Time for a new “Sidekick”?

With all of the hoopla going on today regarding the imminent release of the 2nd generation Apple iPad, there is another story about a smartphone that is being thrown out into the trash heap of history. This is the T-Mobile Sidekick. And although the Sidekick phone itself was discontinued in July, 2010, it was just announced that the entire cloud system that runs the Sidekick will be turned off on May 31st. That means that anyone who is still using one will lose all of their functionality after that date with the exception of basic calling and text messaging features. This closure also means the end of the Sidekick catalog where users could download apps for their phones similar to what you see on the iPhone and Android app stores.

This is interesting news coming from T-Mobile. Even though they did pull the Sidekicks from their stores last year, they did just announce in mid January that a new Sidekick would be unveiled in 2011 on the Android platform. It would be souped up and have a faster HSPA+ data access at up to 84 Mbits/sec. T-Mobile even had a name for it – the Sidekick 4G. Why was T-Mobile even revamping a phone that got its start way back in 2002 and has seen much better days? Well, because the maker of the Sidekick phone, Danger, was co-founded by the Google Android guru, Andy Rubin. So, with that history, and the fact that Android has really caught on in the smartphone market, the whole deal came full circle and started to make sense.

The T-Mobile Sidekick LX

The T-Mobile Sidekick LX

Although I personally never see anyone walking around with a Sidekick anymore, they did have some of the best user interfaces back in the 2004-2005 era when most other feature phones had clunky and confusing interfaces. But the old saying is true that you can never sit on your laurels. The Sidekick wasn’t quick enough to start integrating the 3G or GPS features that other smart phone manufacturers began introducing in 2007. In fact, it wasn’t until 2009 when the Sidekick LX came along that they finally caught up. But it was too late by then. The iPhone and its knockoffs had already changed the mobile market by then. The rest of course, is history.

T-Mobile has said that they are working out a way for their current Sidekick users a transition plan to port over their service to another phone without losing all of their information.

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Palm’s Rebirth…As HP?

It’s barely been 8 months since HP finalized its takeover of Palm with a $1.2 billion buyout at a price of $5.70 per share of Palm common stock in cash. Needless to say, they haven’t been sitting on this purchase.

HP just announced in a press release that they will be releasing a tablet this coming summer with a Wi-Fi only version, followed by another model with 3G and 4G cellular connectivity a few months later. HP’s tablet is called the TouchPad and looks very much like the Apple iPad or the Motorola Xoom. It has the same 9.7-inch touchscreen and weighs 1.6 pounds all bundled in a shiny black case.

So, where does Palm fit into all this? Well, the operating system called WebOS is what will be running the TouchPad. When HP acquired Palm, their WebOS platform came with it. For those of you who purchased the Palm Pre or the Pixi that was released by Palm in 2009, you would have seen WebOS first hand as both models used it for their mobile operating system.

The HP TouchPad running on Palm's WebOS

The major feature that HP is touting is the TouchPad’s ability to simultaneously run several applications. With this device, users will be able to keep active applications running in the background while flipping through a list of open apps. The other software feature that will bound to be a hit with many users is their ability to run Adobe Flash to view video. Although Android and the upcoming offering from Blackberry also runs Adobe, Apple continues to shun Flash to promote its own QuickTime offering despite the fact that Flash is the most popular video format on the web.

In addition to being a cool tablet device, HP is also targeting business users. They are touting its video conferencing feature and are currently working with Skype and other software vendors to enable the TouchPad owners to easily talk to each other.

Personally, I don’t care too much for the name. After all, isn’t a touchpad already a computer term for a pointing device used to move a cursor around? I’ve got one staring at my right now on my laptop as I write this.

Moving onto the smartphone world, HP will also be releasing the Pre3 around the same time as the Wi-Fi enabled TouchPad, and will also be driven by same WebOS platform. The Pre3 is said to have a 3.6-inch touchscreen and has a slide-out physical keyboard for serious email users. It appears that HP is trying to make a serious run for business users and take away some of RIM’s target group for the Blackberry devices, while also battling Apple who is also making significant inroads to the professional crowd.

For the consumer-oriented crowd, HP unveiled a smaller phone called the Veer (Veer is an Indian name for “warrior”). It is a tiny 2.6-inch touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard that is just slightly larger than a credit card, and is scheduled to be released in early spring. It uses the Snapdragon processor developed by the semiconductor giant Qualcomm.

