Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts

07 January 2014

32. - 7 Jan.: Hermanus to Cape Town via Boulders Park and Good Hope

First stop of the day is at the penguins colony of Boulders Park. Home of the small endemic South African penguin. A small animal, not really much bigger than a large chicken or perhaps a small turkey. It's a chilly and windy day, and thousands of them huddle together to share body heat. It's a curious and intriguing sight, if not really an awsome one. But worth a brief stopover on the way to the Cape.

Ours ends up not being so brief actually, because our bus has broken down again. This time it is apparently a problem with the electric system, and Petrus has called headquarters to try and summon a mechanic.

Things are sorted out by the early afternoon and we drive without further inconvenience to the Cape of Good Hope, which we reach by four o'clock or so. Petrus idles the bus at the bottom of the long stairway that leads from the parking lot to the rock that Bartolomeu Dias doubled from west to east in 1488, undoubtedly with great anxiety and for the uncertain waters that opened in front of him.

He must have had lots of hope to keep going against all odds, but it was not him who called this rock "Good Hope". Rather it was King John II of Portugal who did, as beyond the Cape lied his hopes to reach India, and history would prove him right. To Bartolomeu this was just the "Cape of Storms", and just looking out into the blue today it is not hard to imagine why.

It it really very very windy, it is even hard to take pictures as I must hold on to my hat with both hands to prevent it from flying off to Anctartica.

Holding my cap at the Cape

Evening at Cape Town, dinner at a pub by the Waterfront. Very English, dark wood paneling and fish and chips.

31 December 2013

25. - 31 Dec.: Kruger through Swaziland to S. Lucia

Again wake up at dawn and the adrenaline starts pumping. Breakfast is devoured faster than usual as we try and get back on to our vehicles and out to the lions. They probably have not moved much since last night and it might still be busy with their mating procedure. It usually goes on for a few days, 20 to 25 times a day. So the chances of seeing them in action again are reasonably high.

But first we need to check out, as we'll be leaving Kruget today. I take my packed bags out of the room and onto the balcony on stilts that overlooks a thick bush, and go back into the room to double check I did not leave behind any chargers, razors, slippers, hats etc. As I come out again and definitively close my room's door behind me, there come my three ladies of two days ago: they must have been waiting in the bush for me to appear and of course they make it clear that they are going to take my bags down to the waiting van. They hardly speak a word, and I don't either, but we all know what we have to do. OK fair enough, the sevice is worth twenty Rand. Once in the parking lot, we all leave our bags in the van and head out with the safari vehicles for one last tour of Kruger.

After the usual check-in procedure at the park's gate we tell the driver to head straight for the location where we saw the lions the previous evening and sure enough there they are, they have just moved across the road, a few meters, not more. However, unlike last night, when we were alone, there are lots of cars now. The word about "ngoni fagapagati" spread quickly. Not so the news about the British car being overturned I guess. No one seems to be in the least apprehensive when we later drive by a couple of elephants.

There are rules of the road in national parks, one of them being to keep a safe distance from the animals and not to get in between the anumals and a car who got there first, But not everyone respects the rules and there is not much the rangers can do: they have to power of enforcement. Too bad, they should. After a while it gets crowded. We are lucky to have gotten near the lions first, and keep a safe distance of a good twenty meters or so but soon a big white SUV drives in front of us. All it takes is one rude driver to spoil the sighting for everyone else. Most drivers are polite and line up behind the first to arrive at the scene of a sighting, but some must think that if they don't get ahead first, someone else will. Anyway, after a few minutes the lions move on and some thirty cars turn on the engines and disperse around the park. The magic of last night was not to be again today.

It's clear that the lions are not afraid of people but still: why not just move out some and get away from noise, polluted air and large obstructive vehicles? Apparently they enjoy the warmth of the tarmac as compared to the cool grass.

At about nine o'clock we must give up and head back to the camp. It's time to bid farewell to our rangers, get on our van and head South: we have to hit the coast at Saint Lucia by tonight.

Swazi beauties
At around noon we go abroad. Yes, we do, as we drive into Swaziland, a small landlocked independent kingdom wedged between South Africa and Mozambique.

Our T.O. somehow was reluctant to get us here, they said we needed a special permit, then they said we would waste hours at the border, then they said it was not worth it. None of which is true as it turns out.

