New Series: Africa Vignettes #1

Let’s kick off a new series, one that I think might last the summer.

With time, perseverance and good fortune, after a couple more trips to cover a little more ground in Africa (which is not a country), I hope to finish up a new book that will be a mix of travel vignettes and sciencey wildlife stuff.

For now let us start with a dozen or more short bits that I mean to post every Monday, and we’ll see how it works. I welcome your feedback. Just a series of short clips here, like this one from Botswana.


Gradually, sandy ground gives way to traces of green below. It’s the end of the rainy season but so far this year it hasn’t rained. It’s been seven years since a good, healthy rainy season.

By now the channels should be full and wildlife ought to be thriving and dispersed. Instead it’s dry as any dry season, which is good for game viewing because the game tends to concentrate around what water there is. It’s awful for the game, though, and a disaster for the people of Maun.

Over 5800 square miles the delta’s height varies only about six and a half feet. The ground is at 3100 feet. We cruise at 6500 feet, first due north, to land at Shinde Island Camp. We are carrying a man named Shorty who is bound for there. I search in vain for any landmark. Ron must be flying by experience, or the compass, or just the seat of his pants. Endless channels and water spits meander to nowhere.

Search as you will, there are just no roads, no landmarks. But after 40 minutes we angle toward a dirt strip where a lone elephant stands and flaps his ears in mock charge. Doesn’t bother Ron.

A Land Cruiser waits in a clutch of trees. Shorty leaves for Shinde camp.

“How do you find places like this?” I shout over the engine at Ron.

“You just get somebody to show you what to look for,” he shouts back, “then practice.”


Botswana photos at