The northern part of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve is set amidst the rugged evergreen hills of Zululand, forming a dramatic backdrop to the prolific wildlife in this area. Although the terrain makes up-close game viewing difficult, as opposed to the more open grasslands around the iMfolozi rivers, the mountains can add an interesting perspective to the composition of your photos. We spotted this giraffe struggling with a steep slope near Hilltop Camp, pausing on the ridge to scan the surroundings that made him look so small.
A flowering Impala Lily (Adenium multiflorum) is a colourful beacon in the dry wintery landscape of southern Africa. The plant contains a highly toxic latex which is used for both hunting and medicinal purposes. Some species – amongst which the summer or Swazi Impala Lily – are harvested to such an extent that they are now listed as endangered. While commercial gathering for the horticultural and traditional medicine market, urbanisation and agriculture have almost wiped out the entire population in certain areas, the Kruger National Park forms a save heaven for this beautiful plant. It features abundantly in Skukuza, Letaba and Shingwedzi rest camps, where its stunning pink colour will certainly overwhelm you.
Out of the numerous fascinating features of the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) I find its eyes most intriguing. As a predator hunting by vision rather than scent a cheetah’s eyesight is truly amazing, being able to spot their prey from as far as 5 kilometres away. To protect its eyes from the harsh daylight – unlike other big cats their night vision is so poor they mainly hunt in the morning and afternoon – a tear stain mark runs from each eye to their mouth. These marks are clearly visible in the pictures of this young male taking a late-afternoon rest. He obviously focused on an object in the far distance that we were not able to see, staring right past us and adding an almost condescending air to its handsome appearance. We could only guess what he was looking at.
An encounter with a stately Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) doesn’t seem particularly special, however, with only an estimated 25 to 30 breeding pairs left in the greater Kruger area – on a total of 150 breeding pairs in South Africa – we were incredibly lucky to spot this couple collecting nesting materials in a dry riverbank next to the S133. Little is known about the dwindling numbers of this big bird, but a combination between an irregular breeding pattern and the degradation of their wetland habitats by upstream human activity seems to seal their fate. This striking bird is in serious danger and needs all our conservation efforts to change its dire future!