Social whirlwind during our remaining two weeks in the bush...A great evening with friends...

A barren tree in the middle of the S130 in Kruger created an interesting scene.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Two yellow-billed storks and one cattle egret at the far end of Sunset Dam in Kruger.
This morning, we calculated exactly how many meals we'll have to cook during our remaining two weeks in Marloth Park.  Considering the contents of the chest freezer, we'll only be cooking dinner eight more nights.  We won't need to purchase more protein sources.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Kathy and Don are giving us a going-away party next Friday, February 8th at their riverfront home in Marloth Park.  It will be a sit-down dinner party for 12, the maximum number they can fit at their big table on their third-floor veranda overlooking the Crocodile River.
Wildebeest and her calf in Kruger.
Unfortunately, we couldn't invite everyone we've come to know and love in the park so we chose those friends with whom we've become closest.  Sadly, Rita and Gerhard won't be attending the party.  

They had to leave to return to the US in a hurry due to the sudden passing of a dear friend.  They don't intend to return anytime soon.  We miss them already.  But, Rita and I have stayed in close touch and we have no doubt we'll be together again, perhaps as early as in the next six months.
Zebras grazing on new growth from recent rains.
Also, next week on Tuesday Kathy is hosting my pedicure at a local spa/resort. Linda will join us after which we'll all have lunch at the resort.  It's been so long since I've had a girls-only event.  This will surely be quite an enjoyable event.  

I haven't had a professional pedicure in at least 10 years.  I rarely afford myself such a luxury when generally it just isn't that important to me.  But doing this with the girls will make it very special and memorable.
Four male cape buffalo lounging at the river's edge.
Next Wednesday is Leon's birthday which we'll attend at Jabula as we had for Dawn's birthday on Tuesday evening, adding one more event to the social calendar.

On top of that we'll dine at Jabula the next two Saturdays, this upcoming on our own and the following with Kathy, Don, Linda, and Ken for our final time together.
Family crossing the paved road.
We plan to dine out one more time in the next few weeks plus spend our last night, Wednesday, February 13th in the bush at Jabula avoiding the cooking and clean-up at the house.  

The following morning we'll drive to Nelspruit where we'll spend one night at the Protea Hotel near the airport for our early morning flight on the 15th to Nairobi, Kenya.
A bull elephant we stopped to observe hoping for a better photo.
Yesterday, we made a resevervation at highly rated restaurant, Orange, (coincidentally, like the name of this holiday home) where we'll dine that evening on Valentine's Day.  

We informed the restaurant we'll be writing a review and look forward to an excellent experience.  Currently, this restaurant is listed as #1 out of 89 restaurants in Nelspruit on Tripadvisor.   We'll write our review here shortly thereafter and also at TripAdvisor.
He moved into a clearing and we noticed he was standing with his back legs crossed.
As for last night, we joined Uschi and Evan at their home for sundowners. As it turned out Uschi had put together a few trays of fabulous appetizers, all of which I could eat.  

We'd intended to stay for only an hour or two but ended up not leaving until 2130 hours (9:30)!  The friendship and conversation was utterly delightful and most assuredly, they'll be at the party and staying in touch down the road.  
Our dear friends Evan and Uschi on their veranda last night.
The meal we'd left to be cooked went uneaten but tonight we'll have the easy dinner.  I've made a salad and prepared vegetables to be cooked after we just returned from shopping in Komatipoort.

Enjoy some of our remaining photos from Monday's foray into Kruger.  Tomorrow, we'll be back with all new photos and more.
Uschi with us at the veranda table.
Happy day!
Photo from one year ago today, January 31, 2018:
View of the sea from Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica.  Please click here for more photos.

Part 3...Outstanding day in Kruger National Park...Elephants are amazing!...People are too!...A fabulous night at Jabula...

Video #1 - A surprise participant in the background.
 Video #2 - Playful elephants.
 Video #3 - More elephant antics.

