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 Post subject: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 1:20 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Port Elizabeth
I have just returned from the most amazing two days in Addo. Living in Port Elizabeth I've been there a number of times, but this visit left me wondering whether it could ever be topped. :D

I was joined by my friend J on this trip, and although we gave a bit of a live trip report from inside the park, I felt that our sightings deserved a bit more detail and some better quality photos (the ones we uploaded from in the park were done at low resolutions due to the slow data signal). So, if the moderators don't mind, I'm going to start this thread as a new trip report rather than pin it on the back of the live one.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 1:46 pm 
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A bumpy start

In order to make the most of our 2 day trip to Addo, J and I wanted to get to the main section of the park as soon as it opened. That meant taking the R335 which is still as bumpy as ever, but we didn't care... time was of the essence and the sooner we were in the park, the sooner we might catch some magical glimpses of the animals.

The staff at the main gate were very helpful, as were those at reception who checked us in. Thanks to their efficiency it was barely 7am and we were in the park. :dance:

As I mentioned in my previous post we sent live updates from inside the park, but it nearly didn't happen at all. Somehow I had deleted the dial up connection via my phone from my laptop, and could I remember the right number to dial when setting it up again :hmz: . Thankfully google on my phone has all the answers and soon we were sending live posts from in the park.

Forumites were very keen that we head along the southern access road, and so we duly obliged. The weather was calm but overcast, and the park seemed almost devoid of life. Not even the prolific kudu were keen on showing themselves - the first ones we saw were sitting down and so for a moment we mistook them for being lion :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:41 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Port Elizabeth
Where did the water go?

After travelling along the tar road in the general direction of Harpoor, we turned off along the southern access road and called in at Spekboom hide. I've had some lovely sightings there before, but as we looked out we were left with a question - where did all the water go? :huh:

I can only assume that the pump at Spekboom had broken, and probably recently. Whilst we were there a warthog came trotting along and looked very confused by the lack of anything to drink!

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A rustling in some nearby bushes alerted us to a tantalisingly close male buffalo. His grazing was slowly taking him away from the hide, so our pictures were really just for the record...

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Last edited by PJL on Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:35 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Port Elizabeth
Southern Access Road

From Spekboom we travelled south in the hope of finding some cats! My luck with sightings in that area had always been quite bad, but we were encouraged by Salva's recent sighting of two big male lion along that way.

Marion Baree was deserted, and as it started to rain over the hills in that area we came across some zebra very close to the road.

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Other than the zebra, everything was quiet all the way to the south gate... we turned the car around and sat there for a bit sorting some of our gear out not knowing that our luck was all about to change! :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 7:48 pm 
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Cut the phone call short!

Sitting at the south gate, J was busy phoning home and I was sorting out my camera equipment when movement on the road caught our attention... Caracal! :dance: :dance:

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I couldn't quite believe my eyes :big_eyes: . We were literally next to the gate on the south side and certainly not expecting to see anything. J cut his call short and we slung the car round for a good view of where the cat would appear between the bushes.

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Caracal are one of my favourite cats. Probably because we don't get to see them often! It was such a pleasure to watch this one prowl around looking for small rodents - at one point he really did look like he was about to pounce!

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We didn't get to see much of him from the front due his direction of travel, but it didn't matter... we had seen a caracal and our trip felt complete already :D

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 9:22 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Port Elizabeth
Thanks Kamadejo, michaelpr, Micetta, Pumbaa & Caracal for the kind compliments!

Flying high

Thrilled with our sighting, we kind of thought the rest of the trip might become a bit of a let down... but it was just the start of things to come :D . Back at Spekboom we had our first elephant sighting of the trip, as well as seeing a BBJ. Not bad considering there wasn't any water there!

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Some of the spekboom bushes (the staple diet of many animals in the park) were flowering which gave them a nice pink spash of colour.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:12 am 
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Animals pretending to be animals

I think it's worth mentioning at this point that some animals have an amazing ability of pretending to be something else. Kudu can cause confusion, but warthog are the main culprits! They can look like lion, caracal, rhino and a number of other things if they feel like it. Someone should have a word with them and tell them it's ok to be a warthog, so stop pretending to be something else :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:07 am 
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Location: Port Elizabeth
In-flight entertainment

Forumites had also requested a trip up to Zuurkop and the Mbabala loop, so that's where we headed next. The view across to the Zuurberg mountains was obstructed by rain showers in the area.

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Mbabala loop was very quiet as usual. There were a few Red Hartebeest dotted around, but no sign of any big male lion which are sometimes spotted up in the area. From Zuurkop we could see vehicles meandering around Carols Rest and the Gorah Loop, so as we headed down in that direction we caught sight of a secretary bird in the distance, and a bird of prey much closer to the road.

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I think this was a Steppe Buzzard - and probably a juvenile. Like many of our sightings, as we sat and watched, it gave us some great photo opportunities :cam: . In this case, the bird kept taking off every few minutes and landing again close by - perfect for trying to capture those rare in-flight moments :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:29 pm 
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Location: Port Elizabeth
The trip keeps getting better

After the fun of photographing the buzzard, we swung onto the dirt road towards Carols Rest. Some small movements caught our attention on a rise - not just one, but a family of yellow mongoose :D .

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A little further along the road was a very special sighting. About six BBJ pups happily playing next to the road. We were quite amazed that the mother was happy for them to be so close to the vehicles, but the pups certainly didn't mind all the attention! How much better could this trip get? :big_eyes:

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:06 pm 
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Location: Port Elizabeth
Whatever next?

