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 Post subject: Bronzemannekin-Goodbye Tension ... Kruger in April 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 3:59 pm 
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SO took an early retirement package and we are a step nearer to living our dream of touring all the national parks in South Africa. 4 more years before I can also retire but in the meantime I am looking forward to longer holidays as we are no longer limited to annual short leave periods.
Our Kruger holiday was different this year in that we normally go in August but wanted an Autumn trip in aniticipation of seeing some migratory birds.

Friday 8 April – We had an early start at 03h20 departing from Golden Gate. We ended up spending 12 hours on the road skirting around potholes and roadworks. We stopped for a quick leg stretch at the Wakkerstroom wetland in anticipation of finding exciting birds – only a raptor that we could not identify as it was a juvenile. We did not find much birdwise as it was quite cold.

A standing family joke with our children is that if there are visitors in a park to be dealt with accommodation units or neighbours it would be us! This time, however, we received a wonderful unit – Safari Tent no 5 in Crocodile Bridge. We are close to the river and it is lovely hearing the water spilling over the weir dam wall. This one night stop-over has definitely made us change our minds about Crocodile Bridge camp. It is a very quiet camp and the units are not on top of each other. The staff are very friendly and the brass fittings on the outside of the chalets are even Brasso’ed. We had some beers on the tent deck and savoured every moment of being back in Kruger Park! Happy Birthday to me – what a lovely 50th birthday gift from SO - three weeks of bliss lying ahead.


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 Post subject: Re: Hello Pension, Goodbye Tension ... Kruger in April 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:13 am 
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Thank you for all your encouragement. :D.

Saturday 9 April

We had a lovely night’s rest and tried to lie in this morning but could not make it past 6am. We had breakfast on our safari tent deck and we did a bit of birding before our departure to Lower Sabie. It is quite frustrating that one can only access your units after 14h00 – most people move early in the park and when you arrive at the other side you are at a bit of a loose end. We had a very average day from an animal sightings point and strangely did not see a single elephant. However, very good birding including Redbacked Shrike, Woolynecked Stork, Whitebacked Vulture, White Crested Helmet Shrike, Collared Sunbird, Whitebrowed Robin Chat, Orange Breasted Bush Shrike and Cut-throat Finch. We sat on the benches in front of the chalets drinking our sundowners and watched the sun go down over the Sabie River, so peaceful and relaxing. Another early night before our departure to Maroela.

Sunday 10 April

We left Lower Sabie at 06h30 and took our favourite Tshokwane Road. We had two lovely Rhino sightings totaling 5 individuals. We saw our first elephants, a huge herd of buffalo of at least 500 and 2 honey badgers.

Special birding sightings: Woodland Kingfisher (we have only seen 1 in our previous visits to Kruger in August), Double banded Sandgrouse, Marabou Stork, Redbilled Firefinch, Blue waxbill.

We arrived at Maroela midday and got an amazing site – left bottom corner under an enormous Jackalberry tree. Once again we can hear running water from our tent. We saw ellies coming down to drink late afternoon. We are 1 of 5 campers this evening. Blissful desolation for 7 sleeps to come. It was quite chilly during the night which we are not used to in Kruger. A hyena made a racket around the camp during the night and we heard lions roaring far off in the early hours of the morning. Animal sightings are special but the auditory is exceptional.


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 Post subject: Hello pension bye bye tension
Unread postPosted: Thu May 26, 2011 2:50 pm 
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Monday 11 April
We woke up with Ground Hornbills grunting in the distance. This is definitely going to be more of a birding holiday than the season for spotting cats. We went in pursuit of either finding lion, leopard or cheetah for SO but it was not to be. We had an 8 hour drive via Timbavati Picnic spot, up to Satara and then back via Timbavati. We bumped in to Canon and his SO at Timbavati. Canon is complaining because it is very difficult to spot game due to the long grass and abundance of water. Together we decide that August is definitely the better time to be here. Birding highlights: Buffalo Weavers and Greenwinged Phytella. A Whitebacked vulture is busy building a nest in the Jackalberry tree above our tent. (Fortunately we are out of his pooping range). The SABAP (SA Birding Atlasing Project 2) list is growing and we recorded 64 species today.

