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  1. 31 likes
    @Game Warden and Moderators, please delete this if you think this is inappropriate. It is the last few hours of 2017 and, as is wont when a new year arrives, I take a few moments to reflect. The year started bright and beautiful in Zakouma, the sparkling promise of what nature and God’s creations – beasts, birds, reptiles, flora, the land and the people – could have been and could be. And for me, the fact that I could witness it and immerse in the wonder and joy of it was all because of Safaritalk, and the brains and brawns behind it @Game Warden and its fabulous community of people. Safaritalk makes everyone equal. It makes us all aware of issues concerning all nature parks and all wildlife and all environments. It gives us the opportunity to learn, and then help us decide what we want to do with it. Humans will always have their own opinions, and divisions will always exist, and that is completely fine, as long as we do not impose beliefs onto others forcefully. Kudos to those who share their immense knowledge – whether they be of the issues at hand or of the breeds and species that could fade into extinction – so willingly and so generously, kudos to all those who in their journeys into Africa create the reason for the continuance of parks and survival of wildlife. Credit to those who have deep pockets and have supported deserving causes, and equal credit to those who make - no matter how small an effort - to spread awareness to their friends of what threats wildlife face. There is no one superior or inferior in the bush and there is no right or wrong when opinions are expressed. But the true heroes are not those who throw cash at causes or those who foster an orphan elephant. The true heroes are those on the ground. They are the ones who face the guns of a poacher or the horns of a rhino. The true conservationists are not rich in money, but rich in their commitment to protect the wildlife that we – safe in our homes and countries - vie to see. They are the ones who suffer when armed poachers take revenge, they are the ones who cry when their charges are murdered or die, they are the ones who sleep, eat and face their charges every day. So as we close the door on endless arguments on who is more superior, or on who is more correct, or who has more money, we should spare every thought and consideration for the heroes on the ground – the elephant caretakers at orphanages, the anti-poaching teams, the wardens that protect the land and wildlife and yes even the safari lodges who play their role in sustaining the park’s health and contribute to the local communities. Let’s not let our differences blight the pure beauty that is Africa. Wishing everyone in Safaritalk a super 2018, and more safaris ahead.
  2. 24 likes
    I sadly missed the only humpback dolphin sighting (but have seen these before in Mozambique). We stopped off at the Cape Fur Seal colony at Dyer Island and made a couple of passes to watch the thousands of playful young seals in the ocean, and larger adults resting on the rocks. Sadly no “air jaws” moments presented themselves (much to mum’s relief). P9170452 Cape Fur Seals by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170466 Cape Fur Seals by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170469 Cape Fur Seals by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170487 Cape Fur Seal by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170536 Cape Fur Seal by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170585 Cape Fur Seals by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170023 Cape Fur Seals by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170597 Cape Fur Seal by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170640 Cape Fur Seal by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170646 Cape Fur Seal by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170663 Cape Fur Seal by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170696 Cape Gull by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170695 Cape Gull by Jo Dale, on Flickr We did see a single Humpback Whale, only the small dorsal fin and part of the back was visible. P9170732 Humpback Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170741 Humpback Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr We then returned to the cage divers, where it wasn’t long before there was some action, not just a Great White Shark, but also a Bronze Whaler Shark visited the bait when we were there. P9170793 Shark cage divers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170795 Shark cage divers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170804 Shark cage divers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170818 Shark cage divers by Jo Dale, on Flickr Cape Gulls, Bank Cormorants and a Sub-antarctic Skua were also seen. We didn’t see any albatrosses this trip as we didn’t do a specific pelagic tour, unlike last time. We arrived back later than expected at around 12:50. Dyer Island Crusies include a light lunch of soup and rolls, (while they edit the souvenir video that they like to hawk to punters), but we were hurried out by Mel who wanted to get us up Table Mountain that afternoon. We managed to grab a few bread rolls and, with a bit of cheese from Pat, that was our lunch for the day.
  3. 24 likes
    17/09/17 Gansbaai and Table Mountain We had kept our plans for our first days around the Cape quite open, as many of the excursions we wanted to do were weather dependent, like West Coast. It was just over a month before our trip when my mum decided that she would actually like to do the whale watching trip. Until then, she had been on the fence about it because she doesn’t much care for being out on the open water after a terrifying childhood experience on a river in India. I contacted Pieter at Kalahari Safaris in advance and asked him if he could book us the whale watching trip or if we should ask our guide to do that for us. He advised we should ask our guide and it was around that time that we were introduced to Mel. Unfortunately, the early communication I had was with his wife Pat who advised that Mel was away guiding another group. As availability was fast diminishing, I asked Pat if we should book it directly and she advised to go ahead and get the booking in. Once I’d done that, I let Mel know what date we’d booked for. We left Table View at 0615 after a light breakfast of muesli and yoghurt. A few birds were seen en route including Hadedas and our first sighting of Blue Cranes. We drove via Hermanus to Dyer Island Cruises in Gansbaai. This is the same company my Dad and I used for our shark dives in 2010. We had some light refreshments and a video presentation before getting sou'westers and lifejackets and boarding the boat. There was quite a swell on the ocean and my mum was clearly perturbed by this, clinging to me like a limpet! The crew put down a cover over our side of the boat to avoid the worst of the spray. We first stopped by the shark divers, but no sharks were seen at that time. So we carried on along the bay east until we came across our first of several groups of Southern Right Whales. Sadly the whales didn’t breach, but a few times we saw a significant part of the head and upper body above the waves and a few occasions of tails coming out of the water as these ocean giants dived down. The swell did make photography more challenging than my last whale watching trip in Hermanus and I don’t think I managed to get any better shots. boat & gulls by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170038 adj Southern Right Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170065 Southern Right Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170075 Southern Right Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170191 Southern Right Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170293 Southern Right Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170351 Southern Right Whale by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  4. 23 likes
    A few more birds: P9160145 Cape Wagtail by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160121 adj Cape Bulbul by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160154 Black-headed Canary by Jo Dale, on Flickr In the distance we could see some game, including my first lifers of the trip, Cape Mountain Zebra, behind them, Springbok and Bontebok. Ostrich were also present. P9160191 Ostrich by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160316 West Coast National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160335 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160214 adj Cape Mountain Zebra by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160328 by Jo Dale, on Flickr Driving around we were able to approach the Zebra herd more closely, they were clearly a frisky bunch with a couple of them rearing up, biting and chasing each other. P9160580 Cape Mountain Zebra by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160607.-1 Cape Mountain Zebra by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160613 Cape Mountain Zebra by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160735 Cape Mountain Zebra by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160985 Cape Mountain Zebra by Jo Dale, on Flickr We also spotted our first Eland of the trip, these being of the pale form seen along the south and west coast. With these sightings in the bag we began our journey back to Cape Town. P9161148 adj Eland by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9161240adj Cape Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9161243 Eland by Jo Dale, on Flickr Mel took us to one of the local restaurants, Catch 22, for dinner with his wife. I had the Kingclip in a shrimp and brandy sauce with a cold savannah cider, which was very tasty. Mel said he wanted to “treat us” as a kind of welcome dinner, although given we had already paid for all meals, this seemed a little odd. After dinner, we retired for the night as we had an early start the next day in order to get to Gansbaai for our whale watching trip.
  5. 22 likes
    16/09/17 West Coast National Park P9160006 Mum photographing West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr After a pleasant flight the day before, changing a little cash and a bit of faffing around when our transfer didn’t seem to have been arranged, we finally checked into Road Lodge just by Cape Town Airport around 11 PM. On arrival we were advised that Mel had rung to say he would be late collecting us at 9.00 instead of the agreed time of 08.30. So we had a more leisurely start than planned. Ahead of our arrival Mel had informed us that he had swapped our accommodation for the 16th from Simonstown to his B&B at Table View at no charge to us, as it was more convenient for where we wanted to visit on our first two days. I thought this was kind of him and good planning on his part. He then informed me that as it was very windy around the Cape and the sun was shining, West Coast National Park should be our target plan for the day. This suited us just fine as I knew that Mum would be delighted to see the flowers in bloom and we should also have a chance of seeing some of the mammals, such as Cape Mountain Zebra. P9160011 West Coast National Park Flower by Jo Dale, on Flickr I was somewhat staggered to see that we had a minibus for our tour, being only two guests! I began to wonder how this vehicle would cope with the sand that we would face in Kgalagadi as well as the possibly rugged terrain in the Karoo. Mel explained that his normal bakkie had developed a fault and he’d had to make other arrangements. We had a hairy moment when the back wheel hit a curb on a busy road on our first day, it certainly put the wind up my mum! After dropping our bags at their B&B and picking up Mel’s lovely wife Pat, we were finally on our way to West Coast National Park. The entrance to the park is some 100km north of Cape Town, off the R27 highway. Most internal routes are tarred. P9160013adj Angulate Tortoise by Jo Dale, on Flickr About West Coast National Park Description from Sanparks website: Though the thousands of migrating birds is one the main reasons for the conservation of the West Coast National Park, the showy plants of the area, usually growing on granite or limestone rocks, especially during spring time, are what attracts most of its visitors to this fascinating park. P9160031 West Coast National Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr WCNP contains mostly strandveld vegetation (24,025 ha), which was previously classified as West Coast Strandveld and Langebaan Fynbos /Thicket Mosaic. In recent years the park has expanded incorporating substantial areas (6,382 ha) of an additional vegetation type /broad habitat unit i.e. Hopefield Sand Plain Fynbos, previously called Coastal Fynbos. Both these habitat units were given a 50 % irreplaceability rating, however, sand plain fynbos is regarded to be of higher conservation value than strandveld, due to very little being formally conserved and it being more threatened by alien plant invasion. The strandveld vegetation of WCNP occurs on the Langebaan peninsula and east of the Langebaan lagoon on deep calcareous sands of the Langebaan formation. Sand plain fynbos occurs inland of the strandveld on deep acidic light-grey to pale-red sands of the Springfontyn formation. Extensive marshes, dominated by Sarcocornia, Salicornia, Spartina, Limonium, Phragmites, Typha, Juncus, and Scirpus species, occur on the fringes of the Langebaan lagoon. The vegetation of the park, excluding the newly acquired properties such as Van Niekerks Hoop, Kalkklipfontein, Langefontein and Elandsfontein, may be divided into 36 associations (or communities), having some 482 plant species (including salt marsh species), of which 21 are Red Data Book species. A further 14 Red Data species have been recorded, or are likely to occur on the newly acquired sections of land. We arrived around 11:40 and spent a lot of our time around the dunes, which were covered in a variety of flowers. Much to our surprise, Mel and his wife stayed with the minibus whenever we stopped to look at all the wonderful flowers. As a result, I have no idea what any of the flowers are called, and it was quite disappointing not to have a knowledgeable guide to show us around the lovely park. Perhaps someone on here could help us I.D. them? We stopped in at the Geelbek visitor centre to look at Eve’s footprints. Discovered in 1995 at Kraalbaai, these are unmistakable human footfalls in rock (formerly sea sand) and are said to have belonged to a young woman who lived 117 000 years ago.The original footprints are housed at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town, but a replica can be seen inside the Visitors Centre. Close to the Visitor Centre are a couple of bird hides. Mum and I decided to investigate. The one hide we visited was accessible via a boardwalk that goes out over the marsh. We saw a few nice birds, including Great White Pelican, Great White Egret, Black Harrier, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, Kittlitz Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Cape Wagtail and Lesser Flamingos. P9160009 adj Kittlitz's Plover by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160026 adj Lesser Flamingos by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160036 Little Stint & Curlew Sandpipers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160075 Black-winged Stilt by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160115adj West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr Other than the distant flamingos, not much was visible from the hide, the walk up there being more productive. The tide was probably a bit too high to get many waders, except for the few on the saltmarsh. Having looked in the bird hide we continued on, A Small Grey Mongoose ran across the road. Stopping at a little tuck shop for a few bits to tide us over, only really crisps and chocolates were on offer there, so we missed having a proper lunch, but our breakfast had been filling. P9160032 adj West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160037 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr We almost turned back before the famous Postberg section, thankfully I took time to consult the map and asked advice from the staff at the little snack shop, from which we were directed to the jewel of the park. Around 14:30 we reached the Postberg section. This area was carpeted in swathes of pink and yellow flowers. P9160043 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160044 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160048 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160054 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160055 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160060 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160064adj West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160067 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  6. 20 likes
    Also seen were Cape Siskin, Red-winged Starling and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, zipped around the fynbos. P9181362 Cape Siskin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181376 Red-winged Starling by Jo Dale, on Flickr Southern Double-collared Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181398 Southern Double-collared Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr Mammals were also in evidence with excellent views on the way back out of the park of Eland and Bontebok with a couple of Bonteboklets in tow. P9181463 Eland by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181524 Eland by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181535 Eland by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181654 Bontebok by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181662 Bontebok by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181707 Bontebok & Bonteboklet by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181720 Bontebok by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181739 Bonteboklets by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181760 Bontebok by Jo Dale, on Flickr After stopping to get a takeaway pizza in Simonstown, we arrived back at our B&B and our host Mirinda informed us of the possibility of porcupine after dark. We staked out the garden and were rewarded when a large Porcupine wandered through at 20:00. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a shot off before it continued on it’s mission across the cliff terraces.
