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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:44 pm 
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This is getting REALLY interesting :lol:

I wanted to tease the threecheeses outa the interested forumites in general and the Duke Pack specifically, but I never thought WTM and Matt would go and save some face on behalf of the Pack. I knew WTM had something up his sleeve a while ago when he kinda indicated that he would be in the KNP today and would possibly give his favourite Pel's spot another buzz. I bet WTM couldn't in his wildest dream have imagined the change in plan coming up with this result! :lol: Well done, WTM and Matt. :dance:

But now I need to post like crazy before these thunderstealing eggwhites get back to their workstations...

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:07 pm 
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Loams wrote:
I have just been informed that pishing is a way to call or attract birds.

I would like to say that I will only acknowledge it once I see it in a dictionary! :evil:

Besides, isn't calling or attacting animals against park rules!! :twisted: :twisted:


Pishing works. Having the oompah to make a pishing statement before the fact shows belief in the art :lol:

Having an angel with a crystal ball at one's call is also useful 8)

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 2:30 am 
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Thanks to our wonderful service provider darkness has set in here until a few moments ago.

@ Richprins - what's with the 3 am issues, neefie? Or, for that matter, my current avvie?

@ Jay - gap in comms beyond my control... :lol: I will proceed in orderly fashion; not jump around too much, chronologically speaking, seeing as the Duke Pack has saved some face by posting a pix. (Wonder what happened there... not bucky's shot, but Matt's???)

BTW, it is such an amazing event that Duke would pop up where he did as he had been "hiding" in the Mpanamana Consession area since June! Whenever I came accross a MC safari vehicle, I would ask the driver when last they saw Duke. The average answer was always: "...four days ago, deep in the consession..." One of the drivers told me that he saw Duke "two days ago, moving towards Nhlanganzwani dam..." also suggesting that we should keep on trawling the S28 as, with the heat of Tuesday (37 °C) and Wednesday (41 °C), Duke was likely to pitch at the dam for some water.

But, enough of the Duke... for now!

On that first day 4 of the Big5 showed well. We just missed out on lions. But, with all the bird encounters time flew. A trip that would normally have taken maybe two hours, lasted all of eight!

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Buffalo were quite regular sightings, often in big herds. We also saw two square-lipped rhino, but they didn’t make a nice pix, laying down in a shady spot they looked just like a clump of black rock.

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A white-backed vulture soared overhead. We often found white-backed vultures nesting.

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This little crowned lapwing is following in his dad’s footsteps – the “duck-tail hair style” is sure to become his too! :lol:

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As usual, yellow-billed hornbills adores to pose for close-up shots.

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And so too, crested francolin. The fellows were at the Gardenia Hide and I am convinced that they have become scavengers through-and-through. One grabbed a sandwich right out of SO Lillian’s hand while she took it out of the lunch tin!

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The last good sighting of the day was in front of our chalet at Croc Bridge.

We got chalet 10. I have read about a few gripes regarding the noise from the nearby personnel village and the water pump at the river. Although I was aware of this problem, neither noise sources were bothersome. But then, we had decent kips every night of the sort where you would be the last to wake up if an earthquake hit!

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 1:44 pm 
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I thought pishing was a name that some forumite made up, but a search on wikipedia confirms it as calling birds. You are never too old to learn.
I have adapted it for lions.
How do you pish for Duke?

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 4:05 pm 
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jonty1 wrote:
What a lovely start JVR. :clap:
I love the crested partridge photo. really pretty :)


Did I say "partridge" :roll:

For a moment I thought I missed a lifer :lol:

Glad you enjoy the posts, jonty1. There is lots more bird pix to come...

@ BB: Ellie pishing would involve electronic play-backs of the ultra-low frequency ellie sounds. Some scientists claim to have decyphered some of the phrases used by ellies and can use those phrazes to make ellies do certain fundamentals...

None of that technology was used here. Our pishing consisted of :"here, dukie, here!", crossed fingers and high hopes! :lol:

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:11 pm 
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Wednesday – The Duke-chase, day 1

Unusual for me not to make the gate at opening time – but we over-slept… We got out at half past six and headed toward the S28. A quick and unproductive turn-off to a bone-dry Gezantfombi Dam delayed our start on the S28 a little. As we turned onto the S28, someone coming off that road frantically signallled us to “Go! Go! Go!”. Lillian and I both agreed that she was going to fetch someone to share her sighting. Very excited we agreed that it had to be Duke!

