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 Post subject: Matt’s Christmas Gift: Sirheni Bushveld Camp 26–29 Dec 2006
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:22 am 
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After many nights (months) waiting, plotting and planning, (and purchasing :( ) Christmas had eventually arrived! The turkeys were cooked, the tree was decorated and the presents were wrapped.

Christmas Eve was spent with my mother’s family, joking and eating (lots) and present swapping! :dance: Santa had visited during the night (I’m positive that he drank all my milk, and some of my Jack Daniels was missing too! :hmz: ) he did fill up the stockings though!

Christmas day was spent with my dad’s family, eating (even more :redface: ) and swapping more presents, although Santa had not seemed to visit this house :( . Christmas took on a completely different meaning however when my father gave me his present! A 3 night stay at Sirheni, starting the next day. (Good thing I was on leave then hey!)

:thumbs_up: 8) :thumbs_up:

My SO was unfortunately working and could not therefore join, but my sister could! We left dad’s family, (not before desert however, ice cream, not that Christmas pudding stuff- do you know why they put money in there? So that people will eat it!) and raced home to pack! I still had to visit the SO’s family for Christmas dinner (again lots- I don’t wanna hear about anyone’s leftover turkey! :? Seriously!) and then returned home!

My sister had done a fantastic job, :thumbs_up: the car was half packed with all her goods, my camera gear, and PADKOS (road food) 8) ! I packed my bag, made sure that we had all the other vital equipment and tried to catch a couple of hours sleep! :lol: We departed JHB at about 01.30 and drove off to collect the old man from Nelspruit! I was still elated about the padkos, until the time came for a sandwich- wretched leftover turkey! :?

After arriving at the farm at 05.00, we climbed out of my car and into the old man’s, and continued our journey to Phalaborwa! None of us had had any chance to do any shopping, but dad reassured us that there was a good Spar and PicknPay at Phalaborwa where we could stop and get supplies. 8)

I’ve never driven to Phalaborwa in the daytime before, so this was a real experience! The mountains, views, waterfalls, steep drops and just scenery are breathtakingly beautiful! :shock:

We arrived at the Spar in Phalaborwa at about 08.30 and found to our delighted surprise that they were open- but just about cleaned-out. :( Because of Christmas, their supplies were very low and they hadn’t taken deliveries for a good couple of days. They did assure us that they had plenty turkey though!

With limited supplies but an intense feeling of excitement, filled up with a moment of panic when we “accidentally” got “a bit” lost (dad’s words, not mine, sure looked like a sign-reading error to me!), :? we were greeted by (armed) guards at Phalaborwa Gate, where we were booked in, in no time at all! With the guards smiling and waving (& eating turkey sandwiches :lol: :lol: :lol: ) we drove though!

I’m afraid it was rather quiet the whole way up to Sirheni, we saw ellies in the distance, impala, buffalo in the distance and a couple of Zebras but not much else. This changed however, when an elephant greeted us at Sirheni, from just in front of our Bungalow- number 13, lucky for some! :lol:

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:47 pm 
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Agatha wrote:
(hic)

Aha- the Jack bandit reveals itself!

@ DB and Salva- uh,um, no thanks on the turkey sarmie!
@ Bert- sherbert, milk and Jack Daniel's, i hope not!
Thanks for the compliments guys and girls- I try!

Ah, Sirheni. number 13 is well secluded from all, it had thick bush to the right and in front (without interrupting your view) and is closer to the dam than number 14 (on the left). There were paradise flycatchers everywhere, flitting this way and that. I did find it a bit odd that there was only one plug in the entire hut- and this was being used for the fridge. So, no camera battery or cell phone chargers here! The electricity for the fridge runs only until 21.00 hours as well. (Generator)

Francoisd- this is for you! I’m not sure about what else has been written about Sirheni. But without checking and IMHO, it is beautiful, with thick bush throughout. We were in hut 13 out of 15 huts, it looks as if hut number 15 has the best view on that side, as it looks from a slight hill and around the bend in the river. The bird hide on that side of the camp is far away from the water, although with more rain this could change, it is situated between huts 13 and 12. We didn’t see much on the private road either but saw some magic on the main road down to Shingwedzi as will be revealed later. The Mphongolo is definitely the quietest route in the evenings if you visit during school holidays, as (I suspect that it's) day visitors roar up the main road in the afternoon, often with police in hot pursuit! We saw a number of visitors pulled over by these cops!

