Sept 11--Every safari has its up days and its down days. Up days mean predators and exciting behavior. Down days mean prey with heads down or standing still, and darned few of them.
Today was a down day and not much happened. Considering the date, I suppose having not much happen might be construed by some as a good thing.
In eight hours of driving we saw relaxed impalas munching on grass, troop after troop of monkeys and baboons just playing and grooming, and not much else.
All four of our vehicles set off for different parts of the Xakanaxa, so we covered almost all of the area during the day. Not a single predator track was seen, let alone a predator. Okay, a croc is a predator and we saw the same one sitting at the same place as we did last night, but how many times can you photograph that?
I'm perfectly fine with down days. The camera stays in my lap and gets a rest, too. This is a very pretty area that we're in, and it's changed a lot since the last time I was here (due to the extra water coming through the delta, no doubt). So I'm perfectly happy to enjoy the scenery. I could tell a few of the students were getting frustrated by the end of the day, though. Fortunately we were saved from total boredom by a little driver mistake: in trying to get to our sundowner spot, one of the drivers stuck his Land Cruiser butt end into the muck of one crossing. This proved amusing in many ways.
First of all, our tour operator's wife was in the stuck vehicle, but our tour operator was driving a different vehicle. Second, no one knew where the stuck vehicle was. Upon getting stuck, the driver got out and walked around a corner in the road and disappeared, apparently to scout where he was and whether there was anything useful to getting himself unstuck. But this left us in radio communication with a vehicle full of people who didn't know where they were. So when we asked what they could see, the answer "termite mound" was highly unhelpful. There must be a termite mound every 100 feet in Botswana. Knowing that the water crossing they were stuck in wasn't very long wasn't helpful, either. There are tons of short water crossings in the area. At each increasing query and answer, we could all tell that our tour operator was getting a little rattled by not knowing where his wife was stuck as the light went down. Describing where they were wasn't going to help us find them.
So we had them blow their horn, but none of the other vehicles could hear it. Our tour operator kept asking her to describe things and where they'd been, but we couldn't quite narrow it down from the answers. Fortunately, we kept moving towards where we thought they might be, and eventually the horn trick worked and we found them just as their driver came back from his reconnaissance of the area.
Unfortunately, all was not well. Two of our photographers had their camera bags stuffed in the far back of the vehicle, the part that was partially submerged for the half hour or more where we were trying to find them. Note to the world: most camera bags offer a bit of water resistent in a situation like this, but they are not waterproof. One bag had just barely soaked through the outer layers and was wet the inside, so the equipment in it managed to live for another day. The gear in bag two, however, which was lower in the vehicle and more submerged, didn't do as well. A 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and 70-300mm all got water in them. I'll have more to say about "equipment casualties" at the end of the workshop, but suffice it to say if you ever get stuck in the water on safari in Botswana, get your bags up off the floor.
On the other hand, one of the members in that vehicle did get a nice sunset shot when we pulled them out: