Safari in Selous – A Honeymoon Ending for Naturlists


Posted by admin | Posted in Africa, Birds, Mammals, Photography, Safari, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, Wildlife | Posted on 03-04-2011

Selous Game Reserve – on paper Africa’s largest protected wildlife reserve.  This is where we chose to polish off an unforgettable wedding/honeymoon trip.

Staying at Lake Manze camp we had just 3 nights to explore as much as possible.  Although Selous covers more than 5% of Tanzania’s total area, in reality the majority is a hunting reserve and just a relatively small area north of the Rufiji river is kept for ‘photography hunting’ or eco tourism.

From the small Coastal aeroplane I spotted my first giraffe and within the first 20 mins of the gradual drive from the airstrip toward camp my wildlife spotting senses were already in overload.  Plenty more Giraffes and Impala seemingly in a any view you chose from the jeep; and it was the view that struck me hard…

Usually our nature driven trips have been to tropical rainforests and we are well used to have no more than a couple of metres visibility both left and right with the only distant view being ahead down the path your are walking (and even that depends on how well and straight the paths have been cut).  So sitting in an open 4×4 Landrover and looking not just forward for a km or more but all around to both sides and seeing mammals off on the horizon – this was a whole new ball game in our mildly obsessive wildlife watching world.

What stood out to me as much as the game viewing was the birdlife, not just in quantity and variety but in beauty.  the Rollers and Bee-eaters have such striking colours but then also the 5 species of Kingfisher we saw, the number of raptors (from Osprey to Sea Eagle, falcons and so many vultures) and even the common passerines were interesting; perhaps not surprising being our first ever visit to Africa so all was pretty new and fresh.

One of the main reasons we chose Selous over, say, the Serengeti or Ngorongoro, was for the relative peace and quiet of the reserve.  During most drives we only saw up to 2 cars passing by and never another vehicle whilst watching an animal – the one big exception being on the final evening when we went out to observe a pride of lions with 2 males (brothers).  In that instance it probably resemebled the hoards that you hear about in Kenya or North Tanzania since we had 3 or 4 jeeps at one time in the same area.

The two the major attractions of Lake Manze camp were:

1) It is situated on the lake so you can mix up the activities by taking boat safaris.  This really gives you variety; the birding was superb and the viewpoint is always different from the water.

2) The camp is not fenced, you are staying in extravagant tents which means that wildlife can, and does, come right up to.

As well as having Impala and Monkeys within 10m we also had two special moments.  I never realised how silently a big elephant could sneak up on you!  One lunchtime we were relaxing on the tent porch when he appeared through a bush. As he came closer we went inside the tent and watched through the mesh window as he virtually brushed up against the canvas!  The Masai do look after you but hadn’t noticed this one so we just enjoyed the experience and let the elephant get on with his stroll.  In the bush everybody and everthing makes way for the elephants.

The other moment was during the night of a full moon; in the middle of the night a storm had passed over with a typically heavy tropical downpour.  Afterwards I had been awoken again but by a different sound, a sound of munching.  As it approached I could see moonshine but could not distinbuish its outline until my eyes adjusted to its great size and traced the outline of a large bull hippo under the moonlight!  He edged closer, regularly tearing huge amounts of grass and munching away.  Imagine the sound a cow makes when tearing up grass, now amplify that 50 times.  We watched this hippo as it stood as close and can be just a metre fromt he tent side.  Everytime we made a slight rustle it would stop, listen out and everntually carry on his midnight feast.  Everybody always says how dangerous they can be and having seen them running on dry land the previous 2 days I could well believe it.

Our first time in Africa, our first Safari and at the end of our honeymoon after a special 2 weeks that included a wedding in Zanzibar.  A great way to polish of a great trip for 2 newleywed nature lovers.

See all Safari photos here.

Nature Photographs


Posted by admin | Posted in Images, Nature, Photographs, Photography, Wildlife | Posted on 11-01-2011

Many more nature images have now been added to the galleries over at Buggslife Photography.  All photographs are taken by photographer David Bugg who specialises in nature, wildlife, landscape and travel.

Go take a look.

Photo Poem: “Sparse”


Posted by admin | Posted in Birds, Photo, Photo Poem, Poem, Poetry | Posted on 04-11-2010

Photo Poem: “Sparse”.

One of many new poems now up.


Stoat taking its prey


Posted by admin | Posted in Mammals, Nature, Photography, Wildlife | Posted on 16-07-2010

Caught a great wildlife moment cycling home from work last Friday.

A stoat was taking out a big rat…the screeching from the rat caught my attention and I managed to get one rushed shot:

Stoat & Prey

Stoat attacking Rat

I then lay by a wall waiting for the stoat to return and finish it as the rat was still breathing but could hardly move and, sure enough, he did pop out to inspect my bike, dance around and disappear again once he spotted me. Unfortunately at that moment I had my camera set up facing the rat!

Number of Bird Species…


Posted by admin | Posted in Birds, Nature | Posted on 07-03-2007

No wonder I got into all the amazing variety of birds down there…

Number of Different Bird Species in the Continents:

3,200 South America
2,900 Asia
2,300 Africa
2,000 North America (from Panama north + Caribbean)
1,700 Australia + surrounding islands
1,000 Europe
65 Antarctica

Las Islas Galapagos – wow!


