Safari luck sighting in the yard…Nature at its finest….

She’d nibble on the pellets, but we never saw him take a single bite. He was more interested in her than he was in snacking.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A female bushbuck climbs the pile of dirt for next door’s construction project.

Today’s entire post revolves around what could be considered the “Sighting of the Day in the Bush” since the experience is worthy of more than one photo under the daily feature photo. We’re enthralled with the babies of many species of wildlife in the park. And, we gasp in wonder over the enormous antlers of a mature, perhaps senior, kudu who visit from time to time.

Both this female and male bushbuck had been in and out of our yard for days. 

We’ve stumbled across only a few opportunities to witness, first hand, the creation of life when the mating process isn’t necessarily easily observed in the open in front of human onlookers. 

Ironically, we’d mentioned how interesting it would be to see more wildlife mating before our eyes the previous day.

It isn’t as if wildlife prefers privacy during the act, per se. Most likely, it’s just a matter of us humans being at the right place at the right time to see how procreation occurs in the wild.

He made several seeming unsuccessful attempts, but finally, nature took its course.
Anderson, our guide, explained this process could go on for hours.  We’d anticipated he might bite her, growl, or be aggressive in some manner. But, he quietly and gently pursued her, an exquisite sight to behold.

We were amazed to see lions mating while on safari in the Masai Mara, as shown in the photo below. Also, here’s the link for that sighting.

Then, in 2016 while living on an alpaca farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand, for three months, we had the opportunity to witness the supervised mating ritual as shown in this link (with a video) and also the below photo:

Trish and Neil, owners of the alpaca farm, oversee the mating to ensure all is going well. The macho (the male) is wearing a harness used to bring him to the mating pen.

We’d considered including “for adult eyes only” in the heading of today’s post. Most certainly, we prefer not to suggest what is appropriate viewing material for your children or grandchildren who may on occasion see our posts.

He often kept his eyes on us and was very skittish if we stood from our chairs on the veranda.

We find all aspects of nature and the life cycles of wildlife a true miracle. Each of us can learn from all parts of nature from conception to birth, from mammals on the hunt and subsequently eating their prey, or to find the carcass of an elephant in the savanna who died of old age, injury, or illness.

She was still eyeballing the pellets while continued in the act.

Bushbucks are one of the most beautiful creatures in the antelope family that we’ve seen in Africa.  Their unique markings make them stand out amongst the others. Yesterday, we stopped everything we were doing to embrace the relationship and behavior of these two stunning animals.

Graciously, he stopped now and then and let her get back to her pellets and apples we placed on the ground earlier.

After over an hour of observing the handsome couple, they wandered off into the bush to continue the mating process away from our prying eyes. Oddly, the male never once took a bite of the fresh veggies or pellets. He was focused on ensuring their safety, keeping a tense lookout whenever they were apart, and of course, mating with this female.

He was patient but stayed close to her.

In the early evening, we set up the camera on the tripod with a chair nearby to quietly observe; the handheld camera at proximity; the new bright light to illuminate the yard, and; containers of cut apples, vegetables, and pellets for our now nightly ritual of watching for nocturnal visitors.

A while later, they wandered off into the dense bush for more activity. Indeed, it must have been a successful day.

Surprisingly, the bright light doesn’t seem to keep wildlife away. Please check back frequently to see what we’ve discovered in the dark of night. We’re accumulating, sorting, and choosing photos we’ll be sharing here soon.

This is the baby bushbuck we’d shown a few weeks ago who returned with mom (she was nearby eating veggies and pellets we’d put out) who’d grown so much. Please click this link to see the baby only a few weeks ago here.

Tonight is the “blue moon,” the second full moon in March. We hope you have an opportunity to revel in its glory and enjoy the meaning and purpose of this holiday weekend of Easter and Passover. 

The baby bushbuck has yet to show any interest in pellets of vegetables instead of waiting in the bush while mom devoured everything we’d put out.

May God’s blessings (or your chosen higher power or beliefs) grace you this season and always.

Photo from one year ago today, March 31, 2017:

There are hundreds of sailboats and motorboats in the  Clontarf Marina in Sydney, Australia. Construction was in process at the time, as shown to the left, but it didn’t seem to impede any of the activities. For more photos, please click here.

Night out at a a local pub’s pool tournament…Fun with new friends…

We couldn’t believe how “cheap” the drinks are at Watergat. The total cost for a beer for Tom and glass of white wine for me ZAR 38, (US $3.21). 

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

On the way to the petrol station…

When Sandra and Paul stopped by a week ago Wednesday for happy hour, they told us about a weekly event in Marloth Park when the pool playing tournament begins at 5:30 pm at the Watergat Restaurant in the Marlothi Shopping Center.

Watergat is a pub/casual dining establishment known more for its social gatherings and pub atmosphere than popular dining. The food is good, not great. With few restaurants directly in Marloth Park, those diners hankering for a convenient dinner out often go to Jabula as their first choice due to its fun atmosphere and great food.

Tom was intently listening to the conversation at our table.

Phumala, a more quiet establishment with a nice bar and plenty of seating area with good, not great food; Watergat, as mentioned above and the Tin Shak (we’ve never tried this one). 

Another restaurant we’ve yet to try during this stay in the park is Marloth Park Amazing River View, located directly on the Crocodile River. We’d tried four years ago and found the food acceptable, the location exquisite.

Sandra, and her husband Paul, who live two doors from us, is a Marloth Park Honorary Ranger and now have become friends after we met at snake school.

These restaurants have a good bar area for socializing after a busy day for happy hour and often a bite to eat. Numerous resorts/lodges in Marloth Park may, on occasion, welcome those not staying in their lodges.

