Skip to content

SANParks.org Forums

View unanswered posts | View active topics






Post new topic This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  Page 1 of 2
 [ 21 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 7:31 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
After 9 months of planning, 2 near-misses in corporate shake-up land, a last-minute lost passport, an even more last-minute found passport, collecting binoculars to donate, and a whirlwind of activity this past week, my SO and I are finally on our way!

After a few short stops in-transit, we'll be in KNP for Valentines day and our 15 yr anniversary. Many thanks to all who have given advise along the way, and we'll report back in a few weeks. So I leave you all with...

Watch -- This -- Space!!! :thumbs_up:

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Sun Feb 22, 2009 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 6:11 pm 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
While it has only been a few days since our return from a fabulous trip to Kruger, this story truly is 30 years in the making. As a boy, I remember watching Jim Fowler and Marlin Perkins in Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom every chance I got. I would day-dream of far-off adventures and amazing animals, and much of my play was with me taking on the role of “Jim” while I observed our very rare, very dangerous pet poodle. Luckily for me, the future Mrs. Stark was in another place, watching the same show, and sharing the same dream. (I’m not sure if she was “Jim” or “Marlin” when she played as a young girl)

Skip forward to May of 08, when Mrs. Stark and I were discussing where to go the next year for our 15th anniversary. Hawaii? No. Mexico? No. Europe? No. None of these were right for us, so where?

Just then, on came National Geographic’s Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger. I looked at her, and she looked at me, and we knew…

Months of planning began, and I had the time of my life getting this trip together. Countless Google searches, Trip Advisor, and (of course!!!) the SANParks forum visits became my daily ritual. I read and re-read 2 books (one about SA, one about Kruger) and completely wore out the Kruger map I had in my possession. You’d never know that it wasn’t used “in the field” by the looks of it now! I wasn’t obsessed…okay maybe just a little…but the anticipation I had for the trip gave me many enjoyable nights of planning and preparation.

I thought the final weeks before leaving would drag, but they absolutely flew by! Before we knew it, Mrs. Stark and I were caught up in a flurry of last-minute must-do’s! Ah, but the day finally did come, and we were as ready as we could be. We were on our way! The flights were long from Phoenix to Johannesburg, but we didn’t care. We could hardly contain our excitement, and couldn’t wait for our first glimpse of paradise. After an overnight stay in J-berg, and a quick flight to Hoedspruit, we were finally here! I won’t dwell on our time in Greater Kruger, but it was our first experience in the bush and very special! With that, we’d like to share a few of our highlights before we went into Kruger proper!

Small wonders were everywhere!
Image Photo by Mrs.

Image Photo by Stark

Image Photo by Stark

Image Photo by Stark

As well as large beauties!
Image Photo by Mrs.

Image Photo by Mrs.

Image Photo by Stark

Image Photo by Stark

Image Photo by Stark

Up next, our first day in Kruger!

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:23 pm 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Thank you all for the kind words! The next installment is ready!!

It is Valentines Day, Saturday, 14 Feb, at 11am, and Mrs. Stark and I are a few short hours away from entering The Kruger. We met our rental car rep at Eastgate Airport, where the Amarula milkshakes in the lounge are absolutely sinful, only to find out that our reserved Nissan X-trail wasn’t available. Doh! But there was a nice surprise in store for us, a free upgrade to a Toyota Helix! I wasn’t complaining, and we were quickly on our way to Hoedspruit to purchase some essentials.

As I jumped into the “wrong side” of the car, I did a mental review of driving requirements. Nothing seemed overly difficut, but I did have to unlearn 22 years of driving experience in the States. Okay, time for the checklist: Drive on the left…check! Remember that the blinker and windshield wipers are reversed…check! Shift with your left…check! And don’t reverse the gear order, as it’s the same as in the States…check! Nothing could be easier, and I was confident in my ability to get us around safely.

I eased our way out of the airport, prepared to turn right, and promptly put on my windshield wipers. Doh! Nothing makes you look more like a tourist than cleaning your windshield while attempting a turn. Luckily, only Mrs. Stark witnessed my goof and that was the only mishap we had along the way. Mrs. Stark got a chuckle out of my intense concentration while making it to town, and enjoyed the ambiance and scenery. After a short stop at the Pick n Pay center, we were on our way to Orpen gate! I couldn’t believe it! We were self-sufficient, just the two of us, with only a short drive between us and the wonders of Kruger.

We make it to Orpen gate without any further difficulty, aside from dodging the occasional baboon and a small herd of cattle. Registration was a breeze, drove through the gates, and we were in! We stopped at the camp shop for a few cool drinks and a map, and onward we went. It was mid-afternoon, so our plan was to game-watch along the H7 and head straight to Satara. Mrs. Stark and I had our eyes open for what would be our first animal sighting, with both of us betting on the favorite. Sure enough, my better half came up with the first Kruger animal, the elusive Impala!

Impala
Image
Photo by Stark

What a truly beautiful animal, and a marvel of nature. It is true that they were nearly everywhere, but what better testament is needed on the strength of this species? We didn’t stay long, as it was hot and the herd was moving off. Not much was seen on our way to Bobbjaankrans, so we decided to pull off and take a look. Far away down the bend of the river, we could see a bird bathing in the water, but we couldn’t make out what type it was. Any thoughts??

Unidentified Bird?
Image

Image
Photos by Stark

On the way back to the tar road, we came around a corner and met a car going the other way. My American training kicked in, and I dutifully eased to the right so we could pass. The other car correctly went to the left, so we were on the same side of the road. Uh-oh, I’m on the wrong side! So I slide on back to the other side. So did the other car, who must have realized that he was dealing with a tourist and wanted to give me space to pass on the wrong side. We eased towards each other, continuing our dance of “who passes where”, until we finally were side by side. The South African in the other car was amused, and asked if I was European. I should have lied and said yes! But no, I admitted to being from the States. A friendly wave was shared, and back to the H7 we went.

Not long after, we encountered a baboon troop making its way along the road. Heeding the advice we got on the forum, we rolled up our windows once we stopped the car to observe. It was a good mixed troop, with young, and a male that looked bigger and bigger the closer he came to our car. He was a smart one, though. As the rest of the troop eased on past our car without a second glance, the big male veered off into the bush before reaching our car, and returned to the road once he was well past us.

Baboon troop
Image
Photo by Mrs. Stark

Well, baboons will be baboons. Once the head man was out of sight, a smaller male made his move on a female.

Hi there!
Image
Photo by Stark

Success!
Image
Photo by Stark (I’m ashamed to say)

Our hero watches as his lady love leaves the scene.
Image
Photo by Stark

After seeing a bit more of baboon life than intended, we were once again on our way towards Satara. A lone elephant and a few giraffe were visible at a distance, and we were enjoying the atmosphere immensely! Things got even more interesting once we arrived at Nsemani, where an omen on feathered wings arrived...

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:29 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Many thanks all! I'm enjoying the chance to relive our trip...and start planning for the next one! :tongue: Don't tell Mrs. Stark, though!

Nsemani was beautiful and tranquil, even in the heat of the afternoon. Birdlife was abundant, and a herd of impala were on the far shore, but they didn’t come down to drink.

