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 Post subject: peter_e_hall Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012 Dec'12
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 8:59 pm 
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6th August - My nice girlfriend Lucy and I arrived in Johannesburg early in the morning and met up with my parents who had flown separately. We then flew to Phalaborwa, picked up the hire car and dropped our bags off at the excellent Elephant Walk B & B where we have stayed in the past.

We were due to enter the park the next day, so to enable swift and early entry we headed to Phalborwa Gate to get our permits and Wildcards sorted in advance. The gate is something of a hotspot for birds so we got a few nice sightings and photos in too:

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Red-headed Weaver

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Southern White Crowned Shrike

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White-bellied Sunbird (F)

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White-bellied Sunbird (M)

7th August - We were at the gate at 6am sharp and soon entered the park. This early start paid dividends as within a few miles we came across this little lot sitting atop a large termite mound:

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After this worryingly auspicious start to the trip we continued to Letaba, had some lunch and took a stroll around the perimeter as we all love Letaba (although we weren’t staying there this trip). We saw:

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Tawny-flanked Prinia.

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Southern Black Tit.

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Bearded Woodpecker.

We also heard our first Ghost Bird (Grey-headed Bushshrike) of the trip but couldn’t track it down.

That night we stayed at Balule. When we last stayed at Balule in 2010 my sister’s then boyfriend proposed and she accepted (they are now married and their first child is due in a matter of weeks). The sole witness to the proposal was a young hyena who spent much of the day lying next to the fence looking wistful:

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We were hoping for similar sightings and we weren’t disappointed...


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:24 pm 
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Thanks everyone for your kind comments! There will be many more bird pictures to come...

On the morning of the 8th we left the camp at the crack of dawn and within 200 metres of the camp came across this family of hyenas:

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We had to drive off as they were starting to chew the car.

Other sightings that day were:

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Lilac-breasted Roller.

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This big fella.

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Two Brown-hooded Kingfishers.

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Grey Lourie.

And the first leopard (of many...) with a kill – but from a right old distance:

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And then on the drive to Sirheni, our camp for the next three nights, we came across this elephant in a bit of a state.

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There were no other elephants around, no signs of a struggle, no blood, nothing. It was breathing but looked laboured and, we assumed, highly unlikely to make it through the night. Upon arrival at Sirheni we informed reception accordingly.

We also saw our second leopard of the trip shortly after this – a female which had just killed a guinea fowl (there were feathers everywhere) right by the side of the road. We weren’t going fast or making any noise but she was spooked by the car and beat a swift retreat into the bushes almost immediately. Still, two leopards in one day is pretty good going.

The next morning we left the camp as early as possible and drove with intent to find the elephant – this might sound morbid but we wanted to a) find out what became of it and b) if it died over night there were bound to be predators/ scavengers feeding (we weren’t the only people thinking this).

What we weren’t expecting was that it had vanished without a trace! It must have recovered sufficiently from what ailed it and got to its feet.

9th August – no ‘big’ sightings but a few nice photos taken:

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The smallest Grysbok I’ve ever seen.

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Preening Southern Red-billed Hornbill at Babalala.

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Two young bull giraffes mock fighting. The one on the right got rather ‘worked-up’ by all this excitement and tried to mount the one on the left who was far from impressed – the teenage years can be confusing times.

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This little chap.


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 8:00 pm 
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10th August – we left the camp early and saw this guy walking off into the middle-distance, turning occasionally to stare us out.

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Other sightings that morning were:

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Giant Eagle Owl.

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Black-crowned Tchagra.

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Rogues gallery.

We spent the afternoon at the camp as it’s a fantastic place to relax. We filled the bird bath in front of the house and within minutes they were coming in for a wash. This bulbul was the most obliging:

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11th August – We took a leisurely drive to Punda Maria our camp for the next three nights. On the way we saw:

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Roan antelope.

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Massive buffalo bull (with harem) – you can see the open wound being pecked at by the oxpeckers.

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Whispering nyala.

We got to Punda early afternoon and did a spot of laundry. Right next to the laundry is the pond, while we were there it was visited by a hamerkop.

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We then went down to the hide and watched as a herd of elephants turned up for a drink and a dust bath.

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Lucy and I were staying in safari tent no. 3 which we think is the best of the tents (clearly we haven’t fully experienced them all). In 2010 we had a fleeting glimpse of a (large spotted) genet here and hoped to catch sight of one again. We did rather better than this as two visited us almost immediately after nightfall and would return each night.

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We also got a great sight of a civet walking across the small clearing in front of the tent as we sat drinking our Amarulas but it was gone too quick to get a photo.

