gun shy flying the rest the trip. Also, won’t be eating peanuts anytime soon. David slept about 13.5 hours of it. The only reason he didn’t sleep more was because of the 3 meals we ate and a trip to the bathroom. Paul struggled with sleep until about hour 10, then off for 3.5 hours. He was stuck in the middle seat. Luckily he has the bladder of a camel. One bathroom break in 14.5 hours. I made 7. My legs cramped, butt cheeks throbbed, back hurt and right leg swelled. I suffered….

 

Made it to Johannesburg on friday, June 28th. Arrived a little early- about 4:40 local time. No luggage to gather (all carry-on). Customs and immigration was fairly quick. We were off to the Intercontinental OR Tambo (at the airport). 5 minute walk and we were there. Showers, shave, change clothes, brush the fuzz off our teeth and away we went to dinner.

 

Excellent meal at a place in the hotel called Quills. Everyone was willing to try something new. We split the crocodile broth soup, cream of tomato soup, Springbok and fig salad and the beef carpaccio salad. All were excellent and nothing was left on the plate. David was licking where the honey-glazed figs were and Paul was slurping the crocodile soup bowl. Phil kept asking who was going to eat the last bite of anything, then proceeded to eat it.

 

We had Springbok venison, beef filet and lamb chops. Potatoes, mushrooms, squash, tomatoes and green beans were among the side dishes. The meats were all very good and cooked perfectly. Seasoning just right and nothing spicy. We split the fried caramel ice cream with vanilla anglaise and 2 of the cheese and fruit plates. The ice cream was decadent and the 3 types of cheese were delicious. Crackers, figs, apricots, olives all made for a tasty end to the meal. We enjoyed it. Phil ate 4200 calories and said he was going to run in the gym. The closest thing he got to exercise that night was the 5 minutes he took looking for the light to the bathroom. Bed early after cable TV, wi-fi hot showers. This was the high end Marriott type hotel. Nothing roughing it or Africa-like this night. Luxury and relaxation.

 

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Up early and walked back to the airport. 7:45am flight to Namibia. Check in, security and passport control was easy and quick. Excellent flight with no turbulence, huge breakfast and great service. Arrived 15 minutes early and walked across the runway to the single terminal airport. Short drive to the car rental office. In the 20 minutes (most through the big city) we saw baboons, springbok and warthogs. Easy car rental and off to fill the car with diesel. Quick shopping trip for waters and toilet paper (essentials) and headed north towards Kamajab. Total about 4 hours of driving plus stops. We saw quite a bit of game along the two-lane highway. 200+ warthogs, 150+ baboons, giraffe, oryx, zebra, ostrich and springbok. Never more than 5-10 minutes without a spotting. Some amazing termite mounds, road signs and mountain views. The rock formation and kopjes were beautiful. Several picture stops along the way. Snack stop in Otjiwarongo and then all the way to Kamanjab. Arrived by 3:45pm. Check in at the Oase Garni Guesthouse. Small, simple but elegant guesthouse in this nothing of a town.

 

Unpacked and situated, we decided to drive out of town, headed west, for the last 1 hour 15 minutes of sunlight. It was a great idea (mine of course!). We saw lots of giraffe, steenbok, dik-dik and warthogs. We saw baboon, ostrich, springbok and several kudu. We saw a secretary bird and tawny eagle as well. We stopped and took pictures climbing some rocks (not too smart- I snapped the pics from the safety of the truck). This was my brothers' first wildlife. They loved it.

 

Dinner at the guesthouse was very good. Garlic snails as the appetizer (even phil tried it). We had Oryx steaks and chicken snitzel. Filling and tasty with very enthusiastic service. A few minutes around the outside fire looking at the amazing sky filled with 10x the stars you can see in the USA. Off to Dolomite tomorrow and the first days in Etosha National park. I can’t wait to see my brothers’ faces…

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Up early and breakfast box to-go. Ham and cheese sandwich, boiled egg and a lemon. Fueled and up the C35 to the Galton gate. Phil took it easy since he was up all night in and out of the bathroom. I bought some plain bread for him to soak up some of the liquid in his body. It seemed to pour out awfully quickly. His breakfast consisted of plain white bread and imodium.

