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 Post subject: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:52 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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As I just made the plans and reservations for my next trip to South Africa, this time to Kgalagadi, I have to make here the trip report for my first visit to South Africa, in January 2011, when me and my wife went to Capetown for 15 wonderful days, and then to Kruger National Park, with the addition of our great friend Pedro Rocha.

In January 3rd 2011, we met Pedro Rocha at the airport O. R. Tambo in Johannesburg, from where we flew to Kruger Mpumalanga airport in Nelspruit, where we rented a Toyota Hilux for our trip.

The Kruger Mpumalanga airport already gave us a mood for the trip.

We entered through Numbi gate and headed to Pretoriuskop, our first camp in the trip.

We enter the Kruger through the Napi Road (H1-1) in the afternoon of January 3.

Even before housing, we saw the first animals, a dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula), which we did not manage to photograph (very fast animals), and a male waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus). Amongst the high grass, his beautiful horns stand out.

It was unbelievable to see the first animals before ever getting to the first camp!

Image

After housing in Pretoriuskop, it was still possible to enjoy the afternoon of January 3rd to travel around the camp. In the loops around Pretoriuskop, we saw two Natal Francolins (Pternistes natalensis) and a group of Impalas (Aepyceros melampus), which we photographed, but with not really worthy results, and another dwarf mongoose, not photographed. We followed then to the north by the Mestel Dam Road (S7) and the Shabeni Road (S10), around Shabeni Hill.

In the Mestel Dam Road, we saw a small terrapin and a widow, which we neither identified nor photographed. In the Shabeni Road, we saw a beautiful male Impala. Yes, Impala are commonly seen in the park, but they are so beautiful and, when we were there, there were so many newborns, that we never got tired of seeing them. Here is a close-up of a male that stood besides us.

Image

At 6:30PM, we came back to the camp for dinner and sleeping. In the next day, we would have our first full day in Kruger, starting very early, around 5:30AM. Therefore, after a decent dinner at Pretoriuskop restaurant, we went to bed.

Our impression of the camp and its structure was very good. The employees were pleasant and the camp beautiful and organized. The huts where we stayed, albeit small, were comfortable.


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:23 pm 
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What a wonderful start to your trip!!!

I just love waterbuck.........stunning creatures!!! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

Ready for more

:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:07 pm 
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Dear Lion Queen,
Yes, Waterbuck were one of the surprises of the trip. Did not anticipate I'd enjoy them so much. And what about Impala? It seemed that it would be easy to get tired of them. Couldn't be more wrong...

I am a bit worried now with the standards for animal sightings that Kruger gave to us, since we are heading to a different experience, in Kgalagadi.


Cheers
Charbel

1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossb
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:19 pm 
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Charbel, you'll love Kgalagadi!!

It's a total different experience. The two main roads are running along the two dry riverbeds. This makes sightings so nice. You can see "into the future" :tongue:

I keep record of every sighting - time and what. It's amazing at the end of a day how much you have seen even though it felt that you did not see much.

Just open your heart and the Kalahari will open it's sightings treasures to you.

Lots and lots of incredible birds to see.......raptor heaven!!! :dance: :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:54 pm 
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Nice start with your TR, Charbel. Ready with :popcorn:


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:02 am 
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Dear Lion Queen,
Thanks. I realy anticipate I'll love Kgalagadi!

I also keep track of everything we saw in Kruger. Easily more than a 100 animals per day!

A great thing is that, just like in Kruger, my friend Pedro is a zoologist. I am myself a biologist, working on philosopher of biology but also animal behavior.... just paradise to be out in the African savannah with all the animals....

I will do now (while working on other things through the night, so a bit slowly) my second posting on that trip.


Cheers
Charbel


1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossb
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:03 am 
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Dear Petra,
Thanks! I really appreciate.
Ready to go on now....

Cheers
Charbel


1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossb
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:07 am 
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Charbel, what a wonderful start. There is so much enthusiasm coming through :D

Please keep this coming.

:popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:16 am 
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At January 4th, we left Pretoriuskop very early. We followed to the north by the Mestel Dam Road (S7), planning to visit the first water reservoir in the Kruger, Mestel Dam. It was raining, what made even more exciting the beginning of the morning, while we followed through the gravel road (excellent quality, if you stay in the tar roads, you will miss much). We saw two African Elephants (Loxodonta africana), stealthy, amidst the vegetation, which we did not manage to photograph, in fact not even see very well. But, next, we were pleased by the vision of three African Buffalos (Syncerus caffer, love this scientific name!). We photographed one of them (see below), hiding in the vegetation, a truly 'black face ox" (a Brazilian lullaby, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lullaby#Brazil). The day started very well, with two marvellous sightings, of two beautiful and powerful animal species.

Image

In Mestel Dam, we saw a group of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) at a distance. It was the first of many sightings of hippos, animals with an outstanding biology, almost always found in the water during the day, where they protect themselves from solar radiation. In Albasini Road (S3), we saw 2 Impalas, more 15 Dwarf Mongooses and 3 female Kudus (Tragephalus strepsiceros).

After visiting Mestel Dam, we returned to Pretoriuskop, soon after seven o'clock, to have breakfast, going down the Mestel Road Dam (S7) and Napi Road (H1-1), where we saw a Lilac-Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) with an insect in the beak. Breakfast was great to get back on the road!

