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 Post subject: Skywalker Kruger Trip
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 7:32 pm 
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Well, it's finally here. I leave tomorrow for South Africa!!! :dance: I only wish I could spend more than 5 1/2 days in Kruger. But it will be time well spent.

Thanks so much to all the forumnites who have spent time posting information and answering questions. This is a great site, and I was able to get tons of valuable info for planning our trip. Look forward to a trip report upon my return to the states.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:45 pm 
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Finally have made it back home yesterday. We had such an awesome trip.

Had tons of problems with flights, so before I say anything else, I will say this.

We booked our flights through Orbitz. I will never do that again! It was a terrible experience. Their customer service sucks! Please, do yourself a favor and never book through orbitz.

That said, our trip was so much fun. We ended up spending 4 1/2 days in Kruger instead of the 5 1/2 I had planned.

For those of you that don't want to be jealous, I recommend you don't read my trip report. We saw the Big 5 several times over during the trip. Lots of kitties, big and small.

Day 1

We arrived in South Africa on June 10th around 10:30 am. We were supposed to arrive June 9th, but our flight out of Madrid was canceled on June 9th. We were scheduled to stay in Satara on the 10th, but I knew upon arriving, there was very little chance that we would make it there. So I instructed our group we would plan on spending the night at Skukuza instead, and gave them a map and directions. We cleared immigration, got our baggage, and two cars fairly quickly, and were on our way out to Kruger before noon. Our group consisted of me and 6 friends, 1 other guy, and 5 girls. Unfortunately, the 2nd car in our group lost me right out of the airport, and took a wrong turn towards Pretoria. We would not see them until later that night.

As I was the only one with a cell phone, I could only hope they would meet us at our pre-arranged meeting spot, the Pick N Pay in Nelspruit, by the N4 & R40. My car made very good time to Nelspruit, and I thought that if the other car had been there when we arrived, we would have still had time to make Satara, though just barely.

But we waited for them. It did give us a chance to do our shopping in Nelspruit and get all the food we'd need...we planned on eating at the restaurants in Satara/Skukuza, and cooking food in Biyamiti. We finished our shopping, and they still hadn't arrived. In the meantime, I had changed our reservation to Skukuza for the first night. We were still able to get a guest house and bungalow to replace our stay in Satara.

We continued to wait without hearing from them, and as it became mid afternoon, I decided we would have to continue to Skukuza without them, or we wouldn't make the 5:30 pm gate closing time. So off to Paul Kruger Gate. It turned out really good that I had spent so much time on this site, and new the park enough that I could deal with the last minute changes to our plan. We arrived at the gate around 5 pm, and started making our way towards Skukuza. Finally, my cell phone rings. But I only can hear my friend, Chris, for a second before dropping the call.

We arrive at Skukuza and check in. I tried to call Chris at the number he called from. It was a payphone. Some guy answered, Chris was gone. It's now past 5:30. I began making arrangements with Skukuza to get a late gate entry for them. Finally, he calls again. They had gotten completely lost, and had forgotten where they were supposed to be going. I was a little upset with them that they had not paid attention and did not know where they should be driving. He thought he was supposed to be driving to Sabie, why, I have no clue. Fortunately, he wound up in White River. I instructed him again on the directions to get to Paul Kruger. Eventually, we get the late gate pickup arranged and get them through the gate and into camp. The manager at Skukuza reception was very nice and helpful to us in arranging this.

We didn't see much game that day on the way to camp. We had to drive 50 just to get to the camp before it closed. So all we saw were a few impala.

We ate dinner that night at the Selati Train restaurant. It was great. Very good food for the price.

On a side note, the gate did nothing to explain any of the rules of Kruger to any of our group. Nothing about staying in the car, not protruding from the car, and all that kind of stuff. If I hadn't been to the park before/or this site and known the rules, none in our group would have known anything about it. Some thought you'd be able to get out of your car and set up a tripod to take pics of the animals. I quickly explained again, that this was not the case. Silly people.

But no wonder there is such a problem with obeying the rules...nobody knows about them. (Please, I would like to keep this thread about my trip, so no comments on the rules thing...I just wanted to point out our experience)

We were glad to have a nice bed to sleep in for the night.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 2:23 am 
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After a good nights sleep in Skukuza, Kruger National Park. We got up for an early morning game drive. Not everyone wanted to get up that early, so only 3 of us headed out.

Since everyone was tired and didn't want to get up early, I decided to drive to the S3 and take it for awhile before turning back and going to Skukuza. We saw several impala. We also saw a couple of lone cape buffalo that morning. A few birds was about all else that we saw. Quite a quiet morning.

