Category Archives: travels elsewhere

To Adelaide and back. Part 2. Flinders Ranges

 

See previous post for travel to Pilliga and Siding Springs

On to the Flinders Ranges

We settled into the quaint and cosy hotel “The Mill” in Quorn and took a walk just before sunset  along  a very small section of the 1200km  Heysen Trail.

TheMill

HeysenTrail SunsetQuorn

I was pleased to find we could still buy my favourite ice cream – Golden North honey – in the region. At the time I used to visit, many years ago, it was the only place you could in fact buy it.  It arrived in Adelaide some time later.

GoldenNorth

Next day was devoted to a whirlwind trip to Wilpena Pound and Brachina Gorge in the FlindersRanges, where ancient rocks have been uplifted and folded into dramatic shapes.

I had very often camped and hiked here with the Adelaide University Mountain Club many years ago but Darren had never visited.  I was glad he immediately fell in love with these rugged ranges and started missing them as soon as we left

 

To Wilpena Pound

 

ApproachingWilpena

TowardsWilpenaCallitris-Wilpena

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trees-cliffs-WilpenaWallabyWilpenaWilpenaWaterhole

 

To Brachina Gorge

I wish we could have had a day or two to explore the time trail here, and just to wander around, and sit in the gorge taking in the whole atmosphere .drivetowardsBrachina

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More soon …

From Brisbane to Adelaide and back – with outback and other detours


Instead of simply heading by plane to the Australian Tourism Exchange in April 2018, Darren and I decided drive to some places we’d never been to and re-visit some we had. I also arranged for my grandson Axel to join us by plane and drive back with us for his first-ever flight in a large plane and first-ever visit to the outback, plus a first-ever meeting between cousins (my brother’s grandsons)

 

 

Our first stop: the Pillaga

This is the largest remnant of dry woodland in NSW,  on Jurassic-age Pilliga sandstone, and the traditional country of the Gamilaroi People, about halfway between Narrabri and Coonabarrabran.

Driving-Pillaga

Bushland-Pillaga

Here we had out first glimpse of the world’s largest model of the solar system:

Uranus-Pillaga

Planet models and the distances between them are all to scale, and you drive many kilometres between them.  We found most of the others on our way to Coonabarrabran and on to Siding Springs Observatory.

Hot and tired when we reached the entrance to the caves walk, we decided to just walk as far as there first cave, but when we saw it we were rather tempted to goon to the second, and continued on to visit them all.

Cave-Pillaga-walkingtrack

Various etchings can be seen in some spots – e.g. of emu and kangaroo tracks

tracks-etched-Pillaga

 

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Are you starting to see why we kept walking from cave to cave?

 

A few of the birds we saw in the Pilliga:

White-eared honeyeater (one of the study species during my Honours Zoology research on Kangaroo Island years ago – it does eat nectar but also many insects gleaned from leaves and -more unusually for honeyeaters – very often from  bark)White-eared-honeyeater-Pillaga

Common bronzewing pigeon:Bronzewing-Pillaga

Apostlebird (they and Australian choughs belong to a family with no other members, and both are exclusively Australian)Apostlebird

 

Fracking for CSG

All may not be well for the Pilliga in the future. Santos has been doing some quite extensive searching for CSG extraction possibilities, and already has established pipelines through the area.  Potential problems include excessive water usage  in an area already subject to drought and possibly increasingly so as climate change progresses, possible contamination of  water sources (including underground), habitat destruction and noise of fracking stations disturbing wildlife

No-CSG-Pillaga

Local farmers are also concerned:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-06/nsw-csg-project-sparks-fierce-debate-over-energy-future/8418102

 

Through Coonabarrabran to Siding Springs Observatory

As we continued driving, we saw more of the planets in this gigantic model

Saturn-Pillaga

Earth

VenusMercury

sun

 

This brought us finally to the observatory itself, which represents the sun in this model.

