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 Post subject: carolv Kruger - the next generation Aug 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:42 pm 
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As all those who followed our last 2 Kruger Trips may recall, our lives have been somewhat governed by SO's medical problems. After a difficult 2 years we are delighted to let you know that before setting out to KNP in August, he was given an all clear and no more check ups until 2012. It had restricted our visits but earlier this year we decided that, come what may, we really wanted to take our eldest grandson, Sam, to Africa. Partly to show him what captivates us and ensures our return visits but also to reward him for working so hard at school and overcoming other difficulties. It was a trip we had been considering for some time but we knew we must wait until Sam was old enough to appreciate the trip, understand the rules of the game in the Park (pity some of the other visitors didn't share this concern) and learn from the experience...also to be away from his Mum for 3 weeks.

He knew we would be writing up a TR and that he should write his own journal each day. We lent him my Canon 400d with a suitable lens so that he could take all his own photos as well. His Mum found him an additional companion, a teddy bear called Edmund the Explorer, who would share his adventures. We flew out on 15th August 2011 and returned 4th September. A truly amazing time was had by us all and we hope the start will be ready later today.

Sam has completed his journal and we have added some of his photos to it. Once our TR is completed and fully loaded onto the Travel Tales, we will add his own story. He has no e-mail himself so it will go at the end of our story but we thought everyone would be interested in his version. He is 10 years old and it was his first time out of the uk, first flight and first time away from his Mum for so long

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:21 pm 
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Location: Close by the South Downs National Park, Hampshire, UK
Tuesday, 16th August 2011-09-08

After a long flight down from the UK, we landed at 7am. I had managed a few hours sleep, as had Sam, but Richard does not fold up too well and remained somewhat bleary eyed. However, huge smiles all round as we have arrived and will soon be on our way to Paradise. I have to say that the time to get through Customs and Immigration has improved considerably in the last 2 years. Being one of the earlier arrivals, we had virtually no queue to delay us and only additional questions being asked as Sam does not have the same surname and the officials wanted more information as to who he was. Having anticipated this problem (don’t think we look like child traffickers but then I’m not sure what they look like anyhow) we had brought a signed statement from my daughter to confirm we were acting in loco parentis for the dates of our trip and various birth and wedding certificates to clarify the different surnames. No questions at all had been asked when we flew out from London Heathrow and I was impressed that RSA had delved deeper.

So speedy was the transition from plane to baggage reclaim and then across to the car rental area that we were told we were far too early for our vehicle. Resolved to wait awhile, the clerk then decided to offer us a different vehicle. We had booked a Daihatsu Terios – trying to find a compromise between good height for photography and cheaper than the current prices for a Nissan X Trail – but we were offered a Renault Koleus. We are fairly savvy about most cars but did not recognise this one, perhaps it is not sold in the UK, but were assured the height is good, we thanked them and turned towards the car park to load up and get on our way. Richard usually drives for the first half hour or so, just to get us out of the airport and on our way down the N12. We did have to find someone to tell us where the handbrake was on this vehicle before leaving though – never the best lighting in the parking areas and it had a sort of electronic handbrake that I would never have recognised. Still, found and memorised, we’re on our way. Sam was settled in the back wired up to his MP3 with a Dr Who book as a back up for the journey and we were quickly on the road. It was not long before we were caught up in a lengthy traffic jam, the result of an accident near Benoni, but eventually the traffic flow eased and we paused at the first service area for a comfort break and to change drivers. I love driving but it takes me a while to get the feel of a hire car each trip. Still, all part of the experience, and we pulled into the Pick and Pay car park at Malelane about 1.30 to stock up. Richard waited in the car whilst Sam and I went around the store working our way through our shopping list. Having filled up a trolley, we then had to fit it all into the car. Just about fitted it all in and off to Malelane Gate.