 

We saw some of the usual on the way. Kudu, springbok, warthog, zebra and giraffe. Nothing new until inside Etosha. Through the Galton gate and to registration. Lots of zebra and warthog. Tons of kudu. The lady at registration gave us 3 watering holes to stop at on the way to camp. She certainly knew what she was doing. First one had 500+ animals in and around it. Giraffe, oryx, kudu, zebra, warthog, guinea and springbok. Watching the interactions and fights, territorial disputes and drinking was fun to see. Amazing the numbers of animals.

 

When we first arrived, the second water hole seemed dead by comparison. However, waiting around soon paid dividends. We spotted a herd of elephants (our first) off in the distance. 500+ yards. We waited and watched as the animals poured in: 100 springbok, 50 zebra, 20 kudu, warthogs, ostrich, oryx and guinea. We watched mating rituals and kudu establishing dominance. After 15-20 minutes, the elephants turned and headed our way. Sure enough, a group of 26 came straight to the water hole while 4 laid back in the trees. They were 30-40 yards away. We watched newborns to old drinking and playing. They bullied their way into dominance of the waterhole. 30 elephants! We watched for what seemed like an hour. We then slowly left the herd, working our way towards dolomite camp.

 

We checked in at camp right around noon. Great accomodations and delicious lunch of minced game meat over potatoes with melted cheese. It tasted great. Phil took it easy- more immodium and becker’s bakery cookies (local from our hometown). We then decided to travel down to the dolomite water hole about 1/2 mile away. We could see lots of zebra, giraffe and oryx from our tents, making their way to the hole. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see a herd of 28 elephants in the water hole. Once again all ages, newborns to old. We watched sparring, spraying, dusting as two young ones try to drown each other playing in the water. Then, another herd of 16 elephants worked their way in as this herd moved on. Some showing of dominance, but the new herd got the water hole. All of this while giraffe, warthog, oryx, zebra, ostrich and springbok danced around.

 

We made our way to new water holes, but nothing much at the first few (except the usual stuff). We did get a chance to see a red hartebeest mid afternoon. Our last water hole before sunset did produce a huge bull elephant and a couple of black backed jackal.

 

All in all it was a productive day. We ended with a splendid dinner- oatmeal crusted kingklip with roasted potatoes or grilled eland with mushroom sauce and pasta. The soups were delicious (combination of tomato and cabbage) and the dessert of pear and raisin cake with vanilla glaze was a good finish. Off to showers and bed. Everyone excited about an amazing day.

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Up early and short game drive prior to breakfast. We didn’t see near the number of animals, but saw some really neat stuff in the first 2 hours prior to breakfast. We saw our first black rhino, 3 spotted hyena and wildebeest. Small numbers but quality sightings!

 

After breakfast, we packed a lunch to go and headed out for 8 hours of game viewing. We had some great sightings. Hundreds or wildebeest, zebra, warthog, springbok, kudu, ostrich and oryx. We saw 2 herds of eland and 2 lions. We saw our first Klipspringer (3 of them). Some close encounters with black backed jackal and ground squirrel. We ended with more than 40 elephants. We all had a great day, no sickness, no tiredness and easy travel.

 

Lunch was really good for a boxed lunch: ham and cheese with butter on white bread, boiled egg, granola bar, apple, hot dog, peanuts and juice. Too much for any one of us (except David- he even ate 2 extra boiled eggs).

 

We ended with a nice dinner. We had the choice of oryx steak, Kabeljou (fish), T-bone, grilled chicken or vegetarian. Potatoes, rice and vegetable sides. Potato soup and bread. Finished with chocolate cake with vanilla glaze. Early to bed. Travel tomorrow to Halali.

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Up early and breakfast prior to game viewing. We had already seen a rhino at the watering hole prior to breakfast. Packed up and checked out. Headed across Etosha for a lunch stop at Okaukuejo and then 2 nights in Halali.

 

Things started fast. ½ mile down the road and less than 400 yards from our tents, we spotted a leopard. Very pretty, but elusive. Only saw him for about 20 seconds very well, then spotted his head from 200 yards in the tall grass. Over to the Dolomite watering hole, lots of antelope. On towards Okaukuejo.

 

The drive was scenic and productive. Several elephant sightings, 3 lion sightings (5 total lions) and 1000’s of antelope, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, etc. We were lucky and saw a honey badger right beside the road in the middle of the day. Beautiful but brief sight. The landscape changed drastically across Etosha as we moved east. We saw the huge salt pans for the first time. Lots of stopping for game. We made it to Okaukuejo for lunch, then on to Halali.