  7. 20 likes
    It was no surprise that the queue to get down was just as horrendous! Despite the lengthy wait, everyone was in a really jovial atmosphere with lots of spontaneous singing as we queued to get down. We finally made it back down at around 2015. From there we still had a long drive to get to Simon’s Town. We stopped for a KFC before struggling to find our B&B, spotting an African Penguin in town. P9170121 Table Mountain top by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170123 Table Mountain top by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170124 Lion's Head from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170128 Sunset on table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170889 Red-winged Starling by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170147 Sunset from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170150 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170162 Sunset from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170196 Sunset from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170205 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170209 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170212 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170245 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018698 Long queue to get down Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr Tiredness was clearly getting to Mel and he bumped the curb several times trying to manoeuvre the bus up the windy road as he attempted to locate to our B&B. We arrived around 2130. Our accommodation was stunning and turned out to be just in front of Port of Call, where my Dad and I had stayed last time we were there. Mel dropped us off unceremoniously and headed back to Table View. I was rather shocked about this as I expected our guide to be located with us to make an early start the next day. We collapsed into bed, but sleep didn’t come easily for me.
  8. 19 likes
    INTRODUCTION This will be a three-part trip report covering visits to several different conservancies in Kenya during the latter part of November 2018: Ol Pejeta Conservancy via Porini Rhino Camp, Ol Kinyei and Naboisho Conservancies via Porini Mara Camp, and Olare Motorogi Conservancy plus the Mara Reserve via Porini Lion Camp. I am a relative newcomer to SafariTalk, but I found it an invaluable resource in planning this trip, so it is time to start paying it back (or paying it forward for the next person contemplating such a trip). This won't be an hour-by-hour detailed recap of everything on the trip. Instead, I will try to post things that might interest more experienced ST members, such as animal behavior, new and unusual species (at least new to me), critters I find particularly photogenic, etc. However, this is only my second safari trip and my very first ST trip report, so when it comes to my narrative text and photos . . . be gentle. A little background pertinent to this trip. I did one of those "package safaris" to Kenya in Sept 2016 with Odyssey Safaris. It seemed like a good introduction to safaris in general and to Kenya specifically, as it covered Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, and the Maasai Mara Reserve, all-inclusive with international airfare from the US for under $4000USD. After an initial night on arrival in Nairobi at the Safari Park Hotel, there were two nights at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge, two nights at the Naivasha Sopa Lodge, and two nights at the Ashnil Tented Camp in the Mara Reserve. I had a feeling I would fall in love with Africa, so I viewed this first safari as sort of a budget reconnaissance trip for me, and it delivered well for that purpose. The food and lodging were all better than I expected, the single driver/guide was good (only four passengers per pop-top Land Cruiser), and the quantity and variety of the wildlife was amazing to me. Interestingly, of the eight guests on that package safari, I was the only one who caught the safari bug and was determined to return as soon as possible. For everyone else on that trip, an African safari seemed to be a one-time "bucket list" sort of trip. That said, I knew there were a few things I wanted to do differently on my next safari. First, I wanted the smaller tent camps versus the larger established "lodges". Second, I wanted to fly between the safari destinations; a lot of potential game-viewing time was wasted on my previous safari in driving time between the various parks and reserves (and on Kenyan roads, that can be hard for someone like me with bad disks). While photographing with a beanbag under the open pop-top of the Land Cruiser worked well, the side windows made photographing out the sides quite frustrating. Third, the all-inclusive package price included international airfare that was purchased at the lowest possible fare class through a ticket consolidator - which meant no seat assignments until the day of departure at the airport. For someone whose personal travel nightmare would be a middle seat on a long international flight, I resolved to handle my own airline reservations the next time around. Fourth, the arrangement of a single guide that handled multiple safari destinations in Kenya meant he could not be knowledgeable on the latest game activities at a particular location, so I knew I wanted to stay at safari camps that had "resident" guides. Lastly, being conscious of the numbers of other visitors at places like Amboseli and especially at the Mara Reserve, I wanted to try the private conservancies bordering the national parks and reserves. After doing underwater photography for 30 years, I have learned that crowds of more people never make for a better wildlife viewing experience, nor for better wildlife photographs. A little research, including a lot of time reading ST trip reports, led me to Gamewatchers and the Porini Camps in Kenya. From my perspective, they were PERFECT for this second safari. The Porini tent camps absolutely hit the sweet spot for me - the food is good and the lodging comfortable, but the real emphasis is on the game viewing. After reading a couple of the most recent Kenya trip reports here on ST, I guess other people already figured that out. The open-sided Porini safari vehicles (with canvas roof and side-curtains) were were photographer-friendly. As an aside, of the 8 guests on my previous safari, only my buddy and I would count as remotely semi-serious photographers - one person had a borrowed a DSLR with non-working autofocus, one had a small point-and-shoot, and the other 4 were using only cellphones. This is not meant as a criticism of how other folks do their safaris; rather, I was not impressed that Odyssey did not seem to put any thought into how they assigned guests to their vehicles, so I felt sorry for the two non-photographer guests who were stuck with us two photographers. Porini gets it - with the exception of one afternoon game drive, every other drive during this most recent trip was just me and my photographer friend Harry in a single vehicle. Porini staff make an effort to accomodate each guest's particular safari interests in a way that did not happen for me in 2016. With a lot of patient help from Phil Bottrell, one of the Gamewatchers representatives in the US, I put together this trip on the assumption I would be traveling as a single. Fortunately, a friend of mine (Harry from California) decided to join me about four weeks prior to departure. I welcomed the company of another photographer, but Harry's presence also brought my cost down by roughly $500. Total trip cost (1 night in Nairobi plus 8 nights in the field), including tips and everything (and use of 80,000 United miles) came in under $4000, which I consider an outstanding value for the safari experience delivered. PART I - THE OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY AND PORINI RHINO CAMP For this return visit to Kenya, I wanted to add a destination in central Kenya to pick up some of those unique species resident there such as Grevy's zebras and reticulatied giraffes. And most especially I wanted to see some wild dogs. As I was finalizing the arrangements for this trip, I used to tease Phil at Gamewatchers about making sure to "reserve" a pack of wild dogs for me (preferably slow ones that would be easy to photograph). When Harry decided to join this trip, seeing leopards was at the top of his wish list, to which I readily agreed as I never saw any leopards during the 2016 safari. Believe me, I understand from my scuba diving days that you have to take whatever nature gives you, but I find having a goal or two in mind makes the trip planning more focused. And it does build up one's anticipation prior to the trip. After a late evening arrival in Nairobi on 19 Nov (Phoenix >> Frankfurt >> NBO), and a short night at the Eka Hotel, we departed at 0615 for a short drive to Wilson Airport (which would not have been a 15-minute drive later into morning rush hour). Since I was carrying a photo pack with approx 11kg of camera equipment, I was a bit concerned about fitting within the 15kg total baggage limit for in-country safari flights. Before I ever had a chance to put a camera and lens over my shoulder and a couple batteries and chargers in my pants pockets, the staff at Wilson weighed my total baggage at 16kg (Harry's was similar). Nobody seemed to care about that slight over-weight issue, and once we boarded our AirKenya flight, we realized why - Harry and I were the only passengers on the DH Twin Otter flying to Nanyuki that morning. Technically, we flew into an alternate dirt airstrip (Nanyuki West?) on the western side of the Conservancy, as we were told the main Nanyuki airport was undergoing repairs. One additional aside regarding air travel - after obsessing a bit about the plastic bag ban in Kenya, on arrival at NBO - no obvious signs regarding plastic bags, no questions about plastic bags, in short zero hassles. The Nanyuki West airstrip is only a 10-minute drive or so to the Rhino Camp, so we did a lazy meandering drive to reach the camp around lunchtime. Nice small tent camp with only seven tents spread along a small creek. To me, it has two big advantages - first, most camps and lodges are on the eastern side of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, so it felt like Rhino Camp guests had the western half of the Conservancy pretty much to ourselves. Second, the porch of the main dining tent looks out on a nice waterhole which attracts a good variety of animal life (and bird life on the vegetation bordering the streambanks). After checking in, getting unpacked in the tent, and a nice lunch, we did a short walk with the Maasai staff for the spear-throwing and dancing demonstration, and then headed out for our afternoon game drive. My personal highlights of that first day (20 Nov) at Rhino Camp included a Kori bustard doing his mating display, some attractive reticulated giraffes (these photos were taken at the camp waterhole,as was the nearby Speke's weaver), and several curious young jackals and hyenas. A Speke's weaver, taken from the porch of the Rhino Camp dining tent: As you will eventually figure out through this trip report, I do have a thing for some of the smaller mammals in Kenya, and some of the ones like hyenas that we sort of take for granted. And for zebras. But those were just the appetizers. Toward the end of the afternoon, our guide Benjamin and his eagle-eyed spotter Henry saw something light-colored high in the trees in the distance. Turned out to be a leopard! Mind you, this was quite distant (photo is taken at 500mm with DX sensor, and cropped significantly), but still . . . any leopard sighting is a good sighting when you have never seen one in the wild before. A promising end to our first day at Rhino Camp in Ol Pejeta. We awoke early on Day 2 (around 0430), with nearby hyenas making quite a racket over their breakfast of zebra. Enroute to the