The country is famous for its polygamous king, who won't be among the friendly people we met along the way, and for lush green mountains, which we'll see a lot of during our five-hour crossing of the country.

Much of these mountains are covered in thick woods grown to make for timber, a major export and source of revenue for the country.

At a gas station I strike a conversation with a few youths who are loitering around, with seemingly nothing much to do. It is a holiday of course, and schools are closed. They speak good English, seem educated and are eager to strike a conversation with foreigners, of whom they must not see too many if one excludes South Africans.

Swazi timber makes good export
Arrive in Saint Lucia at sunset. It's a pretty posh vacation retreat for wealthy (and therefore white) South Africans, and there are many expensive cars with blond Afrikaans and English speakers to be seen. However we do see a lot of blacks with less fancy clothes and much less fancy cars around. Apparently they sleep and dine in the nearby townships, and only come to town for an evening stroll and a drink.

I would like to go and have dinner in one of these townships, but our driver steadfastly refuses to take us there. Too dangerous for us and for the van, and he would be in deep trouble with the agency's boss if anything should happen to either. Disappointing, I will have to try and find a way around this. Most South African live in townships, it would not make any sense to spend over a month here and not see one. I mean a black township. Of course even the exclusive pockets of white wealth that we have seen are strictly speaking "townships", that's just a name for an administrative division of the country's cities. But in the common jargon "township" has come to mean "black township" and also implies poor, dirty, unsafe. Or does it? Some South Africans even told me that Soweto is "no longer a township" because, unlike during the times of apartheid, it is now developed, reasonably safe, home to a growing middle class and a "must do" tourist destination. The borders of the meaning of township are changing. I'd like to find out. But not tonight.

We finally have dinner is at the "Ocean Basket", a chain of fish restaurants that is very popular across South Africa: good quality fish, informal but usually effective service, inexpensive. This restaurant is very busy tonight, this is a holiday town and the Christmas break is in full swing, but in ten minutes a table for twelve is available on the terrace and we can sit down with our driver. Most patrons are white but there are a few blacks.

Ocean Basket immodestly prides on being "the sole provider". Well... a bit ambitious perhaps, but I decide to take their word for it and order their "famed cape sole". It is perhaps not the sole sole around but is indeed quite tasty. The happy new year's eve dinner is made merrier by a few bottles of Sauvignon blanc from the Cape region. Maybe they are not the "sole" provider of good fish, but their formula is a successful one and they have opened shop in several other African countries as well as, for some reason which is not immediately obvious to me, Cyprus.

Back at the hotel we get a couple of bottles of bubbles and pop them at midnight. It's 2014!

30 December 2013

24. - 30 Dec.: Alarms and mating lions at the Kruger National Park

I wake up just five minutes before 5:30, which is when my alarm was set to go off. I hear this happens to a lot of people. I am always amazed at how our body clocks can know when to wake up so as to save its owner the trauma of an alarm. Ever since I adopted my smart phone to perform this thankless function, I set the ringtone to a gentle Buddhist bells chime, so as to minimiza the pain. Still, when it goes off, it makes for the worst moment of the day. I suppose our body knows that it is not good to start the day at its most unpleasant, so it tries to avoid it by preempting the alarm. Well, one could argue it might actually be a good thing, as things would only improve after that. But waking up to an alarm is always a traumatic experience, bound to cast a negative shadow on the waking hours to follow. On the other hand, waking up just a few minutes early provides the immense pleasure of waiting in bed, yawning and stretching, aware there is still time before one has to get up. And I derive a sense of accomplishment in killing the alarm before it has a chance to go off at all. I hate the big snooze button, it is cruel torture, I much prefer the smaller "dismiss" option. So I am profoundly grateful to mother nature for having made us evolve over the last few million years to anticipate our own alarms. I can't explain how, also because we evolved over countless thousand generations while even the most ancient alarms are only a few decades old. Two game drives today: the first starting just after sunrise at 6 am and the second ending at sunset, at 6.30pm. With a one hour break for lunch. It's going to be a full day. We set off to a good start with a very full breakfast: sweet, savory, hot, cold, juices, you name it, it's there. Great, we'll need the energy to face rain and wind in our open vehicles.

