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 Post subject: Son godin Escape from the Cold to Letaba June 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:41 pm 
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The winter started a bit too early for for my liking and we decided to have a short break from the cold Mpumalanga Highveld weather by escaping to the Kruger. We only spent 4 days in KNP enjoying temperature of up to 33 deg C again. On 16 June we left home and stayed over at Letaba for 3 nights and were back home again to brave the cold again. Monday morning the mercury dropped to -1 deg C reminding me of what I am missing after the short Kruger trip.

The sightings were a few, but the break defnitely worthwhile. This will be more of a photographic report reflecting on some of our sighting from 16 - 19 June

Day 1: 16 June 2011 Numbi Gate to Letaba

We were very eager to get to KNP and entered at the closest gate according to the GPS, namely Numbi gate at around 7:30. Our first great sighting was a road block of buffalo on the H1-1.

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Further down the road we passed 2 rhino's just before Transport dam and then headed off in the direction of Skukuza- Tshokwana.

Near the Marula loop turn-off on H1-2 we saw a herd of elephants with baby elies.

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A tawny eagle was waiting for the day to get warmer baking in the sun south of Tshokwane

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Our first road block of cars were at a leopard sighting. SO and LO was able to spot the leopard, but it was impossible to manouvre between the cars so that I could at least see something. The photo was the only proof of what they saw.

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After a brunch at Tshokwane we drove further north passing a Saddlebilled stork along the Nwaswitsontso river. We spotted a few more pairs up north near Satara and Letaba, which is an indication that there numbers are increasing.

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Around midday a herd of elephants were crossing the H1-4 north of Satara and a yougster was practising a mock charge.

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This time we were too late for the lions near Satara but were lucky with the others like zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, impala, giraffes and elephants.

The bird sightings were good and we saw lots of bateleur in the air and Kori-bustard on the ground.

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Around 2 pm we booked in at Letaba camp and rested a few hours before a short afternoon drive.
The bungalow was a bit small, but at least had a lovely view over the Letaba river.

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KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:23 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:31 pm 
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Day 1 Continuing: Afternoon drive near Letaba 16 June 2011

We drove along the Letaba river towards Engelhard dam for the afternoon. The sun shined very bright on the water and it was difficult to get a good pic of the Jacanas on the water lilies and Malachite Kingfisher in the reeds. The sightings were few and we return back to camp and then drove to the Letaba bridge.

Just before the camp the sunlight was blocked by a giant in the road. The on coming traffic had no choice to reverse, while I had a bit of a difficulty to see if I am facing the trunk or tail.

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At the bridge a herd of elephant come to drink water, with calf racing to get to the water first.

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The view from our rondavel and the Letaba river from the camp.

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KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:50 pm 
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Day 2: Going South (17 June 2011)

We took the H1-5 south to Olifants and Balule to go and explore unfamiliar territory. The first section was a bit quiet either because it was still too early or of the burnt section along the tarred road. I spotted a view steenbok between the bushes and some Impalas. Close to Olifants we came across a herd of Impala and a speeding taxi. Luckily he reacted on my flashing light and just stopped in time when an Impala crossed the road. He first pulled :huh: face, but at least slowed down. A road kill is something I do not want to witness in Kruger. :x

Just before the turn-off to Olifants we spotted this lovely lilac-breasted roller heating up in the morning sun.

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After the Lookout we took to turn-off to Balule. It’s the first time I’ve been on this road and took the low water bridge crossing. Just after the bridge we saw about 10 vultures in a tree. It looked like white-backed vultures.

My curiosity drove me to Balule and the camp manager allowed us to have a quick look at the camp. It’s on of the smallest camps in KNP with lovely trees and a grassed lawn in the middle and the campsites in a circle. Now I just have to plan my next trip to include Balule.

After the Balule peep we drove further south until Bangu dam. Along the road we crossed a water duct where one could see there was lots of car movement earlier. I quickly reversed and spotted this spotted hyaena pup sleeping in the sun. When we came back after turning at Bangu dam the mom and dad was out running off in the bush.

