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Atravelynn

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Quote of the Trip

 

Show us your claspers!” shouted with gusto by a crew member of First Strike, operated by White Shark Africa in Mossel Bay, was destined to be

The Quote of the Trip. Male sharks have claspers, an external organ that assists in reproduction.  The possibility of viewing some claspers generated intense enthusiasm because (1) Claspers are a rare sight.  To see them, the male shark must be revealing his anterior, which is not often done. (2) Only 1 in 6 Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay is a male, further decreasing the odds of glimpsing any claspers.

 

On our third and last of three Mossel Bay shark trips, one of these underrepresented male Great Whites executed a turn close to the boat, briefly flashing us, which prompted the excited cry of “Show us your claspers!”

 

The reason there are so few male Great Whites in Mossel Bay is that the seal colony there numbers only about 3,000 and those seals tend to be smaller, so it offers an insufficient food source for the biggest sharks.  Mossel Bay attracts smaller (2 to 4 meters in length) Great White Sharks, which tend to be female or younger males.  As the males mature and grow bigger, they tend to go elsewhere.

 

I missed the claspers but was very pleased with the overall shark viewing.

 

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Mossel Bay, 3rd of 3 shark trips, July 15, 12:45 pm

 

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Mossel Bay, 3rd of 3 shark trips, July 15, 12:13 pm

 

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Eyes rolling back.  Mossel Bay, 3rd of 3 shark trips, July 15, 12:06 pm

Itinerary

 

This July10-24 trip was split as follows:

 

Wet part of the trip. 8 nights – Simons Town and the Cape, primarily for Great White Sharks, but also for scenery and penguins.  Mid-July is a good time for viewing Great Whites.  African Shark Eco-Charters in Simons Town (the company I did 7 outstanding GW Shark trips with in mid-July back in 2008) said they usually see their first Great Whites on May 30 or 31, and the sharks remain into October.

 

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Scenery--Cape of Good Hope, 11:26 am

 

 

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Penguins--Boulders Beach, 3:15 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:25 pm

 

Dry part of the trip.  5 nights – Tswalu in the Kalahari in the cold winter month of July. The normally nocturnal pangolin and aardvark are more likely to be visible during daylight hours in the winter because it is too cold to search for food at night.  And they were visible!  Mid-May through Aug are the coldest months in the Kalahari and offer a chance at seeing a pangolin or aardvark.  I chose July because I thought June might be too early for the Great Whites in the first part of the trip (May certainly was too early) and I wanted to avoid the strong winds that can occur in Southern Africa in August.  Turns out the Great Whites were quite scarce all of this season in many areas along the Cape and the August winds started early in the Kalahari, two days after I arrived. 

 

As so often happens in Africa, even if difficulties arise—be it wildlife or weather—it all works out in the end.  And it certainly did.

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Pangolins were visible at Twsalu—2nd of 2 pangolins seen, 4:32 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolins seen, 4:15 pm

 

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Aardvarks were visible at Tswalu—2nd of 2 photographable aardvarks, 5:36 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:08 pm

 

 

July 10 to 24, 2019 in South Africa

 

Itinerary Planned, Revised & Actually Completed

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

 

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Impala herd at Tswalu—8:01 am

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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janzin

wow! Just wow on those Pangolins and Aardvarks!! And the sharks ain't bad either ;) Shark watching is not on my radar, but looking forward to the details.

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Atravelynn

Wet Part of the Trip around the Cape, 8 nights

This next photo is a visual metaphor of my Cape experience.  Dave of Saxon House in Gansbaii is laying on the ground at Struisbaii, slapping the water, trying to get any stingrays in the area to appear.   High winds meant fishing boats did not go out, so no scraps for the stingrays, therefore no reason for the stingrays to hang around the dock.  But Dave was doing his utmost to attract any potential nearby stingrays and provide a good experience for me. 

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Despite this extreme effort, the stingrays remained out of sight.

 

 

All of the travel professionals I worked with in the Cape Town area went above and beyond in their efforts on my behalf, even if they did not prostrate themselves like Dave, when nature—both creatures and weather—proved to be somewhat uncooperative.

 

Especially deserving of credit were:

 

African Shark Eco-Charters (ASEC) in Simons Town.  Just a week before I was to depart for South Africa, ASEC contacted me to let me know that the Great Whites had not yet arrived in False Bay, where I was booked.  ASEC had been hoping the GWs would appear any day, but it was looking like this year could be a miss.  ASEC suggested I swap some of their shark trips for an operator in Mossel Bay where shark sightings had been good.  ASEC made the itinerary changes, booked the new shark trips, swapped the lodging, got me an airline ticket (Cape Town to George), and arranged the new ground transport.  

 

Even more last-minute changes and cancellations were needed when I got To the Cape on account of weather, and ASEC attended to those as well.  The end result was that I went where the sharks were and saw them, I did enjoyable replacement activities when the shark trips were cancelled, and I received a nice refund for the difference between the trip I had booked and the trip I actually took.  Now THAT is taking care of the customer! 

 

Take2Tours in Cape Town.  As the changes initiated by ASEC fell into place, the transport services I had booked with Take2 also needed updating. I was sending daily emails with the new plans.  Take2 took all this in stride and revised and re-revised as needed. 

 

Saxon House in Gansbaii, operated by Dave and Caron.  When it became evident the winds would cancel all shark trips from Gansbaii, Dave took me on an excellent last-minute full day photo tour of the region, including Pearly Beach (my particular request) and the stunning Cape Agulhas.  Plus Struisbaii for the disappeared stingrays that Dave tried in vain to rouse.

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Meerkats at Tswalu—1st of 2 visits, 8:10 am

 

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Wild dogs, 3rd of 4 sightings, 4:27 pm in afternoon sandstorm at Tswalu

 

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Cormorants at Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:33 am

10 July -- Arrival

Wayne of Take2 Tours met me at the Cape Town International Airport about 9:45 pm and transported me to Cape Verde Hotel, just minutes away. I had used Take2 Tours in 2008 and it was great to see Wayne again, and looking no different from 10+ years ago I might add!

 

Cape Verde has an airport shuttle but I opted for Wayne’s transfer so I could get to the hotel and to bed promptly without delay to be ready for the next day.

 

11 July -- Aquila

ASEC had explained that we’d likely be looking at other sharks besides Great Whites on their shark trips and that was ok with me.  But high waves cancelled all boat trips out of False Bay in Simons Town.  As a replacement activity, I agreed to visit Aquila Game Reserve, so named for Verreaux's eagle (Aquila verreauxii), also known locally as a Black Eagle. 

 

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Aquila Game Reserve, eles

 

Cape Verde Hotel to Aquila took Guide/Drive Raymond and me about 3 hours even though the brochures and online info say Aquila is a 2-hour drive from Cape Town.  We arrived in time for the extensive and delicious buffet lunch.  Game drives are offered at around 7 am, 9 am, 1 pm (ours), 3 pm, and sundowner time.

