••• tiff firth photography •••

Monday, August 31, 2015

he drives


Some time ago my Mum had an accident in her car on the highway. While she was fine, her little car was not.

I had a phone call from a complete stranger who saw Mum go off the road and that lady reassured me that Mum was ok. Not even a scratch. I really believe in fate as this lady was a work place safety officer on a mine site and had extensive First Aid knowledge and she knew exactly how to handle Mum's shock and anxiety. She had organised a towtruck from Cowell to come pick up Mum's car from the side of the road and she had also rung Cleve Ambulance to have Mum checked out to make sure that she really was ok. Such was this lady's empathy for my Mum, that she even drove Mum up to Whyalla where Mum was originally going to attend to medical appointments. It was on that lady's way back to her workplace on a mine.

After I had spoken to that lady, I jumped in my ute, borrowed a car trailer, drove up to Cowell and left it there to pick up with Mum's car after I collected Mum from Whyalla and started making our way back home. I had several conversations with that lady during the day who rang to check that Mum was ok, and that I had collected her and her car.

That lady was my Mum's guardian angel that particular day. I even sent that lady a little guardian angel pin to say a big heartfelt thank you. 

Mum needed a vehicle to get around while her car was being assessed and subsequently written off (which was delayed as the owner of the crash repairer was away for 2 weeks), so she hired herself a car for a month. When she told me how much it was going to cost I just dropped my jaw. It was expensive. 

Kym had the brilliant idea of finding a little car for us to purchase for Mum to use until she had her own vehicle organised and then the kids could use it for a bus car.

Front story ...

So here is the bus car. The kids call it Baby Blue. And for the first time Sean drove it on his own. Kym and he had it all set without my knowing that Sean was even driving, let alone Kym leaving it at the bus stop for Sean to drive home. I had no clue until I started driving down to the bus stop at the bottom of our drive way, when Kym pulled me up. He indicated that he had it covered and I thought that he meant that he was driving Sean home. (Annie was at her job). 

Kym did let slip something that alerted me to go get the camera. So I did and I had it up in time to record his first solo voyage in Baby Blue.

There's goes my little 9 year old boy. He's officially a big 9 year old boy now. He drives .

Monday, August 24, 2015

africa - a pictorial re-cap - issue 2

I've processed a few more images over the last couple of weeks in readiness for my presentation to the Camera Club tonight (Monday Aug 24th).

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Hwange. Zimbabwe. Africa.
I was reliably informed that the water in the rock pool was cold. I took Alistair's word for it. This lodge resides on the slope above the water pool where the elephants and other wildlife come to drink as its the only constant water source away from the Zambia River. The water pool is feed by a waterline to ensure the water is always available. Without water there is nothing. Its liquid gold in this country.

The Marabou Stork reminded me of a grumpy old man with a very bad comb-over. The Marabou Stork defecates upon its legs and feet.The poop has strong antiseptic properties in their whitewash and it helps assist in regulating body temperature. The poop also gives the false appearance that the birds have lovely white legs.
Below Victoria Falls Lodge, Hwange, Zimbabwee. Africa. 2.7.2015

There is vulture feeding daily at 1pm below the Victoria Falls Lodge, Hwange, Zimbabwee, where the bones and off cuts from the restaurant are fed to the birds. I was only 5 metres away from the scrum of feeding vultures and in the thick of their dust. And do they smell?? Oh yes they smell terrible.

There are two kinds of Vultures in this image. The one with its head deep into the meat is the White Backed Vulture. It's a typical vulture, with only down feathers on the head and neck, very broad wings and short tail feathers. It has a white neck ruff. The adult’s whitish back contrasts with the otherwise dark plumage. Juveniles are largely dark. This is a medium-sized vulture; its body mass is 4.2 to 7.2 kilograms (9.3–15.9 lb), it is 78 to 98 cm (31 to 39 in) long and has a 1.96 to 2.25 m (6 to 7 ft) wingspan. (info from Wikipedia)

The pink headed vulture eyeing of the scrap of meat is a Hooded Vulture. It breeds in a stick nest in trees (often palms) in much of Africa south of the Sahara, laying one egg. Birds may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident. This is one of the smaller vultures of the Old World. They are 62–72 cm (25–28 in) long, have a wingspan of 155–165 cm (61–65 in) and a body weight of 1.5-2.6 kg (3.3-5.7 lbs).

