Photo: Wild Dog… deep in thought

Just look into those eyes… I wonder what it’s thinking? Deep, existential stuff, no doubt… Maybe it understands that it’s one of the very last of its kind. 


But whatever it’s thinking, it’s probably thinking about a heck of a lot more than its buddy below is. I think this one’s a bit special. I’ve always got love for the underdogs.


Hoofnote: Only a tiny fraction of wild dogs will ever be lucky enough to breed and pass on their genes. Only the alpha males and females are worthy of the privilege. Something I understand far too well. Love.

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Crocodiles: The Hot Sex Edition

We saw a crocodile on game drive this morning! Isn’t that fun? We don’t see them often, so it’s a pretty big deal.

  
But did you know…

… That temperature determines a crocodile’s sex? Yep, the temperature that the crocodile’s eggs sit at in the nest will determine if those hatchlings are little boy crocodiles or little girl crocodiles.

It’s called ‘temperature dependent sex determination.’ Or TSD. It’s a reptile thing.

It’s been shown that boys (‘crocomales’) incubate within a really tiny temperature range; between 31.7 and 34.5 degrees C. Any colder than that, and you’ve got girls. Any hotter and you’ve also got girls.

It means that within a single nest you’ll have a cool female:male:female sex ratio.

Conclusion: girl crocodiles are hotter. But colder. But hotter.

I drew an exquisite diagram showing exactly how this process works.

 

artistic genius. i take all the credit for this.

 
Hoofnote: As is TSD wasn’t enough to make crocodiles interesting, you should also know that crocodiles are the only animal in South Africa that see humans as natural prey. When they eat us, it’s fair game.

This morning’s game drive sightings:

Crocodile

Zebra

Giraffe

White rhino

Elephant 

Nyala 

Buffalo 

Impala

Woolly necked stork

Gorgeous bush shrike

Black backed puffback

A Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Bushwalk in Photos…

Sometimes you don’t really need words…

Or at least not that many.

 

gorgeous little fungus

 

got a thing for fungi

 

pure beauty

 

when palms make you feel small

 

just sit

 

or lie down

 

but always looks up

 

let new spaces tak e your breath away

 

touch the fungus gall – i love fungi too much

 

let colours take you away

 

do a tamboti sunset

 

peer into a scorpion hole

 

let the mozzies eat. theyre hungry too. love.

 

 

but dont touch these ones. ouch.

 

and the next morning do it all again. with rhinos. theres one there. honest.

 

Safari Moments: the Lemon Breasted Dung Beetle

Here’s a safari classic from a far-too-recent game drive.

Me: “Ooooh look! There’s a dung beetle crossing the road!”

*pull up alongside dung beetle, hop out and pick him up, after all, he’s not busy doing any important dung beetly stuff*

Me: “Dung beetle!”

*hold dung beetle up proudly, a la Mufasa presenting the future king – guests take photos*

Me: “Isn’t this dung beetle just brilliant?”

Guest: “What is this?”

Me: “It’s a dung beetle. They spend their lives rolling poo around.”

Guest: “And what do you call it?”

Me: “It’s a dung beetle.”

*guests keep taking photos, I keep praising the dung beetle’s resilience and usefulness*

Guest: “What animal is this?”

Me: “A DUNG BEE TUL.”

Guest: “Ah, so it’s a small bird.Like a canary?”

Me: “Yes.”

Me: *puts dung beetle down on the nearest pile of poo. Drives away.*

you wonder why we need signs like this?

South Africa Needs an Easter Bunny

Happy Easter! Or at least I think it’s Easter. They don’t tell safari guides about things like this and we’re left to figure it out for ourselves.

I’ve always loved Easter the most. Who doesn’t live for the morning of Easter sunday, when you scour the house for tiny, metallic easter eggs tucked into weird corners and crevices? Oh right, South Africans. Because South Africa doesn’t do Easter. At least not properly. A few days ago, I was in town shopping specifically for Easter eggs, and I couldn’t find a single one. The closest I got was a bar of imported Thornton’s chocolate, which isn’t even remotely Easterish. Let down? For sure.

 

this was my easter chocolate this year. i feel sorry for me.

 
I just wanted a bunny.

But did you know that bunnies don’t go down well in other parts of the world? When I spent Easter 2010 in Australia, they were campaigning for the ‘Easter Bilby.’ Why? Bunnies are an invasive species who have largely displaced the indigenous bilby. I ended up not only with my very own Eater bilby, but a chocolate Koala as well. And you know what? I’ll take that. Because it’s so much better than what I ended up with this year.

 

easter bilby! love it.

 
South Africa doesn’t do bunnies either. Instead, they do individually wrapped, gooey inedible chocolate marshmallow blobs that they call ‘Easter eggs.’ I propose we need a bunny. And much like the Australians have done, I think our bunny should be something indigenous and kudutastic.

So here are the contenders:

Scrub Hare

An iconic South African. We see a lot of them on on our safaris. But we see so many because they’re really common. And they eat their own poo. Do we really need a chocolate version? Probably not.

bunny rating: 2/10

 

image by Bernard Dupont and used under creative commons. because i’ve never got a good scrub hare photo…

 
Aardvark

How about an Easter aardvark? An aardvark weighs up to 65 kgs, which is so much chocolate. Its thick tail and chunky body would work really well. They eat termites, so there’s the option to fill the hollow chocolate shell with something like little honeycomb pieces that look like termites. They also go by the name ‘ant bear,’ and I would definitely eat an ‘Easter ant bear.’

bunny rating: 9/10

 

i’ve only ever seen one aardvark and I didnt photograph it. so this is taken from ‘Smithers Land Mammals of Southern Africa’ 1986.

