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 Post subject: Kruger -- 2 weeks in April
Unread postPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 5:51 pm 
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Way back in January, while on the ‘phone to SanP reservations, our daughter came home for lunch and asked if we were going to Kruger again. “yes”: “did I hear you say a 5 bed cottage?”: “yes”: “can we come too ?”: hubby – “yes, if you want to !”.

So it was that the 4 of us, hubby, myself, daughter, J, and her boyfriend, D, were on a plane from Cape Town to Nelspruit on Sat 12th April. We duly collected our car, a Nissan X-Trail, and, after a major shopping spree at Malelane Spar, arrived at Malelane Gate at 14:45.

Checking in was an absolute pleasure (as usual at that gate) and we were soon ready for the drive to Biyamiti. Everyone was guessing what our first animal would be (a family tradition), but everyone was wrong !

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Next up were ellies quite far off in the river and then

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It was lovely to see the bush so thick and green and the grass so long, but it didn’t make for easy spotting !

J says “right, so where are the cats ?” I remind her we left them at home in Cape Town ! Careful what you say :(


Next on our list were monkeys, kudu and a family of ground hornbill – the first of many we saw this trip. Great to see their numbers increasing !

There were hippo down in the river and these guys grazing on the banks.

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Buffalo in the Biyamiti river bed and a large gathering of vultures – we couldn’t see what they were feeding on though, the bush was just too thick.

And so we arrived at Biyamiti – a first stay in this camp for us and definitely not our last ! We were allocated cottage no 1 and were most impressed by how large and spacious it was. A large patio, inside full kitchen complete with stove with oven and large fridge with separate freezer section, 2 large bedrooms, 1 with 2 beds and en-suite bathroom, 1 with 3 beds and separate shower and separate loo. Very comfortable !

After unpacking the car and sorting out groceries, etc, we lit a fire and J decided to get photographic proof of D doing a good job with supper, while yours truly relaxed on the patio !

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It was good to be back. :D


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Unread postPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 10:40 pm 
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Sunday 13th April.

We were all up early and ready to leave by 6:30.
Hubby wanted to go down the S25 to the tar and then up to Afsaal for breakfast while I wanted to go along the Biyamiti private road to the weir and then to Afsaal.

The private road won out (probably because of its novelty.)

Well, apart from a steenbok that took one look at us and fled, we saw absolutely nothing on this stretch until just before the weir when some buffalo (far away across the river bed) made an appearance, followed by some impala. There were also very few birds about – it was quite cloudy and still chilly, so maybe they hadn’t got up yet !

Then we found this chap

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Which we eventually decided must be a long-crested eagle.
Please correct us if not !

The weir was deserted – even the flowers closed.

We took the Biyamiti loop.

Next was a large rhino who gave us a sideways glare as he crossed to join the others barely visible in the thick bush

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By now the sun was out and we discovered a drawback to the X-Trail – the back windows don’t open all the way down as the wheel hub is in the way !
J and D didn’t complain too much !

We then came across a large herd of buffalo with some very small calves

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And a zebra playing hide and seek down the bank

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A very small monitor on a very large rock

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And, back on the tar, an elllie browsing peacefully next to the road

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Some giraffe, kudu and more impala and then someone flagged us down to say there was a leopard kill on Voortrekker road.

We decided our bladders (and breakfast) were more important, so stopped at Afsaal first, where the scops was fast asleep on a branch at eye-level !

Image

To be continued ....


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Unread postPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 5:17 pm 
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Sunday 13th .. cont...

The sightings board at Afsaal was no consolation to J and D (who were dying to see cats) as lion had been spotted that morning on the S25 ! I was instantly banned from suggesting routes again ! (family joke – anything that goes wrong is automatically ‘mom’s fault’ – whether or not I was even in the vicinity !)

That basically set the tone for the rest of our trip ! Lions were always seen on roads that we weren’t on, or before or after we went that way.
That is the beauty and mystery of Kruger – if you want instant lions, there are zoos !

Let me now state that, although hubby is usually very lucky with the spotted one, this trip put us firmly back in the “there are no leopards in Kruger” club ! However, we did see quite a few impala that were in need of flying lessons as they were apt to crash-land in trees ! This one right over the Voortrekker road was no exception

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We vainly scanned the grass and bush in the vicinity and, after hearing that one chap had been there for an hour and a half and seen no sign of a cat, we decided to head for Pretorius Kop.

There was very little about. We drove the Fayi loop in the vain hope of seeing sable and, apart from a duiker and a waterbuck we first thought may be a reedbuck, there was little to report.

At Shitlhave Dam, there were the usual waterbuck with a very cute baby

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Then a young kudu decided to cross

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Followed by mom

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While dad carried on feeding

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On the road down to Transport Dam, this large ellie browsed, although, judging by his tusks, he had done some digging !

