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 Post subject: Kruger in june - two people, two views
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 8:21 am 
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Location: Red sand, why do I keep thinking of red sand?
Day 3

(Day one and two of our vacation were spent getting to know each other and shopping in a place not mentionable on this forum, but we both did spot new birds for our lists there. For those not in the know, I'm Dutch, and Guinea Pig is South African. We decided to have a holiday in Kruger after we had extensive email and sms contact, which worked out very well. You will find her report and view beneath mine.)

Early afternoon: Guinnea Pig and I visit SANParks Head Office in the Groenkloof National Park where we meet Admin, Danie and some of the marketing and reservations people. I leave some presents and receive some which may make you lot a little :mrgreen: so I won't mention them.
As you may have read we then head for the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Pretoria which is a lovely place smack in the middle of town! If you are near it go there, we noticed Crowned Cranes, Whitefaced Ducks, and quite a few other birds there which are free flying birds and can be ticked off on your list as legal ticks according to Wildtuinman.
We meet up there with aforesaid Wildtuinman and Wildtuindogter (lovely little girl which happens to have a doting father), Pardus and Avon Vosloo and have a drink and chat. Thanks guys for wanting to see us!
In the evening we have a braai at Admin & SO's house with the Wildtuinfamily present as well. She also had us sleep there, did not want us on the road after that. Thanks again Admin!

Day 4

A 3 o'clock wake-up call for us, quick shower and waved out by Admin & SO. And we start on the road to our 2nd home, Kruger.
Some much needed coffee is bought at Middelburg and consumed while hearing the phrase that is awfully cold a few times. It must have been all of 8 °C, so nothing special to me, but Saffies seem to have other ideas about that. Into the (warm) car again and driving on, at Belfast we hit the road towards Orpen via Dullstroom.
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If ever you are going to enter Kruger via Orpen drive this road! (The R540 towards Lydenburg.) The landscape is stunning, especially if you see it like us, with hints of frost and low light sliding softly over it. At 8.00 we are at Longtompas, where I have made some panoramic photo's, of which this is one:
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We drive on to Graskop where we find a Crowned eagle sitting on top of a telephonepole. Unfortunately he is extremely camerashy, the moment my hand moves towards my camera he takes off. :cry: And he was only 6~7 meters away against a beautifull sky! (We came back after Kruger, looked for him, but could not find him.)
Then for the rest of the Panorama Route. Stunningly beautifull! We have our first look at Kruger from God's Window, after looking at the Pinnacle.
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A hint for those with a fear of heights: Look through a camera! I have a fear of heights, but did not have time for that while looking for good angles and composition. It helped me at the Three Rondawels as well, a 300 (?) meter drop right next to me, without railings or such, and it did not even interest me.

At 2 o'clock in the afternoon we were checked in at Orpen, after seeing a little game in the Timbavati area next to the road (R531). GP has never ever seen game there, so we thought it a good start. I saw the only piggy there of the whole trip, where have they gone?
Set up the tent at Maroela for the first time, actually without any problem. All the parts were there as well. :lol:
Opened a Castle and hit the road. Not even 2 minutes out of the gate we see two buffs, the animals Madach and I spent 8 long days looking for, to finally see a large herd of... 9 buffs. And now we see some just starting the drive on the first day of the Krugerpart of the vacation? Good omen we thought.
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(Not the actual one, but I like this photo.)
After that we continued on, and less than a hundred meters after getting onto the Satara Road (H7) we see a white rhino happily munching on the grass 3 meters from the road. My partner went estatic as she had not seen rhino for 5 long years and here it was right next to her!
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I needed to change the lens on my camera as it was way too close for the 100-400, and wild horses could not have dragged GP from that place. She was happily snapping away with her camera, so I went for some detail photo's.
The rhino ambled away into the bush when it decided that GP should leave some space on her CF-card for other sightings and we drove on a little ways, scanning the bush for animals. The next sighting was not in the bush though, but on the road! A car which seems to have had an accident, we could see no people, nor tracks to inform us about what had happened. When we returned later the car was gone, the glass was left as a silent witness.
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Bobbejaankrans was waiting for us, so we stayed on the tar and drove towards it. On the way we saw the first 7 wildebeest, a martial eagle, bushbuck, giraffes, and at the lookout the first of the many squirrels we saw in Kruger. Past the lookout we were driving towards Satara, but met a group of 4 elephants on and beside the road. The car in front of us was a little scared of the one in the road, so we decided to be bold and act as if we were the boss. As we cruised along toward the bull I saw it looking at us, and crossing it's frontlegs. Trouble! He was in a very playfull mood, and saw our little blue Toyota Tazz as a nice toy to be brought to order. Somehow that gave us the idea of backing up again, especially as we had already passed two ellies on the side, and did not want to be sandwitched by them. We took plenty time to take photo's of those ellies, but the bull stayed on the road and kept slowly walking into our direction. We came to a new insight then, we would not be able to shoot past him for that might endanger the other cars, so turned around and headed for the camp.
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We spotted some waterbuck which had not been there before when we passed there in the other direction, but the light was against us, and the photo's would not come out. (They didn't.) While we slowly drove back towards Maroela we wondered at what time the gate would close. At six, or at 17.30? It was past 5 already. A quick check confirmed the early time of 17.30 which meant that we were short in time. Down went the foot on the pedal, no time for more sightings, and lets hope we would not meet another ellie roadblock! In the end we passed the gate with literally seconds to spare, without actually speeding.
And then you have the odd situation, having sundowners before six, and the stars and glorious Milky Way out shortly after that, when you are used to sitting outside till eleven o'clock at home, with light. The whole trip that dislocated my sense of time, at 7 I would think it was way past 11. But it helped getting to sleep early and getting enough sleep.

