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 Post subject: Kruger September 2007 - Richard's trip!
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 1:22 pm 
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About to set off for 2 weeks. Will be posting reports whilst there via e-mail and a kind friend in the UK!

Hope to meet 2 old friends whilst there - and two forumites for the first time (Zypresse and Skillie).

First report on Wednesday.

Richard


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 Post subject: In the Park - Day 1
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:27 pm 
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Its been a strange day! Overcast, really very cold and threatening to rain. Obviously has been raining in several places we have driven through. Usually amuses me to see all the locals in thick coats / sweaters while I am in shirt and shorts - but today I was a bit jealous! All the 7 day and longer forecasts had been for 25 degrees upwards so I have not bought anything very warm. Hopefully tomorrow will be different; we have sat outside for dinner tonight (the excellent Selati restaurant in Skukuza) and its been much warmer than at any time today.

We were both fairly tired this morning after the long journey yesterday but still managed to get up, breakfast and set off from the carhire at Jo'burg airport by 9. Very easy journey though a little slower than usual due to roadworks; no holdups, just speed restrictions.

We entered the Park at Malelane gate, having spent a few minutes on the Crocodile river bridge. Lots of birdlife (great white egret, pied kingfisher, jacana, fish eagle, egyptian goose and at least 2 swifts or swallows which I successfully failed to identify!).

The journey to Skukuza was very quiet, and still cold and overcast. Saw several species, but only small numbers. A few elephant, 3 zebra, 2 hyaena, about 15 impala, a few wildebeest, 3 kudu. Quite a few birds, including a couple of unidentified eagles (one was probably a juvenile, white front except black face and neck, white on top of head, 'speckled back').

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Can some one tell me what this tree is? The only blue tree I know is the jacaranda and this does not look look right. And I thought the Park was/has removed all of them anyway.

Best sightings were in the camp; a bush baby on the way to dinner, and a small genet on the way back!

Dinner was some excellent kingklip accompanied by Castle and followed by amarula.

Tomorrow is our longest drive, up to Mopani. Hoping for some good sitings on the way.


Last edited by richardharris on Mon Oct 22, 2007 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Day 2,3
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 11:21 am 
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Day 2 started off much better. Though the air was cool it seemed clear and promised a glorious day. And it was, in more ways than one. By midmorning it was getting warm and lunchtime onwards it was blue skies and hot.

It was a great days spotting as well. We left Skukuza via the 2 low causeways across the Sabie and the Sand rivers (ie the H1-2). Both rivers were flowing but only just, especially the
Sand which was just a trickle. The odd hippo seen plus the usual waterbirds - but including a stilt.

Along the stretch parallel with the Sand, before the H12 turning, we saw two large troups of baboon, obviously very successful with individuals of all ages - and plenty of trying to make the next generation!

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Hopefully some good photos from now on too; yesterday had been much too dark. Ray wanted to take a photo of an impala, which of course I allowed, only to meet a group of cars stopped where a leopard had crossed the road, and was now invisible!

This was partly made up by an elephant herd which crossed the road - 20 or so including some very small ones. We also passed a couple of trees with a large number of vultures; just roosting not at a kill. Mostly hooded.

The Mantimahle Dam was almost dry but two saddlebilled stork were still managing to survive there. We took a brief detour up the S36 which was lucky; a beautiful group of male kudu, and 3 white rhino (though these were not in a site suitable to be photographed).

We rejoined the H1-2 and continued towards Tshokwane. Leeupan was completely dry. Siloweni was as low as I have seen it but still supported a lot of wildlife. Hippo, impala (two very large groups) and 15 elephant. And lots of birds, including two presumed juvenile fish eagle.

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We soon realised it is the year of the kudu; we kept seeing male groups, female groups and mixed groups! All the way up to Letaba.

Breakfasted at Tshokwane; we would call it the full English, but they call the carnivore!! Surrounded by numerous glossy starling - what a way to breakfast. Briefly met Elsa and Penny - the only yellow ribbons so far.

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Things then started to improve! Mazithi Dam was virtually dry - but coming up from it, then crossing the road, was a stunning male nyala. First time I have seen one anywhere near there. Parfuri, Punda, Shingwedzi, Olifants and Sabie, yes. Middle of nowhere, no!

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In the same area, on the other side of the N'waswitsontso, we watched a male and two female lion for several minutes as they walked down the river side. They eventually disappeaed into the dry river bed.

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We were advised to take the S86 loop - only a few kms - where we saw 4 adolescent lions feeding on a kudu kill. First kill I have seen in several trips. Only adults around were two females, both lying down and panting. Presumably felt like I do after eating too much!

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The dry conditions continued; Kumana dry, Nkaya dry and a huge area south of Satara burnt and still smoldering. One small patch north of Satara was still burning. Saw our third lion sighting north of Satara - a bit dull this one, a solitary lion lying several hundred yards away.

