When the billowing plumes of Atlantic mist part to reveal the enchanting Dorob coastline, expanses of vividly colored water sprinkled with thousands of lesser and greater flamingo appear in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of color. Flying this section of coastline is in short, an aerial photographer’s and nature lover’s paradise and will take your breath away.
Sinuous inlets and waterways meander across the mudflats of the large saltwater lagoon of Sandwich Harbor. Namib Naukluft.
An artist’s palette, the colours of salt adorn the coastal flats in a profusion of crusts and ruddy blotches. Skeleton coast.
To the north of the Dorob coastline, brine pans line the shores in a display of color, shape and texture that leaves one’s heart racing with the ethereal beauty of it all. Further south a patchwork series of lime and raspberry saline lakes, edges encrusted with crystals, sparkle against a treeless landscape until they reach the shores of the Walvis Bay Lagoon.
Pale flocks of flamingo adorn the emerald brine pans south of Walvis Bay.
Serpentine streamers of turquoise stand out in vivid contrast to the pale low tide sandbanks. Walvisbay Lagoon.
The cold Benguela current and its nutrient-rich waters, the commercial saline lakes and the Walvis Bay lagoon collectively made the area famous for the incredible profusion of birdlife it attracts each year. In this saline ecosystem, vast quantities of phytoplankton are produced which support other marine organisms such as algae and brine shrimp, food for many hundreds of thousands of resident and migratory birds including cormorants, terns, avocets and a profusion of shorebirds.
An upwelling of nutrients from the sea floor provides sustenance for a psychedelic algal bloom on the Atlantic Ocean.
Like a giant marine lung; turquoise bronchi branch out through russet alveoli bringing with them the nutrients and habitat required by vast flocks of lesser and greater Flamingo that grace these shores. Walvisbay Lagoon.
Seeming to float on an ocean of pinks, coastal rock outcrops emerge from the brine ponds north of Swakopmund.
Serpentine streamers of pink stand out in vivid contrast to the dark shores of the Atlantic coastline.
Jay and Jan Roode – from their book AERIAL ART
When guests ask if we have wild dogs on safari game drive’s at South Africa’s Kapama Reserve, we always explain that although we may spot them now and again, they are not resident on the Reserve. Wild dogs are roamers and move across large areas sometimes travelling over 50km in a single day looking for food.
Over the past few months, Kapama has had the privilege of seeing several African wild dogs moving through the Reserve. As they move across such large distances, it is difficult to pinpoint from which other neighboring reserves they have come. However, as a highly endangered species, whenever we see wild dogs on Kapama, it always creates a lot of excitement.
Towards the middle of September, a pack of around six wild dogs made their way onto Kapama. On one particular day, our Rangers, while out with guests came across them and noticed that one of the wild dogs had a snare around its neck with a very prominent open wound. Our Head Ranger Liezl Holmes reached out to wildlife Vet – Dr Rogers from Pro-Vet. Together with Dr Rogers, a team mobilized to track the pack of dogs. The process would include finding the pack of wild dogs and the respective wild dog, darting it and removing the snare as well as administering any other medical attention that might be necessary.
Buffalo Camp Head Ranger Rassie was the last to spot them and radioed it in. Liezel, River Lodge Head Ranger Stefan, together with Dr Rogers set out in the direction of the pack. After about 2 hours of tracking them on Kapama, they came across the pack and more specifically the wild dog with the snare around its neck.
After they managed to get it darted, Dr Rogers set to work to remove the snare and stitch up the wound. They released him shortly after.
Later that afternoon while out with guests, Rangers came across the pack of wild dogs once again. They noticed he had joined up with his pack and was doing rather well. The following morning the pack was seen once again. He was keeping up nicely with the rest of the dogs and they even managed to kill an impala.
What a wonderful ending to the story! Our team felt privileged to have been apart of such a memorable endeavor.
News that Zambia is open to international travelers and ready to start safaris again has us ready to pack our bags and take flight. It’s been a while. We took some time to connect with Time + Tide’s expert guides and asked what they love most about their regions – the South Luangwa, Liuwa Plain and Lower Zambezi. Here is what they had to say…
Brian, Time + Tide Liuwa Plain
Why Liuwa Plain?
“My favorite thing about Liuwa is its vast open plains, seconded by the total isolation of the place. What makes it really special is the migrating wildebeest and the hyenas – that are actually the apex predator in Liuwa Plain.”
Liuwa Plain National Park is home to the second largest wildebeest migration on the continent. In October, the wildebeest begin to move south to give birth before beginning their return journey north, making this the best time of year to be part of this iconic experience.