By this stage the excitement is tangible and we stopped briefly on the bridge across the Crocodile River to show Sam his first African wildlife….a crocodile, then Egyptian Geese, Egrets and Grey Herons. That very first ever sighting always has a special place in your heart (unbelievably for us it was Sable and Saddle-billed Stork) and, for Sam, the crocodile became a recurrent theme in this trip but more of that later. The staff were efficient and friendly and, Kruger map in hand and yellow ribbons attached, we soon drove through the gate towards Berg en Dal camp. Even our first YR sighting as Ecojunkie spotted Richard and came over to say hello. Gadgets and books now packed away, we were all peering into the bush for sightings. It was fairly quiet but nevertheless we saw Impala, Zebra, Kudu, Little Bee-Eater, White-fronted Bee-Eater,
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Cisticola and 2 Snake Eagles. At BnD reception we handed over our paperwork and bought a wildcard for Sam…well, like us he now has a confirmation letter, if and when we see a card is another matter, but I won’t go down that track now. Having checked the Meets and Greets regularly before leaving the UK, we had plans to meet or look out for several other ‘mites who would be in the same camps as us or nearby. At BnD we knew we would have 2 overlapping dates with Magic Guarri and her SO, Stefan, and she had e-mailed the Manager, Stephen Nels, who had kindly arranged for us to have adjacent bungalows – they had 31 and we had 32. Located next to the perimeter, they were perfect. With everything unloaded from the car, we could finally sit down with a beer (well, Sam had a juice!) and soak up the atmosphere. Coming down to check us out were crested barbets, cape glossy starlings and the ubiquitous vervet monkeys.

As the light began to fade, MG (Karin) and SO returned to camp and joined us for a drink and to catch up on their day. As they had been in the Park for a few days already, they would cook for this first evening and we would cook the second evening. Huge thank you to you both, we really enjoyed your company and it was wonderful to share time together. As we sat on the veranda after dinner, we watched bushbuck amble past the fence and then had a truly wonderful sighting of a small spotted genet posing and playing in the tree right in front of us.
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What a fantastic start to our trip and we could see from Sam’s face that he was also captivated by it all.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:15 pm 
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Wednesday 17th August 2011-09-08

We are lucky that Sam is an early riser but 3 sharing a bathroom in the morning is a bit of a rush. We solved the dilemma by Richard and I struggling to get up at 5.15 as soon as the alarm went – he had first crack at ablutions whilst I went to make coffee and hot chocolate for our morning flasks. It was the first time we had taken flasks but when reading about how cold it had been in the early mornings, we decided they were a must have and after this trip, don’t think we will ever travel without one again. Sam is always starving as soon as he wakes up so I got a bowl of cereal ready for him also. Whilst I grabbed the bathroom, Richard woke up Sam so that he could eat and he got all the cameras together ready to load into the car. Finally a quick wash and brush-up for Sam. Amazingly we managed to get through all this and be out of the camp gates most days by 6.10am.

Not sure if we ever got to take a photo of all our photography equipment – as anyone who met us will say, it was eclipsed by Richard’s brand new lens which arrived just days before we left the UK. It comes with its own suitcase but is too large a case to count as cabin luggage and had to come with some of the other lenses cocooned in bubblewrap. Between us we had 1 x Canon 1D MkIII, 2 x 7D, 1 x 500D, 1 x 400D, 1 x Canon Ixus 70 compact and 1 Canon HD camcorder plus Canon EF 500mm f4 IS lens (nicknamed the Bazooka), 100-400mm IS, 70-200mm f2.8 IS, 25-105mm F4 IS, a Sigma 18-50 IS and a 1.4X & 2X converters. Room for clothes?? You must be joking!! Almost down to 1 set on, 1 set in the wash and 1 set spare.

As we went out to the car, we found another neighbour was having car trouble insofar as it just wouldn’t start. Between us we pushed it this way and that but eventually had to call it a day and help her to get it in a safe place before calling a mechanic. I felt rather guilty driving off that morning but with the best will in the world we could not have fitted 2 extra people into our car.

We drove out towards the Matjulu Waterhole but the roads were very quiet – just a few giraffe in a donga and some small birds flying between the bushes and a Magpie Shrike on the support wire for a power pole.

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Enjoying coffee and hot chocolate, we sat in the hope that something would come to join us but everything was still asleep. Warmed by our hot drinks, we followed the Steilberg road where more giraffe were up feeding, a few Cape Buffalo on the move and a nice LBR, all fluffed up in the cool morning air.

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Our plan was to continue on the tar road to Afsaal for breakfast but checked out the track down to Renoster Pan on the way. A large male white rhino lay asleep under a bush but the Pan itself was quiet. A lady parked by the pan asked if we had seen the 5 rhino along the road – ‘no’ we said, just a single male and even he had disappeared when we drove back towards the tar and up to the Picnic site.

