Sunday, December 25, 2011

Season Greetings

[The Xmas-cookies were baked by my Austrian-born husband]

you a HAPPY FESTIVE Season & a PROSPEROUS 2012

Thursday, December 15, 2011


My Facebook friends already know that we recently spent a few days at the Hole-In-The-Wall resort along the Wild Coast (near Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape Province) because they saw the photos I "posted" in an album - so the photos in this blog-entry are more an extension than a repeat of what I've shared in FB.

The Wild Coast - once called the Trankei (homeland) - with its well over 200km coastline, is generally inaccessible (other than going hiking or traversing on horseback), virtually uninhabited (bar by a few rural Xhosa people) & instead is known for its untamed wilderness of graggy cliff faces, desolate beaches, secluded bays, green rolling hills & deep river valleys. This unspoilt land also includes the birthplace of Nelson Mandela.

Forested areas along the Wild Coast include prehistoric cycads, sneezewood & yellowwood trees, which we admired during our walk to photograph THE HOLE early before sunrise one morning. A first glimpse of this impressive landmark along the South African coastline "reveals" a cliff consisting of dark-blue shales, as well as mud- & sandstones (of the Ecca Group - dating back to some 260 million years).

The rocks were eventually "intruded" by dolerite, and THE HOLE was created over millions of years by buffeting waves, which eroded away the softer rocks underneath a "sheet" of dolerite - to form an arch. A similar process also seperated the cliff from the mainland.

Whilst happily snapping away, "recording" the fascinating interplay between enormous & crashing waves to relatively calm waters, the sun started rising, "lending" a golden glow to the magnificent scenery.

After recording a great variety of sweeping waves through THE HOLE, a last look back "reveales" the huge detached cliff - a ship-look-alike - at the mouth of the Mpako River. Hole-In-The-Wall was named in 1823 by Captain Vidal, sent by the British Admirality to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River & Lourenco Marques (now called: Maputo - in Mozambique).

We returned one afternoon during "perfect" weather conditions to now record the magic-looking cliff & its hole through the centre during sunset. The local (Bomvana/Xhosa) people call the formation iziKhaleni = the Place of Thunder (or Sound).

According to a local legend, the river running through THE HOLE once formed a landlocked lagoon with its access to the sea blocked by the cliff. A beautiful girl, who lived in a village near the lagoon, was seen by the sea people (= semi-deities). They were overwhelmed by the girl's beauty and tried to woo her, but her father forbade her to respond. During high tide one night, the sea people "enlisted" the help of a huge fish, which rammed a hole through the centre of the cliff.

As the sea people swam into the lagoon, they shouted and sang, causing the villagers to hide in fear, but the beautiful girl was lured away by a lover amongst the sea people. Together they disappeared into the sea. However at certain times of the year, it is said that the music and singing of the sea people can be heard.

Xhosa legend also states that THE HOLE is the gateway to the world of the ancestors, who they worship.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Close Encounter

I recently had a close encounter with a Water leguan - not in the sense that I felt threatened, even if this reptile should be "treated" with caution, but really because I got a clear visual/photo of its "flipping" tongue [Also SEE: my blog-entry = A Reptile Story - Friday, 28 Oct 2011]

A more "threating" encounter happened in the Addo Park - a more than just "interested" elephant bull got closer to our open safari vehicle than anticipated.

Although Addo is a "sanctuary" for the (coastal) African elephants, one doesn't always encounter as many elephants as we did in one (half) day during my last tour for this year (as tourist guide).

"He ain't heavy, he's my brother" . . . came to my mind as I snapped this "leaning" elephants.

Some of the male elephants appeared to be fighting/testing their strength . . .

. . . when in reality they were "cuddling" . . .

. . . ditto . . .

. . . ditto . . .

. . . ditto.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tour Specials

During the last tour we visited the National Mountain Zebra Park (near Cradock in the Eastern Cape Province) "dedicated" to conservation of this rather rare zebra species.

However we saw many mountain zebras . . .

. . . of which some appeared to be "smooching" - although that can also represent aggression!??

By way of a comparison: these are Burchell's zebra, which we "met" in the Addo Elephant Park - they are slightly larger than the mountain species, the stripes also "cover" the stomach area (> white on the mountain zebra) & the Burchell's zebra also "sports" (brown) shadow-stripes in-between the black ones.

Other than zebra we also watched this ostrich couple = the male chasing a female.

Along the road (& not inside 1 of the game reserves) we stopped to photograph this rather unusual (black) "version" of our National Animal = a springbok.

Not to be "out-done", we also encountered our National Bird = the Blue crane walking "regally" passed a Black wildebeest (in contrast to the more "common" Blue wildebeest).