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We'd been out about 50 minutes and decided to head back to pick the rest of the group up to leave Skukuza, and head to our next place to stay, Satara. On the way back, we saw a couple beautiful giraffe.

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Pictures of the cape buffalo and giraffe, as well as several of our other sightings, can be found at my site.

We got back to camp, began to load the cars, only to discover our next misfortune. My car had a flat tire. At least it happened while we were in camp, and not out in the wild. We changed the tire, repaired the flat, and headed out, albeit about an hour or so later than we had anticipated.

We drove northeast out of Skukuza, stopping as we saw animals, and detouring towards any near waterholes. At one of these waterholes, we came across quite a few animals. Hippo were resting on the banks of the dam. A couple of crocodile swam in the water. In the distance, on the far edge of the dam, giraffe browsed the trees, while a few impala grazed beneath them. Again, a lone cape buffalo came to the water for a drink.

The next waterhole also proved very fruitful. It was nearly dried up, muddy from the work of the elephants. But there was just enough water left that a few animals could come for a drink. Here we saw our first zebra. As we arrived, one of the zebra stretched down to get a drink, while a couple others stood guard. The only way to get water, was to go to the very steep side of the waterhole, and climb down a little to reach the water.

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We stopped for lunch at a Tshokwane. We ate on the edge of the picnic area. Monkeys played, only a few feet away, watching us for the opportunity for an easy meal. A few baboons were not far also.

As we had finished our meal, and were almost ready to head out again, the action began. One of the baboons rushed by us, heading towards a group with a cooler. It ran through the group, and raided their cooler, picking up an item, and heading back to the safety of the trees. Before we left another baboon ran straight at another person. She threw the food she was holding, the baboon picked it up and headed back.

As we continued to drive, we saw our fist elephants, though it wasn't much of a sighting. We caught glimpses of them, could hear them in the bushes, but they soon were out of sight. We took a detour to the Orpen dam, and we saw more hippo and crocodile. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs also.

We continued driving in the early afternoon towards Satara. At the next waterhole we had our first really great sighting. A lone wildebeest grazed at the far side of the waterhole. Impala, of course, were in the background. Crocodile on the banks. A lone buffalo getting a drink. We noticed that another car had stopped to look at something, just short of the waterhole. For a second, we wondered what they were looking at, but it quickly became apparent. A large herd of elephant was making its way from the north, down to the water.

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They came down together, and all began to drink from the water. They finished drinking, and then headed towards us to cross the road. As we were directly in their path, I reversed to get out of their way. They crossed in front of us, and soon disappeared into the bush. We moved on, seeing several elephant, kudu, giraffe, baboons, hornbill, African fish eagle, and impala, among other things before finally reaching Satara as the gate closed at 5:30 pm. We checked in, ate dinner quickly before going on a guided night drive.

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We didn’t see lots of game on the guided night drive, and unfortunately, none of the big cats yet, but we were still fortunate with what we saw. Right out of the gate, no less than 10 seconds into our drive, three hyenas ran in front of us, crossing directly in front of our vehicle. We saw a few more hyenas later in the drive. We also came across a small cat like figure, on the road ahead of us. It was in the distance...a Serval! But I only saw it for a few seconds before it disappeared in the grass. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture as it disappeared in the grass as we approached it. Next we saw an African wildcat. Again, I was unable to get a photo. It was visible, but just too far off in the darkness of the night.

We next saw a black-backed Jackal. It was far off also, but there was just enough light I was able to focus and get the picture (see link), though it really wasn't good. We headed back to camp after that. I think the rest of our group was disappointed with the night drive (partially I think, they were a bit miserable since it was so cold). But I though we’d had excellent sightings that night.

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Our driver suggested we take the S100 in the morning. I had already planned on doing this, and would have done it the previous day :evil: had we not been delayed in our arrival to Satara. Overall, we had only seen 2 of the Big 5 today, but it had still been a very good day. The next day we would drive the S100 and hope for a bit more luck on our way to Biyamiti.

Enjoy the pictures.


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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 10:58 pm 
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Tuesday June 12th

Somehow we managed to get out of the gate by 6:15 am, an amazing feat, considering that I had 5 females along for the trip. We had a long drive ahead of us for today, as we were staying in Biyamiti, but we couldn't leave Satara without driving the heralded S100. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the road. We probably only saw a dozen cars on the whole stretch of the road.

