Road tripping in South Africa

A road trip in South AFrica is always an adventure…. you just never know what is over the next hill or around the next corner!

There’s not many roads we haven’t been on in South Africa…here’s some of my favourite things we’ve seen on the road… and some of my favourite travel quotes.

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“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

 

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“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”
from Gilbert K. Chesterton

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“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.”

from Fitzhugh Mullan

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DSC_4308“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

DSC_4772“Embrace the detours.”
from Kevin Charbonneau

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Juicy, succulent worms for anyone?

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Been trying my hand at writing for other blogs. Check out my article on these wonderful creatures at:

http://www.wildcard.co.za/blog.htm?action=view-post&id=4093

Focus on Trevor Kleyn – Wildlife Photographer and guide

As an owner and manager of a successful engineering company in Johannesburg, Trevor never lost sight of his dream to work in nature.

Eventually, taking a huge leap, he sold his business and embarked on the necessary training to become a nature guide.  This training together with his passion for photography would set him on a new exciting path in life.

Trevor has been doing photography since a young age and long before the advent of the digital camera but it’s wildlife photography that he’s passionate about.

Getting the right shot requires patience of which he has plenty.  It’s not unusual to find him sitting for hours on end behind his camera watching a bird waiting for the right moment to click.  Patience is key but anticipation is of an animals behavior is also key to capturing wildlife.

Since completing his training he has relocated to Phalaborwa, a town bordering the Kruger National Park.  He guides for the Kruger Park and has also gone on to get his qualifications as a trails guide.

He now divides hos time between guiding, doing wilderness trails and photography.  He specializes in wildlife photography safaris and uses his knowledge to ensure his clients are always situated and ready to get the best shots available.

Trevor combines his understanding of nature along with his photography skills to help his client capture memorable shots worthy of framing.

 

Trevor runs a facebook page (Focus with Trevor) – See link on right

or check out his webpage at http://www.trevorkleyn.com

 

Bird shots by Trevor Kleyn

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“No sun sets without its histories” Zulu proverb

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4×4’ing into the Wild

The rumbling vocalization of elephants and the splish-splashing of the water interrupted our campfire conversation as they frolicked in the river nearby. Suddenly we were all aware that there were no fences between these majestic beasts and us just a mere 100m away.

If it’s unfenced camping in the Kruger Park you’re after, the Malopeni 4×4 trail is for you.  This is Big 5 country and the thrill of having only a tent between yourself and whatever passes through during the night is just one of the highlights of this trip.

The trail departs from the Phalaborwa gate at 2pm and it takes a leisurely three-hour drive through pristine bushveld areas to the campsite. Your cars are the only ones on the trail so if you have an animal sighting here there’s none of those crowds jostling their cars for position.

A inquisitive giraffes peers down at us

You have your own personal guide accompanying you and each vehicle is given a radio, so if you’re wondering what that raptor is flying overhead, help is a radio call away.

Having an armed guide and being off the public roads means stopping and exiting the vehicle is allowed.  If you want to take a closer look at that lion spoor or feel the texture of a leaf there’s nothing stopping you from asking the guide to stop and show you.

The campsite is on the banks of the Letaba River and after setting up tents there’s time to head down to the river with drinks to watch the sun go down. Chances are you won’t be alone, we watched buffalo, elephant and waterbuck across the river as we sipped on our sundowners.

Once the sun has set we gathered around the campfire enthralled by the sounds of the night.  We listened to the call of a Scops owl in the distance, elephants playing in the water and two male hippos grunting and moaning at each other further down the river.

Later as we lay in our tents we could hear hyenas hooping in the distance, a sound that is the epitome of Africa. It’s wild and untamed.

 In the morning there’s time for coffee back down at the river as you watch the sun rise before packing up and heading back out of the wilderness.

For more information on the Malopeni 4×4 trail visit the Sanparks webpage www.sanparks.org or contact the author who is freelance guide for the Kruger Park and would be happy to answer any questions you have. 

Nature’s cleaners

“When vultures, watching your civilization, begin dropping dead, it is time to pause and wonder” – David Brower, environmentalist and founder of Friends of the Earth.

