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 Post subject: carolv-Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!-Aug 2010
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:25 pm 
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Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
A warm welcome to our second trip report. For those of you who read our first (Nearly Didn’t Make it to KNP) you may recall that medical issues almost prevented our visit in November 2009. With many hospital visits between then and now, even wondering if and when we would be able to return to our beloved KNP, SO was at last told it would be OK to go on holiday and they would work his treatments around as necessary. So just how long does it take to plan a KNP trip? Really not long at all!! We grabbed 2 available flights and trawled the SANP website for camp availability. Just a few hours later everything was booked and confirmed. Only car hire to arrange and that was arranged quickly…albeit it with much shaking of the head at the huge price increase since last year.

The one advantage to booking things at fairly short notice is so much less time to wait until departure day. Perhaps the hardest ‘wait’ for us is the actual day we fly. Being an overnight flight, we do not need to leave for the airport until mid afternoon but the time just drags by until we lock up the house and leave for London Heathrow. With a speedy check in, the time before boarding is easily spent with coffee and a jumbo crossword. Just as well then that I am not one of the elite who can complete The Times crossword in minutes – in fact we completed just a third of the solution which left plenty to ponder over during the flight itself.

With a good book to read, time to watch a film and dinner. We both managed a few hours sleep before the cabin lights brightened and we knew it would not be too long before touchdown at Jo’burg. Seated at the back of the plane, we waited a while to grab our cabin luggage and make our way towards Customs – one advantage though is that our bags appeared on the carousel as we walked towards it and within minutes we were crossing the road to the Car Rentals. Would this go quickly and without a hitch? I wish… Despite the price hike and completing all details of what type of vehicle we required, we found we had been allocated an automatic car. Definitely not what was ordered so back to the office to resolve matters but finally we had a suitable vehicle and we were on the road.

As we would be self catering for the first 2 weeks of our trip, we popped into Pick'n'Pay in Malelane for supplies, loaded up and arrived at Malelane Gate mid afternoon. The temperature at the airport had been 11 degrees but as we drove through the gate, it was now showing a welcome 36 degrees. We had tied YRs around the car (wanted to make sure no other ‘mites missed us), cameras ready to run (we had brought 2 each), huge smiles on our faces and away we went eager to see what would be our first sighting. On this occasion it would be a small herd of buffalo grazing along both sides of the road – many lifting their heads to welcome us back to the Park.
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Arriving on a Sunday meant we could not buy any beer or wine in Malelane so we drove slowly towards Berg en Dal to stock up for the next few days. We had seen a few solitary bull elephant in the distance before reaching the camp and some giraffe as we returned to the road towards Malelane Camp where we would be staying for 2 nights. After a very short time we approached 2 cars stopped ahead and I slowed down trying to assess which direction they were looking at. Pulling alongside a car, the driver pointed towards a dirt track where a leopard sat with his back to us.
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What a start to a trip…unbelievable. Just 3 cars and we could all watch him without a problem although he was a fair way back from the tar road. Soon it was obvious he had something else on his mind and he turned, dropped his head down and crept into the bush. Just 30 minutes since we arrived in the Park and already a LOG. In the short distance to camp we saw Ground Hornbill, Zebra and Impala close to the road.
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It is several years since we had stayed at Malelane camp – previously we had a tiny (and I mean tiny) tent but this time we had booked a hut. Driving through the gate we were looking for a caravan close by – the home of Ecojunkie – and she came rushing out to greet us and show us which hut we had been allocated. What a welcome…thanks Jenni. By now we were becoming weary and quickly unloaded the car and decided the menu for the evening…together with some welcome refreshment. Tomorrow would be a very early start as we were booked on the very first Malelane morning walk. A quick dinner cooked and eaten, a bottle of wine to enjoy and we were ready for bed, falling asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:32 pm 
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Monday, 16th August

We had both slept well but struggled out of bed soon after the alarm wakened us from our slumber. Eager to be ready for the morning walk, we had laid out our cameras and back packs the previous night. Richard opted to take both cameras but I knew I might struggle walking with too much weight and took the safe option of one with my 100-400mm lens. Stanley arrived at 5.45am and Raymond drove up from Berg en Dal shortly afterwards – he had stopped for a few minutes before reaching us having spotted a lioness with her 2 cubs. Sadly they had disappeared into the bush when we travelled along the tar road. We were joined on the walk by a family of 4 also staying at Malelane Camp – Saffies but now resident in Canada. Lest I forget to mention it later, I had said I would find out if the activities from Malelane were open to anyone staying just outside the Park who could start from Malelane Gate. The answer is ‘yes’ and we did, in fact, pick up a family staying in Leopard Creek for the Sunset Drive that evening. I can’t remember who asked me to find out, I will search back on the Malelane Walk thread and pm them .. just in case they do not read this TR.
Raymond drove northwards along the H3, the sun was coming up but nothing to be seen lying in the road or alongside in the bush. The Malelane walks will be in the Timfenheni area which is fairly level and easy walking. Having parked up just off the tar road, we all climbed out and following Raymond and Stanley eastwards we set off into the bush. For me, bush walks always offer that additional frisson of excitement…..the chance to watch wildlife without the barrier of a vehicle. Eyes sweeping from side to side as well as watching where you walk. Initially all was quiet, not even a bird singing but then a hand was raised and word travelled along the line that Raymond had spotted some Rhino. We waited until our guides signalled which direction to take and soon we could see 4 white rhinos grazing.
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On recent trips we have been thrilled to note how many more White Rhino we have seen compared to our first visits to Kruger starting in 2000. They always make me smile with their almost prehistoric appearance. Creeping further along to a higher point around a tree, we watched them intently…so intently in fact that had Stanley not alerted us, we would have missed the 2 Black Rhino browsing even closer to us. The bush was quite thick so no brilliant photos but these were the first black rhino we had personally ever seen in Kruger and we all had huge smiles on our faces. Eventually though we needed to move on and made our way towards a rocky outcrop where we could safely stop for a drink and a snack along the way stopping to show us some rock art of a drawing of giraffe.
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A brown snake eagle flew overhead but towards the sun so no photo opportunity but a pleasure to share the morning with him. The time passes all too quickly on walks; absorbing the sights, sounds and scents is such a memorable experience. Passing by a rhino midden Raymond stopped to explain the hierarchy for its use with the dominant bull defecating in the centre and spreading his ‘deposit’, other senior bulls using the same area but not spreading their muck and the junior bulls relegated to the outer edges. Stanley also pointed out how to distinguish between white and black rhino dung. 2 more white rhino were seen as we made our way back to the truck. All in all, a great start to the day and we hope it has set a precedent for many other Malelane walks.
After taking us back to camp, we quickly collected the remaining camera together with water and snacks for the car, then made our way up the tar towards Afsaal. Although we self cater for the evening meal, we usually call into a camp or picnic site for a hot breakfast. This sees us through most the day and partly solves the problem of how much equipment we can bring in our luggage. As lots of you who also come from overseas will understand, there is always a question of what and what cannot be packed and still be within the luggage allowance. Our cameras have to come as cabin luggage (despite the fact that 2 cameras and lenses now fail to make the allowance these days and we are at the mercy of checkin staff when we explain that we only have cameras in the bags). With minimal clothing, camping pots, pans, plates etc. we often leave space for a charity we support and this trip we had brought pens and pencils for Malelane school, also exchange school paperwork for a World Vision project we support south of Tzaneen. Sorry..I am digressing here…back to breakfast which we bought and enjoyed at Afsaal. The birds are getting ever bolder and almost trying to steal the food from plates but we enjoyed the company of the starlings, hornbills and sparrows nevertheless. The Scops Owl had moved trees and was quietly peering down at everyone from a high vantage point. Even a slender mongoose watched from the bush.
Now well fed and watered, we returned to our car and opted to drive down to Biyamiti Weir. This is always a favourite spot for us to photograph birds and often we have been lucky with rhino sightings in the nearby area. The drive down was fairly quiet but we enjoyed another Ground Hornbill family group of 7
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as well as a white rhino and calf.
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At the weir we found Hammerkop,
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Malachite Kingfisher, Saddle-billed stork,
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Woolly-necked stork, Wire-tailed Swallow
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and an agama lizard. We spent quite a while here just soaking up the atmosphere and then began our drive back to camp as we had booked for a sunset drive but needed to settle the bill for the walk and drive at the Gate since their computers were not working when we had entered the previous day. Apart from a large herd of buffalo (100+) it was an uneventful drive back.