On Wednesday evening, we hopped into the little blue car and headed to Watergat to see what the fuss was all about.  We’d touched base with Sandra and Paul, who’d planned to meet us there and share a table. Since they know so many people in the park, it would be a good opportunity to meet more locals.

The pool playing competition occurs every Wednesday at 5:30.  Many locals come to socialize while some diehard pool players join the competition. We’re aren’t good enough players to participate, but it was fun to be there and mingle.

We ran into several people we’d already met at other functions, and the conversations flowed easily. Not only are Sandra and Paul a lovely couple, full of enthusiasm and energy, but they’re quick and eager to introduce us to other people.

It didn’t take long for us to settle in, order drinks, mingle, and also make a definitive decision not to participate in the pool tournament.  We were OK playing pool on a cruise ship, giggling and laughing over our blunders. Still, neither of us has any interest in making fools of ourselves playing against these serious players, many of who have played weekly for years.

We saw several people there we’d already met.  In this short period, we’ve begun to feel like we belong.

Not only were most of the players skilled and serious about their game, but many brought along their own pool cues, chalk, gloves, and other pool playing paraphernalia. No thanks. Not for us.

We have a pool table here in the house and have yet to use it. Someday we will, but for now, being outdoors is more appealing to us than hanging around indoors at the pool table, especially in this hot weather.

Sandra and Paul ordered pizza.

We had a good night. Our total bill for drinks, food, and tip was ZAR 354 US $29.92. Where in the world can one dine and drink for such a reasonable price? Indeed not any country in which we’ve lived.

With Easter weekend upon us, the park is filled with tourists. There are more people everywhere, so we’ve decided to stay put over the weekend except for the Marloth Park Easter Fair, which we’ll attend tomorrow at the tiny Marlothi shopping center. 

The food was good, not great, but we had lots of fun. Tom ordered chicken schnitzel with chips (fries in this part of the world). I forgot to take a photo of my chicken salad.,

There will be plenty of entertainment at this annual event and photos ops we’ll especially enjoy sharing on Easter Sunday. So please check back then.

We’ll be back tomorrow with some exciting new photos from last night’s adventures in the bush. May all of our family, friends, and readers have a glorious weekend. 

Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2017:

While on the Manly Ferry, we were finally able to take a sunny morning photo of Sydney Harbour, a cruise ship, another ferry, and Harbour Bay Bridge. For more photos, please click here.

Tom’s first haircut in Marloth Park…Viewing nocturnal wildlife solution…

Tom needed a haircut, as shown in this photo.

“Sighting of the Day in Bush”

These funny francolins make us laugh. They run like crazy, are very shy and make the loudest noises we’ve heard in the park. We toss out seeds for them but then we have to back off or they won’t go near them if they see us.

Tom needed a haircut. It had been almost three months since his last trip to a barbershop in Buenos Aires where they gave him a beer, (they also offered me one, but I graciously declined) and he received the best haircut he’d had in years.

Tom was seated at the station under these photos.

We always get a kick out of his haircuts in locations all over the world, usually every three months or so and often with an outstanding story to tell. Yesterday’s good cut at the Marloth Park Salon wasn’t as story-worthy as many in the past but none the less was worthy of a mention in today’s post along with the photos.

This is a booth where customers could have a beverage and wait for their appointment.

Earlier in the day, we headed back to Komatipoort to the pharmacy and hardware store. We were looking for some spotlight to illuminate the yard at night enabling us to take better photos of the visitors that come to call.

The female stylist worked on Tom while the male stylist had fun entertaining a young girl. Locally, the male stylist is called, “Jack, Just Jack.”

Plus, right now, we’re determined to take photos of the bush babies eating the small-sized fruity yogurt cups we’ve been putting on the tiny stand in a tree, as shown in this photo below:

It’s not uncommon to see these bush baby platforms in homeowner’s trees (such as this one in our yard) for the very purpose of putting out fruit and yogurt for the nocturnal bushbabies who are hard to see at night as they fly through the trees.

We weren’t home last night (more on that in tomorrow’s post) but the prior night for the first time since we arrived, we actually had a chance to see the bush babies eating from the little cup of fruity yogurt. 

The finished product looked best after he washed it and blew it dry. The cost was ZAR 130 with tip, (US $11.01).

But, it was so dark that we couldn’t get a good photo without using flash, which prompted us to consider purchasing some spotlight that we can set up for a few hours each night, turning off when we go inside long after dinner.

The entrance to Marloth Park Hair Salon where Tom got his haircut.

Using the spotlight, which we purchased at the hardware store for ZAR 258, (US $21.02) we may be able to get a few photos of visitors at night. We’ve don’t want to startle the animals with a camera flash but they seem to be fine with spotlights in the yards of our friends in the park. They’re interested in what we have to offer, food-wise and not as concerned as the lighting arrangement.

The tiny strip mall where Tom got his haircut yesterday.

While on night drives in Kruger National Park, the rangers use spotlights to enable the guests to see the fantastic nocturnal animals. It won’t be much different from using the light as shown below for that very purpose:

The spotlight we purchased in Komatipoort for viewing of nocturnal wildlife such as elusive bushbabies.

Tonight, we’ll be dining on the veranda, as always, anxious to see how our new lantern works to light the way for our nocturnal friends who hopefully stop by.

We hope all of you have a wonderful day and evening as you prepare for Easter or Passover holiday (for those who celebrate). And may all of you who do not observe these holidays, also have a wonderful day and evening.

Photo from one year ago today, March 29, 2017:

A sunny day view of a portion of the Sydney skyline. For more details, please click here.

