Photo of The Day: Yujie the Chameleon

Love. Just love.

Safari is so so much more than lions.

It’s about moments like these when you play ‘Where’s Waldo’ in a tree like this and find Yujie with his little wooly hat and stripy sweater, enjoying the sunrise in his own little reptilian way.

This is Safari

What did we do today? Well, we started off by watching a couple of lions sleep. Then we ate a delicious breakfast on the banks of a dry river bed. Then we walked back to camp. Through a massive herd of elephants. And a handful of rhinos. Then there were cream puffs. And coffee. Then another game drive that kicked off with elephants. Then the biggest waterbuck y’all are ever going to see. Then we had sundowners in the company of hippos. And tomorrow, we do it again. Because it’s so wild and so addictive and so darn delicious.


How Long Would You Wait For a Doughnut/Warthog?

About a month ago, I was in sunny Durban; a trip that happened to coincide with the opening of a new Krispy Kreme store at Gateway Mall.

Doughnuts. Down there somewhere.

Yum.


If you know me, you know my love for Krispy Kreme goes way back. I’ve done some extreme things to get my hands on these doughnuts over the years. So when I saw the very very long queue snaking out of Krispy Kreme in Durban, I had to make a choice. Do I stand in line for upwards of three hours with no guaranteed doughnut at the end? After all, while I only planned to buy six (enough to satisfy my needs and get me through to supper), people ahead of me were coming out with double dozens. What if they ALL bought double dozens? I saw no doughnut machine. They don’t make them on site. What if they run out? What if I spend all this time in line when I could have been eating sushi instead and I get to the front and the doughnuts are gone? What if I do get one and it doesn’t live up to the first one I ever had? What if I take the chance and wait for hours and at some point a staff member comes out with free doughnuts and passes them out along the queue? This happened to me at Krispy Kreme in Harrods. 2003. In the end, I chose to watch the line and analyze its movement from the burger place next door. In an hour, a burger, a flying fish beer and an Oreo pie later, I witnessed the queue not move AT ALL. I decided not to go. I’ll taste those doughnuts again. But not on this day.

Doughnut love.


What I’m trying to ask you, is how long would YOU wait?

Nature doesn’t always have a delicious burger bar next door when you’re hungry, and yesterday while watching a leopard wait for a warthog to emerge from its hole, I just kept thinking, ‘hey, that’s like that queue in Durban a few weeks back…’

The leopard had no guarantees. Early that morning he’d watched a warthog run down into its converted termite home (all the rage around here) and not being able to squeeze in himself, he chose to wait. Safari trucks came and left, but he remained. Waiting.

Do I look bored? Because I am.

Resting eyes…


By that afternoon I had a local school on a photographic expedition, and sure enough, the leopard was still waiting. We sat with him for nearly an hour during which he only moved his head slightly a few times.

Must. Wait. For warthog.

At least I’m pretty.


What were his odds? There’s a terrified warthog down a hole. It’s been there all day but eventually it’s actually going to need to eat and drink. It’s going to come out. Maybe not today, but it will come out. That’s guaranteed. I would have got a doughnut in Durban too. If I’d have been patient.

Nature is just one big energy balancing act.

“If it takes me and the rest of my lion homies a whole day to stalk this buffalo, then a ton of energy chasing it, then all that adrenaline bringing it down, and then even if we do, the buffalos might just chase us away in the end, is it really worth it?” 

That’s what animals have to ask themselves every day. If they get it wrong, they waste the precious time and energy that defines every aspect of their existence. Wrong decision = dead.

I will sit here all day.


As the sun went down on our leopard, we were long gone but still following the drama on the radio and learned that the leopard had finally given up and walked away. Twelve hours of consciousness, concentration and respiration down the drain.

Conserving energy.

Still… Waiting…

Ugh.


But that’s nature. Nature is indifferent. It’s splendid. It’s not all free doughnuts and warthogs. And above all it’s WILD. Love.

Boredom. A portrait.

Hoofnote: International Doughnut Day is June 2. Seriously.

Gone Wild. BRB.

It’s one of those ‘I haven’t blogged in a crazy long time’ posts.

