Pip McGarryInternational Wildlife Artist

Artists for Conservation Foundation - Signature Member - Supporting Nature Through Art

Botswana Safari 2012

On the 10th of October Pip and his team of MIWAS artists headed off from the UK on the long journey to the raw wilderness of Northern Botswana. Along with the group was Heather Irvine, winner of the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year, who won the safari with Pip as first prize in the competition.

The first night was spent in the splendid Sedia Hotel, a comfortable African stop over that allowed the group to recover, refresh and make ready for the next ten days camping far out in the African bush. The first camp was in Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve, where three nights were spent under canvas with incredible game drives during the day, which included a boat trip into the Okavango Delta, where everyone was refreshed by a quick dip in the clear flowing water. Also witnessed were a pack of sixteen Wild Dogs, plus Hippos, Elephants, Kudu, Giraffe, Red Lechwe and many more. Moving on, still in Moremi, we spent a further two nights in the Khwai region of the reserve. Here we travelled down the famed but unofficially named ‘Raptor Alley’ which runs alongside the Khwai river and the border of the reserve.

True to form we saw many animals in this area, a pride of lions resting under trees, elephant herds bathing and splashing in the water, buffaloes surveying everything with suspicion, birdlife and wildlife everywhere.

After two nights here, we then journeyed further North to the incredible Savute National Park. On our journey we were caught in the Mababe Depression by an incredible thunderstorm that completely soaked us (eventually throwing down hailstones) and our luggage through and that evening was spent trying to dry all our equipment and clothing.

Arriving in Savute, we were struck by the amount of water on the ground. In the last two years the waters have returned again after a thirty year absence, transforming Savute into a paradise of waterways and animals. Here we witnessed an incredible array of birdlife, Pelicans, Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, flocks of Jacanas (very unusual), Storks, Kingfishers, Herons and many others…all searching and sifting the waters for food. A huge herd of buffalo wandered our way, also seen was a freshly killed leopard – the culprits nearby, a pride of lions resting (and playing with a dead pelican). Elephants could also be seen far out on the Savute Marsh.

Whilst watching some wading birds feeding, a large elephant came up close behind us and splashed through the water, shaking his ears in annoyance at our presence.

Moving further northwards we arrived in the Chobe River area. Here we enjoyed a boat trip getting close to hippos, crocodiles, elephant and buffalo, not to mention the amazing birdlife. Far out on the Namibian plains opposite, we could see large herds of zebras grazing. We also saw Kudu and Roan antelope, many warthogs and guinea fowl, plus a beautiful leopard who posed for us under a bush. So many animals and scenes to witness it is hard to recollect them all..

Each night throughout our trip Lions could be heard calling and great fun was had at the meal tables, as the more vocal ladies in our group (Heather, Becky and Desi to be exact) regaled us with their singing. No mention should be made of Heather and Sue’s pole dancing in the mess tent, as ‘what happens in the bush, stays in the bush’….

The sunsets were a sight to behold, deep crimson and vivid yellow skies set against grey blue clouds, with the sounds of the bush all around, whilst we sat drinking ‘Sundowners’.

Finally we left the African bush and crossed the Zambezi river and travelled to Livingstone to the stunning Zambezi Sun hotel, where we were to spend our last two nights in comfort, allowing us to recover from ten days camping in the African wilds and rid ourselves of several kilos of sand. On our arrival the whole group took a leisurely stroll down through Victoria Falls, which was enjoyed by everyone.

On the first full day at the hotel, Heather and Becky went White River Rafting, which sounded like a near death experience from their descriptions afterwards. Pauline, Sue, ‘Tracey’ and Jenny all went shopping in the local market at the Falls, coming back with some hard fought for bargains….whilst the more lazy among us went swimming in the huge figure of eight pool at the hotel and relaxed.

A group of four took off for the ‘Walk With Lions’ later on (John, Jenny, Pauline and Sue I think) …they were able to photograph cheetahs running and walk with the lions. It sounded so interesting that Cheryl, Steve, Pip and Desi went on the morning of the next day. They were able to go in with captive cheetahs and take photos from less than a metre away.

Eventually the time came for us to fly away to Johannesburg, via the crowded and incredibly slow moving Vic Falls airport. Following an exciting shopping spree by all in the J’burg airport, which really has some wonderful shops…the trip was finally concluded at Heathrow.

Some very sad farewells as another Botswana Safari came to a close. A superb bunch of people travelled with us on this safari and many friendships were cemented by our experiences.

A huge thanks to Guy Symonds and Steve Stockhall for making our safari so incredible and memorable – we’ll be back!