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals and waste which it finds by soaring over Savannah and around human habitation, including waste tips and abattoirs. It often moves in flocks, and is very abundant. In much of its range, there are always several visible soaring in the sky at almost any time during the day.

This vulture is typically unafraid of humans, and frequently gathers around habitation. It is sometimes referred to as the “garbage collector” by locals. (info from Wikipedia)

Victoria Falls. The defining border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Border. Africa. 2.7.2015

We were out and on site just before the sun rose on our first morning of our Africa trip. We were first through the gate and the only ones there for at least 90mins. Tourists arrived as we left and they had missed the best part of the day.

As the sun rose, so did the mist from the falls, which caught the beautiful soft light.
We found out later that the scenic flights over the falls don't happen at this very early time due to the rising mist which happens because the air has warmed slightly and the temperature inversion with the mist.

The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers, while the spray and mist from the falling water is rising to a height of over 400 meters and can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers. No wonder that the local tribes used to call the waterfall Mosi-o-Tunya “The smoke that thunders”.

Fortunately for us the gentle breeze had the mist moving away from us for our early morning walk along the Zimbabwe side of the falls. There is rain forest here due to the constant moisture in the air. The moisture falls as rain, and its always raining somewhere along the falls. We all had black ponchos that reached the ground in case we were going to be rained upon. We were lucky.

Most of the walk suited the afternoon sun, so I didn't take a lot of images, as we had planned on returning during the day. As it turned out, we didn't come back as Dave decided he would bungi jump from the bridge that joins Zimbabwe and Zambia and most of us wanted to watch. Its a 111 metre jump, and I considered doing it until I saw him go, and I thought to myself ' No way, no how, definitely not.'

Victoria Falls is the only waterfall in the world with a length of more than a kilometer and a height of more than hundred meters. It is also considered to be the largest fall in the world.The water level varies throughout the year; it is at its peak in April, at the end of the rainy season when on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow and it is at its lowest level in October and early November.

Interestingly, during the dry season the water level in the Zambezi River drops sharply, and it becomes possible to walk through some parts of the waterfall. However, during the rest of the year Victoria Falls is a roaring machine that strikes anyone with its power
Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe Border. Africa

The area circled in red is Livingstone Island where you can set up camp and sleep right on the very edge of the mighty Victoria Falls. If you look very closely you can see buildings on the island and if you look very very closely on the right side of the island there are 2 kayaks pulled up on the little cove.

Can you imagine the noise, the vibration, the dampness of the mist when the breeze pushes it back over the falls and the sheer thrill of it all by camping right on the edge of the falls. Where else in the world can you do that!!
Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe Border of Zambezi River. Africa. 2.7.2015

Flying in a chopper over the falls was quite an experience. To be able to see the falls in its entirety and experience the sheer drop off on its very lip was breath-taking. 

The bridge spans the Zimbabwe side on the left and the Zambia border on the right. If you closely at the center of it you can see a little hut. That's the jump off point for the bungee, the swing and the zip-line. That's where Dave jumped from.

The bridge spans the Zambezi River which over millennium has carved its way into the landscape. Those cliffs on the right are different points where the falls used to be (apparently). On the very left edge of the falls there is an area of land about to be cut away with the water, creating a new section of the falls and extending its overall length, which is currently over a kilometre long.

That larger island near the edge of the falls is Livingstone Island. People camp there in tents. In fact there was a tent there when we flew over it. During the dry season when the water flow is all but gone, you can walk to that island.

Photographed with a Sigma Fisheye lens to give the curve-of-the-earth horizon.
Victoria Falls. Zambezi River. Africa.

Flying with Batoka Sky in their microlight certainly was a huge thrill. Again TIA as far as time as we were scheduled to be up just after dawn and by the time we were airborne it was more like 9am. Which was actually better as their was more light down into the walls of the canyons. 