As we crossed the plains north of Satara I told Ray that a cheetah or secretary bird would be great. And moments later we found a secretary bird just to the side of the road. Best view of one of these in 20 years. Especially good as a friend has managed to get a better photo than me - till now! Then we passed a tree with a brown snake eagle and two ground hornbill resting in.

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Ngotso Dam looked dry from the road and most cars were not bothering with it. We decided to try anyway and were rewarded with a small puddle of water and two woolley necked stork.

The Olifants is as low as I can remember (I never saw it when it stopped flowing two years ago). But the bridge was well worth stopping on as usual. Lots of elephant, hippo, yellowbilled stork, a ?black kite, and the scarse white crowned plover (only seen here and at Parfuri).

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From here to Mopani there was little to report. The Letaba is also very low but does appear to be flowing. Lots of zebra at Malopenyana (the H15 junction). Middlevlei is dry. Nothing to be seen at Klein Nshawu. And some very small blacksmith plover chicks on the causeway near the Shipandani hide.

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Very nice meal at Mopani with a bottle of white. And now its time for bed!

I can be much briefer about Friday. It bagan very overcast and cool and carried on like that. Did eventually warm up but was pretty overcast all day, with the odd spell of light rain. The lack of sun meant iso 800 and 1600; not ideal for great photos.

The spell before breakfast was OK for spotting. Had meant to go to Shingwedzi up the S50 but I gathered that the Grootvlei Dam is dry and that was the main reason for that route. So we did the main road north to the Tropic of Capricorn loop then back on the S50 and S49. Saw a white rhino very close to Mopani (we gathered it had been resettled here fairly recently) then some buffalo and elephant. And a nyala - again a first for this area.

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The N'wambu pan was dry but the waterhole halfway down the loop was doing great business. Numerous zebra and wildebeest and a pair of tessebee. Loads of birds here too; doves galore as well as large flocks of a small finch like bird. A ?? juvenile ovambo sparrowhawk kept trying to catch one! Thats only a guess at identity as being the closest to the pictures in my guide! (see the birds forum).

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Two other birds caught our attention. Two huge birds swooped in and turned out to be more secretary birds. And a very distinctive sparrow like (but smaller) bird but with black and white head we reckon must be the chestnutbacked finch lark (no doubt has a new name now). Also saw some oistrich.

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Along the Nshawu marshes we saw some southern or common reedbuck. May have seen them before but this is the first positive ID. This is a male and female; note the dark sripe down the front leg.

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Finally a large herd of buffalo before breakfast on the verandah at Mopani.

The journey to Shingwedzi was almost uneventful except for two things. Because I have never done it before we did the S142 loop around Mopani. Saw nothing except 2 giraffe. OK, a few birds as well but not many of those either. Even the bird hides were not very interesting.

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Double banded sandgrouse, bateleur eagle and white headed vulture.

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A pygmy mongoose.

Two adult oistrich and 10 young were the first event, just before the Bateleur turning. Always amusing. But the most amazing site was the carcass of an elephant in the Shingwedzi bed near Joao waterhole. As far as I can gather it just died there; currently feeding a very large number of vultures. We were told that hyaena were seen staggering away yesterday, having eaten much too much. We will return there tomorrow, after our first 4x4 adventure trail.

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Sadly, there will be more!!


Last edited by richardharris on Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:52 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Day 6,7 (See below for days 4,5)
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:26 pm 
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Whilst I am thinking of it I must mention one thing we saw yesterday; nyala at the Shidlayengwenya waterhole, near Mopani. Seems nyala have spread to most areas of the Park!

Saturday's story is mostly about the weather unfortunately. It started off very gloomy, cool and overcast and stayed that way until about 12.30. Apart from a few brief spells when we thought the sun was going to break through. After 12.30 things got worse; even darker, rumbles of thunder, evil dark skies in the distance, and some spots of rain. We had just got back to Shingwedzi when the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour along with a VERY impressive thunderstorm literally overhead!

We stayed in for a couple of hours after that waiting for the 'floods'to subside. It was brighter in the evening so we went out for the last hour. First to see a family of eagle owls just outside the gate, then a brief trip down the S50 river road to see what conditions were like. Seems there is quite a bit of water around and a lot of birdlife so thats where we will go in the morning. We have already seen a white pelican and have been told there is a sacred ibis there too.

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So briefly back to the morning. We drove up to Babalala where we had breakfast. Seen very little except one huge herd of buffalo.

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A few kms south a huge area had been burnt a week ago - and it spreads all the way up to the powerlines. Goes way east as well; the 4x4 trail goes through burnt areas for much of its length and in places it goes as far as the eye could see.

Sirheni had a lucky escape and how they saved Babala beats me. A lot of hard work by some brave individuals. The picnic site is ringed by burnt ground, coming within 3 feet!!! Its thought it was started by a cigarette. And its still smoldering in places.

