I have always had the very bad habit of constantly procrastinating. Mostly because I seem to have a very poor attention span. Its not that I don’t want to do what I am supposed to do, but more that there’s always something new and exciting that needs to be explored or investigated, a new distraction that is waiting to happen. John Legend sings about a favourite distraction; I think my favourite thing to be is distracted. So growing up and growing old I have thought up many many plans, but have a tendency not to see them through.
A couple years ago however I began to adopt the Nike approach though. Whenever I come up with a new idea I mull it over in my head for a little while and then eventually tell myself its time to just do it. This blog is, in fact, a prime example of that because, as I have previously stated, I was meaning to do it for a while and eventually had to tell myself, Pranesh, enough, just get it started. It works mostly, because I’m not one for meticulous planning either (add that to my growing list of vices). I should be, as a process engineer. But am I have just never been well enough organised to get myself organised.
So when, during my trip to the Kruger Park last year, I saw the SanParks map of the parks in South Africa I hatched a plan that was, I think was both a stretch and yet still doable at the same time. I call it my Sanparks Challenge…
There are 19 national parks managed by Sanparks, 21 if the Garden Route Park is broken down into its 3 constituent parks (Tsitsikama, Wilderness and Knysna). I have been to 5 to date, Kruger National Park 3 times, The Golden Gate National Park, The Karoo National Park (where we saw absolutely no animals cos we were too late), The West Coast National Park and Table Mountain National Park, which includes the Cape Peninsula. Looking at the map last year after visiting Kruger, I decided that I wanted visit all 21. To push me out of my inertia, I have given myself 3 years to not only visit the ones I haven’t but also revisit the ones I have already seen.
I will have to do 7 parks a year, but with some of the parks being more remote I will try to do as many of the closer ones as soon as possible, making the task for the rest easier in the years to come. I registered for a Wild card as well for R470 for the year and this allows me free entry into all the Sanparks for the year. So cost of most of the trips will be fuel, accommodation, and any activities I may chose while I am in the parks. Accommodation for the most part will be basic. Most of the parks have campsites with electricity that cost around R250/night for a maximum of 4 adults I think. The next tier up would be tented accommodation at around double the price per night and then it starts to get more expensive. Wherever possible I shall have to also try to get out with a guide, either on a morning or evening drive as I find the local knowledge gives you a head start on your own self drives later on. The hardest part would be getting the leave, luckily i have about 50 days
Next week I will begin with the first 3 parks, and mark off the Eastern Cape by visiting Camdeboo, Addo Elephant and Mountain Zebra National Parks. I will spend only the one night in Camdeboo, 2 further nights in Addo Elephant and the last 2 nights in Mountain Zebra. I will however try to get an additional day if there is accommodation in either Addo Elephant or Mountain Zebra. The trip itself is about 900km from Johannesburg or 1000km from Durban and the parks are within a 2 hour drive from each other. Like with any other big adventure I’m extremely excited for the adventure that lays ahead! And I promise shall make notes and take photos and share here as soon as I’m back!
I have also devised a second challenge almost in parallel or perhaps even as a consequence of my Sanparks Challenge. Or it could me unrelated but still tied together. Like good friends. I have decided that in 2016, I am going to do a Big Year. If you have watched the Steve Martin/Owen Wilson movie you might know what i am talking about. Most people haven’t though, so in a nutshell, I am going to be attempting to see and note as many different bird species as I can in this calendar year. Just like this challenge, if I was asked, I cannot point out the exact point in time when I began taking an interest in bird watching or just birding as I prefer to call it. It could have been the first time I saw an African Paradise Flycatcher late in 2011. But I then paid it no attention for the better part of 5 years, picking it up again sometime last year with renewed vigour. Each time I see a new species and figure out which bird I am seeing is like finding a new treasure. And I have a growing list of favourite birds as well that are treasures I revisit from time to time. The green wood hoopoes in my neighbourhood, the little and white fronted bee-eaters, the malachite kingfishers that seem to elude me mostly and the Diederick’s Cuckoo that I have seen on two occasions to date (but last year so they don’t count towards my big year yet) and most recently, the sunbirds from Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens.
The bird list for Southern Africa is some 830 birds and I am up to 84 birds that I have seen to date. Where the Sanparks challenge comes in is that the parks are havens for large numbers of bird species and if you have a keen enough eye you could see as many as 200 different bird species in a single 3 day weekend, like the honorary rangers did in the Kruger Park on a recent birding weekend at Punda Maria. Kruger Park lists over 550 birds that have been spotted in the park, with the Northern region being more productive, the West Coast National park has some 280 different species and the Addo Elephant park that i will be visiting next week hosts some 480 species. So I am definitely hoping to get the number up from the 84 I am on at the moment. Again, I shall be hopefully getting lots of photos to report progress here soon! And in the mean time there’s always the Durban botanical gardens, which is a treasure trove of birding in the middle of the city, letting me add 4 new species from my last visit on Sunday afternoon alone.