Andre was my pilot and I took the extended 30 minute flight to see the wildlife for the first time on my Africa trip, and to see them from the unique bird perspective.

At one point he asked me to stretch my arms out like a bird and close my eyes. I did and then he turned off the motor. And wow, was it quiet. I could hear the thunder of the falls. We glided on the updrafts for about 30 seconds before Andre turned the prop back on. As its a glider construction and in the case of engine failure you just glide to the ground. The landing might be a bit bumpy though wink emoticon
Victoria Falls. Zambia. Africa. 3.7.2015

These little guys were the happiest things out there. When Warthogs trot their little tail pops up like a flag and waves around so merrily. They seemed to be happy no matter where they were. And they trot all day long. And btw.... they taste very yummy. wink emoticon 
Below Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Hwange. Zimbabwe. 3.7.2015

Pangolin Photo Safaris with Charles our guide, and Smart at the helm.

Being on the Chobe River in this craft was such a highlight. Not only for the teeming wildlife, both on and off the river, but also for the way the boat is set up for serious photography. Each of the 8 seats rotated 360 degrees, and had a fully mounted gimble attached to each one for full access to all angles for photography. It's a bit like an army gun mounting.

For those who didn't have the longer telephoto lenses, Pangolin had NikonD7000 cameras teamed up with Sigma 150-500mm lenses available for every single person if needed, or you can choose to use your own rig. They also provided 8gb SD cards to each photographer whether you used their Nikons or not. And if you ripped through one card, no worries, they flicked another one your way.

Charles is a photographer in is own right, and fully understands light with all its nuances. He gave instruction and many helpful tips both with the camera and different ways to photograph the wildlife.

Smart, is exactly that. Very very smart. Any animal or bird was identified on the spot and its resume of details was given as well. He was brilliant at the helm, getting us closer to the wildlife, working with the light and positioning us perfectly to make full use of it.

This is the full Pete Dobré Photography African Safari Crew. L-R Charles, Audrey, Elizabeth, Stephen, me (in the vacant chair), Dave, Cathy, Alistair and Pete.
Chobe River, near Kasane, Botswana. Africa.

Baby elephants are so damn cute. They look so small alongside their Mums. They are just like little kids. They are mischievous and funny. Their little trunks are so full of wriggles that it seems to constantly surprise them. 
Chobe River near Kasane. Botswana. Africa.

Every moment on the Chobe River was camera candy. The elephants pulled up reeds from an island on the river and either bash it around a lot to dislodge the damp earth off the roots and then consume it or throw it around like a toy. Having the birds flying in formation in the background was a huge bonus. Camera Candy bonus! I don't know what birds they are unfortunately.
Chobe River near Kasane. Botswana. Africa.

Remember that video that went viral of the hippo leaping out of the water behind a boat??
That boat was the same one that I was on, and on the same river that I was on. And it only happened a month before I was there.

So any hippos we saw, both on land and water, were given huge and wide berths and lots of respect. The times we did see them in the water with us did make us all extremely nervous. Especially when they disappeared under water as you had no idea where they will come up. They can stay under for up to 30mins. And Hippopotamus's can't swim. They skip on the river bottom on their toes, as dainty as a ballerina. An amazing fact.

They sound a lot like cows except for when they snort. That's their own unique sound like nothing else. And they eat up to 40 kilos of grasses each day.

They fight a lot among themselves. This one has fresh wounds from the huge canine teeth all over its 2 inch thick skin. The Red-billed Oxpecker birds (friends to many African animals) were very busy cleaning out the wounds and searching for other parasites.

Chobe River. Chobe National Park. Near Kasane. Botswana. Africa.

This Leopardess was coming down from the tree where she had stashed her Impala kill. Watching her quietly leap from branch to branch on her way down was mesmerizing.
Moremi Wildlife Reserve. Khwai River. Okavango Delta. Botswana.

I know I promised I wouldn't post any other images from when the African Dogs were successful with their 'kill' of a young Kudu, but I found this image of when the Spotted Hyenas became involved too hard to not show.