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The 4x4 trail was great fun, and you see several different geological areas with quite different plant life. But very little game; a couple of elephant, two oistrich, some impala - not a lot else. No roan or eland, not even in the roan reserve.

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It is very noticeable that the Parks Board do not want game in the north, other than the rare antelope. On the trail every waterhole is shut down, and a large dam has been destroyed. There is no water here at all. Even on the main road at least half of the waterholes are dry.

I know the arguments they would make about this but I think it is very dangerous. The animals that they are forcing to migrate might not come back if there is water on the Mozambique side - and tourists won't come to the north either. A few hardened individuals like myself might as I still love the north and the birdlife - but driving for several hours and seeing nothing is hard and even I have trouble persuading friends to come here.

No doubt the Parks Board will say that 90% of their revenue comes from tourists who never cross the Letaba so who cares?!

I hope to try another 4x4 trail further south, assuming this torrential rain does not continue and close all the side roads!

Tomorrow is down the Shingwedzi, then breakfast, then up to Punda.

I will keep this half brief - it will get boring otherwise. There is a surprising amount of water in the Shingwedzi both sides of the dam. More than in February, which does not make sense. Loads of waterbirds; grey and goliath heron, saddlebilled and yellowbilled stork, great white and cattle egrets, sandpipers, ?greenshank, stilts, egyptian geese, hadedah ibis, and of course the white pelican. But no sacred ibis. Mammals not in great abundance, but a reasonable number of the commoner types.

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We had a great breakfast with our friends at Shingwedzi, during which we put the world to rights! If only we were running the Parks Board.

The rather gloomy morning was beginning to brighten. We went to look at the elephant carcass before heading north to Punda. Nothing much was happening here - presumably every hyaena and vulture within a 100 miles was completely full up! The journey up to Punda was pretty much uneventful other than some great sitings of martial eagles; you will have to wait to see the photos.

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After checking in to Punda we did the Mahonie loop and saw very little. One nyala and four kudu, and a few birds. That was it. No elephant, no impala. Again the windmills have been turned off so waterholes dry. The dam just around from Punda (anticlockwise) was dry as was Matukwale - though the small stream there did have a trickle flowing. We did see a number of birds, though I miss my friends Alan and Sue to help identify the small brown ones! One we did manage was an immature brownhooded kingfisher. No idea what it was until it called out; that clinched it.

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Tomorrow is Parfuri for most of the day. We met Zypress and partner today and had a drink with them tonight. They tell us that the Luvuvhu is flowing, so weather permitting, we should have a fabulous day. Hopefully the 4 of us will dine together tomorrow evening.


Last edited by richardharris on Sun Nov 04, 2007 11:00 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Days 4,5
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:28 pm 
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Monday, so it must be Parfuri. For those who don't know, its the most beautiful part of the Park, has stunning birdlife, and still has a lot of game - unlike the rest of the north. Its just a shame that large areas have been given over to private operators to the exclusion of normal tourists. Rumour has it that even more may be given over, including Punda Maria. That really will be the end of the north as far as I am concerned.

The day started black and overcast; just as well there is nothing to see till near Parfuri! It gradually brightened and became our second best day; bright and pretty warm.

The Luvuvhu river is really flowing well; it has risen in the last two days following the storms we experienced. Even the Limpopo is flowing, which is very unusual in my experience.

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Lots of game to see, from the very numerous nyala, through impala, kudu, elephant, zebra, hippo and even a great view of a Sharpe's grysbok. After all these trips I am begining to see the differences in the small (and larger) antelopes. And plenty of the prolific vervet and baboons.

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Birdlife was also prolific; whitefronted bee-eaters every where, a woolleynecked stork, white crowned plover, several kingfisher, a probable juvenile black heron (a photo will follow for help), amazing views of a fish eagle doing the crawl, and probably the best of the day, excellent sightings of the crested guineafowl. Trying for these for several trips. No longtailed starling though.

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As always there was one person who insisted we go somewhere to see something which we never see when we do. On this occasion it was a leopard kill on Nyala Drive, with a mother and young leopard. We, of course, saw nothing!

The Klopperfontein dam was very dissappointing, being much dryer than I have ever seen it, with little to be seen. But this is probably end of winter rather than anything deliberate.

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Last night we had a drink with zypress (Ulrika and Juvie); we got together tonight for dinner in the restaurant (very good food) where I discovered I hate them. They assure me they saw a herd of 30 roan near Babalala today and have photos to prove it!!! Despite this, we are still meeting up at Skukuza on our last night with Skillie.

One more bit of news, which may have been reported elsewhere and I missed it. Frank is no longer looking after Parfuri. After a somewhat difficult conversation I thought he was off somewhere shooting things. Actually he is learning to use a rifle so he can start leading some birdwatching walks, based at Parfuri. That sounds like a good bit of news for a change.