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By the time we came back from the dam, he’d cleaned them off

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Fortunately he was very peaceful and not contesting right of way !

So we proceeded back to Biyamiti. A very quiet drive both from a spotting point of view -- adding only warthog, squirrels, wildebeest and monkeys to our list -- and as the passengers were all taking a nap !
Once back, J and D took a walk around camp and we relaxed and got the braai going.
It had been a long day in the car.


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Unread postPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 10:15 pm 
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Monday 14th April.

We had had a bit of overnight rain, and we didn’t know whether it was the rain or the almost full moon that accounted for almost no night-time noises apart from the owls and nightjars.

D had decided the evening before that he wasn’t going to have a 5 am start, so we decided that, instead of going up to Lower Sabie for breakfast, we would do a short loop and have breakfast back at camp.

So the 3 of us were out by 6.30 and found the duiker exiting camp before us ! As we headed down the private road towards the S25, we wondered if we would get back for breakfast at all, as this ellie seemed intent on causing a roadblock of a different sort !

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Luckily the tree proved too tough for him.

Next up were these giraffes, two of which were having a battle in the early morning sunlight.

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Then a couple of warthog grazing

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There was a lot of general game around closer to Croc Bridge – zebra, wildebeest, many impala, kudu and buffalo.

Waterbuck and crocs down in the river. We had to stop in at the hippo pools to pay our respects to Daniel and hubby and J climbed up the rocks to see what was left of the rock paintings. They were damaged by the floods of 2000. The hippo were down river a bit and, although we could hear them, could not see them.

After a quick pit stop at Croc Bridge, we headed up the tar to the H-5 to come back via the S118 to the S25.

About a km from the S118 there was a car stopped. We could see nothing, so asked what he’d seen. Hyaena in a culvert under the road. He said there were 6 although we only saw one and 2 half grown pups. We had to practically park on top of them to see them and, if we didn’t know they were there, would have driven right past !

Spot the hyaena


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Two young ones

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Mom, with very fly bitten ears and nose

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And so back to Biyamiti for breakfast and a story :

(to be continued on the next page or I'll be shot by the mods :D )


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 9:32 pm 
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We got back to Biyamiti for breakfast and D had a story to tell : while we’d been out, at about 7.30ish, D had heard a huge noise of what sounded like lions having a tiff very close to camp. He hadn’t wanted to walk around by himself to see if he could see them – they were that close ! We heard from the office later that they had been on the road outside camp and only the staff had seen them – all the visitors had been out. Proves that you shouldn’t always leave camp too early !

While having breakfast, we enjoyed the myriad of birds using the little birdbath outside the cottage.

After calling in at the office to book a sunset drive for the following evening, we decided to head up to Lower Sabie, via the hyaena to show D. On the way we saw ground hornbill going about their business.

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Only 1 hyaena was visible at the den, fast asleep.

We took the tar up to the S130 and did the loop past Duke waterhole. We saw very little – it was the wrong time of day and Duke’s waterhole was dry.

We took a fancy to this cute zebra

Image Image

The eastern side (S28) seemed a lot drier than the area around Biyamiti – maybe they’d had a lot less rain ?

Then something we’d never seen before – warthog eating dung at a rhino midden

Image Image

The inevitable ellie block along the river

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With a very small one

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Shortly after the ellies, we had our first YR sighting – Impisi08
Unfortunately we didn’t get long to chat as the chap in the Merc behind him was impatient ! At least we showed him where the YR belonged !

We relaxed for a while on the deck at Lower Sabie and then, after a quick visit to Sunset Dam, headed back.

The hyaena were whooping softly to each other and preparing to head out for the evening

Image Image

Nearing camp, J’s bladder was extremely uncomfortable, so we didn’t do the detour to see what another car was watching near a river crossing – you guessed it – heard later it was the lions of the morning !

And so ended another day – catless still (remember we’d left them at home in Cape Town !) – but at least we’d seen dogs of sorts !

At dinner that evening, J and D told us of a chap they’d spoken to near the birdhide, who’d told them that he’d seen a leopard kill an impala and hoist it up a tree near the Gardenia hide – they were suitably green !


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Unread postPosted: Tue May 13, 2008 10:42 pm 
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Tuesday 15th April.

Needless to say, the decision was unanimous for this morning – a trip to Gardenia bird hide to find the leopard kill !

We also wanted a to be back at camp by 3 pm to prepare supper before going on the sunset drive, so we would just need to “heat and eat” later !

