We spent most of the month of July experiencing Africa for the first time - this blog entry gives a brief summary of our trip. You can jump right to a full gallery of photos by clicking the link below. In addition to photographs, the gallery includes Google Earth maps from each of our stops with GPS tracks of our daily routes overlaid.
We started our journey in Cape Town, South Africa with the goal of observing and photographing our penultimate penguin species - the African (formerly "Jackass") Penguin - which we accomplished at the colony at Boulders Beach (our final penguin species is the Fjordland Penguin of New Zealand). We also visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden located at the base of Table Mountain, and Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent. Many thanks to Wian van Zyl from Birding Ecotours for a great day of birding, conversation, and photography.
From Cape Town we headed north to Maun Botswana where we joined a mobile photo safari organized by photographer Thom Hogan, arranged by Wilderness Travel, and conducted by the most-excellent Capricorn Safaris. Our route first took us overland from Maun to Moremi Game Reserve where we spent three days on morning and afternoon game drives and had our first encounters with wild leopards, hippos, giraffes, and zebras.
When you are in the remote wilds of Botswana you are treated to brilliant night-time displays of stars and the milky way. We took advantage of the lack of light pollution and humidity to learn the basics of astrophotography from one of our instructors, Tony Medici.
The Milky WayThe Milky Way, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana The Milky Way over CampThe Milky Way over Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
We then traded our land cruisers for boats and an all day ride up the Okavango River to Camp Okavango, which would be our luxurious home for the next two nights. The Okavango passes at times through large open lagoons, but more often than not you are traveling in winding, narrow channels with walls of Pampas Grass towering above you. Our safari leader, Shane Hedges, recorded a time-lapse video of a portion of our ride (click the photo to access the video).
Filming the Ride up the OkavangoFilming the Ride up the Okavango, Okavango Delta, Botswana Pied KingfisherPied Kingfisher, Camp Okavango, Okavango Delta, Botswana
We departed "Camp O" and boarded two small planes for the short flight to Savuti in Chobe National Park, where we would rejoin our mobile camp for 3 days of game drives with more elephants, giraffes, and our first sighting of lions and new antelope species like Roan.
From Savuti, we drove northeast to the Chobe River near Kasane on the border with Namibia where we would spend our last 3 days in Botswana. The waters of the Chobe River attract large numbers of Elephants, African Buffalo, Impala, and the predators that hunt them.
On our second to last night in Chobe, lions killed a zebra approximately 100 meters behind our camp. Spotted Hyenas quickly discovered the kill and called in reinforcements. For the rest of the night we were treated to howls and growls as those two apex predators fought over the kill. At first light we found the kill site - all that remained was a dark spot on the ground and a few scraps that allowed us to identify the prey as Zebra. There were still a few hyenas and Black-backed Jackals sniffing around the kill site when we arrived (and some in our group also observed the much less common Brown Hyena and Side-striped Jackal a little later).
We departed our camp in Chobe for Kasane first thing in the morning to begin our long voyage home - after stops in Johannesburg, Dubai, and San Francisco, we stepped in the door of our house 42 hours later. We realize we have only scratched the surface of all that Africa has to offer. However, we truly appreciated the opportunity to experience this small but incredible piece of it. Many thanks to Shane Hedges and his team from Capricorn Safaris who helped make the trip so memorable and enjoyable. Thanks also to Thom Hogan and Tony Medici for their planning, knowledge, and instruction.