Nothing but butts

Greetings from L’Agulhas the southern most point of Africa. Let’s see if I can attempt to catch up. Or at least post once ;p

The drive back to Kruger and the Orpen Gate was far too quick. The heat descended at first light and everything was far too hot. The herds looked forlorn under trees. Even the birds had had enough. The drive to Skukuza would take most of the day at my ambling pace. Quick stop at Satara for an iced coffee and away we go. It’s really good. A spoil. Not soon after, this poor beastie was up in a tree trying to get any semblance of a breeze. That full gut did not help.

Maybe if I drop my belly this way. Ugh…so hot. Can I get an ice cold beverage?!


The following morning I opted for a rare sunrise drive. Usually, I’m out the gate as soon as possible but this is a chance to get out there before the gate is officially open. The humidity and heat of the day prior cast a haze upon the savannah. A quiet morning until, up ahead, the guide spots a leopard ducked in the grass. Gorgeous young female leopard with just her head showing in the dew covered grass. Poised for the ultimate shot when someone jumped right in front of the lens. So not only did that rapid movement scare the leopard off, I know had a fuzzy picture of a human shoulder. It happens, enthusiasm for ones first leopard, it’s allowed. Although had the enthusiasm gone forward it’d have been even better, lol!


And so the day of butts began. Again an unbelievable hot day scorched the land and every leopard that could be found was up a tree. Two in particular, in addition to the morning leopardess. The first was wedged in the fork of a tree. The abundance of safari vehicles made it difficult to get a pic. Once the clear shot was possible the leopard repositioned with a booty shot being the only view. Ok, how about we drive up the road to the other leopard. This one had been scared off by an over zealous viewer. Luckily a kind passerby mentioned a pack of wild dogs under a large Marula tree taking a siesta not to far off. Love those wild dogs. But yet again too many viewers and the nature of wild dogs to run and yet again a butt shot. And that’s pretty much how the day went.

The butts have it.


Bird hide seemed like the best option given the proclivity of the quadrupeds to show their derrieres. Plus it was refuge from the sun. A nice breeze blew through the hide. Few people came and went but the birds eventually appeared. The hippos serenaded off to the east. The odd contact call from the Black Crake, Cuckoo’s and a hungry Great Heron all made an appearance with a shy Green-Head Pigeon. Sometimes sitting still is the best answer.

Green-Headed Pigeon playing peek-a-boo.
Love the Zebra stripped underpants. Naughty thing.
This is gonna be a good one. Nice catfish, but way too big for this greedy guts.
Nope, one gulp and it’s in the gullet.
Male Diderick Cuckoo
Close up
Female, those boys get all the fun colours.
Black Crake. Cute little guy.

It was time for a night drive. By far my favourite, being out after dark. Alas, many had the same idea. Our number no longer fit into a safari vehicle we now had a safari bus. It rumbles and makes all sorts of noise sure to scare off anything it comes upon.  Except the scrub hares they are drawn to the lights like a moth. Well the butts continued. Civet scurried off as did well everything else. Luckily, the guide knew the location of a Hyena den. Yay! These spotted monsters are too much fun and at this age they are far too curious about the vehicle.

Self imposed time-out and sulk.
Always with the biting and chewing.

Once the tire chewing commenced it was time for us to scuttle off. And we came upon a single male lion not too long after. Meandering young male that ran off far to quickly and showing, yes, his heine. As we headed back down the road I spotted something cross the road ahead in the dark. I recognized the shape but thought no, it can’t be, could it? The guide quickly came to the same conclusion as the speed increased. In some hysterics we careened towards it. We were the only two to spot it, eventually we were able to get the spot lights on it and yes PANGOLIN. This was the guides first in her career. And of course mine as well. Midst the frantic chaos the camera kept shooting, how anything came out in focus is a mystery. I had climbed as high as I could on the bus to get a shot through the tall grass. No apologies needed as long as I shared the photos. Not a problem. Everyone was able to see and few even managed cell phone pics. The bush doled out its balance, nothing but butts equals an epic sighting. Next mission, photograph the whole thing, lol!

