Mala Mala, South Africa
I traveled to South Africa as a tour guide/naturalist during November
and December of 2009.
I led two different groups of guests from the U.S. deep into the
bushveldt region of northeast South Africa, about 40 miles from the
border of Mozambique.
Flying into the bush, we were met by our game ranger/field guide and
taken to the Mala Mala Main Camp,
a five star resort built in the middle of one of the most wild places
still left on earth. This page
chronicles some of the sightings during two weeks in the wilds
of the "dark continent."
Me with the part of the first group at Johannesburg airport.
This is about the largest plane that can land at the private field
in the bush.
Getting ready for take-off.
I had made friends with captain and got to enjoy the trip from the
jumpseat in the cockpit.
Flying over the province of Mpumalanga.
This is how a lion says "Back off!"
At the watering hole.
Lions are incredibly sleepy animals.
A well manicured hairdo.
As you can see, we get pretty close to the animals.
Lions often sleep as much as 22hrs per day.
The world is a lion's scratching post.
The territorial roar of a lion comes from his diaphragm and is much
like the mooing of a cow.
Members of the Styx pride.
Framing up the shot.
Creating the next generation of lions.
On the hunt at night.
Lion walking past the camp's vehicle gates. Notice the night guard
peeking out the door.
These two male lions are originally part of a pride of five males born
during the same period. They
are incredibly territorial and particularly violent. While the other
three males have moved east into Kruger
National Park, collectively these five lions have killed (and often
eaten) 53 other lions. The killed four
two year old cubs during my time there. The strategy is to kill of
any offspring not your own. This will cause
the female to go into estrous and then mate with you, passing on your
Two females who were breeding with the two males above.
Two of these females were among the casualties during my stay.
The Sand River.
Big bull mock-charging the vehicle. This is all the way zoomed out
with a 28mm lens!
Again, we didn't have to struggle to see these animals from a distance.
Covered with red clay.
Pretty rough skin.
We visited during the beginning of the rainy season.
Cliff and Linda, my second group on safari, viewing a herd of elephants
from close range.
Elephant wrestling match.
Elephant grazing along river bed.
Elephants crossing the river.
We spent more than half an hour watching this herd of about 30 elephants
splash and play in the water.
The river depth had increased substantially because of the three days
of rain earlier in the week.
This type of wildlife viewing is incredibly rare.
Leopard with a young male impala.
This leopard climbed into a tree carrying a freshly killed impala to
avoid a persistent hyena.
All of the big predators at Mala Mala were being darted with rabies
vaccine. Here the ranger is adjusting the air pressure
for the proper range and velocity.
The leopard before darting.
A "Crash" of rhinos.
Early morning fog in camp.
Overlooking the river from my back door.
Klipspringers in the distance.
The group posing on an ancient lead wood tree.
Enjoying a soak.
Three "dugger boys". After the bulls become too old to mate,
they form their own small herd, usually two or three.
Life is very difficult in the wild. This buffalo calf probably got
separated from the herd during the
previous evenings heavy rains. Unfortunately for this little guy, he
is in serious trouble from the next predator
who happens to pass by.
One who didn't get away.
This buffalo was a little luckier, she survived a lion attack.
The red-billed ox-peckers normally help keep insects off the buffalo,
but in this case, they are
feasting on the dripping blood and necrotic flesh. The buffalo allows
this to happen, because it
actually helps in cleaning the wound.
A lot of battle scars from fighting other males on these horns.
These are the most prolific antelope in the area.
The "M" shaped markings on their back side is said to stand for "McDonalds",
that's because all of the predators eat them.
This male Egyptian goose is warding off another male who is flying
Brown snake eagle
Wahlberg's Eagle on the ground eating termites.
Juvenile Whalberg's eagle
Yellow billed kite.
White Faced owl
European Bee-eaters migrate from northern Europe to southern Africa
Yellow billed hornbill
Helmeted Guinea fowl
Lilac breasted roller.
This is one of the most colorful birds in the bush.
I have tried for years to get a good photo of one flying, to show their
amazing wing colors.
Unfortunately this task has been met with minimal success.
This photo shows the color fairly well but is really blurry.
