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 Post subject: tedredrum Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful July 2011
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:20 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
This will be my first attempt at writing a Trip Report so please be patient and bear with me........

THE BACKGROUND:

I am a born and bred American who was transplanted to Southern Africa in 1979 by missionary parents, just four days before my 12th birthday. I lived in Swaziland and South Africa for the next six years. During that time our family made several holiday trips to Kruger National Park and we made some great memories together in the Park. We returned to the USA in 1985 and South Africa became a fond memory, but a thing of the past.

In 2003 a close friend from the South African boarding school I attended began planning a 20 year reunion for 2004. I hadn't thought about Africa for years, but the friend (who will be referred to throughout this report as Mrs D) convinced me to come to the reunion and bring my family with me. So, in May 2004 I loaded up my parents, my SO, a 2 year old son, and a 5 year old daughter and spent about 22 hours flying to South Africa. Of course a trip to South Africa would never be complete without a visit to good old Kruger Park. So we spent three nights in the Park. We spent each night at a different camp and there was a lot of inter-camp driving. Let's just say that trip ended up being a learning experience.......

However, I fell in Love with South Africa, and KNP in particular, all over again. I think it was the movie "Out of Africa", but I remember hearing a quote years ago to the effect of, "Once you've drank from the waters of Africa you will never rest until you do so again." That has since become our family motto. Hence the name of this report taken from the Alan Patton book.

As a result of the 2004 trip, my parents moved back to South Africa for a three year work assignment. That of course led to additional visits for us in 2006 and 2008, which also included trips to KNP. The 2006 trip had three nights at Lower Sabie, which convinced us that while three nights in the Park is certainly better than no nights in the Park, it isn't nearly enough. So in 2008 we spent 7 nights in KNP split between Lower Sabie, Satara, and Letaba. We had amazing sightings and the whole family came home saying it was by far our best vacation EVER. Both the 2006 and 2008 trips included Mrs D, her SO, and daughter who had become close friends with our daughter. Mrs D and SO religiously get at least two Kruger trips each year and have the whole thing, especially cooking, perfected. I am so jealous!!!!!

As a young adult I realized that I had travelled all over the world while growing up and had very little to remember the travels by photographically. I have since carried a camera with me almost everywhere I go. I am still very much an amateur when it comes to taking pictures, but I have amassed a pretty impressive photography kit. During the 2008 trip I learned the hard way that regular back-ups is imperative. On day six my compact flash card died and I lost ALL of my Kruger pictures. So this time I took a laptop AND an external hard drive and downloaded and backed up every few hours. I took almost 9000 pictures. I have already deleted about 2100 of them, but at least I had them and could choose what to keep and what not to keep.

So this brings us to our most recent trip........

We left Orange County California on Father's Day June 19th 2011. We booked our flights with BA miles, which saved a ton of money, but resulted in a very inconvenient flight schedule. They only reserve a small percentage of seats on each flight for discounted fares. We had to fly to Phoenix where we had a 5 hour layover, then to London where we had a 9 hour layover, before finally flying to Johannesburg. By the time we arrived we had been traveling for 40 straight hours. All with a 9 year old who suffers with Asberger's Syndrome and a 13 year old who was sure she would die from not having her cell phone for 4 weeks. Mrs D picked us up at the airport and took us to their house. We spent the next three weeks driving around the country using Mr and Mrs D's house as a base camp. It was all very enjoyable, but we couldn't wait to get to Kruger.

Finally the time came......Friday July 8th 2011.

More to follow.............

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:11 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Billyf, Elzet, Pumbaa, Tawny, Lettuceleaf711, Flutterby, Elsa, Cheetah2111, icurrie, and RosemaryH:

Welcome aboard and thank you for your comments. Hopefully you will enjoy the ride. I know we surely did!!!!

Day One - Johannesburg to Tamboti:

As previously mentioned we used Mr and Mrs D's house as a base camp for our travels. We were scheduled to depart for Kruger on the morning of Friday July 8th. Mr and Mrs D completed all of the shopping on Wednesday and Mrs D and I got most of the packing done on Thursday. I wanted to be up very early and leave for Kruger around 0400 hours so that we could actually have some game viewing time during our first day. Unfortunately, little D is not an early riser. I actually challenged Mrs D to see if we could be on the road by 0830 and I knew we were in trouble when she said that was completely impossible and wouldn't even accept the challenge. I was a little disappointed, but they are very gracious hosts and had put themselves out for us on numerous occasions, so I could live with a later departure. To make matters worse, Mrs D had not been feeling well and was getting progressively worse in the days leading up to departure.

We were all up by 0600 and were working on loading the cars. By 0830 Mrs D had decided that if she didn't see the doctor and get some meds before we left, she would never make it through the trip. By 0900 the D's were nowhere close to leaving so we accepted their offer for us to get on the road and meet up with them somewhere along the way.

So off we went the four of us loaded into a Kia Sportage with the boot so full that I couldn't see out the back window, a suitcase on the back seat between the kids, and a backpack full of things to keep the kids occupied for the long drive ahead. I needed to fill up with petrol so I got directions from Mr D and we were on the road. Unfortunately Mr D and I had a little miscommunication during the directions to the petrol station and I got lost. After a couple of phone calls to Mr D, and a lot of not so kind words being thrown about the car, we found the petrol station and got filled up. We were not in the best of moods and had really poor attitudes. Really not appropriate for the start of our trip top paradise. We had to take a minute and say a few prayers before we could get back on the road. That did the trick and we were ready to go.

We drove up through Dullstroom, Lydenburg, and over the Abel Erasmus pass. Parts of the roads were full of potholes and in need of serious repairs, but we made decent time stopping only for a few short bathroom breaks. We finally made it to Orpen gate at about 1530 hours. We only had about 1/4 tank of petrol by the time we arrived, but I wasn't concerned because I knew I could get petrol at Orpen. So, when we got there I pulled up to the pumps and told the lady to fill up the tank. She came back with the bill of R600 and I gave her my credit card. Can you imagine my surprise when she told me they only accepted SA gas cards and cash? I had planned on paying everything with the credit card so I could continue accruing air miles to help pay for the next trip. Oh well I could pay the bill with cash. I mean all I had was R600, but I could draw more at the ATM, right? Well I got an even harsher shock when I learned that I could only draw cash with an international card at Skukuza. I just spent my last R600, had no plans on going to Skukuza, and knew I would need to fill up again during the next eight days. How were we going to make this work?????? It looked like Skukuza was going to be added to our list for this trip whether we liked it or not.

After filling up we went to reception at Orpen and purchased our Wild Card. The check in process was smooth and the staff were friendly and professional. We then went to the shop and purchased a new Park map and a passport for the little guy. By the time we had finished checking in and making our purchases it was nearly 1630. Not a lot of time to drive around, but better than no time at all. I got the bean bag out and slung over the driver's door, passed out the binoculars, and unpacked the cameras. My SO has many talents and is a wonderful woman. However, she doesn't drive on the "wrong" side of the road (especially with a manual transmission), and she doesn't take good pictures. So I was stuck driving and being the photographer, which created its own problems from time to time.

As mentioned in the background I have acquired a nice photography kit bag. I had a 7D with a 300mm 2.8 lens, a 7D with a 24-105mm L lens, and a 40D with a 700-200 2.8L lens. All three cameras ended up on SO's lap for this first drive. I'm sure it wasn't very comfortable for her, but she was a good sport and did not complain. As the days went on we came up with better solutions......

So we were now back in the beloved Kruger National Park. We drove the H7 and saw Impala, Wildebeest, Elephant, and Zebra. There is something about Kruger that is magical. I could feel the stress melt away as we drove slowly looking for game and admiring the beauty of God's creation.