Image
Photo by Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

A few cars were parked along the road, watching the hippo glide through the water. A mother and calf were below, but it was hard to get a decent picture. While I was busy focusing on a hippo entering the water…

Hippo
Image
Photo by Mrs. Stark

Image

Image
Photos by Stark

…I heard a flutter of wings, followed by Mrs. Stark saying softly “Why hello there.” I peeled my eye away from my camera, and was surprised to see a Cape Glossy Starling sitting on the passenger rear-view mirror. Hello, indeed!

Image
Photo by Mrs. Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

What a beautiful site! We’ve had birds land nearby in the past, but never have we had one sit so nicely and sing so prettily for so long! Sure, Mrs. Stark did remark afterwards how LARGE that beak looks when its at arm’s length, but I felt perfectly mesmerized over in the driver’s seat. I don’t believe the starling ever “saw” us, as it would turn its head from side to side and sing, but never actually looked into the vehicle. After a full concert, plus an encore, our musical guest flew off just as suddenly as it had arrived. We took a few moments and just looked at each other. “Wow.”

Mrs. Stark asked me what kind of omen for the rest of our trip was it to be serenaded by a starling? We hoped it would be a good one.

More Hippo
Image

Image

Image
Photo’s by Stark

Our spirits lifted, we made the turn towards Satara and were greeted by this big ellie just before reaching camp.

Elephant
Image
Photo by Stark

What a splendid animal! He was busy digging in the dirt with his tusks, and tossing dirt onto his back. He, along with another bull and a group of dagga boys, were regular visions near Satara over the next few days. We checked into Satara, hut G174 along the perimeter, and settled in after a productive day. Most of our neighbors were firing up their braai’s, but I didn’t want to ruin Valentine’s day by giving Mrs. Stark food poisoning with my first braai attemt. We opted to eat out.

After the special Valentine’s day dinner in the restaurant, we went outside sat in darkness on the bench nearest the fence. There it was…just over there! The Satara waterhole! It was so nice to see, in person, the place that held my attention and, often, took my breath away online. I thought of shadowdog and the other faithful webcam posters, and had to wonder what I might have missed from earlier that day? (Now I’m going to have to go look and see!) Nothing came by for a nightcap, so we retired for the evening.

Moonrise
Image
Photo by Stark

I hardly slept that night, and willed the hands on my watch to hurry up! Apparently I can't speed up time, and the night moved at its usual pace. Finally, after what seemed like hours :tongue: dawn broke, and we rushed to pack.

But just before we left camp, the early morning peace was interrupted by a warning call that brought Mrs. Stark outside...

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:12 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Whew. My apologies, all. It took some doing, but I'm ready for the next installment. And RayK, I thought exactly the same thing. :) Too bad for our hero, as his gal had no interest in him once the deed was done. :(

On with the TR!: The alarm call startled me, and I dropped our cooler onto the front seat of our rental and looked around to see what was going on. Then, it dawned on me…the alarm was coming *FROM* my rental! Oh no!!! It’s just after 6am, on a Sunday, and I’m waking up the entire camp! While I scramble for the key, panicked thoughts race through my head…

“I didn’t set the alarm! Why is it going off? I just had the key! Which pocket?!? Argh!!” :x

I pull the key out and desperately start mashing the alarm buttons. The alarm doesn’t turn off, but it does change tone! My neighbors start peering out of windows or around corners, and Mrs. Stark smoothly disappears back into our hut. Thanks for the support, honey! More thoughts race through my head…

“Don’t panic, Stark…just keep working. It isn’t turning off! Okay, panic!” :wall:

Only a few seconds have gone by, but it feels like hours. My mind keeps making suggestions that don’t help.

“Run inside! Nobody will notice! And grab the yellow ribbon on the way! No need to bring down the forum with you!!” :doh:

Finally, when desperation was setting in, the alarm blissfully stopped. Silence returned to the bush, and I gave my Saffie neighbors a sheepish grin and feeble wave. No reply was given, or expected. Oh, what a morning!!!

Mrs. Stark came out of hiding, her eyes sparkling with amusement. “Are you going to include that in the trip report?” she asked. “Absolutely.” I replied. True to my word, quite humbled, I come clean to my fellow forumites. And to any and all readers who were in Satara on 15 Feb, you have my sincerest apologies! :pray:

My heart rate returned to normal, and we decided to head down to the H7 and then go north on the S40, and loop back south on the S39/S36, and then east on the S126. Before leaving camp, we saw a buffalo along the perimeter and snapped his photo. Just outside of camp, we saw our usual ellie/buffalo buddies, as well as what I think was a Blacksmith Lapwing.

Buffalo along the perimeter
Image
Photo by Mrs. Stark

Blacksmith Lapwing
Image
Photo by Mrs. Stark

Our morning regulars
Image
Photo by Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

Nsemani was full of activity, as the resident hippos occasionally broke the surface. They were joined by a group of waterbuck on the move, and a troop of baboon playing on some dead wood. We felt sorry for the baboon “babysitter”, as it looks like childcare in the baboon world is just as hectic as in our own!

Waterbuck
Image
Photo by Stark

Baboon
Image
Photo by Stark

Baboon
Image
Photo by Stark

We turned around and were met on the S40 by a posing European Roller. After a nice profile, we were met with a “What are YOU looking at, buddy?” glare, and we hastily moved on.

European Roller
Image
Photo by Stark

Image
Photo by Stark

Not long after, we spotted more birdlife that was anything but camera-shy. Two Crested Francolin were squaring off, oblivious to our presence. Pay close attention to the second picture, where one of the francolin is high off the ground, in the top middle of the frame! Yes, we did see these birds just about everywhere, but we found this interaction fascinating.

Crested Francolin
Image
Photo by Stark

Head over Heels!
Image
Photo by Stark

We saw quite a few game animals, but the S40 was pretty quiet this morning. We stopped at Timbavati for a bite to eat and enjoyed the view. We tried some Koek-sisters that we bought in Hoedspruit. Waaaaay too sweet for our taste, and we gave them to the attendants at Timbavati, who were happy to take them off our hands. I decided to stay with rusks. :thumbs_up:

A GRAND ellie greeted us as we turned onto the S39, and we watched as stork flew lazily overhead. General game was abundant early on, but as the sun continued to rise, we found sightings to be fewer and fewer.

Saddlebill Storks
Image
Photo by Stark

Elephant
Image
Photo by Stark

The only thing we saw on the S36, aside from weavers, was a van of people (perhaps a cab?) who were rushing to get back in once they saw us come over the rise. :sniper: Everything else was taking refuge from the heat! While annoyed at the stupidity of some people, and the missed opportunity to snap their photo, I am pleased to say that this was one of only a few examples of bad behavior we witnessed while in the park.

It was lunch time, so we stopped at Muzandzeni for a bite to eat and a cool drink. Mrs. Stark has a Coke Light, while I enjoyed a Castle. After trying many of the local/regional brews, all of which I enjoyed, Castle became my drink of choice. I’m not sure if it is exported to the States, but I’m going to find out!

