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 Post subject: Friedrich von Hörsten-15 Days in Kruger-Jan 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 9:01 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
If you have read our trip report: In Search of Beautiful Beasts in Magical Light, you will know that my wife and I spent 20 days in Kruger Park in July 2010, with the goal of finding peace after a tragic drowning of two of our school pupils earlier that year.
We returned to Somerset West and our teaching responsibilities with renewed enthusiasm and peace of mind.
We were due 4 weeks of `Burnout Leave’ in November, and just as well, because the devil had other plans for us, and in November I had to face a major crisis again, even though I was totally vindicated in the end…. The stress caused my wife Michelle to end up in Casualty with a pulse rate of about 200/minute for more than an hour! Nothing like quiet time spent with God in nature to get your perspectives right, so off we went to Kruger Park again…

Ten days in Port Elizabeth with son Friedrich, 2 lovely visits to Addo where elephants were eating purple vygie flowers…

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A lovely picnic in Alexandria State Forest section of Addo, then 2 days of travelling through the green Free State, and finally we reach Malelane on a cool, rainy afternoon on 24 November…

Lower Sabie
We spent 7 lovely days in Lower Sabie, with mostly COLD weather, wearing track suit tops in the morning… but 2 sweltering days where temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius!
Sorry, but I am too tired to give a detailed report, so will summarize Lower Sabie by saying: WONDERFUL without SCHOOLKIDS! Even the famous LS to Skukuza road was quiet and peaceful; most sightings were on our own, maybe one or two cars at most…!
We missed amazing sightings of lions with a buffalo kill, a pride of about 30!? lions causing a traffic jam on the Crocodile Bridge road… but the best was all the fresh new flowers, baby animals, and lots of tame birds…and yes, NOT ONE MALE LION posed for me in those 7 days!

First sighting in the rain, a flock of gorgeous Guinea fowls
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There were lots of cute newly born impala lambs
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A red billed oxpecker looking for supper on a rhino’s lip
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A white rhino bull having a snooze in the green grass
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Wild dogs look innocent, but those teeth don’t!
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This poor leopard looks ready for retirement!
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Blue waxbills are my wife’s favourite birds, they remind her of Bulawayo.
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A special variation of the Barberton Daisy at Malelane gate.
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I always dream of seeing a leopard. I wonder how many see me?
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Hope you enjoyed some of the beautiful things we saw! Will have 2 more installments on Lower Sabie, and 3 for Pretoriuskop…

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:35 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Hi vgstephens, billyf, forestgump, Pumba, Sharifa and Duke and others,
Thanks for the lovely comments!
Thought I would share a few more ideas from this trip with you…

1. Birds are easier to photograph in camps
2. Always look in your rear view mirror
3. Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings
4. Try that route you don’t like, especially if people advise you to
5. Do check the sightings board for animal movement patterns!
6. If you persevere, you will find that elusive leopard
7. Stop if you see anything unusual
8. It is very rewarding to track an animal down

So lets start with the birds in Lower Sabie…

1. Birds are easier to photograph in camps
Lower Sabie is a wonderful camp to photograph birds – especially the day visitors’ picnic site, where the trees are very short and the birds very tame.
In winter the aloes at the entrance attract so many different birds, and in summer the berries in camp attract parrots and green pigeons…

