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 Post subject: WeeBirdy & Portero's Kruger report, Mar. 19-25, 2007
Unread postPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:03 am 
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Hello Forumites! Here's a belated report from me and Portero on our first trip to Kruger (and my first trip to South Africa).

We arrived at JNB around 5:00 on Sunday, March 18, after 29 hours of travel. I had already experienced some adventure on the plane, accidentally mooning several people when the toilet door swung open :redface: and then (probably from sheer embarrassment over that little incident) dumping a whole cup of coffee on myself in my seat 10 minutes later. The excitement continued when we got thoroughly lost on the way out of the airport, and wound up wandering around in vain looking for the correct freeway for well over an hour (despite the fact that we had a map and that part of my job is drawing maps, so I should know how to read one!). But this wound up being a good thing, because we had our first sighting . I was elated, convinced it was a wild dog that was skulking along the deserted road in the middle of nowhere. I started yelling “WILD DOG!!” and decided that it was well worth getting lost if it meant we could see a wild dog 18 hours before even getting to Kruger. And I immediately got the song “Africa” by Toto stuck in my head, with its line about “the wild dogs cry out in the night.” Later, though, I realized it had probably been a hyena :P. (It was dark, and I had never seen either before. And don’t hyenas also “cry out in the night?”) Anyway, we finally found a petrol station where a very nice man explained how to get back on the correct road. (And we learned what a “robot” is.) An hour later, we once again got completely lost trying to find our hotel in Witbank, but that was ok because it gave Portero more time to practice driving on the left side of the road. (We wouldn’t want to be bad drivers in the park!)

We were eager to leave Witbank early to get to the park as soon as possible. But first I had to wrestle with an uncooperative internet connection to email 2 papers (that I had finished late the night before) to 2 professors who were nice enough to let me miss the last day of class in order to go to Kruger. Anyway, we finally left the hotel around 9, missed the freeway and accidentally drove through most of the city to find it again, and then immediately got on N4 in the wrong direction. Eventually, we found a place to turn around and were finally facing the correct way and driving TOWARD Kruger. Taking the advice of various Forum members (thank you!), we took the scenic route through Belfast, Dullstroom, and Long Tom Pass, and stopped in Lydenburg for groceries. We made it to Orpen Gate at 2:42, and I had already taken 204 pictures. After reading about how long the lines could get at the gates, I was surprised to see only a few other cars. We went into the store to stock up on Castle and Cadbury Flakes (I love them, but you can’t get them in California, so I bought several each day and hoarded them, but of course they all crumbled up in my luggage on the trip back. Oh well. Cadbury Crumbs are also tasty.)

But now I finally get to the important part: we saw our first Kruger animals at 3:12, impalas, of course. But I did not realize at the time that impalas seem to be to Kruger what squirrels are to the U.S., so we pulled over to take pictures of them from as many angles as possible. (Actually, after 5 days of thousands of impalas, I still really like them, and we kept pulling over to take pictures of them, or at least of most of them.)

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After the impalas came zebras and giraffes. Fantastic!!! The only zebras and giraffes I’d seen before had been in zoos (and I’ve seen quite a few of them lately because I’m doing a research project on zoos for a history class). Although I’d expected that it would be much more exciting to see them in Kruger, I didn’t realize just how amazing it would be to see a wild animal for the first time. I have 10 pictures of the first zebra, even though he was nearly completely hidden by a bush. Next we saw wildebeests (which I’d never seen anywhere, but really liked), and then baboons.

At 5:00 we arrived at Nsemani Dam, where we participated in our first traffic jam. (Up to that point, we’d seen relatively few cars, even though we’d stayed on the tar road.) The first thing I noticed at the dam was an elephant, which was incredibly thrilling, even though he was probably 500 meters away. I was elated. Next we noticed a pair of waterbucks, though we didn’t realize what they were at the time. Then we saw 5 hippos lounging in the water about 20 meters from the elephant. The elephant finished drinking and wandered off into the bush, which was very disappointing, until we noticed a big cloud of dust and an enormous herd of buffalo shuffling toward the water. I’d never seen anything like it. It reminded me of old westerns with cattle stampedes (although these buffalo were a bit more languid about it :o)

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As if this weren’t exciting enough, a group of half a dozen or so buffalos separated from the herd and wandered over to where the ellie had been. And from out of the water right in front of them came . . . a baby hippo! (Well, maybe not really a baby anymore, but definitely smaller than the average hippo.) The baby(?) hippo glared at the buffalos. They had a standoff, with the baby hippo eventually winning, and the buffalos eventually backing off to another spot along the water, only to have a face-off with an adult hippo. The whole thing was incredible to watch. Later, when we were showing the pictures to friends, one of them said, “Isn’t that a crocodile?” and sure enough, a crocodile is snoozing on the banks right behind the baby hippo. I can’t believe we missed it! This made me feel completely justified in taking 104 pictures at the dam—you never know what will turn up in them! :shock:

Here's the baby hippo (and crocodile):
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And now the giant hippo (and crocodile):
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Anyway, we eventually made it to Satara, about 2 minutes before gate closing time, behind a long line of cars who’d also left the dam at the last possible minute. I loved Satara! What a pretty and friendly place. We stayed in one of the huts, and I was especially happy to see the braai right out front. After weeks of reading about braais on the forum, how great to see one in person! (Of course, figuring out how to use it would be a different story :? . . . ) And we finished the day with belated sundowners of Castle and Amarula.

And now I’ve rambled long enough, sorry! Time to get back to work, but more later . . .


Last edited by WeeBirdy on Wed May 09, 2007 9:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:30 pm 
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Hi everyone,

Thanks for the commentary! I'm in the middle of finishing a book for a class right now :x , but more later.

I'm glad to hear other people found the hippo standoff interesting. I had no idea what was normal, so I found everything incredibly exciting. "Hey, that giraffe is LOOKING at us!!!", etc.

