From Swamp to Shore

first_imgA Journey on the St. Marys RiverEmerging from Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia’s largest designated wilderness, and emptying into the Atlantic, the St. Marys River comprises the easternmost part of the Georgia-Florida border. With its twists and turns, we anticipated a 130-mile journey from the headwaters to the seaside town of St. Marys. While most of the crew would disembark here, one of us would continue across the intracoastal waterway to Cumberland Island, traversing a path between Georgia’s most prized wilderness areas, from swamp to shore.I, along with five canoes and eight vagabond adventurers, rendezvoused at a drop-in point where the mucky trickle becomes a navigable passage. Pushing off from the dock, we found ourselves amid the plump-bottomed trunks of tupelo and cypress, their knees poking up from the swamp water like prehistoric, knobby fingers. Tangled along the shoreline were saw palmettos, loblolly pines, sparkleberries, and the occasional twisted-limbed live oak. Here and there, the steady view of browns and greens was interrupted by a maple covered in clusters of cherry-red, winged seeds or the white blossoms of a mayhaw. Thickets of willow growing in the middle of the stream gave the landscape an appearance less like a river than a flooded forest.The current flowed quickly around frequent bends through an obstacle course of fallen trees to be sped over when below and limbo-ed under when above. Each canoe danced a combination step of forward paddles, J-strokes, and rudders, some boats slithering gracefully around each obstruction, others crashing through branchy snags, collecting piles of kindling.The treeline reflected its mirror image upon the river, which is inky black, though not from sediment or pollution. Vegetation colors its waters, as tea leaves do when steeped in a kettle. Though dark, the water is translucent and icy cold.Nonetheless, some of us swam—involuntarily. Schizandra went overboard while making an overenthusiastic grab at a passing fat pine log. Vanessa was displaced by a low-hanging tree branch, somersaulting backwards into the chilly water. Shocked, and weighed down by her drenched clothes, she clung to the stern while I guided our boat to shore. Once Vanessa had warmed up by a fire and changed into a dry camo jumpsuit, we took to the river once more, with newfound respect for her potential perils.The most frightening was the thunderstorm. The moment we saw the first flash in the sky, we dashed towards the bank, crouching among the sawgrass in mud so soft and sticky it sucked at our boots like quicksand. Just when we thought we were in the clear and were boarding our boat once more, a deafening clap of lightning cracked just around the riverbend and we scrambled ashore.There were other dangers. Twice, disgruntled river dwellers fired shots (once from an automatic weapon that continued to rat-tat-tat well into the night), forcing us to paddle frantically upstream. Though scared, we couldn’t help but respect these residents for protecting their home and ecosystem. Unless or until the St. Marys becomes a legally protected scenic river, these vigilant watchdogs are perhaps her best defense against intrusion.Most days, though, were peaceful. Otters swam alongside our boats, long-necked herons displayed their impressive wingspans, hawks screeched, turtles sunbathed, fish jumped, and vultures swirled in a cyclone of black silhouettes.Whether alertly avoiding the next fallen log, or leaning back and lazily drifting downstream, my brain tended to clear itself of trivial worries and focus on the present. With a meditative mindset and no need to look at a clock, we quickly forgot the hours and days and took to naming our campsites to keep track of the sequence of events. Camp Getaway. Camp Rope Swing. Machine Gun Ridge. Frog Squash Bend for the spotted, copper-eyed leopard frog, which would have been trampled underfoot had I not shrieked just in the nick of time. Camp Beaver Slam, for our mammalian friends who signaled their territory with chewed tree trunks and loud tail slaps.A few days out from the coast, timing became unexpectedly vital. Our canoes, docked the night before alongside a mossy shore, were found the next morning high and dry, as the tide had pulled the river out from under them. We discovered that the current was quite literally reversing direction twice a day, slowing us down significantly. Based on our observations of the moon and the waterline, we set alarms for the wee hours, rising well before dawn to ride the tide towards the sea.On the tenth and last day of our voyage, we greeted the sunrise on the water, then stopped for a midday nap on the last patch of low-lying terra firma. Using a fiddler crab for bait, Lily caught our first and only fish, a red drum, which we fried for lunch before entering the saltmarsh.The river widened. A strong breeze, choppy waves, and the wake from passing motorboats rocked our canoes unsettlingly in the most dangerous stretch of river yet. Rounding the final bend, we were rewarded with a postcard-perfect view of the St. Marys marina. Gulls perched upon the masts of the many sailboats, basking in the golden light of a glorious sunset. As we triumphantly disembarked at the dock, a stranger gazed at the horizon and said, “Isn’t this just the perfect ending to a wonderful day?” I nodded, watching my friend Grayson paddle in the fading light towards Cumberland Island.• Ellen Vesselslast_img read more

