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 Post subject: Bushbuddies Luxury, Leopards and Lions KNP Weekend Apr 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 6:36 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
I did not plan to do a TR about this trip, but after all the great sightings we had - I just felt I HAD to share some of it with my fellow forumites... :wink:

After working over the Easter weekend, we got the next long weekend off - and decided we needed a good rest. And is there a better place for rest and relaxation than KNP???

But KNP was fully booked. We started looking for other options, and found a special for one of the lodges in a concession in the South of KNP. We stayed there for 3 nights and then 1 night at Lower Sabie - pure bliss! 8)

As I already mentioned - this was not planned, so will not be a "formal" TR - rather some highlights of the lovely sightings we had in KNP.

For an icebreaker - some sunset and sunrise pictures - to set the mood...

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The last picture is a picture of a sunrise over the Mpanamana dam (Check on your Kruger map in the South Eastern corner of Kruger). The lodge is situated on this dam and each unit has its own deck overlooking this dam. One cannot get a better location!


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 9:39 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Let's start where we ended - the lovely sunrise over Mpanamana dam. During our stay at the lodge we saw many residents and many visitors to this dam. They say that in the dryer season, one can sometimes see the big 5 at the dam - all in one day! During our stay we saw some ellies, a rhino, waterbuck, impala, zebra, giraffe, warthog, kudu and many waterbirds coming to the dam. We also enjoyed the company of the resident Fish Eagle pair and a whole lot of hippo's.

The Fish Eagles entertained us with their beautiful song during the day, while the hippo's woke us every night with their noises and snorting as they came back from grazing at about 1-2 am in the mornings... :doh:

The scenic picture of a lone bull coming to have a drink:

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And later on the whole family came for a drink and a bath:

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The cutest thing was this little hippo. According to the staff he was about 3-4 weeks old. Here he is getting a little love...

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"See - this is how big you should open your mouth to be able to eat a "Chomp"..."

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"...Is this big enough?"

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It is times like these that I wish I had Touareg's equipment - a bazooka lens and a superfast camera... Well, maybe if I save the money I use on these trips, over a decade or two or three... I guess we all wish we had those! :cam:

Times like these - I am referring to times that you actually witness a Fish Eagle catching a fish!

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All of this - while sitting on your deck! 8)


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 8:31 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
I see you guys are all getting a little :mrgreen: about my lovely deck with its view... So let's go out on a drive. And seeing as you all enjoyed my Fish Eagle sequence so much - let's stick to the raptors!

During our time in the concession - we saw a lot of Martial Eagles (Breekoparende). Both immature and mature eagles - and all stages inbetween!

A mature Martial Eagle:
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And an immature one - a very white one at that:
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Another common raptor in the area is the Bateleur (Berghaan).

The mature Bateleur - picture taken in the concession:
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And a nice close up sequence of an immature Bateleur. We got this one on the N'watimhiri Causeway on the H4-1 (when at LS).

"What - are you taking my picture in this sharp light?"
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"Let me rather pose for you with the light falling on my 'good side'"
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"And now for a close-up - just look at my beauty"
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Next up - the Brown Snake Eagle (Bruinslangarend) - I just love their striking eyes...

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The last day, we drove down from Lower Sabie to exit the gate at Croc Bridge. We left LS at 6:00 and only got to Croc Bridge gate at 8:00. We had amazing sightings on this last stretch. I find KNP always just has a way of keeping some of the best for that last day... As if trying to lure you back again for more! I will still show you many picture s from this fatefull morning - but for now - the raptors on this stretch.

The Fish Eagle (Visarend) pair just South of Lower Sabie - next to the Sabie River:

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And I wish I could add sound to this next picture - the two of them broke out in song:

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Another special sighting for us on this road, and a first tick of this one for us - an African Barred Owlet (Gebande Uil):

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I hope that was not too many birds for you guys - next episode will include some 4-legged creatures... :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Wed May 11, 2011 9:49 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
Now let's get to some of those predators I eluded to in the title...

We saw a cat for the first time. Let me clarify that... Not just any "cat" - a "lesser spotted" one. And we spotted it twice!

The first occasion was on one of the lodge's drives. It was about 8:30 in the morning, and one of our fellow guests said:"look there is a jackal in the distance". He was referring to a silouette of an animal in the road ahead of us. I knew instantly it was not a jackal... The guide also. He looked and thought it was a baby cheetah. The shape looked familiar. Then it hit me and I shouted it out - " Dis 'n tierboskat! (It's a serval)!!!" :dance: We drove up to it as fast as we could without frightening it off, but it had already started crossing the road and move into the tall grasses. This is the only photographic evidence I have of our first Serval sighting:

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On our afternoon drive (by ourselves) before overnighting at LS - the same situation happened again - on the S128. A serval was crossing the road slowly in front of us. SO remarked it was a "bokkie" in the road, maybe a duiker... I took one look and said "NO - look its tail!" Grabbed the binocs - and yes ANOTHER serval. Unfortunately it crossed the road quickly and again disappeared into the tall grasses. Still - we really felt blessed!

