I remember when I went on my first safaris over 15 years ago (ouch!), I was fascinated by everything I saw. Well… nearly everything.
Of course, initially I was more interested in the more spectacular wildlife – lions, leopards, elephants and rhino in particular, and especially if they were hunting or had young with them. Over time I became more interested in the smaller things, and came to appreciate how the breeding cycle of the impala, or behavior of baboons could be just as fascinating as anything that the Big 5 might have to offer.
But I have always remained fairly ambivalent to the charms of Africa’s birds…until recently.
Now obviously vultures and eagles are exceptions to this rule, and it was a few years back that I first I found myself keen see, photograph and understand them a little. But the pretty little kingfishers, bee-eaters and other feathered wildlife have slowly come to win me over to such an extent that I recently found myself photographing carmine bee-eaters and lilac-breasted rollers just as enthusiastically and I have always photographed lions, leopards and elephants.
Below are a selection of my pictures from our last few trips to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia…as you can see the variety and colour of the bird life in southern Africa is spectacular, and I really have no idea why it took me so long to take an interest in these spectacular creatures.
Hover over the images to identify the species if that sort of thing interests you…
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Well it was a long time ago, but we never forget a face! We have written previously about how a holiday to South Africa inspired us to take a career break in 2003 which ultimately lead to us setting-up Travel Butlers…well imagine our surprise and delight when we bumped into our first safari guide when we stayed at Kafunta River Lodge as part of our recent trip to Zambia.
Andrew was our guide on our very first safari back in 2002 when he was working at Savanna Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand, and his knowledge and enthusiasm helped spark our own love of the safari experience. We had a great time at Savanna and were lucky to have some amazing sightings during our stay including leopard with three tiny cubs, a huge pride of lion hunting 300+ buffalo under a full moon and many others. Following those few days we ended-up leaving the security of corporate employment, training to be safari guides ourselves, and then setting up Travel Butlers in July 2003. So it was a truly life-changing experience for us, and is it any wonder that as we arrived at Kafunta to be met by the staff and management we were able to recognise Andrew immediately despite the intervening years?
This is not the first time our paths have crossed since 2002 – we bumped into each other at Dulini lodge in the Sabi Sands a few years ago – however it was fantastic to be able to catch-up again, and thank Andrew for his part in the Travel Butlers story.
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We are delighted to hear that Thornybush Private Nature Reserve has begun removing its eastern boundary fence with the Timbavati, a process that should be complete by early May and will mean that Thornybush will become fully open to the Greater Kruger Park.
We think this is great news, as whilst the lodges in Thornybush have always offered and excellent guest experience and good game viewing, there can be no doubt that dropping the fences to Kruger will mean increased freedom of movement for animals and a richer game-viewing experience for guests.
I have enjoyed some terrific games drives in Thornybush whilst it has been a fenced reserve, however I have always been aware that the fence meant that there were only a fixed number of lions, elephants etc that it would be possible to find. Dropping the fence changes this and opens up the reserve to the vast animal populations on the Greater Kruger.
I am sure this move will see this lovely reserve go from strength to strength over the coming years, and I cannot wait to go back there myself and see how things have changed.
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Regular readers of our blog will know that we are huge fans of South Africa as a holiday destination, and we believe it offers amazing variety and great value for money. From the bustling heart of cosmopolitan Cape Town (regularly voted one of the most beautiful and characterful cities in the world) through to the amazing wildlife of the vast Kruger Park area, there is so much to see and do, with safaris, accommodation and transport options to meet all tastes and budgets.
To give you an example of the range of properties available, in the Kruger area there are lodges such as Shindzela that offer a safari including game drives, accommodation and all meals for little over £100 per person per night, however if you have the budget and nothing but the best will do, the beautiful and recently refurbished Lion Sands Ivory Lodge will set you back over £1000 per person per night. Incidentally, we have stayed at both and this they are both great, although it is unlikely that they will appeal to the same potential guests!
To make this wonderful and diverse country even more appealing, Travel Butlers is running a special offer with deposits starting from only £100 per person on new bookings for accommodation and road transport in South Africa.
This offer will automatically be applied to qualifying bookings, and you can get some inspiration for your own trip on our South Africa holiday pages.
The offer is valid for new bookings confirmed before 28 February 2017, and the balance will be due 60 days before travel as per our usual terms and conditions.
The £100 deposit per person (or equivalent amount in USD, EUR or ZAR) will secure your safari lodge, hotel bookings and road transport in South Africa. There will be a few exceptions for larger group bookings and particular properties that require a larger deposit, and if you would like to book international or other scheduled flights with us, we’ll need to confirm the prices and payment terms for these at the time of booking as these are set by the airlines
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With the continued increase of rhino poaching in South Africa, Shamwari Game Reserve have added what they describe as “K9 tracking capacity” to their Rhino Protection Unit.
Now to geeks of a certain age this will have conjured up images of Doctor Who’s robotic dog from the 1970’s going into battle with the poachers, however the dog in question is actually an 18 months old Belgian Shepherd called Blade.
Blade was identified as being the ideal candidate for the role as Shamwari by the Chipembere Rhino Foundation (CRF), who have successfully supplied trained dogs for rhino protection elsewhere in South Africa during 2014 and 2015. He was trained off site before moving to Shamwari in April to finish his training with handler, Cabous Pretorius, and he has also had to adapt to living and working in a challenging Big Five environment – which he has done perfectly.
Shamwari Group General Manager, Joe Cloete comments that “Blade will be a valuable asset in the fight against rhino poaching and will primarily be utilised to locate and apprehend rhino poachers. We sincerely thank the Chipembere Rhino Foundation for arranging Blade to come and work at Shamwari Game Reserve.”
Blade started work at Shamwari following completion of his final exams at the end of May, and we wish him and Cabous every success in the fight against rhino poaching.
Shamwari Game Reserve Introduces K9 Tracking
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