Kruger National Park visit this morning…Many new photos…Back and busy…

Two elephants flappped their ears as we passed.

This morning upon awakening, we decided to head to Kruger National Park and take advantage of our Wild Card entrance pass, which ends about the time we’re scheduled to leave South Africa in January (at this point, anyway). We’re always looking for a sunny day, not too hot, that will bring the wildlife out from hiding in the bush.

If the weather is terrible, rainy, and possibly stormy, they hide. If the weather is too hot, they hide. This morning was perfectly sunny and clear with moderate temperatures not expected to be too hot until afternoon in the 90Fs, 30Cs. We were excited to be on our way.

A colossal elephant from a distance.

But, once on the way, I realized we needed to stop at Spar in Komatipoort on the way home for a few items (which isn’t too far from the Crocodile Bridge entrance gate), get back in time to work on today’s post, and meet new American friends, Carrie and Jim at 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs, to see the property they’re purchasing here in Marloth Park.

Can you imagine, they found Marloth Park from our website, made their way here, and fell in love with it so much, they are now buying a fabulous property here, where they’ll live part of the year and continue to travel for the remainder of the year?

We saw dozens of hippos but few coming up for great shots.

We just returned from seeing their new house for which they’ve already made an offer which has been accepted. The house was fantastic, only four years old, and of a beautiful design and functionality. The house would easily have cost four or five times more in the US. They are so excited, and we share their joy.

When we first came to Marloth Park, we considered the prospect of owning a house here for a second, but, after a short period, we realized that our vision of freedom and mobility wouldn’t make homeownership desirable for us. We’ve never regretted that decision.

We love the low gurgling sounds of the hippos.

This lovely couple is 30 years younger than me (not quite Tom, who’s five years younger than me), and they have a full life ahead of them. They have time to make such decisions and later change their plans again if they so choose. But, we couldn’t be happier for them making what seems to be a logical decision for them at this early point in their retirement. They’ll still be able to travel the world and have this fabulous home to return to at any time, in the bush, they love so much.

Today’s visit to Kruger went well, but we didn’t see as much as we usually do. We didn’t see any cats, rhinos, or Cape buffalos. Nonetheless, we had an excellent time driving through the park, visiting our favorite turnoffs along the way, spotting a few more wildlife here and there. But, we weren’t disappointed. Our goal isn’t always seeing The Big Five.

I was on the lookout for a “sausage tree” which grows these massive blooms in the springtime.

On several occasions, we spotted wildlife we often see here in Marloth Park. We didn’t mind that at all. A giraffe can easily turn our heads with enthusiasm, as do zebras, wildebeest, and kudus. Of course, we always love seeing elephants which we only see along the Crocodile River close to the fence between Kruger and Marloth Park. We saw several elephants today.

Over the next several days, we’ll share our photos from today, along with any exciting opportunities that present themselves in the next few days. As the day wears on, I still have some prep left to do for tonight’s dinner when soon, we’ll be on the veranda visiting with our animal friends during sundowner time.

A clo0ser view of a “sausage” growing in a tree.

Last night, we had a surprise visitor for dinner; our friend Lyn, the hostess at Jabula, stopped by to drop off some blood sausage for me, which a friend from Scotland had brought her. Tonight, I’ll cook a piece to go with our roasted chicken dinner. I have had any of this favorite of mine since we were in Ireland in 2019. What a treat that will be!

Wow, Marloth Park is such a fabulous place to socialize. It couldn’t be more rewarding! When Lyn arrived, we invited her to stay for dinner, and the three of us had a great dinner and evening on the veranda.

Have a pleasant evening!

Photo from one year ago today, November 29, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while we were in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #251. The Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal, which we’ve been through twice on two separate cruises. For more photos, please click here.

Free entrance to Kruger this week…A little of this and that!…

An Egyptian goose, fluffing her feathers while on an island on the Crocodile River.

There is no entrance fee required for our South African friends to enter Kruger National Park this week. This doesn’t apply to non-citizens/tourists.  See details below:

“For one week each year, there is free entry to Kruger National Park for South Africans. Free entry week for 2021 has been announced for 22-26 November. Free entry week began in 2006, as part of South African National Parks Week, to promote the country’s national parks.”

This is great for citizens and legal residents with ID. The usual fees are as listed below:

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2021 to 31 October 2022
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) R110 per adult, per day R55 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R220 per adult, per day R110 per child, per day

ZAR 110 equates to US $6.96 and ZAR 3.48 (child rate)

ZAR 220 equates to US $13.91 ad ZAR 6.96 (child rate

We’d planned to go into Kruger this week, now that the rain has stopped. But not this week; based on the waived fees for citizens and residents when the park will be bustling, we’ll wait until a sunny day next week. We prefer to visit the park on sunny days that aren’t too hot for good photos. Lately, it’s either been too hot when animals stay undercover, or it’s been cloudy and rainy.

Another Egyptian goose on the bank of the Crocodile River.

This afternoon, we’re meeting up with the lovely couple from the US, Carrie, and Jim, at Two Trees, overlooking the Crocodile River. They, too, like us, are traveling the world full-time, having sold everything they own, committed to a years-long journey. A  few weeks ago, they visited us for sundowners, and we had a great visit that extended well into the night. It will be fun to see them again.

Recently, they’ve been on a surprise trip to celebrate Carrie’s birthday. It will be fun to hear about their adventures. They are 25 to 30 years younger than us, younger than our adult children. It’s interesting to listen to their perspective of traveling the world at their younger age. Gosh, we didn’t get started until Tom was 60 and I was almost 65. How the time has flown!

Next week, my free afternoon time will end for several weeks. I will be getting to work on the SEO posts (search engine optimization). These long, somewhat repetitious posts are necessary to increase our exposure on the world wide web. It’s a laborious and time-consuming task, and again, I’ll be thrilled to have this behind me.

Many guests gathered at the railing to observe a snake resting on the end of a branch on a tree. Zoom in to see the snake more clearly.

