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Showing posts from 2022

The Golden Glow of the Bush

  The Golden Glow of the Bush I have seen some glorious skies during my travels around the world, from the smog-induced fluorescent sunsets in Moscow to the burning red horizon in Lake Tahoe. Looking up toward the heavens at dusk is my favorite time of day.  But, nowhere have I ever been so mesmerized by the setting sun than in the bush. Why? Because the light the fading sun casts on the landscape is like no other. Call it the golden hour or the magic hour, or the hour when a quiet hush blankets the land as day turns to night. Birds sing their bedtime songs, jackals practice their forlorn calls, and predators wake, yawning widely, preparing for the hunt. The fading light signals transformation from the brightness to darkness, from things seen to those unseen.  Lazy, sleeping lions transform from looking like cuddly stuffed animals to ferocious stalkers of anything that moves. Hunger calls them to action, stealthy and relentless in their pursuit. Owls waken, looking for bush animals on

Super Mom

  Super Mom   Super Mom    Seeing a coalition of eight cheetahs in the bush is more than a lucky sighting; it is rare and magical. What's even crazier is that my friends and I had already seen this family many times during the year and a half before taking this photo. Here's their story. Two cheetah sisters had two litters around the same time. Sister one had six cubs, and sister two or three cubs. For whatever unexplainable reason, one of sister two's cubs migrated to sister one's family, making her the mother of seven. She quickly acquired the moniker of Super Mom by all the rangers in the park. One mom, seven cubs. She had to chase them all around when they were babies, feed them (they have about a 58% success rate when chasing down a meal), teach them the ways of the bush, and most of all, keep them safe. Whenever we saw them, they were healthy, playful, and did whatever mom told them to do - move, rest, get down from a tree, get out of the road, stay quiet! We grew

Ellie Love

  This photo is Africa! A breeding herd of female Elephants hanging around a river, bathing, frolicking, and relaxing, is an iconic scene that I could watch for hours. Never an animal to linger anywhere for too long, Ndlovus (Zulu) stealthily roam the veld, eating hundreds of pounds of food a day. Always on the move, an elephant can travel up to fifty miles a day, occasionally stopping by water to drink and cool themselves or perhaps to wait until a female gives birth. Sometimes the entire family unit circles around a female delivering a new calf to the herd, protecting her from all sides.  The matriarch, sometimes the oldest female, rules in an elephant community. She must have wisdom, have a proven record of leadership, protect her herd from all dangers, teach the young about proper elephant behavior, and have the experience and confidence to guide her herd through the dangerous life in the bush.  These powerful descendants of the wooly mammoth are also quite dangerous. I can’t tell

Esther Mahlangu - Ndebele Artist

  This beautiful woman is 92-years-old and lives in a small Ndebele village in Mpumalanga. Esther Mahlangu is an Outsider Artist, self-taught from the age of nine, who has achieved great success with her bold, colorful art reflecting traditional Ndebele culture. It’s not clear, but it seems she never went to school and can only write her name on her artwork. However, she has two honorary doctorates for her contributions to the art world. Her success was serendipitous. In 1986, researchers from France were roaming around looking for traditional art forms. One road led them to the artist’s village, where they became enthralled by Mahlangu’s uniquely painted houses. Right time, right road!  They invited her to create murals for an international contemporary art exhibition at the Magiciens de la Terre in France. Her obscurity was soon over and she quickly became a phenomenon in the Pan-African art world. Her resume is awe-inspiring. Look her up, here’s one link -

Honey Badger

  Our game driver spotted this bowlegged guy trotting down the road. He was coming straight for us, so with heart-thumping anticipation, it looked like he would walk right past us. But, dang, he eventually stopped, looked our way, sniffed the air, then turned on a dime and made a beeline for the bush where a couple of young lions were napping. The lions looked up and let him pass without so much as a muffled roar.  This badass is a Honey Badger, an animal with a reputation so fierce even lions avoid them because these little warriors go straight for the testicles. Faces and eyes are also fair game, their long claws and sharp teeth can shred skin to the bone. During my seven years in South Africa, this was only my second encounter with a Honey Badger; the first had only happened days before in The Kruger. My friend and I were sitting around a campfire one evening. Wine flowed, and the flames of the fire created a warm, safe feeling. Well, safe(ish) because the baboons that surrounded us


  Is this giant hippopotamus mama the model for the Hungry Hungry Hippo game where four plastic hippos chomp on marbles? Or the friendly little hippo who stomps around looking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the “The Hungry Hippo.” Or maybe that cute stuffed animal you bought at the zoo for the little one in your life.  I DON’T THINK SO! This female is more like the hippo that chased my son and me down the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Luckily our guide had the good sense to take us in a boat with more horsepower than hippo power.  Hippos are fierce territorialists, fast runners, especially in the water where they glide off of rocks, and they won’t be chomping on marbles if they get ahold of a trespasser traipsing around in their waters. They are huge, females weigh in at about 3000lbs, and males can weigh up to 9000lbs. These beasts have tusks and teeth and can crush a human in half. In fact, statistically, hippos kill more humans than any other animal in Sub-Saharan Africa.


