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Botswana Nov-Dec 2014: Dogs and more dogs!


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Bush dog

Stunning pictures! Love the wild dog advertising for a toothpaste, the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde lions and all the birds

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In the "better late than never" category, I thought it was about time I repaid the forum by presenting a trip report. I confess, I do not keep any kind of daily diary--any free time on a trip is taken

Shortly after parting with the lions, Alan spotted some movement in the grass ahead (what's that running there?) and now I'm screaming, dogs, dogs, dogs!!! Not in our wildest dreams did we expect to s

Now to our last camp. Xigera is considered a "wet" camp, in high season surrounded by water in the heart of the Delta; but at this time of year there was plenty of dry land to traverse. In fact, water

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janzin

Our last morning of the trip :( We set out with nothing particular in mind, although I did secretly hope to find leopard, since we'd only seen the one on the trip, and never had a good view. Des tried, but alas, no leopard was to be found (there was definitely one lurking not too far from the camp, as tracks were found...but we never saw him.)

 

We did see another very interesting track--a rhino! A few Rhino's have been "transplanted" into this area to protect them from poaching, and were being managed by a neighboring concession. Des was really excited to find the track on Wilderness' land, but we didn't find the accompanying beast.

 

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We had a wonderful sighting of a Spotted Hyena, the closest encounter of the trip, and in some lovely early morning light.

 

spotted_hyena_7209a.jpg

 

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We drove to a wooded area, still hoping for leopard, but found a nice herd of Red Lechwe. The landscape in this area was really beautiful, with palm trees which I don't believe we saw elsewhere.

 

red_lechwe_0689a.jpg

 

And our best look at a Bushbuck, which is usually hiding in the grass.

 

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I realize now I have not posted any photos of monkeys! So here's one (this was actually taken in the Xigera camp.)

 

vervet_monkey_9172b.jpg

 

Of course that last morning brought more birds. We hoped to pick up at least a couple of more life birds, and so were stopping for pretty much anything that flew. One of my targets was a Honeyguide--any kind would do, as we'd never seen one in all our African trips. We came upon this bird in a patch of trees and Des couldn't quite figure out what it was. It was me who said, could it be a Honeyguide?? And the field guide confirmed it--indeed, juvenile Greater Honeyguide! (The yellow throat indicates a juvenile; the female would be duller. The adult male looks totally different, which is what confused Des.) What a great bird for our last day!

 

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Some more good birds for the morning (although not new.)

 

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Lest you think there aren't any Lilac-breasted Rollers in Botswana (ha!) But we actually saw far less there than we had in Tanzania and I had so many photos from that trip that I didn't take all that many LBRs here. But they are so beautiful I have to post at least one.

 

lilac_breasted_roller_7719a.jpg

 

Broad-billed Rollers actually seem more common here, although they are harder to get a decent shot of, often perching quite high or in leafy trees. Quite a beautiful bird as well.

 

broad_billed_roller_9155a.jpg

 

We came upon a Martial Eagle on the ground with a baby Warthog kill. He was so intent on his breakfast that he let us sit quite close. We spent quite awhile with him, as it was pretty cool being up close and personal to such a magnificent bird.

 

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But soon we reluctantly had to return to camp and get ready to go home. :( There was one final surprise waiting for us...a pair of lions was hunting in the pan right outside our room! They were too distant for any photos worth showing here but it was a fantastic end to our last morning. Wow!

 

My husband and I both agreed, Xigera ended up being our favorite camp of the trip--and we almost didn't choose that camp because we thought there'd be nothing much but birds and we were intent on finding Wild Dog this trip!

 

I'll do a final post shortly with a few remarks about each of the camps and any other general info that comes to mind.

 

If anyone is interested in more photos of this trip (what you see here is just a fraction, of course--although actually quite a large fraction!) you can see more on my web site here:

 

http://www.jczinn.com/South%20Africa/Botswana%202014/safindex.html

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michael-ibk

Fabulous Martial Eagle pics, and I just love the Lechwes with the palm trees - looks like a painting. :)

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penolva

I must say these are some of the most beautiful photographs I have seen. Did you use the same camera and lens throughout? Can you tell me what you used please as I am very interested, the quality is fantastic. thank you for posting. Pen

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janzin

For the bird-obsessed, here is our bird list from the trip. We had a total of 178 species, which isn't bad considering it wasn't a birding-focused trip!

