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Unread postPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 8:42 pm 
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In the afternoon I went up to the museum again to see if there was any further information for me. Kirsty - the fundi - was there, but had not been told about my requests! We had a good talk and she looked at my pix. The Gardenia elephant is unknown to her, so may be a new tusker indeed. She will check with someone else first. She identified another I had seen near Shingwedzi as Tamaka (the look-alike to Arks' elephant).

I then went north and took the Engelhard road. It was hot, and not much about. Elephants in the river on the way, plus waterbuck, and several herds of impala. I had Mantambeni hide to myself and spent a while watching hippos and buffalos in the distance on the edge of the water.

On the way back to the road I found a pair of steenbok. Then a large make kudu - but like many males he wanted a drink and nothing was going to stop him so he disappeared in the direction of the dam very quickly! More grazing hippo on the way back too.

Headed for bed early as I had to be at reception at 0415 for the walk. The neighbours were noisy, but did quieten down shortly after 9. New folk with a caravan on the other side of me however continued loud talking, banging of metal things (sounded like they had one of those noisy off-roaders, but it was a newish Sprite), bottles noisy dumped into a container and then into the bin.... I sent several sms to the duty manager with no response. It was gone midnight before they quietened down.

My alarm went off at 3.30 and I had a hot drink then headed for reception......and waited, and waited. Eventually looked at the board where the activities were advertised and found the walk started at 0500! A little devil got in me and I rang the duty manager!!!! Not much help there - but as I was talking the guide turned up - and turned out to be Saska. She apologised, but it was not her fault after all. 2 other folk joined us, we set off to collect the other guide, Robert, and headed for the Engelhard dam again. About 0545 we were walking in the bush - bliss....

We found evidence of buffalo around but did not meet any - although the smell was strong at times. In fact we only saw hippo and a few buffalo on the far bank. We found huge numbers of armoured grund crickets, and several golden orb web spiders (one mating), and one garden web spider. So not much - but I just love being able to walk in the bush! On our return we came across a huge flap-neck chameleon crossing the road and stopped to make sure he got there safely. On the bridge we could see Ground hornbills in the distance, but something spooked them and they flew off.

When we got back I asked to see the manager - but was told he was 'in a meeting'. I went and packed up and returned to the office. The only recetionist was busy so I rang the manager - and saw him outside talking to me on hes phone!

I told ihim the problem of the previous night - and he found the sms messages still on the phone! He promised to check up with the duty manager, and to check the campsite tonghit - too late for me! I also reported the erroneous information re walk time and he was horrified... Also reported the abultion block, newly finished had cold water only in the showers and hot water only in the hand basins - someone had messed up the plumbing. He was dismayed..... We parted friends, He was grateful for problems being brought to his attention so he cold deal with them, and asked me to contact him when I next visited Letaba so they could do something to compensate me! Again I learned that it is best to speak to the person in charge as soon as possible!

So it was 1000 befroe I left Letaba in the end - which meant a fairly quidk journey home rather than time to go via Orpen dam, etc as I had hoped. Still I found a number of ellies, and a group of kudu females with a yound male. He started to cross the road and then suddenly took off and virtually cleared the road in a single leap. He stopped in the shade of a small tree and looked at me as if to say 'that is what kudus can do. Over to you.' I conceded defeat and drove on!

Just south of Ngotso dam I found a large gathering of wildebeest, zebs, giraffe and impala. And a couple of km later I came across the Kruger maribou stork convention. There were about 100 birds in small groups of 2-8 and a couple of larger ones scattered over a large area. They were preening and just resting in the shade. Very strange.

More ellies and several lots of giraffe later and I was at Croc Bridge and out of the Park again.

But now I have my reason to return again - I have to go back to Letaba to claim my 'compensation'......!!!

But I will manage some short day trips before then......


