Wednesday, December 9

The "Painted" Elephants of Addo

Recently we had the most wonderful elephant encounter in Addo Elephant National Park.

Despite its name I never take elephant sightings for granted in Addo as it can be difficult to find them in the dense thickets that cover most of the Park.

However on this particular late morning in the last week of November we had an abundance of these stately mammals, in an array of earthly colours, enjoying the Harpoor waterhole.

I noticed this "painted" lady as she approached one of the muddy waterholes and she went ahead and gave herself a new coating of muddy water.......


However, she wasn't satisfied with the texture or colour of the mud so she then kicked vigorously to stir up a whole lot more......

Minutes passed, elephants moved on and then more came in. I lost count of how many elephant we saw in total.

Then this handsome bull came up the slope towards us and that muddy waterhole.....

He gave us a great demonstration of how a mud shower should be really done.
ahhhh, there's nothing that beats a fresh coat of paint / muddy water!

There were lots of other antics going on as well, of course......

Eventually and reluctantly we dragged ourselves away..........

After lunch, we went out again looking for more animals and came across another small herd of elephant, re-spraying from white to ochre .......

We didn't find the lion but I certainly got my elephant "fix" that day :)

Sunday, October 11

Not just a Safari Guide

By the end of last year it became more and more apparent that I needed to broaden my horizons, set myself new challenges and move further out of my "Kruger Safari Guide" comfort zone.

An interview or two later, I was on my first 12 day Garden Route to Cape Town tour as a "trainee". Since then I've completed four tours as the Tour Leader/driver and I have another three scheduled before the end of 2015.

In-between I've managed to do just enough safari guide work to keep myself happy on the "wildlife" front.

One of my excuses for having blogged so little this year was the uncertainty of how you, my faithful readers, would react to having less stories and photos of our amazing African wildlife and more on the spectacular landscapes, flowers and creatures of our southern Cape coast.......

The other excuse, I'm afraid, is that I have been so "tested" by the significant differences between what I was used to for the last 7 years, and the new type of tour I am doing, that I had little energy or motivation to focus on sharing with you via my blog.

Well, I hope that's changed now. I have a small but reasonable collection of photos taken whilst on tour and I'm beginning to feel a lot more comfortable about delivering what my guests expect - so now I'm a whole lot more motivated!!

To ease the transition from mostly blogging about the wildlife of Kruger I'm going to use this post to cover some of the more significant creatures we hope to see whilst on the Garden Route to Cape Town tour.

We start off in Addo Elephant Park and that of course implies that we will definitely see elephants. Fortunately we have on every trip so far, but we have struggled several times to get even one sighting!

What I found amazing is that we have seen the 2 young male lion (introduced from the Kalahari a few years ago) on every trip except one. They are such handsome boys too!

I do find it disorienting how lush and green Addo is at this time of the year - when Kruger is at it's most starkly barren.....

We've also see zebra, kudu, hartebeest, eland - and not an impala in sight!

Based on the large numbers of kudu that we have seen on the last four trips I would say they are Addo's equivalent of the impala (which is not native to this part of South Africa)

For the next few days, wildlife spotting is not a focus, but we see plenty of Rock Dassies and occasionally bush buck and baboons at Storms River.

And then of course we get to Hermanus, where from August to November, spotting Southern Right whales in Walker Bay is the most important objective!
On my September trip we saw whales but they were not very active. Last week we had a real show!

The 11th day of the tour takes us down to Cape Point, where in addition to the magnificent scenery we look out for ostrich, the endangered bontebok, eland, whales and dolphins. In September we had several Humpback whales swimming around the point - which was quite a rare sighting.

Then of course we return to Cape Town via Simonstown and the Boulders Beach Penguin Sanctuary.

One of the highlights of the whole trip for most of my guests!

I hope I've broken my posting drought with this entry. As I add to my photo database I will become more inspired and post more - if you are keen to see birds, flowers and landscapes......

Not to forget that I am still getting at least one Kruger safari every month and I will post more on those trips as well.

Saturday, April 18

When the buffalo chased off the lion pride

It's early on a late-summer morning, and we're taking a quick drive north of Satara before turning south for Skukuza.
Some 10 k's from camp we find a huge buffalo herd crossing the road, extending for 100's of meters on both sides. There are many calves gamboling around and we pause to enjoy the show.......

Slowly we become aware of a commotion on the fringes of the herd and we look ahead to see two buffalo bulls having a fight. As we move closer one of the bulls hooks his horn deep into the ribs of the other.

Buffalo bulls fighting (from my photo archives)
The wounded buffalo starts bellowing desperately and the whole herd seems to instinctively coalesce and start moving towards the distress calls.

I look ahead and can't believe my eyes....... four lions, females and sub-adults, are on the road also looking towards the distress calls! They quickly cross towards the sounds and within seconds the closest, lead buffalo spot them as well.

We don't know what happens to the wounded buffalo as all attention (ours and the herd) is now on the lion.

With no pause the herd start trotting purposefully towards the lionesses with the leaders breaking into a run.

Turning tail the lions disappear into bushes next to the road side.

Having lost direct sight of the lionesses the buffalo herd pauses........ and then focus west across the road where following their gaze we also see the 2 massive male lions in the open grassland.

With no further hesitation the herd streams across the road and breaks into a determined gallop......

They are obviously more concerned about the male lion than the lionesses and juveniles they've just chased into the bushes.
Rupert manages to capture most of the chase on video - it's a long way off but if you watch the video you can get a better sense of the speed at which those buffalo chased the lion. Keep a close eye on the grass beyond the buffalo and you can see the lion fleeing....

As the buffalo momentum slows, I drive through the herd still crossing westwards and we manage to get close to the second male lion as he crosses over to the east following, at a safer distance, the original direction the herd was moving.
As you can see from the photo, this male has been through a few battles before!

With both lion and buffalo now hyper-aware of each other........

....... the morning returns to return its original rhythm, and 
the buffalo resume their push down to the low ground in the east....... 

shadowed by the lion.

Thanks to Asma for spotting the fighting buffalo,
Rupert & Jeorgianna for the video, and
all three of you being there to share this amazing sighting with me!

Saturday, January 31

Kruger in High Summer

On the open plains north of Satara

I've said this before and I've got to say it again - all of you who avoid the bush, especially Kruger National Park, in high summer, whether due to the heat, humidity, malaria, long grass, thick bush or all of the above, don't know what you are missing.

Yes, it can rain but this cools things down a bit;

Sabie River at Skukuza

and yes the rivers can flood,

Saddle-billed Stork

White-faced Duck
but there are also all new and temporary waterholes scattered everywhere, hosting waterbirds in places you've never seen them before,

and large hot mammals desperately looking for a little cooling......

Only in high summer can you see so many flowers, 

River Lily
Flame Lily

flowering grasses,

Giant plated Lizard

reptiles and dung beetles..........

It is also marula season, when every self-respecting fruit connoisseur in the bush is scrounging for the juicy, tart marulas under tall, shady tree canopies.

And to just add a little more "cuteness" to the whole experience, there are a whole lot more babies around in high summer too!

Blue Wildebeest

I've run out of space, time and probably your patience to also go on about the amazing birds found only in summer, so I will wrap up this posting by urging you to go and see for yourself what a summer safari in Kruger can produce!