Tag Archive: iSimangoliso


Kozi Bay

Kozi Bay Fish Traps


One thing I can say iSimangoliso has got consistently right is the friendly staff at all of their reserves. On arrival there are a couple of guys offering assistance, firewood etc. at the main gate but not pushy at all. I commit myself to a guided hike to second lake as Alex (my guide) insists he knows the bush well. The next day we set out, a bit late, as the wind had been howling with plenty cloud cover, which would have ruined most of the photographs I would be taking. So when the sun does finally come out at 10ish we head out on a path into the bush heading north from the camp. Alex is in no time identifying trees and birds as we head through stunning fern forests that are mixed with some lala palms, which he says they make alcohol from the oil and explains how they tap it. He has a bird book with him in case there are birds we discover that he cannot identify. The ferns here are stunning climbing high up on tree stumps achieving great heights giving you a real jungle feel especially when accompanied by the birds chirping in the canopies. They are hard to see, but they are most definitely there.

Finally after walking for about an hour we reach the 3rd lake and walk along the banks encountering fish traps and someone’s maintenance branches, clothes etc. and finally encounter the owner walking in his jockey underpants towards us to collect some more branches. He greats us as we also wade trough the chilly water to get to the bank on the opposite side, to avoid a marshy area. Remember to take shoes that can handle hiking and water. The water is crystal clear with small fish darting around in front of you. I take some photographs of white breasted cormorants and the fish traps, which they are using to rest and dry their wings on when our maintenance man passes us on his way to expand his traps. I nearly stand on a small stunning frog who is quite happy for me to photograph, next to the salt waters edge. Not sure you find frogs in salt water but maybe this is why he never escaped into the water? Further on we come across what must be the fisherman’s younger brother who has stoked a fire and has some fish to cook being a Bream and Tilapia. Having no protein at the camp and was very tempted to purchase the fish from him but we had a long way to walk so rather left the thought thinking… they probably need it more than I do!

I am disappointed by how few birds we are encountering and finally come across a African Stonechat who is very skittish not allowing me too close, but curious. We head north towards 2nd lake along a narrow path with plenty prints of various animals including cattle! There are of course hippo in the region and when you walk through the forest walking down to the lakes will see their activity and paths they create when browsing at night. There are not many Hippo apparently for some reason and we do not see any on our hike, which is probably just as well as the area is very open and exposed with no trees to climb up!

We finally come across 2nd lake and walk along the banks of this vast expanse of salt water. Someone has a fishing boat anchored on the banks further east but we continue north west and finally come across a deep river, which we have to cross using a small pont. It has just enough space for the two of us, made out of palm stems and plastic bottles. Alex pulls us across to what I though was going to be dry land but turned out to be marshy mud we had to traverse, testing each foot in case you disappeared into what felt like quicksand. I on numerous occasions sank my 90kg’s down to knee depth and had difficulty pulling my leg out, especially with a heavy Canon 7D camera and 400mm lens hanging around my neck, making it difficult to hold onto anything while trying to yank your foot out without losing your shoe!

Finally we manage to reach the end of the muddy marsh and again head back into fresh clear water, which is quite a relief, enabling you to wash the mud out of your shoes! Again there are a lot of fresh water fish darting around and not many birds. When we do however leave the waters edge, now 2hrs into the hike, we do encounter birds as we get close to the forest edge once more. We head up a jeep track past an area where locals have been collect reeds for their hut roofs encountering quite a lot of birds along the way. We have not seen any antelope at all and I presume they have been snared and are now extinct in the region after the locals were given access to this region. Many people moved to this region when they built the tar road to the Farazela Mozambique border post putting pressure on local resources. Alex explains the fish poaching using gill nets and that they are all aware they can go to jail if they use them. His english is impeccable and hats off to the local schools as he was born in the region and went to school here in Manguzi.

As we head deeper into the forest we again encounter stunning jungle areas with ferns, palms and large trees, marshy but this time we do not have to get our feet wet as we hope from root to another. The road now is very sandy and soft under the feet making it difficult to walk up the hill as we head back to the camp. Along the way Alex again explains the edible fruit in the region such as the Black monkey Orange ( he calls it the Monkey Apple) and the difference between the Green Monkey orange , which has smaller leaves but the tree otherwise looks very similar with it’s tapering branches. The are a lot of vines in the region sometimes covering entire tree canopies enhancing the jungle experience.

My watch reminds me 3 hrs are up, which is what I contracted Alex for. We are still not near the camp however an aerial protruding out of the forest shows it is not that far off! This is quite a serious hike and I am reasonably fit so I recommend anyone doing it that is not, to give yourself more time and do not attempt it if you have any problems with your back or legs! Also take a hat and sunscreen, especially in summer.

Back in the camp site it is clean with the usual stunning hot showers that iSimangoliso have really managed to also perfect in each camp. A very strong wind however puts an end to any photography, birds etc and then the heavens open up forcing me to stay in my tent and I gain some valuable time to catch up with my various photographic chores and blog sites. Cannot wait for the sun to come out as the photographic opportunities are going to be stunning as the region was very dry needing this injection of fresh water! In between the downpours the birds are out but the light is so bad all I can manage is recording the happy chirping of the various birds in the forest below my camp site and down the Somango path nearby (campsite 10). I have used this on the background sound for the video of photographs I have taken in the region, which I will release in the future. The weather does not improve so I will have to return to complete my studies of this region in the near future.

Overall ARL( African Rhythm Lifestyle) rating : 26/40 ***

This is probably one of the not so appealing reserves I have been to for versus reasons mainly being the biodiversity limitations due to population pressure on resources and possibly lack of policing : Social 3 (not much you and your friends can do besides hiking and fishing); Family 4 ( safe swimming and great fun for the entire family) ; Financial 3 ( a little pricy for what the camp site and reserve has to offer) ; Spiritual 5 ( plenty of time to spend on your own playing music, meditating, healing with no distractions) ; Health 3 ( the only healthy activity you are able to do here is hiking so bring walking gear…no kiteboarding or sailing allowed) ; Intellectual 2 ( if you take an interest in nature the biodiversity of nature here is very low compared to the other reserves we have stayed in.); accommodation 3 ( campsite clean, ablutions great, has electricity -1); Eco Footprint 3 ( not easy to get to -1 fuel; electricity -1)

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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.

Drongo

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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Ndumo is one of the greatest birding sites in Southern Africa with over 400 birds recorded. Here I was fortunate to photograph a Fish Eagle attacking a Pelican, probably just fooling around as I do not think he had a chance on bringing it down.

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