For interesting information on flowers, trees and plants please click on this link: http://natureswow2.blogspot.com/

For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.
Videos: YouTube

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Diversity in South Africa


Although it is only the approximate size of Texas, USA, South Africa is known as “a world in one country” and certainly lives up to its reputation.
Map of South Africa
 Two-thirds of the borders consist of the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Indian Ocean in the east, with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique forming the other third to the north.

Young male lion in Kruger National Park
 The vastness and richness of diversity in fauna and flora as well as topography, the current currency rate of exchange and the moderate climate for most of the year, makes South Africa a very affordable and sought after destination by overseas visitors.

Drakensberg Mountains
In the north west, we have our largest game reserve, Kruger National Park which was established in 1898 and this alone would be worth a visit. It is the size of Israel, 19,633 square kilometres (7,580 square miles) and boasts 145 mammal species, 505 birds and almost 2,000 species of plants. Over 1.4m visitors are received there every year from every country in the world. In 2004, the 300km border along Mozambique and the 30km with Zimbabwe was opened to make this a Transfronteir Park. Iron Age artefacts have been found in the region. Almost 80% of the northern region is bush, and game farms/lodges abound. Waterfalls are found everywhere in the Mpumalanga region and a smaller version of the Grand Canyon can be seen in the Blyde River Canon with God’s Window and Bourk’s Luck Potholes a delight to behold.

Augrabies Falls
The eastern coast, KwaZulu Natal, is warm most of the year due to the influence of the Indian Ocean with immense forests wherein stunning wild orchids are to be found. A sunbathers paradise of beaches and surfing destinations. The region is sub-tropical to tropical with farms of sugarcane and fruit such as pineapples and bananas being mostly in evidence. Off-shore is a divers paradise with towns such as Sudwana established for this reason. Cage diving with sharks is quite an experience and is offered by various companies for the more adventurous traveller.

Bourk's Luck Potholes
Inland from the Eastern Cape shoreline, is a haven for the nature photographer with high mountain passes, fantastic winter flowers such as species of Aloes and Proteas which are found nowhere else and forests. Ostrich farming is the major industry and learning to ride one is a must. Ancient caves such as Cango is not to be missed as well as some of the most beautiful Game Reserves like Addo Elephant Park.

Early morning sunrise in Kruger National Park
Black-bearded Protea

South lies the iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2012 and is surrounded by vineyards and fruit orchards. Here the two oceans meet and marine life abounds for diving enthusiasts. The Drakensberg Mountain range begins here and is 1,000km (620 miles) in length -almost the whole length of the country. In the winter the high altitude ensures slopes which are covered with snow for skiing and in summer, a myriad of hiking trails are to be found amongst the lush vegetation.

Coastal town of Port Elizabeth
Old mining town of Pilgrims Rest

Further north west, the arid, semi-desert regions of the Kalagadi (Kalahari) reign supreme with undulating red and white sand dunes to feast the eyes upon. Many animals have adapted to this dry environment and can be found nowhere else. The area consists mainly of sheep farms who find the low vegetation palatable. This is the region, Angora sheep are raised and a large mohair industry has been build around it.

Sudwala Caves
Blyde River Canyon

The central regions consist of mainly maize and cattle farms. It is flat terrain and in the centre lies Kimberley which in earlier years, most of our diamonds came from. The museum in town has the largest man-made hole ever dug. When mining operation ceased in 1914 over 14m carats of diamonds had been extracted there.

Pearl Emperor butterfly
Although I am more of a nature lover and mostly do tours to our wildlife sanctuaries, please join me in my travels in discovering the natural beauty of this small and astounding country I call “home”!

Golden Gate Nature Reserve

Monday, April 21, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (19-23/02/2014) Day 35-39

Badplaas,Scottburg,Leisure Bay

Our next stop was Badplaas again for two nights and as we had already been there before, you can see pictures and information on: http://natureswow.blogspot.com/2014/03/sa-diversity-tour-5022014-day-21.html
We were heading for Port Edward and stopped over at Scottsburg for a night.
The sea at dawn is a constant change of movement and colour and I could not help but take picture after picture of it.
 It was most relaxing to walk on the beach again although the weather had turned chilli and the clouds hid the sun.
Situated on the R61 near Port Edward is a place you should NOT pass when in the area. In fact, if you are within 50km’s of it, you should make the detour to go there. It is called Mac Banana and is one of those places where the whole family can spend the day. They have a HUGE shop which sells homemade jams/jellies, sweets/candy, fruit, wine etc. There is a beautiful butterfly farm and many activities for the children.
Best of all, Leon turned me onto their coffee shop and although he told me about the place, he should have warned me NOT to go there if you are very hungry as the variety of things on the menu, took me at least half an hour to decide what I wanted and believe me, I wanted it ALL!! LOL!!
The pancakes are COLLOSSAL!! First I had to decide if I wanted one with a sweet or savoury filling. Next I had to decide which filling!! Almost an impossible task deciding. In the end my growling stomach told me to settle on something fast as it was getting late and I had not eaten since early morning.
My choice was a fresh pineapple shake which was out of this world and totally divine accompanied by a savoury mince/ground beef pancake. It is served with a salad and needless to say, I had to take half of it home in a doggie bag as it was miles too much to eat in one sitting for me so guess what I am having for breakfast? J
After gorging myself and very reluctant to leave, we stopped over at a beautiful caravan Park at Leisure Bay.
It is situated on a hill overlooking the sea and the gardens are really beautiful with large camping sites.
They also have a conference centre and the ablution block is very neat and clean.
It is a short drive down to the beach and although misty can cold, we took time to take some pictures.
I found a beautiful Spittal Bug too.