I will alert you when a particular SEO post is coming up the following day, so you’ll be prepared for the repetition, redundancy, and extra-long, overly wordy posts.

As for how I’ve been using those several extra hours each day, I can hardly explain what I’ve done. I’ve slowed down the pace of my usual daily tasks, including laundry, cooking, and organizing around the house. I’ve been lazy for several days and sat and watched a few sci-fi movies and TV series. It’s been a fun escape.

Also, over the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with having shingles and a very itchy and painful left thigh. Resting with my leg elevated has been helpful, forcing me to sit and do nothing! Now that it is almost completely healed, I contacted our web people in India and told them that finally, I would begin the SEO posts, which were initially scheduled to be completed in October.

A cattle egret and its shadow on the river.

I haven’t missed more than a few days of exercising to maintain a level of fitness and made a point of getting up and walking around the house at least once an hour. It’s so easy to get caught up in sitting for hours at a time resulting in muscle atrophy, which is a sure-fire way to age quickly. We both must stay agile and fit if we want to continue traveling.

Photo from one year ago today, November 23, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #245. A man-made pond on the Kahili Golf Course in Maui, Hawaii, created a pretty scene. For more photos, please click here.

An exceptional artist and wildlife conservationist shares his comments on Kruger fires, and samples of his art work…

Photo of the fires across the Crocodile River, taken from Marloth Park side a few nights ago. (Not our photo).

Long ago, I ran across a member of several Marloth Park Facebook groups, Dawie Fourie, a conservationist, wildlife, and nature artist who often posts his stunning works of art. His frequent posts are rife with an appreciation of Marloth Park and its wild animals as well as those in Kruger National Park, both of which he’s visited many times over the years.

Having worked at the Veterinary Research Institute Onderstepoort, he has a vast knowledge and understanding of nature, far beyond average laypersons and amateur photographers like us.  As a professional artist for over 35 years, he’s had an opportunity to delve into the intricacies of many aspects of wildlife and life in the veld (an open, uncultivated country or grassland in southern Africa. It is conventionally divided by altitude into highveld, midlevel, and Lowveld).

What a stunning photo of the fires in Kruger National Park. (Not our photo).

A few days ago, when several of our friends sent us photos of fires in Kruger National Park, of course, we became alarmed and concerned for the wildlife as well as the park itself. The Crocodile River separates Marloth Park from Kruger, and thus, we were less concerned about Marloth Park, its people, and its wildlife being impacted by the fires.

When we read the following statement, Dawie had posted it on Facebook. It presented us with an entirely different perspective. We’ve been well aware of fires intentionally set In Kruger National Park to create new vegetation for the wildlife when the scorched areas recover and regrow.

We’d driven through Kruger National Park in September 2018, when embers were still burning, and the air was filled with smoke after a planned burn, as described in our post here at this link. We’d included several photos of the devastation that resulted from the burn.

Dozens of photos flooded Facebook during the fires. We are unable to determine who took the photos, but thanks to all who posted. (Not our photo).

After conducting considerable research about intentional fires set in national parks, we developed a better understanding of why such fires, if adequately controlled, are beneficial to the bush and its inhabitants.

In any case, the following is what Dawie Fourie wrote in his Facebook post a few days ago. By the way, I contacted him to ask his permission to quote him and post his photos. He’s enthusiastically offered a generous “yes.” Thank you, Dawie!

“If you live on Seekoei’s side of Marloth Park and I said something about the veld-fires from the last week, you will say – tell me all about it! 😑

For days now, there has been a cloud of smoke hanging over Marloth Park as veld fires or bushfires burn in Kruger Park. A lot of people ask the question, why don’t they put out the fires. Well, here’s the very short answer:

Bushfires are widespread in African Savannas, especially during the dry season between May and October. Fires in Kruger are managed using the patch mosaic fire philosophy, whereby fires are ignited at selected localities and left to burn to create a natural patch mosaic of burnt and unburned patches. All fires in the Kruger National Park are mapped monthly using satellite imagery and information gathered by Rangers.

Dawie’s paintings are so exquisite. They appear to be photographs taken by a professional photographer. Contact him at the link below for more information.

These patch fires, although randomly ignited, are closely monitored by the Section Rangers and only ignited under favorable conditions when the Fire Danger Indices (FDI’s) are low to moderate. Patch fires are selectively used to reduce fuel and create patches of burnt and unburnt areas. This generally prevents the hot, high-intensity uncontrolled fires from becoming unmanageable later in the season.

Rangers will generally stop setting fires when the FDI’s become too high and conditions too dangerous. This usually happens during August and September when hot berg wind conditions can easily cause fires to run away and turn into disaster fires. Once the rainy season starts, lightning fires may occur, and such fires are allowed to burn freely to allow lightning a chance to contribute as one of the natural sources of fire.

During a fire, the grass layer is often burnt completely. However, only the dead leaves are burnt, while the roots are still healthy. The early burns may sometimes resprout, and this green flush during the dry season will benefit certain antelope species. Research also indicates that bush encroachment tree species, such as sickle bush, may be knocked back by these burns, giving improved game viewing pleasure as a positive spin-off.

Another stunning painting by Dawie Fourie!

Animals can hear, feel and smell a fire when it is still very far away, and most mammals typically have enough time to escape. Snakes and many kinds of insects run into holes in the ground, where they are safe because the heat from the fire front seldom penetrates the soil below 5 cm depth.

The fire that was burning across from Marloth Park was started by lightning a couple of days ago, and, in line with the policy, it is left to burn.

Unfortunately, the fire management policy of the Park is a highly complex one and can’t be fully explained in such a short piece. For those interested in more scientific detail about fires, you can contact Scientific Services in Skukuza.”

For inquiries about Dawie’s artwork, please email him: dawiefouriearts@gmail.com.