It's not the best safari day of my life really. At least until we start driving back toward the camp. Then it becomes the single most exciting one, ever!

We are driving along a straight road, a bit sad and despirited as the weather has not given us a break and our sightings have been rather few and far between. OK well it'a part of the game, these are wild animals after all and Kruger is not a zoo, not even one of those super-managed parks where "wild" animale are more or less programmed to appear at artificial water holes.

It could be worse: today an English couple did have a close sighting with an elephant, but one which they wish they never met. They were on a self-drive tour just a few kilometers from us and met a single bull with a limited sense of humor. As they approached, it turned around and flapped its ears a few times. Elephant flap their ears when they are not happy with you being in their way, and it is usually not a good idea to try and argue with them. The Brits decided to stick around a bit longer and the next thing they saw was an elephant tusk piercing through their wind shield, while the trunk flipped the small car over as if it was a pancake.

I am a bit disconsolate and I try to protect my cameras from the sharp bullets of rain that are flying across our seats, pushed by the wind. Then all of a sudden Henry, our driver/guide today, a towering but boyish Xhosa in his early thirties, slams on the breaks and points to the right: a male lion on the grass, only a few meters away from the road. OK not a bad way to end the day, I think. But then Valentina sees a lioness, almost completely hidden in a bush. Ah ha! They are obviously a couple, says Henry, and turns off the engine. The other 4x4 with our travel mates arrives after a few minutes and stops just behind us. We wait. When lions mate, they do it many times every day, so we have a good chance.

Fifteen minutes or so go by and nothing happens. It's getting dark, we have perhaps another hour of sunlight. The other car decides it's not worth waiting longer and moves on. We stay put. Another ten minutes pass and the lion gets up. Now Henry is visibly excited and warns us to be quiet: they are likely going to mate.


 And sure they do: the male jumps on the female who got up and is walking around. He gently pushes her to the ground with his big paws and mounts her from behind. The actual penetration is quick, maybe fifteen seconds in all. No prelims, really. But then again they will have done it twenty times of more by night fall, so it's not bad. During the intercourse the female is crouching on the grass, and look straight into my camera, as if to say: "What, you have never seen a lion mating?" No, I have not, in fact!

Ngoni fagapagati!

Can't believe the lions keep going at it in front of everyone. Actually, come to think of it, all animals seem to be perfectly happy to do it in front of any other animal, except for humans. I'll have to do some research and find out why.

"Ngoni fagapagati!, Ngoni fagapagati!! Hahahaaaaaa" Henry can't hold back his enthusiasm as he explains in xhosa. "Ngoni" means lion and fagapagati is the F word which Henry translates by hitting repeatedly and violently his clenched left fist with the palm of his right hand...

The evening is a happy time. At first we don't tell anything to the others who left early, but when the time comes for everyone to show the day's pictures there are a few screams at the sight of the big cats embracing in amorous activity!

29 December 2013

23. - 29 Dec.: Mbahoko Ndebele village to Kruger National Park

Breakfast and good byes to our Ndebele hosts. Even though this has been a brief and obvously superficial encounter, I will miss the casual smile of these ladies as they prepare breakfast for us. They are all by the door of the communal hall to wave us away.

We slowly make our way to the Kruger National Park. Our driver is Paul, a chubby white Afrikaans speaker who tries, really hard, to be funny and crack a new joke every five minutes. I can sense from his talk he really yearns for the days old South Africa, he rarely misses a chance to complain about the post-Apartheid system.

When we arrive at the camp we are welcomed by a row of colorfully attired black ladies who line up next to our parked bus. They don't really speak any English so it's not clear what they are there for and whether it's got anything to do with us. It did: they want to carry our bags to the rooms. In my case, my rooms is a good 300 meters away, a comfortable wooden construction on stilts. To get there, there is an easy paved path and I try to just grab my trolley and roll it to destination by myself. No way: they stop me and gesticulate profusely to make clear they are carrying my bag. Well OK they want to earn a tip, it's not really necessary as I could easily do it myself but I appreciate the effort and agree to let one of them carry my bag. yes, carry, on her head, as whe refuses to just grab the handle and roll it. I try several times to explain it's heavy and there is really no need to put all those 25 kilos or so on her spine but to no avail. Then as I grab my camera backpack another lady comes forward and very politely takes it from me and puts that, too, on her head. Allright, so we just move together to the room, where I give them a good tip, they smile and walk back to the parking lot to way for the next arrivals.