The migrating wildebeest attract the attentions of Liuwa Plain’s apex predators. There are estimated to be over 350 spotted hyenas in Liuwa Plain, forming clans of up to 50 individuals and outnumbering the big cats by a significant margin. However, with reintroductions and the birth of new cubs, the lion population has been steadily increasing, due largely to the efforts of African Parks.
“Visiting the hyenas at their dens, walking safaris across the plains, and canoeing along the King’s Pool, to name a few”
If you are drawn to exploring the waterways and canoeing along King’s Pool, be sure to visit when the water levels are high between late January and early April. There are no hippos or crocodiles, and you can hop out and enjoy the water for yourself.
Abraham, Time + Tide South Luangwa
Why South Luangwa?
“Above the fact that the South Luangwa is my native land, I am privileged enough to have been mentored by Norman Carr, whose legacy is deeply woven into the history of the region. What I love most about the South Luangwa is its geographical layout, being part of the continental rift that emanates from the Red Sea through East Africa. The Luangwa river meanders along a flat valley floor, creating oxbow lagoons. These lagoons, with or without water, are a vital ecological feature as the alluvial deposits result in rich grazing grounds attracting masses of game.”
“I love walking safaris with the guests. I really enjoy the authenticity of it and how it makes me feel truly connected to mother nature. The views and scenery are spectacular!”
The South Luangwa National Park is also known as Zambia’s premier wildlife destination. Tap into your inner explorer by walking between and staying in our seasonal bush camps – named collectively as Norman’s camps in honour of his legacy. Norman Carr, the pioneer of the walking safari, believed the only way to understand a country is to walk it. To follow in his footsteps, be sure to visit from May through to mid-November. The months of October and November, the peak of the dry season, are a great time to see predator action as animals concentrate around dwindling water sources.
Ronald, Time + Tide Lower Zambezi
Why Lower Zambezi?
“The Lower Zambezi is a special place. The habitat changes every few kilometers on a game drive or boat cruise, from vast plains, jesse-bush woodlands, palm trees, albidas and more. I enjoy watching the leopards, my favorite animal, especially when they hunt. The best thing about the Lower Zambezi has to be the water, I just love to be on the river.”
“Canoeing. You can sit so low in the canoes and listen to each animal sound in its most natural form. There is no noise from the boat engine, and this makes the animals calm. You can enjoy the view and take amazing pictures as you drift past, whilst enjoying peace and quiet.”
Time + Tide Chongwe is situated at the confluence of the Chongwe and Zambezi Rivers. Being right on the river where water levels are high all year round, activities such as canoeing, fishing and boating safaris are celebrated here. You can expect to see plenty hippos, crocodiles, birds and elephants congregating along the river, especially during the driest months of August to November.
Which destination are you visiting next?
What could be better than a picnic on a sunny day? A safari picnic in the middle of the Maasai Mara of course! This tree? No, that one. On the banks of the Mara River? No, tucked under the Great Rift valley, please.
With the humdrum of the usual day to day an entire continent away, we set off on a day-long safari exploring the Maasai Mara? With nothing but distant memories of nap times and break downs, we could not have been more excited about the adventure that lay ahead of us.
We started with a compulsory cappuccino fix while watching a beautiful sunrise, before boarding our safari vehicle with our guide, Jackson, and heading out to explore.
Needless to say, soon our stomachs started to grumble, and Jackson found the perfect setting on the banks of the Mara River. Our breakfast table groaned table under passion fruit iced tea, individual breakfast tins, plunger coffee and a selection of Kenyan teas. Picnic #1 exceeded our already very high expectations. Delicious breakfast buns, fresh fruits, homemade muesli and more, it was such a treat to enjoy our feast while soaking in the sights and sounds that surrounded us.
Back into our safari vehicle and just moments after breakfast, we experienced one of the best sightings of our safari – a beautiful cheetah sitting atop a mound, scanning the landscape for his breakfast. We were the first vehicle to spot him, so we were able to enjoy the moment without another soul in sight.
Next, we came across a male lion on a buffalo calf kill. Despite breakfast being just a short while earlier, our tummies were on safari time, which means it is never too soon to start thinking about the next meal. Sensing this, Jackson drove to a safe spot a little further down the road to pull out our lunch picnic tins, which we were then able to enjoy while sitting on the vehicle. Again – it was absolutely delicious, but what was even better was being able to sit and watch the action at the kill at the same time. And, needless to add, ice cold Tuskers paired perfectly with picnic #2.
Three hours and an exciting rainstorm later, we had to tear ourselves away from the sighting and head back. It was 10 hours since we had left the lodge but time flew past in an instant. The very best of safari days.
