About Me

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Dreaming of Africa
I am married, a lifelong musician, somewhat competent photographer, and world traveler. Having been around for over 60 years, I have lots of "stuff" floating around inside my head that is screaming to get out.


All photos and text on this blog are copyright 2008-2010 Norman Arnett, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted. All content not owned is used with permission and is also protected by copyright.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Under Siege - We're surrounded!

We are lucky to live in an area that has abundant wildlife. Our yard is home to many small birds, and at least one family of squirrels. The large cedar tree on the side of our house is also the home to a family of Raccoon. There have been new additions to the family each year, though the population seems to stay fairly constant.
The brown spot in the middle of the picture is their home.

A little closer

Nap time on a warm summer afternoon.
This fall we have noticed that there are now two families living in our yard, one in the regular raccoon homestead, and another group in a slightly smaller Cedar in our front yard. We enjoy having them around, and they have never been a bother. Well, that is until the past few weeks.
Open the door, and Raccoons come to beg for a handout - someone in the neighborhood is feeding them! They are not afraid of walking right up to you. This is not a good thing.

The problem came apparent a little over two weeks ago when one of the young Raccoons scaled our cat fence (first time in 5 years) and decided to come in the house for a visit. Luckily FloJo was on Guard duty that night and refused to let our uninvited guest through the cat door. We got out of bed and herded our visitor back over the fence and went back to bed. The next day we reinforced the fence and slept soundly knowing the little buggers couldn't get in now.

A few nights later we were in bed and Tricia heard the toenails clicking like a dog's across the floor. She jumped into action yelling and dashing through the house in hot pursuit of the house guest who sneaked in without the cats sounding the alarm. Down the hall towards the front door and the kitchen, Tricia quickly opened the door only to find one of his accomplices waiting to be let in. "Oh no you Don't" I heard as I followed down the hall. Luckily the house guest realized he had chosen the wrong house and made a hasty retreat out the door to his waiting friend. (Who I'm sure high-fived him for his bravery)

We are under siege! There are eyes glowing in the night all around us!
I am sure that on the two occasions since that night when the fence has been breached that our neighbors thought we were crazy yelling expletives into the dark to an unseen (to them) enemy.
The price you pay for living with wildlife. They are kind of cute, and as long as we can keep them at bay we are glad to share our yard with them.
We are planning to get an electric fence kit to deter any further incursions. Wish us luck fending off the masked marauders.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Last Day at Kruger

Our final morning in Kruger was a sad day for both of us. We didn't want this adventure to end, we needed more! I felt like an addict in search of more drugs, Kruger has become my drug of choice, and I needed to keep the high going. We dreaded the drive out of the park, and on to Jo'Berg and then America.A short distance south of Skukuza we stopped to watch a raptor attempting to pull a meal out of a hole in the side of a tree.

It was a sub-adult African Harrier-Hawk also known as a Gymnogene.It was interesting and amazing watching him contort his body and legs to reach inside the hole in the tree.
Back down the road towards the real world we pulled off and drove to the viewpoint at Mathekenyane and took a self portrait and a picture of the view of the bush.

Hopefully my self portrait is not confused with the group photos taken a little further south:

A little further down the road we saw a group of Impala, including this one who seemed to be scarred up badly, and very pregnant. I wonder if she survived an attack?

One last stop at Afsaal Traders for a snack, and then we were through the gate and back into the real world. I wish we could have stayed forever.A long journey back to Jo'Berg, followed by 26 hours in the air, and we made it home to Seattle. We were tired, drained, not looking forward to getting back to work, and missing Africa. After a couple of days we started getting back on track, though both still dreaming of the bush, and wanting to return.We are working out the details, and plan to return to Kruger for two weeks in October, 2010. Tricia and I are hooked on South Africa. We both feel free and at home in the bush, the worries of the world melt away, and the day to day rat race of the rest of the world fades quickly. Can't wait to return!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Satara to Skukuza September 24th - only one day left!

As we started our drive from Satara to Skukuza, we began to realize that our wonderful adventure was coming to an end. We kept our eyes on the bush, (and on the road) to make sure we didn't miss a thing. Not too far south of Satara we saw a few vehicles slowing in front of us. Another Hyena coming towards the road. We stopped and he crossed right in front of us. after crossing he decided to check us out.

As he got closer to the car, I was taking photos and tricia was filming with the digi-cam. Soon Tricia started quietly saying "roll up the window", each time she repeated it, she was a little louder, until I turned the key to raise the window. I got it rolled up when he was about a meter away.