The 2 female Spotted Hyenas worked as a team to ambush the African Dogs and make off with the carcass. One Hyena just bullied her way onto the Kudu while the second one was the decoy by challenging the Dogs to fight her. While the fight was on, the first Hyena made off safely with the carcass. The dust and noise from the fight was intense, and the yipping of the Hyena will always stay with me. Three of the four dogs had the Hyena backed into the pool of water which gave me this awesome reflection image.

The agility of both the Dogs and the Hyena was impressive. No one had a serious hold on the other with their teeth as they were all just too quick and moved out of the way.

Now I know why the Dogs had their fill of the Kudu so quickly. They consume only soft organs and bones as their jaws can't snap the larger bones. So when the Hyenas came in the Dogs didn't fight very long for what was left as they already had the best of it.

Circle of Life.
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa.

Ever wondered how a Rhinoceros calf suckled? To be honest I hadn't. But how does it get low enough to reach the teats and gets its horn out of the way? By sitting down of course. 

I learnt so much on my African Safaris just by watching, listening and asking our guide in our jeep a lot of quiet questions.
-The gestation period for Rhinoceros is 15-16 months.
- The horn is made of keratin, the same protein as your fingernails and hair are made of.
- They have 3 toes on each foot and can run up to 60 kms per hour.
- The name Rhinoceros comes from the Greek words Rhino (nose) and ceros (horn)
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa.

I didn't know there were three kinds of Zebras. There are the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra and the Grevy's Zebra. These ones are the Plains Zebras. Their stripes tend to fade out to white on the legs. The stripes on the legs of the Grevy's Zebras are bold right down to the hoof.

So are Zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?? I've yet to find an answer to that all important question.
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa.
. 13.7.2015

What's a group of 3 or more zebras called?? If they are with a stallion its a Harem. Or the group can be called a Dazzle of Zebras. I learnt that from our guide in Sabi Sands. I learnt so many things about zebras. When a Dazzle of Zebras walk as a group, the stallion always brings up the rear. These are the Plains Zebras. Their stripes fade as they travel down their legs. And there tends to be a brownish stripe between the black and white stripes.
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa. 12.7.2015

I went into this trip with very little research so I could experience it from my own fresh point of view. I expected to see the Savannah plains on my African Safari trip and I didn't expect to see the bush. So I learnt that the wide Savannah plains are eastern and central Africa. The southern area of the continent is bush. Up in Botswana the bush is thinner and sparser. The bush in Sabi Sands Game Reserve is thicker and denser.

I've been asked a few times was it green when I was there in July? What was the weather like? Were there flies? Mozzies?

Well I can say, no it wasn't green. The winter is the dry season. The water holes are shrinking and there's more wildlife around them as a result. The leaves have dropped off the trees so it's easier to see through the branches, and the dry grasses are shorter and much thinner, all making it much easier to spot the wildlife and birds. The temperature in July is much like our Spring temps, between 25-30 degrees. Certainly shirt, hat and sunblock weather.

This shot gives you an idea of the colour and the landscape at Nottens Bush Camp, Sabi Sands Wildlife Reserve. South Africa.

Looking over Cape Town and Tabletop Mountain from Lions Head.
I had taken a series of shots and had the camera put away. And then the sun popped out, so I rushed back into the back to set up the camera with the ND grads to capture all that sky in its glorious detail.

The hill on the left is Signal Hill where the canon is still fired every day at the dot of noon. Back in the days of sail, the canon was fired at noon for the navigators on the ships in the harbor to set their sextants by.

The walking trail on the right comes up from Maiden's Cove to where I was on the summit of Lion's Head.
Cape Town. South Africa. 20.7.2015

Maiden's Cove. Behind Tabletop Mountain is the very beautiful Maiden's Cove with its picturesque view of the 12 Apostles Mountain Range.

The water sea is on the Atlantic seaboard and as a result the temperature is cold all year round. In July its a chilly average of around 15 degrees C.

While I was photographing here a bus load on young Springbok Rugby players ran down the rocks to this little beach and a few brave souls heading out into the water. They were pretty quick to trot back in to shore to put a jumper on. Very brass monkey cold with the breeze that day.
Maiden's Cove. Cape Town. South Africa.