eastern side of the Conservancy, we came across a small pride of lions working their way through the acacia scrub. Lion cubs of any size, age, and location are always cute . . . even when wet. Also a pair of cheetah brothers, either just waking up or just falling asleep - one can never be entirely certain with cheetahs. I should note that, when driving between Rhino Camp and the eastern side of the Conservancy, one passes by a substantial livestock operation including a slaugterhouse and worker housing (little village is named Kamok?). At first this struck a bit of an off note with me in the midst of so much natural beauty, but I came to accept it. After all, the Conservancy was formerly a 90,000-acre cattle ranch, and continues with a sustainable livestock operation that provides a source of both food and income to the local people. And the wildlife certainly seems to enjoy the watering stations that were built for the cattle. The eastern side of OP, though it gets more visitors than the western side, definitely has more beautiful terrain, especially the riverbanks along the Ewaso Nyiro River. Made a lovely spot for a bush breakfast. A local elephant herd seems quite at home in the river valley environment, and several family groups with cute baby elephants were present in the area. Note where the elephant calf is nursing in the first photo; this fact becomes significant later in the trip. Several African fish eagles also seemed to appreciate the location along the river. The central part of the Conservancy abounds with both southern white and black rhinos, though there seemed to be quite a bit more of the southern white variety (or possibly the black rhinos were feeding back in the bushes and therefore less obvious). These appeared to be family members playing together rather than any serious tussle. On the drive back to the western side for lunch, we came across a nice martial eagle, and one of my personal favorites (another underappreciated animal), the common warthog. But then, but then . . . let's just say that Christmas came early for me last November. Our guides spotted a lone wild dog moving around in the shade of a large tree. Apparently this young female was separated from the rest of her pack during a hunt roughly half a year ago, and the pack moved on while this young female was left here. Sort of sad to see a pack animal without her pack, and a social animal being all alone, but fortunately she looked quite healthy. After a lunch break, we headed out later in the afternoon with Benjamin and Henry trying to see if we could find the wild dog again. Close by the camp, we were passed by a herd of Thompson's gazelles zigzagging past us at full speed, headed in the opposite direction . . . followed soon thereafter by the wild dog. We tried reversing course to follow them, but it wasn't really possible with all the acacia scrub and the speeding animals, so no pictures of the solo wild dog hunting. Shortly thereafter, as we reached an area of more open grassland, keen-eyed Henry spotted our wild dog in the distance, apparently feeding on a kill. It was clear she has figured out how to catch gazelles on her own, without the rest of the pack to help. Also clear that she had to pass through some muddy terrain to catch her dinner this day. It was fascinating to see the hunting and feeding behavior of this distant relative of our domestic dogs. I know our Norwich terrier had a pretty strong hunting instinct around small rodents and lizards, but the shih tzu - not so much. His idea of hunting was to bark at the refrigerator. So within the span of about 26 hours at Ol Pejeta, we had both a leopard and a wild dog sighting. At this point, if the rest of the trip just had shown me the routine African wildlife, I would have felt this to be a successful safari that already met my expectations. We did spot a bird I had never seen before, the white-bellied go-away-bird: But there was one more interesting incident later that afternoon. Near the wild dog kill, a pair of young jackals were engaged in a tug of war over their dinner (some sort of very young grazing animal, not sure what). Unfortunately, they made enough racket to attract the attention of a nearby hyena. One jackal had sole possession of his prize for a brief moment in time, but as soon as the hyena came near, the jackal dropped the carcass and the hyena came away with a free dinner. If nothing else, these pictures show the significant size discrepancy between the two animals. Smart jackal. The end of a good full day in Ol Pejeta. Our Day 3 morning (22 Nov) involved another trip over to the eastern side of the Conservancy, this time to see the three remaining northern white rhinos and the Grevy's zebra. The morning drive eastward brought us a nice tawny eagle looking for breakfast: Some up-close-and-personal views of a reticulated giraffe: And the ugly-but-strangely-elegant marabou stork: I love seeing cheetahs, especially young sibling groups. They seem to share an almost telepathic connection. Cheetahs on the hunt are so focused . . . But sometimes their brother is only dreaming of the hunt . . . so much for my telepathy theory. As I mentioned before, there were lots of healthy-looking southern white rhinos in the central part of the Conservancy and other healthy grazers, I guess visual proof that the conservancy model is working well. On the previous day, we had visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary along the Ewaso Nyiro River to see Poco and the other rescued chimpanzees from elsewhere in Africa. Admission was included with the stay at Rhino Camp, and it was a worthwhile visit, but nonetheless a somewhat grim place. We had the option of visiting the Endangered Species Boma the next day, but opted to pass. Our guide Benjamin suggested that we could see the endangered Northern White Rhinos and the Grevy's almost as well from the outside of the fence, which is what we did. Again, this facility is a sad place, to see animals fenced in that should be in the wild, but it is sadder still to know that it is necessary because of human actions. Other than a nice view of the Grevy's zebras, I did not come away with any good pictures of the three northern white rhinos other than some for record purposes. Soon afterwards, we did go to visit Baraka the blind black rhino. Maybe a little inconsistent that I did not have such a negative reaction here, but that might be because here humans are taking care of a native Kenyan animal that was injured by forces of nature rather than by human actions. In any case, Baraka was worth seeing (this is Harry with one of the local rangers). On the way heading back to the west side and Rhino Camp, Harry and I had been looking for small birds such as lilac breasted rollers and bee eaters. My friend Harry is a real birder; I am not. I enjoy photographing large impressive birds and small colorful birds, but the little brown jobs (however rare) don't do it for me. I wasn't getting great shots of these small perching birds, so to amuse myself I tried to get some flight photos, right after they take off. I tried quickly panning to the right or left, but wasn't at all successful, so eventually I zoomed out to try to catch the bird in flight in any direction it might head. I apologize in advance for the quality of the following two photos. They are poor technically, but are interesting for another reason. This first photo shows what Harry tells me is a European bee eater, perched on a branch. Not real exciting, right? Now take a look at the picture taken just a split second later, when this bee eater has decided to fly away. Note that he not only did a nose dive off from his branch, but he has also rolled through 180 degrees, which is why we are seeing his underside rather than his back. I thought that rollers (and related bee eaters, in the same order Coraciiformes) were so named for acrobatic maneuvers they perform during courtship - either these particular birds also do these acrobatics during daily life, or this guy is practicing for his big date. Or more troubling, this little bee eater is courting a Land Rover Defender. In any case, I am impressed . . . Came across a rhino parent and young one enjoying a mud bath at the local spa And a warthog family group enjoying the same treatment. Entertaining watching a warthog parent and adolescent interact with each other (well, maybe more fun for the little one than the parent). A few more scenes that caught my attention on the drive back to Rhino camp, all pretty much self-explanatory. Black rhino with oxpeckers (kept waiting for the rhino in the first photo to sneeze out the oxpecker, but didn't happen): Olive baboon mothers with young ones: And an elegant (and not ugly) sacred ibis: Can never go wrong with more baby elephants . . . Though young hyenas might give them some competition in the cute category . . . I knew I was visiting near the anticipated end of the short rainy season, so I fully expected to see some rain during this trip. We were lucky with no showers during the first three days, but rain started during dinner on Day 3 and was occasionally pretty heavy during the night. The game drive the next morning, enroute back to the Nanyuki West airstrip for our flight down south to the Mara Camp, was fairly sparse as far as large game goes, and the ground was still pretty wet, but we did see a few interesting birds including this Speke's weaver, and one good-looking black-backed jackal. And of course a parting shot of our wonderful spotter Henry and our guide Benjamin. Both did an exceptional job, as did camp manager David and all the staff at Rhino camp. Thanks for reading this far. END OF PART I.
  9. 19 likes
    Day 1: Evening drive, Somalisa, 2/9/17 First sighting of the drive, some cheetah.... Can you see them?? I had the 5D, but really, the 7D wasn't much better, they were too far away and flat As you can see, the light was fading fast and suddenly it became apparent why our guide was so keen to get us out of camp. Lions. Lots of lions. Famous lions. Cecil's pride, all on a mound. The gathered vehicles started to leave even as we arrived, as you can see, the sun was rapidly setting and we soon also had to leave. We then saw this male Kori bustard displaying - never seen that before! and that was it for our first drive. No time for sundowners, but who cares? Back to camp to unpack and settle in. Not a bad birthday gift for the OH!?
  10. 18 likes
    After lunch we drove to a riverine area where we had heard there was a leopard in a tree! There were three or four cars there when we arrived and we could just make out a huge leopard that had dragged a big animal into the tree. How do they do that? Their strength must be enormous.He had eaten a lot of the carcass and had then bitten it in two pieces. He was hanging onto both pieces with huge paws. He tried to pull the rib cage back up but eventually dropped it. He jumped down after it and disappeared from view. We drove on and met a lion Josh said was called 'Blackie'. He had a lot of wounds from fighting and looked quite care worn. On our way back to camp we passed a lioness lying on some low land beside the road. She looked as if she was either pregnant or feeding cubs. There was a culvert near her and Josh said we should return there in the morning. We didn't take that much notice but we were soon to find out what was in that culvert! As we returned to camp the sky changed dramatically. First of all the grass turned bright gold and the sky black and then the sun disappeared behind heavy clouds and it started to rain, hard. We had to rush round closing the sides of the Land Rover and drove back to camp slipping and sliding all the way. Francis the Askari met us with umbrellas. We had steak for our evening meal cooked to order. Even though there was just the two of us in camp the level of service and the quality of food did not drop at all. Later it cleared and we were able to take some night sky photographs.