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Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:32 pm 
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Decided to do that breakfast trip tomorrow - the river is way down so there should definitely be no problem getting in at Croc Bridge - my only problem is to decide which route to take to LS for brekkie........???!!!


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Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:41 pm 
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Soon after going through the gate I was greeted by a mix of zebras, wildebeest and warthogs. It is always amazing how they can be there in such numbers one day and not the next!

I decided to head straight up the tar road this time. When I got to the Vurhami bridge I found this group:
Image

I looked like they had just woken up, but junior was not quite up yet!

Not too far up the road was a lone elephant. But just 1km before the electric wires crossing the road I had a real treat::shock:

Image

I sat for ages watching this playful young leopard in a big leadwood tree. It was chasing birds! I saw it chase a group of hornbills - which came back several times teasing it, a european roller, and drongos. It was magical..... Once or twice it disappeared into the foliage, but soon reappeared again as it could not stay still. At one stage it was right in the top branches of the tree. Eventually it settled on the end of the branch in the picture again, and after it had been in one spot for about 5 minutes I decided it was time to move on!

I enjoyed the break at Lower Sabie - very quiet this morning, and then headed on to Skukuza. Not too far down the road a lone buffalo crossed in front of me. He was on a mission, but I did get a photo:
Image

And then a few minutes later a honey badger ran across the road. I tried hard to get a photo, but the grass was long and all I could see at the side of the road was grass stalks moving!

Just a couple of km south of Nkuhlu a cow elephant with a yound calf crossed the road - a car ahead of me (beyond the elephants) turned across the road to watch, and I knew other ellies would be near by so was horrified to find a safari vehicle hurtling up behind me! I indicated to slow down - and he managed to stop just in front of me. And just in time to avoid going straight into a bull elephant which emerged from the bush. I got a photo of the cow and calf:
Image

The safari vehicle decided it was staying - so I slowly pulled past - and had a cheeky youngster charge me! It was only about the size of my car, and had very cute shiny white little tusks and a huge attitude! He did not trumpet - just a sort of spluttering squeal. It was very amusing, and not at all frightening. I got the impression he was tired of charging at birds and small animals and wanted to try a trick he had seen his older mates doing!

By then it was getting hot, and although I took a long loop via Pretoriuskop and down the Voortrekker road to Malelane there was not much else to be seen. A few giraffe, zebs on the Voortrekker road, the first kudu calf of the season (for me anyway), and a couple more lone ellies. Never found a lion to make up the Big 5....

But the magical time with the young leopard made the whole day completely worthwhile! One of my best ever Kruger moments! :clap:


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Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2008 4:06 pm 
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My caravan is at last ready for me! I am going to celebrate by going in at Malelane gate in the morning and doing a drive to Afsaal and back - route yet to be decided......
Then I will get to Nelspruit at a reasonable time to hitch up...And when I am back do a few more bits and bobs in the van - and then Kruger here I come for a longer visit.... Yippee!!!!!

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Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:08 am 
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Almost had a disaster yesterday morning! I forgot to set the alarm..... Fortunately woke up in time anyway and was only 15mins after opening time at Malelane. But the rush made me forget my good binocs - fortunately I have some in the car anyway.

Headed for BnD after the gate. It turned out to be a giraffe day, and by the time I got back to the main tar road I had seen more giraffe than impala! Passed Louren's walks vehicle parked at the side of the road and wished I was with them rather than in a tin can..... Decided to take the Matjulu road rather than go over Steilberg - and realised I have not travelled that road before! Sightings were few though.

After getting back on the tar road I found a lone buffalo bull below the Mlambane bridge, and shortly after that my first large herd of impalas. 2km before Renosterpan I found a rhino mum with a calf right next to the road, but obscured by thin bushes which prevented a photo (Grrrr!). Turned down to Renosterpan to look for the silver-back jackals, and think I saw them in the grass heading south, but not a good view. Sat at the waterhole and had a mug of tea, and then went north to Afsaal and turned round. The plain was almost empty of animals - just a warthog family busily hunting about.