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As far as animals go, it was somewhat quiet. We saw a few impies & some wildebeest in the distance here and there. About 10 km down the road came our 1st good sighting of the day. There were a bunch of vultures on top of a giraffe carcass. The giraffe had been killed by lions the previous day, and unfortunately, the lions were nowhere to be seen. There was a hyena hanging around, and it took off after getting its fill. Also, there was another small predator that watched the vultures for a minute before taking off. The grass was too high for me to identify it though. I managed to get a couple of pictures, but all that is showing is the top of its head and its ears. I thought it was a jackal at first, but it hopped in the distance like a cat would. I'll try and post a picture later, perhaps someone can identify it.

We continued on, but didn't see anything else noteworthy on the S100. I think we stopped at the Gudzani Dam, then headed down the S41. I knew we may have to rush later in the day, but I really wanted to spend time in this area looking for the big cats, so I planned to continue on the H6 before heading south. We saw elephants as we crossed the N'wanetsi on the S41. They were very close, but they were very calm. On the H6, we saw more elephants and our first ostrich.

We sped up once reaching the to reach the H1-3, and for a little while on it, as I knew we needed to make up some time. We were stopped to see some giraffe, about 3 km's south of the S126, when a very nice south african stopped to tell us of some lion at the Nkaya pan (we were so impressed with how nice all of the south african's we met were). I expected a huge traffic jam to be there on my arrival, but there was only 1 car there. A giraffe was at the banks of the water, taking a drink. We didn't see the lions at 1st, then noticed them laying in the shade of the trees on the west side of the pan. There were about 5 or 6 lions in total. They were a bit far, and were laying in grass too high for any good photography. But that would soon change, as just south of the waterhole, a herd of wildebeest were meandering towards the clearing of the waterhole, unaware of the danger that lay awaiting.

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Last edited by skywalker2251 on Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:20 am 
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Well, the Wildebeest continued towards the waterhole. The lions lazily watched them from the shade. The wildebeest made it to the waterhole and began drinking with no clue there were lion less than 40 yards away. As the first few wildebeest began to drink, a couple of young males began to stalk toward the waterhole. They were certainly very young, and before getting close enough for a realistic strike, began to sprint towards the wildebeest. The wildebeest scattered, and the young male lions pulled up. They watched the wildebeest move off and away, gave us a yawn or two, and moved back to their place in the shade.

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We really needed to make up some ground now, so drove 50kph from there to Lower Sabie. On the way, we saw our first Rhino. More zebra, ostrich, impala, wildebeest, and elephant along the way.

After a quick stop in Lower Sabie, I had a really bad itch to drive the H4-2 towards Skukuza for a few km's for some reason. We had the time now, so drove about 12 km's before needing to turn back to head to Biyamiti.

As we approached Biyamiti. We came across a couple of huge herds of cape buffalo. #'s were in the 100's.

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Biyamiti was a wonderful camp. I loved going down to the fence and watching the activity in the riverbed. We would have 3 nights at Biyamiti, and on all 3, we would hear lions roaring throughout the night. I could have laid awake all night enjoying the sounds. As I woke up a few times through the night, I could still hear them.


Last edited by skywalker2251 on Tue Aug 07, 2007 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 6:27 pm 
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Will post the S100 predator pic as soon as I can BB. It's driving me nuts not knowing what it was. :x Looking back at my pics, it was a little better than I originally remembered.

The lions and wildebeest were truly incredible. I was so excited I completely botched the pictures on most of the ordeal. As we saw the wildebeest approaching from the distance, we were completely filled with excitement an anticipation of what was likely to happen.


Last edited by skywalker2251 on Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 6:42 pm 
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Here are a couple of pics of the mystery S100 predator.

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Image


Last edited by skywalker2251 on Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:16 pm 
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I would also say jackal....the ears look jackal like to me :)

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Trips coming up:
June: Addo (1st time... can't wait)
Sept: KNP


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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:42 pm 
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Wed June 13th

We began the day with a morning walk at 6 am. :| I can only remember one of the rangers name. His name was Benji. He was absolutely fantastic. I would highly recommend a walk/drive in Biyamiti just to get Benji. He was extremely knowledgeable, and it was easy to tell he loved his job.

I think we took our walk near the intersection of the S25 and the S26 Bume Road.

Our group were the only ones on the walk today. :dance: The two guides went in front, and I walked in the very back. As we walked, Benji explained about all of the different ecozones. We stopped frequently to look at the dung of various animals. Tons of Rhino dung all over the place. Benji explained to us that the male Rhino's visit the same place every time, and kick up their dung with their feet, making a little hole & spreading their dung a bit. Then he told us that the females will go near the male to 'communicate' with the male. He mentioned he had told this to another Kruger visitor, who then replied..."So you're telling me that the reason my girlfriend has been sh**ing in my bathroom is because she's trying to communicate with me?"

