Beast Mode

Beast Mode


BEast Mode

On the Western part of Zambia lies a small National park where every year around early November, along with the first rains, the second largest wildebeest migration on Earth takes place. It is here in Liuwa Plains National Park that we decided to test the beast.



Our new expedition vehicle had recently been completed and we were itching to take it out into the wilderness for its first trip. Eager to see all the benefits come to play and find any issues which would only show under extreme conditions. And we could think of no place better to take it on a test than the fairly remote Liuwa Plains NP.

The first obstacle in driving to Liuwa is arguable the hardest one too. At the Northern tip of the town Kalabo is where one must cross a river with a very small ferry, a ferry which isn’t rated for the weight of the vehicle and directly on the opposite bank is a steep incline of very soft sand. The sort of incline which generally requires a run up, but because one needs to cross with a ferry, there is no run up.



It seemed that the sheer size of the vehicle could have actually be preventing us from even starting the off-roading, but in fact it played in our favour. The ferry operators took one look at the vehicle and said, “Just go a few hundred meters upstream and you can drive through the river with your cars!” They also advised us that “some” cruisers also make it through but not many try.

All the while one of Kalabo’s first rain clouds was approaching fast and we quickly found ourselves driving in heavy storming conditions. We could barely see anything as we approached the river-crossing and had to trust in the guidance of our Scout to show us which line to take through the water. I engaged the lowest gear possible, locked all the diffs pointed her straight and let the beast do what it does best…cruise through effortlessly. It was then that we knew this car can get to the places we built it for.


The rest of the roads were think sand, but now filled with the confidence in the vehicle we could relax, knowing we would make it through almost anything. We could now turn our attention to why we came all this way…the wild life.

Liuwa is an incredible place to visit and especially during the wetter times of the year. The sheer abundance of plains game that fill the seemingly endless open plains is a sight to behold. And where there is food – there are predators, so we always kept an eye out for a special sighting. Liuwa sports an incredible high density of hyena’s putting them at the top of the food chain, followed by about 6 lions and also a number of cheetah that roam around. Liuwa is not a place to visit if your intentions are to tick off the big 5 boxes but rather for people wanting to visit places less travelled for a different but true African experience and the remote nature of the park means that you could go an entire day seeing more hyena’s than humans, and this is where its magic lies.

Wild, vast African plains and a vehicle tall enough to help you see further than usual. Add a cold drink and a pair of binoculars and you have everything you need to make for an epic safari. And it was!


October in the bush..

October in the bush..


The suicide month, and rightfully named so - there is no escaping the heat! October is said to be the hottest and driest month of the year in Botswana. It is not uncommon to have multiple days above 40 degree and without the slightest hint of relief from rain. I’d heard much about coming to Botswana for safari at this time of the year but I always wondered if it was really worth the heat?



We recently completed an exploratory trip through northern Botswana, visiting new lodges and operators with whom we would like to work with and send clients on their dream safari. We were heading South-bound from Victoria falls making our way to Maun and the first stop along the way was Kasane.

Over the years everyone in Kasane had raved about the incredible animal densities that congregate along the Chobe river at this time of the year. Seeing as a sunset boat cruise along the Chobe river is an absolute MUST DO and October is the best time to do it, I just had to get out on the water. But what we found in terms of densities wasn’t as much as what I had been expecting…in fact it was just about the same as when I visited the area during the rainy season. But surely this couldn’t be it?



The sightings we had and animals we encountered were still very impressive and nothing to complain about. It wasn’t until the next day when we decided to drive along the river in the Chobe National Park the next day when we were left with jaws hanging open…

We entered at about mid day, which is not exactly considered the best time for a game drive, but the best part about it was that we were the only ones out there. The gauge on my vehicle indicated that it was around 42 degrees however I personally think it was much higher. It just so happens that we timed it very well! In the 3 hour drive we saw well over 1000 elephants, some herds joining together in what seemed like a few hundred individuals all in one spot! Many elephants swimming to cool off and others standing under densely shaded trees. We could hardly drive in some areas as it seemed there was an elephants behind and under every bush. Incredible! This was the Chobe I had heard so much about.

But not just the elephant numbers were impressive…we saw a herd of buffaloes that we guessed was about 1000 individuals, many small herds of zebras and one shady bush that had at least 12 lions under it panting in the soaring heat!