The S126 was very quiet in the heat of the day as well, but we enjoyed the scenery. Mrs. Stark and I decided to take what Kruger would give us, and be happy with the experience no matter what animals we happened to chance upon. This was the key to our enjoyment of Kruger: understanding that our holiday was a journey in and of itself, and not a destination. We arrived at Mahungumala without seeing much, when a nice little herd of wildebeest ambled along. One posed long enough for a quick head-shot, and then they wandered off into the bush.

Wildebeest
Image
Photo by Stark

Just then, taking what Kruger gives you paid off in a BIG and PLENTIFUL way! But that will have to wait… :tongue:

Up next: Strength in numbers, the kindness of a stranger pays dividends, and a sunset drive to remember.

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Sat Mar 07, 2009 7:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:55 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
They say misery loves company, and I really do feel better knowing that I'm not alone in my car troubles. :tongue:

My apologies for the delay, but finally I have the next installment ready. 28 pictures should be displaying (fingers crossed!)

Mrs. Stark and I watched the wildebeest herd move off into the bush, grazing peacefully as they went. It was then that we saw, maybe in part, the reason for their departure… A small herd of elephant emerged from the scrub, not far away from the wildebeest. Then more came. And more came. And more came. And then even more came! We stopped counting at 50 individuals, though we could see elephant far back in the bush. Onward they moseyed, and they were far enough away that we shut off our engine and enjoyed the sights and sounds. For us, it was another “wow” moment…so many huge animals, of all ages, so close to us, yet so peaceful. I’ve never thought of elephant as an animal that would conjure a scene of tranquility before, but that is exactly the feeling we felt. Tranquility, yes, but POWERFUL tranquility. We crept along the road for a bit, keeping ourselves abreast with the loose herd. After awhile, a day-trip jeep jockey stopped near us, and we enjoyed seeing the awe and delight on the faces of her passengers. I truly wish we could have captured the magnitude of this scene, but the elephant were too spread out.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

After awhile, we pulled up next to the jeep jockey and exchanged pleasantries. “Lion!!!” she said. “Near the edge of the road, 10km down the H6!!!” Okay, she didn’t say this with 3 exclamation points worth of enthusiasm, but that’s how we heard it! We shared our less-exciting news of a pretty tame S126, and then big our jeep jockey and elephant friends goodbye. Just before reaching the H1-3, we caught sight of a Saddle-billed stork walking nimbly through the tall grass. This was simply too photogenic of a moment to pass up, so we put off our lion-hunt to enjoy the presence of this regal bird.

Image

Image

Image

We drove the short distance up the H1-3 to the H6 turn-off, and we began counting down the km markers. The usual herbivores were present, but everything was sticking to the shade in the heat of a Kruger afternoon. No time to stop for impala and wildebeest, we had a lion to find! At the 8km marker, we slowed way down and began peering far and near. Nothing yet, but we were alert and hopeful. Another km marker came and went, when suddenly an oncoming yellow combie began flashing its lights at us. It wasn’t a stranger, but the field guide from our lodge in Greater Kruger. What a small world we live in, and this was a very special “sighting” for Mrs. Stark and I! He asked if we spotted the lion yet, and we parted ways to keep on looking. After reaching the Shihangani waterhole without any luck, we turned around to backtrack. Shortly thereafter, we came upon our former field guide again. We were met with a huge smile, and he said “I will always find the lion for you!” Gavin pointed out where a male lion was resting, a spot we drove right by minutes earlier. The big male was no more than 3m off the road! It is remarkable how well-camouflaged a brown lion is in green grass. (We also wondered to ourselves how many amazing things we simply overlooked while in Kruger, but we didn’t dwell…) We bid our lion-finder safe-travels, and slowly eased our pickup near to the lion.

And, suddenly, there he was. Much like the rest of the wildlife we had seen, he was resting away the hottest part of the day under the scant cover a bush. We couldn’t see him clearly, but it was amazing how little the sun and the heat mattered while we were in his presence!

Image

Image

Image

Image

We heard that there were other lions resting nearby, but we could not find them. (again, no dwelling on that fact…) It wasn’t long before other cars began to show up, so we pointed out our viewing subject to the next vehicle and began heading back to Satara. On the way, we reflected on our recent experiences, and how lucky Mrs. Stark was to marry a man as great as me. (if for no other reason than my planning of this trip!) 3 of the Big 5 sighted within 24 hours, including a lion within “I can hear him breathe!” distance, and a huge herd of pachyderms. We had no reason to complain!

We passed the turn-off to the S100, and I was drawn to drive this famous road. But, alas, time was against us, and Mrs. Stark was getting cranky in the heat. Instead of turning, I rolled up the windows, turned on the air conditioner, and we enjoyed the wonders of modern climate control for the remainder of our short drive.

Back at camp, we enjoyed an ice cream and signed up for the sunset drive. The drive was full, with an even mix of Saffies and overseas tourists. The driver and guide were both friendly and, after a short delay in gathering up the non-English speaking tourists, we were on our way. Buffalo, wildebeest, waterbuck, impala, baboons, and female kudu greeted us along the H1-3, and it was soon apparent that we were heading back towards the S126. Far in the distance we could see a lone white rhino, but the sightline was poor. Technically, that was sighting #4 of the Big 5, but we were hopeful for a better view. A few elephant were visible along the S126, but the large herd of earlier had moved on. Just then, a loud rustling was coming from the bushes on the right-hand side of the truck. A crash of 3 rhino came into view, and we got the better sighting that we hoped for.

Image

Image

On the move again, and we came across a leopard! Uhm….tortoise. A leopard tortoise. Hrm, not exactly #5 of the Big 5, but he was a good little sighting all the same.

Image

We went back to the H1-3, and soon found ourselves back on the H6. While we weren’t covering a lot of “new ground”, we did take some pleasure in the fact that the sunset drive was going to the same places we did earlier in the day. Maybe we weren’t as clueless as we thought? Ostrich, wildebeest, and giraffe were visible just before sundown, and we slowly made our way along. Just then, 3 hyena were spotted near the road! We are both fascinated by hyena, so we were very excited to finally find them! Of course, so was everybody else in the jeep, and the movement of bodies made for difficult photography.

Image

Image

Image

Image

We watched the sun set over Kruger (one of the most beautiful sights of my life), bid the hyena goodbye and drove perhaps a half a km before the drive came to a sudden halt. “Lion, lion!” was filtered through the tourists from front-to-back, and suddenly an adolescent male came out of the bush and laid down on the road! I thought photography was hard with the hyena! The truck was rocking back and forth as everyone was trying to get a better vantage point. Soon we could see more lion coming down to the road! A big male, and then another, and then 4 lionesses!! Wow, a pride 7 lions! If only the sun was still up! We could see these magnificent animals, but our photo album will have a section of “special blurry” for us to remember the moment by. We stayed with this pride for a half-hour, before the drive had to return to Satara. After the go-go-go of Greater Kruger, and the long day self-drive in Kruger itself, we seriously debated whether or not to do the sunset drive. We were so very glad that we did.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

I took a short video of the lionesses as well:
Kruger Lions

We made it back to camp, happy and tired. That next morning we were heading up to Olifants, and we couldn’t wait to see what Kruger had in store for us. We thought about the sightings of the day and were content. But little did we know at the time, the best was yet to come... :cam:

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:13 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Thank you all for your kind words and for going on our Kruger journey with us. 8) And rusky, you are so right. Our wives don't know how lucky they truly are! :thumbs_up:

After a restful final night in Satara, we were up with the sun. Packing took a bit of doing, partially because we seriously over-purchased foodstuffs, and partially because I it took me some time to get things into our rental. I took our luggage outside while Mrs. Stark packed up our coolers. And there I stood, car key in hand, facing The Rental. I was desperate to not repeat the car alarm problem of the previous morning, so I pushed the little disarm button on the key half-a-dozen times. (If one time is good, I was positive six times would be better) I insert the key, turned the lock, opened the door, and cringed in anticipation.