This white fronted bee-eater was so tame on the S25, and returned to the same perch time and again…
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The korhaans are so funny in summer, when they stretch their neck in the air and make a weird `pop’ sound!
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The Meyers’ parrots are so noisy, and these ones ate berries within 2m of our chalet window. I just walked up to them to take this head shot!
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The Diedrick’s cuckoos were have a royal time with all the breeding birds. This one sat about 3m away from us at Sunset Dam.
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Heuglins robin chats remind me of Zim with their morning and evening song. This chap was so busy proclaiming his territory in the parking lot that I stood snapping him for about 5 minutes from a distance of 2m.
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These red backed shrikes are so dainty compared to the heavy duty bou bou shrikes and fiscal shrikes!
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White-eyes are so trusting. This was one let me follow him from tree to tree.
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When the weather gets lousy, just sit on the lawn outside your field kitchen and see how many seed eaters come right up to you. This cut throat finch looks quite fetching from close-up.
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The weavers were extremely busy building nests in the caravan park.
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White fronted plovers were once an extremely rare bird in Kruger, and only seen around Pafuri in the early 20th century now and then, but they are common these days, right down to Sunset Dam.
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This crested barbet hung around the car park at Nthadanyathi bird hide.
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Goliath herons are quite impressive and territorial. In June he was on the northern end of the bridge daily, but this summer he hung around the rapids. I stalked him daily, coming slowly into the little dirt parking lot at the rapids, just waiting for him to fly off. Got quite a few splendid flight shots, but very difficult with the rocks in the background…
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The highlight of the Goliath heron’s flight from me, was his landing on a little peninsula where two water thick knees were breeding – they went ballistic and tried their best to distract him till he lunged and threatened before clearing off!
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Lilac breasted rollers are stunning. This one battered a dung beetle to pulp before swallowing him.
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Biyamiti Weir is good enough even if you are sleeping at Lower Sabie. In June it was baby 3 banded plovers in the road. This time a hamerkop fishing for frogs in the rain.
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Red billed oxpeckers are beautiful and tame. This one like perching on a rhino’s back.
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Hope you enjoyed a few feathered friends from Lower Sabie!
God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:08 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Good evening on a sunny Valentine’s Day in the Cape!
Thanks for the lovely comments!

Always look in your rear view mirror.
This happened to me while I was trying out the Try that route you don’t like, especially If people advise you to…

I do NOT like Lower Sabie to Skukuza – far too many cars! So I usually dwaal around the dirt roads like S29 to avoid all the tourists… at Sunset Dam my very friendly neighbours said: you MUST try the Skukuza road. I replied: I don’t like it! They said: But you MUST try it!
So the next morning we were up at 4:45 down my UNfavourite road! Nothing, as I expected. Just before Nkuhlu picnic spot at least we found 3 hyenas in the road… as I coasted down towards the bridge, I looked in my rear view mirror, and noticed a STUMP right next to the road – only problem – I had not noticed it a few seconds ago… So I slowed down and asked my wife to look at it – a beautiful cheetah sitting on the verge of the road! We slammed on brakes and turned around, but it did not like us, and crossed gracefully before disappearing into the thick bush!
We crossed the bridge, and 2 km down the Salitjie road we came across the one-eyed leopard I showed you in my first posting!

Try that route you don't like, especially if people advise you to do it!
So where did we go the next morning? My UNfavourite road! Same time, same road. Same lack of game, not even a hyena!
But about 2 km before Nkuhlu picnic spot – 8 wild dogs in the road, with only 1 other car! We spent an hour with them (only 3 cars appeared, 1 stayed till we got bored and left them) while they played…
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marked territory,
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chased something into the bush
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bullied the baby of the family
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terrorized `something’ in the thick grass at a pan (most likely a reptile, cause they kept their distance and retreated in the end); then there was this lazy hyena lying in the road – the wild dogs stalked him and chased him into a culvert with lots of barking, growling and howls from the hyena! (of course I missed the action – wanted to be clever and use my new D7000’s video, but it doesn’t really work well on a 200-400mm lens, and while I was changing lenses, the action took place about 10m away from me!)
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We left them, but found another hyena walking in their direction, about 40m from the road. Turned around and waited till they mobbed this poor guy too! An amazing experience! Two adults and 6 sub-adults!
The most exciting part was when they ran in the road and we could drive next to them!
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Then of course we came around a bend in the road and found a group of male impalas close by. Immediately the stalk began, and as I drove, they followed behind the car. I looked over my shoulder and could have touched this young female! Snapped a picture on wide-angle setting WHILE I WAS DRIVING (not perfectly in focus), but then felt guilty – how could I betray the innocent impalas that trusted cars and their passengers?
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I veered off the right, exposing the dogs. They gave me a dirty look and the chase was on, but only for a few seconds. I guess the adults were looking for impala lambs and not agile male impalas…. to chase with a pack of inexperienced youngsters!
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A fun picture of an out of focus wild dog, just to show the lovely colours – that is why they are called `painted dogs’!
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Relaxed at Skukuza while Michelle was catching up on Facebook, then returned, to find 2 lionesses next to the road… thanks to my persistent neighbours!