Ecojunkie (Jenni) was taking the sunset drive and apart from ourselves we had collected a family from Malelane Gate. Close to the Berg en Dal junction we spotted a charming dwarf mongoose family but they were not in a mind to be watched for long and soon disappeared into their burrows.
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As sometimes happens, the evening drive was also quiet but we spent a while with a breeding herd of elephant along the Crocodile Bridge road followed by another white rhino, bushbuck, duiker and a large spotted genet. Returning to Malelane Gate to re-unite the family staying at Leopard Creek with their car, we sat for a while on the bridge to enjoy hippos, crocodiles, a fine male impala
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a Grey Heron and a Goliath Heron. Finally back to camp where Jenni joined us for a drink and a chat at the table outside our hut. It was lovely to relax and discuss the Park with her. Thank you again for your company Jenni – hope to meet up again on our next trip. One thing I should mention before closing the report for today is how much we enjoyed being back at Malelane Camp. The huts here are great and really good value for money. Each has a loo and shower and the shared kitchen block is both inside and well equipped. We prepared our luggage for a speedy departure in the morning so it was off to bed and ready to move northwards in the morning.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:45 pm 
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Tuesday 17th August 2010

We are well practised at a quick load up each morning and we were first in line for the camp gate opening. Jenni (Ecojunkie) was alongside us as her car was due in Nelspruit for a service and we had said our goodbyes last night. We opted to take the tar road towards Berg en Dal and then follow the Steilberg road before joining up with the tar road northwards. It was definitely a quiet morning again but enjoyed the company of a few giraffe and zebras before reaching the H3.
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Also spotted more ground hornbill
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as we drove up to Afsaal where we planned to stop for our breakfast. Opting for a cooked breakfast which came quickly as few others were yet to call into the picnic site, we made our way back to the car which was being scrutinised by another couple. It was YR SuseyB and SO (fellow Brits) and 2 friends of theirs who are Australian and they meet ‘halfway’ so to speak in Kruger. It was lovely to meet you all and catch up with the news and sightings from your trip. You had been very lucky that morning spotting wild dogs a few kms north but along the H3. You warned us though that they were moving quickly and that burns were underway between Afsaal and Skukuza. With this info we head up the road in the hope that we might spot the dogs but it was not to be. We did, however, spot a beautiful pair of giant eagle owls sitting in a tree very close to the road and took the opportunity to take some nice photos.
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Several other cars had slowed down and we were able to share the sighting with them. Soon though we were forced to really slow down as the smoke from the burns on both sides of the road was very thick and the flames racing along the road edges. At this stage we assumed this to be part of a controlled burn but returning to the area 2 weeks later, we suspect this may not have been the case. We will return to this particular subject later and we have already noted the experience of many others who were in the area during August and have commented both in TRs and on forum threads.
To ensure we had no problems on the drive up to Satara, we popped into Skukuza for a quick loo break and fuelled up too. Leaving Skukuza we drove along the south side of the Sabie River and across the highwater bridge where we paused in the hope that we might spot the otters we had seen last November. Sadly it was not to be but our quiet morning was about to change with a vengeance. We soon came upon a few stopped cars and sat spellbound at the sight of the fullest lion we had ever seen. Truly he looked absolutely fit to burst and despite trying to roll onto his side, it appeared he was so full he could only lie on his back.
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You will see from the photo just how engorged he was.
Eventually we drove on again stopping for several elephant and some playful hyena pups alongside the road.
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Our next stop was on the bridge over the N’watindlopfu where we were amazed to see a fantastic herd of sable antelope. We counted over 23 sable and they were magnificent – their coats were gleaming in the sun…beautiful. Even several kudu feeding alongside them.
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We do not often see Sable in Kruger and we had never seen a herd of this size before. They have always held a special place in our hearts as a Sable was the very first animal we ever saw in Africa (not in Kruger though) – we had just landed in the Okavango Delta and our guide was driving us to camp when we saw a Sable together with a Saddle-billed stork. Of course everything was brand new to us then and our guide explained that what we were seeing was a rare treat and that we would probably not appreciate how rare until we had been in Africa for a while. Now, of course, we really do understand what he was telling us then and why our first 2 sightings were so memorable. It was hard to drive away but wanted to make a space for others to enjoy this spectacle.
Pausing along the road to watch vervet monkeys,
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a slender mongoose (we lost count how many of these we saw on this trip, almost one every day) and a Martial Eagle, we pulled into Tshokwane for another quick pitstop. At Silolweni waterhole we saw lots of hippo and several buffalo, then a group of four giraffe (3 female and 1 male). At Mazithi we were spoiled for choice with Hippo, Zebra, Impala, Waterbuck, White-backed vulture, Saddle-billed stork, Woolly-necked stork and a troop of baboon.
We decided to continue now to Satara to check in and unload. We had brought a small coolbox with us but we had been on the road for a long while now and needed to transfer our food into the fridge. Also to make sure the packs of beer were cool as we were meeting up with a YR family that evening. Leaving time to drive out to the waterhole at Nsemani, we were rewarded by a huge buffalo herd resting by the water,
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a lonely saddle-billed stork
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and a herd of elephant(23+) who were entertaining everyone who had stopped by the waterhole for sundowners. A couple of the male ellies (probably teenagers who were approaching the age when they would be leaving the main herd) were having an ongoing tussle both in and out of the water.