@Arks and John n Poppy--each time we passed the airport exit or got on the road going in the wrong direction, it got funnier and funnier. Having heard in advance about how confusing the airport was, I think I might have felt a bit cheated if we hadn't gotten lost. It seems kind of like a rite of passage.

@Bert--well, at least I'll never have to see any of those people again. Hope no forumites were on the plane. :roll:

@Mgoddard, good question! I was inspired to look at the less-than-thorough mapbook we got at the car rental place. The name "Germiston" sounds familiar, and I know at one point we were near another airport, which, looking at the map now, map have been the Rand airport. The wild dog/hyena/coyote/pet-dog-that-was-taking-a-walk, was a few km from there, but out in the middle of nowhere with no buildings or other cars.

@BB--a stray dog??! oh no! :? Well, my non-Kruger friends will still hear about it as an unidentified but exotic and extremely rare wild animal. :P


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Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 12:00 pm 
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Tuesday,March 20:

We got up at 3:45 for a Satara morning drive. I am NOT a morning person. I hate mornings. But it seemed very worthwhile to skip the snoozing in order to get an early start. (Or perhaps I was still on California time, which would have 6:45 the night before.) The only other place I have ever willingly (even happily) gotten up that early is Yosemite National Park, but sadly Yosemite has no ellies.

Anyway, the morning drive was in a 20-seater truck, but we were the only two signed up for it. (Maybe everyone else in Satara that day also hated mornings?) Our guide, Maurice(sp?), was very knowledgeable and had lots of interesting commentary. It was fun manning the spotlight, but I felt pretty incompetent for the first half hour or so since I couldn’t spot anything. I like to think that all the animals on my side of the truck just had their eyes closed. Maurice, luckily, was infinitely better at spotting things, so we saw a giraffe, impala, and this little guy:
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I can’t remember what this was—looking at my guide now, it looks like a bushbuck or steenbok. Can anyone tell from this not-so-great picture?

And then, finally, I managed to spot some eyes, and was ridiculously proud of myself. It turned out to be a single male buffalo, and I was kind of depressed to hear that old male buffalo just kind of wander off on their own. What a sad end. But I suppose that’s nature. Nevertheless, I was very happy to have finally spotted something! After an hour or so, it was light enough to turn off the spotlights, and we got a bit luckier with the sightings. I didn’t have my map with me (stupid mistake!) so I have no idea where we were, but we stayed mainly on dirt roads near Satara. I think some of them were closed to the public, but I’m not sure. Soon after sunrise, we saw our first 2 white rhinos, which was very exciting. Naturally, I have dozens of pictures, even though they were way far away and hiding behind bushes. I have to explain to people that there are rhinos somewhere in the pictures. As we were busy watching the rhinos watch us, a mini-herd of wildebeests wandered by in front of us (very fun to look at), and then some buffalo. And we finally learned what a waterbuck is (thank you, Maurice!). We also saw several birds, including a southern yellow-billed hornbill. Then we continued along, and saw our first kudu! Naturally, it was very shy so I have only a blurry shot of it staring at us briefly before bounding off.
Image

Next came a female waterbuck followed by a baby waterbuck (awww . . . )
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Then a giraffe family and some zebras. Giraffes are so amazing, even when standing still. I love how they just stare at you with their giant eyes. Just before we got back to Satara, we saw a big ellie eating along the side of the tar road. This was our first up-close ellie, and it was fantastic to be close enough to hear it eating. (Considering our first one had been spotted from half a mile away!) Ellies look so blasé when they’re eating, but you can tell they’re still eyeing you.

When we started driving away Maurice tried reassuring me that I would see plenty more ellies, but, to be honest, I didn’t believe him. Little did I know! After the ride, I was eager to put lots of pins on the sightings board, but, thanks to my complete geographic ignorance at that point, I really didn’t know where anything was. So I only put in one pin for the ellie, since his location had been pretty clear. Still, it was very exciting.

After breakfast, one of us (not me) decided to take a nap, while I explored Satara and read on the great little porch. And took lots of pictures of various birds on the braai. (Sadly, the only excitement the braai saw during our visit.)
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As fun as this was, I could no longer resist the lure of the wild, and dragged Portero back out into the great outdoors. We went up H1-4, and this time I thought to bring the map and began faithfully marking down every sighting on it. (Now the maps is basically a smeared jumble of ink, with "IMPALA!!" pretty much everywhere, but it’s great fun to look at.) Anyway, on the map I see: impalas, zebras, wildebeests, zebras, ellies, and a female kudu. But looking through my pictures, I see this critter:
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Forgive my ignorance, Forumites, but what is this? The closest match I see in my guide is a common reedbuck. Is that right? Or just a very fancy impala?

We turned off onto S127 to go to Timbavati. Here we saw one of my favorite ellies of the trip, snacking by the side of the road, and eyeing us. He had one tusk broken off all the way at the top; the other was also broken, but still about a foot long. We watched for a while, then he very leisurely crossed the road in front of us and continued on his merry way. At Timbavati, I was very surprised and excited to see a Baobab tree, which I have wanted to see ever since reading The Little Prince 20 years ago. From Timbavati, we took S39 and saw giraffes (hooray!!), impalas, more giraffes, zebras, lots more impalas, wildebeests, and a snake. Also some vultures, vervet monkeys, and female kudus. Then our luck ran out when we crossed the Satara Road onto S36. The only thing on my map for S36 is “very friendly staff!” at Muzandzeni Picnic spot, where we stopped for drinks (which, of course, is great, but I must say the map looks naked other than that one notation!). Luckily, all the animals seemed to be hanging out on the Sweni Road: impalas, zebras, giraffes, Southern ground hornbills, a turtle, zebras, and baboons. Turning onto H1-3, we saw another ellie, very active baboons playing in the road (including one baby baboon riding piggyback), and waterbucks. And, very exciting: our first warthog! I think warthogs have an unfair reputation as ugly and muddy, which perhaps they are, but I really liked them. Their ugliness makes them even more appealing.