We continued our drive and made another stop at Tshokwane for tea and a huge slice of carrot cake. It was very busy this time, but we still find it a wonderful rest stop. After our break we were back on the road and decided to stop at Silolweni Dam and Leeupan. We caught these Saddle-Billed Stork at Leeupan.

Our day ended at Skukuza, a booming metropolis in the bush. Too many people, too many cars, too much noise. Despite all of that, we found our bungalow, and settled in for our last night in Kruger. We decided to splurge at the restaurant for a last Kruger dinner. The service was marginal and the food was poorly prepared and poorly presented. We left disappointed.
The highlight of our stay at Skukuza was watching all of the bats under the eaves at the outdoor eating area near the cafeteria, that was special. After watching the bats coming and going, and those already roosting, we made our way back to our roost for our last night in Kruger.
It is hard to relay in words how amazing this trip was. The sights, sounds and smells of Kruger are imbedded in our minds. The amazing things we have seen and experienced are drawn in indelible ink in our hearts and souls, we will never forget, and look forward to continuing our adventure next year, and for years to come. I will make one more TR post later, with our drive down the H-3 to Malelane Gate, and back into the world.

More Satara Photos

Our stay at Satara gave us the opportunity to drive some back roads and explore at a more leisurely pace than our one night stays at the other camps. Here are more shots taken while at Satara.

2 Nights at Satara September 22 and 23, 2009

After our bush walk we were worn out, but still had much to do. Here are some more shots that I took while near Satara, most of them on the S100.

Satara was a nice stop for both of us, we felt like we could relax a little more, since we had two nights in the same place. Dinner at the restaurant was nice and relaxing, and all of the employees that we talked with were friendly and helpful. The morning of 24 September, started with the realization that we only had one more night in Kruger. It also was the point when Tricia and I decided to start planning our return in 2010 - after World Cup madness is over. As we drove through the gate we both wondered what our drive to Skukuza would bring.....more later!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Satara Camp, our home for two nights

This was nice, we actually could unpack our bags, rather than just put them in the corner for the night.

We enjoyed the birds at Satara, especially this Scops Owl, who was in a tree not very far from our bungalow. I didn't realize they were so small.

We joined a night game drive our first night, and saw 5 more African Wildcat, including one just outside the gate. The rest of the drive was Giraffe, Ellies, Impala, Zebra, Wildebeest and Kudu. We Caught sight of Genet and Civet from a distance, but couldn't get any photos again.

Back to Bungalow #A9, and a short night sleep. We had an early breakfast with this guy looking on before heading out for a drive to the Timbavati picnic area, looping back to Satara for our Afternoon Bush walk.

Firepower is a comfort when on foot in the bush.

Our walk was very interesting, though I don't know if the other three guests agreed. We saw a number of birds, learned about Hyena and Rhino Poo, and saw the usual Impala, Kudu, Wildebeest and Zebra as we walked. We made our way to a small waterhole, and on the other side, out of the brush walked two large male lion, who turned and ran as soon as they saw us. We tried to find them again after the quick glimpse, but they were gone, only leaving their paw prints in the dirt.

As the daylight faded, this was our view on the way back to camp.

After returning to camp we grabbed dinner, then headed back out for our night game drive.
This is the life. The sights, the sounds, the smells...so much it almost makes your head spin. I love it here!

More heaven and a little laundry

After being dazzled and mesmerized by eight Cheetah, and a visit to the laundry, it was time to head for Satara. Our time washing and drying clothes was actually enjoyable, as we spent it talking with a Veterinary student who is on an externship with Sanparks. Since Tricia is a Veterinarian they had a great conversation. They talked and I folded.
Birds were a big part of our trip to Kruger and the area surrounding Lower Sabie added to our African Life list. Our trip this year added 60 birds to the 102 that we saw last year in Africa.

This was one of two Secretarybirds that we saw near Lower Sabie.

A drive up the H4-1 would have not been complete without a stopping at the Nkuhlu Picnic site and meeting the proprietor Wacktazz. After all we had heard, we couldn't resist a lunch of his famous Buffalo Pies.

A little north of Nkuhlu we found that one can back down the road for long distances quite easily when being herded by a very large Bull Ellie.
One of our fun bird sightings was a group of Ground Hornbill that walked all of the way across the Sabie River bridge. We were lucky to see over 26 Ground Hornbill while in Kruger, and these really gave us a laugh as they paraded all of the way across the bridge stopping traffic for their stroll.
This little one decided to show us that he was the boss. While his mother and the others in the herd were ignoring him.As with each day before, our drive to Satara was wonderful and exciting. New things to see, and the feeling of being at home while at Kruger.
I hope that we can return many more times.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kruger day 4 - oh my god!