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Now returning to camp we had a very welcome cool beer as we sorted out the photos etc which we wanted to take with us that evening. I had checked the meets and greets section a week or so before leaving home and had sent a PM to YR Karenlu as I noticed she was staying at Satara the same time as us. We had arranged to meet up for the evening as she was staying in the Frankel Guesthouse with a large number of her family. What a special evening it turned out to be. Karen and family had done all the cooking and we took along a contribution to the liquid refreshments. This guesthouse is amazing and has its own waterhole nearby so you can sit outside and watch all the wildlife coming down to drink. Even as we sat outside eating a super meal, a small spotted genet came very close to us and we got some great photos.
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We had a fantastic evening with her family, discussing news and sightings, why we like South Africa and a huge range of topics. I know I have e-mailed you Karen to say a huge thank you but let us tell you again it was just the best evening with you all. We certainly all slept well that night even though our heads were buzzing from the lively conversation. Definitely another memorable day in Kruger.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:58 pm 
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Wednesday 18th August 2010

It was a struggle to drag ourselves out of bed this morning but we wanted to check out the lion kill which we had heard about not too far along the H1-4. As usual we had been beaten to the head of the gate opening queue by far too many cars – I did read in another TR recently that perhaps people parked their cars ready for the gate opening and just ran down to climb aboard in the morning. Just know how you felt as we were well down the line, despite being there 10-15 mins early. Oh well! Heading northwards we passed some of the buffalo herd we had seen at Nsemani yesterday afternoon. At least, we assumed it was the same herd as they were so many. Soon we approached the sea of brake lights and knew we had found the lions. In many ways I find the next hour or so difficult to write about as the attitude and behaviour of several of those watching the scene was truly shameful. Obviously everyone wanted to see a piece of the action with a group of at least 7 lions/lionesses at a kill and soon a group of 5 hyenas, several jackals (black-backed) and various vultures arrived to partake of the feast.
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The hyenas got a bit too close and were chased off by one lioness.
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However, the car jostling left me fearing for our rental car and a core group of watchers who sat (to our knowledge) for well over an hour and had no intention of letting anyone else have a spot to see better or take a few photos. To confirm one driver’s disdain for everyone else at the sighting, he sat for a long time just munching through his breakfast and certainly not watching the action. After an hour and a half I had become so incensed, I managed to escape the throng and left the scene altogether. Whilst I really do understand that we all would like to sit watching the big cats but it seems so much more respectful to fellow visitors that we do not outstay our welcome and could move on so that everyone has a chance to enjoy the scene. It would not be the last time we encountered such utter thoughtlessness on this trip and I know others feel the same way. Still, I have had my rant and I will continue… Perhaps my thoughts were echoed by the ‘go-away’ birds who were calling as I drove away.
We continued along the tar road spotting a large bull elephants on the horizon and then a steenbok. Pausing for a zebra herd crossing, and again to enjoy several Kudu grazing close to the road and several groups of wildebeest ambling along. Before reaching the high water bridge over the Olifants River, we met a single giraffe and several large bull elephants. Stopping on the bridge to stretch our legs we saw several crocodile lounging on sand bars and a Bateleur flying overhead.
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Feeling peckish now, we drove up to Olifants camp for a well earned breakfast. We were keen to see how the new restaurant looked as the construction work was still ongoing when we were here last November. It looks quite good – pity the service fell short of expectation though. Enough said! Due to its spectacular location, Olifants is always the one camp suggested first and foremost by travel operators to sample Kruger. For all the regulars who are lucky enough to get accommodation here, we probably self cater and it is not a problem but I think it a shame that for those visitors who may only visit Kruger once in their lives, then the restaurant service does not leave a particularly positive impression.
Anyway, fed and watered, we walked down to the observation area to soak up that utterly fabulous view. A White-bellied Sunbird was busy feeding in the bushes close to the wall – another treat to enjoy on this beautiful morning.
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Opting to drive on the sand roads towards Balule, a slender mongoose dashed into the bush. Waiting our turn to drive over the causeway, we noted several hippo in the water and a few Blacksmith Plovers. Moving slowly southwards we spotted more elephant bulls,
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zebra,
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wildebeest, steenbok,
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several giraffe groups,
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Lilac-breasted Roller
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and a Brown Snake Eagle. Before Gudzani another male lion was seeking a resting place for the day, wildebeest and zebra were at the waterhole and we passed 2 breeding herds of elephant before pulling back into Satara. Calling into the shop to replenish supplies, sat down outside the hut for a cold beer and a quick rest before getting back on the road. Despite getting so angry in the morning, we decided to try the lion kill again but it was still very crowded and we did not stay for long.
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We backtracked and took the Orpen road to go and sit at Nsemani. This is such a great place to just sit and there is so much space for everyone to have a spot and look out over the waterhole – in peace and without having to nudge in and around a throng of cars. Virtually at the same time as yesterday, the breeding herd of elephant all came down to the water to drink and we were thrilled to spot the same terrible two teenagers who were still having a go at each other.
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The issues from yesterday obviously had not yet been resolved. The crocodile and saddle-billed stork were also still by the water and a group of giraffe also came down to drink. Knowing that we would be moving camp again in the morning, we stayed for as long as we could before driving back into camp before gate closure. Then a quick dinner and repack, ready for a speedy getaway in the morning.

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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:38 pm 
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Thursday 19th August

We joined the queue for the gate at 5.50 am and positioned our cameras ready (we hoped) for another good day in the bush. We were moving northwards again and were booked for 2 nights at Shimuwini – a new camp for us but one which we noted everyone else enjoyed. Heading up the tar road from Satara we soon arrived at the lion kill but again a small core of vehicles were determined to sit it out for a long time. Luckily we had a better view than yesterday and enjoyed the antics of the hyenas, black backed jackals and vultures who had decided it must be their turn for another slice of the action. We always find it fascinating to watch scenes where several animals interact – the hyenas ready to fight for a spot, the jackals more cunning and adopt the dash in and grab a bite option whilst the vultures sit on the edges and have the patience to wait for their meal.
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The well-fed lions are, by this stage, more amenable to their bush mates and willing to share the remnants of the carcass. We did not stay for too long this morning and assumed that the ‘best seats’ would not be given up any more readily than yesterday. As it turned out, this was one of our best decisions of the trip. Everything seemed to be up and about this morning, a lovely group of 4 white rhino,
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a good sized herd of wildebeest, another slender mongoose running along the roadside, a small elephant herd and 2 more white rhino – a mother and calf. Driving slowly onwards I noticed what I thought was a small bush near the side of the road. Only when we were quite close did we discover they were 2 porcupines with their quills fully extended and looking stunning. We were so surprised that we did not get a photo as they quickly vanished into the scrub by the road. I can only think their burrows were very close to the road. This was another first for us as we had only seen porcupine previously in Namibia and that was several years ago. We waited for a few minutes in the hope that they would reappear for us but it was not to be and we drove away. Whilst talking about this morning treat, only a very short distance along the road, another cat jumped into the road. Although I had been driving slowly and braked as soon as I saw the movement, this leopard obviously thought I was a threat and charged at us.
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We have been charged by many animals in our time but never before by a leopard on the ground. Not sure who was surprised the most, him or us! Deciding to turn tail and dash back into the bush, SO did manage a few shots but not as many as we would have liked. The surprise encounter did leave us with huge smiles on our faces, however. Still keeping to the tar road we passed a single bull elephant and a few Kms further north saw more brake lights ahead. Approaching with care, we pulled alongside one the cars who pointed out a mating pair of lions. What a morning we were having…definitely a day when you are glad you have left plenty of time just in case…. At the Olifants bridge we stopped for a short while and spotted Egyptian Geese, a Grey Heron and a woodland kingfisher. By this time we were beginning to feel quite hungry but decided to continue on the tar road north, close to the river spotting a bateleur,
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and various vultures (white-headed, white-backed and hooded)
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before pulling into Letaba camp for breakfast. We were still buzzing from our fantastic sightings this morning and soon added a few more as we tucked into our meal with black-eyed bulbul, red-winged starlings, crested barbets flying from table to table and waterbuck and bushbuck in the river bed.

