Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Check this oke...

Which, for the Australians among us, means have a butcher's at this bloke.

You (like me) may have had photos of this man emailed to you. I get a bit of a laugh when it happens to me... people telling me how amazing this guy is, and the incredible gift he has for working with lions, etc etc etc...

Why do I chortle, Legion of Fans (LOF)? I'll tell you why... BECAUSE HE AND I RECENTLY WROTE HIS LIFE STORY!

The man in the picture, known to millions around the world via the magic of the internet as the "Lion Whisperer" is, in fact, Kevin Richardson, of Johannesburg and he is a damn fine fellow (or Lekker Oke to the rest of you).

I was lucky enough to receive a commission from St Martin's Press in the United States (affiliates of my very good friends Pan Macmillan Australia) to co-author Kevin's autobiography. Kevin and I got together at The Kingdom of the White Lion, where he lives, north of Johannesburg last August. I interviewed him for a week and the rest, as you will soon find out, is history.

Kevin's story, "PART OF THE PRIDE - MY LIFE AMONG THE BIG CATS OF AFRICA, By Kevin Richardson with Tony Park" is being released in the US and A this September.

And now for the late breaking news... My very good friends at Pan Macmillan Australia have decided to publish it here, downunder, around the same time!

This means that y'all in Australia (and, I'm hoping, South Africa) will be able to purchase the book from local booksellers.

I am bound by an oath of secrecy (and the need to spin this news out for several months) to not reveal any stories from the book, but no doubt that will change in time.

Does he have a secret gift? Is he really "the Lion Whisperer"? Or is he really just a naughty boy? You'll have to wait until September to read the book.

Bottom line is, he's a great guy and it knocked my thongs off seeing the way he interacts with his lions, hyenas, and many other predators.

Have you had Kevin in your inbox?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the Parky.

Did I use that line last year? Maybe.

Well, the news is in, Legion of Fans (LOF), I have made the FINALS OF THE SA BLOG AWARDS! I'm on the short list for Best Travel Blog for my Getaway Magazine blog.

I'm also pleased to report that your fellow followers Muriel and Juno have also been nominated, for their joint blog Salma-gundi (nominated for best original writing); and Juno for her breakout cookery blog, whatsforsupper (best food and wine blog). My good buddy the crabmommy has also scooped a nomination (best overseas SA Blog).

Thank you, all of you, who voted for me in the nomination round, but the bad news is I need you to waste more of your precious time by voting for me again, in this final round.

To do so, please scoot along to the SA Blog Awards website . To cast your vote scroll down through the list of categories until you find Best Travel Blog and click on my listing, which is a very long URL beginning with Getaway and ending, enigmatically, with tony%20park.

You may also wish to vote for Salma-gundi (best original writing), whatsforsupper (best food and wine) and the crabmommy (best overseas SA Blog).

After picking your choices (you don't need to make a pick from every category), scroll down, enter your email and verification code, and a message will be sent to your email. You'll then have to click on a link in the email (or copy and paste it into your internet browser). Yes, I know it's all a bit of a palava, but you will earn my undying gratitude.

Don't forget, if you vote for me and let me know about it, you're in the running for a bribe... errr, I mean, you go into the draw to win the TP book of your choice.

I thank you all. We will resume normal transmissions soon. Thanks for all the comments recently.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More pictures? Well, OK, why not...

And so we continue our virutal game drive (yes, because it's easier than me thinking up something to write. Bit brain dead with all these edits, though there is HUGE news coming soon about my first non-fiction book. Promise).

I might have posted this one before, but I like it so much I'm doing so anyway. Mrs Blog and I saw this mummy and baby leopard in the Moremi Game Reserve near Xakanaxa Camp (Xakanaxa, by the way, is going to feature in Book 7). Mrs B wanted to kidnap the baby, but mum might not have been too thrilled.

Here's an oddy. This is a white common Duiker - about a one-in-250,000 occurrence, according to the safari guide who spotted it near Tinga Private Game Lodge in Kruger (common duikers are normally grey). I was lucky enough to get a quick snap before it bounded away. I guess if you're white duiker in the green bush you've got to be pretty quick on your feet (or hooves, or whatever).

Someone say they liked giraffes? Check these beauties out, snapped near the Gomoti River, just outside the Moremi Game Reserve. I even threw in an impala as a bonus.