Have a lovely evening!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


Last edited by saraf on Fri Aug 19, 2011 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Fixed broken img code


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:50 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Good evening to all and thank you for the lovely comments! Today I managed to book 1 night at Tamboti for July, so I can make the long trip from Shingwedzi down to Pretoriuskop in 2 days...

Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings!
Since the male lions did not want to show themselves properly, I kept on photographing interesting things in camp, like this Koggelmander:
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We even drove down to Crocodile Bridge in the cool weather, and enjoyed Michelle’s favourite pie, Feta and Spinach, while I chose Cheese & Mushroom to enjoy at our favourite spot in town, outside the neat little chapel!
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Not far from Crocodile Bridge this road block!
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And just to make sure we knew who was the boss:
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These baby baboons were fascinated!
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But the lions kept dodging us. So we asked around, and followed the S28 to a group of 5 male lions sleeping like the dead way in the distance…

And the next day we stopped at the bird hide on the same S28. While watching the hippoes I casually asked the man next to me: ``Seen anything interesting this afternoon?’’ Not really, only 2 cheetahs sleeping way in the distance, 3km down the road…
DO take note when people tell you about their special sightings! So we hopped into the car and drove to a group of about 8 cars, and the cheetahs were far away, and it was getting DARKER by the minute. After about 10 minutes, they stood up and started walking away! I was so discouraged. The one male must have thought of me, so he politely turned around and strolled in our direction! Lazily he jumped up onto an uprooted tree, and proceeded to mark his territory (note that bulging stomach!):
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It DOES PAY to listen when people tell you about their special sightings!

If you persevere, you will find that elusive leopard!
Leopards don’t like me! But I keep on looking for them! Early in the mornings! So at an impossibly early hour we headed towards Crocodile Bridge, and I turned right on the little dirt road just 1 km from camp. At least there wouldn’t be other cars…
Nothing, nothing, nothing! And then, about 1 km before the tar road, this jackal in the road, but no, it was too big! A leopard? YES!
But he was not interested in facing us:
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At least he didn’t run away! Inch by inch, minute by minute we crawled behind him, stopping every now and then to take another picture, till at last he crossed the road and slipped into the bush…
We stopped about 50m further down the road, shaking with excitement, hoping he would come back! While looking at my pictures on the camera, I suddenly felt uneasy, and glanced at the open window of our teeny Terios – only to see the rear end of our leopard walking AWAY FROM US but only about 4 m away! He must have been looking right in by our window while I was fiddling with that camera!
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That was it. He did NOT turn around!

But IF YOU PERSEVERE, YOU WILL FIND THAT ELUSIVE LEOPARD! So we drove another 50m and stopped and waited, and waited, till a car approached from the front. We waved and flicked lights, and they stopped carefully by us. The leopard crossed the road right by them! During one of its many crossings, it came walking right up to us, but NO eye contact!
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Just when I got so frustrated, he turned around, and gave me a proper stare!
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So, If you persevere…you will find that elusive leopard!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:08 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Hi Aat, Steamtrainfan, Flutterby, Hoyle, Akadwa, Crested Barbet, Flying Cheetah and Kamadejo -- it is so nice to hear positive comments from you!
After 2 Kruger visits in winter, this was very special to be back in summer! And for those of you who always complain about the long grass, especially around Pretoriuskop -- it is spectacularly open, green and short at the end of November! And the rain makes the place quite cool most days....
The new Nikon D7000 -- many of these pics were shot at ISO 3200! I could NEVER do that with my old D200 -- the best was 400-800 ISO... It has just opened up so many opportunities where previously there were none -- especially on rainy, overcast days. You will see some lovely shots from Pretoriuskop done BEFORE sunrise in the rain, quite sharp and very special under terrible lighting!

