Thursday, December 27

A Kruger intermission, an underwater sojourn

Sodwana Bay, viewed from Jesser point

After a year of working quite hard on safari I was definitely missing my “alternate” world – under the sea.....

So when I realised that I was not working over Christmas (for the first time since 2007) I immediately made plans to go diving.

I hadn't been on the reefs of Sodwana Bay for almost four years and as one could, at a stretch, say it was on the way to Durban, where I planned to visit my extended family, well, it was the obvious diving destination.

Blue-lined & Yellow snapper

My timing was good, the sea has started getting warmer, there were enough divers around to make up a boat load of “advanced” divers to visit further reefs, but not yet the school holidays, so I could get some “off-season” discounts (plus the beach wasn't too crowded).

And, wow, I had forgotten just how glorious the diving at Sodwana can be!

Here are just a few of my photos, but they cannot really give you a feel for what we experienced:-

Paper Fish

The gorgeous, colourful hard and soft corals, sponges, anemones, clams and fish that proliferate on the reefs stretching north of Jesser Point;

Two-bar anemone fish

 The large manta ray swooping over and around us for most of another dive;

Ribbon Eels

Five different types of moray eel one afternoon, including the “cheeky” black-cheeked moray that nipped my hand as I struggled in the surge to take a photo of another;

The brilliantly coloured, tiny nudibranchs dotted almost everywhere we looked;

A view through one of the many arches on the reefs

A school of dolphins circling us playfully as we snorkeled with them after one dive;

Turtle tracks etched on the dunes as we skimmed past every morning;

The majesty of a large “raggie” shark winding away from us;

 And, at the end of a long morning's diving, that unique post-dive state of exhausted euphoria.


Ribbon-tail Ray

Giant clam

After that wonderful, diving break I am back to Kruger Park tomorrow, totally refreshed by almost 9 hours of immersion in the Indian Ocean, and ready for the bush again :)

I hope you have all had a happy festive season, and best wishes for 2013.

Friday, December 7

Wildlife, mountains & lakes in the Pilanesberg

A popular wildlife destination for those who can't get to Kruger, is the Pilanesberg National Park, only a couple of hours drive from Jo'burg.

Three weeks ago, my niece and I spent a few days in this very scenic part of South Africa.

We were both "on holiday", so we didn't do the "serious" safari bit, but relaxed, didn't keep to a schedule, and still managed to get many awesome wildlife sightings.

It's both higher in elevation and drier in this north western corner, so in addition to impala, there are also springbok to be seen. As well as blue wildebeest (aka gnu) we also spotted elusive hartebeest. Another special sighting for me was a colony of rock dassies (hyraxes) which we rarely see in Kruger.

The park is obviously a lot smaller but is nestled within concentric rings of high hills (we call them mountains here) which are the very ancient remnants of a volcano. So the landscapes are spectacular!

Here are just a few of my favourite photos / sightings...........

We only once got up before dawn,  it was worth it though!

We had quite a few great sightings of these awesome creatures....

and wildebeest and zebra were everywhere.......

no wildebeest babies yet but lots of zebra foals.

The Pilanesberg has plenty of waterholes / dams to attract the wildlife, and these are really beautiful.....

The elephant breeding herds remained elusive, with only one very distant sighting but we had wonderfully close encounters with these two male elephant.

We also saw many, many giraffe, but my favourite photo involving a giraffe was of this red-billed ox pecker:)

There were many other great bird sightings too......

White-faced Duck

Spotted Thick-knee and chick

Pied kingfisher

Then some of our most special moments waited until our last afternoon game drive.

We were admiring this herd of wildebeest walking, in file, across the silver green grassy slope when to our amazement a Brown hyena snuck into view. It didn't take long for the wildebeest to spot it and swiftly chase it off !

We were still oohing and aahing about the hyena, when around the next corner we spotted a pair of Black-backed jackal and their two pups in the road.

This small family was very shy and quickly disappeared from sight into their den under the road, but another kilometre on we came across a second mother with 5 pups! These were much more relaxed and we had a wonderful 15 minutes watching them play.....

The lighting was very bad so I apologise for the quality of these pictures.

And that was the Pilanesberg. It is always well worth a visit, especially if you cannot make Kruger.

We also saw lion, hippo, springbok, warthog, and many other creatures small & large.

Cheetah, leopard, buffalo and wild dog kept themselves out of sight, but maybe next time!