Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bush breakfast day................

The early morning wake up call..........groggy and still tired, roll out of the oh so comfy bed, splash water on the face.  Knock on the door and a smiling lady enters with coffee, tea, dipping snacks.  Pull on bush clothes, grab bug spray (only got one mosquito bite during my entire safari, yeah!), shower waits until return from morning game drive.  Swig the coffee, grab the cameras, bush hat, scarf - mornings chilly - off we go.

This leopard was not invited to attend our 'bush breakfast'.............we caught up with her later that morning!

The previous evening we were asked what we'd like our picnic basket to hold.  There it was waiting in the back seat and, at 6:30 AM, we were wrapped in warm blankets and on the trail to a dry sandy river bed. Gordon, our guide, checked the area which was open and safe (well that's what we hoped!), set up a table, poured the tea and coffee, and in no time we were devouring fresh baked croissants and fruit muffins, hard boiled eggs, fruit, yogurt and gets such an appetite in the fresh air.

Notice ladies, real plates and silverware too!

Gordon, Jen and Paula chowing down!

That's the 'bush toilet' in the background, behind the large rock, which of course Gordon also checked out first! He did find lion and elephant tracks - and now as I'm writing this I'm thinking how the heck was I brave enough to get out of the vehicle, actually woof down and thoroughly enjoy that food, and then take a walk to the loo behind that rock when who knows what could have been watching me or my back----!!!!  Somehow I became fearless on safari - guess I just decided to enjoy it all no matter what because it could have been my one and only chance!

Unfortunately Babs missed this exciting early morning game drive.  She came down with a bronchial infection and we thought the chilly air would not be good for her.  She also stayed behind a few other times because we needed her to be well to make the long flight home later in the week..........although, in all honesty, I was almost hoping we could stay longer while getting her healthy again!  Who would actually want to leave this special place?

We packed up and headed off on the trail.  Baboons were very active in the surrounding trees and often it was difficult to get good shots as they are quick, swinging through the branches, chattering noisily.........

...........however this guy sat still for a while pondering the ups and downs of life in the bush no doubt..............

.......and was then joined by his affectionate lady.

Speaking of ladies, this young female leopard was gorgeous. 

She came so close, crossing in front of us - that's the steering wheel of our Land Rover - walking quietly across the trail.......

...................we went off road, following her through the bush.  She often stopped and we were able to get some great shots - love those whiskers and eyelashes.

After a while she, like us, was getting tired.  We left her resting in the grass and we moved on to other pursuits.

For great photos of the handsome young male leopard seen earlier on my safari trip in Botswana, go here

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birds do it, bees do it............................

..............even lions in the bush do it!

Coming across this full grown male lion was awesome.  Resting in the open grass, he was calling for his lady with a low, hoarse roar, not loud at all to the human ear but probably heard by a lioness in the area.
How magnificent these creatures are.  Walking proudly one gets a sense of their well-earned name of 'King of the Jungle' even though this bushveld landscape is not actually 'jungle'.  I like 'Lion King' better.

After the exciting sunset viewing of the crash of rhinos, see my previous post, Gordon received a radio call that the king and his lady were together on the dry river bed enjoying some evening delight!  Off we went at full throttle ready to take a peek as apparently lions are not shy!

As it was dark, Gordon held the light so we could see the lions and take photos - this is why the colors are intense.  We were close and they were not concerned at all.  Mating occurs every 20 minutes, lasting about 30 seconds, for three days!  During that time the pair do not leave the area or eat anything.

That look on his face, almost whimsical.

I love this shot where they are resting close among the lions!!!

I decided to edit this post prior to publishing, removing the more explicit photos because several readers are sharing my pics with their young children or students.  I don't want the children to be upset by the lion's fierce expression in some of the photos taken during the mating ritual.  They are awesome photos though!

If you would like to know more about lions behaviour, interesting facts about these amazing cats are given in a great Wikipedia article here

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The White Rhinoceros

"Oops, there's something stuck in my ear".

Remember those little Red-billed oxpecker birds I showed doing a great bug clean-up job on the kudu?  Seems like they are also employed by these guys too!

Having narrowly escaped extinction through more enlightened conservation policies, the white rhinoceros has found a safe haven at MalaMala.

White rhinos are actually grey and have a softer squared lip and shorter horn than the more ferocious black rhino.

Here you can see how, on an evening game drive at
MalaMala with our guide Gordon, this crash of seven rhinos came very close to the vehicle.  They were gently nibbling the grasses and moving slowly toward the setting sun.

Although very large and appearing a bit top heavy on those short legs, rhinos are agile and move quite fast when necessary.

Paula at the ready to capture great shots with her camera.

Jen's camera snapping away in front of me as the rhinos checked us out.  They just kept moving slowly along - note the oxpecker on the back of the one in the foreground.

........and then there was this guy, the magnificent 'Lion King' of course......