Not the best time for a safari, 1 pm to 4 pm-ish, but we did well, especially with white rhino and elephant.  Aquila said their rhinos, under constant guard, were thriving with several calves. Kudos to Aquila! 

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Aquila Game Reserve, White Rhino

 

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Aquila Game Reserve, White Rhino

 

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Aquila Game Reserve, best rolling zebra shot to date

 

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Aquila Game Reserve, Eland Close up

 

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Aquila Game Reserve, Eland in the landscape

 

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Aquila Game Reserve, Rhino Calf Peek-a-boo

 

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Aquila Game Reserve.  Lions are in separate enclosure from other animals. 

They may hunt small game that lives there and are fed weekly.

 

The Aquila photos and all of those along the Cape, except the shark trips, were with a Sony RX10. A local friend, that I met through @optig who lives all the way in Nairobi but comes back to visit, was so persuasive in his praise for the Sony RX10 and his photos were so impressive, that I bought one too.  I used this Sony RX10 a lot on this trip.  I believe @Kitsafari uses this with great results.

 

From Aquila to Quayside Hotel in Simons Town was about 2.5 hours. Quayside is  just steps away from where the ASEC shark trips board to go out in False Bay (if they had gone out.)  Very convenient.

 

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From my window at Quayside Hotel in Simons Town in the evening

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

12 July – Cape Point Nature Reserve, Nearby Attractions, Boulders Bay Beach

Again, waves were too high for boats to go out, so instead of sharks, Raymond and I visited Scarborough, Cape Point Ostrich Farm, Cape Point Nature Reserve, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, and ended with the penguins at Boulder’s Bay Beach.  The weather may have been poor for boating but it was beautiful for photos of the spectacular shoreline and its inhabitants.  All these places were visited between about 9:20 am and 1:15 pm.

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Scarborough, on the way to the Cape—we made a 3-minute photo stop—9:48 am.  Good idea from Raymond.

 

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Cape Ostrich Farm—10:15 am

 

About 30 minutes after leaving the Cape Ostrich Farm, we arrived at Cape Point Nature Reserve.  There were just a couple other cars entering the park along with us.

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Wild ostrich at Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:00 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve—10:44 am

 

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Redwing Starling at Cape Point Nature Reserve—10:45 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve—10:48 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve—10:51 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:30 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:32 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:10 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

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Sacred Ibis, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:04 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:27 am

 

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Line of Cormorants, Cape Point Nature Reserve—11:32 am

 

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Cape Point Nature Reserve, seal visible—11:26 am

 

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Cape Point.  The classic shot from up high--12:19 pm

 

 

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Compare light at different times of day, both in the month of July.

When leaving the Cape Point Nature Reserve about 12:50 pm, we noticed a long line of cars waiting to get in.  Raymond said the afternoons can get busy.  What a contrast from the morning when we entered at 10:45 am, which is not that early.

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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madaboutcheetah

Amazing day time Aardvark/ Pangolin ......... Super!!!! 

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Kitsafari

I. Am. So. Jealous. of the aardvarks parading in the day light hours for you. 

 

Oh and i love your compositions of the ibis!

Edited by Kitsafari

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Towlersonsafari

looks like a splendid trip-and great service from your holiday company et al-that really makes a trip-we really like pootlimng around the Cape Town area as well @Atravelynn

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TonyQ

Excellent start, Pangolin and Aardvark! Wow. We will visit Tswalu next year so will follow with great interest.

Beautiful pictures from the Cape

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Alexander33

Well, you’ve certainly got my attention with those opening shots!

 

We visited Tswalu in early September 2015 — one aardvark at night, no pangolin, so this confirms once more that earlier in the year during the high winter months (June, July) is a more reliable time to find these elusive creatures in the daylight. 

 

Impressive maneuvering of your schedule on the Cape. It looks like you were well-served. 

 

Looking forward to more!

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michael-ibk

Just outstanding Lynn - incredible pictures of Aardvark and Pangolin, and those Sharks are pretty cool either. Top photos all the way, I especially like the Ibis, great colours and frames there!

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Atravelynn
8 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

We visited Tswalu in early September 2015 — one aardvark at night, no pangolin, so this confirms once more that earlier in the year during the high winter months (June, July) is a more reliable time to find these elusive creatures in the daylight.

 

Yes, it makes a huge difference to go in the cold winter months.

10 hours ago, TonyQ said:

Excellent start, Pangolin and Aardvark! Wow. We will visit Tswalu next year so will follow with great interest.   How wonderful, how long?

 

13 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

looks like a splendid trip-and great service from your holiday company et al-that really makes a trip-we really like pootlimng around the Cape Town area as well @Atravelynn

I did not realize I had been pootling.  I learned something new.  Thanks!

14 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

I. Am. So. Jealous. of the aardvarks parading in the day light hours for you.   Parading is a good word for it.

 

Oh and i love your compositions of the ibis!  They flew, I clicked, with your camera.

 

17 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Amazing day time Aardvark/ Pangolin ......... Super!!!!   Not only daytime, but nice light.  They were quite kind to me.

 

18 hours ago, janzin said:

wow! Just wow on those Pangolins and Aardvarks!! And the sharks ain't bad either ;) Shark watching is not on my radar, but looking forward to the details.   I was beginning to think the sharks were not on my radar either when they disappeared from False Bay in Simons Town and then bad weather kept cancelling the boats.

 

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Treepol

@Atravelynn what a trips of contrasts - bush and beach, red and blue, wet and dry with marine and land critters.

 

Thanks for the heads-up about Saxon House and Take 2 transfer. Saxon House looks amazing and definitely something to consider for our 2021 visit to Cape Town.

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Atravelynn
8 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Just outstanding Lynn - incredible pictures of Aardvark and Pangolin, and those Sharks are pretty cool either. Top photos all the way, I especially like the Ibis, great colours and frames there!

The ibis were most cooperative!

 

Still July 12

Boulders Beach was about a 30-minute drive from the Cape, our final stop for this half day tour.  I asked Raymond to end the trip there instead of returning me to Quayside Hotel.

 

Afternoon at Boulders Beach with the endangered African Penguins was from 1:15 pm to 4:45 pm, less 45 minutes for lunch at one of the nearby restaurants.  Boulders Beach closes at 5 pm.  Light was getting poor by 4:45 pm on July 12.

 

I arrived just in time for the Adult Swim!

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Boulders Beach—1:22 pm.  Swimming penguins.

 

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Boulders Beach—Compare the light from my first afternoon visit with my second visit the next morning 8:00 am-9:00am.

 

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Boulders Beach—4:01 pm.  In addition to the penguin, there is a dassie (rock hyrax) visible.

 

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Boulders Beach—4:00 pm. First find the twigs to build the nest.

 

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Boulders Beach—3:37 pm.  Next lay the eggs.

