Saturday, June 30, 2018

Arnolds - Cape Town, South Africa

My favorite meal of our trip to southern Africa was at Arnolds on Kloof Street in Cape Town, South Africa. I'd researched it before our trip and identified it as one of the best offerings of game meat we would find. We had a reservation there our first night and it had been cancelled by the restaurant - perhaps they were having a wedding event - suggested by our guide. We ended up fitting it in for lunch our last of four days in Cape Town. Arnold's was rated #49 of 512 restaurants in Cape Town by Trip Advisor. 
Arnolds, fairly close to where we stayed at More Quarters Hotel. 
Judy was getting tired of game meat and she opted for something else I don't recall, I think something with shrimp, and she was not particularly thrilled with what she got. 

She also ordered an African Sun drink which had pineapple, strawberry and blackberry in it. I ordered the Mexican Rush which had raspberry, cherry and mango. Both were wonderfully cold, thick and delicious. 
African Sun
Mexican Rush
Our guide, Ryan Strauss, with Samsara Africa, knew I wanted to try all of the game meats, so he kindly ordered gemsbok wellington and then shared part of it with me. Wellington is a dish of steak coated with pate and duxelles (a minced mixture of mushrooms, onions, herbs and black pepper sauteed in butter and reduced to a paste), then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. This dish substituted gemsbok filet for the beef and was wrapped in bacon, instead of the pate, and was served medium rare. It was amazingly good, perhaps the best of any of our menu items. Not only was the meat cooked nicely, but the other ingredients added to the flavor and texture. 
Gemsbok Wellington
I ordered the South African Game Platter which included four cuts of game. In the picture below, top left is kudu, bottom left is ostrich, the small bowl is crocodile tagine, then grilled vegetables and French fries, then on the right, warthog ribs. 
South African Game Platter
The crocodile tagine is an Arnolds signature dish. Tagine is a Moroccan method and they used a sweet and sour mild curry and served it with yellow rice. It was pretty bland and my least favorite of all the game dishes. I much prefer crocodile grilled. 
Crocodile Tagine
The other signature dish at Arnolds is smoked warthog ribs. This was what I was most excited to try. I saw some Trip Advisor comments that raved about it. They were smoked red and definitely had the smoky taste. I'm really not a big smoked meat fan, but it was cool that it was warthog and they were pretty moist. 
Smoked Warthog Ribs
Both the kudu and the ostrich were over-cooked, not even pink in the middle. I'd specifically asked for rare when I ordered. I wasn't going to make a fuss, but Ryan said I'd ordered it that way and got up and talked to the waiter and got them to cook me some new ones. I appreciated his being assertive for me. The manager came back with the newly cooked meat and watched me cut into it. They were both raw in the middle - I said great. One thing I really learned on this trip - wild game is best cooked like seared ahi - seared on the outside and raw in the middle. It gets horribly dry and tough when it is over-cooked. 
Original ostrich.
Original kudu
I had lots of kudu on our trip, and having it rare made all the difference. It was in a fantastic peppery gravy that went really well with it. I really loved it - best kudu of the trip. 
New kudu
A look at the inside of the new ostrich (left) and kudu (right). 
The ostrich was also much improved. It was not as large a piece or cooked as well as the ostrich I had at Karibu, which was amazing. I think much of it was that it was just not as good a cut. It was vastly improved rare. 
The new ostrich.
This was an amazingly fun meal. Karibu came close to equaling it, but I give the nod to best of trip for Arnolds. The gemsbok wellington was perhaps best of trip, the warthog ribs were unusual and cool and the kudu was amazingly good. 

Friday, June 29, 2018


The gemsbok, or South African oryx (oryx gazella), is the largest of four species of oryx. We saw the East African oryx (oryx beisa) on our trip to East Africa four years ago and we saw the scimitar oryx (oryx dammah) and gemsbok about six months later at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas. 
This gemsbok is drinking at Okaukuejo waterhole with Burchell's zebras. 
The gemsbok is on the coat of arms of Namibia along with the African fish eagle.
A very cool depiction. 
Compared to the beisa oryx, the gemsbok has a dark patch at the base of the tail; an entirely black tail; has more black on the legs, including black on the hind legs that the beisa oryx does not have; and has more black on the lower flanks. 
The black patch at the base of the tail, the all-black tail and black on the back legs are three distinguishing characteristics from the beisa oryx. 
At Brownii waterhole with a springbok to its left. This shows the larger flank stripe as well as the other black mentioned above and large black portions on the front legs. 
It is found in the arid regions of southern Africa, including all of Namibia, large portions of Botswana, much of northwestern South Africa, and a small portion of Zimbabwe. 
In the late afternoon golden light on the way to Okondeka waterhole. 
At Brownii waterhole.
We saw them in Etosha NP in Namibia, particularly at the Okaukuejo waterhole, on our drive out to Okondeka waterhole, and at Nebrownii waterhole.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Kori Bustard

I've previously posted on the Somali Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori struthiunculus) which we saw in East Africa four years ago. It is one of the two subspecies of kori bustard, although there are some that believe they are separate species.