Silence. Whew! With new-found confidence, I tossed our luggage into the boot, gave my Saffie neighbor from yesterday morning a cheerful wave, helped Mrs. Stark with the coolers, and hit the road! Everyone was turning right, but we decided to go left towards Olifants. A very large herd of zebra met us shortly after leaving camp, and we had consistent sightings of them, buffalo, and impala for the first few kilometers along the H1-4. White stork were along both sides of the road, and everyone was out in the open and active.

Image

Then, from around a bush, a Marabou stork strutted into view. We stopped and watched for a long time, and he was kind enough to pose. A few cars would come along, see that we were looking at a bird, and drive off. Oh, how could anyone pass up a face like this? But we WERE NOT turning into birders…

Image

Image

Onward we drove, when a flash of color caught out eye. These two Southern Carmine Bee-eaters were sitting so prettily, we just had to take a picture. But we WERE NOT turning into birders…

Image

Good lord, how many picture of birds were we going to take? People were going to talk! We tried to formulate a promise, no more stopping for birds!!! (unless they were close, or unique, or colorful, or new, or…) Sigh. Mrs. Stark and I finally came to the realization that we liked the birdlife that surrounded us, and we’d just have to live with that fact. Onward we went, until movement in a tree coupled with a very loud “cheeping” caught out attention. Yes, more birds!!

The sun was against us, so it took us awhile to identify what was moving around in the tree…a pair of Southern Ground Hornbill, along with their large chick! The chick was hopping from branch to branch, begging for food and trying to follow her parents. We couldn’t see what the adults were feeding to the chick, but they took turns picking at something in the branches. I suppose you truly are a newly-awakened pair of birders when you’ll sit, peering into the sun, trying to get a half-way decent picture.

Image

We’re glad we did, because shortly after leaving the hornbills, serendipity stepped in. I sped up to our “cruising speed” of 25kph, when suddenly a shape appeared in the road before us. The gait was certainly not that of a zebra, or impala, or bird. (Hey, we had birds on the brain this morning!) We thought it looked “predator-like”, but the shape of the head was strange! Almost flat, like a hammer-head shark. We were perplexed, until SHE got a bit closer. She was huge! She was beautiful! And she was bringing home breakfast!

Image

Image

Image

Image

We could hear her breathing, and smell her, as she walked by. We might as well been a tree, for how little attention she paid to us. We turned around and followed her for only a few minutes, before she left the road and disappeared into the bush. And, to think, if we didn’t stop to watch the Hornbill family, we never would have seen this beautiful hyena up-close. No other car saw her, and we felt privileged to have experienced “our sighting”. We actually hi-fived each other once she was out of sight.

Image

Image

We reached the Olifants river, and were surprised at how full it was and how fast it was running. A few obligatory scenery photo’s were taken, and we made our way up to the N’wamanzi Lookout. It felt good to get out and stretch our legs, and spend some time watching a small herd of buffalo and a few hippo on the far bank.

Image

Image

We arrived at Olifants way to early to check in, so we had a decision to make…where to now? I had an idea, but I had to convince Mrs. Stark… “You know honey, why don’t we head back down and do the S100?” Mrs. Stark quirked an eyebrow. “Didn’t we just come from down that way?” Hrm, she had me there. “Well, yeah…but we didn’t have time to go on the S100 until now! And, you can’t be a member of the SANParks forum and NOT do the S100 if you have the chance.” She didn’t put up much resistance, and we soon found us retracing our steps towards the famous S100. But would our backtracking end up being a boon or a bust?

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 6:22 pm 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
So it is! :redface: Time to post. :thumbs_up:

Heading back down the H1-4 from Olifants, Mrs. Stark and I decided to not stop again on the bridge over the river. The morning was wearing on, and we wanted to hit the S100 before the animals headed for shade. Just as we started onto the bridge, something stirred 15 meters in front of us. A snake! As I slowed down to give plenty of room to be, what appeared to us, the largest snake we’ve ever seen in the wild. The vibrations of the truck must have set it on edge, as this magnificent reptile raised its head while we went by. Black Mamba! Holy Smokes! I’m not a big fan of snakes, as several venomous (and cranky!) species live in Arizona, but we just had to chance a better look. Okay, we had to stop now! I rolled the car to a stop as Mrs. Stark tried to spy the snake in her rear-view mirror. No snake. Hmm…do I get out?

We weighed the odds, and were 90% sure that the mamba was long gone, 7 % sure it was still near the end of the bridge, and 3% fearful that it was somewhere else…and somewhere close. It may sound chauvinistic, but I told Mrs. Stark to stay in the car while I got out to chance a look and a photo. Trust me, male dominance wasn’t my intention. You see, Mrs. Stark is a nurse, so I figured it was in my best interest to keep her safe. I may not be overly cautious, but I’m not stupid! As it turns out, our concern was for nothing…no snake, no picture, and no danger. Ah well, we were already stopped, so we may as well enjoy the view while we were there.

There really is no better place in the world to close your eyes, open your other senses, and take in the wonder of nature. Being from the city, I sometimes forget how much there is to hear when you’re away from civilization. The rush of the water as it courses around grass islands and rocks, the wind through the trees, and the splash of fish in the side pools, who surfaced just long enough to gulp down an alighting insect. And the smell! Water and wet earth, mixed with the rich summer foliage, provides the most clean smell imaginable. But, alas, this wasn’t the time to stand on a bridge with my eyes closed. Mrs. Stark wasn’t going too close to the edge of the bridge, out of respect for our earlier snake encounter. The least I could do was keep my eyes open!

We witnessed an elephant with a bushy tail in the distance come down to drink, and waterbuck on a small island. (Thanks for the ID, p@m! :thumbs_up: )

Image

Image

As we neared Satara, we had a small procession of “Non-Impala” antelope species. While seeing several female Kudu, we had yet not seen any males while in South Africa. A nice little gathering of males were making their way through the bushes.

Image

Image

Shortly thereafter, we were surprised to see this little Steenbok close to the road.

Image

Almost directly across the road from the Steenbok, we saw a pair of Southern Reedbuck enjoying the shade.

Image

Image

The close to Satara we drove, the more game we saw. This area really is a good place to see game of all shapes and sizes. A Kori Bustard paraded around the scrub brush, while zebra, wildebeest, and ostriches shared each others company.

