Overnight Hide

Saturday was a long but amazing day. Normal start in the morning at 5.30am and spent most of the morning watching 2 elephants playing in the dam (reservoir).

After lunch I was in the Overnight hide with Nigel and Martin. The Overnight hide is probably one of the best constructed hides in the world. It overlooks a small watering hole but has 4 bunkbeds, a proper toilet, a kitchen, electricity and running water.

It’s situated deep in the reserve and once you are in, you are in though it does have wifi too so you can update blogs etc and use an internet phone for emergencies. It has 2 led floodlights that remain on all night and once you work out the camera settings the results are stunning. We took shifts between us through the night, the signal to wake was the sound of a camera shutter rattling away. We were in for 18 hours and the time flew by. Im in there again on Tuesday night and can’t wait. Our only mammal visitors in the dark were Wildebeest and Zebra so hoping for better things on Tuesday as the Lions have moved over to that region.

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Lagoon Hide

This morning (Friday) we went at first to the Vulture hide though as it was overcast and cooler, the vultures weren’t in the area and the only thing interested in the Wildebeest carcass was a black backed jackal so I took my group into the Lagoon Hide. This is a hide that is at eye level to a lake frequented by wading birds, kingfishers, and if you are lucky, Fish Eagles and Crocodiles.The hide is so busy with 2 views, one east and one west facing its like sitting in your own little nature program. Below are a few of the photos from the hide including the Black Backed Jackal, a pair of Pied Kingfishers, a Grey Heron plus some Elephants from the drive back.

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Back at Zimanga

We finally arrived in Mkuze in the hours of darkness and checked into the very luxurious Ghost Mountain Inn. After making sure everyone was ok after dinner we all had an early night as we were getting picked up at 5am the next morning.

I didn’t get much sleep but soon we were picked up at the hotel by the Zimanga guides, Hendri and Dean and taken fro a drive around the reserve. As the sun came up we had picked up the pack of Wild Dogs which had 12 puppies so we followed them for a while, past a rare daylight sighting of 2 porcupines that the puppies found interesting. The dogs then came across the male Cheetah, Kalahari, who was starting to look a little old as he is well over the life expectancy for a cheetah but held his own when the dogs became aggressive towards him.

The rest of the day we saw Rhino which have been de-horned to stop the poaching which is destroying these animals at an unbelievable rate, lots of Elephant and we then met up with the most recent additions to Zimanga. 4 Lions, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. We took some normal photos of the Lions, then as it got dark we did some creative back lit shots using the vehicle spotlights. The results were amazing.

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Whale Watching and Hippos

Early start on Wednesday morning as the Whale watching boat left at 6am and fortunately no-one else turned up so we had the boat to ourselves. It was a little choppy getting out to see but we were lucky enough to get several Humpback Whale sightings.

Afterwards we headed up to St Lucia where we had lunch then on the Hippo Croc boat. The Crocs were a little camera shy but the hippos performed well.

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Africa 2016

Back in Africa with Trai Anfield. We have a group of 10 Photographers and wildlife enthusiasts hoping for some unforgettable memories.

After a long flight to Johannesburg followed by a domestic flight to Richards Bay we met up at the Ridge Hotel in Richards bay for an overnight stay ready for an early morning start on a Whale watching trip.

Among the visitors is my mum and Trai’s mum.

After the Whale watching trip we are heading north to St Lucia to go on the Hippo Croc boat tour before heading further north to Ghost mountain Inn at Mkuze for an 8 night stay where we will be visiting the Zimanga each day to experience the amazing wildlife which now includes Lions. I’ll try and update this blog as often as we get some Wifi.

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Second Gorilla Trek then home

Yet another early start with the normal routine of a drive to the Volcano National Park HQ where we watched the entertainment of local dancers and music while the goods worked out what group we would be trekking to. As we were flying home we were allocated a closer group called the Kwitonda family. It is one of the biggest groups with 22 individuals ranging from 2 Silverbacks to one of the smallest babies on the mountain.

