Whenever we’re out exploring South Africa’s wild places, bird-watching is one of the pastimes we most enjoy. In this regard we rate the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park very highly, as both these reserves have a wonderful combination of bird species on offer, several of which are unique to the area in a South African context. During our visit in March, we managed to identify 105 different species at uMkhuze Game Reserve and 89 species on the Eastern Shores of Lake St. Lucia (both part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park) and 104 species in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. These photographs feature just a few of them.
Tag Archives: Autumn Adventure 2022
Autumn Adventure: Butterflies in abundance
Autumn Adventure: Something Fishy
You can’t really say that you’ve been to Cape Vidal in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park if you haven’t spent at least a little time exploring the rock pools there and at Mission Rocks at low tide.
Seeing freshwater fish without casting a line is a little more tricky than peering into a rock pool, but the viewing platforms next to uMkhuze Game Reserve’s Nsumo Pan – and the pan’s clear water – makes it possible to see fish like these Red-breast Tilapia easily from above.
Autumn Adventure: Flirtatious Lion
Autumn Adventure – uMkhuze’s Giant Carrion Flowers
Now this is a plant that really grabs your attention when visiting the uMkhuze Game Reserve in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, especially if you have a chance to walk the grounds of the Mantuma Rest Camp where we stayed for 4 nights in March this year.
The Giant Carrion Flower is notable not only for the smell of its flowers, which really does smell like rotting meat (especially on a hot afternoon!), but also because it boasts the biggest flowers – up to 40cm across! – of any South African plant. These flowers can be borne at any time of year, though mainly in late summer and early autumn. Their succulent, green stems are small by comparison, growing around 25cm tall only. Probably not surprising, the flowers are pollinated by flies, and so convincing is the smell that flies often lie their eggs on the flower! The seedpod that develops from pollinated flowers carries lots of plumed seeds that are dispersed by the wind, but they can also be propagated vegetatively as the stems will easily re-root. Giant Carrion Flowers grow best in dry, hot areas and rocky outcrops.
Giant Carrion Flowers occur naturally in all the countries of Southern Africa (Angola, Zambia and Malawi southwards) and in all South Africa’s provinces. It is considered to be of least concern, but some wild populations are declining due to extensive collection for ornamental and medicinal use. In traditional medicine these plants are used to treat pain, constipation and bruising, and also as a magic charm against evil and lightning. They are popular and easy to keep in the garden or in pots, especially as it requires very little water.
Autumn Adventure – Elephants: Cape Vidal’s Highway Patrol
Over the years we’ve visited Cape Vidal, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, many times – our most recent visit was the twelfth time I had been there – but up until this latest visit we’ve only had one fleeting sighting of an Elephant there before. Seeing them so frequently this time around was therefore a real treat! It must be noted that the elephants roaming the shores of Lake St. Lucia have a reputation for cantankerous temperaments; this year January a family were lucky to escape without serious injury when a bull flipped their car on the main road leading to Cape Vidal, and so it goes without saying that we treat them with the utmost respect.
Soon after arriving through the Bhangazi Gate on the 23rd of March we took a detour along the Vlei Loop, where we had our first encounter with a herd of elephants emerging from a dense thicket into the road. Aside from one youngster who wanted to show off his menacing moves, this encounter went off calmly and without incident.
Where the Vlei Loop rejoins the main road we found a lone bull on his way to the iZindondwe Pan, and we couldn’t believe our luck!
After the bull walked off from his drink we got underway ourselves again, only to find the herd of elephants now also at the junction with the Vlei Loop. They were still very calm, though the older cows were keeping a vigilant eye on us, and we could watch them at leisure from our Duster. We especially enjoyed a youngster having a good scratch on a road marker! Eventually the matriarch gave the signal and the entire herd set off in the direction of Mission Rocks.
Well, we thought that it was the entire herd, but as we started rolling this frantic youngster came charging from the thick bush along the road. These “teenage” elephants can be real pranksters so there’s no telling whether he “ambushed” us or were really feeling lost having fallen behind the rest of his herd.
The next morning we were heading to St. Lucia town to stock up on groceries, and just after our picnic breakfast at Mission Rocks we found the herd blocking our way yet again. This time they were solidly laying claim to the road and we were not going to argue their right of way. Besides, elephants walking towards you always make better pictures than elephants walking away!
Eventually the herd reversed us back all the way to the Mission Rocks turnoff, and we thought that was a splendid spot to get out of their way and watch the parade pass in front of us.
What we didn’t know was that a portion of the herd decided to do some bundu-bashing and emerged from the forest immediately next to the spot we chose to watch their family members walk along the road. We very quickly had to start the car and get out of their way, because now THEIR way was blocked by US and they were not happy!
Once the road was clear ahead of us we could return to the junction. Looking right we could see the herd moving along in the direction of Cape Vidal, but as we turned left in the direction of Bhangazi Gate and St. Lucia town, we were stopped in our tracks again by two young stragglers chasing each other around.
Altogether we saw elephants 6 times during our 3 days on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia. We felt really lucky, and know that next time we visit we’re going to recall all these encounters every time we pass the same spots.
Autumn Adventure – First encounter with elephants at uMkhuze
While we’re on the subject of elephants; in four previous visits to the uMkhuze Game Reserve, an integral part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, we’ve never seen the reserve’s elephants, despite them numbering around a hundred animals. Finally that unlucky streak was broken on the 22nd of March this year during our fifth visit. We had been following the drive back to camp from Nsumo Pan, dodging droppings and broken branches on a wet road, when first the matriarch and then the whole herd emerged out of the thicket into the road ahead of us.
The whole herd were quite relaxed with our presence. The whole herd that is, except one youngster. He sneaked out of the thick vegetation like a cat on the prowl, keeping his head low as he came running towards us, only to stop with head held high and ears widely spread, doing his best to intimidate us. We tried not to laugh in his face though, because one day he will be enormous and he might remember us…
Autumn Adventure – You “musth” give way to this giant!
Well, we’re back home in Pretoria after a wonderful two weeks exploring the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Lots of stories to tell you in the coming weeks about our trip, and we’re going to start with a sequence of photo’s from yesterday’s drive through the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park to Memorial Gate on our way home.
By 07:30 we had made our way to within 3 kilometers of Hilltop Camp when we found our way blocked by a big male elephant in musth. “Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones” (wikipedia). To top it all this bull had a broken tusk and a sore on his face – even more reason for him to be agitated! Predictably this bull quickly showed us who rules in Hluhluwe – most of the following images were taken by Joubert as I had to concentrate on reversing downhill at speed for much of the half hour that followed.
A few minutes into the encounter a ranger arrived on the scene. Obviously he has much more experience in dealing with irate bull elephants and I would strongly advise against any visitors trying to play chicken with an elephant in such a mood like this ranger did…
With the ranger gone, the bull turned his attention to us again. Eventually he pushed us back about 1.5km to the start of the Mansiya Loop Road, offering us an opportunity to escape. Whether he chose to keep walking along the tar road, or exit onto the Loop road, we’d have an opportunity to pass.
The bull chose to stay on the tar road, so we used to Loop Road to get past him. As we rejoined the main road we could still see him slowly making his way up the hill.
For most of the rest of the way to Hilltop Camp his path of destruction could be seen as parts of trees and bushes littered the roadway.
Marilize got this shot of Joubert taking pictures of the irate elephant bull with her cellphone.