This blog will now become inactive. One year ago on Oct 23, 2012 we began our trip to South Africa, a trip of a lifetime. This blog was initially set up to capture an electronic copy of my travel journal, and as a place to keep track of our trip pictures in Smilebox slideshows. Then it evolved. Upon returning home, I continued my Google newsfeeds from South Africa and Zimbabwe and watched fascinated as Zimbabwe approached and passed through the election process largely without violence. I also watched the reports of Mandela’s most serious fight with life threatening illness in the summer of 2013, as I am sure that South Africa will change considerably in a post-Mandela world. I captured links to the news items that caught my attention from Feb. 2013 until Oct. Articles about wildlife or travel in SA and Zim became new blog posts. Other news items of interest were referenced and linked in the NewsSA and NewsZim pages attached to this blog. That process will also stop now.
You see, I feel like this blog is finished. So, let me wrap this up with a few parting comments:
- if you have the opportunity to go to South Africa, do so. It’s amazing.
- go for as long as you can afford
- if Victoria Falls is an option, take it. Beware of other parts of Zimbabwe as the situation there appears to be unstable and deteriorating as of Oct. 2013.
- be an informed traveler. Set up Google news feeds and watch what is reported. Also watch the website AllAfrica.com . Recognize that news reports tend to sensationalism or on occasion government propaganda. Nonetheless, it will create a context. Likewise, look for current blogs. Visit the Thorntree forum.
- learn to say unjani (how are you) and siya peela (I’m fine). It’s Zulu. It’s understood just about everywhere we went and it always brought up smiles.
- here’s the final answer to the question, “Would you do it again?” Yes, in a heartbeat.
Best wishes to you for safe travels. Cheers from Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada where we only have black bears, cougar and wolves. Jim.
Wildlife TV blog site has started publishing their top 10 photos for each month. Nick and Sofia have moved to South Africa and I seem to recall they may be living in a private game reserve likely in Limpopo. Here is a link to their informative post about daily Living in the African Bush. And here is the link to their top 10 September photos. If African wildlife is your thing, I recommend their site to you.
Here’s a website that a friend recently e-mailed to me: Portfolio Collection, trusted places to stay. I wanted to talk about this a bit. First, this started as a travel blog although recently it has looked more like a laundry list of what’s going wrong with wildlife in southern Africa. So back to travel. Trying to figure out where to stay is one of the biggest challenges. The locals know through exposure and experience – they’ve seen it, they might have been there. For example, I could tell you many of the places to stay and to avoid on Vancouver Island, like the best and worst place to stay in Zeballos (it’s the same place, only one in town). So that’s why we went with a tour when we went to southern Africa – to benefit from the knowledgeable guide and the experienced drivers who already knew about where to go and not to go and how to make it right when it started to go wrong. I have great admiration for those people who go to a foreign country with no prearranged accommodation or destinations, I just think they are somewhat crazy. So that’s why I posted this link to the Portfolio Collection; when it speaks of trust it addresses one of my main travel issues. You can visit this page for a comprehensive list of my travel issues.
We’re coming up to the one year anniversary of our trip to southern Africa. If you get a chance to go, by all means do so. It’s a stunning journey. By the end of October I plan to stop writing in this blog. But it will remain on line to be found from time to time.
Update, Oct. 20, 2013. Estimates as high as 300 deaths and increasing; also lions, vultures, hyenas, kudu, buffalo. Alleged ZANU bigwigs involvement and cover up.
Update, Oct. 12, 2013. Elephant poisoning death toll now in excess of 90.
I first noted the reports of poisoning of 41 elephants in early September. Now it is reported that more than 80 poisoned elephant carcasses have been found and that the cyanide was present in salt blocks left near the watering holes. This suggests that other wildlife will be affected – those animals that also use the salt blocks, although no mention of this is made in any reports seen this far. A second news article attributes the problem to “illegal sanctions” imposed by the West (US, Europe). The argument is made that sanctions reduced the economy to the point that the wildlife management system was affected in terms of equipment and enforcement employment. Of interest in the second article is the statement that Zimbabwe’s elephant holding capacity is only 56,000 whereas the country has an elephant population of 120,000 and that in Hwange National Park there is a population of 45,000 elephants compared to a holding capacity of 14,600. If this is true, then the park may be in poor shape as the elephants tear up the vegetation faster than it can recover if there is an excess population.
Aljazeera.com has created a website exclusive, 6 part documentary describing the training of wildlife rangers in South Africa in response to poaching. This promises to be an outstanding series. Find Wildlife Warzone on the web here.
Zimbabwe has announced plans to evacuate lions from Chiredzi River Conservancy, part of the Trans Frontier Conservation Area in the south eastern lowveld due to conflict with encroaching settlements. Large areas of the Conservancy have now been settled by humans leaving the lions on a small “island” measuring about 2 000 ha. The CRC’s elephant population is also in severe danger. Problems associated with encroaching settlement are poaching, game poisoning, introduction of cattle which may also carry foot and mouth disease and pollution of wildlife watering holes. This press release from 2011 describes how ZANU-PF’s policies have contributed to the loss of conservancy areas. I have been unable to get information about the overall size of the Chiredzi River Conservancy Area. Here is the internet connection to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and a Facebook connection. For those persons who do not use Facebook and so cannot access this site, this is from the ZCTF Facebook “About” page:
“It is estimated that more than 90% of the game in private game ranches has been lost to poachers and illegal hunters during the last five years. The loss in conservancies is estimated to be 60% and in national parks almost 40%. The slaughter of wildlife in Zimbabwe continues unabated. It is estimated that game ranches have lost between 80% and 90% of wildlife to poachers and the larger conservancies, have lost around 60%. Some game ranchers have reported that they do not have a single animal left. Some of these game ranches and conservancies are home to endangered species. The poachers do not discriminate between endangered and common species. The Painted Dog, an endangered species previously hand reared on a conservancy in Gwayi near Victoria Falls, has been totally eliminated.”
It is reported that poachers added cyanide to watering holes in Hwange National Park, poisoning, killing 41 elephants for their tusks. Police arrested 6 poachers and recovered 17 tusks. The cyanide will also kill juvenile and baby elephants and other animals that made use of the watering holes. The news report suggests that the poison may also affect animals that scavenge the carcasses of poisoned animals.