And another off-beat one. On the left we have two Dikkops (they're the birds). Dikkops have a new name now, but I can't remember what it is (help me out, please, twitchers). Sneaking past them, in search of their eggs, is a youngish Leguuan (for the aussies, a Leguuan is a bit like a Goanna). The birds were squawking like made trying to keep the lizard at bay. This pic was snapped from the now famous (at least on this blog) Lake Panic bird hide in Kruger.

And, saving the best for last (as far as I'm concerned)... here is a serval. We spotted this one on a night drive near the Gomoti River. I've only seen about half a dozen servals in 15 years of travelling to Africa. Servals have long legs and big ears and they leap high in the air and pounce on their prey. All in all, a very attractive and impressive little feline.
Which animal (of all the African animals) are you, and why? (Me... I'm a rhino. Big head, big ears, fat belly, skinny legs, poor eyesight and and a big h......... heart).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More safari pictures

OK, the pressure is on, Legion of Fans (LOF) for me to finish the final copy edits on Book 6 ("IVORY") so that Trin doesn't have to read too many books written by other Australian authors of African fiction.

As I don't have time to write anything deep/funny/worthy I will leave you with some more pictures and the now customary question at the end.

Saw this big bad boy near Satara on the tar road out to the N'wanetsi Picnic Site in the Kruger National Park. It's interesting that unless you catch them on the hunt (very rare), the most interesting thing a lion can do (for photographic purposes) is to yawn.

We tracked this young female leopard (leopardess?) in Makalali Game Reserve near Kruger for about two hours... but, as I hope you'll agree, it was worth it. (Photo by Mrs Blog. Cracker, isn't it?).

Never smile at a crocodile. This one caught a bushbuck and was motoring past the hide at Lake Panic, near Kruger's Skukuza camp with his kill in front of him when we snapped him

Africa's answer to the Kookaburra... the Giant Kingfisher.

What's your favourtie African animal, LOF-ers? It's highly likely I've got a picture of it somewhere (unless you say aardvark or pangolin).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Travel shows and slide nights

Great to meet everyone who showed up at the Africa Safari Co's stand at the Travel Xpo (their spelling not mine) over the weekend.

The travel show, at Sydney's number-one tourist trap, Darling Harbour, was heaving with people. Interesting, I thought, given the so-called Global Financial Criss (if Kerry O'Brien can call the war I served in, "so-called", then I can call the GFC s0-called). Perhaps people were wandering around the show picking up brochures in lieu of actually going on holiday - a virtual vacaction, as it were, though with more brochures and less sunburn.

One of the funniest sights I saw was a person dressed in a monkey suit with a sign hanging around his neck saying "I am a snow monkey". He was obviously tired of people mistaking him for a snow leopard.

A few years ago I worked for a PR company that had a client involved in the gaming (ie gambling) industry, so I got to visit the Gaming Expo at Darling Harbour.

I remember showing up one morning to find an attractive young blonde lady wearing hot pants and a tight tank top engaged in a heated debate with a burly security guard of Middle-Eastern appearnce. She had apparently left her show exhibitor's pass at home and the guard wasn't going to let her in unless she bought a ticket to enter.

"But I told you," she said, "I'm, like working here."

"What are you working as?" he asked.

She stamped a stilleto. "I'm a model!"

"Prove it," the guard said.

She rasied her hands and said: "Look at this HAIR!"

At the travel Xpo I met Grommit the Land Rover's mum and dad for the first time and it was refreshing to encounter two people as crazy and Mrs Blog and me. (Grommit is our Land Rover, Tonka's internet friend. He even sent him a get well card when our Land Rover, Tonka, was in hospital getting his heart rebuilt).

Now... grab the beverage of your choice, sit back, and suffer in silence at a little slide show. I've finally moved some more of the pics from our last six-month safari from Mrs Blog's laptop on to mine. If the GFC's got you housebound for the next little while, then join me on a little armchair safari.......

We saw this kitty kat (above) drinking early one morning in Makalali Game Reserve

These antsy antelope are actually worthy of a spot on the blog as they are rare-ish Lichtenstein's Hartebeests. There are very few of them in the Kruger National Park (where this pic was taken). They've been re-introduced into the park. I love how the lady on the ground is so unimpressed by the chaps fighting over her. Boys.

