In order to get between most camps in South Africa, you either have to fly on scheduled Charters, drive for an unGodly amount of hours over horrible terrain, or take a Helicopter. When it was time to transit between Dulini and Khaya Ndlovu, we decided to hire a Helicopter through Wild Skies Aviation out of Hoedspruit so that we can take in one of South Africa’s most beautiful natural wonders, the Blyde River Canyon. The canyon is set apart from other canyons as it is the only ‘living’ canyon in the world, meaning that vegetation is found in abundance at the bottom of the canyon.
These photos will explain exactly what I mean! 🙂
However, the photos don’t quite do it justice!
As you’ll see in the video (taken with a GoPro mounted on the belly of the chopper), departing from Dulini and heading towards Bushbuckridge and Hoedspruit is fairly uneventful. However as you approach the lush borders that surround the canyon, the world below is transformed into something magical. Pay attention at the 30 minute mark and beyond since it is at that point that we enter the canyon and then weave through the canyon walls following the Blyde River out of the canyon and over a series of citrus orchards as we headed to Khaya Ndlovu.
Spending the last 2 weeks in Africa visiting three unique Safari camps, I finally now have the time to get caught up and start sorting through over 19,000 photos and hours upon hours of video footage including a dramatic Helicopter run through the Blyde River Canyon in South Africa as seen by a GoPro attached to the belly of the chopper.
For starters, here are some of the early favorites from the cameras. This first batch is taken from my absolute favorite place on the planet, the Dulini Private Game Reserve in the western sector of the Sabi Sands of South Africa. It’s tops on my list because virtually every game drive will have you seeing the ‘Big 5’ as well as a wide variety of smaller mammals and more birds than you can keep track of. Never a risk of a bad or dull game drive and the photos will bear that out.
For this trip, I packed my Nikon D800 and D5, along with a Nikon 24-70, Sigma 150-600S, Rokinon 24mm 1.4 (For the star trails), and the ‘toddler’ as my wife calls it, the Nikon 600mm / f4. The D5 did the most of the heavy lifting, but the D800 took lead on anything that needed huge megapixels. I wound up having luggage far more full with Cameras, Lenses, cables, etc., than clothes and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it should be.
Enjoy these for now. Many more posts on the way including a closer look at the SWISS First and Business Class experiences during our travels….
Austrian Airlines announced that it is set to return to two destinations next year.
Beginning with the Summer 2018 schedule, passengers will once again be able to fly Austrian from Vienna to Tokyo, Japan (Narita) and to Cape Town, South Africa. In their comments, Austrian suggests that market dynamics have once again made it lucrative to serve these long haul destinations. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ll be adding another Boeing 777 aircraft to the fleet next spring. At that point they’ll have 6 777 aircraft that can be deployed on their long haul routes.
Flights to Tokyo will begin first with 5 flights per week starting on May 15, 2018. Cape Town will be launched later in the year with 2 flights per week beginning on October 27, 2018.
If your plans involve traveling to, from or through South Africa you’ll want to pay attention to a new immigration policy that takes effect June 1.
Beginning next Monday, minors (18 yrs and under) traveling to, transiting or leaving South Africa must present a valid, certified Birth Certificate. Failure to do so will result in the child being denied entry to the country or being forbidden to leave South Africa. This also applies to minors that are simply transiting through South Africa enroute to a different nation.
The new rule has a few details to it as well that covers situations where the child is traveling with only one parent, unaccompanied or with adult guardians (Courtesy of the South African High Commission):
Where parents are traveling with a child, such parents must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child.
In the case of one parent traveling with a child, he or she must produce an unabridged birth certificate and-
(i) consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent registered as a parent on the birth certificate of the child authorising him or her to enter into or depart from the Republic with the child he or she is travelling with;
(ii) a court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child, if he or she is the parent or legal guardian of the child; or
(iii) where applicable, a death certificate of the other parent registered as a parent of the child on the birth certificate; Provided that the Director-General may, where the parents of the child are both deceased and the child is travelling with a relative or another person related to him or her or his or her parents, approve such a person to enter into or depart from the Republic with such a child.
