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 Post subject: carolv KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents January 2012
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:13 pm 
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Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Saturday, 10th December 2011 – Sunday 11th December 2011

Despite the fact that it was only 3 months since we had returned from our last KNP trip, we were as excited as ever to be on our way back to Heathrow airport to board our SAA flight this evening. In August we had our grandson, Sam, with us but this time it would be just the 2 of us again. Kit bags packed to bursting and our cabin luggage filled with as many camera bodies and lenses as we could possibly hope to be accepted, we queue up to check in. There is always that slight heart in mouth moment as each bag is weighed but we are grateful to be given the ‘all OK’ to proceed. Once we are airside, the smile broadens across my face. Just a few hours waiting to board, an overnight flight and we have landed safely at O R Tambo airport. Despite landing at 10.30 am, we sail through customs, do not have to wait too long for our luggage to appear on the carousel and we are almost running across the road to the car rental area. After a slight hiccup insofar as they have our booking in the wrong name (not sure how they always seem to get some aspect of the booking wrong) we pick up the keys to our Daihatsu Terios. We had booked the same model for our previous trip but were upgraded to another vehicle on that occasion so this would be our first experience of this car. To be honest, we had selected the Terios as it was so much cheaper than many other options and , in many ways, it did not disappoint. Space-wise I would not recommend it if you are more than 2 people and on the normal roads it is a bit gutless but, in the Park, it offered good height, was economical, comfortable and did us proud for the entire trip. Certainly we would be happy to choose it again as it was very good value for money.

As we had arrived on the later flight, we knew we had to keep our speed up to enable a shopping trip at Malelane before checking in at Malelane gate. The shopping is a reasonably easy matter now, I try to make a list whilst on the flight and quickly run round the Spar or Pick-n-Pay piling up the goods into a trolley. Being Sunday we hoped we would have enough time to dash up to Berg-en-Dal for some cold Windhoek and a bottle of wine to celebrate our return to the Park. With the shopping completed and quickly packed into our coolboxes, we were soon back on the road and a very speedy check-in at the Gate. As we had been travelling over 24 hours by this stage and were beginning to feel rather tired, it is always such a miraculous feeling when the Gate barrier is lifted and we set off in search of all the KNP treasures. No matter what concerns or worries we had felt on our shoulders until this stage, as soon as we enter the Park our spirits lift and we are thrilled to be back in our idea of Paradise. It really does feel like the Kruger is a world apart.

We drove as slowly as time constraints would permit and the bush was fairly quiet but suddenly we had one of our most uplifting sightings halfway between Malelane and BnD with a group of 10 White Rhinos.
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Like many other visitors, we often ponder what our first sighting will be but we could never have anticipated this one. It was certainly the biggest group we had ever seen together and the biggest bull had an incredible scimitar-shaped horn. What a start to our trip! As they moved away into the bush we drove on to BnD, quickly grabbed some beers and wine and headed back to Malelane camp. The rhino had now disappeared but, in almost the same spot, we spotted a breeding herd of ellies with several youngsters.
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In fact, one was so small, it was still able to walk under all the others.
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By the time we reached camp we had smiles a mile wide.
We quickly unloaded the car, stacked the food in the fridge and sat down with a cold beer. Just the one though as my first task when we arrive at our first camp is to repack our luggage into a different arrangement more suited to moving around from camp to camp. We set up all our camera gear so that we can just load it into the vehicle easily each day. Then we have a technology bag (wiring, chargers etc), a bathroom bag, a Kruger clothing bag and then fill up one of the kit bags with any clothing or bits and pieces which will not be required until we leave the Park for Christmas and this can then stay in the car. I had also brought a large bag of pencils, crayons, erasers etc to give to YR Ecojunkie who would then take them to the children in Malelane village. This trip I had probably got more than 1000 so it left a nice big hole in my bag. EJ was probably out on a drive when we got to camp and I just left them by her caravan as she knew I would be bringing them.

Time now to prepare some dinner and finally sit down to eat as well as raising a glass to another successful trip. After which we were soon in our beds and sound asleep, with the alarm set for 4 am, the night would soon fly by.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:28 pm 
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Monday, 12th December

When the alarm sounded it was quite a struggle to get up. Although we were still tired from the journey, we cannot bear to think we are missing out on one of the best times of the day. As we were only here for one night, we had decided to go out on an early drive before returning to cook breakfast and load up again to move onto the next camp. Keeping on the tar road we opted to drive the Matjulu loop where we found elephant, giraffe and 2 white rhinos.

As we rejoined the tar near BnD, passing zebras and warthog, we soon saw several brake lights in the distance. As we approached slowly, we wondered who was out and about to greet us......spread out, so close to the road we could almost touch them, were a pack of 15 wild dogs. They had obviously had a busy night as almost all were sleeping soundly and they looked healthy and contented.
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Back at camp I quickly cooked breakfast which we endeavoured to eat whilst avoiding the troop of vervet monkeys. As in many places, they have become a real nuisance and you have to watch them like a hawk to prevent their thieving. With the car loaded we were soon back on the road driving along the S25. This morning the road was quiet but we saw a warthog with all her babies, a crowned plover
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a juvenile Martial Eagle
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and a Wahlberg’s Eagle eating a lizard for breakfast.
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We popped into Crocodile Bridge to fill up the car and buy some ice cream as the temperature was rising fast. I love the heat but coming from a very cold UK, it takes my body a day or two to adjust to the African sun.
We returned to the road and headed north, deciding to try our luck on the S28 as we had been told cheetah were in the vicinity and we had failed to spot any during our August trip. Pausing to watch another eagle, it was not long before an approaching car stopped and we were pleased to have a chat with our first YR of the trip, Leachy. Many thanks for stopping, Ian, and hope your trip was as enjoyable as ours. He had been due to stay at Lower Sabie but was moving back down to Croc Bridge to meet up with Aat and then moving northwards.
We failed to find any cheetah along the road but did enjoy sightings of Cape Buffalo, Zebra, Wildebeest, several lone Elephants
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and a Secretary bird striding out in the distance. We called in at Ntandanyathi Bird hide to watch a Green-backed Heron, Fish Eagle, Terrapins and Egyptian Geese.
At Sunset Dam we saw Crocodiles, Hippos, an Egyptian Goose with her goslings,
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Fish Eagle,
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Yellow-billed Stork,
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Grey Herons and Blacksmith Plovers.
We now headed back to Lower Sabie to check in and get settled into our Safari tent. The day was very hot and we were concerned that our food really needed to be back in a fridge. Whilst I know there is nothing we can do about the later check-in times, we found it an ever-increasing problem when we were moving camps, that the time between leaving at 4.30am (and we loaded the food into the coolboxes as the very last item) we just could not keep it cold until the next check in . At one stage we even had to throw out several packs of meat as it had begun to go off. We had bought more than usual when we stopped at Malelane, partly because we had had so many problems with shopping in the camp shops in August, but if we could not keep it cold enough then this was still a problem. As a matter of interest, are we the only ones to have this problem?
Our tent (number 29) had a lovely view across the river and we opted to settle down on the verandah with a cold beer rather than going back out again in the car. We had lots of birds around us and particularly enjoyed the company of a Heuglins Robin and its youngster. We were very close to the safari tent which burnt down last year (number 26 I think) and nothing has been done to replace it yet. During our 3 days at LS, it was interesting to note that we had several staff visits to look at our electrics, one person even asking if we felt safe in our tent. Well, we did until he asked us! Anyway we settled back to watch the sunset.
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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:03 pm 
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Tuesday, 13th December