We are grateful the fires were contained, and hopefully, the wildlife could escape in ample time. In months to come, the veld will recover, and the green grasses, plants, and trees again will increase, and nature will be at its finest in those areas.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2020:

 This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #208. My nightly dessert in Kenya was fine cheese with cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner,” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow! For more photos, please click here.

Hippo photos from Kruger National Park…How do we feel about zoos?….

Could this be Mom, Dad, and Baby?

There’s no question about it; observing animals in the wild is unlike any other wildlife experience. Sure, we grasp the importance of zoos to provide the public, who May never visit Africa, to learn about their existence, conservation, and habitat. Reading from a book hardly provides an in-depth experience.

With more and more zoos throughout the world considering the well-being and conservation of wildlife while in their care, we animal-lovers are often less concerned and horrified about zoo habitats than we may have been years ago. Throughout our almost nine years of world travel, we have visited some “wildlife rehab centers” with the intent of feeling comfortable about the care and feeding of indigenous and non-indigenous wild animals.

A group of hippos is called a “bloat.” How appropriate!  Ungainly as it is, the hippopotamus is the world’s deadliest large land mammal, killing an estimated 500 people per year in Africa. Hippos are aggressive creatures, and they have very sharp teeth. And you would not want to get stuck under one; at up to 2,750kg, 5053 pounds, they can crush a human to death.

In about half of the cases, we’ve been pleased with what we’ve seen. But, there have been cases where animals are treated as commodities, kept in small cages, unable to wander freely, and fed a poor diet, unsuitable for the species. These scenarios are undoubtedly criminal, as are the people who keep exotic animals in cages and pens on their property for bragging rights.

But, we have seen some fantastic zoos/rescue centers where the wildlife is provided ample space, companionship when suitable, and foods they may have foraged in the wild, along with quality medical care for rehabilitation purposes and daily care.

A lone hippo was sniffing for food.

Many such facilities claim they have the intention of returning the rehabilitated animals to the wild. But after seeing how professionally and carefully that process is undertaken by the local Wild & Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre by curator Deidre and her support staff, we doubt many such facilities are willing or capable of returning animals to the wild with the care and diligence we’ve witnessed by this local facility.

One of the main factors preventing a triumphant return to the wild is excessive bonding with humans, especially when animals may become dependent upon care from humans, preventing them from foraging. If an animal has been fed while living in a cage for an extended period, it’s unlikely it’ll ever be able to hunt for food, resulting in an untimely and painful death.

We were surprised by how many hippos we saw in one day.

Yesterday, while in Kruger, it was rewarding to see the wildlife appearing robust and healthy. Although this has been a dry winter and the bush here in Marloth Park, there are many green areas, enabling the herbivore and omnivore animals to find sufficient vegetation to survive and the carnivores able to hunt for healthy sources of food.

The problem with animals in Marloth Park, which prompts many of us to feed them during the winter months, is that they don’t have access to distant, greener, more affluent areas to forage. Although Marloth Park is almost seven square miles, 3000 hectares, 7413 acres, it isn’t large enough during the dry season to fully support the needs of the abundant wildlife. That fact results in many of us choosing to feed as much as we can afford.

We’ve always loved the gurgling sounds of hippos which were in abundance on yesterday’s self-drive.

Many disagree with humans feeding the animals in Marloth Park. But, based on these circumstances, many of us feel compelled to do so. Seeing the animals with full bellies as they wander from bush house to bush house gives many of us great comfort in knowing they are eating. Right now, the bush is brown and dry.

This morning, I noticed Bossy eating a non-indigenous plant that survived thus far this winter in an attempt to eat some “greenery,” of which there is little. It’s a challenging scenario when the wildlife starts eating the equivalent of “house plants.” It becomes impossible for many of us to avoid feeding them. Of course, there are two schools of thought on this topic, the other being “let nature take its course” and all that it entails. Perhaps it’s our own selfish desire to prevent that course since we don’t want to see it. Understood.

The narrow, single-lane bridge over the Crocodile River toward the entrance to Kruger National Park.

We’re thrilled to share these hippo photos today, and over the next few days, we have plenty of other species photos to share.

Soon, I’m off with Fiona for another pedicure while her significant other, friend Alan, will visit with Tom while she and I are gone. It should be a fun afternoon in the bush.

May you have a rewarding and meaningful day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 12, 2020:

This photo from the courtyard of Le Louvre in Paris was posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #142. As we peered outside from a window, there didn’t appear to be many visitors in the courtyard. Most of them were already inside, trying to take photos of the more famous works of art. For more photos, please click here.

An exciting morning in Kruger National Park….A favorite animal hidden in the bush…

This was the final photo I took of the leopard; although unclear, we were grateful to get it.

When I bolted out of bed this morning, feeling much better, after not coughing all night and getting adequate sleep, I said to Tom, “Let’s go to Kruger as soon as we’re ready to go out the door!”

In a matter of minutes, I was showered, dressed, and ready to go. Tom filled out the required entry form, grabbed the passports, filled our mugs with iced tea and ice while I grabbed a second-charged battery for the new camera, and we were out the door.

This was the first photo I took today of the leopard, obstructed by brush and vegetation. I was determined to get a better shot.

Knowing we have the interview at 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs, with the reporter from the newspaper in Minnesota, we knew going as early as we could be a must. Also, we wanted to leave ample time for me to prepare today’s post and hopefully upload a few photos from our self-drive safari.

Many visitors prefer to enter Kruger in the early morning as soon as they open at dawn. For us, we are less picky about the time we go since we’ve been fortunate (i.e.safari luck”) to see plenty of wildlife in the latter part of the morning and often during midday. One never knows when and where the animals will wander about the massive national park.

We were hoping for a good experience. But, as all of us know, getting great photos in Kruger is unpredictable. We always prepare ourselves for the possibility that time in the park can prove to be uneventful and disappointing. That wasn’t the case today! At times, inclement weather can be a deterrent, but today, the sun shines with only a few scattered clouds.

This was the blurry second photo I got of the leopard eating her kill.

