I managed to secure some stunning accommodation options in most of the wilderness camps on New Years day 2022 departing 3 weeks later, so rather short notice. Most of my previous visits were during the severe drought or before the rainy season. I watched the Sanparks Reservation page and followed the weather patterns in the Park carefully (almost on a daily basis). I was very sad to read about the two devastating fires. One in the north, burning from Botswana side and the second on Christmas day, starting at 13th Borehole.
Obviously I was overjoyed when firstly some good rains fell in the Kalahari and secondly when the accommodation at the Wilderness camps popped up on New Years day. I immediately grabbed the opportunity and secured my on-line reservation.
I managed to include the following:
Nossob Rest camp (as an en-route stop)
Gharagab Wilderness Camp
Grootkolk Wilderness Camp
Bitterpan Wilderness Camp
Urikaruus Wilderness Camp
It was good to meet up with my old friends, the camp attendants, in the camps again. They are doing an excellent job in looking after the facilities and the tourists. Thank you guys
I was overjoyed to arrive in the Park and being welcomed by lush green veldt. Unfortunately some evidence remained from the recent fires in the form of dead Camel Thorn and other trees. While I was there it also was overcast on some days with some thunderstorm activity. Overcast conditions made the photography very challenging.
The green grass , yellow flowers and burnt trees resulted in some stunning moody scenes that I tried to capture with my camera.
The road to Bitterpan Wilderness camp revealed some areas where the devastation of the recent fires were still very prominent, probably as this area has not received sufficient rain yet.
Some of the other images from the trip
Lots of the March lilies (I call them Rain Flowers) around.
For me this trip was a very emotional one as I missed out on the wonderful green Kgalagadi in 2021 as both my visits were in the dry months (one before the rain in January and second in May when the grass was now tall and dry making sightings difficult). I was amazed by the different moods and scenes encountered during the trip and can not wait to get back there in August 2022.
While on holiday in Hermanus Western Cape I decided to spend one afternoon at a local salt pan in Onrus. I was met by a rustic scene with lots of Seagulls, Cormorants and some Egyptian Geese. While I was enjoying the scenery, a female Egyptian Goose with some ducklings entered the water from some shrubs. Male Egyptian Geese are very territorial and protective of the female and will aggressively defend them.
Just as they were settling down and started swimming past, all hell broke loose. A male Egyptian Goose flew in from the side and the mother reacted very quickly by attacking the intruder.
Out of nowhere (I did not notice from where) another bird joined the fight (I thought it was probably the male protecting his family). It was a very serious battle with biting, wing flaps and water splashing everywhere.
At one stage the male was trying his best to drown the intruder by submerging him under the water.
The intruder managed to save himself and very rapidly flew off (tail between the legs) and family life returned to normal. The duckling disappeared during the fight but promptly returned to the female after all calmed down.
What amazed me the most was the speed all this happened at. The interval between first image (female reacting) to last image (drowning attempt) was 9 seconds.
As everything started to calm down some movement to the side drew my attention, another spectator, just as surprised as myself.
During my recent visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park I stumbled onto, what turned out to be, an very interesting sighting in the Nossob river bed, close to Rooiputs. A secretary bird was hunting for insects and other tasty snacks in the area. The bird was walking from bush to bush, flapped it’s wings and waited for something to move so that it can very quickly be stomped upon (the secretary bird hits the target very hard and incredibly fast with it’s claw).
From one of the bushes a tasty grasshopper appeared and tried it’s best to escape the deadly claw. The secretary bird very quickly pursued this tasty morsel and tried it’s best to catch up with it.
All this excitement very quickly drew the attention of a young Black-backed jackal that was hanging around. The jackal was under the impression he can quickly sneak in for a quick win. Now the hunter became the hunted. The jackal made a few quick dashes for the secretary bird but was punching above his weight.
Suddenly the secretary bird decided he had enough and turned to face off the jackal. He came in for the strike with those deadly feet.