We both slept well and managed to be up and out of the gate soon after it opened at 4.30am. Our first sighting was a spotted hyena along the tar road heading south, followed by lots of impalas with their lambs. 3 bull elephant were seen by Gomondwane and then another hyena on a mission. Our plan was to return northwards along the S28 but we could see several cars parked on the bridge near Gezantfombi and wanted to them the location out before turning onto the gravel road. We were very glad we had done so as one lioness was reclining along the edge of the dam
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and when we took the short road up to view the site from the other side we found her two companions nearby – one of whom had a radio collar.
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Also down near the water was a white rhino.
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As there were only a few vehicles parked along the bank, we opted to stay for a while and enjoy our morning coffee.
More awake now after a dose of caffeine, we turned onto the S28. We were still hoping to spot cheetah but they were as elusive as ever. We were far from disappointed though with a wonderful range of sightings along this road – Common Reedbuck (a very rare spot for us), Giraffe, Wildebeest, White Rhino, Black-backed Jackal, Bull Elephant, 2 more white rhino, Kori Bustard, several Warthog families, the noisiest group of Magpie Shrikes we had ever heard (we had brought a small recording device for bush sounds and listening again to their calling is amazing),
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Common Duiker, Steppe Buzzard and 2 male Bushbuck. Quite a good tally for this road we felt.
Once back on the tar road, we soon found another YR – WendyA and her friends from the States. It was lovely to meet you all and I’m sorry we did not get to meet up for a braai and a drink as planned. I hope your trip was as memorable as ours and I know we will soon be catching up via your TR.
After a quick look around Sunset Dam – Hippos, Crocodile, Hadeda Ibis, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey Herons and Black-winged Stilts
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- it was back to camp for a well-earned breakfast.
Back on the road we decided to drive up to Mlondozi Dam – after our numerous sightings before breakfast, we were surprised to have a very quiet journey there. Lots of families were already at the Dam, many just cooking up their own breakfast and trying to keep the vervets from stealing their food. We sat down to look around and it was not long before we had people coming to ask Richard about the ‘bazooka’ (his 500mm lens). His pride and joy first ‘joined’ us in August 2011 and I don’t think we stop or rest anywhere without being asked about his formidable lens. It is always a pleasure to show everyone, but especially the children, just how much detail it captures. Having sat watching the hippos and zebra for a while, suddenly one of the young lads called out ‘leopard’. Without fail, everyone rose up and dashed to the side of the shelter to catch sight of a spotted friend. I am not sure if we managed to get any photo as he dashed along the edge of the Dam and then made his way quickly up the bank and out of sight again.
Back in the car we took the tar road northwards and enjoyed plenty of sights – Elephant, Cape Buffalo (thus making it a Big 5 day), Kudu,
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some fascinating Waterbuck interaction with a one horned bull winning out each time, Hippos, 2 breeding herds of Elephant, Wildebeest and 2 separate pairs of white Rhino. We called into Tshokwane for a comfort break and a much needed ice lolly to cool us down. Taking the H1-2 south, we found another breeding herd of ellies, a small herd of Buffalo, White-headed Vulture
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and a Tawny Eagle. Along the H12 towards the high-water bridge, a large troop of Baboons meandered along the road. And we saw Steenbok, Kudu and a large Tusker as we drove down Eloff Street.
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At Sunset Dam an Open-billed Stork was busy feeding.
As we were booked on the Sunset Drive later, it was time to return to our tent and prepare a meal. For reasons we never did find out, Sunset Drives start at a different time in each camp and costs different amounts also. The costs may vary (we think) according to it leaving from a Main Camp or a Bush Camp but the difference in starting times still remains a mystery. In fact, some started so early, it would have been as easy to stay out in your own car. However, we have never been disappointed with drives from Lower Sabie and we would not be this evening. As we climbed aboard the truck, we met Anne-Marie (YR Anri) – it was a great pleasure to meet you and share the evening. A Grey Heron was Hippo-surfing on Sunset Dam
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And our first big sighting was a lioness along the S28 – I think a group of lions had been in the area all day but her companions were not visible tonight.
We had returned to the tar road now and were somewhat bemused by the number of cars still out on the roads. It must have been touch and go as to their chance of reaching camp before gate closure. An even bigger surprise was when our truck was passed at great speed by a car heading south as there was no chance whatsoever of making it down to Croc Bridge. Strange as this was, the situation became odder still when 5 minutes later the same vehicle was racing back towards us. This time the Guide made sure the driver stopped and asked him what on earth he was doing. Their reply was nothing short of incredible as he admitted he was lost and was looking for Crocodile Bridge Gate. As it was by now way past gate closure time, our guide warned him and explained that he must keep to the speed limit and he would be fined when he got to the Gate. Just how you can get lost on a main tar road which runs north/south and has copious signposts along it I really cannot imagine and if it had not been a serious situation, in its own way was quite funny. But we had a beautiful sunset to look at.
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The trees were filling with White-backed Vultures who were settling down for the night and then both Small- and Large-spotted Genets were seen. I think I recall that Anne-Marie had not seen them before so this was a huge thumbs-up for her. Then another White Rhino, Black-backed Jackal, a family group of Porcupine (huge smile from everyone for these as several had not seen them before and we had only spotted them once on a previous trip) although I don’t think we managed to get a photo. Getting a picture on the night drives is always difficult I find – the sightings come without warning mostly and then they disappear almost as quickly. Nightjars were settling on the road and a Pearl-spotted Owlet watched us from a branch. Before returning to camp we also saw Scrub Hare, Hippos on their way to feed, Kudu and Steenbok. Our guide was Irving and he was very knowledgeable and good fun.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:17 pm 
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Wednesday, 14th December 2011

