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Botswana June 2011


umiami05

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samburumags

Breathless! I am throwing away my little compact digital and taking up white mice breeding! How far away were you from that leopard?

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umiami05

We were woken the next morning at 5:30am. The guide told us that 3 lions were walking through the camp and that we should stay put until another guide cameto pick us up. Around 6:15am aguide came and told us the lions had moved off. As soon as we finished eating breakfast we left on a game drive to track down the lions. We caught up with them about a quarter of a mile outside camp. It was a mother with two sub-adult males. They were her cubs, butt hey were now larger than she was. They were highly mobile as it was still early in the morning. The two males kept jumping on each other and playing around. It was a very cool sighting. Unfortunately the car had to keep moving to keep up with them, and I wasn't able to get any good pictures.

 

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Lion family

 

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Lioness

 

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Lions playing

 

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Young male lion

 

After leaving these lions, we went to check up on Romeo whohad reportedly killed a giraffe in the middle of the night. We found Romeocompletely stuffed next to a half-eaten giraffe. He was lying on his back withall four limb pointing straight up in the air, his belly was bulgingoutwards. He was so contented withhimself that he urinated without changing position at all. He was too full toeven move. Luckily he eventually flipped over and yawned a few times for thecamera. We were told that Romeo stayed on the kill site alone for 4 days,gorging himself on giraffe meat.

 

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Romeo with giraffe kill

 

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Waterbuck

Tubu Tree Camp

 

We flew to Tubu Tree Camp in the Okavango Delta. We were told this was an excellent place to see leopards and sure enough we saw leopard tracks everywhere. However, we never spotted one. We were hot on the trail a couple times but the leopard was able to slip away through thick bush. We heard a lot of hyenas calling at night and there was some evidence hyenas had stolen a leopard kill during the night. So its possible the leopard was a little shy after being runoff by hyenas. Still we had some good sightings of a mother hyena with 3 cubs, beautiful birds, a fleeting glimpse of a porcupine, and a spring hare. Thuto also spotted two more flap-necked chameleons for us.

 

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Saddle-billed Stork

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Spotted hyena cub

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Juvenile Bataleur Eagle

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Slaty Egret

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Porcupine

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Spring hare

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umiami05

On our second day at Tubu Tree we took a mokoro tour followed by a short walking safari. During the afternoon game drive we had a sundowner at the airstrip and saw a large journey of giraffes silhouetted against the sunset. It made for an incredible photo opportunity. When we returned to the camp, the camp manager told us two honey badgers were spotted in the staff area. Apparently these two honey badgers are frequent visitors to the staff quarters and come quite close to humans to try and snatch a few food scraps.

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Painted Reed Frog

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Baboons

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Jumping Spider

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Pied Kingfisher

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Giraffe

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Journey of Giraffes at sunset

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Honey Badgers

The next morning we did a game drive and saw a sleeping hyena, a herd of tsessebe, and some beautiful birds including two wattled cranes who were eating large snails. One of the cranes seemed to get a snail shell stuck in his throat and kept clawing at the large lump half-way down his neck. In the afternoon we took a boat to Jacana camp. During the hour long ride we saw a ton of malachite kingfishers, which I had been hoping to see the entire trip. We had fleeting glimpses of them on the Zambezi River at the start of the trip, but we were finally rewarded with a bunch of close-up encounters.

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Wattled Cranes

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Running Kudu

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Spotted Hyena

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Tsessebe

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Meyer's Parrot

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Malachite Kingfisher

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johan db

Don't think Tubu tree is that great for leopards compared to f.e. Chitabe. Hundu island is probably one of those places which didn't do it for me.

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umiami05

Jacana Camp

 

Our first night at Jacana Camp was the night of a full lunar eclipse. The managers arranged for us to eat dinner on the patio in full view of the event. It was really incredible, especially when the staff turned the lights out and all the stars of the milky way were visible. It was a fantastic way to enjoy a meal!