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GP:

DAY 1: Enter Orpen Gate, Stay over at Maroela

After many exits at Orpen Gate, entering there was a new experience for me. Due to construction work in and round the gate it's not very neat at the moment, but we were still efficiently booked in. Staying over at Maroela means reporting at Orpen reception, easily done while you're booking into the Park as well. I was promptly told not to feed my guest to the lions!

My impression of Maroela as a first time visitor? Small (may be a bit crowded over school holidays) and not as neat as I expected. All you need is available in the shop at Orpen Gate, so make sure to stock up there. But a good place to stay over on a first night when your car companion had trouble dragging himself away from the Panorama route! As recommended we camped on the Timbavati Riverbed.

I promised DQ lots of Buffalo (quietly praying they won't disappear suddenly!) and promptly found 2 bulls right outside camp. You all know my Rhino-saga. Just after turning onto the H7 found one right by the road, quietly grazing, not minding us at all. To put it mildly, my trip was already made. I love driving the H7 (Main tar road from Orpen Gate to Satara). Lots to be seen, a stop at Bobbejaanskrans, an ellie roadblock, and we had to return to camp just after Bobbejaanskrans.

Fell asleep listening to the call of a Scops Owl, woke during the night to rain. I was home! Woke early morning to some raucous Francolins roosting just outside our 'front door'.

