South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

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Rothdigga
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South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Rothdigga » November 17th, 2014, 5:28 pm

A few of you know me on here but a quick bit of background...I work in the skateboard industry as a sales manager (now for New Balance) but also I organize and judge contests. Each year we do a big pro contest in Kimberley, South Africa and this was our 4th year in a row heading out there.
Being a photo junkie and herper, I always take some time to do a side trip after making the 30+ hour journey all the way there. Here's the previous posts I've done:
2011- http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... php?t=8587
2012- http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... uth+africa
2013- http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=17672

The first 2 years I headed west of where I was further into the Kalahari. But temps at that time of year are pretty sketchy. Warm days in the 80's give way to sometimes very cold nights in the 40's. Think Palm Springs in Feb/March. It COULD be good, but really, it's going to be hard to find stuff. So last year I headed to the coast just north of Durban and it was really good. That's basically like Southern California weather where you can still find things as it's just starting to warm up.

This year wasn't nearly as productive as last year, but who the hell is going to complain about seeing all types of amazing wildlife and not as much herps...not me.

I headed to the same lodge I stayed at last year, Umkhumbi Lodge just north of Hluhluwe. I can't recommend this lodge enough to you guys. The owner Anton is a full blown herper and he'll be more than happy to map out some roads to cruise on, especially if you have specific species you're looking for. He's also friends with Myke Clarkson, who some of you on here already know. http://umkhumbilodge.co.za/ the grounds of the lodge have forest cobras, spitting cobras, puff adders, bush snakes and tons of other gems just waiting to be found. Road cruising is very close by as are a good amount of game reserves to see big wildlife.

Here's a couple quick photos of the Kalahari that I tend to explore in the early mornings before I head over to the contest to work/judge each day. I'm always surprised how many of my fellow skateboarders are willing to meet me in the lobby at 5:30am to go hike for a few hours. Getting guys like that with no schedule to wake up is near impossible back at home.
ImageUntitled by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageGemsbok at Marrick Safari by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageGiraffe at Marrick Safari by jrothdog, on Flickr

It was cold and windy in the Kalahari and I didn't see one lizard or snake. After giving away about $500,000 USD in prize money for that contest, I headed out towards Durban and then drove north to Umkhumbi. The first night I went road cruising and found a couple of cold, pale Flap-necked Chameleons and a toad.
ImageFlap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageGuttoral Toad (Amietophrynus gutturalis) by jrothdog, on Flickr

I woke up early every day, about 430-5am and headed out to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve to do solo game drives looking for animals to shoot photos of. I really wanted to find a leopard but struck out again (never seen one still). But there's tons of things to shoot photos of in the park.

I waited around to see if anything was going to come munch on this dead buffalo...but nothing obliged.
Imagedead Cape Buffalo by jrothdog, on Flickr
This reserve is credited with restoring the populations of both black and white rhino for much of southern Africa. Their population was very healthy as the numbers dropped very dangerously low. White Rhino are almost everywhere in the park.
ImageWhite Rhino at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
We often hear about poaching out there in Africa and I've always read the same thing "the people who police the game reserves have no way to combat it because all of the poachers have guns and they can't shoot back". I went to 2-3 local reserves looking for snakes with the lodge owner while I was there and got some real good insight into how they handle poachers. They really operate on a shoot first ask questions later policy. It's pretty heavy. Technically you're supposed to fire a warning shot first, then you can shoot someone, so they said you shoot the person, then fire into the air...whoa. Also, one of their lawyers told them that if you shoot someone who is running away from you, to turn them over and shoot them again in the front so you can claim they were coming at you first. It truly is the wild west out there if you're stupid enough to go on someone's land and try to poach an animal.
Someone who tried to poach some impala from the lodge once got tied to his electric fence for a good 24 hour period then let go. I can imagine that was a good deterrent as well.