Posted by admin | Posted in Birds, Ecuador, Galapagos, Isla Isabella, South America, Travel, Wildlife | Posted on 30-12-2006

The time we spent in the Galapagos was just fantastic.

We did some big day trips on different types of boats, numerous day trips on land by walking or biking and saw such an amazing variation in countryside – for example wild cliffed islands, paradise style beaches, lava flow areas with cacti forests – constantly changing vegetation and of course the most awesome wildlife you could imagine.

The marine life was definitely a major highlight since we saw things I’d wanted to see all my life but some I never thought I would. Pods of dolphins diving in and out of the sea passing our boat, a group of killer whales also diving in and out later that day or the ocasional sea turtle – I even swam about with one – but more often seen when coming up for air. One night we were sat at the bay of the most populated town in the islands and I thought I saw something in the water with the streetlamp light; a few seconds later a turtle popped up right in front of us for a gulp of air and dived back under!

That’s the way it was pretty much. There’s life everywhere, of course far more in the less accesible parts but even right on the edges of populated places.

Without a doubt our favourite island was Isabela, the largest, even thought we only saw a relatively tiny fraction of it. From the port village walking along the beach we found the most idyllic individual beaches I’ve seen; and some less than an about 40mins walk. What adds superbly to these quality, secluded beaches is the life. You’re usually only sharing it with big marine iguanas, some sealions, bright crabs and, with luck, penguins or rays! On the main beach I watched a group of at least 20 penguins hunting in front of me whilst I was chest deep in the water. Until then we had never seen groups of more than 8 or so! Plus the birds and sealions would get in on the act and take easy pickings among the feast. It was natural events like that that made it such an awesome experience.
I think what surprised me most, and ended up being my favourite animals to see, were the rays. On the first boat trip we watched the ‘wings’ of huge Manta Rays flipping about on the sea surface, then soon after we watched them leaping well out of the water and belly flopping or sometimes flipping and back flopping on the surface. Then one passed right by the boat at the surface and i saw its shocking size and beauty as it drifted by. After that we saw rays loads in various situations – often the big mantas jumping and flipping whilst we chilled on the beach. Occasionally, however, we saw beautiful Spotted Eagle Rays swim close to shore and a few times we swam with them including a time when we were snorkelling with loads of Galapagos sharks and Reef Sharks on a day trip and a group of 5 Eagle Rays came along and drifted around proper peaceful. So cool to watch them ‘flying’ through the water. Then there were the smaller sting rays we’d see hiding in the sand in the shallows which were cool to snorkel with and once we saw a school of Golden Rays off a boat – a stunning sight.

Getting between the major islands we took what was probably the worst boat ride experience of my life – thank f*ck it was only 2 and a half hours – and after that dodgy journey we decided on a flight to skip 2 more similar boat trips. The plane was a cool 8 seater with 6 people. I jumped at the chance to ride up in the co-pilot seat like the little child that I am. It was coooool!

As you can probably tell, this was all ideal for me. An amazing trip and still sooooo much more I could say.

Oh well, hopefully the snapfish pics will say more than a thousand waffled words….

Jungle Life – All Good


Posted by admin | Posted in Amazon, Jungle, Nature, Rainforest, Wildlife | Posted on 02-12-2006

So I’ve just spent almost a month in the rainforest and absolutely loved it.

Clare and I were there volunteering at a Jungle Lodge primarily for tourism but which also plays an important role in some research. This research took up our first 6 days.

Getting there involved us taking a 9 hour bus from the capital to a big jungle town called Coca. Then took a pallet mobile (rickety all wood thing) for about 3 hours along a pure bumpy road built by oil companies a while back.

Arriving at a bridge we set off in a huge canoe down the river Shiripuno and into a National Reserve of the indigenous people the Huaraoni, a certain few tribes of whom still live as they always did as hunter gathers deep in the forest. 4 hours or so in the canoe we arrived having already seen some cool birds, turtles and 1 caiman on route.

The main research going on is with Butterflies. They have 50 traps set up throughout the forest – 25 hanging close to the ground and 25 up in the canopy. So those 6 days involved carrying heavy buckets of rotting bananas, filling the traps, recording info, lowering and cleaning the traps, checking them and taking any butterflies.
We just weren’t able to kill the things, so we left that job to Oscar (Oscar is Fernando’s brother and a guy with the knowledge of most of this region of forest including all paths and traps and who also very quickly became a good mate). All this through numerous winding paths and many small trails throughout varying jungle, over streams and through mini swamps.

The walk for this job lasted at least 4 hours and sometimes up to 6 which would bring you into the harsh heat of the afternoon. The paths – at least for me – were completely confusing mixed with the heat and me being knackered usually after halfway. The trap job started really cool though with us finding a big and real heavy tortoise wandering through the forest on the first day.