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A huge dust cloud over the Makambeni watercourse alerted us to the presence of something unusual. It took a while to see what was going on in the dawn light, but eventually we discerned a huge herd of buffalo moving along this tributary of the Crocodile River – thick as fleas one a mangy dog’s back!

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For two kilometers along the road it was just buffalo upon buffalo. By estimation we “counted” the herd to be about 1000 animals! :shock: Amongst the herd we picked out a sports model – probably from the pre-park buffalo-racing days… :lol:

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This amazing sight had to be abandoned as our quest was seeing the Duke-fellow… I had gotten into the ritual of stopping every Mpanamana Concession vehicle that we came across and to engage the driver into a conversation about Duke. Everyone assured me that Duke hadn’t been seen since Saturday and that he was deep in the Concession area. One guide assured us that he had seen Duke on Monday, much closer to Nhlanganzwani Dam. He suggested that Duke may be on his way to water because of the hot spell that the southern Kruger was experiencing. It was a searing 41 °C by 11:00 on this somewhat breezy day. At Mac’s waterhole we had a brief glipse of a male lion dashing across the road. We sat for a while, waiting and hoping for a photo opportunity as the lion regularly let fly with loud “Ooomp, Oooomp, Ompf, Oompf”-calls, but in vain.

Continuing on our way north, we turned in at the Ntandanyathi Hide. In the hide roof a wire-tailed swallow pair was building their nest.

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In the waterhole Mama Hippo and Baby Hippo entertained us for a while.

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A group of 12 giraffe came in for a drink with a family of warthogs. Somewhere over the river a fish eagle yodeled: “Whe-e-e-re the heck are the fish”.

We decided to lunch at Lower Sabie, do some of the surrounding roads and then to return back along the S28 later that afternoon.

Wednesday – The Duke-chase, day 1… to be continued

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 9:58 pm 
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@ Jay: thank gwendolen who suggested that I should make the pix 640 x 480. I am not at all disappointed with the result.

The fast food at Lower Sabie and the Nkulu picnic spot were simply amazing. I am sure the mushroom and feta sarmies would be as good as the cheeseburger I took. Those two kitchens are outstanding!

gwendolen wrote:
Jay wrote:
...and yipeee a trip report where I can see the pixImage


:P :lol:


gwendolen is particularly mischievous tonight...


Wednesday – The Duke-chase, day 1… continued

We seriously started enquiring about Duke’s whereabouts. At Duke water hole this white rhino came up close for a talk. He hadn’t seen Duke either for quite a while. We continued northward, full of hope.

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The purple roller plainly refused to talk to us, feigning deafness, I suppose… :roll:

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When the African Pipit answered: “Duke, who?”, I knew we were pishing up the wrong tree. :lol:

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By totally ignoring us the reed cormorant found below the H10-bridge confirmed our suspicions that we could just relax about finding Duke for a while.

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At Lower Sabie I ordered hamburgers and, while Lillian waited at the table for our order, I went up into the viewing tower to find a real unusual sight – African black swifts starting to nest!

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After lunch we continued north with one eye on the watch. By 14:30 I was going to turn around and we’d do the reverse trip.

Traffic JAM!

Someone saw a leopard. After some manoeuvring I got one of those in the know to “show” us the leopard… a spotted tail and flicking ear… well, I guess it counts as a sighting… Somehow I got us disentangled and on the northern side of the JAM! It was at this spot where we saw the only other Yellow Ribbon flown by another forumite for the whole trip. He is a new member, battles to speak English, but we introduced ourselves none-the-less. Evo is the forum name. I hope he spots this post…

Some half a kilo further the Sabie River was alive with buffalos – again hundreds of them! With a few ellies thrown in. Our first big5 in one day has happened! We were ecstatic! :dance:

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Then another traffic JAM.

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Nobody knows how, but a buffalo has landed up on the croc menu.

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At one stage we counted 12 crocs actively feeding on the carcass.

As we disentangled ourselves from this JAM, it was time to turn back. In the distance I spotted a large bird. We’ll make THAT the turn-around point, I promised. Just as well – it turned out to be our favourite bird of prey – the majestic bateleur, fully grown and beautifully coloured.

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We tip-toed around the action spots and pulled off the road for the first time at Sunset Dam where a yellow-billed stork showed off its hunting prowess.

