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 Post subject: Frieder & Michelle spend Xmas in Kruger Dec 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:41 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 492
Location: Somerset West
Summer is nearly over, and the days are getting shorter as the long Cape winter approaches.
Which makes me start dreaming of next December, hopefully in Kruger, because there is no better place to spend the Christmas holidays than in the Kruger Park, when browns become green, and babies are born and die.

Please share a few highlights of December 2011 with us…

Lets start with Lower Sabie.

We spent 4 nights in our lovely H2 hut, and in spite of some very dry and empty dams, there were lush green patches with plenty of babies and flowers.

Breakfast at Crocodile Bridge is much quieter now that the gates have been moved…
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Apart from the lovely food, the birds are so tame and beautiful…
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A glossy starling posing on a dead branch…
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A stunning weaver looking for scraps…
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In the veldt, a Kori bustard strides among the herds of wildebeest…
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The korhaans display on anthills with, popping sounds when their necks bend back, and loud calls as they flutter in the air before descending like helicopters…
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At Sunset dam a yellow billed stork fearlessly follows a croc’s movements in the shallows for food -- a weird symbiotic relationship – any benefits for the croc?
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And a heron silhouetted against the setting sun – they love using hippo backs to perch on while fishing…
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A young impala ram provides rest for overheated oxpeckers…
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A baby impala struggling to support an oxpecker on his thin neck…
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A creche of lovely impala lambs relax under the shade of a big tree…
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Thirsty impalas risking their lives for a drink of water in the Sabie river…
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Baby impala copying mom’s alertness…
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Tender moment between baby impala and mom…
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A thoughtless human being, a few gasps, and it is all over…
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An alert warthog mom protecting her 4 piglets from dangers…
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His mom stole my mango breakfast, but he is sooo cute…
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Mlondozi dam before the great floods – green grass but only a bit of mud for the hippos to survive in the hot sun…
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Hippos in the soup! I hope none of them drowned in the floods…
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Just around the corner at Muntshe, the elephants are thriving on the short new grass and fresh green leaves…
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The hyenas seemed to be thriving, and were found everywhere…
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Early in the mornings they lazed on the tar road…
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This one was so full, he didn’t even glance at us…
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But the smaller things are beautiful too…
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And this gecko on the wall of our chalet…
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Lower Sabie is full of the blue headed agamas…
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And this glistening rhino is running for his life!
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End of another lovely day at Lower Sabie…
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Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
Will share some more pictures from Pretoriuskop with you next week.

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten
http://www.vonhorstencollection.com

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


Last edited by Friedrich von Hörsten on Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Frieder & Michelle spend Xmas in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:47 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 492
Location: Somerset West
Pretoriuskop

Pretoriuskop is a very special camp in summer – impala lambs chase each other in camp, bird activity is incredible, and the natural pool is so inviting with shady spots during the heat of the day….

In spite of the bad vibes (the grass is too long; there aren’t enough animals), it is excellent for predator sightings, in fact, lately I have done far better at Pretoriuskop than Lower Sabie! Some holidays I find so much predator activity around camp that it is unnecessary to do the long drives.

Impala lambs are so tame you can walk up to them in camp. When you get up in the dark to get hot water for your game drive, they are already playing around the kitchen area!

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After rains, chameleons and frogs use the roads regularly

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SHABENI HILL

Snakes like this Natal green snake are quite common – we were parked at Shabeni Hill photographing butterflies on the orange Bauhinia flowers…

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when this green snake just slithered across the road next to us.

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Last year Shabeni hill gave us lions on the rocks. This year it was elephants on the rocks – they spent at least 2 days up high where it was cooler.

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The klipspringers are often seen on this huge outcrop, but they seem dwarfed by the enormous rockfaces.

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FAYI LOOP

There is a lovely low level river crossing on the Fayi loop. We often park in the water and watch waterbirds like this little black crake.

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There are always a few waterbuck on the Fayi loop

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Wild dogs were seen a few times right next to camp. This pack lay sleeping 1 km from the entrance gate on the dirt road that leads to Voortrekker Road/Fayi loop

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Once the sun set, they got up, played around, then started looking for prey. We followed them for more than a kilometer, but it got too late, and we had to go back to camp!

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PRETORIUSKOP CAMP LIFE

The vervet monkeys are a bit of a nuisance in camp. They will steal anything you leave unprotected, but are rather cute and entertaining.

