Our main reason for visiting South Africa last year was to celebrate my parents’ golden wedding with a family trip to the Kruger National Park, one of the oldest and largest game reserves in Africa. For my sister and I, it was a chance to share one of our more treasured childhood experiences with our own children. We used to visit the park almost every second winter, but only the eldest of the four grandchildren had been there before this trip.
We stayed in the town of Malelane for one night before heading into the park nice and early in the morning. One of our first good sightings was a small group of Greater Kudu – I love the way the back-lighting emphasises the huge ears of the doe. The young male with her didn’t have the massive horns some of the older males possess, but was still impressively stately. First stop was at the Afsaal picnic site, where we could get up close and personal with Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills and Cape Glossy Starlings while cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Cape glossy starling in the sunlight at Afsaal
Young male Greater Kudu
Southern yellow-billed hornbill on the lookout for scraps.
As we headed north towards Skukuza, it began to warm up and the sightings slowed. We did get some good views of Klipspringer on a rocky outcrop, as well as seeing a couple of groups of elephants and a Red-crested Korhaan. After stopping in Skukuza for lunch and tyre repairs (one vehicle had a flat on the drive from Johannesburg), we headed towards Tshokwane, another picnic site where you can get out of your vehicle. A very tame female Bushbuck wandered around and we were entertained by one of the staff chasing a baboon out of the kiosk with the aid of a till roll and good aim. Once back in the car, the light began to improve from a photographic standpoint, allowing a lovely portrait of a female Waterbuck.
Penguin Island is one of my favourite places to visit near Perth. It’s a bit of a drive from home south to Rockingham but then just a short ferry ride to the island, which forms part of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. Bridled Terns breed here in summer – it is an awesome experience visiting when they are in residence as they are so close and flying all around you.
The birds and other animals are so much more relaxed than on the mainland making it easier to get close to them (sometime they get too close). I would love to be able to get over to Penguin Island early to get the soft light but as the first ferry is at 9 am I may have to learn how to kayak (and be brave enough to take my camera!).
Pied oystercatcher probing wet sand
Room with a view – nesting Silver gull
Adult Crested tern pair
Snoozing Australian sea-lion
If you’re lucky you’ll spot a wild Little Penguin – the smallest penguin species, found on the southern coast of Australia and around New Zealand. In summer, you sometimes see a couple of penguins hiding under the boardwalks but most of them disappear early in the morning to fish all day, returning at sunset. The island is closed to visitors in winter when the colony (about 1000 pairs) gets into breeding mode. The Little Penguin below is a late fledgling I spotted in the middle of the day – he probably tired of waiting for his parents to return and decided to try fishing for himself. Hopefully he made it to adulthood.
Little penguin fledgling
Pair of Mute swans at Penguin Island
Another unusual sight I came across was this pair of Mute Swans in the sea near the jetty. Mute Swans are an introduced species in Australia; there is a breeding colony at Northam (about 100 km away) but this pair were seen in the Rockingham area for a while.