 

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Boulders Beach—3:26 pm.  Then raise the chicks.

 

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Boulders Beach—4:01 pm

 

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I was told that these shelters were put up with donations from the fans of 2010 World Cup.

 

 In the late afternoon the penguins that had been out fishing return in groups to the beach, so this is a popular time for visitors to Boulder’s Bay, to watch this phenomenon.

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Boulders Beach, coming in from the ocean—3:15 pm

 

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Boulders Beach—3:51 pm.  Everyone out of the water!

 

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Boulders Beach—3:50 pm, returning to the beach from a day of fishing

 

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Boulders Beach—3:49 pm, juvenile returning to the beach

 

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Boulders Beach—4:05 pm.  I find the waves and rocks to be the stars of this photo, rather than the penguins.

 

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Boulders Beach—2 hazards of the late afternoon.  1) Long shadows that can wash over the penguins.  2) Lots of people on the viewing platform waiting for the penguins to return from the ocean.

 

The walk from Boulders Beach to Quayside Hotel was 20 minutes along the main road, sidewalk throughout.

 

For 2.5 hours at the penguin colony in the afternoon from 1:30 pm to 4:45 pm, minus 45 minutes for lunch, I ended up with 25 keeper photos.  For 1 hour and 10 minutes at the penguin colony in the morning from 8:00 am when it opened until 9:10, I ended up with 28 keeper photos.  Each of those totals could easily be tripled if I weren’t ruthless in my culling.

 

July 13 – Boulders Bay Beach, Flight to George & Transfer Mossel Bay

I walked from Quayside Hotel down the main drag to Boulders Beach 7:35-7:55 am, in time for the 8 am opening of the park. I was the first guest through the gate. I thought it might be crowded on a Saturday, but I was alone in the entire park until 8:50 am when two couples arrived. At 9:10 am, when I left, there were still just 5 of us. I had never been at Boulder’s Bay in the morning and found it to be an ideal time—great light, few people.

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Boulders Beach—7:59 am.  Just these penguins and me in early light.

 

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Boulders Beach—7:58 am.  Penguin-gull confrontation at first light.

 

 I saw one penguin on the wooden walkway that could not manage on its own to slip through the slats and get back to the beach.  I notified a staff member who came to the rescue.  Once back on the sand, the penguin did not seem traumatized.

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The morning hours are when penguins head out to sea to fish.

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Boulders Beach, 8:01 am—heading out in early light

 

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Boulders Beach--8:21 am, morning stretch

 

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Boulders Beach--8:12 am

 

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Boulders Beach--8:51 am.  Everybody leaves the nest and heads for the water in the morning.

 

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Boulders Beach--8:24 am

 

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Boulders Beach--8:25 am.  Everyone in the water!

 

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Boulders Beach—8:07 am.  Sunrise courtship.

 

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Boulders Beach—8:07 am.  Sunrise courtship.

 

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Boulders Beach—8:25 am, creche of 4 penguin chicks

 

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Boulders Beach—8:17 am, creche of 3 penguin chicks, juveniles in background

 

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Boulders Beach—8:17 am

 

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Boulders Beach—8:43 am, creche of 6 penguin chicks

 

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Boulders Beach—8:45, mating penguins

 

 

30 minute transfer (arranged by ASEC) from the airport in George to Protea Hotel by Marriot in Mossel Bay.  I could see the White Shark Africa office, less than a block from the hotel. 

 

That afternoon I went to Bartolomeu Dias Museu, about a block away from the hotel, which focused on the Portuguese maritime history of the area. You could also touch starfish and other sea creatures in an open topped aquarium.  The museum closed early, maybe 3:30 pm, as I recall, so I’m glad I went there without delay. 

 

Protea Hotel by Marriot was very conveniently located and the staff members of this fascinating historic building were exceptionally congenial.

Edited by Atravelynn

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44 minutes ago, Treepol said:

@Atravelynn what a trips of contrasts - bush and beach, red and blue, wet and dry with marine and land critters.  Reminds me of a previous Cape report trip title: Blue Cape, White Waters & Red Dunes

Thanks for the heads-up about Saxon House and Take 2 transfer. Saxon House looks amazing and definitely something to consider for our 2021 visit to Cape Town.  You plan way ahead!  Do consider both.

 

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July 14, 15 -- 3 Shark Trips on First Strike, White Shark Africa’s boat.

White Shark Africa is the only company allowed to view sharks as a commercial operation at Mossel Bay I was told.  And I saw no other boat on any of the 3 trips.

 

Conditions for all 3 trips were perfect--no waves, no wind, no Bonine anti-nausea medicine needed by me, sunny skies, temps of about 18C / 65F.  Passengers numbered between about 14 and 18.  The boat could take 22.  No one else did repeat trips except for me, and I did 3.  All the passengers I talked with were friendly and enthusiastic.

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:25 pm

 

It was recommended we arrive at the White Shark Africa office about an hour before the departure time that White Shark Africa had emailed or texted to us the day before.  During that hour a very tasty breakfast or lunch was served and we had a detailed, informative orientation.  One sad fact I learned during that orientation is that 105 million sharks are killed per year.

 

We walked as a group for about 15 minutes from the office to the docked boat, First Strike.  Motoring from the dock to the island with the seals, where the Great Whites hang out, took another 15 minutes.

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First Strike at the dock. The upper viewing deck resulted in too much of a top-down view for photos, IMO.  I am wearing my Safaritalk cap.

 

The staff in the office of White Shark Africa and the crew on First Strike, including the Captain, were all very friendly and helpful.  They made me feel welcome in the office and on the boat and were open for interactions and questions.  Very customer-friendly every step of the way.

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:55 pm

I asked one crew member, “Explain to me how the Great White Shark viewing activities we are doing are not an intrusion on the sharks’ natural behavior?” 

 

The reply was that Great White Shark viewing does impact the sharks but that the impact is minimal compared to the value of the education taking place and the increase in goodwill toward sharks.  The crew member further stated that Great Whites must continually move/swim anyway, so encouraging them to swim near the boat by putting fish oil in the water does not lure them to motion from an immobile, resting state at the bottom of the ocean. 

 

The crew member also said that the odds of a shark getting one of the tuna heads that are thrown in the water to attract the sharks are at least as high as if the shark went after wild prey, so the energy expenditure and odds of success are similar.  The goal was definitely not to feed the Great Whites with a tuna head, but sometimes the sharks prevailed.  The crew member and I both lamented that people from the areas of the world that consume the greatest number of sharks, especially shark fin soup, are not frequent passengers on the shark viewing trips.

 

I found it interesting how often the sharks just hung around the boat without trying to grab the tuna head.

