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 Post subject: lovehyena 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise! Nov/Dec 2012
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:18 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Hi All...

I am busy with a 6 week trip to Kruger, so I will try and update this as it goes by...

I have a blog which my photo's go on, as a large enough size to view, so i will just post text here as the internet is not very fast. When I get home in Jan, I will try and fill in the gaps with some pictures, hope that is ok!

Part 1: Please have a look at the accompanying photo's on http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/11/kruger-part-1.html


Finally back in Kruger, after what felt like an exceptionally long wait, and man, is it great to be back! On arrival, one friendly gate assistant, two vehicles having a fight (one man sitting on the others bonnet with a stone) and we’re in. I barely have time to register the sound of a woodlands kingfisher, one of the most vocal summer residents, before we spot a cheetah casually sauntering through the trees on the right. Its not a great sighting, but it certainly gets the blood flowing to my brain, and wakes me up after the 2 day drive up from Cape Town…

The first camp on my itinerary is Pretoriuskop, a camp I have always stayed at first on any Kruger trips, which I guess has become a kind of tradition. All I want to do is get out on an afternoon drive, so luggage is quickly offloaded and the meat put in the freezer… that’s the theory anyway. The reality is that the only meat to speak of was a packet of boerwors. None of my carefully packaged into individual portion Ostrich steak, chicken fillet, lamb or boerwors has made it to Kruger. Its still sitting where it was left in the freezer, waiting for the holiday it was promised, that never materialized.

This is not as much of a problem as it sounds, as of course Bart (a beautiful bush green Landrover) will at some point give issues, and provide me with ample time in a mall where I can re-shop to my hearts content. It was day 2 when this happened, quick even by Bart’s standards. One of the joys of owning a Landrover is that whenever a trip to the bush is taken, it generously affords you the opportunity to explore the nearest town mall. I know the Nelspruit, Windhoek and Upington malls very well, and the Bloemfontein ‘waterfront’ far better than I had ever dreamed.


Other than this minor set back - which turns out is a result of the handbrake lining ‘not being there' (“It looks like it fell out!” said the service manager) - Kruger is just as wonderful as I remember. This is only the second full day in the park, but I have seen cheetah 3 times already, as well as plenty of hyena, including a den site with around 6 youngsters. The woodlands are out in full force, filling the sky with their calls, each one bringing a smile to my face. There are also many impala young around, their over sized ears and long stick-like legs a delight.


This morning, I had a fantastic sighting of wild dogs. It was not long after sunrise when I called a halt to look at what seemed to be a white bush blowing in the wind. My first thought was vultures on a kill, but reversing, it turned out to be a pack of wild dog, quickly finishing off the remains of that morning's kill. As soon as it was down, they skipped excitedly onto the road infront of us, and began to trot away down it. We followed, trying our best to photograph the quick moving animals. There were about 8 in the pack, only 3 adults and the rest this years pups (around 6 months old).

All of a sudden they began to bark agitatedly, and their tails went up as they do when alarmed or excited. The continued yelping eventually revealed a cheetah, slinking onto the road ahead. He was closely followed by another! What luck, I could hardly believe my eyes, and this, almost to ourselves!!
We stayed with the wild dogs as they ran away, barking and jumping, before they left the road. Then we returned to the cheetah, who after some scent marking and a brisk march, came to rest on a sandy patch, as did we.


It has been quite a hectic first few days, and I am so looking forward to the next 40 or so before I leave! We even saw a couple of lions, and a couple of hours ago a Long Crested Eagle, which I believe is a first for me. Not a great sighting photographically, but a clear indication of where he got his name! It made me a little giddy to see him, scared I am turning into a birder :) Now for some dinner…

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www.lauradyer.blogspot.com


Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:19 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks Elsa and Tawny- I wish I could get the photos on here, but I am too tired to resize and wait for them to load twice!!

Anyway, here is the next installment, and a link to the blog, with the photos that go with each sighting. Hope you enjoy it! http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/11/kruger-part-2.html

Day 3 got off to a charging start again. At around 3am, the first Woodlands Kingfishers begin their shrill calling to one another. It is such a fantastic sound, the perfect sound of summer, and when it wakes me, I just lie in bed and listen to them, a smile on my face and a slight flutter of excitement in my heart. Inevitably I fall asleep again, and struggle to find my phone to switch the alarm off when it begins to ring at 4am. Once the coffee is ready, it’s off to the gate, spotlights at hand.

After driving an hour or so, I spotted a huge herd of sleepy buffalo at a dam. It was overcast, so I gave them an obligatory look, before driving on. Not 20 metres later, out of the corner of my eye I saw a tail flick, and there lay a cheetah - unbelievable the 5th of the trip, in only 3 days! This was a serious surprise; if it wasn’t for the photos I would think I dreamt it. Almost at once said cheetah raised his lanky form up from the ground and walked over to a small rock, which he climbed on to get a better view of the area. There were some impala rams grazing infront of him, and a small herd of females behind. He just sat, biding his time, with the patience of a cat. When he deemed the moment
right, he began to stalk them. After about 10 minutes, the ones on the road behind spotted him, which gave rise to a cacophony of snorts as they all alarm called as one. This didn’t seem to disturb him, and he continued on his way towards the bachelor herd until he was within about 20 metres and each impala in the vicinity had his or her eye trained firmly on the cheetah, emitting a deep snort every couple of seconds. It was quite an experience to be in the middle of all the snorting impala, and, but for the safety of the car doors, I may have felt just like one.

With the excitement over, the cheetah cut his losses and trotted off down the road. All this time, we had been alone at the sighting, over half an hour of private game viewing in Kruger… A while later we were joined by a few other cars, but had a great position at the front when the cheetah came upon a broken tree, and climbed it to scent mark and scan through the trees.


We did virtually a full day in the park, having a breakfasty lunch at Nkhulu Picnic site. Nkhulu is known for its ‘buffalo pies’, but I can inform you of a far better kept secret on the menu: Chicken burgers. We discovered them last year, and to this date I have eaten no equal. I don’t know whether it’s the sauce, the onions, or the basting, but they are incredible! We drove all the way there from Pretoriuskop just to enjoy one, and it did not disappoint.

On the way back, we had a pleasant surprise in the form of a leopard lying completely relaxed in an open tree rising above the bushes below. There was no ‘light’ to speak of, but it was great viewing, with hardly any other cars for company. This meant we had seen the ‘Super Seven’! (My big 5, plus Cheetah and Wild dog). Not a bad start at all, with 39 nights still to go…

Day 4 dawned overcast, to match my mood. I had just found out that our Exam marks were out, and I was certain I had failed. In fact, I had resigned myself to some serious failure, and was not looking forward to finding them out. That aside, from this evening I was to be alone, as Dan was flying back to Cape Town. Poor Bart was also due at Landrover Nelspruit, to have his new handbrake lining fitted, and I was concerned.