 

SPECIES SEEN
From 11/23/2014 to 12/6/2014 ~ in Botswana ~ 178 seen
OSTRICH
Ostrich
DUCKS, GEESE, AND WATERFOWL
White-faced Whistling-Duck
White-backed Duck
Comb Duck
Egyptian Goose
Spur-winged Goose
Yellow-billed Duck
Hottentot Teal
GUINEAFOWL
Helmeted Guineafowl
PHEASANTS, GROUSE, AND ALLIES
Crested Francolin
Red-billed Francolin
Swainson's Francolin
GREBES
Little Grebe
STORKS
African Openbill
Woolly-necked Stork
Saddle-billed Stork
Marabou Stork
Yellow-billed Stork
CORMORANTS AND SHAGS
Long-tailed Cormorant
ANHINGAS
African Darter
PELICANS
Great White Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
HAMERKOP
Hamerkop
HERONS, EGRETS, AND BITTERNS
Gray Heron
Goliath Heron
Great Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Slaty Egret
Black Heron
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron
Rufous-bellied Heron
Striated Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
IBISES AND SPOONBILLS
Glossy Ibis
Sacred Ibis
Hadada Ibis
African Spoonbill
SECRETARY-BIRD
Secretary-bird
OSPREY
Osprey
HAWKS, EAGLES, AND KITES
Black-shouldered Kite
Lappet-faced Vulture
Hooded Vulture
White-backed Vulture
Bateleur
Brown Snake-Eagle
Martial Eagle
Wahlberg's Eagle
Tawny Eagle
African Marsh-Harrier
Little Sparrowhawk
Black Kite
African Fish-Eagle
BUSTARDS
Red-crested Bustard
Black-bellied Bustard
RAILS, GALLINULES, AND COOTS
Black Crake
CRANES
Wattled Crane
THICK-KNEES
Water Thick-knee
STILTS AND AVOCETS
Black-winged Stilt
PLOVERS AND LAPWINGS
Long-toed Lapwing
Blacksmith Lapwing
Crowned Lapwing
Wattled Lapwing
Three-banded Plover
PAINTED-SNIPES
Greater Painted-Snipe
JACANAS
Lesser Jacana
African Jacana
SANDPIPERS AND ALLIES
Common Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Ruff
PRATINCOLES AND COURSERS
Temminck's Courser
Collared Pratincole
GULLS, TERNS, AND SKIMMERS
White-winged Tern
African Skimmer
SANDGROUSE
Double-banded Sandgrouse
PIGEONS AND DOVES
Mourning Collared-Dove
Red-eyed Dove
Ring-necked Dove
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove
Namaqua Dove
African Green-Pigeon
TURACOS
Gray Go-away-bird
CUCKOOS
Levaillant's Cuckoo
Black Coucal
Coppery-tailed Coucal
Senegal Coucal
White-browed Coucal
BARN-OWLS
Barn Owl
OWLS
Verreaux's Eagle-Owl
Pel's Fishing-Owl
NIGHTJARS AND ALLIES
Swamp Nightjar
Square-tailed Nightjar
SWIFTS
African Palm-Swift
MOUSEBIRDS
Red-faced Mousebird
KINGFISHERS
Malachite Kingfisher
Gray-headed Kingfisher
Woodland Kingfisher
Striped Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
BEE-EATERS
White-fronted Bee-eater
Little Bee-eater
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
Southern Carmine Bee-eater
ROLLERS
Lilac-breasted Roller
Rufous-crowned Roller
Broad-billed Roller
HOOPOES
Eurasian Hoopoe
WOODHOOPOES AND SCIMITAR-BILLS
Green Woodhoopoe
Common Scimitar-bill
GROUND-HORNBILLS
Southern Ground-Hornbill
HORNBILLS
Southern Red-billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
African Gray Hornbill
AFRICAN BARBETS
Crested Barbet
Black-collared Barbet
HONEYGUIDES
Greater Honeyguide
WOODPECKERS
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Bearded Woodpecker
FALCONS AND CARACARAS
Lesser Kestrel
Dickinson's Kestrel
NEW WORLD AND AFRICAN PARROTS
Meyer's Parrot
BUSHSHRIKES AND ALLIES
Black-backed Puffback
Black-crowned Tchagra
Gabon Boubou
SHRIKES
Red-backed Shrike
Lesser Gray Shrike
Magpie Shrike
DRONGOS
Fork-tailed Drongo
MONARCH FLYCATCHERS
African Paradise-Flycatcher
LARKS
Rufous-naped Lark
Fawn-colored Lark
Dusky Lark
Red-capped Lark
SWALLOWS
Banded Martin
Barn Swallow
Wire-tailed Swallow
Rufous-chested Swallow
Common House-Martin
BULBULS
Common Bulbul
CISTICOLAS AND ALLIES
Green-backed Camaroptera
Rattling Cisticola
Chirping Cisticola
Zitting Cisticola
Tawny-flanked Prinia
LAUGHINGTHRUSHES AND ALLIES
Hartlaub's Babbler
Arrow-marked Babbler
OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS
Spotted Flycatcher
Ashy Flycatcher
Red-backed Scrub-Robin
White-browed Robin-Chat
African Stonechat
White-headed Black-Chat
THRUSHES AND ALLIES
Kurrichane Thrush
STARLINGS
Wattled Starling
Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling
Meves's Glossy-Starling
Burchell's Glossy-Starling
OXPECKERS
Red-billed Oxpecker
Yellow-billed Oxpecker
WAGTAILS AND PIPITS
Cape Wagtail
African Pipit
Plain-backed Pipit
OLD WORLD SPARROWS
Southern Gray-headed Sparrow
WEAVERS AND ALLIES
Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver
Spectacled Weaver
Holub's Golden-Weaver
Lesser Masked-Weaver
Southern Masked-Weaver
Fan-tailed Widowbird
WAXBILLS AND ALLIES
Southern Cordonbleu
Brown Firefinch
INDIGOBIRDS
Pin-tailed Whydah
-------- STATISTICS --------
Species seen - 178