Anyway, because of our great luck at Nsemani Dam the day before, we decided to head back there. Along the way, we found a herd of zebras, including a very curious baby zebra. I got so excited by the zebras that of course we stayed there for quite a while, while everyone else zoomed past us to get to the dam. Eventually we moved on, but Nsemani wasn’t quite the hotbed of excitement it had been the day before. We saw turtles, a saddle bill stork, and an African fish eagle. And there were still hippos there, but they appeared to be in no rush to exercise.

After dinner, we went on a night drive with 18 other people. Once again, I have no idea where we went, and I wish I’d paid more attention to what roads we were on. It started off pretty slowly with the sightings. I hate to admit it, but I even started to fall asleep (sort of—it was that half-asleep head-bobbing state).

Aggghhh! That sounds horrible, I know, as if I were bored. In my defense, I’d had a total of 16 hours of sleep in the last four days, but still, the excitement of being out in the middle Kruger should have been more invigorating than a gallon of coffee and a dozen Cadbury Flakes. This was especially embarrassing because there were several small kids on the ride, and all of THEM were wide awake, even though it was probably way past their bedtimes. Every now and then someone would say “Ooohh . . . a nightjar!” and my head would snap up and I would mumble “OOOHHH!!!” with great enthusiasm so that people would think I was wide awake. (But, to be honest, even with all the talk of nightjars on different drives I don’t think I ever saw one, because they always seemed to fly off before I saw them. I feel badly about this, but I wouldn’t know a nightjar if I fell over one. Anyone have any pictures?).

But, before I could fall completely asleep, we happened to drive right up to a pride of about a dozen lions lounging by the left side of a tar road (sorry, not sure which road). This woke me right up. I am not as big a cat person as say, a giraffe or ellie or baby zebra person, but it was still REALLY exciting to see lions in the wild for the first time. And I was completely amazed at how unperturbed they were by a truck full of hyperactive spotlight-wielding tourists. Behind them in the distance was a lone ellie, and across the road was a giant herd of buffalo. I was amazed that the buffalo also seemed unperturbed by a truck full of us, but I was even more amazed that they would lounge around, unperturbed by the pride of lions 50 meters away. How did the buffalo not notice the lions? Why wouldn’t they run away, right away? Ahh, the mysteries of nature. Thankfully, I was actually wide awake to witness the excitement (and yes, it was very exciting, even though pretty much the only creatures actually moving were those of us on the truck straining to get a better picture).
Image

We finally left and headed back to Satara. And of course I resumed my near-snoozing, despite all efforts to stay awake. Is it just me though? I have to say, bouncing along in a truck in the middle of nature, on a warm night, with incredibly fresh air and animals noises in the distance, is really soothing! I think it would make a fantastic cure for insomnia. I know that this is not the purpose of night drives, but it is a really relaxing side effect. :roll: Oops, now I’m going to get thrown out of the forum for admitting this, aren’t I?


Last edited by WeeBirdy on Tue May 01, 2007 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 11:47 am 
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Wednesday morning, March 21

Wednesday morning I was eager to be the first one out the gate. So we got up at 5:15 to pack, and I wandered over to the communal kitchen to get some hot water (thanks to a tip from the forum) for instant coffee in our new thermos (whoops, sorry, “flask”). Did you know that if you don’t have milk or creamer, Amarula works great in coffee? I didn’t, but I soon discovered it :P It’s even better when you also add in Cadbury cocoa powder and condensed milk, and you wind up with a gooey brown substance that burns horribly when you accidentally spill it on yourself when you get too excited about a possible zebra sighting, but it’s really tasty.

Anyway, armed with the coffee flask and all packed up, we left Satara at 6:02, just missing the gate opening, but I guess it was nice that there was no one else around so we missed the line. Oh well. And since we were running late anyway, I wandered over to the fence first to take a picture of the webcam. Very exciting to see it in person! Anyway, we took S100 hoping for a bright sunrise, but it was pretty cloudy. First were some waterbuck, and then wildebeests and a giraffe. Then this guy:
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Aha, a hyena! (Right?) So even if it wasn’t a hyena that we’d seen near the airport (much less a wild dog :?), we did get to see a hyena in Kruger. Hooray!! I wish we’d heard it laughing. Or maybe not all species of hyenas laugh? Anyway, the soundless hyena ran by pretty quickly, so we moved on.

At the end of S100, we turned south onto S41, and saw waterbucks, impalas, kudus, and more impala, along with a duiker, which Portero called a dikdik. When we were almost at the end of the road, we saw a group of about 5 ellies, one of which was very tiny (the first baby ellie we’d seen). It was very shy at first, hiding behind an adult. We were so excited to see it that we failed to notice the bull ellie (or just really big mom ellie!) walking up along the road next to us. (I can’t believe how quiet they can be!) Meanwhile, other cars were pulling up behind us, and the baby ellie was getting less shy. It wandered off ahead of its mom(?), into a little clearing, very close to where we were stopped (we’d pulled up a bit ahead of the main group). Naturally, the camera I was using chose this very moment for the batteries to die. So we switched to a smaller, back-up camera (we had brought one really good camera, 2 back-up smaller cameras in case of emergency, and 2 camera phones just in case the first three got struck by lightning). So I was very sad to be busy fiddling with the batteries when the baby ellie faced us and shook his head back and forth, flapping his ears. I think it was a challenge, but since he was so small it just looked kind of funny (I am guessing it was a musketeer ellie :wink:)
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And while we were busy watching this, out from the bushes a couple feet from our car came the big ellie, headed straight for us and looking very angry. So we took off pretty quickly! I’m not sure what the cars behind us did, but they probably had fun watching us run off.

