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Everything posted by Treepol

  1. @Jaycees2012 I am really enjoying your detailed report of KTP. Thanks for the photos of the area around Bitterpan, haven't seen anything recent from here for a while now. The Cape Fox pups are so cute.
  2. My friends and I have just paid deposits on this mostly overland trip for 2018 departing Oz for Dar es Salaam and then heading south. 21 June - Hobart-Sydney 22 June Sydney-JNB 23-25 June - JNB-DAR 26-29 June - Zanzibar 30-1 July - Mikumi NP (Operator for southern Tanzania is Authentic Tanzania) 2-3 July - Udzungwa NP 4-7 July - Ruaha NP 8 July - Iringa 9 July - near Mbeya (Operator from Iringa to Vic Falls is Doug Macdonald Safaris, guide is Johnny Russell) 10-11 July - Kapishya 12-13 July - Mutinondo 14 July - Lusaka 15-20 July - Kafue NP 21-22 July - Vic Falls 23 July - JNB 24-26 July - Marrick Farm (Operator is Lawsons Safaris) 27 July - JNB 28-30 July - Tembe Elephant Park 31-1 - Manyoni Private Game Reserve 2-3 August - Emdoneni Lodge 4-6 August - St Lucia 7-8 August - Mountain Zebra NP 9-10 August - Karoo NP 11-13 August - Cape Town 14-15 August - West Coast NP/ Winelands (Private guides) 16 August - Cape Town 17 August - Giants Castle 18 August - JNB 19 August - Marievale Bird Sanctuary with @Peter Connan (really looking forward to this day) 20 August - Home I am hoping that Lawsons will run a 2 week Birds and Wildflowers tour between 20 August-2 September and if this gets off the ground I may change my flights so that I can travel to Noordhoek, Swellendam, Ceres, Tankwa Karoo, Nieuwoodtville, Lamberts Bay and Langebaan. There is lots of time to anticipate this exciting overland trip and I am so looking forward to a return to Ruaha NP and the overland journey thru' Northern Zambia. This itinerary is mostly new for me except for Ruaha NP, St Lucia and Cape Town so there are lots of places to discover!
  3. @xelas thats a nice itinerary, I will be especially interested in your views (both sorts!) and thoughts on Wilderness NP, Karoo and Franschoek. I have a feeling that I am going to regret not including Wilderness NP in the 2018 itinerary.
  4. @Levantethanks for the detailed TR. I particularly enjoyed the photos of Luderitz and Kolmanskop as I've not seen anything recent from this area for a long time. Where did you stay at Luderitz?
  5. @Peter Connanand @xelas thanks for the kind words on this TR - xelas, if you make it to Oz, or Tas let me know as it would be great to meet up.
  6. I have just returned from a couple of weeks in North Queensland with Mum and @@GnuGnu. The itinerary was: Day 1 : Fly Hobart-Cairns, overnight at the Hilton Double Tree on the Cairns Esplanade Days 2-6: Overnight at Chambers Rainforest Lodge at Lake Eacham Days 7-9: Overnight at Red Mill House, Daintree Days 10-11: Overnight at Milkwood Lodge, Cooktown Day 12: Overnight at the Hilton Double Tree on the Cairns Esplanade My last visit to Northern Queensland was in 1991 when I travelled overland to the tip of Cape York and visited Thursday Island. This was before I became interested (obsessed some would say) with wildlife viewing which was the focus of this year’s trip. This year in addition to wildlife we were seeking sun as a respite from the Tasmanian winter, local food and produce and a relaxing trip with some downtime for reading and birding. High on my list of ‘want to sees’ were wild Cassowary, Kingfishers, Rainbow bee-eaters, Striped Possums and Tree Kangaroos. I was delighted to be leaving a chilly Hobart with a forecast top of 10C to fly to tropical North Queensland. Large raindrops and a cold wind blew as I hurried across the tarmac to the plane for the flight to Brisbane and from there I had one connection to the Cairns flight. Flight times were 2.5 hours to Brisbane and then a further 2.5 hours to Cairns. I arrived at the hotel around 9pm and found Mum and @@GnuGnu before settling in for the night. Next morning I took an early morning walk along the boardwalk where pelicans preened in the early morning sun and Welcome Swallows wheeled and dived overhead. After breakfast we picked up the hire car and headed west to Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tableland where Chambers Rainforest was to be our base for the next 5 nights. This hide-away is tucked away in the rainforest and is a peaceful haven. My first visitor was a Victoria’s Riflebird followed closely by Spotted Catbirds and Lewin’s Honeyeaters. The resident Brush Turkey jealously guards the territory around Chalets 1-3, chasing off all other birds. Whenever I heard a quiet step and a rustle on the stairs, it would be him trying to creep onto the deck - think vervet monkeys with wings and you will get the idea. The first night 2 sugar gliders came to the feeder.
