A Sunday drive in the neighborhood…Pinch me, am I dreaming?…

This was one of our favorite sightings of the day, three giraffes drinking together on the Crocodile River.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

We’ve posted other photos of hornbills in our bird feeder, but we can’t ever get enough of these pretty birds.

After uploading the day’s post and busying myself making a special Sunday dinner, I suggested we go for our drive…in this case, a “Sunday drive.” I recall as a kid going for a drive on Sunday afternoons, and it was extraordinary. 

I grew up in Long Beach, California (except for two years in Boston). A Sunday drive usually consisted of visiting one of many exceptional beaches on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The above main photo is from a distance. 

When Tom was a child, typically, his family would drive from Minneapolis to Winsted, Minnesota (72 km, 45 miles) to visit family. It was often too cool to swim in the ocean in the winter months, but the drive and a stop for an ice cream cone were all it took to make the day special. He, too, had some great memories of those days.

Now, as we’ve aged and are “relatively” retired as world travelers, Sundays are just another pleasant day of the week, especially since we’ve re-instituted our old-fashioned Sunday drive.

Giraffes rarely bend over to the ground other than for drinking. They are highly vulnerable to predators in this position.

However, a Sunday drive in Marloth Park is like none other anywhere else in the world. As always, Tom washed the little car’s windows since, at times, sightings occur in front of us on the road, and we have no choice but to take photos through the windscreen (windshield in the US).

A wildlife wonderland.

We load a newly charged battery in the camera, clean the camera lens with a soft cloth and pack an extra battery in Tom’s pants pocket. We fill our mugs with iced tea, Crystal Lite for Tom, and green tea with cinnamon for me, and we’re off.

Over the past 5½ months, we’ve learned to keep our expectations in check. On occasion, we may see little more than helmeted guinea fowls (of which we have dozens in our garden), impalas, and a variety of baboons and Vervet monkeys.

Zooming in on this “obstinancy” of cape buffaloes, we see where they got this plural name. They certainly do appear obstinate and, in fact, are referred to as the “Black Death” based on the number of people they kill each year.

For first-time visitors seeing the above could be most satisfying. But, now, after a total of 8½ months in Marloth Park, including our prior three months in 2013/2014, impalas, although adorable, guinea fowls and monkeys are seldom subjects of photos unless something is exciting transpiring.

As for baboons, which are destructive and may be dangerous, we have no interest in them at all, preferring to stay away as much as possible. The exception may be if a large troupe came to the garden for a possible photo op. Of course, it’s imperative not to feed them, or they’ll never go away.

In this distant photo, it appeared the many cape buffaloes were piled atop one another.  They do stay close to one another when lounging…safety in numbers.

As for the rest of the wildlife, we’re interested in it all, from the unusual insects to tiny frogs to the massive elephants. I suppose most of the residents in Marloth Park feel the same, except we noticed the next-door neighbors feeding the Vervet monkeys over the weekend. 

They leave for their other home, and then we’re left with the monkeys pestering us. We cannot stress enough how destructive they can be. They can literally destroy every item on a veranda or the inside a house in a matter of minutes.

Elephants are always an exciting sighting.

Side note:  a few minutes ago, a hornbill was sitting on a tree limb squawking at us.  Tom checked and found the birdfeeder almost empty of bird seeds. He refilled it, and moments later, the hornbill was back inside the feeder as content as she could be, with several following her. That precipitated today’s “sighting of the day” photo above.

We began the Sunday drive around 1330 hours (1:30 pm) and never made it back “home” until almost 1600 hours (4:00 pm).  What a day we had while merely on a Sunday drive through Marloth Park, mainly focusing on activity on the river.

As we ended our drive along the river road, we spotted elephants close to the fence between Marloth Park and Kruger National Park. This was a first for us, but Kathy and Don’s friends who live on the river road told us this occurs occasionally.

The areas around the bush houses had few animals since many holidaymakers were still here spending a long weekend or more. But, once we reached the river, the sightings were over-the-top. 

We’d drive a short distance with our eyes peeled toward the river, see something, park the little car on the road to walk through the dense bush at times. I was wearing jeans and socks, but Tom was in shorts, scratching up his legs in the process. 

Wildebeests and zebras visiting holidaymakers. They had a small bag of pellets that tourists often buy when they are here for a weekend or longer stay. 

Some indigenous and invasive plants can cause a nasty rash, infection, or even serious injury, so I always make sure my legs are covered. We’d recently read of a woman who died (in another area in South Africa) by a neurotoxin in a plant that had scratched her leg while walking in the bush. 

One can’t be too careful. Next time, he’ll wear long pants. Also, it’s important to wear insect repellent since we aren’t taking malaria pills this year in Africa except for our visa trips to Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

There were giraffes munching on trees in Marloth Park and more drinking on the river.

Anyway, the day was outstanding! We spotted more wildlife in this short period of time than we’d ever seen in Kruger during the same period. It kept coming and coming. Each time we thought we were done for the day, we encountered more sightings. 

Back at our holiday home, a few animals were waiting for us, Ms. Bushbuck and Little Wart Face. We gave them each a little pile of pellets and vegetables in separate areas so LWF wouldn’t chase her away. They happily munch on their treats, both returning in the evening for yet another round.

Yesterday, we saw no less than 100 cape buffaloes at the Crocodile River.

Today, we’ll lay low, enjoying yet another hot and sunny day at 25C (77F) while situated on the veranda, as usual, contemplating our next trip to Kruger and drive in Marloth Park. Of course, we won’t be waiting until next Sunday for either.

Have a warm and sunny day!

