One of my favourite relaxing pastimes is game viewing and birdwatching and since I am blessed to live in Africa I get to visit a Game Reserve at least once or twice a year. Nothing can compare with that quiet anticipation as one waits silently inside one of the many game viewing hides usually positioned on a dam or watering hole. With binoculars in one hand, camera in the other – and possibly a chilled glass of wine too, there is always a sense of excitement that at any moment something will be spotted! Of course there is an art to this kind of viewing from inside a Hide – it’s called scanning. One’s eyes need to constantly flick from left to right and from high to low and then far to near because it is so so easy to miss the magical moment! Here are a few of my fave pics from Mankwe hide in the beautiful Pilansberg Game Reserve:
The wide open spaces as the sun is setting:
The important thing about visiting game reserves is to learn to appreciate ALL creatures and not just the classic BIG 5! Time spent observing habits and antics gives true insights to the character and personality and habits of the wild animals.
Whilst most of the chicks in Mamma Dabchicks little brood were clearly quite independent and ‘cool’ with her going off in search of her own grubs and weeds, this little fella was most unhappy and gave us more than a few giggles as he frantically tried to keep up with her and frequently ducked under water in his efforts to find her!
A cormorant catching some last rays. I love this next pic of a Grey Heron focussed on his fishing:
This beautiful Spoonbill was meters from me and quite oblivious of my still presence!
Posted in Adventure, Camping, Game Reserves, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge
Tagged birding, cormorant, Dabchick, dams, Game Reserve, Heron, Hide, hippo, Mankwe Dam, scenery, spoonbill
Its winter time and my body clock is telling me the harvest is in so we should be packing our trusty Toyota Prado 4 x 4 with its rooftop tent and all our camping equipment in readiness for an adventure. We have had the most amazing journeys over landing through various African countries over the past years but since we are not travelling anywhere this year I will indulge myself in the treasure chest of photographs and delight in the memories once again! Of all the places I’d love to visit again one of the most frightening and eerie would be…
… the vast emptiness of the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. The Makgadikgadi Pans are the remains of an ancient super lake, and their surface glistens with salt creating a vast empty moonscape which extends as far as the eye can see. Lying southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari Desert, Makgadikgadi is technically not a single pan but many pans with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sowa, Ntwetwe and Nxai Pans. The largest individual pan is about 4,921.0 km2.
We set out from the village of Gweta in search of the single track which would lead us across the pan – easier said than done! There is an intricate web of dusty roads threading to and fro around the edge of the pan leading to the many African huts scattered on the
brink of a wasteland –
We eventually spotted it – the tenuous lifeline beckoning to us to venture on to the parched salty surface. So many dire warnings rang in our ears – It’s easy to become disorientated: The surface is deceptive as the crust could suddenly give way to mud and suck our vehicle into a quagmire: Traffic is scarce and any breakdown on that barren moonscape would likely leave us stranded in a world of silent emptiness for who knows how long!
I cannot begin to describe the adrenaline rush of speeding across the pans with the thrill of adventure coursing through our veins. The absence of familiar sights and sounds and no landmarks as far as the eye could see.
A cluster of distant black shimmering specks drifted eerily across the horizon –
the intrepid travellers were ostriches!
… and suddenly the track ended in a series of wildly formed doughnuts where joyriders had spun circles on the salt surface turned around and headed back the way we had come – we had taken the wrong track and ahead of us lay a whitescape of nothingness – We decided to keep pushing onwards as we had a general idea of direction, we had our GPS navigators but what helped us most in the end, once the signals were no longer feeding into our techie gadgets, were the good old faithful topographical maps and rulers…
there was a worrying half hour or so when we really weren’t sure which direction to head and what we thought was ‘land ahoy’ turned out to be yet another small grassy island in the expanse of desert white!
We tracked then backtracked until quite fortuitously we spotted the right track and happily sailed onto the magic thread that would take us to our campsite at Kubu Island. This is an isolated granite outcrop, some 10m high and a kilometre long, known as Kubu Island. It forms the shape of a crescent, and its slopes are terraced with fossil beaches of wave-rounded pebbles, providing startling evidence of the prehistoric lake’s former water levels. Crowned with an array of ancient, gnarled baobabs and surrounded on three sides by a vast grey emptiness, Kubu has a unique atmospheric beauty. No words can describe this beauty – it is something felt just as much as it is seen!
