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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:59 pm 
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Location: Red sand, why do I keep thinking of red sand?
The report itself.
Our trip from The Hague via Amsterdam, Cairo and Johannesburg was reasonably uneventful, just long without much comfort. The only bit of note was that we had booked Egypt Airways and that gave two interesting bits.
Egypt is a Muslim country, so alcohol is right out. That means that if you ask for a red wine on the plane you get a very friendly smile, and the question if a fruit juice is good too?
The food was outstanding, especially for on an airplane. And of course halal, but I would not mind a portion now.
And we had another bit. I smoke, so had brought 3 bales of tobacco, and as presents we had bought two 1 liter bottles of whiskey. Just prior to entering our connecting flight the customs official at Cairo wanted to confiscate them. This is Egypt, this is not allowed! So I sort of smiled a “I don’t understand you” smile at him, mumbled something about “International zone” and walked away, with the goods of course. ;)
He’ll come back on the last day of the report....
We were collected at the airport, and went to GP’s parents for the weekend. That not only gave us a chance to drop off all the presents for Christmas but also to get used to the temperatures. From -17 to +25 or such!
We also handed a little present to my MIL, a Fuji 1700HD camera, so that she could practice with it. My inlaws would be going to Kruger with us the first week of the New Year, and it’s best to know a camera before that of course.

And then came monday morning! Up at 2 in the morning to be off to Kruger!
Happily zoomed past JHB without any trouble, and on to the N4 which drives like a dream after all the football upgrades, all the way to Crocodile Bridge.
A welcome sight at the end of that trip:

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The bridge into the park, the new bridge, and it was actually there! ;) Not like the old low water bridge, several copies of which can be found off the coast of Mocambique.
So we crossed it, and onto the new gate:

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Entering the park was a breeze, at least as soon as the guard knew that there is two people in a couple. So that we did not have to pay for one person, but that our couples Wildcard was valid for both of us.
So quickly move the gear around, get the cameras ready, beanbag in its place, coolerbag where its easily reached, and a brief toiletstop. You know that just meters away you can have your first sighting, and the toiletstop is always handy to prevent feeling rather uncomfortable.

We were looking for Duke, so went to the S28, and let time and sightings decide the road to Satara further on.
Our very first sighting was elephant, followed by pigs, and this beauty:

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A juvenile Martial Eagle.
I’ll try to keep our bird photos to a minimum, but as we are both birders many will sneak there way into this report. ;) But if you want to see birds, plenty of birds you can have a look in this topic from GP, showing some of the best shots.
The next sighting was a new one for me, a bathing ellie, often looking like a submarine snorkling. I did not take photos of the snorkling as it was a little too far away, but waited for it to become recognisable:

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After that it was birds, birds, a buff or two, and total relaxation. Kruger was stunningly green as you will see all through the photos, sometimes a bit greener than we really wanted. That you may see in the photos as well. Here is how the S28 area looked like:

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In pops another bird, I just like the photo too much. I would like to stress that this photo was taken without any cruelty to the bird, no catapult or such was used! This is simply a moment it had its wings to the body:

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It’s a Pin-tailed Whydah, many of them all over the place.
After that it was general game, birds, and unfortunately no Duke. :( We did go to “his” waterhole on the S137, but no luck there either. Time made us decide to take to the tar to Satara, a decision we certainly do not regret. Most of the way we didn’t see much, until the place where the S28 joins it. A ton of cars stopped!

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Would that be Duke??? So at a slightly higher, but moderate speed, quite excited we drive up to the cars. And what did we find? Not Duke!

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A beauty, breaking GP’s leopard drought of a few years! Elated we continue on, and I see insects popping up in my photos, possibly relieved to see a leopard as well?

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Ellies are doing some gardening, needed after all the rains:

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We see quite a few of them on our way to Mlondolozi, which is where I’ll start the next post.

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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:19 pm 
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Up to then, I had no idea what a leopard looked like up close. :D I saw one at the Southern Baobab Riverbed in the 90's, lying on a branch in the shade. You can't get closer at that spot so relied on GISS. :lol: Read: dangling tail.

I was very happy about this one. 8)

I remember my delight on Day 1 at how green it was and how many animals we were seeing.


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 4:27 pm 
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Our Trip Report never got finished but I'll be writing here again from tomorrow. Rather late than never, I guess. LOL Sorry about the hold-up.

