We get up and in our camp there is not only a spectacular sunrise but elephants join us and are literally inches away from where we are having coffee.
We eventually get into our vehicles and head out. For some reason there are ferocious flies in the area and even with the worlds strongest bug spray they are landing on us constantly. We have to put on ponchos or towels over our head to keep the flies away.
We find some lions, and zebras but the sun is blazing and we decide that we will head in early and edit images. Just before we get ready for our afternoon adventure a thunderstorm of biblical proportions lets loose. The lightning is hitting the ground in the camp and everyone can feel the vibration from the lightning. We make sure that our rooms are not on fire and wait for the rain to subside. It doesn’t subside so we work on pictures until dinner.
I got up at 3AM to edit pictures and we head out into the brush around sunrise. We have an intense deep yellow sunrise. We find a pride of lions in deep grass and pull into the grass. We are photographing the lions on the right side of the vehicle and I glance to the left and realize that we have almost run over a lion in the deep grass who is now about 2 feet from the vehicle and no one saw him. I go to photograph him but my 300 mm has a minimum focus distance of 12 feet and he is too close to focus on. I get a bit of a chill on my spine and end up photographing the lion with a 70mm.
We get special permission to go out with a guide named Poster who has been working with the introduction of rhinos into Botswana. Over 300 rhinos were killed by poachers last year and 30 just this month. Most are killed in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The horn of the rhino can fetch up to one million dollars. The poaching is highly sophisticated and controlled by organized crime which sell the horn as a ground powder in China where it is a highly prized aphrodisiac. Unlike many of its African counterparts, Botswana takes poaching very seriously. There is anti poaching patrol and the president has assigned military to assist as well. If you are caught poaching the penalty is 17 years in prison and a large fine and that is only if you make it back alive. The president of Botswana has given the military shoot to kill orders for poaching.
Bug spray is useless and we devise our own system of towels wrap around our heads held in place with a baseball cap. It actually worked. We soon find our rhinos and they are truly amazing animals. We spend about an hour with them photographing the rhinos and joking about a bird named an ox pecker that has a symbiotic relationship with the rhino. Michelle, Jeff and I are cracking up as we realize we are waiting for the birds. Have we been converted into bird watchers? All of a sudden the rhinos move behind a bush and we maneuver the vehicle to go around the other side of the bush to face the rhinos head on. We again burst into laughter because we can’t find the rhinos. How in earth can we miss three 4 ton animals that simply went around a bush.
In the afternoon we hook up with Russell who is the cousin of Steve. Steve and Brennan run Journey’s Unforgettable which is the company that set up this amazing trip and Russell is one of the owners of Wilderness Safari. They own and run the camps that we have been at. Russell is a fabulous guy and very interested in learning about Lightroom and went out with Jeff on previous safaris in Africa. We meet him at camp and we all hit it off. We immediately head out into the bush with Russell.We come across a bizarre encounter. We find a group of female lions and what we think is a male lion. The male lion turns out to be either a female with a mane or a male without a critical part. They actually do not know if it is a he or a she and will likely do DNA testing at some point.
Russell is an avid birder and even has an iphone app that he helped develop to identify all the birds in Africa. Michelle, Jeff and I are really getting scared that we are getting infected with bird watching. We can even call out the names of a few birds and the really scary part is that we admit that we may like it…..
LAST PART TOMORROW