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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
: ellie family (5) group
S48 Tsende loop
: ground hornbill family (2 adult, 1 juvenile), ?yellow mongoose, hoopoe, crested francolin family, crowned plovers
: 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
: buffalo, wildebeest, terrapins
: 2 elephant bulls, zebra, buffalo
: ellie family group, impala
late afternoon drive
: impala, zebra, whitefronted bee eater
: impala, wildebeest, hyena with pups, baboons, zebra
: impala, zebra, wildebeest, whitebacked vultures on nest