After breakfast, we stayed for a while in the Pretoriuskop camp, having fun with the animals that stay inside it, in this case, Impalas and Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus, previously Cercopithecus aethiops). There were many young Impalas, which were not only very cute, but also exhibited a lot of body postures, probably communicating something we did not understand well (alert?). As to the Vervets, besides having newborns, being very pretty, have body parts (such as parts of the genitals) of an impossible blue color, bring the additional emotion of being one of the primates with the most well-known communication systems, after the studies by Seyfart and Cheney (see, e.g., http://www.sciencemag.org/content/210/4471/801.short).

Image

Image

Image

To go on with the day, we went down Voortrekker Road (H2-2), going from Pretoriuskop to the Afsaal picnic camp. This road is in itself incredible, with all its history. Don't miss it! It was named after Voortrekker Louis Trichardt, whose son, Carolus Trichardt, was commissioned in 1849 by the Transvaal Government to open up a regular route between the northern interior and Delagoa Bay, today Maputo Bay, in Mozambique. João Albasini’s caravans were the main users of the road. He was a slave trader and elephant hunter who came to Lourenço Marques, current Maputo, in 1813. The remains of his trading post can be seen in the Kruger, nearby Phabeni Gate. Also, the little terrier Jock of the Bushveld (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jock_of_the_Bushveld), whose story was was written by his master, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, was born in this road.

Here is a view of the road.

Image

It was down this road that we began to get a clearer idea of the dimension of being in the Kruger for 14 days. The list of animals seen in the Voortrekker Road when going to Afsaal is extensive: Impalas (Aepyceros melampus),
1 female Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), 1 Cape Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia capicola), 4 African elephants (Loxodonta Africana), 1 African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus), 1 Lilac-Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus). many swallows flying together, 1 European Roller (Coracias garrulus),
1 Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), 1 Dark-chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates), 1 Speke's hinged tortoise (Kinixys spekii), 3 Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus), and 2 Helmeted Guineafowls (Numida meleagris).

A quite emotional moment was the first encounter with elephants in a less furtive way. Soon after a curve in the Vortrekker Road, we found 4 african elephants at a distance. These are animals whose grandiosity can only be truly perceived when you are close to them, not too close since, as it is said in the security norms given at the entrance of the park, they are one of the only animals that can harm you inside your car. Well, they can crash your car with minor effort, if they wish. It is never too much to remember that elephants are animals living in complex societies, posses sophisticated communication systems, using infra-sounds, perform death rituals, rolling the bones of dead matriarchs, and, at least in the case of indian elephants, pass the mirror test, which provides a hint - even if indirect - of self-consciousness (see Moss, C. J. et al. 2011. The Amboseli Elephants: A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Plotnik, J. M. et al. 2006. Self-recognition in an Asian Elephant. PNAS 103: 17053-7)). To our knowledge, tests were not being done with african elephants. From the scientific point of view, thus, we cannot say they are self-conscious. But we do believe they are.

Image

In Voortrekker we had the first of our many European Rollers, so much that, by the end of the trip, Pedro refused to stop when I wanted to take one more picture of them... This is the only bird in its family that breeds in Europe. They are seen in the Kruger only in the summer. They have a large global population, with a broad geographic distribution, in Europe the population is currently in decline. In the Kruger, when we were there, they were very abundant.

Image

This Bushbuck was well-disguised in the vegetation, but it didn't escape our eyes... Notice the big ears... To listen well is essential in the savannah...

Image

In the Voortrekker Road, we also had the good fortune of seeing the only Dark-Chanting Goshawk during our period in the Kruger. Look at this beautiful bird of prey! The name comes from its breeding season song, which consists of chanted flutes and whistles. Unfortunately, we did not have the luck of listening to it.

Image

A beautiful sighting in the Voortrekker Road was this Speke's Hinged Tortoise.

Image

I will finish here now and soon get back to the report from Afsaal at January 4th 2011.

Cheers
Charbel


1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossb
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:55 am 
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Hi charbel! Waht I like about your trip report is that you're not only focused on the big things but also the smaller this as well as all the little interesting information regarding the animals, history etc etc. GREAT report so far!! :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:25 am 
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We love to drive Voortrekker Road!!......... :dance: :dance: :dance:

Those Impala at Pretoriuskop are just awesome!!!

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

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You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough - Mae West


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:39 am 
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:clap: :clap: :clap:

Love this TR

Leana :popcorn: :popcorn:


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:05 am 
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I love to hear about first time visitor's impressions of Kruger, Charbel, thank you for sharing them.

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:40 pm 
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Dear friends,
Thanks for the comments on the TR. They get me more and more enthusiastic about sharing our thoughts and pictures. We did the whole trip very focused on small creatures not only big ones... To be sincere, we could not understand the people who were all the time chasing lions, passing by fantastic things happening. Once we were watching a rhino bathing in midday (by the end of the TR, I'll put the pictures...), a car stopped by and asked what we were seeing. We told and the guy asked, did you see any lions around? We said 'no', and he simply drove away.We almost shouted: Look! It is a rhino bathing!!!!

Thanks for the comments also on the information I introduced in the TR. I was in doubt if it was adequate, or too much.... I'll go on in the same mood soon....

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 3:40 pm 
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Love all the details!!! Waiting for the next episodes in one of my favourite areas (H2-2) :D

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