My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mark and Lori's Excellent African Adventure

A few years ago, after watching the movie The Bucket List my wife Lori and I created our own Bucket Lists. We had three adventures in common: going on Safari, watching polar bears in Churchill Manitoba and visiting the Galapagos Islands. In late October we crossed the Safari entry off our lists, as we traveled to Botswana and South Africa for a couple weeks. The trip was ostensibly for the purpose of going on safari; however, since we figured we had traveled so far, we included sometime in beautiful Cape Town.

In one word the trip was awesome. Our safari experience actually exceeded our high expectations and our lodge/camp accommodations were excellent. However, in all honesty, it was also exhausting. We had twelve plane rides over those couple weeks, a seven hour time difference and many 5:00 am safari starts to our day.

Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing our trip highlights together with some of the beautiful pictures my wife (the photographer of the family) took. So if you came to the blog for the usual tax/financial discussion and are not interested in my African experiences, check back January 19th, when I will be writing about the uplifting topic of death and taxes.

Planning the Trip

I started planning this trip a year or so ago. I spoke to many people who had gone on Safari to South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. I also read through many comments on tripadvisor, several articles and various blogs on safaris. I was able to narrow down where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. However, I was a little overwhelmed with all the various offerings. I was having trouble putting everything together in a coherent travel plan and making the appropriate camp/lodge selections. Luckily, we were referred to Cheryl Gould, a South African working for Lion World Travel in Toronto, a company that specializes in South Africa. Cheryl listened to our needs, provided us excellent suggestions and alternatives, and put together a wonderful itinerary. Cheryl also co-ordinated our Botswana tour operator, Wilderness Safaris and our South Africa tour operator, Thompson's Africa. Both operators were first class in respect of transport, pick-ups and tours.


We decided to visit two camps in Botswana, the Kwetsani Camp in the Jao District in the Okavango Delta and the Savuti Camp in the Linyanti Reserve along the Savuti Channel. Kwetsani provided us with many highlights and memories; however, it proved to be a lot less bloody than our experiences in Savuti and Kruger Park which I will recount in the next two blogs.

Kwetsani Camp

To get to Kwetsani, we flew from Johannesburg to Maun on a commercial airline and from Maun we took a small ten-seater type plane to an airfield in the bush.

Kwetsani is one of the most remote camps in the Okavango. It’s situated on an island and is considered more of a wet camp, as opposed to Savuti which was considered more of a dry camp. We arrived just at the end of the “dry season". They had not yet had any rain in Kwetsani, but never fear, the Goodfields brought rain, which was appreciated by the residents and animals, but initially not so much by us.

We were picked up by our guide Dennis Smith at the airstrip and taken to the camp. The camp is managed by the husband and wife team of Dan (a well-respected wildlife photographer) and Charmaine (a wildlife activist) Myburg. Our assigned room, or more accurately described as a tented tree house, provided us with a beautiful view of the delta together with our neighbors, the baboons. 

Red lechwe, kudo, elephants and zebras casually grazed around us during our first safari. As we were returning from our safari, Dennis pointed out lion prints in the sand and told us these lions had been gone ten days and he was happy to see them back and we would track them the next day. 

The next morning we headed out at dawn for our safari with Dennis. As we had brought rain, it was actually cold and damp, a weather condition that seemed to follow us our whole trip. Despite the weather, we still managed to see an ostrich and her baby, bushbuck, a wart hog hiding in a hole, hippos, wildebeests, zebras, elephants and we tracked a buffalo (see picture below) to a watering hole. We were quite pleased with the results of this safari.
At lunch, Dan provided Lori with some much appreciated tips on photographing animals. In case you are wondering, my job was to video tape. 

Around 4:00pm we set out on another safari, this time with the sole intention of tracking the lions. After a half hour or so Dennis found them.

There were four cubs, one male and three female and two lionesses. For the next couple hours we just stayed with them (I learned an important part of a Safari is just being patient and waiting for something to happen or not). I was impressed with the love and attention the lionesses had for their cubs and how playful they were. They would play fight and roll over on their stomachs just like a cat or dog. At one point the lionesses saw some elephants in the distance and jumped up with interest. We were not sure if they were going to hunt them. However, they settled back. A little while later, the male cub saw a mongoose and started tracking it for a kill. Dennis said he was still learning and it would be 50/50 if he would catch the mongoose. Eventually the mongoose got away, but it was interesting to watch the cub learn how to hunt.