  7. 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.
  8. @michael-ibk the how-to-do-it is to book with a reliable operator who can get you into the villages where the birds are regularly seen, to say nothing of getting you around the country. Otherwise an awful lot of time and money can be spent with not much to show for it. I was very fortunate to have booked with Sicklebill who have excellent in-country guides and operators and allowed us to pack so much into just 2 weeks.
  9. @TonyQ it was a different sort of trip for me, and one that I am definitely pleased to have done. Now my focus is turning to Africa in 2018, the booking for which are mostly in the bag.
  10. The last 2 days of my holiday were spent relaxing in Cairns, a very laid back coastal city. I wandered along the boardwalk on the esplanade a few times and managed varied sightings of bush, garden and sea birds. I'll finish this TR with a few shots from the Boardwalk and around the Mantra. Rainbow Lorikeets Peaceful Dove Black-fronted Dotterel Sacred Kingfisher Curlew sandpipers White-breasted Woodswallows Australasian Figbird Mistletoe Bird Varied Honeyeater Gull-billed Terns Eastern Curlew Australian Pelicans
  11. My last day in PNG begins with a leisurely breakfast with LeslieAnn. The adventure has a sense of coming to an end with a sudden change of pace, leisurely breakfasts and the anticipation of a couple of lazy, light days at the Mantra Esplanade in Cairns. Our happy travelling band quickly scatters as onward journeys take shape. Ben and I are booked on the 5 pm flight from Port Moresby to Cairns, so we have some time to fill in and where better than the Nature Park. Michael (our Port Moresby driver) accompanies us to the walk through aviaries at the Nature Park where I hope to take some close shots of the colourful birds we have seen flying high above during the past fortnight. The aviary is constructed from some leftover World War 2 scrap metal which is ideal for the purpose. Spectacled Flying Foxes roost in the trees near the entrance. The Black-capped Lory seen in the wild in Varirata NP is a real stunner, as are the male and female King Parrots. The Eclectus Parrot is a friendly fellow, and the Crinkle-collared Manucode flies close to check us out. The Golden-headed Myna stays in the treetops whilst the Victoria's Crowned Pigeons strut their stuff, showing off elaborate hair-dos. A Raggiana BoP darts amongst the greenery before settling on a high perch. The exhibits include Northern and Dwarf Cassowaries. The Spotted Cuscus was very handsome, but too snoozy to turn around for a photo. This young Saltwater Crocodile is also taking things easy. The Vulturine Parrot was enjoying a shower from the overhead sprinklers. There were Doria's, Huon and Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroos that shared a space with a pair of Blue-winged Kookaburras. Doria's Tree Kangaroo Huon Tree Kangaroo The last mammals we saw were the Agile and Grey Darcopsis Wallabies and a small Dusky Pademelon. Agile Wallaby Grey Darcopsis Wallaby This dainty Trobriand yam house is located near the exit. We hurry back to the Citi Serviced Apartments for a hasty lunch, final pack and trip to the airport. However, we needn't have rushed as the flight is delayed by 45 minutes - we know from experience that it could have been much longer. Duty free has some interesting goods from PNG and I stock up on coffee, tea, Bougainville cocoa, chocolate and locally made soap to complement the baskets and bilums I bought at the mini-show. After the short flight (1 hour 45 minutes) I was pleased to arrive in Cairns and checkin to the Mantra Esplanade for a 2 night stay.