Will Westcott: Betgenius – Africa is in-play for World Cup 2018

first_img Share BtoBet refines African SMS payment options with Tola Mobile  August 20, 2020 Submit Share Related Articles Betgenius expands virtual sports range with Kiron August 20, 2020 Kenya Finance Bill carries tax rescind waiting on Kenyatta approval  June 25, 2020 StumbleUpon Will Westcott – BetgeniusWill Westcott Business Development Manager for Betgenius, details why Russia 2018 comes at a perfect time for African sports betting stakeholders, as consumers move to embrace in-play dynamics. _________________The 2018 FIFA World Cup is projected to be the biggest global betting event on record, exceeding the estimated £1bn wagered on the same event four years ago.This summer’s main event will further underline the explosive growth in global betting markets. Innovative new ways to bet, sharper trading and enhanced marketing campaigns have broadened customer demographics and swelled turnover year-on-year.Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, which has five teams, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal and Nigeria, heading to Russia. Although this probably has more to do with the buoyant state of its sports betting sector than the countries representing the region.According to PwC’s Gambling Outlook 2013-2017 report, which pulled together data from Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, the 2014 World Cup played a dominant role in a 57.6% rise in sports betting revenues compared to 2013. A similar spike is likely to happen again.Following its dynamic growth in European markets, in-play betting is expected to be the catalyst behind the massive expansion of sports betting across Africa. Although in-play is still a relatively recent addition to most African operators’ portfolios, over the course of the past two years, bookies have reaped the rewards of adding more events, more market types and investing in higher quality, faster data.Behavioural ChangeIn markets like Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, we are seeing a huge shift in customer activity from pre-match to in-play betting. While Kenya (40% pre-match, 60% in-play) hasn’t quite tipped the scales, both South Africa (60:40) and Nigeria (60:40) show that the demand is growing rapidly.Unlike the highly competitive and price sensitive pre-match space, African operators are exploiting their in-play offering to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Football is the principal sport but creating a dedicated in-play betting destination is proven to facilitate cross-selling into other in-play sports and markets. Keeping customers on-site means better recycling of funds and subsequently increased turnover.After being exposed to a more engaging product, African punters are gradually changing their betting habits. While massive, often upwards of 10-leg, accumulators across many different leagues are still the bread and butter for most East and West African bookies, growing interest in individual events via in-play will provide a valuable indicator of the product’s growing success during the World Cup.The same logic applies to BetBuilder, a product we’re launching with two major African bookmakers including Nigerian powerhouse Nairabet in the coming weeks. By allowing a multiple to be placed on events occurring within a single game, it appeals to the African customer base with a penchant for an accumulator, while driving up turnover and margin on individual games like no other pre-match product.Speaking on a panel at the London Affiliate Conference earlier this year, Nairabet CEO Akin Alabi, described the impact the product will have on its strategy: “Since we launched Nairabet, we have offered betting on two FIFA World Cups and it has presented a challenge each time. Our customers like to place big accumulators across 10-20 games in order to win big. But with only 64 games across a four-week period, the World Cup does not offer up the opportunity to make these bets.“However, this year we will be introducing BetBuilder to our site which will enable customers to combine multiple pre-match markets types within the same game, so when Nigeria are in the World Cup final vs whoever, our customers will be able to bet on who will win, who will score and how, how many corners, who will get carded and so on. We are expecting our customer base to love these markets.”Nigeria’s Moment in the SpotlightIndeed, of the African teams represented at the World Cup, Nigeria is by far the most important when it comes to sports betting. The size of its population, a fanatical interest in football and easy access to live games has created a competitive and innovative betting sector meeting the demands of over 60 million punters.Like any flagship event, the World Cup will bring huge numbers of new customers onto Nigeria’s betting sites this summer. The key challenge for operators will be retention, and the likes of Nairabet, Bet9ja and Merrybet have all raised the stakes in the fight for market share in recent months, with investment into in-play product a common feature of each firm’s strategy.As a supplier of trading technology and outsourced pricing across all major sports, Betgenius is playing a crucial role in this burgeoning market. Without a partner who understands the nuances of each African market and who can provide robust, customisable trading solutions, local operators risk losing out on the in-play boom.Despite retail’s dominance, online in-play betting is the key to growth across Africa and 2018 is the year this trend will accelerate.With outright odds of about 250-1, the Super Eagles are unlikely to be the first African team to lift the World Cup in July. But with the right in-play product in place, the region’s bookmakers should all be winners._______________________Will Westcott  – Business Development Manager – Betgeniuslast_img read more