 

Arrived at Halali in time for check-in and then over to the water hole. There is a floodlight here. We had reservations for dinner at 6:30, but sunset was at 5:30. When we arrived at the water hole at 4:15, there was already a black rhino there. We saw impala and zebra (just a couple). The big highlight was watching another black rhino come in, the interaction and sniffing each other out. Then a small herd of elephants made their way in. They bluffed charged back and forth. The baby ellie wanted to show off, but got scared quickly. After about 40 minutes, all cleared out. We headed to dinner.

 

Dinner at Halali was fine, but more buffet style. Service is friendly, but not as attune as Dolomite. Several desserts made for a nice finish. We had steak, chicken and kudu. We finished in time to hit the waterhole again.

 

When we returned, there was still one of the previous rhino around. After about 20 minutes, a new rhino appeared. Different from before. The first cleared out and we watched this guy for a while. A ground hare, jackal and impala finished the night for Paul and Phil. They headed to bed early. After they left, David and I heard some ruffling of the leaves and shifting of the rock. We were at the far end of the game viewing area. We started to get concerned and finally saw the culprit: a honey badger. He came to within 2-3 feet of us, repeatedly. Some good pictures, but it was after 9:30 by now, so pitch black in the viewing area. He finally worked around the viewing area towards the camp. A real thrill to end the night.

 

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Sorry, forgot to post these with the days from dolomite

 

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And these are from Dolomite to Halali

 

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Up early to the watering hole by 5:15, but nothing to be seen. Several that had been there had said no luck for the previous hour (only 2 jackal). Off to the chalet to wake the brothers and prepare for breakfast.

 

We left Halali and wanted to make a day trip to Namutoni. We had some great elephant sightings for the day. Two very close encounters including a few feet from the car with an entire heard of 12 elephants. Started on the right side of the road and crossed to the left within a few feet. Some of the babies mock charged us to play, but none of the mommas cared we were there. We spotted 4 lions along the way as well. Tons of the usuals as we approached the herds in the plains in Namutoni. 2000+ springbok today and close to 1000 zebra. Hundreds of wildebeest and impala and giraffe. Oryx, hartebeest, warthog, ostrich, dikdik, steenbok and kudu. Too many to count for most of the species. Drove around Fischer’s pan. Saw a pack of banded mongoose and watched them play and cross the road.

 

Fort Namutoni was a let down. It was run down and in need or repair. The water hole was not very productive and had a small viewing area. Back to Halai in time to go to the waterhole before sunset. It would be hard to beat last night’s performance, or so we thought. Instead of 4 elephants, 3 rhino and a honey badger, we had 26 elephants, 4 rhino (including a baby) 2 honey badger up close, a hyena, impala, jackal and hare. The rhino and elephants repeatedly had stare downs and charges. In the end, the rhino won over 25 of the elephants.

 

One highlight of the day was the running joke about which animals we wanted to see. As a joke, David had requested a unicorn. Today, we saw a hartebeest that had a single horn out of the center of its forehead. David had gotten his unicorn. Pictures were plentiful.

 

Still in search of the elusive cheetah. Traveling back to Okaukuejo tomorrow.

 

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and finally, the elusive unicorn!

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We headed out mid morning to Okaukuejo. The drive over was easy and slow. We saw a lot of the usual antelope species. Mid morning, we made it to a water hole right next to the main Etosha pan. We spotted a pride of lions. There were at least 8 females and cubs, no males that we could spot. They were lounging around and trying to avoid the sunlight. They were only about 20 yards off the road. We also had a very close experience with a group of 3 bull elephants. They were huge and crossed the road within 15 yards of the vehicle.

 

As we worked towards Okaukuejo, we drove down by Olifantsbad, a water hole past Aus, we drove up on a tour vehicle watching a Bull elephant next to the road. The guide in the tour vehicle was bothering the elephant, mock charging with the truck and getting in its way. When we pulled up, he decided to stop and pull away. The problem is that the bull elephant was already ticked off. We needed to be able to drive next to him (he was 2 feet off the road) without further bothering him. We took some pictures and decided to ease our way down the road, driving within about 10 feet of him. He didn’t like it. He charged the vehicle and continued to charge as we pulled away. We got a great view of him charging us and chasing us 100+ yards down the road. We pulled up to the next water hole.