Image

Image

Image

Another Steenbok was keeping a respectable distance from the larger game,.

Image

We gave the resident Satara elephants a wave as we passed by, and Mrs. Stark gave me her “Ice cream would taste really good right about now” look. Ugh! The S100 was Right. Over. There! She really couldn’t want ice cream at this time, could she? But yes, she did. And, to tell the truth, it sounded pretty good to me as well. The fence was turned off so the brush could be cleared, and a troop of Vervet monkeys took advantage of the situation to pay the camp a visit. While the young played on a nearby tree, a handsome male took a moment to watch the waterhole from the closest bench.

Image

Image

Mrs. Stark could have spent all day watching the monkeys, but our break was over. Sure, it was mid-day. Sure, it was hot! And sure, everything was probably taking a nice rest, but we were going! I quickly checked the sightings board (which showed nothing on the S100 on either map). In short order, we turned onto the S100! Finally, after all this time, we were on the road we’ve heard so much about. With Christmas morning-like anticipation, we slowly moved along this beautiful gem of Kruger. The scenery didn’t disappoint, but the sightings board, the rat pack, and the local rangers were all right….

...there was very little visible life on the S100. As Dotdan said…

DotDan wrote:
Bust bust bust bust bust bust :twisted:
:tongue:

Our list of animals sighted was pretty tame…a small skink with blue stripes down the side, some waterbuck, a mongoose who left the scene before we could identify, a single browsing baboon, impala, and some dagga boys snoozing the afternoon away. We were very excited to see a Martial Eagle on the wing, but it flew over the N’wanetsi and disappeared over the tree-line before we could get a picture. Were we disappointed in the S100? No, not really. Kruger didn’t grant us exciting sightings, but it was a very peaceful drive with beautiful scenery. And, it is the S100. We’ll be back! :tongue: :cam: :thumbs_up:

Down the S41 we went, as we decided to stop at the N’wanetsi lookout before making our way back up to Olifants. We were rewarded with a Bateleur that was sitting very near the road. What amazing coloration…so we had to stop and take a few photos. (He fell into our "okay to stop for" bird category.)

Image

At the first water crossing, we looked over and saw hippo nearly at eye level. While they were mostly submerged, it put a whole new perspective on how they must see the world.

Image

After a stop at the lookout, we were both getting tired and longing for a rest. Who knew that vacation could be so tiring!! We pulled out our trusty map and decided to take the H6 over to the H1 3 and 4.

Sightings in the heat of the afternoon remained pretty standard, with mixed herds of impala, giraffe, and zebra. Only 1 other car met us on the H6, so we were defiantly aware that we weren’t in peak “sighting times”. At Satara, the two “resident” elephant bulls were browsing along the fence, and one took keen interest as a man walked past on the other side. It doesn’t show on the still picture, but he started and took notice in the same way a person would show surprise at a mouse suddenly appearing under-foot!

Image

Image

Storm clouds were beginning to build, so we got back on our way.

Image

We stopped on the bridge again…it really is hard to pass up the opportunity…and shared stories with a very nice Saffie couple. We told them about the mamba encounter earlier, and they pointed us towards a croc resting just below the bridge. (They no longer wanted to lean against the bridge railing!) Mrs. Stark wasn’t about to lean over too far for a photo…she still had snakes on her mind. :naughty:

Image

But I wanted a full body shot! Over I leaned, outstretching my arms as far as possible. I’m happy to say that I didn’t go over, and no up-close reptile encounters occurred.

Image

We made it back to Olifants, checked in (# 12), and drove over to our hut. Wow, nothing can prepare you for the spectacular view that greets you.

Image

Whew, what a full day! We covered far more ground than we anticipated, and it took far longer. I had a great time! Mrs. Stark, on the other hand, looked a bit frazzled. We ordered some take-away from the restaurant, unpacked, and enjoyed a few sundowners to go with a beautiful Olifants twilight.

Image

Up next, our FINAL FULL Day in Kruger begins with: Stark Goes Solo.

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:57 am, edited 3 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 7:36 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
While enjoying the fading light over the Olifants river, Mrs. Stark and I decided that we wouldn’t get up at the crack of dawn, and instead would “sleep in” for just a bit. Since arriving in South Africa, we had been going non-stop, and we were in need of a good nights rest. If we could be on our way by 8:00am, that would be fine. By 9:00pm, it was lights-out, with a far-less busy day planned for tomorrow.

Well, sometimes things don’t go the way one plans! 4:45am arrived, and I was wide-awake and ready to go! Mrs. Stark...not so much. I gently whispered her name and asked if she’d like to start her day? Through the dim light that filtered into our room, I could see her frown slightly. She only murmured “No, you go ahead.” Since sleep could be Mrs. Stark’s favorite thing to do in the whole world, I left her to her own devices! I was at reception by 5:15am, with a little time to kill. Luckily, the door was open that lead through to the lookout, so I made my way down to drink in the first rays of light over the river. I’m not greedy by nature, but I don’t mind sharing that I had the entire view all to myself! I set the time-delay on my camera, struck a dignified pose, and counted to 10. :cam:

Drat. I can see my back, and the railing, but no scenery. :hmz:

Delete. Reset. Pose. Check the results. There, that one came out better.

Image

I checked my watch…darn! It was 5:40am and I was missing…something! It's past time to go! I couldn’t leave Mrs. Stark for very long, so I decided to go down the S93 and come back to camp on the S44. There wasn’t much by way of animals along the S44, though Impala and Spurfowl were in abundance. I love my wife dearly, but I admit that I enjoyed the solitude. With both windows down, and an average speed of “barely moving”, my solo adventure is one of my favorite memories of Kruger.

While stopping for a “sunrise filtering through the clouds” photo, I spied an “I have no idea what kind of bird that is” bird. Can anyone lend me an ID? (apologies for the poor photo)

Image

Image

I turned onto the S44, and quickly spied what I believe was a dwarf mongoose. He stopped long enough for a few photo's, and was the only mongoose of the trip that gave me that privilege.

Image

Impala were everywhere and on the move, so I eased my way along as to not disturb the large herds anymore than necessary.

I stopped at the Olifants lookout and, I’m happy to say, continued my streak of “Stark is the only man in Kruger” moments. The rush of the river was more intense here than in camp, and the water was really flowing! What a nice place to enjoy The Kruger! It is hard to describe the absolute lack of humanity one feels while standing alone in Kruger. It’s beautiful, soothing, awe-inspiring, and just a little bit unnerving.

Image

Image

After checking my watch, I decided to start back towards Olifants. I was planning on continuing my easy-going pace, while at the same time I didn’t want Mrs. Stark to oversleep! I came across a beautiful little pool of water. Being in a scenery frame-of-mind, I stopped to take a photo.

Image

But wait, what was that down in the water? A juvenile croc!

Image

And he wasn’t alone!

