All posts tagged: Africa

Nile Crocodile iSimangaliso Wetland Park KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Crocodile – Economy of Scales

South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of our favourite destinations. This unique estuarine park consists of over 300,000 hectares of lakes, swamp forests, giant sand dunes and one of the most beautiful coastlines in Southern Africa. And of course there is an abundance of wildlife, an ever important asset for the local tourism industry with its headquarters based in the pleasant and laid back town of St. Lucia. In fact, (eco)tourism has become such an important economic driver that the park has seen major changes over the past 15 years with new sections created, the rehabilitation of former agricultural land and the reintroduction of thousands of animals including elephants, rhinos and lions – notably in the uMkhuze part of iSimangaliso. Not less spectacular are the hippos and crocodiles that live in the park’s waterways – with around 1,200 crocodiles iSimangaliso holds one of South Africa’s most important wild crocodiles populations. Apart from being important predators in a complex ecosystem crocodiles are also of vital importance for the local economy – boat cruises on the …

Warthog MPila KwaZulu Natal Hluhluwe-IMfolozi South Africa

Warthog – Residential Wildlife

My third contribution in the 5 Days Black-and-White Challenge is an animal that is part of Africa’s notorious ‘ugly five’. I’m not sure if I would have posted this Warthog in colour, although we’ve got fond memories of her as the residential lawnmower of Mpila in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. What stands out in this monochrome version is the incredible high contrasting texture of her hairy coat. And then those eyelashes – isn’t she pretty??! If there is anyone who could learn us more about black and White photography it has to be Leanne Cole in my opinion. Leanne is a professional photographer based in Melbourne with a wonderful blog that is absolutely worth visiting – don’t miss her Monochrome Madness episodes.

Steenbok Kruger Park South Africa

Steenbok – Just Magic

Welcome back to the second post of the 5 Day Black-and-White Challenge. Today I’ve chosen to feature a photo of a tiny Steenbok we encountered near the boulders of Masorini in Kruger National Park, a cute little antelope that always tries to look pretty on photographs. But that’s not the only reason why I decided to share it with you – the other reason is the emotion behind the photograph. Let me try to explain this. Being outdoors, hearing the sounds of the animals, smelling the bush, see and feel the wild, all of that evokes a sense of freedom and authenticity in me, a sense of being part of a much bigger scheme of things. Apart from being outdoors myself, I’ve always enjoyed the work from people who possess the gift of perfectly capturing those emotions into images or words. Artists as Peter Beard, Karen Blixen or Laurens van der Post still provide me with ample inspiration, as does the work from contemporary writers, photographers and fellow-bloggers – they all share the same passion …

Zebra skin monochrome

Black and White Challenge – Stripes

A few days ago we were honoured with an invitation from our dear friends at De Wets Wild to participate in the 5 Day Black-and-White Photo Challenge. If anyone has ever read their reports on South Africa’s incredible parks and wildlife it’s easy to understand we were absolutely delighted by their invite – which we eagerly accepted. Regarding our own blog I personally believe it’s more about storytelling than anything else, and although you might like some of our shots we never had any technical photography training  whatsoever. To do something different than usual is therefore the real challenge, however, I believe there are a few simple rules or tricks to master black and white photography. The most important of course is the subject, which has to be suitable for print in black and white. And what other animal than the zebra could that be? Although so common in any game reserve it’s often overlooked after the first few encounters,  I’ll always be fascinated by their unique stripy coat that offers camouflage to the zebra …

Southern Tree Agama Mpila Hluhluwe-Imfolozi

Southern Tree Agama – Chasing Dragons

The past week showed some rather erratic spring weather – glorious sunny days with temperatures in the high thirties immediately followed by unusually cool days. Especially the cloudy ones didn’t help me much in the search of my next wildlife-fix: the Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus). This colourful lizard lives in and around the numerous granite outcrops near our tree hut, and with their extremely flattened body it shelters in ridiculously narrow crevices. On about every sunny day I expect them to be out there basking on some boulder, but for almost one year now I have been looking in vain. It’s frustrating although I know that patience and perseverance are the key words here. However, sometimes nature provides us with wildlife effortlessly – just by being at the right place at the right time we are able to witness the most memorable spectacles. This made me think of an encounter with a Southern Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis). This arboreal African dragon was sitting unhurriedly in a tree right next to our bungalow in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi’s Mpila camp …