In the afternoon we go for a game drive from 4 to 7 pm. Cold rain is whipped against us by the relative wind as we are in open vehicles. We use special open safari vehicles. Our driver is Tommy, a friendly big guy who enjoys explaining all he knows about the park. It is cold and windy and before sunset we decide to head back without any major sighting under our belt.

Kruger camaleon

Dinner is at the huge buffet of our camp, lots of meat and veggies and of course South African wines. It's been a long day and the cold, rain and wind have taken their toll, so we all decide to hit the sack rather early tonight.

13 December 2013

7. - 13 Dec.: Schotia Game reserve to Knysna, via Elephant Back Ride Safari

Get up at the crack of dawn (well almost, it must have been 6:30am) for a quick (wood fire heated) shower in the open, an instant coffee and an early morning walking safari in the hills around our tents. Justin is there as promised and so is the Washington couple we met yesterday.

We start slowly and enjoy the cool early morning air but no animals in sight. The Washington lady jogs around and gets way ahead of the rest of us but suddenly grinds to a halt when in sight of the two huge mammals. Rhinos! Two big white rhinos, buth sadly dehorned by poachers in May 2013.

We can get very close. Maybe a bit too close when Justin tells me to freeze as I drop to the ground to photograph from down up and one rhino puts its big lips on the ground within two meters from the tip of my lens. Great pictures though!

After breakfast we drive to Lenmore, a restaurant not far and our meeting point with Walter, from elephant back ride safari. Yan insisted on doing this and while I was initially a bit reluctant as we have a lot of driving today and lots to see on the way, she was right as this turned out to be a unique experience.

From Lenmore it is a long drive, over one hour on a highway then 45 minutes of a dirt road with potholes the size of bomb craters. We are pretty shattered when we get to the reserve but thrilled with anticipation.

Walter tells us he used to work here but then changed jobs to driver because too remote wants to be with family. Proudly show his name and number still on gate. He now takes cigarettes and other stuff to the staff at the camp who don't see civilization for weeks on end.

There are three elephants, and they always go together even if there are no clients. We rent two elephants and the third just follows... We start a bit late: while the elephants are tamed, they are free to roam around and to gather them for the tourist ride is not always a five minute affair.

It's a lot of fun to ride them, and it is as natural as it gets: no saddles or seats, just our bums on their bare back. Walter smiles when we say we'd like to ride longer than the standard half an hour: "You'll bruise your behind raw!" After 45 minutes we realize he was right, but it was worth it!

At the end of our ride we get a tasty lunch by a small lake, and then all start our way back over the bomb craters to Lenmore and our car.

 Time to drive to Knysna, which we reach after an easy five hour drive on the N2, the long coastal road that runs along South Africa's maritime regions.

Dinner is at the Golf club with Mike, a German friend of mine who used to be my neighbor in Belgium. Rather an ex German I should say: he moved to Italy from his native country when he was very young, married Carla, a bright and beautiful Italian lady he met at work, and lived and worked around the world ever since. Ten years ago he retired and they decided to abolish Fall and Winter from their vocabulary: May to October in Italy, and November to April in South Africa, where of course the seasons are inverted. Carla sadly passed away a few years ago but Mike keeps his seasonal hybernation routine.

There is a birthday party going on and the main dining room is taken. Crowds of all-white friends singing South Africa's national anthem. I am especially struck by their singing the rifst lines in Xhosa: Nkosi sikelele Afrika... A song full of meaning, especially when sung by whites. The new South Africa.

No fear: we get table in the main hall, between the kitchen and the bar. Delicions seafood, nice full bodied Chardonnay from the Cape (beer for Mike) and a very forgiving check. The strong Euro buys a pretty good time in South Africa this year.

12 December 2013

6. - 12 Dec.: Game drives and walks at Schotia Game Reserve

This morning our driver is Justin, son of owner of Schotia who is going to take over at some point.  He is very passionate about the reserve and his job and shows both affection and authority while is leading our tour. A close up encounter with a lone male lion soon after breakfast is just what we need to wake up.

