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 Post subject: Waterbuck's Marakele Quickie, Northern Parks, Dec. '13
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:27 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Tooooo far from Kruger
Ja ja ja.......shoot me for not being on the forum for weeks (to be interpreted as months by some)...... :?

So - I got back from a Marakele Quickie yesterday. First visit for me, no major expectations, just two nights in Tlopi Tented Camp..................certainly not my last visit.

Having the family with me, the two nights/days was focused around them more-so than spending hours in the car looking for LBJ's, earthworms, beetles and other critters. Given this, we left Pretoria for the 2-3 hour drive fairly late in the morning - in time for a Steers burger in Thabazimbi before entering the park and taking up accommodation at the ritual 2 pm.

The gate staff were friendly and helpful and we were soon in the park, immediately spotting some of the locals - wildebeest, kudu, impala, pumbas, zebs and a terrapin in a roadside puddle. For those that don't know the reserve (me included), it is split into two sections by a public road and access for park visitors between the section is via a causeway under the road. Once in the "upper section" we moved out of the open acacia savanna and into thicker bushveld. The website indicates that Thopi is accessible with a standard sedan, but I am glad I was riding with more clearance. As Kruger-junckies, we arrived with no major expectations - what a great surprise!!! A breathtaking view over the Tlopi Dam and onto the Waterberg from comfortable and atmosphere-inspiring tented accommodation on one's own private deck........good to be in Africa.......
ImageImageImage
This won't be a long TR and people that know Marakele may be familiar with much of what I narrate. Yet, I hope some of you will join me for some interesting surprises along the way.......

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 5:13 pm 
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Location: Tooooo far from Kruger
Thanks for getting on board Philip1, Hugh and Boorgatspook :D
Before I carry on, I came across some more pics of the view and ambiance from the deck of our unit in the Tlopi Camp. It was standing here that my young daughter turned to me and said, "this is not like Kruger", but in a voice that contained an understanding that this is a special place, in spite of not being Kruger........
ImageImageImage

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Last edited by Waterbuck on Wed Dec 18, 2013 7:49 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:54 am 
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Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:49 pm
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Location: Tooooo far from Kruger
Thanks for jumping on board Carolg, isinkwe, Toddelelfe, hilda and barryels.
tedredrum - i vagually recall our brief meeting, but if I was heading into the park I must have been dazed by the exitement of getting in. If it was last year November, then it would have been on my quest to find the Madagascar Cuckoo. Sad to say I failed......and failed again this year.......but i'll get it eventually :redface:
Thanks for the encouragement hilda :think:
MM - there is a little more to this quickie. If I can keep you happy with one page its a compliment, but fear some peers may have me shot :rtm:

On with the report........

After packing out and getting ourselves organised we embarked on an afternoon drive to the Lenong viewing point. Apart from a small section of gravel between the camp and the Lenong road, the rest is all paved to the top of the mountain. Initially the bush is quite dense, but turns to open grassland and then rapidly into mountain heath and Protea stands. Just the rapid change between these habitats is fascinating in itself.

We ran into some of the locals - zebra, kudu, wildebeest. But it was at this point that I remarked about the elephant dung I saw. I had really not done any research on the park beforehand, so seeing the signs of elephant was a pleasant surprise. Found some bush buck in the drainage lines on the mountain slopes.
ImageImage

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 7:38 am 
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Location: Tooooo far from Kruger
Now then - in my travels I have been up some passes and have seen a few lookouts, but this one is quite special. Heading up the pass, the towering rock knuckles guard timelessly over the wide valleys below. The photograph doesn't do justice to the size of these mountains.
Image
ImageImage

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Last edited by Waterbuck on Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:33 am 
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Location: Tooooo far from Kruger
The views from the top of the mountain are breathtaking in spite of sharing the space with SANDF and other communication towers. One looks out mainly to the west and as we saw the vistas in the late afternoon, it was a bit hazed over. I can imagine that the landscapes could be very special in the early morning.
I found this little rock crocodile and some other interesting critters at the top of the mountain. Cape, Cinnamon-Breasted, Lark-Like and Golden-Breasted Buntings occur in close proximity to each other given the diverse habitat types in Marakele. ImageImage

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Last edited by Waterbuck on Wed Dec 18, 2013 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 12:52 pm 
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Thanks hilda and Carolg.....

Back down at camp I again noticed the small hidden sign near the first tent that said "Beware - Dangerous Animals". Somewhere in the back of my mind the following equation was calculating without myself even being directly aware of it:

no-fence + small game reserve + no obvious dangers = perhaps the odd hyena / baboons / never-to-be-seen leopard

As I said earlier - I didn't go to any trouble to research the park beforehand and took it as I perceived it in the moment :hmz: :hmz: :hmz:

As the daylight faded I managed to get my trophy-cam rigged to a tree about 20 meters from our tent. I left it there with little hope of picking anything up as it wasn't a well defined animal path. I appeased myself that the camera may get a lucky shot of a genet or the likes.............famous last "thoughts".

The setting sun turned the Waterberg into a painting - if for nothing else, its worth visiting Marakele just for this. We sat on the deck in awe as the sun set......content at being in Africa.

