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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: May 2006: Lower Sabie
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 4:24 am 
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Part One

Lower Sabie restcamp
I have never stayed at Lower Sabie before and indeed, only visited it once, many years ago in 1984. However, everything I read about Lower Sabie on this forum made me definitely want to include a stay there on this trip.

I had booked one of the much-recommended riverview safari tents and was delighted to be given my first choice, tent #20. However, it turned out that the zip-up door between the bedroom area and the ablutions/closet area had been totally ripped away from the tent wall, which worried me because it allowed easy access both for mozzies and for baboons (which likely caused the damage). Unfortunately, I only discovered the damage after I'd already schlepped much of my gear the considerable distance from the car park to the tent, so be advised to check out the condition of your tent first, before you start to unpack your car!

I reported the damage to reception (this was the first they had heard of it :roll:) and unfortunately, as the camp was fully booked, there was no other comparable tent available. However, the duty manager, Pieter Du Plessis, suggested one of the newly renovated riverview bungalows as a substitute, and while this lacked some of the rustic charm and wasn't as close to the river as tent #20, it had other advantages and was a very comfortable alternative. Indeed, given the chilly and very windy weather, I was quite glad that I was not after all sleeping in a tent! :wink:

These new riverside bungalows are arranged in pairs (semi-detached) and I was in #4, but as these bungalows were not as yet available for general booking, I had no neighbors. There may be some privacy issues, not so much from the joined units, as these are divided by a high wall, but because the veranda and braai area is quite open to the next door bungalow, plus the chalets are all quite close together. However, on this occasion, with no one else around, it proved perfect for our "expanded" braai party that evening. Freda and I had planned to have a braai at my tent, but Freda had then connected with Graemy and his SO, Sonia, and arranged that we should all meet for drinks on the restaurant veranda. We then asked Graemy and Sonia to join us for our braai, and while four would have been a real crush at the tent, we were more than comfortable at chalet #4. It was a real luxury to know that since we had no neighbors, we weren't disturbing anyone with our animated conversation!

Unfortunately, I neglected to take any pix of the chalet interior :redface: as it has some very nice features. Francoisd included a few pix of the unfurnished unit in his January trip report, and there is also considerable discussion about these chalets (and the problems with the tents) in the Lower Sabie thread, starting here. Among the features that I particularly liked are the sliding glass doors between bedroom and kitchen, so that you have a view straight through the bungalow to the river; the very attractive brass bedside wall lamps, perfect from browsing your field guide before falling asleep; and the daybed/sofa (which makes up into a third bed if needed) in the kitchen/dining area, perfect for relaxing when it's too windy or chilly to be sitting outside. I also liked having table and chairs both inside and outside, and given the baboon problems at Lower Sabie, having the kitchen completely inside is a big plus.

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sunrise from riverview chalet #4
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7 May - Biyamiti - Lower Sabie
This day dawned overcast, chilly and quite windy, but I lingered over my morning coffee to enjoy the special ambience of Biyamiti just a bit longer. Despite all the dramatic lightening and stormy skies the previous evening, there had been no rain, but it stayed grey and chilly and windy all day, and there were occasional light, brief showers. It's of course no distance at all from Biyamiti to Lower Sabie, so I planned a nice leisurely route on some of the most-recommended roads in the area.

I encountered several safari trucks on the S23, and the guides assured me that there was a leopard high atop the distant rocks, but back under the shrubbery, well sheltered from the light rain that was by then falling. Sadly, although I tried hard to spot it, and the guides also tried hard to point the cat out to me, I never saw it and finally moved on. However, at this, which was only my second encounter with the dreaded jeep jockeys, I have to commend them for their helpfulness and their excellent behaviour at and approaching and leaving the sighting. The same was true during the 2.5 hours I spent with the three lazy lions on the 4th: there were never more than three safari trucks there at one time, the guides were not using radios nor did they speak loudly to their guests (who were also well behaved), and they allowed plenty of room for smaller vehicles to move in front of them, so that all could view the lions easily.

