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 Post subject: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 10:02 pm 
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24 April 2010

Coming from Tzaneen, where we stayed with friends for the night (and lived for more than 3 years during the early 80’s) we arrived at Phalaborwa Gate during mid-morning on a cool drizzling day. Although I do not give preference to any specific KNP gate, Phalaborwa will always stir up nostalgic memories of my first visit to KNP as an 11-year old boy during the winter school holidays of 1965. I still have a pretty clear picture in my mind how the gate looked at that time. Since then it has undergone two major changes.

I remember that day in 1965 when the gate official told my dad that tourists coming from Letaba reported a big herd of elephant at Ngwenyeni water point - and if we keep to the speed limit we will probably still find them there. This proofed to be the case indeed. The present S131 was then still the main road between Phalaborwa and Letaba. Arriving at Ngwenyeni, this very herd of elephant was just starting to leave the water point to cross the road. While we were waiting for them to cross, a game ranger, approaching from behind, stopped next to us and said that we can follow him to the drinking trough which showed a ‘No Entrance’ sign to the general public. He would like to go and show us something rather special. And it was indeed something special – a small group of roan antelope. He told us that we are very fortunate as very few people have the opportunity to see roan in KNP. And how right he has been? Ever since I have only seen roan on two other occasions in the park – both times during the early 80’s when I lived in Tzaneen. Once we found a small group at Erfplaas (on the H9) and once between Shingwedzi and Babala on the S56 (Mphongolo Road).

But let’s come back to present time. We were aiming for Shimuwini for the next two nights (a first visit) and decided to travel on the S131, past Ngwenyeni until it joins the H14. Since I started keeping record of all mammal sightings in the park (1987), it was the third time that we would travel this road. Still having the nice 1965 memories about Ngwenyeni in mind, I turned off onto the S131 with high hopes. But alas – after 16.1 km before we joined the H14, no roan or elephants were to be seen – even at Ngwenyeni. As the park was all over wet, lush and green, the animals actually had no reason to come to water points. We only saw a small herd of impala, a group of 4 warthogs and 2 giraffes.

We then followed the H14 all along the Ngwenyeni River up to the low water bridge over the Letaba River. The occasional group of impala, our first 2 elephants of the trip grazing in the lush vegetation of the Ngwenyeni River, one or two steenbok and a small group of zebra were our only sightings on this stretch of road.
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Except for the two waterbuck, we also saw the untouched carcass of a buffalo amongst the debris next to the bridge. We suddenly developed a feeling that this carcass will be responsible for some action during the next day or two while we were in Shimuwini.

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We also saw quite a big Nile monitor on top of a heap of debris.

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The rest of the trip to Shimuwini on the S141 did not deliver any spectacular sightings. But Shimuwini itself was something above expectation. After a warm and hearty reception, Unit No 13 was appointed as our “home” for the next two nights.

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The rest to follow soon.

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Chris Boucher


Last edited by Stoffel on Mon May 17, 2010 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 10:10 pm 
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25 April 2010

Shimuwini welcomed us with some light drizzle yesterday, but fortunately gave us a dry hour or two to enjoy a relaxing braai. Just a few minutes after taking the meat off, it started raining again. And that went on non-stop through the night. With the kitchen on the stoep and a light south-easterly wind blowing in right under the veranda, it was no fun to prepare our early morning coffee.

While waiting for the coffee water to boil, the resident tame duiker came to visit.

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After packing our picnic basket, we set off for Masorini. Since it has been many years after we had brunch at Masorini, we decided that this will be our spot for the day to enjoy some bacon and eggs and to visit the museum site again. We left Shimuwini and followed the loop along the Letaba River before we joined up with the H14 again. The ever-present impala was to be found in small groups every now and then and we also saw some waterbuck, giraffe and hippo. But we also saw quite a few double-banded sandgrouse on this road.

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When we turned right (south) on the H14 we were full of expectancy to see some action at the buffalo carcass at the river. We could not believe our eyes, and were obviously quite disappointed when we found the carcass still untouched in spite of the smell it was starting to “send” out.

We turned off onto the S133 – the road going pass Jumbo watering point. This was to be a first time ever on this road for me. The original S133 followed the southern bank of the Letaba River between the H14 and Mingerhoutdam – and I have done that once. But it has been closed many years ago because lots of problems were experienced in the rainy season with tourists getting stuck. Except for 3 impala rams, we did not see any game on the “new” S133. After following the S131 for 1.4 km we turned south again on the S132 which only “delivered” a single slender mongoose before we turned right on the H9 towards Masorini. This piece of road was also very quite.