So what lesson must we learn from this ordeal? It isn’t necessarily that you must visit Kasane in October, but rather put your own comforts aside and pick the time of the year according to what you would like to experience and see while out on safari. For some people a safari is a once in a lifetime trip, make sure you time it according to your wildlife expectations! After all, isn’t the wildlife what draws you to visit Africa in the first place?

Our next adventure will be timed so that we see the 2nd largest wildebeast migration in the world followed by the largest mammal (bat) migration in the world and I expect it to be very hot some days and raining the next. But its going to be worth it !!!


Lion sundowner

Lion sundowner


With the sun setting, you sip at an ice cold beverage surrounded by friends, with a sense of accomplishment and awe…another day in Africa ends.

The sundowner tradition on safari is one which goes a long way back and is taken very seriously among those in the industry and even more so by the guests who are on holiday. It is almost a must to appreciate the moment everyday whilst out in the bush with a drink. But as a safari guide often we find ourselves in a predicament where we are busy viewing an animal as the sun is about to set and we are torn between staying with the animal or leaving to view the sunset from a safe high point. I found myself in this scenario a few days ago where we managed to do both…although we probably should have stayed in the car!

Myself and Gesa were out for a game drive with a group of guests in the Tuli Block in Botswana and our mission was so travel far north in the area in search of the elusive cheetahs that roam the more open areas. After a long hot drive of rough rocky terrain, we found ourselves in the hotspot where our local guide informed us he has been finding them over the past few weeks, so you can imagine our excitement and concentration to try and find our target species!

“Wait what is that?!” says Mark our guide as he slams the breaks and the dust engulfs the car.

“It’s a lion!” replies Gesa


Not exactly what we were looking for but its more than welcome! After what was a fairly slow gamedrive, up until this point, we were very delighted to find a predator, especially a big male like this!

His behaviour was that typical of a lion that is starting to get active, constant yawning, getting up and moving a few meters only to settle again for more yawns. We knew he was about to go find some water as it has been a fairly hot day up until now. However the sun was also setting as this was happening, so we decided to take the decision out of our hands and ask our guests..

“Do you guys want to follow the big guy or go watch the sunset?”

We decided to stay however the male was making his way straight for the river bed which just happens to be the boundary of the property so we couldn’t follow him much longer. So Mark came up with what sounded like a brilliant idea at the time.

“Why don’t we have sundowners on the riverbank and watch as he walks down it?”

“Awesome” we all said, eager to have what sounds like the perfect compromise. So, we all jump out with the male now about 200 meters into the riverbed, a safe distance for us to stretch the legs.

Out comes the beers and cold drinks and as the chatter starts to pick up I hear one of the guests ask
“What is that?”

I look at the top of the ridge 10 meters behind us, and would you believe it, we are being watched by a lioness…All that is visible is the tips of her ears as she flicks them to chase the flies away.

“OK guys everyone grab your drinks and get in the car quickly!” I said in what probably was a surprised and serious tone.

Shortly after, we realized there was more than one, infact it was a mother with 3 sub-adults all sitting on the hill looking down at us, probably a bit confused as to what we silly humans are doing. Once we hopped into the vehicle however they gained the confidence to walk down and we sat with fairly elevated heart rates as we watched the 4 of them walk the same path as the male. Into the distance they went for a drink, but this time we decided to stay in the car and not stretch the legs again. A most wise choice.

At no point were the lions aggressive or interested in us as a meal, but rather curious watching us. For a moment, the tables turned for the lions as they were the ones fascinated by our strange human behaviours.

I think this is one of those experiences that our guests won’t forget anytime soon, and it definitely is one that only Africa can provide…

Berlin office opening!

Berlin office opening!

On Wednesday the 9th of August, after a month of planning and web-design, we had our opening  night for the Berlin office! The event was in celebration of the release of our German Website as well as our exiting tours for 2018.

To celebrate such a momentous occasion we went full out, supplying plenty of delicious free food, 150 bottles of free white wine from South Africa, free beer on tap, plenty of prizes and give aways as well as a book reading from Gesa’s book!

The venue for the event was in WeWork, a shared office work space that we currently have our office in, and this worked amazingly as we all got to experience a sundowner drink which as you all know is true safari tradition!