Protests in Kruger National Park…Easter and school holiday…Burning sugar cane results in ash everywhere…

A hornbill in the bush.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A lizard-like gecko was found on the veranda.

We’d planned to go into Kruger in the next few days, but when we realized it’s Easter break and many tourists will be coming to the area for holiday and the school break (the equivalent of Spring Break but is fall, not spring here now), we decided to wait until the commotion dies down.

The Crocodile River has been rising due to recent rains.

Also, we’d read online that there are protests at various gates in Kruger, which will add to traffic and the very type of commotion we choose to avoid. We’ll be here a year. We don’t have to go now. 

Here’s an article we found regarding the protests in Kruger. Apparently, it’s peaceful at this point, but one never knows. We feel it makes sense to stay away.

These may be European Mergansers along the banks of the Crocodile River. Please comment if you know otherwise.

We didn’t do all of our grocery shopping for the next week since we need to shop on Fridays or Saturdays going forward when off. Late yesterday afternoon, we drove to Komatipoort for a few items we needed at the market. We find they’re out of many items we need, mainly in the produce department. 

A baboon in the bush.

New shipments come in on Thursday but often aren’t on the shelves until late in the day, making Friday the best day to shop. By Monday, most of the produce we use is sold out. Thus, in the future, we’ve chosen Fridays are our preferred shopping day. There’s no doubt this Friday will be packed with shoppers buying food for Easter weekend.

A solitary waterbuck on the river.

When we returned, the veranda was covered in black soot. Tom checked around the neighborhood but couldn’t find any fires. Could a neighbor’s thatched roof catch on fire? We didn’t smell smoke. Tom swept the veranda before dinner, but only minutes later, it was covered in soot again.

Animal footprints in the sand.

Tom had the idea that the soot resulted from the burning of the sugar cane fields, done before the harvest. This morning, as Marta swept piles of soot in the house, she explained it was, in fact, from the burning of the sugar cane.  Once again, (duh) Tom was right.

The sunset on our return from Komatipoort last night.

Here is an article regarding the burning of the fields before the harvest. Also, here is a quote from the article for those who prefer not to follow links:

“Sugarcane field burning is carried out before harvesting the cane to make the process easier and require less manual labor. It takes place during the harvest season.  The field is set to fire in the burning process, and the leaves are burned off of the stalks. About 80% of the “trash,” including straw, the tops, and green and dry leaves, are burned off. These components constitute about 25% of the entire sugar cane stalk. The burning kills microorganisms and burns the trash, both of which keep the soil rich when left in the fields. In place of burning the cane, the leaves could be removed and burned to create steam for electricity generation or be converted into fuel themselves.

The river is looking better but now, as we’re approaching the dry season.

Whoever thinks of this stuff? We learn something new every day.  So, between Marta, Josiah, and us, we’ll keep the veranda and house free of soot by sweeping it all away as it comes.

Female waterbuck lounging in the grass along the river.

We have no bigs plans for Easter. We’re going to Kathy and Don’s bush home on the river for Easter fun on Monday. They are returning from their home in Pretoria in a few days, and it will be great to have them back in Marloth Park. We’ll cook one of our favorite recipes as always and enjoy a quiet day in the bush.

Today is a gorgeous day, sunny and not too hot, a perfect day for another hopefully exciting drive in the park.

May your day be gorgeous and sunny! 

 Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2017:

Surfboard shop in Manly Beach, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Construction next door…Breaking up the serenity of life in Marloth Park…

A mom warthog and possible aunt showed up last night, shortly before dark, with the tiniest baby warthog we’ve seen since our arrival.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Any comments on this bird’s species? I can’t seem to find the answer online.

It’s a good thing we aren’t here for only a one or two week holiday. The noise, dust, and disturbances resulting from the construction next door would have ruined an entire time away for most tourists.

Four years ago, the homes we rented were well secluded from other properties, and although sound travels through the bush, we rarely heard a thing. Now in this area, there are a few houses we can see from the veranda, which in essence wouldn’t bother us a bit.

We didn’t recall seeing a warthog this tiny since this post in Kenya in 2013 when a mom placed her babies in a hole to protect them from lions in place for the kill.

The benefits of a lot of wildlife stopping by to see us certainly outweighs the annoyances of the daily noise and commotion, which should be over with a few weeks. But now, it appears the neighbor or the other side of us just had a pile of materials delivered, and soon, they’ll startup also.

With all the workers around all day, less wildlife stops by. But the workday usually ends by 3:00 or 4:00 pm, and once again, magic happens, and visitors grace us with their presence within an hour or two.

It was surprising to us to see how adept the baby was at eating pellets. It may have been less than a few weeks old.

Last night was no exception. Now that we’ve adopted “happy hour” into our lives several evenings a week, where I have a maximum of two wine spritzers (no sugar added), and Tom has a few beers while dining outdoors every night, this routine has become quite enjoyable.

We close our laptops and put away our phones; no media, no distractions, just the pure pleasure of watching nature unfold before our eyes while engaging in the playful idle chatter that has become so “us” over the years.

The baby would wander off a bit from time to time, but a single grunt from mom and he came running back to her.

With the activity before us, we’re constantly busy. Now that we’ve got birdseed, apples, and a veggie scrap container, we’re often rushing outdoors to indoors to cut up another apple or carrot and refill the red plastic cup with birdseed or the yellow plastic container with pellets. 

We keep the birdseed in the chest freezer, which has proven to be quite a handy addition to our daily lives. We keep the birdseed in the freezer to avoid getting more insects inside the house. The fruit and veggies are kept refrigerated to ensure freshness and safety for the animals and to keep the ants away.

The kudus weren’t standing together, so we couldn’t get a photo of all 11.