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

The lights on the Strip at night are always impressive. It’s hard to believe it was a year ago we were in Las Vegas spending this fun evening, among many others, with son Richard and friends. For more photos, please click here.

Unusual sighting in Kruger shown in our video…Do all body parts have a purpose?…Tom and friends…

Please note the first few seconds of this video illustrating what transpired below.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

After returning from Kruger on Sunday, we headed to Amazing River View, Serene Oasis, to watch the sunset and wildlife on the Crocodile River. This waterbuck was busily grazing on the vegetation as we captured his reflection in the river.

On Sunday afternoon, upon returning home after our failed attempt to find our friends at Lower Sabie in Kruger National Park, we decided to head out for dinner once we knew they were alright.

This elephant with only one tusk was standing at the Verhami Dam in Kruger leisurely tossing dirt over herself. 

Having been to Jabula Lodge & Restaurant on Friday night with Kathy and Don and few restaurants in Marloth Park, we decided we’d stop for a sundowner at Serene Oasis and then drive the few kilometers to Phumula Lodge & Restaurant for dinner. 

The food is good, not great, but the outdoor dining area is charming, and for that reason, along with good service, we enjoy dining there. While at Serene Oasis, we spotted few animals, but the sun quickly went down, and we left for dinner.

It was fascinating watching her from our close vantage point.

The above photo, “Sighting of the Day in the Bush,” made the river view stop worthwhile but, we’ve found the menu at Serene Oasis difficult to accommodate my way of eating. Also, their prices are considerably higher than other restaurants in Marloth Park, and as we book more and more into the future, we continue to manage our budget diligently.

As mentioned above and in more detail in yesterday’s post, found here, we were unable to find our friends who’d planned to meet us at the Mug & Bean Restaurant at Lower Sabie in Kruger at 11:00. We’re planning to repeat the same scenario tomorrow at 11:00 am at the same location, hoping we’ll find each other this time.

She grasped some vegetation while we waited patiently for her next move.

With our successful drive in Kruger National Park, spotting four rhinos shortly after entering, we felt the drive through the park and back was a success, as shown by photos we’ll continue to share over the next few days.

As shown in the above video, this particular elephant sighting was exciting. We’d never witnessed firsthand the degree of adeptness elephants possess with the end of the trunks.

Suddenly, she lifted the end of her trunk and scratched her right eye.

Here are a few facts about elephant’s trunks from this site:

“Did you know these three things about the elephant trunk?1. The human tongue is similar to an elephant’s trunk. The tongue and the trunk are muscular hydrostats – body parts composed almost exclusively of muscle tissue that utilizes water pressure to move. The muscles provide volume constancy and reversible torsional force.

2. The trunk of an elephant is highly dynamic, able to move in various directions with immense strength and precision, though there is no skeletal structure in the trunk.

3. The elephant’s trunk is made up of an incompressible ‘fluid’ (i.e., tightly packed muscle fibers) that maintains its volume to remain constant through various movements. These muscles are arranged in three patterns (perpendicular to the long axis of the organ, parallel to the long axis, or wrapped helically, or obliquely, around the long axis) and provide versatility to the movement of the trunk.”

Over a period of several minutes, she reached up, scratching her eye again.
It’s so easy to take the physical features of wildlife for granted. As we’ve observed nature non-stop over the past four months in Marloth Park, Kruger National Park, and Chobe National Park (Botswana), we’ve concluded, supported by science, that every part of an animal is an animal’s anatomy has a distinct purpose.
Whether it’s the curled tusks of the warthog, utilized for digging up roots and defense, to the huge antlers of the male kudu, to protect his “harem” and maneuver through dense bush, to the massive size, mouth, and teeth of the dangerous hippo, it all has a purpose.
Further down the road, we spotted this wildebeest’s youngster suckling.
Tom and I have discussed these facts repeatedly, often referencing scientific information to confirm our suspicions and satisfy our curiosity. Wildlife isn’t too different from us humans in this regard. Our anatomical features all provide a purpose in our day-to-day lives.

We laughed when simultaneously we mentioned the purported uselessness of the human appendix, which has long been thought to be a worthless remnant in the human body.

Tom’s favorite, Ms. Bushbuck, and her friend were to his right, while my favorite, Ms. Kudu was standing to his left.

In conducting further research, we discovered the following from this site:

“The body’s appendix has long been thought of as nothing more than a worthless evolutionary artifact, good for nothing save a potentially lethal case of inflammation.Now researchers suggest that the appendix is a lot more than a useless remnant. Not only was it recently proposed to actually possess a critical function, but scientists now find it appears in nature a lot more often than before thought. And it’s possible some of this organ’s ancient uses could be recruited by physicians to help the human body fight disease more effectively.

In a way, the idea that the appendix is an organ whose time has passed has itself become a concept whose time is over.

“Maybe it’s time to correct the textbooks,” said researcher William Parker, an immunologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ.”

Parker recently suggested that the appendix still served as a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Past studies had also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells.

To see the elephant at the Verhami Dam so adeptly scratching his eye reminded us of how magically and mysteriously each creature on the magnificent Earth possessing skills, features, and structures vital to their existence in everyday life.

The wildlife in Marloth Park is “wild” but has become used to being near humans.
It’s not as if we’re only sitting back fussing over the wildlife that comes to call each day or those we find in national parks. It’s the opportunity to question, investigate and learn more and more each day, not only about the stunning wildlife surrounding us but also in learning more and more about ourselves, our planet, and our purpose on this Earth.
For all of this, we are eternally grateful. And, we’re grateful to be able to share it all with YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, June 12, 2018:

Across the Bay in Vancouver, we could see the Olympic Mountains.  At first, we thought this was a view of clouds, not mountains.  For more photos, please click here.