The Places I've Been

The Places I've Been

A spot to preserve my memories

Pendjari Safari #6

Thursday, February 14, 2008
This trip was with Matt & Dave along with Aidan, Elijah, Asher and Gabriel. The highlights included 2 lions (it was too dark for pictures), a great buffalo crossing, a lone bull elephant encounter which I viewed from up top on Matt's Landcruiser, and tons of birds; especially exciting was my first sighting of a Violet Turaco!

Matt made up for honking at the lions we saw by orchestrating an exciting buffalo crossing. When these things get moving, it is quite a sight to behold!

This guy was beautiful and liked playing with us. The posturing that took place between him and the Landcruiser was classic to watch, and finally the big guy crossed about 20 feet in front of us.
He showed his temper a little bit with this trunk swing, but he was generally in a good mood.
Here he wasn't even reaching for anything; he was just showing off!
The Violet Turaco in flight, a truly gorgeous bird!
This little warthog describes exactly how I feel posting these pictures: I just wanna hurry up and get back to Pendjari!

The Searcy International Squirrel Sanctuary

Thursday, January 17, 2008
Also known as Harding's front lawn, this is one of the least exotic Places I've Been. When I was a student, I spent lots of time watching, chasing, badgering, pestering and trying to eliminate Harding's excessive front lawn squirrel population, and it was time well spent.

The Masai Mara

Friday, November 16, 2007
This past summer, after a tough survey trip to southern Sudan, the group I was with spent 2 days at the Masai Mara game park in Kenya. It was amazing in it's own way, but you're not going to hear any jealously in my voice when I talk about this safari versus the West African safaris that I am more used to.
Just to get this out of the way so I can move on to extolling the virtues of The Masai Mara: It was very much like a zoo, while the experiences we have at Pendjari, Nazinga, and (soon) the W parks are much more wild and untamed. I am more of a fan of the latter, but the former also has it's place and it's own virtues...

First great thing is the grand scale of Masai Mara. It is spread out, wide open and easy to navigate. There are animals everywhere, so if you don't spot anything, you must be blind. We happened to be there at just the right time of year, and we had an incredible time watching the annual wildebeest migration.

What really makes The Mara is the big cats. Everyone wants to see the lions, cheetahs and leopards, and the park has them in pretty good numbers. We saw lion and cheetah, but the leopards are just too shifty for more than a handful of people each year to lay eyes on...

Speaking of eyes, that it was I was struck hardest with about East African safaris. Yeah, you may see something, but if it's good, 50-100 other people see it too, and at the same time as you. The drivers have radios, and when they see something good, they radio it out, and dozens of vans and SUV's roll to the scene with a quickness. This shot here really embodies it: Yeah, we saw this lion, but so did everybody else. It was about as NON-intimate as it could possibly be. As a hardcore safariist(new word), I prefer my animal encounters to be intimate, just me and a few friends and some lions. Or some angry elephants ;)
On another note, zebras are cool. And I've decided that they are white with black stripes, not black with white stripes...
Cheetahs. I really wanted to see cheetahs. On our way out, we saw them. It wasn't dramatic, but it was cool. No less than 25 vans and SUV's were following the same 3 kitties, but it was still cool to see them. Cheetahs are very solitary, so it was a rare treat to see 3 young males out laughing at the tourists together...
Matt and his Masai friend were funny. Matt knew him from his previous trip to The Mara, and for some reason that I cannot explain they ended up in a foot race. Matt is not track star, but he gave Masai man a run for his money, although I'm pretty sure the Masai guy was just humoring him...

Giraffes! So tall and majestic!So in summary, The Masai Mara is UH-mazing, but I'm glad it's not my home park. I'll take Pendjari and it's hidden treasures over sharing my experience with 100 crackers I've never met before any day of the week. The Mara has it's purpose, and it serves it well, but I'm glad that for now my home is in West Africa, a truly wild frontier.

Nazinga National Park, Burkina Faso, West Africa

Friday, September 14, 2007
This video pretty much sums it up. Amazing park; beautiful, wild, remote and full of animals just waiting to be encountered. This is no zoo like those East and South African "parks"...

Pendjari Safari #3, Family Style

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
My 3rd trip to Pendjari National Park in Benin was hands down the best! You can read more about the adventure at our family blog and you can see lots more pics with descriptions on Facebook at I'm just going to post pics here so enjoy!

Flashback: Bauemersgulley Extravaganza!!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007
In both 2005 & 2006, we were blessed to be able to spend long weekends in the mountains around Gatlinburg, Tennessee with our good friends Mike & Ann Baur and Matt & Nikki Gulley. Mike is my best friend and one of the best guys you will ever meet, and he and Ann have been very special to us for a long time now. Matt was in Knights with me at Harding, and he and Nikki were a part of a very tight group of young marrieds who met for Bible study and discussion each Sunday for about a year just before we left Searcy.
Mike's Aunt and Uncle own this sweet cottage in the Smokies called "The Blessing", and they let Mike and his family use it for free whenever they want. This thing is totally pimped out with a jacuzzi, pool table, huge screen TV with satellite cable, and 3 large and comfortable bedrooms. All that to go with an amazing view, beautiful sunsets, and all of the ridiculous yet magnetic cheesiness of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge just 20 minutes away!
These two trips we took together with the Baurs and Gulleys were very special times for all of us. For us, it is bittersweet to think about our memories there because we know that we will not get to go back there with our friends for quite sometime. Even as I write, I'm getting that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you think about things you love and miss. I have to rely on God to give me peace because He has called us to Togo and we're not turning back.
So here's to intense games of charades and Catchphrase, running riot and going on killing sprees in Halo, big breakfasts, sharing beautiful sunsets with dear friends, hiking to the waterfall, long talks while turning to prunes in the jacuzzi, trips to the movie theater in Pigeon Forge ("Ricky Bobby"!), leaving irresistible snacks out on the grill for the raccoons, worshipping and praying together, and never wanting it to end. I love you all, may God continue to bless your families as you walk with Him!

PS: I also have to give props to the Looches for always making it over from Knoxville for a day. You guys rock!

Pendjari National Park

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Pendjari is a game park in northern Benin, about 3 hours from Kara. It's a true safari experience; those East African safari parks are nothing more than big outdoor zoos, with animals just sitting around and lazily watching yet another batch of cheesy tourists drive by in the Sam's Safaris tour bus. In West Africa, you have to work for it and you get to drive around by yourself with no guide and few rules, which makes the animal encounters you have much more exciting...So anyways, here are some pics from the trip. My teammates Bryan and Dave and I went for 2 days with their older boys, Isaac, Graham, and Elijah. We had a blast, seeing lots of big mammals and countless beautiful birds. Yes, I've gotten into bird watching, mostly because my teammates are into it, but also because West Africa is home to a huge number of rare and beautiful birds.
This is just a small sampling of what we saw. Pendjari is only 3 hours away, so this may become a habit...