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This time we drove south along the Gomondwane Road (H4-2), onto the S130 and right onto the S137. We enjoyed some lovely bird sightings, including scores of white-crowned helmet-shrikes. This green woodhoopoe was the first bird we again started to question about the Duke’s whereabouts. It just shrugged its feathers: “Why ask me?”

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The martial eagle looked a bit bedonnerd so we skipped interrogating him.

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Onto the S28 and we idled along checking both sides of the road for the king of Kruger. Impala, kudu, warthogs, waterbuck, steenbok, baboons… leopard! Quick as a flash it disappeared – now THAT is the normal way for us to see the spotted cat! And then we saw its lair, with kill!

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He has had his fill and left the rest to the vultures.

Time was up! We had to return to camp. As the sun set on a very special Kruger day we silently said thanks and quietly hoped to get a glimpse of Duke the following day.

Image

Image

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Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Tue Aug 21, 2007 10:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 8:07 pm 
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Thursday – The Duke-chase, day 2

Because we found Duke on this day, it is probably fitting to first set the scene with some comments on the recent developments around Duke's well-being.

Duke arguably remains, but definitely was, until Tuesday, 21 August 2007, the largest of the Kruger tuskers, and therefore perhaps the biggest in the world. He is named after the early Ranger Tom Duke who was based at Lower Sabie between 1903 and 1923.

I think it was a shock to every forumite and all elephant lovers when the news of Duke’s misfortune in breaking off more than half of the exposed length of his left tusk was told to us by three of the “Duke Pack”.

It begs the questions: “Is Duke suffering any pain due to this incident. Will he recover some of his health and former glory?”

An elephant's tusks are really greatly elongated incisor teeth which keep growing throughout the elephant's life, although general wear and occasional breaks can keep their size in check. They are made from layers of dentine (ivory) that is very hard. The size of an elephant's tusks is an inherited characteristic. Tusks of bull elephants tend to be larger than cow tusks although it is possible to find tuskless members of both sexes. Elephants are "right or left tusked" using the favoured tusk as a tool for digging, ripping bark off trees and for resting a wary trunk on or as a weapon in conflict situations, shortening it from constant wear.

The elephant’s tusk has two centres of growth. The first originates solely around the apex of the tooth and results in the expansive growth of the tusk – much like the ‘nail bed’ is the sole source of eruptive growth of a toe nail. The second centre of growth is properly referred to as radial growth, and represents the thickening of the internal axial wall. Tusks are embedded into an indentation in the upper jaw and are attached to the bone of the animal’s upper-jaw by a ligament known as the periodontal ligament.

Tusks have two blood supplies as do all mammalian teeth. The first enters the tooth through its open apex in a complex multi-vascular pattern. The gelatinous soft tissue within the tusk is referred to as pulp tissue. The second vascular source supplies the periodontal ligament through the surrounding bone.

The significance of all of this is that when an elephant’s tusk is fractured in such a fashion that any of these critical mechanisms are exposed, the defensive barrier of the animal’s body is breached and microbes invade and infect the tissue immediately. The tusk reacts to any injury with exactly the same inflammatory response that occurs elsewhere in the animal’s body. The dental pulp tissue is so well-endowed with blood vessels that the animal’s natural immune system defeats the infection and isolates the injury by forming a secondary dentin bridge in a process similar to the classic "foreign body" reaction seen through the remainder of the body. This self-repairing mechanism is well documented in all healthy mammalian teeth. Obviously its success depends upon such issues as the virulence of the invading organism, the severity of the exposure, the health of the tissue, the age of the elephant and clearly it does not always succeed.

Apparently there is no nerve tissue within the dental pulp of the elephant. So, even if the break is compounded by exposure of the critical centres of the tusk, the elephant will not experience discomfort.

From the pix posted by bucky it seems as if the break is below the critical centres of the tusk and none of those would be exposed by the break itself. If any fine fractures extended into these centres, they would normally heal up perfectly. Duke is an old man now and the healing processes for him may not be all that vigorous anymore. Duke may live another 10 years or the bell may already be tolling for him… only time will tell. The fact that this tusk-break will probably not cause him pain is some consolation to his fans.

Just as an aside: tusks grow at about 15 –18 cm per year, but they are continually worn down with constant use. Should they be allowed to continually grow without use, they would grow into a spiral shape (similar to those of the extinct woolly mammoth) as they typically grow following a curved growth pattern.

