Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My First Press Tour to Chobe National Park

I am not a member of the press, and I have no real intention of becoming one.  But I was recently invited on a press tour by the Director of the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO).  BTO is basically the main marketing body for all of tourism here in Botswana.  BTO does not make policy; the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) does that.  But BTO takes the policies which MEWT makes and finds ways to implement them and increase tourism throughout the country.

Since the UNWTO conference was held right next door by our neighbors to the north (Zimbabwe and Zambia) BTO decided to take advantage of the fact there were so many media correspondents in the region and arranged several press tours in hopes of some free PR.  Fortunately for me, the Director of the BTO invited me to tag along so I could see some of the sights.  I was so happy to participate because I teach about some of these areas in my class, I haven’t done any real tourism since I arrived in Botswana, and it was a free trip!  So, I really appreciated the opportunity.

I haven’t spent much time around journalists, so the trip was as much about seeing the animals in their natural habitats as it was about observing how the media operates.  In a way I felt a little bit of peer pressure.  Granted, they all knew I wasn’t “one of them” and they were very welcoming, but as I watched them work I felt like I was being a bit of a slacker and needed to keep up.  To put this statement in perspective, I would watch them taking hundreds of photos in a matter of seconds of one bird.  I would take one picture of the same bird and then call it quits.  But then I would watch them continue to snap more photos, this time with different cameras!  I would think about it for a second and consider that maybe I missed something.  Then I would take another picture of the bird.  This behavior: action-observation-reaction-repeat; continued to gain momentum until I was taking hundreds of pictures within seconds of the same animal.  By noon I had taken 942 photos.  And then what do you think happened? My camera battery died.

It turned out the expiration of my battery was a blessing in disguise.  In the morning we took a boat trip along the Chobe River and were able to see (and photograph) all kinds of animals.  But, by the time the game drive began three hours later I was forced to watch and enjoy since my camera was out of juice.  Below are some of the highlights from the trip.

Journalists taking a million pictures of an animal:

An elephant swimming from the main land to an island in the middle of the river:

Crocodile in the forefront, impala in the middle, water buffalo waaaaaay in the distance:

Hungry, hungry hippos having some lunch:

Overall it was an excellent trip.  I have no doubt I will visit the area again, especially when I have visitors. I did get tons of pictures and after looking at them I understand why the journalists take so many photos.  Often it wasn’t the first shot which was the best one, but the seventh or eighth which I preferred.  Thank goodness for digital.

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