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 Post subject: AndreaB Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....Feb '12
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:27 pm 
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After 6 months of meticulous planning, standing for 2 hours just to check in our luggage wasn’t quite how I had imagined the start to our holiday but the prospect of 3 weeks in SA as well as 8 nights in Kruger made it easier to bear.
About 4cm of snow had fallen in Amsterdam but that was enough to bring the city and airport to a standstill. Our connecting flight to Frankfurt finally arrived, but unfortunately they didn’t have a gate for it to go to :shock:
This did not bode well and it wasn’t about to improve…. No de-icing machine, no pushback vehicle all meant a 4 hour delay and missing our connecting flight to Johannesburg :wall:

To cut a long and tedious tale short, after a 24 hour delay we finally boarded the enormous A380 and were finally on our way! 11 uncomfortable hours later we finally touched down on SA soil, let the holiday begin!!

(Just a quick observation about Immigration at O.Tambo….. when an A380 lands and discharges 600 odd passengers to join the 3 other international flights that have arrived, it might be an idea to have more than 5 desks open occupied by grumpy officials complaining that they are tired and still have to work for a long time today…..)

We hurriedly collected our vehicle a nice comfy Honda CRV and headed straight for White River where we would catch up on some sleep and do our shopping for Kruger!

Our first stop was to be Letaba for 2 nights. I was relieved to hear that everything appeared to be more or less back to normal after the floods. We headed up the R40 to enter via the Phalaborwa gate, making a quick detour to visit Moholoholo which I have wanted to do for a long time since seeing a documentary about it. Have you ever fed a white back vulture standing on your arm? They are heavy!!

Great fun but back to business and after a quick stop at the Spar for a few essentials we drove down the road, full of anticipation as to what our first sighting would be….

Actually it turned out to be the Rangers striking outside the gate! Toy-toying and singing in the blazing heat they thrust their crudely made signs at our car windows but it all felt peaceful and we didn’t feel threatened in any way.

Formalities observed at reception the boom was lifted and we were off on an adventure of a lifetime once again :D

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:38 pm 
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Thanks for the encouragement guys :gflower:

Leaving behind our trials and tribulations we wound down our windows and greedily sucked in the scents of Kruger. Eish but it was hot! Coming from Amsterdam where it was currently minus 22 degrees and they were skating on the frozen canals it was a bit of a shock to the system so we turned up the aircon and tried to adjust somewhat more gradually! We always bet on what the first animal sighting will be and the SO won again with his guess of ellies, this one peeping out from behind a tree lost me the bet AGAIN!

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We got our first glimpse of the flood damage caused which was just a taste of what was still to come!

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After checking into number 66 which was very close to the restaurant we made our way to the terrace where the sundowners were on me for losing the bet ! Later we threw the boerie on the braai, it just doesn’t taste as good anywhere else!

One good sleep later and the alarm set for 4.30am we sleepily made our way out of the gates at 5.30, it was very quiet and there weren’t many vehicles around, also not a lot of animals to see but we were just as happy to enjoy the stunning sunrise.

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We started heading North on the H1-6 planning to make our way towards Giriyondo .
Our first meet and greet was with this unruly troupe of baboons blocking the road and who had absolutely no intention of getting out of the way!

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It was already very hot although it was early but we relished the warmth of the sun after the cold Winter months in Europe, opening the windows wide we carried on North spotting the odd zebra together with the ubiquitous wildebeest tagging along.

As we neared the turn off for the border post we were constantly being overtaken by a series of police and army vehicles who were obviously filling in for the striking rangers, then came a roar behind us and an enormous white casspir with ambulance markings thundered by heading for the border post :hmz: Unfortunately it came and went so quickly that we couldn’t get a photo.

We were planning to make a stop at the Makhadzi picnic site but unfortunately it was closed due to flood damage so with gritted teeth and a very full bladder we made our way back towards Letaba wincing at any and every bump in the road …. :redface:

We bumped into the following fellow travellers on our way:

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So, a quick pitstop and normal service will be resumed!!

