Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa

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We recently swapped the Soutpansberg mountains for hills of another kind – Pilanesberg National Park, while lies in an extinct volcano crater. The expedition came about when we organised a meeting with the Brown Hyaena Research Project at Mankwe Reserve. Now it was all a little too convenient that Mankwe is right next to Pilanesberg NP, a place we really wanted to go to.

As we were heading south we visited the US Consulate in Jo’burg on our way. I needed to get a posh bit of paper from them saying that I can get married. It was a bit of a drama because it was pouring down with rain and we couldn’t find the consulate. I was expecting giant American flags, huge fences and the star spangled banner blaring from loudspeakers but it is a surprisingly subtle building – so subtle we drove past it twice without realising.  We ended up in the car park of the Apple store next door with our landy and I was running around in the rain asking directions from African security guards wearing bowler hats and waistcoats. Very bizarre. In the end I got my $50 bit of paper. We were ready to go but then I realised that they hadn’t given me my passport back so had to go back through security again.

We made it to Pilanesberg and set up camp at the Golden Leopard Resort’s Manyane campsite. They made a school boy error of failing to stock some key items in their shop including meat for braaing and Amarula. But they did have lots of tame game just sleeping or grazing in the campsite including kudu, zebra and impala.

On Saturday morning we got up early, jump started the landy from its spare battery (don’t ask and don’t even think about mocking my vehicle, Toyota owners), and headed out on a game drive. It was crazy misty. We could barely see the road, let alone any animals. But it burned off. Here are some pics of scenery and the animals as the mist was lifting.






The view of Mankwe dam was beautiful and there were turtles swimming about in the croc and hippo infested water.




Later in the day we went to a Predator Park which claimed to have the best burgers in North West Province. They were pretty good but all the burgers had comedy names. Mine was called the Happy Meerkat and Sam’s was the Saucy Lion or something like that. We also experienced the touristy delights of Sun City on a quick slightly lost drive through. Later in the day we were back in Pilanesberg NP and saw rhinos and elephants. The pic below is a baby rhino, believe it or not.



On Saturday night we went on a night drive. The guidebook said that seeing a brown hyaena is virtually guaranteed. Erm they are lucky they put the word virtually in there! We did not see any carnivores sadly but we did see a giant eagle owl and a cape cobra. Then on Sunday we had a very good meeting at Mankwe Reserve and got back to Lajuma that night.

All in all I really recommend Pilanesberg. It’s not far from Jo’burg and it’s stunning and you can get an interestingly named burger nearby.




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From leopards to leopard tortoises: the animals in our garden

For my job in England I used to encourage people to improve biodiversity and support wildlife in their gardens by building bird boxes, planting flowers to attract butterflies and creating ponds. In our garden in South Africa we don’t have a bird box or a pond, but we seem to have everything else. Living in the middle of the bush means that everything comes to you including leopards. Two nights ago we had a leopard in our garden, walking about 20 metres from our front door. This photo of CC was taken at 4:43 am on March 20th using a camera trap.



This is our garden and  our tent. The leopard photo was taken at roughly the same spot that this photo was taken. The horses, Lady and Elsa, are regular visitors to our tent. They like apples.



Another regular visitor are the baboons. We see them most days. I even saw one sitting and ‘swinging’ on our swing.




We have a thick tailed bushbaby called Bushy who visits the fig tree every night to eat banana. We also have lesser bushbabies in the garden and they look like little ninjas, but I don’t have a photo of them.



Two more species of primate also visit us – vervet monkeys and samango monkeys – as a result we have all five species of primates found in South Africa live in our backyard.



We have seen two species of antelope from our window – bushbuck and red duiker.



This a warthog with crested guinea fowl!



We see lots and lots of birds…



This is a dwarf mongoose in our fig tree.



We have lots of little lizard and gecko friends that visit us when we eat outside on our stoop.



Finally Darwin, the leopard tortoise. The end.


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WFH–Working from Hawaii

In geography, the antipode of any place on Earth is its antipodal point; that is, the region on the Earth’s surface which is diametrically opposite to it. Two points which are antipodal to one another are connected by a straight line through the centre of the Earth.

In February I went to Hawaii. The antipode of Honolulu is in smack in the middle of Botswana, which isn’t actually very far from us. So if I drove up the road to Botswana and parked the landy and got out our shovel and started digging and digging and digging and if I got all the way through and if I could withstand super hot temperatures and a lot of ocean on my head, I would be in Hawaii. Instead I got on a 35 hour flight from Johannesburg to Honolulu.


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I went to Hawaii for one reason; the best reason – to see my family. My only nephew who I had never met was turning two. I hadn’t seen my brother or my parents in yonks and Russell was kind enough to let me go and Sam offered to man the fort at Lajuma. So off I went to WFH – work from Hawaii.

And I did work. I got things done that I never had time to do at Lajuma such as reading papers and writing an information pack for our new Research Assistants. I also had time to work on my PhD application.

In between WFHing I did a lot of enjoying being with my family and seeing Oahu. Here are a few pics.

Check out the amazing 2nd birthday cake that Jen made!


At the zoo.                                            Eating lobster!

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At Diamond Head with Mum.                 The view of Waikiki from the top.

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Visiting Pearl Harbour.


Luau!                                                    Japanese temple.


Making wax seals with Dad for my wedding invitations.