Easily mistaken for a skunk in a Halloween costume, Vincenzo, but I assure you it’s a pangolin. Scales and all.

The next morning I headed to lower Sabie and the heat persisted.

The inspector is in.
Oh, a juicy one. You can see the excitement.

Then there was the tired and somewhat suicidal Nightjar. It had parked itself in the middle of the road. Very well blended in, almost missed it which means those traveling faster will hit it. It was too tired to care. Eyes closed, whatever man. And that’s when I broke Kruger rules. Never leave the car. I think this one was warranted. Feeling like the utter criminal I checked the surroundings for beasties, hopped out and shooed it into the brush. There you go, law breaker, lol! Couple thumbs up from the local guides made it seem legit. And as the night prior the bush balances.

Around the corner a small herd of elephants with a wee little one still wobbly. Mum came right close, as they were next to the road. I felt very protective of this herd and made sure the cars coming around the corner slowed down as not to startle the young mum and her kin. Peacefully eating, young one trying desperately to get his trunk to pick up a Marula fruit, only to throw grass on his head. I sat until they had finished, matriarchs deep rumble resonated and off into the thicket they went. Nice! A drive to the local large watering hole for an elephant pool party far off in the distance, was next. And with a hurried retreat to Lower Sabie I came across the behemoths of the savannah.


Too close.

All was great until two young bulls, had to have a tussle and scared one of the Rhino into a straight line charge for Springbok and I. Right down the road, hurdling towards us and no possibility for a reversal as a safari vehicle had me blocked. And then skid stop, about 2 meters away, and back to grazing. Underwear change needed! Teenage boys, whether man or beast, always causing a ruckus. That was close.

The following morning cooler weather started to make its way into the Kruger. Not much but a nice relief. The bush had other ideas that morning, I travelled barely 10 km in over an hour. It was the elephant crossing day. From the across the river, up the banks and across the road. Droves of them, one row after another, giving a start stop approach. Slow slow morning. And then a musth bull showing of his prowess. He did something I hadn’t seen before, he kneeled down to pull a branch off. It was unusual. Then ripping it off to show his power. He had plenty space from me but the other vehicles, at least in my opinion, where being a little to risky with the likes of an unpredictable musth bull. Plenty videos, once I’ve glued and cut etc. I will post. In reality once I’m home, if I’m being honest. Finally, the road was clear only to screech again for a crossing tortoise. The vehicles behind were just as happy to get going only to be flagged as not to crush the tortoise.

Road crossed in one piece and off again we go. Wait what’s that, is that, no, increase speed do not stall do not stall, clutch dammit girl, clutch. And YES!!! Two leopards, bush balance, safe a Leopard Tortoise get mating Leopards. Love it! They were walking straight down the road and quickly to the side bush, mated and off behind the bush. Try as I might I never got sight of them again and only managed to get one in the shot. Driving and camera-ing not the best combo. But so epic!


I repeated the process the following morning, but no luck. Lovely dwarf mongoose as a consolation prize.


Birding intermission.


Doing his best vulture impersonation.
Giant Kingfisher waiting for his set.

The drive yielded not just birds but these two as well. Note the size difference.

Momma when I grow up will I be as big as you?
Wait I’m coming.

And it wouldn’t be a hot day without these lazy guys doing what they do best.

Brah, I’m hot.
I’ve got my eye on you…

The day continued to dispense with wonderful sightings and continued into the night drive. This was probably the best I’ve had, all those things that scuttle off just sat and showed off endlessly.

White-tailed Mongoose
With it’s kit.
Southern White-Faced Scops-Owl. Those orange eyes.
Giant Eagle-Owl
Barn Owl, not sure which.