  12. Today we are returning to Port Moresby from Mt Hagen. The mini-bus is pre-booked for another job so we are driven in a Landcruiser with protective mesh over the windows and windscreen. Unfortunately the security guard at the airport gate didn't like the look of the vehicle and wouldn't it into the airport precinct, so we are decanted outside the airport and make a short walk to the entrance where our bags are manually searched because there is no security screening after which we finally get to checkin. Once again the Air Niugini plane is late and as we listen to a succession of updates we watch the smart people who booked PNG Air lining up and taking off. Eventually we fly at 3.30 pm having lost another half day's activity because of Air Niugini's poor performance. Some passengers were dismayed to see 2 fire engines spraying water on the plane as it taxied to take off - a retired fireman was leaving Mt Hagen and this was his farewell from former colleagues! Here are some aerial photos I took on the flight back to Port Moresby. We were supposed to spend the afternoon in the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University, known locally as PAU. We arrived close to 5 pm as the light was fading, however we did see Purple Swamphen, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, Intermediate Egret, a solitary Hardhead, Sacred Kingfisher, Australian Figbird and Pied Heron. A Black-backed Butcherbird is sitting on a nest, which was a bonus sighting as we searched unsuccessfully for the Papuan Frogmouth. Pacific Black Ducks Comb-crested Jacana Intermediate egret Purple Swamp-hen Little cormorants Hardhead Plumed Whistling Ducks I'm sorry that the PAU excursion was so short and late with fading light not conducive to good photos. It's a pleasant campus, clean, green and peaceful from which we set out to return to the Citi-Serviced Apartments. The trip seems to end suddenly at dinner as we complete a final bird call and make arrangements for airport transfers next morning. All up, we have seen a total of 234 birds and the bird of the trip is a tie between Blue Bird of Paradise and the Flightless Rail.
  13. @AmyT I have faced this situation twice this year, and later today will be sending an email to an 'únsuccessful' bidder for a South African safari. What I usually do is obtain 2-3 quotes, not too many as this reduces the emails and the arguments at the end of the process. Sometimes I only get one quote, usually when I am travelling with an operator I know, or who is recommended by someone I trust or where there is limited/no choice for the itinerary that I want. When I seek more than one quote, I am usually so far out (maybe 18 months in advance) that the rates for the next year won't be available, so I just give the number of nights for an indicative booking. When the travelling dates become relevant I give the real dates to the preferred operator, just in case they hold accommodation and if requested I give different dates (but for the same number of nights) to other operators so that I obtain a comparative quote. This means that the outsiders can't hold accommodation that they later refuse to relinquish and as most accommodaton is held in the operators name rather than the client's name the accommodation place is usually none the wiser. Even if you don't ask an operator to hold accommodation, they often do anyway - not something you can do a lot about. If the unsuccessful operator is reputable, they will relinquish any held accommodation as soon as they receive the no thanks email. This whole business of wanting a second bite at the cherry and only providing a second and more reasonable quote late in the day is annoying and unfair to companies who put up a best price quote on the first response. Its too easy for companies who quote an unrealistic "first price" to make larger reductions in a second round which operators providing an honest response in the first round can't match - even though the end prices are probably going to be very close. It is all too easy to get involved in long-winded email conversations when an unsuccessful bidder attempts to get back into the race with promises of lower prices, extra inclusions and any number of 'better' deals. If they are very persistent it may be necessary to block their emails or send their emails straight to trash - I've never done this, but both are options that I have available. I do think it is important and fair to advise unsuccessful companies promptly so they are not unnecessarily holding bookings for vehicles, guides and accommodation. I always provide a truthful reason for why we are placing the booking with another company which is usually price-based but it can be based on itinerary choices or extra services offered by the successful company, often consolidating bookings or booking flights, transfers etc. Earlier in the year, I was looking for an operator for a Southern Tanzania safari and had been talking to a company who answered all my questions (and there were a lot), however there weren't many online reviews and in the end we ended up booking with a company who appeared to be better established and offered a 'wilder' safari experience as they operate seasonal camps in 3 Southern Tanzania parks. As we wanted the seasonal camp accommodation it seemed fair to switch to the operating company, particulalrly as the pricing was very similar. I advised Company A that