Sunday, 5 November 2017

Part 8 of our Southern African Holiday - in KwaZulu-Natal

We left Joan's place on the south coast  to drive up to Pietermaritzburg, where we were meeting my great friend Gordon, who I  have known for at least 50 years, although I hate to admit it (!). We first met when we both worked at the Veterinary Research Laboratory in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia.
Driving along the scenic south (of Durban) coastal road, almost all one sees are endless fields of sugar cane. South Africa produces 19.9 million tons of sugar cane a year, and most of it comes from the rolling green valleys of KwaZulu-Natal. If you should be interested you can find more about it HERE; it's an interesting site.


This drive was quite short; after the one in Part 7, just a short hop!  A relaxing drive of  ½ hours, mostly on dual carriageways, in light weekend traffic brought us to Pietermaritzburg.  We had a day's rest there, before we were again back on the road  with Gordon and his partner Julie, heading for Gordon's sister's home near Empangeni.

The amazing views driving through the "1000 hills" of Kwa-Zulu-Natal.


Arriving at Empangeni, we discovered that Gordon's sister Heather and brother-in-law Eric have the most amazing hillside property situated in a private game park!  We sat on their elevated balcony, with a beer in hand, watching these giraffe at the bottom of the garden!  There are very few places in the world where you could experience this sort of life!


Walking around their unfenced garden, keeping an eye out for large wild animals (!) , I saw this Long-tailed Blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus)...

and a Southern red bishop bird (Euplectes orix).  This was one of the birds that was on my wish list to see again (I love them) and this was the only one I saw!


After a drink on the balcony, we all headed down to the riverside to have an evening braai (better known outside Africa as a barbecue!).  The fire was behind the cold box (sorry) but it was one of the few photos I had of Julie, Gordon and Nigel all together in the centre of the photo, with Eric seated on the right.

Meanwhile, in the river right behind Nigel and Gordon, were these very noisy hippos. (Hippopotamus amphibius).   As I have mentioned before, the world's largest, angriest animal, and one of the most dangerous.  There are no lion around these parts, but you need to be watchful for the occasional leopard, which I regret we did not see!

Moving onwards the following day and heading on to Bush Baby Lodge (owned by friends of Gordon) for the night, we saw this bird of prey, an African harrier-hawk, or gymnogene (Polyboroides typus) as it is better known. Gordon is an exceptional wildlife spotter, amazing at sightings and identification, a talent which made our lives very easy! 

Stopping along the way for a meal;  all "mod cons" in Gordon's Toyota 4x4 and that extra bit on the roof is a tent!!

Nigel and Julie at the back of the vehicle.  The box on the left is a deep freeze/ fridge combination; very useful when travelling in the bush!

We spent one night at Bush Baby Lodge (just off this map, but would be top right, beyond where Memorial Gate is shown), then the following day driving though Umfolozi and Hluhluwe game reserves.The whole of Kwa-Zulu Natal  province is shown at top left on the map with large scale detail of these game reserves. There had been a lot of rain in the area and game watching on the unsurfaced bush trails in a 2-wheel drive was definitely not recommended!

A cicada seen at Bush Baby Lodge. There are about 150 different species in South Africa, so I am not going to try to identify it further! They are extremely noisy; the high-pitched song is actually a mating call, belted out by the males. The sound is very complex and if you want to know how they make it, then click HERE which should help you to understand!

During the day, we saw few larger animals but lots of birds. Here is a European roller  (Coracias garrulus)  wintering in Natal.  It will head back to Europe to breed in summer.

Impala (Aepyceros melampus) making a face 😉 I guess really it is chewing its food.   The impala is able to change its eating habits with the seasons, depending on what is available in the near surroundings. Impala like to graze on fresh grass, but will also nibble on shoots and foliage when there is no grass growing nearby.

Two very young Zebra foals.  (Equus quagga, formerly Equus burchelli). Apparently no two zebras are the same; their stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual.

Mocking cliff-chat; male.  The female is brown.  (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris).  This bird inhabits rocky and boulder strewn areas, well-wooded rocky ravines, and watercourses in valley bottoms with scattered rocks.   Mainly insectivorous, but they also eat fruit, and feed on the nectar of aloes.