Beautiful Maiden's Cove.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

he blows me away

His wicked sense of humor amazes me. He has such a quick wit and loves nothing more than to make people laugh. Especially us.

He's a touchy feely soul. He loves a hug, a kiss, a rub in his hair. He in turn loves to give a big squeezy hug, a big squeaky smooch and he likes to hold my hand. I'm treasuring every moment of his touch because as he grows older they may not be so freely given.  I surely hope they are though.

When I came home from my Africa trip, I went straight to the school after I landed at the airport. It was lunchtime and all I wanted was to hug my kids.  I saw Sean run from a distance and he leapt at me for a hug. As soon as I felt those arms around my neck in a hug that lasted for the longest time, I knew I was home. I secretly think I needed that hug more than he needed mine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

she blows me away

Annie loves to read. Really loves to read. On a recent trip away she took 4 books and download 4 ebooks to save space and weight in her bag. Her love of reading has really expanded her vocabulary and literacy beyond her years. This really reflects in her writing. She loves to write stories. She is several chapters into writing her own book. She also writes profound little paragraphs of wisdom.

Without any prompting she popped out a page of written goodness. This one just hooked my heart and stole my breathe away. I've written it here with her permission and in just the way she has it written.

I can't see my future
Many paths lay before me
I can let fate take its course
Or I can choose my own destiny.
To many people, I am just
another face in the crowd.
I could be that
or I could stand out.
I am worth nothing to the world
But I am worth something
to those I love.
I'll choose my own
And I'll choose my own

Dang. Where did she learn all that wisdom from??  She's only 13 next month and already she has a beautiful old soul.

Friday, August 14, 2015

elephant re-edit

I don't usually turn to BW in post production but I have returned to this image (my fave to date) for a re-edit. Dropping out the distraction of colour really enhances all the textures of the Bull Elephants' skin in all its glory!

Of all the diverse wildlife we saw on safari, it was the elephants who had me on our second day when our crew was in the elephant bunker below Victoria Falls Lodge, surrounded by 60 elephants.

I think it was the sense of family and the nurturing instinct the mothers have for their young. That really pulled my mothering feelings from deep within me. I wasn't nicknamed "Camp Mum" or "Mumma Bear" on my Africa trip for nothing smile emoticon
Victoria Falls Lodge Elephant Bunker, Hwange, Zimbabwe 3.7.2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

port lincoln times article on my africa trip.

I was very flattered when The Port Lincoln Times asked me to write an article to showcase some of my images from my recent Africa Trip.
Never did I expect my name on the front page.
Cheers to the team at the Port Lincoln Times. You've made my week!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

africa - a pictorial recap

Africa has been calling me since I can remember. To be able to go on a photographic safari has been on my bucket list for the longest time, and one item I thought I'd never be able to tick off. A number of elements fell into place for me to be able to go on the Pete Dobré Photography 2015 Africa trip. I was able to live and photograph a dream and it was epic. 

I really wanted to bring home with me the sounds and the smells of Africa. I can look at photographs all day long but to saturate all other senses was very important to me. The scent of Wild Sage will forever more bring Africa to mind. Sweaty horses will remind me what elephants smell like, and I just can't describe how strong the aroma of fresh Rhinoceros dung is.  The tenting in the bush was one of my key highlights from the whole trip. To hear lions roar in the night, elephants pushing down trees not far from camp and the laugh of the hyena during those night hours when we were zipped up in our dome tents will never leave me

To explain why the flannel shirts.... Pete Dobré Photography only wears red flannel shirts. Its his trademark as well as his red hat and odd coloured socks. Its just who he is. So as a bit of fun, the rest of us 7 (1 from New Zealand, 3 from Hawaii and 3 from Australia) organised ourselves with a red flannel shirt to surprise Pete with. It became our unofficial uniform. It was quite a conversation opener when one of our crew was asked by a tourist or by a local "why the red shirts". It was all a lot of fun and a nice way to compliment Pete. This shot is part ofour crazy crew on the Africa trip. We had a party of 8 for our 21 day safari so having 4 in each jeep gave everyone plenty of room to get their shots without photobombing the others.