Some more predators we saw while driving with the lodge's guide:

Hyena in the concession:

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The guide also got word of 3 male lions lying at Gezantfombi Dam. It was long weekend, and there were a few dozen cars at this sighting! Managed to get these pics, before the 3 kings got up, and walked into thicker bush:

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And now, for our favourite sighting during our stay at the lodge...

We were having lunch at the lodge. SO and I were sitting and chatting to another lovely couple who were also staying there. The guide came running into the dining area, all excited: "Do you guys want to see a leopard?" What a question... :roll: Within 2 minutes all the guests (The lodge only caters for a max of 10 at a time) were on the gameviewing vehicle - cameras in hand and ready for our leopard sighting... :dance: Some of the staff were going off duty and left the lodge just prior to this. They drove past a leopard sighting - and decided to alert the guide - so that he could come and show us! And even nicer than that - they waited at the sighting untill we arrived! :D Now this is what I call great teamwork and excellent service! :thumbs_up:

Just look at this beauty:

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It has to be one of my best LIT-sightings ever! He seemed pretty relaxed - "sitting" in the fork of the branches:

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We were just in time. It could not have been 5 minutes - then he decided to get up...

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...and make his way down the tree and disappearing into the bush.

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We returned to the lodge elated! We were all South Africans staying at the lodge on that day - and for the one guy it was his first sighting of a leopard - WOW! It would not be the last for the day... :whistle:


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 12:15 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
Okay - this TR is looking a bit "out of balance"... First some lovely sunsets and views from a deck, then raptors and last up some predators. Too many carnivores without any food to eat! :wink:

So let me now take you on a tour of the more commonly spotted four legged creatures in the park. Your so called "general game". Nothing plain about these guys and girls, though - they are all beautiful in their own way.

First up - our striped friends: So photogenic... :cam:

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Another majestic herbivore - the kudu. The males with their majestic horns:

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And the girls with their big ears... :big_eyes:

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No visit to KNP will be complete without seeing some mischievous monkeys...

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... And some distant family:

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Then we have the long-necked giraffes. It was the first time during this visit that I saw how the bulls were "necking" each other...

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Next up - the three herbivores in the "Big 5" - three majestic animals - large, tough, and dangerous when angered... :shock:

The African Elephant:

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The White Rhino - just love the free ride they provide so many...

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And the Buffalo - this one hiding behind some of the grasses - but I spotted you! :cam:

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Last shot for the day - taken at Nkuhlu:

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Some more birdies up next...I promise Lionspoon... :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 8:37 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Okay - so as promised - back to birding again for this episode.

The first shot I actually took as we were driving in on the first day toward the lodge. It's really not a good pic - but I want to show it, because it was the first time ever I saw a Saddle Billed Stork (Saalbekooievaar) in flight! :shock:

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Another shot that we took on the way to the lodge - again not the best - but a first time and new tick for us - the Little Bee-eater (Kleinbyvreter):

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Some Kori Bustards - we actually saw them a few times on the concession. It was our first time that we spotted them this South in the park.

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And it also seemed that there were a LOT of Burchell's Coucals (Gewone Vleiloerie) around. They are some of my favourite birds!

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Would any visit in KNP be complete without seeing some "Banana-beaks" or Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills (Geelbekneushoringvoel)?

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One of the birds most helpfull to our animal friends - the Red-billed Oxpeckers (Rooibekrenostervoel)

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Spotted this Wooly-necked Stork (Wolnekooievaar) at Gezantfombi Dam. I thought he/she posed quite nicely for me...

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Another first for us was the Double-banded Sandgrouse (Dubbelbandsandpatrys)...

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...And his wife:

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A Goliath Heron (Reusereier) fishing in the Sabie river just south of LS:

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And I have even more shots from Sunset Dam, and also some nice shots from the morning we drove down to exit KNP at Crocodile Bridge... But those will have to wait for next time... :whistle:


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 5:28 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
All of you should know by now that we stayed in Lower Sabie for our last night in KNP. Lower Sabie must be one of my favourite camps! It is a lovely camp, with lovely views, in a prime game-viewing area, AND... it has Sunset Dam!

I said to SO - one should realise you're really becoming a birder when your TR has more bird pics than animal pics! :lol: Well, if you are a real birder - you would LOVE Sunset Dam. And I'm going to show you why. The following pictures were all taken at Sunset Dam.