It isn’t hard to write a safari blog when you’re not on safari and you’re missing safari so much it aches and writing about it brings you back and it’s awesome. It’s actually super hard to blog about safari when you’re living it every day. To escape for an hour to write when you could be running around after butterflies is another thing.

But I promise there’s tons more to come from this new Kruger adventure. Love y’all!

Here’s a leopard I saw earlier:


Hoofnote: ‘BRB.’ Means ‘be right back.’ Who knew? I didn’t. I always thought it was some code that had to do with bringing meat to braais. 

Learn Something New Every Day: The Glowy Butterflies Edition

One of the things I love most about being a safari guide is the never ending stream of juicy new knowledge that just keeps on flowing at you like an eternal maple syrup mudslide.

Tonight I’ve been hanging with the exceptionally cool people at Bhejane Nature Training and on a post-dinner scorpion walk, we found a wing belonging to a green-banded swallowtail butterfly. We found it because the blue bits glowed under uv, just like a scorpion does. I SO didn’t know that.

No one really knows just yet why scorpions glow under uv light. But butterflies? Dude. I wonder if it’s like aposematic colouring taken to the extreme? A lot of birds see into the uv spectrum and these butterflies would light up like fireworks to them. So maybe the uv shows the bird that the butterfly is like really, really unpalatable? Or is it to do with finding the glowiest mates?  I have no idea, and I’ll endeavor to uncover the truth. But they glow. And I love it. We later found a citrus swallowtail wing and it glowed too. Wild.

Edit: I researched. Butterflies, like birds can see into the uv spectrum, so being glowy helps them to find happy, healthy, glowy partners and helps them out in their advertising. I liked my psychedelic aposematic colouring idea though.

Of course there are going to be other guides and nature geeks reading this, thinking, ‘omg, are saying you seriously didn’t know that butterflies glow under uv?‘ But that’s okay. Because glowy butterflies.

Green Banded Swallowtail. Totally mind blowing.

Other swallowtails glow too…

We also found scorpions tonight. This photo is in case you haven’t seen any of the other 50 photos I’ve posted on the blog of glowing scorpions.

 

There are so few things as fun as messing around with a uv light to see what glows and what doesn’t. And if you’re a nature guide, you get to do it all the time and it counts as working. Become a guide. Best life ever.

Oh well, off to sleep now to the chorus of crickets, hyenas and bubbly froglets. Dream of sweet syrup mudflows, dearest Safariosophers…

Quiz Time! Tracking the ‘Impossible 5’

You know the Big 5 and the Little 5. You may have even heard of the ‘Ugly 5’ (of which only one is actually ugly), but have you heard of the ‘Impossible 5?’  Nope, neither had I, but it’s a thing. Apparently.

This morning I came across these tracks, belonging to a member of this ‘Impossible 5.’ And it’s one who I’d really really love to see. I’ve seen it just once, at night, 7 years ago and only got a glimpse of its back before it disappeared into the night.

Can you tell who it is by looking at this track?


Or this one?


Maybe it helps to have a look at the book…


What do y’all think?

A Day in Pictures: Wild Sky Safari

There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing an ephemeral river in flood. And is there any word more lovely than ‘ephemeral?’ I’ll think about it and get back to you. An ephemeral river is one that stays dry almost all year round and only flows briefly after good rains. Seeing one on safari is kind of like seeing a honey badger – it’s wild and wonderful and doesn’t happen often. The effect it has on your heart is certainly the same.

The rain that woke me up at 2am this morning resulted in an entire day of pure magic – incredible skies and dry rivers in full flood. Animal sightings were thin on the ground but they weren’t needed. The rivers and the sky did all the work. There’s not much else to say, so I’ll say it in the photos I took today over the course of two game drives and a very special bushwalk.

Sunrise











 

This was a road an hour ago

Bad Photo of the Day: A Marula in a Marula


Here’s a photo of a leopard called Marula sitting up in a Marula tree, fresh from this morning’s game drive.

Despite what we’re led to believe by pretty photos in magazines, leopards don’t actually spend that much time up in trees. They’ll use them as a perch if they’re trying to spy a nice meal, or they’ll head up there to sleep if they feel threatened on the ground. A leopard will also pull its kill up into a tree to keep it safe from other predators.