Last night was a classic example of the perfect evening. Not only did we see the tiniest baby warthog we’ve ever seen, but we had the rousing interaction between guinea fowls and francolins reacting to one another while clamoring for the seeds we tossed onto the ground. It was a laugh-fest for us and seemingly fun for them.

Then came a “forkl” of kudu (yep, that’s their collective noun) for a total of 11 females, including a few youngsters. We’d seen this forkl in the past, and they seemed happy to see us, nibbling on cut-up apples and carrots fed from my hand, and handfuls of pellets tossed to the ground.

There’s one particular female kudu who’s come to know me, and she gently nudges my hand for more, looking directly into my eyes. Often, people underestimate the power of communication between wildlife and humans.  Sure, some are dangerous, and one must steer clear. 

It was almost dark, but this kudu approached me for a handout.

For example, I’d never feed a male kudu from my hand. His huge antlers could inadvertently cause great harm. We always keep a safe distance. Also, we don’t hand-feed warthogs. Their razor-sharp tusks are deadly, and they aren’t particularly gentle like female kudu and bushbucks. 

Not long ago, we posted a video of a warthog tossing a mongoose into the air, which can be seen here if you missed it. This split-second action appears about halfway through the short video.

We’re learning so much. Our hearts are filled with respect and admiration for the gifts Mother Nature, God, or whichever belief you may possess (or not) bestowed upon us lucky humanoids. It’s undoubtedly our responsibility to honor and revere all species on this earth, both human and animal.

Most of the time, mom and baby stayed close to one another.

As much as we have definitive opinions on conservation, we won’t get into the “politics” of this sensitive subject. Unquestionably, most of our readers can readily imagine where we stand on this topic based on our passion for wildlife. 

But, here, we choose to avoid highly charged politically motivated topics. At the same time, we maintain the integrity of living life on the move, primarily referring to our motto as shown on our homepage, which reads: “Wafting Through Our Worldwide Travels with Ease, Joy and Simplicity.”

“Mom, I need a drink after all those dry pellets.”

As a result, we choose to ignore the noise and commotion of the construction the best way we can during this off-season in Marloth Park when homeowners have work done on their holiday rentals. We’ll strive to maintain the positivity we find adds so much quality to our lives.

May your day consist of ease, joy, and simplicity.

Photo from one year ago today, March 27, 2017:

Bob, our kindly landlord, and a new friend had insisted on driving us to see some of the sights in the area, including the beautiful historic St. Patrick’s Estate. For more photos, please click here.

It’s all in the numbers…Laughing out loud…A day in the life…

This was the first time we’d ever seen Guinea Fowl sitting in a tree.
“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”
Our first tree frog, most likely a result of the white foam tree frog nest, is shown in this post.

Yesterday was quite an enjoyable Sunday. We started the day with the post, uploading it by 11:30 am. With dinner guests the night before and Marta and Josiah off for the day, we tidied the house, put away the dishes, and swept the floors and veranda.

With the doors wide open all day and evening with no screens, many insects enter the house and are found wriggling around on the floor and elsewhere.  It’s a daily task to clear them off, usually sweeping them outside off the edge of the veranda.
They are sitting proudly on the tree while overseeing the pecking on seeds below.
With rain expected today, yesterday I did two loads of laundry rather than wait for Marta, which I’ve been doing regularly, leaving the towels and bedding for her to do on sunny days since she hangs everything outside. No one uses clothes dryers here in Africa.
I hesitate to hang the wet clothing outdoors on the clothesline when each time I’ve done so both in Kenya and here, I’ve been viciously bitten by insects in the grass in and around the clothesline. Instead, I hang the clothes on hangers and top of the granite countertops inside the house. In no time at all, they’re dry.
As soon as we tossed some birdseed on the ground, the Helmeted Guinea Fowl came running.
I decided to make a huge pan of roasted vegetables, saving all the fresh veggie scraps for the wildlife. Some will eat them; some will not.  Warthogs don’t like cabbage or lettuce but will eat zucchini and carrots but always prefer pellets. Zebras and kudus seem to like any fresh veggies along with pellets, of course. Always pellets.

Once the veggies were done cooking and cooling, I popped them into the fridge, and we were off to friends Lynne and Mick’s home to see their new thatched roof, stay for a short visit and say goodbye before they’re off to their home in Jersey, UK. 
The word got out, and more started coming from the bush.
Tom was out of cream for his coffee. By the time we left Lynn and Mick’s home, the little markets were closed. We didn’t want to drive the distance to Komatipoort just for cream. 
I suggested he try using some of my unsweetened coconut cream instead of the whole cream to see if he likes it. I use it in tea and find it rather delicious. Much to my surprise, he liked it and will use it in the future. This makes life a little easier since we can store many containers of coconut cream, which is shelf-stable, instead of whole cream spoiling in the refrigerator in a week or two.
There were about two dozen here, but more were lurking nearby.
Upon returning to our place by 4:30, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Dozens of Helmeted Guinea Fowl appeared in the yard, looking for a handout.  How quickly they learned that we now have birdseed. Ironically, as I write this now, they’re back!  I jumped up to fill the red cup with seeds and tossed it their way.
Clucking and pecking, they’re thrilled we’re tossing birdseed their way. Next time we head to Daisy’s Den, the feed store, we’ll have to purchase bigger bags of seeds.
Tom calls them Guinea Hens, making me laugh.  They cluck a bit like a combination of turkeys and chickens.
Last night, we had a bigger crowd of guinea fowl than we’d seen to date. We entertained ourselves for an hour while taking photos and tossing seeds. It may not sound like that much fun, but for us, it’s a pure pleasure. I don’t recall ever seeing four dozen wild turkeys in our yard in our old lives, but on occasion, we may have seen a dozen. This is fun.  Well, for us anyway.

