Treepol

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Everything posted by Treepol

  1. Day 10 I was sad to leave Stewart Island on the 8 am ferry and have already decided to return to this island paradise sometime in the future. We stopped for lunch at Lake Waihola where a local guy was going fishing and many dog-walkers were out with pets. A Chaffinch fluttered about the stone wall. After lunch we set out on the long drive to Katiki Historic Reserve to see Yellow-eyed Penguins, where just 2 birds were visible. Both were sleeping when we arrived but one was standing later in the afternoon. The penguin site was along an attractive coastline which was home to many New Zealand Fur Seals. This kelp was a popular resting place. A soggy Pied Shag dried out on the rocks below the track, watched by fur seals. After this stop we travelled north to Oamaru, a port town with many gracious sandstone buildings, monuments to the town's heyday in the early 20th century. An abandoned jetty in Oamaru makes a great home for Otago Shags (the dark birds at the end) and Spotted Shags in the foreground. Home tonight is the Thames Court Motel in Oamaru.
  2. New Zealand has some unique bird species of which the iconic kiwi is the best known. The Wrybill, a plover with a side-turned bill, a medley of seabirds including albatross, petrels, shearwaters and penguins together with endemic parrots, wrens, robins and tomtits were all new to me. I was delighted with sightings of Yellow-eyed and Fiordland-crested penguins and the variety and number of albatross seen on 2 pelagic cruises. A few Australian species such as Swamphens and Silvereyes and some introduced European species were also seen. The South Island of New Zealand is a land of dramatic coastlines, roughhewn mountains, green paddocks (mostly dotted with sheep), sandy beaches and foaming waterfalls. Kaikoura Knob's Flat Lake Tekapo Katiki Historic Reserve Mountains near Homer Tunnel, Milford Road The island is remarkably scenic and it is hard to believe that around the next corner is a sight even more dazzling than the one disappearing in the rear view mirror. Indeed, the scenic overload makes it easy to become nonchalant about the plethora of memorable vistas. I travelled with Wrybill Safaris, joining the group at Wellington half-way through the trip for the last 12 days of a 21 day trip. The itinerary was: Wellington Picton Kaikoura (2 nights) Hokitika Franz Joseph Wanaka Te Anau Stewart Island (2 nights) Omarau Omarama Christchurch I will write more at the end of the report about travelling with Wrybill through the South Island, the New Zealanders (Kiwis) love of the great outdoors and some conservation work that we saw. Day 1 I left Melbourne around 6.30 pm arrived in Wellington at midnight (there is a 2 hour time difference) and thanks to efficient immigration and customs made it to the hotel around 1 am. After good night's sleep I went in search of breakfast, walking as far as Queen's Wharf before returning to the city area and found a cafe called Arabica. After breakfast I wandered back to the hotel, packed up and checked out before returning to Lambton Quay in downtown Wellington (Welly to the locals) to take some photos of this staid port city. The wharf area reminded me of Cape Town and Hobart. Made it back to the hotel in time to meet Sav Saville of Wrybill Birding. The rest of the group are at Te Papa (the National Museum) and we meet them there before heading to the Inter-island ferry terminal. Once on board the ferry Sav bags us good inside seats with ready access to the deck area where we spend most of the trip and are rewarded with distant views of White-capped and Salvin's Albatross, Fairy Prion, Fluttering Shearwater, King and Spotted Shags, Arctic Skua and a solitary Little Blue Penguin. A New Zealand Falcon flew overhead, too high for us to identify the prey in its claws. The crossing was quite calm, although there was a slight swell once we left Wellington Harbour and entered the open waters of Cook Strait. Closer to the South Island we see a number of yachts and motor cruisers as the locals take to the sea. Within the sheltered waters of Queen Charlotte Sound there are homes dotted around private coves with sandy beaches and private jetties. Many appear to be holiday homes, but all are boat access only as they cling to the edge of the land where no road goes. Tomorrow we are going on a boat cruise to Blumine Island in search of rare New Zealand endemics. The only mammal seen today was a Dusky Dolphin.