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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 11:26 am 
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Mlondozi Dam lookout and picnic spot just North of Lower Sabie on the S29 - What a beautiful restful place. 8)

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By this time we've seen 4 of the Big Five in one morning, so smiles all round especially since it was very hot and humid. I mean a day earlier we were still in minus temperatures in Holland! :shock:

Many visitors tell you to avoid the South at all costs. Well, I usually do too but I decided I want the Big Five in one trip this time, no matter what. So tourists and I suppose Zoo-goers we were. :lol: Who cares? We were well on our way to getting what we were looking for.

Our first night was to be at Satara so that's where we were heading. We didn't see much after leaving Mlondozi.

We picked up a tiny passenger along the way. 8)

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A nice Martial Eagle - one of my favourite birds:

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We arrived at Satara and I sent Duco in alone to check in - I wanted to see the Satara Scops Owl. :D I had no idea where it was so took the easy way out. If it was there I was reasonably certain people on their way to the reception will stop and point at it. I wasn't disappointed. One sleeping owl:

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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 12:13 pm 
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So no Big Five in one day, but we were at Satara so were holding thumbs. 8) We had a choice - take our chances on the S100 or the H7 to Orpen. The H7 won hands down since we were heading for Skukuza via Talamati. Looking for the Sable again.

Leaving Satara we were treated to a sunrise you'll only see at Satara:

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Down the H7 we saw our first Amur Falcons. We were very happy with the new tick and going wow at how many there were around - not knowing we would see them all over South Africa during our trip. :lol:

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Just past Nsemani Dam we saw a very familiar shape trotting down the road right at us. 8) I just parked the car and waited for it to come say hello.

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It stopped right next to our car and did it's business.

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I attract Wild Dogs like a magnet. I'm reasonably certain of seeing them every time I visit KNP, especially in the South. 8)

We took the S12 off the H7 towards Girivana. What a beautiful waterhole. 8)

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We were to see and hear many Red-Crested Korhaans but this one was being very obliging:

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Heading back to the H7 on the S40:

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The birds visible as spots to the right was a rather odd pair - an immature Bateleur happily sitting next to a White-headed Vulture:

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And a Dwarf mongoose having brunch:

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Remember we were still looking for a lion to complete our Big 5. Found one on the H7, just past the turn-off towards Timbavati. 8)

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We stopped quite some way from the usual traffic jam for a lion and as expected if you're aware of lion behaviour, she chose to go to the opposite side of the road the quiet way - right past us. 8)

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This was the traffic jam with the freakin' "Das Rollende Hotel"!! :x

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BUT mission accomplished - Big 5 in 24 hours. 8)


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 1:08 pm 
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Mission 2: Finding the Talamati Sable. 8)

On a previous trip we found this huge herd on the S145 just before the road loops towards Talamati. First our travels took us past my favourite look-out point, Bobbejaankrans.

A Black Stork not far from Bobbejaankrans:

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A slightly different take on Bobbejaankrans, with the H7 visible in the background:

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Took the Rabelais Loop or S106, looking for the cheetah that haunts the area. None seen but found another Martial Eagle:

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And a creche of Impala youngsters:

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The Blue Wildebeest were dropping young while we were there so there were many Black-backed Jackal around. This was just one of them:

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We stopped at Orpen Gate for something cold to drink an found a Grey Tit-flycatcher:

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Just outside the Gate there were a ton of cars around again - the cheetahs apparently made a kill close to the webcam. We couldn't see a thing from the Tazz but did have a different treat instead - a Tawny Eagle having a quiet morning in the open on the ground. 8)

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Down the S145 towards Talamati and it was QUIET! It was hot hot hot by the, as this poor Southern Carmine Bee-eater can tell you. :lol: I thought it was dead or hurt!

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DuQues suddenly shouted STOP! I totally missed it - A Pearl-spotted Owlet:

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Just as we'd given up hope of finding anything resembling a Sable, where the S145 joins the S36:

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Mission accomplished! 8) Since they were so well hidden and only visible from the riverbed, we stopped the next car we came across and warned them to keep a look out and turn off the S36. They weren't visible from the S36 at all, it was too overgrown.


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 1:15 pm 
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Bush Baptist wrote:

LMHO, we have seen them in *t*sh*, and have some stories to tell, but as they are not SANP related they will have to remain untold here.


BB, I avoid the South like the plague bacause of the traffic jams. I HATE them and we had some spectacular ones this time. :evil: I came close to becoming violent towards some parties near Afsaal. Will come to that one later. We were very lucky though in 2 cases - with both leopard sightings. I've never seen a leopard up close and was worrying about looking for one at Lower Sabie and Skukuza, but in both cases people were remarkably well-behaved. I found people at Lion sightings being way worse simply because lions stick around longer, and some people don't leave the sighting...


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 1:54 pm 
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On to Skukuza to do some business and it's a nice drive anyway. 8)

Steenbok standing still for a change.