Maroela gets a 7/10 on my scale

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Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 10:09 am 
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Day 4
Waking up around 6 which is quite late, but we'd be moving camp to Balule that day so we needed to take down the tent and load the car, which is best done with some daylight. So we had an easy time of it, drinking coffee, my partner eating rusks (which I have renamed to dogfood for the looks of it) and looking at the very tame birds. For birding you do not need to leave the camp at all! We saw red and yellowbilled hornbills that can be approached to two meters, grey louries (Go-away birds, but I prefer the old name), wattled starling and a load of silly francolins while packing the car. A saddlebilled stork graced us with a visit just outside the fence, but forgot to get into a better place for photography. It may not have noticed the lense pointing in it's direction.
After loading the car and setting the coffeegear within reach we fill up the thermos with fresh boiled water from the communal kitchen. Those boilers are great! It saves you a lot of work, and there is always boiling water handy. Those of you who are visiting and staying in cottages or safaritents, don't forget the option of getting the water there.
Ons rij and decide to take the Rabelaisloop. On the way to the beginning of the loop we see some spotted dikkop, giraffes, wildebeest and 3 Cape vultures in a tree.
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At Rabelaisdam we have some coffee and wait for animals to pop up. None do, but I have evil ideas for the quizzes and shoot some photo's. A woodland kingfisher sings us a song, but wants to stay anonimous so I have no photo's of him.
On the road towards Bobbejaankrans we meet up with a purple roller, which is the first time I see one, and a gorgeous waterbok buck. He's a real beauty, but the intervening grass prevents me from taking any photo's of him. At Bobbejaankrans we enjoy the view for a while, long enough to be amused by the antics of a francolin and a visit from a squirrel. Obviously he's used to being fed, he is very tame. Going through my knees he actually approaches the hand which I hold out, but when he finds that there is nothing in it he nibbles one of my fingers and leaves again. Continuing on we see more giraffes and zebra, and a great sighting of whitebacked vultures on their nest, right next to the road.
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At Nsemani dam we spot a Tawny eagle, and I make a panoramic photo of the dam. That is on film, which still has to be developed, I'll post it in the Kruger Camps & Roads section later. Just outside Satara Rest Camp we meet up with a lone buffel, making a total count of 3. Another six to go and I'll have seen all the nine buffs in Kruger I happily joke. The smile falls of my face a few minutes later when we see a campervan which is towing a 4x4. That is nothing special, and will not wipe the smile off my face, but the three kids on the roof of the campervan do! A quick move and my camera is recording the scene, imagine the effects of an emergencybreak or lowhanging branch they pass... We wanted to have lunch at Satara anyway, so when we pass the reception I show the photo's to a very helpfull staff. Of course the licenseplate is in the photo's as well, and the telephone is grabbed to send out a call to other camps. Very handy those digital camera's!
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At 12.45 we leave Satara again, off to the loved by some and hated by others S100! Within 10 meters of that road we see wildebeest, zebra's and a giraffe, followed a little further by a Lilac Breasted Roller, 4 more giraffes and two rangers on bikes. They do not wave us to stop to inform us of a sighting, and we completely forget to ask them.
The S100 is a little singed in places, which does give us a better view. We see plenty of the general game, a kill just in front of the car, squirrels, vervet monkeys, terrapins, herons, Burchells coucal and two huge monitor lizards which must be over two meters long. Not a single of the large or small cats, no elephants, and no buffels, so no special sightings to be mentioned here. The kill you say? Oh, that was a Lilac Breasted Roller picking up a grasshopper. :lol:
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We turn onto the Gudzani Road (S41) and continue on the Old Main Road (S91). On the way we see 12 waterbuck, shongololo, a few duikers and a Black Crake which manages to evade my lens very well from a meter away. In the end I settle for a photo of a lovely red dragonfly, which on coming home turns out to be unsharp. If only I had taken another one...
The road is almost devoid of the larger game, and we do not even see an elephant for most of the way. It's lovely looking though, as you can see in this ± 270° panoramic photo. It's a large photo, so I have posted it as a download.
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(Click the image, wait a few seconds at that site, and click download at the lefthand bottom of that page.)
That said we come upon a scene we do not want to see. We are a bit behind schedule, and see a car in front of us being followed by a big bull elephant. The car is reversing, but not taking enough distance for the ellie to ignore them, so it is dragged all over the country. A quick timecheck shows us that we really have to go past, and we have no time for a playfull elephant so we signal the car over. The people inside it complain that they've been reversing for at least 5 kilometers and the ellie won't let them past. Sneaking a look at the ellie I notice that it is already off the gravel and happily munching the grass now that the car is a good distance away. Taking the smile off my face I make it grave again to be able to speak with the people in the car again, agreeing that elephants can be a nuisance, but that we really have to go now or we'll be late in Balule. The people agree, they have to be there as well. So off we go, past the elephant that is by now at least 5 meters from the road, and does not even look at us. The other car did not dare. We never saw those people again, they must have gone back to Satara where they will have been too late. Looking at the tracks they were not kidding about reversing more than 5 kilometers, which was not needed at all. Remember people, give elephants the space they want to have, and mostly you'll be fine.
Continuing our drive we spot a family of dwarf mongoose, duiker, ellies, steenbok, korhaan and really flocks of francolins and hornbills playing chicken with our tires, flying away at the last moment.
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Just before Balule we come upon the Hyenaden where I take a few quick photo's, and hasten towards Olifants reception. On the lowwater bridge we have our first Yellow Ribbonmeet in Kruger, Dinkybird & husband, which have invited us for dinner and sundowners. Well, the sundowners will become drinks in the dark as the sun is going down and we still need to check in at Olifants and drive the 12 kilometers back to Balule!
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Just past the low waterbridge we spot some baboons and 3 kudu, but we are running late so do not stop for a look. At Olifants I check us in at 17:18. At the reception they are not entirely happy with me, but when I say that we'll drive back without stopping unless we can't do anything else they relent and let us go. Our own eveningdrive! We drive back let's say fast without speeding, and actually have to stop for a moment to avoid driving into a herd of giraffes. The moment we can we slowly drive past, our low viewpoint (Toyota Tazz remember) gives us a very nice idea of how large a giraffe bull is at 3 meters distance.
At the gate the keeper is a little perplexed that Olifants had let us go, but he graciously lets us in. We set up the tent next to the fence and are greeted by Dinkybird & SO. Once set up we visit them for drinks and a very nice dinner. A word of warning: If you are invited to one of their dinners make sure there is plenty space in your stomach! Having a dinner next to the fence, with hyena's just 2 meters behind it is very much a Kruger experience!

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GP:
DAY 2: Maroela to Balule

After the rains it was a beautiful morning, stormclouds and not too cold. Decided on the S106 (Rabelais Loop). Quiet animalwise, but a nice drive. Saw Rabelais Hut for the first time. Good vulture sighting , Purple roller and a Woodland Kingfisher. Met an American couple living in Australia at Bobbejaankrans. Helped them a bit as they seemed quite lost on how to find game! Very quiet animalwise. Nsemani Dam did yield the usual Hippos though. Stopped at Satara for lunch. Looking forward to seeing the new-look Satara once construction is done! Love the place. A special mention to the new people running the cafeteria area. Well done! That has always been one of Satara's least good points. Fast, efficient, bigger selection. Met up with the Americans again, suggested a nightdrive to them. Not sure they knew you could do that.