And on to the last camp in Kruger, Crocodile Bridge. Now I’m going to show some pictures I don’t often post but given what’s happened lately in Thula Thula, I think a reminder of how amazing theses creatures are is in order. So prepare for Rhino-thon.

Family affair.
I’m big, look I’m big too!
Mum and baby.
Time for a mid-morning snack. Milk time.
‘Cause Rhino butts, and the scale and the oxpecker hitchhiker.
Rhino’s in the mist.

Crocodile Bridge is a small basic camp, but it has sooo many Bush Babies. And they taunted me. They’d pop out in the evening and pose right in front until the camera came up and off they went. Testing the theory, the camera stayed in primed position and they were nowhere to be found. Lower the camera and look a whole family. Cheeky buggers.

How many do you see? If I told you there were more than 5, would you believe me?
Burchell’s Coucal showing off his wears. Come my ladies come come my ladies, you’re a butterfly sugar baby. Yup that’s what pops in my head. The sun has gotten to me.
Bateleur caught in the act of his European Roller lunch
He was far to engrossed with his meal to care that the camera was there.

Crocodile Bridge brought on many sighting but also my allergies. I’ve had a sneeze or two through out but there was something in the dirt roads here that brought on the machine gun firing of sneezing I haven’t had since I was a kid. Pause long enough to catch my breath and to unleash again and the eyes tearing it made photography difficult. The night drive really did me in, but it was my last, and I toughed it out to be rewarded right outside camp.


Kruger lived upto its acclaim, no Cheetah but a Pangolin. Fair trade I think. Off to Swaziland and beyond.

Oh brother where art thou?

A quick drive through the Manyeleti on limited roads for self-drive, but a nice afternoon. Spent time with a family of Southern Ground Hornbills. Couple youngsters and a sub-adult and the parents. The male tried all he could to offer his delicacy to his mate who couldn’t be bothered. He kept tailing behind her, catch up only to have her run off again. Poor guy. He kept at it though.

Frog legs are a delicacy. She just wasn’t having it. He kept carrying the recently departed frog and following her around for at least half hour.

A nice breeding herd of Cape Buffalo wallowed briefly near a waterhole. It think they lost one of their members as the lions were unusually loud from the same direction that night with intermittent sounds of death. The circle continues.

The drive from Manyeleti to Sabi Sands and Cheetah Plains Lodge was brief. I ambled along as slowly as I could especially once in the Sabi Sands. Hardly an arduous journey. The sun was searing and no rain relief in sight. Lush and green with tall multitudes of grasses in full bloom. Dusty smell wiped up with every light gust of wind, giving just enough relief from the heat to make it tolerable. Long stretched roads and cutlines. Just as advertised.

Cheetah Plains was a little oasis. And my last and final treat for the entirety of the trip. Rondavels surrounding the main portion of the lodge. Dam side pool and wonderful staff at the ready. A dam that luckily had filled not even a month prior after a sudden torrential deluge. Now it housed at least 5-6 hippos. Sitting poolside listening to the laughing call of the hippo with the ever-busy Buffalo Weavers chattering away and fluttering at blazing speeds. Perfect place to contemplate nothing at all but the wonder beset before you or at least until the afternoon game drive.

The sunset drive, with guide extraordinaire – Andrew, was on point. Blazing heat of the sun, with the promise of relinquishing its hold, beats down upon you. Cool breeze on the back of the vehicle and a sunlit beastie before you. The pale golden pelage juxtaposed with the black-white patching of a Marula tree. Perfection.

Better yet this young leopardess is Xongile. One of two cubs to the very famous Karula. I’ve known Xongile and her twin brother Hosana since they were hours old when Brent happened upon them. And now there she is. She really is an exquisite leopard.

Sleepy little kitten.

And tomorrow is her first birthday. I may have sung happy birthday to her, quietly, but it may have happened. We spent quite some time with the sleeping beauty until she roused,  stretched and repositioned. We follow suite round the tree.

Pensive into the yonder.
Nope just a squirrel
She really is a gorgeous leopard.