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Shark trip #3, July 15, noon – Just swimming by

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 1:13 pm – focus is on the lower teeth

 

When I went shark viewing with African Shark Eco-Charters out of Simons Town in False Bay back in 2008, I recall their approach was to troll with a hard foam seal-shaped decoy to entice just a couple of predation “breaches” at sunrise.   They did not want to encourage additional expenditures of energy beyond just a couple of breaches a day.  After trolling was done, they kept a tuna head in a submerged cage so that the scent emanated but the head could not be eaten.  In Mossel Bay, for the trips I was on, there was no predation trolling for breaching but there was more shark strike activity encouraged around the boat compared to the ASEC trips in False Bay.

 

Another difference between False Bay and Mossel Bay was the environment.  It took at least 30 minutes to get to Seal Island in False Bay and the area was more pristine, compared to Mossel Bay, which took only 15 minutes to reach.  The ASEC trips to False Bay were about twice as long (6 hours from my records vs. under 3 hours).  The Mossel Bay shark viewing area was more protected from wind and waves. I don’t have the cost comparison for what I did since I initially booked a volume discounted package with lodging through ASEC and then everything got changed.  But here is current info:

 

ASEC = ZAR 2500- 3500, excluding transfer.  States usually about 4.5 hours.

 

https://secure.activitybridge.com/book?activityid=3694

https://ultimate-animals.com/

 

WHITE SHARK AFRICA = no cost info on website I can find. States usually about 4.5 hours. (For me, that would be true with the office orientation were included)

 

https://whitesharkafrica.com/experiences/

 

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Scenery comparison:  False Bay (back in 2008) and Mossel Bay on this trip

 

Finally, for divers (which I am not) a big difference is that the water temperature in Mossel Bay is typically 20 degrees Celsius warmer than water around Simons Town and False Bay or even Gansbaii.

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:25 pm

The original plan was 9 shark trips because I knew from my shark viewing experience in 2008 that some outings are definitely more productive than others. To increase the odds of good shark viewing and photography, it is important to have ample shark outings.  The disparity in the 3 shark trips I did can be seen in this chart directly below. And that disparity is due to the sharks not my photo skills or the crew’s performance.  Still, all 3 trips had at least 7 sharks swimming around the boat that both divers and “boat dwellers” could see very clearly.  All passengers, me included, were thrilled with each trip. 

 

I recall back in 2008 ASEC called the more interactive sharks that hung around the boat “players.”  It’s up to the shark if it wants to be a “player” or not. The more “players” the more exciting the trip for the passengers.

 


Summary of 3 Shark Trips in Mossel Bay on First Strike, Operated by White Shark Africa

 

 

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The third trip had the most active sharks by a lot.

 

The only camera I used for the shark trips was the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 18-400 lens because it does many continuous shots with very little buffering and has a fast shutter speed.

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Shark trip #1, July 14, 10:11 am  --  I like the swirl behind the shark

 

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Shark trip #1, July 14, 10:21 am

 

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Shark trip #1, July 14, 10:40 am --  Great Whites often intentionally strike into the sun, as shown here, because it makes it harder to see them coming.

 

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Shark trip #1, July 14, 10:38 am

 

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Shark trip #1, July 14, 11:05 am

 

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Shark trip #2, July 14, 2:16 pm

 

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Shark trip #2, July 14, 2:39 pm

 

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Shark trip #2, July 14, 2:11 pm

 

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Shark trip #2.  Shots like this show why it is good to have as many shark photo opportunities as possible because it can be hard to capture quick, unexpected action.  On the second shark trip, this was the only shot I managed of an opened-mouth shark.  Not a keeper.

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:25 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:10 pm

 

We were told to look closely at the eyes of the sharks to see if we could detect their navy blue color.  Often the eyes can look black but they are actually navy blue.

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Shark trip #3, July 15, noon  --  The pupil of the eye has a navy blue color

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:06 pm  --  The pupil of the eye has a navy blue color

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:07 pm  --  Eye has  a navy blue color, even under water.

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:06 pm  --  Eye has a navy blue color.

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, noon  --  The color reflected from the eye  in the surrounding water even has shades of blue.

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:10 pm  -- The most enchanting beautiful blue eye ever seen on a shark, complete with eyeliner! 

Nat Geo, I await your call.

 

The blue eyes were not just for sharks.

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Shark trip #3, July 15  -- Cape Cormorant

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15  -- Cape Cormorants

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:06 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:45 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:13 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:25 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 1:13 pm

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 1:11 pm

For diving, up to 5 people, all wearing wet suits that were provided, dropped into the cage that was attached to the side of the boat.  The cage never fully submerged so divers could easily pop up for air. 

Everyone had a snorkel mask but no breathing tube.   When a shark was near, the shark spotter yelled, “Go down!” and the divers would submerge, holding onto bars within the cage, they’d hold their breath and look at the shark or take photos/videos.  Divers remained in the cage for 20 views of nearby sharks, then another group of about 5 went in.  The shark viewing was not timed, it was based on # of views.  

 

All divers seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously.   A crew member made a Go-Pro video of everything and we could buy it at the end and/or have it emailed to us.  The video was playing when we got back to the office at the end of the trip so we could check it out.  It also was available to view online.  Very professional and well done, and reasonable cost as I recall.  This footage meant divers could just enjoy the underwater experience and not worry about focusing their camera on the passing sharks.  I didn’t buy a video, but if I had dived, I probably would have.

 

How it worked for divers:

 

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Divers in the cage that remained attached to the boat and never submerged.

 

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Shark trip #3, July 15, 12:20 pm  --  The Great White has come up from below and grabbed the tuna head.  Note the cage location (very close to the action) and also backdrop.

 

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Did a shark nibble off this gull’s leg?  The other leg is banded.

 

I did not do any cage dives because my husband did not want me to go in a shark cage. I willingly obliged since the only other demand he has made of me is that I replace the roll of toilet paper when I use it up.  Because my compliance with the tp directive is sometimes shaky, I felt compelled to be 100% compliant with staying out of the shark cage.

 

I had been scheduled to do one shark trip each day for 3 consecutive days in Mossel Bay. The weather was so nice on July 14 for the first outing that when we returned, I asked if there was another trip that day.  There was and I went and I am glad I did. Only one trip went on July 15 and I believe there were no trips on July 16. I was really happy with the 3 trips I did.  Thank you White Shark Africa and ASEC for handing me off to them.

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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July 16 – Mossel Bay to Gansbaii Transfer by Take2 Tours

Munwa picked me up about 9:30 am and we had an enjoyable 4-hour drive from Protea Hotel in Mossel Bay to Saxon House in Gansbaii where I met the gracious owners, Dave and Caron.

 

In Gansbaii I had a late lunch of traditional hake at The Boathouse, which I could see from Saxon House.  There was a grocery store about 3 blocks away where I walked and bought some food for that evening and to keep in the fridge in my room during my stay.

