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 Post subject: gwendolen-Warming up in Kruger-Dec 2010
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:21 pm 
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After a false start - our plane didn't leave due to heavy snowfall in Amsterdam on Friday the 17th - we finally arrived in South Africa for our two weeks of sun, sundowners & safari. Because we departed three days later than planned, we had to reschedule the booked accommodation. Many thanks to José for quickly booking us into the Airport Game Lodge at Jo'burg, to Trish & SANParks (Nedret & Joep) for helping me rescheduling our itinerary and to Cars for helping us with our rental.

After landing at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport the next day, we picked up our car and did some shopping in Nelspruit. We only got a few essentials - cool box, ice, meat, veggies, biltong, chili bites and DEET - and quickly drove on, as I can spend HOURS in big supermarkets if I get the chance. We entered Kruger via Numbi gate, where we were greeted by Woodland kingfishers (first lifer for Foeke). And there we were, in beautiful green, green Kruger National Park.

Because of the rescheduling, we missed out staying in lovely Satara and bushveld camp Shimuwini. We were too tired to drive up north on Wednesday and opted for a night in Skukuza instead.

So, after getting our permit, we slowly drove up the H1-1 to Skukuza, where cold beer was waiting for us. Our first good sighting was a rhino pretending to be a hippo.

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Square-lipped rhinoceros by gwendolen, on Flickr

It was standing in a pool of water, enjoying a couple of hours of natural skin therapy. Further along the road we saw another 'white' rhino. This one has a wound just below its eye. Perhaps it had been in a fight.
The next exciting sighting was a lifer for both of us, the lovely Pin-tailed Whydah.

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Pin-tailed Whydah by gwendolen, on Flickr

The Whydah was followed by another lifer, the European Roller. Imagine going all the way to Africa to see a European bird. :hmz:

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European Roller by gwendolen, on Flickr

We then saw two juvenile elephants, playing in a little pool of water. (It was great to see water everywhere, in July/August when we usually visit, the park is always bone dry). The final sighting of the day was a pretty European Bee-eater.

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European Bee-eater by gwendolen, on Flickr

We arrived at Skukuza where we cracked open a Windhoek lager, lit the braai and had boerewors for dinner. We then collapsed in our little bungalow (no 82) and slept the night away 'til the Hadeda woke us at dawn.


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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:23 am 
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We woke up early on Thursday the 23rd. Even though we were still quite tired, we had a long drive ahead (Mopani) and wanted to get an early start. The weather was lovely and we left Skukuza with great expectations
Our first full day in the park … what would we see?

Would we see sable, leopard in tree, lion …?

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So … uhm … yes.

We came across the herd of Sable Antelope on the H1-2, about 45 minutes after we left Skukuza. I think there must have been around 15 antelope in the herd. There were quite a few young ones too. I was mega excited about this super sighting and clicked away. But they stayed in the bush, so I couldn’t get a clear shot. Not to worry, we got to see the elusive Sable Antelope again. Yay.

Several cars whizzed by, unaware of the uniqueness of this sighting. Just as we were about to drive on, we were flagged down by kindred spirits who told us about the leopard in tree a few kilos further on. Our smiles got even bigger and we drove on, windows open, enjoying the lovely weather, bird sounds and cool African breeze until we spotted 5 cars on the side of the road. Yep. LIT. (leopard in tree)

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We stayed with the lazy leopard for about 15 minutes, and then drove on towards our first pit stop of the day: Tshokwane Picnic Spot, where we arrived at 7 for a quick stop and stretch.

.. to be continued ..


Last edited by gwendolen on Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:09 pm 
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After a quick stop at Tshokwane – we didn’t hang around as the shop & restaurant were still closed – we continued on our journey north.

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We couldn’t get over the greenness of Kruger National Park in Summer. We usually visit in July/August when everything is bleak and bare and dusty. Even the elephants are grey and dusty in Winter.

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We were both having trouble keeping our eyes open, still very tired from travelling and all the drama before that. Just before I fell asleep on the steering wheel, we spotted a pair of lions in the bush. Well actually we first saw the mini traffic jam and then spotted the lions causing it. Anyway, it woke us up again and we made it to Satara.

