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Gallery Three / African Wildlife Photography and Narratives

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Below are direct links to the Zimbabwe narratives:

Zimbabwe narrative -- "The Wildest Place -- On the Ground with the African Cape Buffalo"

Zimbabwe narrative -- "The Persistence of Memory -- (The) Ancient Wisdom (of Elephants)"

Zimbabwe narrative -- "(A Tribute to the) Guides of Zimbabwe"

Zimbabwe narrative -- "Rushinga and the Day of Reckoning"

Zimbabwe narrative -- "Third World"
































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“Africa gets under your skin and into your soul.” -- Sue B.

"Great (!) Zimbabwe 2001 African Eclipse and Safari / Gallery Three Narratives"


"(A Tribute to the) Guides of Zimbabwe"
"That's a very nice monopod and ball-head you have," proclaimed Doug, the Chief Guide and general manager of Spurwing Island Camp in northern Zimbabwe. This island is located near the southern shore of Lake Kariba, a man-made affair created in the 1950's when the great Zambezi River (4th largest in Africa) was incarcerated by the dam at Kariba Town. Doug and his able group of guides would be our hosts on some of our exploration of the wilderness of Matusadona National Park, extending from the southern shore of the lake inland some 50 kilometers in 3 directions. "Well, you know that in photography it's all about the glass, and no out-of-focus photograph is of any real value," I note. Hence the rigid (if unwieldy) foundation for the admittedly laughably oversized piece of glass known as a 300mm telephoto lens. "Oh, and it's a medium-format camera -- you have a lot of ('courage') attempting wildlife photography with that rig," Doug further exclaimed. I silently thanked him for noticing, as frankly I've been struggling with it. I'm much more accustomed to the 35mm setup, but splurged to obtain this rig to record the wonders of southern Africa on our splendid journey around the country of Zimbabwe. We're supposedly here to observe the Total Solar Eclipse, and of course we'll do that, but what western person hasn't dreamed of all the natural wonders of Africa?

At any rate, I was appreciative of his knowledge of the camera equipment. We would find out that Doug (and honestly all the guides we had the privilege of meeting) were highly trained professionals with an extensive naturalist background -- most were graduates of a rigorous 5-year program that included naturalist and ecological knowledge as well as ballistics training and a requirement to be on the ground and participate in the hunting of a "Big 5" species, which include the African Elephant and the very dangerous African Cape Buffalo. This hunting is not done indiscriminately, but under very strict guidelines and for a purpose -- much more comment on this is included in the writing piece entitled "The Persistence of Memory."

Each guide we rode with [most game viewing is done from a Land Rover (or equivalent) platform fitted with bench seats, roll cage, and generally no top] had extensive knowledge of birds, for example. It's one thing to be able to spot and identify creatures that weigh 5 tons or tower above the trees; it's quite another to identify one of the 300-plus species of birds merely by their song, and visually ID them from a distance so far away that I couldn't find them in the binoculars! I remember one instance where Lucky (of Dabula Safaris and Chimwara camp) was pointing directly at the tiny Pearl-Spotted Owl from no more than 3 meters. The bird itself was ensconced in a thick bush perhaps 1 meter from the ground, yet even though Lucky was pointing directly at it, I could not see it until the tiny raptor moved. Really, we were only 3 meters away!
It's one thing to be able to spot and identify creatures that weigh 5 tons or tower above the trees; it's quite another to identify one of the 300-plus species of birds merely by their song . . .

The guiding in Zimbabwe is certainly mostly accomplished from vehicles; the routine is to ride around in these open vehicles hunting for game. The guides stop anytime you ask, and also engage in nature interpretation at regular intervals or when an extraordinary sighting occurs. There is apparently an obvious advantage for so many sets of eyes peering out over the landscape, but honestly most first sightings are amazingly by the guide, who is much lower than the tourists, obviously in the driver's seat. Also, for some reason most big game seems rather ambivalent about the noisy vehicles, and will often allow very close encounters. My deep feeling is that although the animals may be a bit nonplused with the Land Rovers, their attitude would change considerably if you were to be so moronic as to leave the vehicle in their presence. There are some entertaining guide's tales of this sort of opacity, of course.

A special treat is a walking safari, always with an armed guide . . . There is something very special about being on the ground with such animals.

A special treat is a walking safari, always with an armed guide. With this activity the tourist and guide get to be up close and personal -- often the big game keeps a wide margin, but every once in a while, like in Gona-Re-Zhou National Park, Japhet was able to approach the African Cape Buffalo from very close range. There is something very special about being on the ground with such animals.

Below is a very partial listing of safari guides and a small comment on each -- I would ask forgiveness for any omissions or typos -- suffice it to say that all of our experiences with the guides of Zimbabwe were superior. Thanks to you all!

Chimwara Camp -- Stuart -- What a wonderful introduction to the African bush; I'll never forget that first sunset at the Oxbow lakes. The powerful image of the Hwange National Park matriarchal breeding herd of African Elephants will haunt me forever. Also, you moved me with your statement; "In America, you once also had elephants and lions."

Chimwara Camp -- Lucky -- How are you able to spot all of those birds?; and please keep telling those wonderful African animal legends.

Chimwara Camp -- Danielle -- Our Milky Way galaxy does look like an edge-on spiral, doesn't it?

Spurwing Camp -- Gadrick -- It is amazing how you track those lions, and your knowledge of prints and sign is unsurpassed. Also, I'll never forget those migrating elephants swimming across the lake.

Spurwing Camp -- Doug -- Your general and archaeological knowledge and confident demeanor were wonderful, and that afternoon with the two elephants was a treat. Thanks for your understanding of camera angle and lighting.

Spurwing Camp -- Andrew -- Amazing how you were able to get to the shoreline and serve sundowners with such perfect timing. My photo of that particular sunset is my best landscape of the entire trip. Thanks!

Mahenye Camp -- Stephen -- Thanks for all of you lore and your excitement about the outdoors. You are an inspiration.

Mahenye Camp -- Japhet -- What can I say? Your powerful presence and deeply spiritual view of the land and animals were the highlight of our trip to Africa. Your on-the-ground up-close-and-personal style of guiding is superior; I'm sure I'll never forget our visit to Mahenye.

Big Cave Camp -- Dave and his entire staff -- Due to the rescue event at your camp my records of names are a little obscure. Suffice it to say that when an emergency occurs it's obvious that your staff is top-notch and excellently trained. Nothing like this sort of event to bring out the best in everyone. Certainly the rhino viewing and Rock Art were exceptional as well.

Thanks to all of you, and also to those I've undoubtedly overlooked.

In Zimbabwe the guides are proud of their training and knowledge. They ought to be. It is said that the guides in Zim are the best in all of Africa. I don't have every detail, but based on a side-trip we took to Botswana (enjoyable, nevertheless) I'd surely agree.

In photography, it's all about the glass. In the bush of Zimbabwe, it's all about the guides. Of that, you can be assured. Oh yes, and "Pass me that sundowner, please."

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