The alarm woke us again at 4am and I crawled out of bed to fill the kettle ready to make up our morning coffee flask. In truth I am not a morning person but I never seem to struggle when in Kruger. I guess it is just the excitement of what we might see as we drive out from camp. As we had seen lion along the northern part of the S28 on the sunset drive yesterday evening, we hoped they might still be in the area so we turned south along the tar road. It was only 5 minutes after gate opening but there were no other vehicles in sight and we had the road to ourselves. Sometimes we just pop along to the Sabie River Bridge but, as no other cars were parked along it, we decided to continue south and this was certainly the right choice this morning. Only a short distance later we spotted a leopard on the ground, very close to the road but making his way down to the river.
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Amazingly we tracked him for nearly 20 minutes before he vanished deep into the tall grass and not another vehicle passed us in all that time. Knowing how many guests were staying at Lower Sabie, even now I find this incredible. What a fantastic start to our day.
Turning onto the S28 a group of Dwarf Mongoose were playing along the roadside, then a single Rhino enjoying a tasty breakfast
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but the lions had moved from their location. At least they had not moved too far as the turn to Ntandanyathi Hide was full of parked vehicles watching lions move back into the bush. As we could see nothing from our position at the end of the queue, we crept past and continued to the hide itself. Again this was a lucky move for us as from inside the hide we could see a Male Lion parading along the far bank, roaring to his compatriots. A few birds were also up and about close to the hide – Green-backed Heron,
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Pied Kingfisher, Giant Eagle Owl and a Yellow-billed Stork.
Back on the road we soon turned right onto the S137 to spot several Warthogs, Ostrich, Vultures on a nest and a delightful Rhino family – Mum, Dad and Baby.
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At the T junction we turned left to follow the S130 and about halfway along this sand road, joined 2 other vehicles watching a large Hyena den. It was one of the largest dens we had seen with lots of nursing mothers and countless pups, the younger ones suckling and their older siblings playing tag in and out of the surrounding trees.
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As there was plenty of space for other vehicles to stop and enjoy the sighting, we decided to have our morning coffee with them. The hyena seemed quite oblivious to their audience and it was a joy to watch them rest and play in the morning sunshine.
Moving on we passed a Warthog family with 6 small piglets and then 4 Giraffe gliding through the bush. We then found a bush at the side of the road which had some remarkable ‘fruit’?
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If anyone can identify for us, we would like to know what it is.
At the next junction we re-joined the tar road and headed south spotting a large Bull Elephant,
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a Speke’s Hinged Tortoise
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and another Hyena along the way.
Now we took the S28 heading north spotting more giraffe and a large herd of Buffalo
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thus making it a Big5 day already – a thrill for us as we do not make a Big5 day very often. The wildlife was definitely up and about now as we found more Giraffe, Red-backed Shrike,
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Zebras, Wildebeest, Elephants White Rhino and then parked up to watch a large herd of Buffalo cross the road. It is a humbling experience to watch these herds move through the bush and really emphasises that we are in their world rather than the other way round.
Before returning to camp, we drove up to check the residents of Sunset Dam where all the usual suspects were out and about. We also met our next YR – Friedrich Von Horsten and his SO, Michelle. It was lovely to spend time chatting and sharing sightings. We knew they had also been staying at Lower Sabie and we would be overlapping later in our trip at Pretoriuskop. With such a busy few hours and such wonderful sightings, we returned to camp for some lunch and a quiet siesta on our verandah, listening to the birds around us.
At 3pm we set off again to explore some of the roads north of the camp. Along the S29 we found 2 Dagga boys with nearby Egrets, a lovely group of 5 Kudu, a Crested Korhaan, Warthog, Giraffe and Zebras. The S122 (Muntshe Loop) was very quiet but towards the end we found a male Saddle-billed Stork.
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White Rhino, Buffalo and a lone Wildebeest. Back on the tar we watched 3 Bull Elephant striding out across the savannah.
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A Brown Snake Eagle perched in a tree along the S129
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and we saw another group of 8 Kudu along the S128. This group included 2 young males and a baby. As we approached the junction of the S128/S29, we spotted what we thought to be a branch in the road. As we drew alongside, however, we found it was a large snake. Initially we wondered if it was alive as it did not seem the most likely place for such a large reptile to stay but his tongue was busy checking things out and we could not see any injuries. I have a reptile book at home but do not take it with me as it is very heavy (only my trusty Newmans normally travels with us) but having studied both our photos and the book on our return home, we are fairly certain it was a Python.
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If any experts are reading our TR, please advise if you think we are mistaken with our choice. Whatever he/she was, we were thrilled to find it and just prayed no speedsters would find him stretched out across the sand road. Continuing south we spotted another warthog family, a couple of Zebras and pausing at Sunset Dam before returning to camp for a well-earned dinner, followed a Giant Kingfisher searching for his next meal.
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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:34 pm 
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Thursday 15th December 2011

We got up as soon as the alarm rang since we would be moving camp today. Looking outside the tent we could see that it had rained overnight – we must have slept soundly as neither of us had heard a sound! With the car loaded up we left Lower Sabie and headed northwards along Eloff Street. It was certainly a quiet morning everywhere – perhaps the rain had left them all seeking shelter. Just a few sightings to keep us on our toes – Vervet Monkeys, White-backed Vultures, Leopard Tortoise, Warthogs and a large troop of Baboons as we approached the high-water bridge. Ever hopeful, we peered along the riverbank and rock pools searching for the elusive otters but they were not out and about this morning. The hippos were back in the water and also a Goliath Heron seeking his first meal of the day. Several giraffe were feeding close to the road and then we spotted a Giant Land Snail crossing the wet road.
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These snails fascinate me as we have only ever seen them when it has been raining or when the roads are heavy with moisture. Where do they go for all the dry months? Soon after, we enjoyed a large group of waterbuck (12+),
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Zebras and a Common Duiker.
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Pausing to check out Leeupan where only a few muddy patches remained, a few birds were out and about – Hadeda Ibis, Knob-billed ducks and a Saddle-billed Stork. At Mazithi Waterhole a male Waterbuck had come down to drink and several White-faced Whistling Ducks kept us entertained.
As we approached Satara, it was still way too early to check in so we just popped in for a comfort break and then planned a circular route to check out the area. Along the S90 we saw a juvenile Bataleur, Wildebeest and their frequent companions, a herd of Zebra. At Gudzani we headed south along the S41 to find more Giraffes, Lappet-faced Vultures
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and a White-backed Vulture. Along the infamous S100 we could see a large traffic jam ahead. As we approached slowly we could see nothing and waited for an opportunity to ask someone what they could see. It would appear that a Leopard was lying well back in the bush and, in truth, could not be seen by anyone. As more and more cars joined the queue and the traffic jam became an absolute road block, we took the first opportunity to move away .Sometimes you really can have far too many ‘watchers’ and we really felt we would see very little. If the leopard got up and moved, there was no way he (or she) would be heading through the sea of vehicles and the attitude of some of the drivers left a lot to be desired. Soon a slender Mongoose crossed the road – a sighting we had to ourselves.
Finally it was close enough to check-in time so we returned to Satara and quickly dealt with the paperwork. Desperate to empty our coolbox into the fridge (Elsa – we will try your idea of wrapping food in newspaper as well to try to keep it colder), I made some sandwiches for lunch and we quickly returned to go out driving. We had only managed to get one night at Satara and were keen to cover as much of the area as possible.
We took the H7 and soon spotted 2 Kori Bustards making their way through the bush. One of our favourite places to just sit and watch is Nsemani Dam – not only does there usually seem a wide range of animals who pass by and stop for a drink but there is the huge bonus of having a long stretch of road where everyone can stop without causing a road block. Several cars were already parked nearby and only when we stopped ourselves did we realise they were looking at the southern side rather than across the Dam itself. It did not take long before we spotted the main attraction – lions. At first we could only see 2 lionesses and we were certain they were looking to cross the road and go down to the Dam for a drink. As there was plenty of space to move our car across to the side of the road closest to the water, we did so and what a stroke of luck that was. As the first 2 adults crossed the road, other lions seemed to appear from nowhere until we found we had one of the best lion sightings ever. The pride was huge – 3 adult males, lots of lionesses and cubs of all ages. All had come down to the Dam to drink. With so many stretched out along the bank and in between the bushes, it was difficult to count them all but we are certain there were 18+. All the adults looked in prime condition but several of the cubs looked less well nourished. Realistically, hunting to feed such an enormous pride must be a nightmare.
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With the temperatures soaring, many other animals were seeking refreshment at the Dam – Waterbuck, Yellow-billed Stork, Impala (the opposite side to the Lions!), Zebra, Baboons and Hippos. I know so many people rate the S100 as their ‘must-do’ road but, for us, Nsemani Dam has rarely let us down for amazing sightings.
When the lions finally headed off into the bush, we headed north along the S40, then along the S127 and finally back to Satara along the tar road spotting along the way Zebra, Wildebeest, Ostriches, Giraffe and several Bull Elephant. It had been a memorable day with much to talk about as we sat down to dinner and a celebratory bottle of wine.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:30 pm 
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Friday 16th December 2011