Inside the camp, the birdlife is always spectacular. This year there were ripe figs right next to Reception, with a constant stream of birds coming and going.

The hornbills are very bossy, but also not afraid of people at all.

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The golden rumped woodpeckers are so aggressive, they beat up the side view mirrors on the cars. Some people even cover their mirrors with paper bags, so the woodpeckers can’t see their reflections! They also forage on the ground, and you can crawl right up to them.

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Don’t believe all the negative remarks about Pretoriuskop! Avoid late summer when the grass is very long, but go there with an open mind, and it will become one of your favourite camps for relaxing and enjoying the bush – hope to chat to you around the swimming pool this coming December!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


Last edited by Friedrich von Hörsten on Wed Mar 28, 2012 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Frieder & Michelle spend Xmas in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:29 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 492
Location: Somerset West
There are times when things are quiet at Pretoriuskop, so we do longer drives for the beautiful scenery – the thick riverine forest and narrow winding road of the S3 along the Sabie river up to Lake Panic, back via the S65 dirt road that has lots of wildlife, a stunning low level river crossing (sometimes flooded and dangerous), with its own miniature rock kopjes with resident klipspringers. Then back to the tar road, you must stop at Vervoer dam for big herds of buffalo or elephants, and the hyena den right under the road, 100m from the tar road, and back to camp on the H1-1 with sweeping views of Jock of the Bushveld’s Ship Mountain and the road down to Delagoa Bay...

Wild dogs are common in this area, and you are sure to see them patrolling the main roads in search of prey.

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How long can the rhinos still relax and enjoy life?

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It seems as if the Chinese economic colonization of Africa has opened so many new avenues to the far East… Even the beautiful carmine bee-eaters are `harvested’ for their bright feathers on the Zambezi river. And when the rhinos have gone, are the elephants next to go?

Breakfast on top of Mathekenyane hill is very special. You may get out of your car, stretch your legs, and enjoy the vast Lowveld panoramas.

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The S65 is very productive, and even if you don’t see much, the shady riverine trees along the…. River are very special. Stop here and listen to the birds, if you don’t find a leopard with cubs, or lions sleeping in the dry river bed. When flowing, the river is very scenic, and elephants enjoy it in summer.

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Another breakfast option is Lake Panic, but you may forget to eat your cereal because there is so much birding activity, and people are very friendly and talkative here, especially the photographers!

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The lush riverine S3 loop along the Sabie river is supposed to harbour many predators. I have yet to see one here! The birdlife is spectacular, and one of my favourite sites is a deep crossing of a dry river bed. In December 2010 we found 5 ground hornbills roosting above our heads, and calling softly to each other…
This year they were there again early in the morning, but a bit shy for photography. This coucal was very relaxed…

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Don’t avoid the Skukuza nursery about 1 km after Lake Panic. Also very good for bird sightings. A special last year, was 3 teeny civet kittens playing around in the marshy shrubs beneath the boardwalk. We were within 1 m of them, but difficult to photograph! Even the dragon flies are very tame here…

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Lovely shady picnic spot…

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Don’t miss the hyean den at the turnoff to Vervoer dam – early morning and late evening activity under your nose!

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The H1-1 is supposed to be such a boring road. And sometimes it is. But ignore it at your own peril!
Early morning drives reveal magical views over the Lowveld where Jock of the Bushveld used to roam…

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Stop for the stunning sunrise, and open your windows wide to hear the dawn chorus of birds.

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But open your eyes too, because while I was photographing this sunrise, two bemuzed cheetah brothers were lying on the tar road about 50m away, wondering why my lens was pointed at the sun instead of them!

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I hope you enjoyed my `longer drive’ from Pretoriuskop as much as I have enjoyed preparing it for you!

God bless from a cool and rainy Somerset West,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: Frieder & Michelle spend Xmas in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:44 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 492
Location: Somerset West
LONGER DRIVES

Any longer drive from Pretoriuskop needs a picnic spot, so Afsaal must be a big favourite if you are heading down Voortrekker Road! In summer it is lush and green, extremely busy at meal times, and very quiet with hyenas strolling around the dirtbins later in the day, and in winter the number of birds is amazing. Of course there is the little scops owl who has been around for a few years, and sits in the same tree month after month! Now and then a bat joins him for company…

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Squirrels love picnic spots, and provide endless entertainment.