Observatory

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More coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Final week in Africa

After the Think Tank near Kruger NP, I had to find my way to my second conference, Frugivory and Seed Dispersal 2015, in the Drakensbergs

All went well for several hours, although I was slowed down a bit by lengthy detours from roadworks, until I left Bergville, close to sunset, and the longer I drove the less it looked like I was going the right way. Finally it was quite dark and I was driving down narrow country roads with people, goats and cows occasionally wandering along on them.  I stopped to ask directions from some ladies, but we had some language problems, or perhaps they just hadn’t hard of my destination.  Finally when driving through a small village I saw a shop that was open, pulled up to the door and called out to the shop attendant.  He was friendly and helpful and told me I had to travel the 20 km back to Bergville and take the road out the other side. When I finally got to the right road and saw a sign pointing to Alpine Heath Resort I actually called out ‘thank you’ to it.

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The Alpine Heath Resort is in a dramatic setting in the Drakensbergs.

People from all over the world presented fascinating papers over the next few days on seed dispersal by frugivores (fruit eating animals), from insects to elephants.  I presented a report on some work-in-progress on what determines whether native fig seeds and seedlings germinate and persist after being dispersed by birds and bats.

There were symposia on ecology and evolution, the chemical ecology of seed dispersal, international networks, patterns and processes in frugivore-plant interactions, understanding seed dispersal, see dispersal and plant recruitment in a changing world, anthropogenic impacts on seed dispersal, seed dispersal by animals as an ecological filter, movement ecology and genetic effects, and conservation of environmental services, with many good talks presented within each.

You can download a copy of the abstracts of presentations here: http://www.fsd2015.ukzn.ac.za/images/ABJULFINAL.pdf

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FSDdinner

A mid-week fieldtrip took us to the Nambiti Game Reserve where I had my final chance to see lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and rhinos, as well as my first hartebeest and oryx (the oryx is Namibian rather than South African, but have been released into the reserve)

NambitiElephants

Hartebeest
Hartebeest

 

NambitiHippos

Seeng an orx
Seeing an oryx

 

NambitiGriaffe

After the conference I booked for a horse ride that included a wild gallop up a hill and my first view of an eland.  During the conference I had also seen jackals and small antelopes at night, plus a number of birds, and heard that someone had seen secretary birds flying over. I suggested n my feedback form to the resort that they mention the wildlife in their promotion, and they have responded that they will try to fit it in to their website.

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The next International Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium will be held in India in 2020.

Africa Diary: Best En Think Tank

One last elephant by the roadside on my way out of Kruger. A good-tempered one this time, just quietly feeding.
One last elephant by the roadside on my way out of Kruger. A good-tempered one this time, just quietly feeding.

I’ve left Kruger, and am staying at the Protea Hotel ready for the BEST Education Network Think Tank XV: The Environment People Nexus in Sustainable Tourism: Finding the Balance. I’m still just across the river though, so can look across into Kruger and still hope to see elephants and hippos, and there are monkeys and birds in the garden. We’ll also be having a conference field trip back into Kruger tomorrow for a sunset drive.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to switch my mental faculties now from wildlife-watching mode to conference and networking mode. I would have liked another month or so of the wildlife watching, but this should be a very worthwhile conference. Because I’m representing Wildlife Tourism Australia at the Think Tank, I’ll now switch to recording events, including interesting bit of information and ideas from the conference and notes on our field trips, on the Wildlife Tourism Australia blog: http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au

Africa Diary: Final days in Kruger NP

(NOTE: this is not one of our own tours: I’m exploring Kruger NP before attending two conferences in South Africa)

Diary continued…

I’m really going to miss Kruger! I could easily spend a couple of months here.  Or more.

Kudu are the most common browsers in the Pretoriaskop region. Beautiful animals!
Kudu are the most common browsers in the Pretoriaskop region. Beautiful animals!
A bushbuck was wandering around the picnic area at Asfaal. I was told an elephant wandered in one day!
A bushbuck was wandering around the picnic area at Asfaal. I was told an elephant wandered in one day!

