South Africa 2013
This entry is a bit overdue…..ok….it’s well overdue but in my defence it takes quite a while to integrate all the wonderful things I experience on field trips no matter where they go. In the case of Africa it is particularly difficult because a wildlife artist sees so much and most of it is a truly moving and powerful experience.
These two little lion cubs belong to a lioness named Limpy (for her permanently injured front leg).They are her first and are doing very well indeed though Limpy’s injury must make it difficult to hunt sometimes. In the Balule Conservancy next to Kruger we were able to view the 2 month old cubs up close for the first time and they showed little fear as we sat quietly 4 metres away. They had taken possession of a mound of old elephant droppings and seemed to think the dung was worth wrestling over!! Many months later I have heard the cubs are growing rapidly and doing very well.
Greater kudu of course form a part of the diet of lions but these magnificent large antelope are prodigious athletes and often lead lions a merry chase simply by leaping clear over clumps of scrub where the cat is forced to run around or through the tangle of branches. This female lacks the spectacularly spirally horns of the males but her exquisite expression always fills me with joy.
African elies never fail to impress with their casual grace and huge presence. It is sobering to consider that these wondrous beasties have brains the equal of our own and in many ways have an understanding of nature which way surpasses ours. Although these females are relatively small they still weigh several tonnes and can be a real force to be reckoned with if their babies are threatened. The largest African elephant on record was 4.2.m at the shoulder and 12 tons in weight…at least until some prawn shot it dead! These days many more people cherish elephants for the enrichment they bring to our world rather than slaughtering then although the illegal ivory trade is a huge threat
Around some of the rest camps in Kruger you can often get very close to creatures such as this female bushbuck and baby. They were not afraid of me and in fact I was able to sit right there and sketch them direct from life. It always feels as though I have been specially blessed when wild creatures let me into their world to share the moment
A particularly poignant image is this sunset photo of a lone bull elephant crossing the Olifant’s River in Kruger Park. Once upon a time huge herds of many hundreds were common throughout much of Africa. These days small herds are more the norm and the mature males are often solitary except when they are in musth and seeking a mate. At such times with raised testosterone levels it is a brave person who toys with their volatile moods. Best by far to let them be,
Sometimes we can just be lucky as was the case when we came across this adult tawny eagle drinking at a waterhole in the Balule Conservancy. It was quite hot and many animals were quenching their thirst at the shrinking watering points as the dry season progressed. Tawnies are a mid-sized eagle and though quite common they are still magnificent and especially when seen so close.
Zulu is a black rhino and one of only 600 left in the entire Kruger park area. You can just make out his installed GPS system in the side of his front horn. He also sports a heart monitor bracelet on his hind leg so that if by some chance he is killed by poachers he can still be tracked by helicopter and the poachers apprehended. So far this has worked and no rhinos have yet been killed in the Balule Conservancy. We can only hope the heavy policing will continue to be effective. Zulu is an extraordinary black rhino in that he shows great trust of people and in this case came very close to our vehicle to rub his apparently itchy muzzle on his favourite log. What a privilege it was!
And it is not just the wildlife that is dazzling in South Africa. The cultural diversity is amazing and at Sausage Tree Safari Lodge we had a special visit and performance from the local cultural and dance troupe. What a special treat it was and had many of us up and joining in towards the end….just brilliant!!
Can’t wait to get back in 20015 and discover what other amazing experiences await us then.