My day improved relatively quickly when we found a few hyena pups playing outside their den. If you know me, you will know I have quite a thing for hyena, I think they are powerful and strong, and the pups are just gorgeous. If you have seen a small one, you will understand. They behave just like puppies, with naughty eyes that melt your heart. They have not yet developed the patchiness of their parents, nor do they have missing ears or scars all over. They are just plain cute. These 2 came right up to the car, sniffing around out of curiosity. It was very difficult to restrain myself from reaching out and ruffling the hair on one's head, as he was in easy reaching distance. They then began to chew on the tyres, and we spoke to them just as you would a badly trained puppy, with phrases like ‘I told you not to do that’ and ‘next time you’ll get quite a smack’. Each time they would jump a few feet backwards, as if they knew they had done something wrong. When the talking failed to work, a gentle tap on Bart’s side did the trick.

The duo then decided to chase each other around in circles, and try and inflict some of those scars I previously spoke of. The best part was that the whole time they appeared to be looking at us, almost as though they were making sure we were paying them attention! About two hours later, the mother wandered off and the kids disappeared down into their den. We said goodbye, and began the long trek to Nelspruit where Bart was fixed in record time…

Before I knew it, I was back in the park, alone. I may sound crazy, but I was a little sad, and already a little lonely. I have never done something like this before! A few kilometers from Pretoriuskop I got the call I had been dreading all day… “You passed!” I’ll admit that I cried and laughed, and screamed a little bit, all at once, and anyone who had seen me would have thought me insane. I was just happy beyond belief. And there is nothing like 2 minutes noodles followed by jelly to celebrate. That bottle of wine in the corner is eyeing me suspiciously as I type…

_________________
www.lauradyer.blogspot.com


Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:58 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thnks Pumba!
Part three follows below: Please have a look at the images on my blog as well!!
http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/kruger-pretoriuskop-to-lower-sabie.html

When I look through my photos from the past two days, it appears I have far more to talk about than I had thought. That must be a good sign, or a sign of old age. I will take it to be good. The weather has been cloudy, and the cats sightings have been difficult, and I have yet to see cheetah number 6! Yesterday was moving day and I packed the car at 3.40 am because I was too tired the night before. It was scary! The whole camp was deadly quiet, but for the sounds of my huffing and puffing as I tried to manouevre ammo boxes and camera equipment into position for the trip. The only light was the flicker of my torch as I scanned the fence a few metres away from my car. The odd woodlands kingfisher and nightjar called out occasionally to let me know I was not completely alone… When it was done, I drove up to the gate, coffee in hand, just in time for it to open at 4.30 am.

I went directly to the hyena den, and again spent a wonderful couple of hours with the pups. This time a few adults were in attendance, and they completed many of their bizarre greeting rituals. The cubs were completely relaxed in my presence, much more so than the previous day, and I could park not far from them, and reposition the car without them running into the den. The same could not be said for some of the others who passed by, but they soon left the pups and I to our business. I have named them Max and Milly (seems strange to name them, but I’m alone, so I can do what I like!) Milly is named after Dr Gus Mills who wrote a fascinating book called ‘Kalahari days, hyena nights’. It is a great read, in particular if you have an interest in what goes on behind the scenes in a hyenas life.

The rest of the morning passed relatively uneventfully, until I was nearing Lower Sabie. I saw a flash of blue off to the side of my car, and what looked like 2 birds and a frog… ‘That’s not right’ I thought. I stopped, reversed and to my great surprise there sat a pair of Woodlands Kingfishers and their kill. The one was nervous, and flew into the tree behind, but the other was either braver, or unable to fly due to the size of his prize! I had never seen this before, that’s for sure, and I had been struggling to get photo of a Woodlands KF, let alone one with a frog dangling limply, little hands outstretched, from its beak. I spent quite a long while watching as this bird tried to decide what on earth to do with the giant creature it had a grasp on. Every car which stopped drove on past me, disappointed that my lens wasn’t pointing at a leopard, but I was overjoyed with this little gem of a sighting. Eventually the bird managed to fit the frog's head in its mouth, and began bashing the legs against the branch, before flying off proudly with 2 hind legs trailing below him reaching for the earth.


That afternoon, I spotted a leopard on a back road near Lower Sabie, my current place of residence. In a flash it melted away into the grass, and try as I might, I could not relocate him.
This morning I went driving in search of ‘My Special Place’. I have two of these, one being Biyamiti Weir, and another a concrete lower level bridge over a small river quite far south. This time the river was empty, but for a small puddle of water. The whole area is quite dry, which I was at first disappointed about. What I did find at the special place was a few bee-eaters who were catching the butterflies and bees and landing on a well-positioned perch, which usually houses a kingfisher or two. While watching them a giraffe came down to drink, and he had a tough time of it, trying to get his head low enough to reach the puddle. The ‘puddle’ is actually inside a small rocky hole, so he really had to work for it. Lining his neck, there must have 20 or so Red Billed Oxpeckers, having a good time cleaning him of ticks. We sat there, Bart, myself, and the bee eaters, all watching the spectacle of the giraffe as I drank nearly a whole flask of coffee.


On the way toward the special place I again found myself a hyena den close to the road, and this den had multiple young and adults in attendance. More adults arrived, and this again provided some interesting interaction. Hyena live in a matriarchal society, where even the lowest ranking female including cubs will rank higher than any male in the clan. The alpha female's cub also generally becomes the new ‘Clan Queen’ when her mother dies. When hyenas meet each other, there is a lot of private part sniffing, which is a part bonding, part dominance exercise. The higher-ranking individuals will also often bite, or shake the sub dominant ones, and a lot of squealing and subservient body language and actions take place. Every now and then one would let off a call that can only be described as an alarm bell. I have included a few pictures to give an idea of how these interesting mammals behave, but the book described above throws some great insight into the topic.


I eventually arrived back at 2.30, a few lions sightings under the belt, and feeling exhausted. I set my alarm for 4.30, but must have slept through it playing ‘The Can Can’ for around an hour until it finally woke me up at 5.20pm…


I drove down to the river, where I found a very interesting and heart breaking sighting unfolding. On the rocks, too far for any decent photography, were two leopards, a mother and her nearly independent cub. She was ignoring him as he dragged about a baby bushbuck, which could not have been more than two weeks old. The heart breaking part was that it was still alive, and had apparently been caught nearly two hours previously. Every time he released his grasp, or began to lick it, it would try to break free, very feebly, occasionally falling off the boulders. He would then jump down and reclaim his prize, who would try and kick out, to no avail. The little calf's eyes were glazed over, and it seems incredible that it was still alive, barely able to move, which just shows the determination of life to find a way. Its fate is of course inevitable, as it is exhausted and weak, but the cub must be learning a valuable lesson on how to kill its prey.

Hope you enjoy the pics as much as I did when taking them!!

_________________
www.lauradyer.blogspot.com


Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:02 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks for commenting and having a read guys! I know, its much easier to read on the blog, I am sorry... Super tired by the time I post it!

Rusky- I think to be a birder you need to be better at ID'ing them :) I am useless most of the time!!

Tawny- I wasn't sure of the alone part before i came, and even now get quite lonely, but its worth it, for the chance to be here so long doing what I love...