There's a saying in Africa - "This is Africa" or TIA. It refers to the fact that things don't always run to time. In fact it seldom does. Time moves in a different rhythm over there and not many locals have a watch, let alone wear one. Things do get done, just in Africa time and always with a smile. 

Case in point... we landed at Victoria Falls Airport with 3 hours to clear customs and make our way to Lokuthula Lodge, have a much needed shower after 30 hours of air travel and then get to the boat for the Sunset Hippo Cruise aka Booze Cruise. Well that was the plan but it didn't account for TIA.

Customs took quite a while. We were lucky enough that at mid afternoon we had the shade of the building to queue in as most of the people waiting were outside the tiny office. I'd hate to be waiting in the full summer sun. The winter there is like our spring weather here.

So it took all three hours for our party of 8 to clear customs and we hightailed it to the Lodge to drop the bags, pick up the camera gear and get to the boat that was waiting for us. The boat did have other guests on board and I hope we didn't offend their sense of smell too much or by our tardy arrival.

The breeze in the hair was lovely, the beer was cold and we saw hippos. And our first elephants on a far shore. Sunset was lovely but I did enjoy the full moon rising in the twilight so much more.

I saw via Facebook a local lady take this flight in a microlight over Victoria Falls quite some time before my trip. I just had to show Pete and he was excited as I was to do it. 5 out of our party of 8 took a flip on the Microlight over Victoria Falls. I had an extended flight to fly over the adjoining game park to see wildlife from the air.  :)

When we were at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge we were in the elephant bunker for an evening of photographing the animals coming to the waterhole for the day's end drink.

We were very very very blessed to have 2 herds of elephants come to water at the same time that particular evening. We were surrounded by 60 odd elephants. The armed guide who drove us there late evening and stayed with us said he had never seen so many at one time at this waterhole. EVER.

We had 3 hours of amazing time with the elephants and could have easily stayed for more. The guide made an initial run for the vehicle (some 300m away hidden from the bunker) but had to come back as there were 100 odd Cape Buffalo between us the the vehicle. There were also 2 sets of male buffalo fighting, so the guide came back for a while before trying again. This time he made it and drove the vehicle right up to the face of the hide for us to quickly get in. By now it was very dark, with only the floodlight of the Lodge up the distant hill. The guide drove out with no lights on and eventually we made it back up to the lodge.

The whole experience really was quite an emotionally connecting one with the elephants as we had such an intimate time with them. Family is everything to elephants. The very first one that came to the waterhole on his own (he was a bachelor and stayed away from all the herds) actually threw a rock with its trunk into the narrow gap of the hide (40cms) and hit me in the shoulder, narrowly missing the camera lens by an inch. My son wanted me to bring home a special rock from Africa, so I picked up this one that the elephant tossed in and kept it. It has a very special story and the elephant chose the rock. And I have it all on video which really rocked my son’s socks.  (pun intended)

And just to make the whole experience so much more special, someone else who we met later was in the hide for the next 2 nights after us and only saw 3 elephants in total. How very lucky were we !! 3.7.2015

African Fish Eagle. Chobe River. Near Kasane, Botswana.
Of all the bird calls, this is the one I remember the most. Its piercing and it carries on the air for such a long way. It's haunting yet beautiful. 4.7.2015

A little boy in the street of Kasane. People are happy here in Kasane. The crime rate is one of the lowest in Botswana. The people look after their own. If you've done wrong, the village will deal with you. And as a direct result, there is virtually no crime. I felt very safe here and it was one of the few places that I did feel comfortable to be walking around on my own. 

Kasane is where I got my African Corn Row braiding done to my hair.  (Its been in just over a month now and I'm having help to get it out on Friday. There's a LOT of fake hair to unbraid and comb out with the help of conditioner). I do it all again in a heartbeat.