No, we didn’t see the Big Five, as many strive to achieve. We saw two of the five; a leopard as shown in today’s photos and a few elephants, which will be shared in the next few days as we go through all of our photos. As mentioned in the past, for us, seeing the Big Five is not necessarily a goal. We achieved this many times in South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia on prior visits.

These days, we don’t think in terms of the “Big Five.” We’re often looking for unique and unusual sightings, a lofty goal that is seldom achieved. But today, we had some thrills, especially our included photos of a leopard eating a kill near the Sabie River, not too far from Lower Sabie, where we always stop for a bathroom break or lunch at the Mugg & Bean Restaurant.

With my new camera in hand,  which I still need to learn more about, I had the basics down pat, sufficient to get a few good shots. But, the reality remains that wildlife is not always advantageous for amateur photographers, such as me.

After we were on our return drive toward the Crocodile Gate with no less than an hour until we’d reach the exit, we noticed about a half dozen cars poised on the side of the road with passengers holding cameras in hand in an attempt for a good shot. It was tricky. The leopard was deep in the bush, obstructed by vegetation and branches, and I didn’t feel hopeful for a shot.

This was the third photo I got of the leopard, hoping for a  better shot, the best of which is the main photo.

With Tom’s expert maneuvering around other vehicles and my sheer will and determination, we found ourselves in a prime position where we stayed only for a few minutes to allow others to take whatever photos they could get. But, even in this choice location, regardless of how steady I held my hand, getting these few photos were far beyond my expertise.

Subsequently, I am sharing all that I managed to eke out, however blurry that may be. There was no time to sit there and focus for better shots. The people behind us were impatient and also wanted to take a few photos. So, dear readers, here they are.

Over the next few days, we’ll share many exciting, albeit clearer, photos we managed to take along the way. Please check back for more over the next several days.

Have a fantastic and rewarding day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 11, 2020:

One year ago, this photo was posted in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #140. The Mona Lisa was encased in thick glass with lots of heads and cameras in the way of taking photos. If not impossible, it was challenging to manage a good photo through the glass or the crowd. We chose not to wait for a better opening. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Kruger National Park…It never disappoints…Adding a new feature for Africa…Tom’s trip is over…Dinner guests tonight…

On the way back from Kruger, we encountered this intentional fire in the sugar cane fields.

Effective this morning, we are adding a new feature to our posts in Marloth Park. The feature will be entitled: “Who is in the garden this morning?” which will consist of all wildlife visitors to our garden when we prepare the day’s post. Here it comes!

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 9 warthogs
  • 13 kudus
  • 3 bushbucks
  • 1 duiker
  • 7 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 39 mongoose
  • Frank & The Misses (francolins)

Thus, while we continue to prepare the post, we will add to the list, keeping in mind that typically it takes about five hours from start to finish, considering managing photos, writing the text, editing the text with occasional short breaks to do a household task, prep for a meal or other breaks necessary during this period.

We will not count regular visitors if we can recognize who is here, which we can do in most cases. Otherwise, it’s fun for us, at any rate! For instance, just now, warthogs, Mom & Babies (2) appeared, but they weren’t counted earlier. We hope that our readers will find these figures amusing.

We had to make it through the thick smoke of the fires.

This afternoon at 4:00 pm, 1600 hours, we’re having guests for sundowners and dinner, Dawn and Leon, Jabula Lodge, and Restaurant owners. We always have such a good time with them at the restaurant, but it will be nice to have time with the two without all the restaurant’s distractions.

A wildebeest (gnu) on the side of the road near Vurhami Dam in Kruger.

This morning we prepped some of the items on the menu which when done here, I will wrap up the balance. Zef is here cleaning the house, which makes entertaining so much easier when we don’t have to clean in preparation for company.

Rapids under the bridge at the Sabie River.

All we have to do is prepare the food and clean up after ourselves. When we entertained more frequently in our old lives, it’s easy to recall how much time was spent cleaning before the guests arrived and later when they left. It’s a lot easier now. Plus, I am not as picky about preparing fancy foods for our guests.

Giraffe walking down the middle of the paved road.

Louise always suggests that we leave our evening dishes for Vusi and Zef to wash the following day as they are accustomed to doing for the guests at other houses. But, we don’t feel right leaving a sink full of dirty dishes when we can easily put them into the dishwasher. In addition, leaving dirty dishes can draw ants and other creeping crawlers overnight, which we do not want to do.

The giraffe walked toward us as we waited patiently.

Simple appetizers (referred to as starters) and simple meals are typical in South Africa, usually consisting of meats cooked on the braai with a few starchy sides, which I am making tonight for our guests. I will limit myself to biltong (delicious South African beef jerky), cheese, and steaks and not be tempted by starchy items.

Another giraffe we spotted in the park.

I am easily maintaining my now medication-free former hypertension and high blood sugar, all of which are normal, day after day. That’s a small sacrifice from my perspective. I’m not missing any of it. Well, maybe a few things, but I never indulge myself in those items, which could result in a “slippery slope.”

It’s funny, but I crave “low carb” items, not sweets and starches from my old life before 2011 when I went low carb. Now, I’ve also been zero carbs since last October while in lockdown in the hotel in Mumbai, India, when I conducted hundreds of hours of research on this more strict version of low carb, never looking back.

More rapids on the Sabie River.

That’s it for today, dear readers. I have to get back to work on tonight’s food prep and, when done, work on the post corrections. My goal is never to miss a day making the corrections unless it’s a travel day. So far, so good.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 13, 2020:

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas. Will we ever be able to cruise again? For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Kruger National Park…It never disappoints…Odd day for us today…

We spotted this Leopard Tortoise crossing the road in Kruger National Park. The leopard tortoise is a member of the “Small 5” (along with the rhino beetle, the red-billed buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, and the ant lion).