Where a person is traveling with a child who is not his or her biological child, he or she must produce-
(i) a copy of the unabridged birth certificate of the child;
(ii) an affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child confirming that he or shehas permission to travel with the child;
(iii) copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian of the child; and
(iv) the contact details of the parents or legal guardian of the child, Provided that the Director-General may, where the parents of the child are both deceased and the child is travelling with a relative or another person related to him or her or his or her parents, approve such a person to enter into or depart from the Republic with such a child.
Any unaccompanied minor shall produce to the immigration officer-
(i) proof of consent from one of or both his or her parents or legal guardian, as the case may be, in the form of a letter or affidavit for the child to travel into or depart from the Republic: Provided that in the case where one parent provides proof of consent, that parent must also provide a copy of a court order issued to him or her in terms of which he or she has been granted full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child;
(ii) a letter from the person who is to receive the child in the Republic, containing his or her residential address and contact details in the Republic where the child will be residing;
(iii) a copy of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive the child in the Republic; and
(iv) the contact details of the parents or legal guardian of the child.
It has been a few weeks since returning from a fantastic Safari trip to South Africa and in that time I’ve been trying to get through the 8000 photos that came back with me, hence the delay with any trip reports.
We stayed with the ‘Dulini Lodge’ within the Sabi Sands Game Area and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about our hosts. This intimate Lodge, with only 6 ‘Chalets’ and a limit of 12 guests was brilliant in every aspect of our stay. From wonderful staff (4:1 Staff to Guest Ratio) to fantastic culinary delights along with unbelievable access to the region’s wildlife, we simply had a brilliant time. Another big advantage over other Lodges in the area is the fact that they limit the amount of people in a Safari vehicle to only 6, while other lodges pack in 9 or 12 guests.
I’ll go into far more detail about the Lodge and our hosts in upcoming posts since I’m not quite done with the Lodge photos. In the mean time I’ll share with you what we saw on our game drives and walks. Seeing these beautiful animals in their natural environment was quite a transformative experience and certainly created another perspective for us to appreciate. In fact, we’ve already reserved our dates for a return visit in 2015.
Throughout these reports, you’ll notice my pictures will have 2 unique watermarks. One is my ‘Aeroshots’ version which I use for my plane spotting efforts while the other will be a ‘Dulini’ watermark. The reason for this is that I have given some of my photos to the Lodge so that they can use it for their marketing efforts and I had put their watermark on the photo instead of an ‘AeroShots’ watermark. However, all the photos that you’ll see came through my lenses.
The first set of photos involve a fantastic exchange between a Cheetah and a pack of Wild Dogs. The Cheetah and Dogs are not typically prey for each other however they are both territorial and in this rare sighting the Dogs were driving the Cheetah out of an area where the Dogs had discovered a Wart Hog den. At the end of this first set of photos, you’ll see the Wart Hog get flushed out of his Den by the Dogs. The Hog would survive the challenge.
Guests from another Lodge had a fantastic front row seat to the exchange.
You’ll notice the fence in the background. This was captured at the very boundary of the reserve and the fence is there to protect the cattle that belongs to a nearby village. The Sabi-Sands reserve itself is well over 250 square miles in size.
Cats and Dogs being Cats and Dogs.
The Cheetah and her speed were no match for the challenge from the Dogs.
After chasing the Cheetah out of the area, the Dogs would focus on the Wart Hog that they discovered in a nearby Den. In watching the dogs, you can actually see their strategy of surrounding the Den play out. Fortunately for the Hog he would live to fight another day….I think!
Wart Hog is discovered in an abandoned Termite Hill
I didn’t think Pigs can move this fast! Apologies for the blurred shot….A lot was going on and this caught us by surprise.
Running for his life at this point…..
You wonder what is going through is mind at this moment…..