Black Mamba Khamai Hoedspruit Reptile Centre South Africa

Black Mamba

We are moving back to Australia. So a question frequently asked is about our chances of survival in the presence of dangerous animals, venomous snakes in particular. During our first residence I have witnessed only one unfortunate individual – through my rear view mirror after I ran over it. It doesn’t mean those beautiful creatures are not around, in contrary, some illustrious specimens like Tiger snakes and Dugites show themselves even in the Perth Metropolitan area where they prey on rats and mice, but mostly head away from humans rather than attack. While my experience with snakes is minimal, my wife has definitely seen more. During her work at the Albert Schweizer hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, there were regular sightings of Black Mamba’s that took shelter in the tall grass and trees on the hospitals grounds. Although this snake certainly makes its casualties among the rural population, the real killers still are malaria carrying mosquitos. Nevertheless, the Black Mamba definitely is high on my list of animals I’d love to see from a save distance …

Sable Hide Kruger Park South Africa

Sable Hide

The sky was cloudy as a front had moved in overnight. The unusual warm temperatures of the previous days had dropped dramatically and a cold drizzle started to come down. A light breeze stirred the Sable Dam water but the surrounding bushveld seemed motionless. Despite the rather chilly conditions and no clear signs of wildlife we were all very excited for things to come. Having stayed at Kruger’s bigger and busier rest camps on previous trips, this time we wanted to experience nature from a different angle. Fortunately the Park’s accommodation is very versatile, ranging from luxerious to basic and outright rustic. After six years of Aussie bush training we opted for the latter, booking nights at Maroela and Tzendze, sites designated to campers only. However, when we came across the opportunity to spend one night at Sable we grabbed it with both hands as staying in one of Kruger’s sleepover hides is the ultimate chance to be out in the African wilderness completely by yourself. Although the hide is fenced to keep animals out, knowing no one …

Swainson's Spurfowl Pternistis swainsonii Kruger National Park

Swainson’s Spurfowl – Tweedledee and Tweedledum

This pair of Swainson’s Spurfowls (Pternistis swainsonii) was one of the little highlights on our last trip into the Kruger National Park.  Whenever at the junction of the H7 and the untarred road towards Maroela camp we were sure to spot these two territorial birds. Seemingly undisturbed and rather inquisitive at first, they frantically started to look for cover in the tall grass every time our car approached. After experiencing this ritual half a dozen of times we baptized them Tweedledee and Tweedledum – a funny couple in a wild Wonderland. To listen to their captivating call please read the post and click on the mp3 file.

Tree Squirrel Kruger National Park South Africa

Tree Squirrel – How Rabbit lost its Tail

Lately, I came across an entertaining African folktale in which Squirrel asks his brother-in-law Rabbit to borrow him his beautiful fluffy tail. First Rabbit refuses, but after a few days of pleading he consents. Squirrel puts on Rabbit’s tail, promises to bring it back in eight days time and then goes home. Rabbit waits in vain for Squirrel to return his tail, and after eleven days he decides to claim it back. When Squirrel sees Rabbit he quickly jumps in a tree, laughs out loud and challenges Rabbit to climb up into the tree if he ever wants to see his tail again. Ashamed of losing his tail Rabbit goes away and spends the rest of his life living in the tall grass. Look out for these arboreal rodents chasing each other in Kruger’s rest camp trees – and think about how poor lonely Rabbit lost its tail.  

Giraffe Hluhluwe KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Giraffe – Hilltop perspective

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.

Impala Lily Kruger National Park South Africa

Impala Lily flowering

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.

Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Cheetah – I spy with my little eye

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.

Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis Kruger National Park South Africa

Saddle-billed Stork – Red List encounter

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!  

Nyala angasii Mpila Hluhluwe-iMfolozi KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Nyala male – King of Mpila

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.