Soon, Tom will be heading to the airport in Nelspruit to return the rental car for a required monthly inspection. With prices so high for rental cars lately, we went with Thrifty, which uses higher mileage cars and might be a few years old. By no means are they “beaters,”  However, we have been disappointed with the vehicle we have now. It doesn’t do well on the rough, dirt, and gravel roads.

It was fun to see a Spoon-billed Stork on the shore of Sunset Dam in Lower Sabie. See the more detailed photo below.

Thrifty’s contract requires that we return the car every 30 days for an inspection, which is a huge inconvenience when it’s a four-hour turnaround to make the trip. It’s a route I don’t like due to single-lane roads and lots of weaving in and out of traffic. It’s somewhat of a “nail-biter” for me as a passenger.

Today, Tom has decided there is no reason for me to ride with him. He’s leaving soon to make the trip on his own. I suppose it’s no big deal in the realm of things, and I should go with him. He insists he’ll be fine driving on his own, and thus I am staying behind.

What an interesting bird!

The four hours will be the longest we’ve been apart since we were in the US at the end of 2019 before leaving in January 2020 for India. Gosh, that seems so long ago.

The common starling.

We continue to research online daily, attempting to find reasonable prices on rental cars after June 30th, providing we’ll be able to return to South Africa. Right now, the cost of rental vehicles is more than our rent for 30 days. That makes no sense whatsoever. With travel at a minimum due to Covid, you’d think travel services such as rental cars would be reasonable to encourage travel after this long stretch.

Raising prices to compensate for losses only discourages travelers embarking on holidays/vacations when most prospective travelers have suffered financially during the pandemic. But, we’ve seen this happening with airlines, hotels, cruises, and auto rentals throughout the world. It makes no sense whatsoever.

A small crocodile was skimming the surface in the Sunset Dam.

Of course, I will be on pins and needles until Tom returns safely. While in the house alone, I’ll finish today’s post and get back to work on corrections on older posts, which I have been diligent about doing each day since I mentioned it here weeks ago. I am a week away from being 50% done with all of the over 3100 posts. It’s a slow and painstaking process that I am determined to complete, one way or another.

Once I reach the 50% mark, it will still be almost six months until I’m done, at the rate I am going so far, ten posts a day. Initially, I’d planned to do 20 posts a day, but that took several hours, more than I could do to stay motivated. As it is, I still spend two hours a day on the ten posts.

Two hippos were napping in the tall grass on the shore of the Sabie River.

As also mentioned earlier, I’ve found I can make the corrections while watching a series on the opposite side of the screen, using a split-screen. This helps the time go more quickly. Right now, I am into a few science fiction shows which Tom doesn’t care to watch. It’s not that I wish time to pass quickly, although some unpleasant tasks are best accomplished by some form of distraction for those of us who like to multi-task.

Hopefully, Tom will return by 2:30 (1430 hours) or 3:00 pm (1500 hours), and we can go about our day together as usual. Tonight is his final night of homemade low-carb pizza, which I’ll put together while he’s gone. I had chopped all the toppings and made the low-carb crusts in advance, making the balance easy.

This happened too quickly for a good photo. It was a crocodile spinning in the river with its prey in its mouth.

Some of you may not agree. Although not necessarily the most exciting photos we’ve ever taken in Kruger National Park, today’s photos are those scenes of wildlife we found to be worth sharing. Each time we enter the park, we do our best to come away with good photos for a few days, as we’ve done here.

We hope you have a pleasant day, and we’ll be back tomorrow with more. We’ve taken many more fun photos in the garden in the past few days and look forward to sharing those next.

Photo from one year ago today, May 12, 2020:

This is a Blue Kingfisher we spotted on this date in 2016 in Sumbersari, Bali. Click here for that post. For more photos from the year-ago post, please click here.

Rental car complications…More Kruger National Park photos…

“This is a good place to rest my head.”

Some readers/friends have suggested we buy a car to keep in South Africa, rather than continue to rent. We appreciate the suggestion, but that doesn’t work for us. We’d have to buy the car, put out the cash, buy an insurance policy, and find a place to store it when we are away. This would cost considerably more than we’re paying for rentals now.

In reality, we don’t plan on living in South Africa long-term. We will continue to visit every few years and stay as long as we can make the visa situation work. But, we still have lots of the world left to see. Once the pandemic settles down and we all settle into a “new normal,” and when travel resumes more readily, we will be on our way.

Classic giraffe photo with blue sky in the background.

Where will we go? That remains to be seen based on the availability of travel throughout the world and, of course, coupled with our ability to get the vaccine at some point. We’re especially looking forward to cruising again once we can get the vaccine, hopefully within the following year. Everything is still up in the air.

As for rental cars, lately, we’ve noticed substantial price increases for vehicles from the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, our closest and most convenient pickup and return location. Since the pandemic, all the rental car facilities in Nelspruit are closed on weekends, which is a challenge to ensure we pick up and return cars Monday through Friday. The contract for the car we have now will end on Sunday, yet they want to charge us for an extra day returning it on Monday. Go figure.

Giraffe munching on low-lying trees.

We’d arranged for another car from the site we often use, rentalcars.com, and received a confirmation after payment in full. Two days ago we received a notice from rentalcars.com that they are canceling our contract for the new rental period since they don’t have “that particular car” and offered us another car at a 30% increase in price. We refused that car.

Then we called Budget about our current contract to see if they could help us by extending our current until June 30th. It was impossible to speak to someone who knew what to do. We kept getting disconnected, or someone would come on the line and direct us to another phone number. We’d call the other number, and they’d direct us back to the original contact person.

Giraffe among dead trees in Kruger National Park.

After multiple tries, we finally located an affordable car at Thrifty at the Nelspruit Airport for pickup on Monday. Then we called Budget again last night to find out what they’d charge us for the extra day. No one knew. After multiple calls, we gave up. Finally, we gave up and started all over again.

