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 Post subject: AV-TR Intro (Day 1 & 2 Mopanie)
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:14 pm 
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After an absence for a while pursuing other interests (before we get way too old for quad bikes & a R1200RT touring bike) we went back to Kruger again for a 7 day visit. This time around we decided to go for the chalets and rondawels and stay in the camps where we have not done so in the past. I prefer camping and I must admit that after this trip I still feel the same – reasons will be explained later. I will split up the report in a few, rather than a single long post.

We left Kempton Park at around two in the morning on Sunday the 2nd September with our first stop just past the Strydom Tunnel at the Manoutsa caravan park.
@WTM – (Dirk) this one’s for you – unfortunately I only have about one minutes worth of video as evidence, but, we saw a bosloerie (Narina Trogon) whilst making some coffee. SWMBO were told in a very stern voice to drop everything and get the bins NOW, and we were rewarded with a beautiful display of those vibrant red and green feathers.

We drove past Letsitele to the Phalaborwa gate and even saw two Njala bulls slowly crossing the road – with a Gymnogene to keep them company, just before entering the town. Some last minute shopping done and we were finally home again. OK, so what did we see first? Impala, Koedoe, Ellie, nah!! - a humble Tortoise crossing with us guarding his slow progress to ensure his safety. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised not to have witnessed any road kill on this trip.

Rest of the way to Mopanie delivered the usual – if you want to call them that – Impies, Koedoe, Steenbok, an Ellie having a mud bath, breeding herd of Ellies, two sets of old Dagha boys (4 & 6) and our first large herd of Buffs on the H1-6. I would like to find a way to estimate the numbers in these herds as this was the first of many sightings of such large herds.

We then spent a few hours relaxing on the deck overlooking the dam to regain our strength. Spotted four Buffs and some Waterbuck drinking with the ever present Fish Eagle letting us know we are where we supposed to be. During a lazy late afternoon drive we saw the first of our specials that have managed to evade us in the past – 4 Basterhartbees and I got a few nice shots of them. On the birding front we saw a pair of African Hawk Eagles, a Secretary bird and a Tawny Eagle.

Day 2 we took a slow drive out to Thongonyeni dam and spent about two hours there, during which time we saw quite a number of game coming down to drink:- Zebs, a few Blouwildebeest, Hyena having a mud bath, male Ostrich, some Impies, female Steenbokkie, 6 Hartbeeste (again), a Roojakkals crossing right in front of our vehicle and a pair of Secretary birds. On the way there we also saw three Giraffe – we spotted very few of them in the North – and two lonely Ellies.

My highlight of the day happened on the way to the first Nshawa water point – saw three Rietbok (two males and a female) lying down and at the exact moment I saw them the elusive Roan ran across the road. It happened pretty quickly but I was almost certain that I saw two of them. What to do now? I had to try and get shots of both species if I could. Get a quick one of the Rietbok that were lying down and then back up quickly to try to get one of the Roans. Eventually turned around instead of backing up and finally spotted him again in the distance. We turned around again to find another 4 Basterhartbees and the Rietbokke patiently awaiting our return.

Two young chaps came to a screeching halt next to us to enquire about what we were looking at, spooking the Rietbuck in the process and then triumphantly informing us that they spotted a few Zebs at some dried up dam further back. We saw another Roan at one of the other Nshawa water points – this one wore a collar and I could only get some video footage. Back home I noticed that this one wore a collar – maybe the reason why they are so skittish around vehicles?

The afternoon drive produced a small breeding herd of Ellies around Mooiplaas, 10 Koedoes, 2 large Ellies, 3 Buffs, a lone Rhino’s backside (anyone up to try and id let me know & I will post the phodie), a pair of Woollynecked Storks and a Blackheaded Heron. The day ended as usual with another beautiful sunset.

Rest will follow later during the week.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 7:42 am 
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AV-TR Day 3 & 4 Olifants

Due to me making a mistake with our bookings we now had to move to Olifants via Lethaba – only to move back up to Shingwedzi two days later. Do you think there was any method in this madness? I think so…………

What can I say about Olifants? I have heard about the term being used that people like to smell the thatch when entering the park. Well at Olifants we had rondawel no 87, you know the one next to the guest house sharing the same magnificent view. Beautiful to just sit and stare into the river below, that previously were limited to a few visits from Balule to stock up on supplies. Oh yes, the smell of thatch………nah, rather the smell of longdrops………it’s time for Olifants to upgrade to some new technology in that department. No way we could have and enjoy a braai outside………..

Leaving Mopanie at 06:00 driving on tar to Lethaba we saw a breeding herd of 30 Ellies playing and chasing each other in the dust close to Middelvlei. We saw 8 Lone Ellie bulls, a lone Giraffe, 2 large Warthogs and a family of 7 Bushpigs (a first time for me – in broad daylight nogal) and the ever present Impies. In the birding department we saw two Secretary Birds in a thorn tree as well as a Coucal sunning itself in the early morning rays.

