2014 - Year in Review (Page 6)


2014 – Gary’s trip to Botswana, Africa


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Alpha male #1 (of 2) in what we called Pride-13 of the Kalahari Game Reserve.




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Gary: Steve did the video below, for both Moses and the Botswana Government to promote their tourism. They provided a filming permit, so, required creative content that captures the beauty of Botswana. In return, he provides these public photo & video works for their re-use to promote Unlimited Tours & Safaris and Botswana travel. Likewise, I’ve made this blog and my photos available.

My message to the government of Botswana: in a few years, when he’s old like Steve and myself, you will want to promote Moses Ntema to Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. He brings his integrity, his photography knowledge, his deep understanding of the animals, his respect for the bush and his appreciation for American vs. European travelers. Speaking for some Americans, he’s our adopted “brotha” (get the story from him). He sure represents Botswana well to all who come…

From Steve’s video: A story of what you experience during a green season mobile safari in Botswana with Unlimited Safaris. Journey to the Kalahari and Moremi Game Reserves with Master Guide Moses Ntema and adventurer Steve Lumpkin.


If you enjoyed Steve’s Green Season film, here’s his last trip, during the Botswana Dry Season.

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Botswana in the Green Season

I visited Botswana in late January, their Green Season, when there’s more rainfall and abundant food for the animals.

On a 11-night mobile (camping) safari we visited the Kalahari Game Reserve, then Moremi Game Reserve. Each night we camped in 2-man tents, half filled with a bed, the remainder for photo gear, technology, clothes & dressing area.

During the day, we drove the game reserve. At night, we drank gin, ate a great meal by fireside, then, sat and listened to Moses stories about the animals of Botswana.

My summary of what I learned about myself and Botswana,

  1. Among my Top-5 Lifetime trips. I’m now working the Top-100 Lifetime list I share with Linda.
  2. Easy vacation, including planning, finding game, cooking, and making good photos. I learned you deepen your relationship with friends and yourself on long duration trips. Moses (our Professional Guide) found most of the predators, while Steve (Professional Photographer) set-up most of the photo shoots with Moses driving.
  3. Tough vacation because we roughed it, among the animals for long hot days in the bush. This photo album summarizes what we did, then provides photos of the many sights Botswana offers.

Scorecard

  • 21 Game drives of 3 to 5 hours each. Some days we simply stopped for an hour or more along the road for lunch, then drove some more.
  • 20+ lions sighted, some up close & personal, lasting for 1 1/2 hours.
  • 3 Leopard sightings, with one running 45 minutes following a mother with young one through the bush, as they stalked Impala.
  • 11 Cheetahs sighted.
  • 1 Hyena & lots of small Jackal sightings.
  • Countless Giraffe, Elephant, Hippo and game (e.g., Zebra, Springbok, Oryx, Impala)
  • 12 glorious sunrises and sunsets; we paused to enjoy every one of them.

GaryG

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Our Moremi Game Reserve camp sight with Box, OT and Moses.


Was it safe to sleep among the animals in the bush?

The short answer – yes. People have been camping in Africa since humans first arose from the Serengeti. Most of the mishaps occur when you’re outside a vehicle and you run, so, to a predator you behave like prey.

You have to understand the animals behavior. You must trust your guide, to both find animals and keep you safe. We have many stories, because Moses has such deep experience as a guide.

What I learned:
  • I learned a lot about animals – lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, and hippo from our professional Guide, Moses Ntema, a guy raised in Botswana. Moses tracked them on the sandy, 2-rut roads in Botswana’s game reserves. He knew their hunting and resting behaviors. He could tell whether they had eat in the past 24-hours. He could tell whether they traveled with purpose (early evening) or were playful (before sunset or after sunrise) and whether they were running or walking. Moses answered every question. He explained how the animals behave differently in the dry and the green seasons.
  • I learned about the predator’s long relationship with humans - they respect humans, who kill them for self-protection, food or sport. The animals (and tour guides) honor a comfort-zone and each recognizes signals the other gives for violations of their zone. Animals, like humans, have differing comfort zones. Most predators allow a safari vehicle within 10 to 15 meters without alarm; some are more skittish.
  • I learned about their hunting practices – lions hunt primarily at night when they have an advantage. At distance, their sight and hearing provide an advantage. Lions use their low growl to communicate with one another, as they hunt in packs, or a lion pride. We heard lion sounds each night in the Kalahari Game Reserve. They passed within 25 to 50 meters most nights. In Moremi Game Reserve, we had Hippo bathing with that same distance.
  • I learned to trust the guide’s instincts – our guide, Moses, had a very healthy respect for Leopards as they will attack and eat anything, where other predators are more discriminating and prefer game mammals. Moses knew when the Cheetah would rise from their shady, relaxing spots under trees because we annoyed or threatened them. Moses listened to the birds, squirrels, and baboons for sounds, warning a predator’s presence. Moses watches the game animals to learn whether they’re in “high-alert” or relaxed. When Moses showed any sign of concern, we paid close attention & did exactly what Moses recommended.
  • I learned humility & patience – the environment and animals in Botswana were beautiful and dangerous. The Botswana people continuously adapt to a harsh environment and understand where to watch for wild animals and how to listen for danger signals. You’ll learn humility and patience as you live in the bush with them for a few days.
  • I learned to photograph both action (e.g., animals in motion) and the waiting done among the predators (e.g., before darkness, following sunrise, or around water holes). With each photo shoot, Moses found the game, Steve Lumpkin guided Moses for the best photo angles; Moses took direction, but, made all the driving decisions in favor of the animals safety.