The HP Veer with a small 2.6" Touchscreen

All of these products will be branded under the HP name as it appears that they will be retiring the Palm brand. So, what was the Palm Pre will see the next generation phone as the HP Pre3. The other goal for HP is to create interoperability within their offerings to allow their products to communicate with each other with a system called “Touch-to-Share”, much like Apple with its Mac, iTunes, and iPhone/iPod/iPad ecosystem as well as its AirPlay and iTunes software. In addition to making information transfer easier, simple interoperability also increases brand loyalty.

I look forward to seeing HP’s offering to the mobile world over the course of 2011. They are going to start being more than just a computer and printer company for the general consumer in the very near future. For the full press release from HP, click here.

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The Smartphone is the New PC. Why is That?

It was going to happen sooner or later anyway, so that fact that it occurred during the last quarter of the first decade of the 21st century adds a nice bow-tie to this trend. According to industry analyst, IDC, smartphones shipments passed the number of PC’s shipped in a quarter. In the fourth quarter of 2010, smart phone manufacturers shipped 100.9 million devices. This was an 87.2 percent increase from a year earlier when 53.9 million units were shipped. At the same time, PC makers shipped 92.1 million units. Although this was still an increase from Q4 of the prior year, it was a fairly anemic 5.5 percent improvement. To read their entire report, click here.

The information goes on to discuss other maneuverings within the smart phone ecosystem such as the market share by manufacturer, but I want to discuss this particular paradigm shift for this blog post. What are some of the reasons that are causing this drift?

I will start off by saying that I am not predicting the death of the PC or laptop computer. They will continue to exist for quite some time and there will always be a need for these devices. However, what I am speculating is that their importance as the center point of a home technology products will continue to wane as smart phones become more adaptive to our needs.

The first thing that would generate this shift would be the accelerated rate at which smart phones are getting “smarter”. Every new generation of phones has a number of enhanced bells and whistles that was lacking on the previous generation model. As an example, taking a look at last year’s release of the iPhone 4 compared to the 3Gs, there were a number of hardware and software changes that were implemented. Features such as retinal display which pack in 4 times more pixels in the same area to dramatically increase resolution to increasing the camera resolution from 3 to 5 megapixels with LED flash. Similarly the Motorola Droid has followed a similar path in features. But this is nothing new, computers and pretty much every other consumer electronic device do the same thing. The difference here is the “apparent” lower cost of ownership. For many users who upgrade their standard cell phones to smart phones, or from one smart phone to a newer generation one, their network provider usually provides some sort of financial incentive. There is usually a combination of lower costs and rebates that accompany a phone purchase by signing onto long term contracts. Though this tethering is a problem for some, many users accept it as a necessary evil and buy into the contract.

As these contracts expire, usually 12 or 24 months down the road the the network operators try to woo their existing customers to lock in for another period of time, the latest phones will be the bait — again at a lower cost than what could be found if buying straight retail. Computers and laptops offer no such incentives and so unless one is a power user, they tend to hold onto to their PCs for some time doing only minor upgrades, if any, to an existing CPU.

The next driver is cost. While component costs for all things electronic has come down, it has really allowed mobile manufacturers to cram more hardware chip sets into their phones than they used to. Most users who would pay $1000 for a PC or laptop will balk at paying even half or a third that price for a smart phone. After all, its a small device that is carried around in a pocket or purse. It’s primary function is to make calls, which is why there are so few iPod Touch competitors in the market. That is where the network providers have stepped in. They understand the immediate price points of consumers. So, they knock down the cost of even a high end smart phone to around $200, and then make up for it by charging larger data fees for the next two years or more. So, to a somewhat cost conscious consumer, shelling out $200 right now for a smart phone that they can pretty much do anything on is well within the financial budgets of most middle class people.

And finally there is the maturing of the services sector. Where it would have been difficult to find good mobile specific services 10, or even 5, years ago, we have come a very long way in being supported by third party providers. The various app stores are an example of that. They take advantage of GPS chips to provide location based services, others are offering augmented reality using smart phone cameras to add layers of information, and still others cough up video and music content across a wide field of genres that are more or less optimized for the telecommunication networks they travel through.

The keyword for smart phones is “immediacy”. Currently, it is the one device that provides that link to almost instant information and communication. Desktop PCs really only provide that when the user is at the PC. Laptops offer more flexibility of location, but are still slower and more cumbersome when taking it out and getting started. The current saturation of social media requires that immediacy to work as well and quickly as it does. Everything from meeting a friend at a restaurant or bar to kick-starting a protest movement like we are seeing in the Middle East takes advantage of reaching anywhere from one person to hundreds of thousands of people in a very short amount of time. There are now search engines that gather and compile data based on the latest trends in news and pop culture that is only minutes old. Where does this information come from? Mostly people tweeting from their smart phones around the world at any given time.

