On the Cubango River

Heading east from Ongula, on a surprisingly good road, we stopped for the night at a lodge on the river that forms part of the Namibian/Angolan border. The Rio Cubango rises in Angola’s highlands and heads south-east to form that border for a while, before being joined by the Cuito, another Angolan river, and later becoming the mighty Okavango. It was quite surreal looking across the river into Angola, something that would have been totally out of the question when I was younger and the area was still ravaged by war.

Taranga Safari Lodge is perched right on the edge of the Cubango, with permanently erected tents on platforms high enough to avoid having to worry about hippos or crocs. A floating bar on the river was a good spot for sunset photos with local people moving around on their traditional mokoros and lots of birds to be seen.

The birding was great, in fact. Between the river’s edge and the 11 hectares of bushveld with a self-guided walk and watering hole, there was a lot to find. I added at least nine new species and rediscovered a few that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Of course, I only managed decent images of some but I’m really happy that one of those I did capture was the stunning Violet-backed Starlings (still prefer their old name of Plum-coloured Starling).


Birds of Kruger

White-fronted bee-eater
White-fronted bee-eater

One of my favourite things about Kruger is the amazing variety of birds found in the bushveld; absolute heaven for a self-confessed bird nerd. The interesting perches chosen by the birds add to the photographic potential.

The use of the rolling hide (aka your car) is great for many birds as they are much less wary than they would be of someone on foot. The only hassle is when you come across birds like the spurfowl; often only visible when on the road, they are quite tricky to capture as they are too close and at an odd angle. Here I’ve tried a close-up portrait, with a background layer of the birds disappearing into the long grass.

One disappointment bird-wise was only seeing vultures from a distance; for example, this large group circling, possibly over a kill, well away from the roads.The waterbirds were more cooperative; the Egyptian goose posed beautifully on one leg and the Hamerkop provided some interesting action while trying to land on a vanishing hippo – see one of my previous posts for more on that .

My last two images were taken at places where you can get out of your vehicle. The barbet was playing hard to get, so this was the best I could manage. In contrast, the hornbills are fairly tame and quite easy to photograph at picnic sites.