I still have more stories lined up about my recent African traveling spree. In the meantime though, it pains me that so much time has passed since my last Joburg post. So here’s a quick one. Last week I visited the Joburg Zoo for the first time. It’s crazy that it took me this long to go. I live five minutes from the zoo and it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, especially for locals. I guess I subconsciously thought that every city in the world has a zoo and this one couldn’t be much different. It also seemed weird to visit a zoo in a country like South Africa, where there are so many amazing animals wandering around freely in the wild. Anyway, I finally went to the zoo and of course I was wrong about my previous assumptions. It’s a great zoo and there are lots of animals there that you can’t see in the South African wild, like mountain lions and spider monkeys and armadillos. (How had I never seen an armadillo before?) It was a quick visit and I didn’t see everything. But of the animals I did see, the owls were my favorites by far. I’ve never been so close to […]
Ghanaian cats are special. They’re tiny, almost kitten-like, with huge eyes and ears. They materialize out of nowhere, hop lightly into your lap, and curl into a purring, sleeping ball before you even realize they’re there. A typical Ghanaian kitten-cat. This cat likes to talk. This one lives at a lighthouse and hangs with goats. (I could write a whole post “goats of Ghana” too, as the goats here are equally amusing.) I dig the scrappy quirkiness of these West African felines. I wish I could bring one home with me but the Melville Cat definitely wouldn’t approve. I have much more to say about Ghana and I’ll probably have more cat photos too. My trip is only half over. The rest will have to wait. Three Ghanaian cats, all in a row.
On August 8, 2010, I published my first blog post from South Africa. The first photo in that post was a picture of a hadeda in my back yard. A hadeda at the Lucky 5 Star — my first South African blog photo. I’ve mentioned hadedas in passing over the years but I’ve never devoted a blog post to them. This is inexcusable, I now realize. The hadeda is more than a bird; it’s a Joburg icon. If you live in Joburg — whether it be in Melville or Mondeor, Sandton or Soweto — you probably awaken to hadedas every single morning of your life. You might love them, you might hate them, or you might have become immune to them. But the hadeda is always hovering on the edge of your subconscious, standing silently a few feet away or scaring the crap out of you as it launches into the air with a deafening screech. The hadeda (pronounced HAH-dee-dah, scientific name Bostrychia hagedash) is a large ibis, recognizable by its long beak and clumsy demeanor. Hadedas live all over sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in grasslands. But they have adapted exceptionally well to cities and especially to Joburg. I met this hadeda earlier in the week at the Rietfontein Nature Reserve […]
Last month, during my blogger weekend in Port Elizabeth, I visited the SA Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SAMREC) in Cape Recife. SAMREC, a small, volunteer-run non-profit, rehabilitates sick and injured African penguins and other marine wildlife. It’s also an education centre with fun exhibits and games relating to marine animals. An eerily life-like stuffed penguin in the SAMREC education centre. When penguins come to SAMREC and…don’t make it, SAMREC Director Libby Sharwood takes them to her taxidermist.
I was skeptical about signing up for a day trip to Chobe National Park during my visit to Victoria Falls. Everyone knows that wild animals sleep during the day and the best times to see them are early morning and late afternoon. I was afraid that paying $175 to visit Chobe between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. would be a waste of money. I was so wrong. I have never seen so many wild animals in my life, especially my favorite wild animal: the elephant. Elephant family.
Johannesburg newcomers often ask me about Parktown Prawns, Joburg’s most legendary insect. What do Parktown Prawns look like, people want to know. How big are they? Do Parktown Prawns really exist? The answer to the last question is a definitive yes. You can read all about Parktown Prawns on Wikipedia. Definitely check it out because it’s a particularly entertaining Wiki entry. My favorite line is: “Accordingly they [Parktown Prawns] frighten nervous persons and they may chew carpets and fabrics.” I’ve been wanting to write a Prawn post for years. Even though they are not actually indigenous to this area, Parktown Prawns have become a part of Joburg’s culture and folklore. Part cricket-on-steroids, part giant cockroach, park prehistoric monster, Parktown Prawns — much like this massive city that they have adapted to so well — are one-of-a-kind.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is an unusual place. It borders Sun City — a glitzy, Vegas-like resort in South Africa’s Northwest Province. Pilanesberg is small by African game park standards, and Pilanesberg’s animals were originally introduced from other parts of Southern Africa when the reserve was created in 1977. (Read more about Pilanesberg’s interesting history on Wikipedia.) For all of these reasons, in the eyes of many South Africans, Pilanesberg is not a “real” game park. And even though I enjoyed a great trip to Pilanesberg when my mother visited two years ago, I had also recently convinced myself that Pilanesberg is somehow not legit. I went back to Pilanesberg with my dad last week, and my attitude changed.
On my recent visit to Etosha National Park, I learned that you can’t just rock up to a game park, drive around, and expect to take fabulous wildlife photos. Good wildlife photography is a lot of work and requires equipment that I don’t have, like binoculars and a telephoto lens. It’s also difficult to take good wildlife photos while simultaneously driving a car. So instead of taking “good” wildlife photos in Etosha, I took quirky, comical wildlife photos. This shot of a mother and baby wildebeest pair is not necessarily good. But it’s funny. At least I think so.
The guessing game is over. In the unlikely event that you haven’t figured it out already, I spent the Christmas and New Years holidays in Namibia. Me in Namibia on Christmas morning. There was a lot of sand there. (Photo: Michelle Stern) I was in Namibia for ten days, traveling around by car with my friend Michelle. We visited three major destinations: the beach town of Swakopmund and its surrounding area, Etosha National Park, and the Waterberg Wilderness (plus one night in Windhoek on each end).
From the Melville Cat: This morning I was hanging out in the kitchen of the Lucky 5 Star, minding my own business. Then Heather and Lucky snuck up on me with that terrible plastic box. Next thing I knew, I was at the horrible place called the vet. Strange hands pulled me out of the box and put me on a cold metal table. (How rude.) Then I heard Heather speaking to the doctor, whose name was Clare. They were discussing my tail. “The tail isn’t broken,” Clare said to Heather. “It’s an ABSENT.”