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Our first picture at Kruger

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Wildebeest are so ugly, but in a fascinating way

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Zebra are so photogenic

As we continued along the H7 we decided to check out the N'wamatsatsa waterhole. There was nothing there so we went back to the H& and turned towards Satara. Just past the S106 there were cars all over the place. Of course it is nearly impossible to see anything through the mess, but someone ultimately told us there was a lion in the bush about 100 meters from the road. After several minutes he stood up and walked away. Our positioning was terrible and my only shot was straight through the windshield and I could not get any focus that way. This just shows that if you don't have a shot, you don't have a shot.....

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Well it was getting late and we needed to head for camp. It wasn't a great sighting, but we had been in the Park less than an hour and had seen our first lion. I didn't think anything could top this for starters. But wait.........

At the turn off for the dirt road to Tamboti I stopped and took this picture of the gorgeous setting African sun.

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We made it to Tamboti at 1727 just before the gates closed.

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Mr and Mrs D met us at camp. It turned out they didn't even get on the road till 1230 and barely made it to the gate. Tamboti was a first for us and it was very special. We were in tents 22 and 23 with a nice view of the river bed, but still close to the ablutions. Mr D through some wors on the braai and we had wors rolls for dinner. It was simple, but amazing. While we sat on the deck in awe of our surroundings, Mr D asked if there was anything I hoped to see. Of course all of the Big 5, cheetah, and lots of cats..... But I had also read on the forum about honey badgers and said I would like to see one. Mr D said it would never happen and "don't get your hopes up." After all, they have been coming to Kruger at least twice a year for years and have never seen a honey badger.

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Mr D makes a mean wors on the braai!

We did get to see a hyena patrolling the fence, but no photo op. Mrs D was feeling miserable and we were all tired from the drive so it was off to bed around 2130 hours.

Around 2200 hours I was fast asleep when I was abruptly and violently awoken by a load bang outside the tent. I ripped the cover off the window to see the trash bin on its side with a honey badger digging through the trash. I jumped up, grabbed the camera and ran for the door. I couldn't get the flash to fire and before I knew it he was gone. No picture, but I saw my badger. Now I could sleep peacefully.

After putting the trash back in the bin and setting the bin upright, back to bed it was.

At 2300 hours BAM again. I jumped up grabbed the camera and now there were three honey badgers rummaging through the trash. One quickly scurried off, but I got several pictures of two of them. I think I woke the entire camp yelling for Mr D so he could see them. If you were one of the poor people woken up by the crazy yank at Tamboti on July 8th, I apologize. But Mr D and I both saw the badgers!!!!!!

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What a perfect ending to our first day in the Park. Could Day 2 be even half as good? I guess you will have to wait and see.......

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 6:52 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Is everyone ready for more????? I know that I certainly am......

Day Two - Part One - Tamboti and Surrounds:

Well the peaceful sleep I anticipated after the honey badger sighting never came. I think I was too excited about the honey badger and was anticipating what the new day would bring. I tossed and turned most of the night and woke up alone at 0500. Perfect, I could get an early drive in.

I got to the gate at 0555 after getting the car loaded with the cameras. I was surprised to find the gate already open and by the time I hit the tar road there were several cars in front of me from Orpen. It was still dark and I couldn't see anything for the first 20 minutes or so. I was hoping I would find a nice big cat sitting in the road waiting for me. Well that didn't happen. At least not yet.....

I drove the H7 towards Satara and stopped at Bobbejaankrans and a couple other little turnoffs, but the sightings were pretty quiet. I turned off on the S106 to head back to camp to join the family. I did see Impala, Wildebeest, Zebra, Kudu, Elephant, Steenbok, and my first Buffalo of the trip.

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As I rounded a corner on the S106 there were two Ground Hornbill in the road. I was trying to maneuver to get into position to take a picture, but a SanParks truck came around from the opposite direction and they flew off. I was able to get this quick picture, but not the greatest.

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Well it was a two hour drive, and while they sightings were pretty quiet, I enjoyed driving slowly through one of the most beautiful places in the world and soaking it all in.

By the time I made it back to camp everyone was up except for Mrs D who was feeling absolutely terrible. We felt sorry for her, because being sick is never fun, but to be sick on holiday in Kruger just isn't fair!!!! As always, she was a trooper.

Mr and Mrs D are avid birders and have been trying to get us interested as well. It has slowly grown on us and I have found that birds can be fun to try and photograph. As we prepared for breakfast we had several winged visitors.

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I loved this hornbill with his breakfast. But I guess he didn't get enough.....

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I put my bowl of muesli down for just a second and when I turned back around, someone else was enjoying my breakfast.

Well we have made it to breakfast and I need to take a break as duty calls at home. I promise to be back soon to continue with part two of day two........

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 2:45 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Well friends I am back. I had to attend to some husbandly duties for the SO. It was the least I could do with as patient as she has been. I sat down and spent about 45 minutes writing the next step in this venture and just hit a wrong button and lost it all. So here goes again.......

Thank you all for your comments and for following along.

Micetta, I am nowhere near a birder yet, but I am progressing and if you wait long enough there are some nice bird surprises in our future.

So after breakfast I was anxious to get back out and see some more. Poor Mrs D seemed to be getting worse instead of better and was not ready to head out yet. So I loaded the kids, the SO, and of course the cameras into our car and we headed off to Satara. Our intentions were to meet up with Mr and Mrs D at Satarta for lunch. It didn't quite work out that way. Now Mrs D you know I love you, but I had to get back out there. Sorry for deserting you. But........

The road to Satara was fairly quiet. We did see hippo at Nsemani.

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There were lots of areas that were recently burned, but it was still pretty in its own unique way. We made some quick sandwiches at Satara for lunch and got ice cream treats for the kids. I even splurged and had a "Death by Chocolate" Magnum Bar for myself. Probably not the best for my diabetes. But, if it was going to kill me I was going to die a very happy man! Eating a rich chocolate ice cream bar, next to the people I love, in the place I love, knowing my next stop is Heaven. What more can a man ask for???? How about a few big cat sightings first???? Pretty Please Lord?????????

So off we went onto the S100. During our last trip three years ago this was our most productive road of the entire visit. Would it be the same for us now????

We saw some general game including Elephant, Wildebeest, Impala, Giraffe, and Zebra

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We then had some lovely Waterbuck sightings

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As we continued down the S100 we had a brief chat with someone coming the opposite direction who told us there was a Lion about 8kms up the road. He said it had moved off into the bush, but there were probably still cars there to mark the spot. Sure enough we found him......

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What do you mean you can't see him. He's right there next to that bush!!!!

How about now????

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What about with the 2x converter????

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OK so maybe it wasn't the greatest sighting, but we had now seen Lion twice in as many days.

Our original goal was to try and make it to N'wanetsi. But it was now pretty late in the afternoon and I wasn't sure we would be able to make it. We kept going down the S100 and about 5 kms from the S41 the SO suddenly shouted "LION!!!!!" I slammed on the brakes and couldn't see what she was talking about. Bless her heart, but she had seen plenty of lion looking rocks, lion looking bushes, lion looking trees, etc. I thought it was another false alarm. I started backing up and she yelled "STOP." Having been married for 17 years I knew the most appropriate thing to do was obey. She then said right there. Of course I couldn't see a thing. Little did I know this beautiful lioness was so close to the road that I could'nt see her from my side of the car.

Let me back up for a second. I told you earlier that we had a Kia Sportage. Nice car for normal use, but not for a self-drive safari. The windows are tiny and the visibility is terrible. I had also mentioned having found a solution to the camera holding situation. I ended up driving with the 300mm on my lap, the 24-105 between the front seats, and the 70-200 in the middle of the back seats.

At this point the SO was sitting in the left rear seat with our daughter sitting in the front next to me, and our son in the right rear. Needless to say I was stopped right next to this pretty girl. My wife was shouting at my daughter to roll the window UP, while I was yelling at her to roll the window DOWN. I had already seen the poor photography results results trying to shoot through a closed window. This poor lioness was completely bewildered by the crazy american family who couldn't make up their minds about the window. She sat for a few minutes and then moved about 5 meters further into the bush.

