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Stoicism in a sandstorm. A Namaqua chameleon must endure a harsh Namib wind that sent the photographer and crew scurrying for their vehicle. Namib Desert, Namibia. © Dewald Tromp. Photographer of the Year 2023 runner-up

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Bountiful Busanga Plains + epic photos + Moremi magic

Last week I mentioned a rather hilarious gorilla encounter in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. That got me thinking of the difference between encounters with habituated and non-habituated gorillas. Chalk and cheese. Of course, both types of encounter are with wild gorillas, but the habituation aspect of gorilla encounters in Uganda and Rwanda does result in a different experience.

During a recent expedition to Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo-Brazzaville, I was lucky enough to encounter non-habituated western lowland gorillas on several occasions. All of these encounters were while waiting patiently – often for many hours – in observation towers on the edge of forest clearings known as baïs. The gorillas will often leave immediately if you disturb them, sometimes screaming blue murder – a cacophony that assaults the eardrums and echoes in the confines of the baïs.

Of course habituated gorilla encounters are one of the world’s best wildlife encounters – which I recommend highly – and they raise significant amounts of money to keep mountain gorillas safe. That said, having thoroughly enjoyed both types of encounter for what they are, I found the ‘wilder’ experience in Odzala-Kokoua refreshing and less intrusive.

Simon Espley – CEO, Africa Geographic

From our Editor – Taryn van Jaarsveld

And now for something completely macabre… In ancient Greece, the Scythians would sew together the scalps of their enemies to make cloaks. This is one of the earliest accounts of such morbid behaviour. But there is a creature in Africa that can one-up the Scythians – by wearing a backpack made up of the bodies of its victims.

Acanthaspis petax is an assassin bug found in Kenya and Tanzania that disguises itself by covering its body in corpses. The bug is often seen moving around with this “backpack” on its abdomen – usually made up of the empty corpses of ants. Researchers think this acts as olfactory camouflage for when the bug is hunting other ants, or as a visual distraction for larger creatures trying to hunt the bug. At least this “defense mechanism” proves very effective in deterring predators…

Below, check out Irene Amiet’s travel diary from Busanga Plains, the jewel of Kafue, and don’t miss the magnificent photos from this week’s Photographer of the Year selection.

Story 1
Busanga Plains in Kafue NP is brimming with wildlife, yet not overwhelmed by tourists. Read Irene Amiet’s travel diary from this Zambian safari spot

Story 2
Check out our Photographer of the Year entries for Week 5. Enter for a chance to win a safari and to have a lion research collar sponsored in your name

Travel desk TRAVEL DESK: 

Let us take you on an adventure. Fancy seeing all Namibia has to offer? Or perhaps experiencing the glamping safari of your dreams? Check out these once-in-a-lifetime safaris:

Experience the best of Namibia, from the red dunes of Sossusvlei and the wildlife of Etosha to the prolific bird life in Walvis Bay’s coastal wetlands. Over 13 days, your private guide will reveal the majesty of Namibia, its phenomenal wildlife and compelling historical and cultural diversity. You will have plenty of time to explore this vast country, meet local people and experience Namibia’s fauna and flora.
This is the glamping safari that dreams are made of: six days in the intoxicating Okavango Delta on a fully catered mobile safari. You’ll be led by experienced guides while exploring Khwai Community Concession and Moremi Game Reserve. Go in search of the big cats and wild dogs in the dry woodlands and floodplains, and glide down meandering waterways in a mokoro in search of hippos, elephants and avian candy.
Or searching for another African experience? We have plenty of ready-made African safaris to choose from.

WATCH: Odzala-Kokoua National Park is an epic destination for experiencing Congo-Brazzaville’s secretive wildlife species such as western lowland gorillas and forest elephants. Camp Imbalanga, nestled under the shady canopy of enormous trees, is an unfenced forest camp a short walk from Imbalanga Baï – one of many baïs in the park. (01:54) Click here to watch

For more videos celebrating Africa, check out our videos here

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