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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: April 2006: Olifants
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:55 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3823
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Part One

Olifants restcamp
Olifants has always been my favourite KNP camp, ever since my first visit in 1984, when I had the great good luck to have rondavel #87, with its spectacular river view. Since then, I have always planned my visits around my Olifants booking, and it has often been not what I can get, but when, because it is a popular camp and often fully booked. For this trip, I planned well ahead and booked my two stays at Olifants the full 11 months in advance, in order to ensure that I would have a chance for the riverview rondavels. I specifically asked the reservations agent which booking code was the right one for #9 and #13 and booked for the code she told me was the correct one for those units. Imagine my horror when, less than a month before I was to leave for South Africa, I discovered that the agent had given me the wrong booking code. :shock: :cry: :twisted: Happily, I learned on the morning of the day I was leaving that my April Olifants dates had been changed to the correct booking code, and when I arrived I was delighted that I had been given #9.

Which of these rondavels you prefer is a very personal matter, I believe. I looked at the location of all of them very carefully and of the five that are termed "best" (BBD2V), I personally like the situation of #12 best, although both #9 and #13 are more private. Another factor for me in choosing which of the riverview units I prefer is that the main viewing area over the river is permanently illuminated at night. Many, I know, love having nighttime illumination, as the proliferation of personal high-powered spotlights attests, but I very much prefer being able to see the stars — and the eerie natural lighting of the full moon. Thus, while most might prefer any one of #1 through #8 of the remaining (BD2V) riverview units, I personally prefer #17 or #16, which don't face the river directly, but have the river to their left and the plains stretching endlessly south and west. (The BBD2V units, #9-#13, are less affected by this nighttime illumination.)

Olifants has lots of lovely and interesting garden areas, so a walk around the camp is always rewarding, and the fig trees between the restaurant/shop complex and the viewing platform are full of birds. I can also recommend the camp's launderette, which must be one of the best bargains ever! It costs R5 to do a large wash (these are big Maytag commercial machines) and all the dryer time I needed (and more) for a moderate-sized wash, including quite heavy items like sweats, was only R2. For those who feel the need, there is also a TV/conference room, which under ordinary circumstances I'd be unlikely to use (I avoid all media when in KNP). However, I was delighted that I had been alerted to the 50/50 program that included a feature on the new Olifants Backpacker Trail. Hein Grobler, the Olifants hospitality manager, and his wife, Juanita, have introduced a number of popular new activities that are unique to Olifants, including a mountain biking trail and the Olifants Astronomy Experience, as well as this 3-day backpacking trail. All have been enthusiastically received, and I can personally recommend the Astronomy Experience.

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28 April - Mopani - Giriyondo - Olifants
Since it is an easy drive from Mopani to Olifants, I decided to take the new road out to the new Makhadzi picnic spot and to go all the way to the border post if that was possible, which it was. Being the first full day of a long holiday weekend, I thought that I might encounter a lot of crossborder traffic, but in fact I saw few other vehicles on the portion of road between Makhadzi and the border, although I did later encounter several Landys heading north towing large boats. Although sightings were few, I enjoyed this very scenic drive and did see a martial eagle that was still in the very same spot (high in a tree quite far from the road) when I returned from the border.

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This is one of the baobabs that was moved from Letaba

This day's highlight was definitely my first encounter with another potential emerging tusker. This ellie is easily identified by the notch and hole in his left ear and may be Timaka, although from the information I've found about Timaka, he has previously only been seen considerably farther north. I saw a photo that was identified as Timaka in the Kruger Times and that was definitely the same one as this ellie — the notch and hole in the ear are unmistakable. However, the photo of Timaka on this website is quite different, so I think that this ellie, who I eventually saw for extended periods on three different occasions, is in fact not Timaka. On my first two encounters with him, he had an askari, but when I encountered him for a third time, he was all on his own. On all three occasions, he is the most mellow ellie I have even encountered, and I was very lucky indeed to spend so much quality time with him!

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I arrived at Olifants in the early afternoon and after taking some time to do laundry, I decided to go for a late afternoon drive. You're really spoilt for choice with interesting and rewarding loops to drive around Olifants, and despite the heavier than usual holiday traffic on the roads, I was not disappointed.

sightings
H1-6: ellie family (5) group
S48 Tsende loop: ground hornbill family (2 adult, 1 juvenile), ?yellow mongoose, hoopoe, crested francolin family, crowned plovers
H15: Swainson's francolin in tree, Egyptian geese, whitefaced ducks, ellie bull, crested barbet, impala, martial eagle (twice, same eagle), saddlebilled storks flying, zebra, arrowmarked babblers
H1-6: buffalo, wildebeest, terrapins
H1-5: 2 elephant bulls, zebra, buffalo
H8: ellie family group, impala
late afternoon drive
S92: impala, zebra, whitefronted bee eater
S90: impala, wildebeest, hyena with pups, baboons, zebra
S89: impala, zebra, wildebeest, whitebacked vultures on nest
H1-4: giraffe

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: 28, 29, 30 April 2006: Olifants
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 1:25 am 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Part Two

29 April - Olifants - Satara - Olifants
Today's adventures included two (distant) lion sightings, but to be honest, I simply can't get very excited about a lion that is +/-50 meters from the road, lying down under a bush. Usually all I can see from a small car is ears, as was the case with the lioness seen along the S41. There may have been others, as the man who alerted me said "lions", but she — or rather, her ears — was all that I saw. Later, on the (in)famous S100, I saw a male lion, equally far from the road, but out in the open, so a bit easier to see.