A few minutes later, we made it to N’wanetsi picnic site for a bush breakfast arranged through Satara. The three staff members and the two of us were the only people at the picnic site for the first 15 minutes. No one else had signed up for the bush breakfast, but they explained to us that they thought the table would look nicer with 4 place settings. They had made a giant feast with fruit, yogurt, muffins, croissants, fresh juice, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages, and some other things that I don’t remember, but that were also undoubtedly very tasty. So it was no great surprise that when other people began to arrive at the site, they kept staring at us, clearly wondering what we’d done to deserve this. :roll:

After the delicious feast, we took S37 south and saw: 2 herons, a steenbok, impalas, wildebeests, a warthog, 2 more warthogs, and more wildebeests. We also saw 4 zebras, including one baby zebra. When we got to the corner of S37 and H1-3, we were going to turn north on H1-3 to go see the Southernmost Baobab tree, up near the Kumana dam. But a car flagged us down as we were about to turn, and told us that a few km south on H1-3 there was a lion pride that had just killed a waterbuck.

This was exciting because I had read on the forum about how it used to be very common for people to wave down other cars to tell them about interesting sightings, but that people don’t do that as much anymore. So we were very happy that someone had flagged us down. So far, we hadn’t stopped anyone along the trip, because although we were thrilled with everything we were seeing, it didn’t seem wise to wave down strangers to say “there’s a very interesting giraffe 10 km that way, and it’s eating!!” All of our really “popular” sightings so far had either been on the night drive (a lion pride) or at the site of a giant traffic jam (the hippo/buffalo standoff). I had also learned from the forum that it’s good to wave at everyone you see, so when I remembered, I would wave maniacally at every car. I was surprised at how few people waved back. And, of course, all this time we were looking everywhere for yellow ribbons, but had had no luck so far.

But back to the lion pride. I understand that lions are predators and they must eat other animals to survive, but I didn’t have any great desire to personally witness it. I much prefer frolicking waterbucks to dead ones. (I guess I’m pretty hypocritical about this, because I am not a vegetarian myself. Why should I hold the lions to a higher standard? :?) Anyway, we drove off in that direction, and found a big crowd of cars at Mzithi dam. There were no lions, but there were a few waterbucks off in the distance, all of them upright. I have no idea what the other cars were looking at. Maybe the lions had just left? After looking around for a while, we left for Tshokwane picnic spot, mainly because by this time the 5 cups of very tasty coffee from breakfast were kicking in. :shock:

At Tsokwane, we stocked up on more drinks and munchies, and Portero nearly had his cup of coffee stolen by a vervet monkey climbing on the picnic table. Pretty funny. After the rest stop, we went to Orpen Dam and saw a crocodile (possibly . . . or maybe a very bumpy rock) and 2 tortoises (which Portero thought were rocks, but I was fairly sure were not). So . . . possibly a successful sighting. Somehow, there it seemed to be much hotter than it had been elsewhere in the park, and I was beginning to get that very obvious passenger sunburn (left arm only).

Back on the road again (H10) we headed south, and stopped at Nkumbe viewsite. It was fantastic. What a view!! It was a very pretty sunny day, with big fluffy clouds, and you could see a huge expanse of land below.

From the hide there:
Image

The yellow ribbon at Nkumbe:
Image


Last edited by WeeBirdy on Tue May 01, 2007 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 1:34 pm 
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Hi all,
After a frustrating day spent trying to do taxes :evil:, I decided to reward myself by continuing the trip report :D

Wednesday afternoon, March 21

After leaving Nkumbe, we continued along H10 toward Lower Sabie and were amazed at how different the scenery was. I had gotten used to the yellow scrubbiness of the central area, and for some reason hadn’t really thought about how the regions of the park would have completely different trees and terrain. As much as I liked the Satara area, it was really nice to see a wide variety of scenery. We soon hit the milestone of making it onto a new map page in the Honeyguide map book (good thing, since the previous map was now completely full of smeared reports of our sightings).

Anyway, we didn’t see many animals along H10 at first, but were still really enjoying the sunny day and new surroundings. But as we got closer to the Mlondozi water hole we passed an ellie, 2 giraffes, a few wildebeests, and then: the largest herd of zebras imaginable. (At least imaginable to us.) It was incredible—zebras as far as the eye could see. I had no idea they massed in such large groups. It was like a zebra Woodstock, or a zebra smörgåsbord for any lions that happened to be nearby. There were also a few wildebeests, but they were all sitting in the shade of a large tree in the middle of the zebras. We just stopped and stared for a while. Unfortunately, my attempts at pictures did not do the zebra panorama justice, so I will just have to remember how impressive it was.

A very small portion of the giant zebra herd (with some wildebeests under the tree): Image

Image


Continuing on our merry way, we saw 2 more ellies, a large herd of buffalo, a baboon, and a waterbuck. Naturally, we paid special attention to the ellies in this area, since we knew we were in Duke territory. We made it to Lower Sabie (spotting 5 pairs of hippo eyes as we went over the bridge) at 1:25. Having read about the great view from the deck, we decided to have lunch there, but it seemed everyone else had the same idea. Still, despite the crowds, it was nice to see another camp (and my sarmie was quite tasty). We also stocked up on Castle, ice cream bars, Cadbury Flakes, and some “real” food at the store. Very proud of ourselves for finally picking out something to braai, we left the store without actually buying anything to set on fire, and had to run back to the store a few minutes later.

We left on H4-2, then turned onto S28. My goal on this road was to find Duke; Portero’s goal was to take a break from driving. This was a slight problem because I had only attempted to drive a stick shift twice before, 10 and 15 years earlier, when two different well-meaning friends, both named Rebecca, thought I should learn how to. Portero kept saying it would be tricky adjusting to shifting with my left hand, when really the tricky part was shifting period. The shifter could have been suspended from the ceiling and it would have made no difference. Anyway, don’t worry, I made sure that I knew exactly how to stop before I drove an inch (for some reason I was worried that even stopping would be much more complicated than in an automatic), and for the first few hours I never made it above 2nd gear, so I was no threat to the animals. But it was strangely very fun. But this did lead to some challenges when I made Portero take over camera duties, and he’d ask me to back up 2 feet and then go forward 3 feet, and then go sideways for 3 more feet, and so on (all of which I normally asked him to do :twisted:), in order to get the best angle, at which point I would normally get fed up with reverse, stop the car, and take the picture myself. But anyways, plodding along at 15 or so km/h (luckily, there were hardly any other cars on the road), we eventually made it to Duke’s waterhole (drifting past 2 warthogs along the way), but there were no ellies at all to be seen, only one lonely vervet monkey in a tree. So we continued along, eventually turning left onto H4-2, where I got up the nerve to shift into third gear. This was an especially exciting stretch of road, because we saw an ellie family with 4 small ellies. And they all walked in a line in order of height! We watched them wandering by the side of the road for awhile, then they crossed the road right behind us.