Despite being tired, our sleep had been interrupted by the thunderstorm which circled overhead all through the night. When we got up at 4am it was still raining heavily but we had to repack the car as we were off to Punda Maria. We would not normally choose such a long drive but we had had to accept whatever camps had accommodation for us. We had chosen Shingwedzi for our northern camp in August but this time really wanted to spend some time at Punda. In some ways the rain may have done us a favour insofar as we did not expect to see too much along the way. We were very surprised to find another lion pride along the H1-4 northwards especially as they also had cubs who were about 1 year old. They all looked keen to be out of the rain though. Further along the road a Red-Crested Korhaan was seeking shelter. Soon after the junction with the Olifants road a Spotted Hyena was running along the road and then a troop of Baboons. As we had made good progress so far, we opted to take the S46 sand road to Letaba, probably in the hope that our luck may find us some cats along the riverbank. Last trip we had both lions and leopard along this road but not this morning; just another 2 Kori Bustards and a single Giraffe.
Following a quick comfort break at Letaba, we returned to the tar road northwards. We could see little along the riverbank but found 3 Tawny Eagles in trees close to the road.
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The wildlife was still quiet, a Bull Elephant
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and a few Wildebeest with their allies the Zebra. As it is such a short detour away from the main road, we popped into Shipandani Hide. The rain had eased off but only a few hippos, a Water Dikkop
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and a Hammerkop were close by. Back to the tar, a few Bull Elephant were passed then Waterbuck and a single Cape Buffalo. If ever an animal is not distracted by the rain, then it has to be the Elephant and, as we approached Grysbok Waterhole, we could see a breeding herd preparing to cross the road. We stopped well back to ensure they had plenty of space especially as we could see that had some very young babies.
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It is such a thrill to watch the interaction in these breeding herds – babies staying close to Mum, teenagers eager to race off to play some game of their own, the adults keeping an eye open for them all. So engrossed were we in all their antics that it took some time before we realised just how many elephants there were. Those crossing the road just kept on coming and still more where drinking at the waterhole. By now we had been joined by several other vehicles – both north and south of the ‘road block’. I cannot recall just how long we did sit watching and waiting but trying to make a quick count of the herd came to 100+. We had never seen such a large herd together – a truly amazing sight.
By now our stomachs were starting to grumble and we stopped at Shingwedzi for some lunch. The break in the weather was short lived and the rain was now very heavy so we had no sightings as we ate our hamburgers. But the memory of those ellies would stay with us for a long time. Back on the road we still had a far way to go and only when the rains eased off again did we find a Tortoise,
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Woodland Kingfishers, Ground Hornbill and a few Zebras as we got nearer to camp.
It did not take long to check in and we drove along to Safari Tent 7. We had only stayed at Punda once before – probably 10 years ago and we had a small (really small) tent. In truth it was a trip we had booked but could not really afford. We had begun with an attempt on the Otter Trail from Tsitsikamma and then planned to drive north and have some time in Kruger before flying home. Camping was the only affordable option for us in the Park and the tent, sleeping bags etc all had to be brought out in our luggage .We made a lot of friends on that trip partly because all the other campers could not believe the size tent we had and how little we had. It was a huge laugh but realistically I do not think we could try that one again – we are in our 60s and our backs suffered daily. In Europe, campsites are invariably on grass and we had never considered that in Africa, camping is normally on hard (very hard) ground. However, I digress, and this time we planned to stay in a bit more comfort. The safari tent was lovely – comfortable inside and lots of space on the deck to cook, eat and relax. It had been a very long day and after a good dinner and a bottle of wine we retreated to bed but, for once, did not set the alarm.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:48 pm 
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Saturday, 17th December 2011

We slept well and did not race to get up as we were booked in for 3 nights and thought we were due a more restful day. After a leisurely breakfast we decided to drive the Mahonie Loop which was fairly quiet but we spotted Bushbuck, Hinged Tortoise, Buffalo,
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Steenbok, Kudu, Nyala, Zebra and a Marabou Stork. Then it was back to camp where we sat relaxing on our deck until we left for a sunset drive.
As we left camp 5 large Bull Elephant were just outside the Gate – probably just been down to the waterhole by the camp for a drink.
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We planned to drive along the S60 for a while and then return the same way in time for camp gate closure. Oh those best laid plans!! We found Kudu,
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Zebra and Nyala and, when we reached the S59 junction, turned round to ensure we returned to camp before gate closure. As I was driving quite slowly, I didn’t realise at first that we had a problem. The windows were open and we were listening out for any relevant sounds. Eventually SO and I looked at each other and said ‘What’s that?’ Something doesn’t sound right. As he looked out of the window he could see we had a flat tyre. :doh:
We stopped to have a think – it did not look the safest place to get out, we had no mobile (cell) coverage, we could not see another vehicle anywhere and the time was passing. We opted to drive slowly on as we could not think what else to do. The time seemed to pass more quickly, still not another vehicle and little chance of making gate closure. We are trying not to panic. We have had many punctures in KNP over the years but never had we felt so isolated – very much a case of wrong place, wrong time. Suddenly I saw a car in the distance. I flashed my lights and hoped the driver would stop. Luckily he did – we asked if he would mind parking his vehicle so that we would have a bit of cover to enable us to change the tyre. No problem he said. As he got out of his vehicle we could see he was wearing SANP uniform but he did not have a name badge on. He had his wife and daughter in the car and as he helped us change the tyre – in truth he virtually changed the tyre for us :clap: :clap: – he said he was on his way to deliver something to Pafuri Picnic Site. ‘ For Frank?’ we asked. ‘Yes’ he replied. ‘Do you know him?’ Our plan had been to go up there the next day and we chatted about YRs etc. Knowing we would now have to forego any plans for the next day in order to seek out a new tyre – it would not be the first time we have had 2 punctures close together – we asked him to pass on our best wishes to Frank and persuaded him to take a large tip for helping us out.
It was with great relief that we arrived back in camp on time (just) and we returned to our safari tent to work out a solution to our problem. Thank goodness we had brought our own RSA map since the hire car companies never give you anything these days. The nearest options seemed to be Thohoyandou and further still Tzaneen but, perhaps a better solution for us, would be to stay in camp the next day and the day after when we would be moving down to Letaba, we could keep to the tar and drive to Phalaborwa before checking into Letaba. We decided to talk through the options with Reception in the morning. Feeling somewhat stressed I cooked up some pasta for dinner, poured out 2 glasses of wine and sat down to recover. As if it must have known we needed a boost to our spirits, a Thick-Tailed Bushbaby came to join us on our deck. Sorry, no photo as we had put the cameras inside but we felt so much better for his visit.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:46 pm 
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Sunday 18th December 2011

