Saturday, July 26, 2008

While On Tour

Today I'll mainly dedicate to some of the photos I took during the last tour I guided through our country. Before I left, I worried about the bad weather "plaguing" most of our country - but we were very lucky and the weather was great. I really enjoyed this tour because I could share my knowledge and what our beautiful country has to offer, with a lovely group of people.

In the province of Mpumalanga, we found the Coral trees (left) in bloom and in some of the camps of the Kruger National Park, the Impala lilies (right).

Amongst the animals we "tracked down" in the Kruger National Park were a few lionesses right next to the road. Unfortunately and to the disappointment of the visitors, we didn't see a male lion. Although the female lions were mostly hidden by grass, we could record a few good visuals.

A cute vervet monkey (left) even if they are a bit of a "pest" in some of the camps - stealing your food if you aren't careful.

As usual, I'm always on the look-out for birds. Amongst mainly hornbills and glossy starlings, I was lucky to detect this female Goldentailed Woodpecker (right) at Tshokwane (my first sighting of this particular bird).

To the delight of the visitors, we saw quite a few crocodiles in the Sabi River. The one on the photo (left) represented a particularly close and clear visual.

Even if the Ground Hornbill (right) is listed as an endangered bird, I see some during most of my trips to KNP. Since this was the case again during the last visit, I was happy to share this moment with the visitors, who haven't seen this unusual bird in the wild before.

Although most visitors to South Africa hope to encounter a leopard or a cheetah when visiting KNP, the sighting of a serval (left) is something very special. Since it also was a first for me, I will definitely treasure this opportunity for a long time.

I'm able to identify most wild animals in our country, and I'm getting to know many birds. But when I was asked what was swimming in the Sabi River, I admitted that my knowledge of fish is very limited. After looking it up, I think that what we saw were Tigerfish (right).

A kudu bull (left) is one of the most magnificent antelopes and to find one, always a pleasure to look at.

Two of the most common animals in KNP are impala and the Burchell's zebra (right). Seldom, though, does one get the opportunity to "snap" them in such close proximity.

The little "flying foxes" hiding under the roof at the picnic facilities/outside tables in Skukuza-camp are always a pleasure to see again. Some people are scared by these fruit-eating bats (only coming "out to play" at night), whilst others think they are as cute as I think they are (left) - and always represent a great photo opportunity.

When we get to the Afsaal-camp in KNP, I always look out for the small Scops owl often "hiding" in a tree. It wasn't around but instead, we were treated to the visual of a Barn owl (right). Many birds were "unhappy" by its presence, whilst I happily snapped away during the fluttering commotion.

Although a python like this (left) can be found in KNP, this photo was taken at the Pumpkin restaurant in Barrydale (Western Cape province). On request, one of the tame pythons is fetched from the garage, where a pair is kept (for breeding purposes). This gorgeous specimen is almost 4m long and I love holding it wound around my shoulders! I was happy to see that some of the visitors from my group were equally willing to hold and stroke this enormous snake (in contrast, my husband just shuddered at the thought of such a close encounter, never mind holding it).

These cute "meerkat" (mongoose) are part of the Wildlife ranch in Oudtshoorn (Western Cape). Although many wild animals are on display (indigenous as well as exotic) I always prefer to pay a visit to the meerkat enclosure, because they are such photogenic animals.

On leaving Cape Town for a visit to the surrounding Winelands, everything was covered in clouds and mist. I worried that the visitors wouldn't see much. But as we drove up the hill in Paarl to visit the "Taal-Monument" (Afrikaans Language Monument), we "broke through" the clouds and were surrounded by brilliant sunshine. Ahead stretched a "sea" of clouds and above it in the distance Table Mountain stuck out like a proud beacon.

Another view across the "sea of clouds" (right) towards the mountains surrounding Franschhoek.

A group of Penguin chicks at Boulders Beach just outside Simon's Town on the Cape peninsula. A visit to this land-based colony of penguins is one of the favoured destinations for most visitors to Cape Town and surrounds.