We started the evening off with an introduction from Gesa in German, followed by some background from Johan about the roots and core fundamentals that make us who we are.

One of our key points is that – we don’t send people somewhere that we haven’t already been too ourselves. So in order to show this and provide some visualisation of Africa we played some of our best and some of our newest videos, showcasing the beauty of Africa.

We then had an intimate book reading with Gesa from her best selling book “Breakfast with Elephants” (English name). Which turned out to be quite an emotional event as many of the characters from the book were in the room – as well as many proud family members and close friends.

Then to shared the love back to all who came we handed out some prizes! Everyone was given a number as they arrived and we then randomly selected the winners by shuffling the numbers around.

The first round of prizes was 6 bottle of Amarula, which was kindly supplied to us by Amarula to give out to the lucky ones. Winners got to take home a Large bottle of “Africa”!

The next round consisted of 5 of Gesa’s books, brand new to be signed and kept somewhere as a memory of the evening or as a great gift to friends or family.

The third and final roundwas the big one! Discounts and free trips! A huge thanks to our friends we work with over in Southern Africa for your generous prizes, they certainly put smiles on peoples faces and made their dreams of visiting Africa become closer to a reality.

We had:

  • 2 free seats in an Ashton’s transfer vehicle
  • 10% discount with Lowveld Trails Co on a walking safari
  • 2 Nights free for 2 people at Bayete Guest house in Victoria falls
  • 5 EURO200 discount vouchers from us at SAFARIFRANK
  • And a free mobile safari for 2 people in Botswana with Okavango Expeditions!

Congratulations to the winners! We hope to see you all out there sharing the wilderness with us and friends!

Also a big thanks to everyone who came to the event, it was a pleasure meeting all of you and hearing your stories of previous trips and future ones!


We love Africa! We’re for wild!

The pursuit...

The pursuit...

The Fight is against rhino poaching.

As I find myself meeting more and more people who are in charge of keeping South Africa’s rhinos safe, I learn all the more about how complex the issue really is and how the poachers are always one step ahead of all their efforts. Some days I wonder if we can ever win the war…

Ive been learning a bit more about the pursuit, which usually starts off with the findings of fresh human activity in a place there shouldn't be any. The radio call goes out and the trackers, who have been trained specifically to track humans are put on the trail. But here is where it gets complicated. The poachers have been trained in what's called “anti-tracking”  which are a series of techniques to mask ones tracks, or leave (to the untrained eye) what looks like no tracks at all. It takes a great deal of effort to do, but it certainly is effective. The trackers too are trained to know what anti-tracking looks like and how to follow such an individual. Already a fairly strange thing isn't it, someone is trained to leave almost no trace and someone else is trained to find the little bit of trace that is left. The scary question and reality of the situation is this: “How do you know you aren't training the very poacher you are trying to catch all the techniques on how you would catch him?”
Well…you don't.

Another option and certainly an effective one, was the addition of tracker dogs to the team. You cant hide your scent from a tracker dog. And I imagine the distant barking of the dogs as they close in on your scent must be very concerning. Dogs have the ability to track incredibly fast and most of the time are set loose and followed by helicopter to the suspects. They also have the advantage of being able to track at night, which humans cannot do. However when moving quickly through the bush, and especially at night, it isn't only the poachers you should be focused on. In fact not too long ago an organisation we work with lost their best dog to a pride of lions during a chase. And it wasn't long after that incident that I found out some poachers started leaving fish that had been poisoned along their trail for the tracker dogs to consume and then die…They are always one step ahead.

So what is the solution? Well I wish I had one for you…Without total commitment from governments to peruse the higher levels of the trade and to stop the problem from its source it feels like we might be playing a never ending game where one side always counter attacks the other, until maybe the day when there are no more rhinos left to fight over. But that wont happen, not on our watch!

6 tips to an Amazing self drive Safari

6 tips to an Amazing self drive Safari

1: Off season

Going in the less-popular season often means getting cheaper prices as not many people visit these areas at that specific time of the year, which often leads to bargain rates! But in turn what that also sometimes means is less fellow tourists in the area and you can sometimes find yourself being the only car out there! In most southern African countries off-season refers to the summer months (higher rainfall months) which provide a more lush vegetation which can be stunning for wildlife photography. 