A pair of Egyptian Geese (Kolganse) patrolling their area:

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We got lucky - this Pied Kingfisher (Bontvisvanger) was sitting in a tree right next to us:

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I asked SO to have a little bit of patience with me and the bird... I thought it might start fishing some time... And I started dreaming of Touareg's lens once more... :whistle:

Our patience was rewarded:

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He unfortunately never got a fish he was willing to dive for... :roll:

Next up - a Black-winged Stilt (Rooipootelsie). After seeing the shot later - I thought it would have made a real good shot if I didn't cut the shadow's head out of the picture... :doh:

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Antoher lovely bird in prime position for a :cam: - the White-crowned Lapwing (Witkopkiewiet):

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Some more waterbirds - and next up - the herons.

Green-backed Heron (Groenrugreier):

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And the Grey Heron (Bloureier):

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My friends - all of these shots were taken in ONE single visit to Sunset Dam. I think I proved my point! 8)

I have got another 3 birdies I would like to share with you. Remember I told you about the wonderful sightings we had the morning we left KNP, between LS and Croc Bridge? I already showed you the Fish Eagles calling and the African Barred Owlet. Here are some of the more common birds I saw this morning - all posing in the lovely morning light.

Lilac-breasted Roller (Gewone Troupant):

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Burchell's Coucal (Gewone Vleiloerie):

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And inside Croc Bridge - a Southern White-crowned Shrike (Kremetartlaksman):

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That covers all the birds for the trip!


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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 10:21 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
Except for those 3 big maned lions we saw at Gezantfombi Dam, we did not have all that great lion sightings during our stay at the concession. SO is, as most of you will know by now, a Lion-man. A visit to a park without a nice lion-sighting is just not complete to him. Lower Sabie area has always been good to us in terms of lion sightings. This year, she was good to us, once more!

Our first lion sighting was North of LS on the H4-1 just before LubyeLubye - this lone male lion and basking in the sun:

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When we returned late in the afternoon to see if he was still there - he was, and obviously enjoying his sleep...

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Now where are all those mites that always complain about the traffic jams in the South? Sit closer and listen to this...

The morning we had to leave KNP we were at the gate as it opened at 6:00. There were about 6 cars in front of us. As the gate opened - 4 of the cars decided to head North on the H4-1, two turned South on the H4-2 and we followed. As soon as we got to the bridge - the two cars in front of us turned left and over the bridge to the H10. We were the only car continuing down South towards Croc Bridge. When we are in KNP, we always leave camp early in the morning in the hope to see some lion lying on the warm road early in the morning. But you have to be real early for that - because once the cars arrive they often leave the road and head into the bushes. We have not been rewarded with this many times before - but this morning... Oh this morning.... :dance:

About 7 km South of Lower Sabie, the sun was not even out yet, we found 3 black maned lions in the road! We were all by ourselves. One was lying next to the road (and did not want to look in our direction at all! :naughty: )...

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...while the other two were lying in front of us in the road.

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The one lying next to the road had his gaze fixed in the direction of the bush - we could also hear the snorting impala males. They had been doing this all over the bush - rutting season has started. And they were giving away their position to all predators... :wall:

The sun was starting to creap up - and I desperately wanted to capture these guys in the early morning glow. They were positioned perfectly for this! But then the one lying next to the road (he looked like the oldest), got up and walked into the bush - in the direction of the impalas. Soon, the next one got up, and followed...

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We were left with only the one male. He had a fresh wound on his lip. And the sun was about to come out...

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But it was not to be... He also got up and followed his brohters.

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What a magnificent sighting. Three black-maned lions, right next to us in the road - the busy road between Croc Bridge and LS - and we had this sighting for about 5-10 minutes ALL TO OURSELVES!!! :dance:

So now you've seen what a lovely morning we had that morning between LS and CB. We had the Fish Eagles calling, the lion sighting all to ourselves, the African Barred Owlett, all the lovely birds in the morning light... but there was still more. On the H4-2, just before we got to Croc Bridge we finally got to meet the king himself.... DUKE! :dance:

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He was looking good, and had a large group of askari walking with him - it was the biggest group of male elephants I'd ever seen. They were walking with a great and famous king... 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Luxury, Leopards and Lions - KNP Weekend
Unread postPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 8:12 pm 
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Now let's get back to my leopard friend I told you about - remember the one that we rushed out on lunch for to see it lying in the tree?

Well, later that same afternoon, we went out on our afternoon drive. And who would we find a few trees up the road? The same leopard that walked into the bushes gave us another chance at photographing it - this time lying in another tree!

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Giving a few yawns - and oh - what big teeth you have! :shock:

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But I have not come to know any leopard that would lie still in one tree for too long - so before we knew it - the leopard got up...

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...moved over to the other branch...

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...gave a good stretch...

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...and started making his way down...

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...in a most peculiar way!

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And that, my friends, brings to a close our magical sightings of luxury, lions, leopards and the beauty of all that is in Kruger!

With less than 4 weeks to go - we will be back in our "happy place", and this time we are giving the North a try...


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