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Burchell’s Coucal
1 Oct 2013

In the mornings in winter and early spring in the lowveld, you’ll often spot a Burchell’s coucal, or sometimes two, perched like this one, basking in the warm rays of the sun. Named after naturalist and explorer William Burchell (1778-1863), who has many species that bear his name, there are lots of things I like about these birds.

For one thing they’re big (about 41cm according to Roberts) and distinctive looking, which makes them easy to identify, although their secretive natures don’t always make them easy to spot. I also love the way they move deliberately and carefully along the branches of bushes.  Sometimes they seem to stalk, cat-like through thick vegetation and in fact, they do eat mice, small birds, reptiles, insects and eggs (almost anything smaller than themselves). They can be clumsy and are known for flopping onto bushes or crashing into thickets after short flights, or running on the ground between large shrubs, rather than fly.

But all traces of clumsiness disappear when they call. Their distinctive 'Boo-o-o, boo-boo-boo-boo-boo' begins with a long-drawn note, that descends in pitch and length and bubbles cleanly over the veld. It’s a pleasure to listen to a pair of them calling back and forth to each other in the summer months when they tend to call most frequently.  

South African poet Douglas Livingstone describes their call in his poem "The Rainbird" as “the rainbird's liquid note” and people believe they’re most vocal in periods of high humidity, signalling summer storms…

They are found all around northern South Africa and on the coast from northern KwaZulu Natal to the Western Cape.

  – Dianne Tipping-Woods

Nightjar Travelled
30 Sep 2013

Crocodile River

The Bojanala region is a real gem for Joburg based adventurers, with a wealth of generally exciting things to explore within easy drive for a weekend getaway. For example, mountain biking, zip lining, and in this photo we find ourselves rafting the crocodile river.

 – Erik on Instagram (@nightjartravel)

Zion Canyon, Utah
29 Sep 2013

Zion Canyon is a magnificent crevice forged by rock- and landslides as powerful floods of the North Fork of the Virgin River forcefully tore through the canyon, leaving single massive rock monoliths protruding from the canyon floor.  The normally tame waterway travels many miles within the park with a gradient of 10 – 15 metres per kilometre, moving debris at a rate of 300-million tons per year.  

Unlike the Grand Canyon where you stand on the rim and look down into the canyon, in Zion you stand on the canyon floor and look up. On arrival, you park at a central parking area, and then take a shuttle bus to any one of a dozen stops into the canyon. This is a great idea, because it removes a large amount of traffic from the canyon floor.  Alternatively, if you are not in the mood for a hike, you can do one of two scenic drives around the canyon.

Middle Fork
29 Sep 2013

The Salmon River is a main tributary of the Snake River. This stretch of the middle fork of the Salmon River runs through a true wilderness and is not accessible by road. It has a high conservation status and access is strictly controlled. The guides bring the rafts in from higher upstream and guests are flown in for a five day fishing & rafting experience. 

The fishing season is only about six weeks long. In the early season, large quantities of snow melt, combined with the gradient, makes this river too wild for fishing and it is white water rafting only. (The middle fork has 300 rateable rapids and drops 900m over its length of 160km) 

But it is worth working around this small window, because this river is teeming with trout – and the setting could hardly be more majestic.

- The Travelling Fisherman

Bean Green
28 Sep 2013

There is nothing quite like the sound of 1970’s vinyl playing in the back ground, while you take a sip of your Flat White. The Bean Green Coffee Company has made a big name for itself in Durban as being one of the “favourite” coffee shops in KZN and that’s not just because they won the Cafe Society award a number of times. Run by a father-daughter duo, the quaint shop on Davenport Road sells coffee made exclusively from Ethiopian beans as well as an array of baked goods. It’s the perfect place to relax with your laptop and blog about how much you have enjoyed your holiday in Durbs. 