Never smile at a Nile Freshwater Crocodile. He was HUGE!
Up close and very personal on the river in Chobe National Park, near Kasane. Botswana. 5.7.2015

It was important to me to capture the iconic African sunset shot with the red sky, the boiling sun and the black silhouette of the Thorn Tree. Having an elephant in the shot as well was just more than I could have hoped for. Chobe River. Kasana. Botswana.  5.7.2015

A bull Giraffe gently caresses his lady on the rump while she's licking the mud for mineral salts. Chobe National Park. Botswana.  5.7.2015

12 fascinating giraffe facts.
-Giraffe are already extinct in at least seven countries in Africa. 
-Just like human fingerprints, no two giraffe have the same coat pattern.
-Giraffe feet are the size of a dinner place with a diameter of 30cm.
-Giraffe tongues are bluish-purple and between 45 - 50cm long.
-Both male and female giraffe have ‘horns’ already at birth. These ossicones lie flat and are not attached to the skull to avoid injury at birth. They only fuse with the skull later in life.
-The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world. Even newborn giraffe are taller than most humans.
-Female giraffe give birth standing up. Their young fall about 2m to the ground and can stand up within an hour of birth.
-About 50% of all giraffe calves do not survive their first year.
-A giraffe's neck is too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.
-Giraffe only need to drink once every few days. Most of their water comes from all the plants they eat.
-To protect the giraffe’s brain from sudden changes in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink, it has valves to stop the backflow of blood and elastic-walled vessels that dilate and constrict to manage flow. 
-NASA has done research on the blood vessels in giraffe legs to get inspiration for human space suits.
-A giraffe's heart weighs approx. 11kg and is the biggest of any land mammal. It is used to pump 60 litres of blood around its body every minute at a blood pressure twice that of an average human.

Why do elephants have a mud bath? It protects their skin from sunburn, insect bites and from losing too much moisture to evaporation. After the mud comes the dust bath.Chobe River. Botswana, near Kasane.  5.7.2015

The colour in the sunsets here are stunning due to the burning of reeds to grow crops (I'm unsure of what) in Namibia (country across the river) and the smokes hugs the horizon. We were above the Chobe River as the Botswana sun went below the horizon and gave us stunning light which was diffused through the dust from the elephants. They had just swum back to the bank and were dusting themselves.
Chobe is just breathtaking.  6.7.2015

Safari is not only about the Big 5. Its also the little things too. The trees, the lilies on the river and the prolific birdlife. If you're a Birdie, you need to visit Chobe River. And a few days will not be enough for you. 
This is a Jacana or Jesus Bird as it appears to walk on water. It's actually running on lily pads. It has the most amazing long toes, nearly as long as the rest of the leg. This particular morning on the Chobe River was glass. And we had it all to ourselves. Tourists sleep in and have late breakfasts, and by the time they go on the water, they have missed the best of the day. This morning was just like a mirror. By the time we came back, the other boats were just heading out, a little breeze had come up which rippled the water losing the glass effect as well as the bow waves from all the vessels on the river.   6.7.2015

Whilst we did not see one lion or cheetah during our 3 weeks, we were so very lucky to see 9 different Leopards.  Most of them were during our Khwai Bush Camp Safari. Botswana. They are a very elegant cat. 8.7.2015 

Swagged it in dome tents in the mobile bush camp near Khwai River. All the sounds of the night were amazing. Elephants crashing down trees, lions roaring and the hyenas chuckling as they ran through the camp one night with a stolen lid from the camp kitchen trailer.  No fences out here. The dried elephant poo was a great welcome doormat. 8.7.2015

Watching this herd of bull elephants having a bath was such a visual delight. There was a little one who was in the water for the entire time we were there, which was about 2 hours. He was such a little character. This shot of him reminds me of Dumbo with the really big ears. When the ears are wet they look like soggy cauliflower leaves. In this shot he was having a big head shake which really shook out his ears. I'll never forget this time with the elephants from Khwai River. Botswana.  9.7.2015

A cheeky Jacana used the head of a bull Hippopotamus as a stepping stone in the Khwai River.  Hippos sound much like cows and they snort water very loudly out of their nostrils when they think you might be a threat.  We were very very wary of Hippos. That video that was getting around the www with the Hippo charging up through the water behind a boat was from the very same boat and river that we were on at Chobe River. So massive respect and wide berths around these animals.