TUESDAY 12 APRIL
We left camp at 07h00 and rode the Rabelais Loop. We did not see much here but once back on the tar road approximately 1km before the Nsemani Dam we came across our first leopard sighting for the holiday. He was busy marking his territory and pooped too. Not even a kilometer further down the road we came across a young male lion. (He was nicknamed Manged and Deranged). We stopped at Satara for a leg stretch and then drove the N’wanetsi Road (H6) to the Sweni Hide. While sitting alone there we heard another Isuzu and SO joked by remarking that it was possibly Canon and his SO. And it was them, we caught up on all their sightings and were lucky to have the hide all to ourselves. This hide is usually very full. There were not too many birds around other than a Woodland Kingfisher that kept us entertained and noisy Egyptian Geese. We moved on to the N’wanetsi picnic spot and unfortunately could not find the Yellow Bul-buls that are normally around. We drove back to Satara via the S100 (N’wanetsi River Road). This is a lovely drive with lots of game and we saw a lioness in the distance. SO is content – we have seen the Big 5. Just the Rhino missing today to make it a Big 5 sighting in one day. Somehow the Rhino’s seem to be scarce in the Orpen/Satara area. Another good birding day with special sightings of the Lesser Grey Shrike, Black Chested Snake Eagle and Little Bee-eaters. Maroela Camp is awesome and our tent is possibly pitched on the best campsite in the entire KNP. Night sounds are awesome – lion and hyena further away tonight.


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 Post subject: Re: Hello Pension, Goodbye Tension ... Kruger in April 2011
Unread postPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 12:51 pm 
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WEDNESDAY 13 APRIL
We woke up at 2am with an animal making a very distressed noise with a hyena replying no less than 3 meters away from the side of the tent! Spine chilling but so magic! Needless to say that we nearly jumped out of our skin. We heard the lions again but far away. Today was meant to be a camp chill out day as we have already been on the road for 7 days of which the first three started at 3am and since being in the park we have been awake by 5am. We drove to Orpen to fill up with diesel only to discover that there were no fuel pumps (or so we thought because a few days later we discovered them just outside the rest camp gates). We drove to Satara to fill up after a brunch.

We had 2 leopard sightings today. The first one was under a tree close to the N’wametsatsa bridge (duly marked as Leopard 1 on the GPS). It was quite skittish and darted off in to the bush when we reversed. Leopard 2 was on our return trip on the H7 close to the Phelwana River crossing. It cris-crossed the road twice and sat a few meters away from my side of the car. I manage to video a bit of it before it disappeared. Isn’t it amazing that sometimes one is privy to be the only car at a sighting? We were so lucky to have 2 special leopard sightings on one day, on the same road and in the middle of the day. We saw our first Marshall Eagle perched on a tree at the Bobbejaan Krans viewpoint.

We found a mystery little red headed bird with a barred chest in the camp at Satara that has left us puzzled as we cannot find it in any of our bird identification guides.

Elephants were grazing right up against our fence. We have 2 camp hyenas that circle the fence from late afternoon in anticipation of tidbits. It is such a shame to see them begging, tail wagging an all! I wish that drastic steps could be taken including life-long ban from SAN Parks against perpetrators who feed them.

Thursday 14 April

The lions roared closer to camp last night. It had rained in the night and was still drizzling when we woke up. The turps and candlewax concoction has kept the tent bone dry inside. Yay! Our neighbours are packing up because all their stuff is wet. We took a slow drive all the way to Swadani (Forever Resort) to see what it is like. Beautiful, picturesque inspite of the gentle rain there too. We had hassles when we tried to re-enter at Orpen Gate (We were never given an updated exit permit when be booked in at Lower Sabie on the 9th April – our booking was in two chunks – Crocodile Bridge was added much later and done on line and could not be married up with the manual booking for the remainder of the holiday). Fortunately it was rectified by a very helpful duty staff member at Orpen reception office. (Very friendly bunch at Orpen reception office and likewise the staff in Maroela camp, George and Lidah). I am enjoying the 2 freezers in the camp, kind courtesy West Rand Honorary Rangers. I made us our customary brunch in the frying pan. We went for a late afternoon drive along the Rabelais loop and had some good birding including a Brownheaded Parrot and a Wahlberg’s Eagle. Very quiet from a cat perspective. We stopped at the Eileen Orpen museum and were humbled by the generosity of an individual to establish a legacy for those after her. We salute her. We had another thunderstorm in the night and more rain predicted until Saturday.


