Tag Archives: Eland

Eland – S A’s largest antelope

I blogged a while back about our visit to the Botsalano Game Reserve near Mafikeng in South Africa.  This great little reserve is home to the region’s largest antelope, the Eland, where sizable herds can be seen.  We were very excited to have an opportunity to get relatively close to these magnificent animals as they are normally extremely nervous and don’t let you anywhere near them for a photograph.  We have previously stalked them on a friend’s farm, hoping to get close enough for a photo or two, but they picked us up every time and took off into the bushes before we could say “Jack Robinson”. 

Eland

The dry bushy veld around Mafikeng appears to be the ideal habitat for Eland, although they are quite adaptable and can also be found in mountainous grasslands (we’ve seen them high in the Drakensberg) and in woodlands, where they live on grass and leaves.  They do need plenty of water and will drink regularly when it is available.

Eland

Eland are distinguishable by their straight, twisted horns which grow up to 60cm in length.  Males are sometimes more grey in colour, whilst females tend to be golden brown.  Both sexes have a dark brown ridge of hair running along their backs.  Males have distinctive humps, almost like the Brahman bull, and can weigh up to 700 kgs.  Females are slightly smaller, coming in at about 450 kgs.  They breed throughout the year, with a single calf being born after a nine month gestation period.

Eland

Like Kudu, Eland can jump over high fences or obstacles with ease.  Clearing heights of two meters is no problem for them when they feel threatened.  Their only natural enemy is the lion, but they remain an extremely nervous breed even when faced with non-threatening situations.  In the wild they can live up to twelve years.  Males can be aggressive towards each other and compete in major battles.

Eland

It was wonderful to sit in the hide at Botselano and watch the Eland come down to the waterhole in great numbers.  They certainly are very regal animals and it was such a privilege to spend time observing them.

Eland

Botsalano Game Reserve

I blogged a week or so ago about the Black wildebeest at Botsalano Game Reserve near Mafikeng in South Africa.  This was such a lovely stop over that I thought I would tell you more about it today.  We stayed there on our way to Botswana as it enabled us to have an early border crossing at the Ramatlabana border post, which is only a few kilometers away.  Not only was the camping and game viewing excellent, but the border crossing proved stress-free and easy, unlike some of the busier and more popular border control points further north.

Campsite at Botsalano Game Reserve

We opted to stay in their bush camp called Kukama and not in the public campsite that is near the gate.  There is nothing wrong with the public site, but we have been spoilt over the years preferring wild and isolated camps where game wanders freely around us.  The site had a stone shelter and a very basic open air shower which we had to share with one of the locals – a leguaan.  He was very obliging about letting us use it!

Water monitor in our shower

Frankly we were amazed at the amount of game in the reserve.  We saw far more there than in the popular Hhluhwe and Umfolozi game reserves in Kwazulu Natal, which is strange because one hears more about these flagship reserves than Botsalano.  Granted Botsalano is off the overseas tourist route, but for sheer numbers and variety, plus having two of the Big Five (buffalo and rhinos), I would say that Botsalano deserves more attention.  So if any South Africans are wondering where to go for a few days of magic camping, this is the place!

Beautiful Waterbuck

The birding in the park was also pretty good, especially when we sat at the waterhole.  From the elevated hide we not only had birds at eye level in the trees around us, but watched as a Secretarybird ambled down to the water for a drink.  Lots of  sand grouse came down as well and in the area behind the hide we saw a variety of waxbills, canaries and starlings.  We also watched two Pale chanting goshawks  making a meal of a dove.

White rhinocerus

White rhinos breed well in the park and so do Eland, which we saw in great numbers.  One only hopes that greedy poachers won’t get their hands on any of the rhinos. This photo gives you an idea of the herds of antelope that head down to the waterhole during the day.

On the way down to the waterhole

There was a good variety of antelopes, like Waterbuck, Blesbok, Kudu, Eland and the smaller more shy ones.  The staff were very helpful and polite too.  We had a giggle when we asked whether there were any aardvarks in the park.  The receptionist said that she had seen them often – one just as recently as two days before.  Knowing that aardvark sightings are generally as rare as hen’s teeth and one is only ever likely to get a glimpse of one once in a lifetime, we gathered that she must have confused the aardvark with a warthog – but then again, I may be wrong and she may be the luckiest lady in the world!  I’m still dying to photograph an aardvark – the one and only time we saw one near Windhoek, we were so amazed at what walked out of the bush in front of us that it disappeared before we had a chance to lift a camera.  Got to be quick about these things….  If anyone out there knows where we are most likely to see one, do drop us a line.

If you’re ever around Mafikeng, do pay this lovely park a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

A trifle bizarre!