But when those things aren’t happening, a leopard is quite at home wandering around or sleeping  under a shady bush. In game reserves that lack lions and hyenas, leopards would rarely bother to use their hard-won energy to get up into a tree.

Hoofnote: I know. It’s another grainy photo snapped on my phone. I’m looking forward to being reunited with my old camera in the next few weeks.  I never imagined I’d miss it, but I do…

Never Let Your Safari Be a Washout!

Rainy lodge? Dive right in.

I still hear it way too often – “Our safari was ruined by the rain.”

Noooo! This makes me so sad. Soooo sad. Check out all the ‘o’s.

It makes me sad because there’s no reason to let your safari get ‘ruined’ by a little water falling from the sky.  Sure, if it’s really rained hard and all the local rivers are flooded and you can’t get anywhere and the water is approaching the lodge at an alarming rate and you need to be helicoptered out from the roof (happens) then yes, you can stand up and say that your game viewing experience has perhaps been affected by the rain.

But a few rainy game drives? Embrace them.

Take this morning as an example. When wake up call rang around the lodge at 05:30, it was raining. Some guests opted not to go and slept instead. Others wanted to ‘wait it out’ and see if it would die down. More chose to leave an hour later. And then there were the ones who just wanted to get out there, curious to see what a rainy Africa would throw at them. The ones who braved it in the end, got thoughouly soaked. And you know what? Half an hour after we’ve all got back to the lodge, they’re dry, happy and eating chocolate croissants.  Not only are they full of bacon right now, but they’re full of memories too.

Memories like these:

First sighting of the day was the wild dogs. There are only about 300 of Southern Africa’s rarest predator left in Kruger.  Seven of them were right there on the tar road, in the rain, going about their business. Wild dogs are unstoppable. At least they were until they were chased off by a dazzle of zebras…

Next up we’re the tortoises. Leopard tortoises take every opportunity to take in some water, and rainfall on a tar road is like winning the lottery. Water everywhere. Score! And there were tortoises aplenty sharing in the winnings. Ask any animal and they’ll tell you how nice it is to drink water from a tar road. It’s as clean and fresh as they’ll ever find in nature.

Then there were the elephants. A bunch of teenage boys knocking each other around. When you’re there in the middle if it, it’s something you won’t forget – ivory smacking against ivory with a few tons of force makes an almighty sound.

Oh, and then there was the leopard that we followed through the bush and watched stalk and chase a squirrel. She pounced straight through and up a small knobthorn tree, but had no luck this time. It just went to show what opportunists leopards are. They’ll try and catch anything from spiders to small giraffes. Cats can sometimes be a little harder to find in the rain, but this lady proved that it’s totally possible.

All of this happened in the rain on a day some would be inclined to brush off as ‘ruined.’ This is just one rainy game drive. I’ve been on countless ones and each has its own story. Trust me, when safari is happening all around you, you’re not going to notice that your hair’s a bit damp or your canvas bucket seats have turned to puddles.

And you look like this:

What you experience on safari isn’t actually determined by the animals you see; it’s directly determined by the attitude you bring. When it comes to rain, I’ve always lived by the philosophy that everything wet eventually dries. Simple. The possibility of having to sit in the rain for a few hours shouldn’t be enough to deter you from seeing something life-changing out here in Africa. Love.
Hoofnote: and sometimes mornings like that lead to sunsets like this…

Let’s Be Lions

It’s a low quality photo from this morning’s game drive 🙂

Sleep in sun until you get too hot. Move to the shade and sleep there until you miss the sun. Walk back to the sun. Sleep. If distance between sun and shade is more than 7 steps, stop and have a ‘rest sleep’ to break the journey. Love.

A Bush Quiz AND a Free Pie? Best Sunday Ever!

Good morning Safariosophers! I’ve got a fun track from this morning’s game drive. Look beyond the chocolate cookie (if you can, I know it’s hard) and let’s see if you can tell me what’s happened here…

Free lemon meringue pie for every correct answer!*


*To claim your free pie:

1. Locate bakery.

2. Select your chosen pie.

3. There will be a collection fee, payable directly to the bakery.

Bush Quiz: THE ANSWER

Rhinos! 

