Archive for the 'South Africa' Category

08
Nov
10

Landscapes of Africa – Best Photos

Nothing is as evocative of Africa as the  landscape: the physical territory with lots of long shots, sunsets, sunrises, oceans and deserts. Why it should be so, evocative that is, is a bit of a mystery. But when  I  look at these photos, they cry out, “Africa!” and no other place on earth that I’ve been.

Red soil, red sand, champagne glass shaped trees form the setting for the furry creatures most people go there for: but the most evocative, single thing about the continent for me is the land, ancient and worn, new and untested, puzzling and yet strangely familiar. Hope you enjoy them!

Sunset over Serengeti waterhole

 

To be included in this “best-of” there should not be animals or people or at least not the focus of the shot. Getting hoards of people, usually kids, out of the photo is an issue for  being included in this post but not for taking pictures.  In Africa,taking photos, I hardly ever thought, “wait till that kid gets out of the shot”.

On the other hand, if there were a tubby tourist with a blue and cream flowered Hawaiian shirt and skin tight, orange Bermuda shorts wearing new silvered Nike’s on the feet, I’d have no trouble waiting. Anybody wearing cameras and/or snapping photos (yes, like I was) also meant I waited or pointed the lens in another direction.

Here’s  what I found in the photo folder one year later thinking “landscapes, yes, they were striking”.

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08
Nov
10

Birds of Africa – Best Photos

From the hoopoe in Namibia to the crested cranes in Tanzania Africa was a place of marvelous birds and birds very different that the ones we are used to seeing in North America. Only the greater and lesser egrets, gulls (though different ones) and the great blue heron come to mind as birds we are used to seeing here that crossed our path somewhere in the nearly 2 months in southern Africa.

From the Okavango delta to the plains of Serengeti to the Chobe river banks Africa was chock-a-block with peeping, flapping, chirping, kindom animalia, phylum chordata, class aves.

In Africa it’s easy to focus on the big, furry, nursing mammalians but when we got back, there were a surprising number of photos of our avian friends: Africa is a great place for birding. Birders (the real honest-to-goodness fanatical types like Harry and Ted) know this, of course but we novitiates thought only of the hairy things like lions and tigers and bears. Here are the feathered creatures that stayed still long enough to clap a lens on during our seven week trip between Oct. and Nov. of 2009. Hope you enjoy them!

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08
Nov
10

Reptiles, Plants & Miscellaneous of Africa – Best Photos

This is a catchall post from our Oct. to Nov. 2009 southern Africa trip:  those photos that didn’t belong in one of the big 4 categories.  Where do you put a spitting cobra, e.g.?  Or a tse-tse fly or a termite mound or Mr. and Mrs. Dung Beetle? Well, they just don’t belong with mammals or bird or landscapes, I can tell you that!

Still these are pictures worth looking at (IMO). Hope you enjoy them.

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08
Nov
10

People of Africa – Best Photos

Aside from the furry, nursing, large and small mammals, we went to Africa to meet and see Africans at home and at work. With varying degrees of success, we did just that between Oct. and Nov. of 2009. Here are the (IMO) best photos of the people we traveled with and the people we encountered. Enjoy!

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08
Nov
10

Mammals of Africa – Best Photos

Mammals: big and small, furry and nurse their young, our close relatives in the animal kingdom. Unless I miss my guess, mammals are the reason people travel to Africa. Here are the best (IMO) of the previously blogged mammals of Africa taken between October and November of 2009. Hope you enjoy them!

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08
Mar
10

Desert, Red Sand & Wild Animals

Oryxes, wild, free oryxes on the run


Namibia, which we came to after a 6 hour drive up the road from Cape Town,  is my favorite African country of the six we visited.  Wild, open and simply ravishing to the  photographer’s eyes.

Namibia became a free, separate country, breaking away from South Africa in 1990 – four years before the end of apartheid in South Africa. Namibia was a political football at the end of WWI. The Germans lost as you recall and they lost on the continent of Africa as well. Namibia, was from 1884 to 1915 known as German South-West Africa and the native people suffered like the Aztecs in Mexico or the Incas in Peru – they were conquered by a handful of Europeans with modern firearms. It must be said that it doesn’t seem South Africa was terribly interested in extending its territory over Namibia.

Between 1904 and 1907 the Herero and Namaqua people took up arms against the Germans and in a bit of breathtaking brutality ended in the expulsion from German SW Africa of those peoples and their decimation in what is known as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide.

“Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot” – Lt. General Lothar von Trotha, commander of German forces. Who would have known what happened in this far away corner of the world? Not I.

It ended with the loss of 50-70% of populations of the Herero and Namaqua. The survivors of the Battle of Waterburg (ironically) were driven into the deathly dryness of the Kalahari desert to perish. Some survived and made it to British territory where they were given asylum on the grounds that they lay down their arms. Check that link out and the picture at the top: holocaust redux.