Since during this tour we mainly travelled through the Karoo (South Africa's large semi-desert region) - other than along the southern coast (= mainly encorporating the Garden Route) - it's a "natural" phenomenon to see (Merino) sheep along the way.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More feathery Beauties

Amongst the "smaller" birds (in comparison to the larger ones featuring in my previous blog-entry) "tracking down" a rather uncommon Livingstone's lourie in the thick underbrush (in the Victoria Falls area) was quite a mission but a pleasurable excercise.

Finally! A clearer - if NOT closer - look of a Crimson boubou. Since I first saw this bird in the Etosha Park region (Namibia) about 5/6 years ago, I've "dreamed" of seeing again/photographing this bird.

Another first for me - like the Monteiro's hornbill [SEE: previous blog-entry] this localised (= rather rare) Collared Palm thrush is a new "addition" to my collection of birds photographed.

I've seen & photograped these Green pigeons before, but it was nice to detect 2 of them close together on a branch.

I believe this is yet another first for me, if I'm correct & it's a Swamp boubou - because its underparts are all white & I was at the "right place" (= the region where this bird occurs).

A cute female Paradise flycatcher also "entered the picture" - although I would have prefered to "catch" a male (with its LONG tail) instead.

Then I noticed what I assume was a junior Golden-tailed woodpecker . . .

. . . because a female Golden-tailed woodpecker was nearby - checking if her youngster was safe?

A "flash" of purple flying by alerted me to this bird, which came to rest on a branch - a Plum-coloured starling, which unfortunately only "presented" its back to me, instead of a side-view, so its contrasting white underparts aren't visible.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Birds in Abundance

When touring through 5 southern African countries (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe & Zambia) it's "part of the deal" to come across a great diversity of birdlife - like this Secretary bird. Although this large & long-legged bird is listed as occuring commonly all over this region, one usually only sights it in drier, semi-desert areas.

A Kori bustard frequents a similar habitat like the previous bird, although mostly in the drier, western regions of southern Africa. Because this is the heaviest of the "flying birds" (in contrast to e.g. the non-flying ostrich), it's "logical" that it's reluctant to fly and instead tends to walk slowly & habitually, with measured strides.

Although similarly large as the 2 previous birds, the (Southern) Ground hornbill is listed as a vulnerable bird & only occurs in the eastern regions of southern Africa. However, this appears to be "my" bird, because 9 out of 10 times when visiting the Kruger National Park, I'm priviledged to come across at least one of these birds (as some of my previous blog-entries "testify").

Smaller in size but also belonging to the same family as the previous bird, is a Trumpeter hornbill. Its habitat is also much "smaller" - occuring mostly in the (wetter) eastern regions. Although usually gregarious (= in flocks of up to 50 birds, which can be very noisy), this "specimen" was all alone when I snapped it at the Chobe River (Botswana).

This Redbilled hornbill certainly is a much more abundantly "found" bird, even if it only occurs in the northern & eastern parts of South Africa. I'm including it today mainly because it "posed" so prettily but also . . .

. . . by way of a comparison with this family-member: a Monteiro's hornbill, because this bird is only found in the arid, rocky & hilly areas (with savanna woodland) of north-west Namibia. It also was a "FIRST" for me - I've never seen nor snapped this bird in nature before!

Moving on to another bird species, a Brownhooded kingfisher usually occurs only in the eastern regions but including the Caprivi-strip area of Namibia - where this bird was in abundance during the last tour, especially around the Victoria Falls area.

The habitat of a Darter includes almost any inland water areas, & this one was snapped (whilst prettily but habitually spreading its wings) at the edge of the Chobe River. When in water, this bird swims "low", with usually only its head & neck showing - hence its other name = snakebird.

Like most of the previous couple of birds, a Spottedbacked weaver occurs in the (wetter) eastern & northern regions = usually near water. Since this is the mating season, many of these males were building nests & "performing" noisily to attract females to their newly constructed nests.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Reptile Story

It started quite innocently - the head of a Water leguan (Monitor/Lizard family) appeared at the water's edge . . .

. . . but the next moment it spun around & a lot of slashing & spinning about ensued.

On closer inspection this strangely dinosaur-look-alike appeared to have caught a fish.

As if to "prove a point", the leguan protectively hovered over its unexpected prey - feeling threatened by my pressence?

Well, its flipping tongue certainly made this reptile appear aggressive - trying to intimidate me?

When this didn't work, the leguan turned around, although it continued to "eye" me suspiciously.

Still not at ease, the leguan "took possession" again of its prey . . .

. . . and finally started to feed - which looked more like nibbling, though.

Since this "took place" at the Chobe River (in Botswana), other reptiles are also in abundance - like a (Nile) crocodile.

Revealing aggression appeared to be the "order of the day", & in contrast to the leguan, a large crocodile opening its mouth & revealing its "killer" teeth, certainly has an intimidating effect!

Last but not least & to "round off" this reptile story - 2 tiny geckos eyeing each other ideally "round off" another story.