At 5:00 pm, our next-door neighbor stopped by to ask if we’d like to join him at his house for “happy hour” at 6:15. His home has been undergoing some noisy construction work, and he kindly wanted to make it up to us with an invite. It hasn’t bothered us much (we never complained), and they’ll soon be done.

They fight and peck at one another over the birdseed.
At 6:15, we headed over to Ruud’s home and sat outdoors in lawn chairs on the grass with him. After the rains, the mozzies were on a rampage, and even with plenty of repellent on, I was getting bit, including on the bottom of my foot with shoes on! Since we’re not taking malaria pills, we tend to be more careful than ever.

Our veranda is approximately over one meter (about four feet) above ground level. As a result, it’s much easier for us to be outdoors all evening sitting at the big table, getting little attention from the insects. If we were to sit on ground-level dirt or grass, it’s an entirely different scenario.

One Helmeted Guinea Fowl are sitting in a tree.
By 7:00 pm, we returned to make dinner consisting of excellent leftovers from Saturday night. By 7:30, we were seated at the outdoor table, enjoying a delicious meal to which I added the roasted vegetables. We no longer watch a show during dinner since we began dining outdoors each night.

The sounds of nature are all we need to entertain ourselves.  After dinner and before bedtime, we wander indoors and may watch one downloaded show on my laptop.

And then, there were three sitting in a tree.
It’s an easy life in many ways. Knowing it will be like what we’ve shared in these past six weeks with occasional trips away gives us a sense of peace and comfort, coupled with the adventure of what is yet to come while we’re here.

Soon, we’ll begin planning our trips to other countries in Africa, but for the time being, we’re “living in the moment,” finding each day a magical wonder.

Please check back for more.  We appreciate every one of our readers!
Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2017:
Our kindly and thoughtful landlord, Bob, with Tom. What a great guy! For more and the results of our immigration issues in Australia, please click here.

Hippo Day!…First time sighting since our arrival…Exceptional dinner party…

At first, with the naked eye, we thought this was a rhino from way across the river. Tom looked through the binoculars while I zoomed in for a photo to delightfully discover it was a hippo, the first we’d seen since our arrival. That’s a cattle egret near their head.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Gecko on the orange wall at night.  Check out the “red-eye.” Where’s the tail?

With company coming for dinner and with most of the food prepped, we decided to take a drive to the Crocodile River since, after the rains, we’d hoped to see more wildlife.

In my old life, I’d never have taken the time on a day company was coming for dinner when I’d be too busy to take a few hours for frivolities. This life is different, allowing me time and motivation to do exactly whatever strikes me at the moment.

We took off in the little blue car after stopping at the petrol station to add air to a low tire (which seems to be holding up OK), and off we went on the outrageously bumpy dirt roads that take us to the river.

Since hippos stay close to the water and the river so low recently, we hadn’t expected to see any hippos, not from Marloth Park or Kruger National Park.

It was hot, humid and the air felt thick.  Bugs congregated around us each time we stopped and got out of the car to scan the riverbanks for possible sightings. We stopped at the usual brick overlook structure but didn’t see a thing. 

A group of tourists relaxed on the tiered seating having lunch and drinks. It’s always busier on these roads and overlooks on the weekends when many South Africans from other areas flock to Marloth Park for a few days of “holiday fun” among the precious wildlife, often retreating from the “extra” humans in the park.

We’ve noticed that generally, we have fewer visitors to our house on weekends. The only thing we can attribute this to is the added cars and people visiting. Could the wildlife prefer to stay “undercover” when there are so many humans milling about?

The hippo is responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal from this site. The hippo is considered the most dangerous mammal in Africa. Male hippos actively defend their territories which run along the banks of rivers and lakes. Females have also been known to get extremely aggressive if they sense anyone coming in between their babies, who stay in the water while she feeds on the shore. Hippos can run at speeds of over 20 miles an hour, and they have enormous jaws which host up to 20-inch canines.”
I suppose the longer we’re here; we’ve become protective of this unique location, preferring it to stay natural and unencumbered with the likes of too many tourists coming and going, often staying for only two or three days.
Then again, the revenue generated by tourists is vital for many of the shops, lodges, and homeowners renting their properties to incoming tourists.

Sadly, some tourists ruin it for everyone, disturbing the quiet and easy flow of life in this veritable paradise for animal lovers and those seeking the serenity of this magical world, so far removed from everyday life.

We watched for some time, attempting to get a better photo of this hippo with a few oxpeckers on them, clearing off the insects.

As we drove along the river, eyes searching to the distant shore, we spotted something dark and mysterious across the river. Keeping in mind, we could be talking about a distance of up to one kilometer (.62 miles) from our vantage point, making photo taking with our less fancy camera a bit tricky to get a clear shot.

Tom maneuvered the car into a perfect place to park while we got out and walked through brush and grass to get as close as possible. Getting closer by 15 meters (50 feet) is nothing compared to the distance from the sighting, but we forged along anyway.

It was challenging to get a more explicit photo at such a distance, but we were nonetheless thrilled to get these photos.

The perception that moving even such a short distance closer would enhance the quality of our photos, spurred us on. Batting off flies and other insects, we steadied ourselves as much as possible to take today’s hippo photos.

We’d love to have seen more hippos like we had while in the Masai Mara, Kenya, in 2013. But, with the inaccessibility of the Crocodile River, we happily take what we can get, always thrilled in the process.  Here’s a photo of hippos we’d taken while on safari in Kenya:

We captured this “bloat” of hippos along the Mara River during our first hour on safari in Kenya in 2013.  Here’s the link from that date.

