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 Post subject: FVR In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light Jun 10
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:19 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
To escape from the World Cup madness, my wife and I decided to repeat our honeymoon trip to Kruger 31 years later, and spend 3 weeks trying to find beautiful animals in peaceful surroundings, without hordes of tourists!

Wednesday, 9 June.Fly from Cape Town to Durban, to pick up a 2005 Daihatsu Terios that my son got for us in Pietermaritzburg. Excited to get away from school at last, with reports completed and handed out. The new King Shaka airport is set in beautiful green sugar can fields, and I have my picture taken while `milking’ one of the bronze cows of the great king at the airport…

Thursday, 10 June.
The new Terios is dinky, very small, very solid, and drives like a dream in town, but feels a bit wobbly at 120 km/h on the freeway around corners. Do shopping for all basics, since we left most stuff at home for the flight.

Friday, 11 June.
Leave at 6 in cold, misty conditions, and sail along the toll route towards Ladismith. Miss the turnoff, and end up having breakfast at the ultracity before making a u-turn at the toll gate, and heading back towards Ladismith. Lovely drive in pleasant conditions. The Terios sails along at 15 km/l, much to my delight. Do the quiet back route via Piet Retief. The town is a total madhouse since the World Cup fever has brought every vuvuzela to town!
Turn 1 km too early after Amsterdam, and end up at the border of Swaziland! Now time is limited, and I hope to make it to Kruger on time. Buy avos and pawpaws at Barberton, take the new road to Nelspruit where the fans are flooding the place, including a band of Harley Davisons roaring down the road. Feel as if we will never get to Numbi since the speed limit is 60 for a very long distance.
Enter the park at 5:10, and just make it to Pretoriuskop in time, but not before we hit our first traffic jam around a leopard about 50m from camp gate. The Terios slips past the cars on the verge, and we are home at last in our newly thatched S2 huts. The World Cup has started, and the noise is deafening, but we open our Sabbath at sunset, and hit the hay early. Peace at last!

Sabbath, 12 June.
Hear lions roaring in the night, but so tired that we sleep till 7! Have a lazy start to the day, then head out to have breakfast at Shitlave dam. See a herd of elephants in the road, miss some sable at the dam, and hit a road block of about 1000 buffalo crossing the road for about 10 minutes! Today I don’t take pictures, but just look and listen. It is my Day of Rest, so no work with the camera for me!
Walk through camp, have worship at the very quiet swimming pool under a tree, and just unwind for the rest of the day. It surely was a proper day of rest…

Sunday, 13 June.
Up early, and ready to hit the road because we are heading for Tamboti today, but want to go through the park. Stunning misty sunrise at Vervoer Dam, and then the first of many `Road Lion’ sightings for us early birds – 2 young lionesses walk towards us, stare into the distance, and slowly wander off as the first car approaches us. Wow! (The recipe for the rest of the trip – drive early on tar road before other tourists, and see cats before they disappear into the long, wet grass)
The rest of the road is just bush, long grass and virtually no animals all the way to Orpen gate. A bad omen for the rest of the trip?
First impressions of tent no 24 at Tamboti, in thick grass and bush, with NO World Cup noise = wow! Enjoy a lovely picnic meal at the kitchen, with no other car or person in sight! Don’t see much on the pm drive towards Satara, except many South American tourists and locals, all heading out of the park on a Sunday pm drive.


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Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:28 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Thank you to all for such positive and upbuilding comments! I have never really done a trip report, but am trying to share some special moments with you. Some background info: As teachers, my wife and I had a nightmare start to the year when our school organized a campout at Bainskloof, and 2 of our special young girls drowned with meters of 11 teachers who were trying to keep tabs on all of them. This experience aged all of us tremendously, and haunted us for months. Going to Kruger was part of the `trying to get over it all'' experience. So far it seems as if quiet and peace in God's beautiful creation has done something special for us...