Our guide, Moses Nateme …with
Unlimited Tours & Safaris Pty Ltd. This Facebook link shows you their recent work.

So, here was my favorite dinner from the trip, because you had to see OT cook all this on a campfire, including the cheese cake! I sure don’t remember what body marrows might have tasted like, but, we tried everything he put in front of us. Every night had a 3-course dinner, with fresh baked rolls.
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From our fireside chats with Moses, I created the video below. It will share many more lion photos from our journey.

If you want a spiritual experience with a lion, spend a few hours within 25 meters of one or more and simply relax with them. They sense your calm, slow actions.

2014 - Botswana Predators Story 720p (v03) from Gary Gamso on Vimeo.

In early 2014 we visited Botswana's Kalahari Game Reserve on a 12-day mobile (camping) safari with Unlimited Tours and Safari's.

During the day, we drove the game reserve. At night, we drank gin, ate a great meal by fireside, then, sat and listened to Moses stories about the animals of Botswana.

My kindred spirit - a 2-year old male lion
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Central Kalahari Game Reserve with Unlimited Tours & Safaris Pty Ltd


The sub-adult male lion (top left) takes his last drink of the day, before beginning the night hunt. On our safari's Day 2, right at nightfall, Moses had just served us Gin & Tonic (the Kalahari 2-finger, for Gin 2-fingers high in the glass) on a long road between Matswere Gate and Deception Valley.

Moses teased lions out of the woods. Moses, Steve and I were making lion sounds (a soft, distinctive big-cat's purr I share in the 2014 - Botswana Predators Story video below). Since we had seen numerous fresh lion tracks, Moses knew the lions were in the bush resting & waiting for nightfall. First one, then all 13 lions moved from the bush into the road and curiously checked us out. The pride included two adult males, one sub-adult male and 10 lionesses, many of which were sub-adult female. So, I called them Kalahari Pride-13.

The next morning, Day 3, we spent 2 1/2 hours with these lions, beginning at 6:30 am. He and I had lots of eye contact which I saw as a "spiritual connection."

Day 3, evening, we returned to the same location in a large plain with game and lions all resting or grazing. We spent another hour or more with Pride-13.

The pride’s only sub-adult male lion (2 to 2 1/2 years old), had a scar (right front shoulder from game wound or fighting for food).

During the game drives in January, 2014 Moses told us, next year this 3 year-old will not hunt with this pride as he'll be “asked” to leave by the 2 adult males who lead the pride. 10 months later (Fall of 2014), Moses saw this guy by himself and wounded. He had survived the long dry season and was roaming the Kalahari alone. His wound provided a warning he must compete to survive with other males to build a pride. If he doesn’t attract other females to do the hunting, he won’t survive.

The pride had numerous sub-adult females. At 2 to 3 years old, they were all learning to hunt and contribute to the Pride’s need for food. With abundant energy, compared to the older lions, they were playful with one another and their sub-adult brother.

Both the alpha male lions had large, powerful bodies. These males made it clear to us they were the pride's leaders. Moses explained their behavior to acknowledge our presence, but, demonstrate their calm in our company.

They both relaxed and watched us shoot photos. In the excitement, Steve had to encourage me to keep breathing deeply; reach deep for the calm needed in low light photography. When you spend hours with them, you learn so much.

The elder female with alpha male (bottom left photos) on their pre-evening walk among the young lions. All the young lions could feel their presence and “love”.

The elder female was about ready to mate and so the dominant male took special interest. Where she bared her teeth, we figured he must have done something wrong.

So, we enjoyed watching something between lion romance and a lover’s quarrel. All the while, Moses explained the gestation cycle for lions and their growth from cubs to deadly hunters. We spent hours talking about the animals in Botswana.



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