22 December 2019 | Christchurch, New Zealand
16 December 2019 | Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ
28 November 2019 | Christchurch, SI, New Zealand
19 November 2019 | Picton, Marlborough, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
29 October 2019 | Nelson, South Island, NZ
22 October 2019 | Christchurch, Te Waka o Māui, New Zealand
15 October 2019 | Scarborough, Queensland
05 October 2019 | Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, Australia
16 August 2019 | Southport Spit, Gold Coast, Australia
06 August 2019 | South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast, Queensland
15 July 2019 | Boatworks, Coomera River, Gold Coast
25 May 2019 | Biggera Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
12 April 2019 | Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
02 April 2019 | Southport, The Gold Coast, Australia
16 March 2019 | Southport, Gold Coast, Australia
09 March 2019 | Currigee, South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast
21 February 2019 | Santa Barbara, Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
04 February 2019 | The Broadwater, Gold Coast, Australia
Last day in animal paradise
15 October 2012 | Sabie, Mpumulanga, South Africa
Alison and Geoff: Cool , but sunny
Pic shows a vervet monkey - one of the two commonest primates in Southern Africa.
We are now sadly waiting to make the last 300 kms of a trip back to Johannesberg and our return to Spain and our plans to sail across the Atlantic.
We barely started our last day in Kruger National Park when we bumped into a delightful family of sociable hyenas blocking the track out from our campsite - the matriarch with five cubs in attendance was slap bang in the middle of the road. Sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles had been whooping around the camp all night in discordant harmony with the grunting hippos from the Olifants River nearby.
Then we saw our third set of the Big 5, one by one appearing into view throughout the morning.
Firstly, the white rhino meandering down to the water's edge of one of the rivers, now newly quenched with recent rain, secondly a herd of buffalo with offspring grazing on the edge of the road. Then, the gridlock of cars ahead of us indicated that there must be something potentially intriguing. It was three male lions, lounging just a few metres from the road in the spring sun near their recent buffalo kill, two jackals also in attendance.
Just up the road, three or four kilometres was a large, male leopard who was chewing away at the remains of an unfortunate porcupine, as could be seen by a quill sticking out the side of his face. No doubt decidedly painful, and possibly life threatening if the wound became infected.
Several lone bull elephants appeared from time to time not far from the road out of the park, though the many herds of mothers and young were not to be seen today.
The last mammal we left behind at the gate was a cheeky, vervet monkey. One had dived into our car one day and taken an egg and on another occasion its cousin had quickly grabbed an apple which rolled off the car roof.
We had also seen throughout the morning hippos, zebras, crocodiles, giraffes, baboons, wildebeest, impala, greater kudu. jackal, slender mongoose, duiker and many beautiful birds, all whose lives should be guaranteed into the future.
The Big 15 - Kruger
13 October 2012 | Balule Camp, Kruger NP
Alison - cool and wet
Pic shows each of the so called "Big 5" seen in Kruger NP over the last few days.
Africa has long since not had to worry about the dangers of the so called "Big 5", originally named like that because they were reckoned to be the most dangerous large animals on the continent. One of the smallest of microbes - the HIV virus - now kills more people in the 4 countries of Southern Africa every year than any of the big 5 ever did in recorded history.
For us wildlife tourists searching for the big 5 and other large mammals and birds is a lot of fun and hundreds of South Africans pour into their game parks every day hoping to see the "cats": cheetah, leopard and lion, which are a lot harder to see than elephants, buffalos, rhinos, hippos and crocodiles.
Because Kruger has been open to car tourism for so long, the larger animals are very tolerant of people - as long as they stay in their vehicles. This means that you can get very close to many large animals without them getting worried.
We have now seen the Big 5 - different animals every time - on three separate days - hence the title of this blog - the big 15!
Right of way in South Africa
08 October 2012 | Berg en Daal, Kruger NP, South Africa
Alison and Geoff, hot
Pic shows many species of animals all enjoying a bit of time wandering along or across the SA reserve highway system!