Onto WTM's S100. Sorry WTM, still a favourite road for me. Lots of general game. No big ones though, but good enough for me! Took the S41/S90 to Balule. Grass very dense and high making spotting a bit difficult. I hate Francolins! They have no road manners at all! It's a miracle I haven't killed one yet. Turned into a very eventful drive this one! Bout 5-7kms after turning onto the S90 we came across an ellie bull that decided he wanted to have some fun. He was walking determinedly behind a vehicle following them. Stopping next to us I was told to turn around as this bull had forced them to do just that a good while back, he refused to let them pass. I saw him ambling off into the bushes so we decided to drive by as he was eating. No trouble, we even had a look at him. The others turned around and we never saw them again. Would like to know if big guy promptly halted them again!

By now we were LATE! Arriving at Balule Low-water bridge we met a Landy on its way to Balule, Sorry DB didn't know it was you and Hawk! But by that time GP was REALLY worried as we had to book in at Olifants still! Booked in at 17:20, gate closes at 17:30. After instructions to stop nowhere we were allowed to drive onto Balule – our own personal sunset drive! Arrived late, put up tent in the dark but we managed.
Thanks for a lovely evening DB! Having dinner with a hungry hyena 2m behind your back and a lion roaring every now and then was BRILLIANT!

Balule stole my heart. With lanterns in the toilet blocks and kitchen block this is camping at its best. Neat well-layed out camp. I fell in love with this beautiful camp. I'll be back, that's for sure. It gets 10/10 on my scale! The roads around it are to die for. LOTS of game. Between there and Olifants Camp we saw Hyenas at their den, a resident steenbuck right by Balule, lions, and everything inbetween.

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Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 2:49 pm 
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Day 5

We decide to do a morningrun and leave our stuff behind, as we are booked into Olifants that evening. We do a loop S91, H1-5, H8, S93, S44 and S92, me secretly hoping to find the African Wild Dogs on the S44 again. I had seen them there 2 years ago. That was not to be, but I'm ahead of myself here.
After filling the thermos with boiling water from the kettle in the communal kitchen (Balule has no power at all, but there is gas, and light is provided by kerosine lamps at night, very cosey) we head out looking for the leopard Dinkybird saw the day before. No such luck, but as it's rather misty it is entirely possible that we drove past it. We do spot a Francolin sitting at least 10 meters high in a dead tree, not their usual place, and 5 elephants. At N'wamazi lookout we have coffee and wait for the mist to clear enough to do some photography. A collared sunbird (or White bellied sunbird?) was flitting around, keeping me busy trying to get a nice photo of it. Not for the faint of heart, of the 8 photo's of it only one came out.
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Refreshed by the coffee we went on, seeing very little actually, the foliage combined with the mist did not allow us to see much. It did however give us a very nice view of the Letaba river from the S44.
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A little onwards we met a guide, a zebra was happily trotting down the path, so we followed it at a distance hoping it would betray the presence of predators (secretly hoping for Wild Dogs). It obviously had a date somewhere though, all it did was trot down the road, occasionally turning it's ears back to "see" if we were still following. About 2 kilometers before the Olifants lookout it veered off into the bush, having arrived at it's destination?
At Olifants lookout we stayed quite a while, looking at the hippo's, crocs, giraffes, a fisheagle and the spectacular view.