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Wherever you stop, there are always birds to photograph. This batis was stripping bark off the branches to build a nest. He was so engrossed in his work that I could walk right up to him.

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Lake Panic is another perfect spot for breakfast. There is always some bird activity going on. This green backed heron was fishing in the shallows…

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Patience is rewarded by the teeniest little fish imaginable.

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The southern drives are excellent for big breeding herds of elephants, even in the middle of summer. This herd had about 40 members, and they made a spectacular entrance on a dramatic stage!

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Kudus are found everywhere, and like Impala, they help to keep the interest levels up even on boring days.

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For really longer trips, a drive to Blyderiver Canyon is a must. This currently falls under Sanparks, but is still run by Mpumalanga Parks Board. The views are stunning…

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and there are even a few proteas around…

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This male lion was part of a group of 6 huge males north of Afsaal. Unfortunately they had just had a buffalo for supper, and most were out for the count.

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Rhinos are facing an uphill battle with poachers, yet the white rhinos still remain gentle giants, regularly blocking traffick as they stroll along unconcernedly.

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Even the wattled plovers/lapwing enjoys hunting for fat grubs in their dung middens.

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If rhinos can block the road, so can zebras…

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Have a good evening, and God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: Frieder & Michelle spend Xmas in Kruger
Unread postPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:43 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 492
Location: Somerset West
Pretoriuskop may not have the highest concentration of animals in the park, but you always get quality sightings there!

I checked the Sightings Board in camp regularly (in spite of the lack of coloured pins), and the very effective one at Phabeni Gate. It was obvious that there were 2 male cheetahs near the gate, a female cheetah near the crossing, and a male on the S3, just after the open plain with the dry waterhole, up to the Phabeni intersection.

So I got up very early, drove down that way at 4:30, and found the male cheetah on a cool, drizzly day. I should have done this the previous day, because he put up a lovely show of marking his territory. I told our neighbours about him, and early the next morning they found him in the same area again!

He was obviously hunting, or looking for other cheetahs, because most of the time he was staring into the distance…

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He crossed the road (about 5 cars) between us, and then started marking his territory against a rock…

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Then he jumped onto a fallen log, sniffed it for a long time, and kept staring…

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Amazingly, he returned to the road, and started walking ahead of us. The tourists were very polite and all followed him at a very sedate pace, so he could even stand in the road and stare…

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The highlight of the show was when he reached a forked tree. It was about 2m above the ground, but he sniffed and sniffed and started spraying this tree too!

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After about 40 minutes the show ended as he slowly walked into the bush.

The S7 is such a short, nondescript little road that most people would tend to bypass it. Don’t! Do it regularly, and include Shabeni hill loop too.

Old scarface was peeping around the bush, trying his best to look sweet and attractive…

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No wonder he was trying so hard, because she was so cute! He tried to smile, and fortunately her eyes were closed, because only a mother could love that face!

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She was fascinating, and a very good specimen, very attractive.

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After the games, she had to keep him at bay, because he was rather a nuisance!

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That face says it all!

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Meanwhile the lady was preening herself so that she would look at her best for him.

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He stood around, angry and frustrated, and even the tail showed it!

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We left them to the rude tour operator who cut in front of us and parked his vehicle within 2m of them. Fortunately not all of them are like that. The other operator (Eric) parked at a reasonable distance, and even told me where to look for cheetahs the next day!

Next morning everybody was sleepy, but by 4:30 I found myself on the S7 again. About 1 km from Shabeni hill the same lions were in the road again!

She was wide awake and as pretty as ever. In fact, I felt like stroking her! That alert look came when she heard the styrofoam balls rubbing against each other in my bean bag! It was long before sunrise, and I had to shoot with the 18-105mm lens @ 1/25 second.

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She couldn’t help listening to me when I told her how lovely she was, but didn’t like too much eye contact, and averted her eyes shyly, just like my staffie Jock always used to do…

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They crossed the road and she marked her territory, which he found very exciting to smell…

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She would have nothing of him anymore, so he got dikbek and scowled at her!

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That didn’t help, so he stood around in the grass, staring angrily at her. Look at those eyes!

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She still couldn’t care, so he hid behind a few blades of grass and scowled some more!

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Boooooring! She replied…

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Like a good husband he confronted her for a little ``you and me’’ time, but her reply was another rude yawn!

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Fluit-fluit, my storie is uit!

Hope you will have even better sightings at Pretoriuskop on your next visit!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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