Thursday – The Duke-chase, day 2… to be continued

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:25 pm 
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Thursday – The Duke-chase, day 2 continued...

Sorry if I caused your popcorn to go rancid :twisted:

My "Ode to Duke" took a while to compose :wink:

Luckily there are a few shows on the forum you can pick from :lol:

We were in a hurry on this cool and blustery morning. Cleaned the Landy’s windows and joined the short queue of cars waiting for the gates to open. Once we were let loose on the road we steadily drove onto the S28, making our way directly to the leopard kill site. I wanted to get some sunrise pix with the kill tree in the foreground. On this morning dawn was spectacularly painted with a palette full of robust and warm colours.

Image

The vultures must have fed throughout the night because there was very little left of the impala carcass. We sat watching their efforts to pull scraps of meat from the already bare bones and skin until the morning light was strong enough to spot game.

A short way further we had a brief glimpse of a leopard – we think it is the same one whose kill got cleaned up by the vultures.

The buffalo herd have moved on since the previous day and our crawl along the S28 was rewarded with sightings of impala, blue wildebeest, a male ostrich, some warthogs and kudus.

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Sometimes you get this weird feeling that something you wanted is going to happen to you. I just knew! When we saw the huge black ellie, I shouted: “Duke!”

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There is no way that I could be right… He was about 100 m off the road, feeding with his back towards us. With shaking hands I focussed the binos on him, trying to see those magnificent tusks that would confirm his identity. The ellie was stuffing himself with bunches of grass and remained stationary for an eternity. Then he shook his head and I saw the flash of an impossible amount of ivory. It was as thick as the leadwood tree trunk next to which he stood and the ivory went all the way to the ground!

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We stayed there watching him for the next three hours during which time Duke moved very little. He reminded us of an old man and, although in good condition, seemed a bit lop-sided as he slowly moved through the bush.

He had with him five askaris, of which one stood out as hugely impressive in his own right. This ellie is probably the one to step into Duke’s footprints when he passes the mantle on one day as THE tusker in the south-eastern part of Kruger.

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There was zero cell phone reception and I was itching to SMS the news of our encounter to gwendolen and Jay. Also, we had to get to the Kruger Gate quite early because I had work commitments. So, at 10:00 we called our farewells to old Duke.

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One of the askaris’ trumpeting echoed in the distance and Duke raised his trunk in a salute that caused a chill and tears unashamedly rolled down the cheeks as we left with hearts filled to the brim with the blessing of having seen this icon of Kruger.

On our way after having had this fleeting pleasure, my thoughts kept on returning to Duke. The chances that we will ever see him again are slim. In the corridors of my mind I committed to write a personal ode to Duke.

The breeze is diverted by the draughts of your breath
and the casual flapping of your ears starts the whirlwind.
With the rumbling of your belly and your thrilling trumpet
you fill the skies with the spreading sounds of triumph.
Bugle the bold notes, let the wild harmony ascend
across the vastness of the African savannah until,
insidiously, the strains decay and melt away,
in a dying, dying diminuendo.

It is new that there are so few of you
and my kind is the cause of your demise.

In your innocence you leave no lasting signs in your wake.
Your brushstroke on the canvas of time is compassionate.
May we humans learn the sympathy in your vast shy heart
so that our passing too will leave only the kind mark
of patience and compassion on this abode we share.
Let death not be accorded any significance so that we,
as old friends, can expect to continually meet
each other again and again.

Few of you are left and your loss will be felt,
perversely by my kind who caused your demise.


Thursday – The Duke-chase, day 2… to be continued

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 10:54 pm 
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Thursday – The Duke-chase, day 2 continued

Thank you all for your notes of appreciation. I see that the most responses from forumites go to trip reports where very little actual trip reporting gets done :twisted: I must ask Deebs what the secret is... :twisted: :twisted:

With all the time we spent with Duke a stack of places where we would usually stop were passed by – we had a business deadline to meet and for the next four hours we splashed-and-dashed through various sightings of ellies and buffs along the Sabie River.

I certainly wanted to see the buffalo kill of the previous day. Not much remained of the carcass. Rather difficult to believe that the vultures and crocs could finish up a whole buff in a 24-hour period!

