Bad parenting–Jonathan style (#1)

August 13, 2013 2 comments

   My mother visited which was a good excuse for going to a national park.  I heard good things about a placed called Mushingashi, which is just outside Kafue National Park in what is known as a Game Management Area (GMA).  I view this as a good thing because the parks have rules for protecting people who visit but the GMA just has you sign a waiver that they aren’t responsible for anything you do.  For example, in National Parks, you aren’t allowed to get out of your car and walk around.  In National Parks, you aren’t allowed to drive after dark.  You know, rules for intended for “stupid tourists” not for experienced persons such as myself. 

  Reflecting on our trip, I decided that a couple of the events may, by some people, be considered a wee bit less than cautious…

 

Example #1

   Ideally, we like to go on game drives with a guide in a nice open air safari vehicle.  However, they are expensive, especially when compared to the DIY safari.  Rather than a professional guide, I do the driving.  Rather than nice elevated, open air seats, you either sit in the truck cab or, due to my amazing foresight, sit comfortably in a lawn chair in the open back of the truck.  The boys love riding in the open back and so do I, but somebody has to drive so Jared and Justin were in the back alone.  As we drove, we passed large herds of puku and impala, occasional warthogs and other animals.  As we rounded a large termite mound, we found two lions very, very near the road.  I stopped and, like any good parent with two young boys in the open back of a truck 20 feet from lions,  I rolled down the windows and picked up my camera!

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  After a couple of snaps, Justin quietly asked if we would move a bit farther from the lions.  Being the protective father that I am, I obliged and drove a bit down the road.  I then asked Cynthia if she would drive and jumped into the back of the truck.  The boys, ever confident of their father’s ability to fight off hungry lions, opted to stay in the back of the truck with me.  Cynthia then drove us back to the lions and parked.  Soon the female got up and walked into the bush.

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    Shortly after she walked away, the male got up with an intense stare that meant the hunt was on. 

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   The female flushed a bush buck (small antelope) out of the thick brush near the male but it easily got away.  The male (less than 25 feet from us) then turned and looked directly toward us.  For a moment, I was concerned and tightened my grip on the folded lawn chair (my brilliant plan for protection) but he lazily walked off and found a comfortable spot nearby.

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    Before you call the local Child Welfare office bear in mind that lions don’t see a vehicle full of tourists as a vehicle full of potential lunches, at least that is what I read somewhere Smile.

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Summer in Africa

May 29, 2013 Leave a comment

  We are entering the “cold” season in Zambia.  I drive the boys to school around 6:40 every morning and wear a sweater and occasionally turn on the heat in the car.  It isn’t that cold but it is colder than many imagine of Africa.  Along with the cold comes the dry season.  Dry season means that the grass dies and waterholes dry up.  In other words, we are approaching prime safari season.

  Last weekend, I took a quick trip with two of my coworkers at iSchool.  We left Lusaka around 7am on Saturday and drove about 3 hours west to Kafue National Park (the closest park with predators).  We arrived and setup our tent and started the braai (the afrikaans term for grill) and cooked some borewores (afrikaans for sausage, I believe).  Around 3:30, we climbed into Ian’s Land Rover and started out.  While dry season has started, it is not yet the best time for animal viewing because the grass, while dying, is still high and the waterholes have not yet dried up.  However, my philosophy is that seeing animals is a matter of ‘luck’ so the more you are out, the more chances you have to be lucky.

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Our campsite on the Kafue river

  I have begun to dream of being a guide and the more time you spend with the pros the more pointers you pick up.  OK, so some of it isn’t that hard.  If you see a bunch of antelope and zebra staring off in the same direction, it is a good idea to stop and see what has their attention, so we did.  They were quite far from the road but we stopped and got out the binoculars.  Cheetah!!

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  We sat and watched them for quite a while, hoping to see them hunt.  Cheetah don’t rely on stealth so despite the fact that the animals were aware of their presence, I was hopeful.  There was even a lone puku (an antelope similar to an impala) between us and the cheetah.  However, they didn’t seem interested.  Then I had a thought… Cheetah are normally afraid of humans and, technically, they are on the opposite side of the road so they aren’t in the national park, which means… we can try to walk closer to them!  Ian thought it was a good idea but Musonda, who was facing his fear of the bush by just coming with us, thought we were crazy.  We left the keys to the Land Rover with Musonda so he wouldn’t have to search for them after the cheetah were finished with us.  We were pretty confident the cheetah wouldn’t be interested in us but asked Musonda to keep an eye out for lions and honk the horn if he saw anything dangerous.  However, after just a few meters of walking in their direction, they trotted away from us.  We thought there were just two but after reviewing our photos there were 3 or, possibly, 4.  Later on the drive, we saw a small group of lions, a female and several young males whom we can only assume were her, rather old, cubs.

