South Africa is blessed with several national parks. It takes time and travelling long distances to visit even some of them, yet none disappoint. Today I will feature scenes from a few of them. The Addo Elephant National Park is not very far from where we live and so, every now and then, we go there for a day visit. Given its name, visitors naturally expect to see elephants there:

It is also a good place for birding, where one might be fortunate to see raptors such as this Jackal Buzzard:

The Mountain Zebra National Park is also easily accessible to us and is the perfect place to spend a few days. Visitors here would obviously expect to see mountain zebras:

However, one might also be fortunate to spot a cheetah lying in the yellow grass:

There are red hartebeest in the Karoo National Park – which makes a good stopping point between where we live and Cape Town:

One can also enjoy seeing ostriches striding along the open veld:

The world famous Kruger National Park is several day’s journey from here and hosts an enormous variety of plants, birds, insects and animals. When we consider the alarming rate at which rhinos are killed in this country, we cannot help but feel privileged to see them from close quarters here:

The name on every visitor’s lips is ‘lion’. Mention the word and people speed up and jostle for space to see even the tip of the tail of one. Equally exciting to see though are leopards:

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is the furthest away from us and – despite its remote location – is such a popular destination that one has to book accommodation about a year ahead. This is an incredible place for seeing lions:

It is also a marvellous place for seeing the very beautiful crimson-breasted shrike:



It seems that in every national park visitors remain on the lookout for lions, the Mountain Zebra National Park is no exception. We have been fortunate to spot a lion or two during past visits; sometimes only a tell-tale pugmark in the damp gravel next to a low level bridge; more often not a whiff of a lion at all. Some of our party saw a lion on the last day of our visit to the Mountain Zebra National Park in July. I was not among them.

On about the third morning of our October visit, we drove out of the rest camp shortly after the gates opened and made our way towards the Doornhoek Dam, just over four kilometres away. I was keen to look out for waterfowl and have always enjoyed the way the early morning light both softens and brightens the landscape. There were no birds – perhaps we were too early. We waited as the first fingers of light found the opposite bank, highlighting the pale rocks and brightening the green bushes growing at the edge. We had been there for a while and it was time to move on.

Wait! What was that pale creature walking along the edge of the dam? My camera lens picked out this lioness:

Of course any thoughts of leaving vanished as we watched her pace up and down in the early morning light before turning towards the large rock behind her:

Before long she had disappeared into the bush:

It was definitely time to leave … wait! What was that on the shady side of the dam? Another lioness:

As we watched in awed silence another one came down to slake her thirst:

Hold on – there were now three of them:

After some greeting and moving around each other, they settled onto the sand some distance from each other:

Reluctantly, we left them there – they clearly weren’t planning to go anywhere for a while. During all this time we were the only watchers, so it gave me great pleasure to stop a vehicle on our way back to the rest camp with a “Would like to see some lions?” “Who wouldn’t?” The driver smiled at me and set off for the dam a wee bit faster.

You will notice that the lions have each been fitted with a collar. This allows park authorities to track their whereabouts and so to collect information about the areas they prefer to live in as well as checking on the kind of prey they target.


While driving through the Pilanesberg National Park we rounded a corner to find …

… three lions approaching us with about four more in the background.

They came this close to our vehicle:

More walked purposefully on their way past …

… clearly intent on a particular destination:

Only a short distance further was this one – the King of the Road:


Automatic focusing is one of the most marvellous innovations that has assisted amateur photographers whether using cell phones, tiny cameras or more sophisticated ones. Before the advent of digital photography, we would wait with gleeful anticipation for either our slides or photographs to be processed, only to be disappointed by the blurry results or the “what was I meant to be photographing?” These days there are very few spoiled pictures and even then they can easily be deleted immediately afterwards and the scene re-shot. The trouble is that most of us become too reliant on the auto focus – particularly when something exciting and unexpected happens, such as the sight of a lion in the bush:

How disappointing is this! The problem comes from allowing excitement to overrule what the eye can really see through the viewfinder. I can see the lion and click away,but have not taken note that it is not in focus – instead I click, click, click at this chance encounter. How often have you tried to photograph an object only to find that your auto focus decides to home in on a leaf or twig closer than the object you want to photograph.

Look, pause, decide and remember to change to manual focus if you are not getting the results you were hoping for:

This is not a perfect picture by any means, given the distance, the light, and the vegetation in the way, but one can at least ‘see’ this lioness that was close to the lion photographed earlier. The lion below has been featured before – all three images were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park – and was photographed under more favourable conditions.

Even then I do not always succeed as I tend to get carried away by the excitement of the moment, so have to remind myself to first enjoy what I am seeing in order to fully appreciate what it is, then to take a photograph and look at it before deciding what to do to take others that are worthwhile keeping: look, pause, and look again before clicking. It’s a bit like learning to cross a road when we are young – it becomes second nature after a while.


It was while I was listening to the sound track of Born Free this morning that it struck me how fortunate I have been to have seen lions so often in the wild. It is the one animal that tourists – and not only the ones from abroad – have at the top of their wish lists when they enter game areas such as the Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We have enjoyed some of the best sightings at the latter place and yet have also spent ten days there without seeing a single one!

We had been waiting patiently at a water hole shortly after sunrise. Our attention was focused on birds and the activity of a couple of jackals nearby when this pair of lions came padding across the dry river bed. Notice the dust being thrown up by their large padded paws.

They drank deeply and for a long time.

Early on another morning our attention was drawn to definite sounds of distress not far from the camp we were staying at. The gates had opened not long before and we were met by this scene of two lionesses doing battle with a wildebeest, kicking up a lot of dust in the process!

Within minutes Black-backed jackals had come to investigate within a safe distance as the two lionesses settled down to rip open the carcass – only to be usurped by an enormous male that appeared from nowhere! While on the subject of males, tourists would give their eye teeth for a sight such as this one strolling across the road in front of us in the Kruger National Park. This photograph gives you a good idea of how large their paws are.

Much closer to home, here is a lion seen in the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.