Saturday, 26 August 2017

Part 2 of our trip to Botswana and South Africa

Apart from the the first two photos, which were taken en route to the Rhino Sanctuary, (see previous post), the remainder were taken around the Sanctuary itself, before we moved on to the next resort; I took a great many shots, so I have tried to select the better ones for these blogs! 

Just outside  Gaborone, the capital city, street vendors such as these ladies, are a common sight at the roadside. It’s also quite normal to see them in any busy location, either sitting in the sun or under an umbrella, waiting for their next customer! The people sell almost anything from drinks, snacks, fruit, vegetables and knick-knacks.  They all presumably make a living, but it must be a hard life!

Patrick, Christelle and Nigel enjoying a coffee at a small cafe in the city centre. Rich and imaginative African decorations bring life to the walls!

Next to a small waterhole, we saw these zebra and an eland (taurotragus oryx) in the foreground.   The world's largest antelope was once widespread across Africa but is now only found in protected areas, though still fairly common.  This eland looks as if it has a deformed horn but presumably that does not cause it any discomfort.

Impala (Aepyceros melampus) are very common; this is a youngster.   They both graze and browse, depending on what fodder is available; this ability to expand their feed variety helps them to be one of the most successful antelope species.

The white rhinoceros (ceratotherium simum) used to be common, but because of poaching, they are close to being endangered.  Botswana has very strict anti-poaching laws and the government is doing everything possible to look after its rhino population. Many rhino have migrated here from countries to the east, presumably because they perceive it is safer.

A springbok (antidorcas marsupialis) is one of the most  common antelopes.  Its name derives from the Afrikaans words "spring" (to jump) and "bok" (antelope).  A behavioural feature unique to the springbok is called "pronking", in which the springbok performs multiple leaps into the air with stiff legs. It looks so joyful!

A warthog (phacochoerus africanus). They are very common, and easily spotted in open areas of the bush.  I suspect this one is fairly young, as its tusks are not well developed. Warthogs have the peculiar habit of kneeling on the front knees while feeding.

Waterbuck  (kobus ellipsiprymnus) are also fairly common.  Their rump have a characteristic white ring, like a target! Only the bulls have long, forward curved horns, so these two will be  females.

Southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) are a common sight.  They feed on seeds, small insects, spiders and scorpions. They have a distinctive swooping flight and when on the ground, they hop around, looking for food.

 A Burchell's zebra foal. (equus quagga burchellii) The Burchell's zebra is the only zebra occuring in Botswana and it has been adopted as their national animal.

Brown-veined white butterfly (Belenois aurota).

Cape vulture also known as Cape griffon or Kolbe's vulture, (Gyps coprotheres)  posed characteristically in a look-out tree. They are listed as endangered, many having been illegally poisoned or shot by livestock breeders. The species usually breeds and roosts on cliff faces in or near mountains, from where it can fly long distances in search of the large animal carcasses, on which it specialises.

The crowned lapwing (vanellus coronatus) is common on open grassland.

A dung beetle, one of the 800 species in South Africa and Botswana! Unsurprisingly, I am not sure which one this is! There are four different kinds of dung beetle, named according to the way they use to move the dung. This one is known as a "roller" – it  rolls dung into these smooth, neat, round balls for use as food, or as a depository in which the females can lay their eggs. The beetles are extremely strong, capable of rolling a ball of dung 50 times their own weight!

An elegant grasshopper (zonocerus elegans).  The bright colours will let any predator know that it is poisonous.  Its toxins are ingested from the plants it eats. It probably would not be harmful to humans if eaten, but will cause problems to smaller creatures.

The european bee-eater (merops apiaster) is common.   As the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially beeswasps, and hornets. They catch insects in flight, and generally nest in burrows which both males and females excavate in earth cliffs.

The gemsbok  (oryx gazella).  Their preferred habitat is dry open grasslands.  They are fairly common and their very striking facial features and back-sloping horns make them almost unmistakable!

A giraffe (giraffe camelopardalis). They are visible from a long way off, but being the tallest animal in the world must have pros and cons!

These herbivores browse for their food supply, and have the advantage of height which enables them access to food supply other herbivores cannot reach. 