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:58 pm 
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Here is limpy on a rainy day on the H1-6 Image

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:47 pm 
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Mightily relieved and back on the road we decided to go South on the H1-5 down towards Olifants for a spot of breakfast. This old dagga boy made his way slowly across the road just stopping briefly to give us the evil eye before splashing his way into a pool of cool, inviting water and sinking happily into its depths.

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For me the Kruger is also about the wonderful scenery and sense of space, so please bear with the odd shot of a landscape just because I thought it looks great! This picture is how I imagine the Garden of Eden

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As the road curved to meet up with the river the scale of damage from the floods was beginning to become apparent, piles of decaying trees and bushes were strewn all along the banks and it was easy to see which way the water had been flowing as a lot of the vegetation that hadn’t been torn loose was flattened in the direction of the water.

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We stopped off for brekkie at Olifants on the terrace looking at “that view” and stuffed to the gills rolled back to the Honda and set off for the S47 loop.

We saw a variety of the usual suspects but one of my favourite sightings was this vulture sitting at the top of the tree, it looked so pretty with all the colourful fruits around it (does anyone have any idea what they are?)

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Just a little further on we were driving past one of the mini loops within a loop when something caught my eye. There was a family of (I believe) brown snake eagles, mommy, daddy and 2 youngsters scratching for insects on the floor (pls correct if the ID is wrong, I am very new to birds…)
As we inched down the track trying not to spook them the adults took off but the youngsters weren’t remotely bothered and continued on their hunt for food. There must have been a colony of swallows or similar birds nearby as we could see and hear them swooping over the heads of the eagles trying desperately to move on. It was fantastic sitting watching and we were lucky to have it all to ourselves. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 2:45 pm 
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Love the gorgeous sunrise.

I would hazzard a guess that those are Wahlberg Eagles, just a guess, mind you.

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:15 pm 
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Next day we packed up and began the trek south, we had to take the detour around the Olifants road as a big chunk of it is still missing but it was worth it just to see what was left of the bridges.

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At Ngotsi dam we found these ellies having a good splash around

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A quick trunk wrestle….

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Our chalet (G176) was ready so we could book in a bit earlier and after quickly unpacking the cooler bag we jumped in the car again and headed down my favourite road, the S100.
Well I mentioned kudus in the title and kudus we got …

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As it was getting close to gate closing time we did a very quick drive out to the S40 where we stumbled on 2 male lions fast asleep in the long grass but the photos weren’t great so I won’t bother posting them.
We returned to camp where we had a perimeter chalet and got the braai going. Our neighbours were somewhat more sophisticated than us with a chequered tablecloth, candlesticks and a Panini grill. Oh well, boerie was good enough for us again :lol:

As I had major issues with malaria pills last year which involved desperate dashes between camp loos I took the decision to go without this year. I invested in buckets of deet and and a mosquito net as my SO swore blind that all the chalets had hooks for nets but of course there wasn’t one In sight in any of our accommodation …. Never mind, he is nothing if not creative so one window latch and a soup ladle later he had fixed up a functioning net, would love to know what the maid thought of it!!

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Next morning we did the early thing again and despite my reservations that the S100 would resemble Ben Schoeman highway it wasn’t too busy and I was really glad we did when my SO shouted “LION!” I grabbed my binoculars and focused on the creature marching determinedly through the waist high grass. It was in fact a hyena but I could see how he could make the mistake as the movement was very similar. We watched her until she disappeared off into the longer grass and then continued on. As we neared an enormous skeleton tree on the far bank of the river we saw it was full of vultures, we quickly realised why when we saw a small group of hyena with a very fresh zebra kill, WOW!