Tuesday started off in the same way as usual; dark and overcast. Quite odd as the nights tend to be incredibly clear with fantastic views of the stars and the Milky Way. There was even some rain on our way down to Babala. And no, we did not see any roan, as usual! Just before the picnic spot I stopped to look at a herd of Tsessebe and by chance zypresse stopped beside us. Some small revenge was had as their car was too low for them to see the herd. Mind you they were a long way off and not worth a photo.

We had breakfast at Shingwedzi, and had another chat with our friends Henry and Jeanine. They were just about to go on leave with their two young daughters to the north Natal coast. Sounds idilic.

Went down the S50 gravel road to Mopani. The first 20km has to be some of the best in the Park. OK, less likely to see lion (though you can) but I reckon its way better than the S100. Plenty of water still remains (though the Shingwedzi is not flowing yet) both sides of the dam, and there is plenty of game and birds. Saw the pelican again - and the sacred ibis. OK, not exactly rare in South Africa but not seen often in the Park. One more rumour; if the Kanniedood dam becomes damaged it won't be repaired. I really hope this one is not true as I would regard that as an ecological crime!

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By now the day had brightened up and by midmorning the sky was blue and it was getting hot. I had to wear my hat to keep cool rather than keep my head warm!

Despite what we had been told earlier Grootvlei does have some water in and a few waterbirds were there. Including a woolynecked stork. By driving around the side I hoped to get some really good close photos. I was just about to shoot when the bird flew off. I really was surprised as we had crept up really slowly. Then I saw why; two army types came walking up to the waters edge and waved hello to us! Presumably on poatcher patrol, which I fully support but what bad timing!!! Still a great view of a blackbreasted snake eagle almost made up for it; a beautiful eagle.

On our way down to Letaba from Mopani we saw a moderate amount of game, though nothing exceptional. Best was a very large herd (or possibly 3 large herds) of buffalo. We didn't count but there must have been close on 1000.

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By now the day was doing its best to ruin things; thick black clouds roling in from the west. Presumably heavy rain on the Drakensburgs. Thunder later tonight but no rain yet. I just hope we are allowed to do the 4x4 trail near Phalaborwa tomorrow. The Letaba river has gone from a feeble trickle a few days ago (as previously reported) to having more water than I can remember, except when I was here in February 2000 during the floods. All looks beuatiful. We have both commented on how flowers have appeared in 4 days, green grass is shooting, and there are much greater numbers of reptiles and insects.

Last note; the Letaba restaurant is still unique, offering an excellent menu and superb food. Great staff too.


Last edited by richardharris on Mon Oct 29, 2007 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Day 8,9
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 8:02 pm 
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First the weather. Today started dull and even some spots of rain. Could have gone either way. By midday though it was turning into a glorious day; the hottest and sunniest we have had.

Yet more insects though. At one point we drove through a cloud of what can best be described as green fly, that harmless to humans but real garden pest. They got everywhere. I am glad I had sprayed myself with the DEET this morning as I am sure they would have been the African Biting Green Fly! Despite the DEET I have acquired a series of tiny but itching bites up my left arm. No idea what this was ? an ant.

Today was the day of the second 4x4 trail; the Nonokani trail which is organised at the Phalaborwa Gate. As an aside, a lot of work going on here. It will be a posh new gate soon.This trail starts on the H9 near the Masorini ruins, runs south to the Olifants river, then runs north to end on the H9 again, behind Sable Dam.

This trail makes the northern one look like a kiddies trail. This one had some very steep hills, some incredibly rough terrain, some water to cross, and a number of dry river beds covered in deep sand. All terrific fun! It goes through some amazing scenery with some great views of the Olifants river. All in all it makes you admire the early settlers who fought their way across this with horse and cart.

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Initially saw very little game. The Reevoel Dam could be spectacular but for some reason isn't! Still appears to have a good amount of water, but very few birds, and as far as we could tell no crocs or hippos. Wouldn't go swimming though.

Past the Dam you climb upwards through some strange landscape with loads of termite hills. Much to our surprise, an African wildcat leapt out of a hole in one of them and raced away - straight through a group of impala, causing considerable mayhem! Great siting but much too quick for a photo.

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We stopped for a drink and stretch of leg a couple of times by the Olifants. The first time two 'rangers'on patrol drove up and a group of workmen appeared the second time. It seems no matter how far away we try to go, we will not have a quiet time. From what we could tell the Olifants does not seem to have been affected by the recent rains. Did not see much in the river - some water birds and a few hippo.

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Interestingly we passed several rhino middens on the way down to the Olifants but no sign of the rhino.