  11. 18 likes
    Thanks all. 18/09/17 Kirstenbosch and Cape Point I woke up at 0300 worrying about how the rest of the tour would go. Our guide had already been making some worrying complaints, particularly around what was and wasn’t included in our tour. So I drafted and email to the safari company asking him to speak to our guide to clarify what we had already paid for in terms of meals and to ensure that our guide was happy with his accommodation arrangements. I also raised concerns about the suitability of the minibus and reiterated my expectations for the spotlight and night drives that we would need our guide to conduct at Riverine Rabbit Retreat. Afterwards, I tried to get back to sleep, but eventually gave up and got up around 7 am. I watched the dawn break over the ocean whilst scanning for cetaceans. P9180016 Sunrise, Simon's Town by Jo Dale, on Flickr As the sun rose, the birdlife got going, and I managed to photograph some beautiful sunbirds, including orange-breasted sunbirds, Southern Double-collared sunbirds and Malachite sunbird, the latter being a lifer that I’d failed to nail last time I was here. Also present were Cape Sugarbird, Helmeted Guineafowl, Common Waxbill, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird, Karoo Prinia and Pin-tailed Whydah. P9180193 Cape Sugarbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180243 Southern Double-collared Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180344 Helmeted Guineafowl by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180362 Helmeted Guineafowl by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180377 Lizard by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180389 Orange-breasted Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180464 adj Malachite Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180477 adj Malachite Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180498 Catterpillar by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180550 Common Waxbill by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180596 Speckled Pigeon by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180615 Cape Bulbul by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180628 Speckled Mousebird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180652 Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180656 Cape Girdled Lizard by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180670 Karoo Prinia by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180782 Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  12. 17 likes
    Boulders beach in contrast is dominated by, naturally, some very large smooth boulders and a sandy beach. So they are both very different settings and I’m pleased to have visited both locations. P9190092 Karoo Prinia by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190117 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr African Penguins are not doing well here. They were reclassified on 26 May 2010 from a Vulnerable to now Endangered status. In 1956 when the first full census was conducted on the African Penguin, there were approximately 150 000 breeding pairs counted. In 2009 there were only 26 000 breeding pairs left in the world. These numbers indicate a loss of more than 80% of breeding pairs in just over 50 years. P9190160 African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190168.ORF African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190232 Dassie AKA Rock Hyrax by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190256.ORF African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr The Boulders Penguin Colony was established in 1983 and numbers increased from surrounding island colonies to bring breeding numbers to 3 900 birds in 2005. Since then there has been a decrease. The 2011 figures sit at around 2100 birds at Boulders Penguin Colony. The decline at Boulders and the global decline is the suspected result of: habitat destruction effects of oil spills and other marine pollution impacts of global warming on fish stocks and fish movement over fishing irresponsible tourism activities domestic pets/animals For more information on how to help the plight of the African Penguin, contact SANCCOB on +27(0) 21 557 6155. P9190289. African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190382. African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190399. African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190406. African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  13. 17 likes
    We enjoyed a leisurely, and indeed deliciously plentiful, breakfast whilst we waited for our guide to arrive. We finally got picked up at 09:45. Our guide stopped off a few times to point out some of the historical sights of Simon’s Town and the Cape. P1018709 adj by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018712 adj by Jo Dale, on Flickr We were booked onto a motorised tour at Kirstenbosch at 1100, so our guide was really just killing time before taking us there. We had expressed an interest in doing a wine tasting and our guide drove us to Groot Constantia to show us around. P1018715 by Jo Dale, on Flickr One of the buildings was displaying a beautiful gallery of wildlife art, which I enjoyed viewing. Given that the sun was not yet above the yardarm and given my mum was suffering from a heavy cold, tasting wine was not really top of our minds and we really only had time for a flying visit, so I felt sorely disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to sample any of the local grapes. We almost came a cropper leaving Constantia as we very nearly collided with a coach heading down the winding exit lane. We arrived about 15 minutes before our tour was scheduled to depart so we had time to collect our tickets before boarding the little buggy. The carpets of flowers were truly spectacular. We were shown some of the sculptures that are dotted around, firstly Nelson Mandela. A bust of Nelson Mandela stands beside the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris) that Nelson Mandela planted on his visit to Kirstenbosch on 21 August 1996. The bust was sculpted by John Francis Gardner and donated to Kirstenbosch by the sculptor in January 2010. It portrays Nelson Mandela during the pivotal years of his presidency and captures his radiance and generosity of spirit the world has grown to love. Mandela's bust and tree can be found just inside the Visitors' Centre entrance to the Garden, at the bottom of the main lawn. P1018722 Nelson Mandela & Pepper bark tree by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018724 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018725 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018728 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180023 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180027 adj Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180828 Protea by Jo Dale, on Flickr We also saw “Cheetah Sitting in a Tree” by Dylan Lewis, a beautiful bronze statue. P9180028 “Cheetah Sitting in a Tree” by Dylan Lewis by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180030 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr I expressed my interest in birds to the guide who said he had something special in store. I pretty much knew what that was going to be and sure enough, we were soon enjoying views of the resident Spotted Eagle Owl. P9180860 Spotted Eagle Owl by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180869 Hadeda Ibis by Jo Dale, on Flickr Stopping at the protea garden, I spotted another Cape Sugarbird and made a swift exit to snap off some shots. P9180899 Protea by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180941 Cape Sugarbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180969 Cape Sugarbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180976 Cape Sugarbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180983 Cape Sugarbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9180031 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018757 Kirstenbosch by Jo Dale, on Flickr Taking the motorised tour is a good way to get an overview of the main gardens of Kirstenbosch, but it didn’t allow much opportunity for a deeper exploration of the park, except when we were encouraged to walk the “canopy walkway” bridge which was quite impressive. P1018759 Kirstenbosch canopy walkway by Jo Dale, on Flickr We stopped for coffee and cake, expecting to explore the park further on foot, but our guide urged us to press on, as it was already 13:40, so that we could fit in Cape Point and even Boulders Beach that afternoon. In hindsight, as we never made it to Boulders that afternoon, an extra hour or so at Kirstenbosch wouldn’t have impacted too much on our schedule and Mum’s biggest regret of the trip was not being able to explore these gardens in more depth.
  14. 17 likes
    Day 2: Morning drive, Somalisa, 3/9/17 Somalisa was virtually unrecognisable compared to our first visit back in 2011. African Bush Camps have obviously invested a lot of money to compete with the luxury Botswana and South African markets. The famous elephant pool still exists, but they have built another one for the humans. The rooms used to be simple bush tents with outdoor bathrooms. Now, although they are called tents, they really are luxury rooms. They are clearly interior designed and are stunning. The camp was exceptionally well run and the staff were all friendly and helpful. As you could tell from yesterday afternoon's drive, our guide was keen and when he suggested a 5.15 am wake up with 5.30 am breakfast and leave at 6 am, this just seemed like the correct time to leave. However, it became apparent that this was an early start as a) it was still dark at 5.30 to walk to breakfast and most mornings the staff hadn't finished setting up the food. However, our honeymoon couple were happy to go with the flow and we were usually just leaving as everyone else surfaced for breakfast. As yesterday was only really a half day, I had the 5D again today. Our first sighting was a secretary bird couple on their nest We had a quick glimpse of a bearded woodpecker, but it did not want to pose and then a new bird - red-billed teal I heard parrots, so we stopped to investigate - Meyer's As we were looking, we had a glimpse of a cheetah running along the bush line. We turned to investigate and could not see it again, so Lewis set off on foot. When he returned he said "let's go and see them". I don't think the Americans quite understood what he meant. "Walking?!!?". It completely blew their minds! It was the 4 young cheetah from yesterday.... We would let them get comfortable and then creep a bit closer Lewis had walked up to them 4 times and this was the closest he had managed thus far Eventually they decided that they had enough human interaction and they left We returned to the vehicle with huge grins on our faces! We had a coffee break at a waterhole popular with the elephants And then set off back towards camp We felt compelled to explain to our vehicle mates that these two game drives were in no way representative of what a safari is normally like and that they should not expect the rest of them to reach the same dizzy heights.....little did we know!
  15. 17 likes
    Flowers were the stars of this park P9160073 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160098 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160108. West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160111. West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160128 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160133 a mossy thing by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160137 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160142 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160145 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160157 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160178 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160217 triffid seedling? by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160223. Mum by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160224 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160227 Beefly? by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160234 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160244 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160260 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160272 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160304 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9160309 West Coast National Park Flowers by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  16. 17 likes
    Day 1: JNB to VFA to Hwange, Somalisa Camp After a night catching up with friends, a not too early start to the airport. The roads were quiet, as was check in, when we found it - too used to flying to London, not elsewhere! Had a lovely breakfast in the Slow lounge, where we noticed a group of 4 tucking into double G&Ts. When we made our way to the plane, we noticed that the group of 4 were also on the flight and by the time they arrived in VFA, one needed wheelchair assistance. Maybe due to the G&Ts or perhaps a sensible ploy to beat the terrible queues in immigration? We had been stung on our first visit, ending up at the back of the queue in a sweltering building and it took so long to get through, that our driver thought that we were not going to appear. So this time I was prepared. I had booked seats as far forwards as possible and we walked fast down the bridge. Given that Vic Falls airport has been upgraded and now has a runway long enough for large intercontinental flights, I had stupidly assumed that the immigration process would also have improved, but of course, TIA. It took a good hour to get through and we discovered that the logistics teams for safari camps assume it takes 2 1/2 hours to traverse the airport and so he had to recall the pilot, who had gone into town! However, it is now air-conditioned, so that is something. It must have taken the baggage handlers by surprise as well, as we then had to queue for our bags! African Bush Camps has a little lounge for waiting in. We were flying into camp with an American honeymoon couple and warned them that they may be stuck with us for the duration of their stay - they were. As there were only four of us on the plane, I was able to try a bit of photography. but it was very hazy because of this as we came in to land, the pilot was told that there was a massive herd of elephant at the airstrip but he didn't seem very impressed at the numbers!! we were back in the bush and it was about a 30 minute drive into camp, as they have their own airstrip on the concession. Some that didn't run off - the waterhole is right next to the airstrip we even managed to get a new bird en route to camp Dickinson's kestrel We got into camp and our guide was very keen that we go out on an evening drive, which of course we would always do, so a quick change, application of suntan lotion and a bit of afternoon tea and we were off again.....
  17. 17 likes
    what a way to begin the new year...a bobcat in our yard early this morning. It was the first sighting in nearly five years.