So far we have seen the big five, a whole lot of birds, small cats, large cats, and tons of other things, but we were not prepared for Lower Sabie.

We arrived at Lower Sabie camp late in the day, checked in and headed to our cottage on the perimeter. After dinner we took the spotting scope to the bench near the fence, watching birds and Hippos until dark, then we watched bats for a while before climbing in bed so we could wake up for our early morning game drive, little did we know what was in store for us.

4:00 AM came early, but after a light breakfast and some tea we were at the meeting area and off on our next adventure. Our small group piled into one of the big safari vehicles and we headed north along the Lower Sabie River. A little north of Sunset Dam, our driver got a radio call from the rangers who were leading the morning game walk. One of their guests had mistakenly placed her camera in our vehicle. They caught up a short time later and we gave them the camera. Their delay gave us the opportunity for a once in a lifetime sighting.

We continued north and turned around at the Causeway after getting another radio call that was too faint to make out. Our guide said we should go to find them in case they were having problems. Back past the camp and onto the S29, the Mlondozi Loop. About five km in we saw something on the right. Oh My God - Six Cheetah! a Mom and her five babies!

She had just killed an Impala and they were having breakfast.

This little guy was very curious and walked toward us to check us out.

We decided he should be named Elvis, because of his sneer!

This was amazing, we were alone with this great sighting, how could it get any better?The only sounds were mom and kids chirping, the wind blowing, a light rain coming down, and cameras clicking. Then movement from the left, another Cheeteh, NO TWO CHEETAH! coming in slowly, then rushing in at the last moment. What was going to happen, were the babies at risk? Not a sound has made from our vehicle as the two males approached and encircled the female, a little argument, the kids ran a short distance away, and mom finally gave up the Impala to "Will and Harry". (We didn't name them, they had aleady been given the Royal names by the Rangers at Lower Sabie). We watched as Will and Harry kept leaving the Impala and harassing Mom and the Kids. Tricia was getting annoyed with them and wanted to "go kick their butts" for stealing the Impala.
Finally mom and the kids made a hasty retreat and were gone. I will never forget Eight Cheetah at once.After that it was back to camp and the laundry room to wash clothes. Laundry, what an exciting way to end an unbelievable morning game drive!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kruger Day 3 Letaba to Lower Sabie

Our night drive at Letaba was a night for little discoveries. We saw Civet, Genet, African Wild Cat and Cerval, which was a treat. Seeing all four of these cats in a short span was fun. In addition to the small cats we saw a few Giraffe, Elephant, and various Antelope before returning to camp.

Day three was our long haul day, Letaba to Lower Sabie. We left shortly after 6 and made a quick stop at the Letaba River bridge before heading south. Just a few km south of Letaba we spotted a pair of Hyena laying under a bush very close to the road. While we watched a number of cars drove by, but one stopped next to us and said that the pair have a den under the road and that they have pups (or is it kits?) in the den, that they bring out usually later in the day. Unfortunately, we had places to go, so weren't able to get any baby Hyena shots.

A little further down the road we joined a parade.

A number of lazy lion sightings, they are sure boring, and hard to get a good shot when they are sleeping. Finally not too far north of Tshokwane we were able to get a good shot of a Lion. We stopped to watch Vultures in a tree and caught movement on the other side of the road. A lone lioness with a kill, she seemed to have eaten her fill and after a few minutes walked to some tall grass 10 or 12 meters away to lay down. As soon as she laid down a single Hyena appeared and started trying to locate the kill, after 5 minutes or so, he had come close but all of a sudden a male lion appeared.

It was really funny watching how the posture and attitude of the Hyena changed when the male showed up. The hyena wouldn't look at him and started walking away, then broke into a run to get out of there.After a break at Tshokwane, we took the H10 to get to Lower Sabie. What a glorious drive, and the view from the top of the mountain is spectacular.Getting close to Lower Sabie we came upon a few cars watching two Lions at a Giraffe Kill, the Lion were sleeping in tall grass, and most of the action was a group of Vultures picking up scraps. After watching for a while we continued on to Lower Sabie and settled in for the night.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Africa 2009 - Kruger National Park day two

After a short night's sleep we planned to leave the gate at 6am. Well, that didn't happen. We had a light breakfast on the porch and got caught up watching all of the birds, that led to a drive back to the restaurant and an hour watching birds at the dam.

When we finally left Mopani we drove the Tropic of Capricorn Loop and then headed south towards Letaba.
Here are a few of the things we saw along the Loop:

This is a juvenile Wahlberg's Eagle, he didn't move a muscle while I took my photos.

