WildCam Africa Brings Wildlife to Your PC or Tablet
by Scotch Macaskill
Want to view some real African wildlife from the comfort of your home or office?
Well, all you need do is turn on your computer, sit back and take a "virtual" safari to Pete's Pond in Botswana's Mashatu Game Reserve - thanks to
WildCam Africa from Mashatu Game Reserve.
Update April 2013: Times change and so do the links to websites, but as of April 2013, I was able to watch action from here:
Pete's Pond Live Feed or from this Facebook page.
Update December 2008: The webcam now operates year round, in both the wet and dry seasons. During a
visit to Mashatu Game Reserve in December 2008, we visited the hide at Pete's Pond from which the webcam is operated and
spent some time chatting to Afke, the camera operator. See our blog post,
Visit to WildCam Africa to read more about Afke and her role in bringing live video footage to wildlife enthusiasts around the world.
Update August 2008: Good news is that the webcam from WildCam Africa is operational and, as it's again
nearing the end of the dry season (winter) in Botswana, there should be plenty of wildlife "traffic" visiting
Pete's Pond for you to view on your PC.
Pete's Pond - Background Info
It's near the end of the dry season in Mashatu, a 30,000-hectare (74,000-acre)
game reserve in the arid eastern corner of Botswana.
Soon the rains will (or should) come. But until those first, fat drops plop into the dry, dusty soil, any remaining
water acts like a magnet for thirsty animals.
And one such source of water is Pete's Pond, a small dam in the south of the reserve.
Previously used as a viewing spot by visitors on safari in Mashatu, Pete's Pond has been
taken over by National Geographic.
Pete's Pond - Click to enlarge.
So at the moment there're no visitors in the thatched "hide" (left) where eco-tourists would normally sit quietly in the
cool shade, watching the passing parade.
Instead, there's now a video camera permanently recording the activity along the water's edge -
elephants wallowing and drinking, wildebeest and antelope stretching to sip nervously,
guineafowl scurrying on the banks. The camera is either operated by volunteers or by remote control.
You can watch this fascinating wildlife scenario unfold on your computer screen, day and night, brought to you
by an always-on, satellite-to-website video camera. Even if there're no pictures of interest, you can listen to the
genuine sounds of the African bush, partiuclarly the many resident and visiting birds.
I've already spent a few hours watching the action, but have had to curtail my viewing - it's just too damn
addictive and can eat into one's time if you're not careful!
Unlike the older webcams where you had a fuzzy still image that "refreshed" every 30 or 60 seconds,
this is streaming video, so it's like watching a mini movie.
The camera is usually operated by volunteers, who will zoom in on the action, so you're almost guaranteed of seeing
animals and birds "live",
particularly in the mornings and late afternoons (see comparative times below).
A Visit to Pete's Pond
I've been fortunate to spend time at Rockcamp, a private lodge only a few miles from the pond.
On one of my visits, while the hide was still open to Mashatu visitors, I spent a quiet couple of hours in the hide,
enjoying the solitude and watching the animals making their way slowly towards the water from the sparse, surrounding bush.
The first to arrive were the impala, skittish as ever and easily alarmed.
Even a flock of guineafowl, energetically scratching for food near the water's edge,
would periodically cause a ripple of panic among the impala. Such is the life of an antelope in lion and leopard country.
Impala herd - Click to enlarge.
Impala and guineafowl - Click to enlarge.
Zebra in the Distance
More groups of impala followed at intervals, interspersed with waterbuck, a small herd of wildebeest,
a lone warthog, and the ever-present guineafowls. I could see zebra in the distance,
but they seemed in no rush for a drink.
Waterbuck female - Click to enlarge.
Thirsty Warthog - Click to enlarge.
Wildebeest herd - Click to enlarge.
Wildebeest quartet - Click to enlarge.
Start of the Dry Season
April is the start of the dry season, so there is still more water available at that time of the year
than in September/October. Although to me the visit was fruitful, in the couple of hours I was
there no elephant came to drink.
They make for great viewing at a waterhole because they not only drink gallons of water,
but turn the visit into a fun event that can include swimming, wallowing, playful bonding and
mock fights, spraying themselves, and generally cavorting around.
Click to enlarge.
If you connect to the WildCam and don't see elephant at first, it's certainly worth trying again.
There are large numbers in Mashatu and they have to have water, so they will come to Pete's Pond.
The picture on the left was taken in summer, when there is a lot more water round, but for these elephant,
the pond was still the best choice for refuelling.