The way back was much bumpier and less interesting until the last 5 kms. We suddenly hit an area with several active mudholes - and lots of elephant. We called it the elephant run as we diced with death! The first group had lots of babies so we had to wait till none of the young seemed separated from mother before driving through them. Very calmly slowly and safely of course.

The next two lots were no problem though one did give us a mild trumpet.

The last was a lone bull, mere feet from the sides of the road. And these roads were not made to go forward on let alone reverse on! So we crept up then raced past (calmly and slolwy though); I think he was more surprised than we were.

Sable Dam is very low; the end away from the birdhide is completely dry. Even the wet end had very little to see in it.

After reporting back to Phalaborwa, where they expressed great surprise to see us again, we went back to Letaba via the low level causeway on the H14 (though its been raised a bit since the flood). Haven't been to see this crossing for a number of years - and saw almost nothing there now. And I normally love the low level crossings.

We then turned around and did the gravel road back to Letaba; another large buffalo herd but not a lot else.

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All in all a great day, if slightly disappointing game viewing. Though the wildcat made up for that! And the drive was great. And a couple of shots to show how the Letaba can look!

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One minor problem which has been mentioned before by myself and others. We were very tired tonight and could not face the excellent 6 course dinner: we would not justify the 125 rand. But the only alternative is a burger or similar in the cafe which closes at 7pm. I know the problems but at least keep the cafes open till 8.

Weather report for Thursday. Started with blue skies and just got better. Went over 100 degrees by midday. We did try to stay 'green' though. We did not put the aircon on in the car, just kept the windows down. After all we did not want to put too much strain on the 6 Litre turbo deisel engine. ( Only kidding, I bet its not even 3L).

We have paid for the weather though. I am currently sitting in the middle of another violent storm; torrential rain, flashes of lightening and deafening thunder. Just hope the gravel roads survive this downpour. And the lights, they have been flickering badly!

Today I have done everything right to show Ray lots of game; but it has been another day of birds. Where is all the game? Ray was here 10 years ago but at the same time of year. He has noticed a real change in the quantity of game seen.

First thing we did the S46 down to the Engelhard Dam, doing all the loops down to the river. Saw a few impala, a giraffe, and three waterbuck. Went the other way to do a favourite loop, the S69, and saw nothing. Went for breakfast!

Fortunately we had seen quite a few birds, including several reed cormorants, a superb white headed vulture, and a greenbacked heron or two. Plus all the usuals. I am so glad I have developed an interest in birds as has Ray or this trip would have been very slow.

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A greenbacked doing something I have not seen before - climbing! And a Temminck's courser (no doubt called something else now).

After breakfast we did the Matambeni hide, after a brief detour to see the dam itself. Both were their usual profitable selves for birds - but little game seen.

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Does anyone know what the concrete stairway is for? Is it like a salmon stair back here allowing ?what to go upstream?

A giraffe or two, and an elephant crossing the Letaba a long way down the river. Birds were great; Temminck's courser (uncommon), black egret (rare), squacco heron (rare) and little egret (uncommon). Plus spurwinged and Egyptian geese, various storks including openbilled, and various herons including purple. Not bad for a couple of hours.

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Black egret doing what it does! At extreme range with cropping.

In the afternoon we drove up to Makhadzi picnic spot. Saw very little. OK, a few zebra. And two hippo.

On the way back guess what? Another close encounter with a secretary bird. I have now seen more this trip than in the previous 20 years! Oddly just before seeing it, I had been telling Ray that I was surprised we had not seen a kori bustard yet, as in previous trips they had seemed to becomming more and more common. Perhaps we will see one around Olifants where I have seen lots recently.

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I was now desperate! I decided that the S47 to the Mingerhout Dam would produce something. Especially during the last hour before the gates close. Guess what? Almost nothing, except some birds. Lots of vultures drinking in the river. Nice herons up at the dam. And a bunch of marabou stork, which have been surprisingly uncommon this trip. We were so bored we even started taking pictures of clouds as the sun set!!

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We are off to Satara tomorrow via breakfast at Olifants. Hope the S46, 93, 44 have survived the storms as the H1-5 tends not to be the most exciting road.


Last edited by richardharris on Thu Nov 08, 2007 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Day 10, 11
Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 4:20 pm 
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After the storm everything was wet and blown around. It was still very cloudy, threatening more rain. In the end there were only a few splashes, and by midday it was starting to be a bit brighter. Tonight the sky is clear and it is pleasantly cool and fresh. Who knows about tomorrow?!

First some bad news. There has been so much rain that the Satara 4x4 route is shut. Three days of rain; glad we went north! Might be open in a couple of days but it does not sound likely. Shame as I think it would have been good.

Viewing-wise, today has been another 'thank goodness for birds' day! As planned we went down the S46, 93, 44 gravel roads to Olifants, following the Letaba and then the Olifants river. We spoke to several people on the way, and it was a matter of which bit of nothing you had seen.