All I can say is WOW!!! Unfortunately the sky had turned quite gray and the lighting wasn't the best for pictures. I will let you be the judge.....

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And trying to be a little creative....

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Well we had her all to ourselves for a little while and then it was time to move on. We turned onto the S41 and stopped at Gudzani briefly.

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Then just before the S90 we saw this stork. Forgive me Micetta I don't remember if it was called yellow billed or saddle billed????

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And then these two juveniles

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We turned onto the S90 and saw Ostrich and Corey Bustard

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The rest of the drive back to Tamboti was pretty quiet, but overall it was a pretty successful day. We did have rain and the skies were gray, but our spirits were high. We pulled into camp at 1727 hours and met Mr and Mrs D there. They ended up seeing Leopard right next to the road. I was more than a little jealous, but it looked like that sighting had helped lift poor Mrs D through the worst of her illness and hopefully she was on her way to recovery.

Mr D braaied some fabulous ribs and Mrs D made her very own invention of Kruger Mash, which she refuses to make anywhere other than KNP even though she knows Mr D and I would probably sell our souls to have some. MMMMMMM GOOD!!!!!

That night after most everyone else had gone to bed I was sitting on the stoop downloading and backing up pictures on the laptop. I don't know why, but I looked to me left and sitting at the bottom of the steps just as quiet as can be was a Genet. I rushed for the camera and the little guy cooperated and posed nicely for quite a a while. I got several pictures and then woke up the entire camp again calling for Mr D to come see. Sorry guys!!!!

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What a perfect ending to a perfect day!!!!!!

Well it is time for another break, but I will be back soon to start to the installment for day three.

******WARNING******* Day Three was awesome too!!!!!

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:41 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Sorry it took so long, but I am finally back. 24 hours of OT with only a two hour break in the middle. I am exhausted, but I couldn't make you wait any longer. Let's get this show back on the road.

Day Three - Tamboti to Muzandzeni and Back

Day three started with everybody waking up early for a morning drive. Mrs D was feeling better, but thought one more day of rest would do the trick so we left her in bed and the rest of the group was out the gate at 0615. We travelled the H7 towards Satara and just a few kms up the road Mr D slowed quickly and hit his emergency flashers. I wasn't far behind and suddenly saw a Hyena with two pups run across the road directly in front of him. All three quickly hunkered down right next to the road, but in some thick brush. Hard as I tried, I was not able to get a decent photograph. These should give a good indication of what we were dealing with:

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A few kms further along we found a large troop of baboons playing in the trees. I could hear this one thinking, "OK if I can't see them, then they can't see me. Don't look and they'll go away!!!"

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As we continued towards the S106 there were small pockets of game, but still fairly quiet.

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We turned onto the S106 and it was very quiet in the sightings department, but it was a gorgeous drive.

When we reached the junction with the tar road we saw this eagle on a tree. I think it was a Tawney, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

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How about with some cropping?

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As we turned back onto the tar we saw a Giraffe close to the road and then several Hyena running towards the road.

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And my personal favorite.....

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I don't think it is that great photographically, but I love the shot between the Giraffe's legs. I didn't even notice that through the view finder as I was focused on the Hyena, but when I was downloading and viewing I thought it was pretty cool. Any thoughts????

We continued back to camp and Mr D and I went for a jog for a few laps around the camp. After breakfast we all piled into the cars including Mrs D now. We headed out the S106 to the S140, and then the S145, and the S36 towards Muzandzeni. Game viewing was barely mediocre and we hit pockets of rain, but it was a very pretty drive.

We did find this squirrel playing in a tree.

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And a couple of Kudu nearby

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And then I tried to get creative with this Zebra's mane

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I've already admitted I am not much of a birder, but I love Lilac Breasted Rollers. I think they are absolutely beautiful. I finally found a few to cooperate along the way on this outing.

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And one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip:

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I love the color and the definition in the wings!

We made it to a waterhole and I apologize because my notes faltered a bit here, but I think it was Modzweni. Mr D pulled into a little spot to overlook the waterhole. They were stopped there for about 5 minutes with us just sitting behind them when Little D starts waving out the back window and pointing down to the edge of the water. We couldn't see anything so I repositioned and was blessed with this.

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Unfortunately it was raining and the wind picked up so the lighting was bad and bits of grass kept blowing in her face so these were the best I could get. It looked like she had had her fill and was happy to just sit there and wait till she was ready for seconds. We later found out that when Mr D pulled up to the water hole, the ever vigilant Mrs D was taking a nap. Mr D was looking at the far side of the water and never saw the Lion. When Mrs D woke up she promptly brought this to Mr D's attention. Mrs D I am so glad you woke up!!!!!!

We went on to Muzandzeni picnic spot and had lunch.

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Two of the few American kids who have had the privilege of visiting Africa four times before their 14th and 10th birthdays. Hopefully with many more trips to come.

After lunch we decided to split up. I was feeling adventurous and wanted to try to continue along the S126 and up to Satara before heading back. Mr and Mrs D wanted to take a more relaxing drive straight up the S36 to the H7 and back to Tamboti for our final night.

Off we went and it was a beautiful drive with some average sightings. We made it to Satara and ran in quickly to use the restroom. We were now pushed for time and I was beginning to worry we would miss the gate closing at Tamboti. Just before Satara on the H1-3 we saw two Lion in the bush, but they were difficult to see and not well photographed.

I don't like to rush in Kruger, but on the way back towards Tamboti I was traveling a steady 45 km per hour.

This Kudu buck was in the river bed at Nsemani

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Just after we crossed the Phelwana bridge there were a few cars stopped on the road. A gentleman told us there was a Leopard that had just gone back in the bush and was walking back towards where we had just come from. I took a gamble thinking he would walk back to the riverbed. I turned around and went about 30 meters back to the bridge and shortly thereafter I hit pay dirt!!!!! Well kind of. This is whjat happens when you have great camera equipment and either don't know how to use it or get so excited that you don't pay attention to your settings.......

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The Leopard stepped into the clear, stopped for just a second and looked directly at me. I snapped three quick pictures and he was gone. If you think this picture is bad you should see the other two. I was so disappointed, but at least we had a good clean Leopard sighting. We waited a few minutes and he walked under the bridge and out of sight. I was able to get this picture as he walked away. Still not great, but much better than the others.

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We started back towards Tamboti and a few kms up the road ran into a fairly significant traffic jam. What was it now???? Lo and behold I saw Mr and Mrs D's car a few vehicles in front of us so I called and Mrs D told me there were two Leopards walking along the side of the road. They had been following them for a while. Wait she said I think they are going to cross. Cars screeching to a halt everywhere and I grab the camera and this is what I get.......

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Well I can assure you I'm not winning any awards with this set of pictures, but I do have proof we saw Leopard twice in a matter of a few kms.!!!!!!

Fortunately people moved to the side and let us pass, but I'm pretty sure there were some people arriving at the gates late that night.

I know you've all been waiting to hear what night time visitors we had this night. I'm truly sorry, but there were none. I think I forgot to mention that we did have more Honey Badgers the night before though.

It had been a long day with lots of driving, but Mrs D treated us all to an awesome dinner of spaghetti bolognase.

And this concludes our third day in the park. Stay tuned for day four, which is the long drive from Tamboti to Lower Sabie......

I hope I'm not boring you all to death, but I'm having a blast reliving these precious moments.

Till tomorrow......

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:00 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Vlakvarkvrou I hope you will be lucky with your sightings as well and I can't wait to read about your trip when you return.

Micetta I agree the leopard shots were disappointing. But keep with me and I will redeem myself. Just a hint, it wasn't the only day with more than one leopard sighting in a day. I'm surprised you didn't comment on the birds though.....

Flutterby yes it was an awesome day, but isn't every day in Kruger that way? Some days you have better luck with sightings, but every day is awesome. I agree about the leopard shots too. They might be bad, but at least I have them. Fortunately I was able to make up for it later on. Stay tuned to see....