  3. Day 9 This morning I thought I'd do a short walk around Oban looking for Kaka in the local gardens. However a light shower of rain convinced me to turn back and just as well because a Kaka is feeding outside my room. This largely brown bird is the seaside cousin to the mountain dwelling Kea. After this auspicious start to the day we are off on an all day pelagic trip around the coast of Stewart Island. A large bin of fish off-cuts at the rear of the boat keeps our albatross escort interested for most of the day - at one time someone counted 60+ White-capped, Salvin's and Southern Royal Albatross around us with numerous Cape Petrels. New birds for the day were Cook's and Mottled Petrels, a Broad-billed Prion, Sooty Shearwater, Grey-backed Storm Petrel and a Brown Skua. The trip begins with a visit to the Fiordland Crested Penguin colony where the birds are just leaving their night cave and soon swim out past the boat to open waters in search of a fishy breakfast. Little Penguins are also on their way out to sea. Before too long the White-capped Albatross spy the boat and start closing in, with hungry eyes fixed on the grey bin of fish. The Yellow-eyed Penguins rise later than the Fiordland Crested and these guys were still contemplating breakfast when we arrived at the colony. This species are the least numerous of all the Penguins and their numbers are plummeting due to declining food supplies and habitat loss. We drove further into open water where the accompanying flotilla of albatross continued to increase with White-capped far outweighing the Salvin's and Southern Royals. Some of these we had seen on last week's pelagic trip out of Kaikoura, however the large Gibson's Albatross wasn't present, so the other species had a greater share of the food. A Brown Skua surveys the sea from a high point before taking a turn around the boat. The rest of the day was spent knee-deep in albatross, with regular battles over the fishy treats thrown from the back of the boat. Overall, the White-capped albatross dominated the feeding frenzy, whilst the larger Southern Royal seemed content to take a back seat, although there were exceptions. When most of the fish was gone, the albatross flotilla began cleaning and grooming and the raucous squawks for food were replaced by bill clacking and a strange ducking and diving motion that cleaned wing and back feathers. Late in the day White-chinned petrels appeared, we had last seen these a week earlier out of Kaikoura. Throughout the day new (smaller and distant) birds such as a rare Broadbilled Prion appeared and I noticed how quickly the cabin emptied when the cry of new bird went up. We turned for home about 3.30 in order to arrive at the Foveaux Shag colony while there was still enough light for photos. This rocky outpost is shared with Spotted Shags and New Zealand Fur Seals.
  4. Day 8 This morning we are going to have breakfast at Neil's place, which is a Swiss-built log cabin that nestles into a rural setting. Neil will begin guiding for Wrybill Safaris in early 2018 and is on a familiarisation trip with our group. Tuis are frequent visitors to the garden. After breakfast we set out for Bluff where we will catch the ferry to Stewart Island, with a short stop at the Invercargill Estuary Walkway where Australian Shoveller have been seen recently but not today. Arriving at Bluff we head for the ferry bag drop and coffee cart before boarding the high speed ferry to Stewart Island. There is an island vibe here - the ship to shore supermarket, a grassy esplanade and garden tables at the pub that overlook the busy harbour. A family of Paradise Shelduck is on the beach. and a very Stewart Island Christmas Tree, Ulva Island is our destination this afternoon. It is an actively managed predator free island and a paradise for the local birds. White-capped albatross paddle hopefully around the water taxi during the short trip to the island and a New Zealand fur seal grooms above the waterline. The landing at Sydney Cove is an introduction to the scenic wonders of Ulva Island, and has a friendly reminder of the island's predator free status. The island is very busy today with 6 other groups walking the shady trails together with numerous other day trippers. However, the bird life isn't shy, some like this Stewart Island Robin are positively gregarious. However, the Yellowheads are as high in the trees as ever. A gaudy Red-fronted Parrot perched obligingly over the path and a weka wades in the shallows watched by a nearby Variable Oystercatcher. After leaving the beach, we find a noisy Kaka feeding on the nectar of wild blossom deep in a flowering Rata tree while further along the path a weka forages in the leaf litter. All too soon it is time to return to Sydney Cove and the water taxi ride back to Oban. The day isn't over yet though as tonight we are going to find a wild kiwi. The dinner at the waterfront South Sea Hotel was the best meal I have had so far on the trip, after which a ferry takes 16 people to the Kiwi viewing beach to the east of Oban where we are split into 2 groups. Our guide is Ian who works as a part-time guide, however he has been active in conservation work in the area for many years. Late in the evening he checks his trail cameras and is annoyed to find that a possum has escaped with the bait from a nearby trap. The kiwi tours are well organised and we walk quietly behind Ian using as little light as possible. We know that when he switches from white to red light that a kiwi is around, sadly we only see the red light twice in the evening as it is nesting season and half of the adult population will be sitting on eggs and not out feeding. We start out about 10 pm and walk a trail to the beach and then walk up and down looking for kiwi with no luck - someone says "this has disaster written all over it" and our spirits fall further. At midnight we begin the walk back to the boat when on a side track the red light goes on and there is a Southern Brown Kiwi foraging right near the track. Ian gets us close for good views of this familiar shaped shuffle, sniffly bird with an impossibly long bill that has the nostrils at the end rather than near the eyes. On the return trip everyone is jubilant but incredibly tired and we finally arrive home at 1.30 am.