Pouring over the map for our route to Shimuwini, we headed north on the H1-6, pausing alongside the river whenever possible for black-winged stilt, black crake, woodland kingfishers, a Jameson's Firefinch (we think - can anyone confirm from this rather poor image?)
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and more waterbuck before driving up to the Letaba bridge. Here we saw a three-banded plover. Turning south again we took the S47 turn and were held up by a large group of elephant before reaching the Mingerhout dam. A water monitor lay close to the bank,
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crocodiles and terrapins lounged along the dam wall and a large pod of hippos played in the water. Continuing on, we paused on the N’wanetsi causeway but moved on when we saw several terrapins rapidly approaching our car. I know many others have commented on this situation and a Guide at Olifants some time ago commented that he was sure it is because people have fed them. We are always concerned they will start moving so close to our vehicle that we will not be able to see if they have moved to a safe position before we drive on. It seems such a pity not to be able to watch them playing in the water but they swim so quickly that we felt we must drive on lest we encourage their behaviour. Please what do other people think? Whilst we are certain no mites would feed them, do you stay or go?

By late morning the sun was high in the sky and the temperature had risen to 31 degrees; the wildlife had obviously sought for a shade and the bush was now very quiet. We made our way back to the H9 towards Phalaborwa and opted to see what was happening at Sable hide. A lone giraffe was ambling along the far bank and a few elephant came down for a cooling drink. Of all the days when we expressed regret at the new booking in times, today was the one that we would most have liked to be in camp for midday. The roads after leaving Sable were very quiet and the heat was making us weary. We took the river loop option towards camp and saw a Fish Eagle and a yellow-billed stork. I also needed to do a pile of washing – as mentioned before, we try to travel with minimal clothing but this only works when we can keep up to date with the laundry. Still, we hung on until 1400 hours and booked into camp. The camp setting is lovely with the bungalows positioned alongside the river. We have stayed at most of the bush camps now and they all give a very peaceful setting and with well appointed accommodation. We quickly unloaded the car, poured out a couple of beers and then I tackled the washing. Eventually all done and rinsed out, I fixed up our travel washing line between the stoep and a tree and hung everything out. Although the temperature was still high, a strong wind has begun and within 2 hours it was all completely dry. We decided not to drive out again but just to sit outside and enjoy the camp setting. The wind continued to blow strongly and the temperature dropped quickly when the sun went down. For once we lay in bed listening to the wind howling and so it continued throughout the night.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:37 pm 
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WOW, Carol what an amazing day you had and your pics are fantastic :clap: :clap: :clap: Being charged by a leopard :big_eyes: and porcupine .... stunning, an experience you will never forget. :lol: Your little red bird is a Firefinch, but I'm not sure if it is the Jameson's, think it is the Red-billed Firefinch as it has a yellow eye-ring. Thanks again for this wonderful episode :thumbs_up: :popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:49 am 
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Not sure about the Firefinch identification. The African Firefinch has a dark Blueish-Black bill. The pictured bird seems to have a light colored bill. I think it more closely fits the Red-Billed Firefinch. Whichever it is , it is another great photo in your TR. We have been enjoying your adventure, and can't wait to get back to Kruger ourselves. Thanks!

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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 3:16 pm 
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Friday, 20th August

The wind was still blowing strongly when we got up this morning and the sky was cloudy. Having enjoyed high temperatures every day since our arrival in the Park, we now had to dress more warmly before planning our day. Walking down to the fence outside our bungalow, we could see a few buffalo creeping along the river bank, almost completely hidden at times by the tall reeds. Further along, a large group of hippo noisily made their presence heard and they had several youngsters in the pod. They were obviously not deterred by the weather change. We quickly loaded our cameras and set off from camp. Passing a few impala and a group of waterbuck along the riverbed, 2 eagles caught our attention – a Fish Eagle and a Wahlberg’s Eagle – although neither gave us a chance of a good photo. Turning left as we reached the H14, we passed a couple of giraffe and zebras before a lovely klipspringer caught our attention balanced on the edge of a koppie. We took several photos of him but he was partly obscured by the bushes and even when we saw his partner creep out from another rock lower down, we could not get a shot worth adding here. Klippies are another animal which we had seen so rarely on previous trips yet have been lucky enough to spot several times recently. I just love to watch them balanced on their tiptoes looking down on the world. The morning was still cool and windy so we were not surprised to see little wildlife as we drove along. Like human beings, most animals like to huddle down when the temperature falls and await some warmer weather. When we reached the H-16, for no particular reason, we decided to turn right and take the S50 sand road shortly after. This was a good choice as we now spotted a small group of Tsessebe crossing in front of us.
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Despite approaching very slowly though, they kicked their heels and quickly disappeared away from the track. Continuing on we spotted a small breeding herd of elephants in the distance and then an immature Fish Eagle much closer to the road.
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At Mooiplas WH we watched a big tusker and his askari.
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Several crowned plovers were also busy feeding
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and a black-backed jackal trotted past. Again we saw little for quite a while and opted to make our way back slowly to camp for SO to have a rest and for an early meal as we had booked a sunset drive that evening. Alongside the H14 we passed several large tuskers, usually in groups of 2 or 4, and then spotted a chameleon paused in the middle of the road. I edged closer so that we did not frighten him and got a nice shot as he posed for us.
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At Tsale WH we were intrigued by a Bateleur stomping up and down in the water-filled crib. We had never seen one acting in this manner before and were unsure if he was merely washing or having a bad day. The day was still far too cold (we thought) for him to be cooling down. The crib is a bit far away from the road but we will add a photo as someone may have other ideas for the reasons for his behaviour.
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There was very little else to be seen and we were soon back at the bungalow where SO went off for a sleep and I prepared an early dinner before the drive. We were the only guests on the drive that evening and our guide was Godfrey. He took us along the river loop and across a (no-entry) causeway. We sat here for a while as the darkness descended and watched nyala, black crake, grey heron, blacksmith plover (on nest), hippos and 2 saddle-billed storks. Moving onwards it was even quieter than in the day and we nothing at all until we joined the tar H14 road. Going northwards towards the Letaba river crossing, we stopped close to a hyena den – most probably a culvert under the road. They had several very young pups who were very curious to look at their visitors.
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The hyenas were the last wildlife we spotted this evening but we were still somewhat surprised (and disappointed) to find we had been brought back to camp half an hour early. Even though it had been very quiet, we did think this was somewhat unacceptable especially as the drive options are far from cheap. We did not say anything but would be very interested to find out what other people would have done and if we should have asked to stay out for the agreed time. The causeway was, after all, quite close by and would have been an interesting place to just sit…even at night.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 5:46 pm 
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Saturday, 21st August