There was plenty else to see on my way to Satara, including several groups of giraffe, which are a favourite in my family, so I invariably stop to spend time with them -- I really cannot resist a giraffe!

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Another interesting encounter was a group of Namaqua doves, including some immature ones, which gave me some excellent opportunities for photos! And finally a BBJ that I could positively ID — a tawny eagle! Other interesting avian photographic subjects included saddlebilled storks in flight, two pairs of kori bustards, and a group of four adult ground hornbills strutting their stuff back and forth across the H1-4 and admiring their reflections (at least this looked like what they were doing) in the sides of the collected cars. Fortunately, on this occasion the cars stopped by the hornbill roadblock seemed to find the birds interesting and worth waiting for. It was fun to get so "up close and personal" with these intriguing birds!

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After an hour relaxing on my stoep and enjoying the view and the antics of the camp birds, it was time for the Olifants Astronomy Experience. It was a perfect evening for stargazing, with a cloudless sky and only a slip of a new moon. On the drive out to the N'wamanzi lookout, our guide, Laurence, showed us a chameleon and a spotted eagle owl, as well as the ubiquitous impala. At the lookout, while enjoying the sunset's afterglow and awaiting darker skies, Juanita Grobler, our hostess and guide to the skies, offered us a tasty selection of cheeses, crackers and nuts, accompanied by a choice of wine, spirits or soft drinks — a really nice social touch that I hadn't expected — while the crew set up the telescope. We were then directed to the circle of canvas armchairs (complete with drinks holders), so that we could comfortably lean back and observe the various heavenly features as Juanita pointed out planets and constellations and explained details of their composition.

The evening's climax was viewing these features — clusters, nebulae, Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons — through the telescope. No matter how often you may have had the opportunity to view the heavens through a telescope, it is always an awe-inspiring experience, and few of us have had the opportunity to view these features through such a powerful telescope. Juanita covers a great deal of detailed material in a way that makes it both accessible and entertaining, and for me coming from the northern hemisphere, it was marvelous to get such a comprehensive introduction to the southern skies. My subsequent nighttime stargazing was enhanced 100% by having such excellent orientation. This is a terrific and really different activity, as well as great value for money, and I recommend it highly as a must-do activity for everyone visiting Olifants!

sightings
H8: nothing
S92: nothing
S90: whitebacked vultures in fevertree, giraffe, tawny eagle, impala, zebra, wildebeest, pair of kori bustards, Namaqua doves, kudu, 3 bull elephants, longtailed shrikes, bataleur
S41: waterbuck, distant lioness, giraffe, threebanded plover, hippo
S100: lone wildebeest, distant male lion, 2 separate bull elephants, giraffe, impala
H1-3: impala, zebra, giraffe
Letaba restcamp: glossy starling
S100: ?brown snake eagle, fish eagle flying, vervet monkeys, giraffe, impala, wildebeest
S41: zebra, impala, purple roller
H6: impala, giraffe, buffalo
H1-4: giraffe, kudu, marabou storks flying, saddlebilled storks flying, ?mystery eagle, ground hornbills (4 adults), bataleur, zebra
H1-5: nothing
H8: nothing
in camp: sparrows, other LBJs

sightings to/from Olifants Astronomy Experience
H8: impala, chameleon, spotted eagle owl

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:19 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3823
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Part Three

30 April - Olifants - Letaba - Olifants
Today's adventures began with a brief sighting of a big male leopard on the S44. He was walking in the road as I came over a rise, shortly past the Olifants Overlook viewpoint, but although I was the only car, he was nervous and went quickly into the thick bush. He reappeared briefly, but thought better of it, and disappeared into the bush for good. I have a few seconds of video, but my still pix are all overexposed because I had neglected to reset my camera after taking some shots of the moon the previous evening. :wall: :roll:

I planned today to drive several roads around Letaba that I'd not traveled before and on one (S47) I saw my first ever (and still only) klipspringer, while another (S95) brought me my second meeting with the same potential emerging tusker I'd first seen along the H1-5 two days before. He and his askari (who faded off into the mopani, so I never had a good view of him) were enjoying a mud bath at a little puddle just off the road and I heard them well before I actually saw them. Once I'd recognised the ellie as the same one I'd seen earlier — he is easy to recognise because of the distinctive notch and hole in his left ear — I stayed observing him until he moved away from the road into the thick mopani. It's definitely a special experience when you can recognise an individual animal — and this is definitely the most mellow ellie I've ever met.

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As this was a long holiday weekend, there was a lot of traffic, especially on the tar roads, and while I stuck to gravel as much as possible, I had few other notable sightings. I did spend quite a long time watching two (a pair? — not sure about distinguishing between the sexes or adult and juvenile) Burchell's coucals in fairly thick grass and shrubbery on a loop off of the S62, and late in the afternoon I saw my first ever paradise whydah.

sightings
S44: zebra, impala, male leopard
S93: impala, threebanded plover
S46: nothing
S94: nothing
H1-5: waterbuck in Letaba riverbed
S95: 2 bull elephants (same ones I saw on 28 April)
S62: impala, giraffe, pied wagtail, crocodile, crested barbet, tambourine dove, hippo, yellowbilled storks, ?black storks, Burchell's coucal
S47: impala, waterbuck, elephant breeding herd, klipspringer, water monitor, Egyptian geese, whitefaced ducks
Letaba restcamp: redwinged starling, redeyed dove
S94: waterbuck
S46: doublebanded sandgrouse, impala
S93: ellie bull, impala
S44: ?yellow mongoose, giraffe, impala, paradise whydah, kudu bull

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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