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Several of the braver vultures tried to move in but the hyena were having none of it and chased them off snarling and snapping.
After about 10 minutes watching my SO shouted “bloody hell” and pointed at me, looking to my left I saw the hyena that we had previously seen walking right next to our car in the direction of the riverbed. There wasn’t time to close the window but also no need as she had other things on her mind, she made her way across the river bed and briefly greeted the other hyenas before flopping down too exhausted to even eat.
We returned later in the day to see if there was any more action but there wasn’t a scrap of anything left to be seen, amazing!

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:41 pm 
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Thanks guys! The kill was a bit gruesome but also fascinating!
After half an hour or so the sighting was getting a bit busy, so we moved on along the S100 which really must be one of the most productive roads in the park. When I saw these 2 winding their necks around each other my first thought was sweet, they are courting…. However my SO reliably informed me that I was watching the giraffe version of a punch up….

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Interesting to watch, I was waiting for them to tie a knot with those long necks and get stuck!
It was pretty warm by now, 37 degrees but we were beginning to get used to the heat and had the windows open resulting in the proverbial “Kruger Arm” my left one being tanned and the SO had a brown right arm.

We were nearly at the turn off when this young lady came strolling down the road. We weren’t worthy of even a glance and she carried on as if on a VERY important mission, maybe she smelt the zebra kill.

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:40 pm 
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After a little think about it I have decided to not mention where we spotted the following for obvious reasons :evil:

But staying on the topic the first pic is of an Uri, one of the vehicles used by the anti-poaching squads currently patrolling. The 2 officers were in the vehicle and the 2 trackers stood in the back, man those guys had some serious weaponry with them, hope they get to use it on the culprits! :twisted: Anyway many thanks to these guys, they have a hot, dirty and dangerous job and after chatting to them it was apparent that they take it VERY seriously.

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Anyway, here are some of the beautiful creatures that they are doing their best to protect.

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and finally a whole "nest" of rhinos, 7 in total :dance:

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Last edited by AndreaB on Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:08 pm 
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Off for a late afternoon drive on the S90 which was pretty quiet until we found a herd of about 25 elephants having a drink and a cool off in a stream which crossed the road in front of us. We stayed at the top of the incline giving them plenty of room and enjoyed watching the little ones playing.

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I like elephants but only from a safe distance having had several “experiences” in the past and we waited patiently for the ellies to all cross before carefully driving down the road. At this point the matriarch lifted her head, squealing with rage she shoved a smaller ellie aside and ran back into the road flapping her head and looking seriously threatening. Sorry we don’t have photos but we were busy doing the fast reverse ever seen uphill in the park…

Luckily she eventually decided she had won the showdown and moved off leaving us to shoot past the herd as quickly and safely as possible…..

To calm our nerves we set our sights on somewhat smaller creatures….

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Next stop Biyamiti by far my most favourite accommodation in the park and I love being able to drive down the “private road” although I have to confess we have yet to experience any of the mega sightings that others have had.
Our first stop was for this little jackal padding down the road and who couldn’t resist the urge to sit down for a quick scratch!

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Down past Tshokwane, marvelling again at the amount of debris piled along the banks of the river. It was all fenced off and the portaloos were in place, better than nothing but hold it if you can…. One enterprising lady had a cooler box and was sitting at the entrance selling cold drinks.

We were casually making our way south along the H3 when we saw these 3 dexterously clinging to the cliff and delicately nibbling some fresh green leaves, it’s amazing how they keep their footing!!

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We turned off on the S113 which was a big mistake of which we weren’t aware at that point and drove on in ignorant bliss..

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It was around 3 o’clock when we arrived at the Biyamti bridge to find it in pieces and a big chain blocking the road, I had it in my head that only the bottom bridge by was closed which was a big mistake! We made our way anxiously down to the other bridge having several more ellie encounters on the way, it really seem like Kruger was doing everything possible to slow us down! When we finally got there our hearts sank when we realised that there was no way over to Biyamit from the Croc. Bridge side of the park. To cut a long story short we ended up having to go out of the Croc Bridge gate, race along the N4 during an enormous storm and then go in again via Malelane and the S25. We made it to the Biyamiti gate at 18:22, stressed to the hilt. Time for sundowners!

