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 Post subject: Ollie KNP visit : 29 March - 12 April 2006
Unread postPosted: Sun May 07, 2006 5:22 pm 
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I am sorry it has taken me so long to send in our trip report, but it has been crazy since we got back from our vacation, no sooner did we get back and I was off again on a business trip for two weeks..
I have split the report up to reduce the size of the files. I will also post pictures over the next few weeks.

Part 1:
We all arrived in South Africa on the 28th March; our party was made up of us (from California) some friends from Thailand and some folks from New Zealand. We spent the day doing the bulk grocery shopping and getting all the gear ready for our drive to the KNP. Then it was early to bed, since we were all on some type of jet-lag…..

We left Johannesburg at 05h30 on the 29th March, we traveled via Nelspruit, the road was OK, we had seen the reports of the road works and were prepared for the worst, however it turned out to be fine with no major delays. We stopped in Nelspruit at the Woolworths (on the corner as you enter the town) to buy our fresh veggies and meats (as recommended by many forumites, and it was a great recommendation). By the time we finished the shopping etc. We finally arrived at Malelane at close on 1pm.
Our very first sighting was at the gate whilst we were checking-in and setting up the cameras, a family of warthog walked past the car. They were pretty relaxed and kept on munching away in the bushes next to us. After doing all the official stuff and un-packing the camera etc. we finally entered the park…. Wow what a feeling, windows down, radio off, watch off and our adventure began, with plenty of sensory overload (well perhaps a little more pronounced for us city slickers)….
Our first few nights we were booked in at Biyamiti, so we decided to drive via Berg-en-dal, on our way to Biyamiti. The mid day drive yielded good general game sightings like Impala, Giraffe, Elephant, with a pretty special sighting of a Hyena cub in the road near the den entrance (one of the storm pipes running under the road) on the H3. It was very noticeable how much rain had fallen in the area; we encountered many pools of water next to the road not to mention a few streams running across the road.
We continued up the H3 main road, looking to take one of the dirt roads across to the Biyamiti camp. The S114, S121 and the S118 were all closed, so we ended up taking the H2-2, by this it was getting late and the light was fading (we did not want to miss the gate closing time). However just before we reached the camp, we spotted a Giant Eagle Owl in a tree only a few metres away from us…. What a great treat and good way to finish our afternoon drive.
When we arrived at camp and it was none other than ….. who checked us in at the office. We booked a bush walk for the next morning, and then settled into our much awaited for BBQ…. And the great sounds of the park.
We were up very early again to go on the bushwalk; we drove for about 20 minutes, and witnessed the magnificent sunrise, ahhhh how majestic! The bush was very thick and it made walking and spotting difficult, however the bush always has something to show and we were thoroughly entertained by our guides. A large family of Giraffe very inquisitive, watching our every step. Then suddenly STOP, just hand signals now. The guides beckoned us closer…. They had found 2 White Rhino, although not out in the open (for a good photo) we did get pretty close to them in the thick bush. STOP again, another one….. And he is far to close for the guides comfort (and ours) so we make a hasty retreat… what a thrill!

We managed to meet up with plenty of Elephants with big attitudes (throughout our trip) on our second day we were stopped early in the morning on the S25 watching a few teenage Elephants playing in the road with clearly no intention of moving. A car full of ladies pulled up and asked what the problem was, we said no problem, we were just watching the Elephants playing in the road. The driver said oh they are just youngsters and would run away when they drive past…. And much to our surprise they drove past us (in a smallish car) heading for the Elephants… We sat and waited for the obvious outcome to un-fold…. The Elephants realized a small car was coming along, and they started moving into the bush…. Once the ladies had passed they came back and continued playing in the road with no incident, although had the Elephants wanted to they could have easily made a mess of the car… they could not have been more than 2 meters off the road. Not sure what the hurry was?
In the afternoon we spotted a male Lion next to the road near junction S25 and the S139, Our first Lion this visit with many more to come. He sat there for a while and then got up and simply disappeared into the thick bush, easy come easy go! The contrast between the golden colour of the Lion and the thick green vegetation was fantastic. On our way back to camp along the S139, we spot a lone male Buffalo, whom has just finished his afternoon mud bath.