I only started to understand all the roots after several walks through them and after extracting Oscar’s knowledge in the form of a map; and a classic map at that indicating locations of cool places like swamps, a hummingbird nest, a nest of green eggs, streams and known sites of animals etc…
Of the various sites our favourite we named “La Isla” (The Island) because you had to cross a river over fallen trees and, when you got across, the vegetation was suddenly really different – it included a huge Ceibra tree, plenty of mud, low plants and plenty of vines and roots. Difficult to explain but it’s just well different to the normal jungle. It’s wild image is stronger because it is the farthest place from the Lodge on the current paths. What also made it our favourite were the animals we would often see and always loads of cool footprints; mostly of peccary and some deer. A lot of experiences with animals in dense rainforest is often seeing tracks, hearing them move or call and sometimes smelling their scents. All this is interesting and exciting when you know they’re closeby but just don’t give you a proper view. Of course the ultimate is to see the animals and we saw plenty, a fair amount of which was quick sitings of them rushing off.

On La Isla, however, we saw great views of the bigger species of the Peccary (White-lipped) and plenty of different species of Monkey.

THE ultimate day for us was a Monday when we were out doing the traps and on route saw a few groups of different monkeys, one of which was pretty feisty and did a good job of intimidating us. We also saw a cool snake (our first here) up close as he was chillin in our path. Later, on La Isla, we were plodding along as usual when all of a sudden Oscar froze and started scampering backwards. An increidle Boa Constrictor was right in our path! A beautiful, shockingly thick and real long (4-5m) snake with fantastic scale patterns which turned red towards the tail. We spent ages admiring it – it just didn’t seem real. Right there in our trail, in a mysterious part of the forest surrounded by bending roots and vines.
As we silently observed the Boa Oscar pointed up and the coolest looking Monkey was staring down at us from a relatively low and open branch! It was a Monk Saki species which is not how you imagine a typical monkey – full of shaggy black/grey speckled fur, big wide fluffy tail and an undescribable face. There were a few more about bu the view I got of that particular one was just awesome – watching animals with binoculars adds another dimension.

I saw that species several times after that but never such good views and never so tranquil as they’re renowned for fleeing soon after realising they’ve been spotted.

After the first week of doing the trap work we would spend the mornings doing various jobs including making a bench, clearing and making new paths, making signs, putting them up throughout the paths, making a few bridges, trying to teach some English and helping around the cabins. The making of the bench, bridges and paths involved loads of using a machete, which was great fun to learn and practice – boys and their toys eh…

One proper cool one-off job was when I acted as translator for a couple of days. Fernando (the boss) set off up river when a load of food failed to arrive with a group of tourists and after a few days of using up what was left he had to hitch a lift with a passing canoe of lumbermen.
Whilst he was gone a couple of ductch tourists with their motorist, guide and cook turned up looking for him to act as a translator – the guide didn’t speak English and the motorist had been learning (for 2 months!) and was meant to translate. So Oscar suggested I go with them so headed of down river as they were on a camping trip.

I had a cool time learning loads about the plants (including drinking from the water vine) and animals as I was interpreting everything the guide said, had great sitings of animals including various Monkeys, Caiman, cool Frogs and Lizards, Peccary and even a group of 4 Giant Otters right by our canoe on an early morning leisurely trip downstream!

So I learned a hell of a lot about the jungle from everyone – guides, colleagues, local people – and went for sooo many walks (many alone) through the many paths of varying vegetation and scenery.

We thought about it and decided it’s fair to say that we’d see at least a group of monkeys during 9 out of every 10 walks and that’s not to mention squirrels, lizards (one big one about 1m – yellow striped), frogs, incredible insects, other mammals like Peccary, a shocking variety of spiders plus tarantulas, soooo many birds and the odd fish.

We got into the Naturalist scene as we’d read up on things we’d seen using the books back at the lodge. Most of the frogs I’d find were proper tiny with the exception of a couple – one of which was the very poisonous and huge Smoky Jungle Frog (this pic shows his patterned back).

As well as he walks Clare and I also dabbled in some “artesania”. I attempted to carve a local nut (Tagua) into a tortoise, we made several friendship bracelets, did some drawing and painting and I enjoyed taking loads of photos. As well as the low light levels in the forest, plus the fact that most animals run a mile at the sound/sight or smell of you, there was also the fact that even the smaller animals weren’t keen to pose for the camera. However, some came out ok, many insects…

We also took the little canoe for a paddle a few times…
Leaving the lodge was classic too. A proper case of “sit back and enjoy the show”.
During the canoe ride upstream plenty of interesting birds (colourful parrots, cool tucans, hawks etc) either flew by in front of us or were perched on an open branch.

Plus we visited a community of the local tribespeople – the Huaorani. They keep a mad range of pets (anything you might find in the forest really) and I saw the hands of a Woolley Monkey which was being smoked on a fire. Their hunting method is impressive – the use a long and damn heavy blowpipe. The pipe, darts and poison are made by them – the poison is gathered from various vines, frogs and other plants. It often just immobilizes the animal (e.g. monkey) so it falls to the ground when the muscles are paralyzed.

So that was my month in the amazon. Of course there were plenty of other mini tales but you’ve got the idea…

Note: All the photos here will not be included in the Snapfish set. Enjoy.