........earlier that same day we saw him wandering alone, roaring softly now and then.  Gordon told us he was calling his lady.  Later that evening after watching the rhinos we were in for a big surprise involving the lions..........get ready for the next episode! 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pink Saturday

Nothing compares to an African sunset.  Visiting in May, which was early Winter, the pinks in the sky were delicate, mixed with lavender and lilac. They changed so quickly, almost in the blink of an eye, making one hurry the Land Rover along over bumpy trails to a good viewing spot preferably with silhouetted trees...........

.......and this particular evening with 'pink rhinoceros'.

Only pink in the African sunset, a lovely sight to behold, and worth the lurching, breathless, "hang on to your hat" ride with Gordon at the wheel.  More pics of these quite friendly giants in a future post.

Rhinoceros: Ceratotherium Simum
The square-lipped white rhinoceros has little fear of the larger predators, since the outcome of any attack is usually in favour of the rhinoceros.  Their eyesight is poor but they do have an acute sense of smell and hearing and can be extraordinarily agile on the move.  The more social square-lipped rhino are temperamentally quieter that the solitary, hook-lipped species, which can be extremely bad-tempered when provoked.  The huge square-lipped rhinoceros is ranked as Africa's third largest land mammal.

Hope your Pink Saturday is going well.  Cooler days at your end perhaps, meanwhile here in central North Carolina we have sweltered all week with temps. as high as 105 on Thursday - definitely not my favorite type of weather!

Pop on over to visit our Pink Saturday hostess Beverly at How Sweet The Sound where you can check on old friends and make some new ones from all around the world.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Welcome to a beautiful place...........

Rattray's on MalaMala, South Africa.................the epitome of regal colonial safari-style, offering a glimpse of an era long past.

The beautiful book I was given as a remembrance of my stay.

Paula arriving at our 'home' for 5 fabulous days.

The open doorway welcomed......and the shutters, you must remember how much I LOVE shutters on the windows, outside and in!  Paula had prepared me, somewhat! "Mar, you'll love our khaya with a foyer decorated with paintings, a table to drop your bag, camera sunglasses, bug spray and key - not that it's ever necessary to lock the door -and all the luxuries so unexpected in a safari 'tent'!" 

Each khaya functions as an inclusive home, resplendent with hand-selected furnishings, lavish bathrooms, a secluded outdoor shower and private heated plunge pool.

On each side of the interior space was a beautiful dressing room with floor to ceiling mahogany closets, my side with toilet, huge marble vanity, gigantic tiled double shower, electric towel warmer on the wall, fragrant Moulton Brown of London toiletries, floor length mirror and piles of towels of the perfect weight and plushness!

On Paula's side, similar set-up but with claw foot tub and bubble bath by the scoop.  What more could a gal need after a dusty game drive through the bush......such luxury.

Paula, Mary, Jen and Babs....ready to roll out of camp on the afternoon game drive!  Rattray's on MalaMala has
a 4-passenger only limit in vehicles without covered tops, this allows much better wildlife viewing/photography.

Inside this lovely climate-controlled space, besides the king bed there was a second twin bed, writing desk, dining nook, comfy sofa and armchairs, armoire with TV(which of course we never watched as there were too many other exciting things going on!), every comfort one could need.


Doors opening onto the veranda which overlooked the Sand River where we saw elephants passing through.

Another view of the plunge pool/outdoor shower area.

Who would have thought it.......staying in such comfort while on safari in South Africa!
Even pretty from the rear!

Coming up next - the prevalence of antelope including impala, and the sable from which MalaMala Game Reserve takes its name, meant great wildlife viewing.  Which do you prefer?  The big guys, giraffe, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and of course elephant.......or the little cuties such as naughty monkeys and lizards?  Of course I have more beautiful birds to show too - see you back here I hope as I share stories and photos of the last special days of my awesome safari.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Entry to the khaya (Zulu for 'home')

I thought I'd have my 'khaya' post ready for today but the unforeseen circumstances of last evening involving a table knocked over, onto a floor lamp which exploded, and a full glass of red wine painting a large ruby red map on the living room carpet........put everything on hold!  Guess who's coming by shortly.....yep, the carpet cleaner guy and hopefully he'll work magic or my DH will only be served Sauvignon Blanc from here on out..........and he so prefers a nice glass of vin rouge!!!!!!

Meanwhile I wish I was back here at Rattray's on MalaMala in South Africa, dipping my toes in  my plunge pool, no worries about domestic stuff...........

........................and sitting out here enjoying a lovely breakfast and getting ready to hit the trail for a game drive in the bush.

Looks like I am back in the real world after all and now all that's left is to dream about returning to Africa sometime in the future.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On the way to MalaMala

Leaving Toya Leya camp, and the Zambezi River, meant goodbye to the very competent manager Danni, from the UK, and an extremely friendly staff.  We loved our visit there and the memories will always be precious.

