Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Mighty Fall

In 1855, the African explorer, David Livingstone, was the first European to encounter one of the world's most majestic sights - The Victoria Waterfall. The "Vic" Falls are situated in southern Africa between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River.

This is a view (photo left) of the falls and gorge as seen from the west (on the Zimbabwean side) and close to a statue of David Livingstone.

Trivia: the locals call this spectacular natural wonder 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' = the smoke that thunders - certainly a deafening sound during the flood season (February-May, peaking in April).

Geologically, the falls formed as a result of erosion and climatic changes over a period of 150 million years! The Zambezi River flows through alternating soft and hard rocks and Devil's Cataract (right) is the latest in a series of "weak" north-south faults that are "cutting back" into another fault that will form the Vic Falls of the future.

Apart from Devil's Cataract, the Main Falls (left) is the only part of the Vic Falls with a "curtain"of water throughout the year.
Trivia: at 1708m wide, the (entire) Vic Falls are the longest "curtain" of water in the world, dropping between 90 + 107m into the Zambezi Gorge.

During the dry season (approx. 7-8 months of the year) what remains of the basaltic lava deposits are visible in the bare cliffs (right). In the background - the Zambezi Sun hotel, situated in Zambia.

Did you know that the "present" Vic Falls is the latest and in fact the 8th in a series of faults? About 100km south of today's Vic Falls, the Zambezi River once tumbled 250m as a waterfall over the crest of the basalt into the Matetsi valley (= the first waterfall). Since then the process was repeated 7 times over eons of years, and is clearly visible in the zig-zag-pattern of gorges south of the present Vic Falls.

In contrast to the first photo, this is a view (right) of the gorge below the Vic Falls as viewed from the east (= Zambia side).

Trivia: the falls and surrounding area was declared a World Heritage Site site in 1989 and is now classified as 1 of 7 wonders of the natural world.

This photo (below) was taken in February this year = during the flood season.

Trivia: generally, the spray from the falls rises to a height of about 400m BUT during the flood season it's sometimes twice as high AND visible 50-100km away!

Another "view" (can't see much other than mist) during the flood season and the famous falls-rainbow, as seen from the Zambian side. Close to the edge, the spray "shoots up" like inverted rain during the flood season - don't forget to take a raincoat along.

From the relaxed atmosphere on the "deck" of the Royal Livingstone Sun hotel on the Zambian side, visitors can enjoy just watching the Zambezi River flowing by - with the mist "that thunders" visible in the background.

Or take a boat cruise higher up on the Zambezi River and enjoy sundowners in a magnificent setting with majestic sunsets (right and below)......

......... which can be enjoyed all year round, and not only during a specific season.

To end, a "fun" photo (right) of what I once bought as a postcard - how the mighty fall?!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Social Primates

After finishing what I call a "photo-story", Impi the Impala (there's a preview of the first Chapter on www.impi-impala.blogspot.com), I'm already busy with a follow-up: Moni the Monkey. The first four photos today are examples of what I've used in my Impi-story, and the last four are meant to feature in my Moni-book. Isn't Moni cute and something very special? (Scroll down to have a peep). I'll "introduce" you to my Impi, and impalas in general, during one of my next blog-entries.

The Vervet monkey is one of only 2 monkey species in South Africa (in contrast to the rest of Africa) - the other is the rarer Samango. The Vervet monkey is common throughout our country, a highly social animal and part of well-organised troops dominated by males.

Vervets have many endearing qualities - doesn't this one (left) express quite a human-like attitude? Amongst some of the features vervets have in common with us, a close (primate) relative, are their 5-fingered limbs and flat finger nails.

Trivia: the Vervet monkey species is 7-8 million years old = at least 6,500 MILLION years older than modern-day human!

Vervet monkeys are known to show (very human-like) emotion, but did you know that they can distinguish certain colours? That cetainly is extraordinary amongst animals. In their case, it's mainly a mechanism to recognise if fruit are green or ripe. Although their diet tends to be omnivorous, vervet monkeys or mostly herbivores.

Although grooming (left) is a necessary function to clear each other of blood-sucking parasites like e.g. ticks, grooming is also a social activity often performed during the "heat of the day" when monkeys, like most animals in the bush, rest after foraging in the morning.

Did you know that monkeys not only groom each other, but also occasionally groom small antelopes, e.g. the Duiker?

When I look at this photo (right) the term "Old World" monkey springs to mind BUT not only in relation to how monkeys as primates are scientifically classified. I think the look in this baby monkey's eyes (face) is "classical" and so "wise beyond its years"!?