Visitors to my on table (and no, they didn’t get a feed) included glossy starling, yellow-billed hornbill (known locally as the ‘flying banana’) and female and male red-winged starlings

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I made a sound while drinking my sparking marula juice which seemed to arouse this giraffe’s curiosity giraffe through window

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As I said, all animals have right-of-way here, and with some you don’t get much choice anyway!

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This elephant was n a really bad mood. Ear-flapping is a warning, but ears flattened against the head and the trunk curled up could mean a serious attack is imminent.  I decided to go back the other way, and warned other motorists heading in that direction
This elephant was n a really bad mood. Ear-flapping is a warning, but ears flattened against the head and the trunk curled up could mean a serious attack is imminent. I decided to go back the other way, and warned other motorists heading in that direction

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My ‘home’ for my last two nights: a cabin at Skukuza, with its own fridge and shower/toilet (my hut at Pretoriaskop didn’t have these, but its communal ablution block had a bath tub with plenty of hot water: great for relaxing before bed)

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You don’t have to be in one of those very expensive luxury safari lodges to enjoy a hearty, leisurely breakfast  while watching hippos, elephants and a variety of birds from your dining table

Breakfast at Skukuza: all-you-can eat buffet for about $12 Australian
Breakfast at Skukuza: all-you-can eat buffet for about $12 Australian
Definitely the most delicious snails I've ever had. Succulent and flavoursome themselves, and, with garlic butter and melted be cheese
Definitely the most delicious snails I’ve ever had. Succulent and flavoursome themselves, and, with garlic butter and melted be cheese

 

Quite an eventful morning (16th June)

First there was a small pack of wild dogs on the road towards Lower Sabie.  One somehow became separated from the others, stood near my car, occasionally whimpering like a domestic dog, looking for his fellows and finally took off back into the bush

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Soon after, I heard impalas making a fuss about something, so drove down a gravel road in their direction. There I watched two lionesses stalking a giraffe. The giraffe was understandably looking very nervous, and part of me wanted to reassure him that everything’s okay, he’s not about to be killed. On the other hand, those lionesses probably have cubs to feed, and it would take a lot of impala to equal the food supply in one giraffe. I had no desire to see something killed, but I was rather fascinated as to what they intended to actually do. The giraffe’s legs are so long, they could easily walk under its belly even if one was riding on the back of the other. A kick from a giraffe can kill a human, so it can probably do a bit of damage to a lion. How do you tackle something that big?

They finally seemed to decide it was too difficult after all.

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Further along the road there was a traffic jam.  The cause was a big male lion and two lionesses relaxing by the roadside, creating great excitement amongst visitors.

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By now I was feeling a little peckish, and called in at the same picnic stop that had trouble with baboons a few days ago.  I bought a cup of tea and a bag of chips, and the lady had to let me out the other (till now locked) door, as there was a large baboon waiting outside the door I’d come through, ready to leap at my chip bag.

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A marabou stork gains the sunrise on my final morning in Kruger
A marabou stork against the sunrise on my final morning in Kruger

 

Africa Diary: to Lower Sabie and Pretoriaskop, Kruger National Park

(NOTE: this is not one of our own tours: I’m exploring Kruger NP before attending two conferences in South Africa)

Diary continued…

I drove cautiously past a big herd of Buffalo on my way south from Satara, Kruger NP
I drove cautiously past a big herd of Buffalo on my way south from Satara, Kruger NP

 

... and a few minutes later two lions crossed the road!
… and a few minutes later two lions crossed the road!
This is an animal I'd missed out on on both previous visits.  The little Klipspringer, a tiny antelope that lives in much the same habitat as our rock wallabies and apparently just as good at dashing up steep cliffs
This is an animal I’d missed out on on both previous visits. The little Klipspringer, a tiny antelope that lives in much the same habitat as our rock wallabies and apparently just as good at dashing up steep cliffs