Image

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A few km later, we were flagged down by a car full of very friendly people with very thick German accents who were eager to tell us about a lion sighting and the gin and tonics they were drinking in the back seat. Between the accents and the gin, it was difficult at first to understand them, but we eventually figured out what they were talking about. This was especially exciting because they were the second group to flag us down about a sighting (and we still hadn’t waved anyone down ourselves :(). We found the lions in questions sleeping right next to the road along H5. I didn’t notice this at the time, but at looks like there’s something near one of the lion’s necks. Can anyone tell what that is?
Image

By this time it was getting late and we still had to make it to Biyamiti, so we switched drivers (in case something above 2nd gear was needed :roll:), and turned left onto S108. Once again, we were amazed by the scenery, which was hilly, with much more dense vegetation. Along the road we saw an ellie and a giraffe, but didn’t have time to watch them for long.

This picture is actually of a different giraffe, from the day before, but I forgot to post it in the Tuesday trip report:
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Right before turning off onto the Biyamiti road, we had a great view over a little valley, and on the other side was a bright green field just outside the park. The field was clearly for an irrigated crop, but it was a very pretty view, especially since it was sunset. The Biyamiti road was fantastic. I loved how hilly and curvy it is—even at 15 km an hour you feel like you’re careening along in a rollercoaster—but it’s so much better than a roller coaster, because you have ellies and rhinos and such to watch along the way!

At Biyamiti, we were in #6, which had a fantastic view of the riverbed (which was almost completely dry). As soon as we arrived, we took our porch chairs down to right in front of the fence for sundowners. There were no animals in the riverbed, but we sat there watching and waiting until it was completely dark, and then realized that we’d have to braai in the dark. Whoops! Neither of us really knows how to work a BBQ, much less a braai, so this was going to be a challenge. Portero managed to figure out the fire part of it admirably, but we weren’t really sure what else to do. There hadn’t been much of a meat selection at Lower Sabie, so Portero made himself some sort of Boerewor, while I attempted a grilled cheese sandwich, which wound up a pretty pathetic mess because the store had no bread and, as it turns out, grilled cheese sandwiches made on hotdog buns do not braai very well. Oh, and we also tried braaing potatoes, tomatoes, and onions, with varying degrees of success (but I learned that if all else fails, if you cover something in enough butter and garlic & herb seasoning, it will taste much better!) My poor sandwich was not exactly a culinary highlight, but we did feel a sense of accomplishment for producing anything. :P


Last edited by WeeBirdy on Tue May 01, 2007 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Thanks for the comments everyone!

Saraf, I was very intimidated by the braai! In the Berg-en-Dal store we saw this:

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Braai-in-a-box! I thought it was very funny. We decided to go with the charcoal instead, for a bit more of a challenge. But after that, I admit, we went back to using the stove :roll:

And John, I loved your story about the giraffe sighting. I know what you mean: "wow, a giraffe!!" :o


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Hi all,

Sorry, I'm being very slow with my trip report. Too much letting work get in the way of Kruger fun!


Thursday morning, March 22

Thursday was a fantastic day for sightings!

We started off with a very early morning drive from Biyamiti. Our guide was Khensani, who’s based at Crocodile Bridge, and is terrific. We were in one of the small (10 person) trucks, and no one else had signed up so it was just the three of us. (Actually, we had several solo activities—maybe we somehow scared off everyone else!?) Anyway, I was feeling a bit more confident about my spotlight-shining abilities than on the first drive, so Portero and I bet a beer on who would have the first sighting. Naturally, I won :), but now that I think about it, I don’t think he ever paid up! :roll: (And of course, Khensani showed us several critters long before either of us managed to spot anything.)

But getting back to the beginning: our first sighting (really Khensani’s first sighting!) was either on S108 or on S25 near where they intersect (I think—I was too excited to pay attention to roads). And it was . . . a pack a wild dogs. Hooray!! They were wandering along the road, and let us get fairly close before they ran off into the bush. So here’s my wild dog picture:

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Moving along, I was determined to spot something, despite my previous ineptitude with the spotlight. And after a few minutes I saw a pair of eyes in the crook of a tree about 60 feet off the road. Of course this required Khensani having to back up and roll forward several times because I wasn’t even sure which tree. But eventually the eyes reappeared, and Portero assumed it was a bird, but I was hoping for a bushbaby. Luckily, Khensani agreed with me, and though we couldn’t see anything other than its eyes, I was very excited about our first (and only) bushbaby. Here’s a picture (note my now stellar spotlighting) What brilliant eyes it had! No, you can’t see them in the picture, you’ll just have to trust me :twisted:

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We left the bushbaby to his tree and continued on, and next up at 5:58 was a pride of about 8-10 lions (females and cubs) by the side of the road. They looked bored by our arrival (good!). A couple of the cubs hid behind a tree, and took turns standing up, sitting down, and changing positions while occasionally staring at us.