This was just too much for the poor jackal, who trotted off and the secretary bird continued hunting.
During my recent Mana Pools Photographic Safari with Marlon du Toit of Wild Eye we followed a pack of 29 wild dogs on foot. We went looking for them early afternoon. On the first afternoon we found them sleeping next to a small stream in the shade of some trees.
While the adults were resting the pups were fooling around with one another.
All of a sudden the whole pack got up, greeted one another and went down for a drink in the stream.
After spending some time playing in the water they headed off to hunt.
Obviously we could not keep up on foot but when we eventually caught up with them we noticed they killed a baboon. Although not a good image you can clearly see the baboon hind leg and tail this pup was running off with.
Apparently they use the opportunity of hunting baboon to expose the pups to the total hunt experience. The baboons are not as fast and in this forrest environment with only very large trees around they only have to prevent the baboon getting into the trees.
After many years of looking forward to a possible visit to Mana Pools I had the opportunity to join Marlon du Toit of Wild Eye to live my dream. I realised as it was October it was going to be hot. What I did not anticipate was that we will be there in the middle of a heat wave that went through. Daytime temperatures of 40 degrees C and above, made the trip just so much more extreme!! Dave & Tess from Mwinilunga Safaris were our hosts on the bank of the Zambezi river and really spoilt us with their hospitality including some great food. The tents and facilities were superb and the shady spot under the huge trees made us (almost) forget the high temperature. Kevin, our very capable guide, looked after us very well while Marlon got us in position to capture some wonderful images, all this on foot. You can imagine the feeling when you are on foot within a few meters of a beautiful elephant bull feeding from the huge trees in the forrest or lion and wild dogs resting in the shade or playing in the water. Truly a life changing experience, thank you Marlon and Kevin.
Our host Marlon getting a nice shot of a young elephant.
As it is normally very dry during October, with the rains only falling later, the animals have to really work hard to feed themselves. The bigger elephant bulls reach up to get to some leaves and branches high up in the trees.
This guy needed some extra support to reach the really high leaves 😉
Mana Pools is well known for the blue light of the late afternoon and you can get some stunning images of this (obviously with the help of Marlon).
In a next blog post I will share our experience following a pack of 29 wild dogs.
Every year millions of wildebeest and other antelope begin the migration to better grazing after the rains have fallen in other areas of the park. In the process they have to cross the Mara River where hundreds of hungry crocodile await their arrival. The wildebeest will gather in high numbers, push closer to the river and wait. It is not clear what triggers the initial ones to take the leap but once it started, they all follow in a dusty frenzy. Some will jump from high up the river bank and splash down fairly hard in the river. Normally if there are zebra present they will take the lead and the crossing can happen must quicker.
I have personally seen thousands of wildebeest building up, pushing at the river edge to just all of a sudden turn around and move away. They may repeat this quite a few time or just cross on the second time. The presence of some animals on the opposite bank results in a higher probability that they might cross easier (either direction) to get to one another.
Here some wildbeest are starting to build up and approach the water
With smaller groups especially wildebeest and zebra the crossing is less hectic
Then for the real excitement when thousands build up and eventually start to cross. The noise they make, the dust generated and the presence of the odd predator trying to take a quick meal in the confusion of the crossing makes for a real noisy and dusty scene.The wildebeest just continue coming, jumping from high up the riverbank and plonking down in the river and quickly try to safely reach the other side in one piece.
The one that make it through unscathed and very glad and run around full of joy
We all have been adding things to do to our personal bucket lists. I had to go out and buy a larger bucket as my list just grew and grew and I never had the chance to ticks off items on the list. As this was mostly due to work commitments you can imagine my excitement when I finally retired at the end of February 2015. I immediately tackled my bucket list and started planning. The first item on my list was experiencing the Wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, Kenya. I booked a photographic safari with my old friends Lou Coetzer and Neal Cooper of CNP Safaris. What an excellent bunch of guys and totally mind blowing experience.
