Pilanesberg National Park

It’s a long time since my last update here. However, my journey didn’t stopped, but leaded me further west. At the time i got near to Pilanesberg National Park, i thought it’s worth a visit.

Pilanesberg National Park is roughly three hours drive from Johannesburg. Situated on an ancient vulcanic area, it shows a distinct landscape with many hills, valleys and small lakes and ponds. Although the wildlife is not dense as in other national parks, it has a superb birdlife and the stunning landscape offers beautiful viewpoints.

So, i took my time for birdwatching, explored different corners in the park and climbed up the hills for splendid views. I did not encounter many other people here, except that truck got stopped by a white rhino. You can guess who got the right of way.

After a long, peaceful day in the park i still didn’t get enough from the landscape. That leaded me to another idea, together with a young lady i just met outside the park. A plan to combine her request with my fascination for the landscape in the park started to build up. But that’s another story will be told in my next post. Keep tuned!

A Very Special Christmas In South Africa

Talking about hospitality and friendship, I always think first on my dear friends in South Africa, who not only taking care of my Land Rover when I’m back in Switzerland, but also introduced me to the entire family and thought me a lot about the country and their business, farming.

Every time after I arrived the country, I was invited to stay at least a few days on their farm. I was taken around, got to see what’s changed since my last visit and spend also time with their sons and their families or friends. There’s no warmer welcome possible, since they make me feel as part of the community, almost family, but not as stranger anymore. It went so far, I got invited to the big family reunion for Christmas two years ago. 

When I came back this year, I was missing my old friend H., who sadly passed away last January. That terrible covid-pandemic got another victim. A big man with big heart let behind not only a beloved wife, but also five sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

I spent some time with my lady friend A., the widow and sharing good memories about Sir H. And listen to interesting stories from the past. Although I had other plans, A. Invited me again for Christmas to join the family gathering. When my plans got changed, she almost insist to come and I couldn’t deny the honor which was given to me again.

Terrible news reached me a day before the family gathering: my dear friend A. passed away. I was in shock of that completely unexpected event. She was in deep grief of the big loss of her husband, but seemed physically strong and healthy. 

To be frankly, I was not only in shock, but also got uncertain, how to deal with the grieving family. Was it inappropriate to stay on the farm? Should I arrange anything special and how can I show my deep condolences to them? But once again I felt the big hospitality of this family, which decided to gather in memory of Lady A. and welcomed me to stay. 

The festive days began early morning with a memorial ceremony of Lady A. 

All family members gathered on a viewpoint of the farm, where the bush opens to beautiful African landscape with the Blouwe Berge on the horizon. All helped making this spot special with putting flowers, oranges and candles there. I was asked to help with filming and photographing for keeping it in memory, and I was grateful to be able to contribute something

The family said goodbye with singing, reading from the Bible, sharing some memories about this lady with a big heart. It was a wonderful, heartwarming event, made me feel cry over the loss of such a good friend.

Despite this awful loss, the family knows life goes on. And in good memories, the joy of Christmas wasn’t forgotten. Children playing cricket or rugby on the grass, on the braai (SouthAfrican BBQ) is food roasting and from time to time we drove around the farm to watch the wildlife. This also included a thorn in a kid foot, which I tried to remove, or some minor sun burn after floating on the pools bit too long. 

There’s a lot of talk, laughter, play and of course food and drink. Special occasions like icing of cookies (#lebkuchenhaus), swimming in a water reservoir in the bush or delivering gifts, are not missed either. 

All in all a very jolly time, but never forgotten the two people who founded this family

You will understand, that I avoid to show clear faces, since this was a private occasion. Nevertheless, I want share some impression from these special and emotional days. Also as an expression for my gratefulness for all this hospitality and big friendship.

Lions Family Life, Krugerpark, South Africa

Early morning along a main road in the Krugerpark. A white sedan stopped beside the road. When I approached that car slowly, I saw a serious lens out of the window. Looks like there is something interesting to see, I said to myself. The lady in the car was pointing to a lioness in the bush and a small cub just disappeared in the back. 