Image

Image

Image

A dove landed near the pool and, immediately, the croc slipped beneath the surface. Oooh! Maybe I’d see a Nile Crocodile, in the wild, grab a meal on the wing! I changed my camera to burst mode, focused on the potential meal, and waited. The dove strutted one way, and then strutted back, all the while keeping a respectable distance from the waters edge. C’mon, little bird. Go get a drink…

Image

But no, something just didn’t feel right for the bird. Without taking a drink, it flew off just as suddenly as it arrived. But oh, that crafty young crocodile it was! A few moments after the dove flew off, the croc resurfaced. Better luck next time, mate! Off I went, and soon I found myself near a baboon troop that was crossing the road. I stopped and shut off my engine. It was then that I realized that both of my windows were open, baboons were about, and that this wasn’t a very good thing! I rolled up my windows, wary of any baboons that may want to take Mrs. Stark’s place in the rental. False alarm…no baboon wanted a ride. The stragglers walked past without giving me a second glance, and I got back on my way.

For the remainder of the way to camp, I spent more time with at least one Impala in sight than not. Most paid little attention to me, save for this little one who was resting with her mother. As soon as vehicle came into view, she stood up and looked at mom to see if my Toyota was something to be concerned about. Apparently not, as mom had no intention of rising from her resting place. Eased by mom’s calmness, the little one turned, and turned, and turned, and turned, and turned once again! Finally, she settled back down.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image


I watched this young family for awhile, but it was time to get going. I thought that starting my engine would cause one, or both, to stir, so I prepared my camera just in case. True to their nature, both Impala took off for the brush once I started the car. You can see a time-lapsed sequence of them running off from this link. I was pleasantly surprised to see an impala raise her head in the upper-right part of the frame, as well as a bird that flies by towards the end. View Impala Running

I made it back to camp, and was pleased to find Mrs. Stark up, dressed, fresh, and ready to go. I shared with her my morning pictures, we grabbed up the lunch she prepared, and we were back on the road. The time: 7:45am. :thumbs_up:

Up next: Go North, young Americans!

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:00 am 
Offline
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:08 am
Posts: 2159
Location: Leeu Valley
Hi Stark

Regarding the Bird ID, I would say that it might be a Redcrested Korhaan, but I cannot say for sure as I would have to see the front end as well.

Great TR btw :thumbs_up:


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 7:11 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
I realize that we only stayed in 2 camps, but I have to say that the roads just outside of Olifants really are a treasure. At several spots, you can either see the river coursing far below or dense vegetation reaching as far as the eye can see. You turn the corner, and the brush seems to (and often does!) crowd right up to the edge of the road. In a way, the feeling of vast expanses hiding just beyond the nearby brush is very similar to the feelings I had roaming back-roads of the Black Hills of South Dakota as a boy. Granted, the pines of South Dakota looks NOTHING like this part of Kruger, but the feeling was the same.

But enough about childhood memories in a far-off lands! We were in Kruger, on our last full day, with a wealth of options on how to spend our day before us. We decided to drive up to Letaba, take a short break, and decide from there where to go. After a quick consult of the sightings board, we noticed reports of lions on the S89! Maybe a short detour was in order, just in case our feline friends were still around. We turned onto the S92, with plans to cross the bridge and tour the upper part of the S90. :thumbs_up:

Impala were out in force, as was expected, and we had the road all to ourselves. We fell in love with this part of Kruger, if for no other reason than nobody else seemed to be there! (Impala notwithstanding)

We could glimpse the river along the way, and the sound of hippo carried across the water. After a quick scan of the surface, we found the culprits.

Image

We came to the intersection that carries us to the river. Uh oh… :big_eyes: :doh:

Image

Image

It didn’t look like we were going that way! Being careful not to go too far, we drove down to get a better look. You could see how high debris was pushed, and had to wonder just how high the river was when this wood was deposited on the rocks? It was very clear that, if your car found its way off the bridge, there was every likelihood that you weren’t going to be found! In contrast, bridges in our part of Arizona are few and far-between. Roads are simply constructed along the contour of the landscape, with the understanding that water would flow over the roads during monsoon season. If you were brave, or foolish, enough to cross a wash in full-flood and got yourself stuck, you’d probably be noticed and saved. (eventually!) :redface:

By the looks of the Olifants river…not so in Kruger! If you’re dumb, you could die. I wasn’t even thinking about it, but Mrs. Stark said “Don’t you even think about it…” while we gazed at the partially-submerged bridge. That woman has no faith in me! :wink:

A truck came along from the other side, and had similar thoughts as we did. :slap:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Our S89 lion hopes dashed, we rambled along the S91 back towards the tar road. We were off to Letaba! The H1-5 was a very nice drive, though we didn’t see very much beyond the “usual suspects”. Once we reached camp, it took awhile to figure out our way around due to the construction. We could see that it will be very nice once completed, and what a nice camp it is! It was so peaceful, shady, and inviting. It felt like life’s pace slowed down a bit, and we put Letaba onto our “camp to stay in next time” list!

After a bit of camp admiring, we began looking for the shop as well as the elephant exhibits. True to form, Mrs. Stark found the shop! (she has a talent… :| ) I found the ATM, gave Mrs. Stark most of what I pulled out, and she proceeded to buy more stuff to pack into our return luggage! The shop is larger that Olifants, but doesn’t have the same busy feeling as Satara. She could have spent hours there. Post-purchase, we found our way down to the elephant hall. I highly recommend a stop here for anyone that is in the Letaba area. I’m a bit of a natural museum nut (Chicago’s being my favorite), and the exhibits are very informative and well-done. I was fascinated by the skull that was pierced through, as well as the interaction that Rudi Sippel witnessed in the park.

Mrs. Stark was pleased to spot "American tracks" in the guestbook. And they were fresh! Just a few hours old. We didn't hear another North American accent our entire time in Kruger, but it was fun to see that a couple from Virginia were far away from home as well, yet relatively nearby. 8)

Image

Image

Image

Image

Onward we went, and we decided to go up the H1-6 and then take the S62 to the Longwe Lookout. General game kept us company, and the impala were at-ease and very near the road.

Image

Image

Image

Image

I know we witnessed a bunch of Impala, and love to share those photo’s with you. While common in Kruger, we were enamored with their grace and beauty. We never felt more attuned with nature than when we were enjoying the simple “being” of a herd of Impala. I think Anne Frank summed our feelings nicely: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” All is as it should be when you enjoy the “everyday beauty” of Impala.

The next time you’re on a drive and are about to breeze by yet another herd of Impala, I ask you to stop. Take five minutes out of your journey. Turn your engine off, stay very still, and enjoy. I promise that you won’t be disappointed. :thumbs_up:

Image


The Impala moved away from us and we started our engine. It was time to move on, and we did so with smiles on our faces. Before long, we saw a group of rangers patrolling the S95 on bicycle. Now that is a job worth doing, but I don’t envy these intrepid souls!

Image

Upon reaching the Letaba bridge, we took the opportunity to stretch our legs. One other car was stopped, and we were watching the hippo as they vocalized and jostled, as well as a herd of elephant moving off in the distance.

