Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Kirfara Nature

 As a nature guide I find it enjoyable to share a little experience through pictures. I hope you like them. Some were taken through a binocular lens and all were taken with an iPhone 5. My last proper camera was a Nikon F4 in the days of film.  When I grow up I want to use fancy cameras again, but in the mean time this is still a hobby that one can practice even with a smartphone. 

"So, do not look for the soul of Reinhold Rau among the dead - he is not to be found there; rather look for him among living things, whether these are people or tortoises or frogs. Or better still, search for his spirit in some place like the Karoo National Park, when in the cool of the evening, quaggas, which were once thought to be extinct, come to drink at the waterhole - as they were always meant to do"  Butch Hulley. Please see the Quagga Project at if you would like to know more about Quagga and Zebra. 
Oplinophagy - feeding on snakes. This is the Brown snake- eagle with the waxing moon.  " Snake eagles (Genus Circaetus) differ from 'true' eagles by having unfeathered legs with heavy scales, loose feathers on the head giving rounded appearance, and a very upright stance"  Trevor Carnaby - Beat about the bush, Birds. 

 A zulu friend told me they believe the Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii) to be one of the most beautiful antelope of all. The creator "marked" this antelope with two conspicuous white spots between the eyes to celebrate and confirm his beauty. Perhaps the white chevron between the eyes is also useful as it reflects light into the eyes that may improve nocturnal vision, or a cryptic marking that may confuse predators.  

It makes sense that Homo erectus learned to walk upright on elephant pathways. Elephants are experts at creating contour paths that cross the mountain ranges of the continent. 
In the Western Cape, the last wild elephants were seen in the Franschoek valley (previously Elephants valley)  around one hundred and fifty years ago. Elephants are now kept at some safari destinations close to Cape Town where they are fed with invasive species such as black wattle and sleep in an elephant stable. 

Darryl Dell of &Beyond calls this lion the largest wild lioness on the continent. This picture was also shot through a binocular lens limiting the depth of field and blurring the giraffe further down the road. 

In the Caprivi strip elephants and humans live side by side. The Chobe National Park in Botswana on the southern banks of the river by the same name, is home to the largest remaining elephant population in Africa. 

White backed vultures in Phinda Game Reserve. Vultures have anti-bacterial agents in the gut that allow them to digest rotting material. In this way they perform a crucial cleaning service in keeping disease from spreading to other species. 

The falls at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The locals  call it Musi-oa-tunya that means the smoke that thunders. Visitors call it Victoria Falls, who's Victoria? 

"The high slopes are hard to reach so the environment is fairly undamaged. However, tourism in the Drakensberg is developing, with a variety of hiking trails, hotels and resorts appearing on the slopes. Most of the higher South African parts of the range have been designated as game reserves or wilderness areas. Of these the UKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park was listed by UNESCO in 2000 as a World Heritage site."

It is imperative to protect and conserve nature around us. We must be the voice of the voiceless and show the world what is happening in the environment. Most people do not have the opportunity to travel to areas where nature is protected, so they do not realise the repercussions of our so called "development" and everyday actions. Development is destruction of nature if the impact of our actions is not taken into consideration. In order to prevent destruction (and us humans with it), development must be done in a sustainable manner where all life and ecosystems are considered in decision making. We have to learn to improve our relationships with the other life forms and environments that we share the planet with. Earth does not belong to us, we belong to earth. 

" I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order " John Burroughs.  

Sunday, 02 February 2014

Ugandan Dreams

We set out from Entebbe in our rental RAV. Visiting the Mt. Gorilla Nest at the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) in Kampala to buy permits for Gorilla and Chimp viewing. We knew already the permits were costly, and soon learnt that this authority was serious about protecting natural heritage. We had no idea what a life experience traveling Uganda would turn into.  

Dreamy lake Bunyoni with distant vistas of the Virunga volcanoes. It took a pinch to make sure it was real. Sensory stimulating dramatic landscapes all around Uganda calling for immediate internal reflection. There was no choice but to smell, see, hear, taste, feel and be with totally open senses. We found the tropical Africa we yearned for.