The outdoor lounge area at Toka Leya - a local combo from Livingstone performed here one evening before dinner - we danced to songs with unusual titles........"Remember to Make Your Will" and "HIV", certainly very different!

I almost forget to tell you this little tidbit.  At night, after dark, when we returned to our tents, there was a 'hippo guard' posted at the low point on this protect us from hippos crossing through to dry land from the river..................

.............oh yes, wouldn't want to bump into one of these big guys on my way to bed!


Our fourth and last safari camp was in South Africa.  It involved flying from Livingstone, Zambia to spend another night in Johannesburg at the Intercontinental airport hotel before flying onward to MalaMala.

Jen, Paula and Babs...typical Brits on holiday!!!!

The rooftop pool overlooked O.R. Tambo Airport - couldn't be much closer to catch your flight than that.  It's an elegant hotel and the rooms and service topnotch. Being fun-loving English friends of a certain age................we acted very ladylike and behaved ourselves of course!

Next morning we flew Johannesburg to Skukuza and then took a bumpy 45 minute Land Rover drive to our 'home' for the next 5 nights.

MalaMala Game Reserve shares a 12 mile unfenced border with the Kruger National Park and is the largest (33,000 acres) private Big Five game reserve in South Africa.  MalaMala's thrilling game viewing is a prime draw-card for some of the world's most renowned wildlife photographers and filmmakers.  There are three camps including the luxury camp Rattray's on MalaMala where we stayed.  Accommodation is in 8 khayas (meaning 'home' in Zulu).
Portico at Rattray's on MalaMala.

As Paula had stayed here several times we were welcomed warmly.  After being handed scented towels to freshen up, with an introduction to Gordon who was to be our ranger/guide and host for our stay, we were escorted to the deck overlooking the water where lunch was served.  We'd actually missed the regular lunch service however they had kept food for us and everything was delicious.

I know you want to see my beautiful khaya!  Next time I'll show you around Rattray's camp before we head out in the South African sunshine on the hunt for more wildlife!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A girl named Marie............

I hesitated momentarily to write this post but decided to go ahead anyway.  This amazing trip to view places I never expected to see in my lifetime was full of joy and happiness.  Many special happenings remain in my memory.  I still climb into bed each night and relive each exciting moment.....the awesome game drives to view the wildlife, sleeping under thatch and canvas in plush 'tents', delicious food, and the very special people who work hard to share the wonders of the African bush with those of us who are fortunate to go 'on safari'.  I also treasure the time with dear friends on the journey to these amazing countries.

Me with Marie
Photo by Paula

The visit to the village was very different and the memory of it is still playing with my emotions big time!  The experience of viewing this culture up front and personal, getting to meet not only adults but many of the 300 children, being shown their homes, learning just a smidgen about their daily lives involving school, farming, health care (often lack of), loss of lives to AIDS and malaria, was an eye opener!  Protecting their village from unwelcome visitors such as elephants by growing chili peppers (later sold to Tabasco as a cash crop) around their vegetable patches, recent addition of water being available from taps in the village (but still no electricity), and the opening of a small clinic, whereas before it was a long walk into Livingstone for health care, has helped the village. BUT................

....................just a couple of hours later that same day, sitting on the deck of the very elegant Royal Livingstone Hotel, mindful of the Zambezi slowly sliding by like crinkled silver tinfoil, we joined other tourists as they watched the sun set over the mighty Victoria Falls, all of us raising glasses to living the good life.........

..................and I thought about the village just a short distance off.  It struck me that most of those people had perhaps never done this..........never had the chance to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world right on their doorstep!  As the water hurtled over the falls, and the spray blushed pink and mauve in the quickly receding sunlight, I felt a huge sadness.

It is sad and it hurts knowing those children, like their parents, still may not visit here to watch the sunset.  Education is limited, jobs are scarce, the average life expectancy is 37 years.  The future is not very promising with the AIDS situation still a huge issue in many African countries.

The village receives some support from two local safari lodges on the banks of the Zambezi, one being Toka Leya where we stayed.  They help with funding projects to improve the facilities along with donations from guests, focusing assistance on health, sanitation, education and income generation........and particularly on the needs of the women and children.

Marie, and several of the children, walked around their village with us, holding our hands and asking questions about where we lived.  Some asked to touch our hair saying how soft it was, and they wanted to see themselves in the photos we took.  Marie told me she had five siblings and that her daddy died last year.  Marie is twelve, close in age to my granddaughter Jasmin.  Marie, like Jasmin, has just finished grade 7 but she will no longer be able to attend school as her mother cannot pay the fees which commence with grade 8. One cannot compare their lives..........the difference is wider than Victoria Falls.  I think about Marie every day, her smiling face is imprinted on my brain and I pray for her future. 

Note: We four gals are packing boxes to send to this village by way of Toka Leya camp...........just a little expression of caring and help, but we hope the contents will be useful to the children.