  5. @pomkiwi the west coast of the South Island must have been a magical place to live and work - so scenic and uncrowded. @lmSA84 thanks for reading along. Day 7 This morning was an early departure at 7.15 from Wanaka as we have a lot of miles to do today. Sav drove to the Homer Tunnel on the Milford Road via Te Anau. The mountains around the tunnel are very high, sheer in some places and running with meltwater that cascades down the mountainside in graceful 'horse tail' seasonal waterfalls. Luckily the Rock Wren which was the target bird of the morning showed quickly and we had good views of a male and female bird that were busy feeding chicks. Sav's instructions were 'anything that moves here will be a Rock Wren, anything that looks like a green table tennis ball will be a Rock Wren and anything that looks like a brown mouse will also be a Rock Wren.' Female Male After about an hour with the wrens, Sav did a quick drive into Milford Sound for a photo stop before returning to the Homer Tunnel for one last look for Keas. Mitre Peak, Milford Sound This was only our second Kea of the trip, doing the usual Kea thing of trying to get into cars in search of food. The final stop of the day was at Knob's Flats for the black-fronted tern. The wild lupins we saw around the south of the South Island may be an introduced plant pest, but they are a very scenic one! Tonight we are staying at the very comfortable Explorer in Te Anau.
  6. Day 6 The feedback from the previous night's kiwi outing was disappointing - the group waited for 3.5 hours for the briefest glimpse of a kiwi, and not everyone saw that. Seems I didn't miss anything by sitting this one out, but I was sympathetic to those who made the effort. I found this Pied Oystercatcher busy in the garden at the motel. A Song Thrush was an early visitor to the motel garden which is on the outskirts of Franz Josef township in rural New Zealand. We left Franz Josef at 8.15, making a brief stop along the Lake Matheson road for views of Mts Cook and Tasman, New Zealand's highest mountains. Mt Cook is the mountain with the most snow, whilst Mt Tasman is further to the right and looks like a ridge-pole tent. Bruce Bay was the next stop for Hector's Dolphins but they didn't show today, however all 3 gull species (Black-billed, Red-billed and Kelp) were fishing enthusiastically close to shore. A Pied Oyster-catcher waded in the surf. We dipped on Fiordland Penguins at Munro Bay, some people saw a solitary bird being buffeted in the strong surf. Today lunch was at Haast Village after which we stopped at Haast Pass for Yellowhead and Rifleman, both of which showed well. The last stop was at Wanaka Marina for nesting Great Crested Grebe, Mallard and New Zealand Scaup. The huddle of Mallard ducklings was too cute to ignore. New Zealand Scaup Today, Red Poll are easily seen in the car park at the Archway Motel at Wanaka.
