Category: 5 Star


Hippo's St Lucia EstuaryAfter Cape Vidal we head to St Lucia Estuary to camp at the Sugar Loaf site also one of the iSimangoliso facilities in Zululand South Africa. This camp site is very different to the Cape Vidal site in that it is located at the estuary in high coastal forest so is a lot wetter with a high moisture content so be carefully working on electronic devices in the evening.

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There is a lot of wild life here though not as tame as the Cape Vidal mammals but still good sightings of Red Duiker, Bushbuck (females mainly), Vervet and Somango monkeys, including many bird species. The vervet monkeys are just as naughty here as in Cape Vidal so again keep you food locked up in your car or trailer not in your tents as they will tear through them to get to it! Somango monkeys are rare here as well and the ring tailed Mongoose so you have less to worry about as far as food defense goes.

There are a variety of birds and at night you will hear a lot more noises from birds and of course the resident Hippo that you can observe up closely from the walkway at the entrance of the camp site. Good times to go down and photograph them are in the evening 2 hours before sunset when you have really nice soft light. The Hippos start getting active after sleeping most of the day and are now often getting out of the water to bathe in the last few rays of sunshine to warm up for the evenings grazing on the banks of the river.

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Treat yourself to a trip down the river booking at one of many of the tour operators to get up close and personal with all the activity on the St Lucia lake. There are plenty crocodiles and Hippo, which the operators take you to within a few meters of with no sign of irritation displayed by them as they have become so used to all the boats and tourist noise, which I found annoying including the skipper describing in detail the animal/bird you are observing close to a group of sleeping hippo!

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The skipper commentaries are generally good though and give you a lot of detailed information out the ecosystem in general identifying birds, trees and anything else interesting about the lake itself so very educational! This is also a photographers delight as you get up really close to most of the species in the region including fish eagles, which also seemed to have become accustomed to the boats on the river sometimes following them hoping they will exposé some tasty morsal while their props churn through the lakes waters. Check the video out we have created thanks to Advantage Hippo tours.

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Again look in between the big stuff and focus on the smaller details around you. This region is very moist and humid so you find plenty insects, butterflies, flowers and interesting trees. Remember your macro lens, tripod and shutter release for these tricky depth of field shots that make all the difference.

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Make sure you join the Rhino club and get your discounts out of season, which are well worth it often giving discounts up to 40% on the Rhino gold card at selecting reserves, boat trips etc. see http://www.rhinoclub.blog site for more details.

ARP Rating : ***** (40/40)

Overall I give St Lucia a high African Rhythm lifestyle rating as you can satisfy just about all your requirements in one week for the month. Let’s start with Social 5 (great to take friends with and camp in the large camping sites they have); Financial 5 (rates are low R85 in season and 40% off out season when on special); family 5 (great to take the whole family with for fishing, great beaches and generally safe for kids to run around even through they’d do warn you this is a game reserve and there are wild animals!); spiritual 5 (there is not much night life here besides restaurants so you are able to spend most of your time evaluating your life etc. and spending quality time on your own, meditation etc.); Intellectual 5 (there is so much to learn in this region and you have a variety of tours to select from to observe and learn from nature besides the many day hikes you can do from various points in the village); health 5 (there is so much outdoor activity here from cycling to walking along the huge wide beaches and forest walks including some great surf and kiteboarding etc.) Overall St Lucia gets full marks for offering a complete lifestyle solution if you spend one week there! Accommodation 4 (-1 for the electricity) top class plus the are also rondavels for the not so happy campers.; ECO Footprint – 5 – as this reserve is near StLucia and is not From Durban it is quite easy to get there and you do not need a 4×4 to get there.

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Cape Vidal – Swift Tern

Earlier in July we visited Cape Vidal nature reserve just north of St Lucia in northern Zululand, South Africa. As usual I am camping and must say in one of the most upmarket camping sites I have ever camped in. The ablution blocks are state of the art, tiled in slate and tastefully designed with high pressure hot showers to massage your aching muscles after a glorious day on the pristine beaches nearby.

