Denham on Shark Bay and the worst Naval Battle in Australia’s history.

shattered selfie
For the past 11 months each time a road train passed us, it loosened our towing mirrors from their draft. We then had to tighten them up again. Finally on the way into Shark Bay, a road train managed to blow them right off and into the road. I had to run and get it before the next car ran it over. It still works, thanks to some superglue and hopefully will get us back to Sydney. The moral of the story is….Buy the expensive mirrors everyone!!!!
denham sculpture
Denham sculpture on the foreshore
pearl galli gurci
A nice old pearling lugger parked in the Denham’s bay for bird toileting.

The walls of the Old Pearler restaurant in Denham are made entirely of shells!

 

 

dumbest sign ever
The dumbest west Australian risk sign we have seen on this trip. Talking about a “Nanny State”.

20 Km south of Denham is Eagle Bluff. The boardwalk offers beautiful views across Denham sound. These waters support the worlds largest meadows of sea grass and are home to an estimated population of 10,000 dugongs which is 10% of the world’s   remaining population of this lovely animal.

eagle bluff
The view from Eagle Bluff
eagle pose
Steve doing a bit of yoga on a post. Yes it is the eagle Pose at Eagle bluff! I was impressed, as I couldn’t stay up there when I tried it!
shark bay shark
From the walkway you could clearly see into the water here and there were plenty of sharks- Lemon and Nervous Sharks, stingrays etc.
eagle bluff panorama
Panorama from walkway at Eagle Bluff
eagle island
Eagle Island was mined for bird Guano back in the day. Now it is a refuge for them.

 

One of the interesting things about this trip for Steve and I is learning more of Australia’s history. We stopped at the Shark Bay Visitor Centre in the main town of Denham to see this historical display and excellent deep sea footage of the encounter between the Sydney II and the German ship HSK Kormoran. The 15min 3D film and exhibit tells the story of the World War II naval battle between these ships 200km off the coast of Shark Bay in 1941. This was the worst naval battle in Australia’s history with all 645 men on board the Sydney II lost. The Germans also lost men but most were able to get off their ship before it sank and made it to shore. It was these survivors that became POW’s that gave accounts of the battle and told the story of how both ships were lost.

 

Both Ships are now at the bottom of the sea 2.5 kilometers down and were found 67 years after the battle that put them there. In 2015 an expedition to the wreck sites used remotely-operated vehicles and took extraordinary images of the two ships on the seabed. They say a picture paints a thousand words and this exhibit shows in pictures the horrors of war. At the end of the film the footage was of soldiers boots abandoned on the deck as if they had run right out of them. Perhaps jumping overboard to avoid the entire ship on fire. Horrible war!!!!

fire on the water

hmas sydney II
The Sydney in Sydney harbour.

fire on ththe water info

torpedos
Torpedos and torpedo tubes open and ready to fire.
sydneys b turret
One of Sydney’s gun turrets.

kormoran linda gun

list of boats sunk or captured
This is a list written on the side of Kormoran of all previous boats that they had captured still legible 70+ years on.
sea life on sydney
Sea life takes over in the deep ocean.
sydney picture
Fire damage is visible on bot.h ships
shell hole
A shell hole blown in the side of the Sydney next to a port hole.

aftermath

 

Shark Bay and Francois Peron National Park

Next we headed to shell beach. Here the Fragum Cockle shells take over the beach and there is no sand here- only shells.  The water here was super saline (twice as salty as normal sea water from evaporation)  which these shells can cope with. Though it is hard to get out to the water at low tide, Steve braved the gale force winds and walked out for an easy float while I enjoyed a bed of shells. Mfragum cockle

shells only beach
Shells for as far as the eye can see!
hamelin pool
A view of Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve and Shell Beach from a look out. Shell Beach stretches 60kms and shells are 10metres deep in places.
shell beach heaven 2
In shell heaven.
shell beach sunbake
A shell sun bake on a blinding white beach- for about 1 minute.
steve and the sand piper
Steve floating way out with a gale force wind blowing!
project eden predetor proof fence
Project Eden’s preditor proof fence goes right out in the water at either side of the Peron Peninsula. More about this project below.
shark bay salty water
Why this water is so salty and great for floating.

