Encountering an elephant while on foot

The big 5 is a tool that safari operators continue to use. It does not make much sense as this term is a hunting term. The big 5 are the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.It is not impossible to encounter the big 5 on a single drive in the bush. I have done this on a few occasions. However, when you are in the bush it is worth taking your time.

Given the big 5 is to do with hunting on foot, I have been more interested in encounters on foot. Before my recent trip, I had encountered Rhino Buffalo and Lion on foot (I do not consider it as an encounter unless I am within about 10m of the animal).

This elephant spent quite some time, eating a bush not far from the camps open gate, and was quite happy with several people standing and watching it eat.
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Workers strike as Indonesia increases fee to visit Komodo dragons is increase by more than 18 times to £205

As the largest lizard in the world the Komodo dragons hold a fascination for humans, as it is the only place where lizards still rule

The concern by those who work in tourism with the Komodo dragons seems quite justified. They fear that this enormous increase in price will put off people from visiting, and therefore completely destroy the tourism industry.

It should be noted that this is merely the fee to visit the islands, anything the guides charge is on top of that.

Continue reading “Workers strike as Indonesia increases fee to visit Komodo dragons is increase by more than 18 times to £205”

Rare sightings, where even a wildlife guide gets excited Aardvarks and Pangolins – and seeing them in the zoo

When you go on safari, as with other places there are animals that while fascinating you can be almost certain you will not see.

This Aardvark lives at Chester zoo

I am not talking about Black leopards, or white lions – rare genetic mutations which are therefore not always present, and when they are, there might be one or two in the whole of an ecosystem. In recent times, when a black leopard was sighted, a British photographer flew out specifically to stake out the area it was in to get his shot. He did succeed, but spent a whole trip getting the picture (Will Burrard Lucas) flew to the part of Kenya where it had been sighted, and put up camera traps which caught the creature). These are almost impossible to see, as they tend to occur very rarely. The white Lions of Timbivati are very good for this private reserve as it is almost impossible to see wild white lions anywhere else.

No, the animals that are rarely seen (and perhaps for most would not feature on a list of 100 animals they would like to see) tend to be nocturnal. I am talking of animals like the Aardvark and the pangolin. Often these species are also extremely fussy eaters, which means that not only are they incredibly hard to see in the wild, but they are incredibly hard to keep alive in captivity – increasingly zoos are starting to get these fascinating animals, as the unfounded belief that pangolin scales can treat a variety of conditions has pushed all species nearer to extinction (so it is becoming increasingly necessary to have a captive population to back up the wild one).

In the UK, the only place that you can see an Aardvark is in Colchester zoo, where they have a group of them. Knowing this, Colchester zoo is one of those that I will visit as often as I get the chance, and spend a significant amount of time by the Aardvark burrow hoping to see them awake.

Our visit last week was incredibly lucky, as the Aardvarks had to be weighed, so they all had to wake up and be moved around. I hope to put together a video after the summer, with pictures of Aardvark burrows in the wild, and the animal in captivity. If I am very lucky, I will be able to add in some wild Aardvark pictures but this is very unlikely.

Either way, a video will be coming in the Autumn – to our youtube channel. Do subscribe so as to not miss it (there are many more videos in the pipeline) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsz9rwvtlpsdQgB-52CY-_w

This link will take you to our youtube channel.

We have 2 trips planned in the next few months. Later this week, I am travelling to Spain in the hope of seeing bears and wolves, and over August, my family are travelling to Kruger national park. Our aim is to film many videos during these trips, and be able to add greatly to what is listed on the channel.

Wild travel can resume!

With the improving covid situation worldwide finally we can return to visiting wild areas of the planet. Not only has the tourist industry missed this basil so it has had a terrible impact on conservation efforts in many parts of the world.

This is because in many cases there is not enough money to protect animals without out.the tourist dollars that they bring in. Since covid start there have been very few tourists arriving in many of these countries.

Yet this situation is changing. Now, many countries in Africa are considered completely safe. There have been less infections across the whole of Africa than have been reported in the UK – now while some of this may be down to poor health care (there are slightly more people who have died from covid in Africa than the UK), clearly your risk in Africa is far lower than your risk in the UK.

My family will be travelling to Kruger in South Africa in August! Obviously I hope for this to create many stories for this site and videos for the sister YouTube channel.

My other aim is to be able to list all of the public rest stops on the website after this trip. 

What does this mean?

Currently we only list the private reserves along the borders of the Kruger. These are fantastic ways of seeing wildlife. You will be pampered indeed spoilt, by the wonderful treatment you will receive. 

However, even amongst wealthy people, the cost of these lodges can become prohibitive – a one week safari in some of these places can run to $10,000 or more per person.

Of course on this website we wish to cater for people who have large amounts of money, however we are not in this category and we want to cater for everyone.

Self-drive safaris are something that many people greatly enjoy. With a little bit of research you can quickly become competent at finding the animal to yourself (sighting maps in each rest stop help). There is something liberating about entering an area so large, and being able to go where you like as you like, exploring whichever part of the park you prefer.

On self-drive safaris your accommodation is different. Generally you have the choice of setting up your own tent, taking a hut, or in some places a mid option is a a fancy safari tent. These obviously very in price, but even in the most expensive you are likely to be spending less over your whole holiday then you would for one night on a private reserve.