Although shorter, the trek took us through very dense jungle, the trackers cutting a path with machetes but eventually we met the group. We thought the last experience couldn’t be topped but we were wrong. We ended up sat under a some low trees with most of the group where they were sheltering from light rain. At times the Silverback was running around beating his chest but it was the female baby that stole the show. Check out that hair do!DSC_6660 DSC_6670 DSC_6714 DSC_6805 DSC_6877 DSC_6923 DSC_7000 DSC_7066 DSC_7148 DSC_7154 DSC_7220 DSC_7284 DSC_7381

Sitting at the airport now waiting for the flight home. Enjoy the photos :)

 

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Golden Monkeys

Another early start, picked up at 0630 again for a journey to the Volcano national park headquarters for a briefing before setting off on a trek to see the Golden Monkeys. Golden Monkeys are one of the most endangered species in Africa and only exist around these volcanoes bordering Rwanda, Uganda and the Republic of Congo.

They inhabit the forests in the lower areas so the trek was much easier and was probably only about 4 miles in total. Once we reached the area where they were it was quite difficult to see them though once they realised we were not a threat they became more relaxed easier to get close to.

Packing tonight as we are out on a gorilla trek again tomorrow then heading back to the airport at Kigali for my flight home tomorrow night.

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Me with the Silverback

  

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First Gorilla Trek

An early start today as we were getting picked up from the lodge at 0630 then a ride to the Volcanoes National Park where we would be allocated our guide and the gorilla group we would be visiting. there was local music and dancing while we waited for this process.

We had made a special request for the guide Francois Bigirimana. He is the oldest of the guides and worked with Dian Fossey for the 5 years before she was murdered. We were all very pleased when he was allocated to us and after a briefing we started on our trek to the Kuryama group. The walk started as a steep incline from getting out of the vehicles and didn’t stop. Initially it was over farmed land, children shouting hello and waving as we climbed the hill then we passed through a narrow gap in a high stone wall. This wall was built to prevent the elephants and buffalo from getting to the farm land from the jungle on the sides of the volcano. Through the wall we were faced with dense jungle though followed a narrow path towards an area where our gorilla group had been located by the trackers. The gorilla groups move location every evening and create a new nest where they sleep overnight. Along the route, Francois would talk about the foliage that the gorillas would eat and would demonstrate eating different plants in a way that gorillas would. He also demonstrated the 16 communication grunts and noises that gorillas made. This guy really could communicate with the gorillas.

Eventually we stopped and had to leave everything behind other than cameras, memory cards and spare batteries. We then started moving through the dense undergrowth, the trackers using machetes to clear a path, and suddenly we were among  the family of gorillas. There were 2 silverbacks, several blackbucks, juveniles and a 3 month old baby. The rules are we are allowed to stay with the gorillas for 1 hour. This ensures the animals are away from human contact for 23 hours of the day. The trackers kept moving around and clearing areas to make other individuals easier to see. We were so close to them, sometimes very close. It was an incredible experience, I have spent time with many animals in my life but this was special, probably the best ever animal experience. It seemed such a privilege to sit with these gentle giants. I took hundreds of photographs, but sometimes I just watched them. This was the quickest hour of my life and before long we were on our trek back off the volcano. We walked about 8 miles in total, 4 miles up then 4 down and reached an altitude of almost 3000 metres. The air is thin at this height so we moved slowly ant took lots of breaks.

Enjoy the photos :)

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Volcanoes National Park

The rest of Trai’s guests arrived this morning at the hotel making us now a group of 6. We set off on a 3 hour journey after breakfast to our accommodation for the next 3 days. The journey gave us the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country. The route started on a climb out of Kigali and continued to climb for all 3 hours. We are now at about 2300 metres above sea level, the air is noticeably thin and tomorrow morning we are going even higher.

The photos was taken on the way up here, including the Dian Fossey Foundation building close to the volcanoes in the town where she would call into to re stock with supplies.

The top picture is the road out of Kigali. The picture of the volcano is the view from my little cottage.

