Just another day in Africa? No, it is never just another day in Africa. Each dawn brings the opportunity for unique experiences.
05h30 as the sun rises over the Northern Kruger National Park. I set off with the EcoTraining students from their camp at Makuleke, prepared to be stunned and amazed by what the bush, both inside and outside the unfenced camp has to offer. Each activity that they undertake is designed to educate, inform and, where applicable, entertain. These components form the basis of any learning experience. And these future Field Guides have a lot to absorb in a relatively short period of time. But, as I have found after spending most of 2019 with them, they are certainly up to the challenge.
The elephants in this area seem to be very relaxed…as was the student sitting in the tracker seat. The females in the breeding herds can be very vocal if they have young to protect, however, by showing respect and reading the animal correctly, aggressive interactions can be avoided. This large bull paused to take a look at us before sauntering across the road, unfazed by our proximity.
One of my favourite tree species, the Fever-Tree. They grow up tall and straight and this part of the Kruger has several forests of them.
Interesting fact #26: The Fever Tree gets its common name from early colonists who thought the tree was the cause of malaria. However, it grows naturally in swampy areas, which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes as opposed to the trees themselves.
Out on morning activity in a Fever Tree forest, these EcoTraining students are dwarfed by this grove of gigantic trees that went on for almost as far as the eye could see. The yellow of the trunks and branches were in stark contrast to the dry and dusty soil.
The smell of coffee wafting through the Fever-Tree forest was certainly noticed by the students as well as the instructors. The Baboons that we had heard calling earlier did not seem keen to join us for our morning beverage break. Perhaps it is just me, or does coffee, tea or hot chocolate taste better out of an enamel mug? The biscuits were an unexpected bonus, but most welcome never the less.
Things that are discovered while on a walk. Could this be an antelope skull? No, it was not. Once turned the right way round and I discovered that it did, in fact, belong to a warthog!
This leaf seems to have decimated by some sort of beetle or insect. But put it in a frame and it could be a work of art.
One of my favourite past-times. Photographing photographers who are photographing. In this particular instance, it was instructor, Norman, taking a moment from his role as a teacher and capturing the moment on his mobile phone.
This is the ‘up-close’ version of what was in the previous image. One of a group of three Dagga Boys (old male buffalo) who are no longer living within a herd, but have formed a coalition to look after themselves. These males can be extremely dangerous if discovered while on a walk. They tend to have a mind of their own and will charge for no apparent reason. And they seem to look at humans as if we owe them money!
This part of the park only has 6 giraffes…and we were lucky enough to find all of them at this sighting. Seeing giraffe is not normally a sighting that gets visitors and guides alike excited, but in this instance, because the ‘tower’ was all together, the instructor called it in on the radio. And was answered almost immediately and excitedly by other guides close by.
Fun fact #12: The collective noun for giraffe standing still is a tower, while the collective noun for moving giraffe is a journey. This is one of the few animal species that have more than one collective noun.
What sort of bird might be shedding plumage that looks like this? In this particular case, it comes from a feather duster, but originally it belonged to an Ostrich.
Tree identification is relatively easy…they tend not to run away when approached on foot or in a vehicle! This branch is from a HUGE tree that can be found outside the dining/lecture room. It offers shade for the students to shelter under and home to a variety of tree-dwelling animals, like vervet monkeys and Bush Babies.
The abandoned shell of a Giant African Land Snail. These seem to be found in a variety of habitats, but I have always found them in this form, just an empty discarded shell. Never alive.
If not participating in either a morning or afternoon activity, then the EcoTraining students can be found, with pen and paper to hand, making notes and brushing up on their theoretical skills.
Without these three ladies, the EcoTraining camp at Makuleke would NOT function as efficiently as it does. From cleaning tents to doing laundry and cooking up amazing FOOD! Elizabeth, Olivia and Lucie, I and all the students and instructors, past, present and future, thank you for your smiling faces and wonderful friendly nature.
From the largest, the elephants, to the smallest, this spider, each has a part to play in the cohesive whole that makes up any biodiverse scenario.
While in the camp, I was privileged to spend time with the legendary Sean Patrick. Between lectures and activities, we had time to sit down and have a chat. Listen to what he had to say:
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