Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

So it is Christmas.....

To quote John Lennon "So this is Christmas, And what have you done, Another year over..."  It really feels like Christmas has creeped up on me and shouted "WHA!!!"  Last year I was in the Christmas spirit from late November already, but this year the working year seemed to have been so busy towards the end that it was halfway through December before I really started to hum Christmas songs. "Tra la la la laaaa, la la la la...."  Merry Christmas to you all.  I hope you have a very blessed day.

The picture is of the Christmas tree on the Boardwalk lake in Port Elizabeth

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Knysna forest roads

The are two ways of exploring the indigenous forests around Knysna, by car and on foot. 

Several forest roads take one all over the forests surrounding Knysna from down by the Knysna River up to Gouna, across to Millwood and over the Prince Alfred Pass.  The road in the picture is called Kom se Pad.

The best way to really connect with the forest is by going on one of the many hiking trails criss crossing throughout the forest. This is the only way to get close to nature and smell the forest. The Terblanche Trail is just one of them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Flightless Dung Beetle

One of the smallest but best known inhabitants of the Addo Elephant National Park is the Flightless Dung Beetle (Circellium bacchus).  The Flightless Dung Beetle is endemic to the Addo Elephant Park and surrounds and very unique in the fact that they can't fly and hence the name. 

This fact also makes the beetle a vulnerable species as they only use elephant and buffalo dung to feed off and lay their eggs in and at the time when these animals were being shot out it meant that the poor beetle couldn't just take to the sky and find another place with those big animals.

Even though they are restricted in where they occure, they are quite commen within their range throughout the park. Visitors to the park are asked though to be very careful when driving through the park and not to drive over dung on the road and kill the beetles in the process.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Donkeys in pajamas must be one of the animals that visitors to game reserves love seeing most.  The Burchell's Zebra is the most common zebra that you will find in the game reserves of the Eastern Cape.  They are identifiable by the fact that the stripes go all the way underneath their stomachs and by the brownish phantom stripes visible on their wide white stripes.

The endangered Cape Mountain Zebra are found only on a few game reserves in the province.  They have wide black stripes with much thinner white inter spaces than the Burchell Zebra.  The stripes also don't go all the way under their stomachs.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blue Crane

The Blue Crane is South Africa's national bird and its always a pleasure to see them in the wild.  They normally live in pairs and nest in grasslands which means that many end up occupying agricultural areas.  You often see them driving along the N2 through the Overberg where they feed on seed and insects on the fields.  Unfortunately due to poisons used by farmers on their fields a lot of these birds are killed and due to this the species are classified as vulnerable.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hyobanche sanguina

I get very excited when I find something new and hiking along the Guinea Fowl Trail in Port Elizabeth the other day was one of those exciting days.  I saw Hyobanche Sanguina, commonly known as Cat's Paw, for the first time.  Cat's Paw is a parasitic plant which grows on the roots of shrubs.  The clustered red flower reaches about 150 mm in height and it's soft furriness along with the protruding white anthers forming the characteristic cat's nails gives it it's name.  They are normally found in sandy soil and the underground stems may reach up to 2m before producing flowers.  

This is my 1000th post in The Firefly Photo Files.  I can hardly believe that I have actually done a 1000 posts.  At times I've had lots to post and then there seem to be short dry patches where I haven't been out somewhere for a while and don't have anything to share.  I want to thank everybody who visits on a regular basis and to those who pop in a comment every now I then I just want to say that I really appreciate it.  Here's to the next 1000 posts.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Camp Figtree

Imagine a colonial style luxury lodge up in the mountains with magnificent views, no television or other distractions and top class service.  No, this is no cliche advert because this place really exist.  Camp Figtree is situated up in the Zuurberg Mountain just over an hour outside Port Elizabeth and within a stone's throw from the Addo Elephant National Park.