2: Go to lesser known places

Not only are you more likely to encounter less other tourists, but these places offer cheaper prices. And who knows - you might very well discover some hidden gems off the beaten track! Be adventurous...

3: Don't be afraid to ask

Went traveling through southern Africa and getting to a new area, it is always a good idea to ask a local or someone who knows the area about places to eat or camp; which routes are safe and accessible or most scenic and - for wildlife areas: what sightings they have had. A chat from driver seat to driver seat goes a long way and most people will be happy to help and point you in the right direction.

Which leads to the next tip: 

4: leave it flexible

Its a good idea to leave some parts of your intended itinerary flexible and not planned, so that when a local has given you a tip about an amazing campsite you have the freedom to go and try it out. Make it up as you go! 

5: Invest in good maps

I cannot stress this point enough. Most people these days have got (or have access too) a smart phone or tablet. There are multiple offline maps that include many of these adventurous roads in some of the most remote places in Africa, so it is well worth your time to download more than one of these to take the stress out of African Navigation. Let your phone do the work so that you can focus on finding those animals! Check out and Tracks4Africa.

6: Get a local guide to travel with you

Many campsites are community run in remote areas and often they have an option of taking a local along with you to guide your around the area. Often this individual knows how to get you to those amazing and often secret spots that are just breathtaking. And if you are really looking for someone with a wealth of knowledge to travel with you, invest in a private guide to escort you for some of, or the entire duration of the trip!

Going mobile....

Going mobile....

A crackling fire, under the stars with the sound of a distant male lion calling…this is Africa. Then suddenly another lions responds, this time closer, much closer. “Lets go check it out, shall we?”

Ive muttered those words on a number of mobile safaris and there's probably nothing more rewarding than locating the culprit! But what Ive noticed is that moments like these are what people tend to never forget and everyone I’ve met who has chosen to do a mobile safari have fallen in love with it!

Although initially it takes some convincing from myself to get people out there and to experience one for themselves. This is where the problem comes! How does one explain what a mobile safari is without scaring people off. Lots of people seem to get scared off by the word “camping” yet its not true camping? Yes it involves tents but big, luxury, comfortable tents. In fact all the essentials that lodges have are present inside. Warm showers, three course meals and an open bar! And the best part about it?....Its all done for you! No effort!


So pretty much, it’s a basic lodge? What's the advantage? Well its mobile! That's the point, the camp is able to move to different locations offering you a more diverse experience. The campsites are often set in areas that vary greatly from one another so as to expose you to different habitats and as such the different species that live within them. It keeps things exciting! It’s the best way to see what the country has to offer in terms of diversity.

So which country is the best for mobiles? In my opinion, definitely Botswana! A starting point of small town called Maun gives one access to all of the exciting and famous parks you might have heard about. Its all close together so travel time is minimised and game viewing maximised! Botswana in terms of wildlife is….Pumping! And on top of all of this the service and quality of the mobile is amazing.

It all comes together for the ultimate package to give you the maximum exposure in a very comfortable format, yet still keeping it real with a old style safari feel. Safari as it should be! Give it a go

Take only photographs…

Take only photographs…

I recently had the privilege of guiding alongside award winning photographer Craig Parry in his first ever African Predator Photography workshop in Botswana! During which time, I learned a couple of tips and techniques, but also came to realize some essentials to bring along on a photographic safari.

To get the most out of a safari from a photographic point of view it takes some preparation and equipment. Firstly, you will need a decent camera, preferably one that can take interchangeable lenses. Try to do your research prior to purchasing the right camera for the job. Try to get one that can Auto focus fast, has a higher megapixel count and can take multiple pictures consecutively and quickly. That should be a good start.

Now lenses…there is an overwhelming selection available. The basic rule of thumb is that – you get what you pay for. Aim for at least a lens over 400mm if you are serious about your photography. That doesn’t mean that without a 400mm you can’t produce some nice results. But often, you will wish you could get a little closer with that zoom. Should you bring only one lens? NO, I personally use 3 lenses of varying focal length that all have their specific use and function.