Apart from the "supposed" leopard, this was one of my least satisfying days in terms of sightings, and because of having to move to other accommodation at Lower Sabie once I'd discovered the problems with my tent, I never did get out for a late afternoon drive. However, while sightings may have been few, the scenery in KNP never disappoints, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring more roads that were new to me, such as the S26 and the S23.

Lower Sabie also brought further YR encounters, as Kath (half of Kath and Theo) spotted me when I was moving out of my damaged tent (they were in #19, so we were to have been neighbors), and later Graemy and his SO, Sonia, joined Freda and me for drinks and since Freda and I had planned a braai together that evening, we asked Graemy and Sonia to join us. The patio of the riverview bungalow was a perfect setting, and Chef Freda grilled up a marvelous assortment of traditional saffie braai specialities.

sightings
S139 (4k): impala
S25: whitefronted bee eaters, waterbuck, giraffe, impala, purple roller, hamerkop
S26 Bume Road: BBJ
S23 Biyamiti loop: impala, hamerkop, "supposed" leopard, waterbuck, redbilled hornbill
Biyamiti Weir: reed cormorant
S114: impala, BBJ
H5: bataleur, impala
S102: impala, waterbuck, bataleur, slender mongoose, ?lappetfaced vulture
H5: Egyptian geese, whitefaced whistling ducks, impala, crested barbet
H4-2: breeding herd of ellies, butterfly

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this concrete water container is on the S23 between the S113 and S114 and has no name on my map ... does anyone know if it has a name?
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Last edited by arks on Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:07 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:11 am 
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Quote:
this concrete water container is on the S23 between the S113 and S114 and has no name on my map ... does anyone know if it has a name?

There is one called Muhlambamadvube on my map.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 12:10 pm 
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Definitely a Lappet-faced Vulture.

Only one it could be confused with would be a female White-headed Vulture.
But LFV has got grey/white feet and WHV has got red feet. LFV shows black stomach while the WHV's is white. Both have the white thighs and white line at the front of the wing which could cause confusion. And a big difference in size, although it isn't always that obvious when they're in flight.

Nice pic of the Reed Cormorant as well. :wink:

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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
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Latest lifers from Kruger NP:
Black Coucal Centropus grillii Swartvleiloerie
Flappet Lark Mirafra rufocinnamomea Laeveldklappertjie


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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: 7, 8, 9 May 2006: Lower Sabie
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:34 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3757
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Part Two

8 May - Lower Sabie - Skukuza - Lower Sabie
Today turned out to be a true "day from hell" when, after a stop at Skukuza to have a snack, purchase some stamps from the post office (rather than pay the outrageously inflated markup in the camp shops :twisted:), and top up my petrol, I headed out for a leisurely drive back to Lower Sabie, only to have my little ellie-coloured Micra die with no warning. That experience has been reported in detail elsewhere on the forum, so doesn't need repeating here.

En route to Skukuza, I decided to explore a few more roads that were new to me — the S79, S21 N'watimhiri Road, S22 and S112 — and to also try the S65 one more time, in hopes of seeing those cheetah, but it yielded nothing more interesting than a very nice group of kudu, including a bull with impressively long, curly horns. On the S4 I had a longer than usual glimpse of a duiker, which stayed still just long enough for me to get a photo, tho it's a bit out of focus. And just after leaving Skukuza, I spent some time watching a big warthog having a feast right next to the road. It was when I restarted my car to leave this sighting that my car troubles began.

