Saturday, February 27, 2010

African Heat

You know you're in Africa when "the hills are alive with" ... wild animals (e.g. a large herd of buffalo in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve). You also know you're in Africa when the sun burns down relentlessly - and that's what we mostly experienced during the last tour, during which I guided yet another another group of German-speaking visitors through our beautiful country. At times the heat was excruciating but a mood of expectation was regularly rewarded with great wild animal sightings. [PS - I'm actually "under pressure" to post some of my photos from the last tour today because I promised 2 certain young ladies from the tour-group that by the time they return to Berlin in Germany, they'll "find" this entry on my blog!]

As I said it was very hot most of the time - which is "visible" from the way this magnificent male lion (in the Kruger National Park) pants.

Similarly most birds were gasping for air as this Purplecrested lourie (family: touraco) "displays" (= open beak).

A Ground hornbill also revealed the same signs (that it suffered from the heat) - this large bird tends to forage on the ground (hence its name) but roosts in trees.

In the same trend this leopard gasped whilst appearing to just "hang there" - what a sighting! The excitement to finally track down this often elusive member of the BIG 5 was great.

Then I started to worry - not because we were sitting in open safari vehicles & within "striking distance" of the leopard, but because only 2 of the 3 vehicles transporting our group had the pleasure of viewing this magnificent wild animal at such close quarters. Where was vehicle number 3?

All attempts to reach the remaining vehicle via "radio-contact" had failed so far. And then the leopard started to move! Was it on the verge of jumping down from the tree - only to disappear amongst the thickets on the ground?

I so much wished that everybody in the group could share the pleasure of this extraordinary sighting - but it looked as if the leopard wasn't about to "grant" me that wish. Finally there was a response to one more frantic call over the radio - the last vehicle was on its way. But would it join us before the leopard - definitely appearing ready to jump down by now - was still visible?

With a sigh of relief I noticed that somehow the leopard "got the message" - it "stayed put" so that the occupants of vehicle number 3 also had the chance to share in the pleasure & excitement of this magnificent sighting.

Here's another promise: during the next few days (since I'm home for about a week) I'll post more photos taken during the last tour.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Soaring Creatures

I recently accompanied family visiting from Germany to Ushaka Marine World (in Durban) - where a dolphin show is on offer apart from a visit to the aquarium. I tend to identify the way these playful and highly intelligent mammals soar high with what I'm about to embark on again for the next 3 weeks - guiding a group of tourists through our beautiful country.

Reaching high - naturally ...

... or to please a fascinated audience. In contrast ...

... this "mighty" shark also soars high but sends shivers of fright (instead of pleasure) down one's spine.

Another shark photo = this (& the previous photo) is what I call "stolen" photos - because I've never had a chance to "naturally" photograph these mighty creatures I photographed placards instead = the magic of digital photography makes it look so real!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monkey Business

Towards the end of last year I "snapped" the following 2 "series" of photographs:

This cute little monkey, looking expectantly at its mother (for "direction"?) caught my attention & I "zoomed in" ...

... since its mother didn't respond (as expected?), the little monkey (typically in a childlike fashion?) was easily distracted ...

... in an experimental "mood" (also like a human toddler?) the little monkey started to nibble on what it had "discovered" ...

... the mother had no time for this "monkey business" & decided to move on, so the little one had no choice but to "alight" - so it wouldn't be left behind.

During another occassion I saw this tiny monkey (with its human-like expression?) clinging to its mother in another, monkey-like fashion ...

... when the mother sat down, the little one's attention centred on a nearing juvenile ...

... the juvenile (in a typical fashion?) reacted by "showing" the little one who is "the boss", which it only "dared" to do because the mother wasn't looking/was distracted - or otherwise ...??

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Trees Galore

I did insinuate before [SEE: blog-entry 21 Jan 2010 = Bird Talk] that I'm not a "tree-hugger" but trees do feature amongst my photos on flora - especially if they "reveal" interesting features.

Probably the most recognisable & interesting of southern African trees is the Baobab - which actually is a succulent = storing masses of water in its trunk. It's also called the "upside-down tree" because its stubby branches have a root-like appearance. The baobab is also called the "Tree of Life" (e.g. features as the centrepiece in Disney's "Lion King") because it's capable of providing shelter, food and water for animals & humans alike in the African savannah regions.

In South Africa the deciduous baobab is confined to the northern parts of the country. It has large white flowers, which last only for a single day & are pollinated by fruit bats. Mature trees are frequently hollow (= providing "living space" for numerous animals or humans) whilst radio-carbon dating has measured the age of some trees to be over 2 000 years. A baobab can reach a height (& a girth/diameter!!) of 20 metres & can survive even after its interior has burnt out.

The leaves of a baobab are used for condiments & medicines by the local people, whilst the fire-resistant, cork-like bark is used to make cloth and ropes. The fruit (also called "monkey bread") is rich in vitamin C - the flesh contains potassium bicarbonate & tartaric acid = tasteful. Various legends & myths "surround" the baobab, e.g. that someone who dares to pick a flower will be eaten by a lion; on the other hand, if you drink water in which the seeds were soaked, you'll be safe from a crocodile attack.

I did say I don't hug trees but this guy (= not just any guy but actually my husband) couldn't resist the urge to hug the stem of a Quiver tree - also not really a tree but an aloe (= a tree aloe) & also a succulent plant (because it stores water in its stem & leaves). This tree is confined to & "thrives" in the arid, rocky areas of the Northern Cape province & Namibia. The quiver tree flowers (like most aloes) during winter, which provide nectar for many birds - also favoured by baboons.

In SA this tree is known as the Kokerboom (koker = quiver; boom = tree) because the local people, especially the San, hollowed out the soft branches to use them as quivers for their arrows. The bark of the trunk is cork-like & is "topped by rosettes" of fleshy leaves. The tree usually reaches heights of 3-7 metres and generally has a squat-like appearance.

The pod-bearing Mopane tree "favours" the hot, low-lying areas of the Mpumalanga & Limpopo provinces in SA, & its most distinctive feature is its butterfly-shaped leaves. Its an important fodder tree for game (especially elephants) & is also fed upon by the so-called mopane worms = caterpillars = protein-rich delicacies = collected by the local people - eaten either "fresh", roasted or dried.

From indigenous to "exotic" trees - I tend to photograph whatever appeals to me - meaning I often have no clue what tree (= trunk) I've got in my "visage".

All I know about these trunks is that they are the "lower part" of the one or other palm species (also exotic) & that I photographed them because I thought they resembled the legs of elephants!

Similarly I photographed this tangle of stems & branches (in the Durban Botanic Garden) because I think it has a ghost-like appearance (= also exotic = I have no clue what it's called). Reminder to myself: the next time I'm visiting the Botanic Gardens I'll check what this "tree" is called (because in most Botanic Gardens, the trees/plants are "furnished with name-tags").