Readying a hot bath
After lunch we rest a bit and then go for a walking safari around our tented camp. We run into a family of giraffe who let us come pretty close.It is warm and sunny, an ideal afternoon for a leisurly walk in the wild. I take the opportunity of our stop at the camp to add more wood to the water heating furnace.

Later on we keep on driving and share car with a couple from Washington state. He is cool and easy she is a bit paranoid about the animals and diseases. I wonder why she came to Africa in the first place.

In the evening, after another filling and tasty meat buffet by the fire, we welcome the night by driving out again in search for the lion, whom this time we meet as he is lying in the open grass.

But the most frightening encounter of the day is yet to come: it's about 11pm and we are making our way home when our good old friend Old Boss who is not yet ready for a good night sleep. He is in musth and when Justin tries to drive on the way to our tents he seems to have alrady lost his sense of humor.

Old Boss is not ready for sleep
The day ends with a candle-lit hot bath in our large tatch-covered tub house. I add more wood to the furnace and the water is nice and hot, a pleasant contrast to the moonlit chilly evening outside.

11 December 2013

5. - 11 Dec.: Lalibela Lodge to Schotia Safari Game Reserve

Funny how these two private game reserves have names coming from different parts of the world, very far from South Africa.

In the morning another early game drive and then an easy move a few km to the west to Schotia Safari Game Reserve . This is a very different type of reserve: not luxury and in fact in part a tented camp. Our tent is quite big and it is raised from the floor by a system of stilts.

Quite a romantic bathroom too: water is heated by wood, and one of the first things I must learn is how to add wood to the furnace just outside the bathroom, next to the shower.

Male elephant
Our ranger for the afternoon drive is Leandi, a petite and seemingly fragile blond girl in her late twenties. (OK Leandi if you are reading this by any chace please don't be upset if I got it wrong, I am always wrong with ladies' age.) Yan asks about the meaning of her name and the answer is quite unique: her mother had six sisters and L.E.A.N.D.I. are the initials of their names. I forgot the sisters' names, but the ethimology stuck in my mind.

Bull chasing jeep

Leandi drives better than I have seen any man drive, especially when shifting our big 12 seater 4x4 into reverse and backing off in the mud from a charging elephant bull in chase. She also knows quite a bit and gives us comprehensive explanations about the fauna and the flora we see.

Dinner buffet by the fire, just next to the croc and hippo pond. Then a night drive during which, with the help of a big halogen light, we see a lone male lion resting in a bush. Can't really see much of him but enough to get some adrenaline pumping.The best sight though is a majestic male kudu who passes nonchalantly by as we drive home.

Male kudu, my fav antilope

10 December 2013

4. - 10 Dec.: Game drives and night safari

In the cold afternoon drizzle we again brave the elements but are rewarded when we meet the resident cheetahs with a recent kill. The mother and 4 cubs rest, stomachs full, next to the carcass of a springbok. They sit atop a hill, with clear visibility in all directions, and are probably waiting to finish off what flesh is left on the bones of the antilope before the hyenas home in at night.

Cheetah meal leftover

A number of other sightings, including a large family of elephants who block the road and force us to wait a good half an hour, make the discomfort worthwhile after all. It's dusk and we are making our way back to the lodge, we meet a matriarch elephant leading her herd through the thick forest and into a green expanse. They are obviously used to cars and can't be bothered by our presence.

After dinner we go for a night safari, it is my first ever. Yuan is driving with one hand and brandishing a powerful halogen lamp with the other. He only points it at nocturnal animals, who can quickly adjust to it, and avoids shining it into the face of diurnal animals who could easily be blinded and scared away.

We go by our cheetas and they are still there, no signs of hyenas. Yuan explains that normally they would have gone to hide by now but evidently can't afford to leave all that meat behind. 

After a little while we run into  our elephants again, and the matriarchal female moves very close to us to show who is in charge. Yuan is slightly worried, shifts into reverse and backs off. I am a bit disappointed as I would have liked to see the animal closer, even more so when he says he would have let her come and touch the car had he been alone. Still, a magical moment to share with these gentlr beasts under a soft moonlight.