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janzin

I must say these are some of the most beautiful photographs I have seen. Did you use the same camera and lens throughout? Can you tell me what you used please as I am very interested, the quality is fantastic. thank you for posting. Pen

 

Thanks Pen. I used a Nikon D810 with 200-400VR F4 lens, usually with a 1.4x teleconverter (for birds, mostly) and a Nikon D800 with 70-200VR F2.8. Both are full-frame cameras, 36 megapixels. I always shoot RAW. I always had both at hand in the vehicle and so pretty much never needed to change a lens.

 

Due to the weight restrictions I didn't even bother with a wide-angle/scenery or macro lens but for this I used a Nikon 1 V2 interchangeable lens, mirrorless camera with a 11-27.5mm lens (about 30-75mm equivalent) which I just kept in my vest pocket. Its really light and shoots RAW and a lot of fun to use!

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Marks

You know you are having a good time when the pre-game drive "extras" are owls that would beat out many a game drive!

 

The lions on page 4 are quite a sight. I'm becoming fond of the pale-maned lions. There is something about the whole animal being a near-uniform color that appeals to me. Though I understand that may mean my tastes diverge from those of most lionesses...

 

Great dogs, especially the third picture. But the hyena standing proud in profile is probably my favorite of this thread.

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hannahcat

Your photography is truly outstanding. Even to the point of confusion -- I've just purchased several field guides, one of which is apparently by two well-known wildlife photographers, and none of the photographs in any of the books are anywhere near as clear and as detailed as yours are, particularly of the birds. Thank you so much for sharing them. I also really love the pics of the lions -- something about the expressions on the faces of the two lions together makes me really feel like I know what it might be to be a lion.

 

By the way, I do think, given the talent on these boards, a "SafariTalk Field Guide" would be a pretty incredible source, if anyone had the time to put such a thing together.

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Atravelynn

Did they take the keys? I would have fired it up and started my own safari...hell with a guide and tracker.... :D

Now there's a wild man on safari!

 

"So maybe Kwara wasn't so bad after all :D We were starting to warm up to it...and to Botswana..."

