Think you’re cut out for a road trip? Take the quiz!

Road trips are heaps of fun, especially in Africa. Take our quiz to see what kind of road tripper you are.

There are some incredible places to see in Southern Africa. Some require a fair bit of effort to get to, while others require no effort at all.

We enjoy our long, three week road trips as much, if not more so, than a quick weekend away. If you choose, a road trip can be anything from a few nights away at different lodges or hotels. It can also consist of thousands of kilometers staying in places with no water, no electricity and no fences.

Whatever type of trip you choose, adventure and excitement lie ahead, that much cannot be argued.

Remember, even when things go bad, it’s still a part of the fun.

AfriShots has been on a few road trips in Southern Africa and we’ve written a series, or two, right here. You can read about our first two below:




Of Dung and Beetles – Terrible Tourists

Dung Beetle

Dung Beetle – Marakele National Park

Have you been to a self drive reserve and noticed how much dung there seems to be on or near the roads? Have you also noticed the tyre tracks that very often seem to flatten the dung?

I recall many years back speaking to a a family in the Kruger National Park who made it a game to flatten as much Elephant dung as they could.

This is a terrible idea and I urge everyone to make it a habit to avoid as much dung while driving as you possibly can.

There are two reasons for this and I’ll start with the least important; Elephants have incredibly bad digestive systems, hence them having to eat so much each day. This can lead to undigested sharp sticks and thorns being hidden amongst the dung. The chances of you getting a puncture is pretty high!

The most important reason is the wildlife. Insects, great and small, all make up the ecosystem needed for the big game species to survive.

Even dung is a vital source of food for flies, dung beetles and a host of other creatures. By driving over and flattening the dung, you’re also killing countless insects and micro organisms.

The African bush is about more than the big five and a healthy respect for all of life is needed to ensure we have something to hand over to our children.

Please be vigilant and avoid the poop!




Cecil: Are we angry about the right thing?

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I have sat quietly watching the discussion about the killing of Cecil the lion and taking in arguments from both sides. It’s now about time I added my own two cents.

Let me start by saying I do not like hunting. I have never, and will never, take the life of an animal unless it is absolutely necessary, and the only way I see it being necessary is when my own life is in danger.

One of the things that makes me really happy about this whole situation is how much of an outcry has been created as a result of Cecil’s shooting. Social media and news agencies have really made this a big deal. I do wonder, however, if they’re not focusing on the wrong issues here.

Let’s take the name Cecil out of the equation. A regular hunter shot a regular lion. I am not against hunting. I know enough about conservation and the gene pool to know there is a place for it, when controlled correctly.

What I am not okay with is the hunting of an endangered species. Yes, lions are endangered. Not as much as rhino or elephant, however, they are still endangered.

When I say I think most people have been focusing on the wrong issues I mean two things; why is there not a bigger outcry against the two people in custody who made this ‘hunt’ possible. They are the vile, despicable human beings who allegedly lured Cecil out of the safety of his protected reserve in order for the hunt to take place. They are the scum who did whatever it took for the sake of their pay day.

Yes, Walter Palmer killed Cecil, eventually, yet this was made possible by these other two who, had they not been locked up, would have slept like babies that night and would no doubt, go to the same lengths in the future.

The other big issue I have with this situation is it wasn’t actually a hunt. This was poaching and for that I say lock them all up and throw away the key.

I’m going to really stretch the imagination here and say, hypothetically, that Cecil was not world famous. The permit to hunt him was obtained legally without any sort of bribery and corruption and the issuing of the permit was based solely on conservation recommendations.

The permit that was issued was for a neighboring farm, not the Hwange National Park. In order for this particular lion to be hunted, he had to be lured outside of his home reserve and to me that is unacceptable.

My reason for this article is purely to show that this is a very complicated discussion. Good arguments can be made by people both for, and against, hunting. The rage felt by the international community should not be directed at Walter Palmer, or other hunters, for the act of hunting. In this situation it should be directed at Walter Palmer and his accomplices for the unethical and illegal manner in which they took this lions life.




