When I see pictures of the hippopotamus, it is usually the 2 iconic
images: just the nose, eyes and maybe ears sticking out of the eater or just a
little of the body above the waterline and with Oxpeckers on its back. I was
recently going cleaning and organizing my photo library and took a new look at
the images from our Africa trip 3 years ago. In it, was a good collection of
hippos in the routine activities of their daily life. So, I thought I’d share
them with you.
Some of the images involve a battle over a water hole. Watching that
battle unfold was one of the most fascinating events I ever witnessed. I’ve
observed that when deer, antelope, sheep and goats battle, it involves locking
horns and pushing back and forth until one succumbs and backs off. The hippo
battle was similar. They open their mouths wide and attack then push back and
forth until one succumbs. But, it also has some similarities to the sumo
wrestling I have seen. Two large, muscular, creatures embracing in battle for
short periods, back off for a short while, then go at again.
The Red-billed Oxpeckers in the photos are feasting on the bugs in the hippo’s wounds.
Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.
Three years ago, we visited South Africa. Afterward, I shared many images, mostly of the abundant and beautiful wildlife. Though I published some landscapes and seascapes, I have many that I didn’t publish. I thought I’d go back and share some of them now. There will be more in the future.
Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.
Here is a sample of the birds we saw while in South Africa. There were many interesting, colorful birds. I was especially captivated by the Lilac Breasted Roller,the Purple Crested Turaco and the varieties of sunbirds and kingfishers. There are many more examples on my website (www.earthwatcher.us). I hope you enjoy the images. I encourage you to look at the others that are on my website because I know you will enjoy them also.
These images can been seen at a larger size by clicking on the image
We spent a lot of time in a car travelling through South Africa. I was fascinated by the sights and sounds of daily life as we traveled. We moved through farmland and towns, both large and small. The main roads were very good. Parts reminded me of western Pennsylvania where I grew up, parts reminded me of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada while others reminded me of the deserts just east of the Sierra Nevada. The Garden Route along the Indian Ocean was reminiscent of Big Sur. It was a very interesting experience.
We spent much our time in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is a governmental jurisdiction made from 2 former provinces: KwaZulu or Zulu homeland and Natal, an area inhabited mostly, by descendants of European settlers and Indian immigrants brought to South Africa generations ago as indentured labourers for the sugar plantations. One part of the former Natal, which we drove through, reminded me of Pennsylvania with its rolling hills, farms with silos, cattle grazing and some towns with very German sounding names. I was most fascinated by the rural areas of the former KwaZulu homeland.
The Zulu are one of the subgroups of the Nguni people who migrated from central Africa some say as early as the 12th century, others the 15th century. The Nguni were pastoralists; subsistence farmers who primarily herded cattle along with some sheep and goats. Some subgroups of the Nguni live in villages but the Zulu live in isolated homesteads – small family farms. Traditionally, the area is communally owned and males who would be the head of the household must get permission from the king to establish a homestead – this still holds good in some rural areas today. Each homestead is a cluster of huts for various family members surrounding a cattle byre or ‘kraal’ (corral). Huts were traditionally a beehive shaped structure made of thatch with a floor paved with cattle dung. As society modernizes, the thatch huts have been replaced by rondavels; round huts made of mud and stone, cement block or other, more modern material. The roofs can be thatch, or corrugated metal. The rondavels are increasingly being replaced by conventionally shaped homes with more modern building and roofing material. Cattle graze the land communally but are brought to the corral overnight. In older times, the corral served another surprising purpose – it was the burial place for family members. The Zulu have great reverence for their ancestors and having them buried in the corral keeps their spirit close to look after them. When travelling through the KwaZulu area, one sees hillsides dotted with these homesteads.
The Zulu and other Nguni people were traditionally herders; keeping mainly cattle and goats. Their prize cattle are recognized today as the unique Nguni breed. From what I have read the Nguni cattle are descended from Zebu (Indian) cattle and were further hybridized as European stock was introduced to Africa. To these herders, livestock meant wealth. It takes 11 cows to buy a bride and a wealthy man may have several wives. The fascinating thing about these cattle is that they are classified by color. In the Zulu language are several very distinctive, almost poetic names for the different skin patterns, and there can be much debate around what type a particular animal may be.