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Last edited by AndreaB on Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:42 pm 
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Thanks Radman – sure am scared of those ellies! :big_eyes:
Anri – yep, those rockjumpers were actually my sighting of the day :dance:

Nobody opens the gates for you at Biyamiti, first one up opens - and shuts behind you again. Kind of nerve wracking when contemplating the “resident” leopard etc.....

The SO had the honour of opening up shop whilst I kept an anxious look out for any hungry predators :sniper:

We decided to head up the Biyamiti road to Afsaal and then Skukuza, one of my more productive routes to date.
We were welcomed with yet another beautiful sunrise and yet more kudus….

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After another standoff with an ellie which we won for a change we made our way out onto the Afsaal road and began making our way to Skukuza. As we were driving a large blob in a tree caught my attention and we screeched to a stop to find a pair of ground hornbills hopping around on a thick branch.

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Shortly afterwards we came across this chap scavenging in the road:

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We were starting to get hungry by this point but we decided to make one last stop to spend some time with our canine friends :dance:

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Job done it was time for one for one of those yummy big breakfast rock cakes at Skukuza!

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:11 pm 
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Thank you Pumbaa, Radman, Anri and Hilda, I am glad you are enjoying it so far!

Another fine day, another beautiful sunrise and we decided to drive down to the southernmost Biyamiti bridge to see the damage for ourselves.

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One chap was in front of us and he jumped out of his bakkie to see if there was any way of making the crossing but seeing there was no chance he threw his hands up in the air and got back in his car. :big_eyes:

He then proceeded to illegally turn off at the Biyamiti road to take a short cut and on one side I can kind of understand his frustration having been there myself but on the other hand it does show that people really don’t give a stuff about the rules and it certainly won’t improve the sightings if that road is to be used as an unofficial diversion until the bridge is fixed.

Having left Biyamiti behind us we were heading up to Lower Sabie via Skukuza , which was to be the last camp of our holiday so it was with a heavy heart that we had packed up that morning. We were however really looking forward to our first experience of “glamping” in the safari tents.

After a fairly uneventful drive, we decided to stop off at Nkulu, the traffic was very heavy and the sightings few and far between but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this chap who was obviously not shy showing off his “assets” :redface:

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I always think of Whacktazz whenever I see the legendary buff pies and I am sure that there are more people that miss him! The pies looked somewhat past their prime so a quick boerie roll and chips later we escaped the hordes of Germans (and yes they truly did have sandals and socks on!) and drove the last few km to LS.

Another quick and efficient check in and we were off to inspect safari tent no. 14. We saw the fire and flood damaged tents which had been taped off but there weren’t any repairs being done in the time that we were there.

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Our tent was close to the road which was a momentary disappointment but we soon realised it wasn’t a problem as we were out most of the time anyway and there was of course only minimal road activity at night . I was really impressed with the standard of accommodation, it was the nicest bathroom we had had anywhere! I have to admit to being extremely jealous of the lucky beggars who had scored a river view tent! :mrgreen:

Sitting down for a cuppa we then noticed a “welcoming committee” peering over the top of the door frame, who must have been a good meter long. He sat watching us for a while before scuttling off across the tent roof.

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So the scene is set, all the participants were in place, let the show begin.

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:29 pm 
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Cheetah2111 - you are obviously a massive “kudu” lover, me too :lol:
Ewoudb – looks very much like an owl to me but it I guess we will never know :?
Pumbaa – Yes, he was big but he just looked really friendly so we weren t too bothered 8)
Hilda – thanks for spotting the unseen :gflower:
Pikkie - happy to hear you are enjoying it :)
Puppy – We are nearly always lucky with the doggies :dance:

We were woken by the sounds of hippos snorting happily In the river and hyenas whooping somewhere fairly close by. I think our monitor friend had also been pretty active during the night as I had been regularly torn from my sleep by some heavy duty scuttling going on across the tent roof.