Larger pano (± 900 Kb)
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And then on to Olifants. We don't see the klipspringers or duikers this time, usually they can be found in this part of the S44, but do find a few squirrels, heron and 4 more hippo's.
At Olifants we have a bit of lunch and a drink while looking at the view. Some friendly people point out some lions approaching (really far away, in the right hand upper corner of the photo, but still on this side of the river), and while we look at them they start hunting impala. That is a very nice sight to see from so far away, and above! You are the one with the birdseye view, and can see all of the action. An ellie was crossing the river, if you look well you will be able to make out some of the lions as well.
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The above vervetwas happily eating in these photo's, but in actual fact his familymembers were quite a nuisance. Part of their charm of course, but some people can react let's say "oddly" to that. In this case we saw an irritated man throw his carkeys at one of the vervets! Not really a smart thing to do, before you know it those keys are in the tops of the trees in the hand of a vervet, and likely to stay there. But he was lucky, and may have realised that later.
We then did the road to Balule again, this time at a far lower speed. Spotted some skinks, pied and malachite kingfishers on the lowwaterbridge, whiteheaded and lappedfaced vultures roosting in a fevertree, and of course the guardian steenbok just before the camps entrance. I made myself very usefull then by making a 360 degree panoramic photo of the camp while GP refreshed herself in the ablutions. If I had done that as well it would have been possible that I could have shown you the pano and kingfishers, they were probably the best photo's anyone has ever made. However I did not, and thus managed to not copy the CF-card to harddisk. No photographic masterpieces thus to show you. *sniff*
At Olifants reception we met Jakkalsbessie who was two bungalows away from us. Taking it real easy we decided not to go out anymore but to put up our feet and enjoy the view, looking at the ellies walking below us, and the fisheagle that did not want to land in a nice photographic and near place for me. This view I have saved to harddisk, and I'll post it later. That evening we had dinner in the restaurant, and as I posted earlier I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised! Yes, it is a buffet dinner, but that gives one the choice of what and how much to eat. The staff were very friendly, even pulled out the chair for me, which I sidestepped as I think it was the lady in my company that should be honoured so. After making a choice of wine we had some starters while looking at the lovely building it is in. Unfortunately it was dark outside, so the view outside was very relaxing, just black. I want to do it during the day sometime!
The maincourse was in one word fabulous! I took 3 helpings of the chickencurry, after noticing that I liked that a lot! The beef and other meats were very good as well, but that chicken... I want the recipe. My used plates were whisked away almost unnoticed by the staff. The only thing they missed was replacing the cutlery that they took with them, but as I am a regular customer in restaurants I had located the stash of clean cutlery and simply took new with me. GP went for dessert twice while I had toast and bread with smelly cheeses. Yummy!
The bill arrived with a smile, and I payed with a smile, as it really is very cheap to European standards, and certainly had been a very nice dinner. I would recommend that restaurant to anyone.
Then we went for a nightdrive. A very pleasant experience you should treat yourself with. In this case we saw hyena, elephants, African wild cat, 3 Giant eagle owls, steenbok, both kind of hares and waterbuck.
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GP:
DAY 3: Balule to Olifants Camp

Sorry Skukuza but you've been replaced, first by Balule then by Olifants Camp. Hard to describe THE best camp I've ever been at. After enjoying a foggy morning at N'wamanzi Lookout and the S44 with the totally beautiful Lookout over the Olifants Gorge we decided to return to Olifants early as we had a night drive that evening. Had a bungalow right on the edge of the gorge. What an experience to watch ellies right from your verandah! Saw lions hunt from the Lookout in the camp, an amazing experience!

This is to me the flagship camp of KNP. As neat as any Private camp. Well done to the camp manager. The bungalow was excellent. Small but more than enough room and well the verandah beats any I've been on! Had a small frog to watch over us with a tiny mouse running in and out of the bungalow in the evening. Att DQ: Mind explaining to the readers what the creaking net door reminded you of?

Had dinner in the camp restaurant before going on the nightdrive. Again: well done, loved it. Nice selection to choose from. For the first time I can remember a waiter actually held my chair for me to sit down. Neat, quick service. Took a smokebreak at the lookout. Awesome sight on a fullmoon night!

Nightdrive: Once did a sunset drive from Satara which didn't yield much so I was curious what this one would be like. Wasn't disappointed. Saw 3 V Giant Eagle owls on the highwater bridge catching stinking bats (what a mess!). Awesome as one quietly sat watching us from less than 2m away, apparently he's there every night, so quite happy with the vehicle parked right next to him. Saw an African Wildcat and what the guide told us were a rare sighting, or one only to be seen in the Olifants riverbed – miniature kangaroos! I loved them. Oh they are called Springhares. Looks exactly like a kangaroo, hops the same way too. Found one of the tiniest baby ellies I've ever seen, couldn't be more than a day old. Fitted under his mom's forelegs with room to spare, covered in hair. As nightdrives go, a good one, or rather one to make me go on them again. And we went down a no entry road too! Don't try it with your car – PLEASE! Drove by the pumping station/water purification plant for Satara.

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Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 3:19 pm 
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Thanks Vonnie! :redface:

Just three little things to set to rights:
The ellie described on the S90 before Balule is just a few kilometers from Balule, not just after coming off the S100 as GP describes.

GP wrote:
Att DQ: Mind explaining to the readers what the creaking net door reminded you of?

It was an awfull sound, a squishy one as if a frog was between the door being flattened.... :lol:

And the last: The next installment will take a little longer. I still have to write it, but work is interfering here. So patience please... It will start with the description of the morningwalk we did...

