Monday, August 20, 2007

gotta love Africa...........

As you know by now, we put up with quite a bit of stuff here that is not ideal, like the crime, the power failures etc. But then there is the other side of the story. Where else can you be lying in bed on a Sunday morning, sipping the first cup of coffee, and see that it is a typical winters day, warm and sunny outside, (OK so I'm waxing lrical here, it is not TYPICAL but we have had an exceptionally warm winter this year, with more warm days than cold wet ones!), so you think "I'd like to see an elephant today." No problem, get dressed, throw some cameras in the car, grab some cooldrinks and munchies, and 70km later, you are here...........

This is Greater Addo Elephant Park, and we are very lucky to have such an amazing place on our doorstep. It is a huge National park, which has recently been enlarged by incorporating many satellite private parks, so that now it runs from the coast, through coastal bush, mountains with fynbos, wetlands, and arid bush with predominantly succulent plants. It includes 7 distinct biomes. According to the blurb on the Greater Addo website "The Eastern Cape of South Africa is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. It is host to The Addo Elephant National Park and many other private Game Reserves. These malaria free alternatives for the Kruger National Park all offer the "Big 5" ( Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard )and due to the enormous expansions now includes a marine section with seasonal whales and sharks. ( "Big 7") " We headed for the old original section of the park, which is home to the famous Addo Elephant. It is a distinct sub-species of the African Elephant, one of the characteristics is that, unlike its Northern relatives, the Addo elephant females do not get tusks.

Well, I'm afraid I just don't get the 'big 5' mentality! We can get just as much of a kick looking at these trees at the reception office!
On the left is the cabbage tree and on the right a black and white photo of a Cape fig. They send roots down their trunks, which in turn fillout into trunks when they get to the ground, until a massive clump of tree eventually forms.

(You can click on all the pix to enlarge them, I upload small to preserve the limited allowance of KB I have left before I have to pay to upload!

Then into the Park we go........
And round the first bend, a warthog family is rooting around right next to the road. (Next time you feel ugly, just be grateful..........but they are SOOOO cute!)
Speaking of NOT the big 5, how cute are these little guys, who happened to be at the first waterhole while we were watching the zebras? The three striped field mouse and weaver bird were competing for the same crumbs.
The Zebras are so lovely, I have always had a passion for horses, and these comical horses in pyjamas are very endearing, with their sociable habits and stunning markings.

We drove on and came across quite a few Kudu. The males and females hang out separately, the females are so elegant,
and the males just AWESOME with those beautiful curling horns. They have really gentle faces, despite the hardware! Max was over the moon, because he had one as a pet when he was growing up on a farm, and they are his favourite antelope.
There were so many that they even formed a backdrop when we were photographing the interesting anthills!

We came to a lookout point on a hilltop, where, if the idea of lurking lions didn't bother you (see signon phot below!) you could get out of the car and walk around.
We were busy taking general panoramas of the view, and as you can see, playing with the zooms on our cameras which are really great, because to the far right of the bend in the road, on the edge of the picture, you can see a tiny light dot which is a clearing in the bush.
When we zoomed in on it, it was not a tiny dot, but in fact large enough to house several elephants!
We noticed that they were heading along through the bush towards an approaching car....
Ah, he has spotted it and ground to a halt, not yet realising how lucky he is about to be! At this point we are lamenting the fact that if we had just spent a minute or two longer photographing the Kudu, we might still be down there in time to see the elephant up close! But as it turned out, it was great having this grandstand view of the whole thing unfolding before us.....
Another car arrives, and they are treated to a huge family of elephants strolling along right in front of them, and into the thick bush on the other side.
From our viewpoint, we could follow their progress through the bush,
and out across the cleared firebreak, where a group of kudu decided to follow them.
Max whipped out the map, and from our lofty perch, we were able to guess that they were heading for a waterhole, and that if we went on one of the loop roads, we should get there at around the same time, so off we went and BINGO!
There they were, up close and personal!
We spent a wonderful time watching the huge group and their antics at the water. By this time it was mid day, and HOT, about 35 degrees (we were baking in the car but it was worth it! )
While the elephants satisfied their thirst at the waterhole, this little baby needed a drink from mom.

We saw just how useful and versatile those trunks are:

for drinking...
slurp up water, and pour it into your mouth.
For cooling down, spray it all over yourself...Or you might prefer mud, stomp around to stir it up then spray it over you, it dries to a crust which kills parasites and prevents others from latching on in the folds of your skin.
and to avoid sunburn, suck up dust and spray it onto your wet body, forming a natural sunblock!
Then of course you can use it to delicately pick delicious leaves off thorn bushes...
and to fondle friends you want to greet!
Then just to round things off, on our way home we saw a big Southern Right whale swimming along in the bay...... all in all there's a lot to be said for living in Africa!


Sheila said...

Sue this was a fantastic post. Thank you!
I don't like zoos, but I love to see animals in the wild like this. I doubt I'll ever have the opportunity, so it was great to look at your photos... how exciting..!

RUTH said...

Wow!!! I know I shouldn't be envious (it's a vice I try so hard not to foster)....but I'm ENVIOUS!!! I loved this post and all your photos. It took my mind off the cold, grey rainy SUMMER's day we are having :o)

Janet said...

You are definitely a lucky person to have this nearby. All the photos are great but I especially love the ones of the elephants. I've always had a special interest in them. I think they're just magnificent.

Terry said...

Ummm--I saw a squirrel today.

This was awesome, simply incredible. Your photos are great. The elephants are stupendous, but all the other animals were so amazing too. What a treat. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that you were able to get so close to the elephants. How cool is that!!!? Reading your blog and seeing the pics makes me want to head to Africa. I've been wanting to go for awhile as we sponsor a little girl in Africa so now there are two reasons I want to go there. It will have to wait for awhile though :(

Suzi-k said...

glad you guys enjoyed the outing! We'll go back there soon!
Ruth, today is making up for it, cold and rainy!
Kelly, we also sponsor a couple of kids... who do you work through? We are with World Vision. If you ever make it to Africa, you'll have to come and pay us a visit! (That goes for all of you, if you ever get the chance it would be cool to meet each other, and I'll be happy to be your guide and show you all the cool stuff around here!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, I am also with World Vision. Our little girl is in Chad. Ever since we got her about 5 years ago I've wanted to go and visit her. I would love to have a person to person contact with her and her family.
If we ever get to Africa I will let you know. I would love to meet you and Max as well. :)

mrsnesbitt said...

Oh WOW! Sheer beauty! Awesome!


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Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

What an amazing sight, to see elephants just out and about in their own habitat. Africa is awesome. I hope to go one day. You are fortunate, having all of it at your own backyard.
These photos are a treasure Sue!