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 Post subject: Arie's report : Kruger 11-19 March 2006
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:15 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Found some time to write my report on our last Kruger trip. Will try to keep it short (or do you prefer long versions??).

We entered the park on 11 march via Malelane Gate. Our first stop was at Lower Sabie and then all the way up north, via Pretoriuskop, Satara, Olifants, Letaba, Shingwedzi and 2 nights at Punda Maria to allow sufficient time to visit Pafuri (and Frank). We left the park on the 19th through Punda gate. We didn't keep record of the weather but it was a constantly changing mix of sun, overcast, some light drizzle, and one or two light showers. Temperatures ranged from cool to hot.

In some camps we stayed at one of the guest-houses (it was either that or 3 bungalows). This certainly was a pleasant surprise. They are BIG, luxurious and most of them have great views (aspecially at olifants).

This visit wasn't as productive as previous trips but nevertheless another great experience. The Park was very green, as expected after all those rains. We were surprised by the low numbers of elephant, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest that we saw, but looking at other peoples's reports it must have been just bad luck. Which doesn't mean that we weren't lucky at all! We saw lots and lots of animals including some special sightings: white rhino (on several occasions), lions, side-striped jackal, sharpe's grysbok and about 125 bird species including Longcrested Eagle, juv. Martial Eagle at very close range, Trumpeter Hornbill, Bronze-winged Courser, Ground Hornbills, Saddle-billed Storks, large number of Tawny Eagles (30+) and Amur Falcons north of Punda Maria, lots of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, hundreds of European Rollers.

It was our first visit in march and so the first time we met the armoured ground crickets (thousands of them in the northern region). They look both horrible and beautiful at the same time, are cannibalistic and make a lot of noise. Amazing creatures.

We were absolutely shocked about the number of people we passed who thought it was normal to get out of the car. The most amazing moment was shortly after we entered the park. We were watching a white rhino lying down beside the road, about 5 meters away. Another car approached and stopped on the other side of the road. Without hesitating an older woman stepped out of the car and walked towards the rhino to make a 'nice' picture. She was probably not farther then 6 or 7 meters away from the rhino and seemed not aware of the dangers. She even looked offended when we yelled at her to get back into the car immediately. We were so amazed that we forgot to make a picture for the hall-of-shame.
On another occasion we were standing on a gravel road along a river searching the area for who knows what when a car stopped behind us. Both people stepped out of the car and approached us asking what we were looking at... Needless to say that we 'teached them a lesson'. Most of these incidents occurred in the southern part of the park (south of Tshokwane).

Pictures will follow, allthough I wasn't very lucky this time. Missed a lot of great moments and animals had the nasty habit of being on the wrong side of the car.


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Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:42 pm 
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Only 2 minutes after entering the park at Malelane Gate, just as 2 years ago, same time, same place .... same animal.
First animal spotted inside the park (apart from the birds): white rhino.

Image Image


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Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:04 pm 
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Saw so many of them, but such a beautiful bird: european roller.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:25 pm 
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This was the 'harmless' rhino where this stupid woman thought she could step out of the car, walk a bit closer and take a picture. I have to admit that this sleeping beauty looked very peaceful....

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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 12:14 am 
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In my opinion the most rewarding subject to photograph in Kruger: the chacma baboon. I have spent many hours watching them play, fight, groom, or whatever they do and they never get boaring.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 11:03 am 
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Bert, LittleLeopard, thanks for the compliments.
Aspecially from someone using Canon :wink:

The 1st baboon picture is one of my favourites. I love the concentrated look in the eyes. Grooming is serious business.

@LittleLeopard - This is one of the many occasions where I wasn't so lucky. We were on the way to Pretoriuskop at the end of the afternoon, a little bit late so driving at 30km/h, on the S7 near Shabeni when suddenly the road was blokked by a Jackal. It was pointing in our direction so we could only see the face but we all thought 'hmm, funny colour, could it be a side-striped?'. But none of us was smart enough to take the camera and wait for it to turn around. When it did turn around we all shouted at the same time 'SIDE-STRIPED !!!'. I grabbed my camera but even though it walked away slowly this was all I could shoot:

Image

Just to proof we did see one (my second).
(I read in another topic that I'm just a few days too late to have the first side-striped jackal picture on the forum :cry: )


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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 11:33 am 
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Funny thing is that this was the only jackal we saw during the whole 9-day trip. I can't remember a trip to Kruger without seeing Black-backed Jackals.


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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 2:17 pm 
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Thank you Joan!
Here's another one.