 

White rhino near Lower Sabie.  The name is a misnomer, the British misunderstanding the Boer word for 'wide.' It is a grazer, with a wide mouth. The ;black' rhino has a narrow mouth and browses on leaves of shrubs and trees.
White rhino near Lower Sabie. The name is a misnomer, the British misunderstanding the Boer word for ‘wide.’ It is a grazer, with a wide mouth. The ;black’ rhino has a narrow mouth and browses on leaves of shrubs and trees.
Lower Sabie is in an excellent position  for hippo watching!
Lower Sabie is in an excellent position for hippo watching!
My tent in Lower Sabie
My tent in Lower Sabie
Baboons really do make their presence felt, as I found out the next day
Baboons really do make their presence felt, as I found out the next day
Sunrise on the Sabie River
Sunrise on the Sabie River

 

I was thrilled to see two lionesses just after dawn
I was thrilled to see two lionesses just after dawn

 

On the way back towards Sjukiza (which I passed through on route to Pretoriaskop) this baboon opened the door of the shop at the picnic area. Another, bigger one was already inside not allowing shopkeepers access to the cash box
On the way back towards Sjukiza (which I passed through on route to Pretoriaskop) this baboon (in the tree, watching the shop at the picnic area)  opened the door and dashed around inside until hunted out with a broomstick. Another, bigger one was already inside not allowing shopkeepers access to the cash box

 

This monkey looks all innocence, but after this photo he leapt to another table and stole a cake.
This monkey looks all innocence, but after this photo he leapt to another table and stole a cake.

 

Animals at picnic areas are a problem, not just for the humans, but for the animals themselves.  If they get too demanding, as they can do after learning how profitable picnics can be, the rangers may have to remove them, even putting them down if they are dangerous (as large baboons certainly can be, and hyenas even more so: the strength of their jaws is second only to crocodiles).

Africa Diary: Satara (2 nights)

I didn’t see the lions I’d hoped for here (Satara is famous for them) but had plenty of other sightings while driving by day and with a  ranger on a sunset drive

Day time

The sun was still rising as I headed out of camp
The sun was still rising as I headed out of camp

 

Elephants have right of way! Well, so do all wildlife in Kruger, but some elephants really know how t enforce it.
Elephants have right of way! Well, so do all wildlife in Kruger, but some elephants really know how t enforce it.

 

Male ostrich
Male ostrich
His mate nearby seemed intent on watching an apparent play fight between two wildebeest
His mate nearby seemed intent on watching an apparent play fight between two wildebeest

 

Zebra suckling
Zebra suckling

 

A very colourful barbet came hopping right up to my car
A very colourful barbet came hopping right up to my car

 

A fish eagle arrives at a dam near Satara
A fish eagle arrives at a dam near Satara

 

Elephants come to drink at the dam. This is part of a breeding herd of about 20 elephants
Elephants come to drink at the dam. This is part of a breeding herd of about 20 elephants

 

Many others, including these baboons, came down for a drink - also giraffes zebras wildebeest, waterbucks and impalas
Many others, including these baboons, came down for a drink – also giraffes zebras wildebeest, waterbucks and impalas

 

 

Sunset Drive

 

Buffalo, towards sunset
Buffalo, towards sunset

 

We saw porcupine. civet and a pair of bull elephants fighting, but not enough light to take good photos
We saw porcupine. civet and a pair of bull elephants fighting, but not enough light to take good photos

 

A marula tree in the sunset
A marula tree in the sunset

Africa Diary: Kruger NP, 3 days in Tamboti

(including solo drives to Satara and elsewhere, and a sunset drive with a ranger)

My home for three nights in Tamboti My home for three nights in Tamboti

The fridge and food cupboard are closed in sturdy ire mesh to protect against monkeys, baboons and honey badgers
The fridge and food cupboard are enclosed in sturdy ire mesh to protect against monkeys, baboons and honey badgers
This verve monkey appeared as soon as I started unpackng my food and I had to tell him ]fairly sternly that no, he was not allowed to leap into the food cupboard
This verve monkey appeared as soon as I started unpackng my food and I had to tell him ]fairly sternly that no, he was not allowed to leap into the food cupboard

