This photographic trip took place over three weeks during February/March 2017. The visit proved to be very different in nature to any previous expeditions due to the unique situation in Wallacea. Overall the photography proved to be very difficult since the areas were generally forest, although often quite open, the birds were not abundant and when we were observing displays these took place early in the morning in poor light conditions. Much of the time was therefore spent searching for a specific bird in a known location rather than randomly observing birds while travelling around. The result was a fairly limited list of birds, many of which however are endemics. It has to be said that although there is a long list of endemics for Wallacea the taxonomic splitters have taken every opportunity to exploit geographical separation of the islands to create new species based on barely discernible differences. It has to be admitted that the title of this article is not entirely accurate, however, more than fifty percent of the birds photographed were endemic and very few of the remaining ones were familiar to us even with extensive experience of photographing birds in Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of Asia.
The wars in both countries had definitely affected the wildlife. It was very noticeable that few wild birds/creatures lived outside the protected areas and the culture of eating ‘bushmeat’ still prevailed. Therefore the importance of these nature reserves is considerable and it was encouraging to see that, in Cambodia in particular, the authorities were trying to integrate the local people into helping manage the reserves and thus benefit from the ensuing tourism.
There are many reasons to visit Botswana but one of the most important is that the President, Ian Khama, is a conservationist and as a result wildlife is heavily protected, with a shoot to kill policy towards poachers enforced by a Division of the Army.
Therefore the wildlife is not afraid of humans and it is possible to approach within a few meters most species of birds and animals which go about their normal life totally ignoring the presence of vehicles or people. This results in making Botswana probably the best country in Africa for game and wildlife.
It is a stable democracy where corruption is minimal and the native tribes are not aggressive towards each other considering themselves first and foremost Botswanians.
In both countries we found everybody extremely friendly and helpful and most welcoming and it was pleasing to meet the anti-poaching patrols in Zimbabwe in action protecting White Rhinos. In fact they are making increasing efforts to protect their wildlife as tourism is a key source of income.
In the Parks we visited in both countries the landscape had been affected by recent climate changes. From the mid 50‘s to 1982 there was sufficient water from the Angolan mountains and local rainfall to create marshes and rivers, but from then until 2009 the water supply dried up creating vast plains in which fast growing trees flourished. Then in the winter of 09/10 a deluge occurred raising the water table and recreating the marshes and rivers. At this time thousands of trees perished due to root rot.
Since then the water supply has been reducing and now there is a severe drought resulting in golden plains dotted with dead tree trunks, low drought resistant bushes and trees, such as the Rain Tree and Baobab, and a few waterholes. The dead tree trunks provide excellent perches for all types of eagles, vultures and birds of prey. The bigger rivers, such as the Chobe, still run but at much reduced levels. Away from water there were great tracts of barren dry low bushes with very little wildlife.