Our afternoon drive was an interesting one, as all of us were really tired. We kept it short and managed to see some more ellies, the most gigantic herd of buffaloes in the distance- I wouldn’t even like to guess how big it was, some more zebras and then a special one for me- my first Sharpe’s Grysbok!. He was so close that I actually had to wait for him to move away from the car so that I could get a photo of him!

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After zipping in to Shingwedzi for some ice, and other supplies we made our way back. The fire was lit, drinks were poured, mozzie repellent was applied and my father and I chatted under the stars till dinner was served. (Not turkey-but close chicken! And a great salad made by the sister) After dinner and a cold shower, we quietly joined up with our beds, where not even the heat could keep our tired bodies from sleep.

PS. Mz P- who's your "little boet"?
Elsa- will you be going up north?

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 7:05 am 
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Many thanks all!

Day 2: 27 December 2006

We woke up at 04.15. The temperature- 30 degrees at 04.15!!!! Even the fan spinning above us seemed unable to cope with this heat and it was definitely spinning slower than it had last night. All it seemed able to do was stir the treacle thick hot air around the room! :?

We all had a cold shower (felt pretty toasty to me though!) and then, with our route plotted, set off straight down the link road to the main road and towards Red Rocks. Fortunately the air at that time was fairly cool and with windows open our bodies returned to normal temperatures.

07.45- 40 degrees, air rushing past the car was no longer cool and it felt like being in a slow cooker. The animals have disappeared. It was not even 8 o clock!
There’s no wind to speak of- it’s just hot hot hot! This buffalo seems to be muttering to itself about the heat as well!

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We did however manage to see more ellies and buffalo’s, much closer this time, Nyala, kudu, zebra, warthog, hippo, crocodile, giraffe, bushbuck, waterbuck, steenbok and impala but none were wandering far off of their little patch of shade!

This Saddle-bill (part of a breeding pair) didn’t seem to mind the heat though, and the pair made for good viewing as the male seemed to bring sticks to the female who, after some inspection, tossed them to the side of the pan!
This was then the males queue to sneak off and find more sticks for inspection! :roll:

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We then returned to the chalet for a siesta and a cold one. The temperature now was a sweltering 44 degrees, and my beer was cold for the first sip or two, and then becomes a murky, unhappy luke-warm mix! I think the fan had given up at this stage- I know I had!

We decided to head up towards Punda for our afternoon drive which immediately paid dividends- 3 Tsessebe next to the road! (MC: H1-7, 2 km north of Babalala)

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People were once again using the main road as a highway and the police car was constantly overtaking us to pull someone else over.
Back at Sirheni, dinner was enjoyed (finally- proper meat, steak!), and more drinks were consumed, fully in order to “beat the heat” :whistle: , at least that’s what we told ourselves! This night was one of the most uncomfortable that I’ve ever experienced in the Park- it still beats a night out of the park though.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:05 am 
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Day 3: 28 December 2006

Shoo- clouds have moved in! Not totally clouded over but the intermittent shade kept the temperature down- fairly chilly 39 degrees the high for today!

Decided to take the Mphongolo loop to the tar today, and then head on down to Mopani. Animals ticked off along the way included impala, nyala, steenbok, zebra, elephant, buffalo, duiker and scrub hare.

Once at Mopani, a debate was entered into, with the sister wanting to travel along the “prettily named” Shongololo loop and dad wanting to do the tropic of Capricorn loop. I busied myself elsewhere :whistle: , hoping that we could go on the Tropic road!

We did the Tropic of Capricorn loop (S143 via the S49 and S50). 8)

What a good idea, there were animals everywhere. Sightings on the way included zebra, impala, elephant and wildebeest. Somewhere along the S50, my father tried to climb onto my side of the vehicle. Only after a stiff verbal warning and once the vehicle had come to a halt, did we see what the issue was. :?

A Mozambique spitting cobra, still standing in the reared position, was giving us the beady eye. My father explained that the snake had reared with us still approaching and he didn’t want to stop next to the snake with his window open, nor stay near the open window as we drove passed! :shock:

Further along, more excitement- rhino! A flick of the ear had given him away. :thumbs_up: We where convinced at the stage that it was “Ore”, the bull who had been released in the area, but my photo’s are inconclusive!

Onto the tropic of Capricorn and even more excitement! Once passed a flock (?) of ostrich numbering 14(!), we arrived at the Tihongonyeni waterhole to find, sitting around the concrete dam in the shade…….lions!!!

Rather amusingly, as soon as we arrived so did the other animals. Firstly the elephants, who, with the arrogance that only elephants can possess, walked straight up to the concrete dam and chased the lions away with much squealing and trumpeting.