[Road Trip 2013] Crakes and the Bird Whisperer

Crakes

Chuck & Norris

Sitting in our campsite at Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi Strip, Namibia, on our 2013 Road Trip we took it upon ourselves to do a little bird spotting. On that particular day we encountered countless birds and identified more than twenty different species, one of which was a Crake (see above).

Jason, sitting there with his iPad and the Sasol Birding app started going through the various calls of the birds we were identifying and when he played the call of the Crake, we heard a return call coming from the reeds not too far off from the tents.

He repeated the call and each time it was returned from the reeds until, after not too long, three little Crakes emerged to see who was stumbling around in their neighbourhood.

They appeared rather dismayed, after circling the camp a number of times, at their misfortune for having not found the intruder. Every day, and multiple times each day, they returned to see if the stranger had reappeared.

In the spirit of AfriShots, we give every regular visitor a name and as there we three of them we decided on Chuck, Norris and Rocks…har har!

Norris was an incredibly friendly little fellow and had no problem coming close to us while looking for the estranged Crake. Even as we were breaking camp on our last morning, the friendly little trio came to see us off.

Norris had been up to some mischief the night before and had his beak and legs covered in black but he was there to wave us off as we pulled out of the campsite.

Those were the first three friends we made on the trip.

 




AfriShots and 2012

 

AfriShots Logo

With everything that has happened this year we thought it would be a good time to have a post where we get to reflect on what has happened, and how far we’ve come, in the past year.

I’m going to start by saying thank you. Thanks to everyone who has supported us and our efforts this  year, thank you to everyone on twitter and the ever-growing following on Facebook. Thank you to friends, co-workers and fans for your incredible support for our calendar project and thank you to everyone who is helping and supporting us with the transition into a Non-Profit Organisation.

2012

AfriShots started at the back end of 2011, yet it wasn’t until January 2012 when we conducted our first review.
Since then the way in which we rate lodges has changed completely. We started off by making a blog post, right here, on our trip and sending a link to the lodge. Now, we have a full on report system that gets emailed directly to the lodges. We’ve been very lucky in that over the whole year, we’ve only had one bad lodge experience.

A few months back we noticed that two people liked our Facebook page and they were both from the same reserve in Parys (not too far from Johannesburg). One day when we were in the area we decided to stop by, unannounced, and see what the reserve was like. It was an incredible feeling to pull up at the gate and have them known exactly who we were and why we were there. We very much look forward to spending a few nights on the reserve.

In 2012 we also made the decision to award a Lodge of the Year certificate to the lodge that impressed us. This year that went to Thakadu River Camp in Madikwe Game Reserve. Thank you to all the staff of the lodge for not only welcoming us back for our second visit the way they did, but for giving us an experience that made is want to return again and again. At the same time we awarded an ad hoc certificate to Tshepiso for Field Guide of the Year for the incredible drives he took us on.

We’ve had some incredible experiences in the bush this year, and some hair-raising ones too. There is never a dull moment when travelling in the African bush and we are super excited to do it all again in 2013.

Calendars

Along with the growing urge to make a difference we decided to launch a competition to decide on pictures to use and compile a calendar, the proceeds of which are to be donated to a sanctuary, charity or organisation directly involved in rhino conservation.

The winners of the competition, who will be receiving a calendar each are:

  • Joanne O’Callaghan
  • Pierre Lombard
  • Ferlicia Ward
The sales of the calendars are going incredibly well, thank you to everyone who has supported this effort.
Our negotiations with our originally chosen beneficiary came to a stand-still so we have had to approach another organisation (who would have thought someone would show little, to no, interest in receiving money?!) and once I have confirmation from them, we will go public with who will be receiving the proceeds of these calendars.

NPO & 2013

The idea of the calendars sparked some very interesting debates and they resulted in the decision to formulate an NPO under the AfriShots name. This is a slow process as we want it done right, however we have not only got the Board of Directors together but this week finalised the constitution and application and will be sending that off very soon.

In the coming year we are looking forward to taking AfriShots to new heights and locations. We will start accepting members soon and hosting a number of awareness events where both members, and the general public, can get involved not only in what we do as AfriShots, but get some hands-on experience in the conservation industry. Our very first event will be a social one in the first quarter of 2013 to celebrate our NPO registration and give everyone the chance to see who is behind AfriShots.