  18. 16 likes
    I call this a Safari Talk Safari as we followed in the footsteps of two ST members on this trip @Towlersonsafari and @michael-ibk . Once we read their trip reports we knew immediately that our journey to Kenya would include their recommendations and they proved to be perfect for us. Thank you so much for all the help you gave us in particular @michael-ibk who introduced us to Petra Allmendinger who has a guest farm near the Aberdare's, Sandai Homestay and arranged a wonderful 11 day tour for us with our own private vehicle. We spent 5 weeks discovering this new, for us, country travelling from Nairobi where we met our adopted orphans and their wonderful keepers at the David Sheldrik Wildlife Trust orphanage onto the Masai Mara, The Aberdare's, Solio and Samburu. We also stayed at two of the fabulous DSWT release sights Umani Springs and Ithumba and finally to Amboselli before a last wet and muddy visit to the orphanage on our last evening in Nairobi. We travelled with different companies and different drivers and all of them were friendly, helpful, welcoming people who took great care of us. We arrived a few days after the disputed general elections and everyone went out of their way to reassure us that we were safe. We had no problems what so ever. Although we began our trip with a couple of days in Nairobi I will begin with our 6 nights spent in the Masai Mara at Brian Freeman's camp and will return to Nairobi and our onward journey from there later. @Towlersonsafari had so enjoyed their stay at Brian's 'secret' tented camp that we contacted Brian and booked with him direct. He included a private vehicle and if we wished we could stay out from sunrise to sunset. Brian does not advertise his camp on any web site other than his own. He has a few, excellent, reviews on Trip Advisor but his business is mainly return clients. We flew to the Masai Mara on 16 August 2017. We left Nairobi on the early morning Air Kenya flight and landed at Ol Kiombo airstrip. Its only a short drive to Brians camp and our guide/driver Josh met us and we immediately set off on a game drive before going to camp for lunch. Josh asked us what we wanted to see most of all. 'Leopards please! and everything else of course'. We have had bad luck with finding leopards on our previous trips to Africa and hoped that this time we would fulfil our dreams of spending quality time with a leopard/leopards. Josh promised to do his best for us and boy did he deliver
  19. 16 likes
    Today was another early start for the chimp trek. The starting point is the Kalinzu Forest Visitors Centre. The drive is about 45 minutes or so from the Enganzi. On the way, we stopped to get a photo of the mist. There were two groups of people going out. There were 6 in my group and about 10 in the other group. We started in different directions, but ended up at the same group of chimps, so it made for a lot of people trying to get photos. Our guide was Crystal and you have the opportunity to hire porters for $10 USD. My porter for this trek was Victor. I didn't find this trek too bad. All told, we trekked a little over two km's there and back. The terrain was muddy in spots and it was a lot of up and down hills, so I really appreciated having the porter. He was also very attentive and made sure I saw the chimps and made sure I got some photos. He was really good. I am deathly afraid of spiders and live in fear that I will find a huge thing while I am alone in my room or cottage. During our trek we came upon the largest web I have ever seen. Crystal said it was tiny spiders that make it and thankfully, I didn't see any, otherwise the screams might have woken the dead. Although I am not as bad if there are other people around when I see them. As for the chimps, if you have more than one trek, that is better. I only had one trek and it was my least favourite of the 3 treks I did (Golden Monkeys and Gorillas were the others). The chimps stayed way up in the trees and often covered their faces or were partially hidden by branches. The people that had little point and shoots or little to no zoom, didn't get any photos on this trek, unfortunately. I had a 300 prime lens that i used. I would recommend at least a 300 or 400 zoom or a bridge camera that has a superzoom if you don't get lucky and have them come down. like the Gorillas, the chimps are all named and the guide can recognize them all by their faces. Victor Unsure of the name of this one. Hoda - She was in heat as you can tell from her swollen bottom Reggie is the one peaking out from behind the tree We see more chimps, but these were the best photos. We really didn't luck out, but they were still nice to see. We headed back to the lodge for lunch and a bit of a break before the afternoon game drive in the park. I actually fell asleep for a bit. i think my body was tired form the constant super early mornings and all the exercise. I did have a welcome visitor though. A Blue Headed Tree Agama. Isn't he beautiful? Later in the afternoon, we headed out for the game drive. Despite the lodge being just outside of the park, it is quite a drive to get to the gate. We had to stop and pick up the ranger and get the passes. There was a power failure at the gate, so this delayed us a bit. Our ranger today was Christopher and he had an eagle eye, i must say. The vehicles in Uganda are the pop tops. I mostly took photos from the side window, but did occasionally get up on the seat to take photos from the top. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Since Queen Elizabeth Park is a national park, there is no off roading. This guy was right by the side of the road. Babboons are everywhere Vervet Monkey Red Necked Spur Fowl This male impala chased the female all over the place Can you spot it? This is where i really wanted to offload and where I was really impressed with the ranger. This is the best I could get with the 300 lens. More beautiful scenery It was really starting to get dark when we came upon the hippos. It was getting too dark to get anything of use and you have to be out of the park by a certain time, so we headed back to the gate to drop Christopher off and then head back to the lodge for dinner.
  20. 16 likes
    20/09/17 De Hoop Nature Reserve De Hoop Nature Reserve has the largest conserved area of lowland fynbos in the Western Cape. Of the 9 000 plant species found in the Cape floral region, the reserve and its surrounds have an estimated 1 500 species. De Hoop has 86 mammal species, such as the rare bontebok and Cape mountain zebra, as well as eland, grey rhebok, baboon, yellow mongoose, caracal and the occasional leopard. The nature reserve also has more than 260 bird species, including many water birds living around the De Hoop vlei. Potberg is home to the only remaining breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture in the Western Cape. The De Hoop MPA does not only protect the reserve and the coastline. It also stretches three nautical miles into the sea, protecting dolphins, seals, southern right whales and at least 250 species of fish. I asked to make an early start so that we could get a full day in at De Hoop and so we left at 06:05, after I’d sighted a Giant Kingfisher along the stream that backs onto the property. Unfortunately, instead of taking the direct route to De Hoop (the one that had been signposted) Our guide took us on a magical mystery tour across the Malgas Pontoon down to Witsand, which was nowhere near the actual nature reserve so we then had to return back via the pontoon, got lost trying to find a route across farmland and eventually got to De Hoop around 11:30. Not quite the early start that I had in mind and our guide insisted on heading back at 16:30. P9200034 Malgas Ferry by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200134 adj Southern Red Bishop by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200039 Malgas Ferry by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200040 Malgas Ferry by Jo Dale, on Flickr Our magical mystery tour was not devoid of wildlife and we sighted many little birds perched on the wire fences around the farmland, mainly these were chats and Capped Wheatears- they seemed so common I didn’t ask to stop to take photos. This was a mistake, as we didn’t see any elsewhere, or on the way back. We did, however stop to take photographs of the magnificent Blue Cranes that were present in good numbers. Also present in little ponds were Spur-winged Geese and Egyptian Geese and a Hammerkop struggling with a large toad or frog. When we crossed the Malgas Pontoon we saw several Southern Red Bishops noisily flitting about the reeds and White-throated Swallows perched on the cables of the pontoon. Also seen were African Pipit and African Pied Starling. P9200017 Giant Kingfisher by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200037-1 Blue Cranes by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200070. Blue Crane by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200210 Spur-winged Goose by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200224.ORF Spur-winged Goose & Hammerkop by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200242. Blue Crane & Spur-winged Geese by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200260 African Pipit by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200295 Blue Cranes & Egyptian Geese by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200327 Blue Cranes & Egyptian Geese by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200334 Blue Cranes & Egyptian Geese by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9200393 Blue Cranes & Egyptian Geese by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  21. 16 likes
    19/09/17 Boulders Beach to Swellendam We had another very leisurely start waiting for our guide and the day started very differently to the previous one with overcast skies and very few birds. P9190005 Sunrise at Simon's Town by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190008 Sunrise at Simon's Town by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190009 Sunrise at Simon's Town by Jo Dale, on Flickr We did however, see a pod of three Southern Right Whales with a calf and a distant school of Dolphins (not sure what species). Our guide phoned at 0930 to say he was only just leaving. This was taking the proverbial and I decided to take matters into my own hands and asked Mirinda if she could arrange a taxi to Boulders for us. Instead, she kindly offered to drive us there herself and we were very grateful for her kind offer. P9190002 Cape Canary by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018834 Boulders beach viewed from the walk down to entrance by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018841 alien trees! by Jo Dale, on Flickr We walked along the boardwalk to the entrance, seeing more African Penguins and some lovely Dassies along the way. P9190062 Dassie AKA Rock Hyrax by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190078 Dassie AKA Rock Hyrax by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190082 Dassie AKA Rock Hyrax by Jo Dale, on Flickr Having visited Betty’s Bay in 2010 it was nice to be able to compare it with Boulders. Betty’s bay is more rocky in the sense that the rocks are much more jagged and there seemed to be a much more densely packed colony there. P1018844 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018846 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018850 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190002-1 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190011 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190017 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  22. 16 likes
    We got back to Cape Town, Mum had come down with a cold and wasn’t feeling too well so Pat took her to a Pharmacy to stock up on flu remedies. We carried on to Table Mountain arriving around 17:00. The queue to get up there was horrendous and we almost decided to give it a miss. But we did persevere and eventually got to the top around 1800. There wasn’t much time to walk around before the sun started to set. Mel stayed behind at the cafe near the cable car whilst we explored the trails, admired the stunning vistas as the sun set. P9170055 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170057 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170059 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170060 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170062 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170063 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170071 Scenic views around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170088 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170090 Lion’s Head Mountain from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170102 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170107 Lion's Head Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170108 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170111 Views from Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170850 Red-winged Starling by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170856 flower by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170116 adj Sunset Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9170117 Sunset Table Mountain by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  23. 15 likes
    P9190611 Laughing Dove by Jo Dale, on Flickr We then drove direct to Swellendam, well I say direct, we actually seemed to take the wrong road and we had to stop a couple of times to ask for directions. We had planned to visit Bontebok National Park that afternoon and then De Hoop the following day. P9190661 Cape Weaver & Southern grey-headed Sparrow by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190672 Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190683 Fork-tailed Drongo by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190732 Female Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr From some advice I received from @Safaridude when finalising our plans a couple of months before, I asked if we should try and swap our accommodation to stay in De Hoop and forget Bontebok. I did float this suggestion with the safari company and again with our guide but neither of them we responsive on that point and, as Aan D’Oevre B&B seemed like a lovely place to stay, with close access to Bontebok NP I decided not to push the matter. In hindsight, I think this was a mistake. As lovely as the B&B was, our two nights here turned out not the be as well-spent as we might have liked and a night at De Hoop would have given us the, probably very remote, chance of glimpsing a caracal, zorilla or other rare mammal. P9190734 Female Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Jo Dale, on Flickr As it happened, we didn’t get to visit Bontebok NP for two reasons: We didn’t arrive at Swellendam until 15:30 and the B&B is unmanned in the evenings which means we had to check in before 5pm Our guide had been advised that De Hoop had everything that Bontebok NP has in spades and as a result he was very reluctant to take us there. P9190750 Southern Masked Weaver by Jo Dale, on Flickr On the way into Swellendam we passed some clear signage to De Hoop, so I thought that if we made an early start the next day we should be able to get a full day in. As we’d had already good sightings of Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra at Cape Point, skipping a few hours at Bontebok park did not seem to be a big deal, but I personally wished we could have fit it in. P9190759 Southern Masked Weaver by Jo Dale, on Flickr We therefore reluctantly agreed to drop Bontebok and head straight to the B&B. The B&B itself was absolutely lovely, we had a well stocked minibar and complimentary sherry in our room. Lots of bird feeders attracted an array of avian delights, including Laughing Dove, Cape Weaver, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Cape Robin-Chat, Greater double-collared Sunbird, and Southern Masked Weaver. A flock of Cape White-eye were feeding in a huge bottlebrush tree. P9190766 Cape Weaver by Jo Dale, on Flickr Our guide asked about restaurants and our hosts pointed us to a copy of their welcome pack which contains details of a number of restaurants and their menus. We settled on one that was closeby called Drostdy, it’s a heritage building as well as a restaurant, a very nice setting. P9190775 Flower by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190855 Cape White-eye by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190861 Cape White-eye by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190865 Streaky-headed Seedeater by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190874 Cape Robin-chat by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190875 Cape Robin-chat by Jo Dale, on Flickr We had an eventful time just trying to leave the car park through the electric gate when our guide reversed into it before it was fully open, deftly knocking it off it’s hinges! It was just as well the staff had gone home for the night as he managed to put it back and get it working before anyone noticed. We only had a main course and I chose the trio of venison, which was delicious. Unfortunately the atmosphere of the meal was completely spoilt by our guide, whose complaints about the cost of the food were very vocal when the bill arrived and personally I found this to be hugely embarrassing. So with that parting shot we returned to our accommodation and headed to bed. P9190881 Cape Robin-chat by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  24. 15 likes
    So we took the scenic route via Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak, stopping in Hout Bay for fish and chips for lunch. Then it was on to Cape Point for the rest of the afternoon. P1018762 scenic drive around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018763 scenic drive around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018764 scenic drive around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018765 scenic drive around the Cape by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181074 Hartlaub's Gull by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181089 Cape Gull by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181096 Hartlaub's Gull by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018787 distance marker by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018797 Cape Point Lighthouse by Jo Dale, on Flickr We entered the park and immediately encountered a large troop of Chacma Baboons, we enjoyed watching the troop cross the road in front of us, especially the little babies riding on the backs of their mothers. P9181134 Chacma Baboon by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181168 Chacma Baboon by Jo Dale, on Flickr P1018809 Me & Mum by Jo Dale, on Flickr A Small Grey Mongoose and some unidentified rodents were also seen along the way. We stopped and took a ride up on the flying Dutchman Furnicular to see the lighthouse. White-breasted Cormorants and Cape Cormorants nest on the cliffs around the lighthouse. P9181257 White-breasted and Cape Cormorants nesting on the cliffs by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181268 White-breasted and Cape Cormorants nesting on the cliffs by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181278 some sort of daisy? by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9181315 White-breasted and Cape Cormorants nesting on the cliffs by Jo Dale, on Flickr
  25. 15 likes
    I hope this is the right place to post this - I have just returned from the Kgalagadi - arguably the best National Park in South Africa. More opportunities for photography than you can dream of. And when the day is done - you shoot the stuff in the tree you are camping under. Or the Puff adder sailing under your chair. Or the Jackal that stole you dinner, or you chase the squirrel that climbs on your lap looking to steal your sandwich. Dont forget the scorpions you chase at night with a UV light. 13 Days felt like 3, temperatures between 38 and 45, wind storms, thunderstorms, but nothing is an issue as you get the shots. Thank you for viewing.