Image

Image

We smiled at our fellow bridge-mate, who was a nice young Saffie. He let us know about a sighting near Mopani what was, in his words, “quite nice” and “very near the road”. We were intrigued and decided to go have a look for ourselves. Sure, it was farther north than we planned, but what the heck! Now wasn’t the time to be timid, so we acted on his tip. But what sighting did he clue us in on? And what else did we see? :huh:

Image

Up next…the pinnacle of our entire trip to South Africa! Showdown at Mooiplaas!

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:53 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
As we arrived at Mooiplass, the words of our new best friend on the Letaba bridge came back to us…

“If you are going towards Mopani, there is a sighting that is quite nice. Two male lions made a buffalo kill very near the road during the night. They’re protecting it from vultures, and will most likely be there the rest of the day”

Whoah! The only other predation interaction we had in South Africa was the breakfast-carrying hyena, and the croc that missed out on a dove meal. And this was with lions! 2 males! Near the road! With a buffalo kill! The entire drive up was filled with anticipation. Herd animals were notated with a brief calling of the name, but we had no intention of stopping. Time crawled along as we ticked off major landmarks and side-roads. Finally, we arrived! At the base of the water cistern, we could make out two distinct shapes that just didn’t belong…one was that of a lounging lion, the other being the remains of a buffalo. And no other car was there! :thumbs_up:

Image

Image

We were so excited! The heat of the noon sun was beating down on the scene, and the lion was settled down in the small patch of shade offered by the cistern. From the looks of him, as well as the remains of the buffalo, he was a very full, very hot, very sleepy lion!

We positioned ourselves so that we each had a good view of the scene, rolled down every window possible, and turned off the engine. Oh my! The heat was oppressive, and there wasn’t a hint of shade anywhere nearby, save for the cistern itself. Occasionally the wind would shift, and we could smell the carcass as the heat and sun worked away at it. With the wind, a cloud would sometimes provide some relief from the sun.

Image

But not for long!

Image

We could see why the lion was still near the kill, even with all the heat. A tree nearby was full of white-backed vultures, and more were arriving all the time.

Image

The kill looked to be more than partially eaten, and we couldn’t see any drag marks where the lions may have shifted their prey. We imagine that the feast was lying right where the kill was made, and perhaps with the lions using the cistern as cover or a barrier in order to bring down the large buffalo.

Image

We were settling in, when the thought occurred to us that this lion was alone, and the tip we received was about two lions. But where was he? Mrs. Stark and I scanned the area, but we saw nothing. Just then, I looked in the rear-view mirror. “There he is dear, right behind us.” That is what I’m sure I said, but Mrs. Stark begs to differ. Her recollection of my outburst was more along the lines of “Holy S*%t! He’s right behind us!) :big_eyes:

Taken from the rear-view mirror. Objects are closer than they appear… :big_eyes:
Image

I was not comfortable trying to keep tabs on one lion behind us and the other lion in front of us, so we started the engine and quickly repositioned. Neither lion took more than a passing notice of our vehicle, and we soon found a better spot along the road to serve as our vantage point. By the time I got my camera trained on Lion-2, he was lying back down in the grass. No wonder we missed him! From where we drove in, he was in the shade of bush, with smaller scrub in between us and him.

Image

We were content to spend the afternoon with these two handsome boys, as the heat of the day was completely forgotten. We’d switch our attention from lion to lion, and occasionally look over to the “Vulture tree” to see what was going on. There wasn’t much to photograph bird-wise, besides the tree with some dark shapes in the shade, until one bird shifted for a better view of the buffalo buffet.

Image

While being too excited to be hot, we enjoyed watching the lions shift around in attempts to get comfortable. That had to be hard to do with full bellies and a lack of nearby shade!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

While short on action, this sighting was long on personality! We sat back and couldn’t believe our good fortune. For us, this was the stuff of “Animal Planet” and “National Geographic”. Nothing could be better than having this sighting, just us and the lions!



…but then, the first elephant showed up… :dance: :dance: :dance:

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:12 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Mrs. Stark was the first to spot the elephant behind us. “Elephant” she said in a hushed voice. I chanced a glance in the rear-view mirror and, not learning my lesson with the lion I saw in the very same mirror 10 minutes previously, said nonchalantly “He’s pretty far back. I don’t think he’ll come up by the cistern with the lions around.” Mrs. Stark wasn’t so sure, and kept a wary eye behind us.

He was a nice-sized bull!

Image

In hindsight, I guess he wasn’t that far from the road. In fact, at this point, we were probably closer to the elephant than we were to the lions. While the male lions stayed in place, the elephant sniffed the air and paced back and forth. It was obvious that he could smell the lions, or the kill, or both. It was also apparent that he wanted a drink.

Image

The first lion spied the elephant…

Image

…but he didn’t seem overly concerned.

Image

His partner in the hunt was even less concerned, as he rolled back and forth to help aid in the digestion of his earlier meal.

Image

Image

“Elephant”, Mrs. Stark said again. “I know honey” was my reply. Jeash, like I could miss a huge pachyderm! What kind of man did she think she married?

I gave Mrs. Stark my best ‘oh honey’ look, and was surprised to see her giving me that very same look right back. “No, Stark. ANOTHER elephant!” She hiked her thumb over her shoulder, so I looked. I’ll be darned…

Image

At about the same time, our lions noticed the newcomer. One elephant might not have made an impression on them, but two did. Our first lion looked over to his mate…

Image

…no help there…

Image

So he decided to move just a bit closer to the kill, just in case.

Image


Now, both elephants were pacing back and forth, tasting the air with their trunks, and moving right up to the edge of the road.

Image

This really wasn’t very far from us, and we weren’t overly happy with the idea of having potentially-aggravated bull elephants behind us. Just in case, I checked to make sure the key was in the ignition. It was just were I left it. I irrationally thought about pushing the alarm disarm button a few dozen times, but dismissed the idea as soon as I had it. With my luck, I would have armed the darn thing and ruined the whole sighting.

“They’re coming up on my side!”, Mrs. Stark whispered. No way! Apparently, even with elephants, there is strength in numbers. All I could whisper was “oh wow oh wow oh wow oh wow” as we watched the two bulls pass by.

The first lion took notice as well, but bravely held his ground. Predictably, the buffalo was unconcerned.

Image

Image

And yet, the elephants pressed on.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Out of our entire trip, this very moment in time was our most exciting. Would the elephants keep coming? Would the lion give ground? And what would happen when the met?

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:39 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Thank you all again for the very kind words and encouragement. I really should be doing my taxes...and I should have been doing them since before I started this trip report...but this is far more enjoyable. :)

Before continuing with our story, let’s recap for a moment the players in the unfolding drama at Mooiplaas…

We had two male lions, each of which possessing a very different point of view in regards to priorities. One was partial to lounging in the shade of a nearby tree. The other, forsaking comfort, stayed near their kill with absolute resolve. This brings us to our next player…

…one cape buffalo. This poor chap had better days. :cry: After finding himself in the area of the Mooiplaas water hole, he was unfortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the lions. Of all our players, he quite naturally was the most disinterested in the final outcome of the Showdown. Yet, he was very much the interest of our next party…

…a tree full of white backed vultures, who we affectionately began calling “The Peanut Gallery”. (See http://ask.yahoo.com/20050720.html for the origins of the saying, as we’re not sure if it’s common outside the States!) The attention the Peanut Gallery gave the poor buffalo was the very reason that the plucky lion was braving the heat of the noon-time sun…not to mention braving the attention of…

…two approaching bull elephants! Imagine the annoyance these massive boys felt, with the smell of broiling buffalo mixed with live lion coming from the base of a cistern full of cool, refreshing water? This simply could not stand! Their determination to approach the cistern was of great importance to…

…Mrs. Stark, who WAS RIGHT in her assertion that the elephants were too close for comfort! :clap: But she wasn’t mad at her less-attentive travel mate, because who couldn’t love the man who put her in the position to be right about the elephants in the first place…?