Very close to Letaba we spent about two hours to get a still rather poor shot of a big Tusker feeding on a thorn tree. No, it’s not Tsotsi, but could this one be another candidate for the large ones in the making?

Rest of the day spent admiring that very familiar view from Olifants.

Up walked 3 Lions between those large trees and we spent the rest of the afternoon watching them through the bins. I also managed to get them on video.

A trip to Olifants cannot be complete without spending time on at least one of the bridges; and we dutifully did so at 06:30 the following morning after being entertained by a pair of Trumpeter Hornbills (a lifer for me and my wife). Interesting to play a little game on the bridge – list all you can see and then compare to what other people see. Check how they spot a few Crocs, maybe the Hippo, then get back in the vehicle after a maximum of 15 minutes to drive off again.

I deliberately let SWMBO do the spotting and she saw:- 3 Buffaloes (hardly anyone saw them unless we pointed them out), Crocs, Hippo, Impies, Zebs, large troop of Baboons, Koedoe. The following birds:- Tawny Eagle up close, Giant Eagle Owl (boy did I get my hopes up when she said OWL), YBK, Fish Eagle having a bath, Giant Heron, Blackheaded Heron, Grey Heron, Yellowbilled Stork, Whitecrowned Lapwing, 4 Flamingoes flying past (first time for us in the park), Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee Eater, Whitefronted Bee Eater, African Pied Wagtail & then she gave up on the swallows & LBJ’s.

Driving back to Olifants just before the viewpoint we saw a male Lion with two females – too far away for decent phodies; but little did I know we were to meet again in a few days time………..to witness something rarely seen by anybody.

Back in camp we saw the same three lions from the previous day strolling back into view only to sleep it off till to dark to see them anymore. We sat for a while watching 4 magnificent Koedoe bulls from the general viewpoint. Back at no 87 with the smelly view I was watching some Baboons, heard their alarm call, and picked up the Waterbuck and up walks a Leopard into view. Interesting behavior from the Waterbuck, one female took a charge of about two meters towards the Leopard which almost ignored her, and then the male Waterbuck charged and the Leopard got the message and sprinted away to disappear behind the bushes and remained out of sight till dark.

We were to revisit Olifants on our way out because I left my tripod the following morning, and oh yes, my beanbag tore open spilling its contents on my lap – so it was handheld shooting all the way.

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 Post subject: AV-TR Day 5 & 6 Shingwedzi
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 9:51 am 
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Back to Mopanie via Lethaba and then via the S144 Old Main road to Shingwedzi.

By now we were naming them the Mopanie Secretary birds – this time they were out hunting, the same 7 bush pigs, the three Tsendze Ellie bulls, etc. We also saw one of the biggest herds that I have ever seen of Buffs as well as a breeding herd of Ellies with lots of babies near Mopanie.

Then we had an Ellie road block that lasted at least two hours. Two young ones at each other, one not allowing the other to cross the tar road, a few brave souls in a minivan making some noise by hitting on the side of the vehicle with their fists, only to meet with the wrath of both Ellies and backing up for at least 500 yards. We recorded our second sighting for the day of a very large herd of Buffs at Bowkerskop.

On the old main road it was by then very hot and thus very quiet. We only saw 2 Ellie bulls, as well as the now well known Ellie carcass lying right next to the road.
Couple of Ostriches – two males and a female with a few chicks concluded the sightings up to the camp.

Afternoon drive out the back gate to Kanniedood dam produced Ellies, Waterbuck, large Crocs, some more Ellies (as well as one having a drink in the dry river sand bed in a hole that he dug), Koedoe, Njala, Hippo, Sharps Grysbok, more Njala. Birding was magnificent, with a repeat from what we saw on the Olifants bridge, but adding the following:- Saddle Billed Stork, Guinea Fowl, Little Egret, African Spoonbill with juvenile, Hadeda Ibis, a single lost Pelican, a pair of Egyptian Geese, Blackwinged Stilt, African Snipe and Paradise Flycatcher. We also heard the familiar sounds of the Parrots and Grey Headed Bush Shrike during the next two days.

Early next morning we had a visitor in the kitchen sink.

The Mphongolo road to Babalala gave us a break to just drive slowly and admire the great big trees. I can understand why people keep going back there – Nico and Yvonne you guys still around? We watched a family of White Helmet Shrikes going about their daily routine and just enjoyed the peace and quiet of the area.

In the afternoon we just drove up and down the tar road to Lamont and back down towards Mopanie. Some more old Buffs (3’s & 6’s) as well as 3 ground Hornbills in perfect light – why do they always blink when you press that button?