Ok, so we had only been in the park for four and a half hours and our sightings list already consisted of Warthog, Buffalo, Zebra, Caracal, BBJ, Elephant, Red Hartebeest, Steppe Buzzard, Secretary Bird, Yellow Mongoose and the gorgeous BBJ pups! We were smiling to say the least :D

Carols Rest was fairly quiet with just a heron in the water and some Red Hartebeest milling around. They looked keen to drink, but seemed very spooked by a carcass lying nearby.

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Heading back towards camp there was yet more luck heading our way. Some movement in the bushes turned out to be a bat-eared fox! :big_eyes: :big_eyes: It was very surprising to see one so clearly in the daytime.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:01 pm 
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Setting up camp

Back at the main camp we checked the sightings board which suggested some lion sightings around Carols Rest and Gorah Loop. We certainly hadn't seen anything but decided we'd head back that way later in the afternoon and double check after setting up our camp.

It was the first time that I had used the camping area, and I was pleasantly surprised with how nice it was. The caravan sites were spacious, whilst the tent sites we stayed at had just about enough room for one tent and a car. The advantage of the small tent sites is that they have a bit of a view onto the park, so as we set up our tent we had a distant view of elephant to remind us where we were :D

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Addo seems to have had a bit of bad press lately (see here and here). But we certainly didn't find ANY problems whilst we were there. The staff all seemed friendly and helpful. The toilets at Spekboom have now been closed and the public are directed to use the ones at the new picnic site which are new and clean. The main camp area was spotless, and the new visitor centre is going to be great when it opens - there are all sorts of fun things there already for youngsters and young-at-heart alike!

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 9:22 pm 
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Location: Port Elizabeth
Up close

One of the reasons I like Addo so much is that you can get so close to the elephant. I have travelled a lot in southern africa and been charged by elephant on more than one occasion :shock: ... but not at Addo. They are so used to vehicles and haven't been subjected to game capture that they really are very tolerant. It means that you can see aspects of them that you might otherwise miss - from the hair on their tails to the deftness of their trunks. We took the dirt road to Harpoor dam after lunch and came across a nice size herd in the bushes along the way...

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At Harpoor there were 3 bull elephant looking quite majestic - one of whom looked to have broken his tusk in a fight at some point...

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:29 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Port Elizabeth
Thanks MarilizeB, Micetta & Kamadejo!

MarilizeB - I use a Canon EOS 40D with a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens. For some added zoom I sometimes attach a 2x extender which turns the lens into a 140-400mm f5.6 :D

Lion hunting

We called in again quickly at Spekboom hide seeing as we were in the area. Yet again, despite the lack of water we had a surprise... vervet monkeys were feeding in the trees inside the enclosure and we were able to get very close to them!

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We then turned our attention to tracking down the lion that had been spotted in the Gorah Loop area of the park. Given our good fortune so far on the trip we jokingly assumed we'd just have to wait in the area and they would come and find us! :lol:

Heading on to the Gorah Loop we came across another herd of zebra right by the road. It was so nice to see them close up again, as I normally only ever see them in the distance at Addo. You can see here how dry it is at the moment - I hope they get some good rain soon.

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Oh and then of course we saw lion! :big_eyes:
As we were driving up the loop we could see some vehicle activity on the other side of the valley. We presume it was Aardlam and her cubs... they had crossed the road there and headed down into the valley between the two roads. We got to see fleeting glimpses of them through our binoculars as they moved through the bush, and although it was great to see some lion, the distance (maybe 500m) to them made it frustrating at the same time. :?

We tried to anticipate where they might appear where one of the roads dips into the valley by waiting there for a while.... but no luck. The only photo we managed was by J using his digital zoom to full extent

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:11 am 
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Rounding off day 1

Following our unsuccessful attempts to get a closer look at the lion, we looped round by Carols Rest and back over to Rooidam to see if there were any sign of hyena. A lone eland and ostrich were roaming around Carols Rest, but the hyena down at Rooidam weren't to be seen.

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As we came out the park and back to our camp we were thrilled with our sightings list for the first day - in fact I'm not sure we added to it much on the second day... but some of the sightings were better :wink:

Warthog, Buffalo, Zebra, Caracal, BBJ (& pups), Elephant, Red Hartebeest, Steppe Buzzard, Secretary Bird, Yellow Mongoose, Lion, Vervet Monkey, Ostrich, Eland, Duiker and Grey Mongoose.

We spent some time at the floodlit waterhole but didn't see more than a couple of spring hare and BBJs. The jackal were very noisy throughout the night and I also heard the hyena at one point.

At the camp we had the pleasure of meeting DinkyBird and her family - nice to meet you guys!! :D

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 Post subject: Re: 2 Incredible Days In Addo
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 11:56 am 
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Up at the crack of dawn

After a good nights sleep (despite waking up to the jackal & hyena) we had breakfast at a deserted main waterhole. Our aim for the day was to try and see some buffalo and lion a bit closer... but we weren't optimistic about seeing any lion again :(

Carols Rest has provided great buffalo sightings for me in the past, and as the lion had been in that area we decided it would be the best place to head to first. The BBJ pups were out again along the way, and this time we had a bit of sunlight filtering through the clouds to brighten the photos :D

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Without warning the pups shot off. Mum had come home and they were obviously hungry!.. some nice regurgitated meat for breakfast... yum! :lol:

Carols Rest was very quiet which surprised me. There were some zebra and red hartebeest with calves in the distance, but nothing close to the waterhole. Fortunately we came very close to some secretary birds for yet more photographic entertainment :cam:

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