 

Shark Cage Diving cancelled their Gansbaii trips for the next day due to high wind.  They tried to get me on a bigger boat that would be able to handle the rougher weather, but with so many smaller boats cancelling, there were no more spots.  A big boat and huge waves would not have been an ideal combination anyway. So I never went shark viewing in Gansbaii.

 

 

July 17 – Cape Tour, Highlight is Cape Agulhas

Had a fine breakfast at Saxon House. Instead of 2 shark viewing trips on the 17th, Dave of Saxon House, who is also a licensed guide, took me on a wonderful tour (10:30 am – 5 pm) that included Pearly Beach (my request), Elim Mission Settlement and church, salt pans, a lunch stop for hake, and Cape Agulhas and its lighthouse.  Thank you, Dave!

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Pearly Beach, 11:14 am.  A public but nearly deserted beach.

 

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Pearly Beach, 11:26 am

 

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Pearly Beach, 10:56 am

 

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White-fronted Plover in comic form at Pearly Beach, 11:20 am

 

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White-fronted Plover in more serious form at Pearly Beach, 11:20 am

 

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Me at Pearly Beach, wearing my Safaritalk cap

 

On to Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost point of Africa, not the Cape of Good Hope.  The merging of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans is designated with a monument. Standing with one foot on the Indian Ocean side and one foot on the Atlantic side is the classic photo op. 

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Here I am, having slipped into my Gladiator outfit and removed my Safaritalk hat, in that classic straddling the oceans at Cape Agulhas pose. Amazing what a decorative metallic breastplate and lipstick will do for a gal.  This is really travel brochure material! 

 

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Cape Agulhas, 1:43 pm

 

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Cape Agulhas, 2:00 pm

 

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Cape Agulhas, 2:14 pm

 

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Cape Agulhas, 2:01 pm

 

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I climbed to the top of this lighthouse and walked around the railed balcony.  Extremely windy!  Lose-your-hat windy!

 

When I descended from the lighthouse, Safaritalk hat safely in hand, the light had dulled, as evidenced by the next photo.  It made a big difference.

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Flat light on Cape Agulhas, 2:35 pm

 

I asked Dave a question that was almost rhetorical.  “Where else in the world are there the such spectacular, rugged, undeveloped, expanses of shoreline of this magnitude with crashing waves that are easily accessible to people of all fitness levels for free or minimal cost?”  Pearly Beach and Cape Agulhas are free.  Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve has a small fee.

 

In summary, back to cameras, IMHO, the Sony RX10 did a fine job of capturing the Cape scenery and the penguins within it without lugging a big lens around.  The fast-moving Great Whites that could surface without warning required my Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 18-400 lens.

 

For someone really serious about catching the mood and atmosphere of the various Cape shorelines on a memory card or in their memory, several hours or days could be spent. But even the amount of time I had at the various locations (90 minutes Cape Nature Reserve; 1 hour Cape Agulhas, 35 minutes Pearly Beach, 3 minutes Scarborough) produced beautiful views and photo opportunities everywhere, every moment.

 

July 18 – Transfer from Gansbaii to Cape Town by Take2Tours, MOCAA

Had a fine breakfast at Saxon House. Wally from Take2 Tours transferred me from Saxon House in Gansbaii to Cape Verde Hotel in Cape Town on what was supposed to be a scenic drive with a stop at a penguin colony.  But the penguin colony was closed to visitors for wooden walkway repairs and the weather was a continual gray downpour, so no scenery.  Instead, we visited the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA).  The grain silo architecture is a work of art in itself.  We also had lunch at the Waterfront Food Market, a fun and tasty spot. 

 

I was given the option of stopping at some vineyards along the way as well, but declined.  It turned out to be a full day (9:30 am – 5 pm) transfer and activities with Wally, who was excellent company.  Thank you to Take2Tours who allowed my transfer day to be extended at no extra charge.

 

From 6 pm until the light was gone, I was able to enjoy the grounds of Cape Verde Hotel.  I also played the guest piano and ate a Super Food Salad that was so good it really should have been part of the title—"Show us your Claspers!  And your Pangolins & Aardvarks and your Super Food Salad at the Cape Verde Hotel, South Africa!"

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Cape Verde Hotel grounds

 

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Cape Verde Hotel grounds

 

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Sunbird flying in the last rays of the day at Cape Verde Hotel grounds

 

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The wet part of the trip. Simons Town-Mossel Bay was a flight, from the cities of Cape Town to George.

 

Adapter Interlude

 

M-plug is used.

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Adapter for South Africa

 

When I asked Doug Macdonald about battery charging in Tswalu, he replied that they provide all the adapters.  “Could that be?” I wondered.  Every adapter? He was right.  This nifty charging cart has a panel for all plug configurations, so no adapter needed at Tswalu!

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Tswalu’s charging cart with built in outlets for any kind of plug.

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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michael-ibk

Ah the adapters are here, finally.

 

You look great in Agulhas Lynn, exactly like I remember you from our last trip - you haven´t aged a day. :wub:

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Towlersonsafari

Wonderful Shark pictures especially, and I do like the detail in your reports. On second thoughts you seem to busy for pootling @Atravelynn " to travel or go in a relaxed or leisurely manner "

As or not replacing loo rolls that is clearly a female trait!

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Atravelynn
On 9/26/2019 at 2:20 PM, michael-ibk said:

Ah the adapters are here, finally.   A fitting midpoint

 

You look great in Agulhas Lynn, exactly like I remember you from our last trip - you haven´t aged a day. :wub:    And I was in a bug suit, not a Gladiator outfit!

 

On 9/26/2019 at 2:26 PM, Towlersonsafari said:

Wonderful Shark pictures especially, and I do like the detail in your reports. On second thoughts you seem to busy for pootling @Atravelynn " to travel or go in a relaxed or leisurely manner It actually was quite relaxing.  I just saw your "Death" report and will check that out before heading to Kalaghadi in March, though I know you were there in the month of November.

As or not replacing loo rolls that is clearly a female trait!  I'll share with DH.

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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shazdwn
11 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

 This nifty charging cart has a panel for all plug configurations, so no adapter needed at Tswalu!

Handy, but doesn't look like an Australian plug would go in there - so maybe one exception.  

 

Great report so far - looking forward to the dry part.  

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Atravelynn
7 hours ago, shazdwn said:

Handy, but doesn't look like an Australian plug would go in there - so maybe one exception.  

 

Great report so far - looking forward to the dry part.  

I hope it is not a case of discrimination against Australians!

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Atravelynn

Dry Part of the Trip in Tswalu, 5 nights

 

 

 

Translation:  In the Tswana language, Tswalu means “New Beginning.”  For more detailed Tswalu info, here’s their resource guide.  https://tswalu.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Tswalu-Information-Guide-2019.pdf

 

Not that it made a difference to me, but Tswalu is malaria-free.

