Bob’s True-Life Adventures – No.11 Safari – Banoka Part Two

Written by Bob Gurr. Posted in Bob's True-Life Adventures

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Published on September 03, 2014 at 2:00 am with 12 Comments

Today’s Wheel of Adventures stopped at 2014, so here we go. This is part two of a four part series about an African safari. You can get caught up with Banoka Part One HERE.

Part one introduced Camp Banoka and described what a typical game drive day was like, and showed a variety of some of the larger wildlife. Part two will show what camp life is like along with photos of the camp rangers and staff, and take a look at some of the birdlife. Also more about how game drives are done will be explained.

While many African nations permit a wide variety of wildlife adventures, Botswana is carefully regulated, no game hunts, photographic shooting only. Unlike other locales which suffer traffic jams as radio equipped vehicles swarm by the dozens to every reported sighting, Botswana has limitations. When three vehicles are watching some wildlife and a fourth vehicle arrives, the first arrival must leave. This way the animals are minimally disturbed from what they would normally be doing. This avoids photos filled with more vehicles and people than animals. Also, Botswana wildlife is very intimate at close range, not the vast herds seen far off in the distance as the Serengeti.

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Vulture

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African white-backed vulture

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African white-backed vultures awaiting their turn at a buffalo carcass

Wildlife has adapted in an interesting way to the vehicle presence; they find it easier to walk on the sandy trails than over brushy ground. The cool part then is that rangers can drive along watching animal tracks. It’s a fabulous way to see how many animals are in a group, their family size, how long ago, and where they might be headed. Another Botswana rule; if it’s an herbivore, you must stay on the trail. If a carnivore track heads off the trail, you can follow it off-road. The land Rovers simply mash down brush and small trees up to 12′ in height. No damage is done if the wheels straddle the tree – it just springs right back up after we pass. Vehicles do very little flora damage compared to elephants.

Lilac breasted roller

Lilac breasted roller

Southern black flycatcher

Southern black flycatcher

One time we sighted wild dog tracks and followed quickly, bounding over trees, logs, and rocks at a pretty fast clip hanging on for dear life! Sure enough, our ranger caught up with a pack of maybe 15 wild dogs on a hunt. They are very organized and are expert hunters. When they catch a large animal, they eat it while it’s still running, not bothering to kill it first like the big cats. Once the animal is stopped, parents allow their young to feed first, not at all like other animals where the biggest gets the best parts, lessor members get what’s left. Wild dogs are very social and spend much time in happy play together.

Red-billed spurfowl

Red-billed spurfowl

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Snail eating black egret

 Meves's starling

Meves’s starling

Many of the trails are deep sand which never stop the Land Rovers

Many of the trails are deep sand which never stop the Land Rovers

 

Two rangers explain every detail of the wildlife to safari guests

Two rangers explain every detail of the wildlife to safari guests

Off-road means crashing right thru 8' shrubs and trees with little effort

Off-road means crashing right thru 8′ shrubs and trees with little effort

All safaris have a hard rule; do not exit the vehicle and no standing up to see better. Over generations, most animals have learned where vehicles and humans fit in their perception of what to them is prey or predator. It seems that they recognize the overall profile of humans seated in a vehicle, either moving or still, as neither prey nor predator. But, stand up and you become an individual human – dinner for a lion, a killer to an antelope. I learned this at a tea break stop. When our vehicle was moving near a large kudu, it just stared at us. As we parked just out it’s sight, I walked a short distance to take a peek. The kudu jumped and ran away at high speed. He saw a vertical moving image signaling danger. Naturally I was not about to test the lion prey theory!

The raised Land Rover seating gives everyone a clear wildlife view

The raised Land Rover seating gives everyone a clear wildlife view

Trained rangers have an uncanny skill to know every footprint, every sound, and every smell in the forest. They keep up a continuous lecture on every aspect of flora and fauna, stopping from time to time to explain a detail or two. While some folks probably just enjoy the creatures, and many love to make photographs, we all get a thorough knowledge of the Okavango. Particularly how all life is related, how it’s truly a linked cycle of life that has evolved over millions of years in this unique region.

