Where Nature and Technology Collide

I woke up this morning and, in real-time, watched an elephant drink from a waterhole. A giraffe, haloed by the sun, captivated my attention. I didn’t even have to leave my home or change out of my oh-so-comfy pajamas to see any of this. The free website, africam.com, offers people all over the world the opportunity to witness the many intriguing and unique animals on their reserve. I am fascinated (and slightly obsessed)!

Sure, I could Google or search for videos of these animals on YouTube, but there is something magical about seeing these animals live and unedited. These magnificent creatures are doing their animal thing in the present moment, without humans around, and anyone with a screen and decent wifi connection can watch. It’s almost as cool as actually being there. Almost.

On this website (which accepts donations and does offer paid experiences), there are so many cool features. There are 8 live cameras set up around conservation reserves, and you can switch between them as you like. They even update the video snapshot every 30 seconds for the videos you aren’t watching. That way, if something comes onto the screen, you can switch over.

How cool is it to watch, in real-time, something living on the other side of the world? I once saw two lions that were covered in blood as they had just finished eating. I didn’t see what they had eaten (thank god), but I like to imagine it was poachers. I’ve watched baboons perch in a tree over a crocodile-infested river (though infested sounds harsh, doesn’t it?) to protect themselves from predators at night. Of course, I’m always afraid that one would get startled and fall out into the river. That’s a side of the animal world I don’t want to see! I watch them through my fingers as though Freddy Krueger might pop out at any moment.

Do you know what pure joy is?  Gazelle youngsters, that’s what. Gazelle youngsters are such a pleasure to watch as they leap around and play, not a care in the world. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and driving their herd crazy while they’re at it. It’s just a joyful thing to witness. No lions allowed, thank you very much.

The sounds of the birds and insects are very soothing as well. Usually. At times, it’s a raucous cacophony. Sometimes a mammal can be heard before it is seen. The camera pans around to find where the sound is coming from, sometimes finding it, sometimes not. The search, whether successful or not, is exciting.

africam photos slide

Once I heard a loud rumbling and expected to see a Jumanji style stampede burst into view. It turned out to be a safari-type jeep, tourists in tow, off on an adventure. Lucky them! I’ll admit, I’m just a little jealous. Okay, a lot jealous.

Don’t get too excited about seeing a rhino on live camera, though. When rhinos appear, the camera immediately cuts out or gets turned away (a sad but needed strategy to avoid alerting poachers to their whereabouts). I apparently turned on my screen at a time when the camera operator was taking a bathroom break or chatting with a co-worker. I watched the rhino for a few minutes before the camera was suddenly jerked away. I was left staring at a pole (an overcompensation, I imagine, before the operator caught their breath and shifted the camera again to a rhino-free grassy section of the view). I bet they didn’t leave their post again for a while.

If waiting around for an animal to appear on screen is not in your schedule, they also have video highlights. These play in a more digestible time frame for our present-day hustle and bustle culture. These are exciting as well, though they aren’t quite as suspenseful as the live cameras.

Still, the videos are a pleasure to watch; a hyena licking the camera (swear to god, you could see down his throat!), baboons and impalas sharing a waterhole inhabited by frogs, beautiful birds building nests, bull elephants trying to impress the ladies, and even a dung beetle pushing a ball of poop up a hill and comically tumbling back down with it.

You can take snapshots of anything you see, save them to your gallery, and share them with the Africam community. Or you can watch ranger videos to learn more about the animals. I also learned about the Black Mambas, the first all-female anti-poaching group. I know, right!?  Awesome!

With its roaming animals and soothing nature sounds, this site brings such pleasure to quiet moments. It helps remind me there is a whole, magical existence out there that I have yet to see. Someday I hope to (so long as I’m in a covered vehicle because, you know, lions…).

Surfin’ Safari

I’m in love with Africam! And no, this is not a promo for a service. I’m just overly excited because I’m a nerd.

I watch webcams on a site called Africam.com.  These webcams are set up at different South African game preserves (the kind that actually protect the animals from poaching and hunting — or so they say). These preserves are Tembe, Naledi, Idube, the Olifants River, and the Nkorho Pan; each protecting different kinds of the “big animals.”

I have to admit I’m hooked on these web-cams, and they’ve ignited a desire in me to go on a photo safari to these game preserves and see the magnificent animals there for myself, up close and personal.

I’ve been to zoos, of course, and even a couple of conservation sanctuaries. Most zoos today are a far cry from the tiny, dingy zoos of old where the poor animals, regardless of how big they were, had to exist in a cage that gave them just enough room to pace and that was it. Nowadays, zoos strive to give the animals substantial living space and protect their health as much as possible. However, they’re still not perfect and many if not most still have a long way to go before the whole concept of captive conservation can be considered truly successful and beneficial for the animals being held captive.

There’s simply no denying that actually seeing majestic lions, elegant leopards, lumbering elephants, and graceful giraffes – not to mention all the other wild animals – roaming about wild and free is a different kind of experience entirely. Even if it’s just on my computer screen.

I have to admit that I’ve yet to see “nature red in tooth and claw” during my voyeuristic endeavors. I haven’t seen a lion or leopard track down a beautiful antelope or giraffe and… well…eat it. For which I am eternally grateful, I must say. I live with that dread each time I log in, but so far, that part of nature has eluded me and I’m not sorry.  I did come on to a scene right after two lions, who apparently travel together, had done just that. I could see the blood on their mouths, manes, and feet as they lazed about, but at least I missed the action!

africam allows the user to take “snapshots” of the action – like this one of the two lions I mentioned

 

nap time after eating

 

getting a drink while his friend naps

 

there’s just no privacy anywhere anymore

What I really like to watch are the elephants. They are so huge, so magnificent, and so gentle with each other…although having said that there’s a baboon troupe that comes to this one watering hole all of the time (early morning Africa time) and the little ones are simply adorable to watch, so comical in their antics.

family trip to the watering hole

 

my favorite

 

I just love elephants

One thing that has me shaking my head most often is the sheer volume of noise. The birds – I’m assuming they are birds though sometimes it may be monkeys – are so incredibly loud!  When I have the volume up it drives my dogs crazy as they try figure out what could possibly be making those sounds.

The calls, from these birds, monkeys or whatever, can be so eerie sometimes, something out of a creepy movie. And then sometimes they’re quite funny because they sound like human laughter (which I guess really should be sort of creepy). Whatever is making the sounds, and why they are making them, I have no idea – whether they are having conversations with each other, warning of predators, warning other birds to stay away…all I know is that it’s always very, very loud. And they have a lot to say apparently as they’re constantly chattering.

One of the webcams is situated close to where people stay when on vacation, so when the camera pans around, you can see the lodges. They are pretty cool – and I like to imagine myself sometimes being in one of them myself.

But while I like this particular webcam for that reason, I also kind of dislike it for that reason because I want to see animals, not jeeps full of people leaving for their photo safaris.  (I know they are going off on a photo safari because I can see that they are all carrying cameras, not rifles!) The webcam can’t distinguish between animals and people – it’s activated by motion sensors and records everything, so you see it all whether you want to or not.

There’s a bit of techno-love here, I admit. Okay, more than a bit. I just find it amazing that I’m watching something on my computer that is actually happening a world away, while I’m relaxing cozily in bed. AND it involves animals. A win-win.