09 December 2013

3. - 9 Dec.: Lalibela game drives and walks

Yuan and vehicle
Game drives and walks all day. The weather is not our best friend, it is drizzling and rather chilly, unexpected. I have not taken much warm clothing along, but make good use of a couple of sweaters. Yuan provides us with warm blankets that help moderate the wind chill in our oper vehicles. My major problem is keeping my cameras dry, and Yan her binoculars.

In the afternoon we do a walking safari with Jill, a lady who is the head ranger here. Don't meet much in terms of big animals, or even small animals for that matter. A bit disappointed as I did not come here to see small flowers and footprints. Our guide does not allow us to get closer to  hippos than about 250 meters with a pond between us. Ok safety first but this seems a bit excessive to me.

End of the day with another spectacular game drive with Yuan. This time it is cheetahs who keep us company.

To cap an exhilarating drive, a lone white rhino happens to be on our way but keeps grazing carelessly as we drive by.

Great meals as usual in the Lalibela lodge, and enjoyable evening by the fireplace backing up pictures to my hard drives and talking to Yuan about his country and his life. All he wants is a peaceful South Africa, he is too young to even remember apartheid anyway. He says his parents tought differently, but they belong to a different era, that seems almost inconceivable now. Of course.

08 December 2013

2. - 8 Dec.: Port Elizabeth to Lalibela and first game drive

Get up at 8:30 and leisurly breakfast in the terrace of our Bed and Breakfast "Admiralty house". It's run by a friendly couple and we share the buffet with patrons of all races and colors, something that won't be happening too often over the next several weeks, where I will witness almost exclusively white tourists monopolize the tables of my hotels.

After breakfast I go sim card hunting again. Can't find any Vodacom store but the lady at the reception recommends to get a MTN, which is supposedly better anyway. They have a store at a little shopping mall nearby, and they are open on Sunday, at least in the morning. If I hurry after the long breakfast I can make it. And I do: before noon I become the proud owner of a South African phone number. The mall is a small affair, perhaps a couple of dozen smallish stores dominated by the ubiquitous Pick n Pay supermarket.

Armed with a data plan I can now install my sim card on my Samsung and confidently place it in the suction cradle I brought with me from Europe. A charge cable ensure a sufficient flow of energy and we are off for an easy drive.

Despite a couple of unnecessary detours owed to my talking too much while I am driving (when I drive I am the living proof of the theory that men can do only one thing at a time) which made me miss a turn or two, we are accurately steered by Google maps to the Lalibela lodge. We arrive at Lalibela in the early afternoon and settle in our beautiful thatched house. A few minutes to drop our stuff and grab a bite to eat and get ready for the first game drive of this trip. It's been a few years since my last one, in Tanzania, in 2005.

The name Lalibela surprises me, it turns out the owners Rick and Sue van Zyl visited the famous town in Ethiopia a while back and loved the name and the meaning behind it: "for whom the bees have foretold greatness". An Ethiopian legend has it that if a swarm of bees buzz around a baby's head, the child is destined to become king. I am not sure I would try on my baby but Sue loved it and the name Lalibela stuck in her mind, only to resurface when it came to name their newly opened business in 2002. It was the coronation of a longstanding plan to transform their earlier farm "Hillside" into a game reserve.

Our ranger is Juan, a 22 year-old enthusiastic nature lover who loves being in the bush and driving his 4x4 open safari "vehicle" as he calls it. He'd be on the road all the time. Rain shine day night he'd be looking for wild life if he did not have to take his guests back for their meals. His favorite words, as he passionately and methodically explains everything from geology to biology, are "basically" and "specifically". It's chilly and it rains intermittently but we are rewarded with a bounty of lions, cheetas and countless antilopes.

This evening is Yan's birthday and the manager has prepared a romantic candle-lit setup in the garden, with a small buffet all for the two of us and a slurpy cake with candles and birthday song at the end. The folk dance at the end is also quite well done and a pleasant, if a bit predictable, end of this first day in the bush. We enjoy the end of the evening with drinks by the fire in the company of a few other guests.

26 September 2010

Book Review: Land of a Thousand Atolls, by I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, ***

When this book was published in 1965 it must have been a ground breaking achievement. Very little was known then of the Maldives and underwater life in the atolls. Many photographs (of good quality given the technology of the time) complete an exhaustive description of the animal and plant life in the reef.