"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"

A very young impala.
It's Wednesday morning, a typical day in the bush.  Vusi and Zef are cleaning the house.  The Mom and Babies (four piglets) are busily munching on pellets at the edge of the veranda.  Ms. Kudu left a few minutes ago after she'd had her fill.  

The sky is partly cloudy and we're in for another cool day.  There are thousands of dead insects on the veranda floor from overnight (a daily occurrence).  Soon, when the interior of the house is clean, Vusi and Zef will come outside to clean the veranda while we'll go inside to get out of their way.
The matriarch was watching the youngsters play in the Sabie River.
Once they're done, we'll come back outside to spend the balance of the day outdoors, as we always do, busy working on the post and plans for the future.  Tom spends some time on Facebook and Ancestry while I work on projects around the house.

Once I've uploaded today's post, I'll do finishing doing laundry, preparing tonight's dinner and perhaps work on some items to be packed for our departure in a mere 15 days.  Today's project is neatly folding all of our "bugs-away" and safari clothing I'd washed yesterday and have since dried.  Safari in Kenya isn't too far away. 
It was irresistible...she joined them.
Last night we had a fantastic time at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant celebrating Dawn's (friend and owner) birthday.  It was delightful to see how many of us loyal fans came to extend our best wishes and gratitude for the wonderful job she does (along with partner Leon) in making this a memorable establishment with great food, ambiance, and service.

Many brought gifts, hugs, kisses, and warm wishes for Dawn.  A table filled with scrumptious looking appetizers and drinks hosted by Leon added to the festivities. 
They wanted to play with her.
If there ever was a "Cheers" type bar, Jabula fills the bill.  The new and the familiar faces, the lively conversation, uproarious laughter and the ease with which everyone in attendance feels welcomed and included is unreproachable. 

We met a new couple originally from Germany, living in Marloth Park part-time and soon moving their business to live in Florida, USA.  We saw old friends with health challenges possessing upbeat attitudes off to work on the next phase of a hopeful recovery.  
Finally, it was time to get out of the river and continue their day.
We chatted with new friends we've made this time around along with old friends from five years ago.  Tom and I arrived early to sit at our favorite spots at the bar and eventually ordered delicious dinners, never giving up our barstools.  

It wasn't the first time we dined at the bar when we're having too much fun to go to a table on the veranda.  I can't recall ever enjoying dining at the bar until Jabula.
The littlest one followed close to the adults as they were on their way.
Leon played the role of DJ and the music had most of us either dancing in our seats or on our feet to kick up our heels.  Women danced with women and men, well, they danced with all of us.  It was grand.  It was memorable, as were so many nights we've spent in this unique establishment over this past year.

When Tom and I danced to a slow song holding close in each other's arms, I felt an immense sense of happiness wash over me, coupled with a bit of melancholy.  But, the melancholy quickly wafted away when I reminded myself that those arms will still be around me long after we depart Marloth Park and the memories will always remain in my heart.

Thank you for sharing this special time with us...

Photo from one year ago today, January 30, 2018:

This elephant seal was so relaxed, a bit of drool dripped from her mouth.  A bath would be nice.  For more stunning scenes from Antarctica, please click here.

Part 2...Outstanding day in Kruger National Park...A heartbreaking sighting...Part of life in the wild?...

 A short video of this gaunt looking lioness.
 "Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
A herd of impalas at the side of a dirt road we traveled in Kruger.
We often hear others say, "This is life in the wild."  Hearing this doesn't lessen the emotions we feel when we see an animal suffering.  It's sad to see a human or an animal in pain, ill, or emotionally distraught for any reason.  But, the realities of life doesn't diminish the emotions we feel when we observe such a scenario when often there is nothing we can do to help.