We arrived at Masorini with a very cold wind blowing. It was decided that it is too cold to prepare a proper brunch outside. We tried to find a sheltered spot against the wind and opted for a quick cup of coffee and a sandwich.

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The resident klipspringer was keeping watch on us and a big troop of baboons who also watched from just other side of the picnic spot perimeter.


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After a much shorter than anticipated visit to Masorini (nothing came of our intended visit to the museum site) we left off for Sable Dam. A few impala on the S51 and two Egyptian Geese at the hide was about the only living creatures we saw.

We crossed the H9 onto the H14 on our way back to Shimuwini after a rather quiet morning regarding game. At the foot of Shikumbu we had a nice sighting of giraffe and zebra together. And then …… 10 wild dog just before the S131 junction. We actually stopped for a group of vultures in a tree inspecting the area below them rather intensely. Most probably there were more dogs still feeding on a kill which we could not see. We only saw the movement of an odd ear or two every now and then. It was then that I decided to make the sound of a small puppy and they got up and started looking in our direction. Although the 10 that we could see was relatively near to the road (5 – 10 metres), it was difficult to take decent photos in the very dense area.

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After seeing some elephant, zebra and impala we came to the low water bridge over the Letaba again – with our buffalo carcass still untouched. But a hamerkop gave us a magnificent show of fishing capabilities. Next to him was a fish which was obviously too big to swallow. But where he was standing some smaller fish was coming down a side stream every now and then. It was just unbelievable to watch him catching the one fish after the other.

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The last part of the road to Shimuwini delivered the occasional odd impala or two. Arriving in a still wet and rainy Shimuwini, we decided to spend the rest of the day in camp. That night we were forced to make our chicken-curry potjie (stew) on the gas stove.

What a little peaceful camp! Surely not situated in the best game area, but it offers a unique experience to people who can just enjoy the tranquility of the bush.

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To be continued.

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 Post subject: Re: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 8:54 am 
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26 April 2010

Times just flies too quickly. The two nights in Shimuwini were something of the past and it was time to pack for the next two in Letaba. On the way out from Shimuwini, we saw the usual namely, impala, giraffe, waterbuck & hippo. And this fellow (Brownheaded Parrot) – high up in the huge Baobab tree along the loop on the S141.

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We turned south on the H14 with a lot of expectancy what to find at the buffalo carcass. Not far from the Letaba River we stopped for a group of giraffe, and the next moment a hyena came in our direction with their typical slow jog. The giraffe were a bit uncomfortable with its presence, but just stared down on it.

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Being quite near to the river, we were certain that the hyena was coming back from the festive spread we have been waiting to happen around the buffalo carcass. The excitement grew! What would we find? To be honest – we were a bit disappointed to see the following (on the photo), but no sign of anything that took part in the feast. Oh well, with the smell of rotten flesh coming from the carcass by then, I would have packed my things and left as well.

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My apologies to those who expected a report of some or other spectacular scene we might have experienced. Unfortunately it was not the case, but we were full of hope everyday when we passed over the bridge.

I reckon that this crossing of the Letaba is one of the park’s fantastic birding sites. With the right equipment (not the basic stuff like mine) birding photographers should find this spot exciting.

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And our Nile Monitor was back on its place again.

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My aim (since I started keeping record of all my trips in 1987) is to travel each tourist road in Kruger at least three times. Of the 2 627.3 km of tourist roads in the park, I have done more than 968.1 km (36.8%) three times or more. 416.5 km (15.9%) was driven twice, 683.2 km (26.0%) only once and 559.5 km (21.3%) I still have to do for the first time. I have done more than 12 000 km in the park since 1987.

For this reason I opted for the “new” S133 again as I travelled this road for the first time the previous day. Once again it was a bit of a poor experience on this road – seeing only 2 impala and a steenbok (over the total distance of 9.1 km). But my days of just focusing on the Big 5 are something of the past long ago. Therefore the lush green of the mopani veld along the S133 was a bonus of its own kind.

We turned left on the S131 and found very little to see until we turned off onto the S96. For quite a few hundred metres we could see the “evidence” of a herd of buffalo in the road. Just before we got to Shilawuri we found them. Although I believe it was a much bigger herd hidden amongst the dense vegetation, we could at least see about 50 of these magnificent animals.