Next installment is up: Rainy Days are for Relaxing! http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/kruger-rainy-days-are-for-relaxing.html


Hello again! Starting to feel a little like I need someone to talk to in the car, and have found myself singing A LOT to fill the silence. It’s not all bad as it allows me to practice my Afrikaans and French, my two preferred languages of song.

Yesterday, I started off my day with a giant kingfisher which caught and killed a fish over the low water bridge outside Lower Sabie. This is itself, not that impressive, but it was almost completely dark, around half an hour before sunrise, with lots of cloud cover, so how he managed to see the fish is beyond me! I could barely see him as he sat next to Bart, shaking his head and smashing the fish against the concrete.


Next up, I paid a visit to the hyena den, as it looked as though the sun might make a break through the clouds. It did very briefly, but either way, sitting watching the clan was delightful. There were at least 20 members present yesterday, of varying ages and conditions of scruffiness. One female appeared to have been bitten quite badly by a lion, judging from the size of the puncture wounds, although she could walk fine. The others kept on trying to lick the wound, and hellish moaning would break out, followed by some biting before a respite.

The rest of the morning passed relatively uneventfully, with just one far off lion sighting, but as I wasn’t really tired I decided to only pop back to camp for a bite to eat. I then went and sat at sunset dam, just in case. I got lucky in the form of a couple of Giant Kingfishers on the bank, and a Pied kingfisher, although the light was terribly dull! I also saw my first Diedericks Cukoo. And I now know why I have never spotted this bird before: I have been looking for something around 4 times larger… the smile on my face was ridiculous, and I caught some people staring at me, and I’m sure they had a good laugh after I turned my back.


The afternoon it seemed as though perhaps the long awaited rain would arrive. The wind was blowing a gale, and before long the first droplets began to land on the parched earth. I don’t know why this side of the park is so dry, but there is no water in any of the usual places! I found cheetah 6,7 and 8 all huddling together in some long grass, and although I sat with them nearly an hour, nothing materialized, so I moved off. Next up was a pair of lion, who did nothing much but try and hide from the rain. With that I made my way back to camp, in time to get thoroughly drenched on the way to the kitchen. There is something wonderful about being drenched by huge well needed raindrops, and I barely even ran to escape them. The evening smelt wonderful, full of life and wet ground, and I went to sleep at 8.15pm, smiling.


This morning it was still heavily overcast when I set out, upwards toward Tshokwane. I didn’t see much on the way there or back, so it was quite quiet for me. The area is beautiful though, and I enjoyed the landscapes and the drive, and watching the woodlands flitting about. A few had a big fight, too far off to photograph, so I watched through the binoculars. On the way back, I spent about an hour with three Ground Hornbill who were busy foraging along the road. I got so absorbed in what I was doing I barely noticed the other cars that joined me at one stage, who were trying to get my attention to find out if I had seen lions. I wondered to myself if they knew these beautiful birds were endangered? It was another bad day for frogs, as the one hornbill found a fat, bloated little fellow, and carried him around for a while before flicking him up into the air, and down the hatch. I also took my first shots of a lion! They are average to say the least, so I will wait for better ones before I share them… I am sure you all know what a lioness walking away into some bushes looks like…

I hope that you get a chance to view the pictures on the blog... Rain is not the best for photography, but I tried!!

_________________
www.lauradyer.blogspot.com


Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2011 12:21 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks alot all, for the comments :) Glad you are enjoying the pics...
Bornfree, I agree, I think it forces you to enjoy things in a different way, as there are no distractions and you can make your own way, especially for photography. Does get lonely though!

Next installment is up: Pics all on the blog again...
http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/kruger-sun-comes-out.html

The sun came out for a few days :)

Another couple of days in this beautiful park have come to an end, and sometimes it feel as though 6 weeks will be far too short. Other times I get so lonely as I drive, that I think perhaps I was crazy and it’s far too long. The gate opens at 4.30am, so when I wake at 4, I always wonder if I should even get out of bed. But then I think of my cameras, and how all they need is me to hold them, and suddenly I am wide-awake and as excited as can be. 4 am is quite an early start to keep up, but there’s nothing better than driving out of that gate, coffee in hand, and every morning that feeling gets me up and out of bed.

Yesterday started with lovely clear skies, and all I wanted to do was get straight down to the hyena den. A few wrong turns, and I realized I wasn’t going to make it. By the time I did get there, there was only one adult sleeping off to the side. Later that morning I again got lost, and had to back-track a lot. I don’t know what it is with girls (maybe not all, but many) but we have some serious problems with distance, directions and maps!! I then decided that I would no longer take a turning without first checking my guide book, as I only got to a place for ‘breakfast’ at 2pm!


I did find some great kingfishers, in particular a pair of Giant Kingfishers, one of which I watched catch and eat a crab. As she swallowed it, she had to pause in a very uncomfortable position, as though waiting for it to squeeze through a narrow gap, before again relaxing. She did first smash it on some rocks, which broke most of the legs off, and after the body was finished, she picked up the remnants before diving back into the water for a cleaning dip. The different between a male and female giant, is that a male wears a ‘t-shirt’ and the female wears a ‘g-string’, both of these clothing items being chestnut in colour.

I also had 2 lion sightings, one a pride of seven, who were resting right next to the road, and the other two very fat females who were sleeping off a large meal.

This morning I planned my route very carefully so that there were no mistakes on the way to the hyena den. When I arrived, at least 14 individuals were in attendance, with the cubs all eagerly suckling, and the adults fairly relaxed. One had brought an animal's backbone home, which caused quite a bit of excitement, as did a stray warthog who spent some time chasing a couple of far-too-curious youngsters. Once everyone had settled down, and I had rescued my car from some over curious mouths, I decided to drive on and see what the rest of the morning had on offer.

I had a pleasant surprise in the form of two leopards, walking in the bushes along side the main road outside Lower Sabie, presumably the mother and subadult from the kill a few nights ago. Driving a vehicle when thronged by a crowd of curious vehicles, and photographing at the same time is virtually impossible, so I eventually left. Sometimes, even a leopard sighting is a bit too difficult to manage when it's on a busy road like that. I couldn’t get ‘through’ the crowd of cars, so decided to end my drive and finally get round to some laundry! Laundry is boring, waiting for things to wash and dry is a real waste of time. It was also really hot! I had quite a long afternoon drive, although other than some very relaxed elephant herds, nothing too much occurred!

Tonight I’ll be eating noodles again: The problem is that while I love cooking, there is no joy in cooking for one, or eating alone, so I much prefer to spend my time in other ways. I only eat because I’m scared that if I don’t, I will pass out and there will be no one to wake me!! That said, there is something magical about sitting listening to the happy chatter of people all around, smelling braai as its scent wafts through the air, the odd hyena ‘whoop’ punctuating the night. It's moments like these that remind me how lucky I am to be where I am.