The above photo doesn’t in any manner make us feel, “Oh, that was then.  This is now.” Instead, we think in terms of our collective worldwide experiences. Africa presented these experiences to us. When?…is irrelevant, so it’s easy for us to revel in one hippo knowing we had the above opportunity long ago and perhaps will have more in the future.

Here’s another photo we posted on Tom’s birthday, December 23, 2013, of this glorious hippo at sunset as we crossed the Crocodile River:

As the sun went down, the reflection on this hippo in the Crocodile River on Tom’s birthday in 2013 was unique.  For the link from that date, please click here.
Yesterday, as we continued, we were breathless over other encounters on the road back to our property, photos which we’ll share in the next few days.  Each time we embark on a drive, we have few expectations, and, in one way or another, we’re always pleasantly surprised. This upcoming week, we’ll head back to Kruger, this time staying on the paved roads.

As for last night’s dinner party of six, it was delightful.  Our friends Lynne and Mick and Janet and Steve were here for what proved to be a near-perfect evening. As always, the conversation flowed with ease, and the pace was low-key and stress-free. 
Each time we go to the river, the first animal we long to see is an elephant.  We’re seldom disappointed.

We were pleased they enjoyed our meal of mozzarella stuffed meatballs, topped with homemade marinara and two kinds of cheese along with a side of bacony green beans and salad. For dessert, we served ice cream bars and coffee with cream. After they left, at almost 11:00 pm, Tom had a lot of dishes to wash, but together we cleaned up and awoke to only a few things left to do this morning.

In yesterday’s post, I mistakenly mentioned Janet and Steve would be away for some time. As it turns out, they’ll be back in Marloth in no time at all, and we look forward to seeing them again soon. 

This big guy took water into his trunk and sprayed it on his back to cool off on a scorching day.

Lynne and Mick return to their home in Jersey (UK) for many months in a few days. We won’t see them again until November other than to run over to their home this afternoon to say goodbye and see their newly thatched roof (almost done). Later we’ll return “home” to some mighty fine leftovers.

Last night’s sunset, after our guests arrived, was hard to see through the trees.

That’s it for today, folks. Of course, we’ll always be on the lookout for more to share with each of you every single day! Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 25, 2017:

Volleyball competitors are warming up for tournaments in Manly, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Halfway through our Marloth Park rental….Another dinner party for six…Back to my old ways?…

From this site“Flapping the ears can express excitement and joy. This sound causes other elephants to prick up their ears and contact the first elephant. In turn, the beating of the ears on the skin can be heard. In hot weather, elephants use their ears primarily to cool down.”  We suspect it was cooling down with temps well into 40C (90F) when we took this photo.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This female kudu was comfortable eating carrots out of my hand.

This evening we’re having dinner guests only a few days before the two couples, Janet and Steve and Lynne and Mick, each takes off for their respective homes in the UK, staying for several months. We’ll look forward to their return!

In the interim, Kathy and Don are returning to Marloth Park in a week, and we’ll certainly enjoy spending time with them while they’re staying at their lovely home in Marloth Park. Linda and Ken will return in June or thereabouts, and we look forward to seeing them soon.

This is how it goes for many homeowners in Marloth Park, primarily based in other parts of the world, returning for one, two, or three-month stints a few times a year.

The first thing we look for when driving along the river is elephants.

Many South Africans have homes in other parts of the country, returning to Marloth as their part-time holiday home. Few rent homes, like us. Most own two or more homes, traveling back and forth between their various properties.

That life never appealed to us. We’ve wanted to be free to travel to wherever we may choose, at any given time. Did we contemplate having a home here, considering how much we love it? Perhaps for one second. 

But then, the thought wafted away when we realize we’re most fulfilled continuing on this path of life-on-the-move, one that works magically for who we are and who’ve we’ve become over these past years. Why change what’s working so well and for which we’re ultimately fulfilled and happy?

We spotted this elephant from the overlook shelter along the river a few days ago.

In the interim, Louise informed us, if we’d like, we can stay in this same house, named “Orange…More than Just a Colour” for our entire remaining year until we board a ship one year from today, March 24, 2019, leaving for the US for another family visit. 

We had a choice to stay in this house or move to another home. But, we like the house enough to stay another year, if Louise and the owners will have us.  We’ve offered to move out for specific periods if they find other renters willing to pay more. We can move on a dime! Louise assures us that’s unlikely.

How do we feel about staying in one property for such an extended period?  Surprisingly, quite good. Many animals have already come to know us and will continue to do so as time marches on. The house is comfortable (we only use the main floor) and has everything we can need.

Could this be a courting male and female?

Then, as we plan visits to other countries in Africa over this upcoming year, we’ll have a place to leave our stuff, packing only what we’ll need for the specific trip. This gives us peace of mind and makes these side-trips considerably easier.

This morning, up and at ’em early, I started chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner party. Yesterday afternoon, I also did a little prep, making the remainder of today low-key and easy. 

Entertaining in this lifestyle is very different from our former lives. I put so much pressure on myself, planning elaborate meals and setting an elaborate table, often for many guests.

We often wonder about a lone elephant.  Is it a male that has been ejected from the family who now has to make his way in life, finding a mate, to later be off on his own once again?

I plan easy homemade meals that don’t require endless hours of standing in the kitchen in this life. There’s no need to make vast numbers of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. No one here seems interested in desserts, so I don’t bake as I would have years ago.

The best part is I don’t feel bad about cooking less elaborate meals. I’ve changed so much over these past years, no longer striving to be the consummate hostess, finding simple, delicious meals is ideal in the bush, whether made in a pot or on the braai (barbecue).