On the return trip about 4km south of Afsaal there were 2 young hyenas resting right on the side of the road:
Image
Image

My rhinos had moved on, and apart from evidence that I had missed a herd of elephants crossing the road near Matjulu turning I only saw impalas after that.

Still a good 2 1/2 hours!!! And then got my caravan.... so now I need to plan my trip.....after car service next Thursday I can leave....

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Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:55 pm 
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I've done it! See my signature for when and where. Staying intially at BnD and hopefully get in a walk with Lourens (knowing my luck he will be away.....), and be handy for church meeting on Sunday in Malelane, then a stop at Satara to break the trip north. I loved Shingwedzi but have not explored area well enough, so a stop there and then up to Punda. Never been there (although have done a day trip from Shingwedzi to Crooks Corner). Then Letaba to break the trip south to Skukuza for cricket. There are some longish distances, but with the caravan in tow I tend to just concentrate on getting from A to B and only stop for something really good en route.

I promise to report regularly, daily if possible!

My first long trip and mega-fix...... But will probably have to fit in one or two short fixes before that.......

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Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:19 pm 
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Needed to be in Malelane for 11am yesterday morning - so......you guessed it, I took the scenic route! This time I went up the tar road from Croc Bridge (no sign of my young leopard) and crossed over to the Malelane road via the S21.

It was a good day with no long gaps between sightings. Lots of zebs, wildebeest, impala, warthogs and giraffe about. And I lost count of the white rhinos - they seemed to be everywhere!

I thought I saw something at the waterhole near the H5 turnoff, and reversed to get a better view. Almost immediately heard a rattling noise so stopped to investigate, thinking I'd caught a branch or something. A young elephant bull promptly emerged less than 10m in front of me and crossed the road headling quickly to the waterhole. He did not even look at me - fortunately! A close encounter........

About half way along the S21 I was held up for quite a while by these guys ambling down the middle of road:

Image

And then shortly after that this martial eagle:

Image

Huge rhino crossed the road at the junction of the S21/S114 and there was already a traffic jam watching him - including a backpacker bus with folk standing in the deck area taking photos. I just left.......

It was a good day - but I will not take that route again when time-limited - it was a little too far.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 9:09 pm 
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Mega-fix Day 1...

After setting up at BnD we were exhausted - it was a very hot day! A late lunch, short rest and then out game-spotting. My '2 leopard friends' are also here for the weekend so we went together. Took the road down to waterhole, back and along Matjulu road and up to S118 and then completed the loop back to BnD via S114 and tar road.

We saw lots of eles - lone and two herds. None were interested in us even though the driver did not spot one on the other side of the road from the main herd at one point and got a huge fright when he saw it very close to us!

There were so many buffalo around that I think we saw more of them than impala. Some very young calves about.

And we found 4 lots of rhinos - 2 in the Matjulu river bed, then on the S118 a mum with a very young calf. They were both well rounded and waddled along in front of us, mum almost puffing in her efforts to keep up with junior who kept running way ahead of her. Eventually they moved off into the grass.
Image
Then another mum with older calf below the Matjulu bridge, and on our return near the camp we found the evening drive stopped to watch a group of 5 or 6 rhinos in the bush near the road.

Oh, and an elephant came to visit us at the fence while we were having lunch. He showed no interest in our meal - obviously the trees his side were very tasty though!

Intend going out early tomorrow - but not setting an alarm, so may not be as early as all that.....

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Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:13 pm 
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Mega fix day 2.

I have a feeling it is going to be a noisy night - and no amount of contact with the manager will help...... The elephant from yesterday is still around the fence area. This morning he irritably chased a bushbuck and some warthogs away, and tonight he is squealing and rumbling around just outside our area!