Our next stop was at Lower Sabie for 2 nights. We managed to see 7 different Rhino sightings (15 Rhino in total) in the 2 days we stayed there. The general game was good, with a few stand-out sightings like the Brownheaded Parrot, a first for us. We drove down the S82 in the afternoon and spotted a very large Elephant standing under a tree next to the road…. He seemed very relaxed (if not asleep). I am pretty sure (although only got a side view of him) that this was XXX. Another stand out sighting was a Martial Eagle on the S28, in a tree with a kill, we could not ID what it was eating, although it was something as big as a rabbit.
On our second day at Lower Sabie we drove up to Skukuza via the S128. We saw a lone male Lion walking down the road, he did not waste much time before walking into the bush. About ½ a kilometer later we followed 2 Black Back Jackals, they ran along the road for ages…. On and off the road, before eventually heading into the bush. On the S128 and S29 junction we saw 3 Ground Hornbills in a tree. They were making this kind of honking noise. We sat with them for a while as they just kept on making this rhythmic honking noise. Then we continued down the S30, and met up with a big troop of Baboons, they were amazing, playing in the road, grooming each other etc. to. We did the obligatory thing at stopped at Skukuza camp for a break, wow that place is like a mini city in comparison to the other camps. Then a visit to lake Panic bird hide, and it did not disappoint, with Kingfishers, Malachite Kingfishers, African Jacana but to name a few.

On our way back to Lower Sabi on the H4-1 we spotted some Hippo out of the water laying on the sand banks…. And then we were told hurry a leopard! A gentleman gave us directions, so of we go, we follow his instructions with no success. Then as we give up hope, cars stopped next to the road. As we arrive we are told, you just missed the leopard!!!!!
That afternoon we stopped at the Nkuhlu picnic site, the monkeys there have become troublesome at this picnic spot. We are hassled just sitting having a drink, I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to have breakfast or lunch there. We hit Sunset dam for sundowners, and watched as the Hippo, a large group of youngsters playing along with an occasional male showing off.

On the 1st April we travel from Lower Sabie to Talamati (probably one of the longest days we have). The day dawns and it’s misty. Visibility is not good. We decide to go on the S29; to start with the dirt road is very quiet, suddenly out of the mist on the side of the road a pair of Lion, a male and a female. They are just laying back relaxing. They don’t like the intrusion so they just get up and amble into the bush 100 meters and lay down, and they are gone! We continued on and spotted a Black Back Jackal, as it trotted down the road.
We carried on the S29, and just past the S68 turn off we spot two very large Rhino… the one had a very impressive set of horns. They are very relaxed with us being there and walk on and of the road, sat down… got up and so on. They didn’t move far away from the road. So we stayed with them for some time. Whilst we were sitting there another car came from the H10 main road and tells us that not more than 1 kilometer we will find a BIG herd of buffalo. We drive on and sure enough a herd of Buffalo, and a male Lion watching them. We watched him as he surveyed the area. Whilst we are watching him a car comes along and tells us of another Lion, not 100 metres away on the other side of the road. The second Lion is laying low, ears flat. He is not watching the Buffalo; he is watching the other Lion. The first Lion keeps sniffing the air as if looking for something. He crosses the road very close to the second Lion, but he does not spot him. He walks around finds a pond of water has a drink and comes back, again passing within 20 metres of the other Lion and does not see him. The second Lion has remained motionless, and this seems to have worked as the other male goes back to watching the Buffalo.