super salty water

shell quarry sign
The compacted shells from Shell beach were cut into big building blocks and used to construct buildings around Denham.
shell blocks
shell blocks in a building in Denham

shell blocks

project eden fence
This is the grid/gate at the project Eden preditor proof fence. If you get out and walk through   the gate has motion sensors and it barks like a dog as you get near it, presumably to scare the feral cats and foxes from walking over the grid.
project eden predetor proof fence
The fence goes right into the sea at both sides of the Peron peninsula.
project eden
Bilby and Mallefowl and the Woma python are successes of this initiative as well as the Western Grasswren.

It took a couple hours of walking the sand dunes near Monkey Mia for Steve to find this endangered Western grasswren which is another success story in this area. We had both seen it once before but needed a photo for a positive ID. The photo is not so good but this sign gives you an idea of what it should look like. A sweet little thing and it is bird 322 for Steve. M

 

When Nicholas Baudin and Francois Peron visited Shark Bay in 1801 there were 23 species of mammals in this area. Less than half remained in 1990. This was due to habitat destruction and competition for food by live stock and rabbits, and predation from introduced foxes and cats. Project Eden was launched to reverse this ecological destruction. Two species that have made a comeback after reintroduction are the Bilby and the Malleefowl. A new program has now replaced Project Eden- Return to 1616!. M

 

 

 

We then headed out to the Francois Peron National Park to the heritage Precinct where you can have a look at what is left of the Peron Station homestead. On the way we saw this very unusual sign on the road. It is not many places that you have to look out for Bilby’s as there are so few left. But here their numbers are growing, which is just wonderful to see! It is amazing what can happen when you just get rid of animals that don’t belong here in this country!

bilby sign
The Bilby sign that made our day!

The Old Peron Station first leased in the 1880’s and bought by National Parks like many properties in drought areas that are no longer profitable. They used the old homestead as an office, so unfortunately you could not see inside but the walk around to the old shearing shed and artesian bore swimming pool was nice.

history of peron stationpub problem signpub problem sign 2peron station water sign

southern cross wind pump
The old Southern Cross Wind pump no longer pumped the bore water to the watering troughs but it still had a use.

A short beaked echidna that waddled along.

artesian bore photo

artesian hot tub peron homestead
Almost nobody was in the ocean as it was too cold and windy but the 40deg artesian bore in a cool wind was just right.
artesian hot tub
Cooling off for a minute
steve not flexible enough to be a shearer
Steve attempting to get into Sheep shearing position in the old shearing shed!

shearing instructions

wool classers table
The wool classer’s table.
wool baler
Old wool press
steve on the bale
A bag of wool ready for transport to the docks
wool bale label stensils
Stencils for labeling the wool bales.
cooks stove
The old stove in the shearers kitchen.

 

 

The dolphins of Monkey Mia

Next we headed to Monkey Mia with the plan of swimming with dolphins after finding out what the current regulations were in this area and stayed at the Dolphin Resort. This was brand new and lovely for a caravan park, but we missed our tranquil camp on the beach from the night before .

Dolphin resort monkey mia

We knew about the “dolphin experience” where people with rangers in attendance, feed wild dolphins in the shallows, but were not too sure about it. Feeding wildlife is always a selfish human thing to do, as it never benefits the animals/birds etc. M

Then we learned a bit of background about the place. Dolphins started coming into the shallows here to be fed in around 1960 when a fisherman and his wife began feeding them and eventually gained their trust. This soon became the place to see dolphins and this feeding continued and it was found that the dolphins were dying at a much higher rate than those not fed. Mothers were not teaching their babies how to hunt and avoid predators etc. Finally someone woke up to this and now it is tightly controlled by Parks and Wildlife rangers who feed a select few known adults, a very small amount (less than 10% their daily needs) in a controlled manner. So basically Parks and Wildlife are keeping the public from doing something worse by doing something they know is not natural but also conducting dolphin research. The good news is that the fed dolphins are now living as long as those in the wild. M

first dolphin monkey mia
The evening we arrived we spot the first fin in the shallows