A few evenings ago, a little male duiker, a very shy member of the antelope family, was trapped inside the chicken wire fenced garden area within our garden.  Somehow he'd managed to find his way inside this lush area of greenery and became trapped when he couldn't navigate an exit.
It was sad to see the lioness suffering.
We were seated at the big table on the veranda and noticed him ramming his head into the chicken wire trying to escape.  Helping an animal, however small, in a panicked situation such as this could be dangerous.

But, we weren't going to let him die before our eyes.  We'd seen a photo where a bushbuck died trying to extricate its head from being stuck in a fence in Marloth Park.  If residents feel they need fences they definitely should be a type that prevents wildlife from potential injury or even death.  
One can only guess why this particular lioness hadn't been hunting and eating.
We often wonder why there are hazardous fences in the park.  Don't people come here to be "one" with nature, not hiding behind fences?  None of the Big Five permanently reside in Marloth Park and rarely does a lion, leopard or cheetah finds its way into the park.  Surely, a fence of any type wouldn't necessarily protect a human from such a dangerous encounter.

Tom grabbed the long, extendable pole he uses to chase off baboons and monkeys and attempted to raise the bottom of the fence to allow the duiker an exit.  The poor little creature bellowed in total fear while Tom tried to help.

There is a gate to this area and we immediately opened it hoping the duiker would see the open exit.  While Tom tried to help him, I stood at a distance from the exit hoping to see him escape.

We assumed she was ill or injured.
Finally, after several minutes of him running into the impenetrable wire fence in different locations of the enclosure, he spotted the open gate and escaped.  We both sighed in relief. 

He's a duiker we've often fed and wondered what he was after in that area.  Perhaps it was a type of vegetation he particularly liked.  Once he ran off, leaping through the air, we wondered if we'd ever see him again.  

Alas, a few hours later he returned and we tossed him some pellets, small bits of carrots and apples.  (We always cut the veggies into small bite-sized pieces for the duikers and bushbucks.  Kudus and warthogs can handle big chunks but not the small antelope or babies of most species).

Every step she took appeared to be an effort.
We were relieved to see he was uninjured and back to his shy little self, often appearing with a female he seems attached to.  But, the lion we spotted in Kruger didn't have the potential of a good outcome, after we'd seen her looking so unwell.

Sure, we can say, "This is life in the wild," but that harsh reality doesn't insulate us from feeling sad for a suffering animal in the wild.  Nor, in essence, do we ever want to feel less compassionate.  It's that compassion and love for wildlife that brought us to Africa in the first place.  We don't want to become "tougher" and more accepting of the often gruesome realities.

In today's world, horrifying videos portray atrocities lodged upon wildlife, many too horrific to mention.  Is it possible seeing these over and over again can cause us to become immune to horrific scenes that diminish our ability to feel compassion?

She appeared to have made her way under the bridge where we'd no longer able to see her.
Seeing the lion in such sorrowful condition left us feeling in tune and in touch with nature, that even after many such sightings in this past year of living in the bush, we still care, we still feel and we still treasure the beauty of life in the wild.  We remain untarnished by the harsh realities.

In 16 days we'll leave Marloth Park.  We're grateful for this life-enhancing year in the bush while looking forward to that which lies ahead of us.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 29, 2018:

At lunch, that day in Antarctica, one of the chefs prepared a beef and vegetable stir-fry outdoors.  We all partook of the delicious offering but decided to dine indoors.  It was a little too cold to eat outside for our liking.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1...Outstanding day in Kruger National Park...A few first time sightings...So exciting!...