Scenes like this are common and awesome. Lone Elephant just cruising.
Imageelephant at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
Warthogs will rub themselves in the mud to keep the sun off their skin. It gives them an awesome color
ImageWarthog at Hluhlue-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
First herp of the trip was this Nile Monitor out cruising around looking for stuff to eat.
ImageNile Monitor (Varanus niloticus) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageAfrican Hawk-eagle (Aquila spilogaster) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageCape Buffalo at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
While driving down the dirt road leaving the park, my path was blocked by 2 rhino and a Cape Buffalo. I waited for them to walk off the road but this dude decided that the shade on the road was better than off of it. So I had to turn around to a 1 hour detour to the exit.
ImageWhite Rhino at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageWhite Rhino at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
While shooting pics of this other monitor lizard out sunning, a large group of about 15 giraffe came up for drinks at the water. It was awesome.
ImageNile Monitor (Varanus niloticus) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageGiraffe at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi shedding tears by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageMale giraffe at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageGiraffe with Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageZebra at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
At sunset Anton (lodge owner) took me over to check out some new property he had purchased that was behind his place. We stopped at a small pond that had a small-ish resident Nile Croc. It was so skittish that I didn't even get out of the car and it bailed from the bank. I shot this from the window before it took off.
ImageNile Croc near Umkuhumbi Lodge by jrothdog, on Flickr
Driving around at night with Anton, I got to hear an amazing amount of stories. He's lived there and owned the lodge for a good amount of years after spending some time doing anti-poaching work in Zimbabwe. He also does all of the call-outs for snake removal for that whole area. He told me a few amazing ones but the best is a call he got to remove a python from a campsite near the coast. Apparently a mom told the park office that her kids (10-12 year olds) had found a python and had been playing with it all day. So Anton wasn't in a super big hurry to get it and went a couple hours later. When he got there the kids were holding a full grown, adult Gaboon Adder. They had been playing with the damn thing the whole day and it never once struck any of them. They were carrying it on their back when he got there. Holy hell!

I visited another reserve, Mkuze, one late afternoon and stayed until evening, then road cruised the way home.
Mkuze has some large lakes and we saw some of the residents there.
ImageHippos at Mkuze Reserve South Africa by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageLilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) by jrothdog, on Flickr
Off the side of the dirt road we were on I spotted this odd looking "rock", that ended up being a very speedy Leopard Tort on the move. The late evening sunlight really did wonders on it's shell.
ImageLeopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageLeopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
Not 15 feet away from the tortoise, I didn't notice at first, but this Rock Monitor was also cruising out in the late sunshine.
ImageRock Monitor (Varanus albigularis albigularis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
A small water pond housed a ton of these Marsh Terrapins
ImageMarsh Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageVervet Monkeys drinking at Mkuze Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
An amazingly colored African Pygmy Kingfisher
ImageAfrican Pygmy Kingfisher (ispidina picta) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageAfrican Pygmy Kingfisher (ispidina picta) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageImpala stand off at Mkuze reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
Road cruising that night produced a few toads and one snake that I shot the next morning.
ImageUntitled by jrothdog, on Flickr
The next day I hit the reserve again to see what I could find.
This guy seemed to be enjoying munching on this stick quite a bit.
Imageelephant at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
Imageelephant at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageWhite Rhino at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr

Here's the snake we found the previous night. It's a Beaked Blind Snake, super weird looking, almost like it's skin was produced by some horrible 1980's pixilated printer.
ImageBeaked blind snake (Rhinotyphlops schlegelii) by jrothdog, on Flickr
Since I wasn't finding any wild snakes out on my own, I decided to shoot a couple of local ones they had found recently before I got there. These Natal Greensnakes are apparently pretty common around there and resemble green mambas a little to closely for me to feel comfortable had I found one in the wild.
ImageWestern Natal Greensnake (Philothamnus natalensis occidentalis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageWestern Natal Greensnake (Philothamnus natalensis occidentalis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
The pattern on this Marbled Tree Snake is so amazing.
ImageMarbled tree snake (Dipsadoboa aulica) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageMarbled tree snake (Dipsadoboa aulica) by jrothdog, on Flickr

About 8 months prior to my arrival, the guy I went out herping with the previous year road cruised a particularly interesting snake about 2 hours north of the lodge. He decided to hang onto it because he wasn't sure what he found. Turns out that it was the only recorded Shield-nosed Snake found in that province. So the lodge owner hung onto it for him so they could properly identify it. Once species occurs a few hours west and another occurs a few hours north. There's a bit of debate as to it maybe being a new locality or new species altogether. It's been feeding well and he thinks he's going to release it back where they found it now that it's warming up.
When they took it out I was surprised at how short and stout it was. Lots of hissing from it as soon as we put it on the ground. It doesn't look too different than a hognose actually, with the noted exception that it's an Elapid and packs much more of a punch if it bit you.
ImageShield-nosed snake (Aspidelaps scutatus) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageShield-nosed snake (Aspidelaps scutatus) by jrothdog, on Flickr
I posted some video of it on my instagram account if you care to check that. @rothdigga
That night we went road cruising and found some more chameleons.
ImageFlap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
along with this beauty of a brown house snake
Imagebrown house snake (Boaedon capensis) by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageBrown House Snake (boaedon capensis) by jrothdog, on Flickr

It was time to head out and my flight wasn't until 2pm, so I decided to drive through the game reserve on my way down to Durban. It was rainy and cold and not a ton was out to see other than this peek-a-boo with a big male baboon and the hornbill I saw.
ImageMale baboon at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve by jrothdog, on Flickr
ImageTrumpeter Hornbill at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (bycanistes bucinator) by jrothdog, on Flickr

Can't wait to head back again next year.

