Mpila is a place that will stay in our memories forever. Perched on one of the numerous hilltops in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Park, this camp offers stupendous views of its surroundings. The rich wildlife is the main drawcard though, wandering about freely as there are no fences to protect the nature-loving visitor. On our first night hyenas checked out the braai with the roar of a distant lion enhancing the overall wilderness experience. At dawn we were woken up by the chorus of the birds foraging in front of our bungalow, with mixed parties of Black-bellied starlings, Burchell’s coucals, Bush-shrikes, Crested-Barnets and African Hoopoes, followed by some late-morning entertainment of the inevitable gang of Vervet monkeys, ready to snatch about everything lying around unattended. After lunch our lawn was cut by a family of warthogs, and with the occasional herd of Kudu and Impala close-by, we felt no urge to go on a game-drive. The highlight of this relaxing day was a personal encounter with this lone Nyala male, his horns covered in mud to show his prowess to the ladies nearby. As the real king of Mpila he grazed undisturbed, looked back to inspect the surroundings before continuing his way.
The grey heron (Ardea cinerea) is probably the most common wading bird in The Netherlands. The number of breeding pairs has increased since it became a protected species in 1963, but rigorous winters in the past years have decimated the population in some areas, resulting in an ever greater number of migrating herons. While some individuals leave for Southern Europe, others fly to the wetlands of Mauritania and Senegal. For now most herons are still stalking their prey locally, searching ponds and pools as thorough as a minesweeper.
The red deer rut is a spectacular phenomenon. On our last trip into the OVP (Oostvaardersplassen) we hoped to find the testosterone inflated stags competing for their harems as rutting activity normally reaches its peak when the days shorten. But hinds and stags were still in separate groups, and we therefore knew it was too early to witness the spectacle of roaring and fighting males. Due to abnormally low spring temperatures nature has simply delayed all processes, however, it didn’t stop us from chasing the deer for some nice shots.
The Netherlands is a land of water. The country has been shaped by its force and largely exists due to sound water management. A major example is the Zuiderzee, a large shallow inlet of the North sea consisting of multiple lakes, marshes and channels. As rising sea levels and storms made it bigger over the centuries, surges and floods caused death and disaster. These perilous waters have finally been tamed by closing them off from the open sea in the 1930s, creating a manmade freshwater lake. A big block of land has since been reclaimed for farming, housing and industrial development, but when the drainage of the lowest part was finally concluded in 1968, no one could have foreseen it would become one of Europe’s most important wetlands. Too wet for construction this part was planted with common reed, providing food and shelter for numerous (near) extinct species of waterbirds. Some of these species, as for example the Grey Goose (Anser anser), Great Egret (Ardea alba) and Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea Leucorodia), returned in such numbers that the significance of this area as a major nature …