If you’ve ever been dubious about birds being the descendants of dinosaurs, look no further than the shoebill. Just look at it; it’s basically a flying dinosaur.
Even its scientific name, Balaeniceps rex (which literally translates to “King of the Whale Heads”), sounds more like a name reserved for a giant prehistoric reptile than a stork-sized modern-day waterfowl.
It’s a strange bird, and that’s saying something – in a class of animals with more than 10,500 representative species, ranging from hummingbirds to ostriches, it stands out. In fact, for a long time, scientists didn’t know where to place it – was it more closely related to herons, or storks, or pelicans, or . . .? These days, it’s in a monotypic family (meaning its closest living relative is in another family entirely) within the order that contains pelicans and herons.
For all these reasons (it’s a bird, pretty weird, and looks like a dinosaur), plus the fact that it’s a rare and threatened species, (some estimates suggest as few as 5,000 individuals left in the wild) I’ve always wanted to see one. And badly – as in, been at the top of my most-wanted list for years.
And so it was this last February, for our sixth wedding anniversary (thanks for being a good sport, love), that Shan and I went to Uganda for a long weekend getaway to find romance and a bird.
Part of the fun of this journey was the fact that AirKenya had recently launched direct flights from the Mara to Uganda (part of a brilliant plan to directly connect a Mara safari with gorilla-trekking) – which meant that we pretty much walked out of our front door to board a plane at the Angama Airfield and, after a brief stop in Kisumu for immigration, disembarked in Entebbe after about an hour-and-a-half scenic flying time.
From Entebbe, most people would board another short flight to go in search of great apes – but not us. We left the airport to drive to the other side of town and hitch a boatride across a channel, where we were picked up and driven to Nkima Forest Lodge, perched atop a hill overlooking the home of the shoebill, Mabamba Swamp.
Recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International, Mabamba has a lot more to offer than just shoebills, but shoebills are what put it on the map as perhaps the world’s most easily accessible site to find these scarce and elusive birds.
But it almost wasn’t so: while a shoebill is opportunistic in what it eats, its preferred food is fish, and local fishermen took exception to that, persecuting the birds to near extirpation. Thankfully, concerned citizens and conservation groups launched a programme to not only educate fishermen, but empower them. Now shoebills are respected and valued within the local community, and many fishermen double as birding guides, earning a respectable income from protecting these gangly fish-eating former dinos.
We found just such a bird guide, Shakul, early one morning and, after paying our conservation fees, were the first out on that day’s shoebill search. We launched the boat down a narrow channel bordered by towering papyrus, and as we motored quietly along, Shakul expertly navigating myriad channels, I couldn’t help but feel that this primordial swamp was just the place to find a dinosaur.
The chances of seeing a shoebill in Mabamba are good, but never guaranteed – it can sometimes take two or three boat rides to find one. But we were lucky – Shakul managed to find one in relatively short order, finally convincing me that these strange creatures do, in fact, exist.
Shoebills are well-known for their persistence when stalking prey, moving at a determinedly glacial pace, with patience and concentration that can last for hours, until striking forth with the speed and agility of a viper. And so it was with our bird – stealthily and unwearyingly creeping along like one of those statue street performers, only once breaking character when an otter burst forth from the water in front of it, spooking it into a short flight.
Although we never did get to witness it catch a fish, it was still a marvel to watch and somehow kept us on the edge of our seats for the better part of two hours. I didn’t want to leave, but a chilly drizzle and the promise of a hot cup of tea back at Nkima Forest Lodge coaxed us back to shore. So we set off for home, water gliding silently beneath us, and left the swamp, and the dinosaurs, behind us.
As soon as local travel opened up, a team of four accomplished Kenyan photographers and filmmakers flew to Angama Mara to capture the drama of the Great Migration in near total solitude. This is their account of how they spent their days from sun up to sun down.
As photographers and filmmakers, it’s our dream to be immersed in the ideal conditions to tell our stories. Reflecting on our Africa trip, it seems like everything just came together, from the incredible flight to the warm welcome at Kenya’s Angama Mara, the friendly staff that supported us every day to the wonderful guides who made sure we always seemed to be at just the right place at the exactly right time. For artists, this is what makes the difference between a good image and a great one.
With the ambience set to perfection, each day in paradise began with excitement, full of hope of what the new day may offer. Every morning at 6am we made our descent down the Oloololo Escarpment to make the most of the golden first light of the day in the heart of the action. The Mara Triangle offers a great canvas for artists like us.