To end today, a view of the stadium (right) at Greenpoint in Cape Town being built for the Soccer World Cup, coming to our country in 2010 - as seen from Signal Hill.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Out of Touch

In South Africa, winter is in full swing - yet there are tourists brave enough to visit our country at this time of the year. I'm meeting a group of German visitors arriving tomorrow morning, so I'll be "out of touch" for two weeks. Even if the weather is "playing havoc", the game viewing in the Kruger National Park is at its best during this time of the year, so that is definitely something to look forward to.

So until I'm back from fulfilling my job as tourist guide, do "cover up" - if you live in the southern hemisphere, of course - as I think the baby penguin (above) symbolises.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fast Food

The impala is the most common antelope in South Africa and because they are so numerous, visitors especially to the Kruger National Park often simply take them for granted. Through the years and because I'm lucky that as a tourist guide, I regularly visit game reserves, I've developed a special affinity for the impala antelopes (in actual fact, an impala is a gazelle!!).

This is a photo (left) of an impala ram (taken by our son-in-law, Quinton) displaying its strongly ridged, lyre-shaped, horns with smooth tips. Only the male impalas have horns.

Trivia: young impala males are evicted from the territorial domains of dominant males and form "bachelor" herds.

During a previous posting, I mentioned a "photo-story" I have completed: IMPI the IMPALA. I also promised to "reveal" my young protagonist and this (right) is my "signature" photo of Impi. [I've "published" the first Chapter on another blog -]

At all times during the year, young impala males "lock horns" - in preparation for the day when they "discover" the urge (hormonally speaking) to carve out a territory, which is then dominated by the most assertive male.

Trivia: for most of the year, the gregarious impalas live peacefully in herds; but autumn is the rutting season - and the impala-lifestyle changes dramatically.

"Serious business" - a fierce duel for dominance between 2 rival males. Impala males fight for the "privilege" of being in charge of a female herd, and sometimes, the aggressive battles even prove fatal.

Trivia: victorious impala rams proclaim their ownership of a territory with loud barks sounding like the roar of a lion! It's known to have happened that visitors to game reserves during the rutting season, on hearing this, imagined being in the company of lions - and then were deeply disappointed when all they saw were impalas.

Impalas are the ONLY hoofed animals, which partake in mutual grooming (photo right). Their specially adapted canines and incisors assist impalas to remove ticks (= parasites) from one animal to another OR to groom itself.

Trivia: since ticks reduce blood reserves, this exposes animals to disease, which could lead to malnutrition - therefore tick removal is vitally important - and that's why birds like ox-peckers are tolerated by most wild animals, because they assist with the removal of ticks.

One of my photos of impalas (left) which I was proud to see turned out to be as "symmetrically aligned" as I had hoped it would.

Trivia: the general habitat of impalas is short grass and dense bush. A permanent supply of water is vital. Unusual amongst antelopes, impalas are grazers AND browsers.

I deliberately took this "skew" photo (right) for experimental reasons. Instead it turned out what I think of as an advertisement for MacDonalds. Why? Check the impala "behinds" - do you see the letter M? It's a standard joke amongst guides and rangers: impalas (naturally for predators) represent fast food = MacDonalds = the title of my blog-entry today.

I thought of this as an endearing moment between 2 different animal species (left). It reminded me of something we tourist guides know well: meet and greet (foreigners arriving at the airport). Whilst recently on tour in the Etosha Park (Namibia) I watched the black-faced impala approach a springbok (highly unusual) - and duly "recorded" the moment.

During this sighting (right), my first impression was that I was looking at an impala. Only on closer inspection did I realise my mistake - and took my first photo of a puku. The encounter happened in the Chobe National Park (Botswana), and I could be "excused" for mistaking this antelope for an impala, because pukus don't occur (naturally) in our country. The puku is also similarly "shaded" like the impala and of similar height - but now I know that that's where the similarities end.