South Africa Travel Diary -
p 7 |
15 September 2006
Yesterday we flew from Capetown to Nelspruit, and drove
our rental car to Thulamela B&B, 12 km from Kruger National Park's Numbi gate.
Today we birded around Thulamela, set on a range of hills that preserves some of the
little remaining native vegetation in the area. Our reward was lots of new birds,
including Red-capped Robin-chat, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, and both White-bellied and Collared
Sunbirds, among many others.
The rest of the day was spent at the excellent Lowveld Botanical Garden
in Nelspruit. The top birds here were Purple-crested Turacos. These colorful
noisy crow-sized birds are endemic to Africa. But alas, they stayed in thick
vegetation, high in the trees. More cooperative were the delightful African
Paradise-flycatchers. Both the female and male sallied out to catch insects in the
air, the male's ridiculously long tail providing a wonderful show. But they always
perched in the dark low branches of a potato tree. So I hauled out the flash unit,
and used a bit of fill flash to get an acceptable photo.
17 September 2006
Kruger extends 220 miles along the Mozambique border,
and is huge - almost as big as West Virginia. The late winter landscape is an
uninspiring mix of bare trees and dead grass, with a few evergreens thrown in for good
measure. The thick grass and shrubby vegetation make photography difficult.
Getting a clear shot of nyala or bushbuck is about as likely as filling an inside
But we persevered. Giraffe were common everywhere. I took
sharper photos than the one shown, but couldn't resist this youngster nuzzling its
mother's flank. We read that baby giraffes will take refuge between their parents'
legs when threats like hungry lions are close by.
18 September 2006
Even more common are elephants, some 12,000
strong. They tear up vegetation and litter the roads with it, along with their
poop. We have many elephant stories. Two bulls, for example, were trying to
cross the main road. The first one saw the steep slope on the other side, and balked
at going down it. The one behind began to flap his ears and move his trunk
impatiently, and finally gave his companion a good firm shove onto the slope to get him
started. And then there was the herd browsing just at the road's edge. We
stopped to take a look; however, there were quite a few youngsters in the group, and the
matriarch began to trumpet and march toward our car. At this point we suddenly felt
the urge to drive somewhere else. They love the riverbeds of course; the two in this
picture were horsing around before taking a late evening bath.
18 September 2006
But the unexpected stars of Kruger for us are
the hippos. There're in every lake and river. Although they spend most of
their time more or less completely submerged, they're quite entertaining: they grunt
and wheeze a lot, exhale explosively, and occasionally engage in yawning which is usually
part of aggression displays. I guess you have to be there to appreciate hippos.