This was an exciting sighting for us, the elusive nyala which we'd never seen during this past year in South Africa.  From this site:  The handsome slate-brown shaggy coat is marked with white vertical stripes and spots on the flanks. Rams appear more charcoal-grey in colour. The rams have long inward curved horns 650 mm (26 inches) and a white chevroned face. They have a ridge of long hairs along the underparts, from behind the chin to between the hind legs, they also have a mane of thick, black hair from the head along the spine to the rump. Rams weigh 115 kg (254 pounds) and measures 1.05 m (41 inches) at shoulders. Ewes are much smaller and do not have horns, and weigh 59 kg (130 pounds) and stand 900 mm (35 inches) at shoulders. Ewes are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This is a black-shouldered kite.  From this siteThe black-shouldered Kite is a small, graceful raptor and the most voracious eater in the raptor family. It needs to consume up to 25% of its body mass every day - that is the equivalent of about two mice. This means each bird probably kills around 700 mouse-sized animals a year.
Its late in the day, almost 1600 hours (4:30 pm) and I'm anxious to get today's post uploaded to ensure we can begin wildlife watching on the veranda by our usual 1700 hours (5:00 pm).
At first, when we glimpsed at these three well-hidden animals we thought they were kudus based on the stripes on their bodies.  But, after further inspection, we realized these three antelopes were not kudus but, the elusive nyala.  
Thus, I'm rushing a little and only sharing a few of the highlights of today's outing in Kruger National Park, leaving the balance of the exciting sightings for tomorrow.

It was a perfect day to enter the park. The weather was a moderate 26C, (79F), the sky was overcast and cloudy but there was no rain in sight.  These were ideal conditions for wildlife to be in plain view. We weren't disappointed.
Known to be rather shy it was tricky taking a few photos.
On the hottest of days, the animals often stay undercover from the scorching sun or gravitate toward water holes we're unable to see from the paved or dirt roads.  With the recent rains many formerly dry waterbeds now have some water to attract the animals.  Considerably more rain is desperately needed to have an impact on the river.  

The Crocodile River we cross upon entry into the park is practically bone dry.  Five years ago during this same time period, the river was practically overflowing as opposed to its current sparse sections of water leaving many animals seeking smaller bodies of water for sustenance.  

It was difficult to take a photo of the three of them together but we waited patiently for this shot.

We took off at 9:00 am, leaving the preparation of today's post for our recent return. Subsequently, we're breezing through as quickly as possible and will provide a more comprehensive post tomorrow.

I tried sitting outdoors on the veranda while preparing this but the biting black flies were so bad, I had no choice but to come indoors to finish here.  The sofas and chairs in the living room, although comfy for lounging, are not suitable for working on a laptop.
While we waited we were able to finally able to take a few photos of the individual nyalas.
So i apologize for this quick post but promise more for tomorrow especially since we have some stunning sightings to share that we've saving exactly for that purpose.
It was a shame they wouldn't come out from the dense bush but we did the best we could.
Our plan today was to drive on the paved road all the way to Lower Sabie and to stop for breakfast at the popular Mugg & Bean, one of few restaurants in Kruger National Park. The food was hot, fresh and served quickly based on the fact that we were two of only about eight diners in the entire restaurant.  

After breakfast we were back on the road, taking a dirt road off the beaten path.  It was during this diversion that we saw the two bird photos were sharing today.  We'd previously posted photos of the European roller but never of the black-shouldered kite.
A wildebeest mom and her offspring.
As many of our readers are well aware, we aren't necessarily "birders" in the truest sense of the word.  However, from time to time when we spot something unique we're excited to share it with our readers.  Of course, we have a special affinity toward our resident francolins, Frank and The Mrs., and the mating hornbills.
The mom kept a watchful eye on us to ensure we were no risk to her young calf.
There were few tourists in Kruger although at a few sightings, four or five vehicles were stacked up making it difficult to get into a good position for easily taking photos.  

In these circumstances, our mutual patience and persistence pays off.  We picked a good spot and waited for a better position to open up.  Eventually, other observers lost interest and moved on, enabling us to move into a better location.  
This was the first photo we'd taken of a tree squirrel in Kruger National Park.
That's what self-driving in a national park is all about, having the flexibility to do what's necessary to take good photos while maintaining a degree of courteousness and kindness - a winning combination.