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Trip to Rwanda

Another early start after a late night trying to get everything packed. We had booked a shuttle vehicle to pick us up at 0630 to take us top the airport for our 3 and a half hour flight up to Kigali, Rwanda. We were met at the airport and after changing some currency and getting a Rwandan sim card, we headed off to our overnight stay, the Flame tree lodge. Well considering I have a single room, it has 2 beds, a lounge, a kitchen and a massive bathroom. We had lunch by the pool then went to visit the Genocide museum. Difficult to imagine how something like that happened only 20 years ago. There were over 250,000 bodies buried at the location of the museum of over 1 million that were massacred at the time.

Tomorrow we travel up to the Volcanoes National Park and check into our next accommodation ready for our first Gorilla trek the next morning. My first impression of Rwanda is that it is the friendliest African country that I have been to so far.

The photo below is taken with the drone showing the Lagoon hide in the foreground.

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Photos from yesterday

Here are a few photos from yesterday that I mentioned in yesterdays blog. The black & white elephant was taken by Trai while it was charging her! Take more than a charging elephant to take Trai’s mind off photography.

We are now back up in Johannesburg after a 6 hour drive which was after 9 hours on the game reserve. We did lots of flying today and got some amazing video of Rhino, crocks, hippos, buffalo and giraffe. Really looking forward to putting a short film together.

Tomorrow morning we have an early flight to Kigali in Rwanda where we will be spending time tracking up the mountains to photograph the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Im really looking forward to seeing the gorillas.

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Last full day at Zimanga

Last full day today as tomorrow afternoon we drive north back to Johannesburg. Spent all morning with the wild dogs feeding after they had killed a young Nyala. 

Also met up with the owner who took us to see some new animal hides he is building. This place is amazing for photography but will be even better next year. 

This afternoon we spent an hour in a trial Bee eater hide and got some nice photos. We then found the leopard on the river bank before heading up to see white rhino with the sun setting behind them. Had a really busy evening so haven’t hat time to sort images out but will as soon as I can. In the mean time here is the accommodation I’m staying in. Just I case you thought we were roughing it :) 

    
   

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First Game Drive

Up at usual time today and met Hendri at the gat for 0545. Today we went on a game drive, initially looking for the wild dogs but when they proved difficult to find we set off to look for Kalahari, the male cheetah that I had seen many times when I was here 2 years ago. Eventually we found him tucking into an Impala. It was good to see that he was looking healthy as he is quite old now for a cheetah.

We then went in search of the dogs again. 4 months ago they had a litter of 12 pups so there are 6 adults here too, so a pack of 18 in total, running around as a killing machine. We found them in dense undergrowth, they were also eating an Impala, Takes the heat off the warthogs, at least till tomorrow. We are going to try and get to them early tomorrow and hopefully see them kill.

In out mid day break today, Trai and I decided to do some aerial photography with the drone. It gave a great perspective to see the reserve from the air. The shot below shows the owners house overlooking the river.

We had a fairly quiet afternoon though Trai did find out what an elephant looks like when he is charging towards you while we were out of the vehicle!

Enjoy the photos which include us having a beer on a ‘sundowner’

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Fingers crossed

Trai and I decided to buy  bottle of wine while we were in Mkuze to see if we can win a trip to Madikwe Safari lodge so fingers crossed. The wine was nice but shame about the label!! Reminds me I must go on a diet when I get home.

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First day at Zimanga

We were up early as we were to meet at the Zimanga gates for 0545. We met up with our Ranger Hendri and were taken to a bird hide, a reflection pool where we would be spending a few hours this morning. These are meant for bird photography but we were very happy when some warthogs and vervet monkeys turned up for a drink! South Africa is very dry at the moment, there have been no rains this year in this area and none are forecast so the wildlife is suffering.

We had a few spare hours at lunch time so popped into the local town Mkuze and managed to get a data sim card to run my blog.