Posted in Adventure, Baobab trees, Botswana, Camping, family, Game Reserves, overlanding, Travel, Uncategorized
Tagged 4 x 4, baobabs, friends, holidays, Makgadikgadi Pans, scenery, travel. adventure
My online dictionary says to create implies ‘to bring something into existence’ or ‘to cause something to happen as a result of one’s actions’…. hmm? So many images flash through my brain from the knitted ponchos I am creating for the school children in the nearby village to my flower garden and my productive vegetable garden, to the opportunities we create from time to time for others to thrive and grow… ah, but the creation I am most madly proud of is MY FAMILY! I mean our extended family which we have consciously raised and enveloped with chords of love and respect and nurture and safety… let me explain:
I come from an incredibly beautiful extended family and my world has always been filled by people who have loved me and made me feel loved and who earned my respect – just because of whom they are and the integrity with which they have lived out their lives. Furthermore, I have two amazing brothers who are both medical doctors. One is an orthopaedic specialist, the other a specialist family practitioner who during the course of his studies learned more and more of the importance of family life. Many experts believe that an extended whole and healthy family enhances the sense of well being and security of the individual within that family and so it was that when he shared this philosophy, we all ( my husband, my 2 brothers and their wonderful wives as well as my parents) consciously embarked on a parenting process which included the extended family in as many “together-time” activities as possible
– and I do not say this lightly as we have lived great distances apart but one way or another we have made sure the ‘family get-together’ happened. It meant flying twins from Scotland for a family holiday and fetching and carrying boisterous boys and girls to and fro on 7 hour journeys between my farm and the coast where the others live… (Sometimes there and back within 24 hours because of work commitments)- it meant brave grandparents hosting the large together-time group of cousins on their farm and tolerating raucousness and untidiness and water fights.
Once we had a heavy snowfall on their farm which was so very exciting for all the children and one crazy aunt (that would be moi!) – we hiked in that snow, had snowball fights in the snow and built our magnificent snowman… until we were soaking wet and there was no power to cook with, heat our water or wash and dry the grubby clothes, no television at first was a challenge until the card games became fiercely competitive and huge fun… we were burning fires and draping dripping garments on the fireguard, we were cooking indoors on gas and after 5 days our gallant granddad was finally able to chainsaw the last of the fallen trees blocking the road way and we made a happy escape to the warmer coast and descended en masse to the home of another aunt and uncle who we just knew would welcome us all…. 😉
Because we have a rather large farmhouse my easy going hubby and I were most often host to the gang and amongst our happiest memories are those together-times with all the children filling our world, raiding the fridge and cookie jars, ‘helping’ make the meals, and as the years went by working just as hard as they were playing at peak seasons of planting and harvesting. They swam, rode horses and drove the horse cart, rode motorbikes, built things, went on picnics, slept all night through on a huge haystack, learned to shoot the rats in the shed and built many campfires.
A decision made by ourselves saw many years of togetherness – yes, they scrapped, yes, they are all so very different and now they are almost all grown up and choosing very diverse career paths but even to this day should ever any one of them need encouragement, comfort or advice they will turn to one or another: brothers and cousins and sisters.. An incredibly strong invisible thread of love and respect wraps itself around them and although unseen, is strangely tangible and so many outsiders notice it and are awed by that which our children tend to take for granted, they think it’s ‘normal’… and just as I look upon each of those kids as my own, I know my brothers and their wives do too and I just know that together we have created something good because we have surely woven a warm and wonderful web called “family” through the lives of each of our youngsters! I sincerely hope and pray the young adults we now know will remember and continue the legacy CREATED for them and do so in the lives of their own families one day!
Posted in Adventure, Camping, family, Friends, Parenting, Uncategorized
Tagged connections, family, friends, fun, holidays, parenting, travel. adventure
It had been a long hard day of travelling the dusty sand tracks of the Makgadikgadi Reserve in Botswana – and we hadn’t seen much wildlife at all! The day began to draw to a close and the setting sun beckoned us back to our campsite where we started a campfire for our evening meal and began settling into our chairs with a long thirst quenching drink in our hands. My close friend Marlet, emerging from her tent, gave a funny little yelp and was strangely (read: very unusual) lost for words – but there was much wild gesticulation as she frantically alerted us to the lumbering presence of a family of elephants moving in closer and closer to our campsite – We had visitors!
You can imagine the scramble as we very quickly abandoned our chairs and drinks. The children were instructed to get up into their rooftop tent and watch as quietly as mice, us adults rummaged for our cameras but for the most part stood in awe of the towering beasts trundling into the clearing, the ground literally trembled underfoot!
This small herd of African elephants had decided that the pods on the camelthorn tree growing closest to our campsite looked the most delicious of all. This means focused effort and a very close encounter of the butting, pushing, shoving #bullying# kind – so close that we could smell them and even hear the rumbling in their stomachs!
The very large matriarch was delegated the task of using all her best efforts to get the ripened pods to fall to the ground whilst the others used their trunks like vacuum cleaners swishing them from side to side picking the pods up off the ground and feeding them into their mouths. Having lived in Africa, this was by no means our first encounter with elephants but it was most certainly our first one so exposed and so vulnerable to these incredible grey giants. How close, well does this photie give you a better idea? Marlet keeps a close eye on our visitors well aware that we are just visitors in their territory!
Two of the people closest to me in the whole world, my handsome hubby and my special friend watch the proceedings in awe. There is nothing like an experience like this to make one aware of how really small and vulnerable we are! I am the snap happy one and as I was merrily clicking away, I became rather bold – looking at the elephant family through the eye of the camera lens distorts things – just a littly bit… until my ordinarily very chilled hubby’s voice filled with alarm made me aware that one unhappy camper was staring me down and flapping his ears – and he was NOT just fanning the breeze!
Spot Mr Grump Grey Giant to the right – a VERY memorable CLOSE encounter – what an incredible cameo moment – what a privelege!
Posted in Adventure, Camping, Elephants, family, Game Reserves, Uncategorized
Tagged close encounters, elephant, family, friends, game reserves, travel. adventure, wild life