This is the paradigm shift of our time that is driving this change. No longer are computers used just for writing reports, creating spreadsheets, or playing games like it has been for most of the past three decades. The priority has shifted to using consumer technology as a means of communication and information from any coordinate on the planet. The smartphone fills this niche well and it’s not going away. On the contrary, it will continue to grow in importance.

I’d be interested in getting your feedback on this. Let me know what you think.

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Apple App Store Just Hit 10 Billionth Download

It hasn’t even been three years since the Apple iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) was first released to developers on March 6, 2008. The App Store itself was launched a few months later on July 8 of that year with the release of the iOS 2.0. From that day until today, January 22, 2011, Apple has skyrocketed to the top of the smart phone app marketplace and has just announced its 10 billionth download. Yes, that’s 10 Billion with a B!

Since I like to wrap my head around numbers and put things into perspective, I thought I would do a little math here to help me break this down a little more.

Since the launch of the iPhone App store until this announcement, 928 days have passed.
That would translate to 22,272 hours (928 days x 24 hours/day).
Or 1,336,320 minutes.
And finally, that amounts to 80,179,200 seconds.

Okay, now lets see how many apps per second are being downloaded:

10,000,000,000 apps/80,179,200 seconds
= 124.72 apps/sec
= 7,483 apps/minute
= 448,992 apps/hour
= 10,775,808 apps/day

So, every single second, about 125 users are downloading applications for either their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch from the App store around the world! According to this iPhone stats pages, the average paid app that is downloaded is for $2.50. Let’s assume that only half of the downloads are paid apps and the other are free. That would be 62 paid apps per second, or a net revenue of $155/second. Apple’s share is 30% of that amount and so Apple is taking $46.50 to the bank every single second of every single day…and that’s only from the App store. Not a bad business model.

And that number is expected to grow. As was announced last week, Verizon will be getting the iPhone on February 10. Millions of more customers will be able to get their hands on the iPhone since they didn’t want to change over to AT&T’s crappy service.

In a similar vein, Apple had it’s 10 billionth song download almost a year ago on February 24, 2010. However, that milestone took just over nine years to reach since every song needs to be paid for, whereas a significant number of apps are still free.

Let’s hope this milestone gives a wakeup call to the other smartphone market stores out there. Android is doing well and should see a significant rise in 2011 as Android Tablets begin coming out to challenge the iPad for market share. Nokia’s Ovi store is also making some headway but doesn’t have the momentum or marketing that Apple App Store has.

It’s time for me to jump back into App store and start moving them towards the 20 billionth download!

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New Tablet Onslaught from Consumer Electronics Show

Each year the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) typically has a specific type of technology that is supposed to be the big thing for the year. In 2010, that technology was the 3D television set. While it is kinda cool, and I have checked out a number of them including the front runner, Samsung UN55C8000. However, the market didn’t really embrace 3D television as much as the manufacturers had hoped — mostly due to the powered glasses that users have to wear to really get the full effect of the 3D feature. And finally, there is lack of content available. This is a classic case of trying to sell buckets long before the flood. Its far easier to convince buyers that they are missing out on amazing content because they just don’t have the tools to see it. If there was already a plethora of 3D content in the marketplace, we would see consumers jumping on the 3D TV’s faster, even if that meant wearing dorky glasses for hours on end.

Anyway, moving to this years CES, the new darling is the tablet computer. The Apple iPad has certainly led the way and has been enjoying its position in the marketplace for the past half year. But 2011 will see a number of manufacturers get a slice of the pie.

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Motorola Xoom Tablet

So, what is the one thing everyone needs to tout to be able to leapfrog, or at least stay on par, with the upcoming iPad 2? That answer is 4G connectivity. All of the OEMs at CES were crowing about 4G network compatibility. These include all of the heavy hitters such as Blackberry’s Playbook, Motorola’s Xoom, LG’s G-Slate, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

The other nice trend was the direction of the larger screen size of the tablet computers. Several manufacturers were showing off the 10 inch screens including the Archos 101 and the Notion Ink Adam. There are a couple of reasons for this about face. First off, the smaller 5 and 7 inch screens just weren’t catching on with the public. The 5 inch in particular is just slightly larger than the smart phones, but still don’t fit snugly into a pocket. So, why not go with something larger. The move to the 10 inch screen also benefits from the new Android Honeycomb, which is the tablet optimized Android 3.0 release. One of the biggest benefits to this release is the higher 1280×800 resolution that can support a larger screen size. There are other features as well, such as not requiring any physical buttons on the tablet so that the buttons can always appear at the bottom of the screen regardless of the tablet orientation.