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Saddle-billed Storks.

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Brown Snake-eagle.

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Southern Ground Hornbill.

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Emerald-spotted Wood-dove.

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Some awesme scenery heading back to Satara on the H1-3, late in the afternoon:

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African Green Pigeons hogging a bush right next to the H1-3. 8) There were so many of them, DuQues had trouble getting a pic with only one bird in it. :lol:

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A huge herd of buffalo that had me a bit worried as we saw cars approaching and making u-turns to head back to camp, and we were on the wrong side.... :lol:

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Had to report a car here. It drove right up to the herd and literally pushed the old timers out of the road. I had the engine turned off so if he got the buffalo real uptight we would've been in serious trouble. :evil: The photo is bad because it literally came racing up the road from behind. DuQues barely had time to react. We were too shocked!

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My impressions of Satara are rather mixed. I love the roads around it and in general it's not too bad. It was VERY busy though and we had small niggles with the hut we were in, which were reported to the camp manager when we arrived. He went out of his way to help us, but I do hope they plan on correcting the placement of electrical outlets in the newly renovated huts!! One inside and one outside. The one outside was so high, I couldn't reach it at all. We had 3 cameras, cellphones etc with us. How do you charge that? :lol: It was reported via the correct channels afterwards. I'll happily stay there again though. We didn't buy any food at the restaurant there so I can't comment on that.


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 2:29 pm 
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Our next camp was to be Olifants. 8) We decided to go down the H7 again after the great drive there the previous day and then onto Olifants via Timbavati. What a day this turned out to be. At one stage I was praying aloud. :pray: :lol:

As we left Satara it was raining like mad, so we weren't expecting much. We saw a car making a u-turn quite a way down the H7, obviously giving up. He shouldn't have.... Barely 500m from there....

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Shows you, never give up. :lol:

Soon after this I was horrified! The entire road, and I mean everywhere, was covered in frogs, tiny frogs. I was driving.... :? :cry: Enough said....

Then the sighting of a lifetime. 8) What happened next is very difficult to convey because it was a set of circumstances and being at the right place at the right time. The Blue Wildebeest were dropping young everywhere and there was a large herd near Orpen. We first found the jackal...LOTS of jackal. I've never seen so many in one place. They were obviously following the herd to get hold of the young ones. One wildebeest cow was giving birth. I was both horrified and fascinated to watch her being hounded by the jackal. She and the jackal eventually moved out of sight into thicker bush and it become hard to see in the rain. In this case the traffic jam was handled brilliantly by everybody. I think all were too taken up int he events unfolding. What happened to her calf we'll never know. Here's a series of photographs:

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*Going out. Will be back later. :D *


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 10:41 am 
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We did have some great sightings. 8) I am rather glad myself that I decided to share our trip report. I'm reliving the entire trip again! :lol:

Senegal Lapwing close to Orpen webcam:

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Dwarf Bittern on the other side of the road, so intent on catching little froggies, it was just sitting there. :D

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Red-backed Shrike Female.

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We made a quick stop at Orpen in the rain and decided to go onto the S39 towards Timbavati. That's where the praying started in earnest. :? We saw vehicles exiting the S39 so I wasn't too concerned about the rain. I mean, they would've stopped us if anything was wrong, right? Not. Not a single vehicle bothered to warn us in a Tazz not to go in. The first bit was okay. It got gradually muddier until it was so bad, I still have no idea how I managed not to get stuck in the mud. :shock: I started to panic since the car was sliding everywhere. Fortunately DuQues managed to calm me down and talk me through it. This definitely counts as one of my worst driving experiences in KNP ever. I don't get why guys in larger vehicles didn't just warn us before we got into trouble. :x We warned others after that. But we got through. :lol:

Fish Eagle calling - my African Bush Sound. :D

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A very wet and overcast day on the S39.

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Burchell's Coucal cleaning up in the rain.

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Timbavati picnic spot under threatening skies.

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We moved onto Ratelpan Hide. One of my favourites since we always see interesting birds here.

African Spoonbill

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Tawny-flanked Prinia

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Jameson's Firefinch

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Spectacled Weaver

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Female Paradise Flycatcher

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Hippos doing what hippos do best. :lol:

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The weather was something else....

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Mummy Hippo with her young.

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We left Ratelpan after what seemed like forever. A beautiful place. 8) Not long after that we saw an amazing sight. A breeding herd of elephant came racing from the right.across the road in front of us and up the other side. It happened in seconds. I never knew an elephant can move that fast. 2 other cars coming from behind and the front saw tails, literally. We were just lucky to be there when they crossed. They weren't aggressive at all, just on a mission. In this shot they're already up the hill. :lol:

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Little Bee-eater

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Just past Roodewal waterhole we came across this beautiful secluded spot.