The design of the Wilderness Safaris camps are a combination of the latest ecological technology and a woodsy charm with both simplicity and luxury. The tents are actually suspended from an overhead roofed log structure with a raised wooden floor which should provide a long life. Bedding and baths are extremely comfortable, and well supplied with high quality implements and toiletries. Lighting is very bright small led fixtures. Hot water is always available from solar tubes and tanks. The whole camp operates on 220 volt supplied from battery storage AC inverters, all powered by a large array of solar panels. Each camp has a sewage treatment facility. All of these infrastructures are hidden from view, so the whole place seems just like going camping in a lush wildlife forest. Some nights feature an outdoor campfire cocktail and dinner party with lots of singing and dancing.

Cocktail hour enjoyed by the Okavango explorers

Cocktail hour enjoyed by the Okavango explorers

Elegant bar set up for the sundown cocktail hour

Elegant bar set up for the sundown cocktail hour

The Banoka rangers prepare the gin and tonics for everyone

The Banoka rangers prepare the gin and tonics for everyone

All kinds of supplies fit into the copious Land Rover storage trunks

All kinds of supplies fit into the copious Land Rover storage trunks

An elegant late afternoon lunch is served picnic style

An elegant late afternoon lunch is served picnic style

True-Life Adventure Bob enjoys a gin and tonic at a hippo filled pond

True-Life Adventure Bob enjoys a gin and tonic at a hippo filled pond

Bob's toasty cloth covered hot water bottle and flannel poncho

Bob’s toasty cloth covered hot water bottle and flannel poncho

Ranger explains about the diet of elephants by examining their dung

Ranger explains about the diet of elephants by examining their dung

A skull is what's left after lions, hyenas, and vultures finish a buffalo

A skull is what’s left after lions, hyenas, and vultures finish a buffalo

The lodge open-air dining room is quite beautiful and luxurious

The lodge open-air dining room is quite beautiful and luxurious

Adventurer Bob has a fabulous wildlife view from the tent porch

Adventurer Bob has a fabulous wildlife view from the tent porch

Camp Banoka staff - all are highly trained is safari guest management

Camp Banoka staff – all are highly trained is safari guest management

Camp Banoka staff - happy smiles show how peaceful camp life is

Camp Banoka staff – happy smiles show how peaceful camp life is

Camp Banoka staff - the people of Botswana totally love their country

Camp Banoka staff – the people of Botswana totally love their country

The Camp Banoka staff treats everyone with an enthusiastic smile

The Camp Banoka staff treats everyone with an enthusiastic smile

Big Momma D is the CAmp Banoka manager

Big Momma D is the Camp Banoka manager

Big Momma D is a very skilled weaver so proud of her creations

Big Momma D is a very skilled weaver so proud of her creations

With much singing, cold towels are passed out to everyone

With much singing, cold towels are passed out to everyone

Land Rovers pass thru deep water swamps with ease

Land Rovers pass thru deep water swamps with ease

Where no trails exist, Land Rovers simply plow right thru the swamps

Where no trails exist, Land Rovers simply plow right thru the swamps

Bob's daily view from his tent porch - skies are different every day

Bob’s daily view from his tent porch – skies are different every day

Termites built the most gigantic mounds - some over a dozen feet tall

Termites built the most gigantic mounds – some over a dozen feet tall

Sunset skies in the open savannah are so soft and peaceful

Sunset skies in the open savannah are so soft and peaceful

Sunset colors and the gentle sounds are perfect during cocktail hour

Sunset colors and the gentle sounds are perfect during cocktail hour

Every evening is a delight - the best time of each day enjoyed by all

Every evening is a delight – the best time of each day enjoyed by all

 

Next up: More stories and photos in part three. This time to Camp Xigera, a wetland park where all transportation is by boat and canoe to visit elephants, watch hippos, and beautiful birds. Lastly in part four we’ll stay at Duma Tau – leopards, giraffes, and lots of elephants.

