Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Rhino Story

Like my elephant story (previous entry) this story also starts in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve.

Did you know that the lip structures reflect the 2 different African rhino species' diets?

On our way out of the park late in the afternoon and to our delight, we spot not 1 BUT 4 White Rhino (= square-lipped rhinoceros).

Just ahead of us, the female (on right with the longest horn) and 2 youngsters reach the road. As the grazers they are, they keep their heads low and close to the ground.

The 4th rhino, a male, also reaches the road and sniffing (probably to establish if we, in an open safari vehicle, represent a possible threat), the male rhino momentarily resembles a black rhino (= hook-lipped rhinoceros = a browser). Doesn't it look as if he's trying to "tell" us to back off??

The 4 rhinos cross the road - but why do the 2 youngsters suddenly turn back? Are they "sensing" the presence of someone other than us?

Sure enough, a 5th white rhino approaches and strangely, the youngest rhino reveals great interest in the arrival of another male, instead of feeling cowed by the potential "invader".

The large male sniffs - is he invading another bull's territory? If yes, he'll take "avoidance" action - OR a fight might ensue!

However, instead of fighting each other or defending one's territory, quenching their thirst appears to be the uppermost instinct right then.

Peacefully, the female and its young offspring move on whilst the sun sets for the day.

Actually, the rhino story
started a few days before when at the Mkaya Game Reserve in Swaziland, we were privileged to encounter the White & Black rhino species together!

The Black Rhino is somewhat smaller than its counterpart, and uses its prehensile upper lip to manoeuvre leaves and twigs into its mouth. It also is a solitary beast and therefore tends to be more aggressive than the White rhino - it will charge anything from a vehicle (dangerous for us!!) to a butterfly!

More on rhinos and accompanying photos - see my blog-entry: BIG 5 - 4 September 2008.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Elephant Story

As promised - a photo-story about elephants today.

It happened during the last tour in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve - we rounded a corner and there before us, a young elephant male takes a mud-bath.

Suddenly he notices that he isn't alone anymore.

Not sure if we represent a possible threat, he lifts his trunk to clean his eyes so he can see better. First his left eye..........

............then his right eye.

Yes, that's better. But obviously, our young male elephant doesn't like what he sees: a safari vehicle filled with gawking and happily snapping tourists.

Determined to demonstrate that he isn't in the least intimidated by us, he moves closer, ears flapping.

Guess who won this "battle"? Not sure if it was a mock attack or a real show of aggression, our ranger reverses.

Having made his point, the elephant bull loses interest in us - or has he sensed the presence of others?

And there they are - close by, a herd of females and youngsters. As our young bull happily rushes towards the herd drinking at the nearby river, our attention is caught and held by the antics of the herd.

For a while, camera clicking "furiously", I concentrate on two young females drinking "in tandem"........

........ or like a mirror-image of each other.

Eventually and after having their fill, the herd leisurely moves on.

And now for the highlight - a "goose-flesh" moment: the herd "congregates" around the tiniest amongst them; carefully trudging on whilst protectively surrounding the baby elephant.

There they go - leaving a lasting impression on all those privileged to have experienced this endearing encounter.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last Tour

Back home again after another tour with wonderful people - and of course lots of photos. While in Cape Town and during a township tour, we visited the Disa Primary School in Bonteheuwel, where the principal, Mr Andy James, asked for a photo with the group (above). I was happy to oblige and can now pass it on to him via this blogspot and his email - and what about the 13 people I had so much fun guiding through our beautiful country? I hope you "enjoy" this photo I happily dedicate to you.

During the following days I'll "post" some photo-"stories" of what we encountered along the way, whilst today "represents" a broad "outline": we saw quite a few Red-collared Widows fluttering about in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. These small birds with their long tails are difficult to photograph because they seldom settle down long - and close enough. However I managed to eventually capture one (left).

From small to large - a magnificent Goliath Heron (right), which we saw during a boat-cruise on the St Lucia estuary. By way of a comparison - the Red-collared Widow breeding male (above) is 15cm without its long tail, whilst the Goliath Heron is 140cm tall!

"Trigger happy" as I am (camera-wise!) I took this photo (left) of White-breasted Cormorant flying in "formation" across the sky in Wilderness. This cormorant species is a common resident in most parts of South Africa.

We also encountered this Spotted hyena (right) in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. This (mainly) scavenger with its exceptionally powerful jaws was also difficult to photograph because the tall grass kept "hiding" the animal from our view. Spotted hyenas live in matriarchal clans of approx. 30 animals, but most encounters with this animal in the wild "comprises" of one hyena.

Although I mostly "concentrate" on photographing wild animals and birds, I do have "an eye" for whatever else looks appealing - like this water lily (left). I have a large "collection" of flora-photos, but as I've "confessed" before, I'm not very good at identifying flora.

The same goes for insects - I admire what looks "great", but certainly can't (fully) identify this butterfly. I'm happy though to share this photo, because it's "pretty".

During this last tour, a visit to Didima Camp at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg mountain range is part of the itinerary - mostly a highlight on this particular tour. Unfortunately thick clouds started moving in when we arrived - and the following day was completely "washed out". Instead of enjoying the magnificent scenery, we were forced to spend the whole day indoors, because it rained "non-stop".

Soon after our arrival, the clouds "split open" for a few seconds, and the "Cathedral's" peaks were momentarily visible - just long enough for me to capture this one photo (right).

Luckily it wasn't cloudy or it didn't rain all the time during the last tour - as this photo (left) of the beach at Wilderness "testifies". The day started with a thick cloud cover and a bit of rain, but the sun "emerged" during the afternoon, when I felt privileged to be able to take this photo from a "bird's view" through the window of my room at the Boardwalk guest-house.

We did experience one magnificent sunset across the bay at Hermanus - and I must admit, I felt quite guilty that I was the only one in our group, who "carried" a camera to capture it! Everybody else had left their cameras at the hotel, since we were out having dinner at a restaurant. I must also say that it was "strange" visiting this part of our country during a time of the year, when there are no whales around, since Hermanus is known as our "whaling capital".

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Away on Tour

I'm away on tour (as tourist guide) until 22 February - "see" you then!