Vultures get a bad rap from many people, yet these much-maligned birds have evolved to fill a crucial role in the ecosystem.

Hoping to witness and photograph these large rapacious birds in action, my wildlife photographer husband and I set out early one Saturday morning to a vulture restaurant nearby the Kruger Park.

A carcass was put out for the birds and we waited in the hide, watching the skies in anticipation, cameras ready for action. After an hour the few first white-backed vultures (Gyps Africana) arrived and landed in a nearby tree.  A tawny eagle waited patiently alongside them.

Another hour passed with very little action but then the Lappet-faced vulture (Aegypius tracheliotis) arrived.  The feeding frenzy could begin.  Most vulture’s bills are not capable of tearing the skin of a closed carcass.  Thus, they wait the arrival of this “king of vultures” with its mighty bill, perfectly suited for tearing the skin.

Once the carcass was opened it took only minutes for the message to get out and the masses to arrive. We estimated over 80 birds, mostly white-backed vultures but also present were three lappet-faced vultures and a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monochus).

There’s an interspecies hierarchy that exists between the various species of vultures.  Top of the pile is the powerful Lappet-faced vulture. Apart from opening the carcass they’re the only species able to eat the tough remains such as skin, tendon, hair and ligament.

The frenetic white backed vultures tackle the softer flesh and organs using their specialized grooved tongues with sharp serrations. With this much competition they need to get their share and move out as quickly as possible. It’s a dangerous business as they risk getting trapped inside a carcass and being eaten. To aid them they’re able to fill their crop up to 1 kg in 2-5 minutes.

The hooded vultures meal of choice is the softer organs like the eyes and intestines.  Being low down in the pecking order it will hang around the edge of the feast, snapping up at any scraps that make it their way.  Once all the others have had their fill they use their specially adapted small bills to probe into the remaining crevices to clean up the last bits.

With each species adapted to feed on a different part of the carcass there is little open hostility at a food-source.  But this particular party received some unwelcome guests: four black backed jackals. The vultures put up a good fight; flying and diving valiantly at the gatecrashers trying to chase them off.  The jackals managed to create a sufficient clearing to get in and have a quick bite before leaving, taking a snack with them.

It had been an enthralling morning and they had provided us with great photographic opportunities.

What’s in a name?

The name vulture comes from the latin word vulturius meaning ‘ a large rapacious bird’

PHOTOS BY TREVOR KLEYN
Visit his facebook page: FOCUS WITH TREVOR 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-with-Trevor/153992534618905?fref=ts

Kruger National Park – A truly special place

“Where nearly 2 million hectares of unrivalled diversity of life forms fuses with historical and archaeological sights – this is real Africa”  http://sanparks.org.za/parks/kruger/

If you only visit one place in South Africa it’s got to be the Kruger National Park. This iconic reserve, the flagship of SA National Parks is a priceless heritage that all South Africans are justly proud of.

380km long and 60km wide, bordered in the North by Zimbabwe, and to the east by Mozambique, it’s home to more species of large mammals (147) than any other Game Reserve in Africa.  Add to that the 336 trees species, 114 reptiles species and 507 birds species and you’re bound to have a wildlife experience beyond compare.

Thanks to the large diversity of forna and flora it has six different eco-systems with an estimated 2000 different plant species. Each creature plays a vital role in maintaining the eco-balance.  A visit the Kruger gives you a window into a perfect world where you can witness the wonder of nature at work.

How you choose to explore the Kruger Park is up to you.  There are options available for everyone.  You can self-drive or take a guided safari or a combination thereof.  Accommodation ranges from basic camping to luxury chalets, large camps with all the amenities to small intimate camps.

If it’s true wilderness you are after try one of their 4 days wilderness trails and get into areas so remote that you’ll forget there’s a modern world somewhere out there.  You can sleep in a hide, listening to the nocturnal sounds of nature; perhaps a lion roaring or hyena calling while a gentle breeze flows through the window covered only by netting.

Whatever your preference, there’s a trip of a lifetime awaiting you in this truly special place.

For more information visit the SANParks web page www.sanparks.org or please feel free to post any questions or comments below and I’ll try answer them.

KRUGER PARK IS HOME TO THE BIG 5

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