My most exciting sighting came during my escorted return to Lower Sabie, much later that evening. I was met at Nkulu by Steve, one of the Lower Sabie rangers, driving his 10-seater, and with his spotlight he found us a leopard, shortly before the bridge over the N'watimhiri River, and I have a lovely bit of video of this encounter. Steve, my ranger escort, said that it was a female leopard and she was marking her territory, which was the first I knew about female leopards also having and marking out a territory. Definitely the perfect ending to a far from perfect day, and something of a reward for a day that was otherwise memorable for all the wrong reasons.

sightings
H4-1: hippo, impala, yellowbilled stork, African spoonbill, Burchell's coucal, whitefronted bee eaters
S79 N'watimhiri causeway: Burchell's coucal, dwarf mongooses, hamerkop, reed cormorant
H4-1: baboons, dagga boy
S21 N'watimhiri road: impala, grey louries, hippo, African jacana, slender mongoose, waterbuck, warthogs, bataleur
S22: nothing
S112: impala, tree squirrels
H3: nothing
H1-1: nothing
S65: kudu, doublebanded sandgrouse, impala
S1: impala
S4: elephant bull with askari, grey duiker, giraffe, impala
S3: impala
H4-1: warthog
Escorted drive Skukuza to Nkulu: impala, ellies
Escorted drive Nkulu to Lower Sabie: hippo, water dikkop, leopard

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Last edited by arks on Sat Aug 01, 2009 2:40 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: 7, 8, 9 May 2006: Lower Sabie
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 5:06 am 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Part Three

9 May - Lower Sabie - Crocodile Bridge - Lower Sabie
Today was yet another day that was overshadowed by rental cars problems and by other matters that required me to plan my drives so that I would be someplace where I had cell phone reception at some point during business hours. Despite this hassle, I would still never want blanket cell phone reception throughout KNP. Far better that if you must be able to make calls or/and receive messages, then you have to plan to get yourself to an area with reception, just as I did. I hope that I never arrive at a waterhole or viewpoint to find some oke settled in for an hour or two of making and receiving his daily phone calls — which is what will happen. Bad enough those in camp who sit out on their stoep or at a camp restaurant or on a bench on the lawn at Satara having such conversations, completely audible to those around them. Shame that so many have completely lost the concept that a holiday means getting away from it all and feel the need to be so always connected. :roll:

I knew from the drive back from Skukuza to Lower Sabie that I wasn't at all happy with my replacement car, a Ford Focus, which was far larger than the little Micra, both unnecessarily large for a solo traveler and in my view, too large for the park's narrow and often twisty sand roads. In order to try the car a bit more (and because the rental office wouldn't be open for a few hours), I took an early morning drive before returning to camp to telephone. Turns out that not only did the rental car company feel that they were giving me the benefit of an "upgrade" to a higher class of car, they also didn't have a smaller car with air conditioning. I said that in fact, electric windows were more important to me than AC, as it had been quite chilly for the past week. While they went off to check on their available cars, I took another short drive and while driving, got a "low brake fluid" warning, so when I next spoke to the rental company, they agreed that the car then had to be replaced, but unfortunately they did not have a smaller car with electric windows, best they could do was a Nissan Almera. To make things simple, and to give myself drive time in the park rather than waiting in camp for them, I suggested that I meet their driver with the replacement car at the Croc Bridge Gate at noon. That gave their driver ample time to get there from Nelspruit and me a nice leisurely drive to collect what was now my 4th car in three weeks!!

I had a pleasant and uneventful drive to Croc Bridge except for an encounter with a family group of ellies on the S28. You always need to be careful around a group with youngsters and to be aware that there are often more ellies than you can see. This appeared to be quite a relaxed group, but my position became very tricky (and dangerous) when the matriarch suddenly decided that I was too close for her liking, and I couldn't reverse quickly because another car had come up behind me, parked across the road to get a better view for photos, and turned off their engine!! :shock: Eventually, they got their car started and out of my way and I was able to reverse, but when I saw these same people later at Croc Bridge, I explained to them how potentially dangerous that situation had been — especially for me!! — and that at an elephant sighting you should always be careful that you are not blocking someone else's escape route. They apparently had NO idea and were only thinking about getting nice photos. :roll:

After collecting my replacement car and having a snack and a nice browse around the Croc Bridge shop, I headed north. A few cars were gathered less then a kilometer outside of the camp gates, so I slowed to ask what they were seeing and was told that it was a young female cheetah!! :dance: The bush was quite thick and at first it was like viewing her through a lattice, but this was only my second time ever to see cheetah in KNP, so I stuck around and was soon able to move a bit and get a somewhat better, tho still distant, view of her. However, as more cars arrived, she became increasingly nervous, moved a bit several times, and finally, unable to relax and settle, disappeared from view. Altogether, I'd say I was able to watch her for nearly 15 minutes, and even at a distance and somewhat obscured, this was a memorable sighting!! I definitely felt that, like the leopard the previous evening, I was being somehow rewarded for all the aggro of my car problems.

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can you find the cheetah? :wink:
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Little did I know, the best was yet to come! My day's objective, despite these detours, was to find out whether the Salitjie Road (S30) was in as dreadful a condition as rumoured — which it wasn't; the S36 is FAR worse in my opinion and definitely to be avoided. I found the Salitjie Road to be in quite reasonably good condition and it also delivered excellent sightings, which the S36 did not. The road itself is very scenic and shortly after I turned into it, a car stopped to tell me that there was a very large breeding herd of ellies up ahead. Despite my unnerving experience that morning, I spent quite a long time enjoying this group, which included quite a few really small ones, including two who might have been twins — do ellies ever have twins?

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After about 15-20 minutes with these ellies, I moved on and was soon stopped by a couple whom I'd actually reprimanded for protruding at the ellies. They as first-time visitors had no idea it was forbidden because they'd not until then noticed the rules in their map book (or in the booklet they had received at the gate), and they were very contrite, embarrassed and apologetic. And now they had waited for me to arrive here so that they could point out the three sable antelope that were only barely visible in the fairly thick bush. I very well might not have seen the sable were it not for this thoughtful couple and I am eternally grateful as sable were (with wild dog) at the top of my wish list. My only other sighting of sable had been a brief glimpse in 1987 of about six moving away from me through tall grass. These were in a thicket and not all that easy to see (and I never did see all three), but I was able to observe first one and then a second one for nearly a half an hour before both again lay down so that only their horns were visible in the tall grass. Other cars stopped but stayed only briefly, while by moving my car as the two sable moved, I was able to get a reasonably clear view of them for quite some time. This, together with my wild dog sighting, was the absolute highlight of my trip — utter magic!!!

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can you spot the 2 sable?

My return to camp after this lengthy sighting was a bit rushed as I wasn't quite sure how long it would take, and I wanted to avoid being late. Fortunately, I didn't encounter anything dramatic along the way, although I did have a glimpse of what might have been a bush pig (no pix, and admittedly unlikely), as well as a whitecrowned plover (poor pix in poor light).

sightings
H4-1: nothing
S82: redcrested korhaans, warthog, impala
H4-2: nothing
S130: nothing
S137: Swainson's francolin
S28: impala
H4-2: whitebacked vulture, impala yellowbilled stork
H10: hippo, warthogs, Burchell's coucal, impala
S29: bull elephant, kudu, steenbok
H10: reed cormorant, hippo
H4-2: hippo
S28: impala, hippo, crowned plover, zebra, family herd of ellies
H4-2: impala, cheetah, wildebeest, impala, waterbuck
S130: impala, zebra, chameleon, wildebeest, purple roller, bataleur, tree squirrels
H4-2: BBJ, ?vulture?, hippo, impala
H10: hippo, impala
S128: impala
S30 Salitjie Road: large breeding herd of elephant, sable antelope, impala, zebra, wildebeest, ?bushpig?
H4-1: fish eagles, baboons, whitecrowned plover, tawny eagle

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Last edited by arks on Tue Aug 01, 2006 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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