Visit to South Africa, 2020
Photos © R.Leeuw
In 2004 I was fortunate to be able to travel to South Africa for holidays and the entire experience was so positive that we vowed to return some day. Alas, only this year the opportunity availed itself, after sixteen years, but it was even more exciting this time and rewarding than our previous visit.
And so we hope to return one day again, hopefully sooner than the 16 years this time.
Meanwhile I have the following report to share which I hope the reader will enjoy and may be an incentive to (re)visit
this fascinating country (warts and all) too.
We checked in for 3 nights at the Protea Hotel (Marriott) Balalaika in Sandton-Johannesburg.
We felt immediately at home; a good base from where to explore.
Trump's (no relative afaik from the moron in the White House) was a recommended restaurant and rightfully so!
These hotos were taken in the delightful garden of our hotel, an oasis in Sandton.
The birds are Common
myna or Indian myna (Acridotheres tristis), sometimes spelled mynah. [Wikipedia]
On a short walking distance from the hotel the Nelson Mandela Square and the Sandton Mall are obvious places to
visit from the Balalaika Hotel; there is also a free shuttle service.
One can't miss the reverence for Nelson Mandela, an icon on a global scale.
Inside the Sandton Mall; made some fine purchases with Exclusive Books.
The mall is decidedly luxurious.
Nelson Mandela Square during nighttime.
As opposed to the luxury shown above, now for something entirely different...
Heading for Soweto's Kliptown we first stopped at some random places in other areas of Soweto, to get a feel of things.
A cafetaria and a remarkable door.
|'Chicken Dust' is not for everybody (we did not try it), as I picked up this review somewhere on a foodblog:
"The unofficial national dish of Swaziland is 'chicken dust'. It’s chicken that is had been cooked on an open grill, the same style that you see all over South Africa as 'chicken brai'.
But it’s really dusty in Swaziland and when you cook by the open road, the primary flavor is road dust!
It’s served with rice or paap (not sure of the spelling), which is a pounded grain porridge dish.
The chicken was just bland, overcooked grilled chicken, which you get a lot of places in the world.
The paap reminded me of polenta or overcooked cream of wheat, and I don’t like either.
If you grew up on it, I can see how it would be comfort food, for me at least, chicken dust and paap was pretty bad."
A few first impressions on the humongous square in front of the Soweto Hotel and Conference Center.
We definitely have arrived in Kliptown: no tarmac on the roads here, brick houses (no running water) with
makeshift extensions of corrugated iron and wood. Note the external toilets, shared by the community.
One of my most pleasing photographs to my eyes.
The murals and graffiti are exquisite!
This is another part of Soweto, West Orlando I believe-
SEE MY PAGE DEDICATED TO OUR SOWETO VISIT!
SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE MUSEUM, AIR FORCE BASE SWARTKOP, PRETORIA
More of my 'aviation bits' on Propliners around Johannesburg 2020
'Roadsigns you don't see at home!'
We stopped at a 'plaza' (ALZU) for gas and we spotted our first wildlife!
This is somewhat akin to a zoo, but a welcome surprise nevertheless.
Little did we know at that time that we would see quite a number of Rhinos on this trip.
'If you cant't drive on the left, you drive on what's left..' Potholes make driving a challenge at times.
Graskop Hotel where we had a very pleasant stay.
Due to ongoing protests
we could not visit all viewpoints on the Panorama route. The above is Wonder View
was God's Window and The Pinnacle Rock, but they were blocked by protesters. Protests are endemic in South Africa.
Entire villages and communities see their services and/or electricity stopped for budget reasons. Towns like Sabie
get 'load-shedding' schedules up to 3 or 4 times a day, periods of up to 2 hours without electricity.
Protests such as these help to restore services, but then other communities
get hurt with restrictions.
Driving east from Johannesburg at first we saw a lot of mining, here we see forests managed for timber production.
The gate for Bourke's Luck Potholes was closed but a tourgroup went through a hole in the wiring.
We thought that the walk was too far in the heat and left it at that.
Sellers are hurt by the closed viewpoints.
Another type of blockade: the cows were not impressed by the traffic and took their time to clear the road.
At the end of the Panorama route, where R532 joins R36, are the Echo Caves.
That remarkable Fig Tree reminded me of my visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
It was nice and cool in the caves; we often had to keep our head down, twice we had to go down on hands and knees
We had limited time for we had to be at the game lodge by 13:00 - 14:00.
Only half of the cave was
open for visitors as the other end was too contaminated by bat shit!
It suited our schedule perfectly.
GOMO GOMO GAME LODGE
@ KLASERIE NATURE RESERVE
Elephants never cease to impress!
Seen from our deck chairs
at the lodge, a herd of elephants showing up for refreshments.
High marks for cuteness!
Another 'wow' moment (not the last!): a Rhinoceros a.k.a. Rhino.
The White Rhino or Square-lipped Rhinoceros.
It is the largest extant species of rhinoceros. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino
species. The white rhinoceros consists of two subspecies: the southern white rhinoceros, with an estimated 19.682–21.077 wild-living animals in the year 2015, and the much rarer northern white rhinoceros.