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On the way to Bangu we passed kudu, giraffe and buffalo.

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We also spotted a black rhino far off in the bush but it even difficult to identify never-mind taking a pic. Other visitors told us it was a blackie, but we were a bit unlucky with a close-up shot.

Along the Olifants River just after the low water bridge we saw a tree squirrel. Maybe not the most natural shot, but a cute one at least.

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We stopped at Olifants Camp for a break and got some lovely shots from the look-out. The one pic is my attempt at photography of SO and LO.

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Just before the Letaba River kudu crossed the road. The one was a magnificent bull with a bit of a limp.

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At the Letaba River the game was very few. We spotted a heard of elies near the dam wall slightly out of reach and drove to a look-out spot watching birds. A Fish-eagle flew over us and landed in a tree next to where we parked. SO waited patiently for the Fish-Eagle to take off, but because of the close distance could not focus out enough and chopped off some wings. :cry:

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Closer to camp we spotted some zebra avoiding the elusive lions. The sightings board marked close to this spot a lion sighting.

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KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:32 pm 
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Vgstevens the next pics will include some familiar spots you visited in March and thanks for the compliments.

Micetta and Pumbaa: Glad you enjoyed the river views. SO is not into panoramic photography, but I will convince him to take more or have ago myself.

Pumbaa the hyaena looks just like a puppy dog that you want to take home. Not sure what my Labrador will say.

Day 2: Afternoon drive to Middelvlei (17 June)

Before the afternoon drive my son took some pics of the wildlife in camp and along the Letaba river from the restaurant.

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Right at the gate SO jumped out of the car to get a pic of a Woodland kingfisher.

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LO took some experimental photos of windmills (or is it windpumps?) at two water holes up north to Mopani. I leave it up to you to guess? :hmz:

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About 10 km north of Letaba we spotted a group of Southern Ground Hornbills pecking for insects underneath branches and pieces of wood.

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Malopenyana waterhole was very busy with a herd of elephants drinking at the upper dam and another herd joining them. :dance:

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At Middelvlei the zebras just drank water when we arrived and then 3 buffalo bulls came in for a drink, followed by wildebeest and a elie leaving

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On the way back we spotted two Secretary birds on a nest just before Malopenyana waterhole. Somehow we missed them the first time we drove past.

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Back at the Letaba river we took the dirt road back along river and spotted more elephant and a bushbuck

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_________________
KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:09 pm 
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Day 3: Phalaborwa road and North to Mooiplaas (18 June 2011)

We wake-up early and left camp around 6 am traveling towards Phalaborwa gate. It was still dark and we did not see much. After about 5-7 km we spotted a few buffaloes still sleeping and moved further on. Our luck was really out and at the S132 we decided to turn-back following the gravel road. Still not much game and we could not even spot an impala. Close to Letaba we saw vultures in a tree and later found out that there was a zebra kill on the Friday. How unlucky can one be? :wall: We could have passed this spot only 4km from camp but headed in a different direction. It seems that visitors nowadays do not share their sighting anymore with each others and even roll up window when you want to ask something. :?

Funny thing when we drove the short distance back on the H9 we had this wonderful sighting of buffalo at the bridge ~ 5km from Letaba. Maybe the sleepy guys from earlier the morning?

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We did not plan this trip long in advance and had to move accommodation. This left us with time before booking into the next rondavel and we decided to see if we lucky with the cheetahs at Mooiplaas.

Near Letaba a troop of baboons was playing along the road.

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Tsessebe near Middelvlei

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Even on the way north the day was very quiet with no exciting sightings. and no cheetah at Mooiplaas. :cry: We stopped at Mooiplaas picnic site for a brunch and bird watching. I am no expert in ID birds and will try to name, but you welcome with correcting me.