RosemaryH thanks for the comments. We didn't see any Hyena on our first two trips and only saw one during our last trip. This time we had loads of them. It was fun. It's true that you seem to have great luck when you don't have time to sit and watch.

Let's try and get Day Four done before I head to work.

Day Four - Tamboti to Lower Sabie:

Day Four was a long day of driving with not a lot of big game sightings. Micetta you will be pleased to know that I did enjoy the birds today.

We got a much later start than we had hoped for and only left Tamboti at 1030 hours. We loved the camp and hated to leave, but it was time to move on. The cleaning staff at Tamboti were friendly and had the biggest smiles. It just added to the atmosphere that made it such a great place.

We hadn't made it to Skukuza so I had absolutely zero cash and just slightly more petrol than that. Mrs D was a lifesaver and we headed to Orpen to fill up the cars. Mrs D used her gas card to pay for the petrol.

As we hit the tar road to Orpen we saw this Eagle Owl in a tree with a Guinea Fowl it had caught. It wasn't easy to photograph, but it was a nice sighting

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We had Hippo and Elephant playing at Nsemani

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The rest of the trip along the H7 was pretty quiet. We did have a little excitement as we were driving and suddenly heard a loud trumpet and then had an Elephant come crashing out of the bush as we passed. The heart skipped a few beats and the SO wouldn't let me stop for that one.

We turned south on the H1-3 and again things were pretty quiet. We did stop to watch some Zebra at a waterhole. I think it was Nwatinunga, but I'm not positive. There were loads of Zebra coming down to drink with Wildebeest and Waterbuck behind them in the distance. We watched the Zebra for quiet a while and they were nervous about something. They would come down and drink and then spin around and run a few meters away before coming back to drink some more. I took a bunch of photos and was pretty happy with the way they turned out.

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We then carried on to Tshokwane where we stopped for lunch. We made sandwiches, but the kids were set on a Boerewors roll. They said it was good, but they had been spoiled by Mr D's wors on our first night. I also bought two slices of melktert for us to share. It was very tasty!

Interestingly we were not harassed by monkeys and baboons at Tshokwane, but by the birds; all kinds of them.....

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What you lookin at Willis?

What do we have? Is it a crested Barbet, a Blue Eared Starling, and a Mourning Dove? Micetta am I doing ok?

We continued south and still the viewings were minimal. We did see this Klipspringer on the top of some rocks, but all we could see was his behind.

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We then found this Woodpecker pecking away on a tree

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We stopped at the Nkumbe view site and the views were breathtaking. We saw Kudu, Giraffe, and Impala grazing below, but they were miles away. The view was so expansive.

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As we continued to Lower Sabie we came across some Kudu close to the road that were not bothered and posed nicely

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I'd love to have that young guy pose for me after his horns are full.

We stopped briefly on the Lower Sabie bridge and captured this shot of one of the ever present Pied Kingfishers

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And this one of the Lower Sabie restaurant deck

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It was about 1645 and I had plans to visit Sunset Dam for the sunset of course. Nature didn't quite agree with my plans and dealt us a HUGE disappointment. The teenager had to pee. BAD!!!!! So we left the bridge and drove on to the camp. We went to reception and everyone was friendly and helpful, but by the time we had got the keys and were able to drag the kids out of the shop there was no time left to go back out. It had been a long day in the car and we drove over to the bungalows and unloaded the car. Mr and Mrs D showed up a short time later and couldn't contain their excitement. They stayed on the bridge for a few more minutes after we left and two Leopards appeared on the rocks along the river. As they watched the Leopards left the rocks and walked right past them. How awesome for them. Mrs D got some amazing photos!!!!

My poor daughter could see how disappointed I was and couldn't stop apologizing. Oh well it wasn't her fault.

We had a nice evening in the camp and had awesome marinated chicken for dinner. It was hard to believe, but our trip was almost half over already.

Stand by for Day Five which included a once in a lifetime sighting........

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:12 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Posts: 590
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hi tedredrum

Truly enjoying your TR and the pics. You have a very easygoing writing style that is bound to get a few followers.
I can also see your interest in birds budding.
Btw your quote
What do we have? Is it a crested Barbet, a Blue Eared Starling, and a Mourning Dove? Micetta am I doing ok?
You are doing really well BUT i'm surprised neither you nor the other stiffnecks (miceta, Elsa, etc) spotted the Grebe in your pic. Check your zebra pics and swimming in front of them is a .......Little Grebe

May I extend you and invitation to join the Stiffnecks Forum Birding Group and continue your fledgling birding hobby.

rusky

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Rusky's Kruger Ramble Jun 08 - a 1st timers dream trip


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2011 7:45 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Hi everybody. Sorry it has been a while but I am finally back. It has been an incredibly busy few days at work. I wrote about 3/4ths of day five last night and then lost everything. Not a good idea to work on these things when you are dead tired.

Day Five - Lower Sabie and a Day of Relaxation:

Everybody pretty much agreed that we all needed a little down time, especially after the full day of driving the day before from Tamboti. Mr D and I were the only two feeling adventurous and we were out the gate right at 0600 hours. We decided to turn south and drive towards Crocodile Bridge. This was going to be a special drive for me, because it was the first time I didn't have to worry about driving and could concentrate on trying to get good pictures. I was hoping for some great sightings.

A few minutes out the gate we had to stop and get this sunrise picture. There is nothing as beautiful as an African sunrise or sunset.

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A short distance later we saw a couple of Bushbuck close to the road, but they were in thick brush and did not present themselves for any good photographs. As the sun climbed higher we saw this male Kudu in the distance

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I was surprised at how quiet the game sightings were in this area, especially during our prior trips we always saw the highest concentration of game here. Mr D said that during their trip in April the sightings were also sparse in this area.

We turned onto the S28 (hoping for cheetah of course) and came across this eagle in a tree.

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And then these squirrels in a lower branch of the same tree

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And a couple vultures a little further along

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We finally found our first Rhino and that completed our Big Five. Unfortunately the ladies and children weren't there to see him as well.

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As we got close to Duke's waterhole I was able to get this series of a Ground Hornbill taking flight

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We travelled the S28 to the S37 and then back to Lower Sabie with very few sightings. I must say I was more than a little disappointed. We decided to go across the Lower Sabie Bridge just to see if there was anything there. I asked Mr D to stop so I could take a picture of the restaurant since the sun was shining

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We had been out for almost four hours and had very little to show for our time. As we started to drive over the bridge after taking the restaurant picture Mr D suddenly swerved to the right side of the bridge and yelled, "Otter." I had no clue there was even such a thing as an Otter in Kruger National Park, but there was and I got a fleeting glance of one as he dove under the water. We started to drive away again, but then the Otter popped back up near the rocks. He now had a treat and was munching away on a big Tiger Fish. This was absolutely amazing to watch. I was in am awkward position leaning across the back of Mr D's seat and shooting away through the back window. My camera shoots 8 frames per second on continuous frame mode. I had it on single frame, but was snapping the shutter so quickly that I think I was doing pretty close to that on my own. We spent a good five minutes or so watching the Otter devour his lunch and then he disappeared as quickly as he had arrived. All in all I took over 300 pictures in that short time span and a majority of them turned out pretty decent. I have included some of them here and these are by no means the best, just a representative sample since I haven't had time yet to go through them all and rate them. I hope you like them......

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Four hours of next to nothing and then a once in a lifetime sighting. Kruger Magic at its best!!!!!

The bridge also revealed a nice sized Crocodile, a Goliath Heron, and a Water Monitor.

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We were now both on an adrenaline high and decided to check out what was going on at Sunset Dam

I liked this Heron's resting spot on a Hippo's back

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And this Hippo opening wide

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And these guys sharing the bank together

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A herd of Impala came down to drink while we were there

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And finally I was able to get this Pied Kingfisher hovering in search of a treat.