Eventually we say our good byes, round the tree and come face-to-face with none other than the Terrapin Terror himself, Hosana. Tormenting yet another Terrapin. I don’t know if he ever eats them or just carries them around, swatting at them and just traumatizing them. This one did eventually get away, once HRH (his royal highness) became bored. A couple last swats for good measure and done.

Hosana – and that poor terrapin.
He looks so innocent doesn’t he.Those eyes. Me, nah, I’m not doing a thing. Nope, nothing at all.

Not to long after he released the Terrapin and did a quick bout of grooming, Xongile climbed down from her perch and was now in stalk mode. The two stalked each other for a few, each popping their head up over the tall grass to see where the other was. Xongile’s poorly planned sneak attacked landed her in the pond. Forlorn but not willing to give in she continued the stalk. The reunion was quick, sweet and soon teeth and claws were barred until Xongile gave Hosana the look and allo-grooming soon began. Hosana had a limited tolerance for the tick biting technique of Xongile and soon turned his back and marched off.

Hey brah, happy birthday!
And the teeth come out. I’m sure they were debating who’s the oldest.
Nice comparison off them both. The colour difference is fairly evident in a side by side as are the muzzles.

The majority of the drive was spent with these two trouble makers. Hosana is much darker and has Karulas’ characteristically squat muzzle. Xongile is lighter but has a less squashed muzzle. Just gorgeous. What an afternoon.

On the way back to the lodge, we swung to the other side of the lodge dam for a special treat. One of the two Cheetah brothers made an appearance.

Longingly looking for his brother.

They had recently been split and had not yet reconnected. A quick contact call from the tallest termite mound around and he was off. And then flop onto the road for a quick dusting off, roll over, and good to go.

Never too late for a quick roll
But seriously though, have you seen my bro?!

This drive will be hard to top. The following drives came close but birthday leopards are hard to outdo. One of the Birmingham Boy Coalition male lions made an appearance (I think Tinyo, but not sure) and a Styx Pride female. Slept as lions do.

In a state of ennui.

And everything else too.

African Hoopoe
This black-bellied bustard occupied the same termite mound every single drive.
Laughing dove nest.
Steppe Buzzard all the way from the Steppe mountains in Russia.
I’m so pretty!
Oh so pretty. Loving the bloom. Not sure if a Jackal can frolic in the meadows but this one was sure trying to.
Side-stripped Jackal
Plated Lizard.

The quick stop in Sabi Sands was exceptional not only to see the Xongile and Hosana on the eve of their 1st birthday but to meet the WE crew too. These past two days have been incomparable. Alas, all good things come to an end and I’m headed back to The Kruger and continue journey south from Skukuza, Lower Sabie to Crocodile Bridge before heading to Swaziland.

WE Moments

To some, this is nothing more than a picture of a vehicle. A few may even identify it as some sort of safari vehicle. But some of you, my fellow WE Safarians and Djuma junkies, you will recognize it as Rusty and all that it entails.

A couple of days ago, a unique opportunity presented itself.  To not only meet the crew but to go behind the scenes of Wild Earth/Safari Live. This was far beyond my wildest imaginings. I presumed my frantic waving and fan-girling, when they drove by various sightings, would be the extent of it. (My spastic attempts to wave alarmed the other passengers I may be having some sort of fit.) But, thanks to Gary at Cheetah Plains, I was not only able to fulfill a promise I made and thank this amazing group in person, but I was able to visit FC and watch the show go live and enjoy a behind the scenes view alongside Jamie.

Djuma dam cam and the twice daily safaris have been of great solace personally and professionally. For years, I have reveled in them, sharing them with staff, co-workers and patients and their families. The long hours, bad calls and sometimes those nights in the PICU when despite it all we lost, this show served as a refuge, a respite, an escape. Many of my patients and their families enjoyed the distraction from coping with more than anyone should. As did the staff trying to get them through. For others, it was a voice, a starting point, common ground to begin to heal. Needless to say, this show has had a profound influence on my world. Somewhat obvious now, given my current gallivanting.