A quick coffee and a couple of my favourite marmalade rusks later we were on our way for a flying visit to check out the dam inhabitants who were still being very vocal shouting to their hippo mates across the road in the river.

We decided to make our way down to Croc Bridge and within a few minutes we came across an breeding herd sized roadblock.
Having had enough ellie troubles already we kept very good distance and let them make their way to the other side.
One brave little ellie thought he would REALLY show us who was boss and proceeded to wave his trunk and flap his ears at us, daring us to come any closer! When we actually had the temerity to slowly advance on him he played his ace card and lay down in the middle of the road for several minutes until he got bored and went to join mommy again and pick a fight with a feisty branch.

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A little further on we came across this lone vulture scanning the neighbourhood for a snack.

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Shortly afterwards we were amazed to see a large flock of vultures come flying over, circling the riverbed before landing. Despite some intense searching with the binocs I couldn’t see a kill, they seemed to be just hanging out

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Like most seasoned visitors to the park we tend to almost overlook the common animals such as zebras but I love this photo. It just reminds me of a bunch of girls getting together and having a good old chinwag!

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Otherwise it was pretty quiet so after a quick pitstop at CB we decided to go off piste and turned off towards the S28.

We hadn’t gone very far when we saw a vehicle stopped and the routine began, slow to a crawl, windows down, cameras ready.

I saw several shadowy figures advancing along the track and straining my eyes my heart began to pound.
It was too thin to be a lion, too many to be leopard, no ways, wait, OMG – CHEETAHS!!!!

In all our many visits to Kruger we had never had the privilege of seeing these elusive cats and now we had 3 of them right in front of us! :big_eyes:

Mom and her 2 babies were parading up and down in front of us as if they were models on the catwalk (no pun intended) :D

Mom flopped to the ground in the shade for a quick rest and was joined by one of the youngsters for a cuddle and grooming session. It was lovely to see how affectionate they were with each other.
The youngsters would then run and leap at each other playfully, keeping a wary eye on the increasing number of vehicles gathering but not letting them get in the way of having fun.

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Snapping away like crazy it was hard to imagine anything beating this sighting, when what happened next literally took my breath away…..

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:29 pm 
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Cape of Storms - I know just how you feel, reading a trip report always brightens my day :)
Anri, Radman & Hilda – that ellie was so cute but you just know in a couple of years he is going to be BIG trouble! :whistle:

Cheetah2111 – what can I say, luck of the draw! :redface:

So I am not going to drag this out any longer but before I start, I forgot to mention that it was 14th of Feb, Valentine’s Day and Kruger was about to give us a great gift!

The young ones looked like they were getting bored and started pestering mom to get up which she eventually did. Being a single mom to those 2 had to be hard work but she had obviously done a fantastic job to get them safely to that age already.

She began to stroll towards us and alongside the car, the 2 little ones running and jumping around next to her. As she walked behind and out of sight I began to pack away my camera and was chattering away to the SO about how lucky we had been when I heard this great crashing and scraping noise.

The SO later told me he thought a car had rolled into us but even as my brain raced I realised what had happened when I saw a little white furry chin bending over from the roof and into my wide open window! I was so surprised I couldn’t even remember where the button was to close, it but it didn’t make any difference as our visitor was already exploring the corners of this interesting surface.

All around us people were laughing and pointing cameras at us, I could have screamed with frustration at the fact that we had a cheetah on our roof and I couldn’t see a darn thing! The noise from above was enormous, lots of scratching and in between some ominous silences…

I had visions of the guy from “Big Cat Diaries” who also had a cheetah on this roof but that one aimed carefully and pooped on his head!
Luckily we didn’t have a sunroof though! :D

Now and then we would catch a glimpse of a tail but after about 5 minutes and with lots of scraping and sliding he slid down the back of the car and jumped off to join the family at which point we realised it had been one of the youngsters.