I'm warming up too. Your experience shows that a a few days is sometimes needed for a place to show its stuff.

 

You did a marvelous job with all birds. Sit!!! a!!! tun!!! ga!!! And a good photo of it! The ripples were just right in your sunset.

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Atravelynn

Your birds are doing such interesting things and the hippos even more interesting and unusual. I think somewhere in the past we had a discussion about hippos occasionally eating meat, though as I recall the flesh was more likely fish. I peeked ahead and the broken record of local dogs gone missing was not correct!

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janzin

Just a few closing remarks. We booked this trip with Bill Givens of The WildSource and I have only great things to say about their service. Bill worked with me personally to plan the camps based around our interests, he was very patient when we thought about switching camps (some folks on this forum and on TripAdvisor had suggested to switch out Duma Tau for Vumbura Plains; which, given how great Duma Tau turned out to be, I'm glad we didn't do, although who knows what we might have seen at Vumbura!) But our experiences also show that no matter how great the season seems to be at a certain camp, there's just no telling what might happen--its always a bit of serendipity--especially with wild dogs, which can range widely, or disappear for days only to reappear! Those words you don't want to hear on safari--"they were here last week!"

 

WildSource was also able to procure the green season rates earlier than when officially announced by the camps. I also really like the fact that his profits go towards lion and predator research. I will definitely use them again when returning to Africa.

 

I realized I don't really have all that much to say about the specific camps that isn't readily found on agent sites, so this will be brief impressions.

 

One thing regarding ALL of the camps; I have an unusual dietary restriction and all the camps were very, very attentive to it. In both Kwara and Lagoon, they made me separate dishes when necessary, without the offending ingredient. In the Wilderness camps, the culinary director actually sat down with me and assured me that they never use this ingredient at all in any of their preparations, so I could eat freely. Each camps' personal attention was greatly appreciated, and it not something I generally get when traveling in South America, for instance.

 

Kwando Camps

 

Kwara: Many have said this camp needs a remodel, and certainly it was the most rustic of the camps, but we had no problems with it's simplicity (being our very first camp might have helped, because it would certainly have seemed a step down after the other three camps.) Our tent had a tree growing through it. This is from the rear, that's the shower area under the tree.

 

DSC_0434a%5B1%5D.jpg

 

My only real complaint about the camp itself is the lack of fans in the tent, which could be so easily rectified. This was the only camp with no fan and it was unbearably stifling in the tent mid-day; 104 degrees by my thermometer one afternoon.

 

I have absolutely no memory of any of the food at Kwara, not sure what that means!

 

Pre-drive breakfast at Kwara by the riverside. Note the birders looking up <_< (My spouse in the green shirt; the woman looking up was one of the birder couple that rode with us.) There were hoopoes nesting in that tree, I wonder what was flying by?

 

DSC_0466a%5B1%5D.jpg

 

Lagoon: Lagoon has been recently remodeled and was way more luxurious than we expected. The tent was the largest of any of the camps we were at. Ours was the furthest from the main buildings, and was quite a hot hike midday, especially when one has to go to the main building to charge one's batteries--which for me usually meant at least two hot slogs during the midday break.

 

Our room at Lagoon. The very large bath area was to the left.

 

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Lagoon's setting. Our room was even further to the left than you can see in this photo.

 

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This was the buggiest area and the dining room would be inundated with bugs at dinner; so much so that it was rather unpleasant to sit there swatting flying creatures out of your food. They did provide little screens to put over your water glass and believe, me it was necessary, but almost futile as bugs were landing on your plate too! We didn't have this experience at any other camp, even though they were all right by water, so not sure what the reason might be. Its obviously a common occurrence there as they were quite prepared with little screens for everything. Of course, this is just one of those things on safari that you have to take in stride, but I was not inclinded to linger in that dining area :o

 

I think I forgot to mention that we also did a boat ride one evening at Lagoon. There was no rookery to visit, and we didn't see much but some hippos, but it was very relaxing to be out on the water for sundowners. This is the boat, which is similar to the boat we took to the rookery at Kwara.

 

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Sundowners on the boat--sigh, so peaceful!

 

DSC_0593a.jpg

 

 

Next up, the Wilderness camps.