This evening we'll stay in, cook dinner and look forward to darkness when the flies seem to disappear but then, the pesky mozzies appear.  Oh well, TIA (this is Africa) after all, isn't it?
This a a European roller.  From this site:  The European roller is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East and Central Asia and Morocco. They are migratory, wintering in Africa, mainly in the east and south.           
We hope you have a pleasant evening and that all is well in your world!
Photo from one year ago today, January 28, 2018:
This elephant seal on Steeple Jason Island didn't care for our photo taking.  For more photos from Antarctica, please click here.

Do they really feel? Do they really care?...It was a mongoose mania morning in Marloth!...Videos!...

Mongoose Mom and Baby.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This was one of the youngest kudus we've seen this season.
It's cool and cloudy again today.  The morning couldn't have started out better.  Unusual for a weekend morning when there are often loads of short-term tourists in the park, we were pleasantly surprised to find a steady stream of wildlife visitors, including a band of mongooses who totally entertained us which precipitated these three included video, each uniquely different!

The neighbors next door are here for the weekend and obviously, have something delicious they are feeding the animals since the animals have been going back and forth between our two houses.  They'll all stay there for 15 to 20 minutes and then, when bored, return to us.
They stayed close to one another except during the egg eating frenzy.
They are definitely opportunists possessing a bit of flair in their methodology of procuring their next meal.  In any case, we're the recipients of the resulting pleasure of their somewhat obsessive meandering between the bush homes.  

We love every moment, every adorable face, every tongue swiping across their lips in anticipation of the next tender morsel.  Whether they love us, like us or feel any emotion toward us is difficult to determine.  

We can't help but equate their responses to those similar to dogs we had and loved over the years.  In time, they grow to recognize us, respond to us and exhibit often human-like responses to our own obsessive attention to everything they do, each time they gaze into our eyes, each time they exhibit an animated response.

Sure, these visiting animals are not domesticated, such as dogs, but that doesn't negate their ability and seeming interest in who we are as well as what we have in the way of sustenance.
Mongooses trying to crack eggs.
There are many schools of thought on this theory.  Do animals really know and love us or are they simply responding to instinct and a desire for food, comfort,  and safety?

Here's a link to a website that presents an interesting debate on this topic.  Bottom line, we each can choose to believe what is most logical to our needs and emotions.  

I choose to believe the more intelligent animals on the planet have the innate ability to communicate with us which has been proven over and over again in many laboratory settings.  

Feeding mongoose eggs in a bowl.
Over this past year of spending 12 to 15 hours a day, most days, observing their behavior I'm hard pressed to believe it's all about instinct.  But, as humans, we ultimately have the innate ability to choose what we believe and we may not all agree.

And perhaps, our instincts as humans may be no different than that of animals.  Everything we do, everything we feel, everything we think and everything to which we respond is based on one sort of motive or another. Do you agree with that?

These thoughts were precipitated by an interesting conversation we had last night at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant with dear friends Lynne and Mick, the first couple we met in Marloth Park, five years ago, ironically at Jabula.  We had a delightful evening with this well-traveled and fascinating couple and so appreciate them hosting the evening.

It was our last time together for a few years, as they too will soon be heading on another adventure in Africa.  Undoubtedly, we'll continue to stay in touch until we return to Marloth Park in March 2021.  Besides, Lynne and Mick are true birding experts and often assist me in identifying birds in the bird photos we post.
Mongoose eats a rib bone.

We continue to revel in all the wonderful friends we've made here over the years and hope our mutual travels will bring us together at other locations throughout the world.

And, of course, we continue to revel in all the amazing wildlife friends we've made along the way. The big question remains...if we're fortunate enough to rent this same holiday home in 2021, will they remember us?  We'll let you know.

Happy day to all!
Photo from one year ago today, January 27, 2018:
This is unreal...the Black Browed Albatross on Steeple Jason Island, remove tall grass from these massive "pod-like" structures, adding mud and vegetation to make it a freestanding pod on which they can nest. Here's a young chick making a little noise while atop her/his elevated nest.  That's amazing! Please click here for more photos.