  7. This year we were a party of 5 – myself, @@farin, Mum (both on second safaris) and the Cousins (safari newbies) on a soft adventure safari followed by a 6 day Moremi mobile with Masson Safaris. The highlights were: 5 cheetah cubs at Mashatu Leopard and baboon antics at Mashatu Meeting up with old friends again – Richard at Mashatu Tent Camp, Francois and Margaret in Namibia and Ewan and Sallie Masson in Botswana Owls Male lion stalking in Kgalagadi, lions everywhere including the Caprivi African Wildcat and honey badger in Kgalagadi Brown hyena at Okaukuejo Village and kraal life along the Angolan border and through the Caprivi Meeting Mark and Charlie Paxton at Shamvura camp in the Caprivi – I have received Mark’s KOAR emails for 2-3 years and took the opportunity to stop by and say hello Carmine bee-eaters at Mazambala Lodge An impromptu visit to a Caprivi mission The stunning scenery and bewitching colours of Namibia from the Kalahari to the Caprivi Sable and roan in Mahango Game Reserve Serval and Black Mamba in Moremi Carmine Bee-eaters, Mazambala Lodge, Caprivi Pride of 6, Moremi Lion, (KTP) African Wild Cat, KTP Photo galleries, including accommodation for 2014 are online at https://picasaweb.google.com/Treepol The final itinerary was: Mashatu Tent Camp (4 nights) Twee Riverien (3 nights) Kalahari Farmstall (3 nights) Anib Kalahari Lodge (1 night) Desert Breeze, Swakopmund (2 nights) Erongo Wilderness Lodge (1 night) Palmwag (2 nights) Okaukuejo (2 nights) Halali (1 night) Mushara Bush Camp (2 nights) Hakusembe River Lodge (1 night) Mazambala Lodge (2 nights) Nunda Lodge (2 nights) The Kraal, Maun (1 night) Masson Safaris Mobile 1.Campsite near Second Bridge, Moremi (3 nights Hatab 6) 2.Xakanaxa Campsite (2 nights Hatab 9) 3.Mopane Tongue Campsite (1 night Hatab 14) The Kraal, Maun (1 night) The itinerary was designed to visit a variety of environments to maximise wildlife viewing opportunities in the varied environs of the Tuli Block, the deserts of Kgalagadi (KTP) and Etosha, the coast at Swakopmund and the Caprivi and Moremi wetlands. KTP delivered for us with lion, owls and a honey badger. We travelled from the coast to the Caprivi via Etosha to see the full gamut of Namibia’s wildlife. And what a grand drive it was for awe-inspiring scenery, colourful birds and wishlist rarities of brown hyena, sable herds and roan. Moremi delivered longed for sights of serval and a black egret hooding together with wetland scenery, mud-wrestling ele style, owls and black mamba. The final itinerary included more one night stays than I originally planned, however we sacrificed some 3 night stays to keep travel to less than 400 km most days. Zebra, Charitsaub, Etosha Carmine Bee-Eater with Kalahari Apple Leaf tree, Moremi Eles at dusk, Okaukuejo, Etosha NP Starting out The party left from Devonport and Hobart airports on 10 August. @@farin and I were very happy to be leaving a cold 8C in Hobart, knowing that we were heading for warmer days. We met Mum and the Cousins in Melbourne and flew on to Sydney for the first night before the 14 hour flight to Joberg. There was a last minute flight change when Qantas cancelled our international flight, however this was resolved by leaving a day earlier than planned and spending an extra day in Africa (never a bad thing, shame it was in Joberg). Due to the flight change we were able to visit the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre with an afternoon stop at the nearby Monkey Sanctuary where the highlight was the ring-tailed lemurs. I have now added Madagascar to my longlist! After a pleasant day with a taste of spotted cats and painted dogs, we returned to the Airport City Lodge for a good night's sleep before the Polokwane flight and transfer to Mashatu next day.
  8. @Davesg thanks for this report and your gallery photos, I am really looking forward to this arid park when we visit in August this year.
  9. @kittykat23uk thanks for this close-up look at Karoo NP, I'm looking forward to exploring this park in August.
  10. Day 5 This morning began with our usual self-service breakfast at the newly refurbished and very smart Jade Court Motel in Hokitika. Our first stop was the local water treatment plant where there wasn't much around - a rabbit, Pacific Black Ducks, Mallards, Paradise Ducks and an Australian Shoveler. We drove on to the Pahihi Reserve where a South Island Robin hopped along the path ahead of us. Further along we saw Brown Creepers and Tomtits. A Rata tree with bright red flowers sheltered a Yellow-crowned Parakeet while Brown Creepers flew around us, never settling in one place for long. Whilst we were watching the Tomtits a black morph Fantail fluttered in the branches of an over-hanging tree and a New Zealand Pigeon perched further back in a taller tree. After this walk we drove into Okarito for a briefing about the kiwi search planned for this evening. There are about 450 Okarito Kiwis remaining in the wild and local guide Ian Cooper has a good success rate in finding one or more of 6 tagged birds on his nightly walks. Silence and patience are key to a successful Okarito Kiwi Adventure. Consequently I will be sitting this one out! After lunch and checkin at the (almost) Glacier View Motel View from Glacier View Motel we do a short trail from which it's possible to see Franz Joseph Glacier. I am surprised to see how far the glacier has receded since my 1986 visit and dug out this old photo for a comparison. 1986 2017 A Tomtit posed briefly along the trail but disappeared before I could get a good photo.