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    Out takes and Take outs This was my third visit to Kaingo & Mwamba. The recently refurbished Kaingo chalets are more than adequate for a comfortable safari home. Kaingo Chalet There's another bed to the left out of picture. Kaingo means leopard in the local dialect and it really lived up to its moniker. During my 10 night stay I witnessed sixteen leopard sightings. Over 30% of my images from my stay are of leopards. Mwamba seems to get better and better. Craig & Lyndie (the current managers) have put their own stamp on the camp and their team do an amazing job preparing this camp from scratch for the start of the season. Mwamba Brunch & afternoon tea site. Mwamba brunch. Pancakes yum. Both the ‘Hippo’ hide and the ‘Last Waterhole’ hide add that extra dimension to the game viewing and also provide something to do during the daily down time between game drives. The guiding team is top notch and fun to be with. They love their job and work really hard at finding things. Whilst these camps are expensive they are well worth considering on any visit to SLNP. Grey Loerie ~ 'Go Away Geoff'
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    Day 11. My last game drive out of Kaingo before transferring to Nsefu camp mid morning. We head out looking for the Mwamba pride to see if they were successful hunting during the night. Not far from camp this considerate elephant moved off the track allowing us to pass. The first lions we saw were part of the Nsefu pride on the far river bank. I would see them again in the same place that afternoon. Further on we found the Mwamba pride. The three male Numbu coalition were with them. A male was dozing on the road about 400 metres from all the other lions. They had not eaten during the night and closely watched any prey species with intense interest. Watching Puku Watching Kudu Though one of the males still had other things on his mind Whenever the lionesses moved the males would follow. The male known as Bald Head. Not the best looking male lion but the girls seem to find him attractive. Although they searched they did not find anything close enough to hunt and finally began to look for a shady spot to settle. We let the lions be. During morning tea we once again watched the crocs that were still feeding off the hippo carcasses. When breeding season arrives many of the crocs will be in prime condition.
  28. 14 likes
    I feel that I have to apologise for the severe delay in posting this TR and at least need to START before I leave for Africa again in a few weeks' time. Life has somewhat taken over in the past couple of months. My father in law was admitted to hospital whilst we were away and died two weeks after our return. The 14 weeks since we have been back therefore have been somewhat of a blur, but with the festive season, we have had time to decompress (and process 9000 photos) so now I can start, if not finish, before we go to the Kruger. We were not sure that we could afford a "posh" safari in 2017, given the hammering that the pound received following Brexit. We thought that it may need to be South Africa again, given that all other countries charge in US $, which are now 20% more expensive for us to buy. I had booked flights a year in advance with air miles and had managed a first for us - we would be flying first class! So, when I rang our travel agents with our dates, it was completely without expectation. In fact, my opening line was "I don't think that we can afford this, but give it a go and we'll see what we can do". This prompted a long stay discount for African Bush Camps and free return flights for Matusadona and we did not fall off of our chairs at the cost when she returned with an itinerary! In fact, it was not much more than our first Zim trip cost in 2011 (given that the infrastructure has now improved e.g. scheduled flights), albeit not including the international flights and it would be our longest safari ever - we had a deal! We took a suggested night out at Vic Falls, as we had been there in dry season before and decided to break the journey in Johannesburg, as on our previous trip, the 25 hours of travelling half killed us! So we would stay with our friends overnight in JNB and drive to the airport the following morning. Itinerary 31/8 Overnight LHR to JNB 1/9 Overnight in JNB 2/9 JNB to VFA, internal flight to Hwange Somalisa Main Camp, 4 nights 6/9 Internal flight to Matusadona Changa Safari camp, 4 nights 10/9 Internal flight to Mana Main Zambezi Expeditions 3 nights Kanga Camp 3 nights 16/9 Internal flight Mana to Harare (refuelling at Kariba), Harare to JNB, JNB to LHR (quite tiring) 17/9 Home So 2 nights in the air, 1 in JNB and a massive 14 in the bush. Given it was our first experience of first class, I couldn't resist taking some iPhone photos.... Dedicated check in area Leading to a very quiet dedicated security line, that leads straight into the lounge, where the Concorde room has a restaurant before you then eat again on the plane - starter main notice the proper glassware and table setting! two windows back in Africa Sorry, I realise that this is a safari forum, not a plane spotter's one, but it was all pretty impressive and unlikely to be repeated often (certainly not paying cash!). It is very nice having your bed made for you, with proper linens as well as being in the nose of a jumbo. Being at the front of the plane, we disembarked quickly, but there was still a bit of a queue for immigration, but not too bad. Very slick service at the Avis desk to get our 24 hour car hire (actually managing to use a free rental voucher for once) and despite there being 3 separate accidents on the motorway, we got to the Northern Suburbs of Joburg at about when expected and could chill out and catch up with our friends for the rest of the day.
  29. 14 likes
    2017 BY fizzled a bit for me, so time to have another “crack at it”. When the subject of New Years resolutions came around, with friends, I boldly said I was aiming for 300 Aus Birds this year. They can all lose 10kgs, learn the language of Klingon, Hike the Four Beasts Mountains..etc etc, I’ll be enjoying fresh air, solitude, watching for any movement in the leaves and grasses, and trying not to stress over my ambitious plan. And Yes @Galana, this is not a Blog, so I’ll just waffle for my first post , then I’ll shutup. Funnily, last year, it became very clear at the end that I had neglected some of our very common Birds, even some that are in my garden year round. I think I was saving them for desperate times then forgot all about them. This time round, New Years Day, I took a walk around the River in my suburb, I decided to photograph whatever I saw. First up was a Crow. Well there was no way that was going to be my number one, Luckily this flew over a couple of minutes later, 1. Eastern Osprey, Jan 1st, Pt Walter The next set were all taken on the Spit at Pt Walter 1/1/18 A small area right at the end has been fenced off to give the Terns and Shorebirds a chance to feed and raise their young without too much disturbance. 2.Australian Pelican 3. Little Black Cormorant 4. Pied Oystercatcher 5. Red-capped Plover, with a snack 6. Red-necked Stint 7. Fairy Tern (Adult), numbers falling, these little Birds like the same coastal real-estate that we do. This tiny Sanctuary is doing well this year with about 40 pairs breeding. and Juvenile 8. Crested Tern 9. Terek Sandpiper, a new one for me 10. Australian Shelduck
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    Mission Impossible! An epic road trip in search of some of South Africa’s rarest mammals - with my mum! When people have asked me how my last safari went, I reply, “We saw lots of amazing wildlife, but we had to sack the guide!” Obviously, this is not a statement I ever expected to open with, but it was sadly true with this safari. We were let down, badly. The company we used was Kalahari Safaris based in Upington. It has received plenty of good reviews prior to our trip. We had been planning this trip with Kalahari Safaris for nearly a year and had naturally requested a wildlife guide with broad knowledge of the flora and fauna. A couple of names had received good reviews and we stated a preference for one of those guys to guide us. This didn't happen. For those of you who are familiar with British sitcoms, what we ended up with was the South African equivalent of an ageing Basil Fawlty! This guide, Mel, turned out to be a city tour guide and, yes B&B owner, based in Cape Town. Whilst clearly very passionate about his home town, he was not a naturalist guide, and, despite some pre-tour email exchanges to clarify our expectations for the tour which were initially quite reassuring, it quickly became apparent that he was not prepared to handle a tour covering nearly 4000km to our expectations. It was not until two weeks into our three week tour that we were able to replace Mel with a different guide, Jeanrie Goosen. Whilst still not a naturalist guide (he specialises more in 4x4 tours and PH work), he was a significant improvement and we were able to end our tour on a high point with him. At the present time Kalahari Safaris has sent me a written apology stating that he regrets employing Mel for our tour, that he was not up to standard but no offer of recompense has been forthcoming.. I will make reference to issues that forced us to curtail planned activities and/or make alternative arrangements for our activities where this is appropriate. My mum also fell ill with a nasty cold. Despite all the issues we had, we did see lots of amazing wildlife and my mum definitely got the safari bug and is keen to travel with me again! Our original plan was: 15 Sept- We arrive 2120 overnight at Road Lodge Cape Town International Airport 16-18 The Cape Peninsula. Simonstad Seadeville BB (Simonstown) http://www.seadevilla.co.za/simonstown-activities.php . Visiting some of the main botanical and natural history destinations such as Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Point and the south-western tip of the African Continent, Betty’s Bay, Stony Point, Boulder’s Beach and others. Possibly Table Mountain, depending on weather. Staying in Simon’s Town. 19 and 20 Swellendam and the Agulhas Plain. Swellendam BB Aan de Oewer BB http://www.aandeoever.com to visit Bontebok NP and De Hoop NP. 21 Karoo National Park. 22-24 Dunedin Farm (double room on this farm) - Riverine Rabbit Retreat 25-27 Marrick safari camp & Mokala Park 28 – 29 Kamfers Dam then Augrabies Falls National Park. 30 Sept Kalahari trails meerkat sanctuary (morning walk with meerkats) . Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park 1 Oct Twee Rivieren 2 Oct Mata Mata riverfront lux chalet 3 Oct Kalahari tented camp unfenced 3 km from Mata Mata 4 Oct TBC Hopefully Nossob 5 Oct tbc 6 Oct Jo & Mum depart on the 17:10 flight from Upington to Johannesburg SA8770 to connect with the 2315 from Johannesburg KLM 592. What we ended up with was: 15 Sept- We arrive 2120 overnight at Road Lodge Cape Town International Airport 16 Sept- West Coast National Park (our choice) overnight Table View B&B (FOC) 17 Sept- Whale watching out of Gansbaai with Dyer Island Cruises (our choice, booked directly ) and evening trip up Table Mountain - overnight at Simonstad Seadeville BB (Simonstown) http://www.seadevilla.co.za/simonstown-activities.php 18 Sept - sightseeing, Groot Constantia, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Point, overnight at Simonstad Seadeville BB (Simonstown) http://www.seadevilla.co.za/simonstown-activities.php (breakfast only) 19 Sept Boulder’s Beach, drive to Swellendam. Overnight Swellendam BB Aan de Oewer BB http://www.aandeoever.com 20 Sept Witsand, De Hoop NP. (Breakfast only) 21 Karoo National Park (self catering ) 22-24 Dunedin Farm (double room on this farm) - Riverine Rabbit Retreat 25-27 Marrick safari camp & Mokala Park ( full board) 28 – 29 Kamfers Dam then Augrabies Falls National Park. (Self catering ) 30 Sept Kalahari trails meerkat sanctuary (self catering ) . Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park all self catering. 1 Oct Twee Rivieren 2 Oct Mata Mata riverfront lux chalet 3 Oct Kalahari tented camp unfenced 3 km from Mata Mata 4 Oct Twee Rivieren 5 Oct Twee Rivieren 6 Oct Jo & Mum depart on the 17:10 flight from Upington to Johannesburg SA8770 to connect with the 2315 from Johannesburg KLM 592. All meals, accommodation, guiding fees and fuel were to be included in the cost of our tour, including all daily game drives in the national parks, and all transfers between sites. We also agreed that at the Riverine Rabbit Retreat the guide would take us out for sunset/night drives as well as morning excursions, as the farm does not normally run organised night drives. Kalahari Safaris also agreed they would organise a spotlight for this activity. We agreed we would pay for park/entrance fees and any additional costs of excursions such as the boat trip and night drives at Marrick and in the national parks. I can provide quite a detailed breakdown of costs: We paid Kalahari Safaris: £7106 approx between us. (Paid in Euros) Of that, the total accommodation bill, including any accommodation and meals booked for the guide amounted to: £1860 based on an exchange rate of 16 Rand to the £. Kalahari Safaris paid the guide approx £3125 to cover all fuel/transport, food not already paid for in the accommodation and guiding fees. Mel paid Jeanrie about £625 to cover our last six nights of guiding. Both guides were expected to provide their own transport for the tour. No discussions were had with us about the guide’s accommodation, as this was left to Kalahari Safaris to sort out the details. We did state our expectation that we would make the most of dawn and dusk wildlife viewing and our expectation therefore was that the guide would naturally be co-located with us at all times. However, to keep costs to us down, at most of the places we stayed, we discovered that the guide was expected to either make their own arrangements for accommodation (where we stayed in B&B), or camp (at most national parks). The exceptions to this were Riverine Rabbit Retreat, Marrick, and two nights in Kgalagadi where a room was provided due to a lack of camping spaces. Lack of guide accommodation and food budget became a major source of disagreement between Mel and Kalahari Safaris. Park fees came to R4478. I was planning to buy a wild card, but was advised against doing so by Mel on the understanding that paying as we went along would be cheaper. This advice turned out to be incorrect. It would have cost only R3455 for the Wild Card. We booked night drives most places we could, including three at Marrick. For the first two nights there we had to pay the whole cost of R2700 between us each night. On our third night we were able to share the cost with another couple. We booked our own flights routing from Norwich via Schipol Flights to Cape town, and back via Upington, Jo'Burg and Schipol. I had hoped to write this sooner, with the help of my Mum but unfortunately my Granddad passed away shortly after we returned and so Mum has naturally been tied up with all the outfall of that. So onto Day 1.
