Ok, thanks for being so patient. Here's the first part of the trip report.
Day 1 - 6 Nov
Left Letsitele (some 30 km East of Tzaneen) at around 13:30, which was much later than expected. The reason for the delay was a good one: heavy rains during the night and early morning! Example: one end of the property where I was staying prior to my week in Kruger got 120 mm that night and their other station, at about 6 km distance, measured 80 mm. Add the time frame in which it all came down, between 03:00 and 10:30, and it will give you an idea of what the roads (mainly dirt roads) looked like. Even at full 4x4 some stretches were a real struggle. But I made it and arrived at Punda Maria gate at 15:15 where a YR vehicle and Freda + SO were waiting for me. After allowing me my personal "Kruger ritual" (open a Castle and shout "HoneyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ I'm hohome!") we drove straight to Punda camp. Saw kudu and impala on the way, and from the deck of my safari tent a black-collared barbet up close and personal. Too bad I hadn't unpacked my camera yet. After that it was sundowners, a great braai meal, lots of laughs, and the wonderful company of good friends!
Oh, and on the way up to Kruger I saw a magnificent Sable bull as well!
The new safari tents at Punda Maria are simply briljant. When we were there it was still very dry but imagine what this will look like when itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lush and green!
Some have a ramp instead of stairs, so DB, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your wheelchair accessÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ just be careful or else the descent will be fast and furious!
Day 2 - 7 Nov
It had rained during the night, not the type of downpour I had experienced the night before, but a nice and steady, soaking rain lasting from 22:00 until about 04:00.
We drove the Mahonie loop (S99) counter clockwise. Returned to PM camp for a quick toilet stop and a peek from the hide, and we were on our way again.
After a stretch of H13-1 we turned onto the S58 (Dzundzwini loop and Dzundzwini Hill) and then followed the H1-7 to Babalala picnic spot. From there we took the S56 (plus every single little riverloop) to Sirheni, our basecamp for the next 2 nights.
Sightings (among others): bateleurs, plenty bee-eaters (white-fronted, little and European), martial eagle, the usual masses of blue waxbills and arrow-marked babblers at Babalala, buffalo, nyala, steenbok, duiker, plum-coloured starling, egrets (sizes S - XL), yellow-billed stork, kudu, spoonbill, grey heron, goliath heron, saddle-billed stork, dabchick, hippo, brown-headed parrot.
buffalo near fence at Sirheni (approx. distance 4 meters).
Day 3 - 8 Nov
Punda Maria staff had told us that the Northern Plains 4x4 trail could also be booked from Sirheni, but unfortunately that was not the case. We left Sirheni early to take a quick return trip down to Shingwedzi to get our permit before we were on our way for real. But it was still a fantastic experience!! As far as I know we were the only vehicle on the (50 odd km) trail, and the sightings were awesome. Completed the trail at around 15:00 and drove back to Sirheni via H1-7, Babalala PS and the S56.
Sightings (a.o.): more saddle-billed storks, ground hornbill, eland, tsessebe, roan, LichtensteinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hartebeest, elephant (one of them showing a special interest in Freda!
), crested guinea fowl, red-crested korhaan (+ display stunt dive), ostrich, buffalo, pearl-spotted owlet.
FredaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ellie friend.
CGF. Not a great pic, but it still good enough as proof for WTM.
Day 4 - 9 Nov
Moving on to Shingwedzi today. Took the S56 (one of my favourite roads!) - H1-7 - Lamont loop - H1-7 - S135 and then we had the most stunning encounter!! The first thing we saw as we drove onto the low-water bridge to the backgate of Shingwedzi, was this huge grey bum blocking our view. Mashagadzi!
I have been so luckyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ this was the 3rd time I've seen him and of course I had been bragging about previous sightings, keeping all available fingers and toes crossed hoping he would be there. And there he was! At what? 4 meters from the car, or maybe even less? I meant to introduce him properly to Freda + SO but I'm afraid all I managed was a gasp and something like "OMGÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ it's Him!"
I just hope he'll still be around next time I visit the area.
Sightings (a.o.): buffalo, elephant, waterbuck, green pigeon, green-spotted wooddove, baboons and bababies, vervets, various raptors incl. nice sighting of tawny eagle, buffalo kill (unfortunately an old one, so no cats or scavengers), broad-billed roller.
scenic view with elephant (along S56)
Aren't they cute?
(to be continued)