Since we would be in camp for the day, we grabbed a few extra hours in bed but then decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant breakfast. It would also give us a chance to speak to Reception about the chances of dealing with our tyre problem. The guy at Reception thought there would be a scrapyard in Thohoyandou to fix the tyre but we explained we did not think this would be the most acceptable answer to the rental company. Tzaneen was the closest town to actually buy a tyre but looked that this might take the entire day. Our plan to drive to Phalaborwa the next day before moving into Letaba was the only viable option left so this was decided upon. Before leaving the office we explained what had happened with our Good Samaritan and asked if he could let the Manager know as we wanted to make sure that his assistance and kindness had been acknowledged. The man behind the desk smiled broadly and explained that the Camp Manager was well aware of what had happened as it was the Manager himself who had stopped for us. Indeed, as we sat outside enjoying our breakfast, the Manager, Johan, came up to see us and check how we were and what we proposed to do about the tyre. He agreed our Phala option was the best solution and wished us an enjoyable stay for the rest of our time in the Park.
We decided to able down to the Bird Hide for a while and see what would pass by. As it turned out, very little. In 2 hours just a couple of Nyala
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and some Dragonflies.
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However, we were joined in the hide by 2 Namibians now living in South Africa but truly hooked on wildlife throughout the continent. As there was no-one else in the hide to object (i.e. like a library they usually ask for silence) and no visitors to the waterhole, we talked nonstop for hours. Swopping stories from our travels, places in Namibia, Botswana and any other countries we had travelled through, the cheapest way to bring a car across from the UK to South Africa if we were to come for an extended visit. It was a memorable morning and one we will remember for a long time.
We had booked a Sunset Drive and when we waited for the truck to arrive, appeared to be the only guests booked. We have found that the drives at the southern camps are still fairly full (probably because there are more short stay guests who want to experience as much as they can within a few days) but moving northwards we have often found ourselves as the only people booked on a drive. Another factor is probably the cost which is certainly not insubstantial now. A Sunset Drive at Punda is currently R250.00 per person and even when we are staying in the Park for 2-3 weeks, we can only afford to do 3 maybe 4 during our stay. We don’t begrudge the money but, like everyone else, we have to budget especially as so many other parts of our stay have increased in cost dramatically. Still, when you get a good Guide and some great company with other guests, the drives can be amazing. This evening would definitely be one of these.
Our guide, Thomas, arrived and introduced himself. Another couple then raced up to the truck hoping they were not too late and apologising to us for delaying the Drive. Ironically they were late because they had also had a car problem on the way to the Park – in their case the wheel had come off the car completely. They had rung a Breakdown Company who brought out a courtesy car but the car was 300 km away and the couple were panicking in case it would not arrive in time for them to reach Punda at all. Fortunately they made it in time and joined us on the Sunset Drive. Thomas asked us if we had any particular wishes for the Drive and the Jo’burg couple (Hannelina and Lance) explained that they had quickly booked this brief trip to Punda in the hope of see the Pennant-winged Nightjar and their main interest was birds, however, they were quite happy to look for something else if Richard and I had different wishes. One of the reasons we had booked Punda was to see more birds so we were very happy to go out with a ‘Bird Theme’. You know what it’s like when a plan comes together. Thomas, our guide, was a real bird expert (he is a great friend of Frank at Pafuri and they often go birding together), Hannelina works for Bird Life South Africa and her husband, Lance, hugely knowledgeable about birdlife around the world. Just us still learning more each trip but loving it.
In essence we drove around the Mahonie Loop and because we were trying to photograph what we could before darkness fell, our sightings list was written up the next day. I know we will have missed several species not the least because we saw and heard so much. Not only could Thomas, Hannelina and Lance spot birds quickly, they could identify many other species just by their call almost instantly. We just did not know which way to look next. I know I will have missed out several sightings on the following list but amongst those seen on this unforgettable evening were:-
Elephant,
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Cape Buffalo, Common Duiker, Kudu, Sharpe’s Grysbok, Scrub Hare, Spring Hare, Nyala,
Broad-billed Rollers,
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Mozambican Nightjar, Puffback, Black-collared Barbet, Brown Snake Eagle,
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Scops Owl (heard but could not seen), Diederik Cuckoo,
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Jacobin Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo,
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Fork-tailed Drongo, European Bee-eaters,
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Burchell’s Coucal, Grey Hornbill,
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Striped Kingfisher, Violet-backed Starling,
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Grey-headed Parrot, Speckled Mousebird, Indian Myna, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Paradise Flycatcher, Red-billed Quelea, Red-billed Oxpecker,
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Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Hammerkop.
One bird you will notice is missing from the above list but, Thomas had a plan for the end of our evening. In view of the fact that we had already been out for our allotted time we were expecting to be soon back in camp but when Thomas asked if we were in any hurry to go back yet, the unanimous answer from the truck was a resounding ‘no’. He explained that there was a special area where we would stand the best chance of finding the Pennant-winged Nightjars – definitely off the public track – and he drove us to a small open area and switched off the engine. It is such a special feeling to be able to sit out in the bush, away from camps or lights or any other vehicles and just listen and watch. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, it is surprising what you can see and finally, to the absolute delight of everyone, a few Nightjars flew backwards and forwards past our vehicle. Sadly their ‘pennants’ had been lost in the last few days but we could still see the white wing tips where they had been. When we eventually returned to camp our hearts were racing and our faces were lit up with huge smiles. This evening was definitely one of our most memorable Sunset Drives ever – if I close my eyes I can still see the Nightjars flying past us. Thank you Thomas – our star guide for this trip!
We were so excited when we returned to our Safari tent, that we knew we would not be able to settle down to sleep even though it was late (we had been out for over 4 hours) and we must leave at gate opening the next day. So we sat down for a nightcap and soaked up the atmosphere of Punda for the last evening.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:00 pm 
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Monday 19th December 2011