We saw the other subspecies (Ardeotis kori kori) in Etosha NP in Namibia and Hwange NP in Zimbabwe. It is the paler nominate subspecies found in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, southern Angola, South Africa and Mozambique. 

We got some better looks in Etosha as we had control over our own vehicle and were able to spend longer looking at them. 
I love the top-knot - a less flashy version of the secretary bird back-head feathers. 
I also love the lose neck feathers of black and white stripes that look like chain-mail.
I also love the blackish-brown and white markings on the upper-outer wings. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

African Red-Eyed Bulbul

In the camp at Okaukuejo in Etosha NP in Namibia, I was going in to the office to check out and noticed a beautiful bird hanging on a fixture from the ceiling. It had a distinctive yellow underside near the anal area, which caught my attention, a whitish lower breast, a blackish head with orangish-red and black eyes and a brown upper back.
This was the African red-eyed bulbul or black-fronted bulbul. 
There are two subspecies. I saw the north subspecies, Pycnonotus nigricans nigricans, found in southwestern Angola, Namibia, Botswana and western South Africa. The southern subspecies is found in central South Africa. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Red-Winged Starling

The red-winged starling is found in east Africa, from Ethiopia south to the Cape in South Africa. 
A male, bottom left, and female, upper, at the Cape of Good Hope right near the ocean. 
The male is an iridescent black. The female has an ash-gray head and upper breast. Both have rufous flight feathers, most noticeable in flight, and black eyes.  
This male in Kalk Bay was outside the restaurant where we ate fish and chips. 
The rufous flight wings on this male are barely visible at the Cape of Good Hope. 
The female with the gray head. 
I saw them in the extreme southern part of their range, on the beach at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and in Kalk Bay, further up the peninsula on the east side. 
A male at the Cape of Good Hope.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cape Glossy Starling

The Cape glossy starling is found in southern Africa in South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and portions of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Gabon. 
It has a fairly uniform bright, glossy plumage with a blue head and blue-green upper body and orange eye.
Cape glossy starling.
We saw it in multiple places, but I only got pictures in Hwange NP in Zimbabwe. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Zambezi River and Victoria Falls

When you are in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, you focus on Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River which feeds it. Victoria Falls is one of the seven wonders of the natural world

We had two activities on the Zambezi River. The Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa after the Nile, Congo and Niger Rivers. Its source is in northwestern Zambia and it flows 1,678 miles through six countries to Mozambique where it empties into the Indian Ocean. 

We took a guided canoe trip on the Upper Zambezi (above the Falls) where the Zambezi is very wide and slow moving. We drove west of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side through Zambezi National Park and put in our canoes up river and then spent the next several hours canoeing east down the Zambezi. 
Our inflatable canoes on the truck.
Our drop-in point. Hippos were out in the river beyond the first island to the left. Our guides kept us a long distance from any hippos they spotted and they knew the spots where they like to congregate. 
We were with a father and his 13 year old son from Colorado (in one canoe), a young engaged couple from Japan (in another canoe) and two guides (who shared a canoe). Judy and I also shared a canoe. 
Father and son with an island beyond them. 
Judy in the front of the canoe. 
We had hippos bellowing in the river not too far from where we put in and saw several more hippos on the way down. We saw one crocodile and some bee-eaters, but I was a little disappointed we did not see more wildlife. 