The 5 lions scattered and after all had calmed down, three of the lions walked over to a bush, where they had a buffalo calf kill and sat panting in the shade.
The other two walked over to the reeds near the waterhole and sat, as if daring the zebra, which had now arrived to come and try have a drink.

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Together with the zebra, were, more Tsessebe! :thumbs_up: A big herd of them, with calves!

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We left the lions munching on their buffalo and set off going up the old main road (S144), where some more magic awaited us!

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Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:21 am 
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The road was quiet until we reached Dzombo West, where this good looking fella stood waiting:

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Now isn’t that a magic morning! I'm quite sure that this fella is just too big and old to be considered an "emerging tusker"- he must surely be known. Does anyone have any ideas?

After a siesta back at camp, we set off on a quick afternoon drive, heading up the Mphongolo loop towards Babalala. Another lion! (MC: 5km from Babalala on the S56)
This time a female on her own, standing in the riverbed! She didn’t seem amused by our presence and melted into the bush on the other side soon after we had stopped!

The heat couldn’t last much longer and the clouds built up. Soon after lightning was criss-crossing all over the sky and the ground was vibrating with the thunder. It came down in buckets! Soon we could see nothing and the road was slippery everywhere- and we made our way back to camp, rather thankful that we had a 4x4.

It rained for ages and once it stopped, the animals came out to play again, this buffalo right in front of our chalet. The second photo is a rather poor attempt at the oxpecker- a yellow billed one.

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PS. We slept like babies in the cool weather although we couldn’t have dreamed what we saw the next morning!

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:39 am 
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Ok- this is it!

Day 4: 29 December 2006

We rose slightly earlier in order to pack the car before we left, my sister once again doing sterling work (the SO will need to be informed about her lack of form! :whistle: Cause this is how it should be done :D ) and made our way once again up the Mphongolo to try find the lions again! Along the way, 2 spotted eagle owls in the road- beautiful stuff!

Once on the main road, we made our way back down to Shingwedzi.

About 2km north of the bridge, there was something in the road up ahead- 2 lionesses walking in the road! With us still about 150 m away, they suddenly crouched! We stopped the vehicle, wondering what was up….

All of a sudden, the one was off like a flash! She exploded into a long lithe cat, re-coiled herself into a tight ball of energy and once again exploded- she was so fast!

She raced towards us and towards a female kudu that noticed her way too late. She had only just got going when the lioness tackled her with a collision that can only be described as earth shattering! With much crashing of branches and after rolling over each other a couple of times they came to a rest in a clearing, exactly to the left of where we were parked. The other lioness joined them soon after.

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To be honest, I have always wanted to see a lion kill- this was my first. But it’s brutal, it’s ugly and it’s heart-wrenching! The lions just sat on her and rested while she struggled and bleated. The second lion actually started eating!
Then she struggled too far and raised her head, enabling the first lion to get at her throat- then it was over in minutes.

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We sat here for about 45 minutes before moving off- the vehicle chaos number…

I know that if this had happened 4 km out down south there would be hundreds of cars within minutes. Up here, on the main road, 4 km’s out of Shingwedzi, 45 minutes later- 5 cars! 8)

This sighting was so special that I actually have no idea what else we saw on our way down to Phalaborwa and home! But I do know that I feel a tear in my eye when I think of that kudu and my heart skips a beat when I think of the lion in full flight.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:05 am 
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We have an id on the tusker!
Email reply from Dr. Ian Whyte:

This is definitely Massunguine (pronounced Mahsungween). I wrote the following short piece on him:

Masunguine is another recently identified tusker who was first photographed from the helicopter in August 2004 in the Mahlati (Shingwedzi) area. He is named after Phineas Massunguine Maluleke who was a Field Ranger in Kruger for many years. More information is needed on his movements and home range. He appears to be still relatively young, and therefore has the potential of becoming one of Kruger’s biggest.


Thanks Doc! 8) :D

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:20 am 
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Some more photos of Massunguine can be found here and here.

'Great Tuskers of Africa' by Johan Marais and David Hadaway has this to say as well:

"His tusks are very well matched and are the classic shape of Kruger elephants- bowed and curved, pointing forwards and slightly upwards"

I agree with you Boulder, his tusks (in my photos at least), do come across a bit "light" and "thin"-W@H can maybe shed more light here- I know that he has had a good close sighting of this bull. Hopefully he can, if time allows, become even huge-er!

(I think this exersize has also shown me exactly how much I know about ellies- I thought he was an old bull! :? )

Many thanks for the kind comments all!

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