The dolphins at Monkey Mia are Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. They live up to 40yrs for the females (30males) and can swim 40km hr which thankfully, is faster than your average shark. They start to have young at around 10 yrs and are prey for sharks especially in the first year of life. They start life with nice smooth dorsal fins and then sharks take bites out of them, injuries from boats, fishing line etc gives them their identifying marked dorsal fins. M

jacks friend
Dolphins are identified by the bite marks and damage to their fins which they accumulate pretty quickly as they go about their lives which are 30-40yrs long. This one we recognised as Piccolo which was one of the two adult dolphins that came in to be fed.

piccolo and kiya dorsal fins

pelican and piccolo dolphin
Piccolo and a Pelican who probably doesn’t understand why only the dolphins are fed?
mothers and babies
Mothers and babies
ranger on the radio
The ranger talking to the crowd while Kiya, who is Piccolo’s sister approaches. The babies stay a bit further away.
dolphin experience
The crowd stands in ankle deep water
dolphin and ranger
The dolphins came right up and looked you in the eye.
dolphins boats and bird
There were 8 dolphins in the group that we saw. Only 2 of these were fed and there were many babies which is a good sign.

ready for a fish

dolphin feeding
Kiya gets her 5 small fish fed to her by a girl picked from the crowd.

lumpy head

is that a smile
Resting while waiting patiently.
dolphin eye ball
The smile is infectious.
Kiya
This is Steve in the water. Kiya and her baby swam right up to him a couple of metres away but the water was so dirty he could only see them from above. They then swam away.

The weather could not have been worse though. It was cool with temps in the low to mid 20’s with very cold gusty wind the whole time. The usually crystal clear water was very murky and cool. Visibility in the water was poor and not so good for snorkeling only seeing the length of your arm. Steve decided to brave the cold weather and after 45min of looking around had Kiya swim right towards him with a baby and then swim past. She didn’t find him so interesting without food, which I guess is how it should be. It was a wonderful visit but we will have to do it again it when it’s warmer! M

Shark Bay- Gutharraguda meaning “Two Waters”. Another World Heritage area.

We left the heat of the ranges and headed back to the coast staying the first 3 nights at bush/beach camping on 2 goat/sheep stations that had water access to Shark Bay. The first place was on Gladstone Bay where there was an old historical jetty. It was an old jetty that wool was brought to be shipped overseas. The jetty was falling apart and there was the usual risk sign, but it was nice that you could walk out there if you felt like it. Mgladstone structure risk

gladstone bay camp
Sunset at Gladstone Bay beach
stupid goats
One stupid goat (who was bleating away!) got his foot stuck in the other one’s horns (??) They were both pulling and Steve watched this noisy commotion for awhile and then realised they were too stupid to fix this problem themselves. He went in and easily just pushed the foot in the other direction and it came out easily. And we thought cows were stupid!
gladstone bay shower and goats
This was the campgrounds artesian shower that just ran the whole time. The goats are drinking the run off.
white winged fairy wren male
White winged fairy wren ready to breed with its nice blue jacket on!
common sandpiper 2
Common sandpiper
australasian pipit
Australasian Pipit are everywhere in the desert regions and are the biggest posers!
beach goats gladstone bay camp
These goats showed up out our front window in the morning eating the bushes around us.
shark bay sign
We couldn’t wait to drive on a road called useless loop!

Shark Bay has a number of world class natural attractions. This UNESCO World heritage meets four of the 10 required natural criteria and remains only one of only a handful of places in the world to achieve this high criteria status level. M

  1. Exceptional natural beauty
  2. Earth’s history
  3. Ongoing evolution
  4. Threatened species
hamlin pool sign
Enter a caption

One of  the many reasons for Shark bays world heritage status are the stromatolites. They look just like an interesting sort of reef area to us but to scientist these are mind blowing living fossils and only found in two places in the world. They are considered to be the best example of their kind in the world here. The organisms that built these stromatolites were the earliest forms of life on earth, dating back an amazing 3.5 billion years. M

stromatolite walkwaystromatolite signstromatolites

stromatomullet
Even the mullets like them.