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-18919500-1435540107_thumb.jpg

~ @@janzin

 

That's the finest lioness fangs image I've ever seen.

You've caught the essence of her powerful dentition.

Terrific!

Tom K.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Atravelynn

Nice you got green season rates! I would have loved to see the nesting hoopoes.

 

Thanks for wonderful the Botswana safari.

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-10312800-1436382539_thumb.jpg

 

~ @@janzin

 

When looking at this image a second time, I finally realized why it had looked so familiar the first time that I saw it.

It's exactly the pose of my childhood family dog — a boxer — when asked to ‘roll over’.

Although it's beyond my imagination that anyone might ever ask a lioness to ‘roll over’.

A nice image!

Tom K.

 

 

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janzin

Thanks Tom K. and Atravelynn!

 

I know I still owe one more installment on the Wilderness camps--been busy but hope to finish it all up this weekend :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
janzin

Sorry for the long delay, but here is the final installment with a little bit of information about our last two camps.

 

Duma Tau: Our tent here was on par with those at Lagoon, quite spacious and luxurious (by our modest standards!) All the tents are located right on the river and while it was a lovely view, we actually never saw wildlife in that channel, although others did see hippos by their rooms. In this instance, quite the oposite of Lagoon, we had the tent closest to the main buildings, but the pool is at the very far end, quite a hike, and felt a bit isolated (i.e. in case of animal visit!) (We actually never used any of the pools at any of the camps, for one reason or another, and pretty much never saw anyone else in any of them either. Which was odd, because it was mighty hot midday.)

 

Our room at Duma Tau:

 

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View from our deck:

 

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One lunchtime we, and our 2 vehicle-mates, were surprised by being directed to the pontoon boat for lunch; I actually thought they were going to serve us lunch on the boat, anchored at the dock, so I left my camera/tripod ashore--when suddenly we started pulling out! LOL I quickly had them stop so I could retrieve my gear and we went on our way, having a relaxing lunch on the water. A lovely touch and much appreciated after a hot morning drive.

 

Food here was also a cut above the Kwara camps, with more options, and a little more refined; also they presented a really fantastic spread before the afternoon drive. We never went hungry or needed our granola bars here!

 

One evening we were treated to a traditional meal and dance out behind the main buildings. Generally I am a little uncomfortable with "native dances" being put on for tourists, but this felt very different; all of the staff participated and genuinely were enjoying themselves--even the guides joined in--singing and dancing by firelight, and it was actually moving, and quite a treat.

 

It was little surprises like this that I felt set the Wilderness camps apart (in addition to what I felt was superior guiding.) They always made you feel like they really appreciated having you there.

 

Xigera: While the tents at Xigera were perhaps slightly less luxurious than in Duma Tau, they were nonetheless very comfortable, and most importantly, we had the most amazing view--perhaps the best vantage point for wildlife we've ever had from any accommodation, anywhere. Our tent faced a large pan which, at this time of year, had two widely separated waterholes, both filled with wildlife, both feathered and furred. One waterhole seemed to mostly attract Red Lechwe and antelope while the other was filled with herons, pelicans, shorebirds, and ducks. Unfortunately it was a bit far to ID all the birds without a spotting scope. I suppose in the rainy season this pan may be flooded and have quite a different view!

 

Xigera camp:

 

DSC_0695.jpg

 

 

Xigera camp absolutely had the most wildlife IN camp. A warthog family, genets, elephants, and kudu, among others, were spotted easily right in camp. A leopard was heard at night by the guides, but unfortunately not seen.

 

An elephant visits the camp:

 

elephant_0741a.jpg

 

The morning "newspaper" which recorded the prior evenings animal tracks. Not sure if you can read it here, but they misspelled genet "Janet" so I looked for my tracks every morning :rolleyes:

 

DSC_0693.jpg

 

As previously mentioned, on our last morning we had a lion pair hunting in the pan in front of our tent. Here's a not so great photo (a great distance, not so much light, heat haze, and backlit at that) but you get the idea of the incredible scene from our front deck! (Note lion on the mound! there's also a 2nd one but in the bush somewhere.)