As promised above, I introduce (left): Moni the Monkey. I couldn't believe my eyes when what I detected in the distance wasn't a rodent - my first thought at the time. Once I realised that it actually was a "white" monkey youngster and part of a troop, I couldn't (of course!) stop clicking away with my camera. Luckily I was on foot and alone, so nobody and nothing could distract me from having my "fill" = a series of photos of this unusual encounter with an albino monkey.

The idea was born right there and then: the little white monkey was going to feature as the main character in a second "photo-book" = my photos of nature accompanied by a (fictional) story - instead of as just a coffee-table-photo-book.

Yes, the male monkey (left) was about to attack me - and I didn't "read the signals"! In my eagerness to get real-close-and-personal with this troop of monkeys, I forgot the one cardinal rule, which as tourist guide, I always share by way of a warning: never forget that even cute creatures like monkeys are wild animals! Instead I snapped happily away whilst getting too close to the females with their young ones, which I (should) know the males tend to fiercely protect. Just after taking this photo, three snarling males suddenly went on the attack - and I was the perceived threat. At least I kept my cool and slowly backed off backwards, NOT looking them in the eye and trying to crouch to appear smaller.

I won't lie: I got a huge fright!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Nature in Disguise

Today I'm sharing photos, which I didn't originally plan to include on this blog. After thinking that it's all very well and good to get a great or even the "perfect" photo (of e.g. a wild animal in its natural environment), I know that's never easy when visiting the African bush. Also, it "costs" a lot of patience. Now I invite you to share the "joy and pain" with me when going on safari:

A tree with 2 trunks (left)? Oh no, that looks like crossed legs and yes, there's an inquisitive head sticking out above the foliage!

How just a few thorns (right) on a near-bare bush can hide as large an animal as a giraffe! As in the first photo, this giraffe is as inquisitive as I've noticed most of these giants in nature tend to behave. Talking about humans wishing to determine what's hidden (disguised)!?

Nature at its best! How well-camouflaged are these 2 grey rhebok? Yes, the one on the right isn't too difficult to spot, but what about the second one further left?

Are we playing a game of hide-and-seek? Well, it looks as if this kudu female (right) "thinks" so.

Click to enlarge and then - look again, as I had to do after thinking I had detected a klipspringer on top of the front boulder. In this, its natural habitat, a small klipspringer antelope often stands like a statue - as if frozen to the spot. Luckily and since my obsession with collecting as many photos as possible of birds, I've developed a "good" eye for detecting small creatures.

Not a real disguise (right) - yet if you look "deeper" into the bush, you'll discover a herd of antelopes "hidden" behind the 2 kudu females.

The elephant (left) is fairly visible, but sometimes, even as large an animal as this one is completely camouflaged by bushes. If you don't believe me or haven't experienced this before, trust me, the one moment you think you're seeing an elephant, but the next moment - it's gone!!

Leopards are notoriously difficult to spot. Luckily this leopard (right) didn't "get away". Not the clearest of photos, but then I had to "zoom in" to just get a good glimpse of him, because it was "in hiding" far away from the road on which we were traveling.

Another cat (left) - hadn't the lioness lifted her head, I don't think we, in an open safari vehicle, would have spotted her well-camouflaged by thick grass. [If you want to see what this magnificent specimen looked like - once she sat up - go back to my entry on this blog under the heading "The BIG 5", photo 9 - it's one of my most treasured photos].

Look closely (or click on photo to enlarge, right) to see the "virtually" hidden "shadow" (?) of a cheetah behind tall grass. No zooming in was necessary during this occasion, because this magnificent creature was walking right next to us and parallel to the road - yet it was impossible to get a direct/clear view of it, other than what I present to you. To a certain degree, this one got away (painful to admit when you're "dying" to take a picture - so close, yet so ...... far?).

This photo is proof how important binoculars are, apart from a camera with a powerful zoom-lens, when on safari. The landscape is "teaming" with not one but two of the Big Five - elephant and buffalo (an unusual and therefore very special sighting). Our son-in-law, Quinton, had the "right equipment" to take this photo when we stood on the hilltop at the archeological sight of Thulamela (northern Kruger National Park). The animals in this photo aren't disguised as such but nonetheless difficult to spot - that's camouflage in the bush for you!

Animal spotting at its best - extremely exciting on the one hand, yet very frustrating at other times.

I didn't "doctor" (enhance) the above photos in any way so that the full effect of life in the bush remains "untouched".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Reach Out

I would like to state that I fully support the "Million Unite Against Crime" Campaign and encourage other South Africans to join the planned march on 10 June in Pretoria.

Let's unite and symbolically hold hands as Castor and Pollux do on top of the Delville Wood Memorial in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria = government offices (to where the march is planned].