Male white rhinos will make scaraping marks with their back feet after going to the bathroom. This helps to spread the smell around and tell other rhinos who’s boss. It’s one of many things they do to mark their territories and always a fun sign to see out in the wild 🙂

Here’s a bigger example:

Back in the Bush, Y’all. And it’s Kudutastic.

‘Kudutastic.’ Making its comeback.

Just back from a bush walk. Right now. It’s 35 degrees here. My face is still red and shiny, my heart is still racing, my hands still smell like rifle and my hair is still soaked and matted to my head very stylishly from my sopping wet hat. And no, you’re not getting a photo. 

Essentially, I’m a very, very happy bunny.

I’m a bunny in my element. It’s been a week of early morning game drives, bush walks, coffee next to waterholes, leopards in trees, hyenas calling all night – but more importantly it’s been a week of learning and the delicious new growth that comes with it. I’ve met truckloads of wonderful people and seen things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s been a week just lived to the fullest and wildest – something you really need to do in the wake of a big, stupid trauma. I’m loving it.

You know how I’m always up and down on the photography thing – is it good, is it bad, blah blah blah…? But over the past few days I’ve found myself wishing my camera wasn’t 1000 kilometers away.

Thank moose for iPhones. I used to wince when safari guests would get on my vehicle with nothing but a phone or tablet expecting to get great pictures. But technology has come so darn far in the past few years, that it really is possible. So while some of these shots are frustrating in the sense that I could have worked miracles with a zoom lens, I’m fairly happy with a couple of these images. They’ll do.

So here they are – a few photos I’ve snapped this week on my phone.

Chat soon, beautiful safariosophers.

My best moment of this past week, hands down.

Happy faces

Sad faces. Some hyenas take waiting for lions to finish eating, worse than others.

It’s like all my favorite things in one photo…

Combretum pod. These things are everywhere and they make me smile every time.

Rugged. Awesome.

Mmmm. Buffalo.

There’s a leopard there somewhere…

Yep, it’s a terrible photo, but it’s taken on a phone, through binoculars, at night. So actually, it’s some very skilled bad photography.

Coffee selfie

Sunset. There’s a rhino and a hippo here as well…

Gotta be pink.


Hoofnote: This photo post is going to need a Part 2… It’s taken like, 8 hours with a very buggy WordPress app to type a few words and upload a couple of photos and not make it look like an epic hot mess. Dearest WordPress, this is all I can think about you tonight:

Photo of the Day: It’s the Mooiste Lion

A study recently revealed that ‘moist’ is the most hated word in the English language. Moist is fine. I like moist. Moist air. Moist cupcakes. Moist is good. ‘Lioness,’ on the other hand… I’m shuddering just writing this…


Because you know I super-hate the word ‘lioness,’ right?

I do love this photo though. It’s one of my favorites of the tiny handful of safari photos I managed to salvage from my broken hard drive. But it also highlights one of the things I don’t like about photography. And that’s the fact that in this moment, I was obviously so preoccupied with photographing this lion, that I have absolutely zero memory of the event. Zero.

My computer tells me it was taken by me, on my Canon camera, on 22 December 2014 at 6:14am in the southern end of Pilanesburg National Park, but that’s all I know. I don’t know how I felt at the time. I don’t know who this lion was or which guests I got to share this with. I can’t relive the thrill or see my guest’s smiling faces.  And to me, that’s sad. Would I rather have this photo, or those memories? Probably the memories, actually.

And that’s what photography can do to us on safari: give us gorgeous images, but leave us without memories. Of course it can also do both, which is definitely the ultimate goal, but it doesn’t always happen. 

Hoofnote: My goodness, there isn’t even ONE blade of grass over her face. How did I ever manage that?

Hoofnote edit: Found it. Blade of grass. Over the mouth.

Hoofnote second edit: ‘Mooiste’ sounds like ‘moist.’ Sort of. And means ‘most beautiful’ in Afrikaans. Love.