God bless,

Friedrich and Michelle von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:03 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Monday, 14 June
My first real photographic early morning outing, and we enjoy the slow drive along the Timbavati river. I am looking for 3 male lions that Aat Vuik photographed her a year ago on the tarred road. What are the chances of seeing them again?
A beautiful drive through grassland up to Timbavati for a peaceful picnic with 1 bushbuck.
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What happened to her mom – last year there were two?
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The tourists arrive and we clear off, back to Satara on the tar road. 9 lions walking away from the road, and they are gone.
Have another peaceful picnic lunch on our own at Tamboti, and are surprised to find atraffic jam 4 km from camp as tourists go wild over 4 very sleepy lions in long grass. Michelle enjoys photographing the tourists, and I give up and enjoy a slow drive back to camp. Make a fire (unusual for us – vegetarians don’t find too many things to braai!) to keep us company in the thick bush, then sit down to steaming hot roosterkoeke with margarine, marmite and avocado pear and tomato. Sjoe, maar dis lekker!
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God bless,

Friedrich and Michelle von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:32 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Good evening from a cold and snowy Cape. Writing this makes me miss Tamboti even more!

Tuesday, 15 June
The first two nights the Scops owl kept purring in a tree next to our tent all night, but not a sound from him now. I hear lions roaring far away on the Satara road, but by dawn they are quiet. It is always exciting getting up early in Tamboti. I nearly bump into a honey badger and when I switch on my headlamp, he scurries off into the shrubs. Sunrise to a sparkling, grassy world, and after the usual lovely drive along the Timbavati river, we turn onto the S36 dirt road leading to Muzandzene picnic spot. 300m later, and Aat Vuik’s 3 huge maned lions lie next to the road in soft backlit grass.!.
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I start hyperventilating just looking at them.
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A stunning 10 minutes before the first cars arrive, but everybody is very polite. Spend 30 minutes with them, and celebrate this magnificent sighting by gobbling up two roosterkoeke from last night while trying to find better angles to photograph them – quite a challenge in the long grass, and with other cars around.

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One male gets up and strolls to the next shady spot where he flops down again.

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I have had some Sleepy Beasts in magical light, and with a light heart drive off to enjoy a tremendous picnic breakfast at Muzandzeni.
The hornbills are especially lovely in the soft early morning light.

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We return the same way, and the lions are still there, but a bit further away.
On the way back I notice safari vehicles with South American tourists approaching. I stop them and give directions to the lions. Wow, they are excited! We stop another vehicle – this is addictive. I think I caused quite a traffic jam by the lions, but how rewarding to see tourists in Africa on their first lion hunt!
Tamboti is very quiet during the day, and while making lunch I see a white breasted robin (sorry, I am not clued up on the latest names), and enjoy the soft chirping of waxbills and firefinches next to the kitchen. Not much to see on the evening drive, but seem to find ground hornbills every day. Familys of 3 or 4. Very encouraging, since they are apparently endangered in South Africa.
Our last evening in Tamboti is cold, cause it is snowing in the Cape. I am very thankful that the real front has not hit us yet. As lovely and cosy as the tents have been, I don’t feel like freezing right now. We pack everything in the car. Tomorrow will be a long day.
Lions roar at night, and a leopard grunts a few times early in the morning, but the baboons go ballistic half the night. Is the leopard disturbing them?

Good night, and God bless,

Friedrich

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:35 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Good afternoon from an icy Cape Town. This was the most exciting and satisfying day of the whole trip...

Wednesday, 16 June
Early morning, and after worship in the tent, it is so lovely to sit in silence outside my car waiting for the gate to open. Another private night drive, and very soon a lioness with two small cubs is silhouetted in the road against the dawn as they amble towards us. I open my window and they pass within meters before disappearing into the dark grass!
What more can I ask for? At the Timbavati/S36 cross road 3 huge shadows lie in the road beside a single car. I inch forward, and here they are again – Aat Vuik’s 3 maned lanes, all the same, probably brothers! The Sanparks bus from Orpen waits a few polite moments, and then slowly inches past them. They stand up and start marching down the road.
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What a delight to follow them, then pass as they just stand and stare. Unfortunately in the shade of a tree as the first sunlight peeps over the horizon, so the pictures are a bit blue, and slightly soft, but yet gorgeous.
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They mark their territory by scratching the soil and defecating next to the road. I can virtually touch the one male as he stands staring into the distance.
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Ten minutes later they amble into the grass and disappear over the hill.Thank you Lord!
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Not much else for the rest of the trip via Timbavati, but we enjoy a delicious breakfast on the high level bridge over the Olifants river, stretching our legs and just enjoying the warm sunlight.
Very little all the way to Shingwedzi, and disappointed that the mopani leaves are still bright green. Shingwedzi is stunning compared to the south, and the last 2 km of river drive to the camp are something very special! The camp is dry and bare, with not a blade of grass anywhere, and hundreds of campers sporting World Cup flags everywher. Quite a shock after Tamboti!
Do an afternoon trip to the famous Kanniedood dam, but am not impressed – can hardly see the dam through the thick foliage, and a lot of dust left by many cars passing by. I won’t do this road in a hurry again.