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A little further we got a view of this male lion on the other side of the Sabie River, at least 500 m away. Again the digiscope set-up with everything on full zoom came to the party… Big5 for the second time! :dance:

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We had lunch at the Nkulu picnic spot. The baboons here turned out nasty. A very large baboon male kept on getting very close, flashing his eyelids at us and I advised Lillian to be very careful and to watch the blighter closely. Next to us a young Portuguese couple settled in with their lunchbox. The couple incredibly packed the contents of the lunchbox out on the table in spite of the presence of the two very bold animals. A shrill shriek alerted me that something had happened and in turning around I saw the two baboons disappearing around the corner of the toilet building, each with a sarmie in hand. The woman was holding the side of her head, as pale as a hospital sheet, eyes huge with fright. A faint smudge of blood showed on her cheek below the hand holding her face. I tried to talk to them but their English had left them in the lurch in this crisis. While hurriedly shoving their goods into the lunchbox the guy kept on saying: “Is OK… Is OK…” They left in quite a hurry, I hope to get some medical assistance if that was what was needed, and/or some counselling to deal with the shock and to come to terms with Kruger – this wild place in Africa…

The burger I had was divine and the baboons got none of it!

After this commotion I had a quick stroll up and down the river walk and spotted a pair of very special birds for this area of Kruger. White-crowned lapwings are normally only seen at Crooks’ Corner in the far north of the Park.

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At Skukuza this Impala lily impressed with its flush of blooms. Adenium multiflorum, also called the Sabi Star, is the best known of the South African adeniums. It flowers in winter when most of the surrounding vegetation is in its dull winter state. Everything else pales in comparison to the brilliant white and pink bicoloured flowers that cover these plants when in full bloom. Stems of this plant arise from a large underground rootstock. The bark is shiny grey to brown and contains poisonous watery latex. For most of the year the plants do not have flowers or leaves. The leaves are up to 100 mm long, shiny green above and pale below, usually much broader towards the tip, and are carried in clusters at the growing tips of the branches. They are shed before flowering.

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The flowers are borne in bunches at the ends of the plant’s stems, each flower 50-70 mm in diameter. They vary greatly in colour, usually with pointed white lobes, crinkly red margins and red stripes in the throat. Plants with pure white flowers are occasionally found. The flowers are sweetly scented. Flowering occurs from May to September. The fruit is usually paired, horn-like pods up to 240 mm long.

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The impala lily is on the Red Data lists of Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Most of its distributional range in South Africa falls within the Kruger National Park where it is protected, although it does not have any threatened status in here. The main threats to the species are collection for horticulture, medicinal use, agriculture and browsing by wild animals. Baboons, for example, have been seen uprooting whole plants to feed on the tuberous rootstock.

These plants are usually found in sandy soil or in sediment deposited by running water in rocky habitats, in dry woodland or open grassland and on brackish flats. Where browsed extensively they tend to be small and shrubby. In protected areas, however, they can become handsome trees, the shape resembling a miniature baobab. The plant’s thick, tuberous underground stem helps it to survive long periods without water. In nature the plants propagate by means of seed, which are adapted for wind dispersal by having tufts of silky hairs.

The impala lily is known in Africa and southern Africa as a source of fish poison and arrow poison. The poison is prepared from the latex in the bark and fleshy parts of the trunk, but it is always used in combination with other poisons. Leaves and flowers are poisonous to goats and cattle, but the plants are sometimes heavily browsed by game and are not considered to be of much toxicological significance. It is used in medicinal applications and also in magic potions. The stem and roots are reported to contain more than 30 complex chemical compounds with cardiac properties.

Horticulturally, the impala lily is greatly valued for its flowers. A large plant in full bloom is among the most decorative of all succulents, and is highly prized in gardens where the climate allows it to be grown in the open. Adenium multiflorum is planted extensively in the rest camps of the Kruger National Park.

The impala lily grows well in warm, well-drained situations where the soil is sandy. In the garden they are ideal subjects for a dry rockery, giving a warm colourful display of bright flowers in winter. As container plants they may be kept in cooler places, but do not water them when they are dormant and protect the plants against frost.

We planned to stop over at the Skukuza nursery on our way out (going home) to buy four plants for our holiday home in St Lucia. I am convinced they will do extremely well there. 8)

Our final sighting was at the Kruger gate – a juvenile martial eagle.

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Oom Paul sternly overlooked our departure.