 

Day time driving (solo):

Hippo with ox-peckers of back, crocodile and terrapins
Hippo with ox-peckers of back, crocodile and terrapins

 

A pir of amorous warthogs just after dawn
A pir of amorous warthogs just after dawn
The ground hornbill, far bigger than  the other hornbills. There's public call to report any seen with coloured bands pn their legs, burt the two I saw were unbnded
The ground hornbill, far bigger than the other hornbills. There’s public call to report any seen with coloured bands pn their legs, burt the two I saw were unbanded

 

A female kudu reaching up for levels
A female kudu reaching up for levels
On my last journey out of Tamboti a leopard crossed the road in front of me and headed off into the bush
On my last journey out of Tamboti a leopard crossed the road in front of me and headed off into the bush
I always love watching baboons
I always love watching baboons

 

 

Sunset drive with ranger:

Cheetah
Cheetah
Lion feasting on a giraffe that had slipped and drowned i a waterhole. The giraffe was pulled from the water by a tractor but too late to save it.
Lion feasting on a giraffe that had slipped and drowned i a waterhole. The giraffe was pulled from the water by a tractor but too late to save it.
Budhbaby
Budhbaby
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Civet
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Hyena: I had heard them calling the night before

African Diary: Kruger NP Skukuza to Tamboti

 

White rhino near Skukuza: I hop he continues to evade any poachers.  There are signs up in public places here asking people to report any suspicious activity that could lead to arrests. Some poachers have been apprehended after tourists raised alarms
White rhino near Skukuza: I hop he continues to evade any poachers. There are signs up in public places here asking people to report any suspicious activity that could lead to arrests. Some poachers have been apprehended after tourists raised alarms

 

A handsome male kudu
A handsome male kudu

 

Wildebeest: they look top heavy, but their legs are as graceful and swift as racehorses.
Wildebeest: they look top heavy, but their legs are as graceful and swift as racehorses.

 

Hippos basking: they don't feed in the water, or during the day, but come out onto the grassy plain at night to graze
Hippos basking: they don’t feed in the water, or during the day, but come out onto the grassy plain at night to graze

 

Giraffes are very vulnerable to lions in this position.  He did look around a bit before bending.  Maybe he decided there were enough wildebeest to distract any approaching lions.
Giraffes are very vulnerable to lions in this position. He did look around a bit before bending. Maybe he decided there were enough wildebeest to distract any approaching lions.

 

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A black-backed jackal resting after feeding on a rhino carcass (I hope the rhino died of natural causes, not poaching)
A black-backed jackal resting after feeding on a rhino carcass (I hope the rhino died of natural causes, not poaching)

Africa Diary: Into Kruger National Park

I hadn’t been in Kruger more than a minute before I saw my first impala.  Not really surprising: they are by far the most common hoofed animal in the park, but still quite delightful.

Impala near Kruger Gate
Impala near Kruger Gate

 

I was soon also seeing buffalo, kudu and a lovely lilac-breasted roller.

More wildlife awaited me in the Rest Camp, Skukuza.  Wart-hogs casually wander past the cabins, grazing on the lawns.

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My petrol gauge stil registered almost full, so I thought it was malfunctioning, but when I asked for the tank to be filled it only took five dollars.  I was quite impressed with the efficiency of this little Chevrolet.

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A final drive revealed no large animals, but I did see and hear the ‘Go-away’ bird (the grey lowry), hornbills and starlings.

The ant hills between my hut and the river are rather large: I haven’t seen the ants yet.

The moonlight was bright during the nights, so I went out twice to look across the river. I saw one lone heron feeding and heard a few other birds and frogs.

Almost dawn now: let’s see what today brings.