I don’t know whose idea it was to open the Coffee bars at Skukuza and Satara, but he/she deserves a statue. Right there on the Satara grass. After a life-saving cappuccino (and a toasted sandwich) we hit the road again. The plan was to have lunch at Letaba and then drive the last bit to Mopani.

We spotted a group of ostriches on the way. We didn’t see much, because we were now travelling during the hottest part of the day. When we arrived at Olifants River Bridge, we got out of the car to stretch our legs and almost got wacked off our feet by the heat. It must have been at least 10℃ hotter than in Satara. We enjoyed the view and the hot wind for a bit and then set off to Letaba where lunch was waiting.

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This little guy was having lunch too. It was great to be back in Letaba and enjoy the wonderful view at the restaurant. We felt almost human after our meal and were ready to drive the last stretch so we could collapse at our Mopani bungalow.

Which was exactly what we did after braai & beer :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:19 pm 
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Our initial plan was to stay at Satara, then move to Shimuwini and then to Mopani before heading further north, but we had to change because of the sNOw. So quite a long trip, which is pretty doable in normal conditions, but we were a bit over tired still.

Anyhoo. More about Mopani, Sirheni & Bateleur soon.


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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger - Mopani morning
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:18 am 
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I woke up early, made an espresso (I brought my little Bialetti) and drank it on the veranda of our bungalow. This is exactly how I would like to wake up every morning.

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We stayed at a perimeter bungalow (no 89). It has a great view of the bush and because the rubbish tip is located a few hundred meters away you get to see vultures and marabou storks throughout the day.

While I was sipping coffee and eating ouma rusks I saw 3 rock monitors, a couple of fire finches, butterflies and a pair of mourning doves. Here’s a pic of one of the rock monitors, the largest of the three.

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If you look carefully you can see its forked tongue below. It uses its tongue to smell its way around.

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Then Foeke woke up and we went for a drive.


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 Post subject: Warming up in Kruger – Mooiplaas
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:08 pm 
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The drive took us to Mooiplaas waterhole on the S50.
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It was almost midday, so light conditions weren’t too good for photography, but lots of animals were hanging around. We saw quite a large herd of Tsessebe. This one here was galloping all over the place.

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Storks were foraging for insects and earthworms I think.

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Meet Daisy.

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Daisy giving me the evil eye.

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This tusker needed a scratch

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Tsessebe having lunch

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Speaking of lunch. We had lunch at Mopani restaurant, where the Carmine Bee-eaters gave an arial show. We spent quite some time watching them. Got a whole series of little blurry flying things. Managed to snap this one though.

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 Post subject: Warming up in Kruger – Christmas Day
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:41 pm 
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A Woodland Kingfisher woke us up on Christmas Day. How’s that for a Christmas present?

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We had a relaxed breakfast on our veranda, taking our time – not having to check out until 10. It was already getting pretty hot and humid. After cleaning and packing up, we drove off with the airco on to cool off a bit. The plan was to drive to Sirheni via Shingwedzi, where we would stop for lunch.

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We passed the Tropic of Capricorn, just north of Mopani and took the obligatory tourist photo. We were in the tropics! We almost melted when we got out the car, so we quickly went back inside. (Wikipedia says the tropic drifts north at the rate of almost half a second of latitude, which is about 15 metres per year. Someone’ d better move that plaque up a bit!)

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We didn’t see many animals, except mopani worms crossing the road. We just loved driving through the scenic landscape, still amazed by the beauty of it all.

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We arrived at Shingwedzi for lunch. The picnic spot at Shingwedzi was packed, but the restaurant wasn’t too busy. We both had Chicken mayo tramezzini for Xmas brunch. We had to roll ourselves to the car after that. Nom.

Meanwhile, it was getting hotter and more humid. Dark clouds were gathering and it looked like we might get a thunderstorm.


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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:06 pm 
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We arrived at Sirheni on Christmas day and were allocated to bungalow no 13.

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It was quite hot and very humid, but lucky for us a breeze soon started to blow and the temperature dropped to a lovely 20C-something. We had a look around the camp, which is quite amazing. It's full of trees and very green. It has two bird hides, one was in front of our bungalow. There's a photo in my Morning coffee post. (Blog)

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There was lots of water in the dam. Besides birds, we saw crocs and hippos at Sirheni.