 
Elephant Shrew

Why not? It’s in the ‘Little Five,’ which is way cooler than the ‘Big 5.’ ‘Easter Elephant Shrew’ also rolls off the tongue quite nicely. Their noses are super cute. But… those spindly four toed feet and their long, thin tails won’t translate well into chocolate. I want my Easter bunnies hollow, yet robust. It’s a no go for the elephant shrew.

bunny rating: 4/10

 

taxidermy elephant shrew? heck yes! image by Miguel Mendez and used under creative commons

 
Riverine Rabbit

You only find this critically endangered lagomorph in the Karoo desert of South Africa. It’s so rare because we’ve destroyed much of their former habitat with our agricultural practices. Surely, this is the South African bilby counterpart. Raise awareness for one of our most endangered species by eating a representation of it once a year? I love it! Also, it’s fairly big and would work nicely in hollow chocolate form.

bunny rating: 9/10

 

i doubt i’ll ever get to see a riverine rabbit. this image is also from Smithers 1986

 
Spring Hare

Spring hares are simply fabulous. And the name is also fitting. Spring. Except it’s not. Easter in South Africa comes in Autumn. These kangaroos of the Kalahari would make a great easter bunny. And yet, they suffer the same downfall as the elephant shrew; the spring hare’s long tail that allows it to balance while it hops about, is likely to break during the shipping process if it was made from hollow milk chocolate. But still, it’s tempting…

bunny rating: 6/10

 

i have tons of springhare photos from my kalahari days, but they just arent good! image by Revolutionrock1976 and used under creative commons

 
In conclusion? I think South Africa definitely needs an Easter Riverine Rabbit. The opportunities for conservation through chocolate are endless. But let’s also go for the Easter aardvark, and make it our own truly South African Easter bunny.

Much love and Easter ant bears, Safariosophy.

When Good Safaris Go Bad…

 

the sun will rise…

 
I’ve gone wild for the fabulous guests I’ve had this past month.  Like, really wild.  They’ve been awesome and are probably some of the best I’ve had. Tick bite fever aside, I’ve been on a pretty big high this last month. But as I’ve learned, safaris can’t always be cookies and fairy lights all the time.  They should be though, right?

Well, the safari I’ve just concluded proves that safaris can suck. Not only can they suck, but they can be hurtful and downright abusive too. From the outset, my last safari was miserable. It stayed that way throughout and finally culminated in the senseless deaths of countless caterpillars. I won’t go into details, but it made me question everything we do as guides. Are the ecological benefits of what we do, really enough to justify the damage we cause? Because sometimes I think they aren’t.  How much environmental harm is done just so that somebody who doesn’t want to be there can photograph the back of a buffalo’s head with a camera phone?

Is our ecological impact really worth it?

I’ve turned to ‘friends in the know’ these past days and put the same question to them. And the general consensus seems to be that as safari guides we’re the lesser of many evils. Unintentionally, we cause damage and harm to the animals and environments we love every time we lead a safari. But if we weren’t there, then who would be? Another less ethically-minded guide? Or worse, no guide at all? Or even worse, people intent on destroying our wild? Because it could happen.  All too easily. It’s something I’ll be left thinking about for a long time to come.

That safari is over (thank goodness!) and I’ve donated the income I’ve made during this awful safari to the Lepidopterists Society of Africa, who do brilliant work in butterfly conservation. You can find them at http://www.lepsoc.org.za. Take something vile and turn it into the most beautiful thing possible. Dirty money, transformed into butterflies. Yeah, that works for me 🙂

  
So let’s end this on a lighthearted note. I’m always looking for a positive, so the following is a list of actual things I did to cope with my bad safari, as it was happening…

Top 5: Guide’s Guide to Surviving a Bad Safari

1. Pick it Up: Keep tabs on every time a bad guest does something to upset you. For each instance, stop and pick up a piece of garbage from the roadside. Use their negativity to clean up the environment. Win!

2. Drinking games! Carry a flask of hot chocolate. Every time they shout ‘STOP!’ take a swig. Double it up when they shout STOP when you’re already stopped. With the engine off. I’ve had so much hot chocolate in the last 48 hours that my teeth feel like they’re disintegrating.

3. Breathe: It’s what we do best. Zone out. Meditate on each breath.  Notice the infinite colours your eyes are picking up at every given moment. At least until someone shouts ‘STOP!’

4. Thought Experiments: Imagine you can confiscate each of their cameras. What would you do with them? Because I’d donate them to science. Have you ever wondered how close you can get a Canon lens to an active volcano before the glass shatters? I certainly have. Or what depth can you sink a Nikon body to the bottom of the ocean before the pressure is just too much and it collapses in on itself?  I wonder… And really, how does a Samsung bridge camera cope in zero-gravity? Why not send it on a space mission and find out?  NASA’s next launch happens to be in just a couple of days, on March 22nd.  I even looked it up.  That’s how serious I was.

5.  Good old medicinal uses:  Start talking about the medicinal uses of trees. All the trees. The guests aren’t listening anyway, and it’s great practice. “So those trees that are obscuring the nyala you’re attempting to photograph with futility, are Magic Guarris. You can use them to treat constipation… diarrhoea… yep, not sure how that works either… abdominal pain… convulsions… toothache… leprosy…” See how far you get before someone shouts “JUST GO!”

Until the next safari, LOVE.

we’re all equals here…