  11. @Zubbie15 I think you would both enjoy NZ as the landscapes are varied and the scenery is magnificent. Travelling is easy and comfortable - we saw lots of hire cars and motorhomes in the South Island which is the least populated and wildest of the 2 main islands. I'm glad someone else is thinking ahead to 2020, I'm a long range planner myself We left Kaikoura at 8 am this morning for the cross-island trip from Kaikoura to Hokitika. The early part of the trip was slow due to the roadworks/earthworks required to repair the damage caused by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake some of which involved removing road tunnels and parts of the the hill through which the cutting was originally made. The sea was very calm and we watched some fur seals playing in the shallows and saw a Reef Egret perched on rocks. The first stop was at Ann's Lagoon where I was surprised to see Cape Barren Geese, also present were Paradise Shellducks, Common Chaffinch, Song Thrush and a baby Mallard. The second stop was at the Ashley River mouth where not much was happening due to the low water level. A Royal Spoonbill fished in the distance and this Great Egret was eventually joined by a White-faced Heron. We stopped for lunch at the Sheffield Pie Shop (where it was 30C) before driving into the mountains to the village of Arthur's Pass in search of Kea. We found this young bird hanging around outside the cafe and immediately set off in search of a kea in the wild. Along a short trail we saw a New Zealand Bellbird perched quietly amongst the trees, then a very busy New Zealand Fantail and a Brown Creeper. Sadly, no Kea. We tried a couple of places down the road with no luck and eventually returned to Arthur's Pass Village where we searched but came up empty-handed - is this the only Kea in town? Reluctantly we decided to leave Keas for the day and try further down the west coast when Sav spotted this single bird in a car park, our search had paid off! These birds are beautifully marked and have a scarlet patch under the wing. This one put on a show for us and looks as though he is about to take a bow. Keas are an endangered species and national conservation bodies encourage responsible behaviour around keas and their habitat. The group overnighted at the Jade Court Motel in Hokitika and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Stumpers Restaurant.
  12. @kittykat23uk I can see why you were so unhappy with Mel, what a lot of wasted time hat could have been spent game viewing. I like the photos of the Blue Cranes and there seemed to be good numbers of them too.
  13. @Patty Saturday may be a stretch, we're still on the east coast! Today starts at 7.30 with cereal, fruit and yoghurt from Sav's pantry and then a quick and successful quest for Cirl Bunting. The Dolphin and Albatross Encounter office is our next stop just before heading around to the launching ramp and out to sea for about 4 miles in search for albatross. We climb aboard and are launched in the boat, no wet feet today! Locals are also heading out to try their luck at a catch on this calm, sunny morning. Very soon Garry the skipper finds a fishing boat surrounded by albatross and petrels so we bob around nearby and become surrounded ourselves. Today we will see 5 albatross species, (Northern Royal, Southern Royal, New Zealand (Gibson's), Salvin's and White-capped), Hutton's Shearwater and Cape, Northern Giant, White-chinned, Grey-faced and Westland Petrels. All of the albatross are a brilliant snowy white which is relieved by species specific markings. The largest, the New Zealand albatross dominates the bait ball, angrily clacking its beak, squawking and rising up out of the water to keep other hungry birds at bay. Gibson's albatross Gibsons Albatross and Northern Giant Petrel Gibson's albatross Gibson's albatross Northern Royal Albatross Northern Giant Petrel Feeding frenzy White-capped Albatross Westland Petrel White-chinned Petrel Cape Petrel Salvin's Albatross The albatross encounter lasts a couple of hours out in the deep water, although the time flew by and it seemed more like 30 minutes. Returning to Kaikoura, Garry detours for a closer look at a commotion that centres on a New Zealand Fur Seal trying to break up its catch being harassed by an albatross and numerous petrels. Back at the harbour we are towed onto dry land and return to the Encounter Cafe for lunch. The afternoon is free for catching up with notes, emails, washing. The day finishes with an unsuccessful owling jaunt in search of Little Owl.