  31. 14 likes
    We could see rain in the distance and Josh said it was in Tanzania. We thought we were looking north! We drove around so much in the Mara we often totally lost our sense of direction. The Serena Lodge in the Triangle was our main point of reference and the small wooded area near to Brian's cap. We would have got totally lost if we had been on our own and there are no signposts. Josh pointed out lots of vehicles with a 'Permit' stuck in their windows. "Permission to drive off road. Do not follow"!. To be honest we went everywhere they did as far as we could tell. The only time we had to turn back was when we came to the border with the Porini concession one day. Off roading is not allowed but the unmarked tracks went everywhere with no indication which was on or off road. We came to a clearing near the river with lots of cars. A leopard had been seen. This was only one of two occasions when there were lots of cars, around 20, at a sighting. Of course we saw a lot when we did venture to the Mara River! Suddenly a beautiful leopard stepped into the sunlight. Everyone moved position to get a good photograph. Josh said 'quick take a photograph. Its very rare to see a leopard'. Gulp!! We were glad to see the leopard but not so many cars. Was this to be our only leopard sighting? We did get some great photographs of him/her. It was getting darker and we drove high up over the plains. We could see thousands and thousands of wildebeest running towards the rains. It was amazing, all running the same way. It was worth coming all this way just to see that. We were so enthralled we only took a couple of photographs. There was a lovely sunset. Back to camp for a lovely dinner and bed by 10pm. What a fantastic first day. What would we see tomorrow?
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    Time to gt this ball rolling. To be honest, I haven't really decided what form this thread is going to take. Again, I don't expect to be competing for top honours on the count alone, and thus will once again be sacrificing numbers for quality. The goal in that regard is that all photos here will be at the very least clearly identifyable by anybody with a field guide covering the relevant area. But actually I hope that most photos will themselves be guide-quality (although not necessarily of adult males as the guides so often concentrate on). But i want to add something extra. Firstly, as far as possible I want to show behaviour and interaction. I am also considering adding some additional information, and am to some extent open to suggestions about what form that should take, whether information about the birds themselves, or about how the photo was taken? Anyway, enough waffling... 1) Lesser Masked Weaver Kleingeelvink Ploceus intermedius (Male on top) 06h43, 1 January, Pilanesberg Nikon D500 + 500mm f4, Manual mode, 1/3200, f4, EV-0.7 exposure compensation, auto-ISO (320 selected by camera). Taken from Mankwe hide, with camera resting directly on the edge of the hide.
  33. 13 likes
    Another early start for a morning game drive. We went to a different part of the park and our ranger today was Ruth. She was also very good. The buffalo were certainly prevalent at sunrise. Africa Wattled Plover Yellow Throated Longclaw Long Crested Eagle Red Headed Weaver? We got a radio call and then we went speeding like bats out of ..... We knew there was something big. We were not disappointed. And.... there were cubs. This hippo was on a mission This water buck was more than happy to pose Queen Elizabeth Park is beautiful. There is lots of wildlife, but it is all in timing. We dropped off Ruth and headed on to our next stop. We headed to lunch at the Mweya Lodge, which is where the boat tours of the Kazinga Channel start and the lunch is included with the ticket. On the way, we did come across a lion in a bush. She was quite happy to sit there and she was panting. I didn't get any photos really because she was hidden by the leaves etc. Another car came up and started revving its motor and driving back and forth trying to drive her out. We were appalled and wanted nothing to do with that and asked our guide to leave immediately and he did. Lunch was a massive buffet and I had some of the best fish ever. There was so much choice. Even at this big luxury lodge, they could not make change. Drinks were not included in the ticket. Last year in Botswana, the water safari was a highlight and here in Uganda, i felt the same way. In my opinion, a trip down the Kazinga is a must. There is so much variety. African Fish Eagle Pied Kingfisher with a meal African Spoonbill Yellow Billed Stork Monitor Lizard Hadada Ibis Hamerkop Marabou Stork More spectacular scenery. There's that word again! The cruise is about an hour/hour and a half or so. It goes up and then back so you start and end in the same place. This is what driving in Uganda is like It was a great day with many photo opportunities and it was back to the lodge for a well earned drink and dinner.
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    So we spent about an hour with the Penguins before we saw Our guide gesticulating to us and pointing back towards the car park. We headed that way but somehow completely missed our guide. We arrived a the minibus and were waiting there for at least 20 to 30 minutes, I even went to get us a couple of cups of tea, before our guide finally reappeared. P9190414. African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190427 African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190444. African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190452 African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190458. African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190561 African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190577 African Penguins & Dassie by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190588. African Penguin by Jo Dale, on Flickr P9190591. African Penguins by Jo Dale, on Flickr
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    6/1/2017 I set out this morning to get all the “common as muck” Birds, so I wouldn’t make the same mistake as last year, and forget them. Well for the first half hour I could barely find a Bird, any Bird, even the pests were in hiding. Finally I spotted a movement in the reeds 22. Buff Banded Rail Then a couple of very common ones 23. Willy Wagtail 24. Mudpie Lark 25. Silver Gull 26. Black Swan (imm) and Adult, preening I walked back out the Spit to check on the Fairy Terns. whilst the Adult is out fishing, the Chick sleeps As the Adult comes in with a Fish, it chirps away frantically, the Chick wakes, searches for the Parent, Then it too starts chirping excitedly, calling its Parent in notice this little guy is standing on a jelly-fish, bit of elevation The food/Fish transfer is all over in seconds, gone in a gulp, then back to sleep
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    Thanks for reading along! Josh told us that we had the camp to ourselves for the first 5 nights as a big group had cancelled! Even Brian was away. We were thrilled as during down time in camp we always like to relax quietly and listen to the sounds of the bush. We don't often sit around the camp fire after dinner either as that hour or so before bed is such a pleasure watching the amazing night skies. Are we the only 'antisocial' Safari Talk members? First interesting sighting was a hyena with the remains of a kill. It was dragging it somewhere and was quite happy for us to stay with it for a while. A few moments later a lion just lazing around. @Game Warden I love the new way of adding photographs! We realised straight away that the Mara was heaving with animals. Thousands of wildebeest, topi, elephants, giraffe, hartebeest, a herd of eland and more. Many cats and they were all wide awake! No lazy sleeping lions in the Mara. The landscape is wide open with lovely trees, golden grass and we could see for miles. We knew we were in peak season but we were very surprised how much time we had completely alone with animals. Many people went to the main crossing points at the river and waited all day in the hope of a big crossing. Josh said sometimes he spent 6 days with clients spending 12 hours just sitting waiting We were glad people did that as apart from two occasions during our drives with Josh there was hardly anyone else around.
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    Eloquent & gentle, as always, @Kitsafari You have expressed what so many of us feel - just better Happy New Year 2018 to all SafariTalkers and to Matt @Game Warden, for creating this wonderful worldwide forum that cares enough about Africa and its wildlife to engage with one another across oceans and continents. And of course, a safe and happy new year 2018 to the people on the ground, doing their utmost to preserve and conserve these priceless places.
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    I would like to reassure all Safaritalk members who donated to the cause that is mentioned here, that your donations were extremely valuable and appreciated. I saw who and how much individuals donated and I am quite upset with the above statement. None of us are cognisant of what others earn or have as disposable income and if an amount seems small and trite, it could amount to a large % of their available money. There are some ST members who are very wealthy and who give more than the value of my house to worthwhile conservation causes but you will NEVER see them mention these donations or denigrate others who make smaller donations of lesser monetary value. And to dispute the above comment, there were many donations from small to considerable amounts. This thread, although started with the best intentions to inform the community about an important announcement, has become a nasty, mud slinging, appalling insult to @Game Warden who has worked tirelessly with very little resources to give all of us a safe place to talk about wildlife and conservation. Please, I urge everyone to remember what this forum is about, what @Game Warden intended when he started it and think before you write. I am now closing this topic.
