Saturday, December 14

The Magnificent Cheetah

Those of you that follow me on Facebook will have noticed recently a few more cheetah photos than normal.

That's because over the last 3 months or so we have had some really great sightings of this beautiful, elusive predator.

The cheetah is often at the top of my safari clients wish list, but with only 100 to 200 of these endangered cats in Kruger, it is a very, very special day that we get to see one.

One of the private game reserves we visit have tracking chips in their adult cheetah (for research purposes), so when we occasionally visit there we are almost guaranteed a sighting. (The young cheetah cubs in the following pictures were photographed there).

This elegant cat, which is the oldest of the large cats, having been around for well over 3 million years, is endangered for all the usual reasons (loss of habitat, poaching, indiscriminate killing by farmers etc.).

However the real sting in the tail, mostly due to it's very low genetic diversity, is that it's highly susceptible to diseases, has a low fertility rate and cannot adapt easily to significant environmental changes.

So populations across Africa and the Middle East have been declining steadily, and estimates put them currently at approximately 10,000 animals left.

So one has to wonder at how much longer we are going to be able to find these animals in the wild and enjoy their natural grace and beauty.

I've included below some of my favourite Cheetah pics taken over the last 6 years. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Many of the facts quoted above I obtained from the Cheetah Conservation Funds website. You can read more for yourself by following this link:-  Cheetah Conservation Fund

Saturday, November 23

It's baby time in Kruger!

Two weeks ago I was searching eagerly through the legs of every impala herd we encountered to see if I could find any new lambs. This week they are everywhere.......


We've also seen a few tiny "warthoglets" (no photos unfortunately). Now the impatient wait to see the first gnu / wildebeest calves.

Of the water birds, most of the young herons look almost fully grown now, but a glimpse of Egyptian goslings at Lake Panic Bird Hide was a delightful surprise.

And then we've also had some wonderful sightings of hyaena cubs, monkey and baboon babies and many more........

not such a baby anymore, but still very young....

 No wonder this is one of my favourite times of the year!!

Friday, October 25

Rafts, Pods and Thunders * of Hippopotami

* all collective names for hippo

The call of the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is one of those unique African sounds that reverberates through my whole being. The local languages have lovely onomatopoeic names for the hippo - Luvuvhu and Mvuvhu being some of the best ones.

The hippo is high on the list of animals to see for many visitors to Africa, and misconceptions about the hippo abound.

Let me put you straight:-

It is NOT cute or cuddly, but is fierce, aggressive and dangerous

It is NOT slow or passive, but can outrun a human over short distances

It does NOT swim, but runs along the bottom of rivers and lakes

It does NOT hunt or eat meat or fish, but grazes grass on shore and pulls aquatic vegetation to the surface to chew on.

It is known in many quarters as the most dangerous mammal in Africa. It kills more people than any of the other large mammals including lion, elephant or buffalo.

scary eyes when you are in a canoe!
It's aggressive nature is probably caused or aggravated by it's relatively small “home space”.

Never get between a hippo and it's hippo “pool”.

I've done several canoeing trips on the Zambezi River and avoiding hippo, by all means, is a major focus every day. However, on safari in Kruger we are usually observing hippo from a safe distance and from a vehicle.

Here in South Africa, we only find hippo in a few places, mostly within the northern and eastern conservation areas. This is mainly because we are a semi-arid country and don't have a lot of suitable hippo habitat around.

So in general, finding and observing hippo is pleasurably exciting, rather than terrifyingly nerve-racking.

Here are a few of my favourite hippo photos, taken over the last 6 years........

Hippos and their calves

This jaw-to-jaw sparring session got quite serious. 


Close to their "homes" hippo can get aggressive with any animal close to their size, as with this youngster first "yawning" at these Cape Buffalo, and then chasing them off!

But with the smaller animals, like these terrapin and African Jacana the hippo don't stir a whisker!

Most of the time hippo spend the day sleeping submerged in the water having spent each night grazing on shore. So we don't often get great views of hippo......

Occasionally we are very lucky and they come very close to my favourite Kruger "hide" - that's where many of these photos come from.

And as a last thought, I think there is a new collective name we could apply to hippo, specifically when they are sleeping out on the beach - a heap of hippo - very applicable, don't you think?

Thursday, October 10

A Safari Photo Update (2)

A Klipspringer silhouette

As promised last week here are some more of my favourite photos from the last few months.

It was a time of transition:-
 late winter through into spring;
hot windy days in August to cold drizzly days in September;
snakes and lizards shaking off the torpor of winter;
birds busy building nests;
bare branches against smoky skies;
bright flowers splash against naked earth;

Nile Crocodile

Black Crake
 Busy birds at Lake Panic
Grey herons nesting

A very rare sighting of the African Rock Python, and a Rock Monitor Lizard standing proud....

A pattern of impala, and the exquisite Impala Lily.

 And we had some wonderful sightings of the larger predators:-
a mating pair of lion;
a pride of lion basking in the late afternoon sun;
two hyena cubs enjoying a cool damp morning; and
a lively, young cheetah family;

I probably won't be on safari again until late October, so I may entertain you with older stories and photos over the next couple of weeks......

Sunset through the Marula trees

Friday, October 4

A Safari Photo Update from Kruger National Park (1)

Winter is always a busy time on safari. It is after all one of the best times of the year to view the larger mammals in the South African bush.

Here are some of my favourite scenes from the last 3 months........

(click on the photos to see them in a larger size)

We watched this leopard for 45 minutes as she unsuccessfully stalked a small herd of impala antelope