more stromatolitesstromatolite info sign

i saw the stromatolites

Our next 2 nights were spent at a lovely beach site on Tamala Station- a goat and Dorper cross sheep farm. The most exciting thing about the place was there were birds around again. We saw three new ones in between the goats and the sheep. There were also plenty of emus and kangaroos on the station. They had a huge rabbit population too that looked like they needed a big dose of calici virus! M

tamala station

tamala station camp
Lovely beach camp in Tamala station

 

pallid cuckoo immature
Pallid Cuckoo- a new bird
aussie laughing dove
Laughing dove- a new bird for me in Australia.  This is actually an immigrant from South Africa and I saw hundreds of them a week earlier on my visit there.  It seems that it is not only South African people that are making a new home around Perth.  S
chiming wedgebill
Chiming Wedgebill- A new bird
singing honeyeater 3
Singing honeyeater in the scrub around camp.
stupid half dorper sheep
Dorper ( a South African breed) crossed sheep. They cope well in arid regions. They breed easily and have little fur which they lose in spring. Fewer problems than the Merino and a meat producing sheep but not sure if the meat prices are the same as with Merino.
dorper cross sheep
Dorper cross sheep with a long waggy tail and a small black head.

From Tamala we were able to go into the Edel Land National Park and to Steep point- Australian mainland’s most westerly point. This area looks across the water to Dirk Hartog Island. Dutch East India man, Dirk Hartog  was the second European to step onto Australia here in 1616 which was 10 years after Willem Janszoon another Dutchman, who was the first at the Gulf of Carpentaria. We were VERY close to wearing clogs, eating waffles and having really good cheese here in Australia!! We just didn’t have any spices of interest! M

hazardous coast
The road to Steep Point was either soft sand or sharp rocks. It was a slow and bumpy but a pretty drive. Oh yes and terribly hazardous like the sign says.
edeland dunes
We drove through these lovely sand dunes along the way.

edeland dune drive

edeland beach drive
Then it was along the beach

We stopped at a beach for a walk and a snorkel and I found this live bailer shell on the shore. This one’s a bit smaller than that huge one Steve found on Ningaloo Reef. There were plenty of oysters everywhere. M

immature pacific gull
Pacific gull waiting for us to break out the fish and chips.

 

edeland snorkelling
Steve braved the cold water and wind to see what was in this very clear water.
live cowrie
I nice live cowrie. There were plenty of these on the beach here which is nice to see.
funky urchin
A weird looking urchin looking like a porcupine.

We just missed the spring wild flowers but I managed to find a few left over growing on rocks and in sand.

steep point selfie
We are as “westy” as you can get!
zydorp cliffs
Rising 200 mtrs above the Indian Ocean on the westerly side of Shark Bay are the stunning Zuytdorp Cliffs which are part of the world heritage listing.
steep point fishing rod holder
Steep points famous cliff fishing spot where you can pull in ocean going Pelagics right off the cliff. We were surprised to have this lunch spot to ourselves. There were plenty of fish swimming around and birds feeding on them.
rocky edeland road
The driving this side was all sharp rocky roads along the cliff line. There are blow holes here to see but there was not enough swell to get them going unfortunately.
sandy road
The cross “island” track

 

 

Kennedy Ranges-Mundatharrda

We continued on the Woolwagon pathway to the Kennedy Ranges. On the way we saw some interesting signs.

stock on road sign
We like how the cow flipped the car and then just stood and stared at it’s handiwork! Whenever you see a “roads to recovery” sign there is never any indication that the bad road you are on is being fixed.
traffic hazzard sign
We were not sure what the hazard was along this 220kms of road. This was one of the best outback roads we have driven on. We could have used a sign like this on many other roads that we have been on this trip that had no sign! Maybe this is for tourist season.

It was past the end of the season here and there was no longer a campground host so you were able to free camp in this national park at this time of year. It was also pretty hot and on our arrival. At 4pm it was 40deg C. We were only staying 1 night and we had 4 walks to do, so we headed first to Honeycomb Gorge and took the risk to do the short but lovely walk and then camped there the night. M

rockfall risk sign

entering honeycomb gorge
Honeycomb gorge walk in 40deg!

honecomb gorge waterfall

honeycomb
Honeycomb gorge with perfect little nest boxes for local birds.