When we woke up this morning the wind had died down and the sky was clear so we hoped for a better day. We had enjoyed Shimuwini but somewhat disappointed with the sightings in the area but will put this down to the weather. The setting is lovely and the bungalows well equipped so if anyone is reading this TR please do not discount this camp. As with all the Bush camps, they are very peaceful and always set in locations where you can enjoy sightings from the stoep. We were sorry to miss Threedogs who were also staying here but could not find which number you were staying at..maybe next time. We were moving camp again today and made an early start to make the best of the day. The sand road from camp was extremely quiet but things improved as we joined the tar road northwards. We stopped briefly for a fish eagle which had landed and then paused at the large koppie where we had seen the klipspringers yesterday. We were thrilled to see we now had 3 of them positioned on the rocks and managed better photos to show everyone.
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Joining the H1-6 we decided to stay on the tar and head for Shingwedzi for breakfast. This would be our base for the next 3 nights and although we could not check in until much later, we opted to avoid Mopani for a food stop as our experience there last November was so bad, we are in no rush to repeat it. En route to camp we stopped for a very large herd of buffalo
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and a smaller herd a few kilometres further on. We also enjoyed several ellies and another fish eagle before pulling into Shingwedzi. This is one of our favourite camps and we always try to fit a night or two into each trip now. It has always been a fairly lucky area for us and the camp has a good atmosphere; also it is close enough to the real north of Kruger to manage a drive to Crooks Corner in a day and that is almost a ‘must do’ when we are staying here.
Along the way we saw a couple of birds with a very colourful red face marking but couldn’t identify it. Any help would be appreciated.
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Fed and watered we headed out through the ‘back’ gate and stopped on the causeway to photograph a crocodile
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and a malachite kingfisher.
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What a beautiful bird this is – no matter how many times I am privileged to see them, they always bring a huge smile to my face. Their colours are exquisite, truly like jewels. Retracing our tracks, we took the road towards Kanniedood Dam. For anyone who has not stayed in this area, this is a ‘must do’ road. Over the years we have had amazing sightings along this track (some – usually involving elephants – that we would not be queuing up to repeat) and I honestly cannot recall ever driving along the road without seeing something memorable. Today we enjoyed waterbuck, impala, zebras, bull elephant,
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buffalo in the water, bushbuck and a giant eagle owl.
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Closer to the Dam we saw spoonbills,
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hippos, grey heron,
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African darter, baboons, pied kingfisher, blacksmith plover,
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fork-tailed drongo and lots more crocodiles. A more shocking sighting were a group of people, all out of their car, taking photos of nearby ellies. They did return to their vehicle when we stopped to explain the madness of their behaviour but I do wonder what they would have done if the matriarch had spotted them sooner.
A quick time check illustrated we could now return to camp and check in. A speedy process and once we had unloaded our car and selected food and drink from the shop for dinner, we returned to the car and drove out to Red Rocks for a look around before making our way back to camp again. We spotted 3 large bull elephants along the road and another group at Red Rocks. On the way back to camp we saw dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, buffalo and another breeding herd of ellies. Returning to camp we stopped to chat to our ‘new neighbours’ and then lit up the braai for a welcome dinner. It had been a wonderful day and we were ready to get a good night’s rest and start again tomorrow.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 6:44 pm 
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Sunday, 22nd August

After a good night’s rest, we were up bright and early ready to leave at gate opening. Our plan was to visit Crooks Corner today so we headed north on the tar road and aim for breakfast at Punda. It was not long before we slowed down for a very large herd of buffalo. I don’t think they were the same large group we had watched yesterday as it seemed too far to have travelled but then you never know. I will assume they were another herd and we enjoyed their slow ramble across the road and off to pastures new. But as we passed we saw a Buffalo mother with a very young calf.
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The wildlife was out in force this morning and our next ‘spot’ was a pair of secretary birds. They were a fair way back from the road but clearly sitting on a nest.
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We heard later that a second pair were also nesting in the area. They were followed by a couple of black-backed jackals,
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mother and baby giraffe, tsessebe at Babalala,
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several ellies, more giraffe and jackal, then a nice group of 5 kudu. All this before we pulled into Punda for breakfast.
Punda always has such a nice atmosphere – perhaps being so far from other camps but really, I guess, because it is much smaller. The staff always speak when you pass them and the little shop/restaurant area is charming. We ate a very enjoyable breakfast – by far the best we had at any camp – and paused to look at the sightings board and read the details of the animals seen on their walks and drives. One sighting noted for a morning walk had us really excited and we tried to find one of the Punda guides to ask for more details….Cape clawless otters. We were the couple who had been lucky enough to see otters in the Sabie River last November and we would have loved to be privileged to see them again. Sadly we could not find anyone who knew where they had been seen but if anyone reading this TR was on that walk, please tell us where you saw them and did you get any photos.
We took the S60 to join up with the H1-8 but saw little along this sand road as there had been some recent burning. We did see zebras and buffalo at Nkovakulu waterhole. We then took the Nyala Drive route and saw another group of buffalo (50+), a troop of baboons, zebras and, of course, nyala. Now back on the tar we shortly turned right onto the S63 passing wildebeest, warthogs, kudu and zebras before stopping at Pafuri Picnic Site. We had not been here long before we were spotted by Frank. What a charming and knowledgeable man he is and we were thrilled to meet him and chat about our sightings. Had we arrived a bit sooner, we would have seen lions along the river bank he told us but that’s life. We were intrigued by the group of nyala who wander around the Picnic Site and do not seem at all fazed by the people.
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Frank explained he tries to ensure that no people try to feed them as this would be a step too far but it is wonderful to stand so close to these beautiful animals without them rushing back into the bush. With Frank’s help we also had another (first for us) bird sighting – a Red-billed Helmet Shrike (sorry that it’s not a great image).
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Sadly we had to get back on the road again and continued on past the Fever Tree Forest and stopped again at Crooks Corner. The crocodiles were out in force
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and so many white-fronted bee-eaters busy nesting in the riverbank.
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This is one of our favourite spots in the Park and it never disappoints. There is something quite special in being able to stand on the banks of the Limpopo River, physically in South Africa but just across the river, two more countries, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
By now the sun was high in the sky and the temperature a delicious 28 degrees – it is this warmth soaking through my body that I will miss so much when the cold, wet and windy winter arrives at home. However, back to our journey! Returning to the tar road south, it was very quiet now although we spotted a red-crested korhaan as he ran into the bush. As we approached the Boyola waterhole we joined several other cars who were watching a breeding herd of ellies (10+).
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As we sat in our car, another vehicle drove up alongside and pointed to our YR – it was Shi and family. Wonderful to meet you and sorry we could not stop for too long as we needed to be back at camp for a sunset drive and Shi was returning to Sirheni. Hopefully next time Shi we will be able to meet up for a drink and a longer chat.
Finally back at camp we made a quick meal and walked across the road to join the sunset drive which would be led this evening by Bishop. Certainly lots to see and talk about on the drive and we enjoyed a male lion,
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buffalo, martial eagle,
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elephant, nightjars (Fiery-necked and European) grysbok, vultures, warthog and a hyena den with some very young cubs.
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As I think I have mentioned before, Shingwedzi has always been a lucky camp for us!!