We arrived in the Mara at the beginning of September to an overcast sky with some stunning scenes of thousands of wildebeest and other antelope on the grass plains.
Over the next week we experienced some stunning predator sightings, spent some time with beautiful Scar, the well known male lion (with a damaged right eye, hence the name)
We were lucky to also witness some major Wildebeest crossings, although no crocodile interaction. The crocs were so well fed and very relaxed during the week I spent there. I was amazed by the number of wildebeest crossing the Mara River looking for fresh grazing and the way they (eventually) cross the river.
Although we all go to the Mara for the crossings there are some stunning other wildlife around.
I will post different posts on specific Mara sightings so please feel free to return and check for updates.
Everyone that has been privileged enough to visit the Chobe National Park near Kasane in Botswana would have experienced the behaviour of the elephants. I recently again joined Coetzer Nature Photography on a photographic safari on their photographic boats on the river. Indeed an enjoyable and rewarding trip, thanks Neal and Hendri!!! These boats provide an excellent opportunity to get close to the elephants in a safe and responsible manner.
The elephants frequently visit the river to drink, feast on the lush grass growing in the river and just enjoy the water (elephants do love water). They grab a trunk full of grass, then shake it to rid it of mud after which it would be gulped down.
Unfortunately life is not always this easy for the elephants and water levels may affect the availability of the vegetation in and around the river. The elephants then are forced to venture into the surrounding area to feed. This includes using a tusk (yes it would appear that you do get left and right “tusked” elephants) to dig or obtain food. You therefore often see elephants with worn tusks.
The elephants love the water and would play in it, interact with one another or just spray it all over the place and themselves.
They eventually have to leave the river, only to return tomorrow.
I hope you now know why I am so fascinated by the Chobe elephants.
With all the rain we had in this area Rietvlei Nature Reserve has very quickly changed to a lush green garden. All the animals really enjoyed the change and it was as if they all received an energy boost.
This Giant Kingfisher was very active in catching small crabs and then “removing” the legs against the bridge at Otterdam
She (yes this is the female) would then toss it into the air to get into the correct position and then swallow the body of the crab
The Yellow-billed ducks enjoyed playing in the water or sitting in the sun just relaxing
The proud mother also came around to show me her beautiful ducklings
Zebras are always a favourite of mine and although this one was a taxi they are normally just grazing and enjoying life
This male was really excited about life but it nearly landed him in trouble when he approached a female (with a headache)
Everyone in life, including this Cape Wagtail has a family or dependants to feed.
This Guineafowl was trying to find some seeds to feast on
Spotted Thick-knees always think their camouflage is good enough and normally stand very still which makes for excellent photo opportunities
The Otterdam is very full and is overflowing strongly. I have witnessed some fish, mostly barbels being washed downstream and then trying to get back
If you have the opportunity to visit Rietvlei Nature Reserve, do so you will not regret it
I have recently been to Kruger National Park for a few short but very nice visits. As Lake Panic, just outside Skukuza, has always been one of my favorite bird hides I have obviously made sure that I also stopped there for some excitement.
The first trip was during June 2013 and early morning it is still very cold. If you leave Skukuza as the gates open you get to Lake Panic just before sunrise.
As it warms up (yes including me) the action starts. Normally the African Darters are first to start diving for fish. They are quite quick and actually spear the fish and after it is dead swallow it whole
The next visitors are normally the Pied Kingfishers. They sit and watch for fish hover above the water and then dive into the water to catch the fish with their strong beak. They then fly to a branch where they start knocking the hell out of the fish. This is done to firstly kill the fish but secondly also to remove the scales before commencing to swallow the catch.
After swallow the meal the cleaning and grooming starts, firstly by rubbing the beak against the branch, then actually diving a few times into the water.
While all this action is going on the other inhabitants of lake Panic go about doing what they do best, eat, relax and enjoy the sun.
Every now and then a thirsty herd of elephant will visit for a quick drink or sometimes even to take short cut across the Lake, very weary of old Sharpes and his family
Until next time…
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