On the 1st day we entered the park at Malelane around 14:00. Crocodile Bridge Gate was closed due to high water levels (at least that's what staff told us) and we were not allowed to use gravel roads (none of them was closed by the way!). At first we were a bit disappointed since we had to drive all the way up to Skukuza and then to Lower Sabie: more than 100km in just 4 hours.
It turned out to be a rewarding drive. We saw a total of 7 white rhinos (see earlier pictures), Hyaena with cub (in high grass so unfortunately no good pictures) and lots of 'general game'.
Since we were a bit late there was allmost no other traffic on the H4-1 between Skukuza and Lower Sabie, normally the busiest 'highway' in the park. This was to our advantage because we found lots of animals, like bushbuck, tortoises, lizzards, etc. on the road. We saw remarkably many water monitors on the road, probably attracted by the warmth of the tar. This was the only one which remained lying long enough to take a picture:

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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 8:20 pm 
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Playing with food, like all children do.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:01 pm 
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North of Pretoriuskop some areas are completely covered with some creeping/climbing plant species. Don't know what it is (can anyone tell?) but some animals love it like this kudu bull.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:33 pm 
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The following was one of the highlights of the trip (actually everything in the park is a highlight but this event was just a little bit more highlighting than the other highlights :roll: ).

It happened on the H1-2, just south of Tshokwane near Leeupan (what's in a name). We saw 2 cars standing on the road ahead of us and we noticed 2 lionesses lying along the aroad, one on each side. So we stopped (why not? :D ) and started taking pictures. Suddenly we heared some highpitched cries (a bit like a bushbaby) from somewhere in the grass. My SO immediately said 'that sounds like a cub'. So we searched the grass around her (from inside the car of course). But since the grass was rather long we were not able to find anything.
Then suddenly we noticed two small black patches moving through the grass and a few seconds later a small cub's head appeared. :o
At that time the lionesses decided it was time to go, stood up, and started walking. The cub followed but remained in the grass, probably still frightened by the cars.
After a few minutes walking the little youngster decided to take some risk and stepped onto the road. :D From that moment he/she appeared to have lost all his/her fear and walked like a king (or queen? :? ).
We were able to follow them for about 25min. before they disappeared into the grass, 25 awesome minutes!!!

Here are some of the pictures:

Image
Image
Image

..... and .....


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Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:35 pm 
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.... another three:

Image
Image
Image


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Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:47 pm 
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Thanks again everyone for the nice comments!

@ Salva: of course you only see the moments where I was lucky. Not the stuff I missed.
Here's another case of being not so lucky (or rather being stupid :wall: ).

Apart from the fact that the picture is not sharp where I wanted it to be (you allways have to criticize your own pictures in order to become a better photographer :naughty: ) I missed the most funny moment. A few seconds after I took this picture the Impala turned it's head towards the oxpecker and the bird kissed the impala :shock: ... OK, it probably picked something tasty from it's lip, but it really looked like kissing.
But stupid me wasn't looking throug the camera (that's another thing I learned: the park and all it's animals are way too beautiful only to be seen through a camera; so allways take time to take your eyes away from the camera; but if you do, DO IT AT THE RIGHT MOMENT! :evil: )

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Unread postPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:08 pm 
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And here are some of the many birds that we saw:

Juvenile Malachite Kingfisher and Southern Red Bishop
ImageImage
Purple Roller and Goliath Heron
ImageImage


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Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:07 am 
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Got some nice birds in action as well.
As mentioned before we saw enormous amounts of Armoured Ground Crickets (will post pic of them later) crossing the road in the northern part of the park. Lots of birds like rollers, hornbills and even raptors were attracted by them (really don't know why because they look disgusting :x ). Since these crickets are rather big and firm (didn't try them :wink: ) the birds first had to chew a few minutes on them before they could swallow. Tossed them around a few times, flattened them a bit, you know, just like we eat our meat. Gave us at least a good opportunity to take some nice pictures.
Image

After I saw this I've changed my Tracks & Signs book and replaced 'Elephant' by 'Three-banded Plover'. Don't know who long it took him to build this pile, but he was still busy on the finishing touch :x .
Image

The Bronze-winged Courser is the only bird not really doing something in the picture, but he shouldn't be doing anything since it's nocturnal, and so we were quite surprised to see it. It did seem to be still a bit sleepy though and was therefor an easy target.
Image

The Marabou Stork must have been either to opportunistic or just drunk (too much Amarula :tongue: ) . Tried to catch and eat the terrapin, who didn't seem to be impressed at all :roll: (how can you tell :?: ), for at least 5 minutes. After he figured out that this was not going to be his lunch, he tried his luck on a stick. Forgot to tell him that fish would probably taste better...
Image


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