Pied crow (Corvus albus).  It is a monogamous bird, which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 1 to 7 eggs, which are green in colour.  The nest is built high up in the tree canopy and is protected from predators by branches and the dense green foliage.  They are cheeky birds and can be quite noisy.

Spotted thick-knee also known as the Spotted dikkop or Cape thick-knee, (Burhinus capensis).  This bird can reach up to 45.5 cm (17.9 in) in height, has long legs and brown and white speckled plumage which provides fantastic camouflage.   It hunts and nests exclusively on the ground, feeding on insects, small mammals and lizards.


Steppe buzzard (Buteo vulpinus) which is a migratory bird of prey and one of the most common species of raptor in southern Africa during the summer months.


African or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) cooling down in a mud puddle.  Due to the heavy rains, there were plenty of those around.

Not the best photo, but the only one of a tortoise that I managed to get!  I am not certain which one this is, but several of the species are critically endangered.  I feel I was lucky to get any photo at all.

A warthog family (Phacochoerus africanus).  Although covered in bristly hairs, their bodies and heads appear largely naked from a distance, with only the crest along the back, and the tufts on their cheeks and tails being obviously haired.

A white rhino, also cooling off in a small mud puddle,   When the mud is dry, the animal will scratch itself energetically against a tree stump or trunk to get rid of parasites. Rhinos also wallow in mud to protect their skin from the sun and to cool off.

 A yellow-billed kite (Milvus aegyptius), another of the most common birds of prey on the African continent.

Banded groundling (Brachythemis leucosticta) is a common dragonfly that occurs over most of South Africa.

Not a sign often seen, particularly outside Africa 😊. The "big five" game animals are the lionleopardrhinoceros elephant, and Cape buffalo as seen here and all can be dangerous!

European bee-eater (Merops apiaster).  This bird breeds in open country in warmer climates. As the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially beeswasps, and hornets, which they catch in flight.  Before eating a bee, the European bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface.

Still more African images to come, as Gordon takes us further into the delights of the KwaZulu-Natal game parks.





Also see my daily diary HERE



and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually! 

29 comments:

  1. Absolutely beautiful photos of your trip in SA. Your friends certainly are well fitted for the journey with that fantastic van and all the mod cons. Their relatives also have a beautiful spot to live. Such a great life. Your trip to Africa sounds amazing. You must have spent several weeks in Botswana, Zambia, South Africa...perhaps other places.

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    1. Every time I look at my photos I realise even more why quite a big piece of my heart remains in Africa. It will never get better. We were away just over 4 weeks in all Penny, Botswana 10 days with part of one of those days in Zambia. 2 nights at the South Coast, 9 nights in KwaZulu-Natal and 9 nights in Joburg, 4 on arrival and 5 on leaving. We also just walked over the Zimbabwe border for a few minutes :-) Keep well Diane

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  2. Wow your posts are just amazing. How lucky to have such friends. Looking out to see Giraffes in your back yard!!!

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    1. Diane my dream would be live in a place like that and sit and watch the animals go by. I would never get any work done though :-) Have a great week t'other Diane

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  3. Love the Impala's cheeky look.

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  4. Gosh Diane - wonderful photos ... and bringing back some memories for me .. and also showing me what I missed seeing when I was here ... and as Diane b says ... lovely to have friends with places to visit like these ... I was chased by rhino in Hluhluwe ... one anxious few moments - a 3 point turn needed in a donga-type road ... we made it - obviously!! Love these cheers Hilary

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    1. I am delighted to be bring memories back for you Hilary and I must say memories for myself as well! I had never met Gordon's sister before and it was a delight to spend a night with them. Never been chased by a rhino (yet) but certainly been by elephant! Keep well and cheers Diane

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  5. Magnificent photos and a wonderful trip. That is what I would like to do - live in a private game reserve and have wild animals close by. Would that be possible in Gordon's friends game reserve? I think the tortoise is a Leopard tortoise. Have a great week. Kim x

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    1. Thanks you Kim, living on a game ranch or private park would be a dream come true, but it is not likely to happen me thinks!! My first thought was the Leopard tortoise, but my second thought was Kinixys natalensis, Natal hinged tortoise which I suspect is more likely. Hope you have a good week as well. Diane

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  6. I'm so glad you got to visit with Joan. When she and I visited Umfolozi and Hluhluwe it was so bloody hot we barely saw any large wildlife. Looks like you did OK.