Natal creeping fig carpobrotus dimidiatus iSimangaliso Wetland Park KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Natal Creeping Fig – The little things

At Mission Rocks lookout point the wetlands of the St. Lucia estuary unfold in front of you, with sweeping views of evergreen forests, ancient coastal dunes and open savannah. Some specks in the far distance turn out to be grazing rhinos, but tiny as they are my attention is drawn to some flowering Natal creeping figs (Carpobrotus dimidiatus) that grow in the area abundantly. This succulent plant is indigenous to the coastal habitats of KwaZulu-Natal, thriving on sandy soils and therefore often used as a stabilizer near roads and railways. Even more fascinating is its traditional use as a remedy against dysentery, blue bottle stings and eczema. Because I took a few extra pictures of this wonderful flower we apparently missed out on a spectacular leopard sighting a bit further on, but hey, I’ve learned to be content with the little things in life, to slow down and experience nature in all its nuances. Besides that, in Africa the next big thing is never far away anyway!

Thick-tailed Bushbaby Otolemur crassicaudatus KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Thick-tailed Bushbaby

The thick-tailed bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus) is the biggest species of a primitive group of African primates called galagos. They are arboreal, just as their smaller cousins, and walk and run along branches like monkeys. Although they sometimes hop around as if they were kangaroos, they don’t posses the same agility and quick-grabbing reflexes other bushbabies display. Their diet therefore consist mainly of fruit, gum and seeds rather than insects. They are solitary feeders most of the time, but often congregate and socialize on fruiting trees and gum-oozing acacias, even in man-made habitats as plantations and gardens. We were lucky to witness these lovely big-eyed residents of the Bushbaby Lodge near Hluhluwe, eagerly anticipating some slices of banana. After a minute or two they quickly moved into the dark canopy again to continue their usual foraging route. Eye to eye with an ancient ancestor: totally awesome!

Black Rhinoceros iSimangaliso Wetland Park KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Black Rhinoceros – Click, play, help

We spotted this beautiful black rhino on the 8th of august in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. According to information provided by KZN Wildlife this individual should still be alive – a reason to celebrate on World Rhino Day and honour all those who are involved in conservation efforts. Make your contribution to save the rhino and play this game! iTunes link for Rest of the the world: itunes.apple.com/us/app/wwf-rhino-raid/id603031304?ls=1&mt=8 Android link: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=za.co.flintsky.rhinoraid&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsInphLmNvLmZsaW50c2t5LnJoaW5vcmFpZCJd

Giraffe Morning Golden Hour Kruger National Park South Africa

Giraffe – Golden hour grace

  “I had time after time watched the progression across the plain of the giraffe, in their queer inimitable, vegetative gracefulness, as if it were not a herd of animals but a family of rare, long-stemmed, speckled gigantic flowers slowly advancing” – Karen Blixen, Out of Africa I simply love giraffes, the way they look, eat and walk in all their gracious glory. These were not the first animals we came across on this golden hour morning drive near Orpen: lions and black-backed jackals had crossed our path just five minutes earlier. Although the predators didn’t offer the same photo opportunity, I’ve never had such an exciting start of the day!

Hamerkop Kruger National Park South Africa

Hamerkop

Just south of the Letaba the S-46 crosses a side arm of this mighty river. At the water’s edge our attention was drawn to a solitary hippo bull, clearly not amused by our presence according to his resonant grunts. It was only after he submerged when we spotted this Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) right next to the car, waiting for an unsuspecting fish or frog in the shallows. We observed this fascinating bird for a few moments, but as it is a symbol for bad-luck and human futility in South-African folklore we didn’t wait for the hippo to reappear…

Giraffe acacia tree Kruger National Park South Africa

Giraffe and acacia

Browsing giraffes are a common sight on any safari as they love the tender leaves and twigs of acacia trees. Since a giraffe eats up to 34 kilograms every day in order to sustain its bulk, acacias have developed clever defence mechanisms to avoid being stripped completely. Apart from their big thorns – that can be negotiated by the giraffe’s flexible upper lip and prehensile tongue – acacias charge their leaves with alkaloids, chemical compounds that bind with tannins, rendering the leaves indigestible. As soon as an acacia starts this chemical defence it warns other trees in the vicinity, forcing the giraffe to browse upwind in order to continue his love affair with these thorny trees.