We decide to head to Tshokwane for breakfast and a well earned break. Our drive up to Talamati we manage to spot a juvenile Martial Eagle (after consulting the book, this was our conclusion), we also spot two Secretary Birds walking along the road. They walk a fair distance before taking flight. We arrive at Talamati and un-pack and spend a couple of hours relaxing in camp we spot Crested Barbet, Grey Lourie. Late afternoon we head out for a quick drive, we spot an African Fish Eagle; we spot Dwarf Mongoose, Elephant and ground hornbills. We get back to camp, and we had no sooner parked and taken the camera inside and we hear a deathly scream……. The neighbors to our friends from New Zealand, 2 doors down have a Mozambican Spiting Cobra on the porch. The camp manager stops past to let us know they have removed the snake and we should be OK, since this is the first time he has seen on inside the camp. Hmmm, this kind of helps, but not really. We are extra vigilant that evening when we BBQ.
The next morning after checking out under the car for snakes, we decide to drive up the S140, we are no more than 20 mins out of the camp and we spot 2 Lion laying next to the road. We initially think it is a male and female, however the male gets up and moves across the road, leaving one lion on the road. The second Lion now stand up and it turns out to be a juvenile male. Then a bus arrives from the other direction, they wait for 5 minutes and then are obviously want to move on, so they drive up and this sends the Lion into the bush. They cannot be more than 2 metres in and you cannot see them, it is amazing how they just blend into the surroundings, not to mention the thick bush that helps them.
After breakfast we head back to Talamati, we are driving along the H7 and we see a bus and a car stopped next to the road. We drive up slowly as the bus moves on and we see this Land rover parked off the road in the bush. The front end of the car is facing in the bush. They point in front of them, Lion. There are 2 Lion; they are hard to spot, since the Land rover is parked in the bush. We maneuver and get to see one of them lying in front of the Land rover. The second Lion is further in. We drive on and spot a herd of Buffalo on the H7 and S36 junction, now we know why the Lion were waiting in that spot. We continue down the S36 and see Elephants, Giraffe, Zebra, not to mention the impala and lots of European Rollers, and a few Lilac breasted Rollers. We stop at Mondzweni, plenty of general game.

More to come......


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Unread postPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:41 am 
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Now for Part 2, more to come. Enjoy!
3rd April we head on out and decide to go down the S145 on our way to Timbavati for breakfast, we are no more than 1 kilometer from camp and we spot 2 Lion, this time it is a male and a female. They amble along next to us in the morning mist… it is a fantastic sight to see these majestic animals just walking along in the mist and long grass. We are delighted and continue on our drive. We again spot plenty of Elephant, Giraffe, Kudu, Waterbuck, Blue wildebeest, Zebra, with a great sighting of a Brown Snake Eagle. We continue our drive to Timbavati along the S39, we are not far along this road when we spot 2 Male Lions. We are alone, they walk along the road and then lie down and relax under some trees. Then 2 ladies come along and ask what we are looking at. We tell them about the Lions. The lady asks if I mind if they play a CD, I don’t initially understand why they are asking me this, until I hear why…. They play a CD with a Lion roar! They play it loudly a couple of times, then the male Lions under the tree start roaring, wow!!!! The whole car vibrates it is so load. We drive another ½ kilometer and walking next to the road another male Lion. He is impressive! We sit watching him as he walks along the road, and then he lies down on the road, as he watches intently in the direction of the other 2 lions we had just seen. Then the 2 ladies arrive with the CD! Again they play the Lion CD, this sets this Lion off, although he does not even lift his head to roar, it is still impressive.

After breakfast we head up to Olifants camp, along the way we stop at one of the ‘get out’ bridges and spot Hippo, Crocs and Waterbuck on the sand banks. We also watch as a Martial Eagle flies above and is mobbed by Swallows. Along the way we spot a Gymnogene in a tree next to the road. We arrive at Olifants and do some much needed clothes washing!
In the late afternoon we head out for an afternoon drive, we see plenty of general game. We also see a pair of nesting Cape Vultures; this is a first for us. We drive along the S92 on our way back to camp and we spot a whole flock of Marabou storks, they almost fill an entire small island in the river. We also spot two Fish Eagles along with some King Fishers…… we hit camp for a well deserved break; it’s been a very busy day.

We wake up early, to find out our Kiwi friends had another adventure during the night. The hut they had was also home to 10 or so bats! They were awoken to squeaks, and things falling on them. This freaked them both out. They tried everything to coax them out, but alas to no avail. Needless to say they did not sleep well (if at all)….. Today was our day to buy more provisions, so we decided to drive up the S93 to Letaba for breakfast and to visit the recently renovated Elephant hall, before going out to Phalaborwa for the needed meat and vegetables. We had not gone far from Olifants when we spotted 2 African Hawk Eagles. They were magnificent. We carried onto Letaba, not seeing as much game as we had expected, although just before we got to Letaba, a big Elephant with an attitude…. We spent 10 mins with him before he moved on. The updated Elephant hall is fantastic. We had a great time visiting the hall.