 

I booked Tswalu with Doug Macdonald’s Safaris.  When I was on safari with him in Oct of 2017, I mentioned wanting to visit the legendary Tswalu and confessed my sticker shock with the quote I had gotten direct from Tswalu.  Doug suggested I let his company look into a booking.  Within a week of arriving home from my trip with Doug, he had a quote for the dates I wanted for over a $500 USD savings vs. booking direct.  Thank you, Doug!

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Kudu, 9:44 am

 

How long to stay at Tswalu? 

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Motse, where I stayed at Tswalu.  Some of the individual cottages are visible in the background.

 

I chose the plan of pay for 4 nights at Motse, stay for 5 nights. The pay for 8 nights, stay for 10 nights plan was the same cost per night as the pay for 4, stay for 5, no volume discount.  The other guests during my stay were on the 2 night to 4-night plans.  I was the only 5-nighter. 

 

My guide, Moses, said the longest stay he ever heard of was 11 nights.  Two parties had stayed that long--one for more of a restful retreat and the other who was on a mission to photograph (I believe it was) wild dogs.

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Wild dogs, 3rd of 4 sightings, in afternoon sandstorm at Tswalu, 4;33 pm

 

One reason I chose the 5-night and not 10-night stay, besides the BIGGE$T reason of CO$T, was to hedge my bets and not put “all my eggs in one basket.”  If one of the key species Tswalu is known for that I was hoping to see (pangolin, aardvark, meerkats) was not around this season when I visited, I might be able to visit Tswalu again at some point in the future.  If I spent a huge amount on a 10-night stay and it just happened to be an unlucky stretch of time, I’d be out of luck and out of money.

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1st of 2 pangolins, 6:16 pm

 

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2nd of 2 photographable aardvarks, 5:42 pm

 

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2nd of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:06 am

 

My 5-night stay for July 2019 was booked 20 months in advance. It was not possible to get 5 consecutive nights in July of 2018 when I was investigating in August of 2017. 

 

During my stay I asked a Tswalu manager about non-consecutive nights and how that might work.  He said that other than flying in and out a couple of times ($$$$!!!), it might be possible to break up a stay by traveling to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for a few nights.  We did not go into specifics or logistics, but that could add some flexibility and options.

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Kudu, 9:25 am. 

 

Here are the 2020 Tswalu rates.

https://tswalu.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2020-Tswalu-Kalahari-Rates-and-Promotions-M.pdf

I see that the “pay for the 4, stay for 5” deal I did is still offered, in Promotion #2.

 

Promotion #1 -  Stay 4 nights and pay 50% on last night (Applicable to Motse and Tarkuni)

Promotion #2 -  Stay 5 nights and pay 4 nights (Applicable to Motse and Tarkuni)

The above 2 promotions were copied from Tswalu’s website in Sept 2019.

 

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10:20 am

 

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Sable visible on the left, very distant.  5:46 pm

 

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Korannaberg (Koranna means Bushman and berg means mountain) Mountains  8:34 am

 

Tswalu’s immense 1,000 square kilometers of terrain and the sparse nature of the Kalahari Desert mean that each outing usually has a single highlight, maybe two, unlike other safari destinations where it is possible to zip from species to species.  The following chart sums up my 5-night stay, showing the highlight(s) of each outing.

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As the table above shows, morning activities started at 7:00 am.  Tswalu’s policy allows guests to dictate hours, so you could request something different.  Moses told me about staying out all night in the summer months to search for aardvarks and pangolins, so obviously the schedule is highly flexible.  It was as cold as -1ºC / 30ºF one morning and sunrise was about 7:10 am.  I noted that my earliest photo in the morning was taken at 7:25 am.

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7:25 am – earliest photo

 

 

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7:28 am

 

As the table above also shows, the evening activities ended some time after 6:30 pm.  Sunset was around 6:15 pm, so our last 15-30 minutes was spent spotlighting.  I noticed I was always the very last to return in the evening and upon further questioning was told that was because night drives are not normally done in the winter months because they are not productive.  My guide and tracker were very kindly extending my afternoon game drives because I was so enthusiastic about being “out there.” Indeed, our only night drive sightings were one Spotted Eagle Owl and one Springhare.   The last 3 nights, we came in a little earlier, to all of our satisfaction, and we froze a little less.

 

One interesting sighting, as the light waned, was a roan high in the hills at 6:10-6:15 pm.  It had climbed up and out of its normal terrain because of scarce food at lower levels during the dry, harsh winter months.

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Roan in the hills, 6:10 pm

 

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Roan in the hills, 6:15 pm

 

For these lowest light photos of the trip, I used the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 18-400 lens.

 

To further put wildlife viewing in perspective I kept track of approximately on how many of my 10 game drives or outings I was able to see which mammals.  Many of these species were not photo material; I just looked at them.

 

 

Animal               Seen on how many of my 10 outings?

 

Aardvarks...........................2 (2 on 1 outing, 1 on another)

Black backed Jackals.....4-5 (up to 5 at a time at a wild dog kill)

Cheetah..............................0  (a mother and cub were very shy; did not track 2 collared males)

Common duiker..................2

Eland..................................4-5

Giraffe................................7 (journeys of up to 20, 22)

Ground squirrels.................2

Hyena, any kind.................0

Impala...............................4-5

Kudu..................................8-9

Leopard...............................0

Lions.....................................2 (7 cats, then 14 cats)

Meerkats (habituated)......2 (colony of 9)

Meerkats (unhabituated)..2 (4-5 meerkats)

Mongoose...........................2 (yellow)

Oryx....................................10!  Most prolific animal

Ostrich.................................3

Pangolins.............................2

Red Hartebeest..................0

Rhino...................................0*

Roan...................................4

Sable..................................3

Springbok...........................8-9

Steenbok...........................4-5

Warthog.............................2

Wild dogs...........................4 (7 juvenile males, 9 dogs from main pack, 5 in bomas)

Wildebeest........................6

Zebra (Mountain)..............2 (few individuals, very distant in mountains)

Zebra (Plains)....................4-5  (herds of 4-12)

No hippos or elephants are present.

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9:16 am, Kudu, a frequently seen species

 

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The prize goes to Oryx for the most frequently seen mammal on Tswalu game drives!  3:23 pm

 

* Rhino was Tracker Piet’s favorite animal; therefore, I was sorry we were not able to track or find one. The strong winds that blew in on Day 3, especially in the morning when tracking begins, made it hard to see tracks in the dusty soil.  That makes it tough to locate a rhino and begin tracking from the vehicle on the road.  But the big problem is when you are on foot in pursuit of a white rhino and tracks of the more aggressive black rhino might have blown away, so you unsuspectingly  walk into it.  Yikes!  Also, the swirling winds can easily give away your scent to scare off the white rhino or to agitate an obscured black rhino.