Witness - Sossus Vlei

Namibia is an enormous country and we visited many parts of it over a ten day period: it is the size of New Zealand plus Italy plus England and Ireland or it you’re of a US frame of mind, bigger than Montana and California combined. It is, withal, very, very dry. If you have water, as we did, no problem. Even when we got stuck in the middle of nowhere, we had plenty to drink.
We will visit Orange River and paddle our canoes, Goegap where strange plants are silhouetted against the Namibian sky, the Fish River Canyon which looks like the Grand Canyon, White Lady where we will be chased by elephants, Sossus and Dead Vleis for the most photogenic spot in Africa, Dune 45 (tallest in the world, so I am told – I knew as much about dune heights as the Waterburg massacre), the German bakery at the ends of the earth in Solitaire, the cape fur seals along the coast (smelly, but you are protected), and Swakopmund where we unwind in a cabin with hot, running water in a room just off the bedroom almost like home.

Flat tire - Namibia

Impala buck - Etosha waterhole

We will also pay visits to Etosha (you may have seen the National Geographic or Nature specials on public broadcast. Etosha is a very special place and home to the “big 5” which will be explained in detail. Finally, before exiting Namibia for Botswana we will pay a visit to the vast Etosha Pan and learn what the word endorheic means. The Etosha Pan, you will be pleased to know, is similarly king-sized: bigger than the state of New Jersey or the country of Isralel. Bet you never heard of it.

Namibia, in addition to being very dry is second only to Mongolia as the least populated country on earth. I wouldn’t have known that earlier but after driving its length and breadth, it’s easy to believe. Namibia is one of the only places in Africa where wildlife runs free. No fences that the wildlife cared about, no national parks to protect them, not many people to harass/hunt them.

Etosha, it must be admitted is the kind of African side-show that we came to know and appreciate. It’s nature distilled, on the rocks, attracted (by water) and fenced in for your touristic pleasure. Don’t get me wrong: the continent is much better off for all that. We crossed great expanses of Botswana, Zambia, Malawi (the entire country is devoid of wildlife), and Tanzania. There is nothing, nothing, nothing outside the parks: or almost nothing. Occasionally a vervet monkey sidles up to you looking for some Velveeta or Marmite but other than that, nothing, nada, zip.

Male springboks dueling

Come along! The flat tire is fixed and we are ready to roll

25
Feb
10

Where Is Robben Island?

For any student of black history, Robben Island is an essential pilgrimage. It’s stuck in the middle of Table Bay a few kilometers off the coast of one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Cape Town, South Africa. Windswept, rocky and only 7 square km (under 3 square miles) Robben Island is washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean, lapping up from south.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.” – Nelson Mandela

Low and brushed by the tides Robben Island is more than a shrine for the memories of apartheid. For example, it’s precambrian metamorphic rock is the site of a great deal of bird life and imported mammals from the mainland. Robben Island has a wonderful view of the city of Cape Town and must have served as a constant reminder of South Africans living there of those  imprisoned and exiled there: political prisoners and lunatics.

It has served, in the  past, as a leper colony first voluntary and then compulsorily after 1892.  It was an early place of exile for the Dutch by the British and for the Muslim imam Sayed Abdurahman Moturu sent there in the mid 1740’s (see the memorial image below).  As early as 1525 it is reported that a Portuguese ship dumped prisoners there.

As recently as 1994 the apartheid government of South Africa maintained Robben Island as a political prison.  Nelson Mandela, later president of South Africa and still later Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent 18 long years there under appalling conditions.  We visited his  cell block and could peer into the cell furnished much as Mandela had left it in 1990.  In 1999 Robben Island became a UNESCO world heritage site and today is a pilgrimage for those who reject the hatred of the past.

Today Robben Island is a popular destination for tourists and you need to book reservations in advance for the half hour ride in one of the boats leaving from Victoria and Albert waterfront.

Once you get there you board a bus and are given the broad tour of the island and then ushered into the cell block.  First we see from the bus the black and white ibises nesting, the Muslim shrine, and the rock quarry where Nelson Mandela and others worked digging out stone and meeting in secret in the small cave you can see in the picture.

We see the “reunion cairn” was started in 1995 when Mandela and over 1000 political prisoners revisited Robben Island.  Mandela picked up a rock, carried to the site of the cairn and dropped the rock, followed by the others.  At each 5 year reunion, the cairn is enlarged.

Then we are led from the bus into the cell block…imagine: 18 years.

Robben Island Bus

Catamaran Transport to Robben Island


Former Political Prisoner and Guide Explains Prison Life In Large Cell

Quarry and "reunion rockpile" started by Mandela in 1995

Robben Island Diet Card Blacks and Coloured

Nelson Mandela's Cell

Former political prisoner explains life in the "yard" outside cellblock

Robben Island Moturu Kramat Muslim Shrine

Robert Sobukwe - Leader of Pan African Conference resistence movement

Robben Island - Freedom Boat Picture

Robben Island's Eye View Of Cape Town

Robben Island Leper's Cemetary

The Robben Island Gallery – Click on image to enlarge – hover pointer/cursor over an image for a bit more information.




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Dead Vlei - Namib-Naukluft National Park

Copyright 2010 – Terry Doyle