That car went on and I was alone with the lioness, who stood up and went to the scrub. When she start to eat, I noticed that kill from this morning lying there, a zebra.

Another young lioness got there, and when I looked closely more lion heads popping out of the bush.

It needed Kenny to come, who pointed out the big male with a beautiful mane. He stopped his car bit further down and gave me a wink. As we changed a few words, two young lions stepped onto the road, slowly walking down to unknown destination. That’s rather peculiar , said Kenny, and start to follow them. Indeed, they’re too young to step away of the pack too far. But they’ve been looking very confident how they went down the empty road. 

A hundred meters or so, then the lion youngsters left the street. Just a few meters in the bush to a pond of water. Obvious they’re thirsty and started immediately to drink. Occasionally they lift their head to see what’s going on, as more cars arrived. 

From now the road gets packed with spectaculars who noticed the young lions on their going-out. Even lion teenager can’t go out for a drink without people watching them closely. So, when they had enough, or maybe felt too disturbed, they crossed the road and sneaking slowly trough the bush, back to their herd. The lioness meanwhile, was standing up and searching for their youngsters. I guess family are always the same 😉 

Leopard In Krugerpark/South Africa

It was at one of the picnic spots I made a break to brew myself another coffee. While my water was boiling, the engine of the car next to me was heating up too. The driver filled up cooling water in the system, when I asked I could help in any way. 

That’s how the conversation started. In like every talk in the Kruger Nationalpark, it’s leading to the latest sightings we encountered. That nice guy was telling me about a young, male leopard hiding in a tree. The location was in my direction I planned. Without wasting any more time I’m heading to that spot. 

Two other cars was parked in front of that huge jackalberry tree. The lush, green branches blocked the view to the big cat. I tried to get another angle, next to the other cars. And luck was with me, as the leopard stood up and changed to the branch in front of me. Despite the dense foliage we could look each other straight in the eyes …and camera lens.

Birds Of Kruger Nationalpark/South Africa

Bird-photography is one of most challenging kind of photography, I heard recently. Since there are many different and beautiful birds in the Kruger Nationalpark, it’s worth a try anyway, I thought. 

Krugerpark is famous for birdwatcher. No wonder with all these colorful and beautiful and feathered guys. Watching them flying over the water, catching their food or interacting with the partner. There are many cars with a sticker saying „bird watcher, please pass!“ Maybe I should get such one. Not to be disturbed by curious people who wants to know what I’m looking at even I just make a break for nothing 😉 

I’m still far to know all the birds name. And often i’m too lazy to look up in a book, but over time i’ll learn more about them. Photography also helps me to recognize them later. So there are the #egyptiangoose, #lilacbreastedroller, #tawnyeagle, #kingfisher, #africanspoonbill, #greyheron, #africanfisheagle, #southerngroundhornbill, #southernredbishop, #africanhoopoe, #sattlebilledstork or the #redbilledoxpecker on the zebras back.

Eventually I start to catch birds by my camera. The first few shots wasn’t successful at all. The settings are different, the light was changing a lot and those flying fellows constantly on the move. However, I got some tries which I want share here with you…

Wildlife Watching With Friends In South Africa

Most people coming to South Africa can’t wait to chase the „Big 5“ and capture them on their camera. The „Big 5“ means Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Lion and Leopard. On the downside of tracking them down is the danger to get attacked from them. That’s why one should stay always in the car, not daring to approach them or wandering around unprotected in their habitat.

There are also parks and wildlife farms with none of these dangerous, big animals. But it doesn’t mean it’s less thrilling to visit them. In the opposite, to walk trough the bush, jogging or riding a bicycle, and meet wild antelopes, giraffes or zebras on eye to eye is amazing. Well, bit difficult to look the giraffes on the eyes, but still.

My dear friends was planning to spend a weekend in such a private wildlife farm and invited me to join them. What a feeling to move free around, chasing the giraffes, going for a so called „game drive“ to find more antelopes, such as elands, wildebeest, oryx, blessbock, impalas, steenbok, waterbuck and so on. Off course also zebras, snakes and many kind of birds. 

