Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The mighty big 6 birds of the Kruger - The Pel's Fishing Owl

Pel's fishing owl
Pel's fishing owl. 
The Pel’s fishing owl was named after the Dutch governor, Hendrik Severinus Pel, of the gold coast between the years of 1840 and 1850. A shy and elusive owl, it would be a magical and unforgettable experience to spot one.

With an average wingspan of 153cm, a length of 51 to 61cm and an average weight of 2188 grams makes the Pel’s fishing owl one of the largest owl species on the planet. They are said to be the fifth heaviest owl in the world.

These are ginger coloured owls with a round head and haunting like black eyes. Their underparts have dark bars and their underside is a paler colour. Females are usually a paler ginger colour than their male counterparts while owlets have a whiter coloured body and head, only growing their adult plumage by the age of 15 months old.

They do not have the characteristic facial discs, like most owls, because hearing is not important when locating their underwater prey. Their feathers are not as soft and lights as other owls as they do not need to be silent for hunting underwater prey.


These owls live in sub-Saharan Africa, found in countries such as Senegal, Somalia, Namibia
and the north eastern parts of South Africa. They are the most widely distributed of all fishing owls. 

Pel's fishing owl
Pel's fishing owl in flight. 
Pel’s fishing owls make their homes in large trees along the banks of rivers and on the edges of lakes, swamps and in wetlands. They do not participate in seasonal movement like some birds.


Owls are nocturnal animals, who are more active and vocal during the night under the cover of the darkness. Pel’s fishing owls are most active on moonlit nights however they are sometimes active during the day. The male and female pair will usually roost together during the day and at dusk leave to perch on branches near or over the water.


They are mostly vocal during the night and are most vocal an hour before dawn breaks. Their calls have been described as bone chilling and haunting and have been compared to someone calling from the bottom of a well. 

Pel's fishing owl
With fish for a meal. 
Their hoots are used as communication calls and during the breeding season they perform duets with their partners. Males have a deep and rumbling call which are repeated six to seven times within a minute. Females have a higher pitched call that is usually only a single hoot and then followed by a double hoot. Their calls can be heard up to 3 kilometres away.


Pel’s fishing owls eat mostly fish but will indulge in eating frogs, crabs, mussels, insects and even small baby crocodiles.

They detect their prey using sight by watching for ripples made by fish as they near the surface of water. Their toes are covered in spiky scales to help hook and catch their fishy meals. Unlike most owls, Pel’s fishing owls lack feathers on their legs and toes, to minimise the amount of plumage to get wet while hunting.


These owls pair up in monogamous couples and claim a territory near water by using stern hooting.
Pel's fishing owl
The haunting look of a Pel's fishing owl.

The pair breeds during the dry season when the water is shallow and clear. They set up home using a natural hollow in an old tree and do not add any extra nesting material. The female incubates the laid eggs (weighing 85g each) for up to 32 days while the male provides the food. Sadly usually only one of the two eggs survives.

The chick that survives fledges the nest at 68 to 70 days old and will continue to live in their parent’s territory until they are 6 to 9 months old. Chicks grow their true feathers by the time they are 10 months of age.

Did you know?

The Pel’s fishing owl will fluff up their head feathers when distressed making its head appear larger. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

New Zealanders in South Africa

The group from New Zealand with Table Mountain.
The group from New Zealand arrived in good old Cape Town for a 4 day tour of the city and the surroundings to see what this outstanding city is known for, such as the V & A Waterfront, the iconic Table Mountain, and Cape Point as well as visiting the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Alfie also took them on a drive to indulge in some wine tasting in charming Stellenbosch.

From Cape Town the group headed for a safari adventure, hitching a ride with the Epic Enabled accessible truck for the Kruger National Park, followed by 3 nights in the private game reserve. They did safari drives by day and played games together at the fire pit at night under the stars.


The group saw a vulture in it's nest high up in the branches of a tree. 

They saw the Big 5 which South Africa is so famously known for. Two leopards were even spotted; one very close to the road in Kruger and another spotted with a kill at the private game reserve where lions were even present at the same time!

Anne (a repeat Epic Enabled traveller) had some lucky experiences such as playing with Honey the local honey badger at the private game reserve. A porcupine tried to get under Anne’s chair who eventually gave up deciding to rather sit next to her while she stroked its nose.'' 