We told them we’d be there by noon on Monday to drop off the car and find out at that time the fee for the extra day. They could easily gouge us, but from experience, additional days are usually prorated from the initial contract rate. If it’s more than that, you can be assured we’ll handle it. We’ve always found that kindness and patience work better than hostility. We will figure it out.

View from the bridge of the Verhami Dam.

So, at the moment, we have a car selected from Thrifty with full insurance for under US $1400 for the next 79 days, averaging at ZAR 248, US $17 a day, higher than we usually pay but still a reasonable price. The insurance includes us returning the car every 30 days since our credit cards only cover the insurance for the first 30 days of any car rental contract.

Hippo up for some air. Hippopotamuses love water, which is why the Greeks named them the “river horse.” Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun. Hippos are graceful in the water, good swimmers, and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes.

Thus, we’ll make the almost three-hour round trip drive to Nelspruit on Monday, returning with the new car from Thrifty. We’d intended to grocery shop on the return drive at the fabulous Spar Market in Malelane. Still, when we ran out of food yesterday, we headed to Komatipoort and purchased enough groceries to last for at least the next ten days.

Elephants on the move on a path in Kruger National Park.

Today is sunny and a little warm with a high expected of only 87F, 31C. As always, the humidity is high, making it feel more sociable. All is quite well here. We are content as we could be.

We hope you are also. Be well.

Photo from one year ago, April 9, 2020:

Hanalei Bay on a sunny day, taken from our condo in Princeville in Kauai, Hawaii. Year-ago posts were all taken from older posts while in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Please excuse the repetition. For more photos, please click here.

First trip to Kruger National Park in 2021!!!…New photos!…

It’s estimated an aggressive hippo’s sharp teeth kill 500 people a year in Africa. Hippos can crush a human to death, with their weight ranging anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 pounds. But they are fantastic to see in the wild. Note the oxpeckers on the hide of the hippo on the right.  After uploading the post, I suggested to Tom that we head to Kruger National Park and purchase our year-long Wild Card, which allows us to enter Kruger as often as we’d like for the next 12 months. With most Easter weekend visitors and holidaymakers gone, we figured it would be an excellent time to go.

We could have applied online, but the website was cumbersome, so we decided “the old way” and appeared in person. It proved to be a good decision. We were the only applicants in the Crocodile Gate office, resulting in no waiting. We were well masked, gloved, and brought our pen to fill out documents or signatures.

At the Verhami Dam, we spotted this “bloat” of hippos munching on the tall grass.

Although we were the only visitors in the office, it took at least 30 minutes for the purchase to be completed and for us to head back to our car finally. Of course, with a temporary pass in hand, we decided to go into the park right away. It was midday, and we were well aware the sightings could be minimal.

We hadn’t been in the park since January 2019, before I had open-heart surgery. There was no way I could have been bouncing around on the bumpy roads after the surgery when we finally left South Africa after three months of recovery in May 2019. We’d missed it.

We wanted to yell out, “Pick up your head,” but were satisfied when the hippo in the main photo did so.

Generally, early morning can be the best time to do a game drive, in our case, what is referred to as a self-drive. However, in the car, we weren’t as high up as one would be on a professional game drive vehicle with a guide. We kept a watchful eye as we meandered down the roads to see what we could find. As usual, we weren’t disappointed.

Not every tourist that enters the park is determined to see the “Big Five.” Sure, it’s great to spot a leopard, lion, cape buffalo, elephant, and rhino. But, for us, we never focus on such a lofty goal. We’ve seen the Big Five more times than we can count. At this point, although fun to see, it’s not a priority for us.

Zebra traffic on the main road.

We’re always looking for good photo ops, regardless of the species, and for us, it proved to be as productive a day as any. Over the next several days, we’ll be posting our photos and, of course, returning to the park regularly over the following months.

As for the application for the Wild Card, which resulted in a cost of US $352, ZAR 5100, for foreign nationals, the application process had to be completed once back at the house, requiring we call a phone number, speak to a representative and give them the code we got on the receipt.

We waited patiently until they moved over into the grass.

We won’t receive a card. Instead, this morning shortly after I spoke to the representative, we received an email with a confirmation letter that we must carry to enter the park. Plus, each time we go, we have to fill out another form with personal and passport information. Lots of steps.

In any case, we certainly enjoyed driving through the park. Deciding to go on short notice, we didn’t eat lunch at the popular Mugg & Bean, located in Lower Sabi on the Sabi River, although we stopped for a bathroom break and checked out the action on the Sabi River from the restaurant.

It was quite a day for zebra sightings.

We’d already defrosted and prepared bacon-wrapped fillet mignon for dinner and knew, if we ate lunch, we’d never be hungry by dinnertime. We only eat one meal a day, only because our way of eating diminishes our appetites until 24 hours later.

Long ago, we both decided that we wouldn’t eat unless we were hungry. Thirty days before leaving India, Tom began losing weight he gained stuck in that hotel room, eating four bananas, toast, and pasta, day after day.  He has since lost 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, and I, too, had lost 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, while in India, after changing our diets further.

Crocodiles are always scary-looking, in the water and out.

It’s hard for us to believe that combined, we’ve lost 50 pounds, 22.7 kg, of unnecessary weight in the past several months, significantly improving our health. We both feel committed to maintaining our current eating, weight, and better health with the new changes. We both feel great and love fitting into our minimal wardrobes.

Soon, we’re off for Komatipoort for grocery shopping and to purchase some pellets. Now that the Easter alcohol ban has lifted, we’ll restock a few items.

More photos from Kruger will be posted tomorrow.

I hope you have a pleasant day and that all is well your way!

Photo from one year ago today, April 8, 2020:

A Brown Gecko is hanging out in this plant with sharp thorns, a safe hiding spot for sure. For more year-ago photos, please click here.

Travel Tips for Wildlife Photographers around the World….