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One kind tourist stopped and let us copy his SD card onto our notebook so that at least we had some photos and others promised to email us their photos but unfortunately we didn’t receive any yet.
They told us how the cheetah had been fascinated by the aerial and stood there having a good chew on it! On later inspection lots of tiny little sharp teeth marks left in the rubber verified this claim…

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Behind us the mom was perched on one of the rock road signs surveying her domain, a great last image of a once in a lifetime experience!

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A more lasting momento was a nice collection of cheetah claw shaped scratches on the paintwork….

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 Post subject: Re: Casspirs, Kudus and Pussy Cats....
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:23 pm 
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Hmmm, what to do after having a cheetah on your roof? Breakfast sounded like a plan so back to LS, thrilled at our adventurous morning! Toasted sarnies were the order of the day (forgot about the debate about the merits of a 3 slice toastie – bit of a mistake but fine if you are in to eating big fluffy pillows…).

Full bellies we set off again looking for more adventures, crossing the LS bridge we found this hippo
enjoying a spa between a couple of rocks, the water was pummelling it from all sides and its face was a picture of utter bliss!

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The resident kingfisher was in place keeping a beady eye out for lunch.

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At Mlondozi dam we stopped for a nice cold drink, it was another scorching hot day and we bumped into some of the other visitors who had witnessed “cheetahgate” that morning, for some reason they found the scratches and nibble marks on our poor car very amusing…. :roll:

Below us we enjoyed watching a herd of ellies splashing and having a whale of a time in the river

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It was our last full day in the park and we were determined to make the most of it so we headed down the H4-2 for a last look before returning to camp having booked a night drive at 6.30pm. We passed the solar panel on the river bank and a couple of km later we were still heading south when we saw a couple of vehicle parked on the edge of the small bridge crossing a kind of ravine. One was a JJ who naturally was hogging the best place and although we strained and stretched we couldn’t see anything.

A beaten up old golf was also parked next to the railings. The driver was an African gentleman and he was desperate to show us what was below, he carefully moved his car and motioned us to take his place shouting "by the rock, under the bush, on the right!" We looked and looked but could see nothing - but he wasn’t giving up that easily and kept shouting more instructions. I found his enthusiasm so fantastic and eventually by nearly dislocating my neck I managed to squint down into the ravine and finally saw what all the excitement was about

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My absolute favourite creature and a wonderful end to the afternoon!

6.30pm on the dot we set off on our night drive full of anticipation, first we headed off in the direction of CB and our first sighting was pretty awesome!

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The leopard was enjoying his supper but the person holding the spot was more than a little over enthusiastic and scared it off after a moment by shining the light straight into his eyes.

We turned off down the S28 and it was relatively quiet but we were rewarded by some hippo and giant owl sightings. The SO was sitting in the front next to the driver and shouted "STOP, no really STOP right now." The vehicle screeched to a halt and looking over the bumper I saw that we had narrowly missed hitting a porcupine with all his quills at full attention. He had been in the drivers blind spot so it wasn’t his fault but we were glad somebody had spotted the danger, unfortunately it all happened too quickly to get a photo.

I am scared but also totally fascinated by snakes so I was thrilled to see this puffadder from the safety of the vehicle. As long as the light was on it it froze, but the moment they took the light off, it moved like lightning!

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There wasn’t a great deal more to see that evening unfortunately but I just sat back and relished the sounds and smell of the night bush, trying to imprint it on my memory so I could go back to that special place when sitting in an overcrowded train carriage in a cold, faraway land.

The next day we packed up for the final time, it had been our longest stay in the park to date, 8 nights. We had a wonderful time and saw some amazing things there is however no doubt that we will be back and next time it will be for longer….. :thanx:

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2015 Trip is a Work in Progress!


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