Get Involved

We love hearing from you and want to encourage you to keep posting to Facebook, Twitter and here on the website. Share your pictures, stories and interesting locations you’ve been to. If you know of anyone involved in conservation please let us know, we’d love to speak to them and promote their activities.

If you’d like to give more, we’re always looking out for people who can help us grow, from web designers to article writers so please get in touch with us.

Happy Holidays

If you’re traveling this holiday season, please stay safe on the roads and at your destinations.

We wish you all a very happy holiday season. May 2013 be bigger and better than this year for all of you. Please stay safe.

– AfriShots

 

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AfriShots has a Board

NPO

Last night we had our first official Board Meeting as AfriShots and at the same time reached a few large milestones.

We finalised various policies, appointed the Board of Directors and completed the application for NPO registration which we hope will be sent off very soon.

We are moving forward very nicely and are planning some exciting features and events for
both AfriShots and everyone who supports our cause.

Our meeting was interrupted briefly by a little bat who got lost and flew into the house but we can happily report that it was released to continue taking care of our mosquito problem!




From Trying to Doing

Background

Afrishots was founded back in 2011 for the purpose of sharing our passion and pictures of they wonderful world we live in and to try and create awareness of the plight some of these species face. With our 2013 Calendar entering the final stages and nearing print, we’ve been inspired both by this, and the feedback we’ve received, to take Afrishots in a whole new direction.

Over the next few months you are going to see a change in how we do things. Not what we do, just how we do them.

We’ve spent the last few weeks pouring over legislation, compiling documents and gathering facts to get ready to turn Afrishots into a Non-Profit Company.

What does this mean?

There are so many people, companies and organisations out there doing their best to save and protect wildlife of all sizes and they need all the help they can get. It is with that in mind that we have made the decision to transform into a non-profit organisation to raise funds and awareness for these amazing people.

By forming an NPC, we hope to sell products of a wildlife and conservation nature and host events to raise funds. We will then be bound by the law to donate the profits to other organisations and causes.

What happens now?

The process of applying for NPC approval can be a long one so in the mean time we are going to start transforming the way we do things to be in line with the Constitution we have developed and go all out with our efforts so once we have been approved, and receive our NPC number, it will just be a case of “business as usual”.

We are going to operate in a manner that promotes transparency, in that our organisation guidelines and policies will be publicly available on our website so anyone can measure us against the goals and targets we’ve set. Once a year we will nominate two charities who will receive the funds we’ve raised through that financial year through the sale of products (for example our 2013 Calendar) and fund raising efforts.

This also means we will be taking on more members to help us market our brand and create awareness.

Please watch this space, very exciting changes are taking place and we’ll keep you up-to-date on all of them!

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Thakadu Does It Again

Thakadu Awards

This weekend we were honoured to revisit Thakadu River Camp in Madikwe and took the opportunity to present two certificates: One of distinction to the lodge for the categories of Staff and Game Activities and a Certificate of Merit to Tshepiso for making every game drive one to remember.

Thank you to an outstanding lodge for making every visit magic.

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An Elephant Never Forgets…Neither Will We!

When it comes to trip reviews, I don’t usually like to post about a place we’ve already reviewed (unless there have been noticeable changes, good or bad), however, this weekend’s trip to Pilanesberg National Park and more specifically, this morning, definitely warrants a write up.

We camped at Bakgatla Campsite and were very happy with our stay. The reserve itself was much unchanged by way of our experience: complete lack of discipline on the roads (both by the public as well as the tow-truck drivers…sorry, tour guides).

That’s not what this article is about though so I wont get into all that, again.

I’m going to start off by saying that I don’t like elephants. I really don’t. Not that I don’t like them as such, nor am I unhappy about them being elephants (large, strong and temperamental). I just don’t like to see them up close from the “safety” of my own car. Too many bad experiences. From a distance I am very happy to sit there and watch them go about their daily routine, just as long as they don’t get too close.