In the afternoon we met with Hendri again, and this time were taken to a different hide overlooking the lagoon. The highlight was when a fish eagle came down and took a catfish out of the lagoon.

We had a really good day, took hundreds of photographs, it will take a while to go through them all, some ruthless deleting is in order!!DSC_1956 DSC_2029 DSC_2078 DSC_2171 DSC_2344 DSC_2597 DSC_2708 DSC_2763 DSC_2949 DSC_3040

 

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Back to Zimanga

First of all apologies to those who have been wondering where we got too and wondering if the crocs got us. Problem is when we got to Zimanga there is no wifi so I have been today and got a sim card so back in action. I also was unable to authorise comments to be published till now, so thanks to all those who have left comments :)

We met up with Ester again and were picked up to go to the Croc and hippo boat tour which was excellent, and we saw lots of…. yes you guessed it… hippos and crocodiles but also quite a few African birds such as herons and kingfishers. The boat tour lasted about 2 hours then we set off on our journey north. It was lovely to see Ester again, look forward to meeting up again on travels in the future. We only managed about 20 minutes when we passed a butterfly dome so we stopped there for an hour for a few more photo opportunities.

On the road again, passing the gates of Zimanga, we finally arrived at our new home for 4 nights, the Nkonkoni fishing camp. The camp is on a game reserve so we had to go through security gates then arrived at the camp. We have a chalet each, which each have 4 beds and are amazing, I will post photos later in the week. Below are a few photos from the boat trip.

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Hluhluwe Imfolozi

Up at 0450 this morning and breakfast for 0510! We were off to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game park to meet up with Ester. Ester was the manager of the volunteer project that I was on in Zimanga 2 years ago and she now works at Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve as a ranger, responsible for monitoring black rhino.

The journey took just over an hour and we met Ester, who then joined us on a day driving around the game park. Within a very short while we had seen buffalo and cheetah and by the end of the day had also seen white rhino, elephant and lion. A really enjoyable day and really interesting to hear about Esters job and to catch up.

Trai and I left the park about 2 in the afternoon so decided to go via the beach at Saint Lucia as Trai hadn’t actually seen any of Saint Lucia in daylight.

Just got back from dinner again at the Ocean basket, amazing seafood and because of the strong pound against the South African Rand, ridiculously cheap!

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The Ocean basket serve their food in frying pans! That could save me some washing up when I get home :)

We are going on a crocodile and hippo estuary boat trip in the morning. Should be fun.

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Road to Saint Lucia

After a good nights sleep at the Aero Guest Lodge next to OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg, I met up with Trai for breakfast then we got on the shuttle bus back to the airport to pick up the hire vehicle, a Nissan X Trail which should be just about big enough for out camera bags! 

The journey ahead was 8 hours, South East to the beautiful coastal town of Saint Lucia, a town that I had visited several times in the past when I was staying at Zimanga. The journey was far easier than I expected with a few stops and driver swaps and we arrived just after it got dark. We checked into our next accommodation, the Santa Lucia guest house, our home for 2 nights then walked into town for a bite to eat at the Ocean basket restaurant before an early night. We are up at 4.30 in the morning to go to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game park where we would be beefing up with a friend Ester who now works there as a ranger. 

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It’s been a long day!

Just arrived in Johannesburg after an epic journey! Picked Trai up at 4am this morning then drove to Newcastle airport for our flight to Amsterdam. Everything went very smooth (apart from the heaviest ever landing at Amsterdam, there has got to be a point when a heavy landing is a crash!) and we were soon on the long haul trip to Johannesburg.  

 Cleared immigration in record breaking time and checked into a near bye guest lodge where we are staying overnight before we pick a hire car up in the morning. 

Trai and I are looking to run wildlife photography and film making workshops here next year so the purpose of this trip is to source ideal locations and activities. 

Here is the first photo of the trip in the guest lodge dining room. Trai was very happy to see the bottle of Peach chutney that she used to like when she was living in South Africa with her parents. Hopefully the quality of the photography will improve!

  
More news soon :)

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