Blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on earth. These magnificent marine mammals rule the oceans at up to 100 feet (30 meters) long and upwards of 200 tons (181 metric tons).
Putting this into perspective – 30 meters is the approximate height of a 10-storey building.
Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant!
Blue whales are omnivores. The use baleen to filter out any and all microscopic planktonic organisms. Plankton include larval invertebrates (crabs, shrimp, molluscs, etc.), true planktonic invertebrates (copepods, nematomorphs, mysids, etc.) and phytoplanktonic organisms (coccolithophores, diatoms, dinoflagellates, etc.). Blue whales don’t discriminate when they filter to feed.
Mashonza are also known as mopane worms, named after the tree they are found in (the Colophospermum Mopane).
The caterpillar is spiky, blue and green, and the larvae of the nocturnal emperor moth. The worms are high in protein and minerals and a free source of food for the rural poor. However, they are becoming an ethnic snack for tourists and are putting a strain on the population.
Established in 1930, the Franklin Game Reserve atop Naval Hill in Bloemfontein is one of only two city wildlife reserves in the world (the other is in Hong Kong).
The Franklin Game Reserve is named after Sir John Stuart Franklin, mayor of Bloemfontein in the 1920s.
One of several urban legends about the White Horse is that every time a maiden is kissed on Naval Hill, it moves a step forward.
Giraffe, blue wildebeest and city views are on offer and apart from the game, there are many bird species, including Karoo scrub robin, the fairy flycatcher and violet-eared waxbills.
For safety reasons, it’s best not to walk alone in the reserve, even though walking is permitted. You can also take a day drive to the top of Naval Hill in the reserve, where you can take in the city view.
An iconic feature on the east side of Naval Hill is the ‘White Horse’, a sculpture of a white horse created from rocks painted white. The most widely accepted origin of this sculpture is that it was created during the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) as a direction marker for the British cavalry who could see it from afar. A remount camp was stationed here after the British captured Bloemfontein from the Boers on March 15th 1900.
The White Horse was most likely the handiwork of men of the Second Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire regiment, and is said to be the only Wiltshire white horse that is not in Wiltshire.