  "Military children are like dandelions. They can put down roots and bloom anywhere the wind carries them, standing ready to fly into new adventures, new lands, and new friends." I came across this passage while explaining to a friend why the dandelion is the symbol of military brats. I don't know if this conversation was a serendipitous reminder of where I come from or if my subconscious mind was looking for something that might save me from the stress and anxiety I am experiencing about moving back to the US without a job or a permanent place to live. Maybe both? This move is a challenge for me because of my life as a military brat and an international teacher. I went to 16 schools before graduating high school and 5 different colleges/universities before achieving an MFA. I have lived in 7 states, 8 countries, and I have had the key to 68 front doors, 68 homes - that's more than my age. Scary? You bet! Where is home is the worse question anyone can ask me because

Eland Love

  The mightiest antelope of them all is the sacred Eland; stately, stunning, and surprisingly hard to find in the South African bush. In fact, I have seen more Leopards, Lions, Rhinos, Cape Buffalo, Elephants, Cheetahs, and Wild Dogs (considered the Big 7), than I have seen Elands. Elands are nomadic, so they never stay in one location for long; they are nocturnal, feeding primarily at night, and wicked shy of, well, anything that doesn’t look like them. One would think they’d be easy to spot because they are huge; in fact, males can weigh up to 2000lbs. And, get this, they can jump 8-10 feet from a stand. Astonishing! What’s even more wonderful, “sort of,” about this animal is that it was the most sacred animal of the Khoisan people, the indigenous people of South Africa, and one of the oldest hunter-gatherer cultures on earth. Sadly, the Bantu tribes in the north migrated south. Then the colonists came, and between the two groups, they killed or displaced these ancient natives almost

Leopard in a Tree

  I broke a rule in The Kruger to get a shot of this leopard resting in the middle of a tree fully populated with leaves. And, I kind of didn’t care because, well, it was a leopard, one of the most elusive, stealth, and stunning animals I have been lucky enough to see only a few times during my seven years of trolling around southern Africa. Many cars were parked at the site, inhabitants gawking upwards directly outside the Lower Sabie entrance, so I knew something special was in the tree. Except, I couldn’t see it, and I wanted to it, so I stared and scanned in between the leaves and the branches until I recognized the spotted tail hanging to one side. Gold! One problem! Many roads in The Kruger are no-trespass roads - poacher patrol roads, ranger roads, admin roads, washed-out roads, all roads where civilian vehicles are not welcome. The best angle for the photo was down one of those roads so, I lost control of my manners, calculated where and how I needed to get there, and drove in

The Ornery Cape Buffalo

  Meet one of the orneriest critters in the bush, the predictably unpredictable Cape Buffalo, who shares the title of 'the most dangerous animal in the bush' with the hippopotamus - both herbivores, btw.    Look at this big boy's face. The coffee brown eyes highlighted with age lines might make one think this nearly 1-ton brute is a wise old man. The creased, wide-nostrilled, wet nose designed to sniff out the most delicious grasses atop a mere slit of a mouth built for munching and crunching looks normal enough - for a buffalo. And how about the droopy, scarred ear that reveals a history of a fight or two, or three. Maybe more. But the headdress is what makes this creature magnificent and dangerous. Hard as granite and sharp as a spear, even lions shy away from the horns of fully grown buffalos.    They are slow stepping, tail swishing, peaceful grazers that might make an uninformed human passer-by consider approaching to say a little hello. That would be a big NO!   With


  Sometimes humans riding around the bush run into lions lying down in the middle of the road. No kidding - the uber cats just plop themselves on all sides of the road as the humans excitedly click their cameras, thanking whatever deity they believe in for their good fortune. After all, not everyone gets lion sighting bragging rights. A friend and I ran across this handsome boy during a recent trip to The Kruger. A giraffe had recently died of natural causes, and the lions and scavengers were gathering. As we approached the sight, we spotted dozens of vultures lurking on the branches of dead trees, like a scene from The Jungle Book, but without the technicolor.  We expected a feeding frenzy, but the sight was calm. The fallen giraffe’s body appeared untouched. Maybe because we were, thankfully, parked at an angle that hid the carnage happening outside of our view. Several lions were lying or ambling around, and watching them was exhilarating - especially since this guy plopped and pose

Cheetah Spirit

  Cheetah Spirit Seeing cheetahs anytime in the bush is a rare experience. But, seeing eight of them at once is a moment so magical I thought I had entered a world where dreams come true.  Recently, someone in our game vehicle shouted quietly, “Look, a cheetah!” And another shouted, “Look, look, they are all around us.”  And I looked to my left, and one was at eye level with me hanging out on a fallen tree trunk. We quietly watch the mother and seven almost grown cubs amble slowly into the bush and out of sight for a couple of minutes. Speechless and in awe, we trundled on, filled with emotion at the beautiful sight of these endangered cats.  Every animal has its own beauty, but the cheetah, with tears streaming from its cinnamon-colored eyes, is the most stunning creature in the African landscape. Like most cats, domestic or wild, they are elegant, stealth, and independent. They don’t hang around in a herd, like antelopes and elephants, nor do they seek the company of other animals. S

Klipspringer: The Baryshnikov of the Bush

  Meet the graceful Klipspringer, the Baryshnikov of the Bush  This is an amazing animal, hardly ever seen because it is shy and camouflages itself in the African koppies - small, rocky hills in the veld. Watching this tiny antelope leap from rock to rock, all of various heights and widths is magical. Why the folks at Disney haven’t created a klipspringer character in one of its animated films is a crime.   All animals in the bush are magnificent for one reason or another, but this rock jumping dynamo of an antelope can leap up to 25 feet in the air. Their hooves are cylindrical and pointed, allowing them to spring from rock to rock on their toes, as gracefully as a ballet dancer at the Bolshoi.  The sight of a male and female leaping together from rock to rock is stunningly poetic and made me wish I had a replay button as I almost couldn’t believe that I was witnessing graceful movements on rugged and harsh terrain. When I saw my first Klipspringer, it stood majestically on a rock, da