Highlight of the trip – arrive at the high water bridge as a herd of 50 elephants comes charging over the dry riverbed to a small remaining pool about 100m from the bridge. Jump out and start shooting pictures, but terrible glare as the sun is directly behind them.
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Spend a wonderful 45 min with them as they drink and play.
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Suddenly half the herd is gone in a cloud of dust! I grab my camera, find a thin line of shade behind the barrier, and start shooting the sequence I have dreamt of – elephants marching off in golden dust!
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I lie on the tar road and keep on shooting till they have gone...
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then relax and start breathing again – I nearly fainted from lack of oxygen!
I give Michelle a big hug and watch the sun setting, then thank our Creator for such a very very special day….

Thank you for enjoying with me! Must rush to fetch my son at the airport -- he is coming from Durban to spend the Sabbath with us!

God bless,
Friedrich von Hörsten
G

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:50 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
A BIG thank you to all for the positive comments. Yes, Kruger did help us do much -- only problem is how to fit back into `civilization'? Had a `picnic' lunch at Kogelbay today, but the hundreds of cars and racing motorbikes made it nerve racking instead! Looking forward to a quiet weekend in Namaqualand in August to calm the nerves even more!
My last installment was a very special day, and there are not so many of them up North in Kruger, since the numbers of animals seen are far less (in my experience this trip) than further south, so had to enjoy the smaller things around Shingwedzi...

Thursday, 17 June
Wake up to lions roaring VERY close to camp. It carries on for hours. I am up early, and at 5:45 discover the east gate is open. Go around the camp in circles, get lost and end up in the staff village in the dark, make my way back to the river, nearly bump into two huge elephants around a sharp corner, but arive alive in camp without a trace of lions.
Michelle is tired and still sleeping, so I take the tar road north to Mbabala picnic spot, in search of mopani lions on the tar road of course. A stunning sunrise, incredibly soft, delicate grass seeds, a beautiful ride along the Mphongolo river, back to the tar road. Stop a car – a leopard about 5 km further. My heart races, but I don’t. Of course the leopard has gone, so I drive through beautiful grassland and scrub mopani, with dark black clouds coming in from the west, but nothing worthwhile to photograph in the foreground! Stop at Mbabala picnic spot to enjoy muesli and soya milk in the chilly air, and drive back slowly along the tar road.

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See my first animals just before the camp, a few zebras in green grass. Spend the rest of the day with my wife between the low water bridge (with malachite kingfishers) and the high level bridge.

We also find a family of squirrels that love the first big mopani tree at the bridge turnoff. They huddle together while sunning themselves on this cool, cloudy day. Very cute and cuddly.

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We spend an hour or more waiting for animals at Lamonte waterhole, but also only see cute squirrels in the only tree by the reservoir.

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Of course the elephants don’t come back for sunset (neither do they for the next 5 evenings!), so just enjoy being out of our car on the bridge, chatting with other folk and smelling the elephant dung and river smells… (by the way – it is perfectly LEGAL to get out of your car on all high level bridges in the north, starting with Olifants, then Letaba x2, Shingwedzi, and even the Luvuvu river near Pafuri – there are signs up and a yellow line on each side to designate the `safe’ areas! Have had many lovely breakfasts and evening sup of cold Appletizer outside my car on these bridges).
So far Shingwedzi has been stunning, but the sightings board does not show too many predators, and I wonder if I will ever see any of the beautiful mopani lions that I have seen posted by Peter Betts and other photographers. Should I try to go south towards Mopani and the Eendrag lions tomorrow? I love all the options, knowing I have 5 more days to try them out!

God bless from a sunny Cape Town,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:51 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Greetings from a stunning evening in the Cape -- the evening sun is glowing through my lounge window, a rock pigeon is calling on the roof, and my cheetah pic is glowing against the wall! A short report on Pafuri:

Friday, 18 June
Last night I persuaded my wife to go all the way to Pafuri today, right to her homeland, Zimbabwe! Packed and ready, we wake up at 5:40, have worship, excited to get away. Slow drive is a repeat of yesterday, with thick grass and mopani trees. 15 km later I spy 4 huge shapes in the road – maned lions! They are nervous, so I follow them SLOWLY at a distance of at least 60m, praying that the sun will rise before they disappear!
One male, the biggest, makes a left turn and is gone in seconds. The other 3 look over their shoulder, but carry on in the road. I inch closer as the first sunrays touch their manes.