‘’I’m passionate about all the animals and love being in Africa, especially the private game reserve, wish everyone could experience an Epic adventure. Was great to catch up with all the people again and see old animal friends. SA is such a special place. You are so privileged to live there, most beautiful country on Earth. Most magical trip ever, lots of ticks off the bucket list.’’ ~ Anne Larkin 

''Many thanks for another fantastic time with you in Cape Town and the Kruger. On our return to NZ the guys have been buzzing with all their experiences and are wanting to get back on the plane for a return trip. Being able to see the animals in their natural surroundings - up close and personal - is a highlight.'' - Moira Lipshaw

At Cape Point.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The mighty Big 6 birds of the Kruger - The Kori Bustard

Kori bustard
Male putting on display.
The kori bustard is the largest flying bird in Africa weighing anything up to 19kg! They spend most of their time on the ground, foraging off the ground in small groups, being more active during the day. There are two subspecies of these watchful and wary birds that live up to 20 years.

This characteristic looking bird has a long neck, which is a creamy white colour with black bands, their plumage is either light brown or grey. The bird has a crown with sides that extend into a black crest, and a black and white checked pattern across their shoulder area. 


The kori bustard is found throughout Southern Africa as well as the countries east of Africa. Within South Africa they are predominantly found in the eastern Low veld area where the Kruger National Park is situated.

Kori bustard
Kori bustard in flight, a rare sight!
These birds avoid thick wooded areas preferring to call home in areas such as open grass lands, plains, lightly wooded areas, open dry bush veld and semi-desert areas. They only leave the home area once the food in the area is scarce. 


These opportunistic omnivore hunters have a diverse diet that ranges from small insects and small rodents to creatures such as lizards and chameleons, even snatching eggs from other bird’s nests. They are even said to eat the gum from acacia trees found in the area.

They forage from the ground grazing on grasses and seeds in single sex groups, separating after a few days to form new groups.  


Kori bustards do not have preening glands which release an oily substance helping them to clean their feathers so they indulge in sun and dust baths to clean their feathers. 

They are capable of flight but only do so as a last option, as they need decent space to take off and have heavy wings but once flying their wings are strong and fast.

Kori bustard
Mother kori bustard with chick. 

The male kori bustards, who can be up to twice as heavy as their female counterparts, will attempt to breed with as many females as possible, and take no part in helping to raise the young once the deed is done. These birds reproduce once a year from the sexually mature age of 2 years old.

Males put on an elaborate dance, for the females in the hope of mating, by inflating their neck and trailing their wings while making a booming sound.

Females make a secretive, shallow and hollow nest in the ground to lay one to two eggs after an incubation period of up to 24 hours. The mother stays with the nest most of the time, only leaving to eat. Once hatched, the chicks will follow their mother after a few hours, leaving their mother behind after 5 weeks of age.

Did you know?

Southern carmine bee-eater ride on the back of kori bustards to catch insects as they fly from the grass when disturbed.

Male kori bustards will dual for up to 30 minutes by standing chest to chest and pushing.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Experience a magical coastal tour

Table Mountain
Table Mountain, one of the 7 natural wonders of the World. 
Cape Town
Cape Point, Cape Town.
Special! Book this magical and accessible compact tour and pay only R31, 150 per person sharing. The tour takes place during the African summer months from the 2nd of December till the 11th of December 2015 ending in Port Elizabeth, also known as the friendly city. Small and personalized tour with only 2 seats left. Grab your seats now!

The tour kicks off exploring Cape Town, indulge in some wine tasting in the historic town of Stellenbosch, shop till you drop at the V & A Waterfront, and take an exciting cable car ride up the iconic Table Mountain, on the way during a coastal drive to the Cape Point, where the two oceans meet, stop off and meet the penguin colony at Boulders Beach.

Knysna, Garden Route. 
Next witness the enchanted Garden Route, known for its glorious mountain ranges and selection of peaceful beaches, with two nights in Sedgefield followed by two nights in the Tsitsikamma forest. This is your chance to enjoy picturesque drives along the coastline and take in the fresh air. There are options (at extra cost) of entering the Cango Caves, jumping aboard a boat for a cruise on the Knysna lagoon or visiting the elephants for a ‘hand in truck’ experience or ‘back safari’.

For further information or a detailed itinerary please contact us on or give us a call on +27 21 785 7440


Thursday, 8 October 2015

The mighty Big 6 birds of the Kruger - The Southern Ground Hornbill

southern ground hornbill
Male Southern ground hornbill.
The ground hornbill, so called due to its habit of walking on the ground as it feeds, is a bird with character. There are two species of ground hornbills, the Southern ground hornbill and the Abyssinian ground hornbill with the Southern ground hornbill being more widespread and well-known.

These birds are believed to live 50 to 60 years in the wild and have even been recorded to live a lengthy 70 years in captivity! They range in size from 90 to 129 centimetres making it comparable in size to a turkey.

The distinctive Southern ground hornbill male birds are black in colour with intense red patches of bare skin on their faces and throats while juvenile birds have dull grey patches and females have a violet-blue patch on their throat. These patches are thought to keep dust out of the bird’s eyes as they eat off the ground during the dry season. They have black beaks, pale yellow eyes and black wings with white tips that look glorious when in flight. 

southern ground hornbill
Female Southern ground hornbill.