  14. @michael-ibk hmmmm...the wildlife of New Zealand is primarily birdlife and a few marine mammals. I have a 30 year old pamphlet called Wild animals of New Zealand which mentions mammals that include 6 species of deer (surprisingly chamois and tahr are mentioned), goats, wild pigs, wallabies, possums, hares, rabbits, rats, bats, ferrets and stoats and even a cute little hedgehog. I learnt during the trip that stoats, rabbits, and possums are now regarded as pests and the subjects of conservation programs. Best to think of NZ as primarily a birding destination! Day 2 This morning we are booked on the E-Ko cruise out of Picton to Blumine Island in Queen Charlotte Sound. Picton marina It's another beautiful morning, warm and no wind. Dusky Dolphins play around the boat on the way out to sea. Our first stop is the day roost of the King Shag (aka cormorant) where these large birds are preening and sunning themselves after an early fish breakfast. Apart from the size, King Shags may be identified by their large pink feet. Soon we are disembarking at Blumine Island where we walk no further than 20 metres from the boat and see Orange-fronted Parakeet, New Zealand Saddleback and Weka with brief glimpses of Bellbirds, Tui and a Yellowhead. New Zealand saddle-back Weka Orange-fronted Parakeet (aka Malherbe's Parakeet) After a tea and biscuits on-board we set out in search of Spotted Shag (quote of the day, "nice to see a cormorant that isn't black") and also find a couple of New Zealand Fur Seals. After the cruise we begin the 7 hour trip to Kaikoura, departing Picton and on to Blenheim. The Kaikoura Earthquake that struck in late 2016 demolished large sections of the coastal road making this lengthy inland detour around the Southern Alps a necessity. We make a short stop for Cirl Bunting and we have OK scope sightings of a male and female. The Blenheim Sewage Ponds are home to a variety of birds that include Royal Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and Black Swan. Traveling west from Blenheim we pass through vineyards that give way to grazing land which in turn gives way to pine plantations, crossing wide shingle river beds with just a narrow, shallow stream of water at this time of year. Near one of these we stop to watch the critically endangered Black-fronted tern flying low over the water. This is the last stop on the long drive to Kaikoura where we arrive at 7.30 pm. The snowy Kaikoura Range provides an unexpected backdrop to this seaside town where we check in at the Alpine View Motel.
  15. @kittykat23uk so sorry to hear you had a sort of sleepless night worrying over guide issues, this is not what holidays are about! Such a shame. Thanks for the tip of the motorised tour of Kirstenbosch, we may have time for that this year. Great photos of the Cape Sugarbird in the protea garden, and also a very nice shot of the Orange-breasted Sunbird, hope I can do as well this August. The Malachite and Double-collared Sunbirds are good too.
  16. Diverse, colourful, extreme – Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the last frontiers for travellers and remains one of the least explored countries in the world. I have always wanted to visit PNG, a nation that comprises the eastern half of the colourful rainforest island-continent that lies between Australia and the equator. Much of Australia’s 20th century history is entwined with that of PNG and I know many people who have lived in PNG, working as teachers, booksellers, engineers, agricultural advisors, aid workers and administrators pre- and post-independence, all of whom have colourful tales of this culturally rich, scenic and geographically remote nation. Just a 90 minute flight from Cairns, PNG is home to 38 species of Birds of Paradise (BoPs), unique cultures and a largely rural/subsistence economy. This year, I booked a scheduled Birds and Culture tour with Sicklebill Safaris rather than making my own arrangements. My goals were to see Birds of Paradise and to attend the colourful Mt Hagen ‘’singsing’’, a cultural show where clans gather to flaunt, flourish and flutter in traditional regalia, featuring music and dance from the Western Highlands province and further afield. Sicklebill arranged travel with local operators and key guides by private mini-bus, scheduled flights and river boats which are common forms of transport, due to ragged jungle roads and a feudal land ownership system that is jealously and violently guarded. Rugged mountains, tropical rivers and coastal islands are home to tribal peoples whose villages of thatched huts now have satellite dishes and men who hunt with spears now sport mobile phones. A local guide is essential for communications and access to, and safe travel through complex land ownership and village sensitivities. Visits to some Bird of Paradise leks and habitats involve mud, steep hills, jungle treks and long river trips. Highlights were: · Paiya village ‘mini-show’ and the Mt Hagen ‘singsing’ · Boat trip up the Fly and Elevala Rivers · Birding around Kumul Lodge · Birds of paradise My pre-trip reading revealed the following: · During the colonial period PNG was governed at various times by the Dutch, Germans and British. It was part of the British Empire in the late 19th century and administered by Australia from 