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Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:54 pm 
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Day 6
The morningwalk we had been looking out for! At 05:30 we are picked up by Johan (Or Johann?, I forgot to ask) and Vusi. We join 4 other people in the vehicle, and off we go. The sun is trying to wake up, and slowly starts to throw a few rays about while we drive to the area where we will be walking. This results in some very nice sights:
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When we finally arrive at the place where we start walking the question is asked what we want to see. The other couples answer that they want to see the little things, which GP and I underwrite happily. That's all we want to see, the larger game we can see from the car. Johan points out a little disturbed patch in the sandpath and tells us that is rhino spoor. He could have told me that it's the spoor of a snake, and I would have believed it! We follow those tracks, how he makes them out I do not know. After a while the rhino seems to have wandered off into the grass, I really could not see how they could tell that. However there was some grass that had been lightly trampled. We follow it through the still fairly wet grass until both trackers agree that the rhino has gone on another tack, away from us, and is too far away from us to be able to find him. But little life there is enough, so Johan points out the nests of spiders, a few plants and their uses. Very usefull information, and expertly given by Johan. Vusi is a little shy, and says almost nothing, but obviously knows his stuff as well. Both tyrackers are a little puzzled when I approach the first spiders nest with my long lens on my camera. (A Canon 100-400 zoomlens.) What they don't know is that I have mounted a close-up lens on it, and can now use it as a macrolens. I take a few shots of the Golden Orb spider (Misnamed in the below photo) and then turn the camera around to show them what I did. The smiles tell me enough, they like that! Unfortunately I did not have my monopod with me, so the shots are not entirely sharp, but do show you the little life.
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The second photo is populated by Communal Spiders, they are the ones that create the white lumps on the ends of branches, which I mistook for communities of butterfly or moth larvea.
We walked on for a few kilometers, at a sedate pace. If you have never done a walk before, compare it with a walk you do yourself at home, not the shopping one!, really anyone can do it, unless you are disabled. One of out party walked with a cane, and if she could not keep up the rest waited until she caught up with us. So treat yourself to it without fear.
For the rest of the walk we got information about plants and were shown a place where ellies had pulled up roots for at least 9 meters! That must have taken quite a bit of force! After a stop with crackers, cheeses and softdrinks we head for the car and camp again. Of the larger game during the walk we only saw impala.
On the way back we had some more sightings: (Low water bridge near Balule.)
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After that we had a little ellie roadblock, actually a breeding herd with a tiny one amongst them. Then coffee while enjoying the spectacular view. Those perimeter bungalows are fantastic! You just sit there, coffee next to you, your camera pointed at the same herd of elephants (they make good speed), remote control in your hand, and just wait for the moment. Here is the little one and mother on their way to the river, taken from a very long way away, as well as our household squirrel:
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And then the sad moment is there; we have to leave the camp that is my favourite maincamp, and has become GP's as well. So we load up the car, put the coolbox at the right position behind the in parts collapsible backseat for easy access, camera's within easy reach though covered with a T-shirt against the dust, and we are on route again. Of course we take my favorite road, the S44 and Olifants lookout. We are in no hurry at all as we are traveling merely to Letaba. At olifants lookout we see giraffes crossing the river, not something I had expected to see with those long legs, some hippo's fighting and a few crocs.
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Quite a while after that, on the S93 we come up to the first herd of buffels I have ever seen. Unfortunately for photography this was not a really good place as on both sides of the road there were bushes, so no photo's of tens of buffs for you, just a nice face:
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After that we come up on a smaller group of buffs, some giraffes and of course in that area, waterbuck. We get to camp at a quarter past three where we have a Yellow Ribbon meet, we meet Jakkalsbessie again! After refreshing ourselves in the cottage (I love that shower!) I make myself usefull, and make a pano with the view in our circle, which actually makes it onto my harddisk, as well as near the river which I still have to put together. Pictured is the F-circle, but as it's rather large (1.3 Mb) it's a link only so the modem-users won't be too upset reading this: Click here to see it.
That evening we have a Yellow Ribbon meet whith Jacov & Reinette, a very nice braai with lots of talking, and us finding out that my grasp of Afrikaans is better than theirs of Dutch. Uninvited but very welcome is a super sighting of a Lesser Bushbaby, just over our heads, which Reinette and I followed till almost at the fence.

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GP:
Morning walk: The highlight of my trip. An awesome experience. Had to wake at 4 to be picked up at the bungalow. 6 Tourists, 2 guides – Johan and Vuzi. As it's still dark as you leave you get a morning drive on the go, we promptly found 2 lionesses on the S92. Lots of general game to be seen, and Johan stopped for them all! Well done! Don't ask me exactly where we went, I have no idea, I'd guess in the S91/S89 block following the powerlines. DO THIS FORUMITES! I can't even begin to describe the feeling of getting out, your guides armed to the teeth, INSIDE KNP! Didn't see anything else than Impalas animalwise, but that's not what this is about. Johan showed us the veld. Insects, trees, spoor, dung and birds. Brilliant guiding. We were allowed to ask questions, make comments and chat to him. Enjoyed a bush breakfast of crackers, cheese, biscuits and juice while chatting away to the 2 guides. Both obviously immensely proud of their work. Saw some more general game on our way back to camp including by daylight the tiny ellie which was causing quite a traffic jam just outside Olifants Camp.

Olifants/Balule WILL see me again! I have to go back there.