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Terrapin and the uncommon little egret (yellow feet not always easy to see if covered in mud!)

Breakfast was good though! The buffet at Olifants. Mind you, their mince is not as good as the spicy mince at Letaba. The Olifants river did not look that different to 9 days ago; presumably the upland areas where it originates have not been so wet - or all the dams are keeping things in control.

We then did the S92 and S90 gravel roads down to Satara. The low level causeway was not that exciting; probably still too cool and overcast. There were some lesser striped swallow there - beautiful. And are first sighting of trumpeter horn bill (we had heard them at Parfuri) as four flew overhead. The Balule hyaena were no where to be seen; are there still around?

The long stretch past Bangu down to Gudzani was remarkable by its almost entire absence of game. A small group of male kudu gave the only photo opportunity. Then we had a small bit of excitement before joining the main H1-4. A kori bustard at last. Amazes me that several cars just drove straight past.

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It also amazes me that we found several cars parked up watching 2 lion. They were lying down, about 300 yards away and barely visible. Life is too short - but I think everyone is desperate to see something.

We had a short respite at Satara (actually I went for a short jog!) before going out at 3.30 for an end of day run up the famous S100. No idea why but we actually saw some game. Several small groups of zebra, a few giraffe. For the first time some largish herds of impala. 15 wildebeest; OK more than we have seen together, but nothing like the 100 or more I remember from 15 to 20 years ago. Some kudu. A bushbuck. Scattered waterbuck. None of the big cats though.

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For those who were with me in February; there were several large bones at the spot where we saw the vultures. Several vultures in trees and many other birds. Including 6 ground horn bill (we have seen quite a lot this trip) and would you believe it. Another secretary bird!!!!

We spent 30 minutes up at Gudzani Dam; darter, reed cormorant, openbilled stork, cattle egret, fish eagle,Egyptian goose, spur winged goose. Great spot.

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On the way back the only excitement was seeing the secretary bird again, this time roosting in a tree! Oh, and Ray spotted a brown hooded kingfisher as I raced along at 100kph.

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More of the same and the Sweni hide tomorrow now that the trail is off.

Actually that prediction was wrong. The morning started and I almost thought my clock was wrong; it was very gloomy, heavily overcast though dry. But as we left the camp a few spots of rain started. Then that nasty fine drizzle started. By the time we had gone down the S100 it was raining hard. By the time we were back at Satara via the S90 it was pouring and carried on till 11. The roads were very wet!

So what did we see? Very little but some very bedraggled impala and wildebeest. A very wet but still imposing lappet faced vulture. And some brown eagles, even more difficult to tell apart when wet than when dry! We did see the lion again; actually we saw the cars first! They had crossed the road and were marginally nearer. A couple of magnificent males could be discerned but only just in the pouring rain. We didn't stop for long.

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As I sit having a coffee it is brightening at last so we might manage a drive this afternoon. \nice view of a bushbaby just outside Satara reception.

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Incidentally, I have now described 3 trips down the S100. Has anyone noticed anything missing? We haven't seen an elephant since somewhere south of Bangu yesterday morning. Very odd; I think I have always seen at least one elephant on the S100 and frequently lots.

We did go out this afternoon. A bit brighter with intermittent light rain. It get looking like it was going to get brighter but never quite did. At least not until about 5.30 and it is now perfectly clear again. Lets hope it stays like this tomorrow as well!

My worst fears have been realised. They have started shutting the gravel roads. The S100 has been shut! So we decided to head south and see if any of the loops there were still open. On our way we saw a family group of elephant with several very small ones. They were right by the road so, despite the poor light, I hope I have a few nice photos.

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The loop via Muzandzeni picnic spot was still open so off we went. When we eventually got back we saw that it had also been closed - and I am not surprised! It was better than the 4x4 trails. Water, mud, slipping and sliding!! Saw quite a lot too. Nothing new or exceptional, but some nice impala, kudu, zebra, giraffe etc. Several vultures trying to dry out. And more of those wet brown eagles. Also saw duiker on 3 occasions; the first I have been sure of this trip.

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Fascinating to see that much of the land south of Satara that was still smouldering only a week ago is already going green. Nature is amazing.

This evening we have had a beer with another Kruger friend, Mathias, over here with wife and 2 children. They have just arrived in the Park and it is fortunate that we have met for this one night.

Tomorrow we have to move to Skukuza for our last two nights. Probably stay around Satara if the weather is good for the early drive and go on down after breakfast. We shall see what morning brings with this very unpredictable weather.


Last edited by richardharris on Sun Nov 11, 2007 6:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: days 12 & 13
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:26 pm 
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The days could not be more different. Although it was a bit gloomy first thing it soon started to brighten up. Eventually we had blue skies and temperatures of 95 or so. And this evening is the warmest yet so imagine my horror when I had just got back from a jog when the power went off. Thankfully the aircon is back on though my hut has one of those that only half works!