 

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Lunar Eclipse and Milky way

On our last day, we did a game drive where we saw a lot of Red Lechwe, reedbucks, elephants, ground hornbills, and sparring impalas. We spent a long time tracking a large male lion. He left a lot of fresh tracks in the mud and everyone in our group really enjoyed the detective work required to track down the lion. The tracks traced back and forth down the road making it difficult to figure out which way he went. Unfortunately we weren't able to find him in the end, but we enjoyed the tracking process immensely. In the afternoon, we took the mokoros to try and spot the Pel's Fishing Owl, which along with the African Finfoot are the two most elusive birds in Africa. We got a fairly good glimpse of the owl in a tree he is known to frequent and enjoyed a relaxing mokoro ride back to camp during sunset. Since the following day was our last day, I figured I better get up early to photograph at least one African sunset. I got lucky because at Jacana Camp, the sun rises right in front of their patio offering amazing views. It was the perfect way to end our safari.

 

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Crested Barbet

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Ground Hornbill

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Sparring impala

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Jacana Camp

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Little Bee eater

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Pel's Fishing Owl

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Sunrise

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Sunrise Silhouette

 

Botswana proved to be every bit as beautiful and wild as people said it was. My entire family truly fell in love with Africa. We've only been home a month and a half and we are already talking about our next trip to Africa!

 

 

 

 

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Sangeeta

Stunning, amazing photography! Wow, what a great trip. You were so, so lucky with your sightings. Don't even know where to begin, but thanks so much for sharing these pics. Can we buy them from you?

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Pangolin

Great report. Love your eclipse picture. You visited many of my favorite areas. Although not known for an abundance of predators, it is tough to beat the NG 25 area for beauty. Hopefully you were able to do some game drives on the Jao Flats near Jacana.

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Pangolin

Actually, Tubu Tree is becoming quite well known for leopards. Everything is in the eye of the beholder and depends on personal taste and experience, but some of my fondest Africa memories are from Hunda Island- particularly from 2001 when we spent a day there before Tubu Tree was built.

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Great trip report, and exceptional photography! You all surely had great luck with the sightings.

Especially loved the Leopard pictures....absolutely cracking! Mind sharing the details of equipment used?

Edited by Shreyas
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umiami05

Here is the equipment I used:

 

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 40D

 

Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS

Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Canon 100 f/2.8 macro

Canon 580EXII Speedlite flash w/ Better Beamer

 

The majority of the pictures were taken with the Canon 7D/100-400 combo.

The milky way shot was taken with a Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens and a tripod. I brought the fisheye lens strictly for doing some underwater photography in Cape Town and debated taking it with me to Botswana in order to trim down the weight of my bag. In the end I was glad I brought it because I needed something wider for the astrophotography shots. So perhaps next time I will have to bring a proper wide angle lens.

Edited by umiami05
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dawhitworth

Magnificent photos and a compelling read. You've made me even more excited about our first safari next summer. Thank you for sharing with us.

 

David

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The majority of the pictures were taken with the Canon 7D/100-400 combo.

The milky way shot was taken with a Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens and a tripod. I brought the fisheye lens strictly for doing some underwater photography in Cape Town and debated taking it with me to Botswana in order to trim down the weight of my bag. In the end I was glad I brought it because I needed something wider for the astrophotography shots. So perhaps next time I will have to bring a proper wide angle lens.

 

Looks like you have a decent piece of the 100-400mm, which has reports to be unpredictable at times. Never used the 100-400 closely myself, but the 7D combo surely works good.

Thanks for sharing!

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What fantastic photos, umiami05!!!! Great trip report, thankyou, and welcome to the gang!

 

 

 

Jan

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Postscript

My wife and I also spent a week in Cape Town. We went for the sole purpose of diving with the great white sharks but we also had a blast exploring everything else that Cape Town has to offer. We spent 3 nights in Simon's Town, 2 nights in Gansbaai, and 2 nights downtown Cape Town. Also, after reading a great trip report by Safaridude we decided to take a day trip from Gansbaai to De Hoop nature reserve to try and see the endangered Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra.