In the mornings, the amazing landscapes transform into a dreamy scene when the sun rises and the rays pierce through the mist and trees. We have independently been to the Maasai Mara many times, but this visit was special. As it was the middle of a pandemic there were very few tourists in the Mara. Of course this was a difficult time for many hotels and people working in the tourism industry, but it favored us as photographers who wanted to document uninterrupted nature.
During the full days out on safari – picnics in tow – we were able to witness one of the best migrations any of us has ever experienced without the usual vehicle congestion at the river crossings. Each of us has witnessed how unpleasant our fellow man can be in interrupting animal behavior for their own entertainment and photography, so it was great to experience this change. It was also amazing to be with responsible guides who are completely in love with what they do, and have the utmost respect for wildlife.
As anyone who has been on safari knows, as the sun goes down on the African horizon, you have to have a sundowner or bush dinner. We looked forward to this each evening. It was that time of the day when you could take it all in at the bonfire, exchange stories of the day with other guides and travelers as you sip on a cocktail and watch the sun fade away. It’s the perfect ending to a day.
Now, imagine having that perfect day for a two whole weeks. We would like to thank the Angama management, the staff and the photography studio team for the invaluable support that made our job a dream trip. Keep up the exceptional work of providing an excellent safari destination and most importantly supporting the local community through your various projects. We can’t wait to come back!
Without the movement and noise of safari goers over the last few months, the animals of the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve have been spending more time in Garonga Safari Camp. The camp structures may well have provided some refuge from the cold of winter, and, for prey species, there is the additional possibility that human activity could deter certain predators. For the herd of impala that had taken up residence in the camp, these hopes were to be dashed by a particular spotted feline named Patsy.
Patsy was just two years old when she was released into the reserve in 2018. Her hunting skills were still a work in progress at that age and without having mastered the necessary stranglehold, the prey she did manage to bring down often broke free and bolted away. Unfortunately for her, this regularly resulted in wasted energy and an empty stomach.
Even for mature adult cheetahs, the number of hunting attempts that result in successful kills is estimated to be between 40-50%. As a result, it is rare to be in the right place at the right time to witness a successful kill. So, you can imagine the excitement of the Garonga guides as they watched Patsy not only effectively demonstrate her maturing hunting skills, but do so right on their doorstep, between the camp tents.
Makalali’s cheetah population
Patsy currently shares the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve with five other cheetahs – two single roaming adult males, and an older adult female and her two sub-adult cubs (a male and a female). Makalali is based in the savanna biome and has a variety of habitats within its borders, including the wide-open clearings, of which the largest is the xinkankanka clearings (Xitsonga for ‘cheetah clearings’), along with thick riverine and savanna woodland.
The cheetahs have adapted very well to living within the reserve and have been known to use the border fencing to aid them in their hunting efforts. Due to the success of the current cheetah population and the size of the Makalali, there is talk of introducing two more cheetahs in the future to diversify the gene pool of the cheetah population within the reserve.
Cheetah reintroduction led by Garonga
Garonga is more than just a lodge in a Big 5 reserve. The process of introducing the first cheetah into the reserve was driven and funded by Garonga owner, Bernie Smith. When the reserve asked him to name the cheetah, he took the opportunity to honor his late grandmother, Patsy. Garonga contributes to the anti-poaching activities throughout the reserve and funds from guests’ stays ensure that the land around the lodge is dedicated to the wildlife that has historically called it home. When Garonga’s safari team is not busy with guests, they are tasked with bush clearing and road maintenance tasks to minimize the impact of game drives on the reserve.
Garonga hosts children from local schools to give them the opportunity –which is often their first – to experience their natural heritage and to inspire them to care for and protect their wildlife. By providing an internship to a graduate of the Wild Shots Outreach Program, Garonga helps to grow the interconnected community and conservation efforts within South Africa’s tourism industry. It also supports a local charity, Rhino Revolution, with their work in the field and one of Garonga’s guides doubles as a Wild Pangolin Monitor and a Pangolin Monitoring Project Coordinator.
The importance of cheetah conservation
According to the IUCN, there are currently approximately only 6,700 mature cheetahs in the wilderness across the world, and they are listed as Endangered with Extinction on the Red List of Threatened Species. Best estimates are that cheetahs have disappeared from up to 90% of their historic range in Africa. As the continent’s wild spaces continue to dwindle, there are significant challenges facing cheetahs: habitat loss, a lack of genetic diversity, human-wildlife conflict, the illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and the exotic pet trade, as well as competition with other predators.
That is why the survival of every individual cheetah like Patsy is hugely important for the future of the species. Through Patsy, the other cheetahs of Makalali and those still to come, there is real hope to secure the future of this spectacular big cat species. Just knowing this made watching her successfully take down the impala even more special for the guides of Garonga.