A Mating Pair of Lions

Thur, Dec 13, 2018

Guess who walked through camp?  A pair of lions that were mating!!

We were fortunate to witness the mating since the gestation period is 105-110 days and they only go into heat every 18 months or so.  Mating lasts 3-4 days but they do it every 8 – 30 minutes over those few days.

Here’s the male and, based on the scratches on his face, he’s been in a few fights.

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She’s a beauty and we should all have teeth is such fine shape.

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The act takes a mere 10-15 seconds and then he roars at climax time 🙂

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And then they get up and move to a new spot and do it again.

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Lion Cubs!

Thur, Dec 13, 2018

Image the excitement when we heard that a small lion pride had six cubs.  Now all we had to do was find them!

The Kwando Splash camp had six vehicles and all of the guides were in touch via radio.  So if one of the vehicles spotted them, we’d all have a chance to visit and see them.

Well they were spotted and we headed over.  Since it was late afternoon, they were all snoozing.  Here are the cubs.

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The two lionesses, mother and daughter, weren’t just snoozing, they looked like they were knocked out!

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Meanwhile, the king was near by keeping an eye on things.

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He was an aging, scrappy guy who probably doesn’t have too many years left.

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Getting Around on Safari

Fri, Dec 14, 2018

Most of the safari camps in Africa use Toyota Land Cruisers to get around.  And why not?  They are known for their reliability and ruggedness.

Here’s a shot of our Land Cruise.  It’s been modified to remove the doors, add three rows of bench seats and the canopy.

They’ve also added the seat off of the front bumper for the spotter/tracker.  In this shot, the spotter/tracker has moved into the vehicle for protection due to the proximity of the dogs but you can see the seat on the front left.

Since our safari was photo centric, we only had one client per row so that the person could freely move from left to right depending on where the action was.  It was a very nice set-up.

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A final point to note was that everyone was safe sitting in the vehicle and this included scenes similar to above but with lions.

The Wild Dogs of Africa

Fri, Dec 14, 2018

The African wild dogs are pack animals that are highly efficient hunters.  Their main prey are antelope that they hunt to exhaustion.  In 2016, they were classified as endangered as they have disappeared from much of their traditional range.  We were very fortunate to sight and follow two packs during out safari.

First up was more family than pack as there were only four members: male, female and their two pups.  Perhaps the female split off from one of the other packs?

Here they are at the water hole.

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A yawning Mom where you can see she’s missing one of her canine teeth.  Kicked in the mount?

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And the pups who seemed to always be playing.

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The other pack was 16 strong and no doubt a real killing machine.  We followed them for over an hour hoping to see a hunt but ultimately they gave us the slip.

Here the are trying to decide whether to cross the canal knowing full well that there are crocks around.

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How would you like to see this coming at you?

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Africa’s Big Five

Tue, Dec 11, 2018

I’d always heard of the Big Five in Africa and I knew that the term referred to the five most coveted animals of the big game hunters.   My how times have changed as the only shooting I’d approve of is done with a camera.

The Big Five are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo and I’d hoped to see them all.  But it was not to be as Botswana’s government has relocated the rhinos to protect them from poachers.  And all I have to say about the latter is that there’s a special place in Hell waiting for them.

Although we were not able to see a rhino, we did see plenty of lions, elephants, Cape buffalos and a leopard.

Here’s an early morning shot of the mating lions in the golden sunshine.  He’s a beautiful specimen in his prime whiles she’s a gorgeous lioness.  More on the randy couple in a separate X-rated post.

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I didn’t think that we’d have an opportunity to see a leopard but our guides were very good!  This one was spotted and we tracked it for a while and I feel very fortunate to get such pictures of this beautiful animal.

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Next up is a mother elephant with her infant.  S/he was the smallest elephant that we saw and mom was very protective.  They’re on their way to the watering hole where the elephants were having a party.

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And finally a shot of a Cape buffalo.  No doubt he’s happy to have the birds picking ticks and other insects off of his back!

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Kwando Safaris in the Okavango Delta

Mon, Dec 10, 2018

The focus of my African trip was photography so naturally I was seeking a safari leader who shared my interest.  And I found that in Andy Biggs Photo Safaris.

Andy is well known in the travel photo community as he has led trips all over the world including Africa, India (tigers), Antartica, Brazil’s Pantanal and the list goes on.  So I knew that I’d be in good hands and Andy and PJ, his colleague did a great job.