The northern subspecies of the Square-lipped Rhinoceros has very few remaining individuals, with only two confirmed
left in 2018 (two females; Fatu, 18 and Najin, 29), both in captivity. Sudan, the world's last known male northern white rhinoceros, died in Kenya on 19Mar2018. [Wikipedia]
Red-billed oxpeckers picks ticks and sound the alarm when danger approaches.
When one finds lions with a kill one will probably also get to see hyena's waiting their turn.
Details on the
lions and hyena's on the webpages dedicated to the lodges we stayed at.
Cheetahs also make your heart beat faster!
Giraffes dot the landscape with gentle grace.
Wildebeest or Gnu sometimes appear in large numbers but always a welcome sighting.
Zebra's drinking, a sighting which made the cameras go clickety-click, clickety-clack.
We used to say, back in the day, 'a Kodak moment'.
The Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas or Lupulella mesomelas) is a canine native to eastern and southern Africa.
I have yet to find a good website for identifying deer and antelopes (EMAIL)
I hope they don't hurt themselves.
Could be a (juvenile) Bateleur (Short tailed eagle ); needs to be confirmed. [EMAIL]
Left is a juvenile Bateleur (Short tailed eagle ) and right is a White-backed vulture.
Many of these identifications were done through the Facebook group Birdlife South Africa. Baie dankie!
Red-billed Hornbill; details on my dedicated page on stay at the Gomo Gomo Game Lodge.
Left: The Crowned lapwing (Vanellus coronatus; NL: Diadeemkievit), or Crowned plover.
The Southern masked weaver (Ploceus velatus; NL: Maskerwever), or African masked weaver, is a resident
breeding bird species common throughout southern Africa.
The sun setting and slowly making our way back to the lodge. But keeping our eyes peeled for ever more..
The tracker noticed this kameleon in a bush, caught in the headlights. Gently took it out to show..
For a more extensive report of our stay and the photo results of the four game drives see:
A one night stay at the Raptor's Lodge on Hoedspruit; could easily have stayed here longer if only we had the time.
Monkeys playful near our cottage, mind to keep windows and doors closed!
Lunch and dinner at Sleeper's, a restaurant in a vintage trainstation.
Trains still rumble past, but they don't stop here anymore. Very nice location for food & drinks!
Breakfast at Cooked Kitchen on the R40 and we bought some fine (small) souvenirs here too. Great fun!
That French Toast was
the best I ever had!
ELANDELA LUXURY GAME LODGE
& PRIVATE RESERVE
Warthogs and monkeys in the grounds of the lodge
Zebra, their stripes such a wonderful appearance among the trees and savannah
A young zebra, a fowl (?). One can see on the head that the colours of the zebra is white stripes on black.
A purple crested turaco (Tauraco porphyreolophus; NL: Purperkuiftoerako) is a species of bird in the family Musophagidae.
It is the National Bird of the Kingdom of Swaziland! The crimson flight feathers of this and related turaco species
are important in the ceremonial regalia of the Swazi royal family. They live in moist woodland and evergreen forests.
They eat mainly fruit. [Wikipedia]
Most likely an African Hawk Eagle, I am told.
Giraffes move with grace through the much denser forest than the Klaserie
Nature Reserve: no elephants here!
After rhinos were poached here too, they were put in the enclosure with the lions, for obvious reasons!
Elandela Private Game Reserve has a pride of white lions!
We knew we were safe in the landrover, but one is very much aware these are very dangerous animals.
Vultures near a lion kill, awaiting their turn
Hooded vulture; Perhaps not beautiful but certainly fascinating.
Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus
; NL: Kapgier) is an Old World vulture in the order Accipitriformes
, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards and hawks. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it has a widespread distribution with populations in southern, East- and West Africa.
Although it remains a common species with a stable population in the lower region of Casamance, some areas of The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau, other regions such as Dakar, Senegal, show more than 85% losses in population over the last 50 years!
Threats include poisoning, hunting, loss of habitat and collisions with electricity infrastructure, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as 'critically endangered' in their latest assessment (2017) [Wikipedia
Hippo's in the lake at the lodge; they wonder around ashore at night for they can't stand the heat of the day.
HOEDSPRUIT'S ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTRE (HESC)
The Elandela Lodge offered several excursions, this one we could do without giving up on a game drive.
I did not realize vultures were on the endangered species list!
But poachers of elephants and rhinos put
poisoned bait in a circle around their kill, so vultures gather and sweep down, clear the sky, and die from the poison!
Magnificent wings, glide in on the cadavers.
Hooded Vultures (pinkish heads) and Whitebacked Vultures.
|Hooded vultures are critically endangered at a global level!
Vulture populations have plummeted in Africa in recent years. The birds are often the accidental victims when poisoned baits are used to kill lions, hyenas and other wildlife.
Vultures are also killed in 'sentinel poisoning' incidents in which poachers deliberately target the birds because their rapid arrival above animal carcasses can help police and wildlife rangers identify elephant and rhino poaching.
For identification of birds I received much help fromBirdlifeSouthAfrica on Facebook.
Marabou Stork, massive birds. They also gather at landfill sites and I've heard of those sites
near airports where
the birds fly up while an airliner is on an approach to land and these birds cause massive damage to the engines.
The marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer
; NL:) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae
. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially landfill sites.
It is sometimes called the "undertaker bird" due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of 'hair'.
A closer look..
They look docile, but when irritated they can charge on objects as large as a truck!
The wide lips are excellent for grazing.
Horns can be surgically removed (like clipping your nails, same material) to discourage poachers but it is
an quite an undertaking and therefot expensive. It will grow on again.
Cheetahs, napping in the mid-day warmth.
HESC focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable and endangered animal species. Cheetah Conservation is one
of its core disciplines.
Gazing back at the photographer, a nice pose for sure.
The centre is actively involved in research; breeding of endangered animal species; the education of learners, students and the general public in conservation and conservation-related activities; tourism; the release and establishment of captive-bred cheetahs in the wild; the treatment and rehabilitation of wild animals in need (including poached rhinos); and anti-poaching initiatives on the reserve.
Cheetahs are beautiful cats.
They do an excellent and worthy job here at the centre!
In another compound two more Cheetahs, Zoe & Zian.
Couldn't get closer, but cats need their rest & sleep.
[what sort: EMAIL]
For a donation got to: help.hesc.co.za
Exquisite breakfast menu at the Elandela Luxury Game Lodge: living the life of Riley! I certainly could get used to this!
So after a morning game drive and a wonderful breakfast, it was time to say goodbye and head for the road.
As soon as we turned on the R40 (Klaserie Rd) for we saw this buck (? EMAIL), probably on the Kapama Private
Game Reserve. Since we hadn't seen this species during the game drives we stopped and took a quick picture.
Identified it as a Greater Kudu Buck, by duckduckgo.com, searching for images.
It was a long drive back to Johannesburg, sunset was around 18:00.
Time for dinner and cold drinks at the Harvard Café at Rand Airport
|The restaurant is beautifully positioned very close to the taxiway so patrons can admire the planes as they taxi to and from the runway.
There is seating inside and outside.
Everything aviation on the menu at the Harvard Café, nice touch.
So sad they were out of Guinness! And a few more things that did not pan out here.
We stayed at the Dakota Lodge on Johannesburg-Rand Airport, a must for avgeeks!
The rooms are modest but
the fun is in the aviation details. They also do a good breakfast.
"Enjoy the ambience of an old bygone era, welcome to The Dakota Lodge!
Situated at the historic Rand Airport, the Dakota lodge offers 24 en-suite rooms.Each room features a historic aviation theme.
The Dakota Lodge is the first Guest House establishment at the Rand Airport and the first in South Africa with an aviation theme, specifically to honour the venerable Douglas DC-3". [dakotalodge.co.za/]
From the breakfast area one has a look into the
hangar of Springbok Classic Air; see my SA20 AVIATION REPORT
After breakfast we visited
For a report of my visit here also see my SA20 AVIATION REPORT
RHINO & LION NATURE RESERVE
Ostrich (Struthio) is a genus of bird in the order Struthioniformes.
There are two living species, the common ostrich and the Somali ostrich.
Warthogs and ... [EMAIL]
The Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), also called the Common Wildebeest, White-bearded Wildebeest, or Brindled Gnu, is a large antelope and one of the two species of wildebeest. According to the limited list on their website and images on the internet, except this Wildebeest doesn't have a white beard...
The Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is a privately owned game reserve covering some 1200 hectares which has opened to the public in 1990.
Visitors may now view in excess of 650 heads of game, including some very rare and endangered species. The reserve falls within the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COHWHS). [www.rhinolion.co.za]
A warthog up close, not to be messed with!
Unfortunately I found the website of the Rhino and Lion Reserve pretty useless for identifying the animals they have.
The Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger; NL: Sabelantilope of Zwarte Paardantilope) is an antelope which inhabits
wooded savanna in East and Southern Africa,
from the south of Kenya to South Africa, with a separate population
in Angola. [Wikipedia]
The park seems to house also Rhinos, Cape Buffalos and Hippos but we did not come across them. We did see several
White Lions but they were sleeping in the tall grass. Our time was limited here so we did not pursue other wildlife;
we enjoyed a late lunch at the local lodge. But before we goto to that lunch...
Since we hadn't seen any Wild Dogs during the game drives at the lodges we stayed at, on the day of our departure
I planned a visit here. Our flight wouldn't leave until in the evening. It took a second visit to the enclosure of
sizeable dimensions to spot the wild dogs. Awesome creatures!
The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is a canine native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest indigenous canine in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon, which is distinguished from Canis by dentition highly specialised for a hypercarnivorous diet, and a lack of dewclaws.
It is estimated that about 6,600 adults including 1,400 mature individuals live in 39 subpopulations that are all threatened by habitat fragmentation, human persecution and outbreaks of diseases. As the largest subpopulation probably consists of less than 250 individuals, the African wild dog is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1990.
The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature.
Its natural enemies are lions and hyenas: the former will kill the canids where possible whilst hyenas are frequent kleptoparasites (a form of feeding in which one animal takes prey or other food that was caught by another animal).
Created 02-Apr-2020 | Updated