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    1. Gaelyn it was so wet was our problem, thankfully Gordon had a 4 x 4! We did not see as much wildlife as we would have liked but plenty of birds. Keep well Diane

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  7. I knew that hippos are dangerous, but didn't realize they're noisy, too! Heather's house must be amazing, with the game preserve right there. I'm sure this vacation, while wonderful in its own right, brought back many happy memories, and maybe a twinge of regret about having left, too. I'm enjoying all of your photos, Diane.

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    1. Marje Hippos grunt, groan, roar and make loud wheezing sounds which really carry over water especially at night!! Part of me will never leave Africa but I have no regrets over leaving. The crime rate is so high and living behind electric fencing in town was no fun. Living on a private game reserve would be amazing, but in Africa you never know when you might get removed from your own farm either alive or dead! For me though it was amazing and I will never make friends anywhere else in the world like the ex Rhodesians. They are very special people who made our holiday so amazing. We are very happy in France and in the country there is almost no crime at all. Just wish all our Rhodie friends would move here as well :-) Keep well Diane

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  8. Finally begnning to ctch up with your wonderful trip..
    Such super photographs...and how amazing to live in a private reserve...giraffes at the bottom of the garden, indeed!

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    1. The perfect place to live, if only they would get their politics sorted out!! Hope you are both well Diane

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  9. I can't imagine how great it would be to visit there, much less live there! You are fortunate indeed, Diane! Esp. with views like the giraffes from your friends balcony. All the pics are great and even the sign. The zebras are unique for sure. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoy your posts!!!

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    1. Pam I class myself as very fortunate to have lived for 50 years of my life in Southern Africa, I could not have wished to have been brought up anywhere else when times were so good. Sadly things have changed a lot politically since those days. The wild animals though are still such a pleasure, and if they can keep poaching under control, I hope they will be there for future generations to see.

      Nothing beats Africa and wild life it is amazing. Take care Diane

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  10. Always love yours post are beautiful and fun! Love the impala what beautiful ! and the birds ! ou take awesome pictures Diane, xoxoxo

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    1. Many thanks Gloria for your kind comments. A beautiful place to be able to take great photos which helps no end :-) Take care and enjoy the week ahead Diane

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  11. Outstanding photos Diane, amazing photos of the animals and birds. Always great to see those that we only get to see in zoos, and to be in their own natural habitat, fantastic!

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    1. Seeing the animals and birds in their natural habitat is really the only way to see them if at all possible. We had a magical trip with great friends. Take care Denise and enjoy the coming week Diane

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  12. Fabulous photos of superb wildlife, Diane! You continue to tempt me. What side of the road do they drive on in these parts (and I won't be surprised if the answer is 'down the middle'!)? I'm not sure if, at my age, I'd adapt as easily to driving on 'the wrong side' as I used to. There was a time when I found it more difficult to adapt to coming home and driving on 'the correct side'!

    With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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    1. No problems with driving Richard, they drive on the left, but in the towns watch out for drivers who have still not learnt the rules of the road particularly taxi drivers :-)))) In the country there is little problem other than watching out for animals in the road!! I have to agree though for me, since driving on the right, I find that returning to driving on the left is far more difficult, why, when I have driven there all my life I do not know.

      I cannot recommend a holiday in the game reserves of Southern Africa highly enough. You can sleep everywhere in great accommodation if you want, we chose to sleep in other places of our own choice.

      Take care and have a great week Diane

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  13. Your posts have just been fantastic. I feel like I'm on the trip with you.

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    1. Thanks Karen, if you enjoy the virtual trip just half as much as we did the real thing then I am happy. Keep well and take care Diane

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  14. So many amazing photos! I especially love the shot of the impala. I love all of your adventures.

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    1. Thanks Pam we had a great trip and would love to go again sometime. It is fabulous to meet up with 'old' friends as well. Diane

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  15. WOW Diane,
    What a post!
    I hadn't had time to visit this blog yet and I am not disappointed!
    Amazing number of species you present here... including the one around the braaivleis! LOL!
    Bring back up many great memories of course!!
    Warm hugs and enjoy your holiday :)

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