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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:39 pm 
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Monday, 23rd August

Yesterday had been a long and busy day so we were up reasonably early but not chasing to be out of camp as the gates opened. Although I was doing almost all of the driving we needed to ensure SO remained rested and we had no specific long trip to drive this morning. Taking the short route towards the H1-6 we spotted a tawny eagle, woolly necked stork and some vultures. Checking the short sand loop opposite the camp road we found 2 male lions (only one in photo).
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One was almost certainly the lion we had seen on our sunset drive yesterday evening but the remainder of the pride had obviously retreated into the bush. Just pottering about in the immediate vicinity we found a white-bellied sunbird,
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giraffes, hoopoe, elephant and white-backed vultures on a nest, then some vultures in a tree.
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Following a leisurely breakfast in camp, we returned to the tar road and then crossed the bridge on the road northwards. We opted to take a look along the Lamont Loop WH road where we found a large tusker and his askari close to the waterhole.
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We stayed to watch them for a while, moving the car as necessary when they looked as if they may come too close to us. We have always found the elephants in the northern part of the Park to be much less comfortable with vehicles and certainly had no wish to antagonise them. Eventually they made their way back into the bush and we left to try our luck along the Mphongolo Loop road. In general the sightings were few and far between, some hippos and a few nyala paused to watch us.
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Sometimes, though, a quiet gap will pre-empt something spectacular and a short distance before Babalala, a car stopped to tell us they had seen a herd of Roan Antelope approaching the waterhole at the back of Babalala and if he kept going they should still be there.
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We were so excited as this would be another first for us and, as promised, we caught sight of a large herd (30+) walking around the waterhole midst several zebras and a small herd of elephant.
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What a special viewing this was – not only a first sighting but to enjoy their company for nearly an hour before they moved back into the bush and away from sight.
Reaching the tar road again we turned south and watched a bachelor herd of ellies at Boyela. The temperature had now reached 32 degrees and we drove slowly back to camp for a well-earned beer (Windhoek for anyone interested…always our preference rather than Castle but each to his /her own). Ironically we have seen several adverts for Windhoek since we got back to the UK so will not have to wait so long before enjoying our favourite cold one! Bet the price isn’t so good though.
Refreshed, we got back in the car and left camp via the back gate and drove slowly to Mashagadzi where we followed the tracks of a small group of zebras. Then out towards Kanniedood spotting a grey hornbill,
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kudu, buffalo, giant eagle owl,
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nyala
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and a saddle-billed stork before returning to camp to cook dinner and pack up again as we would be leaving Shingwedzi in the morning to make our way south again. Oh where does the time go?

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:58 pm 
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Tuesday, 24th August

We were sad to be leaving Shingwedzi but would be taking away many happy memories again. Also the fact that we were now heading (permanently) southwards again meant our trip was passing all too quickly. In many ways it is very easy to lose track of time and date whilst relishing the delights of the Park. Indeed it is the only time I don’t read a daily newspaper so it is a complete switch-off zone for me. Perhaps I have chanced upon the only downside of writing a TR (or, in our case, the notes with which to write one when we return home) insofar as I have to make a note of the day/date of our sightings. What do other people feel about this observation? Particularly the ones who also write TRs. Anyway, I must return to more important matters…
We had discussed yesterday the options for our drive south – we both enjoy the last chance to follow the Kanniedood route but thereonafter we have found the road to be very bumpy and a very long way from any (legal) comfort break which is a major concern for SO on this trip. So, along the tar it would be, at least for a start. The temperature had already climbed to 19 degrees but it had not attracted the wildlife to us this morning – just a lonely giraffe and a small herd of zebra. Consequently we decided to try our luck along the S144, meeting a couple more giraffe at Dzombo West WH, then another group of zebra together with several youngsters.
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All were in search of refreshment but the crib was almost empty. Before reaching the tar road again we enjoyed 4 dagga boys, a solitary elephant, yet more zebra, a small group of wildebeest and paused to enjoy the graceful flight of a bateleur overhead. We decided to continue on as far as Letaba for breakfast but were held up for quite a while by another large (500+) herd of buffalo
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– indeed we had been lucky enough to see quite a few large buff herds on this trip, particularly in the north. Letaba is always a popular stop for meals – how can it not be so with such a spectacular view along and across the river bed. Several waterbuck were rambling through the reeds and a large group of giraffe hovered along the far bank.
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They had several youngsters among the group and seemed particularly cautious as they moved towards the river to drink. We could only suppose that they could see something which we did not as only 3 adults eventually queued up to drink and the youngsters were held back from the water’s edge. We sat watching them for over an hour but they eventually moved back into the trees along the far side of the river.
Returning to our car, we headed up to Mingerhout Dam – always a restful place just to sit and watch and room for other vehicles if they wish to pause there also. Lots of hippo, crocodiles and a pied kingfisher caught our attention, then a saddle-billed stork and a male waterbuck were seen along the Letaba river road. As we rejoined the H1-6, we headed north and stopped on the bridge. A chance to get out and look through the reedbeds and in the water. Today nothing was to be seen – at least, not wildlife. We had heard the sound of a helicopter in the distance but were surprised to see it fly low over the river (commonly referred to as flying the “nap of the earth”) and noted that it was not a SANParks chopper but what looked like a UN Puma helicopter (all white colour scheme). We puzzled long and hard over this scenario and wonder if other agencies assist SANParks with such issues as poaching controls. Does anyone else know if this is the case?
Back into the car we took the Tsendze Loop (S48) and saw zebra, impala and giraffe, then the Nshawu road and followed a herd of elephant. At the Mooiplas WH we found 3 tsessebe – not so far from those we had seen on our way northwards a few days previously.
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Calling in at Shipandani Bird Hide, we were rewarded with views of a couple of the young hippos of the resident pod having a bit of a tussle. Not serious but very photogenic.
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It was now early afternoon and we headed towards Mopani to check in and unload the car. This was a fairly quick process and we drove up to our bungalow to set up for the night and then sit down to enjoy a cold beer. A gentleman in the neighbouring bungalow came across for assistance – their tin opener was broken so it was not trouble to find one in our kitchen drawer. It also gave us a chance to talk about when he had seen and where they had been staying. He was an older man who had brought an American colleague with him to show him the joys of Kruger for a few days. They had been very lucky with sightings and his guest was very impressed. Sadly he could only stay for a short time as would be driving back to Jo’burg in the morning. We set up our netbook and showed him some of our sightings to date. Before lighting up the braai for our evening meal, we grabbed the cameras and walked along the fence (I think it is supposed to be a trail but it just ends in the middle of nowhere) until we were close to the Dam and could climb up to the bar area where we planned to sit and enjoy another drink. Several other guests were also up here enjoying the view across the water and also, it was after all a hot day, hoping to get a cool drink. Now it has to be said that we have often stayed at Mopani camp in the past and always rated it highly but we had an unfortunate experience in the restaurant last November and it looked like the bar was to be a problem on this occasion as well. SO and several others waited patiently at the Bar to order drinks….5 minutes, 10 minutes….patience was wearing thin and no-one was amused. People called out, knocked on the wood, anything to try and get some attention. Eventually a barman arrived (the excuse being that they had a conference at the camp – this is always the reason given for problems at Mopani now) and SO ordered a Bloody Mary. This request was met with a very blank look and the barman wandered off again. Eventually he returned with a bottle of gin (????) – somewhat bemused SO explained that a BM is actually not made with gin but with vodka and tomato juice (he did not dare to mention any of the extra ingredients), barman disappears again but soon returns stating they do not have tomato juice. Almost 30 minutes has passed since SO and others entered bar for a drink and none of us find the situation funny now. In desperation we (and, I think, almost everyone else) opt for a beer. Now, we love to be in the Park and always try to support the shops, bars, restaurants as much as we can BUT this is utter madness. I know there is probably nothing we can do or say to change the outsourcing option which SANParks took but surely economic reason would mean it must be profitable. Perhaps my TR is not the right place to raise this discussion and I know we are certainly not the only people to be disappointed in the Park restaurants recently. As I have said before, we self cater more and more when staying in Kruger now but it is really not the simplest option for those of us who have to fly in from overseas. Anyway, enough said…. Back to the braai, an enjoyable dinner and tomorrow will be another day.