Helloooo, breakfast. This lion (it's a young male - see the bum fluff under the chin?) was sitting with three of his brothers about 200 metres from the Paul Kruger entrance gate to the Kruger National Park, watching the tourists coming and going.

Look familiar? I call this pic "The real Silent Predator". This is a big ol' male leopard who hangs around Malelane Camp in the Kruger National Park. We found him in this tree early one morning 700 metres up the road from where we were staying. With just the teeniest bit of photo-shopping I was able to (kinda) match the colours with the cover of my last book, Silent Predator. (How's that - shameless self promotion dressed up as art!).
If we weren't in the grip of a GFC where would you go on holiday, Legion of Fans?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

News flash... too many people have too much time on their hands

Amazing and honest-to-God true news, Legion of Fans (LOF). Last month, February, we had 1,001 visits to this blog. That means there are an awful lot of anonymouses out there (as if two weren't enough), or too many of you have too much time on your hands.

Don't you know there's a recession happening? Get back to work, all of you. Immediately!

This latest statistic for monthly visits (according to my sitemeter) is a record for this blog, so I thank you all for your patronage - especially those of you with multiple personalities who log on several times in a day.

Comments are up - as you may have noticed. Personally, I attribute this to controversial subject matter and my recent offers of free stuff. I am now wedded to both strategies.

Full marks to Trin for suggesting the last topic (even if it did degenerate into anarchy). Any more ideas anyone else?

Let us all give a big LOF welcome, too, to all the followers who have joined us in recent times.

Hope for Zimbabwe

Well, I for one think a change of pace is needed after our robust little comment-fest over the last post. What do you think, Legion of Fans (LOF)?

So, here's a post on my Getaway Magazine blog about Zimbabwe, which remains (and I say this with tongue nowhere near cheek) one of the safest - in terms of crime - countries I've ever travelled in.

Violent crime exists in Zimbabwe, but the vast majority of it is committed by and on behalf of the Government, and foreign tourists (that's Mrs Blog and me, as few other people bother to visit) are not the target. I think, in fact, that it's a credit to the people of Zimbabwe that despite the best efforts of the President and his Party the country hasn't descended into anarchy.

Anyway, save your comments for the Getaway Blog and read this little story about a tiny ray of hope.

Also, if you feel minded to voting for me in the SA Blog Awards, you can also do it here. I won't say that leaving a comment on my Getaway Blog will dramatically increase your chances of winning a free book, but...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Self drive safari

Our fellow follower, Trin is planning a self-drive safari in South Africa for some time in the future, Legion of Fans (LOF) and she has emailed me a couple of questions.

Fortunately, she also suggested that I might make some tips for self drive holidays the subject of a new blog post. I say fortunately, because I couldn't think what to post next.

I'm often asked for travel tips - almost as often as I'm asked where I get the inspiration for the sex scenes in my books. "No comment" is the answer to the second line of questioning, so here goes with some responses to the first:

Trin: Is it safe for two females, (ages deleted), to be travelling in a car on the roads (in South Africa) on their own?

Mr Blog: Trin, this depends very much on what you're drinking in the car, and how much of it you've had prior to lunch. Far be it for me to be a scare mongerer, but Johannesburg has a justifiable reputation for high levels of violent crime and car jackings.

Unless you have a pressing need to drive around downtown Joburg with an upside down travel atlas perched on your lap while looking for Nelson Mandela's house, I'd suggest spending as little time there as possible. Crime aside, I find it quite a daunting city to drive around because of the amount of traffic (especially the minibus taxis whose interpretation of the rules of the road is at best 'creative') and the speed at which it travels.

As a general pointer about road safety one thing that astounded me as an Australian on my first visit was how fast people travel in SA. The roads are, generally speaking, very good, and 120kph is a common speed limit (or, if you're a local, a recommended minimum speed).

If you're heading to the Kruger National Park (as I strongly suggest you do) then the good news is that Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport is on the eastern side of the city (the same side as Kruger), so it's quite easy to pick up a rental car and exit from the car park virtually straight onto the main road network. You can tour South Africa by road and not even see Joburg. (What do you think, Jozi-ites? Should Trin venture downtown?).