Along the way he pointed out where a Hyena had slept for the night (and how stinky they are). He wasn't too fond of Hyenas.

We came across a few spiders and lots of dung before coming across a warthog den. Benji had us quickly rush to the top of the mound, as there were two warthog inside. As we stood on top, one would occassionaly peak its head out to see what was going on. Well, after a minute, Benji said that if we started dancing the warthogs would come charging out!

So we danced. :dance: You could feel the ground vibrating underneath us. Dirt fell from the mound and you could see the den becoming dusty. Then all of the sudden the two warthog dashed out of the den as quickly as they could. They darted off about 50 yards before turning around to see what had caused the ruckus.

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We continued on our walk, the other guide heard the roar of a lion, but it was some distance off. Benji also showed us many things that can be used in the bush, such as one of the trees that can be used as a toothbrush. The morning snacks were wonderful. Particularly the dried apricot and the biltong. I'm not a big fan of apricots, but those were fantastic. After making it most of the way back to the vehicle, we participated in a Kudu spitting contest.

When we arrived back at the vehicle, we were pleasantly greeted by two Rhino's. The guides seemed a bit nervous to be on foot with the Rhino's as close as they were, so they urged us into the vehicle, and after taking a few pics of the posing Rhino's, we headed back to camp.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 12:13 am 
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Wed June 13th - Part 2

After arriving back from our morning walk we decided to drive towards Biyamiti Weir, then up to the Mpondo dam, then back down to the Bume Road & S25, then the last 4 km's on the S139 to complete the circle.

The private road was a great road for buffalo the entire trip. We saw a couple more large herds on our way to biyamiti weir.

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We spotted an elephant in the distance at the top of one of the hills. At one of the get out points, we saw a rhino across the river.

At Biyamiti Weir the scene was peaceful. We spotted this turtle there.

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I have to say I’m not impressed with the area around the Mpondo Dam. It was really quiet. It looked really familiar, I think I may have driven and stopped at this waterhole sometime in one of my 1st visits to Kruger. If I remember correctly, it seemed dead then also. We waited around the waterhole for a while, had lunch, but didn’t see much activity there. Also, it’s so large, that if you do see something, you’re not going to have any good photo opportunities. Perhaps I've just had bad luck there.

We saw a giraffe & Kudu on our way back to Biyamiti, also this squirrel and bird (I can’t remember what it’s called without looking at my book). We may have seen a few other things, but my camera log shows nothing that was noteworthy.

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We set out on our night drive, with Benji as our guide again! We told him we were hoping for our leopard (to complete the big 5). I must say though, I wish they did a true night drive at Biyamiti. I’d rather spend the last hour of daylight on my own, then come out again after dark for the night drive. We saw elephant, hippo, lots of impala, scrub hare, and this python. No leopard yet. But we still had a wonderful drive.

Image


Last edited by skywalker2251 on Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:26 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 1:41 am 
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Thursday June 14th Part 1

We arrived back at camp at 5:30 pm, right at gate closing time. We had barely made it in time, as the days events had left us far away from Biyamiti as closing time approached. For the last 45 minutes of the day, we had driven the speed limit (and I confess, at times a few km/hr above it), not stopping for any sighting, as there was no time. As I finally had a minute to think, my thought centered that days like today were why I love Kruger.

The day began as any other, we were fortunate to get out of camp right at 6 am. As we knew this was our last full day in Kruger, we were really hoping for a leopard. I opened the gate; we drove out and began the day. Again we would find ourselves surrounded on the Biyamiti road by the Cape buffalo. They crossed in front and behind us. I took the advice of other forum members and lingered for several minutes to see if anything was following them. Nothing came, so we moved on.

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We began to head towards the Hippo pool on the S25 near Crocodile Bridge. A few impala posed for us along the way. We saw elephant in the distance as we crossed over the Biyamiti on the S25. Tons of impala littered the S25. On the S27, we saw rhino, warthog, giraffe, guinea fowl, and zebra. We saw a few birds & ducks at hippo pool (and hippo too).

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A lion had been in the area the previous night.

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As the day started to get warmer, we figured we’d try the S28 or S130 in hopes of seeing cheetah. I decided to take the S28. We saw quite a lot along the road, zebra, giraffe, and vultures. We saw lots of other animals, but most everything was really far off, too far off for good photography. It was nice to have some different scenery, and be on the flat landscape. We made a stop at the Nhlanganzani Dam. There we were greeted by hippo on the other side of the dam. We watched them for a few minutes, and they were joined by 3 elephants coming for a drink.