 

JCZ_9166.jpg

 

Just as at Duma Tau, we were surprised with several little niceties that, while completely unnecessary, were just, well, nice. On our last evening, our guide came excitedly up to us at the bar, just prior to dinner, saying "there's an owl out by the pool!" Of course we went running...I was lamenting that I didn't have my camera...but lo and behold, they had set up a private dinner table for us out by the pool. (In all honesty, we were rather more disappointed by the fact that there was no owl, then excited by the prospect of dinner by ourselves. Ha, that's birders for you! And we actually would have preferred to spend our last night dining communally with the other guests (who at that point were all travel agents, and had some interesting stories and conversation.) But the gesture was well-intended, and of course we enjoyed our meal by candlelight under the stars.)

 

So, that's pretty much the end of the story, and as I type this I am sad that there are no concrete plans at the moment to return to Africa (we have Brazil and India coming up next)...but we will be back to Africa, without a doubt! And hopefully back to Botswana!

 

I leave you with a lovely sunset over the Okavango, taken during one of our Xigera sundowners.

 

sunset_7192a.jpg

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penolva

Hi Janet great TR. your last photograph prompts me to ask how you achieved the frame around it? Pen

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Geoff

 

One evening we were treated to a traditional meal and dance out behind the main buildings. Generally I am a little uncomfortable with "native dances" being put on for tourists, but this felt very different; all of the staff participated and genuinely were enjoying themselves--even the guides joined in--singing and dancing by firelight, and it was actually moving, and quite a treat.

 

 

@@janzin Excellent TR.

 

I get that same uncomfortable feeling with these "native dance sing alongs". i want my guide to get me the best possible sightings not provide a song and dance act.

Some Wilderness guides have told me they feel stupid when they have to do the dance before dinner.

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Marks

Beautiful ending.

The genet/Janet mixup was funny. The little sandpit on the walkway is a great idea, too.

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twaffle

Absolutely loved this report and especially the photographs. The environment just looked like Eden, so luxuriant and green with beautiful light and filled with life.

 

The comparisons between camps and guides was very interesting. Thanks for making the effort to put all this together. Brilliant.

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Atravelynn

The morning "newspaper" which recorded the prior evenings animal tracks. Not sure if you can read it here, but they misspelled genet "Janet" so I looked for my tracks every morning. Very funny.

 

Those letters were tiny, little.

 

I would not have thought Xigera would be the wildlife-in-camp winner. Good info. And great report, right up to that last gorgeous sunset.

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janzin

The morning "newspaper" which recorded the prior evenings animal tracks. Not sure if you can read it here, but they misspelled genet "Janet" so I looked for my tracks every morning. Very funny.

 

Those letters were tiny, little.

 

 

 

Here you go @@Atravelynn now you can really read it :)

 

DSC_0692.jpg

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janzin

Hi Janet great TR. your last photograph prompts me to ask how you achieved the frame around it? Pen

 

@penlova it is really quite easy. The program I use (Picture Window Pro) allows you to make a macro, or action, of the steps, so I do this all in one fell swoop; but I think you could probably repeat the steps and create an action in most editing programs. Here are the steps:

 

  1. A 2 pixel black border around the image
  2. A 2 pixel grey border around that image
  3. A 26 pixel black border around that last image
  4. Finally, overlay of the text (copyright and if desired, caption) over that final border

Of course you could vary the widths to your own taste and the colors as well.

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janzin

 

 

One evening we were treated to a traditional meal and dance out behind the main buildings. Generally I am a little uncomfortable with "native dances" being put on for tourists, but this felt very different; all of the staff participated and genuinely were enjoying themselves--even the guides joined in--singing and dancing by firelight, and it was actually moving, and quite a treat.

 

 

@@janzin Excellent TR.

Some Wilderness guides have told me they feel stupid when they have to do the dance before dinner.

 

 

Interesting, it really did seem to me that the guides who joined in were truly enjoying themselves, as were all the other staff. Maybe they are just good actors!

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madaboutcheetah

Hi Janet, Thanks again for the lovely report ......... Lovely re-visiting some of your fabulous photography.

Haha - me too have never found anyone using that plunge pool sort of thing - which isn't much bigger than the bath tub in the room (perhaps - Kids and family)

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