The highest point in South Africa

I know I said at the start of all this that these posts would be slightly sporadic but this is getting a bit ridiculous. Half the time there is no internet, so uploads are not at all possible, and the other half, what internet there is is so damn slow google is a pain to open. I know I shouldn’t be complaining, I am living out a bit of my dream being here and very much enjoying being off the grid, but when i’m constantly getting messages from people wanting blog updates it does get a little frustrating. I have the updates, I have the photos, I just cant get them to you guys!

I apologize for my somewhat grumpy tone above, had been a long and tiring week when I first wrote this.

These last ten days we have been at a site on Mt. La Juma, the highest peak in South Africa. The start of the week was a little crappy for me, as I mentioned in the last post I was suffering the effects of tick bite fever , as well as the strong meds to get over it, which left me pretty low on energy. Luckily this was all clear by Tuesday and I woke up Wednesday morning feeling like I had a new lease of life, one of those occasions where I really didn’t appreciate how crap I felt till I felt good again.

It has been an incredibly productive ten days on the mountain, we have been blessed with quite good weather nearly everyday and the one day that was poor we drove down off the mountain to the game reserve at Nimeng. If you have been following my Instagram you will have seen that I have added quite a few individuals to my species list including a number of new lizards, tortoises, snakes and geckos. I have also seen a few species of mammals, and I know a lot of you want to see more of this kind of animal, its just not what i’m focusing on at the moment. I will endeavor to have the telephoto lens on a bit more to make snapping them possible, most of the time i’m walking around with the macro lens on which makes shooting anything at distance a bit of a hassle.

This week has also included the last two individuals of the small five for me to see. Most of you have probably heard of the Big Five which are the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot in South Africa (Black Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo and Elephant), the small five are their not so dangerous counter-parts. The Rhino beetle, the Ant Lion, the Leopard tortoise, the Buffalo weaver and the Elephant shrew. As you can see below so far I have only managed to photograph the beetle and the tortoise but hopefully by the end of this trip I will have snaps of all five.

I think throughout the week we have gained maybe 400 records, averaging about 50 a day which really is a lot. There have been a few points where it was almost impossible to keep up with the various individuals running about and the finds being called out. I cant complain though, as this simply meant we had a huge amount to then photograph. We have also been mucking around with slightly more staged photos, often dropping a few flowers into the background to try and break it up a bit. Still not 100% on some of the results but when it works it does look quite good. I am saved most of the time by the fact that using a macro lens gives you a quite small frame, so when the others are getting various things in the background I am usually only getting the subject.

Jordy has also been accompanying us most days this week, he is based at Mt La Juma completing research for his bachelors but has been struggling with getting enough data and records. I think after this week he now has more than enough! Its been cool to work with him, even if between him and Ryan (Canada) they make me feel a little old. He has a real passion for what he is doing and is very knowledgeable about the birds out here. I believe I’m right in saying his Dad is a twitcher who has traveled a lot of Africa, and Jordy has been lucky enough to accompany him on a few of his trips. The mountain is actually the site for a lot of students completing various bits of research, mainly for BSc’s but also some Masters, and so it has been nice to meet quite a few new people, nearly all of them Dutch, and hear about the various projects that are going on (or are supposed to be going on, not the most diligent bunch).

The mountain itself is a beautiful place, and comprises many different types of habitat that when you walk through its astonishing how quickly it changes from one type to the next. We only summited once, on Wednesday, but I think when we return in a couple of weeks I will try to go up a few times. Its only 1,747m and so isn’t really a difficult ascent at all but it provides some stunning views from the top across the Soutpansberg.

The day at Nimeng, mentioned earlier, was also quite interesting. As it was our first proper day in the field there we didn’t really know where to start looking, and our four hour walk through the bush turned up a few species but not as much as hoped for. It did however give us the information of where to start next time. We actually finished the day, in the last 45 minutes of sunlight, going through their extensive trash heap of scrap metal etc., and this turned up more species than we had seen all day. So on our next visit we plan to dedicate a good few hours to going over this with a fine toothed comb, it is perfect habitat for reptiles providing lots of cover and basking spots and we are sure to find a good few snakes and lizards. There is a 4-5 metre-long female python known to be living there somewhere that I and everyone else would love to see!

I have had a lot more success with the butterflies, my favorite subjects to shoot, this week and so I will end this post with a few of the shots I have managed to get. Many have still evaded me but there are a few very good feeding locations for them here, and next time I shall concentrate some of my spare time around these locations to try and get more.

As always thank you for taking the time to read, I hope you are still enjoying it all. Please comment, follow the blog and follow my Insta (@lovettleo) to keep up with all thats going on. Also thank you to Zoe, she makes most of this a bit more reader friendly from my somewhat garbled musings.


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