Archos 101 Tablet PC

Notion Ink Adam Tablet PC

I have to admit, I knew nothing about Notion Ink prior to the CES show, but their entry with the Adam Tablet looks absolutely amazing. It’s 10 inch Pixel Qi consumes only 1/2 to 1/4 of the power compared to other LCD screens, allowing its battery to last as much as 16 hours of constant video playing and a whopping 160 hours using the outdoors mode. I’ll definitely be following the news around this device. If it lives up to its hype, and has the marketing muscle behind it, the Adam can be a serious contender for the iPad.

Overall, the outlook is looking good. Lots of manufacturers, good operating systems, faster network connectivity, and more hardware capabilities such as front and rear facing cameras and speedier processors will make 2011 the Tablet War year.

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It’s Confirmed! Verizon Will be Getting the Apple iPhone

After years of speculation, waiting, false starts, and rumors around the country, it has finally happened– AT&T has lost its hegemony on the Apple iPhone. On Tuesday, January 11, Verizon Wireless will announce when it will begin selling the Apple iPhone in its stores and online. Most likely, this date will be February 3, according to some inside reports.

Finally, for the first time since the original iPhone was released on June 29, 2007 customers will have a choice as to which carrier they can go to and subscribe. In traditional capitalistic stance, this will open up two advantages:

1. A price war between the two carriers should see prices for monthly voice and data services drop.
2. Competition is healthy for innovation. Verizon should be able to up the ante in terms of the types of offers and services offered, forcing AT&T to improve their own services as well.

The main difference will be in the type of network each carrier will be on. AT&T uses the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) standard, which is the primary one used around the world and is used by roughly 80% of the world’s mobile phones. Verizon Wireless, on the other hand, uses the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) standard. However, these standards don’t really make much of a difference to the end user, except if one wants to remove a SIM card and throw it into another phone.

This moves comes at a pivotal time for Apple. While the iPhone is still a hot selling commodity, it is facing pressure from the Google Android mobile operating system. Unlike Apple, Google gives away its software for free to various handset manufacturers and then collects money from the back end with advertising revenue. Over the past year, the Android enabled phones have made huge gains in the US market and have helped companies such as Motorola come back from the brink of irrelevancy with smart phones such as the Droid.

I’m looking forward to seeing how AT&T will be responding to this news. I’m sure it’s no surprise to them. They must have been anticipating it for some time now. Perhaps I’ll buy some Put options on AT&T’s stock come Monday morning.

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Skype Keeps Adding on the Features

The popular VOIP software company Skype announced today that they will be releasing a new iPhone application version allowing users of the 3GS and 4G Apple iPhones to make and receive video calls. The callers will be able to use both Wi-Fi and the 3G network on AT&T. This will include any calls made to or from computer based Skype applications.

Users of the Apple iPad, the iPhone 3G, and the iPod Touch will also be able to receive video calls, but since there is no front facing camera on either of these devices, it will not be possible to transmit a video call.

Video Skype for iPhone 3GS and 4G

In a way, Skype is playing catch up to a couple of other internet phone providers on video calling. Both Fring and Tango also allow for video calling over AT&T’s network, but neither one of them has the incredibly large customer base that Skype commands which is estimated to be around 500 million worldwide.

The Skype application can be downloaded from Apple’s iTunes store.

Happy Video Chatting Everyone!!!

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Amazon’s Kindle 3 Becomes Their Best Selling Product Ever

Every couple of days, I find myself on the Amazon.com front page. I’ll either be looking for movies, music, or books to abide my spare time and read up on some reviews from other customers. For at least the past two years, Amazon has been marketing its Kindle e-book reader right smack front and center on the landing page as the Must-Have-Item for anyone who reads books.

The Amazon Kindle 3

Well, apparently that unabashed marketing and regular price drops have paid off for Amazon. It was just announced that Amazon’s current e-book, the Kindle 3, released on August 27 2010, is now the best selling item in the history of the company with an estimate of about 8 million sold. Since Amazon does not give hard numbers for it’s sales figures, the estimate came from Bloomberg in discussion with insiders at Amazon.