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So while the morning started out extremely slow, it ended up being amazingly productive. We returned to camp for lunch and then lazed around most of the afternoon. We walked around the camp and had some winged visitors.

Sorry Micetta, but I don't remember this guy's name.

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And this Bulbul searching our trash bin for scraps

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We were able to watch these Elephant coming down for a drink at the river from inside the camp

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We all went for an afternoon drive, but again the sightings were unusually quiet. We did book a Sunset Drive for the next evening. It was another amazing day and I was incredibly happy about the Otter sighting. Mr D told me this was the very first time he has ever seen an Otter in KNP and that it was indeed a special sighting.

I took some video footage as well and hopefully I can figure out how to get that posted into the Trip Report.

We spent the evening relaxing by the fire. I don't remember what Mr and Mrs D made for dinner that night, but it was incredible as always. I can't wait to tell you about Day 6. The weather was terrible and it rained most of the day, but the sightings were...... well just wait and see.

Thanks again to everybody for the comments. It really makes the effort worthwhile.

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:51 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Hi all,

Thank you for the nice comments. I too absolutely love the Otter. It was a very special experience and I plan to sift through the pictures and pick the best to submit to SanParks for consideration for sighting of the month. Hopefully it will be accepted. Maybe at the end of the report I will submit some more of the Otter pictures and I would also like to try and post the video. But for now let's move on to Day Six. I must warn you that it was an extremely full day and included a Sunset Drive at Lower Sabie. I may have to break it down into two segments, but let's get started and see how we do.

Day Six - Part One - Lower Sabie to Crocodile Bridge and Back:

Yesterday's day of relaxation stuck with everybody but me. They all slept in, but I was wide awake at 0500 hours and decided a solo early morning drive would be in order. I loaded the cameras into the car and was waiting at the gate a few minutes before it opened. I was about the eighth car in line. When the gate opened about half of the cars turned north and half turned south. I hadn't been north on the H4-1 yet and decided that would be the way to go. I was the fourth car back as we headed out into the early morning darkness. It was nearly completely black for the first 20 minutes or so and then the light slowly started to show. In fact at first it was so dark that I doubt I would have seen anything if it was not right on the road. I did see that one vehicle in front of me carried portable spotlights so I thought I would at least be able to share their sighting if there was one.

After nearly 30 minutes of absolutely nothing, the cars in front of all came to a stop. As I drew closer I saw why. Right in the middle of the road there was a huge male Lion just sitting there. There was another male sitting in the middle of the road about 20 meters further ahead and two females on the left side of the road near the closest male. The first two vehicles were literally right on top of the male in the road. I stayed back a little ways and turned my car so that it was angled to the left so I could shoot from the driver's window. I am embarrassed to say that my pictures are nothing short of horrible. The batteries in the external flash had died and the flash wouldn't fire. I put the aperture at 2.8 and pushed the ISO up. Remember I am an amateur???? These pictures prove it. I could not get a clear shot. Even the ones that looked good on the camera viewer are terrible on the computer.

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As I was taking pictures and trying to get my settings right, another vehicle came up from the side, turned, and stopped directly between the females and me, completely blocking my view. Not only could I not get any more pictures, I couldn't even see them anymore. I could not believe how inconsiderate the person was. I was furious. At some point the males got up and started walking down the road and many of the now several vehicles that were there followed the males up the road. This allowed me to get around the fool who blocked my view and move to the complete other side of the females. The light was getting better, and with it the quality of my pictures. I really need to learn how to place the settings for lower light.....

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I then followed the mass of vehicles that was following the males. These two guys stayed right in the road for about 10 minutes before finally moving off into the bush and disappearing. Another great sighting with some decent pictures and some not so decent pictures. I was most disappointed about not getting any exceptional pictures of the males.

After the males moved off the road I decided it was time for me to turn around and head back to camp for breakfast. I can't tell you how glad I am that I decided to turn around when I did. As I headed back to Lower Sabie I turned off onto a few of the smaller river view turn outs, but did not see anything.

As you all know, timing is EVERYTHING when it comes to game viewing. This next sighting just proved that a 30 second difference either way could mean seeing something amazing, or seeing nothing at all. This time my timing couldn't have been better.

As I was about 200 meters north of Sunset Dam I saw something crossing the road about 40 meters ahead.

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I couldn't believe my eyes. A Leopard was crossing the road right in front of me. I tried to get as close as possible without scaring her, turned sideways, and came to a stop. I hoisted the 300 mm onto the bean bag and started snapping away. At some point I realized there wasn't just one, but two Leopards had crossed the road. It looked like a mother and adolescent cub. I'm guessing the same one Mr and Mrs D saw a few days earlier.

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They continued across the road and a few meters into the bush. Mom sat down with her back to me, but the cub sat and looked at me briefly

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The cub then walked over to mom and they were together very briefly before they disappeared into the bush. These last two pictures had some grass blowing in the way, but you get the idea....

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Sorry for posting so many of those pictures, but how awesome was that????? Looking back it couldn't have been more than 100 meters from Sunset Dam. See the white car in the background sitting at the Dam with no clue what they are missing. What a bummer!!!!!

Well I of course trolled back to camp feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. We had breakfast and then headed out towards Crocodile Bridge. The plan was to have a big breakfast braai for lunch at Croc Bridge: eggs, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, etc. Unfortunately my son was struggling pretty bad and the SO decided to stay behind with him for the day. It was a little disappointing to not be together as a family, but my daughter and I had a great time bonding.

We headed south on the H4-2 and came across a bunch of cars stopped on the side of the road. We asked one of the drivers what it was and were told, "Leopard sleeping about 10 meters from the road." You have got to be kidding. Another day with more than one Leopard sighting. This was fabulous! We were all waiting our turn when an Indian fellow suddenly drives off the road on the wrong side of the road, passes all of the cars that are waiting for a view, and then stops blocking everyone's view. I couldn't believe it. Twice in one day with an incredibly rude driver. I wonder if it was the same guy from my Lion sighting??? Anyway there was a gentleman driving a large Kombi that directed us in and let us have a quick look and snap a picture.

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We turned onto the S28 and the weather had turned cold, rainy, and windy. A small herd of Elephant crossed the road in front of us and this one stopped to give Mr and Mrs D another look

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Then there were some buffalo, but not in a spot for good pictures. However it was only about 0900 and I had already seen 4 of the Big 5.

We stopped at Ntandanyathi Hide and had Elephant on the far side. The water level was apparently quite low compared to when Mr and Mrs D were there in April

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We moved on along the S28 and found this poor guy who looked waterlogged.

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The rest of the ride to Crocodile Bridge did not include much in the way of game, but was very active for raptors. Micetta you are going to have to help me with the names of some. Also the weather was dreary, but we still got to see them.

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Wahlberg's Eagle?

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A Black Shouldered Kite I believe

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Tawney Eagle?

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African Harrier Hawk?

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Fish Eagle

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White backed Vulture?

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Immature Marshall Eagle?

When we arrived at Crocodile Bridge the weather was not suited for our big breakfast braai. So we decided to buy lunch at the take away. I had a cheeseburger and chips that was actually pretty good.

We then headed back to Lower Sabie for our Sunset Drive. I saw this zebra chewing away on the way back and thought it was worthy of a quick shot.

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Well that's it for Part One. I will see if I can post this and get started on Part Two before bed. Thanks everyone for following along.

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:35 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Day Six - Part Two - Sunset Drive:

We had booked the sunset drive for Wednesday night not knowing the weather was going to turn so foul on us. Oh well this is Africa and we only get to come every few years. We bundled up in our borrowed jackets from Mr and Mrs D, Little D, and even some from their friends. In addition to the jackets, Mrs D brought extra blankets as well. Can you say lifesaver?????

We met at reception and had high hopes that we would get Irving as our Guide. We had him as our Guide in 2006 and there are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how awesome he is. We loaded onto the vehicle and then had to play musical chairs as they consolidated two vehicles down to one. We had a glimpse of Irving and our hopes rose, only to be shattered when this cute little blonde girl named Martie jumped aboard and told us she was our Guide.