Spotting-wise its been really very good today. We did the S100 and S41 and S90 loop. I think the S100 was technically closed but everyone was ignoring the sign; so what else could we do?! Paid off as within a few hundred metres there were 2 female and 1 male lion right by the road. And several cars, but we soon barged our way in. I haven't been coming here for 20 years without learning something! Could be good photos but having to use 1600 ISO so we will see.

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Left all the cars behind and had a good trip around to Gudzani dam; the usual game plus red breasted swallow and a tree full of wattled starling. Spent a pleasant 30 minutes at the dam then tossed to see which way to go home. Fortunately we chose the north route.

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Saw a great bateleur eagle and some great kudu; then we had 20 minutes all alone with 4 beautiful lion, literally by the side of the road. Could have patted two on the head. Superb light as well. Tried all sorts to get them to do something (hooted, banged the door, got out of the car etc) but just like lion they just lay there! Eventually someone else turned up, so we drove the lion away and carried on. Incidentally no elephant again.

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Breakfast at Satara was great; the bush breakfast on the verandah was made even better by zypress turning up; they haven't seen anything since the roan so I feel so much better!! Our other friends also turned up so it was a great gathering.

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We decided to travel down to Skukuza via Nwanetsi, Sweni Bird hide then the S37 and S35 to Orpen dam. Never done either of these roads. Nothing much to see initially other than jms (another forum member) and wife were at Sweni. Talked a bit about the Park and birds and quite a bit about rugby!

The S37 and S35 are a great combination. Very scenic, quite a bit of game - and three groups of ground hornbill. We really have seen lots of these. Orpen dam itself is pretty dry and little to be seen.

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The trip down to Skukuza from Orpen was fairly uneventful except for the following points. Not as much rain seems to have fallen (though grass etc is sprouting). The Sand is barely flowing. The Park really needs to do something about 'official' vehicles driving at outrageous speeds. A couple were not only setting a bad example but were positively dangerous. We saw a single wild dog - rather strange. And we had a glimpse of a leopard but it was mostly hidden behind some thorn bushes!

Lastly we had another excellent meal at the Selati restaurant. Johnny the manager had made a booking for us for tomorrow when we passed through 10 days ago. This was for skillie, zypresse and us; he apparently managed to amaze skillie when she also tried to make the same booking a couple of days ago!

Ray is not satisfied with the sighting of a leopard so we are going down the Lower Sabie road in the morning; fingers crossed.

Today (Monday) has been very dull in every sense of the word - except for tonight. It started off dark and wet and finished off dark. We saw the sun for about 5 minutes in total. We also saw very very little but I will do a longer report at the airport tomorrow.

Why not now? Because its late, I have an early start and packing tomorrow, and I am a bit drunk! We met skillie and zypress, and husbands, in the Selati restaurant. We had an excellent meal and some great wine. Thanks to Johnny the manager and his excellent staff. I unreservedly take back what I have said about them. We had a great time and I very much look forward to the next Euro meet!!

Tomorrow we set off as soon as we can get organised and will probably have breakfast in Berg en dal. Full report from the airport.


Last edited by richardharris on Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:27 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Days 13 and 14
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:36 pm 
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As I said in the last report Monday was terrible. Photography would have been very difficult even if we had seen something! I thought I was doing the right thing by going down the H4-1 to Lower Sabie but we saw next to nothing. One elephant, a few impala, a few waterbirds. And we really tried hard! Skillie, we learnt later, had done the Pretoriouskop route and seen a great deal more; dislike is welling up. Even the 'famous' sunset dam was boring!

Breakfast was nice on the verandah where we watched loads of birds - including another black egret performing, though sadly no one else seemed slightly interested. No game came into view.

After breakfast we did a circuitous route back to Skukuza; S82, S108, S26, S102, H5, S112 and eventually transport dam. Then back up to Skukuza. Saw two wolleynecked stork close up at last (and no army to disturb them) a rhino near Gayisenga, and some great views of bufallo weaver at Transport dam. Mpondo Dam looks as though it could be superb; is it too new yet? Impala, waterbuck and kudu seen but no elephant again.

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Last thing we did a loop around the H1-2 and the H4-1. We were told of a pack of wilddog (don't you just hate that) but saw not a lot. More or less as we have come to expect.

Tuesday started off overcast but as with the recent pattern soon brightened up. No doubt the afternoon would have been hot again - but we were on our way home. You may remember from my last post that our new friends were growing on me. Zypresse and uwe are great fun and don't often mention the roan now. And I thought skillie and ric were nice enough until they saw a leopard up a tree with its kill. As if thats not bad enough they texted me whilst we were leaving!!!!