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The rest of Thursday and all of Friday would be taken up by work (to pay for the play :lol: ). Our next date with Kruger would come on Saturday – I had convinced agraham and his SO, Rosemary to join us on a 4 x 4 trail – initially it would have been the Man-eater near Pretoriuskop, but, because of the extensive veld fires that razed this area, we chose the Mananga trail near Satara instead. Mananga translates to 'Wilderness'. Saturday morning we would leave very early for Orpen gate and enter the park at the closest point to Satara so that we could book our passage along the Wilderness trail and leave plenty of time to do it.

agraham has deservedly gained a reputation as an extremely “lucky” Kruger tourist – we were going to test his luck thoroughly…

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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:45 pm 
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Saturday – The Mananga experience

We got away from the Kruger Gate Lodge 04:20 – it was our plan to drive around the outside of the Kruger Park to Orpen gate, a 155 km trip. The remaining distance from Orpen Gate to Satara would be 46 kms as opposed to 104 from Kruger Gate. All this was planned just to save us time so that we could get onto the Mananga 4 x 4 trail as soon as humanly possible. At exactly 06:00 we pulled in at Orpen Gate where I refuelled while agraham went to do the paperwork. (Don’t you just LOVE having a Wild Card?) :lol:

Everyone had visited all the necessary places at Orpen and we were on our way… and not too long before the first bit of agraham-magic kicked in… This young spotted hyena came to say hello. We followed it a bit along the H7 up to where the Rabelais loop starts. Here it took off into the bush.

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We stopped for pix of a tawny eagle, a young fish eagle and a white-backed vulture before getting back onto the H7. The sun was coming through nicely and this Sabota’s Lark also received some of our precious time… to the frustration of some in our touring party. :twisted:

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We got to Satara at 08:00 and were quite glad to hear the trail was still open for bookings. In fact, we were only the second group for the day.

To be continued...

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Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:35 pm 
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Saturday – The Mananga experience ...continued

The "huggability" of a hyena is debateable, Jay. I think most of hyenas will run away if approached for a hug. :lol: But some may just see the poor hugger for food... :roll:

About 5 kilometres north of Satara we turned off onto the “adventure trail” and within a few hundred metres we were into a 50-strong widely dispersed elephant herd.

Our next sighting included two kudu bulls; the one had very widely spaced horns. It wouldn’t pose nicely showing that feature – this is the best shot I got.

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At 10:00 we arrived at the trail’s “get lost here” point – the waterhole 13 kilometres into the trip. Here a myriad of roads lead away from the waterhole in all directions. A lone hooded vulture stood around at the waterhole, uncertain about our presence. It eventually became too nervous and flew off.

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This lone blue wildebeest remained at a distance while we enjoyed the birdlife at the waterhole.
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I’d love to be at this point a lot earlier in the day. Birds were constantly alighting for a quick drink and taking off again to attend to their daily business. We saw Namaqua doves, blue waxbills, Jamieson’s firefinches, Cape turtle doves and a lone African pipit before a large flock of grey-backed sparrow-larks moved in. We had seen them earlier during our trip in large flocks along the S28, but this time they sat quietly, allowing descent pix. Normally these birds are rather rare sightings in Kruger, but the draught in the western parts of South Africa is suspected as the major contributing factor to the flood of grey-backed sparrow-larks seen in Kruger this winter.

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Then a small flock of quail-finches moved in for a drink. They are rarely seen in the open like this and I whole-heartedly grabbed the opportunity to get descent pix of these birds.

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A small herd of zebra moved in and the birds were scattered by the thirsty animals.

To be continued...

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Saturday – The Mananga experience ...continued some more

After consulting the map provided by the Satara office (and knowing from posts on the forum about the reputation of this point as a bamboozler of the best map readers) agraham and I decided on one of the tracks leading away from the waterhole in a southerly direction, (obviously) toward to S100. agraham’s bush eyes shortly proved its mettle when he spotted this pair of double-banded sandgrouse. He had to direct us from bush to grass blade to bush until one of the birds moved its head and we all saw it. Amazing how an animal can remain hidden until it moves – then the picture jumps into focus!

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A giraffe laying down! Never seen that one before!

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Our choice of track away from the waterhole proved to be the correct one as we emerged and turned left onto the S100 at an access point with a road marker indicating it to be an exit point of the adventure trail. Puffed our chests out a bit…

A few hundred metres further down the S100 – a 20-car traffic jam. As we got closer we saw the pride of lions prone in and on the edge of the road. Females and young males – in total made up 12 animals. A large male lion showed briefly about 20 metres off into the grass, stretching and yawning before flopping down and disappearing from view – before anyone of our party could get evidence… As the gaps opened up in the jam, we took the opportunity offered and got extremely close. I got the pix of this young male from three metres!