Maasai Mara in Kenya
How did we get so close, so lucky to get this shot?  We ended up calling it “safari luck” when we saw the Big Five in the first 10 hours on safari. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Note: Today’s lengthy post is #4 of 5 required for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Today’s post is not intended to be a photographic instruction piece. Your equipment isn’t a point of discussion for our purposes here. Also, I will preface that I am not a photographic expert by any means. Preparing 3000 posts over these past years has been our primary focus. As much as we’ve loved sharing our photos, becoming experts in photo-taking wasn’t a goal of ours. Others may say it should have been.

Sure, excellent photography skills would have been an asset. Somehow, my interest in acquiring those skills has not been at the forefront of my mind. But, our worldwide journey has been wrapped around our goal of doing and being whoever we chose to be, at any given time, as we’ve scoured the world, not necessarily doing and being what is expected of us. We are merely typical travelers, who happen to hold a camera in our hands, excited to share what we see through our eyes, not a perfect, perhaps edited version of what treasures we behold.

More so, our somewhat simple goal has been to share with our family/readers/friends inspirations that which we’ve gleaned from our eight years of non-stop world travel (barring the over six months we’ve been stuck in a hotel room in Mumbai, India, while in lockdown, due to COVID-19). Thus, our topic of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is more about the “where,” the “what,” and the “when” to take photos of wildlife, as opposed to the instructive mode of “how.”

older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk
In most cases, we were within 25 feet of any of the animals in our photos. Notice this older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk. Our guide assumed this old male to be around 60 years old, close to his life expectancy. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Undoubtedly, some of today’s travel tips for wildlife photographers worldwide will include a portion of the “how” when positioning yourself and your subject for the ideal shot, not necessarily the perfect image. It may be a shot that bespeaks your passion, as it has with us, for animals in the wild and then those that may not be in the wild, which are equally fascinating and photo-worthy.

Why write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?…

Unable to take photos these past many months, we’d decided early on in this confinement to take advantage of the thousands of photos we’ve posted throughout the past eight years and share them once again. This provided us with fodder for our daily uploads while fulfilling the expectation of our years-long readers throughout the world. Only early in our journey in 2012, we failed to post photos when we had virtually no experience in using a camera and little interest in learning to do so.

Over the years, we bought a few upgrades from the first purchase we made while at a port of call on our first cruise at a Walmart store in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. . No more than a few days into our journey, we realized, a few shots here and there, taken using our phones, weren’t going to be sufficient. We purchased a small-sized Samsung point and shoot when I thought it was kind of “cute” since the exterior was pink. Oh, good grief! We had no clue how to use it!

Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites
Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites, ticks, and other insects that may burrow under their skin, as is the case of this kudu. Sadly once the insect is extracted, the oxpecker may continue to peck at the injured site, making matters worse. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

Had other world travelers written such a post describing travel tips for wildlife photographers worldwide, we may have checked it out. But, in 2012, there were few people online doing what we have been doing; traveling the world for years to come, without a home, without storage, with only the items in our then overweight luggage (we’ve since improved that scenario), intent on finding appropriate wildlife subjects in most countries in their itinerary.

Had we discovered such a site that emphatically stated we had to learn all the camera features and how to use them, I may have looked the other way, Tom included. Comparable to our lack of interest in bungee jumping, learning the nuances of a camera wasn’t in our wheelhouse. We just weren’t interested.

So, today, for the first time in almost 3000 posts, which we’ll achieve in less than 30 days (within two days of our eighth travel anniversary), we’ll be delighted to share what we’ve learned for the where the what. The when of taking photos that may not be perfect, but will hopefully fill your hearts with blissful memories of places you’ve been and wildlife you’ve been blessed to see and experience, both in the wild and elsewhere.

wildlife photographers around the world
Finding the rarely seen Colobus Monkey put me on a photo-taking frenzy. The photo was taken in Diani Beach, Kenya.

The “where” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

It’s been these very photos that prompted us to write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, that may include the more experienced photographer and also those who, like us at one point, could barely figure out how to use the flash or the zoom, let alone more complicated settings.

When we decided to travel the world early in 2012, we were ready to go ten months later, having sold every worldly possession while booking two years into the future to provide us with peace of mind in knowing we had a place to live wherever we traveled. In the process, we kept in mind our preferences regarding the type of life we wanted to live, the type of property we wanted to live in, and the surroundings we craved.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park, South Africa
We waited patiently, and mom stood while the baby sat up on their hind end, nose touching mom. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

What appealed most to our tastes and desires were a few vital factors:

  1. Beautiful surroundings and scenery, when possible
  2. An abundance of nature within easy reach
  3. Access to experiencing wildlife and other animals daily, if possible
    wildlife photographer in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii
    This Laysan Albatross parent and chick sit close to one another until the chick becomes more confident and the parents feel more at ease. In time, the chick will be left behind on its own to fledge, most likely five to six months later. At five years of age, they will return with a mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The photo was taken in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii.

Utmost in our travels, access to wildlife became more and more important to us as time continued. We’d seen all the historic buildings, churches, and structures, to satisfy a lifetime. We’d dined in excellent restaurants befitting my way of eating. We shopped in unique local markets, adapting to available foods and resources. We experienced the nuances of cultural differences from what we’d known in our old lives and met countless people everywhere we traveled.

But, as far as travel tips for wildlife photographers worldwide, where one chooses to go is of the utmost importance. In Dubai, we were disappointed with little wildlife, other than camels, available for photo-taking, as well as in Morocco. We went wild with delight over the vast array of birds in Costa Rica. We loved shepherding sheep on a farm in England. And, we giggled at a pig farm in Tasmania, Australia.

wildlife photographer in New Plymouth New Zealand
Alpacas are excellent photo subjects. The photo was taken on an alpaca farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

In Madeira, Portugal, we saw dolphins and whales while on a catamaran tour out to sea. In Hawaii, the birds, whales, and other sea creatures were in abundance. In Antarctica, we were in heaven with the sheer numbers of penguins, killer whales, elephant seals, and birds, let alone the scenery beyond our wildest dreams.