22 August 2007

18° g - 22 AGO: Foa, escursione in barca con le balene

Oggi è il giorno più entusiasmante del viaggio. Usciamo con il catamarano di Glenn, un neozelandese che gestisce varie barche in un diving/whale swimming club qui. Si parte la mattina e si torna verso le 15, si paga 90 dollari a testa. Subito dopo la partenza briefing di sicurezza e sulla tattica di avvicinamento alle balene. Si entra in acqua in piccoli gruppi, 4 al massimo, lentamente e senza fare rumore, e soprattutto senza nuotare verso le balene, lasciando invece che siano loro ad incuriosirsi ed avvicinarsi se lo ritengono interessante.

15 August 2007

11° g - 15 AGO: Giro in barca per balene

Ancora una giornata con Karen di Dive Vavau per balene. Oggi il tempo non è bello, il mare è un po’ mosso. Non riusciamo a fare molto come nuoto vicino alle balene, ma in compenso ne vediamo diverse saltare fuori dall’acqua. Ci sono regole precise che gli operatori di "whale watching" hanno adottato per evitare di disturbare gli animali. Non più di una barca alla volta, e quando le balene saltano bisogna ovviamente stare alla larga e non ci si può nuotare insieme!

13 August 2007

9° g - 13 AGO: Vava’u – Foe’ata, whale watching

Uscita finalmente per whale watching. Delle svariate aziende che offrono il servizio, usiamo Dive Vavau. Ci porta in giro Karen con un marinaio, brava  e gentile, ci ha anche dato qualche dritta su locali di Neiafu, anche se un po’ sopra le righe nel suo ruolo di comandante della barca.

30 August 2005

12° g - 30 Ago: Serengeti – lago Natron

Partenza all’alba anche se in albergo ci fan perdere tempo perché la colazione non è pronta. Qualche bel ghepardo nel parco prima di uscire, fantastica luce radente per le fotografie. Fastidiosissimo ed estenuante trasferimento su una pessima strada piena di polvere. Si fa veramente fatica a non respirarla, entra dovunque. I bei paesaggi del pendio di discesa verso il cratere del Natron ripagano la pena, ma siate preparati!

29 August 2005

11° g - 29 Ago: Lago Vittoria – Serengeti (Lobo)

Rientriamo nel parco, scarichiamo i bagagli al lodge e ripartiamo per un bel game drive (il “Lobo Circuit”), il paesaggio collinare lo rende diverso dagli altri. Devo faticare un po’ con Israel che non ha tanta voglia di lavorare oggi e voleva fare una pausa pranzo di 3 ore!

26 August 2005

8° g - 26 Ago: Serengeti

Stamattina partiamo prestissimo, prima dell’alba, appena fa chiaro siamo già in strada, e ne vale veramente la pena, per i tanti animali e per la luce adattissima alle fotografie. Bisognerebbe fare sempre così, ma mi riesce difficile convincere il resto del gruppo...

25 August 2005

7° g - 25 Ago: Ngorongoro – Serengeti

Lasciamo il lodge sulla cima del cratere e ci fermiamo dopo neanche un’ora all’Olduvai Gorge, dove si visita un piccolo ma interessane museo geologico ed antropologico. Qui vicino sono stati ritrovati alcuni tra i più vecchi reperti di proto-ominidi. Poi proseguiamo verso il Serengeti.

23 August 2005

5° g - 23 Ago: Keratu – Ngorongoro

Colazione africana (su mia esplicita richiesta, ne vale la pena, con porridge di mais, ottimo). Partenza presto, piccole spese al mercato di Keratu, frutta fresca, pane, qualche cassetta di musica africana, rifornimento diesel e alle 11 inizia il primo game drive nel cratere nel Ngorongoro, il cui fondo si trova a 2200 mslm).

21 August 2005

3° g - 21 Ago: Arusha – parco Manyara

Ci vengono a prendere le jeep con i nostri autisti, capeggiati da Israel, un simpatico omone con molta esperienza anche se forse non altrettanto entusiasmo. Partiamo; ci fermiamo al supermarket Shopright, sul Sokoine Drive, per fare cambusa per il safari (spendiamo 170.000 Tzs, di cui 88.000 per acqua, calcolando una bottiglia da 1.5 litri al giorno a persona circa). Affittiamo anche il fornello a gas con relativa bombola dal nostro autista.