Aat -- NO serious tuskers in the south in 15 days! Only the one emerging tusker from Afsaal with the extremely ragged ears I put on your tusker thread 2 weeks ago... Maybe I will be luckier in July at Shingwedzi or Letaba?

God bless from a very hot and sunny Cape Town!

Friedrich von Hörsten.

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:52 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
4 March 2011


Lets move to Pretoriuskop – that camp where the grass is always too long, where there are no animals except the impalas and monkeys in camp – the `old age home’ of the park!

On arrival I rushed to the Sightings Board, my favourite occupation!
Do check the sightings board for animal movement patterns!
Yesterday: Lions between Manungu kopje and the tar road!
Today: Lions just after the tar road on the S7…
Immediately my mind went into gear:
Tomorrow: …. Lions on the S7 near Shabeni hill…!
So EARLY the following morning we left in the dark on the tar road. But I had read that Nigel Dennis prefers the road to Numbi gate and Mestel dam… so against my better judgment I drove PAST the turnoff to the S7…
Of course there was… NOTHING all the way to Mestel dam on the S3. Then I remembered the Sightings Board and my extrapolation to the S7… so I drove to the turnoff, turned right on the S7, and felt good about myself again…
While driving slowly in the semi dark, a movement about 50m away caught my eye – it looked like a bird hovering over a rocky outcrop for a second. Nothing more. I drove on, but in my peripheral vision the bird fluttered its white wings above the dark rock once more. ``Stop if you see anything unusual,’’ my brain told me – maybe that bird is hovering over a snake or a cat… So I stopped and looked again. Yes, a sudden movement of something white above a dark patch on the rocks. Michelle got curious too, and then it all came into focus: the white `bird wings’ was actually the tip of the tail of an AFRICAN WILD DOG!
An African Wild Dog sleeping on a rock, flicking his tail at the flies that were bothering him… and further left, 2 more wild dogs. They stretched, yawned, and started playing around. Too dark for pictures, but no cars from camp, so we could wait till the sun rose. At last a male got up and walked in our direction, followed by 7 other dogs.
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They passed us in the long grass
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Then stood around expectantly in the road, waiting for action!
Their dark silhouttes looked rather menacing!
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But the sunlight brightened the scene dramatically. They looked so harmless and domesticated.
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Suddenly the leader leapt up and the whole pack was gone down a fire break within seconds!
Wow! And still not another car in sight… until we rounded a corner in the road about 1 km further, where 3 cars were parked next to a pride of LIONS, right in the road, on the S7 below Shabeni hill, just as I had predicted!
But they didn’t like our arrival, got up, and stalked off into the long grass – 2 lionesses and 3 young cubs!
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Do check the sightings board for animal movement patterns!
The next morning it was pouring with rain, but I got up at 4:30, and where did we go? Further down the S7 of course, because it is very rewarding to track an animal down!
About 2 km after the previous lion sightings, I suddenly noticed a small cluster of very fresh, damp, small footprints in the road – they were concentrated in an area not more than 1m across. ``Stop if you see anything unusual,’’ my brain told me. So I slammed on brakes and reversed about 30m to the marks, opened my window, and stared at the ground. ``Those are baby lion footprints’’ my wife said. ``Yes, and VERY fresh,’’ I muttered. ``We missed them today!’’
My eyes followed the prints for about 3m into the long, wet grass next to the road, and to my delight I stared into the eyes of 3 very inquisitive and nervous LION CUBS!
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``Here they are!’’ I whispered. Michelle thought I was joking! Then she saw them too – very wet, but with big, fun-filled eyes! They turned around and disappeared!
``Lets give them a chance to relax,’’ I whispered, and drove down the road very reluctantly. After about 5 minutes, we turned around, but they were not in the road. Only more lion prints, this time adult ones too. Slowly we drove along, and about 30m further, I noticed a movement in a tree. ``Stop if you see anything unusual,’’ my brain told me. So I obeyed. And there they were – 3 bedraggled, wild-eyed lion cubs stalking each other in the branches of a little tree!
Wow!
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The next day was Saturday and we were going to church in Nelspruit, so I let my camera rest for the day. But at 4:30 I slipped down the S7 to track down our lion cubs. Sadly, this time the road was covered with buffalo spoor and dung (about 1000 buffaloes had been seen at Mestel dam the previous pm!). Our cubs must have fled! I turned around, back to camp (my neighbours went 2 km further and found 4 lionesses walking in the road). Just when I got next to Shabeni hill, I saw HUGE fresh lion pugmarks on the edge of the road. I followed them for about 50m and they disappeared. I reversed and checked the direction – it was moving ahead. Slowly I scanned the bush for about 50m, when I noticed something unusual against the rockface of Shabeni hill. ``Stop if you see anything unusual,’’ my brain told me. So I did. And wow, was I glad – there was a huge male lion climbing up the steep rock face. In the pale light, it looked like a Koisan painting! It was 50m away, but amazing to experience…
Sunday morning I did NOT go on the S7 again! Rather did a trip to Lake Panic at Skukuza, and saw 7 lions in the riverbed on the S65, then wild dogs on the Doispan road, and on the way back, a family of hyenas at a den, and back on the S7, our 5 lions sleeping on a rock at Shabeni hill in the drizzly weather! Spent half the day there in the cool weather, watching them wake up, play, lick their mom, suckle and sleep.