This is a composite of 6 photos I took of a lilac breasted roller taking
Lilac breasted roller with a flying ant.
Here he is catching an ant.
A pair of pied kingfishers sitting and watching over the Sand River.
Giant kingfisher with a fish.
Black bellied corhant
(The go-away bird)
Saddle billed storks
Knob billed duck
White faced ducks.
A tawny frogmouth, one of the species of nocturnal bird sleeping on
a log during the day.
Sunset over Africa.
Bens, our tracker and guide, and me on top of Campbell's Kopie.
I've known Bens for nearly a decade and have the greatest respect for
This giant boulder/cliff is where the previous couple photos were taken.
A couple days after those photos were taken we saw this.
Underneath the tree on the right side, a lion is sitting in the exact
we stopped to have drinks.
The lead wood tree.
1000 years to grow, 1000 years to die, 1000 years to decompose.
One of the most elusive animals around, the pangolin.
Every time I go to Mala Mala, I tease Bens and ask him when we're going
to see an pangolin.
It is somewhat like asking when we're going to see a unicorn. This
is not only my first time
to hold a pangolin, but my first time to ever see one.
The armored plates protect this nocturnal insectivore.
It can actually move the scales across each other, acting very much
like a pair of scissors.
Needless to say, great care was taken to pick one up.
"Yeah, a pangolin!"
The egg sacks from a foam nest frog.
Foam nest frogs breeding.
African ground squirrel
Here's a squirrel who didn't quite out-smart a leopard.
Baboons eating the sweet tree sap.
Mala Mala Main Camp
While Mala Mala is a 5-star resort, this camp is nonetheless in the
middle of the wild African bushveldt.
Our air-conditioned luxury huts complete with hand-thatched rooves.
An elephant stopping by the pool for a drink.
While this may not be the best lion photo in the world, what makes
it remarkable is the fact that
it was taken from one of the lounge chairs at the pool in the above
Enjoying a couple drinks at the Buffalo Bar before dinner.
This is a good way to review the day's sightings.
A scoreboard is a good way to keep track of the viewings.
Bens is tallying the days points.
We set the record score for the month.
The thick tailed bush baby is so rare that it isn't even on the list.
The ladies singing for us during dinner in the boma.
Giant land snail.
Nile monitor lizard.
Nile monitor with a freshly caught tilapia (fish).
The courting ritual of the leopard toroise.
African rock python.
The furry butt of a thick-tailed bush baby or galago.
These animals are very difficult to spot and very rare. They are completely
nocturnal and come out
at night to feed on the tree sap. The best way to find them is to look
for their eyes deep in the thickest bushes.
Once again, being incredibly rare, I jokingly told Bens I wanted to
find one. Within three minutes of
saying that, I spotted on jumping between branches.
This is not my photo, but it will at least show you what a thick-tailed
bush baby looks like.
The group enjoying "sundowners", drinks and snacks while watching the
Giraffe and jackal both watching a pride of lions on the other side
Hippos come out of the water at night to graze.
The remnants of a young hippo who got out of the water at the wrong
Hippo prints along the river.
Eating a nyala.
This nyala was killed by a leopard earlier in the day. After gorging
on the meat,
the carcass was stolen by the hyenas. After about 8 hours of digesting
the leopards crept closer to try to steal the kill back.
This is a picture of my hand in the foreground to give perspective
of really how close I got
to witness the trials and tribulations of the natural world.
Where a bed of granite and dolerite meet.
A "journey'" of four giraffes.
An uncommon sight of a sitting giraffe.
The bumps on a giraffes head, as you can see, are bone. As they grow
older, the knobs get bigger
and help the males in their head whacking territorial battles.
An oxpecker is "de-ticking" this giraffe's head and neck.
(Look like they should be different species, don't they?)
Breakfast in the Bush
The breakfast spot overlooking the Sand River.
One of the visitors who came by during breakfast.
Putting out the fire afterwards, like a good boyscout.
Cape Hunting Dogs
Wildebeest and calf.
A "dazzle" of zebra.
If you've made it through the photos
and still want more,
here is more than 25 minutes of video clips
from the safari.