 

Simon's Town is where all the boats leave to go to Seal Island where the white sharks famously leap out of the water. We were booked on two trips with Chris Fallow's shop Apex Predators. However, a big storm came through on our first day in Cape Town and it rained for 3 days straight. All the trips to Seal Island were cancelled because the seas were 20+ ft. However, we made the best of a bad situation and spent an entire day at Cape Point Nature Reserve, saw the African penguin colony in Simon's Town, and visited Kirstenbach Botanical Gardens.

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We had a fantastic time at Cape Point. We got there early, right as the park was opening. We were the first ones to reach the lighthouse at Cape Point and the area was completely empty of tourists, a hard feat to accomplish since the place is usually packed. We returned around lunch time and found the place crawling with tourists and huge tour buses. We were definitely glad we came earlier in the day. We spent the rest of the time driving around and hiking. We saw several Cape Eland, red heartbeast, chacma baboons, and bontebok. We had read that seeing large mammals at Cape Point is very rare and we should not expect to see any. However we had the opposite experience. We saw tons of ungulates throughout the park. However, they were all seen off side roads, not the main road. We even had a very close encounter with a herd of bontebok crossing the road in one remote area of the park. At one point they were completely surrounding the car. Then as an added bonus, we were taking photos of the bontebok when a giant owl swooped in and landed on a dead tree about 15ft from the car. This experience got me very interesting in doing a self-drive safari some day. It was freeing to be able to drive wherever you want and spend as much time as you want in one location. It really added an extra sense of adventure to the trip. However, it still seems like a daunting undertaking to organize a self-drivetrip.

 

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We had a second opportunity to see the great white sharks at Gansbaai, a small fishing town about a 2hr drive from Cape Town. Here, the boats take you to Dyer Island, which is known for calmer seas and better visibility compared to Seal Island. We stayed at a small bed and breakfast in Gansbaai and were booked on a trip with Marine Dynamics Shark Tours (http://www.sharkwatc....com/index.html). We chose Marine Dynamics because a friend of mine went with them last year and recommended them to us. Also, they are a research organization that also does shark trips on the side to supplement their research grants. The trips are run by marine biology graduate students from Cape Town University. As a result, the trips are educational, and they have a mind for conservation.

 

The majority of the other people on the boat had hotels in Cape Town and Marine Dynamics organized a bus to drive them to Gansbaai the morning of the dive. We found out this is very typical, all of the boat operators offer bus transfers to and from Cape Town, and most of the guests use them. So its not necessary to rent a car and stay in Gansbaai. However, we were really glad we did. It's not a tourist town so it feels very authentic. We got some great restaurant recommendations from the bed and breakfast. The places were all local bar & restaurantsthat were filled with locals, and the food was excellent.

 

 

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As for the dive trip, the seas were still quite large (10ft) but the trip went out anyways. There was only 1 other boat at dyer island and they left when we arrived. Before the other boat took off they told us they saw 11 different sharks. When we heard that we got really excited. The crew quickly put the cage in the water and the first shark came around the boat within 3 minutes of our arrival. The cage holds 7 people and there were about 25 guests on board. The "diving" is all done by breath holding, so you don't have to be SCUBA certified. There is are hand and foot rails you hold to keep your head above the water. Then when sharks come close to the cage, the boat crew tells you to go down and you can see the sharks. Its possible though that in calmer sees they give you snorkels. Everyone gets a 20 minute shift in the cage. After everyone has a turn, people who want to go a second time can get in the cage. Invariably some people get seasick or are too scared to go in the cage so there is plenty of opportunity to be in the cage. I think I went on 3 different shifts and spent a total of 1 hour in the cage.