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Steenbokkies

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Crested Barbet having lunch.

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Jacobin Cuckoo in no mood to be photographed. :lol:

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Impala young

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Dwarf mongoose

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As we got closer to Olifants the weather started clearing up at last. :D

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Balule Low water bridge. I've never seen it with this much water! :shock:

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Lesser Striped Swallow

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Wire-tailed Swallow

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At Olifants. 8) I will always insist on the bungalows at the back of the camp from now on. I was blown away. Awesome!

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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 11:38 am 
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Actually, I think that if it was not for the odd branch being broken you would not have heard them from 50 meters away, maybe even less.
I'm sure this group (around 50 of them) was late for a meeting or had forgotten to turn the stove off. They just flowed over the hills at great speed, but in almost complete silence. Quite an experience!

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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 11:59 am 
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If you arrive back at camp after a long and difficult drive because of the weather conditions, this sight blows your mind. 8)

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We never even bothered to close the curtains at night. Who would want to miss waking up with this greeting you.

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Maribou Stork cruising past.

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Next morning saw us going our favourite, very much underrated road, way - Giriyondo Border Post. Now w've heard some stories about this road that should've kept us well clear of it. :lol: Sorry, can't agree!

But first - on the S44. We missed them at Satara and lo and behold, it crossed the road in front of us. :o :

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White-browed Scrub Robin

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Three-banded Plover

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Woodland Kingfisher

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High-water Bridge at Letaba.

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Yellow-billed Stork

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Sleeping buffalo.

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The H15 towards Giriyondo Border post. The elephant in the background turned out to be an awesome sighting lying in wait. 8)

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He refused to let us go past by giving little sign as only they can. Then the tusks appeared from the right.... He was just the askari.

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Nwanedzi, the tusker. 8) My first ever.

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A buffalo skeleton.

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Makhadzi picnic spot. 10 o'clock on 16 December. Where are the crowds? We sat there for almost an hour. As we left a CAR with Saffies arrived. When we went past on our way back to Olifants we counted 2 cars in the parking area. Busy? Yeah right... :lol:

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Shongololo's everywhere. We really had to watch our step.

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The caretaker still happily creates his tin flowers.

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Tree Squirrel

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Common Reedbuck on the H15

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This Kori Bustard next to the H15 had me very excited. I haven't seen one in many years. The last one was near Nkumbe. Little did I know that we would stop counting them by the time we left KNP! :lol:

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Giriyondo Border Post where the policeman on duty actually complained that it was boring being stationed there. They've got nothing to do! :lol:

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Chameleon crossing the road.

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All in all, including the return trip to Letaba, we came across 12 other vehicles in the 4 hours or such we were on the H15. All South African, half 4x4 and 2 vehicles obviously on their way to Moz. No speeding.


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 1:05 pm 
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Back at Olifants we had to do some shopping anyway so took a walk through the camp towards the new Restaurant-deck area.

Dark-capped Bulbul

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Black-backed Puffback

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Blue Waxbill

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Violet-backed Starling

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A lizard which I would appreciate somebody making me an ID. :lol:

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What better way to have dinner than a braai in Kruger. 8)

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When you're doing dishes and feel something crawling up your fingers from the drying rack in Kruger the temptation to go ballistic is great....

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That unfortunately brought an end to a stay at arguably the best camp in Kruger. 8) I can't fault them. Reception was good, we ate at the restaurant on Day 1 - food was great with even better service, it's clean and whatever else. I fell in love with Olifants all over again.


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 1:21 pm 
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Our next camp was to be Shingwedzi. We needed to draw some money but the bank at Letaba was empty after the holiday on 16 December. We had no choice but to exit at Phalaborwa Gate and get things done. Not a nice prospect but as you'll see, it was worth every bit of driving. 8)

Early morning near Letaba.

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Ground Hornbill

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When Kruger treats you well, it treats you well. 8) On the H9 just before Masorini. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what I was looking at. My first ever in Kruger.

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Another chameleon

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This was taken at Masorini after we'd been into Phalaborwa at 8:27. It was to be one of the hottest days I've ever experienced in KNP at that time. Worse was to come later. :lol:

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*Going out. Be back later. :D *


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 Post subject: Re: Clogs, mummies and sandals
Unread postPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 3:48 pm 
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Seems KNP treated you well :lol: A cheetah, Tusker, HB and all those lovely birds :clap: :clap: :clap: Your lizard looks to me like a female Rainbow Rock Skink, but I'm no expert. :redface: :popcorn:

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