I felt so blessed to be there, enjoying nature, wildlife and good talks with old and new friends. Stopping midst in the bush and having a sundowner, before return to the base for a nice evening at the braai, the Southafrican barbecue. 

Morgens im Krugerpark

Leise brummend rollt der Landrover über die gute Strasse im Krugerpark gen Süden. Mein Blick heftet sich am heller werdenden Horizont während meine müde Gedanken dahin schweifen. Ob es sich wirklich lohnt morgens um 4 Uhr aufzustehen, um noch vor dem Sonnenaufgang auf Pirsch zu gehen? Der kühle Morgen soll ja die beste Zeit sein, um Raubtiere aktiv zu sehen. Zumindest ist dieser Morgen sehr ruhig und ich bin in den 20 Minuten Fahrt noch keinem anderem Fahrzeug begegnet.

Die Silhouette weckt mich aus meinen Morgengedanken. der charakteristische, sehnige Körper mit langem Schwanz lässt sofort den Geparden erkennen. Im Gegenlicht bewegt er sich erhaben auf eine steinerne Mauer zu und setzt sich darauf. Gelassen beäugt er mich, bevor er sich die Gegend anschaut und dann im hohen Gras verschwindet.

Für heute hat sich das frühe Aufstehen also gelohnt. Und es blieb nicht beim einzigen Highlight. So beobachtete ich später noch ein Rudel Wildhunde, junge, spielende Hyänen und kämpfende Impalas, neben Elefanten, Krokodile und Flusspferde. Ganz unerwartet tauchte dann mittags sogar ein Leopard neben der Strasse auf und rundete so eine Fotopirschfahrt ab.

Zurück in Afrika…

Wie schlafend steht mein Landrover in der Ecke neben dem Farmhaus. Und da möchte er auch gern weiterschlafen. Die ersten Erweckungsversuche misslingen. Dank meinen Freunden auf der Farm ist schnell eine neue Batterie besorgt und dem Reisefahrzeug neues Leben eingehaucht.

Bevor’s aber richtig losgeht werde ich von meinen Freunden für’s Wochenende auf ihre ‚game farm‘ eingeladen. Sie erwarben diese privaten Wildtierpark etwa ein Jahr zuvor und nutzen ihn für ihre grosse Familie und Freunden. So kam ich ihn Genuss mit einigen Familienmitglieder und Freunde einige Tage dort zu verbringen. Mit einem aufmunterndem Lächeln wurde mir sogar der Schlüssel für das Safariauto gereicht. Natürlich konnte ich dem Angebot nicht widerstehen und führte die Gesellschaft durch den Busch auf der Suche nach wilden Tiere…

The Source Of River Nile

I felt the privilege to camp on a grassy site overlooking the River Nile. One site called „The Haven“ became easily a base of tranquility and peace, inviting me to stop by for awhile and do nothing than watch the river flow, the eagles fly and fishermen boats float. It was both, inspiring and meditative. The village nearby couldn’t offer much but laughters and friendly talks when i got to the only little shop around. It was actually just a shack with a weird calendar showing the Ugandian president in truly Rambo style. The ‚roll-eggs‘ they made was delicious, though.

Another camp i found was just above the spot where the Lake Victoria giving birth to the River Nile. A humble monument shows the place where the first European, a certain Mr. John Hanning Speke, spotted the source of the river on 28th July 1862.

At The Banks Of River Nile

At the other side of the Nile a fishing lodge offers boat trips even into South Sudan, i heard. Fishing lodge sounds posh, but when i arrived it was a run-down lodge with basic facilities. Yet still the charm of better times stays in the air. A small group of locals arrived just after me. They came for a little party under friends, brought a living goat in the car trunk and let them to the butcher to slaughter it in the backyard. There were more animals waiting to get eaten up, but having a peacefully live till then. A pig with a bunch of small ones, chicken, more goats. Eagles circling over the river when i walked along the banks and gave the scenery a peaceful touch of freedom.