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Then mom got up, stretched, and climbed down the road. She pooed below the rock while the three cubs and other lioness watched in fascination, then crossed the road and climbed to the top of Shabeni hill….
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Do check the sightings board for animal movement patterns!
It surely pays… especially on the S7 at Pretoriuskop!

God bless, and have a wonderful weekend,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:43 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Morning Penfold and Pumbaa

I am NO expert on reading the bush, and of course I did NOT tell you about the times that I followed fresh lion spoor down the road for 2-3 km, but nothing to show for it in the end! It is always exciting to see evidence of their existence, though, and to try and think what they have been up to....

I saw all these places where it looked like a vehicle had made a u-turn and spun 1 rear wheel against a tuft of grass on the verge of the road... until I actually SAW a white rhino scrape the ground with his hind foot -- marking territory? On closer inspection, the scrape mark was identical to my `wheel spin' marks!

Yes, Pretoriuskop really surprised us. In the past I have treated it as a nice camp, but you need to drive all the way to Skukuza or Berg en Dal to see something. Not true!

Have a lovely day,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:04 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Good morning Mauxie,

Thank you for the lovely comments!

In summer there are so many gems around Pretoriuskop, especially when it is rainy and misty…
These tiny dwarf mongooses roam around camp, and hardly sit still for more than 5 seconds at a time.
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One day we had seen wild dogs and lions by 7:00, so spent the rest of the day in camp till 16h00. I lay on my stomach within 5m of a herd of 20 impala and babies, then spent an hour with these vervet monkeys by the swimming pool. Some grabbed my hat and tried it on, but the babies were the cutest.
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A baby warthog cuddling up to its mommy and friend.
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The Barberton daisies are really special in summer.
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The Rhinos are so tame that you can watch the red-billed-oxpeckers looking for food in their ears.
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Baby impalas are so cute, but they grow too fast.
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When there is mist and rain, the grass seeds look stunning
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After sunset even the waterbuck look soft and cuddly in the misty weather
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The rhinos like sleeping in the road
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The rocks at Hamilton’s memorial are really very special. When you get out here on you own, you wonder where the nearest leopard is.
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These impalas were nervous about something below Shabeni hil, but we could not find out what it was.
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The kudus looked even better in the mist.
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A teeny warbler at Lake Panic.
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So when it rains, don’t sleep, but rather have a look at the smaller things…
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God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:45 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Good day and hope you have enjoyed this public holiday – my wife took me out for lunch at Helderberg Nature Reserve since it is my birthday this week. Was really lovely, and the little restaurant even smelt like thatched grass in Kruger chalets, but in the end Michelle said: ``We have been spoiled in the wild places, this is nice, but a bit too tame!’’ True. But still lovely.

