On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Before leaving for Botswana, we vaguely understood that going on a 17 day safari meant spending 16 nights on the ground. We also had a general understanding that we would move from a cold (freezing nights) dry area through an inland delta and into game reserves and park lands along the border with Namibia. For some reason we thought this was a good idea.
The camera I brought was a well-used Sony a6000 body that I use for hiking and kayaking. Before the trip I purchased a gently used 70-300 Sony lens that became my constant lens. I made a major mistake by not practicing much before the trip, so it took a few days to get used to the greater weight and overall bulk.
We started each day before dawn, getting up for coffee and a small breakfast, packing the tents if we were moving, then heading out to look for animals. Animals rested during the heart of the day; so did we. Another afternoon game drive lasted until sundown. Supper around the fire was followed by efforts to sleep despite the nightly presence of large beasts. Large noisy beasts.
Every day there were countless birds. Here are a few. Most of these photos have been cropped and enlarged but are otherwise unedited.
Every morning began with a sighting of the Kori Bustard, the national bird of Botswana. It is known for its elaborate mating dance. Unfortunately, we visited in the early winter so did not witness it, but the non-mating strut is a sight.
Another constant companion was the Helmeted Guineafowl, numbering in the hundreds each day. Our guides consistently referred to them as chicken, modified to match our location: what was once “Kalahari Chicken” become “Chobe Chicken” by the end of the trip. They are delicious. I heard.
One reminder of home was the Pied Kingfisher. Just as in the Pacific Northwest where we live, the kingfisher hovers above the water, diving when food is sighted.
I have many photos of Bee-eaters, tiny bright figures that are too far away to be recognizable. But this pair of Little Bee-eaters sat still for 30 seconds or so, remaining motionless until the near one turned in our direction. Moments later both were gone.
In northern Botswana we hosted several Crested Barbets, fearlessly hopping around our campsites in search of food. Only rarely did I see one in full sun, and my reactions are too slow. It also has a bright red patch at the base of its tail.
This beautiful bird, a Coppery-tailed Coucal, perched atop one of Botswana’s chewed trees and never left despite our close presence. It was the only one we saw. At first its head was turned; I only noticed its red eye when it decided to notice us.
Proximity to water brought herons, storks, ibises, spoonbills, egrets and more. This Yellow Billed Stork had just finished a small fish, resisting the efforts of a spoonbill and gray heron to steal it. Its pink coloration – which I had assumed to be based on its diet – waxes during breeding season and fades toward winter. Its primaries are black and almost hidden, making its launch into the air quite dramatic.
Its fine tail feathers, poorly seen in the photo, are the most striking aspect of the African Sacred Ibis. Like the stork it gracefully parts shoreline vegetation searching for food.
If your name is Oxpecker, it makes sense to find an ox to peck. This tolerant buffalo was hosting 19 Red-billed Oxpeckers at once, assuming that one in front is perched on its nose. I suspect there were ample bugs to peck on the buffalo’s back, but I did not check it out.
Whenever we neared water a Fish Eagle was to be found. From the side it looked far too much like a bald eagle, but its chest sports an unmistakable field of bright white.
The stork’s reflection is a parallelogram.
Nice birds, what a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
The coucal looks like a hawk, sort of.
Does the ox get the advantage of a massage from the (assumed, silly me) pecking? Lively photographs from what sounds like a lovely trip.
Now that’s what I call Safari photos! Nicely done.
Did a camping Safari in Kenya in the 90s and the best times were when my wife and I were the only guests for a couple days. Hanging around the campfire with the driver and guide drinking Tusker and telling stories…
As for the animal part I found that somewhat excruciating. A lion was spotted by someone and scores of vans would converge to view so the guests could get their Safari photos.
I decided my ideal Safari would be to drive to a good expansive viewing location before dawn and just sit for a few hours as part of the landscape and see what happened and who wandered by.
So amazing that it caused me to scroll back to find part I, which I missed.
Botswana is a wonderful place. Our safari trip there in 2017 was extremely memorable. I also successfully proposed at the end of trip. :-D
@BretH: We only saw that once, where a group of waking lions drew a crowd of safari vehicles. Not a pleasant sight. There was some quiet conflict between the groups as some drivers would push to get closer. For the most part we were the only vehicle around, so we were surprised to see it.
Thank you everyone, I’m glad you enjoy the photos.
@YY_Sima Qian: Congratulations!
@HinTN: The ox peckers eat ticks so they provide a benefit.
@Princess: For each OTR series (as opposed to individual submissions) I try to make a category so people can easily find all of the submissions in the series.
Princess, I appreciate the reminder because I had forgotten to do that. In fact, if I didn’t do that for any of you who had a series, let me know and I can go back and add one.
So you can click on “Kabecoo Botswana” in any of these posts, and you will see all the posts in that series that have been published.
Great photos! I went on safari to Kenya in the 90’s and loved it, so happy to see your photos.
The pictures are outstanding, but I think I love the narrative just as much. I don’t feel like I’m just looking at photos; it really gives a sense of the trip.
I especially 💕 the Pied Kingfisher. He is so dapper, and dapper always makes me think of my Dad.
Nice! I love the bee-eaters, but the coucal is pretty impressive as well!
The bee eaters are just lovely!
@Albatrossity: Trying to get a decent Bee-eater photo made me think (not for the first time) how incredible your photos of small birds are! Flitting around, not standing still for me!
@Kabecoo: Thanks! Luckily bee-eaters seem to behave themselves somewhat, often sitting quite cooperatively for a while before disappearing in a flash. I was thrilled to see a pair perched near one of our tents in Tanzania, and got some good shots, but our other sightings of them were pretty distant. And I never did see the Pied Kingfisher there, so I’m jealous of that one!
@Kabecoo: & now we are 4+ years married & have a daughter!
Guineafowl is indeed not bad, tastes like chicken.
There were not many game meat choices available when we were in Botswana. The country takes seriously the protection of its wildlife. However, as soon as we crossed the border into Zimbabwe, all kinds of options were available. After checking w/ multiple sources that the meat were from farmed animals, we decided to try them. Interesting, but nothing particularly memorable, either.
J R in WV
The shape of the Kori Bustard reminds me a little of the Southwest’s roadrunners. Great photos, thanks again for sharing the trip with us.
J R in WV
How Romantic — congratulations!!!
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
Thanks for the great pictures! I particularly like the Stork and Ibis. On our safari, it was a thrill seeing the Sacred Ibis, looking like it had just stepped out of a hieroglyphic. The Bustard reminds me of a Roadrunner also. I imagine the size is different tho. One of my favorites of the grasslands in Tanzania was Secretary Bird. And what a great shot of the Beeeaters!
@Albatrossity: Wow, those guys are gorgeous!