 

As we sat at Olifantsbad eating our lunch, we noticed quite a few cars come and go. Most speeding off within a minute of arrival. We watched hundreds of Impala, Kudud and springbok interact. Warthogs and zebra. Then, about 25 yards away, an impala stopped and began grunting. This impala was quit bothered. We noticed under a tree about 40 yards away, a male lion sleeping. He was sprawled out in the shade and hard to see. The other antelope took notice and several female kudu came closed to grunt at him as well. Finally, he got up, repositioned and flopped back down, the grunting stopped as they all sprinted away. At least a dozen cars missed it in their sprint to the next location.

 

We ended at Okaukuejo a few hours later. The water hole at Okaukuejo is world famous, and it didn’t take long to see why. We started with a large herd of elephants making their way down to the water hole. About 20 with babies. As we watched, another large bull elephant come from another direction. He checked out the entire herd and made some of them a little nervous. A little while later, another herd of 16 elephants came from another direction. The two herds mingled and snorted and tussled. They intermixed a little, but not much. The bull elephant finally wanted to show his dominance and he began strutting around and trumpeting. Quite a show. It all stopped as a large rhino came to the hole. He ran off one of the herds and the bull elephant retreated as well. He owned the water hole.

 

After dinner, we made it back to the waterhole. The same rhino was bathing in the center of the water hole. As we watched, another rhino made his way to the water hole. They sniffed each other and stayed calm. No worries. 15 minutes later, a mother and baby rhino came to the water hole. After they all settled, there were 4 rhino at the water hole, including one lounging in the middle. Jackals would show up regularly during the evening.

 

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We slept in this morning. Leaving the park today and headed to Frans Indongo. We had a wonderful week, but my brothers were really wanting to try and catch a glimpse of cheetah.

 

We decided to drive some fields and plains area looking for cheetah prior to leaving the park. For about and hour we drove around, but no cheetah. However, we did see a honey badger along the road. We were able to watch it for about 10 minutes as it walked and ran along the road. We saw another small herd of elephants and watched them eat along the road. The larger ones were grabbing the small trees and pulling them out of the ground, cutting them off with their feet.

 

We made it to Andersson’s Gate about 10 but had a delay. The cars on front of us were self catering and had a lot of camping gear. They had bought some meat to grill from Okaukuejo, but it was confiscated at the gate. We spent about 25 minutes waiting for our chance to get through the gate. Then down the C38 to the B1, making our way to Frans Indongo in the Waterburg area.

 

We ate a quick lunch in Otjiwarongo and made it to Frans around noon. We really wanted to go on a hike. After check it, we went on a 2 hour hike in their high fenced area up to the top of the mountain and then out to their plains area. We saw wildebeest, springbok, oryx, zebra, warthog and gemsbok. We also saw some large cat tracks, but I assured my brothers that they were older tracks….

 

Pictures from the ground level of the animals, pictures with a termite mound and pictures from the top of the mountain. A great couple of hours and then off to a relaxing last game drive.

 

We finished our safari with a guided 2 hour game drive at Fransindongo in a 13,000hectare area. Our main goal was to see one of their 5 black rhino or 3 white rhino. As we searched, we saw lots of sign, but no rhino. Sunset was approaching and we figured it was a bust. We did get to see some black wildebeest, zebra, oryx and ostrich. Then, we spotted something on the road ahead. It certainly was not a rhino, but a small cat. Then we noticed, a mother cheetah and 4 cubs. Lighting was a challenge from this distance, but still a great sighting. We were able to make it to about 50 yards before mom called them into the trees. It was a great sighting and we felt like a great ending to our wildlife viewing. Or so we thought….

 

As we headed back towards the lodge, I noticed a small animal walking along the road. I yelled to the guide and he stopped, they all finally saw it, a pangolin walking along the road. As we parked, the pangolin headed over to a bush. He left his tail hanging out, and sat there. We all got out and were able to see him up close (2 feet away) and get some pictures. This was truly a remarkable finish to our game viewing.

 

Back for dinner and early to bed. Up early and headed back to Windhoek to fly home tomorrow

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A black wildebeest

 

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The brothers- end of the week.post-25370-0-18546600-1374265294_thumb.jpg

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A few more pictures...

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Finally, some extra pics. Sorry for such a long report. I appreciate anyone that read some of it (or that endured the whole thing!). Thanks for coming along.

 

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Hah! It wasn't boring at all. You had some great sightings. Pangolin is still on my bucket list.

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I enjoyed it all very much, thanks Steve.

 

Your brothers are very fortunate to have been taken on safari, I hope they enjoyed it. So many rhinos was wonderful but the pangolin!!!!!!!!! There is a bit of envy floating around. :D

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Now that was a great report. Among the amazing sightings were (1) pangolin and (2) 5 brothers spent that much time together and all survived.