Hope you enjoy this last entry on Pretoriuskop!

1. Stop when you notice something unusual.A hyena lay in the S3 not far from the Phabeni crossing. Three hours later when we returned, he was still lying there. So we stopped and waited. Because of the cool weather 3 hyena pups crept out of the thin culvert pipe, and entertained us for a while.

Michelle had to use a wide angle lens since they were so close.

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It seemed that scent marking and sniffing was a very important procedure, so little Sister tries leaving her scent on the grass…

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If she can do it, so can I, says little Brother.

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Now remember how they do it? Yes, always sniff an elder’s bum – it’s a sign of respect you know!

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But being a child is still the best of all!

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I wonder how many families were entertained by these funny little hyenas?

2. Do take notice of the sightings board!
While we were in Lower Sabie, I noticed on the daily Sightings Board that our pack of 2 adults and 6 sub-adult wild dogs had moved past Nkuhlu picnic spot, closer to Skukuza, then past Skukuza, and finally near Kruger Gate. So when we had had enough of our lion family on the S7 at Pretoriuskop, we did a day trip towards Skukuza and the wild dogs. En route we were delayed by a pride of lionesses and cubs in the road, then in a riverbed.
On the Doispan road, what a joy to find our pack of wild dogs again, 1 km from the Skukuza/Kruger gate road! Within minutes the adults ran off into the bush, and we could relax with the 6 `pups’. Not long afterwards, an adult came racing through the bush with an impala lamb in its mouth! The pups went wild, grabbing and shoving to get a bite. Unfortunately this was behind some bushes, so no pics.
But patience pays off, and a sneaky looking dog moved in our direction.

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He carefully approached another dog hiding behind a bush. Kind words didn’t help, so how about a bit of gentle persuasion?

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If all else fails, then try a show of dominance by mounting your opponent!

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In the end the whole pack joined in the squabble over the impala head!

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Rather grisly, I must admit, but very rewarding to see especially that the weakest of the litter was not being bullied so much, and his sore leg looked better too…

3. Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings!
It was hot, and the swimming pool was the place to be. A family of photographers with big lenses came walking past, talking about `the leopard in the tree’. So I asked them. Oh yes, about 4 hours ago, it was up in a tree 400m after the junction where the Fayi loop and Voortrekker road splits, but it got down and walked off. Of course the leopard will still be waiting for us at the tree this afternoon!
Four hours later I put the aircon on, and slowly drove down to the junction. 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, but no leopard. I was going at about 5 km/h when the shape of a HUGE male leopard went sailing past my window up in the tree! I slammed on brakes, and Michelle muttered: ``Just don’t turn off the aircon!’’. I reversed, and saw the most amazing pattern among the fresh leaves!

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He was VERY hot, and lay panting. After about half an hour it cooled down a bit, and he turned around, looking backwards so the whites of his eyes appeared.

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At last he stared STRAIGHT at us for a few moments!

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After at least an hour he got up, moved over a dead impala nobody had noticed, then jumped down and disappeared. What a special experience -- Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings!

At 4:30 the next morning we were back there – no buck, no leopard!
At 9:30 I decided to drive down that road again for lunch at Afsaal.
Same place, same tree. Two cars in the road. Looking in the wrong direction. Another leopard, this time a female, marking her territory!

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She daintily crossed a puddle of water in the road, and vanished into the thick bush.

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Everybody drove off!
But because it is very rewarding to track an animal down, I reversed the 400m back to the junction where the road forks like a y-shape, and took the other arm of the ``y’’ that was nearly parallel with Voortrekker road. Maybe the leopard would come out on the other side? Five minutes later she appeared again, lay down for a while, then crossed the road so close that I had to use my wide-angle lens!


