To some extent, this entire RSA trip has been overshadowed by anxiety over the failure of central reservations to rectify the error that they made over this part of my KNP reservation. As I discussed in my earlier Olifants trip report, Olifants has always been my favourite KNP camp, ever since my first visit in 1984, and since then, I have always planned my visits around my Olifants booking. For this trip, I booked my two stays at Olifants the full 11 months in advance, and I specifically asked the reservations agent which booking code was the right one for #9 and #13 and then booked for the code that 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. While a cancellation made it easy for central reservations to make good on their error for my April visit to Olifants, no such convenient solution arose for my May dates, which were planned to be the perfect finale for my entire trip. Sadly, central reservations not only did nothing apart from waiting for the possibility of a cancellation, they also neither accepted any responsibility for their error in having given me misinformation nor offered either an apology or some sort of compensation.
Indeed, the only SANParks person who showed any real concern for how poorly my situation was (mis)handled was the Olifants Hospitality Manager, Hein Grobler, and there really wasn't much that he could do apart from offering a sympathetic ear. Hence, this stay at Olifants was somewhat less than I had hoped, planned for, and thought that I was booking. At this point in a KNP stay of nearly a month, I had already spent plenty of time driving and had already had an abundance of sightings, so my plan had been to spend these last few days mostly relaxing and enjoying the pleasures of one of Olifants' prime riverview accommodations. In my opinion, the inability (or unwillingness) of central reservations to rectify their error and provide me with the class of accommodation that I had been assured that I was booking remains unforgivable.
That said, Olifants itself is a very healing place, and I made the best I could of a less than perfect situation. Since I really don't like the nighttime illumination over the river in front of units #1-8, I was happy to discover that rondavels #16 and #17 are also part of the BD2V category, and while they don't have the view directly over the river, they also don't have the lights that for me spoil my enjoyment of the night sky. While #17 is in some ways the better of these units, it was already occupied, but fortunately #16 was available.
Rondavel #16 (#17 in background) has no access to this lower level and its braai is to the side, between it and family cottage #14
early morning views from #16
Rondavel #17 has access to the lower level and its braai is on that level, in front rather than to the side
early morning views from #17
12 May - Talamati - Timbavati - Olifants
Another very cold morning at Talamati, so I again made an early start and again, since the gate was open, actually left about 10 minutes before the official gate opening time. I wondered a bit about the gate apparently just being left open by, I assumed, the early morning game drive? Since I'm generally not the first person out the gate in the morning, I have no idea whether this is general practice at bushcamps, and felt that it was rather more likely another example of the rather slap-dash and indifferent management at Talamati.
My morning was uneventful until I turned into the S36, where I found three hyenas walking up the road. Soon after I spotted a blackbacked jackal and have some atmospheric video of this backlit jackal in grasses suffused with the red-gold of the early morning sunlight -- hard to describe but very evocative. Shortly before reaching the H7 junction an oncoming car flashed its lights and I slowed just in time, as a lone white rhino dashed across the road and quickly disappeared into the bush. While from my direction this rhino was not visible as it approached the road, those in the other car had been watching it moving through the grass -- and it was moving at quite a good fast pace. If I had not been signaled to slow/stop, or if I had ignored the other car's signal, the rhino, notably short-sighted, might have plowed right into my car.
The rest of my morning drive brought plenty of general game but no unusual or notable sightings, although I did spend some time watching a pair of saddlebilled storks at the Olifants low water bridge before arriving at Olifants.
The weeks of uncertainty over this Olifants mess and the ultimate lack of a satisfactory resolution of the matter had been extremely stressful, and I was emotionally exhausted from the entire unhappy experience. Several soothing conversations about the whole sorry mess with Hein Grobler, the Olifants hospitality manager, went a long way towards restoring my equilibrium, and Olifants itself also worked its healing magic. There is something about the vastness and timelessness of that prospect (even when it is not from the "best" of the riverview rondavels) that puts things into perspective. After doing my laundry, I decided to forego a late afternoon drive and just relax on my stoep and watch the changing colours over the river and veld as the sun sank towards the far horizon.
: hyena, zebra, juvenile fish eagle, blacksmith plover, cardinal woodpecker, blackbacked jackal, white rhino
S39 Timbavati road
: impala, blue waxbill, slender mongooses, giraffe, buffalo, grey heron, crocs, darter, ?green dragonfly, ?lizard, zebra, ?eagle, wildebeest, helmeted guinea fowl
: impala, zebra, ?tawny eagle, hippo, ?swifts
: giraffe, hippo, impala
: saddlebilled storks, ellies, blacksmith plover, threebanded plover
: impala, breeding herd of elephants
is this a cardinal woodpecker?
ID help please for this BBJ?
... and for this BBJ?