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One male stops and stares. I stop and shoot. But my pictures are NOT sharp! I turn the ISO up to 800, which is horrible with my Nikon D200 for graininess, but I need sharper pics.

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The lions move and number 2 turns left and disappears. I follow. They stop and I shoot again. Better, but NOT sharp enough. They move again, and now a car appears from up front, but very slowly and cautiously. I start hyperventilating as one by one the lions disappear into the grass. ``Follow them and shoot,’’ my wife commands. I don’t want to chase them away, but they are nearly gone, so sneek forward silently and swiftly, open the windows, switch the car off and coast right up to the last one’s disappearing bum.
A sudden turnabout and he glares at me wickedly. I grab the huge lens and shoot 5 shots in 2 seconds before he turns around and melts into the bush… I am too scared to look, but YES! One picture stares at me, crisp and clear, those yellow eyes boring straight at me!

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Exstacy and delight! Night drive vehicle arrives and I take them back where we find the first 2 males hiding behind a shrub. Just drive off for a hearty breakfast at Mbabala, still smiling from ear to ear. Unbelievable!

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The rest of the trip to Pafuri is a dream – stunning baobabs, lovely forest at Pafuri, picnic with cute monkeys, precious memories when we look across a flooded Limpopo at Zimbabwe, the place that we love so much.

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Drive home in a daze, happy and delighted. No more stress about seeing beautiful beasts in magical light – today it happened at last! Thank you Lord!
I sleep like a dead dog.

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:21 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Hi Ils

Shingwedzi to Pafuri and back was 200 km, which is a lot for the park. We left at 6 am and got back about 3 pm, with very little to see on the way back. I must take my wife back there, and spend some better time early and later, so the only option is Punda Maria, but that means camping (the huts are too expensive for me!)
I would love to take pictures of those baobab trees around the archaeological area (Thulamela?), but need to be there very early and very late.

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:01 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Hi Bushbuddies -- I have NO fancy settings, just normal: Iso 800, centre weighted metering, but VERY SPECIAL lighting! I spent 20 days in the park, and only had about 6 mornings where special light and special animal got together -- the rest of the time I just ogled the lovely grass seeds and trees in such gorgeous light...

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:24 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Good evening to all from a `summery' Cape Town -- what a stunning day with the bergwind blowing and temperatures up to 26 degrees -- it felt like Spring!

Since I don't take pictures to sell on my Day of Rest, I thought you would be bored by words alone, so put in a few other pictures from previous days, and some of Michelle's baby baboon pics:

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Sabbath, 19 June
Another peaceful day arrives, and I have breakfast in a miniature mopani forest between the chalets, bathed in golden sunlight, surrounded by bird sounds. I love the call of the African mourning dove, which is not found in the Cape – their kirrrr call reminds me of doves at Lake Bogoria in Tanzania, and I find that they make this special call while mating in the top of a big mopani tree.

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Today is the day for the bridge and the low level bridge, where we sit and watch birds, crocodiles, fish eagles and monitor lizards going about their business.
We never like travelling in the heat of the day, but Michelle wants to have lunch in the bush without people, so no picnic spots. But there is Red Rocks view point, that I have never seen. The drive there is very pleasant and hot, and Red Rocks is deserted, so we open the boot and have a simple bush lunch of fresh bread, tinned beans, avocado pear, fruit juice, and half a paw-paw each. A very good idea!

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Back near camp, it is the day of the Baby Baboons: we spend at least an hour sitting within 10m of a family with 2 teeny black babies. They cuddle and handle the teeniest one with such care, and it nearly falls from the branch a few times. In spite of the dim light (it is a cloudy day) Michelle shoots many shots of these cute little primates, and afterwards sits for hours admiring her pics – much more interesting than the few ones I get later in the week with my better equipment, but today I just rest and look in fascination.

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Sunset on the bridge, and a single elephant bull walks below us on the sand, following the footsteps of another bull. His trunk touches each footprint, and he puts his own feet in the identical hollows left by his friend. Amazing!

