For interesting information on flowers, trees and plants please click on this link:

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (27-30/01/2014) Day 12 to 15 – Part 1

Nature’s mistakes
Satara Rest Camp has always been my favourite as it is ideal for photography due to the fact that there are more open plains around. Large, mixed herds of animals can be seen along the roads as far as Orpen Camp in the west, Tsokwane Picnic spot in the south, Nwanetse Picnic spot in the east and Olifants Camp in the north. Getting a chalet there for 4 nights was a bonus as it gave me the chance to dry out my things – the mattress took 3 of them – besides, it was a wonderful change from camping. J
Setting out early on the first morning there, we came across a lioness with four cubs of about 2 years of age which she was teaching to hunt. On this trip sofar, we had managed to find at least one lot of lions every day.
The S100 has to be the most popular road in this part of the Park. The road winds along a small watercourse and is a delight in that almost every species of animal found in the Park is seen there. We were headed for my favourite dam at the end of it, about 20km’s away, which was my regular coffee and rusks stop when I am in the area. There has been a lot of rain, so the dam was very full.
All animals have their distinctive markings with which they can be identified such as these on an Impala’s rump and the back of the ears.
I came upon this poor giraffe and noticed the huge and abnormal swellings on the front legs.
Wanting to know what caused them, I sent off an e-mail to  find out and this was the reply: 

“The swellings are obviously associated with the carpus on both limbs, but I was not sure what could have caused this. 

I asked Johan Steyl at Onderstepoort. 

He says, “if it was only one the DD's list could longer (neoplasia, absessation) but because this clearly involves the joints or structure running over them consider the following: 

1. Seroma formation (sinovial or tendon sheath) due to chronic brucellosis can present with painless swellings like these - culture is indicated of fluid if the swellings are fluctuent .  

2. Seroma formation due to past trauma - hyperextension of the joints; physical injury to tendon sheaths running over carpi eg. poorly designed crate during transport

3. If the swellings are solid - possibly carpal ligament injury resulting in joint instability and massive epiphysial exostosis.   
4. Absessation, fracture callus and neoplasia is low on the list with bilateral presentation.”

I hope this helps.”
Vervet Monkeys are found all over South Africa and in places where people feed them, they have become very aggressive unfortunately. This mother and baby were sitting on a log catching the first rays of sunlight after a cloudy and cool start to the day.
So many times I come across wonderful creatures which have been ridden over and killed by people not paying attention to what is on the road in front of them!! All they are looking for is lions for some reason when there is so much else to see!! It makes me sick to think of the amount of species being unnecessarily decimated!! This lovely python which was only about 40cm in length was one of them.
Injuries in a game reserve like this is fairly common to see and this Zebra was lucky to get away with his life. The marks on the belly and rump tell me it was a lion attack which he narrowly escaped from.
Dens for Hyaena cubs is usually made in the water culverts along the roads. Both mother and cubs lay there in order to absorb the warmth from the tarmac. The flies at this time of year can be horrendous and the mother was trying to keep them off her face. She seemed to be peeking out at us to make sure we were not a threat. J

Monday, February 24, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (24-26/01/2014) Day 9 to 11

Marula Rest Camp, Kruger National Park
Made an early start from Letaba to go to Marula Camp which is the camping site near Orpen Gate. It is small and I have been there many times before but it has always remained one of my favourites.  A huge elephant peaks out from behind a bush. Despite their size, they are not readily seen at times as they blend in so well with their surroundings.
There is one spot on the sand road which I take that has a small pool of water on the side. In it is a crocodile of about 2m (6’) in length.
It lives comfortably with what I have called “attack terrapins”. The strange thing is that when one stops there, not a single terrapin is in sight but sit there for a minute and you begin to see them coming up from below the  water and swimming towards you. They even start to get out of the water onto the road next to your car. These terrapins are found in most of the pools and dams in the Park but this is the only place I have come across where they do this. They are Serrated Hinged Terrapins and have a protrusion at the bottom of the mouth which looks like teeth, hence my name for them. I have asked an expert what these  “teeth-like” tentacles are and he suggests that they may have a sensory function which helps when grubbing around in the mud but not much is known about them.
Crossing the Olifants River, the water level is high from all the recent rains.
A hippo crosses the sandbank to get back in the water after being out for the night feeding. They have skins which are 5cm thick and constitutes a large percentage of their body weight.
This has to be one of the smallest Flap-necked chameleons I have found. It’s tongue can dart out to catch prey at a speed of 20km per hour. I just love those little feet which is so like our hands!!
 I wonder though where he puts it as I cannot see it in this picture and I know it is the same length as his body? LOL!! It must be curled up in that bottom part below his jaw. J
Young Impala born last November/December are everywhere. At three months old, the males are just starting to get their horns.
It has been a full and long day with many more exciting sightings besides these. At Marula, we manage to find a lovely spot next to the fence where a Hyaena prowls along the fence at night in hope of someone feeding it scraps from their braai (BBQ).
 The rain clouds were building up and on the second night we had a storm like no other. By morning, my tent and mattress were soaked through. When I picked the mattress up, the water poured out of it like a sponge. The whole of the next (and last day there) there was intermittent rain with no chance for anything to get dry so we decided to head for Satara Camp where we could get a chalet and have a chance to get things dried out.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (22-23/01/2014) Day 7 and 8

