Kruger National Park Series #6

Hyena Nursery

Hyenas are terrifying creatures. I remember during South Africa’s 23 year long bush war I found myself as a conscript doing my National Service as an Ops Medic in the Eastern Caprivi. We did many bush patrols looking for traces of the enemy’s presence, spoor tracks, any sign and so on… As a general rule we were out in the bush for 3 days at a time with a platoon of 15 guys (if I remember correctly) and we would set up a temporary base (TB) mid afternoon and ready ourselves for the night. This was the first time that I had encountered African Wildlife other than at Cape Town Zoo. We would sleep in a circle partnered up with a buddy who would be “standing” watch with you. I say that in quotes because in reality you would be lying down on your belly because the TB would be setup under a thorn bush with vicious thorns of the “haak-en-steek” (hook-and-prick) type. Once hooked it is not easy to get out of it’s clutches without tearing clothes and skin.

During the night there would be very little sleep due to the sound of Hyenas howling and yip yipping, Elephants knocking over trees and trumpeting. In the morning you would never-the-less kind of wake up and notice spoor of Hyenas and other animals around your encampment at times coming very close to one’s head. There were tales, bush myths (as opposed to urban legends) of hyenas taking a bite out of a soldier’s head while he slept.

It may be just a tale, but make no mistake, a Hyena is not one’s cute and cuddly lap dog. These animals you do not want to hand feed, you might feed him your hand.

Hyenas consider it a challenge to bite the tyres of stationary tourists vehicles with the occupants distracted and viewing other game at a distance: Being of the rather large toothed type of animal with arguably the strongest jaw (in PSI being applied in a bite) they will naturally chew on anything. Including tyres.

There are 2 main Hyena types in Southern Africa. The brown Hyena & the Spotted Hyena. the brown hyena is found more on the Botswana and Kalagadi side whereas the spotted hyenas are found more or less all over the northern South African border, in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia. Of course in Kruger National park there are plenty of the spotted variety. As menacing and dangerous as these animals are, though, they do have the sweetest looking little pups. Here I have a video clip that I call “Hyena Nursery”.

Kruger National Park Series #1

My wife & I have a few favourite holiday spots. Number 1 on the list is the Kruger National park. There is so much to see. Such peace and tranquility while being so quietly dangerous at the same time.

I am going to be posting a series of KNP videos over the next few days… In these blogs I will be posting information as well. This will be designed to assist anyone thinking of taking a trip to Kruger with ideas on where to go to stay and what to look out for…

The first blog dedicated to KNP is this one on the Flap-Necked Chameleon. It feeds on insects such as grasshoppers and beetles. It varies in colour from pale yellow through Green to Brown. What has been noticed is that when stressed it changes colour to Brown with the markings becoming darker. This was the case with this one that was crossing a rather busy road.

I hope you enjoy the series…

African Penguin

(Click a thumbnail image to see the bigger version)

The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), a.k.a. the Cape penguin, and South African penguin, is a species of penguin indigenous to the waters of southern Africa.

Stony Point is a Nature Reserve situated in Betty’s Bay in South Africa and is run by Cape Nature. See their website: https://www.capenature.co.za/

There used to be a whaling station adjacent to the reserve in the distant past and there is still the remains of a wreck near the slipway.

The first Penguin nest in Stony Point was discovered in 1982. Now it is estimated that there are approximately 2000 pairs in this colony alone. Dassen Island, in the year 1900, had more than a million breeding pairs.

The African Penquins only breed on 25 islands and at 3 mainland sites between Algoa Bay and Central Namibia and nowhere else in the world. This penguin was formerly called the Jackass Penguin as it’s call sounds very much like the braying of a donkey.

Aside from the penguins we saw some lizards (very colourful ones), cormorants, seagulls and a few Rock (or Cape) Hyraxes, commonly known as Dassies. We also saw a pair of Egyptian Geese, proud parents of a bunch of little EG’s huddled together – very cute.

The Lizards were varied and as you can see from the photographs quite colourful. I unfortunately have little or no knowledge of these magnificent creatures.

We also caught a Cape Gull red-handed (er… make that red-beaked) having stolen an egg from some unfortunate mommy bird… that’s all part of life in nature!