The Kennedy Range is an eroded Plateau about 160km from Carnarvon on the coast, in dry desert country. It’s harsh, hot and dry out here. 250 million years ago the whole area was a shallow ocean basin off the edge of the ancient Australian continent. The Range is what is left over of the land surface that elsewhere has been eroded away but here forms a mesa 75kms long and up to 25kms wide and 100mts high in places. The place is full of spectacular cliffs and gorges, eerie canyons, ancient marine fossils and strange honeycomb formations and what appears to be extruded lave. M

honeycomb gorgejust homeycomblooking out from honeycomb gorge

honeycomb gorge
Eroded stone perfect for birds nesting boxes!

honeycomb gorge 2

fossil honeycomb gorge
Lava?
kennedy night shot
Long exposure at night at Honeycomb gorge camp.

Well you would think that there would be no sleep camping with all the heat coming off this red rock after a 40deg day, but the wind came up and the CP5 is very well designed for flow through ventilation, so we slept quite well. We felt sorry for those in the campground sleeping in tents on the hot ground with no fans though . We got up with the sparrows and headed to the sunrise spot for breakfast. M

kennedy sunrise
We woke to a cloudy day which we were thrilled about, as we had 2 walks to do before it got too hot. 
walking up kennedy escarpment
Making our way up the  gorge to the top of the escarpment for a view of the surrounding plains.
kennedy escarpment walk
Panorama from the viewpoint at the top of the escarpment walk. The “pool” in the distance is actually a dry claypan. 
kennedy ranges escarpment walk lookout
Escarpment walk and the view from the top with the campground below.

Next it was on to the Temple Gorge walk where Steve finally managed to find a new bird. Number 318! There was not such a good photo of the Chestnut Rumped Thornbill. It has been 4 weeks without a new one, so this was pretty exciting! M

kennedy temple walk
The “Temple” at the entry to Temple gorge.
fossil temple gorge
Ancient fossil? These were everywhere.
temple gorge hole in the rock
Temple Gorge walk and the hole in the rock.
temple gorge
Temple Gorge
dead wildflowers on black rock
We just missed these wildflowers but I thought the dead white bushes looked nice against the black stone.
cobbled road info
The cobbled road was built by workers on a work for the dole scheme.
cobbled road
Still on the Wool Wagon Pathway we stopped to see this old section of “cobbled road”built during the depression, for the “new” trucks now taking over from horses and cart and camels that used to cart wool to the coast to send to England. It was the time when Australia “lived off the sheep’s back”.
smithy
Charles Kingsford-Smith Aviator and Wool Trucker 

 

 

Burringurrah-Mount Augustus

We left Exmouth and the coast and the school holidays makers and headed back “outback” via the “Wool Wagon pathway” and Kingsford-Smith Mail run. There was a time when sheep’s wool was carted along these remote outback roads to the coast to be sent to England. This route goes from Geraldton to Exmouth but inland on remote dirt roads with very little traffic on them. Our first day out we lowered our tyre pressure again and hit the dirt and saw only one vehicle all day. It was such a quiet road, we just stopped on the side of the road and free camped where we had nice views over the plains. M

This is not the time of year to head outback and we knew it would be hot but also a bit quieter over the school holidays. We were also heading to Mt Augustus and the Kennedy Ranges. M