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The pride had settled in for the day and tourists on the S100 on this day were in for a rare treat.

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A second male lion moved closer to the pride and flopped down on the edge of the pride for his nap. Of course this type of sighting is just par for agraham and SO! According to agraham – if you seen ellies first, you’ll have a poor game viewing day. And of cause we did see ellies first… A bad agraham day was turning out very special for the Van Rensburgs!
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To be continued (some more)...

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Saturday – The Mananga experience ... continued further

After having had our fill of lions up close, we moved off for a date with this confiding crested barbet.

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And a little further this juvenile fish eagle sat patiently waiting for his parents to bring some food.

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bucky had sent me an SMS about having found a painted snipe at Sweni Hide and we quickly popped in at the hide to see if we could find the bird. We saw some yellow-billed storks, white-face ducks, black crakes, brown-hooded kingfisher, African jacana, pied kingfisher and three-banded plovers, but no sign of the snipe. But it was midday already and birding at that time of day is dicy.

With hind-sight, it was a daft decision to go chasing the snipe at the Sweni Hide - another hour was chopped from the little time we had available to do the trail!

At the turn-off to the Gudzani dam we had the sighting of the day when a serval teased us a bit by playing hide-and-go-seek in the tall grass along the road. We all had great sightings, but unfortunately just one very poor pix. To see a serval at midday is unheard of. Lillian and I, once before, a long time ago, had the pleasure of seeing a male and female in mating ritual as we were returning to Balule after a night drive. Those cats rollicked in the road leading to the camp and we sat there watching their antics for close on an hour.

Back onto the Mananga trail we were following the course of the Mavumbye River. The waterbuck composed nicely.

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Then we came across a lion-sighting with a difference (for Kruger, that is…) only ONE car to mark the spot! A pride of similar size to the S100 pride, also with two males in attendance was draped across the rocky river bank, baked in the afternoon sun.

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That is when I knew I’d be back to do this trail – but the next time we’ll be doing it from Satara as a base so that we can get onto it as early as gate opening allows and get back as late as gate closing permits. It was 15:00 already and we intended driving back through the Park to Kruger Gate! Now that required discipline! Only the minimum viewing time would be given to very special sightings. It broke our hearts to leave the lions so soon.

Still on the Mananga we came across this Kori Bustard. It was the second one for this trip as earlier we had seen one drinking on the opposite side of the Sunset Dam near Lower Sabie – but that was a “spotting scope only” sighting as it was 600 metres away. This bird was seen Kgalagadi-style

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Once back on the H1-4 road we made a splash-and-dash stop at Satara to get our deposit for the trail back.

To be continued (further)...

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Saturday – The Mananga experience... final moments

It was a colaborative decision to drive back to Kruger Gate along the roads inside the park. I was driving with one eye on the road and the other on the clock, travelling at a steady pace south toward and past Tshokwane, with brief views of elephants, various antelope and lots of birds. We popped in at Siloweni Dam where a large herd of buffalo were congregated.

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We had a nice sighting of a saddle-billed stork as well before continuing on our way. We didn’t even slack the pace for our first Rhinos of the day! It was 16:50! And we had in excess of 50 kilometres to go to the Kruger Gate. Then, just as agraham was giving up on the fifth member of the Big5… we slowed for a car parked on a bridge across one of the tributaries of the N’watindlopfu and agraham spotted the leopard on the bank where we had come from. Now THAT took a while to point out to me! I felt like a blind person until the leopard moved, apparently for the umpteenth time. No cat sighting is ever any good for me when at the back of the vehicle! (rem: physically too I qualify as a member of the Stiffnecks!) It was so well camouflaged that I immediately lost sight of it again. BTW, I had given up with 2/5 at Satara already!

The young male leopard got up and strode across the road and disappeared into the bush. Our time was up here… we had to move it! In the next thirty kilometres we were to see lions three more times, hyenas twice, ellies and buffalo by the hundreds. Thinking back to those last few minutes of steadily driving past all these wonderful animals, virtually having to ignore them, pains me.

We made the Gate with two minutes spare!

Our Kruger visit was coming to an end, fittingly with yet another memorable day to report on.

Our final time in Kruger would be spent the next morning driving through the Park to Malelane Gate before heading home.

Final posting to follow...

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