 

The reason Piet’s favorite animal was the rhino was because as a child his family lived near Tswalu and he would stand near the fence and look at the rhinos when they were around.  He grew to love them.  When he was old enough, he took a job at Tswalu in hopes of being able to work with the rhinos at some point.  He started out as a stable groom because he grew up with horses.  Eventually he was able to join the rhino tracking team in the field.  He held that position for several years and then about 5 years ago became a tracker for the guests.  He still gets to see “his” rhinos frequently.  But not during my 5 nights—although both Piet and Guide Moses saw some black rhino way in the distance ducking into the thicket.  I never managed to spot them.

 

Guide Moses, on the other hand, was not fond of horses at all and would not have enjoyed grooming.  Moses began a career as an actor who toured with an African ensemble in China.  Family obligations, as in having to care and provide for his siblings, brought him back home and he followed his interest in nature to become a guide.

 

Moses and Piet were a great team and did an outstanding job of showing me the wonders of Tswalu.

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Guide Moses in front, followed by Tracker Piet, a dynamic duo!  Looking for lions, Korannaberg (Koranna means Bushman and berg means mountain) Mountains in background.

 

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Lions located!  Thanks guys!  2nd of 2 lion sightings, 9:22 am

 

The list above refers to animals seen on game drives or walks, but there was also some exciting wildlife that could be viewed from the dining/viewing/pool deck or from my room, Rhino #5 on the end.  There was a lot going on in front of Rhino #5,  especially near the bushes not far from my patio.

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Warthog, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 1:28 pm.  Touchably soft looking hair.

 

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Warthog, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 1:29 pm. Hair on end on account of a female warthog in whom he was very interested.

 

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Giraffe at the Motse waterhole, seen from dining/viewing deck.  3:00 pm during tea before game drive

 

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Sable and roan sharing the Motse waterhole, seen from dining/viewing deck.  1:49 pm.

 

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Wildebeest (and a bird) at the Motse waterhole,  seen from dining/viewing deck.  2:58 pm during tea before game drive

 

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Roan and Kudu sharing the Motse waterhole, seen from dining/viewing deck.  2:58 pm.

 

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Rock Martens in the entranceway of someone else’s Motse cottage 10:59 am.

 

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Marico Sunbird, in trees near dining deck, 11:27 am

 

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Yellow-billed Hornbill, on structure near dining deck, 2:46 pm

 

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Namaqua Dove, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:24 am

 

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Slender Mongoose, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:19 am

 

Most of the lodge photography from my patio and the communal deck was with my Nikon COOLPIX P900, to take advantage of the 83x zoom. The waterhole that attracted the larger species was, maybe, 50-60 meters from the dining/viewing/pool deck.  The species in front of my Rhino #5 patio were closer than 50-60 meters, but they were little creatures.  The zoom was needed in both cases.  The bird function was most helpful for the Marico sunbird.

 

When the mongoose started moving around and especially when the ground squirrels were playing outside my patio, I used the Sony RX10 in sport mode.

 

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Slender Mongoose, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:19 am

 

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Slender Mongoose, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:19 am

 

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Yellow Mongoose, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:15 am

 

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Double Mongoose, seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:25 am.  Yellow and Slender!


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Slender mongoose on the right looking on and supervising the ground squirrels, 11:46 pm

 

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All ground squirrel antics were seen from Rhino #5 at Motse, 11:46 am

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

 July 19 – Arrival Day in Tswalu

 

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Arrival flight, photo from the right side of plane when boarding and when facing the rear of the aircraft.  The left side, when boarding and facing the rear of the plane, had better views and light in the morning.

 

Breakfast starts at 4:30 am at Cape Verde Hotel, plenty early for my 6:10 am pickup by Wayne of Take2 Tours.  Cape Verde has an airport shuttle that runs this early but I was not sure if it went to Signature Flight Services used by Twsalu’s Execujet, which is not connected to the public part of the Cape Town airport.  I did not want any problems when there was no time to correct them before the early flight.  Wayne  of Take2 Tours knew just where to go for Execujet.

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One of the species I hoped to glimpse at Tswalu.  1st of 2 Pangolins, 5:40 pm

 

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One of the species I hoped to glimpse at Tswalu.  1stof 2 Aardvarks photographed, 3:59 pm

 

We arrived at Signature Flight Services for Execujet at 6:20 am to a spread of fancy breafast fare. Check-in was 6:50 am but I wanted to be there early.  Departure was set for an hour after a 7:50 am check-in, but we left early at 7:35 am.  The flight, which was an estimated at 2 hours, arrived early at 9:20 am. [Flying to/from Cape Town or to/from Joburg decision and comments at end]  

 

Tswalu’s instructions for the flights: “Please note that luggage is restricted to a total of 20kg / 44 pounds (including hand and cargo luggage) per person in soft-sided bags on Tswalu scheduled flights. Extra seats may be purchased, at standard rates, should guests wish to travel with excess luggage (will allow for 50kg / 110 pounds in soft sided bag per extra seat booked). Complimentary luggage storage facilities available at hangars.”

I left part of my luggage at the Execujet office.  All bags that I saw from about 25 total guests were indeed soft-sided, as was my bag.

 

There were snacks on the plane and another spread when we arrived at the Tswalu airstrip welcome tent.  In my room, Rhino #5, was a substantial welcome treat under glass.  Shortly after arriving, lunch was served.  So, plenty of food!  And exquisite cuisine I must add!  Tswalu is a culinary destination and they are capitalizing on that reputation with future plans of a stand-alone restaurant that guests could drive to or fly to just for a meal.

 

From food to drink: Every room had a full bar and fridge, complete with a lemon.  The main lodge had an extensive wine cellar that every guest could access and sample at will.  Topping all those liquids, IMHO, was the daily fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast and lunch.  It quickly became obvious I was a fan of the juice because the wait staff offered to fill my glass with OJ whenever the saw me with an empty one.  This kindness and attentiveness, with a touch of humor, was typical throughout my stay.

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Roan drinking at Motse’s waterhole.  Seen from viewing/dining deck. 2:53 pm

 

More on food:  Every morning there was an array of muffins and yogurt and OJ to greet guests before our game drive.  Lunch was both a brunch buffet and offerings on the menu, served throughout the day inside or out.  The staff encouraged me to have dinner delivered to my room, which I did, except for one festive, traditional African meal, served outside, where Guide Moses and Tracker Piet dined with me.  I really liked the dinner-in-the-room plan and always had a nice chat with the server as he prepared the fire in my fireplace for the evening.

 

Despite the superb quality of the cuisine, I did not come to Tswalu to eat. I was summoned by the possibility of the iconic, elusive species that are often present.  And they were!

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Tswalu’s iconic, elusive species seen during my 5-night visit

 

Sometimes those iconic species were paired with birds.

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2nd of 2 photographable aardvarks, 3:50 pm.  Cape starling looking for insects.

 

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2nd of 2 pangolins, 3:37 pm.  Ant-eating chat and pangolin.

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:29 am Crimson-breasted Shrike behind meerkat

 

Sometimes just the bird was the focus.