Went out this morning and began to think the animals had gone away for a break with Lourens.... Drove to the waterhole -nothing, and in fact only saw my first animal, an elephant after turning on to the mountain road! 200m further on was a waterbuck. Then nothing much again. Came back for breakfast and then headed out again for a bigger circle drive towards Afsaal. Had a 'just missed it leopard', and then lots of elephants - almost more of them than impala! In one river valley there was an elephant and a buffalo but the grass was too long to get a pic of both together.

On my evening drive I found 3 rhinos together, and a young bull elephant came to the waterhole but seemed nervous of the cars and had a quick slurp before moving off.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:06 pm 
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The elephant did make a bit of noise - but not too much, and was in full voice again this morning. Maybe objecting to a breeding herd just outside camp - in the first dip on the gravel road if you know the area.

My morning drive was incredible..... by the time I had gone down the tar road to the main road, my sightings list was 1 warthog and 8 impala rams!!! A few more groupings of impala and then the elephants as I got back to camp. I am sure Lourens has taken them away with him......!

I drove out just before 8am to go to church in Malelane, and found an elephant and a rhino along the tar road - both really close to the road. On the return I hound my first giraffe of the trip also right next to the road.

It is now very hot, so will wait and do a short drive again if it cools down about 4.30. Tomorrow I will use the cooler morning moments to pack up rather than go out and then struggle later in the heat!

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Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:17 am 
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Yesterday afternoon while I was trying to keep less hot I heard squeaking - and dwarf mongooses joined me! They investigated the caravan, car and tent - and foraged under the nearby trees. Much nicer companions in the camp than vervets or baboons!! As long as I moved quietly they were not at all bothered by my presence. Lovely.....

The evening drive produced 4 young zebs at the Matjulu waterhole and a few impala about, but nothing else.

Heavy dew last night so the the tent and caravan top are damp - but no rain unfortunately. There was some lightning and thunder about though. Noisy ele behaved himself and kept quiet. Campers near me with bright lights outside their caravans went yesterday so the night was blissfully dark too. Wonder if they realise how many insects they killled?

Right - time to get packing..... then Satara here I come.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:55 pm 
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Long hot day! and correction - it did rain in the night as I discovered when packing up the tent!

I left BnD about 0845, having had the dwarf mongoose gang come to supervise the packing up..... Right outside the gate I met the herd of elephants, but fortunately not on the road! It was fairly quiet after that, apart from a few more eles, until the open area south of Afsaal which was full of zebs, impala, warthogs and wildebeest. No sign of the rhinos. Couple more eles en route to Skukuza. Stopped briefly to get paper from the hole in the wall.....

The rest of the trip up was quiet, and I got to Satara about 1300. No one else at reception so quick check-in! And then found a great spot near the bottom of the camp-site, at the fence, under 3 trees for shade, and right near a new power box!! Absolutely ideal - and just a few minutes later and an older couple would have beaten me to it. They had parked their caravan and were walking around looking for a spot - I drove around, saw this one and pulled straight in.

Sat and relaxed and then headed for the S100 at 1500. Right outside the gate was a traffic jam - lion under a bush. No chance of getting a decent view so I went on. The S100 was alive! Large herds of zebs, wildebeest and impala all over

Image
Several groups of waterbuck too, and one small group of kudus plus lone giraffes and one herd.

Stopped at Gudzani waterhole, but nothing doing there so decided to go back and enjoy the S100 some more.

Less than 2km along I found a different kind of animal - in a bright blue tin can speeding along with a male passenger sitting in the window, arm spread over the car roof for support. Perhaps they were wanting to add to the suicide/manslaughter figures??????? I called in a report to the Satara manager immediately!

Shortly after that there was another herd of elephants, and several buffalos.
Back on the main road I was met by a wall of cars coming towards me - the lion was on the move!
Image

The annoyance on faces of those coming towards me was amusing - they obviously did not appreciate giving up their place in the cavalcade to let me through!