we had accepted another quote that met our expectations, and they came back expressing disappointment and offering to assist in any future plans and offering. They asked for more details on whether it was a pricing or itinerary difference that influenced our final decision, to which I did not reply as I had already advised that it was itinerary differences rather than pricing that influenced the group's choice of operator. Providing quotes for services is part of the business of being a safari company and if some quotes are declined that is part of the safari business, surely? Later today I will be advising another company that they have been unsuccessful, and that the group has accepted another quote due to an exorbitant price difference. Company A have quoted 57,255 ZAR per single for a 20 day South African safari whilst Company B have quoted 82750 ZAR for the same itinerary - if my maths are correct, this is a 47% difference, why would I recommend to my group of friends that we book with them?? Both companies are well established and both have a notable web presence. There are also some itinerary gaps from Company B, e.g. I asked for Cape Town accommodaton and have been given Simons Town. I will advise Company B that there is a difference of more than 20K ZAR and that we have accepted the lower quote. I won't mention the itinerary difference as this provides them with an opportunity to re-open negotiations nor will I negotiate on the price. Company A provided a fair quote at the outset, and won't be able to match the value of any reductions offered by Company B - its not a fair race to re-open the conversation with both companies. I don't feel that I have to further justify this choice to Company B, nor do I have time to spend fielding emails. Its now time to get on filling out the booking forms and paying deposits to the successful operator. @TulipsI am sorry to hear that you have thrown in the towel for now on your next safari. There are many reputable in-country operators who will give you an honest price (OK, you might have to sort the wheat from the chaff). There are also plenty of people on ST who can help you choose and operator, won't you re-think the need for a Canadian agent? When I booked my first safari in 2004 I used an Australian agent, however one year down the track in 2005 I had realised the benefit of dealing with in-country operators and have done so ever since. I see that @Botswanadreams has come to the same conclusion. I understand your caution, however it is possible to book direct and save $$$ (and go to Africa more often )
  14. @janzin@Geoff@TonyQ thanks for your kind comments and your understanding regarding the difficult birding conditions. Now, on with the show, literally! Today we were attending the Mt Hagen Show (the maxi one). We had to collect our tickets which turned out to be a metal badge, and on the way we had a look around uninspiring Mt Hagen town. I noticed that there were a lot of trainers tied together and slung over power lines – strange that in this country where so little is wasted, one of the most common forms of rubbish is 10 metres overhead. At the show we had time for a quick look around the sale area before crossing the road to where hundreds of performers were in various states of dress (or undress?) - these Mt Hagen women using nail varnish and liquid paper to colour their faces. Flamboyance comes naturally in this country where shells, pig tusks, cassowary quills, feathers, human hair, moss and even a whole possum are included in the regalia on display, along with generous tankets. Bodies are coloured and covered by mud, clay and charcoal. Kundu drums are used extensively at the shows, made from local woods and lizard skin these produce a sonorous, intense drumbeat. Others are arranging tankets, feathers, body painting and primping in hand-held mirrors. About 60 groups participated in the show, although some cultures from the Mt Hagen area were repsented by multiple groups in the same costume. The Fire hat people and another group from Cillimulli with mossy green hair decorations made notable performances. The Huli are red today and the Skeleton Men were accompanied by a devil. This guy has a possum head-dress. No show is complete without the Asaro Mudmen. However, my favourite photos are the ones I took after the show had finished when everyone was tired, hot and relaxed. These are the apres show photos, like when Miss America peels off her gloves, removes the tiara and kicks off her shoes before reaching for a glass of wine at the end of the day. Again, some visitors entered into the spirit of the day. We left about 2 pm, making our way slowly through the crowd to the bus park, where the Mudmen were packing for home. The driver took us to a bottle shop on the way back to the hotel, so I took opportunity to look around the supermarket where a whole aisle was devoted to myriad varieties of tinned fish, another to 'square meat' (bully beef) and a third to cooking oil. These signs give a fair indication of the local diet. Closer to the hotel, these signs in pidgin (say it phonetically) are good fun. Electioneering, is it the same all over the world?
  15. @Geoff lovely photos of the intense Yellow-billed and Maribou storks feeding activity - looks like a popular spot. Sorry to hear that your first day was spoilt by a migraine. I hope the quality leopard sighting restored some joy into your day.
