Day 1 in Botswana – August 2017

I left for my trip to Botswana (and Zambia) on August 6, 2017 and did not arrive at the mobile tented camp in More, Botswana until August 10, 2017. I flew from Seattle to Amsterdam, Holland; Amsterdam to Johannesburg, South Africa; Johannesburg to Maun, Botswana; and Maun to the the Xakanaxa airstrip (a dirt airstrip) in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana.  I had overnight stays at Amsterdam and at Johannesburg.

Moremi Game Reserve is located in northern Botswana. The reserve was the first in Botswana to be declared as a reserve by a local tribe, in this case the BaTawana tribe. In 1963, the widow of Chief Moremi III set this land aside.  The area was later enlarged to encompass a greater portion of the Okavango Delta.  The Reserve occupies around 1,850 square miles. The habitats within the Reserve range from semi-arid mopane scrub (a locally abundant tree species), and wetter areas with mixed woodland, tall mopane woodland (also known as cathedral mopane), mixed woodland, riparian woodland and large grassland areas. The Reserve includes a dry peninsula; however, 70% consists of the Okavango Delta.

In the first three nights at the Moremi Game Reserve, I stayed at a mobile tented camp – Camp Moremi. Camp Moremi was a  rustic,  mobile tented camp (nothing permanent), with each tent providing an “en-suite bathroom” (no ceiling and open to the sky), cots, and a shower that consisted of an overhead bucket. In the morning and the afternoon, went on game drives conducted in open 4×4 safari vehicles.

After I arrived at Camp Moremi in the afternoon of August 10, we immediately left for a game drive in the Moremi Game Reserve. On our first game drive, we saw baboons, red lechwe (a medium-sized antelope), giraffes (the world’s tallest mammal), hippopotamuses, a leopard, wild dogs, and lions.  On this first game drive, I took 1,883 photographs.

One of the more interesting observations was a leopard, resting after an impala kill, at the bottom of a tree, after consuming some of the impala. The impala itself was resting on a branch in a tree besides the leopard. You can see the photograph of the leopard below. I took this photograph with a Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400 lens at ISO 320, f11, and 1/60 second. The leopard did not move for a long period of time.

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After we left the leopard, we encountered a pack of wild dogs that were on the hunt. You can see the photograph of part of the pack below. The wild dog on the right was wearing a tracking collar. Wild dogs have been identified as an endangered species, with the current population  estimated at roughly 6,600 adults. The African wild dog has strong social bonds, stronger than those of lions and hyenas. The African wild dog lives in permanent packs consisting of 2 to 27 adults and yearling pups. The average pack size in  in Moremi Game Reserve contains an average of 8 to 9. The species differs from most others in that males remain in the natal pack, while females disperse. The African wild dog approaches prey silently then chases the prey in a pursuit clocking at up to 41 mph for 10 to 60 minutes. I took this photograph with a Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400 lens at ISO 400, f11, and 1/500 second.

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We then encountered a group of female waterbucks. The waterbuck was described by Earnest Hemingway as ‘no more ruggedly handsome animal in all of Africa‘, and with its long forward-sweeping horns and large size (in males). These waterbucks were alert for carnivores, probably the wild dogs. I took this photograph with a Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400 lens at ISO 160, f5.6, and 1/125 second.

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We then drove to the rural airstrip, and encountered lions mating on the airstrip. The lions were oblivious to us and to a plane that attempted to land. The plan had to abort the landing, circle around, “buzz” the lions on approach, and then circle around and land. Within a pride of lions, the territorial males are the fathers of all the cubs. When a lioness is in heat, a male will join her, staying with her constantly. The pair usually mates for less than a minute, but it does so about every 15 to 30 minutes over a period of four to five days. Lionesses have a gestation period of three and a half months. Lions live up to about 18 years old in the wild. I took this photograph with a Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400 lens at ISO 400, f11, and 1/400 second.

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I took this second photograph of the lions with a Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400 lens at ISO 400, f11, and 1/250 second.

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I took this third photograph of the lions with a Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400 lens at ISO 400, f14, and 1/3200 second.

2017_August _8533And that was the afternoon.