As you can tell by the pictures, we were very close to the Lions. I would say 5 to 20 feet at various times. Dennis carried no weapons. I personally was a bit confused. Lions are deadly predators and I was sitting in a range rover with no protection just a few feet away.  I was thinking, are these Lion’s really untamed or have they been tamed over the years by human interaction?

Dennis, Charmaine and Dan later clarified this issue for me. They explained  that after years of seeing humans in range rovers, the animals and their offspring were used  to the vehicles and do not see them as a threat. However, should you get up suddenly from your seat or get out of the vehicle, the animal will either run off or attack you. 

That night we were very lucky. The camp was in between guests and we had Charmaine and Dan all to ourselves at dinner. We found out that they are in the process of putting a fascinating book together. The book features Dan’s awesome wildlife photographs and Charmaine’s poetry. The poems express an animal’s perspective of threats to them and their environment, such as how they feel as they are shot and killed in a canned hunt.

Canned Hunting is defined by Wikipedia as “a trophy hunt, in which an animal is kept in a confined area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill". From what I understand, people raise lion cubs (or other animals) on ranches until one day they are let out in the "wild". The freed lion is baited with food into the shooting range of a hunter who has paid for the right to kill the Lion. Lori and I were quite taken aback by this concept.

After telling us about their book, Charmaine an engaging storyteller recounted an amazing story about the lions of Kwetsani. We learned there is an interesting natural order selection process going on and she shared with us the miracle of the survival of the cubs we had just seen and the history of the lion pride in the area. The cubs born the last few years had either drowned or been eaten by crocodiles crossing the flood waters. We were fascinated and grateful for her insight and now understood how important these lions were to the Kwetsani region why they were so very dear to Charmaine, Dan and Dennis.

The next day we said our goodbyes and were taken to the airfield and flown to Savuti, where the action quotient would be raised to a whole other level.

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  1. Excellent Mark. Thanks for sharing. Been waiting for this for a while. I don't even call it hunting, it's disgusting the canned hunting. I assume at the other camps you noticed things that were not pleasant.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the trip and noticed that many times these "animals" are perhaps more human than us. I always tell my wife that people many times are worse than these so-called wild animals. What amazes me about the Lions is how they conduct themselves.

    I can only imagine the jet lag.

    I look forward to your coming posts.

    1. Hi Anon

      Thx. Yes, the Lions are quite amazing to watch. If I am being fair, I was talking to a guide about the Canned Hunting and they said that you can look at it that it actually saves lions. Their thoughts were that if a canned kill occurs, one lion dies, even if disgusting. However, if a male lion is killed by a hunter in the wild, another male comes, kills the male cubs and thus, more lions are actually killed.

  2. I can see your and their point of view. My thoughts are that the canned kill is controlled while a kill in the wild is not controlled. But then again that would be lack of enforcement and education.

    I remember taking an environmental management course and based on all the readings and research, the wildlife parks in Africa on a whole actually do more harm than good not just for the animals but for disease transmission. There's a reason why you have these Ebola and other outbreaks. But I still believe it's lack of education and "good" environmental policy. Let's just say I have a healthy dose of the accountant's skepticism to many things.

    But I digress and the key here is that you all enjoyed your trip and learned a few things. One thing I would like to do, is climb Kilimanjaro, heard some great stories from my old geography teacher from high school who climbed it a couple of years ago. Up for it?

    1. Hi Anon

      Not really my point of view, just providing alternate view. At one point I was considering Kilimanjaro, my sister in law did it this year. However, after climbing the James Callahan trail at Gross Morne Park 2 summers ago, I think that is my level of climb and Kilimanjaro is probably a bit more than I can handle at this point.

  3. Thanks for your trip details Mark. Lori took nice photos. I didn't realize you could get that close to lions.

    Canned hunting make death and taxes look civilized. Do you know what happens to unwanted, abused or injured exotic animals in Canada? Some are at the Bear Creek Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary near Barrie.

    Our Bucket List includes camping (because I don't get to make the list). We explored the back country of Algonquin this summer and the front country of Silent Lake this fall. Winter camping is next month. Today we found out our yurt collapsed and we'll be in a cabin instead.I don't think we'll need to worry about lions or bears.

    1. Thanks Promod,

      Winter camping, based on today's weather, now that is a true Canadian adventure.