  16. This morning I decided against an early bird walk and slept in until 6.30. After breakfast I spent a last half hour at the feeder where the Ribbon-tailed Astrapias chased among the trees. A Regent Whistler bobbed about in a tree top but didn't stop for a photo and a pair of White-winged Robins flitted and flirted around the garden. This Friendly Flycatcher lived up to its name and posed perfectly. The next 2 days are a frenzy of face paint, feathers, finery and photos for today we attend the mini-show at Paiya village and tomorrow the singsing at Mt Hagen. Singsings are tribal get-togethers initiated by district patrol officers in the 1960s to bring together hostile tribes in an organised event that emphasised cultural diversity and provided a forum for peaceful social interaction. The singsings have moved on, and many performers now sport mobile phones and one group at Mt Hagen used nail polish and liquid paper for facial decoration. However, the gatherings are still important events on the PNG calendar and showcase the extravagant colours, tribal finery and bizarre headgear of unique tribes such as the Huli Wigmen and the Asaro Mudmen, a visual feast that is all the richer because such celebrations are rapidly disappearing from our world. At Paiya village we walked through the garden to get to the performance area. The pigs were housed in wooden shelters and this poor cassowary was being fattened to eat. The mini-show is a taster for the famous Mt Hagen singsing where about 60 ethnic groups come together to sing, dance and socialise. These people were applying make-up, with the help of an old rear view mirror note the headpiece that includes the plumes of 3 BoPs, King-of-Saxony, Superb and Lesser - enough said. Photography was a major focus of both days with the performers holding poses good-naturedly and mostly enjoying the attention. Well there is always one exception! Visitors with oversized cameras and mobile phones weave between performers, adopting some strange poses to get the best angle, snapping selfies – and screaming at other tourists to get out of the way. These guys had a grandstand seat. There were some good quality handcrafts on sale and I was accompanied by Win who advised whether the billums were made of natural or synthetic fibres and the quality of the baskets. Win The guys from Mt Garawe were ready quite early. The Hagen ladies receive a final dust-off before the show begins whilst the Enga girls have a mud treatment. The Asaro Mudmen are popular participants, they make sharp clacking noises with the bamboo "fingernails" and perform a high, slow step, twisty dance. The Huli Wigmen are crowd favourites and were the first performers once the show got underway, leaping and chanting around the parade-ground to the primal beat of kundu drums. I had been looking forward to seeing these wig-makers and warriors and whilst my pursuit of the hirsute was finally rewarded, I was dismayed at the number of Raggiana BoP head-dresses worn by this group and the number of hornbill necklaces. Hairdos are an important status symbol to the Huli, who take 18 months to grow hair which is made into wigs and modelled at singsings, complemented by egg-yellow face paint and plumed head-dresses. The price of a wig for sale at the Mt Hagen show was 80 Kina or about $40 AUD. The Huli have an apprentice along this year. Next came the Chimbu, dancing around a headman. followed by the graceful Enga ladies The Hagen ladies with the heavy shell necklaces danced in a circle and were followed by the Hagen men. Next came the Hagen Wigmen, a separate group from the Huli. The final act was the Skeleton Men from Chimbu. The ghostly, ghastly skeletons are moving - shuffling and twisting. As this group draws closer it becomes clear that they are not ghosts but tribesmen painted in black with a vivid white paint outlining the head and body to give the impression of a skeleton. They crept around the ground, twisting and grimacing for the crowd. After lunch the show closed with a make-believe war which is resolved by a marriage between the two tribes. At the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom agree to get married and the families negotiate a dowry of Kina shells and pigs. First the Kina shells are displayed and the pigs are bought out. In this society, land, pigs and women (in that order!) are symbols of wealth. The bride's family The groom's family. The locals enjoyed the performance and their numbers increased once school was over for the day. Some visitors also got into the spirit of the day. This guy from Spain had a great day. Driving back to Mt Hagen we once again negotiated the continuous potholes before arriving at the Shine Inn. The town is heavily fortified, most shops having both bars and grills. There are a lot of people around, long queues at the BSP ATM and a lot of mud at the market where an escaped pig was running around. I'll finish up with a few last photos from the mini-show.