 

The swimming here is extremely safe as a reef 50 meters out to sea creates a  natural bay, resulting in a swimming pool on the south beach at low tide with no wave action. The surf outside of this is great for surfing and when the onshore winds blow  kiteboarding! Fisherman flock to this region to fish from the beach and at this time of the year were catching numerous Elf(Shad) a few meters out from the waters edge.

 

Sitting on the beach I noticed many whales breaching in the distance other way up to Mozambique and Madagascar to breed(give birth?) before heading back down again to Antartica to fatten up once more. 


Walking around the camp site you can find numerous photographic opportunities to film stunning birds from the usual bulbul to a stunning woodepecker that seems to hand around the north side of the camp site. What’s is also amazing is how habituated the antelope are in the region with Red Duiker and Bushbuck walking up to you while seated next to your tent looking at you for a small snack, which obviously people have been doing here for a while. I personally witnessed a young boy feeding a Bushbuck biscuits with his father watching not saying anything. There are hefty fines for feeding animals in the reserves because of the problems it creates especially with children and I held back on warning them to later pull his father aside and get him to correct this situation. This habit has created a huge problem here with the vervet monkeys raiding your tents and  taking any opportunity to raid your food store so make sure you lock foodstuff away in your car or trailer not your tent as they bite through the tents to get to the food. The banded Mongoose are fortunately not a big problem here as they are in Sodwana where they come right up to you and come close to snatching food out of your hands with their razor sharp teeth! So please as cute as they are please do not feed any animals/birds etc. in any reserve anywhere in the world.

Bring your cameras and make sure you have a good zoom lens to film the birds as they are quite small from white eyes, sunbirds, ……… And be patient waiting for them to pass your way as they normally raid the trees in waves each bird eating what it prefers from small aphids to worms then monkeys follow eating fruit etc. including the rare Somango monkeys, which are also a bit of a pest here, which is unusual as they are normally extremely shy.


Remember to do your shopping in St Lucia as there is only a small shop here with a few basic items, no vegetables, meat etc. some wine but no beer.

 

What is amazing is that nobody plays any music in the campsite – maybe they do but so quietly you do not hear them, which is unusual for camp sites frequented by fisherman! Thanks for respecting other people in a campsite as the is no way everyone will enjoy your music, which tends to happen in most camp sites I go to.

 

Once you leave the campsite or whey of are ere do a game drive on the loop road, which takes you along the shores of the St Lucia Estuary where you are able to get out at various view sites. The northern region has wetlands and plenty of geese and water birds then as you again head south you come across game and when I was there in July was green after a bush fire, which resulted in some amazing photographs for winter in a reserve. 

 

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Overall rating : 35/40 – *****  

 

This is a Reserve I highly recommend and  star ratings are as follows : Social 5 (great place to have your friends join you); Family 5 ( safe beaches and great fun for the entire family) ; Financial 3 ( a little pricy but this is quite upmarket for a camp site) ; Spiritual 5 ( plenty of time to spend on your own playing music, meditating, healing with no distractions) ; Health 5 ( bring your surfboards, boogy boards, kite boards, snorkeling kit, running or walking gear) ; Intellectual 3 ( if you take an interest in nature the diversity of nature here is mind boggling from amazing trees to stunning birds, butterfly, insects and various game from antelopes to monkeys.); Accommodation 4 (-1 for the electricity) top class plus the are also rondavels for the not so happy campers.; ECO Footprint – 5 – as this reserve is near StLucia and is not From Durban it is quite easy to get there and you do not need a 4×4 to get there.

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Soswana

Sodwana Bay Sunset


This week I find myself in Sodwana for the annual Scuba Diving photographic Shootout, which forms part of the new festival iSimangoliso has begun to promote and sponsor. Great to see the locals getting involved with all the activities from running marathons to games etc. Not so great thought the harassment of the car park attendants who just put a damper on things. This was supposed to be illegal within the park but for some reason iSimangoliso authorities is again allowing it with the result attendants are asking international people to pay R50 for parking! I chose not to go kiteboarding because of this and probably will not be back as I do not trust their intentions especially the way it has been managed with three to four characters badgering you to let them look after your car and they are the only possible people who could possibly do anything to the cars anyway!