Kurrichane Thrush

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Arrow marked babbler

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Crested barbet

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Burchell’s coucal

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After Mooiplaas we wanted to stop at Shipandani Hide, but were prevented from crossing the low water bridge by three elephants. We waited about 20 minutes, but decided to turn back. This is quite a busy crossing and it did not take long to create a huge traffic jam before the bridge.

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Late afternoon we spotted a hyaena near the zebra kill, but the lions must have moved on and did not return.

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_________________
KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:04 pm 
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Pumbaa,

Last time it was these guys that blocked the road, but they were easier to handle than the elies. :twisted:

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KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:48 pm 
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I agree, those are the roadblock one can live with, but the roadblock the elies face was of a different kind. :roll: No wonder the decided to stay. :whistle:

Thanks for all the :thumbs_up: :popcorn: . I won't let you wait for longer. The only sad thing is that the end is near, but luckily there is more TR from other forumites starting off where I've ended. :dance: :dance:

Day 4: Letaba to Satara (19 June 2011)

The day started off quietly, maybe because at 6am its still to cold and everyone is till sleeping except Son godin and family. :doh: Between Letaba and Olifants we had sightings of nyala, impala and steenbok , but we did not stop for photo’s because we wanted to catch-up some of the lions near Satara. :D

At the Timbavati turn-off we decided to keep to the tar, because the road were not that busy. Suddenly I was called to a halt and reverse command, followed by stay were you are. :rtm:
SO spotted leopard in the grass, but if you did not seen the movement seconds ago you would not have spotted the cat. I staired to the grass trying to spot the ears and switched off the car. Another car stopped behind and must have had the feeling we did not stopped for nothing or thought we birders which is not too far off. After a minute the leopard stood up and ran across the road disappearing into the bush towards Roodewal Camp.

Whose looking at me?

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Is the road clear?

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Now is my time to escape.

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After the excitement with the leopard the sightings of game increased and plenty of bateleurs were spotted either in the air or tree.

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We finally reached Satara but no lions. :huh: The sighting board of Yesterday looks like as if a child spilled a box of red and black smarties across it. Well that means we are either the unluckiest visitors to spot lions or naughty kids stayed at Satara. :slap:

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KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Escape from the Cold: Short TR to KNP in June
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:03 pm 
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Day 4: Satara to Orpen and back to the Cold (19 June 2011)

Just after Satara we turned right towards Orpen and spotted a white-headed vulture in a tree.

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Satara spoilt us with our only lion sighting of the weekend. :clap: :dance: Apparently there were two males earlier at Nsemani dam, but we could only find the lioness.

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We drove around the dam seeing if we can’t spot the males, but no luck. On returning the lioness moved off and we could spot her walking toward Satara. At this time there were about 6 – 8 vehicles following her, but all passed and did not noticed that she had sat down. She made a U-turn back to the dam with all the crazy humans following her. Most of the frantic lion chasers overtook us and at the dam we waited at the back of the line. She ignored all the front runners and moved directly towards us. 8) :thumbs_up:

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After this move from the lioness we were in the way, but some drivers had their way and aggressively push me off the road. :sniper: (My reversing is not that great, but some of these jockeys are just too pushy) From a distance we were able to look at her drinking water. The best pic we could get was of two saddle-billed storks totally ignored by the lion frenzy crowd.

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She did not stay long and moved off south towards the tar road. This game vehicle blocked the road so that no-one could pass them to see the lioness or drive pass the sighting. When we finally got pass them we saw the lioness on the opposite side of the road. Clever cat moved behind all the vehicles leaving them searching in vein at the wrong side of the road. No correction from our side. :twisted:

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Leaving the lion sighting behind we moved on to Orpen passing Rabelais dam where we saw a herd of buffalo coming in to drink water.

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Just before Orpen two impala rams where having a tussle to see who is the strongest.

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Then we were off to the cold again. After Nelspruit the temperature was dropping rapidly and by the time we got home it was a cool 17°C again. Far from the lovely mid to high twenty degree Celsius KNP weather.

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KTP a place where you can quench your thirst


Last edited by Son godin on Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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