For most of our professional lives we have traveled the world documenting tropical reefs. We’ve explored more than 40 countries and photographed hundreds of coral species, fish, marine mammals, and even had new damselfish species named for each of us.
Then, in 2014 we traveled to Africa for the first time. From the moment we stood awestruck before Victoria Falls, we fell in love with Africa’s stunningly diverse beauty and its great gatherings of animals.
The Okavango River flows from Angola and crosses into Botswana via Namibia where it creates a changeable and complex ecosystem. River channels appear and disappear, cracks in the earth open and close with tectonic plate movement and the change of seasons. Animals must adjust to these changes and alter their daily wanderings in search of water and prey.
When we visited the Savute area of Okavango in 2014, the infamous Savute channel was flowing. Elephants came to camp nightly to frolic in the gushing water. The marsh was lush, full of waterfowl and buffaloes.
When we returned in 2017, the channel was closed, the marsh completely dry. Elephants concentrated around the few remaining water holes, providing excellent photographic opportunities, but Savute’s drought was stressful for many. There were few decent places for buffaloes or hippos to congregate, and grazing animals like antelopes and zebras fed continuously on dry, nutrient poor grasses. As the water-loving animals moved on, other species moved in. We saw many more big cats, lions, cheetahs and leopards this past year.
In Botswana, we also visited the Moremi area of the Okavango and Chobe National Park, set on the banks of the Chobe River. We thrilled at wild dogs surrounding their prey, lions stalking wart hogs, leopards feasting on antelope.
Everyone who goes to Africa expects to see animals, but one of the great thrills is the surprise of seeing animals doing things: mating, hunting, playing.
Several million animals also roam the varied landscape of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, perhaps the embodiment of our classic vision of what Africa should look like. At night, drowsy in our tents, we listened apprehensively as lions roared and hippos grunted. During the day we moved between kopjes, rock outcroppings, where the big cats lazed while digesting their nightly feasts.
Created in 1940, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park protects over half of the Serengeti’s ecosystem and is witness to the great migration cycle of wildebeests between Tanzania and Kenya. Predators follow migrating herds, and this season is a photographer’s delight.
It is important to remember that while our images show the glory of African wildlife, they also document Africa’s iconic species in decline. Today there are only about 450,000 elephants in Africa, down from over a million in the 1980s and multiple millions at the beginning of the 20th century. Lions have lost about 60 percent of the population in the past hundred years.
The dream of modern Africa is for its wildlife and people to coexist and flourish together.
About the presenters
Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock are award-winning photojournalists who specialize in documenting tropical marine life and pioneering remote dive destinations. Since 1992 they have explored the Indonesian archipelago, recording images of its spectacular reefs, while promoting sustainable marine tourism as one way to preserve these regions’ unsurpassed marine life.
Their photography has been featured on the covers of more than a dozen of the world’s most prestigious publications. Secret Sea, the first large format collection of their photography, has won several publishing awards including the Benny Award for best photography book.
In 2012, Maurine was inducted into the Women’s Diving Hall of Fame. In 2015 a new species of damselfish was named for Maurine, honoring her photojournalism and conservation work. In 2017, Burt’s contributions were honored with a new damselfish species named for him.
Seeking a different kind of adventure Burt and Maurine first travelled to Africa in 2014. Africa immediately captivated them, and in 2017 they returned to explore and document Botswana and Tanzania. Their Traveler’s Journal presentation will highlight their amazing journey through these wild places.
About the presentations
Traveler’s Journal is a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition with local adventurers sharing their stories and photos with you. All of the money raised is used to buy project supplies and food for the volunteers working on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Admission is $5 adults, youths 18 and under free. Shows start at 7 p.m. in the Sequim High School Library at 601 N. Sequim Ave. The seating is chairs and some people bring their own cushions.
Each year the dream of a continuous trail from Port Townsend to Forks gets a little closer. In 2017, about 200 volunteers put in more than 9,000 hours of labor on the trail.