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Crimson-breasted Shrike.  Seen following meerkats, 9:30 am.

 

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Rather drab bird, but it has Kalahari in the name which adds an element of intrigue, Kalahari Scrub Robin. 

Seen following meerkats, 9:56 am.

 

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African Shelducks, 3:39 pm

 

 

Outing 1, Day 1 - July 19, 3:00-6:45 pm, Aardvark Highlight

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One of the species I was hoping to see, spotted on the first drive, 5:18 pm.  Unhabituated meerkats.

 

Moses suggested we start by looking for aardvarks for our first drive.  He knew a spot where 2 or 3 had been seen recently.  We drove to that spot but no trace of aardvarks.  Driving past that area to a new spot, aardvark tracks were seen on the road.  After about 15 minutes of tracking on foot, there was the aardvark!  We spent half an hour with it and most of that time offered great views and photo ops.  Never did it appear spooked or frightened by us as we maintained a distance of about 10 or more meters.

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 3:53 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 3:58 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:00 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:08 pm

 

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:12 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:08 pm

 

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:08 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:12 pm

 

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1st of 2 photographable aardvarks, 4:12 pm

 

The first aardvark photo of Game Drive 1 posted here is from my Nikon COOLPIX P900 and the rest are with the Sony RX10. 

 

After our fantastic time with the aardvark, Moses radioed another guide who was also looking for an aardvark to tell him where we were.  Turns out that guide had found his own aardvark in another part of the park.  Later that evening we spotted yet another aardvark on a hill, too far for photos.   Between the aardvarks we passed by but did not see, the one we tracked and photographed, the one in the distance and the one spotted by the other vehicle, I counted 5!

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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July 20 – Day 2 in Tswalu

 

Outing 2, Day 2 - July 20, 7:00-11:00 am Meerkats Highlight

We drove about 20 minutes then exited the vehicle and walked about 2 kms to reach the meerkat colony’s burrow, arriving about 7:30 am.  Fifteen minutes later the first little head popped out.  Quite a thrill! 

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First meerkat out to greet the sun.  Very exciting to see.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 7:49 am

 

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Two out.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:03 am

 

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Meerkats and me.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 7:57 am.  No interaction with the meerkats is allowed, which is good.  That did not stop the meerkats from sniffing trouser legs or bounding over boots.  I am wearing my Safaritalk cap.

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:01 am

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:10 am

 

No more than 9 people are allowed at the meerkat colony.  For about 15 minutes, while the meerkats were still sunning themselves, a family of 8 joined me.  The meerkats were spread out, so there was no crowding.   Then the left and I was alone with the colony.  I asked Moses if it ever gets tricky trying to fit in a meerkat visit for guests, since there are restrictions on visitor numbers, and he said it can be.  

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Making a tripod for balance, 1st of 2 meerkat colony visits

 

Asking to go to the meerkats early on in your stay, as Moses planned for me, makes sense to be sure you get there, since 9 visitors are allowed at the colony at one time.  One nice thing about coordinating those sought-after desert species of meerkats, pangolins, aardvarks is that meerkat viewing is by far the best in the morning.  Pangolins and aardvarks are almost never seen in the morning.  So no overlap.

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:27 am

 

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Classic meerkat shot.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:40 am

 

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Moving out. 1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:40 am

 

Meerkats running as a troop from one of their burrows to another is common, but today they were checking their burrows more fervently than usual.  I had been told that yesterday, a battle between this colony of 10 meerkats and another colony occurred.  Afterward, the alpha female had not been seen.  The remaining 9 meerkats (7 adults, 2 juveniles) searched for her from one burrow to the next.  She was never found.

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Meerkat running. 1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:41 am

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits.  They have moved away from their overnight burrow, 9:00 am.

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:52 am

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:53 am

 

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Meerkat sentry in the tree overseeing those on the ground.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 8:57 am

 

 

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Meerkats take turn serving as sentry in a tree.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:41 am

 

During the winter months, meerkats eat more grubs than scorpions and they tend to consume them within the hole they are digging.  They use their sense of smell to locate where to dig and then their whiskers to detect when they’ve reached their prey.

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Digging.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:20 am

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:47 am

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:39 am

 

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1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 9:49 am

 

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Meerkats take turn serving as sentry in a tree.  1st of 2 meerkat colony visits, 10:05 am

 

Knowing the meerkats can scoot quickly and erratically, not to mention dig energetically, I used my fast shutter speed Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 18-400 lens for the entire meerkat visit.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

Outing 3, Day 2 - July 20, 3:00-6:50 pm, Temminck’s Pangolin Highlight

 

My first day at Tswalu I asked Guide Moses about visiting with Wendy, the famed pangolin researcher. Moses got me scheduled for the afternoon of Day 3, July 21.  My suggestion: if you could reach out to Tswalu management before you arrive and get this pangolin researcher visit scheduled, I think that would be wise, especially if you had only 3 (or fewer) days. 

 

As we headed to the vehicle for our afternoon excursion, Moses said, “Even though we are scheduled for a pangolin research visit tomorrow where you’ll get to see a pangolin, I know of any area where we may be able to see a pangolin today as well.  Would you like to try that?”

 

“Heck yes!”

 

Half an hour of driving, then about half an hour of tracking on foot (approximately 2.5 km) and there was the Temminck's Pangolin on the horizon!

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Fresh pangolin tracks that show the scales.

 

In the hour and 45 minutes that we spent with the pangolin, we saw a variety of behaviors with one notable exception, for which I was pleased.  Never did the pangolin curl up in a defensive ball.  It completely ignored us even if we were about 2 meters away.

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:17 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:15 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:15 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:22 pm

 

Pangolins eat ants and will settle in for a big meal under bushes and thicket when they find a plentiful ant colony.  But ants have their own defense and will give off pheromones when they are being attacked, alerting other ants with a warning to flee.

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:17 pm.  It is possible to see the pangolin’s tongue.

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:28 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:20 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:27 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:03 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 4:23 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 5:17 pm

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 5:15 pm.

 

 

 

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Me and 1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 5:29 pm.  Pangolin is ignoring me as it should be. 

But it I think it noticed my fashionable Safaritalk cap, and gave a nod of approval.

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 5:22 pm, dining

 

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 5:33 pm

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1st of 2 pangolin sightings, 5:34 pm

 

This pangolin had been ambling along in zig-zag fashion, with breaks for food and rest, for about an hour and 45 minutes. Suddenly, it decided to make a beeline for its burrow and left us in the dust.  The next day I asked Wendy, the pangolin researcher, about this behavior and said I hoped we had not somehow spooked the pangolin.  Wendy explained that this is typical behavior and it is as if the pangolin has had enough and abruptly calls it quits.

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The pangolin has bedded down, so it’s time to photograph the setting sun on Korannaberg Mountains

The pangolin was photographed with my Sony RX10. 

Edited by Atravelynn

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