Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Camera gear I take on a hunting safari in Africa

After four African safaris, I'm willing to share my advice on cameras, gear and equipment for hunters and the non-hunters who go with them.

My new camera is a Pentax k200d DSLR. I stepped up to DSLR from point-and-shoot just this year. Long, long ago in the dark ages, I had a film SLR from Pentax, so this new camera is like going full circle.

I will admit that I use the two lens kit that came with my camera, even though camera snobs will not be impressed. The Pentax 15-55mm wide angle zoom was terrific for landscapes with a wide open feeling. I have a polarizing filter for it, and that helps cut down on glare from water and to enhance the sky in most settings.

The second lens is a Tamron 100-300mm zoom. That was also a big step up in zoom range from my last camera. I always find myself wanting more zoom! But there is a limit, and the 300 is pretty big. Not sure I would go with any larger of a zoom, unless I can handle it and make sure it is compact enough to carry comfortably.

Fighting dust and preventing damage

I take a lens pen and a microfiber cleaning cloth. I also specifically chose the Pentax for its reputation for quality weather sealing. That won't stop the dust you gain when you change lenses. I see now that I should have run the self-cleaning shaker function, probably each evening.

Before I left, I put a screen protector over the big back LCD, because my old one got scratched in Africa. The screen protector I found was made for a Palm PDA, but was more than big enough, so I trimmed it down.

Power and recharging
My Pentax uses AA batteries, and that was another big reason I chose it. In a pinch, AAs are available all over the earth.

I brought two sets of rechargeables, plus one set of lightweight lithiums. The recharger is compatible with world voltages, and it has a car adapter. Most safaris involve at least some driving, so you can recharge even where there isn't standard electricity. I also took a European plug adapter, and that worked most places in Namibia, as well as for the layover in Frankfurt, Germany.

You can never have too much memory. An 8GB SDHC card gives me almost 2000 photos, so I took two of them. Safaris present all kinds photo opportunities, so go prepared.

Camera Bag
I bought a Crumpler Four Million Dollar Home from eBags just for my Pentax and lenses. It holds all the gear, except the recharger (which stays in the car or in the tent). That carried my equipment while on airplanes and while riding in the truck. When walking, I put the camera strap over my shoulder, and slipped the big lens into the pocket of my cargo pants.

Point and Shoot Backup Camera
I still take my old Olympus D765 UltraZoom as a backup camera. Because it is small and a bit less obtrusive, I used it to take pictures of people this trip. But it was my main camera on the two previous safaris, and it does take great shots!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Namibia: Trophy Hunters Bring in Millions

New Era (Windhoek)

Wezi Tjaronda

Trophy hunting in Namibia is estimated to generate around N$500 million per year.

Hunting quotas given to communal area conservancies in the past two years earned the conservancies around N$11 million per year. In addition to employment creation, goods and services and taxation, it is estimated that income from trophy hunting is much more and is expected to be around N$500 million.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism's strategic plan document released last week said trophy hunting on freehold land continued to generate considerable foreign currency.

"Trophy hunting continues to be an important economic driver in rural areas," said the document.

In the past two years, the ministry awarded 20 big game quotas to conservancies.

Trophy hunting, which falls under conservation and wildlife successes, is listed as one of the ministry's achievements in the past 10 years.

The other achievements include environmental protection, sustainable land management and environmental sustainability of production systems, conservation of species and habitats and protected areas, community-based natural resource management programmes and tourism.

By last year, Namibia's protected area network was expected to cover 17 percent of the country. In addition to 19 percent, which is the area covered by communal area conservancies, around 36 percent of Namibia is under some form of conservation management.

"Most of the land within Namibia's diversified protected area network have pragmatic conservation management objectives that instead of locking away natural assets, have provided the engine for much of the tourism-related economic activity," the strategic plan said.

Namibia has 29 vegetation types, of which 21 have at least 10 percent of their area within the protected area network, six of the country's biomes have at least 20 percent of their areas protected while 32 percent of each of the Namibia's wetlands habitat fall within the protected area network.

The ministry said there are signs that rare and endangered species are increasing in number and expanding back into areas where they have previously been eliminated.

Among these areas is the northwest, where the antelope population has increased while free ranging black rhinos are also registering a healthy population and are no longer subjected to poaching like before. The country also has a healthy population of elephants with almost no incidences of poaching even though they live outside protected areas.

"Wildlife on freehold land has also increased over the past decade and places are at such high levels that they can support a quality wildlife-based tourism and trophy hunting," it added.

Since the passing of conservancy legislation in 1996, 50 communal area conservancies have been formed covering more than 118704 square kilometres.

During 2005 alone, community participants raked in N$26.1 million in financial benefits while private sector partners generated a turnover of almost N$70 million. It is estimated that the net income generated by the operations exceeded N$140 million.

The community-based natural resource management programme does not only empower marginalised communities through decision-making and institutional development, but also builds skills and capacity, provides jobs and generates income at community level.

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