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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:13 pm 
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Wednesday, 25th August

We were up bright and early, loaded the car and waved goodbye to our neighbours who had to leave the Park this morning and return to Jo’burg. We would be making our way to Olifants and as the morning was cooler and rain a possibility, we planned to keep to the tar and hope this would prove fruitful. Almost as soon as we left camp we passed buffalo and giraffe, then 2 familiar shapes came into view along the road. Oh how the spirit soars when a day starts like this. We were privileged, along with our recent neighbours, to watch 2 lionesses pose along the roadside and then cross over as they no doubt sought a resting place to sleep off their last meal. What a treat so early in the day – I do love lions! Continuing southwards we spotted a shy steenbok, a couple of crowned plovers, another large herd of buffalo (very likely the same herd we had seen yesterday as they had been moving in this direction), wildebeest, a secretary bird,
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both little and great egrets, yet more buffalo,
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3 impressive ellies and 5 zebras. All this before breakfast which we had at Olifants camp. Last year when we were at Olifants, the work was still ongoing for the new restaurant and we were keen to see it all completed. It does look good and, of course, has the best location in the Park (in our view, I know) but a restaurant needs considerably more than just a building. I know I had a lengthy rant about Mopani and am reluctant to continue on the same theme again but having watched several tables of people wait an inordinate amount of time and still had no menu, let alone any order being taken for food, we were deeply saddened but not surprised to see people get up and leave without being fed. Enough said but truly this cannot continue.
Returning to our car, we left camp and soon spotted 2 young ellies before heading towards Balule (one of our favourite camps but no longer an option as we now need a hut with a loo) and stopped on the causeway to watch a giant kingfisher.
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Keeping on the sand road we saw little for a while and were sorry to note that where the S89 crosses over the Ngotso and in past years there was always plenty of water and almost always hippos around, now it is virtually dried up. Please can anyone shed any light on this? Was there a problem with the water or has the area dried up for climatic reasons? Thinking back, I suspect it may have been like this last November and I failed to ask about it then but on our stay at Balule previous to that, I am certain there was plenty of water and hippos around.
As we reached the H1-4 tar road, we crossed over onto the S39 as we had not had the chance to drive along this track on our way northwards. We paused to enjoy zebras
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and giraffe at the first WH, more zebras and a group of resting wildbeest a short distance further. Passing the Piet Grobler dam we watched a fish eagle, bateleur and several helmeted guinea fowl.
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Just before Ratelpan hide we watched several hippos out of the water along the river bank but then stopped at the hide to see if we could get any better shots of them. Whilst the hippo photos did not materialise, we enjoyed spoonbills, goliath heron, pied kingfishers, hadeda ibis and several crocodiles out of the water. Shortly after we heard another car stop and had the pleasure of meeting a YR family Nico, his wife and son. It was lovely to meet you all and enjoyed the lengthy chat we had about SANParks and wildlife throughout Southern Africa. Nico is a painter, his wife a photographer and their son manages a nature reserve in their native Holland. They are lucky enough to come for many weeks each trip and I have to say we were more than a little envious of that.
Back to our car again we headed south and joined the S40 meeting more giraffe, zebras and wildebeest, then a martial eagle and 4 bull elephants. At Girivana WH we spotted another saddle-billed stork and a brown snake eagle, also 2 separate motor homes where people were fast asleep in the front but had various doors wide open. If it were not so potentially dangerous, I suppose it would be funny – do some people think they are immune to wildlife theft…or even worse? Driving on towards Nsemani, we spotted warthogs, zebra, impala and giraffe. Whilst watching hippos and waterbuck at the WH, we were witness to another car where their children happily sat on the roof. Shortly afterwards we had 2 bull elephants very close to the road (hopefully the kids on the roof had moved before reaching them) a beautiful kudu bull
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and 3 ewes and a grey hornbill. Now turning northwards again we soon found 6 ground hornbills (1 juvenile),
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zebras, wildebeest and a lilac breasted roller. A breeding herd of ellies were enjoying Ntomeni WH along with more wildebeest and we stayed for a while to watch them interact. Moving onwards we spotted our first Kori Bustard for the trip,
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then steenbok, black-backed jackal and, sadly, a very flat snake in the road. We think it was a Puff Adder and assume he had been killed by a speeding vehicle. Such a shame. Yet more zebras and wildebeest fed alongside the road and then several brake lights in the distance. For once it was not a manic traffic jam and everyone had the thought and courtesy to move along gradually so that we could all get photos of 5 lionesses and 3 cubs. :thumbs_up:
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How we wish all cat sightings were so respectful. We would have loved to have stayed for longer but really needed to get to Olifants to check in. We did get out quickly on the high water bridge as several elephants were drinking and moving through the reeds.
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Also a grey and a goliath heron were in the river bed and 2 male kudus further along the road.
Check in was quickly done and we drove round to our hut – as it had been a late booking there was no chance of a river view hut but we still had a reasonable view out towards the water. Despite having stayed at this camp many times in the past, we had never had a problem with vervets and certainly were not warned that they were a hazard when we checked in. Despite trying to unload quickly and carefully, we got caught out by the monkeys this time. Luckily it was only a large bag of rice they stole as I had my back turned. They move like greased lightning and you almost need one person to stand guard even as another takes items from the car. Any goodwill I had towards vervets is rapidly declining and I do have concerns for families with younger children. I haven’t seen them actually steal something from human hands but do suspect they would give it a go if they saw the chance. I certainly noted the thieves target other cars as they were being unloaded and nothing could safely be left on the stoep as people prepared their meals. Have other people had a similar problem at Olifants? However, we had had a truly marvellous day and I had no intention of letting a few misbehaving primates spoil it for us. We had the chance to chat to our neighbours as we cooked dinner and then walked back to the restaurant area for a nightcap before settling down to a good nights sleep.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:12 pm 
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Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Thursday, 26th August