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The next morning we woke up to a slight drizzle. We jumped into our car and set off to Punda Maria where we had fish and chips - not as good as Shingwedzi's - under the baobab tree.

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On our way up to Punda, we spotted a Bronze-winged Courser (thanks for the ID, Mary)

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This was the start of a very productive day - sighting wise.

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Erm ... ungrounded Ground Hornbill with snack

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Common Duiker

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White-backed vultures.

After lunch we drove further north to Pafuri. Just after we turned right to the S63 we spotted ....

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One-legged chicken!

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Followed by feetless chicken (sorry)

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And finally Crested Guineafowl and chick!

There were about 6 of them and we counted 3 or 4 chicks. There're a bit difficult to see. The last time we saw these elusive birds was in 2005 on the Mahonie loop, near Punda Maria.

The Pafuri area was very beautiful and lush. We had a lovely drive and also spotted Black-crowned Chagra, Tsessebe, Helmeted Guineafowl, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Bateleur, Nyala, Baboons, Vervet monkeys, Lappet-faced vulture, elephants and a chameleon. Back at Sirheni we saw Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher and Bee-eaters.

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What a day!

To be continued. Soon!


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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 9:01 am 
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I started the day with a stroll through camp. I was on a mission to make as much photographs as I could for my 100 Pictures in 2010 project. (Which I didn't finish. 100 Pictures in 2011 isn't going too well either :-S)

Anyway, this lovely path is a shortcut to reception. (86: Color: Green)

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I thought this tree would be a nice one for no 39. A letter from the Alphabet in Nature.

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There were Mopane worms everywhere. Does anyone know why it's called worm and not caterpillar? (34. Feet or 56. Colorful?)

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After my little stroll, we drove to Shingwedzi for breakfast. We stopped to watch the baboons first.

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Enjoying the view

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Bird bath near the restaurant

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After breakfast we slowly drove towards Red Rocks

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We saw another Yellow-billed Oxpecker on our way back

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Back at Shingwedzi, we had lunch (chicken salad - yum) and watched the resident Rock Monitor for a while. While we were sitting at the restaurant, we occasionally heard a car blow its horn on the low bridge. It's quite unusual to hear people do that in a national park. Later we found out why. This Yellow-billed Stork was not letting anyone interfere with its lunch. It refused to step aside. :-)

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We spent the rest of the afternoon at Sirheni, watching our neighbour, Mr Croc.

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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:16 pm 
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We leave Sirheni Bush Camp at the crack of dawn.

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We're off to Bateleur Bush Camp, but taking the long way - via Letaba Rest Camp - because we need the ATM machine there. Maybe one day, the little ATM machines at the park's shops will be sophisticated enough to accept foreign bank cards. Until then, we will have to make do :-)

So, off to Letaba it is. No stops on the way down. Apart from the usual suspects we don't see anything spectacular. After feeding the ATM machine our bank card and receiving fresh new bank notes as a reward, we drive back up. First stop Letaba river bridge ...

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... where we spot a buffalo and a small herd of waterbuck. On the other side of the bank we see a lonesome Ground Hornbill strolling towards the bank. (River bank, not the ATM)

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We arrive at Mopani Rest Camp, where we want to pick up some groceries. While there, we see there's an exhibition going on in the conference center, so we decide to have a look.

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Brian Jones of Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre fame is giving a talk. The talk has already started, but the Honorary Ranger ladies show us to a seat anyway.

Brian Jones has the gift of the gab. He talks faster than anyone I know. He also has a lot to say!
The goal of Brian's presentations is to make the public aware of the plight of the Environment in Southern Africa. He does this with the help of two cheetahs, a bateleur, a - was it a pearl-spotted owl? (I don't remember) - and Queenie the Crowned Eagle. (Thanks for the reminders Cees & Corina)

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These most unexpected sightings turn out to be the highlight of the day. We skip petting the cheetah - what's his name again? - and drive off towards Bateleur Bush Camp instead.

To be continued ...