We were up as soon as the alarm rang and quickly got ready and loaded the car. Knowing we must resolve our tyre problem we needed to be on the road as quickly as possible. For this reason I needed to drive at a higher speed (keeping to the Park rules of course) but the roads were quiet on the whole. We paused to enjoy a large herd of Buffalo (100+) and a Secretary Bird striding out into the bush.
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As we approached the turning for Shingwedzi, we spotted another YR. This morning it was Sparrow and we enjoyed a few minutes chat on sightings we had had over the last few days. Thank you for sharing time with us, Sparrow. It was a great pleasure to meet you and I hope your trip continued to go well.
We continued south along the tar and gradually the wildlife appeared – a large Bull Elephant,
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Spotted Hyena, more Buffalo, Steppe Eagle, Martial Eagle and a juvenile Fish Eagle.
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We stopped at Mooiplas for a comfort and coffee break. Another Bull Elelphant wandered close by and a new sighting (for us) lots of Mopani Worm Caterpillars.
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What a fascinating animal this was as they raced across the ground and then climbed up trees. Also their amazing colours kept us enthralled. However, we had no time to waste and we were soon back on the road. We opted to take the H14 towards Phalaborwa; not a road we travel along often although we did have a few nights at Shimuwini a few trips ago. Another Hyena was out and about, then a small herd of Elephant and a Yellow-billed Kite. At the Letaba River crossing we were hoping to spot a few birds but this morning just an Egyptian goose kept the Hippos company. Several Giraffe were close to the road as we drove along the H9 and soon we had arrived at Phalaborwa Gate.
As we stopped for the staff to check our paperwork, we asked if they knew where we could find a tyre depot. Although they did not have any address to offer, they kindly explained how to reach a Spar supermarket close by and they felt sure someone in there would be able to give us a name and address. We have never been through this Gate or, indeed, to this town so we were totally in the dark as to where we should try. Luckily the directions given to reach the supermarket were excellent and Richard went in to ask for more help. It did not take long before he returned and off we went in search of the Tyre Depot a Spar staff member had suggested. The manager came to look at our damaged tyre and confirmed it was beyond repair so went off to find us a suitable replacement. We were so very grateful for the kindness and help given by everyone. As we have told so many people, we may come to South Africa for the wildlife in the first instance but we also have all the time in the world for the people we meet. Thank you to everyone who helped us in Phalaborwa.
Driving back to the Gate, we saw the same people who had suggested the supermarket to get the information and we were able to thank him again before he let us through the barrier. Oh the relief of knowing that we now had a working spare tyre....just in case! The temperature had soared and we decided to try our luck at Sable Hide and keep cool. As we parked outside the hide, we could see a breeding herd of Elephants coming down to the water. We grabbed our cameras and dashed inside to get a ringside seat. What a joy it was to watch them bathe and play in the water.
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The youngsters staying close to their mothers and the teenagers boldly swimming out into the deeper water. It is such a privilege to be able to watch animals interact like this and our cameras were kept busy. Several birds were also nearby - Yellow-billed Kite, Cattle Egret,
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Fish Eagle and White-headed Vultures.
Once the Elephants had left the Dam, we knew we must get back on the road. Time was passing quickly and we needed to get to Letaba to check in. Spotting a few cars at Nhlanganini Waterhole, we pulled onto the short track to check what they were watching. It was a group of Bull Ellies who had come down to bathe and cool off in the water – one was a tusker fitted with a collar. Hippos, Crocodiles, and a Fish Eagle were also around.
It did not take long to drive to Letaba and we stopped by Reception to gather our paperwork to check in. What made me suddenly look at the paperwork more closely I do not know but it was definitely a good thing that I did. We were due to stay at Letaba for just one night and then move down to Balule where we had booked (we thought) a hut for 2 nights. As I looked at the confirmation paper I suddenly realised we had actually booked a campsite place for Balule. Disaster! Obviously we had no tent and we certainly didn’t think we could manage to sleep in the car for 2 nights – well, I would if desperate but SO is much taller and does not fold up so well. Thank goodness we found someone at reception who was prepared to search for an alternative. All the Balule huts were booked so that was not an option, Satara was also full but we managed to change our campsite booking for 2 nights at Skukuza. Just shows you should always check your paperwork. Another problem solved and we could settle down with a cold beer before preparing dinner with a Heuglin’s Robin
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and Kurrichane Thrush for company.
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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:39 pm 
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Tuesday 20th December 2011

Leaving camp this morning we headed south on the H1-5. A Warthog looked up from his grazing to watch us pass by, 2 Kori Bustards were striding out and a Yellow-billed Kite and White-backed Vultures in trees by the river bank. As always, we parked up on the Olifants Bridge and got out to check the water below. All quiet but a Spotted Hyena near the end of the bridge (best return to the car then!), Waterbuck and definitely the sound of a Lion roaring. We waited and waited but we could not see where he was hiding. Back on the road we passed Giraffe,
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Zebras and a Lappet-faced Vulture.
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We turned onto the S127 towards Timbavati and then south on the S40 only spotting a lonely Steenbok along the way. At Nsemani we found Zebras, Fish Eagle, Hippos, Giraffe and some young Impies.
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We stopped at Satara for a breakfast. The service was woeful and the new Restaurant Manager who had only been in post for a few days was struggling to keep customers calm. I know this topic crops up time and again in TRs but it surely cannot be rocket science to provide an acceptable catering experience in camps – especially those which are always full and therefore have plenty of potential customers. Luckily the wildlife came to the rescue as a large Water Monitor made its way across the lawns and kept everyone entertained.
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Finally fed and watered, we returned to the car and head south again. We were not long before seeing several cars parked up ahead, close to the H6 road junction. Well back from the road but fairly easy to spot were 4 Lions, 1 male and 3 lionesses.
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We knew we were back in the busy centre as the number of vehicles jostled for position along the roadside. Much as I love watching Lions, I can only stand such traffic jams for a short while and as soon as a gap appeared we pulled out and continued southwards. There had been a short rain shower whilst we were at Satara and a Leopard Tortoise had stopped by a small puddle for a drink. Several groups of Zebra and Wildebeest watched over each other as we drove by, plus 2 Tawny Eagles, Bataleur, Burchell’s Coucal, and a Booted Eagle which refused to get in a position where we could photograph him.
At Mazithi we spotted Grey Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Egyptian Geese and a small breeding herd of Elephant with a very small baby.
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Knob-billed Ducks were seen at Leeupan, then Red-billed Oxpeckers
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and a Red-billed Buffalo Weaver. Shortly, another big surprise – a Leopard in a tree.
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It was a lovely sighting and could easily be seen by all the cars stopped by the roadside. For once they did not need to form a total roadblock and we felt able to stay for longer than we had with the Lions earlier in the day.
Moving on we spotted a Tawny Eagle on the ground,
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a Warthog family with youngsters and another Elephant herd.
As soon as we could we booked in at Skukuza and paid up for the difference in our bookings. We unloaded the car and sat down for a coffee and a rest on the verandah, watching the antics of a pair of Blue-headed Tree Agama.
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At 4.30pm we set out for our Sunset drive and headed for Lake Panic. We are not huge fans of Skukuza but the fact that it is so close to this bird hide is an enormous plus point. This afternoon we shared the company of Goliath Herons,
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Grey Herons, Green-backed Heron, Malachite Kingfisher,
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White-faced Ducks, Black Crake,
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Spotted Weavers, Egyptian Geese, Pied Kingfisher, Fish Eagles, African Jacana,
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Woodland Kingfishers as well as the resident Hippos, Terrapin and Crocodiles. It was only the thought of gate closure that forced us to head back to camp and even then we only just made it into camp on time as we watched the hyenas emerge from the den close by the bridge. It had been another amazing day in the Park and we had plenty of photos to download before sitting down to dinner.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:27 pm 
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Hi MM, Sharifa, john'n'poppy, CB,

Thanks for your kind words and I hope that you enjoy what is coming up. Nothing really jaw-dropping, but we did see lots of wildlife and tried to photograph most of it.