The Southern ground hornbill is found in Eastern and Southern Africa, from Burundi and Kenya to Namibia and South Africa.

They make their home in savannah type habitats with large trees to build their nests and short yet thick grass for foraging. Southern ground hornbills live in numbers of 5 to 10 individual birds.  


Ground hornbills make a deep grunting call often before dawn breaks. They make this sound by inflating their balloon-like wattle that is situated below their beak.


These are foraging birds that munch on reptiles, frogs, snails, insects and even small mammals. They rarely are in need of water to drink.

southern ground hornbill
Southern ground hornbill

These are slow breeding birds, with pairs only producing two chicks every nine years. Southern ground hornbills are co-operative breeders receiving help with parenting by at least two other birds.

The female incubates her eggs for up to 40 days after which the egg that was first laid hatches. The chicks leave the nest 85 days after hatching.

Did you know?

They are classified as being vulnerable and even critically endangered in some areas. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

All about amputation

Amputation – The loss of part of or all of a limb either due to trauma or removal during surgery.

Traumatic amputation is when a limb is severed in an accident, animal attack, land mines or another dangerous situation.

Limbs might be amputated during surgery due to infections such as gangrene or frostbite, to lessen pain caused by the limb, deformed limbs or when there is no other option but to amputate during surgery due to complications in severe limb injuries. Illnesses such as diabetes or bone infections may lead to serious complications leaving no choice but for an amputation to be performed.

Of the 6.7 billion people living on the planet 10 million of them are amputees. Amputations of the leg are the most common of all types of amputations while an amputation of the entire lower body is the rarest. 

Types of amputations

Amputations mainly fall into two different groups known as ‘upper limb amputations’ and ‘lower limb amputations.’ Lower limb amputations are the most common especially in older people due to illnesses such as diabetes or peripheral artery disease. Upper limb amputations are rarer and more common in the younger generation usually due to being involved in a serious accident. 

There is also a group of amputations known as bilateral or trilateral which refers to multiple amputations. A seldom performed surgery and extreme amputation called hemicorporectomy or translumbar amputation involves the removal of the entire body below the waist, including the legs, pelvic bone and urinary system. 

Upper limb amputations

Hand or partial hand amputation – removal of fingers, fingers tips or thumb.
Wrist disarticulation – removal of the hand at the wrist.
Elbow disarticulation – removal of the entire forearm from the elbow.
Trans-humeral amputation – removal of the arm from above the elbow.
Shoulder disarticulation and fore-quarter amputation – removal of the entire arm including the shoulder and collar bone.

 Lower limb amputations

Partial foot – removal of toes.
Ankle disarticulation – removal of the foot at the ankle.
Below the knee – removal of the leg above the ankle but below the knee.
Knee disarticulation – removal of the entire leg including the knee.
Above knee amputation– removal of the lower leg including the knee and made at thigh level.
Hip disarticulation – removal of the entire leg.

Prosthetics, crutches and wheelchairs

Amputees have a variety of options to help them get on with their daily grind. Crutches help those with the loss of a lower limb amputation get around. Wheelchairs also offer a means of moving about for people with lower limb amputations. Many people take the route of getting a prosthetic to replace their amputated limb. Futuristic looking bionic arms and legs are also a way of replacing the function of amputated limbs.

Feelings associated with amputation

Depression, anxiety, hopelessness, loss and grief, PTSD and feeling socially withdrawn, among others, are emotions and mental health issues often connected with the news of an amputation. The fear of the unknown along with stress related issues are also common feelings experienced by those due for an amputation. Others have gone through the same experience and there are ways to get through this ordeal.

Counselling is sometimes suggested as well as gaining emotional support from loved ones. Face the emotions of the grieving process as they surface. Do not isolate yourself from those around you as this leads to loneliness and more mental health issues. Perhaps volunteer within the community as this brings on a sense of giving back, making one feel more fulfilled. With the right attitude and the support of those around you, a state of acceptance and happiness can be reached. 

Phantom sensations and pain

An estimated 50 – 80% of amputees report the feeling of phantom pain or phantom sensations at some point. Phantom sensations refers to the feeling that the body part that was amputated is still there. Phantom pain is when ones amputated limb is painful, which often itches, burns, cramps or aches. These pains or sensations may also happen after the removal of body parts other than the limbs such as the removal of an eye.

It is thought that these unique sensations and pains have to do with a neural map that one’s brain has of their body, which sends information to the rest of the brain about limbs despite their lack of existence.

Phantom pains are dealt with by the amputee taking prescribed medication, desensitization or limb wrapping.

Read the personal stories about Charl who lost his eye in a brutal attack, and Sara who had her leg amputated due to illness.