For those who could afford it I would recommend to do a self-drive safari with a couple of days on a private reserve at the beginning or end of your trip.


All of the partners on this site have very reasonable policies on cancelation if this is necessary because of Covid.

There is also the advantage at the moment, that most airlines have a simple policy of cancellation if advice suggests that travel is not wise.

Man accidently grabbed by a whale

A lobster diver suddenly found himself in the mouth of a humpback whale.

Large whales on earth feed exclusively on small sea creatures, and have baleen sheets that stop larger creatures being swallowed.

As such after diving a distance, the whale surfaced and violently shook it’s head to empty it’s mouth, and the man was pulled back into his boat.

While episodes like this might happen from time to time, whales remain animals generally without any animus towards humans. They can not eat us, and now we are not exterminating them they do not fear us.

They are, however, very large and as such can accidently hurt people if they get too close

Bears do have close encounters with people, however sensible behaviour makes this interesting for both

The bears in France are often talked about like a problem child. However in actual fact that is not what they are like at all.

Bears are omnivores, and as such while they spend much of their time eating berries or roots they are capable of scary bursts of speed. Bears have been filmed running in excess of 35 mph, which means that even at his top speed a bear could catch up with Usain Bolt. More to the point, while better suited to sprints, bears can keep up an impressive speed for a significant distance – certainly further than a human could. This means, that while for much of the year they are herbivores, they are highly intelligent opportunistic hunters, and therefore cannot be relied upon to act in a certain way.

As with many other large mammals, they view children under 10 as essentially relatively harmless – meaning that small children should not be alone in bear country. Attacks on humans – even small children, are rare as with chimpanzees and wolves, however they are not unheard of.

Here is a video from a few years ago. A man had gone for a walk in the mountains with his son. where they encounter a bear at close range. Just remember that this mountain range is roughly 270 miles long and 80 miles wide (at its widest) covering over 7000 square miles (just a bit smaller than wales) and within this mountain range there are 43 bears. These all fall within 5000 square km (just under 2000 square miles) but this means that bears are rare and being shy generally stay out of site. Furthermore, bears are most active between dusk and dawn so seeing one in the middle of the day is rare.

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Black Mamba (South Africa)

Image by John Blythe

We spent a month volunteering at Umhloti Lodge about 20 miles from Kruger. This is a nature reserve, and although none of the big five live here permanently, there are certainly visiting Leopards. However at the centre of the reserve is a Chimpanzee sanctuary (the location of the Animal Planet series “Escape to Chimp Eden”). The volunteers lived around a mile away in several little “Wendy Houses” so each morning we would walk up to the lodge. The reserve is typical savannah, with long yellowy grass, and small prickly bushes as well as trees. While you could see most animals far ahead it was possible to be surprised. On the way we would see the Giraffe and Zebras and the various Antelope species. On exiting our huts the Vervet Monkeys would scatter, and we would start the walk up the road. However on our first morning, perhaps half way up to the lodge we spotted a Black Mamba starting to cross the road. While Black Mambas are not uncommon in this area, a volunteer who had been there three months was still yet to spot one. In South Africa the Black Mamba is perhaps the most dangerous snake. It is up to 2.5m long and can travel with 80% of its body off the ground, if you meet it, on occasions it can be taller than a human.

We stopped as soon as we noticed it, however it was too late. The Black Mamba reared up momentarily and then flicked over back into the grass.

Lion (Tanzania)

The majority of my safari experience has been had within the Kruger national park in South Africa. While wild, generally the facilities there are far greater than in Tanzania. As such the campsite in the Selous national park in Tanzania consisted of a flat piece of land with a sign saying ‘Lake Tagalala camp’ and a long drop toilet. However there was no fence or barrier of any kind around the camp (you are required to pay for a night guard above the costs of camping). The washing facilities were in themselves quite an exciting prospect as you used the local lake, though you took your guard with you as when we went for a was there were crocodiles on one side of us and hippos on the other.

We were sitting by our fire at around 8.30pm that evening, listening to the sounds of wildife from the surrounding area while we ate our supper. This consisted of the insects of the bush, as well as regular grunts and splashes of the hippos in their pool about 100m distant, and the roars of the various local lion prides. The night guard had gone to be with the other group that he had spent the day with. Very suddenly out of the dark about 10m distant to where we were sitting a lioness appeared out of the dark. We were sat by a fire so she was unlikely to approach but she held our gaze as she stalked across the camp site and then back into the dark.

Bear (Croatia)

To put this sighting in context, we had spent 3 lovely days hiking in the Northern Velebit National Park national park in Croatia, it had been beautiful, but apart from a brief sighting of two deer from a large distance away we hadn’t seen any wildlife. We were moving on and so had left the park. It was quite early in the morning and due to the remote location of the park there was little artificial noise.  About 100m beyond the front gate we stopped suddenly when we heard noise from our left. Moments later the was more noise as a large bear crashed down the steep bank and started to amble across the road. It paused briefly in the middle of the road and glared at us as we sat perhaps 10m away. It then ambled across the rest of the road and crashed down an equally steep bank. At this point I got out of the car and walked to the edge of the road and looked down into the dark of the forest. The bear had not moved from the bottom of the bank, and he turned his head and fixed me with a stare for a few seconds before disappearing further into the gloom of the forest.

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