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We continued on towards Lower Sabie, taking the short detour towards sunset dam. 30 or 40 crocodile lined the dam. Lots of hippo and impala were around too.

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It was now getting later in the afternoon, so it was time to start making our way back towards Biyamiti. Doubt began to creep in if we would see a leopard on our trip. I knew we were coming up on prime time for viewing the big cats, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we might not see any again this afternoon/evening. We continued south on the H4-2, passing the dirt road (the S139?) that goes north towards lower sabie. About 3 km’s down the road, we came upon 3 cars that were stopped. Something felt different about this time. I didn’t see anything right away. As we pulled up next to one of the cars, our hopes were confirmed! A leopard was in the thick brush in front of us!

To be continued…


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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:17 am 
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Thursday June 14th – Part 2

Sorry for the delay. I didn’t mean to pause at the best part of our day :twisted:, but it took a bit longer to write my report the other day and I ran out of time.

So, to continue, the car next to us informed us of the leopard they saw. To my surprise, they signal us to move into their spot as they pull forward so we can see it. Again, what wonderfully nice people we continued to meet in Kruger (my impression was that they were Kruger veterans that had been many, many times). As we pulled forward, we were just able to see the leopard lying on the ground. It was very thick brush, so we were not able to see it well, or get a good photograph. After watching it for only a brief moment, I wanted to give our 2nd car a chance to see it, so I pulled forward so they could move into our spot. I couldn’t see it nearly as well in our new spot, so I slowly pulled forward and tried to catch another glimpse. The leopard got up and walked forward, and I was able to get a few pictures more. Soon, it disappeared from our sight. We kept watching, hoping that it would reappear, but it didn’t (at least not while we stayed, which wasn’t very long). I show a few more pictures here, not that they’re very good, but I think they capture the fleeting glance of a leopard that we all hope to get.

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I would have stayed and looked a bit longer for the leopard to reappear, but another car stopped and asked what we had been looking at. When we told him, he replied that he had just left another leopard about 3-4 km’s away on the dirt road towards lower sabie. Usually, I take advice such as this with a grain of salt, but I just felt this was different and the leopard would still be there when we arrived. By this time, it was getting later in the afternoon, it was approaching 4:30 pm, and we had little time for a detour away from Biyamiti.

We drove down the dirt road a couple of km’s, and sure enough, just as it was described to us, a leopard sat in a tree right next to the road. She had made a kill the previous day, and you could see the limbs of the impala on a branch next to her. A hyena waited below, hoping for some scraps. It was a wonderfully peaceful scene. We only had a few minutes to spend there. I wished we could have stayed for hours, but we had to be making our way back. I stayed as long as I could, before reluctantly leaving the scene.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:58 pm 
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Anja, I wondered how many I would find on the board that had been at that leopard sighting. It was really great. When we got there, I really wished we had been staying at Lower Sabie, because I knew we couldn't stay long. We probably arrived around 4:10 pm, and probably stayed 20-30 minutes.

I had forgotten, however, to bring a yellow ribbon. I must apologize for some of the people in our other car. I had told them not to protrude out of the vehicle, but a couple of them did at this sighting in order to take photographs :evil: (my vehicle, however, was very well behaved). Fortunately, this leopard was very relaxed and wasn't spooked by all the activity going on there (there were quite a lot of cars).

As a side note, it looks like skywalker might have a chance to come to South Africa again this year! Imagine that, I'll make it twice in the same year after not having been there since 1997! I have a friend getting married (date set tentatively for Dec 13th) in Joburg. I'll probably know for sure in two or three weeks. It will probably be on my own, but I will at least get to come to Kruger for a few days if I make it! :dance: :D


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Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2007 1:23 am 
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Well, I just got an email from my friend in Joburg. He is not getting married in December, so it looks like skywalker will not be coming to South Africa again this year. I'm still considering it, but don't know if I'm going to make the trip alone if I'm just going for myself to come to Kruger.

On the bright side, I'm meeting with another friend tonight to discuss a trip to Africa. I'm not sure if it will be to South Africa (it may be to Kenya & Tanzania, or to the Botswana-the Savuti and Okavango Delta area). I think we're going to shoot for next year sometime.

If anyone has any experience with the above mentioned areas, I'd appreciate a private message so I can ask you some questions.

In any case, I can't wait for my next trip to Kruger! I've got a few more pictures to share from my trip in June. I've just been really busy the last month and haven't been able to finalize the end of my report.


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Submitted by Anonymous at 10:25:39 Submitted by teddy_rsa at 09:58:44 Submitted by Stampajane at 07:23:16 Submitted by bushwackedblonde at 09:03:10