So much for that idea! Today while poodling around Pilanesberg we noticed a few elephants on a hill to our right which we could easily get to via a link road and best of all, the tow-truck drivers (I do apologise, tour guides) hadn’t found them yet. We set off on our merry way and, as expected at that time of day, found a queue of cars watching them already. The road was very narrow so we nudged along with the rest of the cars but sadly, we didn’t get a very good view.

We moved along, planning the rest of our route to get us back in time to break camp and head home. Not too far down the road we came across a good sized male elephant (with only one tusk) marching towards the road ahead of us. We had a car in front of us who stopped to allow the bull enough space to cross ahead of us and we stopped up behind.

On reaching the road, he stopped and started walking towards both cars. As we usually do, we backed up. We have been advised on two courses of action in this scenario: a) reverse slowly and b) stop the car and let him walk past. I’m sorry but have you seen the size of a fully grown male?! I hadn’t yet had the stones to actually park up and wait to see if an elephant is going to just walk past or compact the car (have you seen that email floating around about what the elephant did to a car in that same reserve?).

The car infront of us, in all his wisdom, not only tried to reverse into me a number of times but also tried to squeeze past. Now a Toyota Fortuner isn’t exactly a small vehicle, so how he planned to get past me on that narrow section of road I have no idea.

By this stage there were a few cars behind us who were all interested in getting close for a good view. The road widened a bit and the bull stopped to eat for a few minutes. I pulled to the side and let the other cars past, including a tow-tr…tour guide in a large truck full of guests.

The elephant started for the cars again knowing full well that we were all rather nervous and I’m sure he was having a great time bullying us. With that in mind, I now know why a male elephant is called a bull (insert cheesy laugh here).

Pilanesberg Elephant

By this stage I’d had about all I can take of this elephant and reversed past the other cars so I could do a 3-point turn, which ended up needing about 15 points. Heading back in the other direction and back at the narrow stretch of road we come across some other cars, stopped looking at the first set of elephants. One particular gentleman expected me to squeeze past him on, I kid you not, a metre of road that was between him in the middle of the road and a nasty ditch on the verge.

Anyway, when we eventually convinced him to move over we hadn’t gone a hundred metres when we find another elephant in the road. Lovely, now we’re boxed in. I thought it was a female but I don’t know for sure. She then starts playing/fighting (again I’m not sure) with what I assumed was another large male right in front of us.

African Elephant

What an amazing thing to watch, especially how they almost caressed each other with their trunks at the beginning. I again became very nervous when they started edging down the road towards us. By then the other cars behind us had moved off so I engaged my trusty reverse gear and start backing up. They weren’t bothered by us, however, they were between me and an elephant free area so I wasn’t too happy. We back up to another car and start reversing past him. Again I plan a 3-point turn to head in the other direction. The other cars were long gone so I figured the bull had moved off and let them through.

As we pull abeam the other car, I check my mirrors again to make sure I’m on track and not about to end up in a ditch. Guess who is walking down the road straight towards us? Now there are two cars next to each other, roudy elephants in front and a determined male bounding straight for us behind. Are you kidding me?!

The other car then started up and pulled ahead of me so we weren’t blocking the road and we sit. One eye on the two in front and the other watching all my mirrors fill with a large male elephant. That must be one of the first times in my life I have found myself without any options and it wasn’t great.

The bull continued walking up to us until he was right behind the car. I could count the individual hairs and if I hadn’t been shaking so bad, probably the pores in his skin. At the last instant he veered off and walked past us. He was close enough that if he’d swayed even slightly he would have bumped the car.

Once he was slightly ahead of the car ahead we both reversed, slowly at first, picking up pace once we were out of sight of the herd. Another 15-point turn and we were on our way to safer ground.

What a morning, and that was all within an hour of setting out on our drive. I still don’t like elephants and now I really don’t want to get up close. Quite possibly, if we had stayed put when the bull had first started stalking the cars, he would have gone right past. I still don’t know if I could put myself in that situation. Call me chicken.

If anyone out there has any similar experiences, or advise on how they would have (or we should have) handled the situation, we would love to hear from you.