Actually we had quite a good viewing morning though bad for photography; initially to dim then too many bushes, game lying down etc etc. But we did see a magnificent male sable near the H3 (near Kwaggaspan) and I do have a poor photo to prove it. But through the binocs he was superb.

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At Renosterpan we saw 3 rhino including an incredibly small infant. The gravel S110 up to Berg produced a few more rhino. Note; no elephant.

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Breakfast at Berg is always good, but the views not as good as sometimes. The dam is dry. However there were some sunbirds in the grounds. After breakfast, more rhino on the tarred S100.

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In our last hour we started down the S114 next to the Crocodile River intending on doing a loop. I was amazed at how many posh lodges keep springing up on the far bank. The bird life in the river is amazing as well; do the lodges feed them?

Whilst we were stopped watching the birds a leopard streaked across the road 100 feet in front of us. We dashed forward to see if we could watch it run down towards the river when a large male waterbuck crossed the road, evidently in hot pursuit. We caught a further view of the two racing down towards the river. Extraordinary sight!

We then found a pack a wilddog, lying down in the grass. We stayed there as long as we could but no activity. But not a bad morning.

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A few gripes, which the Kruger bosses need to sort out. Whilst trying to photograph some ground hornbill an empty gameride truck stormed past, sending the birds rapidly off. Since they were on the opposite side of the road to me they must have been fully visible to the driver. And it was a Kruger vehicle too.

Why can't jeep jockeys slow down on gravel roads when passing other vehicles; are they so pathetic that they have to impress their passengers all the time? And I thought radios were going to be got rid of. We had the wilddog to ourslves and one other car for a few minutes. Then one jeep arrived, a radio call was made, then 5 others turned up. We were lucky to get away.

And what are very large fuel trucks doing careering down gravel roads? And on a similar note why are commercial vehicles allowed on the roads even before the gates open, scattering the game? This should be banned (totally unnecessary) and even Parks vehicles should stick to 40 until an hour after gates open.

Well thats got that off my chest. But these things do spoil otherwise great mornings.

Photos will follow other the next week or two!


Last edited by richardharris on Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:43 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 8:03 pm 
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A few final thoughts before I start on the photos.

I was really nice to meet up with several forumites over the two weeks. Not just the 4 that I had planned to meet either! But I must thank zypresse and partner and skillie and partner in particular for making the trip a bit more special than usual.

Its amazing what you can see even in the rain, so don't despair. Photography is more difficult in the rain but after a quick look, some have come out really well.

General comments about the Park staff - often cause for comments on this forum. We actually had excellent service from everyone and I would not want to criticise anyone at all. This includes reception, cleaning, shops and restaurants. The rooms were all clean and ready, the shops reasonably well stocked (though we did not do any self catering) - and just about everything on the menus was available!

My only real reservations is about the quantity of game. I know this is a constant debate on the forum but I do feel there is an issue. I am just not sure what the issue is!

However I shall be changing my comments about the north of the Park, which saddens me. I will in future only recommend two types of visitor to travel above Letaba or possibly Mopani. Those who have a real interest in birds (not many somewhat to my surprise) who really must travel there. And those who do not mind long trips to get to the few areas worth visiting (eg Parfuri and the area along the Shingwedzi.

Still I hope others will come back with reports that make mine look daft because you do have to be there at the right time! And I fit into both of my categories so I will continue to travel.

Photos will follow over the next couple of weeks as I get time to process them. Sadly I now have to also work to pay for the next trip.

Richard


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Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:10 am 
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Have now started to add some photos to this report - please re-read!

I will hopefully complete the report over the next two weeks.

Many more photos (and larger versions than shown here; click on 'original' rather than 'large') will be at

http://www.pbase.com/richardharris/october_2007


Look forward to your comments

Richard


Last edited by richardharris on Mon Oct 22, 2007 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 12:36 am 
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Photos for days 1 and 2 now complete. More will follow.

Richard


http://www.pbase.com/richardharris/october_2007


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Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:55 am 
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Day three now complete with pictures. These were taken in very adverse conditions - having to use iso800 and 1600 for most.

More, and larger versions, at

http://www.pbase.com/richardharris/october_2007

Richard


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Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 4:34 pm 
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Days 4 and 5 have been updated with photos.

I have done my best but the light was awful for both days!

More, and larger versions, at

http://www.pbase.com/richardharris/october_2007

Richard

ps day 4 - 5 and days 6 - 7 seem to have been submitted in the wrong order whilst I was away. Can admin sort this out?

Thanks


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Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 11:03 am 
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Days 6 and 7 have been updated with photos. Appears on page one.

Includes some of my favourite shots of this trip; crested guineafowl, fish eagle swimming, and spoonbill larking about!

More, and larger versions, at

http://www.pbase.com/richardharris/october_2007

Richard

ps day 4 - 5 and days 6 - 7 seem to have been submitted in the wrong order whilst I was away. Can admin sort this out?

Thanks


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