First up were the inevitable impala, followed by an ellie, giraffe, some buffalo down in the river and then this delightful dwarf mongoose family

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A hippo out of the water which disappeared in a great hurry,
then this lovely bee-eater – will someone please tell me which one it is ? :redface:

Image

A stop at Gardenia – nothing, but absolutely nothing around – J and D looking for refreshments

Image

(to be continued ...)


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 7:04 am 
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Enjoyed reading your report P@m. Looking forward to read more.

Your bee-eater is a white fronted bee-eater.


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 9:16 pm 
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Thank you so much for the comments.

Impsi08 -- thank you for the bee-eater id -- we got more and more confused between them the more we looked at the bird guide ! (are you home again now ? -- Looking forward to your report too !)


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 9:31 pm 
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We left the hide and found the tree that the flying impala had crash-landed in, but no sign of any spots :( there wasn't much left of it either).

We found some buffalo next to the tar on the way to Afsaal

Image

We then decided to drive down to Renoster pan, do the Steilberg loop and pop in at Berg-en-Dal.

It was very, very quiet. Apart from a few kudu, some impala and monkeys close to B & D, there was nothing to be seen. I cannot ever remember the B & D area so quiet.

We relaxed next to the dam while J & D walked the Rhino trail and hubby had to make a call or two to the office – there are great advantages to being out of cell signal !

On the way back we saw this young “ground” hornbill being fed

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And we had to stop and take a pic of these pretty impala lilies

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J – “you can tell it’s a slow day when we take pics of flowers” !

Then only a lonely ellie from the lookout on the Biyamiti private road

Image Image

A close-up

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We made it back by 3:30 – not too bad – and were looking forward to our sunset drive ……….


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 10:47 pm 
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Well, what can I say about the sunset drive ? (except that there are no pics ) :(

Sonika, (camp manager) took us out herself and it was really a drive to remember. She started by asking what we’d like to see and J said we hadn’t seen lion yet, so she told us that there were some hanging out at Renosterkoppies dam – probably with a kill. (mental notes made) So off we went on our drive. Apart from many, many impala sleeping on or right next to the road, we saw a herd of buffalo and then a genet. Next was an African rock python crossing the road and not too happy about the light ! (just got his tail disappearing into the bush). :redface: Some bushbabies leaping around in the trees kept us entertained for quite a while. Then there was a large herd of snoozing wildebeest at the junction of the S25 and the H4-2. A little way up the tar and we saw a serval ! :D :shock: What a fantastic sighting ! Not at all worried about us, it kept on with its hunt. Yours truly managed to film the whole thing with the lens cap on :redface: :twisted: D thought that was extremely funny, which, in hindsight, it is. Next up was not one, but two white tailed mongoose – must have been a mating pair – and such a thrill to see them. :) Those I managed to miss completely with the video but do have a nice shot of grass :redface: :twisted: Then, further up the road, another white tailed mongoose ! More excitement ! On the way back there were quite a few scrub hares and bronze winged coursers in the road, which meant headlights off until they moved out of the way. A rhino in the bush next to the road was our last sighting for the evening. What a fantastic drive. Unfortunately the leopard that Sonika had tied to a tree had chewed through the restraints and escaped :shock: It was a very interesting, informative drive and the serval and white tailed mongoose were sights to cherish.

They more than made up for the fact that lions still eluded us :lol:


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Unread postPosted: Thu May 15, 2008 4:45 pm 
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Wednesday 16th April.

We had decided after our stunning sunset drive that we would leave a bit later today. We also had some admin to do and the office only opens at 7.

The route was to be S114 to Renosterkoppies dam (to see if the lions were still around) and then to Skukuza. J & D wanted to swim, so the day visitors centre was also on the menu.

Our first sighting of the day was the monkeys in camp !

We left shortly after 7 and, at the end of the Biyamiti private road, came across these lovely saddle bills.

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Two were preening (Itchy back ? No, chest)

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At the weir, the hammerkop was sunbathing on the wall

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And then a Dinky Bird that was posing

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We saw quite a lot of general game, including rhino and ellies and an owl we couldn’t id but in the wrong place for a pic as well.

We eventually got up to Renostekoppies dam. Were the lions still there ? We had seen a lot of vultures, but couldn’t see what they were on – the bush was just too thick.

And then ………


Image

To be continued…


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Unread postPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 4:56 pm 
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Wed 16th cont.

Lions – at long last – doing what lions do best ! J and D were almost beside themselves with excitement. A jeep jockey from a private concern parked next to us. J commented to him that we had been in KNP for 4 days and this was our first lion sighting. His comment was that he came in every day and that this was his first lion sighting for 7 days ! Suddenly we didn’t feel so bad !

Sunbathing

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A move is in order

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Or not

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Two zebra approached the waterhole, wanting a drink, but changed their minds when they saw it occupied :)

There is only so much time one can devote to watching lions sleep, so, after spending almost an hour there, we decided to head on to Skukuza for an early lunch.

