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Among many wonderful memories of being on safari in Botswana are those of its many magnificent birds. These include our featured subject, the saddle-bill stork, which lives in sub-Saharan Africa.
These are huge long-legged birds, attaining a height of almost 5 ft (150 cm) and weighing up to 17 lbs (8 kg). The birds have a wingspan of up to 9 ft (2.7m), so they are easy to spot at a distance. They are tallest and most vividly colored of Africa’s storks. The tend to live on at the edge of forests, where they have access to tall trees (on which they build their nests) and marshes (wherein they feed). Their diet includes fish, beetles, frogs, reptiles and small mammals.
The bird’s …
Elephants have fascinated me since I was a child. You can enjoy them at the circus, in documentaries and zoos, but to really appreciate elephants you need to observe them in the wild. They are majestic and entertaining, and will capture your full attention. Their cute little ones will steal your heart.
African elephants are the largest land animals currently living on our planet. They have massive ears shaped like the continent on which they live (and which are larger than the auricular appendages of their Asian cousins). Because of their size, they consume a lot of food, about 300 pounds (136 kilograms) a day. They are social creatures, with females and the young roaming in herds, but bulls tending to …
There’s something about the presence of a lion that tickles the primitive warning centers of our brain. I guess it’s the old “prey” warning in us, because the hair began to rise on the back of my neck when I saw these paw-prints in the sand.
We were up for an early morning game drive and not far from our cabin I encountered these paw-prints. They were huge — the diameter of a small grapefruit! They clearly had been made by a big cat, likely a lion (possibly a leopard, I suppose). No one had seen or heard the animal during the night and we had no idea where it was, although I imagine it was well on its way by …
One of the most beautiful birds I’ve seen in years is the scarlet-breasted bee-eater. These birds were quite common in Botswana, especially in Chobe National Park, and they’d often flash by us pursuing insects (they really are bee eaters).
This particular bird was a poser. He sat in a branch near our vehicle while on a game-drive and let us take as many pictures of him as we wanted. Then, in a flash of color, he was gone, although I got a decent photo of him on his way out.
One of the most memorable half hours I’ve ever spent on safari was watching this herd of buffalo cross the Okavango Delta. It was just before sunset and the light was soft and magical, what John Steinbeck liked to call, “the hour of the pearl”. We approached the buffalo herd downwind so they couldn’t pick up our scent, but they were aware of our presence. The larger, stronger animals came to the front of the herd and made a living wall between us and the smaller and weaker buffalo. There they stood, trying to see us (they have bad vision) and smell us, and we sat back taking it all in, enjoying this magnificent spectacle of nature!
Giraffes are almost as entertaining as elephants. Seemly awkward with their thin spindly legs, halting gait and l-o-n-g necks, they have a gentle nature that I find appealing. A few interesting facts about giraffes:
– They are the tallest terrestrial mammal, standing 5-6 m. (16-20′), with males weighing up to 1500 kg (3500 pounds). Baby giraffes are born almost 2 meters (6′) tall!
– They have long purple tongues — long enough with which to touch their ears. Scientists think their tongue is colored to help protect it from sunburn. Giraffes eat 35 kg of vegetation a day, virtually all torn off by their purplish tongues.
– They sleep only 30 minutes a day! If they were lawyers, that would leave them almost 24 hours …
There’s something special about elephants! They’ve a complex social structure, care for each other, are curious, intelligent and fun to watch. They’re at the top of the life pyramid in Africa and know little fear (except for man). African elephants can be distinguished from Asian elephants by the size of the ears — African elephants have huge ears shaped like the African continent, while Asian elephants have ears less than half this size.
Botswana has a very healthy population of elephants, so pachyderms are commonly seen on safari. It appears the tough anti-pouching laws have been effective because they’re extremely punitive (e.g. years in prison for just possessing an elephant tusk, even if the animal died of natural causes).
This photo …
I enjoy all my travels but there’s something truly extraordinary about going on safari in Africa. The opportunity to see large numbers and a huge diversity of animals is unparalleled and completely captivates me. The best game viewing opportunities are, in my experience, available at private concessions as the drivers and guides are not limited to traveling on roads and can provide close viewing of the animals.
Such was the case with this leopard in Sandibe, a private concession in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Our game spotter saw her at a great distance. We drove to within 20 meters of her and saw this beauty resting on a branch, taking a nap. The photo captures her the …