The price point for the Kindle has also dropped appreciably over the past couple of years. The first generation of the e-book reader released in November of 2007 was priced at $399. The current incarnations of the Kindles are far cheaper: only $139 for the Wi-Fi version and $189 for the 3G and Wi-Fi enabled device. Both of these have the 6″ diagonal screen. The great thing about the 3G coverage is that it doesn’t cost the user any additional money. Amazon actually pays for the Kindle’s wireless connectivity. So, the user is free to travel anywhere in the world and still download content over the GSM network, the most popular wireless standard in the world today. There is also a larger 9.7″ display on the Kindle DX that comes in at $379 and with a slightly smaller battery life of 7 days instead of 10 days that the smaller Kindle gets.

According to Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, a lot of people who are buying the Kindle also own an LCD tablet, such as the Apple iPad. I guess that punches a hole in the critics argument about how the tablet’s will destroy the e-readers since the former can do so much more.

Currently, I do not own any type of e-book reader, but if the prices continue to drop and the services get better, perhaps I’ll be shelling out the money for one in 2011.

The article at Bloomberg can be found here.

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Another iPad? So Soon!

According to reports from Digitimes, Apple and it’s Chinese manufacturer Foxconn out of Shenzhen will begin shipping out the iPad 2 by the end of February 2011 with initial shipments of up to 600,000 units.

Here are some speculations about the feature improvements on the new iPad 2.

1. Will work on both GSM and CDMA networks. The current iPad only works with GSM, but since users will be able to use the iPad on the Verizon network, and they only use CDMA, this dual band support makes sense.

2. A dual camera similar to the iPhone 4G. This will allow Apple’s FaceTime video chatting capability onto the iPad.

Although the release of a new iPad was inevitable, the timing of this news is not in Apple’s best interest as it may hurt the holiday sales. Instead of buyers going out to purchase the current iPad, many shoppers may opt to wait for the better version if it is only a couple of months away.

At this time, neither Foxconn nor Apple have confirmed the shipping dates for the latest iPad.

The full article can be found here.

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Day 15: Finishing off the Big Five Game Animals in Kruger National Park

Hands down, today was a great safari day! That is really best way to describe it. Why? Because even though I have seen many more animals in a single day during my previous safari in Kenya’s Masaii Mara during the Wildebeest migration, the proximity from the animals that we were able to get for many of the animals today was simply unbelievable. That aspect, coupled with the fact that we also encountered four of the Big Five animals made this truly a day to remember and will go down as one of my best individual travel days of all time.

The morning hike began with us hearing a group of African elephants out in the bush as we left camp at 5 AM. Our guides decided to track this group of elephants which they believed to be a group of bachelor males that travel together. The obvious inclination for tracking elephants is just to follow the sound they make as they walk through grass and trees. After all, elephants are the largest land animals on earth so how hard can it be, especially if there are a number of them tearing through the savanna? Well, as it turns out, tracking these giant pachyderms is notoriously difficult. Despite their behemoth size, elephants are extremely quiet animals when they want to be. The reason for this is because not only do elephants have thick pads on the bottom of their feet but they also have a tough, gelatinous material that acts as a shock absorber and dampens the sound when they walk. The second reason they are hard to spot is because their greyish-brown color allows them to blend in very well with their environment. In many cases, an elephant can be quietly standing only a few yards away and still be almost unrecognizable because they blend in so well with their surroundings.

In any case, we spent the good part of an hour tracking down this group. Finally, we noticed the tops of a few trees moving across the river bank from where we were hiking. We stopped and within a few seconds a group of about six bulls made their way out. Amazingly, one of the adults decided to take down a tree directly in front of our field of vision. As quiet as a mouse, the bull rammed its head against this 30 foot tall tree and after a couple of hits, completely uprooted it as it fell to the ground. All four of us were completely astounded by the strength and agility of this animal and how easily it was able to take down a perfectly strong and healthy tree. As the group of bulls moved on, we followed them from the safety of being on the other side of the river from them. Even if the elephants noticed us, they didn’t give any indication of our presence. Instead, they laboured slowly onwards up and down some rolling hills as we continued to keep pace with them. Sometimes all of them would be visible as the embankment cleared up, and then within seconds they would all completely disappear into the trees like ghosts fading into the night.