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  We woke early the next morning and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the river.

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  The morning drive was quiet but as we were returning to our camp, we spotted lions laying in the road just near our camp.  There is a fairly major road that passes right through the park which makes it possible for a short trip like ours.  We saw a large bus coming down the road and expected it to fly past and chase the lions away.  Instead, it slowly stopped and parked in the road while everyone on the bus got a good look.

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  We returned to camp, ate breakfast, packed up the tent and returned home.  A one night safari divided three ways cost just under $100 (fuel, food, camping fee and park fees) and netted the following:

  • Lion (about 8 or 9)
  • Cheetah (3 or 4)
  • Jackal
  • Elephant
  • Warthog
  • Hippo
  • Crocodile
  • Water monitor lizard
  • Slender Mongoose
  • Vervet Monkey
  • Yellow Baboon
  • Zebra
  • Kudu (antelope)
  • Waterbuck (antelope)
  • Puku (antelope)
  • Impala (antelope)
  • Hartebeest (antelope)
      I could do this every weekend.  If only I could get Cynthia to sleep in a nylon tent surrounded by lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, wild dog, and hyena with the toilet 70 meters away. Smile

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Moremi Game Reserve

May 20, 2013 1 comment

  My slight disappointment with the Okavango was quickly made up for with the Moremi part of the trip.  I hadn’t read very closely the details on this part of the trip and found that I was in for a more pampered trip than I expected.  We stayed in raised tents with showers.  All of our meals were prepared for us, it was great.  We would wake up and have real coffee, rusks (South African dried bread you dip in your coffee) and hot oatmeal before heading out on the game drive.  We would arrive back with lunch prepared.  Tea before the afternoon game drive and a great meal awaiting us when we finished.  It was really, really nice.

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  While the Okavango was lacking in wildlife, Moremi had plenty.  We had our own guide (Andy) and our our vehicle.

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Mokoro

May 19, 2013 Leave a comment

The first part of our trip was to spend two nights in the Okavango delta camping on a mokoro trip.  A mokoro is a dug out canoe that sits low in the water and is used in many parts of southern Africa.  It is especially associated with this area as it is used to navigate all of the channels and narrow waterways of the delta.  To guide us, we had two “poler’s” Brighton and Rasta.  They are called poler’s because rather than paddle the mokoro, it is pushed through the reeds using a long pole. 

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  It was very relaxing.  The delta was very beautiful.

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  The one thing that was a bit disappointing was the lack of wildlife.  The wildlife is very seasonal here and it seems it was zebra season.  On one walk, we stalked a herd of zebra.  Other than that we only saw monkeys, hippo, and lechwe (water loving antelope).

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  One thing that I enjoy about being in remote areas is the opportunity to try and capture the night sky.  Often when I am in a remote place, standing in the dark trying to take a photo isn’t a good idea since many dangerous animals hunt at night.  I decided it was safe enough at night to get some photos of the Milky Way.

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  I also got out early one morning to catch some pictures of the sun rising over the water.

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  Our guides also showed us a place where it was safe to swim and, after giving us some lessons, set us loose with the mokoro.

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  Despite the lack of wildlife, it was a great opportunity to experience the Okavango.

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Leopard

May 18, 2013 4 comments

  Andy (our guide) smiles as he puts the Land Rover into gear and says “Do you hear that?  Jackal alarm calls.”  We speed off in the direction of the call and find two jackals looking in a tree.

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  As we drive toward the tree, Andy asks us if we see the leopard.  None of us do. 

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  I have seen a number of leopards but usually at night and never in a tree.  As we stopped and took photos, Andy pointed out the impala in the tree with her (look closely in the photo above and you can see it).  We were able to get lots of photos but the bright light in the background didn’t help.

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  Before long, she stood up and climbed down the tree.

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  We spent a long time just watching her, but like most satisfied cats, she just lounged around.

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  Since she had a kill in the tree, Andy was confident that she would hang around for the rest of the day, so we decided to go back to camp and return in the evening when the lighting would be ideal.

  The rest of the day, I was looking forward to getting that “perfect” photo.  We started out early and arrived to find a hyena at the base of the tree, walking away with the impala carcass.