A scarab beetle the size of a large toe nail, that wraps up elephant and rhino dung into a circular shape and makes a nest with it, has right of way over a vehicle in nature reserves and national parks in South Africa. It is quite an acrobatic act with a small car negotiating these marvels of nature on a winding, unsealed road while watching for rhino, elephant, zebra and giraffe and all the other diverse species we still share this planet with and also have a right of way - in these sanctuaries, at least.
So far, trying to beat the clock to get back to our campsite compound by 6 pm, we have been in gridlock with elephants, rhinos, baboons, impala and lions and they all know who is boss on the national park highways. It was only a few minutes ago that a band of 30 baboons were fully aware of our deadline, but for some reason they chose to have a stop work meeting in the center of the road. Fortunately, they were endowed with plenty of sympathisers, so there were no roadside pickets or battles for them or us to worry about.
Sanibonani! We meet the Lion of Swaziland
06 October 2012 | Mlilwane, Swaziland
Geoff and Alison: Hot and Dry
Pic shows a hippo in the St Lucia estuary. The same group stayed in one spot close to the campsite all day, then wandered around at night. One killed a warden in his back garden recently when the hippo was disturbed by accident.
The lion wasn't the legendary King Sobhuza 11, who actually died in 1982, leaving 120 widows but a very noisy grunting feline who has kept us awake for two nights in a row here in the low veld of what we thought was the "Switzerland of Africa". The Eastern part of Swaziland, through which we are transiting en route from Zululand to Kruger is actually hot, flat and covered with sugar cane. Quite a lot of it has now been turned over to conservation with the upsurge in ecotourism to this little country, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique.
Since the last blog we have been to many lovely places and seen a lot of nature as well as four of Africa's "big five" (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino).
Each place has been quite special so haven't formulated what has been the best so far.
iSimangaliso / St Lucia had hippos and crocodiles, forest, wetlands and the rolling surf along miles of empty Indian Ocean beaches; uMkhuze had its lovely camp through which wandered impala, nyala and baboons at will - as well as our first cheetah; Ithala - with its rocky crags and our first close up encounter with elephants.
Our trip so far, barring a couple of punctures, has been problem free and the only scary part has been the motorway between Pietermaritzburg and Durban - with its hundreds of hurtling semitrailers. South Africa has been something of a paradox - one eye sees the first world part, the other the third world. Both have come closer together and overlapped in the last 18 years since the dismantling of Apartheid in complex ways. For us as transient visitors everything has been easy and pleasant. Everybody speaks very good English and services are generally better than anywhere in Mediterranean Europe - although the towns are nowhere near as attractive. More functional than anything else.
Swaziland seems a more laid back and simpler version of South Africa. Much has been borrowed from Big Brother next door, but the Swazis don't seem anywhere near as poor as Eritrea, Sudan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, to think about countries we have transited or visited between Malaysia and the Med.
We leave Swaziland via the highlands in a couple of days and have only just over a week left - in Kruger - South Africa's most famous national park, before being forced to think again about Saraoni stuck high and dry on its perch back on the coast of Spain and our impending Atlantic crossing!
Rhino Mania in Hluhluwe - iMfolozi
24 September 2012 | St Lucia, Zululand Coast, South Africa
Alison; windy north westerlies and warm
Pic shows 2 white rhinos in iMfolozi Game Reserve. Over four hundred have been slaughtered already in KZN this year. 4 were killed in Hluhluwe alone during the weekend after this blog was written. For some bizarre reason, old Chinese men think that the powdered horn - actually made of exactly the same material as fingernail - will do more for their aging, limp penises than Viagra. Rhino horn fetches more than gold on the black market.
We're on the Indian Ocean coast in a lovely campground run by the KwaZulu Natal Wildlife Board near the St Lucia estuary. There are plenty of hippos and crocodiles in the estuary, just a hundred metres away and the jungly campsite is part of a large wetland reserve. Monkeys and duikers wander around the tents, which are also home to a lot of different types of birds.
We met up with yachtie friends in Richards Bay - a busy industrial coastal town, seemingly full of large dual carriageways and modern shopping centres, miles from anywhere. Fien and Hans on "Pelikaan" came up to iMfolozi Game Reserve with us in their landrover and we had a fine time wandering around searching for wildlife. They and Steve on "Oz " have had a great time in South Africa but are now not so happy as Customs has impounded their boats, pending a fine and bond!