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At last a huge herd of elephants appear on the northeast bank of the river. They don’t want to come and drink, but cross the tar road about 50 meters (it looks closer in the picture, but the telephoto effect causes that) away from us where we stand in our ``safe zone’’ but I get a bit nervous when 2 huge bulls angrily start sparring and trumpeting in the middle of the road. I wonder… what would we do if they decided to cross the bridge with about 20 tourists standing around amongst their cars directly in their path? Or rather, what would WE do? Jump over the railing (too high) or duck behind your car? Fortunately they are not keen to cross the bridge, and disappear into the bush with a snapping of branches.
Thank you Lord, for another peaceful day in the bush!

THe first clouds of another cold front have arrived, so God bless and sleep well,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:42 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Good evening everyone, from an icy Cape Town. No amazing sightings in the mopani bush, but still very special anyway:

Sunday, 20 June
Today I am looking for Peter Betts’ (Outdoor Photography) Eendrag male lions, so we take an early drive down towards Mopani. Hardly an animal to be seen, so we drive back and do the full Red Rocks loop, and have breakfast at the lovely viewpoint.

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Miss many lion and leopard sightings somehow, but have a wonderful day (it is becoming a habit, if the sightings board is accurate…would it not be nice if somebody took a pic of this board on a daily basis and put it on a thread called `Recent Sightings at Lower Sabie' or whatever camp it may be?).

Spend an hour or two on the Kanniedood dam loop, watching a family of dainty bushbuck eating wild figs that have fallen from a sycamore tree.

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The low level bridge is too busy to stop for long, but we still have excellent sightings of kingfishers, some from very close up indeed!

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Find an eaten fresh egg in the road -- no crows around here, so who had spurfowl omelette for breakfast?

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At the cutting above the low level bridge, an elephant stands eating on the edge of a sheer drop of about 5m. We drive right underneath him, and Michelle takes this wide-angle shot of him from below -- he reminds me of a manta ray!

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Relax on the high level bridge for sunset. At this stage my priorities are changing slightly – I still eagerly search for beautiful beasts in magical light, but enjoy the smells and sounds even more because I have bookings for 20 days!
Most people would count this trip as a failure if you think how many lions and leopards I am not seeing, but the priority is on a few special moments rather than on racing around to see 100 lions in a day!
And measured in that light, this is indeed a very successful holiday!

God bless,

Friedrich and Michelle von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2010 6:57 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Good evening from a chilly Cape Town. The first spring flowers are showing in my rockery, even though we all know winter has not gone for a long time yet...

Monday, 21 June
Just can’t resist looking for our 4 male lions again, so an early morning drive up to Mbabala picnic spot. I am tempted to turn left on a 2 km road to the Mphongolo river, but don’t bother. Nothing much except stunning grass in warm morning light, so we drive another 10 km, then turn back and have a lovely breakfast in the crisp morning air, surrounded by hornbills and barbets, with nobody else around except the solitary buffalo bull we have seen here before.

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Enjoy the beautiful forest along the Mphpongolo river, see lovely nyalas, and enjoy the waxbills under a huge tree. Wonder if I should do the same 2 km long link road that I skipped this morning, but don’t bother…

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Find an amazing hornbill at reception, who has defied all odds to stay alive in the bush – he can’t walk properly, and has a totally deformed top half of his bill, but he lies on the ground and licks up ants and small crumbs with his lower jaw/tongue combination. At least he can fly away!

[IMG]http://i27.tinypic.com/eg1zl2.jpg[/I

Lunchtime we head for Red Rocks along the dirt road. No animals at midday, but wow! My first ever python (I am 54 years old) in the road! About 2.5m long and very lazy. Eventually its shiny body slithers into the grass and disappears.

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Around the corner a car – what do you see? Listen! The most terrifying growling, trumpeting, shoving and bashing of tusks I have ever heard in my life, about 50m away in the thick mopani bush. It goes on, and on, and on. We are surrounded by elephants returning from the Shingwedzi river, so reverse nervously till we find a gap and speed past. 10 minutes later and the fight is till going on! We drive to Red Rocks, and while eating lunch, still hear the fighting elephants about 2 km away!
Have a lovely chat with an Australian man and his son who have driven all the way from Satara to look for lions at Red Rock! A noisy individual stops in his car, talking at the top of his voice on the cell phone about a lion kill somewhere near Shingwedzi. The tourists still plan to go to Shing to look for the lions, but I warn them not to wait too long – it is a long way back to Satara before 5:30!
We do the whole Red Rocks loop, return, and still hear fighting elephants in the distance – somebody is going to die today! The sounds are worse than those I experienced at Shumba pan in Hwange during the drought 4 years ago, when about 30 huge bulls were jostling all night for a tiny trickle of water from the borehole…

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Enjoy strolling around in the camp in the warm sunshine.

