Africa Vignette Series


At the end of the month we’re heading to the Maasai Mara for the annual wildebeest migration. Between now and then, here is a blizzard of little African vignettes. They are just short little bits, not in any particular order, not particularly edited. Maybe they’ll entice you to visit too one day. Hope you enjoy them. All the photos in this series are from

11 Botswana

We’re motoring over a dry river and B. slows to bounce over a rut dug into the river bed. He explains it’s an old path dug by the water horse, the hippo (hippos in Greek, horse plus potamos, river).

Around a corner we surprise an elephant who stages a mock charge. B. hastens to reassure that this is not dangerous, but rather just a scare tactic. While elephants have their own personalities, he says, as a group only young males are predictably dangerous. They really might charge.

This guy flares his ears and whirls, stomps, grabs and tosses dust with his trunk, glares a while longer and finally lumbers off around the corner. During the mock charge he keeps his head in the air and his chest out, just like an aggressive human. In a serious charge the elephant pins his ears back and lowers his head and trunk.

Okavango termite mounds rival Burmese pagodas. Same shape and I’d guess sixteen feet high. Is that a giraffe? No, it’s a termite mound. That high.

Geese are always on the move, purposeful, sleek and making a beeline for point B. Marabou storks on the other hand, whose wingspans may approach ten feet appear to lumber into the sky amid a confusion of flapping and whooshing. One night they stalk the camp perimeter.

Stiff, dinner-jacketed birds, the marabou eat anything – fish, plants, another animals’ kill. Then they sleep in the very top of dead trees – above the fray. Any approaching predator, a leopard, say, will shake the tree and wake the stork.

This entire series of vignettes will reside here, in the Africa section. If you enjoy them please have a look at my two travel books, Common Sense and Whiskey and Visiting Chernobyl.

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