We noted that the strip mall phenomenon common in the US is not prevalent in South Africa. The smaller towns we traveled through all had busy main streets with markets. On Saturdays the markets were packed with people buying and selling goods. Another interesting feature are the rural taxis. They appear to be 15- 20 seater ‘minibuses’, owned by small independent companies as well as individuals. Those who live in rural areas rely largely on these taxis to commute to towns and cities for work and shopping, but ‘conventional’ bus services also run. Relatively few rural people have cars.
In other rural communities we passed through, we noted that the settlements were more village-like. These ‘villages’ appear to be laid out in in a haphazard fashion with dirt roads and paths between the lots. Much of this land is owned communally and, where this is the case, a person must ask the local inkosi (king) for permission to build a home.
South Africans of western origin tend to live in the more conventional structures on streets laid out in grids like we are used to seeing in the US and have access to most modern amenities, (though I don’t believe the McMansion craze which has hit the US has hit there). In today’s South Africa, suburbs are much more integrated than during the Apartheid era, but there are still clusters of communities of similar ethnic origin found throughout the country. Unfortunately, with a wide dichotomy between rich and poor still very prevalent, crime remains an issue and I was troubled by the many homes in more affluent neighborhoods which are fenced and gated, often with razor wire topping the fence.
It was a fascinating journey. Observing the culture was as interesting to me as observing the wildlife.
The African Penguin is a species of penguin found in the waters surrounding southern Africa. It is also known as the jackass penguin because of its donkey like bray. Its numbers are declining and it is considered endangered.
South Africa has created a reserve for these penguins on Boulder Beach near Simon’s Town. There is a nice boardwalk down to the beach and an observation platform for viewing. The penguins meander around and come very close to you. They were a lot of fun to watch.
I hope you enjoy these images.
Note: Click on individual images to see in larger size.
These and other images are available for purchase at my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting me.
I learned on my trip that South Africa has no deer, only antelope. I had never been curious enough to find out what the really is the difference between deer and antelope; they look mostly the same. I learned that deer, as well as elk and moose, have antlers made of bone and are shed and regrown every year. Antelope have horns which have a bony core covered by keratin. Horns are not shed and regrown. I did know that there were different varieties of antelope but, though I only saw a sample, I was really surprised at how many varieties there are.
A few weeks ago I published pictures of the beautiful kudu. Today I am rounding out my collection with the tiny duiker and steenbok, the klipspringer (rock jumper), the ubiquitous impala, the bontebok, the hartebeest and the big, beautiful waterbuck.
The African Fish Eagle was the most common large raptor we saw on our trip to South Africa. It is a beautiful bird that is a cousin to our American Bald Eagle. I learned from my friend Kevin that both the African Fish Eagle and the Bald Eagle belong to the family of fish eagles. They are distinguished from the family of booted or true eagles by their legs. True eagles have feathers on their lower legs. I am a novice birder and never realized there were different types of eagles. By the way, our Golden Eagle is a snake eagle; yet another type.
Our most interesting encounter was watching a fish eagle being chased by a Blacksmith Lapwing. I guess the eagle was too close to a nest. It was fun watching it fend off numerous attacks.
I hope you enjoy these images of these magnificent birds,
Note: These and other images are available for sale on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting me.
Everybody gets excited about the big cats, the elephants, the hippos and other big game. But there is a lot more out there and I will be sharing it over the next few weeks. Today, I’ll share my images of the wildebeest, also known as the Gnu, the cape buffalo and the warthog.
The wildebeest and cape buffalo are grazers, eating the grass that grow in the savannahs. The warthog grazes on the grass and digs for roots. Their place in the ecosystem is controlling the plant life so it doesn’t take over and serving as food for the larger prey animals. Though not as exciting as the big cats, they are each beautiful in their own way.
Note: Click on images to view in larger size
Wildebeest – Perspective 4, Kruger National Park, South Africa, AUG 2016
These and other images are available for purchase at my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting me at: email@example.com.