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This male impala is in the mating mood, and makes a Flehmen's grimace like many of the male lions have been doing.

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Wait for the elephants on the bridge at sunset, but they do not appear. A stream of cars rush past us, and I know they are after the lions that killed a zebra on the link road I skipped twice today, but who wants to jostle with 4x4s on your last evening at Shingwedzi?
Look for the baboons that have entertained us all week, but they are not in their usual place on the tar road close to camp either…
According to the Sightings board people saw leopard, lion and more lions on the same roads we travelled today. It makes me feel better – at least they are here!

Have a lovely evening -- I have a few more special moments to share with you from Tamboti and Lower Sabie later this week.

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:37 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Good evening and thank you so much for the thoughts and comments shared! Every time I read them, I feel more relaxed and happy to be alive and healthy....

Will try to put the last day at Shingwedzi on tomorrow, but in the meantime, I am sure you will enjoy my wife Michelle's first attempts at photography with a SLR camera, even though it was only with the 18-200mm lens which is not known for brilliant sharpness as a wildlife lens!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2 ... 1790964435
Hope it works!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:38 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Tuesday, 22 June.

Our last day at Shingwedzi, and really sad to have such a lovely stay come to an end, even though we have not seen many predators up here. Up early as usual, and decide to have a last drive up to Mbabala picnic spot in the hope of seeing our 4 male lions again.
Three cars ahead of us travel at 15 km/h, shining their spotlights into every bush – yesterday morning they found a leopard here. I patiently follow them but after about 5 minutes realize I will never get to Mbabala for lunch at this rate, and slip past them at 35 km/h. Turn right at the T-junction, and there they are – 5 lionesses walking towards us on the bridge!
I switch off the engine and the lights, but they get nervous as another car approaches, and scurry to get off the bridge. They duck into the bushes on either side, and are gone…
I turn around and flag down the spotlight brigade to tell them the lions are en route to the tar road, then drive back to the bridge. In the semi-dark I am VERY careful when I get out of my car on the `safe’ section. The crisp air and adrenaline make me feel very alert as I peep over the edge at the sandy riverbed. A lioness is standing about 40 m directly below, staring up at me. Wow! She turns around and trots off, and suddenly another lioness follows her up the bank! How special!
I tell the other cars what has happened, and they race back up the road to intercept the lions. I know they will see them again, but we just stand on the bridge a few moments in silence, then decide that the best has been seen, and drive elatedly to Mbalabala for a special last breakfast. We find out later that the lions entertained everybody for a few hours by walking up the riverbed nearly all the way to camp. A young couple crossed the low level bridge and met up with them on the other bank of the river…

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We carry on driving on our favourite road, but see no sign of the 4 lions. A lone ground hornbill sits in a dead tree at sunrise...

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After a sad breakfast at Mbabala, we enjoy the drive back to camp, and wander around between the old huts with the plump Sabie Star trees. The first pink blossoms are just appearing, and as usual I can’t resist photographing them…

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What would the last day be without lunch at Red Rocks? See a puff adder en route, and have a very special meal in the mopani forest -- simple Basmati rice and vegetable stew with the last bit of avo on top -- simply delicious! Aherd of elephants come down to drink below us at Red Rocks – a special wish has come true on the last day!

Watch the sun setting from the bridge, and have a lovely chat with some friends that have spent the last few evenings there too…

The last time we visited Shingwedzi, was on a holiday down from Gweru in Zimbabwe, when my oldest son was newly born. Today he is 27 years old. This visit was well worth it, and I hope to repeat it soon!

Sleep well and God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

Ps. I gave the following Facebook link for my wife’s pictures of the trip. She has now changed it so it is more accessible:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2 ... 1790964435

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light....
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:02 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 499
Location: Somerset West
Wednesday, 23 June
Packed last night and leave when the gates open at six. Today is a long day, with shopping outside the park to stock up on fresh fruit and have the Daihatsu’s wheel alignment checked in Hoedspruit. Of course I am hoping to see the famous Eendrag male lions near Mopani, so we scan the road and bush carefully, but once again, stunning light and beautiful grass seeds, but no beautiful beasts to match the scene!