I have watched the show change and grow over the years with the guided hand of Graham Wallington. As individuals, the cast and crew are all accomplished, but together this hodge podge of personalities draws you in.

It’s not just the bipeds. The main feature is just as charismatic with a plethora of personas. You watch these creatures grow from cuddly fluff balls to Terrapin Terrors like Hosana. Amber eyes shoot annoyed looks and snarls at the latest Birmingham Boy trying to mate. Each drive is full of characters; animals and human alike. And the knowledge they dispense plays a large role in the conservation of this great savannah.

Their passion and enthusiasm is infectious and they remain always at the ready to answer any question from their viewers. And those long nights are soon forgotten with awe and not infrequent fits of hysterical laughter with streams of tears. Often at the hand, quite literally, of James and a marker. A disclaimer really is needed whenever he has a marker in hand. Or perhaps an interpretive Nyala dance by Brent, let’s not forget Jamie vs. tree, and the ever-colourful Thumb. Even the new recruits get in on the malarkey, Tayla and Tristan.

Tracking lessons, birding lists, bush walks with Stefan and the always nearly impossible tree quiz fill notebooks. Laptops cram with screen shots, bird lists grow and a deeper appreciation for all of nature’s creatures abounds. It is so much more than just a live interactive safari.

So, hop on the world’s largest safari vehicle and join in on the shenanigans. Be warned, continued viewing, in some, may lead to sudden bank account depletion and trans-Atlantic flights!

Thank you WE.



I’m a little rusty, but I’ll get back in the swing of things….;p

After collecting Springbok and a few groceries I headed north to Misty Mountains to say hello to William and Adri. The mist and on again-off again rain captured the essence of the beautiful northern aspect of SA. After a quick stop over it was straight on to Kruger National Park for the following week. Of course I managed to chase a few birds around too!

Be the Bee
Not sure what kind of butterfly but it was larger than my palm and purrty
Amethyst Sunbird, at last! I have tried to get this little bugger since Tanzania.
Tiny Sunbird, I think. That little flash of yellow by the wing can make it one of 3 but I think it’s the Tiny variety.

The rain and mist followed my trail to Punda Maria Gate and subsided as I entered the park. Armed with coffee, yes I brought my own coffee this time with a hand-mill and all. Instant just isn’t the same.

A lot has changed since I departed SA, the dry season ended and the wet season was upon us. And with that the barren dry, brown surroundings have now turned to lush green bush and tall grasses and field flowers. Wonderful to behold but boy oh boy does it make it hard to see anything. Animals may be laying right next to the road but in that tall grass you’re lucky if you spot an ear. Along with the tall grasses have come massive herds of ungulates that survived the drought and of course all the migrant birds. And the bloody mosquitos and flies too!

Woodland Kingfisher
Caught in the act. Giving off his characteristic call of chirp-chrrrrrrrr!
Widow bird.
Welcome to my crib. And if the lady doth protest she tears it apart leaving him to start anew.
Whattled Starlings.
Starling basking in the morning light midst the rains.
Johnny the cautious Francolin.
Laughing Dove
Brown Snake Eagle with the death glare. His hair wasn’t quite photo ready.
European Roller sing-song.
The very haunting Grey Headed Bushshrike. It’s earned the name of the ghost bird for it’s ghostly haunting call. So hard to get a photo off. This one starred me down, but I got him.


Flamboyant Red Bishop.
Namaqua Dove trying to dry off.
Lapet Faced Vulture.
A new one, European Roller.
Say hello to my little friend, European Bee-Eater.
Black-winged Kite.
Bennett’s Woodpecker
Ever popular, African Grey Hornbill
Gorgeous African Fish Eagle.
Thick-Knee or Dikkop a nocturnal bird.
Fiery-necked Night Jar.
Whatcha got there….Spotted-Eagle Owl

Then there is the weather. Gone are the dry heat days and cool nights. Replaced by blazing hot days with equally high humidity. Eye-balls sweating, sweat sweating days and nights. Relief comes intermittently with quick rains which also bring abundant release of the bugs.