Andy’s done this for a long time and prefers privacy for his clients.  Hence, he books camps in areas with lots of wildlife and few competing camps.  And this was the case for Kwando Safaris’ camps in the Okavango Delta.

We visited two of their camps for our trip and the first was Lagoon Camp just north of the delta.  It sits on the Kwando River (aka Cuando River) that is the border between Botswana and Namibia.

It was very comfortable with each guest having a cabin with hot showers and flush toilets.  Tent camping this was not although that’s how they’re described on their website.  Here’s my cabin with its thatched roof.

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Our next stop was the brand new Splash Camp in the heart of the Okavango Delta.  It opened earlier this summer and is awesome.  I don’t have pics of the cabins but see the link above to get a feel for how nice this place is.

Because of the abundance of fresh water at these camps, there’s a wide variety of animals that live in the area, basically everything that Africa is famous.

This includes lions so we have to be careful how we move around camp.  That means that we are not allowed out alone after dark.  So at 5 am each morning, one of the guides would meet us at our cabin and escort us to the main lodge for breakfast and they would also escort us back to our cabins after dinner.

Note that we are free to move around during daylight, that is if you have the courage 🙂

Botswana’s Okavango Delta

Mon, Dec 10, 2018

After a quiet fall enjoying the fine weather that is the Coachella Valley, my bucket list trip to the Okavango Delta finally arrived.

My itinerary was LAX to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and then south to Johannesburg.  All on a comfortable Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  It’s about 32 hrs of transit from wheels up in LAX to landing in Joburg so I was thankful for a good seat.

Then the next day was an hour and a half flight north to Maun in Botswana followed by a 45 min flight to a landing strip in the bush.

The plane of choice is a Cessna Caravan and we were lucky to be flying on a new one.  Seats for twelve and very comfortable.

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The landing strips are carved out of the delta and are hard packed dirt.  Perfectly functional.

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This is the third time that I’ve been lucky enough to seat in the right seat, ie, co-pilot seat of an airplane.  The first was a Citation jet piloted by my old boss and the second was during my flight to Katmai in Alaska on an old Cessna.   And now in the African bush.  Beautiful views from the front!

And here’s our 24 yr old pilot.  Trust 🙂

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Finally, there’s a reason that the pilot does a flyover before landing on any of the airstrips.  See the elephant at the end of the runway?  You do not want to run into him!

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Hello Palm Desert

Sat, July 28, 2018

With the sale of our Mill Valley home last month, our focus shifted to our condo in Palm Desert, CA where construction has just been completed.

Carol and I drove down to the Coachella Valley earlier this week to close our purchase and it was just in time for some record heat.  How much?  Well, the record high for Palm Springs for July 23 had been 116F but today we enjoyed a new record high of 119F.  Never been in heat like that before.  Let’s just say it felt like a blast furnace.

The valley contains the resort cities of Palm Springs and Palm Desert, as well as Rancho Mirage, Indio, La Quinta, Indian Wells and Cathedral City altogether with a population of almost 500,000 in April, declining to around 200,000 in July and rising to around 800,000 by January.  It sure was easy getting around this time of year 🙂

Our condo is a three bedroom, three bath unit in The Retreat development overlooking the Desert Willow golf course.  Here’s our building and our unit is on the second floor.

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Two more pics for you.  First up is the living room with the pocket glass doors that slide open.  We plan to spend a lot of time outside on the deck, weather permitting LOL.

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And finally a snap of the kitchen.  Not a good perspective but it’s a bit nicer than this picture might suggest.

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Our Mill Valley Home is in Escrow

Sun, May 20, 2018

After last weekend’s Open House, we were thrilled to receive two offers for our home.  We accepted the first and the terms call for a close in 30 days.  So we’ll be homeless in mid June.  Can’t wait 🙂

We feel very fortunate as the buyer appears to be a good fit for our home and our neighborhood.  He’s been looking for nearly a year and had three requirements.  First, a view of the water.  Check.  Second, a chef’s kitchen.  Check.  And third, he wanted redwoods.  Check.  We have all three in spades.

Here’s the updated version of our For Sale sign 🙂

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Edit:  The sale of our house closed escrow on June 15th so we are officially homeless. Now we’ll focus on the purchase of our Palm Desert condo that is scheduled to close escrow on July 24, 2018.