Ok so you have a camera and a lens what else? Definitely bring spare batteries! At least have one fully charged spare or even better have 2 (like myself). It happens too often where something exciting is happening and you power the camera on only to realize after those 4 beers last night you forgot to charge the one in the camera! But don’t forget to bring your charger!  (and international plug adapters)

Memory cards! Get big ones (32GB-64GB) and bring a spare. But what I’ve noticed is that, people whom might be new to photography tend to stop at this point. They don’t bring a laptop and hard drive with. How would this help? Well its often very nice and exciting to quickly have a look at how your photos turned out during your down time on safari. You can see if you maybe made a mistake with the focus or exposure of your shots, or perhaps realize you nailed it, and thus focus on other aspects. It also doesn’t hurt to backup those precious shots on the hard drive in case the worst was to happen. This also prevents something I’ve seen all too often, where someone turns on their camera and realizes there are photos from their previous holiday which that have forgotten about and left untouched until now. Put them all in one place and nicely organized on a hard drive so you can later access them easily and conveniently.

And that just about covers the essentials! Now all you need is to get out here and to point that lens at those big hairy things! Take only photographs, leave only footprints….

What is your definition of wilderness?

What is your definition of wilderness?

The thought of going for a multi day hike usually only interests a selected few individuals, typically those we call “hikers” (myself not included!). But during my time up in the Northern Kruger I was asked if I would like to go and be part of the guiding team for a few “sleep outs” and better yet “wilderness trails”. And I was hooked!

Finally I found a valid reason to walk many kilometres with a heavy backpack in the African heat, carrying everything I needed to survive with me. To get into the real WILD. Not the kind usually done by hikers where they try and conquer a certain set trail or mountain. This is the kind where at any point something can happen that will determine the next path, route or destination of the trail. And the best part about it all for me is that its not seen as a physical challenge set out to really get the blood pumping, its all about getting you out into the African wilderness and letting the wild animals get the blood pumping! Really get off the beaten track, as far away from roads, cellphone signal and cold beers as possible. To reach places few have ventured and see the wildlife totally unaffected by human pressures.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with Lowveld Trails company and make a short video on their business and attitude towards it all. And the line that they used really sums it all up. “If you are in a vehicle you’re an observer. And as soon as you get out on foot, you become a participant!” Being the participant in the wilderness of the African bush is powerful. It is an incredibly humbling experience and really makes one appreciate everything around you.

Getting prepared for a 5 day wilderness trail is all about sacrifice! What comforts are you willing to sacrifice for a lighter load. I believe the phrase “pack like a mule, sleep like a king” was used numerous times for my trails! And it really is amazing to see what one can survive off for 5 days in the bush?! We even had to carry our own water and when that runs out we have to find our own out there! Another good idea before setting off was to remove yourself of all technology and anything that can tell the time. Totally “disconnect” from the norms and immerse yourself into what it was like way back when…

But by far the best thing I noticed about wilderness trails is on the last day. It also happens to be day 5 of no showers. It is the excitement of getting back mixed with the sadness of leaving it all behind. It truly is all left behind as you carry in what you need and you carry it all back out, leaving as little of an impact on the area as possible, (only footprints!).

At this point one really appreciates 3 things in life – a warm shower, decent food and an ice cold beer. It is in fact at the point where you have all the things you have been craving the entire trail that you realise what you have just achieved. You reached and experienced true wilderness. Not only in the wildlife form but also within yourself. It is something that's fairly hard to describe and is best felt.

Being a part of it all for the short time truly is incredible!

The Time of Plenty

The Time of Plenty

Plenty of insects hovering around the spotlight, lots of hot and humid days but it’s all so worth it to experience the full complexity and diversity of the African bush. Im talking about the African summer that many tourists seem to be afraid of. The thought of having temperatures into the 40’s and a couple days of rain - it makes sense why some would be put off by such extreme weather. But not us from the safariFRANK team. In fact for us this is it. It doesn't get much better.

The time between the first rains around November until the last rains in March is considered the rainy season in Southern Africa. During this time the bush is totally transformed from a dry, barren and leafless place to a lime green, wet and a bustling ecosystem. Rivers that run dry for the most part of the year are flowing strong and are filled with the calls of frogs and toads. The bush is alive with bird songs; noticeably the summer migratory birds have returned and are as vocal as ever. The abundance of food and cover brought on by the increased greenery brings new life in the form of the next generation of animals. Plenty of species choose this time of year to finally give birth to their offspring after long gestations as the stress from malnutrition is no longer a threat. It truly is the time of plenty for the herbivores. And so to it is for the predators….with the increase of smaller and more vulnerable prey around, leopards thrive in the new dense bush they call home, as their prey finds it harder to spot them.