While browsing the shop, a book called “Prime Origins Guide to the Killer Birds of Kruger” caught hubby’s eye. So we bought it. What a great book. We have always had trouble id’ing the raptors, especially in flight, and found this book a great companion to the Sasol bird book. Easy to read, great pics ! And makes raptor id so much easier.

From Skukuza, it was off to the day visitors area to drop J & D at the pool for a swim. Told them we’d be back in an hour or 2 and decided to do the Maroela Loop.

Added only bushbuck and nyala to our list and then had to spend time with a troop of baboons.

(to be continued...)


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Unread postPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 10:26 pm 
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Wed 16th cont

On the way back to the Skukuza day visitors area to collect J & D we came across this troop of baboons.

The little guy was intent on trying to chew through or uproot that small shoot

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Every time another member of the troop tried to pick him up and move him, he screamed blue murder and went straight back to the task at hand

Image Image

Image

Eventually mom had to come and have a quiet word in his ear to persuade him to leave

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We duly collected J & D who had had a great swim while watching a herd of ellies doing likewise in the river below them.

There were a lot more cars at Renosterkoppies dam and the lions had moved to a different tree. One had decided to chase vultures

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But it was still too hot for action

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While at the lions, a very nice man in the car next to us told us they’d seen a cheetah on the H4-2 and that she’d been there all day !

Quick calculation of distance and time and off we went.

Hubby navigated the shortest route while I drove and the rear seat kept an eye on the speed – as soon as it dropped below 30 there was much chirping :shock:
We still managed to see a lot of general game and spot (and id) a black kite and steppe buzzard (thanks to the new book) !

Coming along the H5 just before the H4-2, we could see a few cars stopped, so hoped that the cheetah was still there. Our luck was in
(a really bad, blurred pic posted only as proof)

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Hubby was ecstatic as it was our first cheetah sighting for about 10 years !

She soon moved off below the bank and we had to head back to camp.

We saw Sonika heading out with the sunset drive and stopped to tell her about the cheetah (and also the reason we had 15 mins to do the last 5 km !)

We paused only long enough to take the sunset in

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And then right outside camp a giant eagle owl

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What a great day.

We enjoyed a last braai together while spotting bushbabies by torch light :D


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 10:04 pm 
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Thursday 17th April.

Today is D’s birthday. Also the day J & D leave to go back to Cape Town and also the day we leave Biyamiti for Orpen (:

So we are up very early as everything has to be packed up and into the car.

A last drive down to the Biyamiti weir, then south on the S114 where we woke up 3 rhino fast asleep next to the road.

Image Image

Next were peaceful ellies (we really didn’t have lots of time for a road block), wildebeest and the usual impala, a duiker and bushbuck.

Made our way up to Afsaal via the H2-2 for a quick stop. A funny story. J met up with a work colleague – told her we’d seen lion at Renosterkoppies. We leave Afsaal & head for Malelane gate – J’s colleague heads north and then 1st road to the right & a leopard pulls an impala down in front of them :shock: Talk about right place and sheer chance – they weren’t going to do that route !

Rest of the early morning in the park was uneventful. More general game and a couple of ellies uprooting bushes. D had commented the whole trip about how destructive they were and on the number of downed trees.

We dropped J & D off at KMIA at 11 am and headed for Numbi gate.

Back in the park by 12.15. Between Numbi and Skukuza we see nothing at all, apart from a couple of impala just before the camp.

Quick stop at Skukuza to do some shopping (now that we have more room in the car). :D

From Skukuza we took the S36 all the way up. Apart from it being the wrong time of day, and the fact we had to keep to 30 kph (at least), it was very quiet apart from quite a lot of kudu.

(cont...)


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 10:19 pm 
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Thurs 17th April cont

We made a quick stop at Nhlanguleni picnic spot.

Saw a large herd of ellies at Fairfield waterhole, with some very small babies.

Image Image

Image Image

Another herd of ellies just off the road after the Talamati turn off. This one had a teenager up on the bank who was running after the cars as they passed & then trumpeting loudly ! We could count cars using the road by the number of hoots :lol:

Just before we rejoined the tar (H7) there was this couple of bb jackals being harassed by plovers

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Then a kori bustard who obligingly crossed the road

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We reached Orpen at last at 5.30 and booked in.

On our fridge was this quaint message

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We were sitting on our patio, having finished our braai, and who should come cruising past ? None other than the honey badger :shock: He was totally unconcerned with the people and was just checking out each patio as he went past – needless to say – the cameras were inside ! We were thrilled with the sighting :lol:

As it had been a very long day, an early night was called for.


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