We went to bed when we realised that there was a Leopard ‘coughing’ not far away at all...(apparently it had made a kill right next to the hide waterhole earlier in the day).


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:59 pm 
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Again, thanks for all the comments. Hilda, you are right, we were very lucky.

12th August - trip to Crook’s Corner.

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Early morning Secretary Bird.

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Fish Eagle.

We had breakfast at Pafuri. This cheeky sod stole the sausages:

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Couple of nice bird sightings:

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White-browed robin chat.

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African paradise flycatcher (!)

And on the way to Crooks Corner from Pafuri...Trumpeter Hornbill.

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At Crooks Corner I got this nice shot of a pair of crocs:

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Then we saw:

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Giant kingfisher.

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Hippos (see the small one on the right has a hideously scarred back).

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White-crested helmetshrike.

Back at the tent, this gorgeous Eastern Nicator.

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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:11 pm 
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13th August – last day at Punda. We went for a morning drive and saw:

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Tree of vultures.

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Duiker.

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Red warthogs.

Then back at the tent I got some nice bird shots:

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Yellow-bellied greenbul.

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Bearded scrub robin.

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Dark-capped bulbul.

Later that afternoon Lucy and I walked the Flycatcher Trail, we didn’t see much but we had a close look at the spoor to see what had been doing the rounds. We found some cat prints measuring 5cm which, according to my mammals field guide, probably makes them caracal tracks (slightly bigger than serval and wild cat paws).

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Then down to the hide where there were elephants drinking – Lucy got some shots from an unusual angle.

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That night we were sitting on the decking and the bushbabies were making an infernal racket. Next thing, something was running along the boardwalk to our tent at quite a pace with claws clacking and scratching as it came. If you’re not familiar with the layout of the safari tents, in particular no. 3, there is no way we could have seen what was coming our way as the boardwalk snakes behind and to the side of the decking and is obscured by undergrowth. It all happened very quickly so there was no time to react other than to stand up, turn around and hope what was about to appear wasn’t big enough to rip us to pieces....

Fortunately it turned out to be two bushbabies chasing each other around. The first ran straight over the decking where we were standing and disappeared down the side of the tent without blinking; the second rounded the corner, immediately noticed us and stopped dead in its tracks. After a couple of seconds the first re-appeared and mewed plaintively to its friend who was stood still watching me and Lucy – it was as if it was saying “Hey. Why aren’t you chasing me anymore?” Clearly this registered with the second baby who turned and charged past us towards the first. The chase then continued off into the bushes with a great deal of crashing and screaming. It was extremely funny to watch and also to hear as it sounded like they were trying to kill each other but really they were just playing chase.


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:38 pm 
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Thanks for the comments!

Trrp-trrrrrrrr: We didn't get to hear the trumpeter hornbill unfortunately. This wasn't the only sighting we had of this bird, we were having lunch at Olifants one day on the terrace and one was sitting in a tree just three metres from us. It flew away before we could take a photo - but this was a remarkable sighting as they are only meant to inhabit the Pafuri region I believe.


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:56 pm 
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14th August – The next day we headed to Shingwedzi where we were to stay for three nights. On the way we saw:

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Symmetrical zebra backside formation.

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Elephant eating.

At Shingwedzi we decided not to eat at the restaurant as it was a shambles. Instead we went to the shop and sat in the day visitors picnic site to eat, there we saw:

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Innocent looking vervet (he was far from innocent – that’s a banana skin he’s eating).

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African grey hornbill.

15th August – the next day we drove to check out Shipandani hide as we were to stay there in a few days time. On the way we saw:

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Arrow-marked babbler.

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Pearl-spotted owlet.

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Huge bull elephant in musth.

At Shipandani we saw:

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Black Crake.

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Egyptian Geese.

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Jacana.


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03 pm 
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16th August - The next morning we went for a drive and saw:

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A yellow-billed stork and a crocodile working together to catch fish – the croc created a corral with its body and tail trapping fish near the bank. The fish were then easy pickings for the stork, occasionally a fish would try and jump to safety and the croc would grab it before it got away. Never seen anything like it before.

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Elephant dung caught in a fledgling tree.

Then we came across a troop of baboons licking insects (we assumed) off leaves.

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And then this emerald-spotted wood dove.

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Back at the camp this huge monitor lizard was strolling around bold as brass:

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Then we watched the birds and squirrels pick crumbs off our braai.

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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:35 pm 
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17th August – we stayed at Shipandani, it wasn’t great but only due to the weather – the wind was howling so we couldn’t even hear the hippos. It was also cold.