The only thing I miss is linen napkins. The paper napkins sold in the area are small and flimsy. Nothing is more admirable than a cloth napkin for guests. I guess I have to let that go. 

Waterbucks at the Crocodile River. 

Soon, we’ll jump in the new little blue car and head to the local market to buy more paper napkins, bringing the camera with us as always, perhaps seeing “someone” special along the way.

It’s a good life here. There’s absolutely nothing that has disappointed us during these past six weeks since our arrival. Often, when people “return,” their expectations are so high they cannot be fulfilled. For us, Marloth Park is more exciting than it was four years ago.

Maybe we’re wiser, more tolerant, and with fewer expectations after what we’ve learned during these past years. We don’t fuss over the heat, the bugs, and the days when few visitors stop by. It’s all a part of living in the bush in this extraordinary place, unlike any other, anywhere in the world. We’re grateful.

May your day find you feeling grateful and fulfilled.

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2017:

It was four years ago today, on March 2, 2014, that we began posting this feature, “Photo from one year ago today.” a rare moment of a blue sky with rainy, cloudy skies day after day since we’d arrived in Fairlight almost two weeks earlier. For more Australian photos, please click here.  

A determined, compassionate and fearless woman…A lonely, abused and orphaned chimp…A story of love…

Gail and Missy are in Liberia by the pool.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

While at the “lookout” a few days ago, we spotted these four waterbucks on the Crocodile River, one male and three females.  Such beautiful creatures!

It’s not unusual for those of us who revere wildlife and conservation to have dreams of somehow “making a difference.” With the best of intentions, we may encounter opportunities to do so in small ways should we be in the right place at the right time and circumstances prevail.

Few are fortunate enough to have the passion and dedication to make such a dream become a reality. It requires a degree of willingness to “step outside the box” of our everyday lives, faced against the tremendous odds of bureaucratic interference, prejudice, and apathy, to make something magical happen.

Gail and Missy.

Gail Gillespie-Fox is just that person…in her boundless and fearless compassion and determination to have rescued bound-for-a-sorrowful-life-or-death chimpanzee in Liberia in 2013. No, we don’t mean rescuing in the sense of taking in orphaned Missy as a “pet,” as many supposed rescuers wrongfully assume what one must do.

Gail’s only objective, unselfishly in her love and many months of care for Missy, eagerly and relentlessly searched for a safe and loving means for Missy to live out her life in an environment of her kind. 

This is the first day Gail and Mark met Missy.

In Gail’s heart and mind, only a sanctuary where Missy could thrive, not as a spectacle of curiosity and revenue generation but as a member of a safe and natural habitat providing the utmost in care and love among other chimps would suffice.

The obstacles Gail faced in accomplishing this lofty goal were insurmountable.  Living in Liberia, the poor, war-ravaged country with then-fiance, Mark (now her husband), who was there on a work project, was an adventure Gail never anticipated in her otherwise traditional life as a citizen of South Africa.

Missy is in a makeshift backpack holding onto Gail.

Mark never faltered in his dedication to support for

Gail in saving Missy from a life of hunger, mistreatment, and possible death.  Together they created an impenetrable bond that beautifully remains today, now as residents of Marloth Park with their continuing compassion for wildlife.

Liberia has a plethora of problems after years of rebel warfare and political unrest. In 2003, a ceasefire was declared, but Liberia remains, even today, decades behind many African nations in its development and infrastructure, which only added to the challenges Gail and Missy faced daily.

Missy is learning to be a chimpanzee.

In 2014, during the time of the Ebola outbreak, a scenario of terrified and often unwarranted mistrust and fear of chimpanzees and apes was rampant.  They were wrongfully considered carriers of the deadly disease when it was the slaughter and unsafe handling of bushmeat that ultimately spread the disease.

Getting Missy out of Liberia became seemingly impossible when news of Ebola spread throughout the world and with it, the rumors of what and who was responsible for spreading the disease. 

Missy is in the car with Gail and Mark.

Through lack of factual data in the news (not uncommon, as we all so well know), the world too believed chimpanzees and other species in the ape family of animals were carriers and original perpetrators of the spread of the disease. 

Missy was frail and recovering after Gail and Mark returned to Liberia after a short visit to South Africa. They had no choice but to leave her in the care of others until their return to find her in this heartbreaking state. In no time at all, she was thriving with Gail and Mark’s loving attention and care.

This resulted in insurmountable obstacles in getting Missy out of Liberia to the safe habitat awaiting her in:  “Guinea, West Africa, within the Haut Niger National Park, the Chimpanzee Conservation Center (CCC) is a sanctuary established in 1997 to address increasing declines in chimpanzee populations due to the pet trade.”

There’s so much more than we can write about this special story of Missy.  Rather than providing spoilers for the heartwarming, educational and inspiring story Gail wrote in her book about this stunning struggle and profound outcome, “Her Name is Missy” is available for purchase here

Missy with Mogli, her stuffed toy chimpanzee.

As our readers are well aware, we don’t promote products for purchase within the framework of our daily posts. Today is the exception. We encourage our readers to purchase this easy-to-read, can’t-put-down book, beautifully described and written experience few of us can imagine. (We earn no portion of proceeds from the sale of the book).

This adorable photo of Missy makes one wonder what chimps are thinking?

When visiting Gail and Mark last Sunday at their lovely bush home and lodge, it was easy to see the joy in her eyes that will always be a part of the loving and compassionate person she is and will remain forever. 

Thank you, Gail, for sharing your story with our readers and us. It’s ironic that in this life we live of world travel, we are gifted with endless opportunities to meet those whose inspiring lives contribute to our experiences that we’ll carry with us forever.