1906-75. Independence was celebrated on 16 September 1975 at a ceremony attended by Prince Charles, who was referred to in Tok Pisin (Pidgin English) as ‘the nambawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin’; The nation of PNG comprises the eastern half of the world’s second largest island; The population of around 7,000,000 people uses one or more of over 800 languages; ·70% of the country is covered by tropical forest; ·PNG comprises one of the world’s largest remaining rural communities with 82% of the population living outside urban centres; · PNG is classified as a developing country by the International Monetary Fund, with 40% of people living a subsistence lifestyle; Social and religious systems are a mix of traditional and modern practices; The PNG coastline was mapped many centuries ago, yet land exploration occurred as late as the 1930s when Australian gold prospectors Mick and Dan Leahy trekked into the highlands, discovering the amazing hidden world of central PNG Stone Age tribespeople dressed in loincloths, grass skirts and plumed head-dresses who hunted with poisoned arrows; During World War 2 over 200,000 Australian, American and Japanese soldiers died in PNG, many along the Kokoda Trail. The fuzzy-wuzzy angels (as the PNG people were known to the soldiers) who assisted soldiers from both sides of the campaign are remembered annually at Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand; PNG may harbour undiscovered plants and animal life as fore-shadowed in Throwim’ way leg (1997) by Tim Flannery a book which records a relatively recent expedition to PNG and West Papua in search of new species; and · A guide told us that 70% of land in PNG is privately owned which caused me to wonder about the average number of acres owned per capita and per family when compared to Australia. Before winging my way from Cairns to Port Moresby I spent a few days around Cairns and the Atherton Tableland, which as well as being very scenic also have interesting birds and wildlife.
  17. @penolva what a fabulous start to your 5 week Kenya safari. I like the view downriver from the dining room at Brian's camp - were you distracted from your meals by checking to see if anything was moving downriver? Thanks for the tip about Brian's camp and the combination with Sandai, I have filed it away for a future safari. I also am interested to hear about Umani Springs and a recent report from Ithumba. So looking forward to reading more about your 5 week adventure as this TR unfolds.
  18. @Peter Connanwhat an amazing start to your year, beautiful clear photos. Posting photos that emphasise behaviour and interaction is a great idea for your 2018 thread.
  19. @toine sounds as though you have really thought this through, I hope you have an excellent safari. It may be worthwhile spending some time driving along River Road when in the Caprivi. Its the old road and goes through villages and is apparently very interesting. It takes a bit more time, but the little that I saw of it I thought warranted more time.
  20. @toine you might be able to save a day at Divundu as 1.5 days in Mahango is a bit long (to me that is). I also wonder if its worth doing Buffalo Core? I know that hunting had just re-opened on one side of the road in this area when I was there in 2014, and suspect that what little game there was in this area will have fled. I do think that to drive from Swakop to Palmwag in a day would be very tiring and that to break the trip at Spitzkoppe is a good idea - we stopped at Erongo on the trip north. Alternatively, maybe you could drop the full day out of Okaukuejo and explore the waterholes around this amazing area in a slow drive from Olifantsrus and then onto Halali? I make this suggestion with a great deal of reluctance because I think Etosha is a premier park with great diversity, large herds of some species e.g. zebras and the viewing at the pumped waterholes is usually unobscured. Viewing at Okaukuejo is good both day and night, although the viewing is more diverse at night. However if you are camping, the Okaukuejo campsite is busy and crowded, so you may find that one night is enough. Sorry, I can't help with Mudumu and Nkasa Lupala, versus Susuwe, however Mark Paxton has a carmine bee-eater colony on 'his' stretch of the river which seems to be visited each year - what time of year are you travelling? Mark offers river trips from Shamvura. Have you considered swapping Moremi for Khwai? We had poor sightings in Khwai in 2011 (the only predator we saw was a black-backed jackal) however Moremi has delivered on all 3 visits. Of course, 2011 is a long time ago and the wildlife rhythms may have improved sightings wise, but you may like to check with others here. Masson Safaris are fantastic, I have travelled with them 3 times now and am very sorry that this year's 4th trip fell through.
  21. @Botswanadreamsnot long to go now, what a magical safari you have to look forward to!
  22. @elefromozgreat start to your 2018 Big Year, god shot of the Little Grassbird.
  23. @TonyQwhat a great start to your Big Year 2018, some lovely photos here.
  24. Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments, see you all in Big Year 2018. 162. Tomtit, Franz Josef. December 2017.

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