 

 

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However, the action above water is just as exciting as below. The shark wranglers on the surface pull the baits in slowly trying to lure the sharks closer to the cage. They are not allowed to feed the sharks, so the bait is there just to lure the sharks to the boat. Local laws prevent the companies from feeding the sharks because they don't want the sharks associating people with food. So there is a real cat and mouse thing going onbetween the sharks and the shark wranglers. Several times the sharks put on a burst of speed at the last second and hit the bait hard with big splashes.Everyone on the boat would cheer and snap off photos. Sometimes the wrangler perfectly pulls the bait in and the shark follows with his mouth wide open, eventually coming within inches of the caged divers.

 

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Because of the recent storm, the sediment in the water was stirred up and we had awful visibility. We could only see about 6ft underwater. While it made the sharks difficult to see, it added a really neat element to the dive. It highlighted the huge size of these animals because you could only see half of their body. They would emerge out of the darkness and be right in front of your face! The shark wranglers did an amazing job of getting the sharks close to the cage and several times a large great white came within 8 inches of my face with his mouth wide open. It's a real adrenaline rush and you don't have time to be afraid because its such an awesome experience.

 

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In the end, we saw 17 different individuals, the largest shark being 15+ ft long. However, the majority of the sharks were about 13ft.

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We drove from Gansbaai to De Hoop (pronounced Da Whip) nature reserve, which took about 3 hrs. 1.5 hrs of that was on a bumpy dirt road. We did a short nature walk around a lake that had flamingos, pelicans, and cormorants. Around the main lodge and restaurant there are manicured lawns with lots of eland, bontebok, and baboons. We asked at the lodge if they knew where we could spot the rare Cape Mountain Zebra. She said they are usually only spotted around the lodge in those manicured lawns. They spend about 2 days a week there. The rest of the time they wander the reserve and are never seen. So if we didn't see them on the drive in, we probably wouldn't see them. We were pretty disappointed. However, there are lots of other activities at De Hoop and we set out to explore the park. We drove to the beach that has huge sand dunes. The scenery was amazing. We saw a handful of whales off the beach but we were a month too early for the seasonal whale migration. Supposedly De Hoop is the best whaling spot in the Western Cape, and I can definitely see why. The sand dunes offer an incredible vantage point for spotting whales and they come within a couple hundred yards of the beach. We had a picnic on the sand dunes and watched oyster catchers forage in the tidal pools and the whales slap their tales against the water.

 

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Since we had a 5 hour drive back to Cape Town, we decided to leave the beach around 2pm and head back to the main lodge to use the facilities and get some drinks for the road. As we were driving along, I pointed out an eland about a quarter mile away. My wife got all excited and congratulated me on an amazing spot. I thought it was a bit strange she got so excited because we had seen a bunch of eland already. She sat there with her binoculars pointed at the eland for a few minutes while I waited (a bit impatiently I must say).Then she turned to me and asked me why I wasn't more excited to see the Cape Mountain zebra. "The what?" I said.

 

"The Cape mountain zebra that you just pointed out" she replied.

 

"I didn't point out a zebra, I just pointed out an Eland."

 

She said "I know you pointed out the Eland, but didn't you see the zebra standing right next to it?"

 

Needless to say I scrambled to get my binoculars and camera out. laugh.gif

 

We stayed and watched the mountain zebra for about an hour. The dazzle contained about 12 adults and 2 foals, but they stayed about a quarter of a mile away the entire time. After a while they disappeared behind a hill, and we said good-bye. I really couldn't believe our luck, especially after the park ranger told us we would never see them out wandering the reserve. I still think that was the best wildlife spotting we made the entire trip to Africa.

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Edited by umiami05
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  • 3 years later...
Tom Kellie

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~ @@umiami05

 

Beyond spectacular!

I read your report and enjoyed every photograph, yet I'm still astounded by such consistent quality.

Your family certainly was fortunate with a superb safari.

Thank you for sharing the story and the photos on Safaritalk.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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TravelinTeacherAU

Awesome shark photos! We doing a shark trip while in Cape Town, too. Your images made me very happy!

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