Thursday, July 4, 2013

RE A LEBOGA (many thanks)

Happy 4th of July!! Today is the last day of our study abroad program. Several students left this morning for Victoria Falls, while others are leaving this afternoon for South Africa, Mozambique, and France. The remaining four students fly out tomorrow. Huge thanks to our awesome students this year. It has been a great six weeks. We'd also like to thank several individuals, companies, and organizations for making this study abroad program possible, including:

Thakadu Bush Camp
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 running our base camps and keeping us well fed in Ghanzi, in Maun, and on safari - thanks Colin, Daryl, Zebra, Joe, and Bavez

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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Khwai Safari

We spent 4 nights at the Khwai community area, which borders Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park. We saw lions, leopards, spotted hyena, wild dogs, elephants, giraffes, zebras, waterbuck, reedbuck, red lethwe, warthog, impala, steenbok, hippos, and lots of bird species.

One of our game vehicles. Photo by Maggie.

Signs of elephant damage. Photo by Marshall.

Kareem, Anna, Margaret, Daryl, Erin, and Loraine. Photo by Maggie.

Hippos hippo'ing around. Photo by Marshall.

The Delta at sunset. Photo by Marshall.

Baby baboon. Photo by Marshall.

Rare sighting of a leopard and her cub.

Wild dogs, which are extremely endangered. Photo by Maggie.

Elephants coming down to the river for a drink. Photo by Maggie.

Elephants at sunset. Photo by Maggie.

Packing up camp - heading back to Maun.

Friday, June 28, 2013

More Photos from CKGR

We are back in Maun after spending 4 nights in Khwai, a village on the edge of the Okavango Delta (photos soon to come). However, here are some more photos from our time in Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

We will be in Maun for the remainder of the program. The student phones will work, so feel free to call them (one of our students left one of the phones at Modisa so please use the 75708877 number).

Driving through CKGR. Photo by Marshall.

Photo by Marshall.

A leopard, which some of us saw being chased by two bat-eared foxes. Photo by Marshall.


Bat-eared foxes have quickly become a student favorite.

Deception Valley. Photo by Marshall.

Our game vehicles at sunset. Photo by Marshall.

Lily dancing across the pan. Photo by Maggie.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Even from Botswana, Study Abroaders make news at UT!

Dumelang! Our intrepid Study Abroaders are making news from across the Atlantic... their adventures have been picked up by UT's Department of Geography & the Environment as this week's lead story There's always lots happening there though, so if you're accessing this later the story will be archived at

Be sure to check it out- the lead photo is by one of our own students, there's a team photo from Africa's best TA (hint, hint- he also is on the GRG news for winning a national award for his ongoing research in Botswana, third item from the top or access it at, and there's also a fabulous video that UT Study Abroad made based on exit interviews with our 2012 Inaugural Class in case you haven't seen it yet... it lives on youtube at

Meanwhile, the team arrived safely in Khwai and all are busy exploring the Okavango Delta, often called the jewel of the Kalahari. They return to Maun in a few days for the last week of the course, and Okavango photos will be posted once they are back in civilization. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

We just got back from Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where we spent 3 nights. We saw lions, a leopard, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, aardwolves, jackals, giraffes, and lots of antelopes.

We are back in Maun to restock and refuel before heading into Moremi Game Reserve today. Here are a few photos from our time in CKGR. We will post more photos after we get back on Thursday (including student's photos).

Driving through CKGR.

RAWR!! A male lion and his girlfriend lioness (not pictured) 25 meters from the car. Students enjoyed seeing wildlife up close, from a safe distance from the vehicle.

 Gemsbok antelope.

Bernard driving up front with Daryl through the pans.

Group photo in Deception Valley.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Modisa Wildlife Project

We have been at Modisa Wildlife Project today and yesterday. Val and Mikkel started Modisa in 2010 and have been managing a 10,000 hectare wildlife farm since. They take care of 30 lions, 2 leopards, a pack of African wild dogs, and their baby 16 month lioness Sirga (which they raised by hand). Modisa aims to raise awareness in conservation issues, human wildlife conflicts, and gives volunteers authentic hand-on experiences in the African savanna. We are lucky to get the opportunity to experience these animals up close before heading into the wild parks and reserves of Botswana.

Val (left) and Mikkel (right) giving the students a lecture on human-wildlife conflict issues.

Val showing the students the young lioness Sirga.

Students playing volleyball at the Modisa camp.

Today we walked with Val to observe wildlife tracks and signs.

Val explaining how to identify wildlife tracks.

Samsom, one of the male lions at Modisa, inside his enclosure.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Made it to MODISA!

Dumelang, friends and family!