Carol

Here is the next instalment:

Wednesday 21st December 2011

There are just so many roads in this area to drive along in the search for wildlife that we had to be up and out of the gate as early as possible. We decided to do a circular tour around the Sabie River ie over the low water bridge and back via the high water bridge. No luck in finding a kitty cat or 2 as we had hoped but we found a small herd of Ellies on their way back from the river, a few Buffalo, a Honey Badger who raced across the road in front of our car that we had no chance to even get his picture, and a few birds close to the river – Fish Eagle, Grey Heron, Hammerkop
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and Black Stork.
Now we drove along to Lake Panic to see who was out and about. There is always someone or something to enjoy here and all our sightings were much the same as we had found yesterday afternoon.
Hippos
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Malachite Kingfisher
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Weavers
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Pied Kingfisher – with breakfast
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Green-backed Heron
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Returning to the car, we headed along the S1 and S65, passing Giraffe, Zebra, Steenbok and a troop of Baboons. We drove down to Transport Dam – always a favourite spot to sit for a while and see who comes down to the Dam. As we sat with our cups of coffee, we were spoilt for choice finding Waterbuck, Hippos, Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, Water Dikkops,
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Blacksmith Plovers, Spotted Weavers, Fork-tailed Drongos, Jacana, Green-backed Heron, Egyptian Geese, Common Sandpiper and a Marsh Harrier with his breakfast (hiding under a bush).
Back on the tar we soon spotted a Flap-necked Chameleon painstakingly crossing the road.
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Of all the animals we worry about most when we see them walking in the road, this is one of the most concerning. Their slow but deliberate stance lifting one foot up, waiting for a few seconds before progressing onto the next foot is surely as close to playing Russian Roulette in the road as it is possible to try. I always feel I have to stop where I can protect his path so that he is not wiped out by a speeding motorist. Even those cars who do stop to ask what we are watching, rarely seem to stay for long. Their loss I feel as we find Chameleons absolutely fascinating.
A few miles (sorry Kilometres for all the non Brits!) further on, we turned onto the H3 heading south and were not long before finding a Lilac Breasted Roller,
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a hint of Cheetah (it was moving through long grass and had we not asked other drivers what was there, we really would have had no idea at all), Zebras and then 3 Lions (1 male and 2 female). They don’t always cooperate for us photographers.
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Our plan was to drive down to Biyamiti Weir, stopping for Kudu along the H2-2 and found we had made a lucky choice as 4 lionesses were settled down by the river bank close to the weir.
The time was flying by and we decided to turn back towards Skukuza as we had booked a Sunset Drive and needed to eat something before we left. On the way back to camp we found a pair of Klipspringer (male and female),
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Buffalo and a single White Rhino.
When we stood waiting for the Safari trucks to arrive for our Sunset Drive, we were amazed just how many people were booked. I am not a huge fan of the very big trucks needed when it is so busy but you pay your money and you take your choice. Every seat in all the trucks were taken – definitely a bit too busy for us and with so many people on board it is always very noisy. We were not lucky with the sightings either but that’s life – Giraffe, two White Rhino,
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Warthog, 2 Leopard Tortoises fighting, a Chameleon in a tree
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but we did finish with a pride of lions at a kill.

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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:17 pm 
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Thursday 22nd December 2011

Packed up and the car loaded as we would be moving camp again today, we were one of the first vehicles out of the gate. We opted to take the tar southwards and then onto the H3 as we hoped the lion pride would still be in the area. Luckily for us, they had just crossed to the other side of the road and were stretch out on the ground with stomachs fit to burst.
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They were so full that when they did finally decide to get up and move further back into the bush, they waddled rather than walked. Still, it was great to know they had eaten so well. As we sat watching them, YR Friedrich (von Horsten) stopped alongside us. He had left his family still resting in camp and had come out in search of Cheetah but was quite happy to enjoy the lions with us. He was now based at Pretoriuskop where were also due to spend the next 2 nights and we hoped to meet up again.
When the pride eventually tired of their growing audience and moved back into the bush, we continued south to Renosterpan where we stopped for our morning coffee. Here we had the pleasure of watching Red-breasted Swallows
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some Blacksmith Plovers and, at the roadside, where the dust had settled on the web, an example of bush lacework.
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Our stomachs were now beginning to grumble and it was time to head north again in search of breakfast. Between the Pan and Afsaal we found several Rhino,
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Kudu,
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Wildebeest
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and another YR, Peter 1949. Thank you for stopping to chat and we hope you both enjoyed the rest of your trip. Waiting for our food, we checked out the Scops Owl.
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The Picnic site was quite busy and we were joined at our table by another traveller from the UK, James. He had been staying with friends in Zimbabwe before coming to Kruger and we had a very interesting discussion on all ‘matters Zim’.
I have to say, Afsaal has the best value breakfast by a mile and whenever we are staying in the south it is our preferred feeding station. It certainly keeps us satisfied until dinner so we could happily get back on the road well fed and watered.
We headed for Biyamiti Weir – could the lions have stayed in this area also? – not this time but always someone else to watch. We had passed Zebras and a European Roller along the road by the river and a large Bull Elephant was blocking the path across the weir. One vehicle had obviously tried to get past but the Elephant was having none of it. Several vehicles were waiting their turn to cross but we all had to be patient until the Bull moved away in his own good time. There is something quite reassuring that an animal can decide what should and should not happen at times. When we did finally manage to get down to the weir, we stopped to see if we could see anything interesting so close to the water. Some Impala were having a drink
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and SO got a magic shot of a Dragonfly and Damselfly complete with reflections. It was one of our favourite shots of the whole trip.
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Heading north again we passed a few Giraffe but otherwise it was fairly quiet. However, just as we turned onto the H1-1 where you have those big koppies on either side of the road, we spotted 3 Klipspringer (2 female, 1 male) almost at the side of the road.
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We had never been this close to them before and we almost expected them to race off when we stopped next to them. As with the Chameleon sighting, we were surprised just how many people slowed down to look and then drove off again. We sat for quite a while enjoying their company and watching them interact.
Pausing briefly for a Bateleur resting in the road, we soon turned onto the sand road leading down to Transport Dam. This morning we were joined by Lesser-masked Weavers, Little Bee-eater,
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Red-billed Buffalo Weavers,
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Hippo, an Impala Herd being chased by Hippos, Egyptian Geese, Water Dikkop, Common Sandpiper, Blacksmith Plovers, Waterbuck and Red-billed Quelea.
A few Dagga boys were resting close to the H1-1 and we now drove down to check out Shitlhave Dam. A large herd of Waterbuck were stretched out along the water’s edge with several of the male buck fighting amongst themselves.
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Their testosterone found another outlet, however, when a large herd of Buffalo tried to take their place at the Dam and there was much to-ing and fro-ing between the Buffalo and the Waterbuck as to who should have precedence. Eventually the Buff won and the Waterbuck moved back into the bush.
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Trying to keep out of the way of both herds were a juvenile and an adult female Saddle-billed Stork. Before getting back onto the tar, we watched a Rhino playing in the mud; it was a very hot day and he was obviously grateful for its cooling properties.
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A few Kudu were feeding as we drove past the Voortrekker road turning but soon we were at Pretoriuskop to check in. We were hot, weary, in need of a cool beer and I desperately needed to make a trip to the Laundromat. I left SO to unpack the car and I dash across the road to grab a washing machine. I did not want to waste time waiting for the drier as the day was still very hot but we had to hang out our clothes inside as the monkeys were poised watching our every move – from past experience, I do not trust them one jot!
Just time for a brief Sunset drive out to Mestel and back spotting along the way, Waterbuck, Kudu, Hippo, Fish Eagle, Elephants
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and Tortoise. After a glass of wine and a Braii dinner, we were well and truly ready for bed.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:12 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:12 am
Posts: 238
Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Friday, 23rd December 2011