Letaba Camp, Kruger National Park

We decided to go and stay at Letaba Camp. The northern part of the park is still very dry but at least they have had some rain since I was there last, the first week of December.
 Then, there was not a blade of grass or a leaf to be seen and my heart cried at the thought of the hardship in store for the animals this coming winter with no food.
 Many of the plants had not even bloomed there yet and the Marula trees which should have been dropping the ripening fruit, was only then getting a few new leaves.  
What a devastating sight it was. (Please review this for the full dialogue)
An early morning drive saw us crossing the Letaba River with many hippo and storks on the sandbanks. This hippo decided that it was good fun to chase them off HIS patch. LOL!!
Ebenezer Dam is located nearby and when built, the authorities made sure that there were fish ladders in place in order to allow them to migrate downstream. Because of the constant water, this area is alive with all species of game and one could spend all day sitting on the banks watching the animals come and go.
A wonderful little caterpillar belonging to a moth of some sort. Such a pity there is so little known about their early stages.
During the heat of the day, buffalo, warthogs and even vultures make good use of the mud holes in order to cool themselves down. Women pay thousands for mud treatments and I wonder why as it does not seem to make the buffalo and warthogs prettier? LOL!!
When I was there in December, there was an elephant which had died on the banks. Now, all that remains are a few bones. The rest has been cleaned up by the scavengers.
 The sand road between Letaba and Olifants winds along the river in some places with a fabulous lookout where one can get out of the car. A hear of elephant was approaching the banks and Gaelyn was eager to get pictures of them.
Amongst the herd was a little one and it was interesting to note how they helped and protected it during the crossing of the river.

During this trip we came across many HUGE buffalo herds, some of which people estimated to be in the region of 800 but my guess would be 300. It is nice to see how they have recuperated since their decimation by Bovine TB in the 1980’s.

Friday, February 7, 2014

SA Diversity Tour (20-21/01/2014) Day 5 and 6

Hills and valleys

What a wasted day!! We broke camp early with the intention of spending half the day in Pilansberg and leaving at midday to go to Madikwe Game Reserve but after travelling for three hours, arrived there to discover that there are NO CAMPING AREAS!! Well I guess that this is our fault for not doing our homework and checking before we went up there. As our next stop was going to be Marekele National Park, decided to check this out on line first only to discover that most of the roads there are suitable to 4x4 vehicles so once again we were stumped!! It was getting late and decided to go back as far as Groot Marico, spend the night and decide what to do next. Great disappoint and many miles wasted...... 

In our search for a place to camp, we stopped at the local drinking hole called Wag ‘n Biekie to ask directions and the owner very kindly offered to let us camp for free in the gardens. What a lovely thing to do!! We gladly accepted as we could see a storm approaching on the horizon and wanted to set up camp before it hit us. Camping next to a bar was a new experience for me but as it was Sunday night, the only sounds we heard were from the traffic on the road nearby. Thank you so much Herlaas for your kindness and hospitality!!
Besides a high wind, the storm did not develop but seemed to blow over and we set out early the next morning for our next destination which of course was Kruger National Park. It is a long way from Groot Marico and camped that night at Hans Merensky Dam near Tzaneen. The dam is situated on the banks of the Letaba River and the Reserve offers a huge variety of birds and wildlife with great hiking trails.

In one way it is a really lovely camping site but totally run down. There are lovely shade trees to camp under but the roads were bad and the grass almost as tall as the car. The dam itself is beautiful and quiet but unless you are willing to spend a night without a shower/bath, do not stay over. There are bathroom facilities but not ones I cared to use.

We made an early start through Magoebaskloof Pass to Phalaborwa Gate entrance and as we wanted to see more of the northern areas of the Park, decided to stay for a few nights near the refurbished Mopani Camp.
Magoebaskloof Pass is situated on the R71 between Polokwane and Tzaneen. It is part of the Drakensberg Mountain range and the drive through it shows tea plantations and fruit farms of avocado and blueberries amongst others.
 Mopani Camp does not have their own camping grounds situated in the camp itself but have it about 8km away. Tsendze Rustic Camp is wonderful!! There is no electrical outlets there so all facilities are gas. Each camping area is demarcated with bush between them so you do not have someone on your doorstep.
(Above: Gaelyn taking pictures at the lookout over Magoebaskloof.)