A very quick sat phone conversation this afternoon confirmed the group arrived safely at MODISA. As Thomas mentioned, pictures will be posted on the blog once they are back from the deep bush, but until then if you are interested in learning more about MODISA, you may visit their website at or find them on Facebook (greater information on that site) at Parents especially - do bear in mind that our students won't be hugging lions or going on lion walks. You may see some of our students from last year on MODISA's site or in last year's blog entries, but Sirgha is now too old and too dangerous for that type of interaction with this year's students!

Meanwhile, stay tuned for some new publicity on campus regarding the program....

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Last Night at Thakadu

Tonight, we have our last night at Thakadu Bush Camp. The last three and a half weeks have been great. We finished lots of field work, had our daily lectures, and several student presentations on scientific articles related to environmental and social issues in Botswana. We are leaving early tomorrow morning for Modisa Wildlife Project, where we will spend two nights before we head into Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Resources will be extremely limited in the next two weeks, including water, firewood, and internet of course. However, we will post again as soon as we have internet again.

We will also not have cell phone service while on safari. However, we will have our satellite phone turned on from 7 PM to 8 PM (Botswana time) every night for emergencies.

Satellite phone # 00 881631627587

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Last Days at Thakadu

We have been working on our last vegetation plot for the last few days. We also fenced one of the plots from last year in the same area in order to keep out grazers and browsers so we can assess vegetation regrowth in the absence of herbivory.

Lily, Sabryna, and Anna measuring our last plot.

Emma and Anna.


Part of our team cut down trees for fence posts.

Professor Thoralf setting up wires for our fence.

Nastasha tightening fence wires.

Erin and Loraine.

Kareem, Loraine, and Thoralf.

Our fenced plot.



Rose and Jessica.

Group photo after finishing our awesome fence!

We are leaving Thakadu on Monday and heading to Modisa Wildlife Project for two nights. More photos to come soon!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Student Introductions (2 of 2)

Here, the students present themselves and give thanks to the many people and organizations who helped them with funding in order to make their study abroad experience possible!!

 Dumela! My name is Emma, or Setswana Loapi. I will be a sophomore in the fall majoring in Environmental Science in the Geology track. I chose to come to Botswana because I am interested in the political and social aspects of environmental issues. I would like to thank the Forty Acres Scholars Program, the Texas Exes, and the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation for funding my trip and believing in my potential. I would also like to thank my amazing family for supporting my passions. This experience has greatly influenced my perspective and enriched my education in a life changing way! I hope this is the beginning of a lifetime of environmental work. I have always dreamt of coming to Africa to experience the beautiful culture and outdoors.

Hello! I’m Erin Kelbly. I am a senior studying International Relations and Global Studies - Science, Technology, and the Environment track. I am a member of UT’s FACE AIDS chapter. I chose to come to Botswana because I love savanna ecosystems and I hope to work in Africa in the future with the Peace Corps. I have strong interests in the social and political aspects associated with environment and climate change, so I am excited to be gaining field work experience that will contribute to my understanding on the subject matter. I’d like to thank my family for helping make this experience of a lifetime possible.

Hola gente! My name is Maggie Arréllaga and I am a fourth year International Relations and Global Studies major with a track focus in Environmental Science and a minor in Latin American Studies. I chose to study abroad in Botswana because I wanted a unique experience that would give me insight into field research in my areas of interest as I think about graduate school and future goals. I’d like to thank my family, Liberal Arts Honors, and the UT Study Abroad office for helping me get to this wonderful place. Saludos desde el Kalahari!!

Hi! My name is Margaret Acres and I’m majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I wanted to study abroad in Botswana to explore savannas through field work and safaris. I want to thank my parents, family, and COLA for helping me join this study abroad program.

Hi! I’m Loraine Ng, a senior in Geography and Urban Studies. My decision to join this program was driven by wanting to research vegetation in Botswana’s natural ecosystem. Now that I’m here, I’m glad to be learning the methods and contributing to the research. A perk about being at Thakadu is seeing the animals (elands, springboks, ostriches, warthogs, etc.) at close proximity. I would like to give thanks to IEFS, COLA, and Hammond Foundation, and my mom for making my attendance in the program possible.

Dumela! My name is Sabryna Sulak. I am an International Relations and Global Studies major and an Asian Studies minor. After graduation I want to work in either Austin or India, focusing on sustainability and land use, which we are learning about here! After a few years, I want to go to graduate school. I would like to thank COLA, the International Education Fee Scholarship, and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship for help in funding this trip.

Howdy! I am Marshall! I am going into my third year of college and am studying Geography and Environmental Science. It is a dream come true to finally have made it to Africa and it has been incredible. I like to be goofy and love a bit of adventure. Thanks mom and dad for sending me here, I love you guys!!