It’s been a long post and if you’ve lasted this far, thank you for reading

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Game Viewing Guidlines

We have been very lucky over the last month to have spent three out of four weekends staying in game parks. I can’t get enough of being out in the bush and as someone who will spend every opportunity in the car, or on walks, watching and photographing nature and everything about it, it is my responsibility to respect the environment I place myself in. Sadly, over the last month, I have noticed that there are a large number of people out there that don’t do the same, and that’s what has prompted me to write this post.

I cannot understand how people can go out into a park, or reserve, and show such disrespect for the people sharing the environment with them, but more importantly for the environment itself. This past weekend we were in Pilanesberg National Park and yes, there was a massive golf competition just down the road so it was a lot busier than usual, however, that in my opinion is no excuse for what I saw.

Just one of the many examples, a father and his children driving behind us as we entered the park on our last day. I could see I was holding him up, so I move aside and let him past. I wasn’t expecting a thank you, so when it never came I wasn’t surprised. He would then stop and watch a herd of the various animals we saw, blocking off the entire road and making sure no-one could get past in either direction. If you spend enough time in South African parks you get to see this a lot. To then add insult to injury, Mister Father and his spawn start shouting and hooting at the animals to get their attention and prompt some sort of reaction. One instance was with an African Elephant and Mister Father can be very grateful the elephant was not closer to the road as they would not have had such a peaceful drive were that any different. Another herd where he did the same ended up stampeding into the bush because of him hooting and shouting.

This happened many times with Mister Father and I know this because I was stuck behind him, unable to get passed for probably forty minutes.

If you are the driver of a silver Land Rover Discovery 4 (Registration HKR744NW) and were in the park this past Sunday, I hope the next time the elephant is much closer when you pull those stunts and you get what you deserve. Please note your actions have not gone unnoticed and we have reported you to the Park’s Board.

If you are going to spend time in our parks, please follow some simple guidelines to make your stay more pleasurable and to show the due respect to the animals around you and the people sharing the park with you.

  • If you are holding up traffic behind you, please pull over and let the people past. Not everyone wants to see what you see, nor is driving in someone’s dust particularly comfortable.
  • The parks have speed limits, stick to them! This is for your safety and that of the animals. In Marakele a few weeks back we came across someone who came screaming around a blind corner and then still had the nerve to complain about not spotting anything.
  • If you have stopped at a sighting, the parks issue some guidlines, please read them. They ask you to please park on the side of the road where the animals are. This frees up half the road for people to drive past who do not want to stop.
  • Please turn your engines off. Trying to enjoy the peace of a scene with the background drone of a car engine is not appealing.
  • DO NOT hoot at the animals!
  • Don’t stay in the middle of the road when another vehicle is headed towards you. If you both move over slightly, it is less of a deviation for any one car.
  • Please don’t drive over the dung in the roads. Elephant’s have bad digestive systems and this means you could very easily end up with a stick going through your tyre. More importantly: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Just because it’s poop doesn’t mean its waste. Dung beetles and other insects use this for their nurseries and they have to get it from somewhere. Yes, bugs are important for the environment too.
  • Please don’t pull up and block someone else’s view. If someone has spotted something before you, please show some respect and don’t pull up in their line of sight of the animal.
  • If you use hides and lookouts, there are signs all over the place asking for silence. Please respect this and keep your steps light and you communication to a hushed whisper
The last part of my rant is to the field guides of Ivory Tree Lodge,  Sheperd’s Tree Lodge and Mankwe Safaris in Pilanesberg. I am very envious of people who get to spend their days doing what I only wish I had the means to do. That envy came to a sudden grinding halt this weekend. You disgrace your profession.
I have no problem with you using radios to communicate so you can get your clients to the best sightings possible, however, you as guides are supposed to promote respect for the environment and other users. Lead by example, no? Our sighting of an Elephant near Pilanesberg Central on Sunday morning was all but ruined by the tow-truck driver like mentality. For my international readers, the tow trucks in South Africa are like savage scavengers. The elephant started getting very close to the game vehicle in front of us who had to reverse, causing us to do the same. I could only go so far because of two other game drive vehicles parked side by side, blocking the road behind me. I for one will NOT be staying at any of your lodges nor would I ever recommend anyone take one of your game drives.