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 Post subject: Re: Hello Pension, Goodbye Tension ... Kruger in April 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 2:44 pm 
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Friday 15 April
We went for a ride early this morning via Talamati in pursuit of Sable Antelope because a certain visitor guaranteed us a sighting on this road. We came across cat spoor, possibly leopard/cheetah all along the road and later a set of lion spoor but they did not reveal themselves. We called in at the nearby picnic spot for brunch, probably one of the most neglected picnic sites in the park (pit toilet and shabby tables and chairs). We drove on to Satara and saw a lion lying behind a bush, it caused quite a consternation with cars piling up. We drove back to Maroela after quite an exhausting morning with not much excitement regarding different animal/birding sightings. Camp is filling up for the weekend. There is a “firefly village” set up behind the bathrooms and we have neighbours behind and next to us.
(Firefly Villiage is our term for tour operators as their guests usually move around at night with headlamps on)

Saturday 16 April
Today was going to be another camp day. However, at the spur of the moment we decided to drive along the Rabelais Loop. We came across a large herd of buffalo, a lone elephant and added some more birds to the list. SO tucked in to a book and spent most of her afternoon reading. We heard a leopard barking at the river. (Canon saw this leopard a few days later from their safari tent in Tambotie)


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 Post subject: Re: Hello Pension, Goodbye Tension ... Kruger in April 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 8:18 am 
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Sunday 17 April
Phew what a night! It started raining at about 8pm and carried on through the night. It lifted a bit at midnight and then started again in the early hours of the morning. We decided to wait for it to lift again before we packed up camp. (We thought all our neighbours were nuts packing up in the light rain :shock: ) How wrong were we? The heavens opened half way through operation pack-up and we got completely drenched to the bone. Or should I say I did as my rain jacked leaked. We bundled the tent and extension in to the back of the Isuzu – sopping, sopping wet. We had a warm shower before our departure that lifted our spirits a bit. However, in spite of the torrential rain our tent stood the elements and did not leak thanks to my dad’s “boereraat”. We had brunch at the Satara restaurant and then took the road northwards. Visibility was bad due to the rain and we did not see much other than two impressive tuskers. We arrived at Letaba at 14h00 and took a drive through the camping area to look for our camping spot. We always wanted to camp at the back next to the fence and found a wonderful spot and subsequently erected our wet tent. The rain fortunately lifted while we embarked on this operation. We noticed that two frogs had also hitched a ride with us as they crawled out of the tent! The weather forecast for tomorrow is 30°C so hopefully everything will have a chance to dry off. Fortunately we have a reservation for a hut for the evening and booked in to Hut 36 on the riverfront.

Monday 18 April
We moved across to our campsite after breakfast in the company of the birds on our little verandah. No sight of the Redheaded Weavers that always coming begging though. As the tent was already set up (and much dried off) it did not take us long to settle in. It is really good to have old towels in the camping gear for drying off and cleaning camping equipment. We remained in the camp most of the day. I did some birding while SO did nothing other than sit and watch the game pass by the fence – elephant, impala, baboon, waterbuck and .. the camp hyenas. We went for a drive early afternoon along the River Loop and found a buffalo who had taken a mud bath. The Letaba River is spectacular with lots of water in it. Something we always wanted to see. We had a good birding census trip including a good sighting of Whitefronted Bee-eaters.


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 Post subject: Re: Hello Pension, Goodbye Tension ... Kruger in April 2011
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:00 pm 
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Tuesday 19 April
What a night .. hyena and lion roaring right through the night. We could hear the lion coming closer and hoped to see then when we went to Phalaborwa later that morning. We woke up with some scratching in the tent extension and fount it was a Bushbaby trying to raid some bread that SO had forgotten to put away. Shortly thereafter I heard an owl sound which I was not familiar with. It was a Verreaux Eagle Owl! Awesome!
Very strange weather, we have not really had much sunshine this past week, still overcast and humid.

Wednesday 20 April
A Chillean tourist moved in next to us last evening in the dark and we assisted him in pitching his tent that came with his car hire. He had a sopping wet tent and we passed the old towels his way. He joined us for a drink afterwards. We got up early this morning in pursuit of the lions that are roaring at night but a 3 hour drive to Matambeni Hide was fruitless from this perspective. However, we saw two new birds; A Village Indigo Bird and a White Throated Robin Chat.

The tent extension was suddenly a bit too bright this morning as the sun had not yet risen – SO leapt out of bed to find the kettle surrounded by blue flames and there being a strong smell of Gin in the air. The kettle had been topped up with the wrong water bottle! SO laments her plight that she somehow is just not meant to have her colonial G&T at sunset as the bottle had broken the previous day and the salvaged remains was decanted into a water bottle which was now no longer.

Found a Dusky Lark in the camp this morning. We went for a drive along the Mingerhout loop …………. to find the lion that we have been hearing. We came across a herd of Nyala, Impala rams sparring and stopped on the Letaba bridge and saw a spectacular river crossing of elephants in the sunset. Oh so heavenly to be back in our beloved Kruger.


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