But why we love this time of year isn't so much the viewing of the animals, it’s actually the viewing of the people, much less viewing of people as most places consider this the “off season” so often when travelling places that are packed with tourists (during peak season) are now empty from the herds of humans. And you find you have these wild areas all to yourself. There is no amount of luxury accomodation that can make up for being the only vehicle at an amazing location and sighting. And along with all this is the matter of accomodation, because it’s the offseason prices are often dramatically reduced which gives us more “bang for our buck”. Granting you access to awesome lodges and locations that otherwise don't exactly fit the budget. Paradise...

“It’s too hot in the summer!” Nonsense! The heat is one of the best things about summer as it allows for comfortable temperatures during activities. Night drives are possible with shorts and a t-shirt and can extend far into the night to allow for viewing of nocturnal animals. It’s possible in winter with multiple layers, but if the drive is unsuccessful it ends up having been a few hours of shivers….. and early mornings are real cold! But yes lets face it 40 degrees Celsius in the shade is fairly uncomfortable, but usually when the temperature is up there at midday you are relaxing by the lodge (sometimes in the pool) and the game drive is over anyway, so why complain? Can’t beat a beautiful summers day in the pool with a beer/cocktail in the hand! That's our idea of a safari!

Time spent waiting for the unexpected….

Time spent waiting for the unexpected….

Often safaris are spent mostly in a game viewing vehicle where the safari guides are rushing you from one big hairy animal to the next so that the guests can “tick off” animals and see the big 5 within the shortest time possible. And it’s easy to get lured into this Ferrari safari mentality as the guide because there is some stress on you to find these animals for your eager guests. They have now seen everything in the bush but have they experienced it?

One of the best add-ons to the safari experience is time spent in a hide. And the good news is you don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy it! All you have to be, is in the right mood… and often having hot water, coffee, maybe a book as well as your trusty binoculars is all you need to set the mood to relax and wait. Who knows what will show up? This is what I call a “slow safari” because after all, you are on holiday so it’s time to slow down and just let it unfold.

I’ve had both extreme sides of luck for spending time in a hide and seen all sorts of different animals ranging all the way from the small things such as bats, toads and small normally hard to spot birds, to the big hairy’s such as wild dogs, leopards and plenty of elephants...

And this is the best time to pick your guides brain…find out what he/she knows about the less obvious smaller things, or go into detail about what you are interested in.

One particularly crazy time spent in a hide, I was with a good friend of mine out for a morning of intense birding, trying to see how many species we could get in a single drive. We decided to stop by a nearby hide and try our luck there. We managed to get a couple of extra species and after about 1hr30min we were joined by a group of fellow safari folk. They invited us for a coffee and soon found out we are safari guides so they asked us many questions about the birds around us.

 Another hour or so passed and we figured it was time to head home, when suddenly we heard a leopard doing its typical rasping call from the river bed down below! With a confused look on our faces my friend and I looked at each other both wondering why this leopard was calling at now almost mid day. We told everyone what was happening and that we needed to be extra quiet. Impala’s started to alarm call which confirmed our suspicion of it being what we thought it was. A few seconds later we saw it pop its head over the bank, all of us too excited to take a picture or too nervous of making a sound. We watched as this leopard then changed direction and quickly climbed a large tree close by. Confused again we looked at each other…. Then, out from beside the hide, extremely silent, 3 big bull elephants came for a drink.

We watched for maybe 20 minutes as these huge elephants drank within meters of us not knowing that behind them was a leopard patiently waiting her turn for a drink. We couldn’t believe our luck!! Within about 20 seconds it went from identifying little brown birds to jaw dropping excitement - the kind where you are afraid breathing is making too much noise!

As the elephants filled their tanks with the fresh water they moved off and finally the leopard had enough room to safely come down the tree (the moment we were all waiting for). We watched her come down the tree and again confusing us by not even stopping to drink? She walked around the waterhole marking her territory as she went, but more frequently than usual. We both then agreed that she was most likely coming into estrus and was trying to attract the dominant resident male by leaving her scent and also by her vocalisation during the day.

It just goes to show that you never know what to expect, and as luck has it, the time you aren’t looking for the big hairy things is exactly when they appear out of thin air!