wool wagon pathway sign

woolwagon
The only vehicle we passed all day on the “wool wagon pathway” happened to be a road train full of sheep. We saw no sheep anywhere on this road though and it looks like we are now in cattle country.
free camp wool wagon pathway
Having passed only one other vehicle in 4 hours of driving we wondered how close the closest human was to us that night. No doubt there was a farmer 50-100 kms away but it felt like we had the outback to ourselves. We had bright blue skies all day and a stunning starstudded night sky, which you just can’t beat anywhere. We heard stray cows around “camp” at night and feral donkeys “honking” in the night. M
gascoyne shire sign
The sign made Upper Gascoyne Shire  look green and lush. The reality was drought dead trees everywhere.
roadside camp inthe middle of nowhere
Steve climbed the nearest peak to our “camp” on the side of the road, where there was nothing but outback for hundreds of Kms.
blue tree wool wagon pathway
In the middle of nowhere we found this blue painted tree on the side of the road. The paint could not have been too good for the tree but it wasn’t giving up!
old sheep shed wall
Iron patchwork on an old sheep shed no longer used. Many farmers changed from sheep to cattle in these dry dingo filled areas.
cobra station danger sign
We were willing to take the dangerous structure risk and explore this old farmhouse on the road but they had fenced it off from risk takers like us!

Most people only know Charles Kingsford-Smith as an aviator. He was also a transport pioneer who did the mail run from Carnarvon to Meekatharra via Gascoyne Junction and he was a bit of a character. Part of our route followed his old route.

emu hill lookout
Emu Hill lookout with Charles Kinsford-Smith on the sign as part of the old “mail run”.
mt augustus and keddie
The view of  Burringurrah -Mt Augustus, the largest rock in the world and we were here to climb it.

The reason we were out here in the first place was to climb Mt Augustus.  Mt Augustus is an “inselberg” or island mountain. It is 2 and a half times bigger than Uluru- Ayers Rock and it is the supposedly the world’s biggest rock! With these stats we just had to climb it.

burringurrah sign
Burringurrah is asymmetrical rock layers that have been folded into an arch like structure about 900 million years ago.
burringurrah
I was thinking it looked pretty big and it was going to be 38 deg c tomorrow on climbing day! Uggh!

mt augustus sign

a gloomy start up mt augustus
To beat the heat on this 5 hour hike we hit the trail at 04:45 am with head torches. It was already 25deg with a warm wind in blowing on our faces!
ascending by torchlight
It was nice walking as the sun came up on the other side of the mountain.
shadow of mt augustus
Most of the time we were walking up, we were in the shade of the mountain. While it was still quite dark it looked like the plains below was the sea.

approaching mt augustus summitaeroplane view from mt augustus

mt aug summit cairn
We made it to the summit cairn by 710 am. We were the first on the top. From the top of the cairn you could see 360 degrees.
mt augustus summit table
Filling in the visitors book with the big drop to the surrounding plain 715 metres below, behind me.
mt augustus caravan park
We stayed at Mount Augustus Station, which had a caravan park and the only place to stay in the area with nothing but large cattle properties out this way. With the drought there are not so many cattle around on the properties these days, as the land will not support so many of them.
mt augustus descent
On the way down with the sun on our back.
petroglyphs at mt augustus
Steve looking at some Aboriginal petroglyphs on the way down.
cooling off
We made it back down by 10am but it was already 35 deg. We stopped at nearby Goolinee or Cattle Pool to cool off which was true to it’s name with cattle hanging around there. It is the only permanent water in the area with large white gums lining this very welcoming spot. By the end of the day it got to 38deg so we swam in this pool three times

Kruger National Park and 115 new birds!

After the Drakensberg trip it was off to the Kruger National Park where another friend and I had booked on a 3 night stay at a wilderness camp.  The camp has only 8 guests and it is located in a wilderness area of the park far from the normal visitor areas and each day one is taken out on walks in the bush with ranger guides, so it is a very special experience.

Sa trips

brindled gnu
Brindled gnu seen on our transfer to the wilderness camp
on the trail
Walking through the bush lead by two rangers.   The rifles are carried as a safety precaution.  Although there are large predators and other potentially dangerous animals about, they are seldom threatening to humans.
camp waterhole
Approaching a waterhole with warthog, kudu and impala
rhino rampage
We startled some rhinoceros which panicked and came running directly towards us.  While I still have the mental image of thundering beasts with horns bearing down on us and frantic scrambling down a rocky embankment, by the time I got my camera out, the rhinos had turned to the side and were starting to disappear into the bush.   So all I have is this photo of the slightly anxious ranger getting his rifle ready and a couple of grey beasts disappearing into the bushes.