Apparently is not very often you get to witness 'a kill' when on Safari. So to watch a pack of 4 African Wild Dogs take down a young Kudu was an experience that I'll never forget. It was very confronting and uncomfortable and I will not trivialise how hard it was to photograph. All I could think was 'keep shooting and I'll cry later' And I did cry. I didn't have a very good mental health day that day. The 4 dogs had their fill before 2 Hyenas ran in and stole the carcass. The noise and dust was intense as all the dogs and hyenas fought for it. One Hyena took off with the carcass and the other was the decoy to keep on fighting until the first Hyena was in the clear.
The Circle of Life. Sabi National Park. South Africa. 16.7.2015 

The Muizenberg Beach Bathing Boxes where a visual delight on a dreary grey day. Many many years ago the gentry would come to the beach from Cape Town in their horse and carriage. They would wear their finest clothes as they traveled to display their status to any other traffic. They would tie up the horse behind the bathing box, and change into their neck to knee bathing costumes and sun themselves on the beach. The water was far too cold to swim and only a brave few did. The whole exercise was more about being on show to their peers.  17.7.2015

There are many many hiking tracks in and around Cape Town, especially to the summit of Table Top Mountain. Dave, one of our crew, is super fit and decided to power on up the mountain himself instead of taking the Cable Car.  It was all the more impressive as he just wore thongs. He did mention when he motored past a party of hikers, in full hiking gear, he heard them say (with a loud American accent) "Did you see that guy??? He's only got flip flops on!!"  What a giggle . He reached the summit in 45 minutes. Normally around about a 2 hour climb. Rock on Daveo!!!

The bright and beautifully coloured houses at Bo-Kaap. Cape Town. South Africa.
The Bo-Kaap is a Capetonian suburb situated at the foot of Signal Hill. The area is well-known for the picturesque coloured houses, Cape Malay Cuisine and Muslim culture. Most pictures of the Bo-Kaap area show the narrow streets with the houses, all painted in different colours. But why are the houses painted in these bright colours? What is the story behind these coloured houses? 

The original residents of the Bo-Kaap descended from the slaves that the Dutch brought in from Africa and Asia during the colonial period. While the beautiful views from Signal Hill and the picturesque houses have attracted many (foreign) investors to the suburb, most of the current Bo-Kaap residents have a ‘Cape Malay’ background and are Muslims.

As part of their religion, they take part in the Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. At the end of this holy month, a three day celebration called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) takes place.

In Cape Town, hundreds of Muslims gather at Green Point every year in the evening of the last day of Ramadan. They wait for the sighting of the moon, which marks the end of the holy month. It is generally customary to dress up in bright colours, a tradition Capetonian Muslims also take part in. In addition, many Bo-Kaap residents repaint their houses at the end of the Ramadan as part of the celebrations. The residents usually discuss amongst their neighbours what colours they will be using, to prevent clashing colours and to make sure that different colours are picked.

It is often said that the different coloured houses have now become no more than a tourist attraction, but the rich history and culture behind it should not be forgotten.    20.7.2015

Beautiful Maiden's Cove on the rear side of Table Top Mountains with the 12 Apostles leading away to the horizon.  The wind here is so strong trees can't grow straight.  Just as I finished up photographing down on the beach a bus of young Springbok Rugby players ran down to the water's edge.   A few dared to go into the water for a dip. They were brave souls as the water temp at this time of year is a very chilly 14 degrees centigrade. Wind chill getting out of the water is much lower. 20.7.2015

Out of the whole trip I take home the memories and the wonderful friendships that have developed amongst our crew. Never to be forgotten and always cherished.

I'll posting images onto my 'Africa - Living a Dream' album on my Tiff Firth Photography Page for a while. I've 6000 odd images that are the keepers. I've already dumped the rest so I reckon I know what I'm doing until retirement    ;-)

Pete Dobrè has had such an enormous response to his photography trips to Africa that 2016 had already sold out, but now he is taking bookings for a second group to experience Africa in 2016. He also has a trip to Namibia in 2016 that is filling quickly. 2017 bookings are open now for both Africa and Namibia trips and will close off soon as he needs to complete the 2017 reservations with the tour groups in Africa shortly.  He can be contacted on 0408 446 289 or email via his website which is www.petedobre.com.au