Edited by Pangolin
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Okay, four brothers. Still remarkable.

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I enjoyed it all very much, thanks Steve.

 

Your brothers are very fortunate to have been taken on safari, I hope they enjoyed it. So many rhinos was wonderful but the pangolin!!!!!!!!! There is a bit of envy floating around. :D

Thanks for the kind words. I certainly felt fortunate with the pangolin. The honey badgers and all the rhino/ellie encounters. Was really a great trip. Much different the when we were there March of last year.

 

 

 

Now that was a great report. Among the amazing sightings were (1) pangolin and (2) 5 brothers spent that much time together and all survived.

No doubt! My wife never thought we could make it through that many days together and not have a fight (or worse). She was just hoping we didn't end up on the T.V. show "Locked up abroad."

 

By the way, love the picture of your pangolin

 

Hah! It wasn't boring at all. You had some great sightings. Pangolin is still on my bucket list.

 

Thank you! Pangolin and Honey badger off my list. Still have Aardvark to go...

Edited by urologysteve
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Now that was a great report. Among the amazing sightings were (1) pangolin and (2) 5 brothers spent that much time together and all survived.

 

No doubt! My wife never thought we could make it through that many days together and not have a fight (or worse). She was just hoping we didn't end up on the T.V. show "Locked up abroad."

..

Just don't mention brother Bob in the urology household, eh? ;- )

 

Very nice report, with some really neat pictures and lsightings. Cheetah, pangolin, Honey Badger and Klipspringer. Namibia is great for rhino and aren't those "white" elephants amazing?

 

I endured the whole thing with pleasure and actually thought it was a bit short, until you apologized for the length.

 

I've always wanted to do a brother trip -especially one with my doctor brother (I have one too) paying. You're a good man. I'll have to mail a link to this to him now he's finished with all those private school fees.

Edited by pault
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I took my sister to Botswana in 2006, and of course it was the only safari in the past five that we did not see leopard, cheetah, and dogs. I owe her another one.

 

Three rookies seeing a pangolin is a bit much. I hope they appreciated it. I'm 0 for 7 on my namesake.

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What a great way to spend quality time with your brothers! Nice trip report and photos too!

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Great report with great pictures from a great trip with lucky brothers! Thanks for sharing!

 

(Although, I do agree with @@Pangolin - three rookies seeing a pangolin is a bit much! :D)

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Great report- are your brothers hooked? Do you think you'll be taking them on safari again?

 

The photos of the rhinos at the waterhole at night are my favourite- love those reflections. It reminds me of the night time rhino footage from the BBC Africa series.

 

It seems you also ate almost as much wildlife as you saw!!

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@@pault the "white elephants" were neat. It seemed to give them an almost "pre-historic" look to them.

 

 

 

Three rookies seeing a pangolin is a bit much. I hope they appreciated it. I'm 0 for 7 on my namesake.

 

They seemed to really appreciate the fact that we had some special sightings. As they would talk with others we came in contact with, they would see their response and understand that most don't see pangolin, multiple honey badgers and baby cheetahs intermixed with rhino and elephant fighting. I just kept telling them it was because of their quality guide... ;)

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@@stokeygirl thanks stokey. They are pretty hooked. Already talking about trying to go back. The issue with scheduling another trip is time and money (probably the same issue 99% of us have). I would love to get another trip, but have my daughters to get there again as well. At 13 and 11, I figure they will be up and gone pretty soon. I want to take advantage of the time we have together. Headed to Tanzania in March for 2 weeks with them.

 

My favorite pic is the nighttime rhino pic with the reflection at Halali waterhole. I had issues with the low light photography and may have to use it as an excuse to upgrade my equipment :) I am still a rookie and the balance between ISO, focus, manual settings was a but much at times after dark. I threw away more pics than I kept. But I really like the one with the momma and baby rhino.

 

I was surprised how much game was on the menu, even having been there before. I was assured that all of the game was "responsibly raised" and local to Namibia. I know agriculture is one of the top 3 industries in Namibia with raising game for consumption towards the top. Hope it helped boost the economy for some local farmers. I probably included too much detail about the food we ate, but it seems to be one of the most common questions I get about the trip. Most people on this forum already know it.

 

Thanks again for the kind words.

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@@savoche I just told my brothers that seeing pangolin is completely dependent on your guide! :D

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