_________________
www.lauradyer.blogspot.com


Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 6:56 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Evening all! Hope some of you have had a chance to be in the bus over the weekend, or are heading there soon! Here's my next update on the trip, pictures found on my blog which also has the below text...I do hope you enjoy it!

http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/kruger.html

As part of my blog today I thought I would mention a bit about why Kruger is so special to me. Four years ago, almost exactly, I came here for the first time independently with Dan and Romy, two of my best friends. We had 13 days in the park, and 3 days in the Sabie Sands with my dad, brother and his girlfriend for my dad's birthday. I got given, as a Christmas present an H9 camera, which is a Sony Advanced Digital Camera, with a 15 times zoom. I got the gift early, so that I could capture my memories in Kruger for the first time.

We had an incredible trip, with 9 leopards in the park, and 4 in the Sands. We also saw incredible sightings of Wild Dogs, mating lions and virtually everything I had hoped for, even a Rock Python squeezing an impala to death, and swallowing it slowly. I took home a wonderful collection of memories, and photo's I thought were pretty great. I then posted my first ever shot on Outdoorphoto, a great website for anyone wanting to learn about photography, and get crit on images. While browsing the site, I began to fall in love with the photos and the community as a whole, and 6 months later decided to buy my first SLR for a trip to the Kalahari.


Between those two trips, the sightings we had and the joy of capturing an image, I was hooked, and wildlife became my absolute passion, above all else. Photography became the other, and I slowly improved, getting more hooked with each click of the shutter. It's too late for me now, nothing in my life will ever be the same, and I am so happy about that. My whole world has been changed completely, and I will never look back! There is no greater joy than looking through the lens, at a beautiful leopard as it moves silently through the grass, or a baby impala, as it springs about of stick-like legs. Even a bird, each one so beautiful and unique, their colours transformed by magical light into poetry in motion. So I have a lot to be grateful to the Kruger Park for!




I have had some good sightings the past two days, I have seen 4 leopards, 2 which were a very shy mating pair, who I could only hear as they did the deed in the river bed. The third was a male with a kill not far from Sunset Dam, but he couldn't access his tree'd kill as the tree was surrounded by hyenas, so he was sulking underneath a nearby bush. The fourth was hunting a herd of impala. The leopard must have been within 50 meters of them, moving at a painstakingly slow pace toward them in the baking sun. It is quite something to watch the patience of a cat, each step deliberate and calculated. Over about 2 hours the leopard barely moved 5 meters, often slinking low into the grass, or doing a very slow leopard crawl. In the end, there was no kill, and although I felt like I had been baked in an oven afterwards, it was exciting to watch.

I have had a few lion sightings, one even produced a short buffalo chase, but it was quite far off. The birds have been active, with many a woodland Kingfisher calling as he flits from tree to tree.

Yesterday I moved to Berg-en-Dal, just for a night, as my dad is arriving today for a short stay over his birthday. I therefore spent my last proper morning with the hyenas at the den, and felt like I was leaving some friends behind! They were in fine form, with a new and very interesting bone to play with, which caused absolute havoc amongst the cubs. It is great to see the signs of aggression and dominance that they display even at such a young age. Tails would be raised, and low calls or excited giggles let out as they chased and bit one another for the prize.

The hyena I refer to as 'Teenager' because he or she is taller and far lankier than all the others, with legs that seem not quite to fit the body, won the prize quite frequently. I presume it is a she, as she behaved quite dominantly when she joined in the games. Each time she got the bone, she would come racing up to the car and put it down a meter from me before trying to chew it. It was quite sweet, and I felt slightly included in the game...

One of the other pups decided that he wanted a bit of my beanbag, as the one strap was dangling down, and raised himself onto his hind legs to grab it. He nearly earned himself a pat on the head for being so cute, although I thought better of this. At one point, an adult arrived covered in blood, and was licked by nearly every cub, I presume due to some excitement over the smell. One cub looked rather silly, with his face covered in green stomach contents, and was very smelly. In fact, the whole den site smelt quite a bit more, and I imagine that a carcass had possibly been dragged there in fact the previous night. I have spent so much time at this den, which has been such a highlight in the trip!

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www.lauradyer.blogspot.com


Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:52 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
I SAW A PANGOLIN!!!!! (and other stories on the blog too..)

[url]http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/birthday-dream-come-true.html
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Biyamiti is a wonderful camp, far enough away from the others to allow a measure of private game viewing, and close enough to access either side if the park on a drive. The night sounds here are also much better, as one can sit and listen without the disturbances of people chatting, cars driving about and the general noise which comes with a large group of people occupying a relatively small area. The first day here, we did a long drive, virtually the full day, in search of some cats to photograph. My dad only had three full days, so we needed to make the most of it! It was also overcast, which made a long drive easily bearable. We did see a couple of sets of lions, but nothing too exciting on that front.


Yesterday it dawned mildly overcast and we had decided to get back to the hyena den, as he is also a great fan of hyenas. At first it was quite quiet, a light drizzle possibly encouraging the occupants to stay hidden and dry. All but one who was very fascinated by a millipede which he followed around, pawing at each time it moved. When the rain had stopped, everything suddenly sprang to life, with around 10 pups pouring out of the earth, being joined slowly by around seven adults. The cubs had a bone to play with, and were happily chasing one another around. When one of the adults arrived back, she began to whoop as she went to each hyena and sniffed, bit or chased them about. I can only presume she is the matriarch and was re-affirming her dominance.


After a couple of hours spent at the den, we popped down to Crocodile Bridge, ordered some coffee and set off up the S28 where we got lucky with 2 cheetah sightings. The one was hunting quite close to the road, his eye on a few very young zebra foals. The whole of the S28 seemed to have turned into the Serengeti overnight, with huge herds of zebra on both sides as we drove. After a delicious chicken burger at Nkhuku, we found a pride of 7 extremely fat lions sleeping off a large meal. They looked extremely uncomfortable, barely able to breathe, let alone move, like fat fish out of water as they lay panting in the heat.


That afternoon was spent watching a herd of elephants munching away on some grasses in a dry riverbed. As there were many Egrets in attendance the young ones had their hands full keeping 'the enemy' at bay.

This morning we sat for ages at Biyamiti Weir, one of the most beautiful spots in the park, a couple of fish eagles calling periodically, the Lessor Striped Swallows collecting mud and water, and a pair of Black Crake pecking at the mud. Then it was on to a pride of lions lying under exactly the same tree we had seen them almost a year to the day, followed by a beautiful relaxed leopard. The leopard was lying on a large boulder, watching nonchalantly as the cars drove by and the cameras clicked.

Breaking News:


I am adding to this post, as before I had the opportunity to post it, my dad got his special birthday sighting, and I just have to share! We were driving along to the hyena den near Lower Sabie, singing the occasional Happy Birthday song for my dad, when all of a sudden in the road ahead stood a strange object. I said 'Whats that?'- already having formed a certain opinion but being too scared to utter the words. My dad said' I am pretty sure thats a Pangolin'... and there it was, a pangolin, the dream sighting for any real bush enthusiast, the mythical creature we had so long joked about seeing, knowing full well they did not actually exist (for all intents and purposes as far as normal people go).