The double reserves of Hluhluwe and iMfolozi are two of Africa's oldest reserves, set aside like so many in Europe, as a hunting reserve for the king (of the Zulus in this case) - then in 1895 by the British authorities. Here in Kwazulu Natal, the population density is very high and the smattering of smallish reserves were made in the nick of time to save these living museum pieces of old Africa. Now, the growing settlements encroach on all sides.
Two of South Africa's parks - Kruger and Kgalagadi, at opposite ends of the country, have however been cleverly integrated with large reserves in the neighbouring countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe (Kruger) and Botswana (Kgalagadi) - providing a much needed larger area for the surviving relics of Africa's largest fauna.
Hluhluwe and iMfolozi were also the first places in Africa to reverse the steady decline in rhinos. A recent upsurge in poached rhino horn has again seen a decline just about everywhere in Africa, India and Nepal - it has even inflicted South Africa's relatively well preserved parks. Despite these gloomy developments we still saw plenty of rhinos in these parks - rhinos (mostly the white species) - seemed to be visible everywhere. We must have seen dozens, as well as giraffes, zebra, impala, magnificent greater kudu, nyala and two lions - less than a kilometere from the rondavel where we were staying. Strangely we never saw a single elephant despite wandering around just about every track in the two parks - hard to imagine how they could have merged into the bush so succesfully.
These South Afican reserves have proven great viewing - for a few euros / dollars you can spend all day wandering around, never sure what might turn up around the corner. South Africans visit their parks in droves at the weekends and holidays driving all day from Johannesburg or Durban to get away from the cities and see their slice of African bush.
From Seafari to Safari – A last leap into Africa
16 September 2012 | Royal Natal NP, uKhahlamba / Drakensberg, South Africa
Saraoni is safely hauled high and dry in the massive yard at Almerimar on Spain's Andalucian coast - a hop away from Gibraltar and the Atlantic, where we should be passing next month, all being well.
With a little time to spare it was time for one long look down South - at the massive continent we have been skirting for the last two years, but have so little been able to explore.
South Africa provided the most convenient, cheapest and easiest access to that part of Africa South of the Sahara. We booked five weeks car hire and flew into Johannesburg on the 12th September with nature firmly in focus. Our itinerary includes 15 separate conservation areas, with the best left to last - 8 days in Kruger National park. Of course, it is hard to visit this paradox of a country without trying to make sense of what is going on. It will be hard to make any value judgements with it having such a multifaceted nature. It is 40 years since one of us came this way and of course the country has changed out of all recognition.
We are now camped high on the flanks of the Northern Drakensberg Range, close to the Lesotho border in a beautifully green site, with baboons, hyraxes, bushbucks, ibises and nosy guinea fowl for company. It was close to here that Bryce Courtenay's powerful Apartheid era drama, "The Power of One" and its steamier sequel "Tandia" played out part of its story in amongst the high peaks and waterfalls.
Our trip has taken us across the flat endless plains of the Free State to the small reserve called Willem Pretorius. Nobody seems to know much about this place, but we were amazed to see a huge diversity of wildlife - from giraffes to rhinos, kudu, zebra, gnu and hundreds of birds.
We then took the road to Lesotho and the Golden Gate Highlands, over 2000 metres up, surprisingly cold. A hail storm, strong winds and rain were followed by a blue sky clearance and in amongst sandstone kopjes and in sight of the snowy Drakensberg peaks we crossed a mini Serengeti - large herds of blesbok, gnu and springbok, strolling and gambolling in the grasslands.
In a few days we should be on the shores of the Indian Ocean again - last seen in 2010. It is an odd paradox that we wanted to sail via South Africa and chose to pass up through the Red Sea and into the Med because of the growing pirate menace. Fien and Hans on "Pelikaan" and Steve on "Oz", who we last saw in Malaysia, wanted to go to the Med but ended up sailing to South Africa because of the very same pirate issue. We should meet up in Richards Bay on the Kwazulu - Natal coast.