One thing I would add here is that if you have to (for whatever reason) venture into Johannesburg itself that you rent a GPS. It's not the sort of city in which you want to be pulling over and asking strangers for directions - unless you're armed.

Trin: Are the parks safe as far as animals of the human variety go?

Mr Blog: Very much so, Trin. Kruger, in particular, remains a very safe destination and in the event that something did go wrong there is even a police station at Skukuza.

Trin: If we were not part of a tour group, are there opportunities to join one, say, for the day, when they go out viewing? If not, how would we go about this – do the parks provide guided day trips or the like?

Mr Blog: The attraction of a self-drive Safari in Kruger or one of South Africa's other national parks is viewing game on your own. It's incredibly exciting going out and not having any idea where you're going or what you're going to see. Trust me - I'm addicted to this sort of thing.

I doubt you'd be able to get onto a private tour that's already in the park (unless you flirt outrageously with the tour guide). Seriously - probably not.

In Kruger, the national parks staff run guided morning and night drives, and morning walks, if you decide you want to go out with someone else.

Honestly, I wouldn't bother with a morning drive (you can do that yourself any day), but a night drive can be fun. Self-drive tourists aren't allowed out of the camps on the park roads after sunset, so a guided national parks night drive is the best way to see nocturnal animals.

Morning walks are also lots of fun. A group of up to eight tourists goes out with two armed guides walking for about three-four hours. Pretoriuskop Camp in the south of Kruger is my favourite place to do a walk as you're virtually guaranteed to see rhino during the walk (as exciting, but not as dangerous as it sounds).

Trin: Are people who camp in the parks friendly ie. would we feel welcome to but in on their evening’s festivities?

Mr Blog: I have found South African locals to be some of the friendliest people in the world. If I may be so bold as to indulge in a bit of racial/cultural stereotyping I would add here that Afrikaans speaking people can sometimes seem a little reserved and formal at first, but once you break the ice with them they are the most generous bunch of party animals you'll come across.

Trin: Would two weeks be enough without feeling like we’d rushed it, or would more time be better? We are both early risers and like to pack as much into the day as possible, but also have time to chill out.

Mr Blog: I could live in the bush, and I spend six months of the year mostly camping in national parks. It's not unusual for Mrs B and I spend three months in Kruger alone.

Having said that, I understand not everyone can skive off like me (I mean, work very hard writing books). I'd recommmend you allow at least a week for Kruger.

The gates of the rest camps where you'll be staying open around dawn (the time varies on the time of the year). Mrs B and I like to go out for a three hour-ish drive, then come back and veg out (I mean work) for the rest of the day. There a swimming pools in many of the camps and lots of shady trees to chill out under. Even if you want to spend the whole day out driving there are picnic sites where you can stop for a break and a light meal.

If you're thinking of seeing a bit more of South Africa apart from Kruger that will very much depend on the total time you have. Internal airfares in South South Africa are pretty good value (especially if you book online) so you could maybe drive out to Kruger and then back to Joburg Airport, then fly down to Cape Town, pick up another hire car, and spend a few days poodling around there.

What do you think, LOF? If you're an Aussie who's been to SA why not share your tips, or if you're a lekker local, tell us how you'd spend a couple of weeks in the Rainbow Nation...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Vote for me and maybe WIN A FREE BOOK!

nominate this blog

Now, if that's not pork barrelling, Legion of Fans (LOF), then I don't know what is.

I'm taking the Robert Mugabe approach to this year's South African Blog Awards - I'm going to rort them. Unlike the comrade president, however, I won't be using the carrot and the stick approach to get your vote - just the carrot.

If you nominate my Getaway Magazine blog for Best Travel Blog 2009, by clicking on the attractive yellow "widget" above (and let me know of your vote, either via comment or email) you'll automatically go into the draw to receive one free A format (small girly handbag size) paperback of the Tony Park book of your choice.

If you don't nominate me, then I'll come after you with a stick and beat the cr*p out of you.

No, wait a minute... I just said that was not on. No stick. This is, after all, a peaceful democracy we run here at Blogger (at least it was, until Anonymous started making obscure jokes at the expense of us blokes), so there will be no beatings for non-voters (although Anonymous is on her first warning for a spanking unless she stops acting like such a smarty pants).