– Daniella Toscano

Struisbaai Harbour
27 Sep 2013

The harbour at Struisbaai

This harbour is the epicentre of a bustling small scale commercial and sport fishing industry. Whether it’s simply off the harbour wall, any of the many spots along the shoreline, or a deep sea charter, this is where you want to send your summer holidays if you are a serious fisherman. But it’s not just about fishing. For photographers, the area abounds with opportunity. This snap was taken from the harbour looking out to sea on a broody, misty morning in May. It does not come much more atmospheric than this.

26 Sep 2013

This is a winter scene of a farm track deep in the Baviaanskloof valley, which plays host to a range of different veld types and biomes with quite dramatic transitions. The 'valley of baboons' is bordered in the north by the Baviaanskloof mountains, with spekboomveld and valley bushveld on their slopes, and in the south by the Kouga mountains with their Cape fynbos. The long side valleys have Knysna Forest vegetation, while rhinoceros veldt and grassland is found on the mountain plateaus.

Baviaanskloof is classified as a part of the Little Karoo, probably because of the widespread succulent Karoo bush in the valley, which also features spectacular land formations. Karoo rainfall filtering through the mountains to the Baviaanskloof River has given rise to a huge diversity of plant species, which in turn has led an impressive variety of birds and animals. The area offers a wide range of eco-recreational opportunities, as well as a truly unique wilderness experience.

White Zulu
25 Sep 2013

Fiona was lucky enough to catch Johnny Clegg during his recent unplugged performances in Cape Town, and it sounds like she had a blast!

The White Zulu rocks Cape Town

‘He looks middle-aged’ said my husband as Johnny Clegg took his seat centre stage at the Baxter Theatre last night. We hadn’t seen the White Zulu play live for a while and he certainly looked older, but, as he revealed colourful snippets of his life, it became apparent that he was pushing sixty!  In his trademark scruffy T-shirt and pants, set off by white – why white I ask you? – trainers, Clegg is one of those people who remains forever young. Sure he sounded a bit breathless after he demonstrated head high kicks and other Zulu dance moves, but what energy. 

This ‘intimate evening’ with Johnny Clegg, during which he explained the background to many of his famous, and little-known, songs is an absolute delight, his wicked sense of humour coming through as he poked fun at the findings of COPE 17, (the conference climate change held in Durban a couple of years ago), the ridiculous censorship of one of his early songs by Radio Zulu (I won’t ruin the story by telling you why) and Joluka’s bewildering (for him) rise through the European pop charts in a time of heavy boycotts of anything South African. He played around on a squeeze box and newly acquired mouth-organ that looked as if it was a kid’s toy and fumbled with his microphone all the while reminding us that he was recording for an ‘Unplugged’ album – presumably our chance for fame. 

For those of us that grew up on his music it was wonderfully nostalgic, but judging from the make-up of the audience – which ranged from tiny tots to grey rinses – his music still strikes a chord across the generation gaps. He had everyone's feet tapping. Simply brilliant.

Victoria Falls
25 Sep 2013

As the twin engine motorboat guns full-speed towards the Victoria Falls – the part of it that falls 100 metres into the gorge below – there is a moment when I think we’re going to die. Then the boat veers into what looks like a clump of reeds at the lip of the falls and we’re wedged against it, safe. 

“Welcome to Livingstone Island,” says guide Collins Nyambe Masiye. He laughs at the incredulous look on my face – in season, he does this trip 3 or 4 times a day. He confesses that is actually never gets old. I can see how this can be true as in just a few short steps, I am standing above the falls, about as close to the edge as anyone can get. It takes my breath away.

David Livingstone first viewed the falls from this very same vantage point on 16 November 1855 and before him, countless Toka and Leya people from around the falls worshiped here. Some still do. The thundering water produces billows of mist. As the light weaves in and out of it, leaving rainbows in its wake, I understand the words 'a scene so lovely it must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.' For a second, I feel like one of those angels.

Tongabezi Safari Lodge exclusively operates tours to this island in the middle of the river, immediately upstream from the falls on the Zambian side. If you’re in Livingstone and can do just one thing, do this. Visit for more information.