On the opposite side of the road were a couple of mating lions! The female had a collar, so I suspect she is one of the two who kept me awake last January....
Image

Stopped to get a take-away meal, and was just about to eat when the hyena wandered past along the fence!
Image

I am tempted to stay on - but it is easy to get here anytime, so will keep to my plan and go on to Shingwedzi tomorrow.

So - Satara is cooking at present! Hot, lots of animals, bush dry looking.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:15 pm 
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I am set up at Shingwedzi - under shady trees again, which is great as I am here 5 days! Right next to the fence too. The camp site is fairly empty, so it should be quiet. This time it is tree squirrels who want to get in on the action......

The trip up was reasonably quiet sightings-wise - but I did cruise-control it which meant 46km/hr. slowed it I saw something or others were stopped. More details and pics this evening......I am going to have a rest now and then go out for a drive around.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 8:38 pm 
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Right - got away from Satara just before 7am. 2 giraffe bid me farewell - one each side of the road! There were quite a few herds of zebs, wildebeest etc to start with. I saw 2 rhino in the distance, and then near the Timbavati turn-off there was a car-jam - an Isuzu was actually parked diagonally across the road completely blocking it, and about 4 other cars there too ahead of him. I crept forward hoping he would move, but no chance - then I saw what he was watching - 2 cheetahs!! (Still no excuse to block the road that way!). As I eventually managed to get past, they began to move alongside the road keeping pace with me - so I quickly grabbed the camera and fired off a couple of shots. This is the best one:
Image
Then at the Middlevlei waterhole there were lots of Wildebeest and zebs so I slowed down as they were close to the road. And got a real treat:
Image
Just after Olifants there was a lappet-faced vulture in the road attacking a piece of skin.
Image
There were several eles about, and a couple of herds of buffalo before getting to Shingwedzi.

On my afternoon drive I found an elephant near the Ma....waterhole - he seemed to be about to trap me at the turn-round, so I tried to position the car so I could go whichever he did not - he stopped and looked at me! Deadlock. I decided to move forward cautiously, and he immediately moved in the opposite direction - obviously as wary of me as I was of him! I found another on the Confluence loop, but he stood his ground in the middle of the road, so I turned around and went back the way I came! A third on the road outside camp was only interested in getting as much tasty greenery into his mouth as possible and did not even glance at cars.

I was disappointed to find the causeway closed, but glad to see so much water in the river! When I crossed the bridge on the main road there were huge numbers of storks in the distance. I took the loop road just past the bridge and found even more storks in the trees - almost every tree had at least one! Definitely a stork party......
Image

I have booked a morning drive for tomorrow - it is something I have never done, always going for sunset or night drives before. At the time of booking I was the only person, but they assured me it did not matter!

The grass is even longer up here, and it is greener than down south. There are tree squirrels everywhere. And the armoured crickets that I met at Letaba on the walk are here too!

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Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 3:16 pm 
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5 difficult customers joined the morning drive. They had tried to tell the reception clerk yesterday that they only needed to pay for 3 people, then turned up this morning not having filled in their indemnity forms..... They then moaned about not finding the big 5 within half an hour of setting out!!!!! (We found zebs, waterbuck, the stork party, tawny eagles and lesser spotted eagles)

Zanile, the guide, was very patient with them. I had walked with her last time I was here and she remembered me. At the end of the trip I asked her what sort of schedule she had for the rest of the day, and found she was free so invited her to join me on my drive. We both had breakfast and set out on the Mphongolo route. There was not much doing - a few buffs cooling in the river at one point. We had fun trying to identify a little LBJ between us - decided we had found a new species - a neddicky with orange beak and legs!!!!! Later we suddenly realised why there were so few animals about - her colleagues had forgotten to let them out this morning......... She intended to report the oversight when we got back!

Back in camp it is hot, and the squirrels are making a determined effort to bite their way into my canvas larder in the tent! I will have to move the food back into the caravan before I go out again....

I am going to try the Kanniedood road now.

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