Black-backed jackals (canis mesomelas)  are fairly common.
They are opportunistic feeders, capable of adapting to most habitats and most often seen singly, or in pairs, at dusk or dawn.

Also see my daily diary HERE

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

Friday, 11 August 2017

Starting our South African trip - late January 2017

We arrived in Johannesburg by plane from London on 28 January 2017; our friend Cathy kindly met us at the airport and drove us back to their home.  The first photo I took was that evening, reminding me  (as if I could forget!) of the wonderful African sunsets.
As always, spectacular colours!

On the following morning, we all walked up the road to a popular local suburban cafe for breakfast.  Here are Cathy, Steve and Nigel ordering up a feast in the warm southern summer sunshine!  

Standing on the cafe's corner, I managed to get a shot of the high rise office blocks of the Johannesburg CBD in the distance - this was the closest we ever went to the city centre, the largest city in South Africa. Greater Johannesburg has a population of 10.5 million and is the capital of Gauteng province.  Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, is some 30 miles (50km) to the north, but the two cities are today almost joined by development. We can remember the days in the early '80's when many miles of countryside separated the two  cities!

For the next 3 days, I  hardly picked up the camera; we were visiting friends, partying and shopping!!

This is part of the Cresta shopping centre, always one of our favourite places to shop.  It was first opened in 1977 and over the years it has grown and grown, to become one of South Africa's largest shopping malls.

On 1 February, with thanks to Cathy for letting us use her second car, we drove the 300 km (180 miles) to Mahikeng (previously Mafikeng and before that, in the days of Queen Victoria, it was Mafeking!)  to meet our friends Christelle and Patrick.
En route we saw many overloaded vehicles!! Toyota have long had a factory in South Africa and have invested lots of money in improving their designs to cope with the extreme uses to which their vehicles are put. It is not uncommon for their pickups (or bakkies, in SA slang) like the one above, to run for up to 1 million kilometres before an overhaul.

Acres upon acres of maize (or mealies, as they are known locally), the staple diet of most country people....

and a typical African-style stop sign where there were road works.

On the following day, we took a tour of Mahikeng centre, reminding us of the time we lived there in the early '90's. Taxis like those on the right are everywhere, and are vital to the majority of the population for getting around.

It seemed much busier than when we lived here,  but the badly potholed roads made driving more like an obstacle course!

Police vehicles were conspicuous,  but we were not sure if they were working or shopping!  We  had to carry out the final replenishment of supplies, as the next day we were off to Botswana for a week of game viewing. The border is only 26 km (15 miles) away, but Botswana itself is a big country, about the size of Texas in the USA.

Arriving in Gaborone, the capital, there were signs everywhere celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence. It was on 30 September 1966, that Botswana (then known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate), was granted independence from British rule. A generally quiet and peaceful country, with kind and courteous people, its wealth comes principally, I would say, from the diamond and cattle industries.

Our first stop was a two night stay-over at the rhino sanctuary, where the local  Batswana people are being fairly successful  at present in keeping the scourge of poaching to a minimum. Long may they continue!

We chose this isolated A frame chalet a kilometre away from the full amenities of the main camp - hence no electricity!  Nigel and I were lucky, we had the downstairs, while our friends had the upstairs.  The toilet and shower were in the open wooden building, just visible to the left of this shot.  A little scary going to the toilet at night, as what had Patrick spotted just outside the front door?....

Yes, this was the paw print of a leopard - see the claw marks at the front!  Sadly we did not get to see one at all on our whole trip, as they are not often to be seen in daylight!

Enjoying the dinner that Nigel and Patrick had cooked on the barbecue, or braai as it is known in South Africa. Head torches are pretty much essential if you want to see what you are doing! On a moonless night, it's almost pitch black away from artificial lighting.

I hope that this gives you a taste of the episodes  which will be following. Thanks to our friends, we spent most of the remainder of our holiday deep in "the bush", looking for wildlife of all kinds. Following very heavy summer rains, the grass and undergrowth was unusually tall and thick, making the task of taking photos more than difficult! However, I managed to snap a good selection of animals and birds, plus some incredible views!

Also see my daily diary HERE

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