 – Dianne Tipping-Woods

Tsonga Fish Traps
24 Sep 2013

Used for generations the Tsonga community have utilised this traditional fishing method as a sustainable way of sourcing food. Each fish trap that is situated in the tidal mouth of the Kosi Bay Estuary is owned by an individual family. They are solely in charge of looking after and maintaining it. This requires continually ‘upgrading’ the twigs and branches that are used in making the traps. Fish are ‘guided’ through the maze of fish kraals during the changing of the tides, funneled by fences into a circular catchment area at the end, and wait until the trap’s owner comes and fetches them.

 – Megan Pilditch

Nightjar Travelled
23 Sep 2013

Royal Natal Rock Art

Who can guess what that horizontal hole in the rock is for?

This snap is from the rock art site at the Royal Natal National Park, which is under strict protection - you have to go with a guide - because it was vandalised in earlier days. 

The hole, however, is of a more interesting origin... according to our guide, it was chopped into the rock by the sangoma to support a stick on which to rest his elbow while he painted!

 – Erik on Instagram (@nightjartravel)

Grand Teton National Park
22 Sep 2013

Geologically the Grand Teton National Park is the youngest range of the Rocky Mountains, and lies just a few kilometres south of Yellowstone. It should be on your itinerary if you are travelling through this part of the country.

The Madison River, Montana
22 Sep 2013

The Madison is almost 300km long and rises in Park County in northwestern Wyoming at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers, a location known as Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park. It is classified as a blue ribbon fishery in Montana and is one of the most productive streams in Montana for brown and rainbow trout.

We fished a drift on section above Ennis Lake, aptly named the 'Fifty Mile Riffle'. On a good day, there is supposedly a brown trout as long as your arm behind every rock, although on the day we were there, we had to contend with a fearsome wind, so took the occasional bit of time out for a bit of R&R.

- The Travelling Fisherman

Looking down
21 Sep 2013

Somewhere in the coolness of the 90s, zip-lining lost its appeal. I think it was somewhere between it becoming a popular team-building exercise for corporates or a school tour “adventure”, when the excitement of whizzing through a forest canopy dwindled. However, with panoramic views framed by a lush treetop canopy, Karkloof Canopy Tours supplies enough incentive to forget about such trivialities. For one, The Canopy is a birder’s paradise, and if you’re fed up looking for Cape Parrots in the Cape and Knysna Loeries in Knysna, I can tell you that they’ve all relocated here. The idea of zip-lining never really appealed to me, but the beauty of this sub-tropical forest and its teeming fauna is well worth the effort. And if you happen to be unlucky and all the parrots have gone on honeymoon, you can always zoom down the slides humming the Indiana Jones theme tune to yourself. You may not think that’s cool now, but you will. 

 – Matthew Jones

20 Sep 2013

Gansbaai is a modern seaside town mixed with old-fashioned platteland values and friendly residents. It has a bustling main street dotted with Norfolk pine trees and a mish-mash of old and new shops. There are numerous water-related activities in the area, such as deep sea, rock, and beach fishing, kayaking, crayfishing, and scuba diving. Of course, the heart of Gansbaai is a thriving fishing industry. Here we watched one of the fishing vessels heading off to sea on a late Sunday afternoon, while enjoying our fish and chips. Although there are a number of good eateries in town, we think it is mandatory to have fish and chips at the little restaurant in the harbour itself.

Golden Orb Spider
19 Sep 2013

If you've come across 'Charlotte's Web' by E B White, you’ll probably have a pleasantly anthropomorphic view of this golden silk orb-weaver spider. This non-aggressive, non-poisonous species of the Nephila genus spins large distinctive webs in concentric circles that shine golden in sunlight. The orbs are repaired and often rebuilt on a daily basis to make sure any prey sticks around. 

The V&A Museum in London recently acquired a cape woven from over a million webs. Fisherman sometimes use the crushed webs, which unfold in water, to catch baitfish. Seen here in the Drakensberg foothills near Maclear, these brightly coloured arachnids are widespread in warmer regions throughout the world.


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