The weather was awful and the rain was pouring in through the sides of the truck. We put the sides down briefly, but couldn't see much that way so we put them back up. Rather cold and wet and being able to see things than cold and dry and not seeing anything right?

Now when I say our hopes were shattered it wasn't long lived. About two minutes out the gate Martie stopped and began talking to us about how the drive would go. She had a great personality, was entertaining, knowledgable, and had a great sense of humor. It was clear that she enjoys what she does and wants everyone to enjoy their time.

We stopped on the Lower Sabie Bridge and saw Hippo and Crocodile. We then drove out some little dirt road and I have no idea where we were. We saw two Rhino off in the distance (Not good for a photo as the light was poor) and that completed the Big Five all in one day for me. Amazingly, during our 2008 trip we had a day where we completed the Big Five in one day as well.

As dusk was setting in Martie stopped for a leg stretch. We all got off the truck and it was funny seeing her holding the rifle that was nearly as big as her. Somehow though she had a quiet confidence that made me think she would know how to use it if the need were to arise. Martie was able to answer everyone's questions, didn't make any of us feel stupid for not knowing something, and she was as informative as Irving had been so long ago.

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I now have two favorite guides at Lower Sabie: Irving and Martie has joined the list

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SO and son stretching their legs

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Mr and Mrs D and Little D - Couldn't ask for better Kruger companions

We drove for quite a while with minimal sightings. However, Martie's style was so comfortable that I think everyone on the truck felt like we were driving around with an old friend. We all talked afterwards that it wouldn't have mattered if we saw absolutely nothing, it still would have been worth it.

We did see a Secretary Bird in a tree, Elephant, Zebra, Wildebeest, Duiker, Kudu, and Impala. We also saw a Bateleur in a tree

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A Chamelion that Martie actually brought onto the truck and showed us close up

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An Eagle Owl, Genet, Jackal, Hyena, and Civet.

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Of course many of the sightings were after dark and were not close enough for photographing. However it was still amazing. Mr D and I spoke with Martie about our Otter sighting and she confirmed that it was indeed a once in a lifetime sighting. She said she has been at Lower Sabie for 5 years and has seen one Otter the entire time.

The Sunset Drive was a perfect conclusion to a day filled with terrible weather, but fabulous experiences. I can't say enough positive comments about our experience with Martie and what an asset she is to SANParks. Of course I wouldn't complain about having Irving as a Guide in the future, but I'd take Martie just as quickly.

This was our final night at Lower Sabie and we would head to Malelane the next morning. I hope to have you all with me (and as many more that would like to join) for the rest of the journey.

Till tomorrow.......

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 10:37 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
I see we have some new companions on this trip. Buffalo Soldier, PetraJ, Hilda, MGoddard, Rookie, and Click Click: Welcome!

MGoddard I'm honored to have you on this trip with me. I used to look forward to reading your blog. I couldn't read every day, but did read every day's worth. It was awesome!!!! I never commented and apologize, because I now know how inspiring it is to have people comment and share your trip with you.

I can see that many of you have had the pleasure of meeting Martie. Isn't she just a bundle of fun? I hope SANParks realizes what an asset they have in her!

Day Seven - Lower Sabie to Malelane:

Today was the day we were to drive from Lower Sabie to Malelane. This was going to be another new experience for us as we have never stayed at Malelane. We woke up around 0700, ate breakfast, and started loading the car. The kids and I then walked around the camp and took some pictures to help us with the memories.

We were ready to go a little before Mr and Mrs D so we went ahead and drove to Sunset Dam to see what was moving. LOTS of Hippos and Crocodiles on the banks. We had fun watching the Hippos play. The weather was much nicer and it was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day. Mr and Mrs D and Little D joined us a short time later and we all spent about 30-45 minutes enjoying the view and the peacefulness that is Kruger National Park.

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Once we were able to pry ourselves away from Sunset Dam we decided to go north on the H4-1 to the S21, to the S112, to the H3.

One of our first sightings was the Steenbok.

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We then came across this double set of windmills at one of the pans

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Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe this next bird is a Bee Eater? Anyways, Mr and Mrs D stopped to take some photos of him. They were in a better spot and I did not have a good shot until they moved on. As I pulled into position and got the camera up, off he flew

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I was a little disappointed until he landed even closer and posed for some nice shots

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We then came across this Eagle with some kind of treat

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I must admit the birds had really started to grow on me.

As we continued along the S21 the terrain started to change and we came across several rocky outcroppings. This one had three Klipspringer up on the rocks. It is amazing how nimble and surefooted they are.

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We also saw Giraffe and Rhino on our way to the H3

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Overall the viewing was quiet, but it was an absolutely beautiful drive. We finally made it to Afsaal and we stopped and made sandwiches for lunch. I had never been to Afsaal, but we spent quite a bit of time there over the next few days. It was a beautiful spot that was well managed with friendly staff.

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The clan at Afssal

We then drove on to Malelane gate and checked in for the night.

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Malelane was much smaller than I anticipated, but it was awesome. We had huts 3 and 4 and they were in great condition. They were clean and well stocked and in much better shape than the huts at Lower Sabie. The only complaint was that the hot water disappeared before even the first shower was done.

After the cars were unloaded and we had explored the kitchen facilities we decided a short drive was in order. It was 1630 and we knew we didn't have long, but we weren't ready to call it a day yet. We drove a short distance along the S114, which follows the Crocodile River. It was a very pretty stretch of road. We did not see anything other than Impala, Francolin, and Giraffe, but it was a very nice drive.

I found this Giraffe interesting. I have seen Giraffe lean down to drink before, but never to graze on the grass. I've only seen then reaching for the tops of trees. Can anyone advise if this is normal?

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I then found this one with a couple of hitch hikers

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I tried repeatedly and finally got a close up of the oxpecker pecking

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We really didn't want to head back to camp, but time was slipping by. The sightings board showed that Leopard had been seen near the camp gate so we thought we would try to find him. We didn't have any luck with the Leopard, but we did drive into camp with our last sighting being this beautiful shot of the full moon

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It had been another great day, but reality was setting in that we were on our last two nights in the Park. I was hoping to prolong the inevitable so I tried to convince Mr D that when we left on Saturday it would be nice to drive to Crocodile Bridge and exit there rather than to exit through Malelane. Unfortunately, he already had plans to go straight out and head for home.

We stayed up by the fire enjoying the moon. Malelane is on the Park's boundary so unlike the other camps we had stayed at, you could hear the noises from the highway. It wasn't bad, but it was noticeable.

Well, that's it for Day Seven. I hope you are still enjoying the trip. Stay tuned, because there are still a few more surprises ahead.

Take care,

Daron

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:06 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Anaheim, California USA
Are you ready for our last full day in the Park?

Day Eight - Voortrekker Road and Berg En Dal:

We left camp around 0830 and headed out for Voortrekker Road. According to the sightings board Cheetah and Wild Dog had been seen on the road recently. Both had eluded us so far so we thought we would head out and see if we could find them.

Our first sighting of the day was a lone Rhino, but he was in thick bush and did not make a good photo opportunity. As we continued along the H3 we came across a group of five Ground Hornbill. They were quite far from the road, but walked directly towards us as we sat and watched, ultimately allowing for some decent pictures

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And then they stopped and looked up into a tree. It was funny the way they tilted their heads sideways to look up

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We then turned off towards Renosterpan and came across a group of Kudu

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And some Impala

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And once we got to the pan there was a Lilac Breasted Roller on top of a branch

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Two Egyptian Geese

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And a Hammerkop

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And on the way back a Dark Chanting Goshawk. Micetta are you impressed with my ID? Don't be....Mr and Mrs D told me what it was.