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And my favorite:

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Eventually, they all got tired of us and sauntered off into the bush. We drove on and saw some impalas, which were especially pretty at sunrise, but too fidgety for the camera. Lots of blurry impala pictures. Next came a Southern yellow-billed hornbill sitting on a log right next to the road. Not much further along, we found 2 giraffes on the left side of the road and 4 zebras on the right. All we really needed was a baby elephant, and I would have been happy to spend the next 4 days just sitting there. :o

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After a while, one giraffe (with its tongue sticking out) decided to trade sides of the road with two of the zebras (in the background on the road):

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Slightly further along, we saw this fantastic baby zebra:

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Meanwhile, the sunrise was spectacular:

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A few minutes later, we came upon four more lions near the side of the road. They looked rather sleepy. Another car coming from the opposite direction pulled up and watched with us—I think this was the first car we’d seen even though it was already 6:50. Unfortunately, by then it was time to head back. But, still time for one last fantastic surprise—the same pack of wild dogs that we had seen an hour and 50 minutes earlier, though this time they were strolling along a different road :shock: They looked fairly bloody, something we hadn’t noticed in the dark.

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Back at Biyamiti we found half a dozen vervet monkeys prancing around in the backyard. I watched them playing for awhile, then sat on the porch downloading pictures onto a computer. Now, this may seem like a silly thing to do in the middle of Kruger—it would have been much more fun to be out in the park SEEING animals. But, I had already taken 1867 pictures in 3 1/2 days by this point (the first 80 were of sunrise from the plane), and was running out of memory cards. I felt a bit weird sitting outside with a computer, and hoped that none of the neighbors would think I was wasting my time playing computer games or something in the middle of spectacular nature (though being on the forum, of course, would have been ok). Anyway, I inherited the urge to take 1867 pictures in 3 1/2 days from my dad, who once took 400 pictures of a baby panda in under an hour, and he was asleep in a tree for most of that time (the panda, not my dad). Of course, they’re all fantastic panda pictures, but I suppose some people might think that’s a bit more than normal.

Luckily, we were soon ready to go back out on a drive, which turned out to be as fantastic as the morning drive. Hooray!! But more on that later . . .


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 20, 2007 8:36 am 
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Hi all,

Thanks very much for the replies! It is so much fun to read them. And, of course, thanks much for the Birthday wishes! My birthday cake had ellies and zebras on it, hooray! (Thanks, Portero!)

Actually, my two former bosses went to a nature reserve in Tanzania a couple of years ago, and I was the designated cake maker for my office, so I made a safari-themed cake. The zebra in my avatar is a marzipan zebra from the cake (that's a candy version of my boss's son and a marzipan stork in the background), and when we held the surprise birthday party at work, my boss (who is occassionally known to make such comments :shock:) said (in complete seriousness), "wow, how'd you get the zebra to lie down?" (No, I am not making this up.) My other boss said: "she put sleeping pills in the marzipan." :twisted:

Ah, but I digress. Anyway . . .
@ Dreamer--special coffee will do the trick. :wink: But sorry about the cruddy weather!
@Perks--I was so sad to read about your dead giraffe--but I can definitely see how it would be remarkable to be that close to one. Giraffes are amazing (your son has great taste!), so I can't imagine being in touching distance! And I'm glad the kudu was a find. During the whole trip he was the only kudu we saw out in the open (the rest were always behind bushes or running off), so I don't have any other good kudu pictures to compare horns to, and hadn't even thought of the number of twists. Good to know! The super coffee is great, especially when you combine ALL the ingredients. Have a great trip, and I'm looking forward to your report!
@txdrifter: . . . or skip the coffee?


I've been such a delinquent poster lately, but I do mean to get back to the trip report! I am working on a big history project about zoos, and a big chunk of it is due today (aghh!!) so I have been doing very little all weekend but reading about the horrible ways people have caught animals over the years. I have gotten to look at lots of pictures of ellies, however, which is great, and I found the forum thread on culling really helpful in finding articles about it (thanks!).

So back to the work--and maybe some "special" coffee since it's late here and I'm trying to stay awake :cry:


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Hi icurrie,

Point taken! :D

Thursday, March 22 (continued)

After all the adventure of the morning drive, we left Biyamiti around 11:30. Back on the road again, hooray! I noticed that Portero did not volunteer to let me drive after my driving “adventures” the previous day. :roll: Oh well. But that meant more camera-operating time for me!

Our first sighting was an adult ellie off the Biyamiti road. Next were two zebras (one a baby) having a faceoff with an impala. We drove along S25/Crocodile River Road, getting very nice glimpses of the Crocodile River every now and then. I liked S25—it’s got nice little hills and curves, and the interesting scenery helps make up for the lack of animals.

Luckily, we did see some impala, including this guy:

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All in all, we were having a very pleasant, very mellow drive. Almost as relaxing as the night drive where I almost fell asleep :wink:

And then, at 1:02, we hit a massive traffic jam. I am not sure where, exactly. In my excitement, I completely forgot to note it on my handy map, but it was either on the stretch of H3 between S114 and S110 or in the first few km of S110. Not that I was excited about the traffic jam, of course—there appeared to be more cars crammed into a 25 m stretch than we’d seen in the entire day so far. But clearly they were all looking at something. Something in a tree. Could it be? Yes! An LIT!! Now, as I may have mentioned before, I am a big fan of ellies, giraffes, and zebras (and as of that morning, had become a big fan of bushbabies, or at least of their eyes), and I had not been particularly hell-bent on seeing any cats. Not that I don’t like cats as well—I think they’re great and incredibly exciting creatures, but I had not gone on the trip thinking that it would be a complete disaster if we saw none.

However, from reading the forum I knew how exciting LITs are, and both Portero and I were thrilled to see one. There it sat, up in a tree about 20 meters from the road (don’t quote me on that, I’m bad at distances, but it seemed really close).

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It was awake, but seemingly unbothered by the herd of cars. It walked from one end of a branch toward the trunk, as if it were about to come down, then turned around and lay down on the branch. I hope I didn’t disturb it when, completely without thinking I yelled “Yellow ribbon!” in great excitement when Portero pointed at the car next to us. :redface: (Hopefully I wasn’t too loud, I was just so excited, since it was our first (and only) yellow ribbon sighting, and our first (and only) LIT sighting.) If they heard me, I am sure the yellow ribboners were not too thrilled that their YR sighting of us was marred by some hyperactive newbie. But back to the LIT. We watched it for about 11 minutes, which was a real treat. It was so exciting even just to watch it sitting there! But eventually we decided to move on because of the growing crowd of cars arriving and trying to get a peek.