18th August – we drove from Shipandani towards Mopani. We saw nothing for a couple of hours and then I tentatively said to my dad who was driving “I think there’s a leopard in that tree...” and there certainly was, a female who was more than happy to sit with us for half an hour or so. What made it even better was that in that time only two other cars turned up and were entirely respectful of the situation.

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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:20 pm 
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18th August continued... We also saw this dark chanting goshawk who posed for us nicely. There was an argument about the ID of this bird, my mum said it was a lizard buzzard. I was adamant it was a goshawk (it's a goshawk).

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This was our first night of two at Shimuwini – a place none of us have stayed before. I cannot recommend this camp highly enough. It is a truly serene place, right on the water, fantastic birdlife with an excellent hide where you can happily spend the day.

19th August – indeed that is what we did, we spent the whole day in camp and a great day it was too. First good spot was this golden-tailed woodpecker:

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And then...

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Brown-headed parrot.

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Malachite kingfisher.

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Kurrichane thrush.

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Crested barbet.

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Sunbathing hornbill.

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Hornbills.

And of course, Shine the duiker.

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Here she is with Lucy.

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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:39 pm 
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20th August – we headed south for three nights at Tamboti, a place my parents and I last visited in 1998. We were hoping to see more cats, in particular lions. We went via Satara to pick up supplies, on the way we saw:

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Fish eagle.

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Elephants on the crest of a hill.

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Namaqua doves.


At Satara we met the ‘most photographed scops owl in the world’. He didn’t seem to mind.

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Continuing the drive to Tamboti we saw:

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Rather bulbous giraffe covered in oxpeckers.

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Hard to see, but this is a ground hornbill with tortoise kill.

And close to Orpen gate this sly, tame jackal that came to the roadside to beg from each car that passed.

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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:56 pm 
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21st August – the day started well with this hyena on the road.

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We also saw:

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Line of ostriches.

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This old boy.

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Ostrich.

That night Lucy and I went on a night drive. We didn’t see a huge amount, but we did get:

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Fiery-knecked nightjar (I think).

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Ghost rhino.

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Rhino behind.

The next day was a lion day...


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:36 pm 
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22nd August – the next morning our wish for lions was granted with this rather beat-up sub-adult male who walked right past us over a bridge.

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And just a couple of miles down the road we came across this mating pair.

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Within a matter of minutes there were the best part of twenty cars there and people were pushing and jostling for position, stealing other cars’ views. It all got a bit too much very quickly so we moved on.

We went to N’Wanetsi for breakfast and saw this mocking cliff chat.

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Then on to the Sweni hide where there were dozens of yellow-billed storks. Lucy got some great shots of them coming in to land.

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On the return journey we saw this young elephant:

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And then came upon the breeding male lion from that morning. Clearly his exertions had left him feeling somewhat drained. If you catch my meaning.

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Then on the turn-off to Tamboti there was a small road block because of two cheetahs. Spot them if you can!

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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:23 pm 
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Thanks to everyone for the kind comments! You really notice the difference when you go further south in the park but it's a bit of a trade off: more big cat sightings vs more people (in particular more people at the big cat sightings).

Anyhow...

22nd August continued: This was our last night in Kruger and we had this lovely scene from our tent.

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I was determined to get a picture of the honey badgers that night so I sat up with the camera ready. I didn’t fancy sitting outside with them so, unfortunately, these are taken through the mesh window of our tent.

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And then following in the badgers wake came the civet!

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This pattern of badger raid followed by civet visit was repeated three of four times during the night.

Then it was our last day in the park but we were treated to an excellent leopard sighting...


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 Post subject: Re: Three weeks in Kruger – August 2012
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:05 pm 
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23rd August – our last day in the park started of very well with our fifth leopard sighting of the trip. We came across a couple of cars parked and asked what they were watching. One chap said that it was a mother and her cub, but it was a breeding pair – the size difference was so great that when they were lying down the man’s mistake was understandable. After a few minutes the male decided to stretch his legs.

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After that we saw:

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Wildebeest.

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Zebra.

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Vultures landing to feed on a fresh, but unattended kill.

And then...
Dead giraffe being feasted on by crocs. We have no idea what killed the giraffe, why it was in the river – nothing.

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We stopped at Letaba for our last lunch in the park. I snapped this crested barbet.

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And got a couple of nice shots of the parents looking over the river bed.

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With regret we then exited the park and returned to Elephant Walk.

24th August - We had an early afternoon flight back to Jo’burg so we popped back to Phalaborwa gate early in the morning to spot a last few birds. It was worth it:

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Yellow-fronted canary.

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Groundscraper thrush.

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Brown-hooded kingfisher (with kill).

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Hoopoe.

And there it is. Thank you for reading and thanks to everyone for the comments!


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