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For another 10 minutes we had her all to ourselves as she marked territory right next to us (looking for a male?).

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What more could I ask for…especially since I had been in Kruger in July 2009 for 15 days without photographing a leopard!

Fifteen days in Kruger without a male lion to photograph, but so many other beautiful gems to be found by following these simple principles:

1. Birds are easier to photograph in camps
2. Always look in your rear view mirror
3. Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings
4. Try that route you don’t like, especially if people advise you to
5. Do check the sightings board for animal movement patterns!
6. If you persevere, you will find that elusive leopard
7. Stop if you see anything unusual
8. It is very rewarding to track an animal down!

Thank you for enjoying these memories with me!
Last night Michelle and I enjoyed a stunning moonlight walk, and lay on the warm tar outside our school building looking at the stars, but winter starts tomorrow in the Cape, so please keep us entertained with your trip reports while we huddle under our duvets till we can go back to Kruger again in December!

God bless,

Friedrich and Michelle von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:08 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Forestgump, thank you for the compliment. Yes it was quite amazing to see the young wild dogs acting like that.

Flying cheetah, hope you have a wonderful visit to Pretoriuskop. Also remember that sunsets at the bridge (Letaba, Shingwedzi, Olifants) are very special – take along a cold appletizer and get OUT of your car legally while watching the sunset over the river! When at Orpen, keep an eye open for the big pack of wild dogs often seen there (I missed them every time!), as well as my favourite 3 male lions that seem to like patrolling the main road to Satara, especially at the junction where the road turns left to Timbavati, and right to the picnic spot. (They seem to prefer the right hand road)

Anne Catherine, have never had any luck with lions on the Voortrekker road, except very close to Afsaal. Thanks for the lovely comments.

John n poppy, You ask difficult questions! Most pics taken with D200 and 18-105 lens. My wife uses D3000 with 18-200 lens. Recently I DID get an amazing 200-400m f4 lens (in RSA costs R80 000!). This was a dream come true: a friend got rid of it before even using the lens, and I got it for nearly half price! Still cost me about 5 months of salary and paying installments for 2+ years! Now I am even poorer…!

Magic Quarri, thanks for such encouraging words all the way from Bavaria! My grandpa was a German from Hannover, but he died before I was born, so now I am a Boer (Afrikaner) with a nice German name…! Unfortunately have to wait till December before I see Kruger again.

Elsa and Barcelona, glad you enjoyed it with us.

Pumbaa, I grew up in game reserves, and have NEVER been lucky with leopards! Got my first decent pic only about 4 years ago! This was a special trip, since I did not get ANY decent leopard pics in the previous 34 days spent in Kruger…

OWN, glad your trip report is going again. One of those things that will help the dreary winter days to be more bearable!

STF – may tomorrow be a good day for you and me!


God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:53 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Forest gump and Flying cheetah

Thank you for your friendly replies! Sorry I have run out of pictures and ideas! Have many more, but not anything really new or different.

Hope you have a wonderful year! Will be off on a school photography tour next week to Tussen-die-Riviere game reserve near Bethulie on the Gariep river ( I have been asking Sanparks for years now to give us a Highveld National Park in the Free State, but no luck so far!) This place is stunning, with lots of animals, including buffalo. They need to join it up with Oviston and Gariep game reserves -- could become a gem of a national park!
Then Addo and Garden Route, Oudtshoorn and back to CFM...
Lovely, but not quite the same a Kruger.
Hope to get these kids really excited about God's Creation!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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 Post subject: Re: 15 Days in Kruger without one picture of a male lion…!
Unread postPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 8:16 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger

Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:24 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Somerset West
Good evening

Just back from an amazing 8 day trip with 11 school kids. Addo was the highlight, with very close encounters with elephants, especially a cheeky little baby elephant. Missed the lions two days in a row by minutes, but the lush green park and abundance of animals on the Gorah loop was really special. We DID see a caracal, but not close enough for photography!
Now another wait of 8 months till our next visit to Kruger...

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

_________________
``God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on your heart'' -- E. St V Millay


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