We did hit some mild class 1 and class 2 rapids which added a little excitement and got us a little wet. 
We didn't actually get photos of the rapids. The guides collected all of our valuables, such as wallets and cameras and put them in a dry-bag before that section. We did get quite wet through the larger rapids. 
The most impressive thing was watching the mist from the falls rising in the air like smoke from a fire. The local name for Victoria Falls is "Mosi-oa-Tunya" which means "smoke that thunders." 
Our guides in their canoe and the mist of the Falls in the distance. 
The father and son duo do some synchronized rowing with the Falls as a backdrop. 
At the end when we pulled out we had a wonderful lunch, including crocodile kabobs which I really enjoyed, the best crocodile we ate in Africa (and we had it quite a few times). 
Our pull-out point. 
Wonderful crocodile kabobs.
That evening we took a Sundowners Cruise on the Upper Zambezi not too far above the falls on a large boat where each table on the lower and upper deck had a river view. They served drinks and some appetizers. 
Watching the sunset from our boat in the Zambezi.
The sun going down.
Another one of many boats like us on the Zambezi for a sundowner.
We did see some fun wildlife, including quite a few hippos, a clay river bank full of nesting bee-eaters and some fun birds, including spur-winged geese and yellow-billed storks. 
Yellow-billed stork.
The river is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and our first night we took a series of tax cabs back and forth from Zimbabwe to Zambia to eat at the Royal Livingstone Hotel on the Zambia side so that I could put a check-mark on visiting Zambia. From the Royal Livingstone we could see the mist of the Falls fairly closely. On our Sundowners Cruise we also cruised on the Zambia side of the Zambezi. 
The mist of the Falls from the Royal Livingstone.
Our familiarity with the Zambezi and the Falls increased dramatically the next morning when we took a 26 minute helicopter flight over the Falls and both the Lower and Upper Zambezi with Zambezi Helicopters. 
We were the first flight in the morning. Here the helicopter is just getting ready for us to board.
One of our first views of the Falls from the helicopter, right after lift-off. 
Judy smiles from the front seat. 
Part of the flight was okay for pictures, but part was horrible as the morning sun was directly in our face. We circled around the Falls twice and could clearly see that the Falls drop over a knife-edged cliff into a narrow T-shaped chasm. The Falls empty into the cross-bar of the "T" which is 1,859 yards long, then drain out the support post of the "T" past the Victoria Falls Bridge and into a series of steep, narrow goose-necked canyons. 
The "T" of the chasm is clearly visible. Toward the bottom, left of center, the Victoria Falls Bridge which is just below where the supporting bar of the "T" leaves the cross-bar of the "T" from the chasm. The Upper Zambezi is seen for miles and opens up broadly right before the Falls. 
The falls and mist at the intersection of the "T."
The bridge visible from the other side of the Falls.
The size of the chasm is amazing.
The cross-bar of the "T." There is so much mist you can't even see the connecting point of the "T."
These narrow canyons are the beginning of the Middle Zambezi where commercial white-water rafting takes place on a class 5 section of the Zambezi (the highest rapid rating for river-rafting). The Zambezi was at a 9 year high while we were there and no river-rafting was allowed at that time on the Middle Zambezi because it was too dangerous. It is that high flow rate which causes so much mist to rise from the Falls. 
The beginning of the goose-neck canyons can be seen below the Falls. 
From a greater distance, more of the goose-necks are visible and white-water in the canyon is visible below. The spray from the Falls is visible for miles. 
The view of the goose-necks is seen here from the other side of the Falls. 
The last part of our helicopter ride took us a few minutes over Zambezi National Park where we saw some wildlife, including impala, zebras, elephants and giraffes - particularly giraffes as they are so much easier to spot from the air. 
Giraffes from the air.
Zoomed in on a giraffe.
After our helicopter ride we were transported to the Falls and took a walking tour of the Falls. It may have been the most spectacular of our activities, even more so than the helicopter. 

As indicated, the Falls are flowing very strong right now and they cause there own weather (rain and wind). We each had water-proof jackets, added rubber ponchos and also brought along umbrellas to help with picture taking. We highly recommend all of the same for anyone else doing it. We saw lots of people who looked like swamp rats with cameras that looked like they'd been through a washing machine. 
The only time we dropped our poncho hoods - while our guide took our picture. You can see the sun shining, but it is raining hard. 
They claim that Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world. There are different ways of measuring waterfalls, but two of the other impressive falls used for comparison are Niagara and Iguazu. Victoria is 360 feet tall, while Niagara is 167 and Iguazu is 210 to 269. Victoria is 1,859 yards long (1.06 miles) and split into five different falls (one long sheet of water when it gets really large). Iguazu is 1.7 miles long, but about 983 yards of it (.56 miles) has no water flow over it (it is split into about 275 different falls and large islands). The average annual flow rate of Victoria is 38,420 cubic feet/second. It is 85,000 for Niagara and 61,660 for Iguazu. However, Victoria's flow rate is dampened dramatically during the dry season. When you look at maximum recorded flow, Victoria is 250,000 cubic feet/second, Niagara is 293,000 and Iguazu is an amazing 1,614,000. 

From the Zimbabwe side, the first of the five falls is the Devil's Cataract. We got a direct side view there that was amazing. We could see the water rushing down to our left and lots and lots of mist ahead. We couldn't really see the river below, it was just too frothy and had too much mist. This was my favorite part.
A look into the cross-bar of the "T." Devil's Cataract is flowing in from the left. 
Devil's Cataract from above.
From even a little higher. 
Across from Devil's Cataract.
Looking back at Devil's Cataract.
The Main Falls is the largest of the five and strong winds caused by the falling water turn much of it into mist. 
The Main Falls.
About this time on pictures became mostly futile. Wind was strong, rain was blowing sideways, and all you could see was mist. 
Horseshoe Falls is shaped like a horseshoe and has the least volume of water. It is the first one to dry up, usually in October or November. 
I believe this is part of Horseshoe Falls.
Rainbow Falls is the highest point and a rainbow can usually be seen there. I didn't even attempt a look there. It was just mist, sideways blowing rain and wind. 

The Eastern Cataract is on the Zambia side and are the second highest of the five falls. They can be viewed from Danger Point. At that point, I let Judy and the guide go to danger point. I had no desire to as the wind and the rain was so strong you couldn't see anything. Judy took the buffeting and beating and loved it. People think of me being a little crazy, but don't realize that Judy's got a good dose of that herself. That is where the support of the "T" breaks through the chasm. A short little walk to the east and you can see the Victoria Falls Bridge which we crossed by cab to get into Zambia. 
The bridge and a rainbow below it. People bungee jump from the bridge, among other activities.