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.
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......