Pangolins are like dragons or unicorns, which obviously exist, but people have the decency to refer to them as myths. You hear the odd story about the uncle of a friend of a friend who saw one, or the odd picture repeatedly published for lack of a better one. Guide books even include them under mammals, but until you set eyes on them yourself, it is unlikely you will believe they exist. They are like the gold at the end of the rainbow or finding a leprechaun.

He was relatively relaxed, shy, but not scared, although he only liked to show us the back end, and not his peculiar little face. It was surreal, and I have no idea how long we watched him, as time seemed to speed up into a blur of excitement, gasps and disbelief. A real, live pangolin. A real live wish come true. In retrospect, I wish I could rewind that moment, jump out of the car and chase after the little guy, or at least just relive the feeling. It left both of us on a complete high, full of disbelief, and even as I write this, I am not sure it has fully sunk in yet. An actual pangolin, the stuff dreams are made of!
Happy Birthday Dad! That's a present you will never forget!

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:27 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks for the comments Pumbaa, John and MM :) MM- they are just too fantastic! I wonder how many years, if ever, I must wait for another one! John, I will pm you and explain, will be easier...

Next post is full of cats :)
http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/cats-come-out-to-play.html

Yesterday turned in to a bit of a cat festival at Satara. The area is known for its cat sightings, and it just proved to be one of those days where a lion lay around every corner. This is not to say they were exceptional sightings necessarily, just multiple sightings. When I left at 4.30am I was about twelfth in the line, and I couldn’t believe how busy it was! About 200 metres out the gate, a stream of cars flowing past, two lions cubs were sitting right next to the road. I have no idea why people race out so quickly, in the dark, when there is no way they can see what is next to the road but they do, and it’s their loss. The cubs were a bit nervous, understandably when confronted by a fast flowing river of cars, and soon wandered off. On the other side of the road, 50 metres off, lay four lionesses.


I had decided to sit with them, in the hopes of catching some early morning light on them when they hopefully moved off to collect their cubs. The sun never materialized, although it seemed sure to, but I was very glad I had stayed when a huge herd of waterbuck, at least 30 in total, with multiple young came galloping towards them. Never have I seen such a large mammal disappear into the flat, dry earth so quickly and effectively. I could see two of the lionesses, pressed flat against the earth, ears down, eyes fixed on the target. The other two were invisible. A male waterbuck was chasing a couple of youngsters about, unknowingly running within 10 metres of some hungry lions! They waited until almost the entire herd had trotted on by, so close they must have been able to taste the meat, before they sprung the trap. One youngster was the intended target and they set off at full tilt hot on its heels as it ran for its life. The young one kicked up loads of dust, and the lionesses looked sleek and agile, perfected muscles and designed to kill as their feet pounded the earth, limbs outstretched. By some miracle, the youngster, having been chased across the road in front of me, managed to make a turn seconds before capture, and ran past the front of my car again, four lionesses in hot pursuit. In the end he managed to escape, how is beyond me, for I am sure he must have felt their claws closing in on him as he ran. What an escape, and what a start to the morning, my nerves shattered, and adrenalin surging through my body. I drank my coffee to calm down, by which point the lionesses had finished panting, and walked off into the bushes, empty handed.

After this excitement, it was another lion sighting, two young males having a snooze, followed by 2 cheetah, and then another four, all on the S100 which I had virtually to myself after the others had rushed off earlier. Then another couple of lions a short while later, before a massive storm struck, soaking the earth, causing streams to run down the roads, and windscreen wipers to move with a vengeance as giant droplets covered everything. There was thunder all around, and I could hardly see where I was going, a scary drive for someone who finds thunder terrifying! I survived though, and when I wound down my window I was greeted with the fresh smell of wet earth, and the chorus of birds, damp but happy after the downpour.



I ended my morning watching a large number of vultures and a couple of hyenas finishing off a buffalo kill. Most of the vultures sat around, wings outstretched, trying to dry off after the storm. Many gathered in a writhing mass on the carcass, hissing and mewing at each other, nipping feathers and necks with sharp beaks as they fought over the scraps. It was definitely a pleasant morning!


The afternoon passed relatively uneventfully except for a few more lions, doing nothing too interesting. I had seen a mating pair the previous evening, and these had joined up with the morning hunters just outside Satara, looking in need of a good meal.

This morning dawned soggy and wet, the ground soaked from some form of storm last night which I didn’t even hear through my sleep. The lions were again very near to camp, and I watched them under spotlight briefly before they headed off at a rapid pace after something, crossing the road behind me and disappearing. I was driving the S100 again, virtually all alone, when I came upon a chorus of alarm calls, each more agitated than the last, and a few impala running around this way and that. I craned by neck into the river bed to see what was going on, when to my delight I saw a leopard on the bank, not far from me, carrying a young lamb in her mouth. She walked past the vehicle, paused occasionally to readjust the kill, as she walked. In a complete panic of excitement, I didn’t get the shot I would have liked, but what a sighting! And the (second) best way to start a morning! Not for the impala lamb of course, but certainly for the leopard and me.

After she found her way into a drainage line and became only a smattering of spots, I left her to the queue of eager onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse. I drove on, a big smile on my face, feeling a little frustrated. I am not sure what it was that suddenly filled me with such a sense of wonder, but as I drove, I grinned from ear to ear, appreciating every sound and sight more than I had in a while. Before I knew it, I had one arm out the window, feeling the air as it lifted my hand, imagining being a bird, and what the air must feel like rushing through its feathers. This is not in itself unusual, as I do it fairly often especially if the wind is blowing a lot. What was unusual was that the arm inside the car had now also joined in the fun, flapping away. I looked crazy, I am sure, although there was no one around to tell me so. Then I heard the words “I have magic beans and I can fly” coming out of my mouth as I said them over and over again. I needed sleep. Fortunately I am of the opinion that ‘normal’ people don’t have as much fun as the rest of us, so I’m ok with a little insanity here and there.


This afternoon I drove south, saw a few lions sleeping on the far side of a dam, and then carried on down some badly corrugated gravel road. Ahead of me I spotted a lioness, and behind her another, with five little faces peering out tentatively from behind her. The cubs must have been around 3 months old, beautiful little faces, although perhaps needing a meal! After a while they began to walk down the road, followed by myself and two other vehicles. The little ones would occasionally pause and watch the cars, before hurrying on after their mother on stumpy legs. When they spotted a tortoise innocently crossing the road ahead, they all ran for it, and had a good sniff and paw at the now terrified fully-retreated-into-his-shell-tortoise, before another car drove up too close to them and frightened them off.