Elephant emerges from the bush

Pair of Male Elephants

We followed this troop for about an hour after we spotted them. In that time, I believe there was only one short call that was made by one of the elephants. The rest of the walk was as silent as could be except for the breaking of branches and twigs as they walked past the trees. It was the longest encounter with a group of elephants I ever had and gave me a new found respect for these amazing beasts. However, our encounters with the elephants was not quite over for today. But, I’ll return to that later.

After veering off from them and continuing our hike, our guides Brian and Phil gave us a number of lectures on other plants and birds that inhabit Kruger National Park. It was nice to get educated on not just the major wildlife, but on all aspects of the ecosystem. It makes the hikes seem authentic and real rather than just a series of wildlife highlights followed by miles of walking around endlessly.

On our way back to camp, we came across another herd of Cape buffalo making their way through the park. We decided to follow them for a while since they were headed in the same direction we were. Eventually, we split up and returned to Tusker camp arriving just before 11 AM. So in a span of just a couple of hours, we managed to see two of the Big Five, although we had seen quite a few of the buffalo the day before.

Lions Eye Flower

Herd of Cape Buffalo

Following our mid afternoon siesta where we spent a majority of the time in our tent reading our respective books, we then jumped in the Land Rover and were headed out to the north part of the reserve to hike in the hills. Just a couple of minutes out of camp, however, we ran into a group of impalas and clearly heard a very agitated male making barking noises toward a tree. We stopped to investigate but couldn’t quite make out what this impala was intently gazing at as it continued to make the alerts to his large group of females a few yards away. So, we turned the vehicle around and drove to a different vantage point where we could get a better view without the large number of low hanging branches in our way. As we did so, sitting right up against the trunk was a leopard! Immediately, we turned off the engine and watched as it confronted the impala about 30 feet in front of it. Where the impala looked troubled, agitated, and perhaps even frightened, the leopard on the other hand looked as cool and confident as could be. It didn’t appear as if the leopard wanted to run after the impala but was rather just resting under the shade of the tree and waiting for the cooler afternoon before it would begin its hunt. The leopard obviously saw us as well sitting in our open vehicle, but again seemed completely unamused by our presence.

Leopard Sitting Under Tree

Leopard Standing Up

As we sat their watching this beautiful animal, our guide told of a story of a traveler from the UK. He had come to Kruger National Park on a hiking safari for 12 consecutive years before he saw his first leopard. These animals are incredibly elusive and solitary, mostly hunting at night. To have seen one on our third day and at this close range was nothing short of unbelievable.

Moving on, we came upon another large herd of cape buffalo. We stopped for about 10 minutes to watch them as our small group faced them off. I was most surprised by how close some of the buffalo came to our vehicle. There seems to be almost no fear or apprehension at all on their part while we are within the confines of the land rover. A little while later, we arrived at the site where we would be hiking. This time, it would be along the banks of a brook and we would spend much of the next couple of hours observing smaller flora and fauna. It was a pretty area of the reserve and quite lush in vegetation. Returning back to the vehicle, we headed out to where Brian thought there was a herd of female elephants. True enough, after about 20 minutes of driving around and looking at the tops of trees to see if they were moving around from the elephants brushing up against them, we found them. This time, there was a fairly small baby elephant romping around its mother and exercising its trunk and it ran and struggled to keep up with its much larger mother and siblings. No doubt, the elephants, including the baby, saw us, and there were a number of instances where the baby cautiously approached us before running back to the safety of its family. We followed and observed this herd for about 30 minutes before moving on. It really was a very pleasant encounter and since we were much closer to these elephants than our previous one, the complexity of their personality and sense of familial relationships really shown through.

Pair of staring Cape Buffalos

Southern (of African) Masked Weaver

Baby Elephant with Mother

Nursing Baby Elephant

After our last sundown, we started heading back towards Tusker camp. But there was still to be two final animal encounters before we reached camp. The first one was with a lone giant eagle owl perched high atop a tree branch on the lookout for prey. This is the third largest species of owl in the world. Then, soon after that, another encounter with lions! This time, two lionesses were together in a small field laying around as we drove up. One of them got up for a few seconds as she found a more comfortable place to lay herself down. Though exciting to see these lions so close up, it was largely uneventful as the beasts lethargically lounged about and only eyed us occasionally as we marveled at them. Twenty minutes later, we decided to leave them and finally returned back to camp for dinner and to turn into our tents.

Giant Eagle Owl

Lioness Resting at Night

Without a doubt, this was truly a remarkable day in terms of wildlife encounters. What a way to end our walking safari!

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