Canoeing with Elephants

http://As good as it gets, an afternoon in Botswana canoeing with National Geographic filmmakers & Explorers in Residence, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, as elephants come to the river to drink.  Roger Miller sang, “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd”, but as I found out can go canoeing in a buffalo herd and an elephant herd to create an unforgettable experience.  When the action began I was thinking it doesn’t get any better than this, but it did as more elephants kept showing up.  It was the perfect day at Selinda Explorers Camp.

Breaking Up With An Icy Mistress

 

It started like so many relationships, nothing serious just having a little fun together, and then you wouldn’t leave. Despite my telling you that your embrace left me cold you repeatedly insisted on wrapping me in your icy grip. Our days together stretched into months & I feared I might never again feel the warmth I craved.  But today, hope. The sun came out & you announced plans to leave town.  Goodbye snow, & ice, & cold. No need to return, I have pictures and memories of our time together.  I’ll post them here as a reminder not to miss you.

Tikal Mayan Ruins Tour

Long before Columbus arrived in the New World the Mayan civilization flourished across Central America.  They had a form of writing, an appreciation of art, an advanced understanding of astronomy, and of course that famous Mayan calendar.  They also left behind some impressive stone temples & pyramids. One of their most famous cities is Tikal in Guatemala. I took a tour of the site with Mariela Mayen, the only woman working as a full time guide at Tikal. Here’s at look at some of the stone structures and the interview I did with Mariela for National Geographic Weekend.

Botswana Then & Now: 20th Anniversary Trip

 

To paraphrase the Beatles, It was 20 yrs. ago today that the Jourberts taught me to play…. in Botswana.  It was my 1st trip for National Geographic and the film camp for Dereck & Beverly Joubert in Botswana was my first stop.  They introduced me to their neighbors, some of Africa’s most famous wildlife, lions, hippos, and elephants by taking me right up the neighbors front door, close enough to almost shake hands with them.

It was an experience that hooked me on Africa & has lured me back to the continent almost every year since.   This past year I returned for a 20th anniversary reunion with the Jouberts at the site where we first met.  This is an interview we did reflecting on those 20 year old experiences and looking at the changes their films have helped bring to conservation in Africa.  There are some scenes from that 1994 trip here, but also some new images showing how the Jouberts are still getting closer to the animals than you could imagine possible to bring you intimate portraits of Africa’s wildlife.  The full interview is on my radio show National Geographic Weekend this week.

USO Rocks Iraq with Kid Rock

 

When I boarded the C130 in Kuwait headed for Saddam Hussein airport in Baghdad I had no idea I was heading to one of the most memorable concerts I would ever attend.  None of the entertainers on the plane with me who were part of a USO tour had any what was about to happen either.  It was 2003 & I was there to help film the largest USO show in history.  But on this day only part of the tour was on the plane, merely expecting to land, shake hands & pose for pictures.  However thousands of troops were waiting at the airport expecting to see a show.  The soldiers had built a stage and brought instruments so Kid Rock stepped up & led an impromptu classic rock show.  The location, the spontaneity, the energy & appreciativeness of the crowd combined to create an unforgettable concert.

Andrae Crouch Gospel Medley-home movies

 

Andrae Crouch was one of the most gifted songwriters and performers I’ve every met. And in reporting on the music business for a few years at the Today Show I met a lot of musicians.  We were also good friends for decades and often when a group of us would get together we’d challenge Andrae to write a song on the spot.  Without fail he’d come through, with melody, lyrics, & usually a chorus that had a hook which would stick in your mind the rest of the night.  Of course his best songs were the gospel tunes that made him famous and became embedded in hearts and hymnals.  This video has 4 of those gospels songs beginning with the 1st one he ever wrote at the age of 14 and ends with one of the last songs he wrote.  I filmed this as his house about 3 yrs. ago.  He was in bad health, his throat raw, voice scratchy, but the genius of his talent was not diminished.  I recorded this for my own memories, but after his death I thought I should share this intimate moment with Andrae.

The Miracle of the Jesus Bird

 

The Jesus Bird performs a miracle & it’s not walking on water, although that apparent skill earned the African Jacana its nickname.  As I was filming these birds one hot afternoon in Botswana I though the miracle I need is for these birds to turn this water into wine or at a minimum turn some of it into ice.  No luck there, but I did learn about one truly miraculous evolutionary development of the female Jacana revealed in this video. #GreatPlainsConservation #Botswana

Dog Paddling Cats

You can lead a cat to water, but can you make him swim? Well when swimming is the only way to get to their next meal some big cats in Botswana have adapted to the life aquatic. Having once tried to give my cat a bath, I have the scratch marks to prove most cats have a real aversion to taking a dip, but these Botswana lions have learned to dog paddle their way across the rivers and wetlands of the Okavango Delta.

I recently spent a few days following the lions at #DubaPlains and filming their swimming and wading in the water.  It was a scene I first filmed seven years ago and some of the cubs from that time are still splashing around today.  They’ve also passed on their swimming ways to a new generation of lions.  And when I traveled to #SelindaExplorers in Northern Botswana, I encountered another pride of lions who’ve adapted to living in a watery environment and added swimming to their hunting repertoire.

Baby Elephant Walk

In spite of the old saying, not everyone has to learn to crawl before they walk. In fact if you’re a newborn elephant you’re expected to hit the ground running or at least staggering fast enough to keep up with the herd. Here’s some video I shot in #Botswana of a baby elephant, just a few hours old, as he put on a show, stumbling around, falling in hole and basically giving a physical definition to the term cute. #SelindaExplorers #GreatPlainsConservation

Among the Sugar Pines: Ethan Johns

 

Ethan Johns stopped by National Geographic to talk about his new album and sing a couple of the songs.  This is one of the tunes, “Among the Sugar Pines”.  The interview runs this weekend on my radio show National Geographic Weekend.  Johns is also a recording engineer and music producer like his father Glyn Johns who working with many of the big acts of the 60’s & 70’s, artists like the Stones, the Beatles, Clapton, Zeppelin, The Who, The Eagles, Dylan, The Band and scores of others.