It all boils down to what you’d like to accomplish in your travels. If wildlife is your top priority, it’s essential to research to determine if the location you’re hoping to visit has an abundance of wildlife. Many countries we’d assumed would be rife with wild animals were not necessarily the case when the only means of taking photos of very elusive animals was while on a planned safari.

No doubt, we’ve been on safari no less than 100 times over the past years; some guided tours, some with a private guide, and many of our own as “self-drives” through national parks. In each of these cases, one must be prepared to be patient and accept the reality that, at times, you may not be able to take a single photo of the more elusive animals and only see the usual plentiful antelopes and birds.

wildlife photographer in the Maasai Mara in Kenya
The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. We were in a Toyota Land Cruiser with open sides, 25 feet from the lion. Much to our surprise, we never felt frightened or at risk at close range to any of these giant animals, including this massive male lion who gave us a great show. In the background, in the carcass of a zebra, this lion savored for lunch.

For birdwatching enthusiasts, almost every country has a plethora of birds presenting countless photo ops. Taking photos of birds in flight requires superior camera skills, which not every amateur photographer possesses, as has been the case in most scenarios. However, some of our favorite photos are of the Laysan Albatross in Kauai, Hawaii, and of course, in the millions of penguins in Antarctica, a photographer’s dream come true.

In researching possible destinations, essential travel tips for wildlife photographers worldwide determine how critical multitudes in photos are to you or if a select number will satisfy your needs and curiosity. With our daily posts taking tens of thousands of images each year, the numbers of decent shots are essential. For the average traveler, returning home with 100 good photos may be fulfilling. It’s essential to decide where you are on the spectrum.

The “what” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

Amid all the decisions in deciding on locations, one must define what is most vital for you to see and photograph. If lions are at the top of your list, Africa is, by far, the most suitable continent to visit, especially if you choose to stay for a while. But, not every country in Africa is safe to see, nor is there an abundance of lions easily accessed in some countries in Africa.

wildlife photographer in Atenas, Costa Rica
Tom’s photo. What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan. The photo was taken in Atenas, Costa Rica.

We chose Kenya and South Africa as one of our many goals in seeing lions. We were never disappointed in each of these countries. When it came to tigers, we knew India was our best option. There are 13 countries where tigers may be spotted, but for us, India proved to have the best opportunities to encounter them in the wild.

We should mention that animals in zoos and wildlife facilities do not fulfill our objectives. If that were the case, one could visit a zoo in their hometown or home country. The wild aspect has been a top priority for us when we have distinct opinions we won’t share here today about wild animals locked in cages or small enclosures.

That’s not to say, many rehabilitation centers throughout the world may have excellent open spaces for wildlife with the intent of eventually releasing them back into the wild when possible. We have visited many of these, some of which we’ve found rewarding, providing excellent photo ops as shown in our past posts.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park
Impalas have exquisite markings on their faces and bodies. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park.

We’d never have seen a Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania if we hadn’t visited a rehab center, other than the sad roadkill we observed in the mornings. We’ve yet to see one of the more elusive nocturnal animals in the wild, the endangered pangolin. Hopefully, someday we’ll have that opportunity.

Each traveler(s) must decide for themselves, “the what” is most befitting their goals and objectives when returning home, or in continuing on a year’s long journey such as ours with a litany of photos exciting and memorable to savor over the years to come.

The “when” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world…

There are three important questions one may ask themselves regarding the “when” of taking photos of wildlife. For most, they include:

  1. When is the best time in life to embark on such a journey? Only each individual, couple, or family can make that determination based on specific lifestyle, travel budget, work constraints, and worthy of mention, general health. It’s important to note that embarking on a safari for hours at a time on bumpy dirt roads with potholes with surprising fast turns could be difficult for some. Also, climbing in and out of the jeep-type vehicles may be highly challenging for those with certain physical conditions, advanced age, or lack of mobility. This is not an experience for those who could become distressed during a “rough and tumble” experience. Also, individuals with severe back or neck problems could find a safari unbearable. If time is limited, the experience may equally be little. Many choose a one or two-day safari as part of a more extensive trip and find themselves disappointed, unable to see and take photos of some of their personal favorites.
  2. When is the best time of the year to see and photograph wildlife? This varies by the area of each country you choose to visit. Research is imperative to determine the best seasons for viewing wildlife. Most often, the best seasons are during the heat of the hottest time of the year. Often rainy seasons are less desirable. This is important to know if you are sensitive to the thought of sitting in an open-air vehicle while on safari. However, many safari companies have enclosed air-conditioned cars that may be more suitable for those individuals, although taking photos will be restricted in such vehicles. Suppose you’re interested in the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania. In that case, that eventful experience only occurs in the fall months. It must be timed perfectly to witness the five million animals traversing the Serengeti and the Mara River over and over again. Here again, research is imperative.
  3. When is the best time to snap the shot to acquire the best possible photo? When it comes to taking pictures of wildlife, timing is everything. This has been an area we both feel we have found most rewarding, as our skills increased over the years. Patience and perseverance are the keys to this aspect. At times, we’ve sat still quietly for 20 or 30 minutes to acquire the best photo. Also, knowing when to click the shutter is vital for the best possible photo of your chosen subject.
    the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck
    Notice the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

In conclusion…

Many of our photos posted here today will illustrate, in part, our use of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world. They aren’t perfect, but for us, they have fulfilled our desire to create a memory that will easily endure through our lifetime and for those that follow us, for theirs.

If, as a photographer, you’ve been able to learn and develop comprehensive photographic skills, it will only add to your pleasure and fulfillment. Perhaps, in time we may choose to fine-tune our skills. Still, for now, the spontaneous and heartfelt representations of those animals we’ve discovered in the wild, on farms, and in rescue facilities have provided us both with precisely that which we hoped to achieve as we traveled the world over the past eight years.

________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, October 7, 2019:

ocean in Torquay, Devon
It was wonderful to see the ocean once again in Torquay, Devon. For more photos, please click here.