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    Holiday! After more than a year of waiting, the time has come. We are going to Southern Africa again. The suitcases are packed, cameras are in the bags; we are ready. Because of the ease we fly with our national pride. Directly from our backyard to Johannesburg. A day flight with arrival local time at approx. 22:00. Followed by an overnight stay in the City Lodge OR Tambo, located at the airport and then tomorrow morning a 1,5 hour flight to Upington in the North of South Africa. We treated ourselves to economy comfort chairs and an a la carte meal. Both are worth the effort. The chairs we have are on the first row, so a lot of legspace. And the ordered meal is Japanese and also tastes great. During the flight we have a clear sky with beautiful views. First above the Netherlands. The Nieuwe Waterweg and the port of Rotterdam. Next the South of France followed by the Sahara. After a good breakfast and a short bouncing flight, we collect our car for the next 3 weeks. A white one, how could it be otherwise in South Africa, a Ford Ranger 4x4. A nice spacious car. From the airport it is a few kilometers to the Kalahari Mall where we do our shopping. 3 Shopping carts full of, among others, 2 coolers, charcoal, food & wine. Now we only need to drop by the butcher and then on to Augrabies Falls. I have sent the butcher a mail in advance with what we want. Also have a confirmation of this. Unfortunately, the butcher appears to be closed and we will have to eat vegetarian for the next 2 evenings. For the other evenings we can still pick up the meat on the way to the Kgalagadi. The road to Augrabies Falls is a tarred road where you can drive 100 km in most places. In the villages it is 60. We spot our first animals. Twice a mongoose passes right in front of our car. After 1.5 hours of driving we arrive at the gate of the park. Here we report with your booking confirmation. Then 3 kilometers to the reception of the main rest camp. The rest camp consists of a campsite, several bungalows, meeting facilities, a restaurant and a shop. After we have reported ourselves, we get the key of our cottage. This is not in the camp but 10 kilometers away, at the gorge. We are all there all by ourselves from the moment tthe fences of the park close at 7:30 pm until they open again at 6:00 am. The cottage is made under a viewing platform. In the shop we buy a boerewors (frozen) for tomorrow; still meat one evening. Upon returning to the car, we notice that our left rear tire is flat. Annoying but must be reasonably quick to change it. Unfortunately, not. At first it looks like there are other bolts on this wheel than on the other 3 wheels. The key does not fit. One of the rangers of the park comes to help, then another employee and then another. But it does not work to get them off. Then it turns out that somebody (from Europcar ?) has put aluminum caps over the bolts. And we cannot get them off the bolts. A number of bolts come off with a cap and for some the cap needs to be removed. After 2 hours of working, we can finally go to our cottage. On the way to the cottage we see some new animals, klipspringers and rock dassies. The last ones you can see everywhere. Our cottage is a very nice surprise. The location is superb and the cottage itself is fully equipped. It is a large open space with a bed, a kitchen, a dining area and sofa. There is also a small chemical toilet, hidden in a box. This is convenient because the shower and toilet are not in the cottage but in a separate building 20 meters away. We have an easy dinner a glass of wine and baguette with herb butter and some other small bites. Our first sundowner during this vacation. There will be many more to follow. We sit outside enjoying the sunset when a yellow mongoose comes walking. It is apparently the house mongoose because he keeps hanging around and begging. It is very cute on the one hand but this is not a natural behavior. This animal has been ruined by guests of this cottage. The sunset is truly beautiful and once the sun is down, it is also immediately dark but with a lot of stars. We go to sleep without any curtains closed. There is no one who can see us and tomorrow morning we will wake up with a beautiful view and sunrise.
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    Anyone in the UK who listens to Radio 4 may have been aware that Prince Harry was chosen to be the guest editor on the regular morning news and current affairs program the Today program, the entire program was entirely devoted to issues that concern the prince. I wake up to the Today program but slept through the announcement, however, I have just listened to it again online, the announcement was followed by brief report from Zakouma the new director of the park Leon Lamprecht spoke about their work there. AP’s CEO Peter Fernhead also said a few words about African Parks and how national parks in Africa that aren’t looked after will disappear and how they are trying to protect as much as they can. If you are in the UK and you missed this you can simply go to the BBC website look up the Today Program and play today’s episode the piece on AP starts at about 1:20 so you can fast forward it to that point. This article on the BBC website also has a short video about the protection of Zakouma's elephants The country that brought its elephants back from the brink After Prince Harry’s involvement in AP’s 500 Elephants project in Malawi which @Paolo and @Anita had the good fortune to witness, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me that they have bagged him as their new president, I was kind of hoping that they might, this is very good news it will draw a lot more attention to AP’s work and I imagine may lead to a closer relationship between AP and Tusk Trust who have Prince William as their Royal Patron. I think it’s great that both Princes are so involved with conservation in Africa, Harry is already patron Rhino Conservation Botswana who doing a good job looking after and reintroducing rhinos to the country he calls his second home. On top of the wildlife work he does great things looking after children in Lesotho with his own charity Sentebale, he has certainly turned into a great guy in my view, after being given a hard time by the media for a few youthful mistakes. For anyone who isn't familiar with the amazing work done by AP here's another video
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    I am quite sure this is the very first trip report of this place here on safaritalk, I have already uploaded are shorter trip report on mammalwatching.com. I hope some people will not be afraid to visit the lesser known Bolivia. This country is absolutely fantastic, I have already visited 9 times this country (including 5 times the lowlands). It is much cheaper than its neighbors Brazil and Peru, and offers fantastic experiences with wildlife. I strongly recommend to visit Madidi National Park, either at Chalalan Ecolodge or at the more rustic Berraco del Madidi lodge. Amboro National Park Volcanoe lodge is also a good place to combine with a visit of the Beni or the Santa Cruz region. Nicholas Mcphee from Nick's adventures offers different trips there, some of them are 100% focused on conservation of the jaguar such as San Miguelito or San Carlos trips, where Nicholas try to replicate good models from the Brazilian Pantanal to compensate losses du to the jaguar. I am quite sure San Carlos will work provided it's receive good marketing, and hope this short trip report will help some people who are not afraid to sleep in rustic rooms to give a hand to save the jaguar. The place is really amazing, wildlife is everywhere. If tourism comes, the surrounding farm will probably stop to kill jaguars and to hunt wildlife, animals will get more confident and this place might offer amazing sightings of giant otters, jaguars, and river dolphins, some quite unique isn't it? Bolivia's wildlife is sadly nowadays threatened by a massive development at an industrial scale led by the pro-chines Evo Morales government, unfortunately very little interested in biodiversity and conservation. With the Chinese financing the Bolivian debts, wildlife trafficking skyrockets in the last two years and the first victim appears to be the jaguar, with the Chinese looking for its teeth. Jaguars are now literally killed everywhere in the Bolivian lowlands and it is not sure if they could ever survive this crisis. Tourism might be one solution to this issue.
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    Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Bordo - Rufous-tailed jacamar - Galbula ruficauda by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Ciervo de los pantanos - Marsh deer - Blastocerus dichotomus by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Tijereta sabanera - Fork-tailed flycatcher - Tyrannus savana by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Ciervo de los pantanos - Marsh deer - Blastocerus dichotomus by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Carachupa cuatro ojos - Gray four-eyed opossum Philander opossum - Philander Opossum. by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Vibora Cascabel tropical - Venimous pit viper - Crotalus durissus by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Ciervo de los pantanos - Marsh deer - Blastocerus dichotomus by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr Oso tamandua - Southern tamandua - Tamandua tetradactyla by Goulevitch Jérémie, sur Flickr
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    The next morning we had a lovely farewell breakfast at camp and Doug suggested we take a two hour boat ride to the border of Zambia and he would drive his vehicle and meet us. It was a wonderful journey on the Zambezi avoiding numerous hippo and watching elephants in the water. We got our visas in minutes and enjoyed watching the goings on at the border while we waited for Doug. I will continue the remainder of the trip report under Zambia. A few more pictures from Mana.
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    I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Uganda in September of 2017. This report is a bit delayed, but I felt compelled by certain remarks made this past week, to show what a wonderful country this is. I didn't know to much about Uganda beforehand and was struck by it's beauty. Yes, there is evident poverty, but this country has so much to offer. The drive from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda was quite long, but very scenic. The first stop was the Ugandan border. The border agents were very into the football (soccer) game on the tv and not much interested in anything else. So getting into the country wasn't difficult. You just have to fill out a form and get your passport checked if you already have a visa as I did. Shortly after finishing at the border, we made a rest stop at the Travellers Rest Motel. I was thrilled as had just read about his place in a book about Diane Fossey. This was the motel she used. Shortly after the drive continued and the first photo spot was reached and it was a doozy. The Lake Bunyonyi area is just beautiful. There are really no words. The other prominent feature of Uganda are the tea plantations. They are everywhere. I was amazed at how lush everything was. Lunch was at a roadside restaurant and we continued onto the lodge. The lodge is a mid-range lodge just outdside of Queen Elizabeth Park called the Enganzi. Its a very nice lodge, but it is built on a very steep hill. I had to climb up and down 187 step to get to my cottage. So, if you forgot something you had to weigh it's importance vs. climbing all the way back down and then up to get it. Also, there are no radios in the cottages so if you needed something , you had to climb up and down to get it. I got more of a workout here then on any of the treks I did. LOL! The view of the park of the lodge is spectacular. I know I keep repeating spectacular, but so what!! This is the main lodge My cottage The lodge provided a welcome drink and towels and then gave us the menu for dinner. We had a choice of 3 entrees and 2 appetizers and then dessert. Drinks are not free at the lodge, but they are happy to let you bring your own without any sort of corkage fee. Paul, our guide, offered to get us all some bottles wine or other drink of choice. So, the money was handed over. One thing I should mention is that the bank machines in Uganda give out 50,000 shilling notes. These can't be changed anywhere. I had a really hard time and the guide often took the bills and got change or gave change from his allotment. It may be better to change funds at a money exchange place or bank, but as I always just use ATM's, I never thought anything of it. US dollars are also widely accepted, but the exchange rate will not be as good.
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    13) Pintail One reason for travelling to Anglesey, a large island off the North Wales coast, was to make sure I got a Pintail image before they fly north for the summer. Northern Pintail Anas acuta by Dave Williams, on Flickr
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    3) Ruddy Turnstone We tend to call them just Turnstones as at this time of year their plumage is rather dull compared to the breeding season but then they move away from the coast and fly north too. Today they were in a small flock made up of the Purple Sandpipers too. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres by Dave Williams, on Flickr
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    Seasons greeting to all of those I've 'met' on Safaritalk with thanks for all I have learnt from you. May the next few days be peaceful and your travels in 2018, wherever they are, be safe.
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    Merry Commercialmas or Christmas, or happy Solstice etc etc! Hope you all have a lovely day and wishing you a wildlife-packed 2018!
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    I am happy to remove comments from this topic and would like first to remind members about the way they post and the manner in which they debate emotive issues. I've said in the past that if we cannot discuss consveration matters in a reasonable and polite manner, without resorting to insults, inappropriate content or veiled accusations then I will no longer have conservation debate as part of the Safaritalk forum, limiting it to travel discussion only. That will make ST all the poorer, as I, and I'm sure many other members will have benefitted from the points that have been raised from all sides and perspectives in the past. I ask you to all to self moderate, and think about the manner in which you post, before I or other moderators have to step in and take action. Matt

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