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Apart from the Nhlanganini Dam (also known as the Winkelhaak Dam on older maps) with quite a few hippos and some waterbuck, we saw very little on the rest of the road to Letaba.

We arrived in Letaba around 12:30, which was too early for the new check-in time of 14:00. We decided to go and have something to eat on the cafeteria stoep. What a disappointment!! The service was poor and the pies were horrible. We thought it would have improved since our last stay in Letaba in 2006, but it was indeed not the case. Letaba cafeteria is now known to us as the place with the magnificent view, terrible service and awful meat pies. I cannot help to think back with nostalgic memories to the magnificent pies that were once served in the various camps’ cafeterias.

In my opinion Letaba is one of the most beautiful camps in Kruger. I would describe the area as “fair” (below average) when it comes to game viewing, but it is one of the camps where I am happy just to stay in the camp the whole day. I love Letaba (but will not visit its cafeteria again).

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My granddaughter (living in Romania) was not put off by the swimming pool’s cold water. She enjoyed every moment of it while her mother and grandmother attended to the laundry at the nearby launderette.

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Our afternoon drive took us on the S47 past the Mingerhoutdam. On our way back we took the S95 Loop. Just before we joined up with the H1-6 again we saw our first ever scrub hare in Kruger while driving in our own vehicle. I have seen them on a night drive before (the only one I have ever taken – at Talamati) and also one in Berg-en-Dal one night while walking in the camp.

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On the last few kilometres back to the camp we saw a huge troop of baboons, a very big herd of impala, lots of hippo and 3 elephants who really tried their best to let us miss gate closing time.

To be continued.

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 Post subject: Re: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 3:17 pm 
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27 April 2010

This was day number 4 and the first time that we actually saw some sunshine since we arrived in the park.

Another “new” road for me was the H15 to Giriyondo Border Post and Makhadzi Picnic Site. It was decided that we will only go as far as Makhadzi and enjoy our bacon and eggs there (on which we missed out two days ago at Masorini). On the H1-6 (including the S95 Loop) we saw the general type of game with once again lots of impala and baboons on the first kilometre or two. We saw our first blue wildebeest of the trip (3 of them) just before we turned off onto the H15.

On the 10.5 km towards Makhadzi we had one sighting of game. But it was worth every moment of it – 3 tsessebes.

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I’ve read a lot about Makhadzi on this forum. But even all the positive comments I have seen about this picnic site could not prepare me for what we experienced that day. Unfortunately we picked the wrong day to go there as a couple of labourers were busy cutting the grass with petrol driven grass trimmers. It was a bit noisy, but the beauty of this picnic site and the friendly personnel made up for the noise we had to endure.

With a positive reply to my question to the picnic site attendant whether it gets very hot in summer, I also asked him whether there are many snakes around. I could not help to laugh at the way he reacted in Afrikaans with a “big” word: “@#$ sir, here are very big snakes – mambas and cobras.” But don’t let that put you off - I think there are big snakes everywhere in the park. A brunch at Makhadzi is one of those “must do” things in the park.

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On the way back to the H1-6 we only saw a slender mongoose and 4 ground hornbills. But on the main road back to Letaba we saw quite a lot of zebra, impala, waterbuck and elephant.

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After spending a few hours in the magnificent tranquility of Letaba camp, it was time to explore the northern banks of the Letaba on the S62 towards the Engelhard Dam Outlook. We went pass all the turn-offs towards the river (even Mantambeni – which will be inexcusable in many connoisseur’s eyes) – and straight to the dam lookout. What a spectacular site with the dam overflowing!

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Travelling back we turned down onto the third road (from the main road) towards the dam and were amazed to see 3 beautiful nyala bulls amongst the dense vegetation. It was the first time that I found nyalas near Letaba. Except for the far north (Shingwedzi and higher) I have only seen nyalas between Skukuza and Nkuhlu, a single bull next to the Olifants River (seen from the view site in front of the restaurant in Olifants) and a single bull next to the Timbavati (near Bobbejaankrans). For this reason nyalas are always very special when I find them any other place than in the far north.

And so our last night in Letaba arrived. Once again, like so many times in the past (especially during my Tzaneen days when we visited very often) it was a privilege to spend some time in this camp where outstretched vistas across the Letaba River are at the order of the day, bushbucks roam freely on the lawns and matchless serene calmness tends to be the predominant sensation you experience.

