Those lucky enough to hear the strange, booming call of this Southern Ground Hornbill are unlikely to forget this magnificent bird ñ the largest of the world's hornbills. Its looks are equally astonishing! Its gorgeous fringe of thick, dark eyelashes keep the dust out of its pale blue eyes which contrast vividly with its brilliant red facial skin and flamboyant wattle. Due to their diminished habitat and slow rates of reproduction, these hornbills are unfortunately listed as critically endangered in South Africa.
Described by one visitor as 'the nicest place on earth', the secluded indigenous bush of Nxamaseri Island lodge in the Okavango Delta provides a welcoming but exclusive environment for visitors. Situated in the Delta Panhandle, this owner-run lodge is a peaceful destination known primarily for its fly-fishing (tiger and bream). Guests may also enjoy peaceful trips in makoros (dugout canoes), birding safaris, and guided walks to see San rock art at Tsodilo Hills.
A white rhino grazes contentedly as dusk falls. The speckles on this rhino's back are probably dried mud - white rhinos love to have regular mud-baths to keep parasites at a minimum and remain cool. This rhino has a magnificent horn which suggests that it is quite mature. A rhino's horns can grow to well over a metre in length if they live their full lifespan of thirty to forty years. White rhinos can reach up to 4 metres in length and may weigh as much as 3600 kilograms.
Some alert-looking male lechwe sensing danger. These two lechwe are clearly male since female lechwe do not have horns. These two probably belong to a bachelor herd of young males that have not yet successfully defended a territory and are therefore not in competition. Lechwe are interesting because the females form breeding herds which move through the territories of different rams, mating on the go.
Every detail of this leopard's muzzle is so vividly clear that it feels as though one could reach out and touch it. Leopards are often seen with their mouths slightly open like this ñ usually because they are panting to cool themselves down. Leopards are very adaptable and hot temperatures don't bother them much. They can live in lush jungle-like environments and dry arid ones. Their adaptability extends to their food sources as well: they prey on a huge range of animals.
In this photograph one can clearly see the large white patches along this korhaan's wings that distinguish it from its endemic southern cousin. The Northern Black Korhaan has a wider range than the southern species as it is found not only in the drier grassland and scrub areas of South Africa and Lesotho, but also in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. Male birds like this one are particularly distinctive because of their striking colours, noisy calls and aerial displays.
You should see the other guy. Lions are the second-largest big cats after tigers, and males may weigh more than 250 kilograms. It is quite a sight to see two fully-grown male lions battling it out in a half-tonne catfight. Their manes help to protect them from lashing claws and teeth, but the fights seldom end without a few nicks and lacerations.
This Maribou Stork, like most of its kin, is not going to win any beauty contests. However, this rather fascinating bird plays an important role in its ecosystem. It includes carrion and refuse amongst its primary food sources and therefore, like vultures and hyenas, it helps to clear the environment of flies, bacteria and repellent odours. It also eats rodents, birds, reptiles and even adult flamingos and young crocodiles. Despite its rather disgusting diet it has the refined habit of washing offal in water before it swallows it.
This is one kittycat that no fireman would try to fetch down from a tree. This leopard is looking very alert and watchful. Trees form useful vantage points for leopards as they can identify advancing threats very easily. However, they have been known to hunt from trees as well. If the timing is right, they will leap down on the unsuspecting prey beneath them and enjoy a relatively effortless meal.
The Saddle-billed Stork is named for the bright yellow saddle-shaped wedge that one can clearly see atop this bird's huge bill. No matter how many times one sees this stork, it is always a pleasure to marvel at its piercing yellow iris, the striking contrast between its bold red and white markings, and the iridescence of its seemingly-black feathers. This stork frequents wetland areas and uses its celebrated bill to forage for fish, frogs, crustaceans, reptiles, molluscs and even small birds.
A leopard relaxes in a tree in the morning sun. The ability to climb and rest in trees is hugely beneficial to leopards. Just like other cats, leopards like to sharpen their claws on the bark of tree trunks. These sharp claws and their incredible strength and agility enables them to drag their prey into treetops, giving them an advantage over opportunistic lions and hyenas that may try to steal it from them. Leopards can haul into trees animals that are twice or three times their body weight - even gangly young giraffes.
Inseparable. A white rhino mother keeps an eye on her calf. This female was probably pregnant for almost a year and a half. She is undoubtedly fiercely protective of her calf, and will often keep it in front of her for safety's sake. The white rhinoceros is more accurately called the square-lipped rhinoceros, and one can clearly see the strong square lip of this little calf. White rhinos also have particularly wide nostrils and their sense of smell is excellent, which makes up for their poor eyesight.
A Secretarybird stalks through the veld like it means business ñ it seems to be scanning the grass for prey. It will most likely stamp its feet to flush potential prey out of the grass, and then catch it with its hooked bill and swallow it whole. Secretarybirds are capable of killing rodents and snakes by stamping on them with their powerful feet and talons. These majestic raptors are found throughout southern Africa in open areas such as grassland, farmland and semi-desert regions. They like the company of other Secretarybirds and are usually found in pairs.
This tortoise, known locally as the leopard or mountain tortoise, has the Latin name Stigmochelys pardalis. This comes from the Greek words stigma (marked), chelone (tortoise) and pardalis (spotted). Tortoises are reputed to be slow and meditative, but leopard tortoises can move quite fast, climb a little and even float in water. They are combative in mating season, with males ramming and overturning one another and butting females into submission. Anyone who has seen leopard tortoises mating will learn something about stamina.
Four Yellow-billed Ducks in flight, showing the beautiful iridescent blue and green speculums on their wings. These lovable little birds are found in many wetland areas in eastern and southern Africa, and are the commonest duck seen in agricultural areas. Rather than diving for food, they swim around dabbling at the surface of the water, and also forage on shorelines. They are not at all vulnerable to extinction but they are declining because of their tendency to breed with feral Mallard Ducks.
Locusts and grasshoppers look much the same. In fact, locusts are what grasshoppers are called when they swarm together, usually causing rapid defoliation of the areas through which they move. These bright green grasshoppers are often seen during walks or hikes in southern Africa. They are rather large and make an alarming whirring or clicking sound during their short, erratic flights. Seeing one of these large green things whirring towards you usually inspires some comical hiking gymnastics.