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We stopped off at Afsaal for a bathroom break and to check the sightings board. Wild Dog and Cheetah still being seen on the Voortrekker Road so off we go. We got to the turn off for Voortrekker Road and Mr D talked to the driver of a car coming off the road. Yep, they saw 6 Wild Dogs halfway to Pretoriuskop, but no Cheetah.

We stopped at Mitomeni and Mr D talked to another driver. She too had seen a pack of Wild Dog. So off we go again. Apart from Wildebeest and a few Elephant way off in the distance, we weren't seeing much on this road. But, a good Wild Dog sighting would be worth a few hours of driving without seeing much else. So on we went. Mr D kept talking to drivers coming the other direction and all had seen Wild Dog. This was really sounding promising.

As we got closer to Komapiti we talked to a driver who saw the Wild Dog, but said they were on the move and were moving away from the road. Our spirits were not as high, but we trudged on. But, from then on none of the drivers we talked to coming from Pertoriuskop had seen Wild Dog or Cheetah. In fact, most of them hadn't seen much of anything at all. So, dejected, we turned and headed back to Afsaal. At least it had been a scenic drive.

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We got the cool boxes out of the cars, hired a skottle, and started our breakfast for lunch. And then it started to pour down rain. Mr D wasn't going to let a little rain ruin his culinary masterpiece and whipped together a huge feast of scrambled eggs, baked beans, bacon, boerewors, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Mmmmm was it good.

Now that we were all stuffed we decided to check out Biyamiti Wehr to see what was on offer. The water level was very low and there was nothing to see. So we turned back and headed towards Berg En Dal.

We came across some posing Zebra

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Including this guy talking to his buddy. I was sure I heard him say, "Hey Fred, I wish these crazy American tourists would stop taking my picture."

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We then spent some time watching this herd of Elephant crossing the dry river bed at Mlanbane

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This cow and her baby were nice to watch as they interacted

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We then continued on to Berg En Dal. Our car was running on fumes and Mrs D gave us a few hundred Rand to get enough petrol to make it out of the Park the next day. We had never been to Berg En Dal and I instantly fell in love with the camp. We did the walk along the dam and saw Giant Kingfisher, Brown headed King Fisher, dozens of Terrapin, Crocodile, and a couple of Bushbuck right at the fence.

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It was now about 1645 and was time to head back towards Malelane. We wanted to give ourselves a little bit of time to search for the Leopard around Malelane before the day came to an end.

We drove out the gate and less than 2kms up the road we came upon three Rhino fairly close to the road

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One of the three spilt off and ran across the road behind us

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A short distance up the road we came across three Ground Hornbill, including a juvenile

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And then a mother and baby Rhino, but they were in thick brush and this was the best shot I could get of the baby.

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We made it back to Malelane just as it was closing time for the gate. It was a bittersweet evening. We had all had a wonderful time, but we also knew that we would be leaving in the morning and heading back to reality. For Mr and Mrs D it would be nine months before they would be back, and for us it could be as many as three years. I certainly hope that isn't the case, but it very well could be.

We had had some amazing sightings. I had several fantastic photographs, had learned a lot for next time, and found some areas where my skills were grossly deficient. We had a great time with Mr and Mrs D and Little D and as always, were grateful for their friendship and hospitality that the miles and years cannot get in the way of.

This Trip Report has been a unique journey in itself. We have been home for nearly three weeks now and it has helped me to re-live the trip all over again. It has been neat to read the comments from people who I have enjoyed reading their trip reports for the past few years, but didn't feel right commenting on. Trust me, I will from now on because I know how special it is to the author. Thank you all so much for following this far and I promise to try and make tomorrow's version - Parting Shots - something all will enjoy.

Till then......

Daron

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:26 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Wildflowergirl, Flutterby, Elsa, and Foxy - Thanks so much for the comments. Sadly the trip is coming to an end (for the second time). Our exit was not uneventful though so there will be more to report tomorrow.

Meandering Mouse - I have added to my kit progressively. I currently have three camera bodies; two Canon 7D's, and one 40D. I have an assortment of lenses including a 300mm 2.8L IS, a 70-200mm 2.8L IS, a 24-105mm 4.0L IS, and a 10-22mm 3.5-5.6. I also have a 1.4 converter and a 2x converter. I think about 75% of the pictures on this trip were taken with the 300mm. 10% with the 24-105, 10% with the 70-200, and 5% with the 300mm with either the 1.4 or 2x converter. I love the 7D and all of the lenses. I think if I could afford it before the next trip I would get a 100-400mm IS lens. Mrs D has one and it is probably the most efficient all around lens for most situations in the park. I would then keep the 2x converter on the 300mm lens for birds and long distance shots. Of course this is coming from an amateur so somebody with more experience might tell you something different.

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:08 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
PeterPM - The time has come. No more waiting.

Cheetah2111 - Thank you for your kind comments throughout the trip. Here comes the finale

Martie - I hope I will be back very soon. I never knew how much time is invested in a trip report until I started writing one. It has been very time consuming, but worth it in the end.

Pumbaa - I agree regarding BnD. I will try it next time. Each time we go we extend our trip a little longer. 8 nights this time, hopefully at least 10 the next. Although we are also thinking of trying KTP. We have heard awesome reports from there as well.

Melanie - Kruger is a treasure. I just wish everyone would recognize that and treat it as one. Thank you for your comments.

BillyF - Of course it is always already tomorrow somewhere. Thanks for following along.

Micetta - I agree about timing being everything. Thanks for following along. I can't say I'm a birder yet, but I am certainly making progress.

Toko - Thank you!

Is anyone ready to leave the Park? Me either, at least not emotionally. But, unfortunately life must go on. So it is with a heavy heart that I am writing this final segment in our 2011 Kruger Park adventure. It truly was a memorable experience. But then again, I think any trip to KNP is memorable.

As we sat in the cool evening air on our last night at Malelane I thought about telling Mr D that we would leave ahead of them and travel to Crocodile Bridge to exit. If you remember, Mr D planned on exiting Malelane immediately and heading for home. I can understand the desire to get home, but only being able to come every few years, I wanted to delay our departure for as long as possible. This would at least give us a couple more hours in the Park in an area we had not visited before that has good viewing opportunities.

Well before I had time to mention anything, Mr D told me he had decided it would be better to exit through Numbi gate via Pretoriuskop rather than to exit directly through Malelane. I have no idea what had changed his mind (actually I think he was disappointed over not finding the Wild Dog the day before and wanted another chance), but who was I to question his sudden burst of genius. I tried to contain my excitement while letting him know that whatever he thought was best would do for us as well. I looked at the map and figured that would give us at least another couple hours in the Park. This was going to be great!

So while the fact that we were leaving the Park was depressing, the pain of it was softened by knowing that we weren't leaving immediately in the morning. I mean there were lots of things that could still happen, right? Who's to say the passports wouldn't accidentally fall out the window and be carried off by some angry beast. I think the SO could read my mind, because I carried the passports the entire trip and now she took them and kept them close to her at all times. Oh well, it was nice dreaming......See not only was our KNP time coming to an end, but our entire trip was almost over as well. We were leaving Kruger on Saturday and began the long journey home to the USA on Monday.

Here we go with the rest of our visit:

Day Nine - Saturday July 16th 2011 - Malelane to Johannesburg - Parting Shots:

Most of the suitcases had been packed the night before. All we needed to do was shower, pack up the nightclothes and toiletries, and head out the gate. We were all up around 0700 and were ready to go between 0800 and 0830 hours. Even Mr and Mrs D were ready to go, but had to pack the trailer. I offered to help with the trailer, but I think I was more in the way than anything else so Mr D told me to go ahead and get on the road.

