HIPPOPOTAMUS

One doesn’t often come across a hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) in the Eastern Cape, where they have been re-introduced, so I enjoyed seeing these ones peeping out of the water on a nearby reserve. Hippos (as they are commonly called) rely on water and mud to keep them cool during the day and mostly emerge to feed at night.

They are the third largest land mammals after the elephant and white rhinoceros.  See how their wet backs glisten in the sun.

To give you a better idea of what a hippopotamus looks like out of the water, here is one emerging from a water hyacinth infested waterhole in the Kruger National Park.

They might look like cumbersome animals but, as this sign warns, beware of them when they are out of the water: they can be very dangerous as they are both territorial and aggressive.

The scars on the side of this hippopotamus attest to the way they fight each other too.

Note: Click on the photographs for a larger view.

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BLUE CRANE

The Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) is South Africa’s National Bird as it is endemic to this country, barring a very small population in Namibia. Despite its name, it is actually a grey crane. Because its status is vulnerable, I become very excited when I see Blue Cranes in the wild, as I did on a recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park where a pair of them were scouring the veld for food.

In this photograph you can get a good view of its bulbous head with the conspicuously paler grey patch on the crown and forehead. The long, darker tail feathers (actually the inner secondaries and tertials) show up well too.

From a photographic point of view, I missed the action every time, for it was interesting to watch how these birds would systematically turn over every elephant dropping in their path and eat whatever they found underneath – I presume insects.

This one paused for a scratch. Click on the photograph in order to get a clear look at its claws in the larger view.

“I can stand on one leg too!”

Note: Click on the photographs for a larger view.

PROTECTIVE PARENTS

When I wrote about Spotted Thickknees (Dikkops) in January, the last place I would have expected to see them again is a busy car park at an airport. I was striding through this car park to get to the long-term parking when my eye was caught by a slight movement to my left. Mr and Mrs Dikkop (Thickknee) were standing either side of their baby.

Naturally – all haste forgotten – I stopped for a closer look. This was tolerated for only a few seconds after the first photograph and then I was clearly told “Enough! No more!”

And so, I retreated.

Note: Click on the photographs for a larger view.

EXPLORING AT TSITSIKAMMA

Apart from the boardwalk to the Storms River Mouth, walks through the forest, and swimming at the small sandy beach, there are a number of other things to explore at Tsitsikamma. These pictures come from one short walk to the rocks near the start of the Otter Trail.

The cracks, ledges and striations on the rocks beg for exploration.

Small stones, worn smooth by the action of the sea, tiny bits of wood, seaweed and shells also call for attention.

The patterns on this shell proved to be irresistible.

There is driftwood aplenty.

You may have noticed a tin on the bottom right hand side of the first picture. This is what it looks like from nearby. Where did it come from? How did it land up in the ocean? How long has it been there, being tossed by the waves?

Obviously long enough to have become a home for a colony of molluscs.

A WALK THROUGH THE COASTAL FOREST

The walk through the coastal forest at Tsitsikamma to the Storms River starts at the little beach.

A lovely collection of light blue agapanthus flowers grow near the first waterfall.

One gets interesting views of the coast and of other paths through the forest trees.

Steps made from plastic wood make the steep ups and downs easier to manage and help to protect the forest floor from the hundreds of feet that pass this way every day.

Moss-covered trees abound in the forest.

The first glimpse of the mouth of the Storms River way below the path.

There is a rocky beach at the end of the walk.

And a series of suspension bridges to cross on the way back!

Note: click on the photographs for a larger view.