  17. My apologies for taking such a long break, I have been recovering from whooping cough that I picked up in PNG. Before I begin the final sections on the Highland Shows where the many cultures of PNG are on display I wanted to add a bit about birding in PNG. PNG has a reputation as one of the most difficult birding spots in the world and I wish I had realised how different birding in PNG would be to birding in Africa and South America and adjusted my expectations accordingly. I hoped to see as many BoPs as possible and to get OK photos, not BBC standard but OK as I have achieved on other safaris. However, this is no Pantanal or Peru with a bird on every dead tree that will perch obligingly for photos. I discovered during this trip that I have a birding comfort threshold. I won't slog through mud, sweat, leeches and chiggers for promises of maybe sightings, give me the riverside perches of the Pantanal or the open savannah birding in Africa any day! There are hundreds of beautiful birds in PNG, with the fabled BoPs at the top of the list. Parrots, parotias, satin birds, bowerbirds, flowerpeckers and berrypeckers are highly sought after and scope and binocular views are usually possible, however it was taking decent photos that I really missed. A guy joined us for a day at Tonga village and he had a 400 mm lens, however his shots of the Blue Bird of Paradise were about the same as those I took on my Panasonic Lumix FZ200. One guy in our group left his 800mm lens at home because he was afraid it would be damaged in the difficult travelling conditions. The tropical rainforest is dark and the birds are hard to see, and when a bird is spotted it usually flies into the thickest part of the tree. The bird life is usually high up - the BoPs can be 30-50m high in the trees (out of arrow or trap range?) and sometimes the walk to the lek or perch is uphill or through ankle-deep mud or out in the blazing sun. Trails might also be infested with leeches or chiggers. Further, overcast skies fail to light up the bright colours making identification even more difficult. Ben, the Sicklebill guide and the local guides were good at identifying them from size, bill shape, flight pattern etc., but I found it hard to stay interested in silhouettes flying high above. Whilst waiting for the BoPs, we saw lots of other small birds, but views were fleeting and photography well nigh impossible due to foliage, poor views and light conditions. These difficulties result from the challenging landscape, lack of infrastructure and climate. The Sicklebill and local guides were always professional and very knowledgeable. The scope was always carried on each outing to allow for distant views.
  18. @lmSA84it is rather epic! There are 7 of us starting in Dar with a week in Dar/Zanzibar then 2 nights each for Mikumi and Udzungwa NPs before 4 nights at Kilimatonge Camp in Ruaha. We are picked up from Iringa from where we drive south through northern Zambia with 2 nights each at Kapishya (I am very keen to see Shiwa N'gandu aka the Africa House) and Mutinondo before overnighting for a night in Lusaka to provision for 6 nights in Kafue NP where we have to partly fend for ourselves at Hippo Bay campsite for 3 nights before spending the next 3 nights in lodges - be seeing you @KaingU Lodge. Our guide will then take us to Vic Falls for 2 nights and then we fly to JNB. Next up is a 3 night stay at Marrick Farm - there are a few changes in the group along the way. Four maybe 5 of the original 7 will have departed by the time we leave Marrick, however @farin and @GnuGnu are flying in for RSA and the Marrick and another 2 for the RSA sector only. In RSA we are at Tembe for 3 nights, Manyoni and Endomeni for 2 nights with 3 nights at St Lucia. This is followed by 2 nights each at Mountain Zebra and Karoo NPs and Cape Town after which the group trip ends. Three of us are staying on for an extra night in Cape Town and a 3 day trip to West Coast NP returning thru' the Winelands. Just 2 of us are continuing to Giant's Castle where the vulture hide has been booked for us and then we fly back to JNB where @Peter Connan has very kindly offered to take both myself and @farinto Marievale. I may stay on for a further 2 weeks if a scheduled Birds and Wildflowers trip gets off the ground. The company need 4 clients for this to run and so far I am the only one to show interest - the trip didn't run this yearand there is no one on a waiting list, so I think its unlikely (and very sad) that it won't run next year. I'd very much like to do it, but have booked my international flights to take advantage of a special and to ensure that I land in Dar with the others on 23 June 2018. I will post a detailed itinerary when the RSA sector is booked and deposits paid.
  19. @Sitatunga95 thanks for the itinerary and operator details. I am enjoying your wonderfully detailed report very much. The drive into Selous sounds very lush.
  20. @Sitatunga95 15 safaris by age 22 must surely be a record! Welcome to Safaritalk, I am really looking forward to your TR as I will be returning to the southern circuit next July with stays in Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha before heading south through Zambia to Vic Falls. At some stage in the TR could you post your itinerary and the name of the operator that you chose and also your accommodations? Looking forward to more when you have time.
  21. @gatoratlarge Tswalu looks like an amazing experience, one for my bucket list. The photo of the reclining owl is priceless!