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Only manage to find a cold Burchell’s Coucal sunning himself on a branch at dawn. Enjoy the lovely fresh air and smells at Mooiplaas picnic spot, then travel on a new road down to Phalaborwa gate. Stunning mopani trees that are now starting to turn brown, but very few animals. At last, a few elephants close to the gate, and enjoy Sable Dam – it reminds me of Mandavu Dam in Hwange, and I am sure there must be lovely sights when the elephants come down to drink at dusk. The hide must be very special to sleep in…

A big cultural shock to be back in `civilization’, but manage to get some riper avos and fruit for the last week of our stay in the park. For the curious ones – I am delighted with the general performance of the Terios – the perfect balance between a Mini and a Land Cruiser! Fuel consumption in the park = 17-18 km/l!

Quite relieved to get to Orpen gate again, and delighted to find we are sleeping in Safari Tent no 24 again! It feels like being back home. Find a tree frog sleeping in the folds of the tent flap, and just revel in being back in the bush. The afternoon ride does not deliver anything special, but so good to drive along the Timbavati river. Sleep like babies in the very quiet bush camp.

Tursday, 24 JuneMichelle is too tired, so I am waiting at the gate by 20 to six. Very special to stand outside the car in the pitch dark, listening and smelling …. Surprise – the attendant opens the gate 10 minutes early, and I am out on a private night drive again!
Within 5 kms I spot eyes in the road. They crouch like a cat, then edge into the grass, but the `leopard’ (my guess) turns around and comes back for another look. I cautiously approach, but he turns around and melts into the bush – nothing to be seen! I think I gave up too early, and should have hung around waiting…. But off I go, and spot a genet, and just before the Timbavati river, a HUGE black maned lion is using the side of the road as a toilet. He scratches vigorously and strides majestically down a game path towards the river. I stop and stare, but he does NOT feel like returning the favour, and disappears into the riverine bush.

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It starts getting light in the east, and the whole Timbavati valley is thick with smoke from the recent burns. I love it, and wish Michelle could have been here. She loves the smell of burning grass; it reminds her of Bulawayo. So I stop and try to photograph it, but very difficult to capture. At the `3 male lions’ intersection I turn right to look for them, but after about 1 km turn around, not knowing that other people will find them another 2 km further down the road!

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Back at the tar road I decide not to take the long Timbavati loop, and find out later that there were lions 1 km down that road too! So I enjoy the stunning sunrise in a world that is black and burnt. At last a car approaches from Satara. I stop and the friendly Canadian tells me I just missed a cheetah 3 km down the road… I decide to go and have a look anyway, and set the ISO to 500 for the soft, hazy light. I do NOT want to have blurred pictures!
A small traffic jam, but nothing to see. Ask a minibus full of Indian tourists – ``A leopard! No, a cheetah!’’ shouts the other man. ``Follow me’’ he waves excitedly.
We go to the front of the queue, and sure enough, the cheetah walks parallel to the road in the burnt grass, then poses perfectly in the soft light on a little rise. I force the big lens down onto the bean bag and squeeze the shutter gently, time and again, till the cheetah veers off into the bush. Wow! I am too scared to view my pictures properly, and just glance at one -- it looks OK!

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At peace with the world I slowly turn around and leave the jostling vehicles. I have seen enough, and now just enjoy the leisurely drive back home. Meet up with the Indians again. I thank them profusely, and say I would love to see India one day. Two gentlemen give me their business cards, and ensure me that India is better than this – they have tigers! ``Be my guest’’ says the one graciously as he passes his business card. Who knows, perhaps one day my dream will come true! At home, Michelle looks at the cheetah pictures, then says: ``I prayed for my man today, and God blessed you!'' When I see them myself, I have to agree!
The rest of the day I just relax in Tamboti camp, and enjoy a quiet but uneventful evening drive. Unfortunately we move tomorrow, but that has been a very wonderful stopover en route from Shingwedzi to Lower Sabie. I hope to see many cheetahs around there in the next few days… but as usual, my dreams do not come true in the way I expected....

God bless from a Sunny Cape Town,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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