Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Botswana National Bird?

In an earlier blog I mentioned that the Lilac Breasted Roller was the national bird of Botswana. A member of Birdlife Botswana has commented that Botswana does not have a national bird. I defer to his far more knowledgeable perspective and would like to set the record straight.

I was talking about the lilac breasted roller this week with a local guide and he expressed surprise. In the end we recognized it may be one of the great bird mysteries of Botswana. Where did the misconception start? Perhaps the lilac breasted roller should be made the national bird of Botswana and take it's place proudly alongside the zebra. It would look good on the coat of arms for Botswana.

You are encouraged to click on the Birdlife Botswana link above to find out what is happening with birds in Botswana. To go to the source of the photo please click here. I am so slow with a camera it would take me forever to get a photo of this beautiful bird.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Maun and 'The Gates of Eden'

Sunday morning, my friend Ernest and I start out from Sedia Riverside Hotel on a trip up the Boro River and into Moremi Wildlife Reserve. To get from the Thamalakane River to the Boro you have to travel under two bridges - the water levels are now high enough to navigate all the way upstream by boat. Like Jacques Cousteau, alot of our outing is about research is about water.

The current is pushing downstream and the flood peak could still be a month away. Going up the Bore to the buffalo fence is about 12 km. You see domestic animals, birds and a variety of farming and garden plots along the river. The buffalo fence is the boundary of the Moremi Wildlife Reserve. Here, everything changes.

Now you enter the 'Gates of Eden' or as close as I am going to get in this lifetime. You don't go too many kilometres before you see wildlife. You feel like you are on a wet safari - cape buffalo, giraffe and elephants are not uncommon. The narrow river channel arcs and bends in front of you. The panorama is wonderful.

Today we spend about half an hour watching elephants have their morning bath and eat brunch. Their brunch is a combination of river grasses and stripping branches from bushes. We have our lunch at a lagoon futher up stream and try some fishing. The lunch was satisfying and the fishing disappointing. Changing lures, adding small chunks of ham and even spitting on the lures didn't work. Fishing stories will have to wait for another trip

Thursday, August 17, 2006

In Search of Baobab Beauties

We all know why visitors come to Botswana - lions, elephants. hippos, birds, desert, culture, friends... What about trees? Less than two weeks ago, seven of us camped overnight in the Gwebe Hills, about 180km from Maun. Along with climbing two of the hills to enjoy the views, seeing eight kudu spring across an open plain and keeping intouch with the group, I keep looking at these amazing Baobabs.

There are more famous places in Botswana for viewing baobabs, like Kubu Island in the Makadikadi Pans. For pure numbers, the Gwebe Hills are hard to beat. My guess, from one visit, is there are more than a 1,000. All configurations are there - the lone baobab, the entertwined couple and the family groupings.

Hard to forget the old baobab once you see one. The kind of look upsidedown, with a bad hair day. The age of an individual tree is a good discussion for around the campfire, after dinner - 1,000 years sounds like a minimum for a big baobab. They are so fat because they store water for the periodic droughts that occur.

At the end of the day, for me, the baobab is mystical - they just give me a special feeling and sense of reverence. Of course I feel that way about all big trees and also like the local jackelberry tree. Once it takes more than 4-5 people to stretch around a tree, your into something special.