Decided on the S44/S46 drive to Letaba as we were entering the Mopanie belt, which you all know is NOT my favourite bit in the Park! This meant a nice drive along the Letaba River, with poor DQ having the Mopanie trees on his side to look at. Not much animalwise BUT I did find DQ a HUGE herd of buffalo. I'd guess 120 – 150 that we could see. Slowly moved into their midst (had 2 bulls close up the road behind us watching !) and just sat there watching. Amazing animals. Reminds you so much of a hers of domestic cattle. Same sounds and behaviour. Had quite a few babies/young ones with them. Wonder how many pics DQ took of them?

Letaba's never been my favourite camp, and I have to be honest, night 1 didn't do anything to make it any better. We were in a bungalow, but just not what you'd expect, definitely not the same as Olifants. The camp badly needs attention, the walkway by the river is a mess, someone's going to get hurt there if they're not careful. On the other hand, bushbuck, squirrels and birds to be found everywhere. Enjoyed a braai with Jacov and Reinette. Had trouble following Jaco's directions to their campsite though! Were rewarded with a nice sighting towards the end of the evening. It was late, around 10, when I though I saw a cat running inbetween the trees. Was a large BUSHBABY! First I've ever seen that close on the ground. Ran up a tree right by us and sat watching us with his huge eyes. DQ and Reinette followed him towards the fence. He moves as silent as you can imagine. Compared to him we made a racket on the morning walk, well and ellie would make less noise than we did, I guess.

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Just wondering if we ever get to see any of GP's pix?

I hope so, but she is without Internet. Only after begging she was allowed to send me two mails, her part of the report. Remember she's living in the bush!

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DuQues wrote:
Remember she's living in the bush!

I didn't know this ... I thought she lived south of Joburg :? I guess I missed a lot being away for over two months?


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She's been off the forums mostly, most people don't know the reason for that. But now you know. :wink:

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Day 7
Lazy again, we get up rather late as we stay in the same camp today, so at 6:45 we head out of the gate away for a little morningrun up to Longwe lookout. It's still rather misty, so our choice to have coffee and a long shower at the camp is probably a good one as we would have seen little otherwise. The waterbuck are out in force at the Letaba river, which was still a little misty. The rising sun did give very nice light and some of my favorite animals greet us.
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There is some discussion about the korhaan, I have called it a Blackbellied one, but some people call it the Red crested one. I hope those people are right, that would be a new tick on my birdlist.
We drive over the highwater bridge, after we have a good look what is meant with "high water". The height of the floods in 2000 is marked here, and it is nearly impossible to imagine the enormous amount of water that must have passed under and over the bridge. I think that I made some photo's of the bridge with the markers visible, but if I did that is on film, which I still have to develop.
From there we drive up the road to the Matambeni Birdhide, the first hide I ever visit. We are in luck, no one there, so we have a nice cup of coffee with crackers while looking out over the beautifull landscape. The panoramic photo I made of it still needs a lot of work, I can't get the colors right so you can easily see the edges, but will post that in the Camp & roads section of the forum when I have it right. The crackers seem to be very well know by the birds over there, a pair of starlings joins us as soon as they see it. Inexplicably one of the crackers has a fatal accident even though it was in a perfectly safe place, causing me to have to throw away the crumbs.
A very large group of fulvous ducks, at least 30, is on the little island across the hide, some playing hippo's between us and them, crocodiles, spurwing goose, african jacana, black winged stilts to the left, and a heron to the right. There is as good as no wind, an early morning sun, perfect! Except for the sudden splash near the island. A crocodile has sneaked there, and may have taken one of the ducks. My photo is too late of course, but looking through the lens I can't make out if he was succesfull or not.
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We head back for camp as we need to move out of the rondawel and into our tent again. On the way back we stop at the highwater bridge again where we alight from the vehicle. I spot a pied kingfisher sitting beneath the railings and drop down to my belly to make some photo's of him. I know they are not going to be good with the shade and the green painted steel bars, but I've seen very few kingfishers thus far and want to have at least some photo's of them. And it's digital, so it doesn't cost anything. We have a long look around enjoying the view, and spot a three banded plover and two yellowbilled storks. And then I'm attacked by a monster!
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A tiny, less than 1 centimeter long jumpingspider has either grossly overestimated it's size, or wants to use me as a taxi. I gently put him back on the railing and mount the close-up lens on my camera to take a few photo's of him. This took some doing as I had to take the photo's handheld, and with macro / close-up the area that is sharp is less than a half a millimeter wide. My subject did not help either, it still wanted to jump me, so the photo's ended up less sharp than I wanted.
Back in camp we load up the car and drive to the campingsite Jaco and Reinette had vacated, and set up the tent while listening to the lovely sound of the morning doves. A little bushbuck comes to check us out, and decides we are good neighbours.
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We also see a redheaded weaver, several squirrels and a pair of house martins which seem to like the ablutions. After having lunch we decide to do the Letaba river road, even though GP is not too fond of that side due to all the mopane. Just out of camp we see a car parked on the side of the road, always nice to see as people only stop if there is someting to see. It's a little chameleon crossing the road, risking it's life. We pull over on the other side of the road so I can make some photo's, and quickly after that stop a car which wants to pass between our cars. That would have been the end of the little animal. It turns out that we stopped a SANParks car, which amuses us. They take a wide turn around the chameleon and disappear around the corner. I don't know if you know how a chameleon walks, but they wobble to and fro a lot between each step. It was going to take ages for the little one to cross the road, with a great chance of being hit by a car, so after checking if the SANParks car had come back I get out of the car and give him a little lift. Those toes are quite strong actually. (SANParks: please don't read the last few lines!)
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Along the riverroad we meet an elephant with a broken off tooth. This must be rather unhandy for the poor animal as they are left or right toothed, and most likely the broken off tooth was his favorite. In the riverbed there are a lot of vultures and marabous sunning so we keep our eyes (and nose) open for a kill somewhere but never find a trace of it. Just after Mingerhout Dam we come upon the N'wanetsi river, not the same one as on the S100, and stop for a while. There is a few centimers of water in it, and I hunt for kingfishers. We see a pair of blacksmith plovers, one of which attracks my attention as he seems to be a little anxious. With reason actually, a python which I guess to be slightly over two meters is swimming there.
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The plover follows the python around at a fairly short distance, which is a bit puzzling at first. The python can actually grab him according to us. I then notice that his mate stays in one place, so assume they have a nest there, although it's not really the season for it. A monitor lizard comes creeping out of the bushes, which again proves that you should just stop in places and let the game parade in front of you. This causes me to quickly switch CF-cards, just in case the python decides to make a meal out of the monitor. Interesting stuff, but the animals decide otherwise, and split up after a while.
We drive on and see only a bit of general game. Longwe lookout is the next place we decide, and maybe a little time in the hide after that. Longwe has a great view! As you can see you can see all over the Engelhard Dam, but not the dam itself. When you drive back down there is a little loop which will bring you to the dam itself. The next turnoff goes to Anna Ledeboer's grave, where you have a great view of the dam as well, but from the other side.
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At the little loop to the right of the dam there is a huge tree. I saw a fisheagle head for it and was starting to become very happy, finally a fisheagle photo which is not made from miles away! Well... You've guessed it, it parked itself on the wrong side of the tree. I still have no good photo of a fisheagle. Back to camp, we have spent too much time drinking in the landscape, and no time anymore for the hide. On the way we spot what we think is a greater spotted eagle, but we are still not sure.