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My granddaughter found this larva on their rondavel’s doorstep. Look at the peculiar shape of the head. Anybody who can tell what insect it is?

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To be continued.

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 Post subject: Re: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 4:49 pm 
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28 April 2010

We left the beautiful Letaba around 7:45. According to our original reservation we were supposed to travel to Skukuza for our last two nights. Personally I prefer to stay at least 3 nights in a camp to limit the lot of packing in and out. But when I made the reservation I could not get 3 nights each in two different camps. Originally we would have gone to Karoo, Kgalagadi and Augrabies with our caravan. But our plans changed when our children informed us that they are coming to South Africa a month earlier (they live in Romania). So I opted for two nights each in three different camps. We wanted to end our visit somewhere in the south (near White River/Nelspruit) as my daughter and son-in-law wanted to go and visit friends who studied with them at Africa School of Missions between White River and Numbi.

But I have a few unwritten policies for my Kruger visits. I have limits on the distances I drive per day. The distance when moving from one camp to another should not be more than 150 km. The reason for this is because we really travel very slowly in the park. It is seldom that I will exceed 25 kph according to my speedo, but from records I keep my average speed in the park is just less than 17 kph. Therefore 150 km will take me nearly 9 hours (+ stops).

For this reason I decided to change my last two nights as Skukuza would be just that little bit too far for a day’s journey in the park (at my speed). So we opted for one night in Talamati and the last night in Pretoriuskop. This also gave us the option of driving some of the less driven gravel roads.

We drove to Olifants with the S46 and S93. Just before the wall of the Engelhard Dam we saw this beauty.

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The rest of the road to Olifants “delivered” impala, hippo, tree squirrel, giraffe, vervet monkey & zebra.

We decided to give the cafeteria at Olifants a go after our unsatisfactory experience at Letaba. What a pleasant surprise. The service was good and efficient, the food was nice and the view magnificent. I came to the conclusion that management plays a vital role. My congratulations to the Olifants cafeteria management. The new deck at the cafeteria is also a huge improvement.

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After spending about 1 hour 15 minutes in Olifants it was time for the next leg of our journey to Talamati. Our route took us with the H8, S92, S90, S89 and S39 to our next stop at Timbavati picnic spot.

Although I have seen a Sharpe’s grysbok nearby on the S92 quite a few years ago, I was quite surprised to see one crossing the road on the H8 shortly after leaving Olifants. On the rest of the journey to Timbavati we saw a wide variety of general game including giraffe, impala, hippo, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, monkey, kudu (our first of the trip), steenbok, baboon and waterbuck. The S39 between the crossing of the H1-4 and Timbavati was without doubt one of the best roads we drove regarding game sightings – none of those real special animals everybody wants to see, but lots of the “ordinary” ones. At the Piet Grobler Dam we counted 41 hippos. Here’s part of them.

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After a nice cold drink, bought at Timbavati, we left after 30 minutes for our third shift of the day to Muzandzeni via the rest of the S39 and S36. The southern part of the S39 did not treat us as well as the northern part, but we still saw a lot of general game (impala, giraffe, elephant, monkey, zebra, warthog, baboon, kudu & slender mongoose).

Arriving at Muzandzeni around 3:30 we were the only people at this usually quite picnic site. After a cup of coffee it was time for our last shift to Talamati (via the S36 and S145) where we arrived just before 17:00. It was the most slender mongooses that I have ever seen on one day. My experience is that you will find one occasionally and most of the time crossing the road very quickly with their characteristic posture – long black-tipped tail bent forward over the body.

Talamati is such a nice camp. Therefore it was a pity that we only stayed for the one night. One bit of criticism. We stayed in Unit No 13 – a very comfortable place and reasonably well equipped. But we got the impression that the cleanliness of the unit was not up to standard – especially the shower cubicle which was a bit creepy (I will not show the photos that my daughter has taken).

We nevertheless enjoyed our stay, particularly our braai as it was the only night out of six that we had the privilege of enjoying a star-filled expanse of heaven. The local troop of baboons surely had a less peaceful night as sometime during the midnight hours they became quite boisterous. I still wonder if Mr. or Mrs. Leopard was not responsible for their unruly behaviour.

To be continued.