Up bright and early, we loaded the car before the vervets could make mischief again. Pausing at the gate to drop off our keys we drove down the tar towards the junction with the H1-5 to head south. It would be a busy day and we started off well with a grey heron, steenbok, a beautiful kudu bull and lesser striped swallow.
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With a brief stop on the bridge, we then continued along the road and shortly noticed a car behind me flashing his lights. As SO will tell you, I usually think this is because I have done something wrong or my vehicle is falling apart (don’t ask!) but I slowed to a stop and the following car stopped alongside us. We were happy to meet H Christal and SO from Italy. Thank you for the brief chat and I hope you had a safe journey back to Jo’burg as you were flying home that evening. Sorry we did not know you were also at Olifants as we could have met up for a beer last night. Maybe next time. I think it was their first visit to Kruger and they said they had had a wonderful trip with many amazing sightings. This obviously continued as we both stopped shortly afterwards for 3 male lions (only 1 in the photo) who were now seeking a sleeping place for the rest of the day.
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Our plan was to continue on the tar road southwards and stop at Tshokwane for breakfast. We kept to this plan but we were totally spoiled for choice with incredible sightings along the road. 5 ground hornbills in flight, 5 kudu, a group of 4 ostrich
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4 bull elephants, a lovely group of 3 white rhino,
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more kudus, steenbok and another rhino. Then the largest herd of Buffalo we had seen on this trip – we estimated 1000+.
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Next came warthogs, more steenbok, a large herd of wildebeest, black-shouldered kite,
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a journey of giraffe (including a mother and baby).
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At Nkaya Pan we saw young baboons
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with hippos, Egyptian geese, blacksmith plovers and 4 elephants at the pan. Next to grace us with their presence were zebras, warthogs playing in the mud and a brown snake eagle followed by a breeding herd of elephant and 3 more ground hornbills. Each time we see these birds now, we recall the work which has been done by the Park workers to increase their numbers. They were a bird we did not see for several years and now we are thrilled to see them almost every day. Their eyelashes are truly amazing and we have a favourite photo at home which shows them to perfection and has been entered for several photo competitions.
At Mazithi WH we enjoyed hippo, 8 waterbuck, zebra, marabou storks and wildebeest. Next came 7 giraffe and 2 slender mongoose before pulling into the Picnic spot for a well earned break. It is almost a shock to read through our notes today and appreciate just how much we have seen and the time is just 9.30 am. Wow! What else can we say!
Back on the road again, we turned off to check who was waiting at Silolweni for us –hippo, crocodile, saddle-billed storks, African fish eagle, hammerkop, grey heron and warthogs. Just another quiet day then!! Spotting another giraffe and a klipspringer we soon saw a growing traffic jam close to Mantimahle Waterhole. Luckily everyone had the courtesy to move slowly along so that all who stopped could get a glimpse of the lion and lioness settling down in the shade.
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Sadly many people who were stopping a few kilometres further (by the junction with the road towards the bridge) had no such respect for their fellow guests. We think it was a mating pair of lions but short of climbing out onto our car roof, we stood little or no chance of getting a glimpse of more than an ear or swish of a tail. The behaviour and selfishness of some of those here were truly shocking and I will not go into more details. :evil: If we could have moved on (either forwards or backwards) we would have done so and some people were even resorting to driving way into the bush just to escape. :rtm: It would not be the last, or even the worst, case of a road block we would experience this trip but each time it saddens us that people can display such appalling behaviour. We were very relieved to be able to move on eventually and try not to let it spoil our mood for the rest of the day. Luckily a beautiful pied kingfisher sat on the bridge as we crossed the Sabie River
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and we gradually calmed down watching the water flow over the rocks below.
We were booked in at Skukuza tonight but it was still much too early to check in. We stopped by at the shop for a welcome ice-cream and then drove along to one of our truly favourite places in Kruger, Lake Panic. What better spot could we select to pass a few hours and we were rewarded with a martial eagle, hippo, crocodiles, white-fronted bee-eaters,
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a family of bushbuck, hadeda ibis, malachite and pied kingfishers, black crakes, jacana family, bulbul, goliath heron,
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African darters, terrapins, grey herons, chinstrap batis , bataleur, weavers and male nyala.
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We have often wondered if it would be possible to literally every Kruger animal and bird at Lake Panic if you sat there for long enough. One thing is certain though, we have never ever been disappointed by sightings here. By late afternoon, however, it was time to drag ourselves away and return to camp to check in. It is many years since we had stayed at Skukuza and, to be honest, it had not been our first choice on this trip but they had accommodation and we needed somewhere in the south to stay that night. As with our sightings for the day, we were pleasantly surprised and really liked our bungalow (I think it was 72B) and would definitely book here again with no qualms. It was quiet, comfortable, well-equipped and quite close to the perimeter. We also met some charming neighbours who we shared our Kruger thoughts with as the braai reached temperature. All in all a pretty amazing day for our last full one in the Park this time.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Return to Kruger on Doctor's Orders!
Unread postPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:51 pm 
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Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Friday, 27th August

We got up quickly and loaded our car ready to join the queue at the gate. Not quite the first to leave but pretty soon after. Opting to head south we drove along the H1-1 but only the humans were out and about it seemed. As we reached the junction with the H3, we stayed on the H1 and almost immediately spotted a Klipspringer posing on the large outcrop on the right-hand side.
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We had been so lucky spotting klippies on this trip so it was a joy to know one was there to wish us well on our journey. Only 2 zebras caught our attention before we parked at Transport Dam. Sadly the area around had been well burnt but I will not go into this now as it has been thoroughly discussed on another thread but it probably accounted for the shortage of wildlife we noted around. Just a few birds joined us at the Dam – Grey Heron, Blacksmith Plovers and Egyptian geese. Still a huge pleasure to see them though. We decided to take the S114 sand road south and make our way slowly towards Afsaal for breakfast. A few more animals were up and about now and along the way we enjoyed a herd of Kudu, Grysbok, Waterbuck, Hyenas, Warthog and a White Rhino. Not a bad tally before breakfast! Even the resident Scops Owl was up and about although he had moved to an adjacent tree. It also gave us a chance to help a few other visitors spot the owl and get a photo.
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Returning to the car, we decided we needed some more time at Lake Panic before we were ready to leave the Park. No doubt I have written this on many occasions but this spot just NEVER disappoints. :D
The big treat for everyone in the hide this morning were a group of elephants who had come down to drink and were playing happily in the water and in the reeds.
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Also jostling for our attention in the water were the hippos, terrapins and crocodiles. The Grey Herons were busy chatting on their nest
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and flying off to get more nest material.
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A couple of hours passed quickly by as we followed the antics of the Egyptian Geese, White-faced Duck, Malachite Kingfisher,
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Pied Kingfisher, Jacana and family, Black Crakes, Bulbuls, Swallows, Pied Wagtails and the Bushbucks who like to hand around the hide area. The time had come, however, when we really had to make tracks for the gate as we would be staying at an Inn in Hazyview for the next 8 days and they had a full weekend party planned to celebrate their 15th birthday. On the way to Phabeni Gate lots of residents were out to wish us ‘bon voyage’ 3 elephants, Slender Mongoose, White-backed Vultures on their nest, 7 Woolly-necked Storks at Nyamundwa WH
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with a pod of hippo, then 4 Buffalo and a Wattled Plover as we crossed the Phabeni river.
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We were sad to be leaving the Park today but had much to look forward to at the party and next week and we knew we had a few days when we should be able to dash in as day visitors. So our TR is not quite complete and we will have some more sightings and photos to share with you soon.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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