I had began to hear thunder in the distance, and for those of you who do not know me well, I am scared like a little child of thunder and lighting. I love it, and I find it beautiful to watch, the sky lighting up with fire, but I am scared, and at night it always keeps me awake. As I drove home, over the right hand side stood clouds that resembled what I imagine the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic to look like on a stormy day, a dark blue forboding shelf, broken by a thin shaft of light before another shelf. Off to the side lay the misty fog of pouring rain, a dense grey ‘noise’ to look at. In front of it, an orange light glowed faintly, punctuated by the odd bolt of lightning thrown done to earth. The same to the right hand side, and me, driving along a little nervously, but in awe of the incredible beauty of nature, in the middle. It really has been one of those days where everything seems so perfect, so beautiful, so powerful. I have loved every second of it! Right before camp, with a minute to go until closing time, I encountered Satara rush hour, every car for miles on end trailing slowly behind a pride of lions who seemed hell bent on staying on the road. It made me laugh a bit, all of us cars, three in a row, pushing onward as the lions made their slow and undisturbed way.

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:24 am 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks for the compliments, I appreciate it alot. Hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and perhaps a holiday thrown in.

The next post is all about why I love summertime in Kruger, and pictures of my first ever Birth!

http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/why-bushveld-summers-rock-kruger-cont.html
As usual, the pics are on the blog!


The past few days have been very quiet on the cat front, but have provided me with some wonderful reasons as to why, despite this, I absolutely love summer here in the bush.

Two days ago, the day began at 2am for me when a huge crack of light shot me straight up in my bed. It was pouring with rain outside, thunder periodically bellowing, and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. Fortunately I was so tired that I did fall asleep again, and when I woke at 4am to make coffee for the drive, the thunder had stopped. Shortly after leaving the gate however, the heavens again opened, and it rained so hard I could barely see where I was going. Highly unlikely many cats would be about in this weather, but one of the reasons I love summer in the bushveld is the rain. When it rains like this, and soaks the earth, saturating every donga and gully, and creating new streams on every side. When the rain stops, everything springs to life. The earth smells beautiful and damp, the birds begin to call, and young animals race around, reveling in the water and the sun as it peeks out from behind the clouds. I did find a pack of hyena who were arguing over an old Wildebeest skeleton as the rain stopped. They were very nervous, and kept moving along the road, looking over their shoulders.


In summer, the bush comes alive with bird song. The Woodlands Kingfishers arrive, and begin their shrill calls, and displaying their wings at every other kingfisher they see. These little birds are a delight to watch, and the past few days I got a couple of opportunities to photograph them in good light. I have never really spent the best light on birds, but this time I did, enjoying watching their movement, and the colours of their wings.

One unmistakable bird, at any time of the year, is the Spurfowl. These birds are always heard, their unmelodious calls giving you a fright as you disturb them while driving. In the early morning they love to sit high on dead trees, welcoming the morning. They do the same before storms. They can be used to alert yourself to the presence of a predator when you hear their alarm calls, however they are quite unreliable, as they alarm at many things - you know what they say about a bird brain.

Another call that makes me think of summer is that of the Red Crested Khorhaan. They have a distinctive call, and it can be heard throughout the bush as you drive, a sort of whistle, interspersed with clicks. I found one standing on a termite mound and calling for all the world (really just me and any potential lady friends) to see. They open their beaks as wide as possible, and stick their tongues up, making them quite photogenic especially in good light

The arrival of the huge flocks of queleas also signals the arrival of summer. And their wing beats as thousands of them take off and land as one can be heard from quite a distance, as can their chattering calls. What amazes me most is how none of them appear to collide in their frantic flight. Birds are really a mystery!
After the heavy rains of two days ago, the termite mounds began erupting, with hundreds of potential queens sent out into the world on flimsy wings which only last for a short flight. The idea is that they are released when the ground has been softened by the rain, and, finding a mate, burrow into the ground and attempt to start a colony of their own. One landed in my car, a fat queen, never to fulfill her destiny. The birds cannot resist this feast, their plump bodies a nutrious fatty meal. All along the road sides, Go- Away- Birds, Eagles, Hawks, Spurfowl, Mongooses, Monkeys and others gathered to pick up the floundering termites. I had to drive quite carefully to avoid a massacre! Every day on the S100 road, I have seen a very skittish Brown Hooded Kingfisher who disappears the second I stop my car. With this feast, he couldn’t resist returning time and again to the road to gorge himself, so I finally managed to tie him down for long enough to take a shot! I had actually driven to the area I had seen him in on purpose, in the hope that he would oblige me.


Yesterday I witnessed something extremely special, which I have never before seen. The rains and the onset of summer signal the arrival of all the summer babies. The past three weeks, I have seen numerous new faces, Impala calves, Steenbok calves, Giraffe babies and more recently the Wildbeest began to arrive. Yesterday I was privileged enough to watch one arrive.

The babies legs began slowly emerged from behind the Wildebees mother, covered in slime and there they stopped, as she heaved away, changing position, kneeling, lying flat, all the while her stomach muscles clenching as she tried to get the calf out. The rest of the small herd were quite curious, often nuzzling her, or sniffing at the unborn calfs feet. When the baby was about half way out, she turned around, so I could only watch the heaving and her facial expression before I saw a tiny head slip out, and stare in bewilderment at the world around it. The harsh midday sun must have been quite a shock to eyes which had never before seen light. Another calf which had been lying next to the birthing mother stared at it, unsure as to whether it had been there before, and with that the baby wildbeest met the first other member of his family. He sat blinking for a few minutes, covered in slime and dirt before trying to lift himself onto wobbly legs. Knowing how long it takes a human child to gain any control of their TWO legs, it is amazing that this calf gained any control of his FOUR! He fell forward with the first attemp, backwards with the second, The third try he managed to walk a few steps before one of the stick- like legs gave way and he again collapsed to the ground. His mother nuzzled him gently, encouraging him, as the other calf stared on.

A few minutes of trying and he had finally gained some control, and although he was clearly top heavy, he could attempt to follow his mother. Well, more accurately who he thought was his mother - a young male wildebeest who was rather confused by the sudden ‘affection’ of the calf. His actual mother trailed behind him, affectionately nibbling his bum, trying to clean off the afterbirth and get his attention. A few more falls, and nudges and he worked out who his real mother was and began to suckle. It was pure magic, so very special and although the photo’s cannot do any justice to the moment, as the light was harsh, other wildebeest kept walking in the way, and my hands were shaking, still, they represent one of the most precious moments ever. Soon the calf was walking around, more or less at ease, as his mother paced back and forth, presumably encouraging him to move and strengthen his legs for the trials of life which wait for no man (or beast). He will need lots of strength and a little luck to survive, but God certainly gave him the best opportunity, being born so fully developed, into a herd, with an almost immediate ability to run!


These reasons and many more are why I love summer in the bush. Yes, viewing may be easier in winter, and photography may be better with fewer intruding grasses or leaves, but in the summertime the bush comes alive.

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:13 am 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks Ollie and Pumbaa!

next post is all about Shingwedzi, which was beautiful but quite quiet game wise.
I hope you all have a wonderful year ahead, full of happiness and bush holidays. Hope the next post is enjoyable- sorry for the delay in posting, the internet was not very good!

Pictures at http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/quiet-days-at-river.html

I spent a relatively quiet few days up at Shingwedzi, followed by a night at Letaba before I was to fetch my family at the airport. I did not take nearly as many photos as usual, nor did I really photograph any cats, although I did see leopard, lions and an African Wild Cat. This morning I did however get to photograph a leopard on my way out of the park. She was a beautiful female who moved from side to side of the road using the drainage lines underneath, much to my surprise.

