Hluhluwe again

Flying ants, black rhino, wild dogs and a magic unidentified raptor.

Plus impressive thunderstorms, pelting rain, dry stream beds that ended up running merrily. The Hluhluwe river changed from dry sandy bed to quite a brown torrent between Friday night and Sunday morning.

I thought ‘Augur Buzzard’ as I stopped the car just outside the reserve cattle grid gate on the main road. Three raptors were soaring in the wind welling up from a little ridge on the north of the road, right overhead.

Pale leading edge, rust-coloured trailing edge, black ‘fingers’; A falcon-like head pattern (yet not quite) and the size of a YBK or a marsh harrier). Soaring and diving spectacularly. Saw the underside mainly. Upperside I think brown-ish. Forgot to take a photo!! Foolish!

A coucal bubbling in the rain, then listening intently till his mate or rival called then immediately hunching and bobbing into his call (The girls said “Look Dad: he’s laughing!”.

Yep, three teen girls. Who were most impressed by the buffet breakfast and most unimpressed by the massive thunderclap that banged right overhead in the wee dark hours of Saturday. “Dad, I thought the thatch was going to catch fire!” says Jess. And by the lack of wifi.

Samango and vervet monkeys with babies, bushbuck, nyala, duiker, impala, zebra, francolin, longclaws, lots of buffalo, a dozen white rhino; Two eles right at the roadside each munching a tree for breakfast; Baboon; a hippo out of water; a few giraffe.



Sand Forest

Sand Forest is a rare, very distinctive forest type with a unique combination of plant and animal species. As far as is known, this vegetation type is more or less restricted to ancient coastal dunes in northern KwaZulu-Natal and the extreme southern portion of Mozambique (together: Maputaland). Sand forest harbours many rare and unusual plant and animal species.

Sand Forest Lodge Collage2-001

Sand Forest Lodge just east of Hluhluwe village on the road to Sordwana Bay is a lovely spot. We spent two nights there this week, the kids each taking a friend along.

Sand forests are thought to be relics of coastal dune forests, which have been separated from the ocean for more than a million years as the shoreline has shifted slowly eastwards over the millennia. Dunes have accreted on the southeast African coastal plain since the Pliocene (around 5 million to 2.5 million years before present) and frequent sand mobilization events during climatic changes have resulted in some reworking of the dunes. The geological history of the region suggests that the current ecosystems here may be of recent derivation and many endemic plant taxa comply with the concept of neo-endemics (recent locally evolved species), and biological evolution (notably speciation) is still in an active phase.

Sand forest harbours many rare and unusual plant and animal species, including several Maputaland Centre endemics. Because of its restricted occurrence and unusual species complement, sand forest is perhaps the most unique plant community in the Maputaland Centre. Of the 225 Maputaland Centre plant endemic species, 30 are associated with it and 20 restricted to it. In the case of birds, Neergaard’s sunbird is strongly associated with it.

Sand Forest Lodge Lungelo Jordi (1)

Plant species that characterise sand forest (licuati forest) are Drypetes arguta, Uvaria lucida subsp. virens, Cola greenwayi, Balanites maughamii, Psydrax fragrantissima, Hyperacanthus microphyllus, Dialium schlechteri, Pteleopsis myrtifolia, Ptaeroxylon obliquum, Croton pseudopulchellus and Newtonia hildebrandtii. The protruding crowns of many of the larger species are usually covered by epiphytes, such as the wiry orchid Microcoelia exilis and various lichens including Usnea spp. (Thanks wikipedia)

Sand Forest Spider big
Jumping spider on my shoe

And boys will be boys:

Sand Forest Boys GIF


Hluhluwe LUXURY Camping!

Its a sudden decision: Let’s go to a game reserve Dad! – that’s Jess on Friday night.
OK! (I’m chuffed!). I’m working tomorrow, so you guys buy food and gather the camping stuff. Be ready when I get home at 2:30pm and we’ll go to Mkhuze. Remember the tent, mattresses, pillows, your swimming cozzies.

Cecelia helps them. Minenhle & Andile join us. As we head north to Zululand I realise we’ll be cutting it fine. The gates close at 7pm and it’s 3:30pm already, so there’s a change of plan: We’ll go to Hluhluwe/Mfolosi instead. Means no camping and no swimming.

At the gate the usual story: A pessimistic Ooh, you haven’t booked? Mpila is full. The bushcamps are full.

Keep trying, I say cheerfully. Oh! OK, I’ll try Hilltop camp. Just then the kids walk into the office and he gets interested in me and the kids, asking all sorts of adoption questions and Where’s my wife? and Is she a Zulu lady? and so tries harder when there’s no reply on the radio. Will you phone them on your cellphone? he asks me. Sure. We get thru, there’s a chalet available, we book and head off on what turns into a free night drive!

Tom spots an elephant running towards the road ahead of us, ears flapping. I slow down and it turns onto the tar road and walks determinedly towards us, causing great panic on the back seat. We reverse and wait, reverse and wait, giving it plenty of space, till he eventually finds a mud wallow, drinks and heads off into the bush, allowing us to proceed. It’s dark now and later on two more eles loiter on the road and we just wait patiently. All the kids have watched the videos of the elephant flipping the car, so they’re nervous and don’t want to go anywhere near eles. 

At Hilltop they’re waiting for us, they give us our key and bring us an extra set of bedding and towels for the fifth body. Bleeding luxury.

Hlu Feb'14 (52)
– girls in their element – NOT camping –

AND the big breakfast buffet in the restaurant is included.

The dawn chorus the next morning was fantastic. In that magic spell between pre-dawn and the screaming banshees waking up I made a cup of coffee and sat out on the deck listening in the half light. As the kids started waking two trumpeter hornbills landed in full view and they had a good look through my telescope. I issued a decree banning all post-5000BCE music and they just nodded, acquiescent (!)

Hluhluwe Feb '14