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So we continued along on S110 toward Berg-en-Dal. The scenery was dramatically different from what we’d seen before: a really pretty blend of reds and oranges and greens. It looked like there may have been a fire at some point.

We arrived at Berg-en-Dal at 1:30, and who should pull up at the same time but the YR car from the LIT sighting! So we got to meet Herma and Ton, who we chatted with over munchies and beer at the take out place. After that, we bought more food at the store, most importantly more Cadbury Flakes and Magnum ice cream bars, and continued on our merry way. On the way out of the camp, there were 3 guinea fowl moseying along near the gate.

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We went back out S110 and up H3, but by then the leopard (and the throngs of cars) was gone. But the scenery was great:

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Oh well, on to more sightings! Heading north on H3, we saw very few animals (I don’t even have impalas marked on my map) but the scenery was so different from what we’d seen in the park so far that it was a pleasure to see. And luckily, there weren’t many other cars.

At 3:47, on the left side of the road just before reaching Afsaal, we saw three rhinos. Each had a big gash right behind the right front shoulder. Very strange. We were close enough (with the binocs and camera zoom) to see bugs in the gashes (maggots?) and birds sitting on the rhinos pecking at the bugs. Two of the rhinos (one somewhat smaller than the other) stuck together while the other wandered off, doing his own thing.

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After watching for a while (with no other cars around), we drove on to Afsaal, mainly because it was time for an ice cream break. :P As we pulled into the parking lot, 2 people were getting into the car next to us, and Portero and I argued over who would get to tell them about the rhino sighting, until we both blurted out at them “There are RHINOS right over there!!!” very excitedly. The other people looked bored.

Leaving Afsaal, Portero finally agreed to let me drive. We went east on H2-2 and saw some impalas, and then north on S114, and saw some impalas and zebras.

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Then we turned onto the Biyamiti road, just in time to see a bunch more impalas, a vervet monkey in a tree, and a really nice sunset. By this time, there were 3 or 4 cars behind us, and I’m sure everyone had realized that we were cutting it close to make the gate. Just as I realized this, we came up to an ellie family crossing the road. I stopped to let them cross and to take some pictures.

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And we both failed to notice the big ellie on the left side of the road until it came out of the bushes and headed toward us, looking mildly irritated, but not quite seriously angry. Still, this quickly led to my first attempt to reverse in a stick-shift in a panic. And slightly up a hill. :shock: Sadly, I missed getting a picture of this.

So . . . as soon as the ellies had safely moved on, we dashed (within the speed limit, of course :)) on toward Biyamiti, along with the long line of cars that had also had to reverse for the ellies with me. Anyway—we got there at 6:01—and luckily they had not closed the gates on us yet. Hooray!

Back at Biyamiti, one of our very friendly neighbors ran up to tell us there was a herd of ellies in the riverbed. So we ran right on down to the fence with some sundowners to watch them. There were 15-20 ellies, including some babies, about 100 m away from us, but they were all walking down the riverbed towards us. A few ellies came up to the fence right next to us and started eating. We watched for at least an hour. It was completely enthralling--really one of the most amazing things I've ever seen :shock: We were close enough to hear them breathing. All of my pictures came out really dark, but I turned on the video so that I could record the sounds of ellies munching and trumpeting. A very exciting end to the day :P

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Unread postPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 10:30 pm 
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Hi all,

Thanks for the comments!!

@katydownunder: no need to be :mrgreen: of me . . . I just saw your most recent trip report! :shock: Your pictures are fantastic, by the way (I especially liked the "pile" of squirrels and the giraffe with the tiny baby giraffe). Anyway, I am very curious about your rhino comments. The next day we told our morning walk guide about our rhino sightings, assuming they'd been white rhinos, and he said he thought they might have been black rhinos, but then we never got around to discussing why he thought they were black rhinos, and although he asked to see the pictures, I didn't have the right memory card to show him. It does look like the rhino in my close-up picture has a pointy lip (like the black rhinos in my guidebook), but we thought they were eating grass--isn't that what white rhinos do? (As you can see, I am a complete rhino novice!) And do you think all three of them were black rhinos, or just the one in the close-up? (The close-up one stayed about 50 m from the other two.) Sorry for all the questions!

@skillie: we just really lucked out--we really wanted to see either an LIT or Duke, but were pretty sure that we'd find neither, so we were incredibly excited about the LIT. I hope you'll see dozens of them in October! :D

@aboon: thanks very much--it was a very entertaining trip! :D

@icurrie: I'm confused--did you think the anthills were lions, or did you think the lions were leopards? :lol: I completely understand, though--I was absolutely convinced that every tree too far from the road to really see must be full of LITs!


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Hi Bushcall,

I didn't see your message until I posted the last one. Hooray, that's 2 votes for black rhinos! I believe you both, of course, I'm just so surprised to hear about it. :dance: And I bet the people we told about the rhinos didn't even go look! :roll:


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Hi Haupie! Yep, from what we could see, they each had a small injury behind the right front shoulder, which we were pretty surprised by. Anyone know why that would be? :hmz:

From looking back through the pictures, I realized that when we first arrived, the three were closer together than I remembered, although one of them eventually wandered away from the other two:
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And I realized that one of the rhinos also had a gash behind his left front shoulder (the rhino to the left in this picture):
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And here's another picture of the rhino that wandered off alone (I like the 2 birds sitting on his head):
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Anyway, I just noticed the "Black Rhino sighting near Afsaal" thread, so I bet two of these rhinos are the same ones that Madach, Muhammad, and Aat saw! But I wonder where the third rhino came from?

