Category Archives: Game Reserves

Photo of the Week Challenge: INSIDE

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!

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A Magical Moment in a Makgadikgadi Moonscape…

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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

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!