A last-minute farewell gathering for Missy.

However infinitesimal or profound, finding a purpose is an essence of who we become, who we are today, and who we’ll be in the future. May we all find such a purpose.

Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2017:

Walk along the esplanade near the Sydney Opera House. For more photos, please click here.

Cars, friends, a sliver of moonlight and a “dazzle” of zebras….

This morning, in the rain, nine zebras stopped by for a visit and some snacks. It was delightful to see them a second time in our yard, although it wasn’t the same “dazzle” of zebras as the last time.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

After eating many dry pellets, this zebra had the right idea, to lick the rain off the newest little blue car.  (See the story below)

The plan for today’s post had been to tell our peculiar “car story” and a little about last night’s special evening when Louise and Danie came for dinner. After a very much-needed rainy night and morning, we had an extra morsel to share that we’ve added to our story…nine zebras stopping by this morning for “breakfast.”

Big Daddy Kudu was blocking the view of the first little rental car.

Yesterday, when I was cutting up various vegetables to roast them as a side dish for last night’s dinner, I saved all the scraps hoping to share them with any animal visitors who may stop by. 

The nine zebras ate every last morsel this morning, including the carrots shown in Tom’s hands which I hurriedly cut up while he tossed out the pellets.

Tom was tossing out carrot chunks along with the pellets.

Well, then…here’s the little car story. Today is Thursday. On Monday afternoon, I noticed I had a Skype message from a South Africa phone number which was odd. We have a local SIM card in my phone and could receive phone calls, but we can’t even hear it ring for some bizarre reason. Our local friends reach us using “Messenger.”

This was the second little car they brought from Nelspruit, about a 90-minute drive to swap with the first tiny car.

We don’t keep our cell phones handy during the day until bedtime, when we both use them for late-night reading. As a result, we don’t give out the SIM card’s phone number when asked for a local phone number. Thus, the number we provided for the car rental facility in Nelspruit was our Nevada-based Skype number with a 702 area code.

Yesterday morning, they brought this little blue car which we’ll keep until the end of our three-month contract when we start all over again.  This car is the best of the three.  It has power windows and driver-controlled door locks, making it more user-friendly.

When I listened to the message, I was frustrated. They said they’d “sold” the little car, and we were supposed to bring it back to Nelspruit, where they’d give us a different vehicle. There was no way we were interested in driving for three hours (round trip) to accommodate their request.

When this zebra entered the yard at 9:00 am, we suspected others would follow, and our suspicions were correct…eight followed.

We have a contract that reads the car is ours until May 8. This same scenario had happened in 2013 when we were living in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. We received a similar call from the car rental facility in Venice, expecting us to drive five hours each way. 

All nine of them clamored by the veranda as we tossed pellets and vegetable scraps we’d been saving for this very purpose.

When we explained how far away we were and there was no way we were willing to drive that far so they could sell the car, they said they’d get back to us. That call never came. We returned the car when the contract ended. See our story about that scenario here.

The baby in this dazzle is shown in the back.

We expressed the same sentiment to Thrifty Car Rental in Nelspruit on Monday. They agreed to deliver the car on Tuesday morning around 9:30 am. At 10:00 am, their driver appeared with new documents in hand and a slightly bigger car. Tom checked the vehicle for dents and dings, signed the paperwork, and the driver took off in the little original vehicle.

Zebras are good at making eye contact.

We decided to take our usual almost daily drive through the park to see what we could find a short time later. As we drove the bigger car, we noticed that the air conditioning was blowing hot air. At that point, it was 95F (35C) and very humid. The AC wasn’t working. 

Well, we don’t particularly enjoy driving around in that type of heat. It’s one thing to sit on the veranda and manage around the house on such a hot day, but it’s an entirely different scenario, doing so on dusty dirt roads if we don’t have to.

One of the girls was walking up the steps, which were slippery in the rain.  She jumped off quickly when she started to slip and slide.

Yes, we’ve been to many places throughout the world in extreme heat without AC. But, there was no way we’re going to accept a car for which we’ve already paid that included AC.  We drove back to the house, called them again, and reported the facts…no way would we accept a car without AC. 

A little affection was displayed between these two zebras.

We were nice. They were nice. As shown in a few of today’s photos, they brought us the third car yesterday morning, the little blue car. It’s the same or similar low-end vehicle but slightly newer with excellent working AC, power windows, and driver-operated door locks, all of which are quite a treat for us.

We took it for a drive to the river in the afternoon (photos of which we’ll share in a few days) and couldn’t have been more thrilled with the few upgrades. Problem solved. Happy customers.

The baby also tried climbing the slippery steps.

As for last night, spending time with Louise and Danie was, as always, perfectly delightful. Since they are always doting on us, we wouldn’t let them do anything, although Louise had a tough time not carrying in the dishes. Such good company.  Such a good night and a sliver of moon, as shown in the photo below, with promises of what is yet to come in nights down the road.

This morning, when Josiah washed the now very dirty veranda after the rain, the mud was strewn about from our nine rambunctious visitors. We decided to get out of our way to go shopping for Saturday night’s upcoming dinner for six.

Last night’s sliver of moonlight before the cloud cover and rainstorm.

We were back by noon. We put away most of the groceries but soon, once this post is uploaded, I’ll head back into the kitchen to start washing the produce and sorting a new container of vegetable scraps for the next batch of visitors. Who that will be, we can’t guess, but we’ll wait with bated breath for whoever may choose to grace our day.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2017:

Bob explained this single red bloom, a type of lily, is growing out of season. For more photos from Fairlight, Australia, please click here.