Bwindi was as mystical and secretive as impenetrable. Forests obscuring horizons and international boundaries. The last stand of Gorilla gorilla, and home to the unique Batwa people.  We were relieved to find local authorities and guides serious about the conservation of the forest and its inhabitants. Ruhija and Rushaga were great departure points of exploration.  

On our way north to Kihihi, a winding road through the highest slopes of Bwindi Forest.  We saw Pordocarpus Yellow Wood type trees. I wondered how many primates there were in Africas Primate history, and about all of us today.  

Stark differences await those who leave the forest. We had no choice, the way to Kihihi where the (in hind sight terrible) "modern supermarket" awaited.
But the destination was Ishasha, a southern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our map it grippingly marked in red: "Tree Climbing Lions". Linda has some fixation with cats, so much more huge lions lounging and sleeping in Ficus trees as if they were born in the branches. Little did we know how lucky we would be.

Camping on the banks of the Ishasha river, with hippos andDefassa Waterbuck walking freely around day and night. On the second day of scanning, searching, tracking lions, we get a tip off with details of a certain area (and always look in the fig trees). Arboreal prides often rest in large trees when temperatures soar in the middle of the day.  The lions are as comfy up there as a cat on a couch. We spent five hours with the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha.  

Branch Manager
Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) Uganda boasts arguably the best birdwatching in Africa. 
Both Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks teem with wildlife. Although the Amin-type slaughter of humans and other animals have left it's mark of destruction and extinction, perhaps tourism can boost the surviving radiating populations and species. If we can for example save the rhino, the veld in Uganda is prime for reintroduction.  

As we drove into Kibale Forest, we spotted a community of Chimps  (Pan Troglodytes).  The next two days we spent in both the wild and habituated primate communities of Kibale.  The most diverse primate communities in the world.  The amount of life changing experiences left us in awe and respect of our relatives.

Touring Uganda is the deep end in the pool of Africa's landscapes. One can depart a mountainous forest and arrive a few hours later in perfect savanna. A myriad of biome definitions can be drawn from incredibly compact natural diversity.
Loxodonta africana  

Timely research taught us the insecurities of Kidepo Valley. And it didn't help much that war had just broken out again in the Sudans to the north. Passing Kitgum, we held our breaths of what we would find. We found the Karamojong. We fell in love with the land of the Karamoja people.   

Kigelia africana, Sausage Tree

Driving in Uganda is notoriously interesting. Get a trustworthy driver and take your time. Distances can be deceiving and one rapidly learns to measure in time rather than distance. TIA, you know.  If you are on a self drive, good luck.  Roads range from footpaths to tarred and new. Public transport "death busses" swoop down tiny roads which they hardly fit on, so pull over and do bird-watching. Boda-bodas are amazing scenic coffins on wheels. Tragically we also encountered a freshly smashed up RAV, and met the naïve survivors the next day. Phew. 

People are super friendly and helpful, and everyone speaks English. Make an attempt to learn some Swahili and Buganda. 

Akorongimoe and Linda, new best friends

Have you heard of a shy stork called Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)? Out in the open, three sightings in two days on the Nile Delta.   Praise the Shoebill. 
Travelling Uganda involves a criss-cross of the Equator. This is at Paraa Ferry in Murchison Falls National Park.

Ankole cattle. We got into trouble for not asking to take pictures. I said: mooo…and sorry. 

Wilderness Camping was at the order of the day. Linda preparing dinner,  and two buffalo guarding the camp sight.  Fruits and vegetables were delicious and abundant.  Nile Delta, Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

The perfect navigator, travel and life companion. Wife, I love you.

After rafting the White Nile and a visit to the Botanical Gardens, it was time for us to depart Entebbe and Uganda. We thought of our families and parents Leon, Moksie, Bessie and André who supported us in our wedding and this travel dream. Our sadness of leaving Uganda slightly waned as we thought of Biko and Clara. Ugandan dreams changed our lives for ever.  

morning safara

morning safara

Cape Town's 12 Apostels

Cape Town's 12 Apostels