  22. @TonyQ and @alexander33 thanks for your comments. I am off to the beach for a week, and will resume with photos and comments on the cultural shows when I get back.
  23. This day is a red letter birding day for me because I saw 3 species of BoPs and managed photos of 2 species! I can't think of another day from my own birding experiences that comes near to this achievement, maybe the closest would be the hummingbirds of South America at Tandayapa Lodge or Chaparri Reserve. If I count the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia at the feeders, I saw 4 different species of BoP and the memory of this day thrills me as I write up my notes and I expect it will remain vibrant for many years to come. Another early morning, and we are off to Kama Village in search of Lesser Bird of Paradise. This is a tidy, friendly village where the headman came to say hello. The ground around the huts is swept clean and the gardens neatly laid out. The site has a tremendous view over the surrounding countryside. A pop-up market appeared and we were able to buy bilums at reasonable prices. Bilums are traditional bags made from fibres that the women use to carry heavy loads of just about anything - produce, firewood, even pigs. The handle is a wide strap that goes around the forehead to take the weight of the load. After the shopping we set off down the road in search of Superb BoP, a bird I was particularly keen to see. Max eventually located a Superb BoP more than half a kilometre from the road, high up in a tree and back in the shadows - I have no idea how he saw it. Through the scope I saw the blue cravat and the black plumage of this dazzling BoP that bobbed and bounced, dipped and swayed as it danced along the branch. A truly memorable sighting. An entourage of villagers followed along behind us. Nights in the Highlands are very cold and families, including livestock and maybe some dogs take refuge inside the huts where cooking fires provide both warmth and hot food. We saw a number of huts early in the morning that looked as though they were on fire, however there was really no cause for alarm. This Long-tailed shrike was perched high up in the morning sun. After such a successful morning at Kama Village with the Lesser BoP, we drove back towards Kumul Lodge and stopped to climb a steep trail in search of the Blue Bird of Paradise. Jimmy the headman bought his family out to say hello, the little kids loved their puppy which had a shoestring collar. Some of the children followed us downhill to the next stop at a river for Torrent Fly-Robin, where our arrival coincided with the end of the school day. School's out! This was an absolutely top morning's birding, and a great day for photos. Moreover, the birds all turned up on time and perched in the open, except for the shy Superb BoP. After such a successful morning, we returned to the lodge and I took the afternoon off and sat at the feeder. The mature Ribbon-tailed Astrapia turned up after lunch - the long white tail ribbons ae just visible through the tree. Other visitors to the feeder during the afternoon were an Island Thrush Immature Island Thrush, Kumul Lodge Female and immature male Ribbon-tailed Astrapias Brown-backed Whistler Immature Rufus-naped Bellbird Ribbon-tailed Astrapia White-winged Robin Land ownership and land owners were a recurring theme during this trip. Given that up to 70% of land in PNG is privately owned, that up to 82% of the 7,000,000 population live outside urban areas and that 40% of the population live a subsistence lifestyle landownership and access to land for nature tourism are important issues. Privately owned land is usually conspicuously fenced, often with sharpened stakes, although the fence may not totally surround the property. Most people live in villages and they may own land near the village or some distance away. Some landowners opt to live on their land away from the village, however they are still part of the village social structure. The village headman no longer 'rules' the village, however he has a role in resolving local disputes and negotiating on behalf of the villagers with commercial and government representatives. Some landowners may have several hundred acres whilst others may have a plot just large enough for a house and to grow enough food for their family. Landowners don't welcome strangers on their land, and in PNG where most men carry bush knives and axes it is advisable to always be accompanied by a local. Whenever we were birding on private land, the landowner turned up, welcomed us and seemed knowledgeable about birds in the area. Each landowner was paid 12 Kina per head for our group of 6. The Lesser Bird of Paradise we saw at Kama Village was the last of a group of 5 or 6. The village obviously does well out of per capita payments and sales from the pop-up market that result from visiting groups and if this last individual Lesser BoP disappears there will no longer be a reason for groups to visit and a valuable revenue stream will be lost. Avitourism is big in this area of PNG - Kumul Lodge just down the road is a birder's lodge and arranges for visiting groups to visit the known