I hadn’t planned to write a blog post today, and I don’t normally use my blog as a soap box. But then I woke up this morning and heard about the #AnimalRightsInTourism campaign. If you live in South Africa or the United States, you probably saw last month’s terrible story about an American tourist who was killed in the Lion Park. The Lion Park, about 30 minutes north of Johannesburg, is a zoo-like game reserve where tourists go for an up-close look at lions and other big cats. One of the biggest attractions at the Lion Park is lion-cub-petting, in which visitors enter enclosures with big cat cubs (up to six months old) and are invited to interact with them. (The tourist was mauled by a lioness in the drive-through section of the park. Despite warnings to keep car windows up, the woman had her window open.) I confess that I’ve never been to the Lion Park. But about four years ago I went to the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve, not far from the Lion Park, which offers similar activities. I knew nothing about these cub-petting programs at the time, but while I was in the reserve I saw a couple interacting with a tiger cub and felt really unnerved. First, […]
I visited Addo Elelphant National Park about a year-and-a-half ago as part of a blogger trip to Port Elizabeth. Addo is one of South Africa’s largest national parks and one of the best places in the world to view elephants in the wild. There are more than 600 elephants living in Addo, up from just 11 when the park was proclaimed in 1931. I only visited Addo for about half a day. It rained the day we went and our safari was cut short. I guess this is why I never got around to blogging about it — I figured I’d get back to Addo sometime soon, take more pictures, and write a full-length post. But alas, I haven’t made it back yet and my Addo elephant photos are languishing. So here are a few of my favorites. A small herd of elephants bathing in a dam (small lake) in Addo. This young elephant was cruising the shore close to our vehicle. Still cruising. Now stopping for a drink. End of sequence. Heavy rain moved in around this time and we had to return to the camp. Addo Elephant National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth and makes a […]
I squatted as close to the ground as possible. Tiny rocks dug into my palms. I hardly breathed. The rhinos — first I thought there was only one, but then I saw two, three, and four — walked closer. Not running, but walking steadily. Closer. Close enough for a child to throw a stone at. The rhinos’ horns looked huge and very pointy. I heard a loud click. That was Mike loading a bullet into his rifle. “Hi there, rhinos,” said Mike congenially. “We see you. We’re not here to hurt you.” Ray crouched in front of me, just behind Mike. I briefly thought that if this was my last moment on earth, at least I would die with someone I love. The rhinos stopped moving, but continued to stare at us with mild curiosity. We stayed there — six of us, including Mike — for what felt like several minutes. The soles of my feet ached but I didn’t dare shift them. The rhinos probably heard my heart pounding. Mike turned his head slightly, a huge grin on his face. “You can take photos, if you want,” he whispered. The rhinos fanned out on the road in front of us. The idea of spending the last moment of […]
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.
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.
It’s time for my last Namibia post. Sand meets sea near Walvis Bay, Namibia. Deserts have always fascinated me, so spending time in the desert was my number-one priority in Namibia. After meeting up with my friend Michelle in Windhoek, we hopped into our rented hatchback and headed for Swakopmund, a popular Namibian holiday destination on Africa’s Atlantic coast.
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.
While in Namibia recently, I spent three days in Etosha National Park. Etosha is considered one of the best places in Southern Africa for game-viewing. (Although if you are really into seeing animals, December is not the best time to go to Etosha. There’s a lot of water in the park at this time of year so the animals aren’t forced to come into the open and drink at the waterholes, as they are during the dry season. In December you have to look a bit harder.) Anyway, we did see lots of amazing animals and I will show you my best animal shots in the next post. For me though, the best thing about Etosha is not the animals, but the sky.