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 10:01 am 
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AV-TR Day 7 & 8 - out at Orpen

Day 7 on the way to Red Rocks produced a family of 5 Hyena, a breeding pair of Eagle Owls – we sat listening to their early morning goodnight calls, troop of Baboons, another herd of Ellies, 6 Njalas, Koedoes, Impies, Zebs, Giraffe, another breeding herd of Ellies, Giant Eagle Owl with a catch, an Ellie wearing a collar, a beautiful Sharps Grysbokkie up close and Brown headed Kingfisher.

We saw an Ellie with rather large tusks that I videoed the previous day acting strangely. Up walks a contender for his space and the standoff begins. We spent about an hour watching the scratching/digging in tandem with their feet and then picking up some of the dirt and squirting each other. They were standing so close to us and to each other that you could hear their flapping ears hitting each other. We left because it just got too hot in the vehicle and nature called as well. Close to the camp on the tar road we saw another sand digging Ellie and then three female Lions with 5 cubs and the obvious traffic jam.

We decided to spend a quiet afternoon in the camp to regain our strength for the long road home the following day.

Picture this, we had to drive from Shingwedzi via Mopanie, Lethaba, pop in at Olifants to pick up the tripod, Satara and out at Orpen. Now, I’m used to driving at around 10 – 15 k/h in the park so I was speeding at 30 k/h all the way to Orpen. I’m just going to list what we saw to those that are still reading all this and then try to describe the highlight of the trip.

On the tar road between Shingwedzi and Orpen on our last day we saw:-
Fish Eagle, 6 Heyena, 2 Steenbokkies, family of White Helmet Shrikes, 6 Buffs, pair of Kori Bustard, Waterbuck, another large herd of Buffs near Mooiplaas, Bateleur Eagle, Mopanies breeding herd of Ellies again, 1 magnificant Kudu bull with 5 females, single Ellie bull, another very large herd of Buffs and Zebs at Middelvlei dam, 4 Ground Hornbills, 2 Ellie bulls and a smaller herd (about 30) Buffs.

Close to Lethaba some Ellies again, 4 Giraffe in the riverbed, 2 large Koedoe bulls, Sandgrouse and a Tawny eagle.

Just about a kilometer before the Olifants bridge we noticed another roadblock. We finally got our turn to get reasonably close and as soon as I switched off the vehicle I heard the distinct call of a Lion cub. We sat there for more than an hour and I will have to describe what we saw as I got absolutely no usable video or phodies of either the mom – I just saw her briefly disappearing into the bush – nor the babies, nor any of the proud daddy.

Dad was acting strangely, giving me the eye, sort of tired look in those yellow eyes – at that point he was a mere four meters away from me. He very carefully and slowly maneuvered himself, then sitting up, then sitting down, then again trying to lie down. All the time gently pawing his three cubs born but an hour ago. We spoke to the people at Satara that witnessed the cubs still covered in blood with mom cleaning them after the birth. It should now be rather obvious why I could not get any phodies – mom and dad did a very good job of hiding those brats of theirs.

Suffice to say that even my favorite Olifants bridge paled into insignificance after what we just witnessed.

On the road to Satara we noticed an increase in numbers of Zebs, Impies, Wildebeest and Giraffe. We spotted another pair of Homo sapiens trying to stretch their necks as tall as the giraffe’s in the background. Another two sightings of Ostrich ( first 2 and then 4 with chicks in tow), another herd of about 300 Buffs – check out the one using her horn as a pillow. Amazing that after all my visits to the park I have only seen a large herd near Lethaba once before – then on this trip……..

The resident 3 Ground Hornbills and a quick pit stop at Satara to meet the new receptionist that winked at me. Nsemane dam produced another herd of Ellies rolling in the mud and then dusting themselves. Just before the Phelwane river on the Rabelais dirt road (yes, I had to get in a few kilometers on dirt before we go out the gate) we saw another 3 Ground Hornbill, a family of warthog trying to find some water in the almost dry Phelwane and a final 3 Ground Hornbill close to the Talamati road. Our final sightings were a Tawny Eagle on the nest, two large Kudu bulls and a male Ostrich.

The last bit is not Sanparks related, but please forgive me for this. Those of you that are familiar with the area around Klaserie – around Moholoholo – this is what we found.

It just broke my heart – rather obvious that those fires were started deliberately. The helicopter and ground teams were trying to subdue the flames in at least four areas that I could spot from the road.

14 hours later – we clocked back in safely but very tired.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 10:31 am 
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Yes Bert, words cannot describe the feeling when I recognized the sound of those cubs. I have heard it so many times before, but never in Kruger until now. Also bear in mind the traffic jam at the time - I just had to allow other people to witness and share the same experience.

Salva, Buffs and Ellies - reading my own report again, I also find it hard to believe that we really saw that many. It is possible that we ran into one of the large herds on more than one occasion, we surely did on one of the bachelor groups as I recognised a specific individual.

BB, unfortunately I did not meet prings - I do have a few phodies as well as video of the male - but the quality :wink: . You'd be hard pressed to even recognise the dad, let alone ID a cub.


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