 

About Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr is a true Disney legend who was hired on to design the Autopia for Disneyland. Over nearly four decades, Bob would become famous for developing the Monorails, Submarines, Flying Saucers, antique cars and double-decker buses of Main Street, Ford Motor Company's Magic Skyway (at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair), Omnimover ride system, Matterhorn and lots more. It has been said that if it moves, Bob probably played a part. Upon leaving Imagineering in 1981, Bob worked on a number of "leisure-time spectaculars" and "fantastical beasts" for parks and developments all over the world. Most notably, he created King Kong and Conan's Serpent for Universal Studios Hollywood, A UFO for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and the memorable T-Rex figure featured in Steven Spielberg's motion picture "Jurassic Park." You can find Bob's column, Design: Those Were The Times, right here on MiceChat. Though don't pin Bob down to a schedule, he's busy being "retired."

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12 Comments

Comments for Bob’s True-Life Adventures – No.11 Safari – Banoka Part Two are now closed.

  1. Looking good Mr. Bob! What an amazing adventure.

    Though, how did they convince you to sit with your back to a hippo filled lagoon?

    Looks like they make some great cocktails on safari. ;-)

  2. Hi Bob. I really appreciate all you’ve done for the Disney company over the years. I’m a big fan. I enjoy reading your articles and look forward to the next spin of the “Wheel”. However, the recent articles are more of a personal travel log and are in no way connected to Disney and your creative endeavors with the parks. I’m happy that you are able to see the world and travel to places many of us will never have the chance to see in person. But my hope is that future articles will be more closely related to the reason we all look forward to visiting Micechat. Disney parks and their history.

    • You’re reading the wrong column Bob; True-Life Adventures. The other column, Those were The Times, will appear when there’s a story to be told, Disney or not. You’ll notice that MiceChat covers a multitude of theme park experiences quite beyond Disney, as well as past travel stories by contibutors. Hopefully you’ll be able to focus only on Disney specific stories and pass by all the other tales found on MiceChat that please a wide variety of reader interests.

      • Bob, you’re right about the columns. I apologize.

        Please know, I have the utmost respect for you and all you have done. I suppose the reason I’m even making a comment, is that my father was an engineer at NASA and contributed to the X-15 and lifting body programs.

        I have great admiration for engineers and feel that more needs to be done to encourage students to study science and math. I give talks to schools about the space program and try to instill the hope and promise of the future that Walt Disney was all about. I’m sure you feel the same way. Perhaps, one day, we can meet and discuss this.

        I wish you the best in your travels! Bob

      • Actually, your columns on travels are VERY relevant to Disney Parks.
        Bob–you truly are Soarin over California in your glider plane.
        The Safari is the REAL thing–at Animal Kingdom they have the Wild Africa Trek which is fun (been on it), but not the experience you are posting here.
        The Travels around the world and Europe are the real experience that World Showcase at EPCOT is trying to simulate.

      • Gosh…wmatzner, I sure hope bob1 comes back to read your explanation – way better than mine!

  3. Wow, those sunsets are amazing! Let me raise my own gin and tonic to you for a great article and wonderful photos! Cheers!

  4. Bob:
    This looks like a fascinating adventure.
    How often were you able to leave the land rover to take pictures, or were you mostly in the vehicle while photographing the animals?

    • Land Rover passengers are permitted to exit ONLY in specified clearings at break time. There were no animals nearby to photograph, only in the distance. Thus all wildlife photos were taken from the vehicles. Wildlife walks do take place close by the camp, but only with an armed ranger.

  5. Again, what an enlightening story you weave about your safari. They way you describe it makes me feel like I’m there. And your photos enhance the experience. I can only dream of experiencing such a display of nature in all its glory. I thank you so much for sharing.

  6. I meant to ask… We’re the hippos ears wiggling? ;-)

  7. Another great adventure! Thank you for taking the time to share.