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Scott Waters
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Scott Waters » November 17th, 2014, 5:55 pm

Really enjoyed your post. Love the variety. Thanks for sharing. I tweeted it out (@HerpNation), as well as posted a link on the Herp Nation facebook page.

thanks,
scott

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Antonsrkn
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Antonsrkn » November 17th, 2014, 6:51 pm

Badass! As with the other times you went, I'm jealous about your trip, some epic wildlife there! Nice post.

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Rothdigga
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Rothdigga » November 17th, 2014, 7:08 pm

Thanks Scott. Appreciate the bonus Facebook plug. It's an amazing place and getting linked up and becoming friends with the lodge owner is a huge plus. Next year he wants to head out to Botswana and herp up there for some really amazing herps there. Fingers crossed.

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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by snakemastermyke » November 17th, 2014, 8:46 pm

Nothing smells worse than those marsh terrapins, uff!

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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by snakemastermyke » November 17th, 2014, 8:48 pm

More herpers need to get out to SA, its really an awesome experience. I try to go once a year... and still have a ton to find and see!

Failed at atropos this year, but saw some cool cham lifers.

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Rothdigga
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Rothdigga » November 18th, 2014, 2:39 pm

For sure Myke. It's a pretty incredible place. I enjoy the free trip down there each year I go for work and there's always so many more things and places to explore. Time to start planning the next trip.

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Roki
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Roki » November 18th, 2014, 5:33 pm

Truly amazing shots! I always enjoy your trip reports. They make we want to get down to Africa at some point.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Kelly Mc » November 19th, 2014, 7:23 pm

Thank You, so very much.

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DevinBergquist
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by DevinBergquist » November 20th, 2014, 9:30 am

Awesome post Jason, and the photography is spectacular as always. Your SA trips always make me jealous, I'll have to get out there eventually, but for now I am just looking forward to spring.

Devin

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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Y.Morgan » November 20th, 2014, 8:13 pm

Frickin' cool post! You're lucky to go to SA so many years in a row...for work, no less! That one Nile monitor basking on a rock looks like a captive-raised fatty. If it were in someone's collection, I'd think them an idiot for having such an obese animal. :lol: I especially like your close up photos of the Cape buffalo, rhino snoozing on the road, and the giraffe. Thanks for your post!
York

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Rothdigga
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Rothdigga » November 20th, 2014, 9:22 pm

Funny stuff Y. Morgan. That monitor was totally chillin enjoying the sun until that big herd of giraffes came by and ran him off that rock. Stoked you liked the pics.
Every year we go do the event I think "I hope I get to come back next year". Super lucky we've done it so many times in a row.

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Nick Evans
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Nick Evans » November 22nd, 2014, 5:47 am

Great post Jason! You got more excellent photos this trip! Sorry I wasn't able to meet up with you, next time!

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Kevin Messenger
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Kevin Messenger » November 24th, 2014, 2:35 pm

very awesome!

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Rothdigga
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Rothdigga » November 24th, 2014, 4:15 pm

Thanks Kevin. You, me, Mike Pingleton and many others on here are total travel junkies it seems so I always look towards the pics and things you guys find on your travels.
As I type this I'm working on dates to coordinate an Ecuador trip in April 2015.

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The Jake-Man
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by The Jake-Man » November 24th, 2014, 4:36 pm

Getting paid to travel around the world judging skating competitions, and herping along the way... You've got a job that about 10,000 teenage guys, (including myself), would kill for. Nice pics man!

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Rothdigga
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Re: South Africa Oct 2014, my 4th trip back

Post by Rothdigga » November 25th, 2014, 9:42 am

The Jake-Man wrote:Getting paid to travel around the world judging skating competitions, and herping along the way... You've got a job that about 10,000 teenage guys, (including myself), would kill for. Nice pics man!
I don't think that's just limited to teenage guys my man. I'm 42 and can't believe I get to do what I do. There's plenty of skate nerds/herpers out there surprisingly as I've found on Instagram of all age ranges. Thanks!

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