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Posts tagged ‘safari’

deep in the woods

Flanking the busy road to Jinja, Mabira is a swath of dense rainforest that is not to be missed if one is a nature enthusiast. Hundreds of different bird species call this pristine corner of Uganda home, and Mabira is also one of the only places on Earth to see Old World mangabey monkeys.

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in pursuit of the Uganda special

Disjointed thoughts about life, passion, travel, and the pursuit of happiness crawled lethargically through D’s mind as he stood, shoulders hunched against the tempest, in the crudely constructed canoe. The murky waters of the Mabamba Swamp undulated languidly while the leaden skies above dumped sheets of water and lightning flashed ominously in the distance. Not for the first time since D first packed his backpack at the end of high school and set off to explore a new part of the world did the nagging thought, “What am I doing here and why?” cross his mind.

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camping getaway

With S in the United States and a full weekend at his disposal, D decided to make good on what he’s long thought about doing: take Munchkin on his first camping trip.

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the roads less traveled

“Why is it that every time we visit you something crazy happens?” mused D’s mom with a touch of fatalism. In Ecuador, where D served in the Peace Corps, protesters shut down the country’s major highway during D’s parents’ visit. Violent clashes between protesters and the police took place in a small town in the Amazonia quite literally minutes after D had turned the rental car around to head back to Quito. In Kenya, we also were forced into changing our travel plans on the fly during D’s parents’ visit when we came upon a roadblock and, predictably, angry protesters about to clash with the police. In Rwanda, on the other hand, our misadventures were entirely self-inflicted.

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the birds of Namibia

After two months of sorting, the final tally is in, and it exceeded D’s hopes and expectations. In addition to all the spectacular animals we saw – cheetahs, lions, a leopard, desert-adapted elephants, and much more – we photographed 170 different bird species in just under two weeks in Namibia. All this without setting foot in the Caprivi Strip – the country’s remotest region, and the one that has the highest concentration of birds.

pearl-spotted owlet, Damaraland

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wet and wild

So long as we were making our way north – first along the Namibian coast, and then through desert and scrubland – it was pretty easy to stay in the moment. But Etosha was the turning point, both literally and figuratively. There is no more green space further north until one crosses the border into Angola, so after three nights in Etosha, we turned back towards Windhoek, acutely aware that our Namibian travels were drawing to a close.

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safari theme park

A month after returning home, we are still debating how much (or how little) we enjoyed our visit to Etosha. Namibia’s premier game park, Etosha is mind-numbingly vast and hosts an impressive array of wildlife. We had some incredible sightings – lions, a leopard, and dozens of new, colorful birds D was thrilled to photograph. Yet, we also spent a lot of time in the car just driving past monotonous terrain without seeing much of anything. It was the only place on our two-week itinerary where we spent three nights, and by the time we left we wished we had stayed only two even though the visit was clearly worthwhile.

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searching for desert elephants

Following the shoreline north from Swakopmund, one enters the Skeleton Coast, which is rumored to be both desolate and wondrous. We cannot attest to either as we chose an inland route north, traversing Damaraland on the way to Etosha, Namibia’s premier game park. In addition to its indigenous tribes, which speak one of southern Africa’s clicking tongues, Damaraland is famous for its desert-adapted elephants, and it is in search of these that we made our way to the Doro!Nawas conservancy.

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wild ride

“Do you like rollercoasters?” our driver asked as he crested to the top of an impressive sand dune. “Yes!” we said in unison. “No!” protested S’s mom. “Oh shit!” added our toddler from the backseat as the car completed its slow, vertical descent and the driver gunned the engine to rocket up the next dune.

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scorched earth

Ancient deserts, incredible birds and wildlife, the peace and quiet of a sparsely populated landscape – there were many reasons why Namibia seemed an attractive travel destination. Stumbling across the stunning images of Deadvlei as we researched possible routes for our trip sealed the deal.

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