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  Andy said the leopard must have been moving the impala and it fell into the waiting jaws of a hyena.  There wasn’t much left of the impala but skin and bones, but hyena’s specialize in bones.  He carried the impala a short distance away and began to eat.  We could hear his powerful jaws breaking the bones.

IMG_1337    Surprisingly, the leopard wasn’t ready to give up its prize and descended from the tree and began to stalk the hyena.

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  I was thinking this leopard was crazy as the hyena was the biggest I had ever seen and the leopard was quite small.  She slowly got closer and closer to the hyena but just laid down a short distance from the hyena hidden by the tall grass.  The hyena would occasionally look up but didn’t seem to know the leopard was following.

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  Every so often the hyena would get spooked by our vehicle moving into a better position for photos and carry the carcass another short distance away.  The leopard would follow and would find bits to eat in the place the hyena had last eaten.  Eventually, the hyena tired of being watched and carried the impala away.

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  As it was evening, the leopard walked off to hunt.  I didn’t get my “perfect” photo but it was great to see the interaction between these two animals (and I did get some pretty good photos).

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Lion kill

May 12, 2013 4 comments

  It is pretty rare to witness a kill as most predators hunt at night.  I hadn’t yet seen one but that changed with my trip to Botswana…

  We drove to Moremi Game Reserve and soon after entering the reserve came across a large watering hole with a variety of animals (warthogs, zebra, giraffe and impala). 

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  It didn’t take long to notice that the animals were nervously watching in a certain direction.

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  We drove over and found five or six lions sitting in the shade. 

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  I have seen many lions and for 22 hours a day, they do little but rest.  However, we weren’t in a hurry and I hoped to get some photos of a giraffe drinking, so we decided to hang around the watering hole.  It may seem strange that the animals hang around when they know predators are in the area but since cats typically rely on surprise, it makes sense that the animals would prefer to know where they are.  They make noises and stare in the direction of the predator to let the predator know that they know it is there and thus reduce the chance the predator will think it can surprise them.

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  This group of zebra made sure the lions knew that they had been spotted and eventually went to the hole to drink as did the other animals.  Our guide spotted some movement from the lions and sensed that something might be up so we sped over to check on the lions.

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  Moments later, a female got up and began to stalk. 

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  It ran toward the nearest giraffe that was keeping watch on them.

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  But it was only using the giraffe for cover and soon ran toward the herd of zebra.  The dust in the photo is from the zebra herd running off and the lion wasn’t even close.  However, once the dust cleared, we saw that the young zebra in the herd (check photo above) had stumbled and the lion quickly made chase.

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  Our guide raced to the dust cloud and parked right next to the lioness with her kill. 

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  As the lioness sat there, the other lions in the pride trotted over looking for her and most ran past her.  She didn’t move or make a sounds as the others ran past and I now believe this was purposeful as the pride was large and the zebra was small. 

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  They quickly started in on the zebra.

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  Soon we counted 12 lions on the kill.

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  The final member of the pride arrived…

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  For a while, he shared with the others but soon decided he wanted it all and chased the rest of the group away.

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  The rest of the group then went to the watering hole to drink.  One of the young lions was a male and he seemed to the messiest eater of the bunch.

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  It was an amazing start, more photos to come…

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The (small) wildlife of Siavonga

April 19, 2013 2 comments

  Here are some photos of the “wildlife” we encountered on our weekend retreat. 

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I don’t know what this is but appears to be a wingless grasshopper or cricket.  They were walking all over the dirt road to Sandy Beach.

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  Cynthia (apparently bored of the meeting) noticed a chameleon on the palm tree.  Ingo rigged up a stone and rock that we were able to toss over the branch and lower it to within reach.  

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He walked right onto my hand.  For several of the people present, this was there first view of a chameleon.

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There were two Zambians in our group (one returned from a year of service in Brazil and the other in Indonesia).  Zambian’s have many traditional beliefs about chameleons and none of them are positive.  After watching the rest of us, Brighton got up the courage to hold it.  As you can, see it was tough for him at first.

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As you can see, he survived and even enjoyed it. 

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They tend to like being in high places, so it is common that they will walk right up your arm to your head.  (They can move their eyes independently and if you look closely, he is looking at the camera).

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Just before the cruise Jason discovered a tree frog.  He asked to bring it on the cruise and I allowed it as long as it made a “round trip”.  I think this photo sums Jason up pretty well.  He loves sweets (Sprite in this case) and small creatures.

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On the drive home I noticed a snake beside the road and backed up to get a photo.  It appears to be a female boomslang, which are very poisonous and my first boomslang!

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