When you think back over your life, who are the folks that you remember most? It’s not the quiet peaceful guys that stand out in your mind but those unconventional people who did extraordinary things, drove you mad, or made you laugh. It’s these delicious characters who make life colourful and its always a delight to come across them. You’ve probably met quite a few in your lifetime and no doubt they will spring to mind when you read this. Perhaps you’re even one of them! If so, good for you.

My own family has been blessed with crazy souls – I remember my eighty year old father-in-law replacing the entire roof of his house without any help whatsoever. This was an amazing feat for an octogenarian, but sometimes his enthusiasm for the job was so overwhelming that he forgot to dress appropriately and on at least three occasions he was caught working in his slippers which didn’t give him any grip on the slanting roof.  His craziness wasn’t limited to fixing roofs in his eighties, but we won’t go there right now.

You have to be a bit weird to ride a bicycle across continents don’t you think. I have to admit that being married to someone who does this occasionally makes for an interesting life. We met an Australian male nurse one Christmas and told him that Rob had ridden across Australia in just twenty-eight days (see account of this trip and others under his Cycling page on this site) but this gentleman was totally unimpressed, telling us that he had ridden around the whole perimeter of Australia on a horse. Well not exactly one horse – it had taken him four years and numerous horses to make this incredible journey. His hobby was to go around the world and join in re-enactments of cavalry charges of famous battles. I just love these people who travel the road less ordinary.

I could go on about eccentrics and achievers we know, but let me tell you that unusual behaviour is not limited to homo-sapiens. We’ve seen quite a few animals that defy typical behaviour for their species.

Some people take domestication of animals to extremes. We came across this goat at the same place where we met the Australian horseman and were amazed at how this animal was addicted to TV. According to his owner he loved watching sport and would sit on the couch for hours glued to the telly. However, if they changed channels to SkyNews, it would really get his goat (sorry about that) and he would promptly drop off to sleep. This same household also had a beautiful otter as a pet, but it’s toilet training left a lot to be desired. 

Oh no! Not SkyNews again!

Oh no! Not SkyNews again!

We spent last Christmas at a farm in Namibia called Namibgrens and here we came across a tame baboon that had been hand-reared by the farmer when its mother was killed accidentally. Bobby was a real character because he grew up with a herd of goats and didn’t realize that he wasn’t one himself. He spends his days harassing the goats on the farm to such an extent that one has to feel quite sorry for them. Bobby’s fame spread far and wide when he captured the imagination of the editor of a magazine called Drive Out and featured in a little write up on the leader page.  

Bobby thinks he's a goat

Bobby thinks he's a goat

At Roys Camp near Grootfontein we were preparing a New Year’s Eve braai when an Eland walked into our campsite and helped itself to half a loaf of bread on the table. Once it had finished eating it came and said hello before disappearing into the bushes. We were left wondering what his story was.  

Rob and the Eland

Rob and the Eland

At most of the campsites we visit we usually find hungry cats and always put milk out for them. They are mostly wild and very timid. However, at Harnass, a wildlife rehabilitation centre on the eastern side of Namibia, we were visited by an enormous ginger cat and his companion, a mongoose. What an unlikely friendship.

Strange friends

Strange friends

If you spot warthogs in the wild they usually run off at great speed with their tails straight up in the air. At the Chobe Safari Lodge campsite in the Caprivi, we were a little intimidated when an enormous warthog came into our space. We needn’t have worried though, as he turned out to be quite docile with a penchant for Romany Cream biscuits!

Warthog at Chobe

Warthog at Chobe

Even birds sometimes show their little characters in delightful ways. This crow at Sossusvlei caused much amusement in our party when he aggressively jostled with the bulbuls and sparrows for bread. He didn’t eat it however, but buried it all around the area to dig up at a later stage. I guess that is a survival thing in the desert. We had to hang onto our food as he was quite prepared to grab it off the table in front of us. 

Bread thieving crow

Bread thieving crow

And lastly, this sweet little Trac Trac Chat greeted us on arrival at the Moon Landscape near Swakopmund and followed us around as we checked out the scenery. He was no slouch as can be seen from his dead straight back. I immediately stood more erect in his presence! He so impressed our party that  my brother Vaughan and Mary made up a limerick about him on our drive home.  (This is an abridged version!   Note:  Vaughan and Mary join our list of weird and wonderful people as they make up limericks about everything in sight)

The chat is a quaint little bird
Who lives in a place quite absurd
With just desert and sand
And no food right on hand
He’s thinking of moving, we’ve heard 

Welcoming Trac Trac Chat

Welcoming Trac Trac Chat

These wonderful encounters, both human and animal, make life so interesting and I can’t wait to see who or what will be next to enrich our lives.