We drove down the H9 to the Phalaborwa gate. We spotted a Bateleur on the road eating something, so slowly approached and got pretty close, well the closest we have ever gotten to a Bateleur before it flew away. We carried on to the gate and the left the park for a short shopping excursion. We re-entered the park, ahhh back again, the 2 hours in the town was enough…..

We drove up to Shimuwini on the H14, The game viewing was more challenging to post, however we had at least 10 sightings of Elephant along the way. We arrived at the camp mid afternoon. This is a truly magical place. With the magnificent lawns in front of the chalets, the river running in front of the camp, frankly no real need to leave the camp the birding and game viewing from the camp is excellent. The next day we decide to only venture out for a morning drive, and then spend the whole day in the camp. The birding was awesome and we manage to spot birds like: Ground Hornbills, Fish Eagles, Goliath Heron, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Green backed Heron to name but a few of the birds, we also had Elephants, Impala, Water Buck and Giraffe come down to the river during the day.

On the 7th April we drove up to Mopani, it was a bleak cold morning. The first cold and wet morning we had in the park. The mist was thick and game viewing was challenging not being able to see very far into the bush. However we did get see 2 Elephants in one of the river beds drinking and splashing around. Just before the H14 and H1-6 junction we spotted a small African Rock Python on the road. We stopped whilst it made its merry way across the road.
We stopped at Hooplas for breakfast, whilst we were having breakfast another couple told us they had seen Lion at the Mopani camp. By now the mist had lifted and the sun was out and smiling on us again. After breakfast we decided to see if the Lion were still hanging around at Mopani, so we headed in that direction, not before stopping at the H1-6 and Mopani junction to watch 3 Elephants, one drinking from the river and the other two resting in the shade of a tree. One of the Elephant was actually using the tree to prop it’s self up! Unfortunately we did not get to see the Lion.
In the afternoon we drove up the H1-6 to the S144, and the on to the S143, a very game rich area. We sighted no less than 3 herds of Elephants, a number of Lone bull Elephants, a number of Giraffe, Impala, Zebra, Wildebeest. We also spotted a Kori Bustard and as well as a number of European bee-eaters and the Woodland Kingfisher.
As headed back to Mopani we were confronted by a bull Elephant, in must. He was grumpy, and we spent some time backing up to give way to him. We noticed something different about this Elephant, his trunk was to short. He could not reach the ground with his trunk unless he leaned forward. He must have lost a piece of his trunk a long time ago, and it did not seem to have any adverse affect on him, since he was in good shape and using his size to bully us.
We retired back to camp for the evening and the evening BBQ. We were treated to a Hippo concert as well as Lion chorus over night.


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 6:16 pm 
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OK, the last of the trip report, and then some photos.... hope you enjoy. Thanks Ollie
Part 3
On the 8th April, we headed up towards Shingwedzi, at the H1-6 junction we spotted a male Lion, who was out marking his territory. He did not hang around very long before heading into the bush. We carried on up the H1-6 and not far along we spot 2 Saddle billed Storks standing on the road. They were very relaxed and allowed us to get very close to them before they decided to fly away, a first for us to see these magnificent birds on a road…. I guess the bush was so wet they probably were not far from water. We carry on only to be confronted by 2 Elephants in the road, they head in our direction and do not give way. We spend some time in reverse…… before the Elephants decide to go into the bush. Not long after this we spot a Wahlberg’s Eagle, and not far from this we see a Woodland Kingfisher.
We stop in at Red Rocks and spot a Crocodile, and a Giant Kingfisher, and nesting Hamerkops. Then on to Shingwedzi for a well earned breakfast. It’s mid morning and we decide to head up to Sirheni via the S56, we don’t get far before we see Elephants, a small group. The bush is very thick so visibility is some what limited, this limited visibility on the S56 adds to the anticipation. We round a corner and we are face to face with a male Elephant standing in the road, we both get startled, we stop and move back…. He just stands in the road and makes us wait for a while. He eventually moves into the bush allowing us to move on. We don’t go very far when we spot a small family of Nyala, they are relaxed and let us watch them for a while. We see two Brown Snake Eagles in a tree squabbling over something…
We arrive at Sirheni, and it’s hot now, we decide to spend some time in camp. The bird hide proves to be very productive with: Hippo, Grey Heron, Crake and a family of Elephants playing in and around the Dam. Late that afternoon we go out on a quick afternoon drive and we spot another first an Openbill, the colours are amazing, with the bright green back ground and the dark almost blue/black it’s a great sighting. As we continue on we spot 2 Ground Hornbills, I must admit I don’t think we have ever seen this many Hornbills on one trip.
The next morning we head out of camp down towards Shingwedzi, along the way we see Buffalo, some Impala (not as many as we expect to see), as we near Shingwedzi we see more and more Elephants, with a group playing in the river. Two males are sizing each other up and then start to push each other around; this goes on for some time and attracts a good crowd of people. We head on down the S50 and spot a number of Brownhooded Kingfisher’s and a huge flock of Maribu Storks. There are at least 100 in the river bed along with an unknown number flying above, It’s simply an amazing sight. On our way back we spot a number of Hoopoe, Pied Kingfisher’s, Guineafowl, and a whole group of European bee-eater’s in the road, They seem to be taking turns in having sand baths on the dirt road. In the afternoon we spot a pair of Giant Eagle Owls, and a fleeting sighting of an African Wild Cat, another first for us, we also see a Blackshouldered kite, and a Tawny Eagle to round the day out…….