Image

GP:

Spent the next morning driving towards Engelhard Dam and my 2nd favourite birdhide Mtambeni. Spent hours there just enjoying the view. Had a few hippos as company with lots of birds coming and going as usual. If you haven't been here, do it. Worth every bit, clean, well-looked after. Drove the S47 Mingerhout Loop and ended with a very special one for me – the python and lapwing. Well spotted DQ. I would never have realized the snake was there as I was looking at the middle of the stream and grasses for birds while the snake was swimming along the edge of the reeds. A sighting I thoroughly enjoyed. Ended the day with a drive up Longwe and exploring the loops round the dam, found Anna Ledeboer's grave.

Night 2 did make up for night 1 as we camped, actually we took Jaco's spot! Camping at Letaba is good. The campsite has a bush atmosphere but to me equal to that at Skukuza. Highlight for me was the Mourning Doves all over, love the sound they make. Had a White-bellied sunbird visiting the aloes right by our front door. Tiny little creature! A young bushbuck ewe also frequented the area around our campsite.

Letaba on my scale gets a 6/10 for the camp (Sorry guys, I know some of you love the place, but it just isn't me!) and a 7/10 for the camping grounds.

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Some really great pics!

Just two things:
1. Your Pied Barbet is actually a Crested Barbet.
2. That is a Red-crested Korhaan. The Black-bellied has got white cheeks with black down the throat.

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Whoopy! Two new ticks! Thanks Johann!

(Still learning the birding...)

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 1:57 pm 
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A few photo's made by GP:

"Her" rhino with a few oxpeckers:
Image

En route to the morning walk near Olifants:
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The guides Johan and Vusi:
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The photographer snapped while hard at work. :lol: This is after the morningwalk, the photo's of the elephant with young are being made.
Image

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Yeah, and now to find the time to write the last 4 days. But for some odd reason, my employer wants that I work...

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DinkyBird wrote:
DuQues wrote:
Yeah, and now to find the time to write the last 4 days. But for some odd reason, my employer wants that I work...

Are you still working :twisted:



One of the most funniest postings i have read in days
Still working :?
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

But do we want to know about the last days :hmz:

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