sites of BoPs. Whilst we were a relatively small group of 6, there was a large Rockjumper group of around a dozen participants in the area, Tropical Birding had 3 people at the lodge the same time as us and a large Australian group of 19 clients arrived to attend the Mt Hagen Show, beforehand they went to see a BoP. During the time we were at Kumul Lodge the headman at Kama Village and Jimmy the landowner where we saw the Blue BoP received around 480 kina or $240 AUDeach for providing access to these sites - this is a significant source of external revenue and hopefully a strong incentive to protect both the birds and the habitat. Kumul Lodge is instrumental in providing access to the BoPs in the area as the staff manage transfers to and from Mt Hagen - here is a photo of Kim our driver (far right). This upmarket birder's lodge is located close to the border between Western Highlands and Enga provinces. It is a successful community-owned lodge built of local materials. The en-suite accommodation is constructed of woven fronds on a local wood foundation. Hot water heated by a donkey system is available and there is (intermittent) electricity in the rooms. The food at Kumul deserves a special mention as the kitchen turns out 3 cooked meals a day. There is an extensive choice of cereals at breakfast, followed by bacon, eggs, sausage and toast. Lunch and dinner are similar with one meat dish (2 at dinner), potato, sweet potato, fresh mixed veg sometimes cooked in coconut milk, maybe a salad. The kitchen staff are very clever with marinades. Dessert is usually a platter of fresh pineapple and papaya. Food in the highlands generally is very good and is grown in plots like these that are called gardens, with raised beds to facilitate drainage. PNG has 26 varieties of sweet potatoes and the local guide told me that surplus crops are sold at the local market to people who grow different types of sweet potato. Carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peanuts and sugar cane all grow prolifically in the rich highland soil. Produce from the highlands is taken by road down the Highlands Highway to Lae and then shipped to Port Moresby by barge. Starvation doesn't seem to be an issue in PNG and interestingly we didn't see any beggars.
  24. @iceI received this information from Trevor back in November 2016 so there may have been some price rises during 2017. Day Drives are R 990/drive. That is for the vehicle and driver. Night drives @ R 2800/night. This includes a driver, spotter and guide. Not per person, but for the vehicle.
  25. The day we saw 3 BoPs! (All scope views) The lodge put on a hearty cooked breakfast before an early start to see King of Saxony (KOS) BoP at a smallholding on the Murma Pass. This morning we are birding in a garden clearing amongst the cabbages when the landowner turned up. He said he was pleased that visitors came to his garden to see the birds which he also enjoys. This landowner is paid 12 Kina per head per visit and for this morning he will earn enough to feed his family for a month, buy 72 betel nuts or a case of beer. The walk into the garden took about 15 minutes along an OK track, from which we had distant views of a Brown Sicklebill. This traditionally built shelter was handy when a slight shower blew over. Both male and female KOS BoP were calling, as was the Brown Sicklebill which made a harsh, rat-a-tat-tat machine gun call. The female KOS BoP showed first, a plain brown-gray bird with a spotted chest. Max the lodge guide spotted the male high in a tree. It was a young male that hadn't developed the head plumes yet, so more of a Prince of Saxony. The third BoP of the morning was Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, which briefly shared a tree with a pair of Brown Sicklebills. Brightly coloured Regent Whistlers, Glossy Swiftlets, Rufus-throated Bronze Cuckoo and Red-collared Myzomela flitted around in the tree tops. The landowner and our local guide Max enjoy a quiet chat, the bush knife that Max has is typical of that carried by many PNG men. When the birding dropped off in the garden, Ben suggested to Max that we bird from the road. Max said that he didn't know the people further down and that we could only go if the landowner accompanied us, otherwise it may not be safe. We didn't get far down the road before the lodge bus returned to take us back to Kumul Lodge, the daylight revealed the countryside we had passed through in the darkness this morning. This photo shows how the people make stockade fences to protect their property. Branches, sometimes with sharpened points are lashed together with vines and fibres collected from the surrounding area to provide a fence. Later in the afternoon we birded some trails around the lodge, but it was quite slow so we headed for Max's orchid garden. Max has collected wild orchids from the surrounding area and transplanted them into a maze-like garden close to his house. This is Max's house, where we stopped for a short visit while he flushed a Brown Quail and we admired a Long-tailed Shrike whilst eating freshly picked passion fruit from Max's vine.

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