Anyway besides this a great week was had by everyone and some superb scuba diving was had by all with some amazing winning photographs entered, which you can see on the official website : http://www.shootout.co.za/Shootout2012/Info.aspx

I entered the Video documentary category and managed to come second in, which I have posted to YouTube if you would like to watch.

The one aspect I have always loved about Sodwana over the many years I have been. Coming here is the Campsite, which is spacious with each site having plenty privacy. Sodwana is part of the Elephant coast so it has very much the same fauna and flora as the rest of the region from Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique to St Lucia in the south being the second most diverse flora in Africa second to the Western Cape . The one thing it does have though is some incredible scuba diving rated very highly as one of the top international dive sites. This is a great region to visit as you are able to see the big 6, which included whales then of course there are dolphin, whale sharks, manta and sharks you can also snorkel and dive with.

One of my favorite past times though is walking around the camp site and it is stunning at this time of the year being spring time. Just about every tree is flowering at the moment with new bud growth giving you incredible photographic opportunities. I would recommend to anyone doing the photographic Shootout to hone their skills in the camp site especially using macro finding the various small insects, butterfly and flowers to perfect your 3D perception to locate small organisms and depth of field skills for the competition.

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Drongo

The bird life is also pretty good here though very elusive but very vocal in the mornings, which is great to wake up to. Here is recording I made of some of the mornings celebrations…….. Http

Vervet Monkeys

Doting Vervet Monkeys


As far as wild life goes not much to be seen besides a single red duiker, which was very elusive not like the ones in Cape Vidal. Could possibly be because I noticed a few of the vervet monkeys had bad injuries, which look like snare related. They are a major pest here so I hope it is not the campers, who I have noticed are using Katie’s and even paintball guns to scare them off! Ad naughty as they are they are still great photographic subjects and just love the expressions in these photos, showing a multitude of emotions.

How can so many people not realize that we are all very similar in many ways and we are not the chosen ones sitting at the top of the pyramid but alongside these wonderful creatures who love and dote and ponder and you can see in the pics? I have even had experiences underwater where you know the fish is watching you with a curious eye sizing you up and you wonder just what is going through their minds? I am reading a great book on this issue at the moment related to this by ….. Ecologicial Intelligence For the second time and will probably need a third read to grasp it all and will have to say on this subject in the near future.

Sodwana is a great place to be but stay in the camp site and feel the energy and get close to nature to get back to your roots.

Overall ARL( African Rhythm Lifestyle) rating : 38/40 *****

This is also one of the top range ARP lifestyle regions we recommend for the following reasons : Social 5 (There is so much to do here with friends from sports events to having fun to the early hours of the morning); Family 5 ( Sodwana is reasonably safe so you do not need to worry about kids , the sea is relatively calm in the bay for swimming snorkeling etc.) ; Financial : 5 (Can be expensive if you eat out and embibe a lot so rather purchase your own goods and camp, which is why I have given it a 5 rating. If you stay in self catering and other options are fairly priced! ) ; Spiritual 5 ( plenty of time to spend on your own playing music, meditating, healing with no distractions) ; Health 5 ( There is so much to do here from walks along the pristine beaches to cycling to Mbazwane, course scuba, surfing etc.) ; Intellectual 5 ( if you take an interest in nature the biodiversity of nature here is very high and there are various companies like Reef Teach that offer courses; Accommodation 4 ( campsite clean, ablutions not so great, has electricity -1); Eco Footprint 3 (-1 fuel (to get to the beach you have to drive, which can add up through the week(s) you are there); electricity -1).

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Fore more information on African Rhythm go to : http://www.africanrhythm.biz

Liliacea flowers in Techobanine region

Flora 2nd most Biodiverse in Africa

Ponta do Ouro is well know for Scuba diving, whales, dolphins and pristine beaches not forgetting the late night party festivities. There is however more to Ponta than this and and important issue why I have spent the majority of the past 24 months being a gypsy in this region. The one major issues that many people overlook is the biodiversity of the life on land here from the bird life to butterflies, lizards, sand forests, ghosts crabs, frogs etc. you name it!