I am adding a fun video of these photos and some more as a bonus… click this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66954226@N02/48924580313/in/album-72157711410167983/

 

 

 

Harold Porter Botanical Garden

This botanical garden is part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

See the official site…

And not only that… but it is one our favourite spots to visit. The garden is not as organised as Kirstenbosch, but I love what they have done with it… there are many ponds, pathways and fynbos gardens laid out with bridges crossing the river to walking trails and a beautiful waterfall.

Unfortunately, in the recent past, that whole area experienced a devastating wildfire which destroyed homes and lives of a lot of people but it also took its toll on the biosphere, especially the Harold Porter gardens. The gardens have been restored nicely, as well as the bridges. But some of the damage is still visible in the form of burnt support posts of a set of wooden steps over a garden… or the wooden pathway that leads to the waterfall which is not open to the public. I had to climb down into the river onto a dry sandy patch to get the picture of the waterfall for this blog, as it would not have been visible from the pathway.

The flowers are beautiful and the grass is nice and green. There is plenty of water in the river and lots of shade under the trees. One could pack a picnic basket and spend a wonderful couple of hours in the garden. One thing though; the restaurant is not available as it is closed for renovation at the moment. So bring your own snacks along.

Enjoy the slideshow. You will see that I took multiple images of the same scene, e.g., the mushrooms –  I took a normal but monochrome shot as well as a High Dynamic Range (HDR) shot which is basically 3 stacked images at differing exposures which causes the resultant image to be very rich in colour detail.

I also took some monochrome long-exposure images. I have a set of 3 Neutral Density filters which when stacked allows one to keep the camera aperture open in bright sunlight for a number of seconds which causes water images, waterfalls and anything moving really to smear like painting with light. This is very pretty when water is the subject… check it out.

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Normal Image – Monochrome

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Long Exposure image of waterfall

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HDR mushroom

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HDR Image of waterfall

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Long Exposure Image of small waterfall

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Normal Image of vygie

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HDR image of small waterfall

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Long Exposure of river

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Long Exposure Image of Waterfall

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HDR Image of garden pond

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Long Exposure Image of waterfall

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HDR Image of Waterfall

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Normal image of Giant Protea

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HDR image of RIver

Laaiplek – Peace & Bustle Simultaneously

Laaiplek on the West Coast. It is a peaceful little town that hosts a place to break away from the rat race. Laaiplek Hotel.

With friendly staff and situated facing the Berg River as it runs into the ocean the hotel provides marvelous views coupled with good food. The rooms are few but quite comfortable. It is one of my favourite get-away places and never fails to satisfy.

Check out the slideshow of photos taken during our last visit here in March 2019.

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Paarl Mountain Garden

My wife and I decided to go out for a picnic on Paarl Mountain. There is a wonderful fynbos garden and the flowers were magnificent… What an awesome day. We walked, and sat in shade reading books. Had coffee. And generally just relaxed.

We had breakfast of bacon & eggs and went for a long walk in the garden. Later in the afternoon we BBQed some lamb cutlets. Enjoy the slideshow!

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A Poem of Memorial Importance

My wife and I were recently very privileged to meet Brett & Adela Staegemann. We stayed in their Cottage on their organic farm on the Bibby’s Hoek road near Rheenendal.

For my blog on our stay there click this link: https://phototuneps.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/elephant-rest-forest-cottage-knysna/

I am not a poet. I do not know the rules of poetry. Perhaps I am breaking every one of them. It just seems wrong to put rules on what one feels. I write what I feel. This place made such an impression on us, perhaps because it is exactly what we needed… Anyway sometimes I get the urge to wax poetical and the following piece of verse came forth…

Elephant Rest Forest Cottage
by: BJ Spencer-Hicken

It’s a road much travelled
between Cape Town & Knysna
And a turn-off easily missed
When one gets a bit nearer

The Rheenendal Road
Is the way to an abode
Built on some land
By a carpenter’s hand

With wood from the Forest
That gives Elephants their rest
And skill that can testify
Of skills of others long gone by

This is the place of the Woodcutters of Knysna
Where farms and families now make their lives
Where graves not forgotten lie shallow
With others unmarked like a barrow

The Forest is very near
with nature’s beauty to dismiss all fear
The tranquility supreme
Light filtering through trees, a soul searching beam

The Stream runs fast
Given impetus at last
By Jubiliee’s waterfall
and a Loerie’s birdcall

The trails one can take
past visual pleasures of Nature’s make
memorial treasures unsurpassed
which are guaranteed to last.