Shingwedzi area has fantastic birding, and I saw Parrots, Broad-Billed Rollers, Bee eaters, Vultures, copious eagles and Woodlands kingfisher in abundance, as well as Fish Eagles, but these were mostly beyond the reach of my lens. I was also tired, so I did get some extra sleep (after a morning drive, of course). The weather was scorching, easily 40 some days!

Buffalo herds were everywhere, large herds upwards of 200 animals plodded about, moo-ing like so many cattle as they walked. There were also large herds of elephant, and pods of hippo in the river and Kanniedood dam.
I wound my way along the river loops, stopping to listen as the birds called to one another, or to watch an impala chewing some grass. Some monkeys entertained me for a while, and it was enjoyable. I did miss photographing cats though, as I do love them, but I guess there have to be some quiet times so that you can appreciate the good ones! The highlight of these drives was for me seeing my first Roan Antelopes, stately animals, in a herd of 12. They were drinking at a waterhole, before moving off over the dry bush, into the sunlight and away.

Now, I am off to the Sabi Sands for a few days with my family for Christmas. That is if their plane ever leaves Cape Town, already having been delayed over 3 hours as a part had to be flown down from Johannesburg. Oh well!! To be fair, the delay is not too bad for me, as I have to sit at Land Rover anyway, again having some different brake pads replaced. Oh the joys! At least there is great tasting coffee and an air-conditioned board room for me!

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:42 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks alot for the compliments on my photos, and I am glad you're enjoying it. Phillip- I hope you have a great trip!

The next post is on Mopani, where I spent new Years... There is also a post on 'greater Kruger area, which I will link if you want to read it.

Mopani: http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2012/01/seeing-in-new-year-at-mopani.html

Mopani- so named for the Mopani Scrub that surrounds the camp and makes spotting game a little more challenging! In truth it’s not that bad, as a controlled fire may have been run through here relatively recently, and some areas are not thick at all! The Mopani worms are also slowly taking the toll on the vegetation, leaving some tree’s stripped completely bare. Each day I can notice the further leaf loss, they are quite a force of nature.

It appears that Black Bellied Bustard breeding season is now in full tilt- as I drive the gravel roads I spot Bustard after bustard. It seems as though they each have a display ground, which they use with great gusto, and don’t like to leave, and that the next bustard is just out of sight, preening himself and displaying as well. As I spot a black blob in the road ahead, I slow down. A small head peers at me, beady eyed. It bends towards its rump, preening, pulling through the feathers there with a deliberate ease, plucking an errant feather here, or straightening one there. How they know which are ‘errant’ is beyond me, as there plumage looks beautiful. Each tail feather is ruffled outward, making them look bigger and far more impressive than usual. When they feel ready, they stare at me, and stretch their lithe necks heavenward, open they beaks and call. A long whistling kind of sound happens, then the neck is tucked toward the check and a strange ‘pop’ follows. Then the beady eye surveys the surrounding area, before coming again to rest on me, daring me to mimic it. I do frequently, but not with nearly as much beauty or grace. Many people call them the ‘Champagne bird’ as when they call, it sounds like a champagne cork being popped.

On the night of the 29th, shortly after arriving back at camp, the lions began to call. Their roars echoed around the camp, sounding alarming as though they were coming from the parking lot where I had left my car! Oh well… The whole night they were calling, and I could here them over the soft hum of my aircon cooling the chalet. In fact, they called until 4.30 am on the dot. It is uncanny the ability a lion has to know when guests are leaving the camp. I had discussed with the gate guard where he imagined they were, and as I agreed, that’s the direction I took. I had been hoping for a call to orientate myself, but all there was, was silence, and the call of cicadas and the odd kingfisher. I even switched off the car and sat in the dark, but no such luck! I did however spot a leopard, not far out of the gate, just strolling along, belly full, muscles bunched. It walked silently past my window, turned, and strolled off into the Mopani scrub. What thrills me the most is that no matter how many leopards I see, each and every one gives me a small dose of adrenalin, and butterflies in my tummy. I hope that never stops!


I am not sure whether it is just today, but the Mopani worms seem to be in full force, out on the roads, either fat bellies, or flat from car tyres as they cross in streams. Even if one is aware of them, and drives carefully, there are bound to be a few casualties. I photographed quite a few, but the looks I got started to make me worried about my sanity. People would pull up and ask, and not only was it not a bird (those people just shrug off), it was a worm!! A few people just laughed at my sheepish expression, but a good deal shook their heads as they drove off. It seems as though there are three colours they come in, lumo green, Yellow and brown or orange and brown. I will definitely check up on the reason behind this! I can only presume the green ones are juveniles, and the other two are adults of different sexes. The green ones have no spikes, and seem to rely on camouflage to avoid the sharp beaks of the hornbills who love them so. The other two both have sharp spikes and dagger like spines along their bodies. These are the ones that cross the road, presumably relying on their weapons for protection from all but man.


There were also quite a few chameleons trying to cross roads, and having seen too many flat ones, decided I would keep watch over them just in case. One in particular, who had turned a sandy brown colour, refused to move while I was near. I could see a car coming, so when they pulled up, I hopped out and moved him across the road. His toes gripped so strongly onto my hand, and being about 15cm long, his tail was able to get a very solid grip on my baby finger. When I put him on the bush towards which he was heading, it took me a while to get him to let go! Then the car pulled up next to me and say “Hi Laura!”.
What a small world, it was a family, a couple of which had been on a photographic safari with me in Mashatu in June… I must say, it was quite good to see a familiar face!

The 31st of December dawned, and I was awake at 2.27am, and began to get ready. I had ‘heard’ my alarm clock in my sleep. Once I realized, I drifted off again, and woke at 4, full of excitement as I was off to the airport to pick up someone very cool to spend the next week with! I did a short loop before heading off, and found the animals responsible for the roaring a couple f nights ago. There were four relatively large and very fat male lions, and one lioness who was being mated with by the largest of the four. They could not have been more than five years old, but they looked a force to be reckoned with.

n the trip to the airport, I also found an elephant herd that were behaving rather oddly, smelling the air, crowding and touching one another. They kept moving off the road, and back on again, and when they did finally clear off for good, there was a pink pile of afterbirth lying on the road. I had seen a tiny calf, but I am not sure if it was the newborn, as it seemed to have better control over legs and trunk than I would f expected. Either way, how lovely to know there is a new gentle giant on earth, born the last day of 2011. On that note, I should add that 2011 has been the best year of my life, full of incredible adventures and people. If 2012 can do even half as well, I will be well pleased!

Link to greater Kruger Christmas blog: http://www.lauradyerphotography.com/2011/12/rain-cats-frogs-and-christmas-at-exeter.html

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:58 am 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
Thanks for the wonderful comments- really appreciated! Patries, sadly Im home now :( Hope you have a wonderful trip though!