A Slender Mongoose posed so that I could get a good shot.

This Hornbill kept us laughing while we watched him searching for food, and chasing off the other birds that got too close.

This mom and two little ones were part of a large group of over 25 Ellies.

All this and more just on a 22 mile (36km) loop, More later from the H1-6 road to Letaba Camp!

We already miss Kruger, and can't wait to return!

Africa 2009 - Kruger National Park day one

We have been home since September 26, and I am finally getting around to starting our trip report. We have adjusted back to Pacific Time, here on the west coast of America, but both would prefer to still be in SA. One week in Kruger is not enough, so we are planning a return next year for two weeks.
I have been wading through photos (around 2000) to find those I would like to share. We arrived in Jo'Berg on 13 September, rented our vehicle and drove to Gravelotte, where we were booked for a week long Wildlife Rehabilitation course taught by Karen Trendler. After our course, we drove to Phalaborwa to begin our week in paradise.
For our first visit, we wanted to see a lot of territory, and bit off a little more than we should have. We stayed at five different camps in six days, and spent much of our time driving from one camp to the next. We'll know better next time, and plan to book 4 or 5 nights each in three different camps.
Not too far inside the gate, we spotted a number of bull Ellies on our left, and while watching them we almost passed this fellow,who was only a few feet away, without seeing him.

The rest of our drive to Mopani Camp was filled with birds, Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Cape Buffalo, more Ellies, Klipspringer, Gyrsbok, Kudu and amazing vista's and landscape.

By the time we rolled into Mopani we were in seventh heaven. We tossed our bags into our cottage and made it back to reception in time for an evening game drive. Our first Baobab, more birds ,Buffs, Zebra, antelope and various birds. No cats, but we did get to see a Black backed Jackal. We made it back to camp, had dinner in the restaurant and went to bed, completely worn out but excited and anticipating another wonderful day of discovery.
More Later.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Time Zone Time Warp

Here it is almost two weeks since we got home from our 2009 African adventure and I am just getting my internal clock set back to Pacific Daylight time. Our 26 hour flight home took it out of me, and I have been trying to catch back up since we returned. The Torti clan is happy we are home, and we are glad to be here.

I am still wading through photos, but decided I should get started telling everyone about our amazing journey.

After hop scotching from Seattle to Vancouver to London, and finally to Johannesburg, we dragged ourselves into the Hertz rental office at the airport and picked up the keys to our SUV. A Kia Sportage was our trusty steed for our two week stay, and it didn't fail us, successfully battling the traffic, Elephants and Cape Buffalo to get us to our numerous destinations and back to the airport in Johannesburg without a scratch.

Our first destination was SanWild, an animal rescue and rehabilitation Preserve near Kruger National Park. Sanwild is where we spent our first week, attending a Wildlife Rehabilitation course. More about SanWild in another post, though I will say that they are a dedicated group doing great things on a small budget.

After our week at SanWild, we packed up and headed to Kruger, arriving in Phalaborwa Saturday mid-day. After a stop at the SPAR grocery for supplies we drove through the gate into a wonderland. One of our first sightings was a group of Elephant on the left side of the road. Tricia wanted a better look and asked me to back up a little bit. As I was backing up something caught my eye to the right.

I still can't figure out how I didn't see this giant when I drove by him the first time. He was massive, and about twenty feet away.

We continued on to Mopani rest camp where we had reservations for our first night. At Mopani we had booked an evening game drive, and by the time we got to the camp it was time to go on the drive. Lots of Impala, Elephant and Cape Buffalo to be seen, a few other Antelope and a lone Jackal but not much more. We finished the drive unpacked our bags grabbed a bite in the restaurant and hit the sack looking forward to more adventure in the morning.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We're back home!

We made it home. What an amazing journey, though we both are running on empty after our 26 hour flight home. After I get adjusted to Pacific time, I will start sorting through the photos and share some of the highlights of our trip. In the meantime, before I fall back to sleep, I will give you an idea of a few of the things we experienced.

We participated in a bush walk, luckily with two heavily armed rangers, and were fortunate to find two male lions, and watch them disappear into the bush from about 50 feet.
I learned to drive quickly in reverse for over 150 yards (137 metres) while attempting to get out of the way of a very large Elephant bull walking down the road.
(Photos to follow)
We had the rare fortune of seeing 8 Cheetah all at the same time - a mother and her 5 cubs at her fresh kill were intimidated out of the kill by two male Cheetah, while we watched from 100 feet (30 metres) or less.

More to come later, must sleep and cuddle with the Tortie clan!