The following morning I took Gaelyn to follow the Fossil Trail in Port Edward. As I have already blogged about it, more can be read on: http://natureswow.blogspot.com/2013/05/petrified-forest-tour-port-edward.html

Thursday, April 17, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (17-18/02/2014) Day 33-34

Pretoriuskop Camp
A brilliant dawn finds us on the road again and off to Pretoriuskop Camp this time. It is the oldest camp in the park and was established in 1926.
 The soft, misty morning light really made a wonderful picture on this small dam.
 Crossing the road is the smallest Leopard tortoise I have ever come across and he is not happy about me picking him up in order to put him in the bush where he will be safe from cars not looking where they drive.
A pride of lions are on the road but the young male of about 2 years old really caught my attention. Why, I don’t know!
He went to lay apart from the others and gave a huge yawn.....
then looked at me as if to say “Can’t a fellow even yawn in peace?”
He decided to move over and lay in some dung on the road. I know the Hyaena’s do this to disguise their smell but I had not seen lions doing this before. Maybe it had nothing to do with disguising his smell but was just rebelling against his mother telling him to keep clean. LOL!! He was just quite adorable though and I wanted to take him with me. 
The drive is dusty and long but while setting up camp, these Purple-crested Louries caught our attention an although we tried hard to get some decent shots of them, they kept on going into the thickness of the leaves on the trees with us frustrated at not being able to get good shots.
The next morning’s sunrise was just as dramatic – we do have beautiful ones here!

On our way to a nearby dam we saw this elephant dung with all the mushrooms growing in it. And people eat them?? LOL!!
Turning a corner, there was a mother Hyaena suckling two cubs of about 8 months old. This was a day where the light was just in the wrong place to get decent pictures as we had to shoot tight into it.
 She quickly got them out of the way as we approached.
A beautiful Gecko on a pole.
Nothing much happening at the dam except for a mother Waterbuck and her calf plus the usual hippo, water birds, etc.
Leaving the dam, we came across the same Hyaena and lo and behold, she had another set of smaller cubs with her and was suckling them!
I thought the first time I saw her she was rather swollen with milk for such large cubs but now I understood why. These pictures are awful as now they were on the wrong side of the car for me and I had to take them through the window.
Once again she quickly got them off the road into the bush. She stood up so quickly that both cubs toppled backwards, LOL!!
On a gravel road we came across this sign.....
I guess these are what they were talking about..... research like this is very necessary but do they have to spoil the natural landscape with a structure like this? Surely they can put id deeper in the bush were it is not seen by the public. As the years go by, it seems to me that the old way of trying to keep everything in the park natural is now a thing they don’t worry about any more. Next we will probably be seeing a McDonalds sign above the trees!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (15-16/02/2014) Day 31-32

Satara Camp, Kruger National Park
It was a couple of days of lions, lions and more lions!! How fantastic! A little affection goes a long way.
 First we came across two adult females with four cubs of about 2 years old which the adults were teaching to hunt.
When in that area, the S100 is a gravel road one has to take. To me this is the best road in the Park. We came across this elephant and stopped ahead of him as I could see he wanted to get across. Instead, he decided that he wanted to follow us. The more I moved ahead, the more he came behind us. No in any aggressive way though, just a slow amble down the road. J I took the picture in the side mirror of the car and you can see how close he was. Please NEVER allow elephants to come so close to you unless you know them as well as I do.
A little way down the road, these two majestic Kudu were standing like statues. Of all our buck species, this is my second favourite with the Sable antelope being top of the list even if one hardly ever sees them.
The RainbowSkink male is one of our most beautiful lizards when fully mature. It reaches a length of about 30cm (12”). This is a juvenile which is changing to adult colours and almost as lovely.
There were thousands of White Storks feeding in the grasslands.
Although I try, I cannot capture birds in flight as my camera is never set for faster speeds. I will keep on trying though. LOL!!
Next we came across a pair of lions, probably a mating pair and I could not believe our luck at seeing a second lot of these beautiful carnivores all in one day.
A very unusual millipede – usually they have stripes running around the body and this was diagonally. A real beauty too.
A breeding herd of elephants were in a small river bed digging for water. Please see video by clicking on this link. One baby of about 4 years old was trying to stand up from where he was and I had to capture the sequence.
An even smaller elephant of about 2 years old decided to go and dig his own hole for water and all you could see was this small butt sticking up. LOL!!
In birds, it is normally the male (left hand side picture) which is more beautiful and has a coloured eye. Saddlebilled Storks are different in that the female has a yellow eye and the male a brown one. The male also has two yellow wattles below his chin to distinguish him from the female.
I cannot help but stop when I find a Chameleon. They are just so cute! I have eventually got Gaelyn as far as to hold one like this baby. Many Chameleons get killed on the roads as people do not see them so I take them and out them in a bush and out of harms way.
The stunning Bateleur hunts for insects.
A Klipspring on a rock in the typical environment and stance you see them in. They are one of our smaller species of buck standing less than 1m (3’) in height.
On the way back to camp, another lot of lions!! My goodness what a day this has been for seeing these magnificent animals!! This time it is a female with four cubs of about 2 years old which she is also teaching to hunt. The rain is starting to fall and it is getting to the time we need to be heading back to camp so we cannot wait around and see if the female captures anything. I hate it when I see something interesting like this and cannot stay around longer.
I had so many excellent pictures to show for these couple of days at Satara that I made many collages in order to show many of them else the post would have been too long. Never a day goes by that visiting Kruger National Park disappoints me. There is always SO much to see and photograph. Many sighting are just a glimpse of something disappearing into the bush/grass and I have to be satisfied with just seeing the animal and not being able to take photographs.