This morning we planned to drive the newly resurfaced Voortrekker Road as it had been closed on our last KNP visit. Certainly it was a much improved drive but sadly the wildlife were as thin on the ground as the potholes and we only saw a single Buffalo, Kudu and an Elephant. We did hear Hyena calling but despite waiting and waiting they remained out of sight. As we approached the tar road junction, it was still too early for a breakfast stop at Afsaal and we decided to turn left and take a circular route via Biyamiti Weir before eating. As we found out later, this was not the right choice as a large group of Wild Dog were stretched out in the Afsaal car park. Just one of those things but we were rewarded with 2 Rhinos
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and a Leopard on the ground before reaching the Weir (unfortunately the photos weren’t very good). Wattled Plover were feeding along the water’s edge
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but little else. Although we spotted a small tortoise
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and some Zebra
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on our way back to the Picnic Site.
We always enjoy a full breakfast at Afsaal and it is certainly one of the best value for money meals anywhere in the Park. Like Punda, the staff here seem willing and able to go out on a limb and long may it continue. Chatting to other visitors here, we heard that Lions had been spotted at Renosterpan so we headed southwards in the hope that they were still around. En route we found a Black-shouldered Kite and a magnificent Rhino Bull
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but no Lion.
Heading northwards again along the H3, a Bateleur was resting in a tree, another Tortoise and Buffalo were close to the road and then we found 6 male Lions resting.
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Only 10.25am and already a Big Five day.
We now headed eastwards along the H1-1, spotting a European Roller near the big rocks by the junction but no Klipspringer this morning. At Transport Dam Wildebeest and Waterbuck
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shared the shoreline with Knob-billed Duck, Hammerkop (being mobbed by a Red-billed Buffalo Weaver),
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Jacana, Green-backed Heron
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and White-faced Ducks. After a very pleasant spell enjoying the wildlife here, we turned back onto the sand road and soon saw a parked car ahead of us. I approached very slowly as we could not see what had caught their interest and we pulled alongside to ask them. Only metres from the road lay a magnificent Leopard, cooling off under the shade of a tree. I reversed back and stopped behind the first car. What a morning this was turning out to be. Over the years we have been fortunate to see so many animals and birds but we could not recall seeing 2 Leopards in one day. Being such a popular road, it was not long before we were joined by several more vehicles but all parked sensibly and everyone had the chance to watch this beautiful cat. Eventually, he grew tired of his audience and moved away into the bush but we were all buzzing with excitement from the sighting.
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At the junction with the tar road, we turned left to head back towards camp but soon found two more Rhino grazing close to the road, another lying down on the grass
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and shortly after, our third Leopard for the day. This time stretched out in a tree but what a day this was turning out to be. On some trips to Kruger we have only seen one Leopard in 2 or 3 weeks so to find 3 in one day was just amazing.
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Yet another Rhino watched us as we headed eastwards and a Dark Chanting Goshawk perched close to the road.
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We stopped briefly at Shitlhave to watch Waterbuck, Black Stork and a juvenile Saddle-billed Stork.
We had booked a Sunset drive and now headed back to camp to cook a meal before we left. The weather was changing rapidly and from the darkening sky we were certain rain was coming shortly. Sure enough, when the rain did come, it was truly torrential. As we sat on the stoep eating an early dinner, people were racing back to cars and huts, splashing through new streams as the amount of rain sought the lines of least resistance around the camp. The Park was in dire need of rain but it is almost shocking to see the force of these downpours. Knowing what was to come in January, when we read of those floods, we thought back to this afternoon when the rain was so heavy, it resembled a wall of water. It was probably not the most opportune day to have booked a Sunset Drive and we wondered what would be said as we made our way to the meeting place. Just one other family were waiting with us in the rain and when our guide arrived with the truck, he asked if we would all prefer to cancel as it was still raining hard. Both the other family and ourselves would be leaving the Park tomorrow and we really wanted to continue. The guide, Lunga, did look rather downbeat but said he was willing to continue if that was what we all wanted. We knew we would probably not see as much as we had hoped due to the rain but between us we found Elephant, Buffalo, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Mozambiquan Nightjar, Water Dikkop, Chameleon, Spotted Eagle Owl,
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Common Duiker, Genet, a dead snake along the road, Woodland Kingfisher and before returning to camp Lunga found a spot to stop the vehicle, turn off the engine and we sat listening to the glorious sound of Rain Frogs. It had been an unforgettable day and we celebrated with a generous nightcap – Amarula for me and a whisky for SO.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: KNP – Packed Full of Christmas Presents
Unread postPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:28 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:12 am
Posts: 238
Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Saturday, 24th December 2011

Although we would be leaving the Park today to spend Christmas to New Year at Rissington Inn in Hazyview, we planned to drive around until the early afternoon. After all, yesterday had been so amazing, who knows what would we see today. The rain had continued to fall through the night and it was still raining when we left Pretoriuskop at 6am. All was quiet at Shitlhave apart from a juvenile Fish Eagle. Back along the tar, the rain encouraged new sightings – Crickets, Land Snails, Frogs and a spectacular black and orange frog (Sorry about the picture quality).
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Expecting fewer sightings in this wet weather, we were stunned to find a Leopard crossing the road as we approached the turn to Transport. Whether it was our LIT or LOG from yesterday, I do not know, but we were thrilled to enjoy his company again although he was obviously seeking a drier place to rest this morning (No pictures, unfortunately).
At the Dam we found Waterbuck and a Hammerkop, then Kudu on the way to Afsaal where we stopped for a hot breakfast. Driving along the S114 as we headed north, sightings were few and far between – Hinged Tortoise, juvenile Tawny Eagle (we think, but may have been a Steppe Eagle),
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Three-banded Plover, Elephants, Zebras, Kudu and a Chameleon crossing the road before Skukuza.
We had to make our customary stop at Lake Panic where the usual suspects were joined by a Diederik Cuckoo,
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a Little Bittern,
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Tawny-flanked Prinia,
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Green-backed Heron
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as well as Lesser-masked Weavers, Jacana
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and Black Crake.
As we made our way towards Phabeni Gate, we found a Steppe Eagle along the S1 and a Fish Eagle and Rhino
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at Nyamundwa Dam. Although we were sad to be leaving the Park, we were looking forward to some serious wining and dining for a few days and as well as fitting in a few day visitor slots, we would have 3 more days in the Park before flying home.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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