Osher@Dartmouth Safari Summary

Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning is located on the Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, NH.  Osher provides continuing education for residents of the Upper Valley area.  Our safari was the travel section of my Spring 2014 course: “An African Adventure: The Wildlife of Botswana”.  We spent 12 days exploring Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, finally ending in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The focus of our safari was on wildlife and learning about the conservation issues surrounding Africa’s wildlife and people.  During our journey we experienced a seemingly endless variety of African wildlife and birds.  We were surrounded by a breeding herd of elephant as they came to the river to drink, we witnessed thousands of Cape buffalo and zebra grazing on the floodplains, and watched Spotted hyenas and vultures feeding on a baby elephant carcass.  Lions were sighted sleeping in the shade and we saw large numbers of giraffe, hippos, antelopes, and warthogs.  We were even fortunate enough to see leopards and rare African Wild Dogs.

Full days were spent exploring the bush, searching for game, and observing wildlife.  We slept under canvas in the remote bush in private, unfenced campsites.  During the night animals would wander freely through the camp, including leopard, hyena, and elephants.  One night we could hear a hippo grazing near our tents!  The camp staff prepared delicious meals including bread baked fresh over the campfire.

Bana Ba LetsatsiChildren Center which offers a place of safety for orphans and vulnerable children. The Center provides support in the form of education, skills training, meals, and medical attention.  As part of his Cameras for Conservation initiative, our guide, Steve Stockhall, takes children from the Center on camping safaris in neighboring Moremi Game Reserve.  These children lack the resources to visit the game parks in their own backyard and by using donated cameras the kids can record their experience while learning about wildlife and conservation.

Our group also had lectures by wildlife researchers who are actively trying to conserve Botswana’s wildlife.  Dominik Bauer, project leader of the University of Oxford’s Botswana Lion Corridor Project, discussed his current research on the movement of lions between Botswana and neighboring Zimbabwe.  Using a combination of the ancient tracking skills of Bushmen and modern, high-tech radio collars, Dominic and his group can monitor the dispersal of lions between protected areas. 

Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, spoke to us about their work on the conservation of African Wild Dogs, among the rarest of African carnivores.   We learned about a project to create artificial territorial boundaries that will keep African Wild Dogs safely inside the borders of protected conservation areas.  Solar powered radio collars with advanced GPS are used to follow movements in and out of protected areas.

Our safari was a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn about Africa’s rich collection of wildlife as well as the challenging conservation issues facing Botswana.  Throughout our journey, we were immersed in the daily rhythms of the African bush and enjoyed a unique experience of this vast continent.

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