I've known about the lodge for a while now but haven't had an opportunity to visit it until a couple of week ago.  What a magnificent surprise it had in store for me up in the mountain.  The views across the surrounding mountains are breathtaking doesn't matter whether you're sitting on your private balcony, on the deck or even inside the pool.  My favorite spot during my stay was on the verandah outside the lounge paging through a nature magazine while taking in my environment. 

The rooms are huge and very comfortable with big four poster beds and insect netting that gets closed up when the beds are folded down in the evenings.  Returning to the room after dinner (which consisted of Kudu steak by the way) it was nice and cosy thanks to the gas heater blazing away in the corner.  My only concern though is that there aren't aircon's in the rooms so they may just get a bit hot in summer. 

If the bathrooms had lockers in them you could probably use them as change rooms for sports teams.  I can't remember when last I had seen so much space in a bathroom plus there is the fact that the toilet still is separate from the bathroom as well.  In addition to this there is a changing room so if they really wanted to they could have split the space and made two bedrooms.  But they didn't and they are the better for it.

Other than the colonial decor there is also a strong presence of Jock of the Bushveld throughout the lodge, not that its anywhere close to the bushveld but because the owners are decedents of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick who wrote the book.  To me one of the stand out aspects of the lodge (and some people may not like it but I loved the idea) is that they don't have electricity and run off a generator.  The generator gets turned off after 10pm and then the lodge is lit by lanterns and candles.  Sitting outside after "lights out" I looked up and thought to myself that I can't remember when last I had seen so many stars.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Close encounters of the ellie kind

I have been visiting Addo Elephant National Park on a regular basis for over 13 years and at one stage went there quite often as a tourist guide.  Over the years I've had some of the most awesome sightings and experiences which is a bit hard to explain to somebody if they weren't there themselves.  About a week or so back I was in the park with an Argentinian journalist and had probably my most adrenalin pumping experience there ever.  We arrived at Hapoor water hole and found two of the park's big bulls just departing.

Driving around the corner the one walked passed in front of us while the bigger one of the two decided to stick around the road.  At one stage he passed so close to the bakkie in the picture that I actually commented that the driver probably aged a couple of years.

Moments later a herd appeared from the bush to our left which took up all our attention.  They crossed the road right behind us and as the last one passed the journalist asked if we could turn around and go back to the waterhole.  As I turned back in my seat to pull away the big bull was standing right in front of the car with his trunk draped over one tusk literally less than a meter from the car's bonnet.  There we were, eye balling the biggest land mammal in the world.  From experience I knew that we shouldn't make a sudden movement by pulling away as it may just cause him to do something that we would regret later, so we sat back in our seats to wait him out.  I did have my feet on the clutch and accelerator with the car in reverse if we had to make a quick retreat.  Unfortunately because of that I don't have any photos of this whole episode.  After a couple of minutes (could have been seconds as far as I know, but my heart was racing too fast to measure time) he just turned around and mozied off.  I have to say that although it may have been a little scary the experience was awesome.  Who needs to use drugs to be on a high if you can have natural experiences like this?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Aliens amongst us

Do you believe in Aliens?  Arnie took on the Predator, Sigourney fought the Alien and then the two of them (the Alien and the Predator) clashed with each other.  But do they really exist?  Looking at the picture above I would say that the answer may just be yes. 

The other day our general assistant at work came running into my office babbling on about this thing she saw outside and that I must take my camera to get a photo of it.  I barely had time to grab my camera before she dragged me outside and showed me the biggest Praying Mantis I have seen in my life.  She stood as tall as my coffee mug and now that I think of it perhaps I should have taken along my mug to put down next to her.

So next time you are out and about wondering if there are such things as aliens, don't just look up into the sky but also down at your feet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Whale (tail) watching

Whale watching along the South African coast line usually takes place between April and November, so this time of year the whales start heading down south to Antarctic waters again.  You don't have to go on a boat to see the whale though with stunning land based whale watching possible especially around the Cape and in particular the Hermanus area.  Plettenberg Bay is another of the bays that the whales visit and this very interesting bench can be found at one of the lookouts in the town.