This blog, sadly, is not eligible for an SA Blog Award, but my Getaway blog just, kinda, sorta meets the criteria.

While the Best Travel Blog is by far and away the most important category in the awards, I also urge you to check out a couple of the SA blogs that I read - Salma-gundi and crabmommy (there are links to both in the list over there on the left somewhere). You might consider entering the crabmommy for Best Overseas SA Blog and Salma-gundi for Most Humourous SA Blog. Why? Because I told you to, that's why.

OK... "enough of the self promotion," I hear you groan. "We come here for the Africa stuff, not to feed your ego, Mr Blog".

Quite right. So, because I can't think of anything else to write right now, here's a little virtual game drive for you.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Les, Trin... come on down! You're both winners!

Here she is, Legion of Fans (LOF), the diminutive Mrs Blog, drawing the lucky winner of a fabulous SILENT PREDATOR Audio Book (published by my very good friends at Bolinda) from her pith helmet (note careful product placement in the background).

In fact, we were both so overcome with excitement during the draw that I instructed Mrs B to draw not one, but two lucky winners.

The winners are.... Les, from South Africa, and Trin, from Australia. How sportsmanlike is that? One winner from each of our great nations (and it wasn't even rigged).

If you've just joined us, to be in the running for this (very generous) competition, Les and Trin and many other loyal readers posted their favourite African movies here.

I thank you all for your comments and rest assured this is just the first of many giveaways I have in store for the future (well, as long as I keep getting published and publishers keep sending me free stuff).

Congratulations, Les and Trin, please email me your names and addresses to mail(at)tonypark(dot)net.

And now, to round off our African movie phase I leave you with this long and lovely trailer of the John Wayne epic, Hatari. The trailer includes special bonus scenes, namely Elsa Martinelli nude in the bathtub, and the Duke, big John Wayne, reluctantly succumbing to Elsa's very forward and very continental advances ("I ain't gonna kiss ya, I ain't gonna kiss ya.... the HELL I ain't).

(Warning, several game capture vehicles and stunt doubles were harmed in the making of this movie)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Come, fly with me... or at least come hear me talk at the Travel Xpo

Brace yourself, Legion of Fans (LOF) for what may be the last word in shameless self promotion...

How are you weathering the Global Financial Crisis? Down in the dumps? How would you like to cure your blues with some exotic booze in a faraway place?

Sound good? If so, then I urge you to seriosuly consider selling the children and/or the car and coming with me on the Tony Park SILENT PREDATOR Safari - a 13-day luxury trip around South Africa taking in my favourite five-star experiences. The trip has been organised by my friends at the Africa Safari Co.

We'll be staying at Tinga Private Game Lodge; Satara Camp in the Kruger National Park (OK, not actually five-star for that bit, but top-notch game viewing); the D'oreale Grande Hotel in Johannesburg; the Centurion Lake in Pretoria and the SAS Radisson Waterfront in Cape Town. How do we get to Cape Town, LOF? Why, the ONLY way to travel in luxurious style of course - on board my choo choo of choice, Rovos Rail's "Pride of Africa".

This safari is, in fact, similar to the competition my good friends at Pan Macmillan ran to promote the launch of SILENT PREDATOR... except you have to pay. How much would you expect to pay for 12 nights/13 days of looxury avec moi, LOF? Go here to find out.

Are you back?

OK, if the budget won't stretch to the Tony Park SILENT PREDATOR safari, how about coming along and seeing me talk at the Sydney Travel Xpo (their spelling, not mine) on March 14 and 15 at The Sydney Convention Centre, Darling Harbour. I'll be talking in Talk Room Number 2 on both days from 12.15pm to 12.45.

You can come and hear me talking about writing books set in Africa, and I'll have another go at convincing you to sign up for the tour. Entry is $13 for adults (and good deals for kids, families and pensioners). Come along and cruise around all the stands and collect lots of brochures. It'll be like being on safari - without the animals and the champagne.

Also, I'll be selling books on the day and if you whisper the secret words (Legion of Fans) you may get an extra discount on on the already heavily discounted price for which I will be selling all my books.

Don't have enough for the safari, the admission to the Travel Xpo or a heavily discounted book? If not, then I seriously suggest you go here and tell me your favourite African movie and you may just win a free SILENT PREDATOR audio book.