Next post is on Satara (part 1), my last stop on the trip. Cannot say how sad I am that its over, wow!
http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2012/01/satara-and-lions-my-last-stop-in-kruger.html



Satara: One of my favourite camps, and the last on my Kruger route. It is however very busy at this time of year! The stay started extremely well, with a little bit of the magic that the S100 road is known for. We drove the road as soon as the gates opened, without too many other cars, and soon enough we came across a lone male lion in the distance. The light was low, and he was slowly moving away, so we moved off. Not long after that a few hyena materialized in front of us, carrying the horns and skin of what looked like a Wildebeest, and running, each pulling in a different direction. As our eyes got used to the light, we saw more hyena running about, apparently quite excited, with their tails raised, occasionally emitting yelps or giggles. One of the hyena began to call, a low call, followed by a high pitched one, which is done with their heads close to the ground, possibly to magnify the sound. It is a call which is often done when they are calling in reinforcements, as it can be heard over long distances. We couldn't see what could have required reinforcements, but the hyenas' excitement was enough that we sat watching them as they argued over legs and skin, chasing each other about.



Before long, two male lion rumps appeared in the air, apparently eating in the longish grass off to the side - the hyena kept drawing nearer to them, but were relatively tentative. We sat there, watching the scene when someone pointed out that there were lions. We told them we knew. They then pointed behind us. As we turned, we saw another two males, with very impressive manes and stature marching purposefully out of the river bed. They had clearly heard the commotion, and were there to investigate. it took them about ten minutes before they noticed the two feeding lions. We had presumed they were a coalition, but suddenly they were on edge, unsure of whether to back away, or move forward. They stood a while, watching, with the other two lions completely unaware. All of a sudden they began to stalk towards the lion rumps in the grass. One obviously spotted the danger, and disappeared quickly, the other still completely unawares. Before he could register his brother's absence, the two newcomers were off after him, and they sprinted across the dusty S100, with us struggling to keep up, and keep them in sight. It is one exciting thing to see a male lion in full tilt - gone were the sleepy images of male lions who barely lift a head in acknowledgement of your presence: these were impressive killers, their gait powerful and their strides each full of intent.

We lost them a few kilometres later, but did find yet another male lion, keeping his head low as he smelt the bushes and ground where he walked.

Many of our drives around Satara have produced large herds of buffalo and elephant. One herd of buffalo must have had upward of 400 animals, many calves, and some huge old bulls in it. They are very impressive, as the they materialize out of the trees, and continue to do so for ages, a seemingly never ending supply of horns and hooves. In the sighting pictured below, the animals took turns drinking and swimming in a large dam. A hippo was not well pleased with their presence, and would swim right up to them, stopped centimeters from their legs and yawn and open his mouth in a very disgruntled manner. He gave up when a big herd of elephant began streaming down on the opposite side of the dam, obviously realizing there would be no peace until they decided to leave of their own accord.

Clearly the cats have been good in the area, and in the three days we have spent here so far we have had a number of lion sightings, as well as two cheetah late one night, and a leopard early one morning. The leopard sighting was the result of what I call (jokingly) my 'Mad Bush Skills'. I had heard some guinea fowl making a 'brrrrrrr kakakaka' sound repetitively, and had a vague recollection of hearing this sound before while watching a leopard in Etosha National Park. Guinea fowl are noisy animals, with many calls, but this time I was sure that the call meant 'predator'. We sat for about 10 minutes, scouring the bush, before out on the road infront of us popped a beautiful female leopard, her eyes bright and round in the predawn light. She didn't stick around for very long, but it was rewarding none the less, and seieng this cat is always a great thrill!


The S100 delivered again on our second day at Satara, this time with a sighting of two male lions and a female. One of them was presumably keen on mating with her, as she kept on slapping him away whenever he came too close. I had my head out of the window while photographing, up until the point when the lions head filled the frame and I realized he was moving past out vehicle not a meter away from me.



It has been wonderful having someone to share driving with, and to braai with - I have really enjoyed the evening sitting out on the stoep, stars above and the smell of braai wafting past my nose, having a chat about the day, and looking forward to the next. I even had the opportunity to test out my new telescope, and got some serious close up views of the moon's craters, crystal clear and bright in the night sky. I cannot wait to get a night where there is less of a moon, to look at some stars close up! The memories I have of Sossusvlei and the telescope there (although a lot bigger than mine) and the incredible time I had!


Images on the blog as usual :)

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 6 weeks in Kruger Paradise!
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:45 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: cape town
thanks Pumbaa and Junkie

Here is the last post I did of my Kruger trip, covering the final two days. Being back at home, it starts to feel far away already! Pics on the blog again, and thanks for reading and sharing it with me!

http://www.lauradyerphotography.blogspot.com/2012/01/kruger-final-chapter.html


It was with some great sadness that I found myself enjoying the last few days of my Kruger stay. It's always a surprise how quickly time seems to have gone when you get to the end of a trip, although looking back, some of the memories feel so far away. What a trip it has been! Not only because I was alone for the most part, but because I could relax as I drove, appreciating smaller things without the rush of knowing you only have a few days to find your photographic targets.


One of my last three nights was spent with a friend's parents who were also staying at Satara. We braaied and chatted well into the night, and I only fell asleep somewhere around 12.30am. Being that there were only two full days left, we woke at 4am, tired, slightly hungover and yet not wanting to miss a moment out in the park. Shortly after leaving camp we came across a pride of lions in the road, 1 male, 4 females and 2 cubs. Being first on the scene we were able to set the 'stopping distance' a respectable way off, and watched them for nearly half an hour before someone decided they should push forward, eventually forcing the lions off the road into the bushes. Our last morning the same lions were again seen, but this time the cars who arrived first drove straight up onto them, causing the male to panic and run wildly away, the cubs in hot pursuit. We left then.



We had some beautiful light, some very good lion sightings, and even a leopard. While watching one pride of lions, a male and female walked up to the only small car in sight, which had just arrived on the scene, and began to peer through the back window of it. I could not believe my eyes! I think I would have been pleased to have it happen to me, but the person in the little car did not look very impressed when we drove past him afterwards.


We were also fortunate enough to come across a new born Wildbeest calf. It was still wet, with afterbirth on it and the mother, and we must have missed the birth by about 5 minutes, as the baby was still learning to stand. It was quite exciting though, watching it taking its tentative first steps, trying to suckle and learning that it could run (even if not in the direction it intended)



My final day in the park, I wished for a leopard in a tree. Not having been specific enough in my wish, Kruger provided a leopard in a tree, just not the right tree for photography :) lesson learnt!

When we did leave the park, I felt sad, tired and excited for sushi and a duvet, and to see my dog. Sushi is one of those things I cannot help but crave, given a week without it. And there is nothing better than a soft duvet on a bed, even if it is wet from a certain Golden Retriever who likes to dry himself off on it after a swim.

I think that the six weeks in the park were the best thing I could have done, as it gave me time to think, time to relax, time to try and improve my photography. Hopefully one day I will be able to call some great wilderness area home, but until then at least I have my travels!

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Last edited by lovehyena on Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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