On the 10th April we head on up to Punda Maria via the H1-7 not far on the paved road and we are confronted by two Elephants whom take much pleasure out of making us back up down the road for a while, they eventually wander off into the bush. We then spot 2 Ground Hornbills in a tree, both making a hooting type noise. This is the 3rd time we have seen this on this trip alone! About 100 metres along we spot a Crested Eagle, another first for us. We also see some Zebra, Kudu, Impala and a lone male Buffalo. Just before we arrive at Punda Maria camp, we spot an African Hawk Eagle.
Our trip companions bid us farewell, since they have travel plans to get back to Thailand and must make the long drive back to Johannesburg. So after saying our farewells (the three of us my wife and son) head on out and drive the S99 loop. It starts to rain, and the game seems to come out of every corner. We spot: a nesting pair of Bateleur, a Martial eagle, a small herd of Elephants, some lone bulls (with big attitudes), a family of Nyala.
Our last day in the park, we decide to drive up to Pafuri, we are not far out of the camp when we spot a Honey Badger, then we see a Black-backed jackal and a Balckbreasted snake eagle. We continue on and spot an African wild cat, this one stops and lets us take a picture before heading off into the bush. We continue on up towards Pafuri, the further north we go the dryer the bush gets, it looks like they have not had any significant summer rain. We eventually get to the picnic spot and have a great breakfast. Whilst we are there we spot Trumpeter hornbills, wow they have a very strange call, sounds like a baby crying! We drive along the river front up to crooks corner and see plenty of general game, like: Impala, Vervet Monkeys, Nyala, Kudu, and Guineafowl. On our drive back we see a lady, with a baby standing in the bush??? We report this to the rangers at Punda and they tell us this is a regular occurrence, mostly the illegal immigrants are from Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Before I close I should like to make a special mention of another forumite Penny. She had sent me a note prior our trip and agreed to meet us at Biyamiti (our first camp). Penny came over and introduced her self to us and had a special gift for all of us, some pictures from the park and a Kruger poem. We were very touched by the wonderful gesture, Penny thank you…… not often do you meet folks whom make such an effort like Penny.
On the 12th April we depart the Kruger Park with heavy hearts; it was a fantastic trip, with many firsts for us. However we must get back to Johannesburg and then back home to the US.
Hope the LONG report was not over the top…. Pictures on the way now just need to re-size them to make them more forum friendly.


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 9:21 pm 
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OK this is a link to some of the photos, will continue to add and update..... enjoy
http://public.fotki.com/Ollie123/kruger_national-1/


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 9:26 pm 
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Another link..... many more photos to come.....

http://public.fotki.com/Ollie123/kruger_national/


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Unread postPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 3:20 pm 
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OK some more pictures.......I have over 800 to sift through so does take a while to post them. Enjoy, Ollie

http://public.fotki.com/Ollie123/kruger_national-2/


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 6:34 am 
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A few more photos.... I am working on the rest.

http://public.fotki.com/Ollie123/kruger_national-3/


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Unread postPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 7:48 pm 
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OK, this is the link to the next instalment... part 5, enjoy :D :shock:

http://public.fotki.com/Ollie123/kruger_park_2006_-/


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