The famous 'quiver trees' of Namibia's Quiver Tree Forest are so-named because the 'Bushmen' or 'San' people hollowed out the branches of these aloes to make their quivers (arrow-holders). These quiver trees grow near Nieuwoudtville in South Africa's Northern Cape - an arid area with less than 200mm of winter rainfall and even less in summer. According to biodiversity researchers the range of these hardy aloes is shifting south to escape rising temperature in these hot regions of South Africa and Namibia.
A lion rests sedately in the shade. The honey-coloured eyes of a lion are breathtaking to behold at close range, especially when you are the object of this level stare. The short length and tawny colouring of this lion's mane indicate that it is probably a young male, however, this is not always the case. The male lions of Tsavo in Kenya are maneless, while in northern Botswana it is not uncommon to find maned lionesses. Studies suggest that the growth of a mane is related to a lion's testosterone levels, since castrated lions do not really develop manes.
A springbok models its striking looks for the camera - this season's colours are dark chocolate, toffee and cream. These dainty little antelope have had three million years to evolve into the beautiful and agile creatures they are today. A fossilized springbok-like antelope found in Herold's Bay cave in South Africa's Western Cape is between eighty and one hundred thousand years old! Springbok are resilient creatures ñ they don't need to drink much water and can stand quite high temperatures.
It is amazing when, even in the driest and most arid of lands, one finds beetles like this one scuttling over the rocks with somewhere important to go. Whether gathering dung or breaking down the local plant matter, these beetles play an important role in balancing the ecosystems around them, not to mention providing substantial snacks for the predators that feed on them.
A blazing sunset at Nxamaseri Island Lodge. This established lodge is situated in the Okavango Panhandle on the northwestern side of the Delta. Tiger-fishing in Nxamaseri is its most well-known attraction, but it is also a serene and remote place to relax. Each of the seven chalets is secluded in the surrounding indigenous forest and has its own deck overlooking the water. The incredible birds attracted to this beautiful environment include Pels Fishing Owls, African Skimmers, Wattled Cranes and Lesser Jacana.
An Olive Woodpecker peers out from behind a lichen-covered tree trunk. These birds can easily be mistaken for tree stumps when they perch like this. Olive woodpeckers have very few of the white and black speckles that are so typical of other southern-African woodpeckers, and are therefore quite easy to identify. They have a limited range, confining themselves to evergreen forests and coastal or riverine bush where they subsist on insects.
Very few birds have thatching skills that rival those of the Sociable Weaver. These nests are frequently seen in the gnarled camelthorn trees of the Namib Desert. Up to a hundred pairs of weavers may breed in individual chambers in these warm, well-built nests. Sociable weavers generally prefer to build their nests with stiff grasses in areas that are not prone to veldfires. There are at least 150 species of birds in the unique terrain around Wolwedans, including the endemic Dune Lark.
A Secretarybird stalks through the veld like it means business ñ it seems to be scanning the grass for prey. It will most likely stamp its feet to flush potential prey out of the grass, and then catch it with its hooked bill and swallow it whole. Secretarybirds are capable of killing rodents and snakes by stamping on them with their powerful feet and talons. These majestic raptors are found throughout southern Africa in open areas such as grassland, farmland and semi-desert regions. They like the company of other Secretarybirds and are usually found in pairs.
Inseparable. A white rhino mother keeps an eye on her calf. This female was probably pregnant for almost a year and a half. She is undoubtedly fiercely protective of her calf, and will often keep it in front of her for safety's sake. The white rhinoceros is more accurately called the square-lipped rhinoceros, and one can clearly see the strong square lip of this little calf. White rhinos also have particularly wide nostrils and their sense of smell is excellent, which makes up for their poor eyesight.
This rather fearsome-looking beetle has similar characteristics to the species of beetles with the Latin name of Tenebrionidae. There are thought to be about 20,000 species of beetles in this family! They are colloquially called 'darkling beetles' because they are attracted to dark spaces. These beetles are scavengers and omnivores and may feed on decayed leaves, rotting wood, fresh plant matter, dead insects, and fungi.
The Saddle-billed Stork is named for the bright yellow saddle-shaped wedge that one can clearly see atop this bird's huge bill. No matter how many times one sees this stork, it is always a pleasure to marvel at its piercing yellow iris, the striking contrast between its bold red and white markings, and the iridescence of its seemingly-black feathers. This stork frequents wetland areas and uses its celebrated bill to forage for fish, frogs, crustaceans, reptiles, molluscs and even small birds.
This vervet monkey has the look of a very old soul. Vervets actually look quite grave most of the time, even when they are happily snacking on the food they nicked from your picnic table. Interestingly, they actually do have a tendency towards anxiety which manifests in high blood pressure. This is not surprising given that they are preyed on by leopards, eagles, pythons and baboons, as well as the odd trigger-happy human. When vervets are frazzled they can destress by having a nice mutual grooming session.
These mauve and rust colours are very typical of the dry areas that quiver trees are found in. This forest of aloe dichotoma grows near Nieuwoudtville on the Bokkeveld Plateau in the Northern Cape province in South Africa. Quiver trees thrive in the mars-like, rocky terrain of the Northern Cape and Namibia, forming small forests of these aloes which lend interest to the rather barren-looking landscape.
This Maribou Stork, like most of its kin, is not going to win any beauty contests. However, this rather fascinating bird plays an important role in its ecosystem. It includes carrion and refuse amongst its primary food sources and therefore, like vultures and hyenas, it helps to clear the environment of flies, bacteria and repellent odours. It also eats rodents, birds, reptiles and even adult flamingos and young crocodiles. Despite its rather disgusting diet it has the refined habit of washing offal in water before it swallows it.
A male red hartebeest crests a grassy hill. Red hartebeest are the most colourful hartebeest. Their rufous fur contrasts fetchingly with their creamy bellies and black flanks, shanks and tails. They are skittish animals because their eyesight isn't very good, but their sense of smell and hearing is excellent. They can escape from danger at a respectable 55kph and run in zigzag patterns in order to outwit their predators.
Locusts and grasshoppers look much the same. In fact, locusts are what grasshoppers are called when they swarm together, usually causing rapid defoliation of the areas through which they move. These bright green grasshoppers are often seen during walks or hikes in southern Africa. They are rather large and make an alarming whirring or clicking sound during their short, erratic flights. Seeing one of these large green things whirring towards you usually inspires some comical hiking gymnastics.