 

elephant at sunset
We had another great encounter when we sat on this outcrop for sunset drinks and a herd of elephant came wandering past us.  When the elephant on the left started to approach a bit too close, a small, well aimed stone to the forehead and a few shouts gave it the message that it was time to back off.
giraffe painting
Being on foot also gave us the chance to see some ancient San (bushman) rock art.  Unlike the Australian aboriginal rock art, which is normally more figurative and stylistic, the San seem to depict animals in more realistic proportions, although human figures are normally portrayed in a stick figure form.
rhino painting
Black rhinoceros painting
more paintings
One of the rangers explaining the rock art.  Although not very clear, at his eye level is a curious image of an elephant with a man standing on its shoulders.  I wonder if this means that the San once had contact with the asiatic elephant riders of south Asia?
breakfast spot
Packs down for a breakfast break on one of our walks
wolhuter camp
Named after the Kruger National Park’s first ranger, the Wolhuter wilderness camp where we stayed is well hidden in the bush.  Accommodation is in small A-frame huts just big enough for 2 single beds. There is also a dining area, a kitchen and a couple of shower and toilet huts.
dead elephant
This elephant had died about a week ago of unknown causes and was largely eaten out by scavengers with only bone, skin and an awful stench remaining.  It was interesting to see fresh tracks of other elephant around its remains.  One can only wonder if this is part of a mourning process or if they are simply being inquisitive.  The rangers have to remove the tusks to prevent them falling into the hands of illegal poachers and traffickers – it must be a pretty gruesome job.
watching elephant rhino and buffalo
While we saw a fair bit on our walks, it was also great to sit at the camp and watch over the waterhole.  Here 3 of the so called big 5 are visiting at once: elephant; white rhinoceros and cape buffalo in the distance.
baby elephant
A very young elephant calf.  Probably only a few weeks old.
hyenas
Spotted Hyena

impala and elephant

dwarf mongoose
As with any camp in the wild, human activity inadvertently attracts a few critters.  In this case a dwarf mongoose hunting for dropped crumbs.
wolhuter sundowner dam
Sunset over a dam near our camp.
yellow billed hornbill
Another camp critter – yellow billed hornbill

After the wilderness walk we joined our parents for a couple of days staying at traditional rest camps and doing regular drives to look for birds and animals.  As with most parts of the temperate Southern hemisphere, it was very dry.   However we still saw plenty of game and many birds.   During my stay in South Africa I managed to spot 115 new species of birds, bringing my total for the year close to 440.  However to avoid upsetting one of the more competitive bird watchers that is following our travels, I will continue to count only birds seen in Australia on my main list.

Some animals seen on our drives. Clockwise from top left: vervet monkey, hippopotamus, Nile crocodile, greater kudu, steenbuck, waterbuck

Sightings of lions tends to cause traffic jams in the Kruger park.

Above: rhinoceros, giraffe, common duiker, scrub hare.  Below:  A kudu sculpture at Skukuza; a night photo from Talamati bush camp; A Baobab, Elephants at Talamati waterhole; elephant calf bath time.

Below is a small sample of bird photos.  Clockwise from top left: Helmeted guineafowl, scarlet chested sunbird, greater blue eared starling, white bellied sunbird, ground hornbill, red crested korhaan, white crowned shrike, brown snake eagle, black headed oriole, lilac breasted roller, golden tailed woodpecker, white browed robin, pearl spotted owl.

and some more birds: blue waxbill, secretary bird, purple roller, black helmetshrike, rosy faced lovebird, hadeda ibis, tawny eagle, coqui francolin

On the way back from the Kruger National Park we stopped off at the historic gold mining village called Pilgrims Rest.   Initially established in the late 19th century, it contains several historic buildings and mine diggings which continued to operate until the early 1970s after which the town was converted into a living museum.  One building has particular significance as being the hotel where my parents spent the first night of their honeymoon.

Main street in Pilgrim’s Rest, outside the Royal Hotel; inside the Royal Hotel bar which was originally a church in the Mozambique capital of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) before being relocated and converted to a pub.