Thursday, July 5, 2012

RE A LEBOGA (many thanks)...

Our wonderful base camp and source of many a fine meal of fresh game- thanks to Chris and Jeanette for their hospitality, Riana for keeping our classroom going, and Sylvie and Kassie for putting up with us on football nights 

For running our base camps and keeping us well fed in Ghanzi and in Maun- thanks Clinton, Haley, Bonnie, and Comic

Our base camp once out of the deep bush, and host of our amazing July 4th braai (BBQ)-- special thanks to Neil, Marie, all the ORL staff, and lastly Leo for the language lessons

Our fabulous safari guides for CKGR, Khwai, and a wonderful and musically filled Sunday river excursion... many thanks to Colin and Daryl Dandridge and their superb staff

For all the behind the scenes local preparation, support, data, and logistics

For months of planning, advertising, and generally supporting an environmental program in Africa- with special thanks to our coordinator Melissa Sassi

Lastly, thanks to the UT Department of Geography & the Environment for providing a home base for faculty, students, and staff who believe in a global backyard

Bush Olympics, July 4th Braai & Happy Trails

Dr. K delivers the course wrap-up and also talks with students about the culture shock associated with re-entry into the US.

Team 2 finishing the GPS location event of the Bush Olympics, designed to assess and reinforce the theory and practice of the last six weeks.

Instructor Thoralf Meyer admiring Team 3's fighting spirit.

Team 3 busily identifying species and taking structural measurements while being timed- lots of pressure!

A typical researcher's pile... notebook, identification guide, backpack, measuring sticks, and of course sunglasses.

Team 1 busy working on the timed Plot 1 while visiting colleague Dr. Jennifer Miller of UT Geography & the Environment looks on.

Team 4 works on ground cover estimation.

 The "just for fun" portion of the Bush Olympics- Bocci Ball! Here Sam gives her best shot while Thoralf, Dr. Miller, and Jaclyn look on.

Thoralf announcing the rules of the Bocci Ball showdown the next night, along with each team's selected Bocci competitor: from left to right, Courtney, Jaclyn, Emilie, and Hank.

Hank turned out to be a consummate Bocci Ball player, and won that particular event for his team... the Bush Olympics were close indeed, with each team winning at least one event. The overall winners... Team 3. Congrats to Courtney, Kelsey, and Amiee!

A last group photo before heading out, caught in front of the Maun International Aiport. Roughly half our folks are headed straight back to Texas for more school, work, or family time, and the other half are exploring Durban, visiting and volunteering in Cape Town, or seeing friends in The Netherlands. Safe travels to all and thanks to our extended friend and family network who have been keeping up with us on our blog. Go siame! (Stay well!) 

Over and out- Team Botswana

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Last Days in Maun

Students participating in a basket weaving class at the Women’s Cooperative. The Co-op has over 400 participants who gather the veld products for dying and weaving the baskets, a cultural symbol of Botswana.

 Studiously attending to their weaving are our UT Program Coordinator from Study Abroad, Melissa Sassi on the left (during her site visit to our program) and Tori on the right.

 A close-up of Melissa’s basket-in-progress.

 At the far right is the head of the Women’s Work cooperative, Thitanya Kushonya, who has exhibited her baskets internationally including at the Atlanta Olympics. She is also a recent winner of the Sub-Saharan Africa basket weaving competition.

 A relaxing Sunday boat cruise, with one of safari leaders, Colin Dandridge, at the helm and his brother and co-safari leader Daryl Dandridge pictured next to one of the Okavango River Lodge camp dogs.

The roof provided plenty of protection from the African afternoon sun, though many of us are already sporting quite nice “farmer’s tans”.

 Termites are a critical component of ecosystem processes. Here, a large termite mound is placed along the Boro River, over 4 meters tall.

On Safari !!!

“Safari” is the Swahili word for “journey”, and what a journey we have had! We traveled from Thakadu in Ghanzi to Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), the second largest contiguous terrestrial reserve in the world. After being there for four nights, we went back to Maun for laundry and resupply, then headed to Khwai Community Trust campground. Khwai borders Moremi Game Reserve (MGR), with the largest difference being that MGR is run by the government whereas Khwai is run by the local community that was relocated to create the reserve. The Delta’s waters bring abundant wildlife, and many sightings of critters large and small were frequent. We’re now back in Maun finishing up lectures and other activities, but here are some examples of what we saw on our own Botswana Journey.

Typical open-air safari vehicle... and perfectly safe as animals perceive the vehicle as one large unit and, when approached with experience, and remaining relaxed. Our most frequent travails were on dirt tracks.

A Kalahari sunset in a valley near our campground; sunset provides panoramic vistas as well as a change from diurnal to nocturnal animals.

Checking out two young male springboks fighting in the distance.

The class TA’s favorite antelope species, the gemsbok (also known as oryx).

 Breakfast time in the mess tent at Khwai. That’s our supply truck driver, Phil, in the background.

 A very relaxed elephant in Khwai River. Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population.

 A commonly seen Nile crocodile sunning. We nicknamed him Elvis, and he is on the Moremi Game Reserve side of the river. The sign reads “Game Reserve Boundary-- No Entry, No Hunting.” We would suggest no swimming as well.

 Though leopard sightings are considered uncommon, we were extremely fortunate to have multiple, high-quality leopard sightings. Here, a male leopard rests nearby an impala kill. The carcass was partially buried in sand to hide it from other predators and scavengers. Later that evening we saw the kill taken away by a spotted hyena.

 A martial eagle we watched hunt a group of banded mongoose, albeit unsuccessfully.

 A baby elephant and various trees silhouetted by the setting African sun.