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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 4:20 pm 
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So, here we are at Bateleur Bush Camp. It's a tiny camp, in the middle of nowhere. It's also bone dry and hot. At check-in we meet the charming and much appraised Lazarus Lekhuleni, Bateleur's Hospitality Manager. Lazarus shows us to our bungalow, whilst giving us the latest news and the best spot for cell phone reception (Tshanga look out point). We get no 6 as requested, it has a bird bath. We settle in, put fresh water and a few ice cubes in the bird bath and relax :)

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The next day we drive off to discover Rooibosrant Dam. On our way we see the beautiful Long-tailed Paradise Whydah. ✓

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When we arrive near the dam, we see the loop road has been closed. We can drive onwards a bit, but there is only a small spot to park and we need to peer through the foliage to see the dam. :(
There's a Fish Eagle (first of the trip!) in a dead tree and we spot a Jacana tiptoeing on the lilies, but that's about all we manage to see. Most of the view is obstructed. Very disappointed we drive back and decide to have a look at Silvervis Dam.

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We are out of luck. Silvervis is overgrown by reeds. Can't see a thing. Time for plan C:  off to Shingwedzi. We were instantly rewarded with this lovely sighting of African Hawk-eagle ✓

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Near Shingwedzi Rest Camp we stop to watch a Marabou Stork, that is foraging for food in elephant-made puddles of water.

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We spot a Saddle-billed Stork stalking fish.

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A White-fronted Bee-eater waiting for lunch

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Little Egret taking off

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After lunch we slowly drive back to camp and decide to do what the impala are doing; rest in the shade.

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 Post subject: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:27 pm 
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The forum's slowest trip report writer just checked in to write another update. Image

It's the 30th of December and we're off to Mopani to have lunch with friends Cees, Corina & André. On our way down we spot:
a lovely Carmine Bee-eater
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egret
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ellie at Shipandani hide
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After the lovely lunch with a view, we decided to drive back via Mooiplaas and the Tropic of Capricorn loop. Great plan until we arrived at Mooiplaas.
Two things happened: I realised I still had my camera & 400mm lens in the boot of the car and Mr Gorgeous here, walked into the road and blocked us from going further.
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(curtesy of Panasonic Lumix FZ30)

After waiting a while and kindly smiling to the elephant, we decided to turn back to Mopani. I had to get my camera out anyway.

We took the H1-6 home. There's a beautiful Baobab near the road there.
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 Post subject: Re: Warming up in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 5:28 pm 
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The next morning, the very last day of 2010, we got up before the crack of dawn. We were driving all the way to Skukuza to stay with friends.

We were waved off by a family of Ground Hornbills.
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We stopped at Letaba for some breakfast and saw more Ground Hornbills in a tree
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We didn't stop often, but couldn't resist these piggies
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Or this vulture picnic near Satara
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Marabou Stork joining the party
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Around siesta time we spotted a couple of rhinos and a baby rhino resting in the shade
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More soon
(no really!)


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 Post subject: Re: gwendolen-Warming up in Kruger-Dec 2010
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:52 pm 
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Image <--- Salva

We stopped for a delicious cappuccino at Satara and had a bite to eat too.

Further south we admired this emerging tusker, who turned his back to us. :|

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We stopped to watch this Saddle-billed Stork for a while
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We were happily driving further south when we suddenly bumped into a major traffic jam. Whoa: Lioness with cubs coming our way. Fast!
We quickly turned the car and managed to follow her for a minute, before she disappeared into high grass.

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Wow. What a sighting.
We entangled ourselves from the other cars are headed back towards Skukuza.

We spotted a couple of eagles in a tree. I think they could be Brown Snake-eagles. Cause they're eagles. And brown. (Big foto)

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We finally arrived at Skukuza
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where we flopped down in our host's lovely garden and watched the piggies eat it
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Of course, after the long drive, we never managed to stay up until 12. Image

The next morning we woke up early. Three guesses what our first bird of they year was ...


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 Post subject: Re: gwendolen-Warming up in Kruger-Dec 2010
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:20 pm 
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How fantastic to see the Lioness with her cubs, quite a few of them as well.

I don't think your big brown birds are Snake Eagles, feathered legs and no yellow eyes, my guess would be Wahlberg's.

Afraid I am not able to guess what the first bird was? :hmz:

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