…Stark! :dance: :dance: He couldn’t believe his good fortune at witnessing such a drama unfold right before his eyes! Experiencing nature is why they was there, but to observe the interaction of the two Lords of Kruger was a wonder to behold! And how lucky Mrs. Stark was to be along for the ride!!! (okay, I promise to stop referring to myself in the third person from now on!!)

As you can see from the last picture from the previous installment, the lead elephant stopped and took immediate notice to the lion once he was close enough to the cistern. With the flapping of ears and a stiff posture, the elephant let out a short trumpet, followed by a menacing rumble that carried across the bushveld.

Impressive, but the lion didn’t move. He held his ground, keeping his eyes on the approaching elephants. Under his watchful gaze, the elephants deviated, and then finally circled around the back of the cistern.

Image

Image

Image
(one of my favorite pics!)

Image

Once again, the sight of the lion was met with a vocal outburst by the lead elephant. He was magnificent! Much to his credit, the lion only moved once the elephant was a few body lengths away. While he did move to the far side of the cistern, the lion was far from being vanquished. Instead of abandoning his kill, he instead checked to make sure there was no immediate danger.

Image

The lead elephant did the same, and then he and his partner busied themselves with drinking from the cistern.

Image

Image

Image

Image

After inspecting the way the elephants passed, the lion turned and edged back along the cistern. We were surprised how close he was willing to get. He was very careful, moving a few meters at a time. He finally stopped where he could see the elephant, and the elephant could see him. :shock:

Image

Image

Image

Image

The second elephant, and indeed the second lion, did not seem to pay much attention to the members of the other species. One was content to rest, the other to drink. But oh, how the “lead” lion and elephant made up for it! They kept a wary eye on each other…the lion not wanting to leave his meal…

Image

…and the elephant not wanting to leave the water.

Image

We noticed that the lead elephant would visibly relax when the lion was not within his view, but would immediately become stiff-legged when he positioned himself to spy the lion. The lion would shift occasionally, leaning away from the wall to get a better view.

Image

Image

How surreal! While this very-real scene unfolded before us, it somehow didn’t feel real. The animals didn’t pay any attention to us, and this was far beyond any up-close wildlife experience for either of us.

We settled in and simply enjoyed. Mrs. Stark unpacked some biltong and sandwiches, and we ate in silence. Well, near-silence. The windmill would rattle and creak with the occasional breeze, and we could hear the splashing, drinking, and rumbling of the elephants from the cistern.

I glanced over at Mrs. Stark, who was chewing thoughtfully as she looked out towards the sighting and beyond. A smile started at the corners of her mouth, and she looked over at me. “Elephant” she said again, this time gesturing over the bonnet of the car. I followed her gaze and managed a smile of my own. “Elephant…that makes three!” :cam:

Image

Up next: The Showdown Continues with 3’s a crowd, and discretion is the better part of valor!

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Last edited by Stark on Wed Mar 18, 2009 9:14 am, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Kruger Serendipity - Stark's Feb 09 Trip
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:57 am 
Offline
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 1:52 am
Posts: 2219
Location: Arizona, USA
Thank you, all! This one took a bit longer to put together than I anticipated. And yes, my taxes remain undone. :) I noticed that some times, all the photo’s from TinyPic aren’t displaying. I’ve put a number above each photo, so if you see a number without a pic right below it, please refresh.! :cam:

It didn’t take long for the elephants at the cistern to notice the newcomer, and the most active of the pair turned to check him out. Everyone was on-edge, including Mrs. Stark and I! :doh:

How would this newcomer take to the presence of lions, and would the elephants present a united front? Ears flared as the bulls approached one another, trunks outstretched. Visions of the pierced elephant skull at Letaba came to mind, but I dismissed the idea of an elephant encounter. There were bigger issues to deal with, and I’m reasonably sure that nothing prompts elephant solidarity better than nearby lions. :thumbs_up:

The bulls circled each other a few times, low vocalizations coming from each, as trunks alternately pointed towards the cistern and the towards the tree where the other lion is…

1
Image

Or was!! As soon as the third elephant was on scene, he went around the tree for better cover. The above photo didn’t capture it very well, but if you look closely you can see his back to the right of the tree trunk.

2
Image

3
Image

4
Image

5
Image

6
Image

7
Image

8
Image

The lion by the kill noticed the newcomer as well…uh oh. He’s’ coming over, too! :wall: Time to take cover!

9
Image

10
Image

But again, he didn’t leave the kill! :clap: With that overwhelming elephant presence so nearby, we thought that he might at the very least join the other lion behind some nearby trees. But he didn’t, and I take my off to his bravery and tenacity. The lion incarnation of Stark would have retired from the field long ago! :redface: But not this chap. Not only did he stay, he again moved towards the elephants!

Closer…

11
Image

12
Image

…and closer…

13
Image

14
Image

…and closer still!

15
Image

16
Image

Reasonably satisfied that the elephants were going to stay on their side, the lion once again got down to the hot task of guarding his meal. (Keep in mind, his partner in crime was still keeping a low profile, and the Peanut Gallery was growing by the minute. But more about them later!)

17
Image

The above picture wouldn’t be all that impressive, save for the BIG ELEPHANT BACK visible just above the lip of the cistern. This cat had nerve!

Fortunately for the lion, the elephants weren’t shy about advertising their position. We could hear the loud splashes, slurps, and sprays as the Big Three drank and played in the water. Play really is the only word for it…we watched as trunk were slid across the surface of the water, spray was shot every which way, and occasionally a drink was taken. (In the next photo, look closely! The elephant is visibly pouring water out of his trunk, shower-style, and big droplets are falling from his head)

18
Image

19
Image

20
Image

21
Image

22
Image

By this time, tt was over an hour that we sat with the lions and elephants, with no other humans in sight. Fantastic! We couldn’t believe how much water elephants could drink! We couldn’t believe that, technically, we had 3 of the Big 5 in one frame! We couldn’t believe how many pictures we took! (I know I was heavy with pictures this time!) :whistle:

Up next: The Standoff continues with... “It all comes down to you and me”, aka “No, after YOU.”

_________________
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." West African Proverb


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 21 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: isinkwe and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group

Webcams Highlights

Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Submitted by Anonymous at 21:33:18 Submitted by kyknetta at 07:39:11 Submitted by Stampajane at 08:36:27 Submitted by Mrs. S.K.L.Gauntlett at 08:53:55