Anyway, this is so exciting to find out that they were black rhino--thanks everyone! It's like getting an extra sighting, 2 months after leaving Kruger! :D


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And finally, here's the next installment (thanks for your patience, everyone!) . . .

Friday, March 23

Friday morning got off to an incredibly exciting start, and yet I have no photographic proof. :wall:

We went on a morning walk from Biyamiti with Benjy and Elias, and once again, no one else had signed up for it! The walk started just on the other side of the Biyamiti riverbed, which meant that we had to drive about 10 minutes to get there. As I was looking down to fiddle with the camera (what a rookie mistake!), Benjy jammed on the brakes and started yelling excitedly (but very quietly, if that makes any sense) for me to look up. Sauntering leisurely across the road, as if he had not a care in the world, was a rhino. He paused briefly in the road, just a few feet in front of the jeep, stared directly at us, as if wondering what we were doing there, and then continued on his merry way to the other side of the road. Somehow I managed to keep fiddling with the camera while staring him in the eyes, but whatever was wrong with the camera was not fixed by my clumsy fumbling. Benjy was practically hyperactive with excitement. “That’s a black rhino!” he told us. “I’ve had friends coming here for years who’ve never seen a black rhino! You are so lucky!!” I was flabbergasted that here was a black rhino strolling 5 feet away and I had missed getting its picture. So if you don’t have a picture, did it really happen? :roll: It’s just like meeting a baby panda face-to-face and not being allowed to take a picture because you’re in the backstage area of the zoo :|

(I'm kidding, everyone!!! I will always remember and appreciate the black rhino (and the panda), even without a picture :) )

Anyway . . . Since it was only last week that I learned that we’d seen 3 black rhinos near Afsaal (thanks, sharp-eyed forumites who read my last trip report!), we assumed that this was the only black rhino we’d ever seen (or would ever see). Naturally, as soon as he disappeared in the bushes, the camera was fine. I started frantically waving the camera around and snapping pictures. I got this one—possibly the black rhino, although I didn’t see him at the time I took the picture, and maybe there just happened to have been a white rhino standing in the bushes that we hadn't noticed.

What kind of rhino are you?
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We parked just on the other side of the Biyamiti bridge and got out for the hike, under a brilliant sunrise.

Ahh . . .
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We were told to be very quiet as we walked. The hike was fantastic—it was such a great experience to be on the ground outside of camp with experts pointing out the subtleties of nature. We learned about termites and tracks, and saw a giant shell for a land snail (I had no idea such giant snails existed :shock:)

The giant shell:
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As we walked, Benjy explained that there was a “confused” rhino nearby, but we never saw it. After about ½ an hour we came across a lone ellie, standing about 30 feet away. That was really cool. He didn’t seem to bothered by us, but Benjy whispered at me to take the picture very quickly and then had us all walk away as fast as possible.

So here’s my one and only (and very blurry) picture of the ellie:
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After walking a bit further, we stopped for juice and a snack and a chat. After that we headed back toward the car, stopping along the way for various animal tracks and all sorts of interesting lessons about plants and dung and bugs.

Finally we got back to the jeep and headed for Biyamiti. Soon we came across a herd of ellies walking along next to the river road. There were several adults and three or four baby ellies, although I think there were more walking in the bushes out of sight. We drove slowly along at their pace until suddenly one of the ellies started trumpeting really loudly. Benjy immediately sped up to get away from the herd, and I tried getting a video of the ellies as we drove away, but I couldn’t get the camera up quickly enough so I wound up with a very funny video with really loud trumpeting and very blurry frantic camera motion as I tried to catch a glimpse of the ellies but only caught a lot of bushes. It’s a fun video to show friends—from all the noise and frenetic motion you’d think we were running on foot through a jungle chased by really angry bulls. :)

Back at Biyamiti, I took a walk while Portero snoozed. I went to the bird hide, then walked along the fence in front of the bungalows.

Along the fence:
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My little hike was amazing! A herd of about twenty ellies was in the riverbed, with one family about 30 m from the fence (an adult and three smaller ellies, although at first I didn’t even see the smallest one). I stood by the fence for about an hour watching them. The grass was fairly high in the riverbed but I still had a fairly good view and could hear them when the breeze blew in the right direction. It was definitely one of the many highlights of the trip. :P The 2 small baby ellies were especially fun to watch.

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After drinking and throwing sand for awhile, the four headed back toward the rest of the herd (about 100 m away), walking in height order. (Do most ellies do that? I’d seen other families walk in height order as well.)

Off they go:
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After they rejoined some of the herd:
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I left only after the whole herd had wandered back out of the riverbed, up the bank on the opposite side, and completely disappeared from view. I returned to the bungalow to find minor chaos—Portero slamming a door to one room and some scuffling and scratching noises coming from inside. Wildlife! A squirrel had apparently gotten into one of the rooms (I don’t know how) and Portero had spotted it and tried, valiantly, to chase it out the window. I’ve had my own exciting experiences with squirrels—when I was sitting at my desk one day at work, a hungry squirrel jumped through the open window and landed on my head, and got its little paws stuck in my curly hair, while I jumped up and down to try to get it off.

My office buddy, about to pounce (probably looking like his Kruger kinsman):
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But the Kruger squirrel was all alone and clearly unsure of where to go. We called the Biyamiti office, and the manager came over and tried to escort the squirrel out, but the little guy had crawled up into the ceiling. I hope he got out eventually!

So all in all, a very exciting morning!


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What an interesting report weebirdy :clap: I wonder what the trumpeting was about when you shot your funny video? Did Benjy say? :lol:

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Thanks very much, Pumbaa and Skillie! :P

Skillie, no, Benjy didn't say what the trumpeting was about. They were walking along parallel to the road, going in the same direction we were, but they were behind a bunch of trees and bushes most of the time, and headed down toward the river. Perhaps he (she?) thought we were going to follow them? I don't think we did anything threatening. Maybe they were just having fun with us :dance: Maybe he/she recongnized me from watching by the fence the previous night and thought, "oh no, not you again!" :roll:


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