ImageImage

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Last edited by Waterbuck on Wed Dec 18, 2013 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 2:29 pm 
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Nice braai of spare ribs, chicken and whole mealies for supper, followed by a game of 30 seconds under the stars. Kids treated us with marshmallows before we settled for our first night...... Image

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:23 am 
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Apart from a gusting wind that plucked at the tent for a little while, I initially slept well. Nevertheless, I found myself laying awake somewhere in the depths of the night. It was dark; the moon clouded over and the bush was somehow oddly quiet.........

When it hit, the intensity shuddered every joint in my body. Instinctively I gulped down a big breath of air and held it. I could feel my eyes widen as I stared into the empty darkness, my pulse rushed and my muscles ached with tension. A lion had unleashed a blood curdling roar meters from the tent, in that typical reverse crescendo that ends off in a series of grunts from its gut.

My little equation about dangerous animals fled from my logic and the tent seemed suddenly vulnerable. In the dark I remained motionless, got some air into my lungs and hoped that the thumping of my heart was limited to my own earshot. Each creek of the wooden deck outside sent a sobering image through my mind - how close was this beast to the tent? After a number of very long minutes I welcomed the second roar, as it broke the worst of the tension and was clearly a little further off. The third even further and by the seventh and last, the big cat had covered an appreciable distance.

Some of you may be thinking of the old adage of a lion's roar sounding closer than it really is. I have seen and heard enough lions to know how close this guy was. I have stood in close proximity to the males in the JHB zoo when they make the ground shake. When this Marakele male shook my briefs, he must have been meters from our tent.

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Last edited by Waterbuck on Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:10 am 
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Thanks for the comments PNF.

We were up early - I was still a bit shaken. New rules were quickly agreed about how far and where everybody could walk. I enjoy nature in all its forms, but have a instinctive fear for lions for some reason :hmz:

We drove out of the park early as my SO wanted to get a early morning training session in on the bicycle. That done, we took a slow drive back to camp, doing some of the loops. We made a whistle stop at the Ikhutseng picnic site, which was empty. There was a bit of litter around, but then again I have seen worse in other parks. In the picnic site I managed to sneak up to this fellow:

1. Lets act like we don't see each other.......
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2. A little closer........
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3. Uncomfortable distance....
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4. Now I am going to keep one eye on you......
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5. And move off slowly to show I am not flustered.......
Image

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:27 am 
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Pleasure Grantmissy.

The trophy cam / camera trap had been occupying my mind while we were out that morning. The camera was still up and when we got back to camp it was the first thing I tended to. With us all still a bit raw (excuse the pun) from the lion incident, can you imagine our surprise when I downloaded the following images:
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Image
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From the timer I could see that this beautiful kitty had passed by us (it was heading away from our tent) at around 21:15 the previous evening - while we were sitting on the deck playing 30 seconds :big_eyes:
When I first got the trophy cam I dreamt of photographing a leopard. To date (mainly from Kruger) I have only managed genets and some common diurnal animals. These pics may be blurred, but they are a highlight to me.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:19 am 
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A good dose of cheese and wine for lunch and my laying awake the previous night saw me melt out of the conversation for a midday nap. Not the best photo quality, but my 9-year old son was very proud to get this 3-species photo on his instant camera from the tent deck. In spite of good rains, a number of animals used the water and I would image that it could be a treat to sit and watch the spectacle when veld conditions get dryer.
Image

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Last edited by Waterbuck on Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:20 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:43 am 
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One can actually have a great time just relaxing in the tent deck. We were in the second last unit from the top of the dam, which gave us a good view over the flat bank at the top end of the dam. This bank was used by many animals and birds, such as these dancing queens (African Wattled Lapwing)
Image
Bird life around the tents is rich and varied. Although some birds are as common as yard-fowl, I can never resist a shot!!Image

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:22 am 
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Location: Tooooo far from Kruger
Thanks Grantmissy and Vlakvarkvrou - sadly it was a short trip. I probably only have another few posts to add before the TR ends, but its really nice to relax and write a bit.

Following my siesta, we took the Mbidi loop and headed for the 4x4 route. It is not particularly well signposted, but its also not that hard to get lost. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ROAD WITHOUT A 4X4. We just did a piece of the road as my family are not great 4x4 enthusiasts. Before heading back to camp we did a section of the Lenong road again and turned for camp. I once reported how the natural world opened up for my kids when I gave them each a camera (inexpensive). The things they take pictures of amaze me and reflect their individual personalities. They show great pride in shots of little critters like this:
Image
While the things we talk of reflect in what they snap shots of:
Image

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2013 8:05 am 
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Thanks for the inputs and nice comments naomi c, hilda, barryels and isinkwe.

Back from our drive, we rushed to get the camera trap up again - this time on a more well defined animal path close to the tent and leading to the water. With the lion and leopard fresh in our minds, I had my sentry on the lookout while the camera went up and you can see our hasty retreat caught on the devise.
Image
Image

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 Post subject: Re: Marakele Quickie
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2013 10:53 am 
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Camera trap up, we enjoyed the postcard sunset from our tent deck again. It was the second and last night in Marakele......
Image

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