I started up north in Kruger National Park and slowly bumble my way down south. With a quick jaunt out for a few days, currently, before heading back to Skukuza in a couple of days.

The elephants, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest abound. I’ve missed the sounds of the birds and insects during the day and the night call of Hyena and Lions in the distance. To be awake daily by the dawn chorus, no complaints here, just bliss, mosquitos and all!

Fields of plenty. Quelea birds float through out in large hoards of flapping wings in ballet like movement. Too quick to capture on film so a lovely herd of Zebra instead.
Rains have brought these guys out too.
Nom nom nom, little steenbuck.
They are cute, when they are not stealing your food. Baby Vervet playing innocently.
Allo-grooming is a family affair for the Chacma Baboons. She’s so little.
Klipspringer. They blend in so well.
Look at those hooves, perfect for rock climbing.
Bedraggled and sopping wet Nyala in the afternoon showers.
Regal Kudu and his spiral horns. Three full twists, he’s an old feller.
Hyena cub, yet to get his spots. Only brave enough to pop out the den site.
Cousin is far braver, as his spots start to appear so does the bravery.
This young’ has her spots but it’s nap time.
Older sis looking on bemused.
Are you feeling’ lucky punk? Are ya?!
Steenbuck trying very hard to channel a rock and not be seen.
Look at this cuteness and he is so fierce.
But oh so tiny, here he is next to momma.
Ellie games, sibling pile on!!!
And when you stumble everyone lends a trunk to help you up. So young still wobbly!
Do not adjust your screens, for real, a leucystic impala. I guess it would have to happen genetics being what they are but how cool is that.
I’m the king of the hill, no I am.

And the night drives were also fruitful.

This fuzzy rodent, known as the kruger-roo, is called a Springhare, but it has no relation to the hare family, it’s a rodent. What’s in a name.
Civet posing for his 5 minutes of fame.
African Wild Cat, similar to a grey domestic cat but slender and with longer legs. This one reminds me of a very dear friends former cat, Petunia. Doubt this one would only eat ice cream and ham but you never know.

As I work my way south the topography changes, as one would expect in a park as big as Belgium. The eastern aspect of SA, the western tidbit of Mozambique and a small portion of southern Zimbabwe form the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

I’ve made it as far as Satara before heading out to the Timbavati area. Olifants was nestled on a hilltop overlooking the Olifants river. Very picturesque. Satara is more plains-like with fields of long grasses and herbivores around every corner. Lions plentiful, leopards still elusive spotted little buggers that they are.

Blocking traffic of the bridge and looking less than happy with all the rain.
Yoga level: Master Yogi
What disturbs our slumber? The rain, skies opened up and the ladies were not too happy. Can you spot all 8? Trust me they’re there.
You can so hear them muttering FFS, not the rain again.
Sweet dreams of the li-ons
Ok, ok, ok, how about this one, this is my serious pensive look.
Yawning is contagious even in the animal world. And every time I see this photo I yawn too, lol!
So how do I get in to this tin can for the soft and easy morsels inside?  Anyone have a can opener?
Night fades and the teeth come out.
How you doin’?

And wild dogs, well, as always awesome. A pack of 25 along the roadside heading west was perfect. I believe they are known as the Orpen pack. Hard to believe there are only about 3000 of these amazing animals left. Feel very privileged to spend time with them.

Squirrel! Love, love, love these guys! Curious and so darn fast to keep up with. Luckily it was too darn hot to do much but amble to and from the water.


So hot, eye’s heavy, must stay awake
Flop. Nothing but a doggy pile on a hot day.
Chewing on brothers face is always fun.
This twig it must be my new chew toy.

Here’s to leopards, cheetah and more of the stuff that makes this park great!