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Close and personal with Praying Mantis

What’s more is this biodiversity is around where ever you are in Ponta and especially noticeable if you are camping in the main Tandje campsite. Here you have opportunities to photograph, as I have, awesome colorful Tree Agama that run around catching insects to Lizard Buzzards who they have to keep an eye out for as they dart between trees. The leaves of the Mahogony trees in the campsite are great places for the butterflies to lay eggs, to go through metamorphis and continue the cycle offering you fantastic opportunities to photograph, so do not forget your cameras when planning a trip here.

There are various venues that are great for viewing birds, Somango monkeys, lizards once more like at Mango restaurant above the camp site while you enjoy a healthy wrap or a sundowner after a active day on the glorious sunny beaches here. In fact I have photographed birds all over the region where there are trees especially Mango, Paw Paw and indigenous trees flowering further south to the bush campsite Phambuka…. to the houses you can rent on the dunes in the north all the way to Malongane… Techobanine. The more further to the interior you go the more it improves offerings you opportunities to view wildlife such as Hippo, Crocodiles, Elephant and Fish Eagles to name a few major species. This area is very similar to Cape Vidal and forms part of the Elephant coast Ecosystem with it’s southern border being St Lucia, a wetland system with an incredible amount of biodiversity that you will find in very few places in the world. The Special Maputo Elephant reserve is being united with two other reserves within this system, namely Tembe and Ndumo, which are extremely worthwhile visiting ( blogs to follow). The Elephants in Tembe will be able to unite with the ones in the Maputo Elephant reserve, which they have probably been commuting with since they were separated many years ago when war broke out in Mozambique as they are able to communicate over 70 kilometers.

The war in Mozambique was probably a blessing in disguise for the biodiversity in the region, unfortunately not for any mammals but this should soon be resolved and numbers should soon increase with the reintroduction of species in the Maputo Elephant reserve and the Futi corridor, which will unite the two reserves bringing the big five to the region. Ponta do Ouro will be a small island on the coast outside of this reserve where you can continue to scuba dive on pristine biodiverse reefs, with ubundant fish life, Whales, Mantas, Whale Sharks, Zambezi Sharks, Dolphin etc. making it one of the most destinations to head to where I’m one day you can view the oceans abundance then the big five on land in the afternoon! I certainly do not know many regions where one can do this… even Sodwana cannot compete including St Lucia/Cape Vidal!

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It is so important to preserve this heritage, one of the few remaining biodiverse regions in the world that when the Mozambique government decided to announce a deep water harbour development in Techobanine, 20kilometers north of Ponta resulted in a major outcry from conservationists around the world especially when there is a process in place to make it a World Heritage site. This is still a threat so please join us by signing the petition on http://www.aquaterramovement.org

There are great sporting activities as well besides scuba diving and fishing being Surfing( January to July) and Kite boarding(August to November) actually most times of year but these are consistently good as specified. Check the website out for more information http://www.pontinfo.com then like their Facebook page to be kept up to date with events in the region http://www.facebook.com/PontInfo

Overall ARL (African Rhythm Lifestyle) rating : 47/50 *****

This is by far the top of the range ARP lifestyle regions we recommend for the following reasons : Social 5 (There is so much to do here with friends from sports events to having fun to the early hours of the morning); Family 5 ( Ponta is very safe so you do not need to worry about kids , the sea is very calm in the bay for swimming snorkeling etc.) ; Financial : 5 (Can be expensive if you eat out and embibe a lot so rather purchase your own goods and camp, which is why I have given it a 5 rating. If you stay in self catering and other options can be pricy! ) ; Spiritual 5 ( plenty of time to spend on your own playing music, meditating, healing with no distractions) ; Health 5 ( There is so much to do here from walks along the pristine beach to Malongane or around the point to the SA border and of course scuba, surfing etc.) ; Intellectual 5 ( if you take an interest in nature the biodiversity of nature here is very high and there are various companies like Dolphin Encounters( see Ponta Info website above) that offer volunteer courses); Accommodation 4 ( campsite clean, ablutions not so great, has electricity -1); Eco Footprint 3 ( not easy to get to -1 fuel; electricity -1).

Fore more information on rating system see our website : African Rhythm go to : http://www.africanrhythm.biz

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