The plan was to head straight up the H3 to the H1-1 and then over to Numbi gate. Our family needed to do a quick detour to Skukuza to check the shop for something and then we would all meet for lunch at Numbi before leaving the Park. During one of our stops at Satara my 13 year old daughter saw a bag she wanted. It was a simple bag that had South Africa printed all over it. It was the only thing she had asked for during the entire trip. My son on the other hand had asked for almost everything in the shop everywhere we stopped. He obviously didn't get everything he wanted, but he did get more than his fair share of souvenirs. I had made the mistake of telling my daughter to wait because I was sure we would see it at Lower Sabie. Well that was a mistake. We looked everywhere and could not find the bag. To make matters worse, unbeknownst to me, Little D had also liked the bag and had bought one at Satara. I was in the dog house, and rightfully so. She had been an angel during the trip and now through no fault of her own she couldn't get the only thing she had asked for on the trip.

I could only think of a couple of options:

1. Steal Little D's bag when she wasn't looking
2. Show a good faith effort at trying to find the bag for my daughter by stopping at every shop between Malelane and our exit point.

Somehow the second option seemed a little better. So off we went headed for Skukuza.

Right after we turned onto the tar road from Malelane we came across an Elephant very close to the road. He was a big one, but was enjoying some leaves and wouldn't pull his head out of the tree it was in.

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We turned from the S110 onto the H3 and we really were not looking for anything in particular. I know my mind was focused on the fact that we were on our way out of the Park, and hoping against hope that Skukuza would have the bag and I could make my angel happy.

We had traveled less than two kilometers from the H3 junction when something crossed into the road about 30 meters ahead of me. What was it? No, it couldn't be.......

Yes, it was the resident Leopard from Malelane. Once again I did the little trick of jamming on the brakes, turning the car at an angle to the left, and hoisting the 7D with the 300mm lens up onto the bean bag. Not only did this Leopard cross the road in front of me, but she actually sat down in the middle of the road long enough for me to snap a couple of pictures. She then looked quickly to her right, slouched down, and quickly and intently made her way into the bush about 15 meters off the side of the road.

This time the settings on the camera were right, and the light was good. Of course it was too good to be true. I was so focused on getting the focus points on its eyes that I didn't realize that I wasn't capturing the whole body in some of the shots.

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And then she was off

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I know this one doesn't have great focus, but I was amazed at how low she got to the ground as she moved away.

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And this is where she settled

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We had the Leopard all to ourselves for about two minutes before the first car came by. My wife was delirious with excitement and started waving every car that came by over. "Do you see it? It's a Leopard under the tree. Right there; just follow the lens of my husband's camera and you will see it laying down under the bush." This scene was repeated over and over again until there were so many cars that she couldn't tell anyone else. I was so intensely focused on the Leopard that I hadn't even noticed that there was a herd of Impala about 25 meters away. The Leopard was downwind and was in perfect position for stalking. And she knew it.....

We had called Mr and Mrs D and they had arrived as the traffic was starting to jam, but we were still able to move them into a decent position. We had them stop closer to the Impala and they were in a perfect position for when the action would start. The Leopard was intently focused on the Impala and she moved slowly,. stealthy, and close to the ground. She was very deliberate in her movements and only moved a meter or two every 15-20 minutes. She was very well camouflaged and if we hadn't been watching her from the beginning, we never would have seen her. Here are a few photos just to show how well concealed she was.

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The cars had really piled up now and nobody was moving anywhere. My son was freaking out because of all the cars (part of the Asberger's syndrome) and was yelling at his mom because she was the one that caused the traffic jam. Looking back on it it is pretty funny, but it wasn't at the time. Unfortunately there were lots of people violating the rules. My son became intent on taking pictures of the violators and their license plates.

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How about this one? Like Father Like Son.......

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And this brain surgeon wasn't the only person who thought it was ok to get out of the car less than 30 meters from the hungry Leopard.

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Traffic was a complete and utter mess. Nobody could move an inch. At one point a lady driving a big safari tour truck pulled off to the side of the road opposite the Leopard, exited her truck and started telling people to move because she was on a "tight schedule." Other people were honking their horns and yelling for people to move. It became quite chaotic.

All the while the Impala were clueless to the presence of the Leopard and they had drifted closer as well. They ultimately were between 10 and 15 meters apart. There was tension in the air and I could feel my heart beating in anticipation. It was amazing. Suddenly the Leopard moved forward slowly and flushed a guinea fowl. The bird shot straight up in the air with a shreek that set the Impala on alert. The Leopard knew it had been compromised, gave a look of disgust, and turned and moved quickly away into the bush. And it was over. We had been there for two hours waiting and it all ended with a silly guinea fowl. Overall it was still an amazing experience.

Traffic was so bad that a SanParks employee finally arrived and started directing traffic. We made it out after about 10 minutes, but Mr and Mrs D were stuck for another 20 minutes or so. Timing was everything once again. 30 seconds either way and we probably would not have had the honor and privilege of seeing this Leopard.

We headed off to Skukuza

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and stopped at the Post Office and the ATM. The birds were all over the aloes

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We made it to Skukuza and headed for the shop. I looked all over the place, but couldn't find the bag. This wasn't going to be good. If they didn't have it at Skukuza I doubted I would find it anywhere else. So I started looking for my daughter to break the news to her and see if an ice cream bar could help minimize the disappointment. When I caught up with her I discovered that she had in fact found the bag AND found one in a color that she liked even better. All was good in my world. So instead of easing disappointment I decided ice cream bars would be in order to celebrate our awesome morning. And yes I did eat another "Death by Chocolate" Magnum Bar.

We headed off from Skukuza towards Numbi gate. We were about 30 minutes behind Mr and Mrs D and they said they would wait for us at the gate.

Along the way we saw Elephant, Impala, and Rhino, as well as a variety of general game.

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As we drew closer to the gate I could feel the pit in the bottom of my stomach getting tighter. I always hate this part of the trip. Leaving paradise is never an easy thing to do.

I mentioned to the SO that it had been a good trip with amazing sightings. I then told her that I wish I could have gotten better Buffalo photos. And then all of a sudden what did we see, but a HUGE herd of Buffalo. They were everywhere!!!!!

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After taking tons of pictures we started to drive away and move on towards the gate. Two cars coming the opposite direction had stopped and I now saw that two men had gotten out of their vehicles and had started walking into the bush with little point and shoot cameras. They were about 10 meters from the Buffalo and were stumbling like they were drunk. Stupidity knows no bounds I guess.......

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The rest of the drive to the gate was completed in silence as we all knew the trip had reached its conclusion. We met up with Mr and Mrs D and learned they had seen a young Lioness at Transport Dam unsuccessfully chase a big Waterbuck. A fitting end to this amazing journey.

After lunch we headed out the gate already hoping and planning for the next trip. We drove through White River and Nelspruit and got a great view of the World Cup Stadium. We ultimately made it back to Johannesburg around 1930 hours. What a day and what a trip!!!!!!!

I would be remiss if I didn't say some important thank you's before I close. Firstly thank you Lord for your beautiful creation. How anyone can doubt creation after being somewhere like Kruger is beyond me. Thanks to my parents for taking me to Africa when I was young which started this love affair. Thank you to Mr and Mrs D and Little D for being such good friends and welcoming us back with open arms every couple of years. Thank you to my wife and children for letting me drag them half way around the world and for putting up with my antics. My poor wife spent much of the time in the car with a massive 300mm camera lens pushing her face against the seat of the car so I could shoot out her window. I'm sure it wasn't fun. And finally thank you to the Forumites who post such incredible trip reports on the forum. I live vicariously through you until I can return.

Sincerely,

Daron


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THE END

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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 Post subject: Re: Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:48 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 6:50 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Anaheim, California USA
Well I'm sorry I've been away for a few weeks, but work has just been way too busy. I've finally had a chance to go through some pictures with a little more detail and have chosen some of my favorites. I'm going to start with the Otter pictures since the posts seemed like everyone liked them. Please let me know what you think....

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I tried to pick the best three and submitted for Public Sighting of the Month. We will see what the pros think....

Daron

_________________
Marakele May 2-4, 2014 (First time)
Tlopi Tented Camp

Kruger May 6-15, 2014
Satara May 6-10
Skukuza May 10-12
Crocodile Bridge May 12-15


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