Hot tub by candlelight...The difference between a frog and a toad...

'"Hot tub by candlelight" with Little lounging in the cement pond on a hot evening in the bush.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
├ľne of the four piglets of the Mom and Babies family, gaining some independence, napping alone in the lucerne in our garden.
Today's heading may have fooled a few of our readers,  thinking we may have some salacious hot tub by candlelight experience to share with photos.  Sorry, but it wasn't us!  It was our boy "Little" who stopped by at dusk for a soak in the warm water in the cement pond after a very hot day.
Our regular Mr. Bushbuck who visits daily is sharing pellets with our regular visiting female duiker, who are very shy and skittish around other wildlife.
We have a soaking type tub in the en suite master bath and have yet to use it.  My days of taking baths are long over since I don't care to use so much water while living in the bush or anywhere else in the world for that matter.  Such a tub requires the use of 302 liters (80 gallons of water).  
We tossed out some lettuce leaves which they also shared.
What a waste of resources that would be, taking a soak once a day!  Doing so would use 110,230 liters (29,200 gallons) per year.  Those things should be outlawed unless absolutely proven necessary for certain medical conditions.  Water shortages are evident here in Africa, all over the world and even in the USA.
Suddenly, they stopped eating when they heard a sound.
Anyway, in regard to today's main photo, we had the table candlelights lit to repel mosquitos and flies that ultimately precipitated the above photo as each night we make a feeble attempt to keep the flies at bay as we attempt to have dinner before dark.
Ken's photo of who we call Loud Mouth, who must be the loudest frog on the planet.  When he's making his noise, we have to actually yell to speak to one another.
If we'd be patient and wait to eat dinner until it's fully dark, the flies would be gone.  But, it's a toss-up. We're hungry before dark since we don't eat much during the day.  Why change our dining habits due to some pesky flies?
Image result for difference between frogs and toads
Even with awareness of these differences, it can be tricky to determine a frog from a toad.
As I sit here on the veranda this morning at 11:00 am, the flies are bombarding me.  Also, they are biting flies, leaving a nasty sting that can itch for hours.  We assume the flies, as well as the mozzies, are a result of the recent rains so we'll put up with it.  
He's no exotic frog, only a common tree frog often found near water in Africa.  See the diagram below for the difference between a frog and a toad. (Ken's ohoto).
We're grateful for the rain for our wildlife friends, greening the vegetation vitally necessary for their survival.  Last night there was a perfect soaking rain that continued through most of the night.
Warthogs enjoy hanging out with other "diners" such as kudus to ensure they get the maximum number of pellets.
This morning, we awoke to many visitors to our garden, waiting for a tasty morning treat.  It's comforting to us to know that when we depart in 19 days, the vegetation will easily sustain the wildlife that's been visiting us over the past year.  

Handsome young male kudu requesting more pellets with the proverbial stare.
However, that fact doesn't diminish the sadness we feel when thinking about them showing up day after day, night after night and we won't be here.  We knew this time would come and we're grateful they will have plenty to eat without our steady stream of pellets, apples, carrots and other good-for-them vegetables we share each day.

This was the smallest/youngest kudu we've seen in the garden.
And so it goes, the days and nights sail by faster than I ever imagined, a large clock ticking in my head.  Yes, I'm treasuring every moment.  Yes, I'm looking forward to the next adventure.  And, above all, this has been a year we'll always remember, never to be duplicated, never to be lost among the excitement of other magnificent places we'll visit in this amazing world.

Female duikers have one little tuft of a horn while the males have two.
Enjoy your day, your night and each moment in between.

Photo from one year ago, January 26, 2018:
A small group of Gentoo Penguins heading out to sea for a morning swim and hopefully a bite to eat.  For more adorable penguins, please click here.