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 Post subject: Re: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 9:31 am 
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29 April 2010

We left Talamati at 7:53 for our last full day in the park. Our destination was Pretoriuskop via Nhlanguleni and Skukuza. I had such high hopes to see some sable around Talamati and/or along the S36. It has been many years since I last saw sable in Kruger – July 1993 to be exact. Since I have been keeping record in the park (1987) I have only seen 23 sable antelope in the park. And all of them during that specific visit in June/July 1993, but on three different occasions. We saw 2 east of Nkuhlu on the H4-1, but on the northern side of the Sabie River. Two days later we saw another 8 on the H1-2 between the H12- and S84-junctions and the next day we saw 13 on the S90 between the H1-4- and S41-junctions. That was my year of the sable.

During my only previous stay in Talamati (2005) we went on our one and only night drive we’ve had in Kruger. Our guide was full of hope that we’ll see sable as they found them that morning. In spite of the fact that we had a very successful drive (we saw 8 lion, 2 wild dogs, a white rhino with a calf, buffalo and elephant) we did not find sable. And once again this year, it was not our fortune to find any of these magnificent antelopes.

But a visit to one of my favorite picnic spots, Nhlanguleni, made up for that. I love this almost always quiet picnic site. The usual corrugated S36 did not live up to its notorious status. On the contrary, the road was about in the best condition I have ever found it. One could see that this part of the park surely had less rain than the northern areas we have visited so far.

We traveled with the S36, H1-2, H12 and H4-1 to Skukuza. On this whole route we actually saw very little game.

We have spent more than one and a half hours in Skukuza as my SO had to do some work. She is involved with our son’s business and had to pay wages with internet banking before 16:00 that afternoon. Well, I think it was one of the best office locations she has ever had. We sat under one of the thatched lapas at the cafeteria with a lot of fruit bats staring down at us.

Aren’t children wonderful? They just don’t have any inhibitions. My granddaughter (from Romania), only 3 years old, has been in the company of adults for more than 2 weeks. And every opportunity she had, she made friends with other children. During the time we’ve spent in Skukuza she made friends with this little girl.

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We left Skukuza at 14:00 on our last shift of the day to Pretoriuskop. We stuck to the main road (H1-2) and found our first white rhinos of the trip between the H3- and S65 junctions.

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I cannot drive the H1-2 without a visit to the Vervoer Dam. At the turn-off to the dam, we saw this little fellow in the road – it was about 30 cm long. It was only when the camera was taken out and directed at him, that we realized that we are dealing with a young cobra. According to my literature it looks like a young Mozambican Spitting Cobra.

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Except for a breeding herd of elephant next to the road leading to Vervoer Dam, we actually saw very little on the rest of the road to Pretoriuskop – where we arrived shortly before 16:30. This is surely not the most popular camp in the park as many visitors regard it is as a poor game viewing area and does not like the dominant vegetation of thatching grass and silver cluster leaf trees. But Pretoriuskop will always be one of my favourites. Probably it is mainly for the nostalgia it arouses in me. I cannot help to love this camp. This time we stayed in one of the 6-bed family cottages. It was without any doubt the neatest of all the accommodation units we have stayed in during this visit.

To be continued.

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 Post subject: Re: Stoffel and the Kruger (April 2010)
Unread postPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 9:48 am 
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Stoffel wrote:
29 April 2010It was only when the camera was taken out and directed at him, that we realized that we are dealing with a young cobra. According to my literature it looks like a young Mozambican Spitting Cobra.


I think you are right Stoffel. In my (very uneducated) experience the other one that looks similar is the snouted cobra (some say Egyptian Cobra) but ussually it is a bit more "yellow" in colour and the black band below the hood is a solid black "stripe".

Very nice photograph. Nice to catch it in the alert position with the hood and all.
They do tend to flee at the sight of anything that is "to big" to handle such as a car.

Very nice indeed.

PS Have a look here: http://www.savp.co.za/Venomous/slides/Snouted_Cobra_Damien02.html- At the snouted cobra

And here at the Moz Cobra - http://www.savp.co.za/Venomous/slides/moz_spitter_Thea01.html

Also the snouted cobra might change colors slightly based on where it is found. Like the ones int he karoo will look different from the ones found in the lowveld as they tend to have a more even colour and the black stripe is not so clear.

Sorry for the links but I can't get hold of them to post there pics on the forum so I have to refer.

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