One of the rules we had explained to Sam was that you should NOT feed any animals or birds. The birds at Afsaal are becoming a nightmare but what can you expect when so many visitors are letting them eat from their plates. Then of course they get fed up with the pestering and try to force them away. Sam, bless him, asked if he could go and explain to people why they should not be doing this and, as usual, we did try to discourage people being so stupid. I am tempted to ask if ‘on-the-spot’ fines should be brought in – I’m sure people would soon stop then and SANParks could easily put the extra money to good use. During our trip we certainly found camps/picnic spots where the feeding was actively discouraged and where plates were removed extremely quickly so that birds did not take advantage of unattended offerings. If I had very young children with me, I would be extremely concerned, especially where Vervets are concerned. Later in the trip, at Babalala, a hornbill stole a complete sandwich from an adult’s hand, so they have no fear at all now. Anyway, I must return to more important matters as I know I am not the only one who has raised concerns about feeding birds and animals and do not want to spoil our TR with an ongoing rant.

Fed and watered we decided to try our luck at Biyamiti Weir. The road down to the weir was again very quiet but at the water itself lots of birds to enjoy – Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Black Stork, Grey Heron, Woolly-necked Stork and 2 large Crocs. We sat here for a long while enjoying the atmosphere and watching the wildlife. I had seen another vehicle stopped about 50 metres from the weir and when we moved on, approached slowly to see what had kept them parked for a while…..a mating pair of Lions lay in the road.

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Sam was thrilled and desperate to get some photos for his journal. For a while there were just 3 vehicles (including ourselves) so could just sit and watch and everyone could see easily. Guess it could not last for ever and when 2 JJs arrived and forced their vehicles closer and closer to the lions, the peaceful scene would not continue. The mating pair moved away from the road and found a shady position 30 metres into the bush but still visible for everyone. For reasons I still do not understand, one of the JJs decided pull right across in front of me as I was setting out to take a photo. When my SO remonstrated with him (starting with the phrase “Oh! Thank you very much …”), his attitude was completely unabashed. In fact when his compatriot had joined him he leaned around and took a photo of our car, as if to say that we were in the wrong in some way for inhibiting him from showing his clients the best view of the animals. In response SO took a photo of his one of his clients breaking the rules. :rtm:

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We had thoroughly enjoyed the sighting and were quite prepared to make space for others. Taking the S114 and S118 we made our way back towards the tar, stopping for another lovely white rhino along the way and some Dwarf Mongoose.

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We had been told that a pride of lions had been sighted down in a river bed along the H3 and seeing several cars parked on a bridge, we approached slowly and I drew alongside one of the cars to ask if they were watching the Lions we had been told about. Just as they began to point out where the lions were laying, I suddenly heard someone shouting at me and found the same JJ yelling at me that I was blocking the road. :shock:
The fact that he had driven alongside me confirmed that I was most definitely not causing a road block but I found his attitude both threatening and very unpleasant, so we returned to camp to prepare everything for dinner.

With everything prepped for the evening, we drove out again to the Matjulu waterhole and what spectacular sightings awaited us. At first we watched 2 rhino walking down the hillside on their way to the waterhole.

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They were then joined by some Buffalo and 2 Ellies. Amazingly, more Rhino came down to drink with their friends until they numbered 8 in total. This really did make up for the low points of the day.

Karin and Stefan then joined us for dinner and we sat for a long while talking through our sightings. The JJ issue was also discussed and Karin had a very interesting thought as to why the driver had been so rude and why he had singled us out. The company was the same one which had caused Martie Goddard problems during her long stay in the Park and we think he saw our YR which acted as the catalyst. Like Martie, it is a company which we have noted before as not acting in the usual Kruger spirit. Anyway, we were not going to let our trip be spoiled by an idiot JJ.
So, off to bed as tomorrow we move on to another camp.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:54 pm 
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Thursday, 18th August 2011

We did well to be loaded up and out of the gates by 6.20am. The biggest problem is trying to find a reachable space for all the cameras. Our compromise was that Richard would have his Bazooka and a wide angle with him in the front well, Sam had his 70-200mm on his lap and, as I would be doing almost all of the driving, I could access mine from the back seat if necessary.
When we come back in December, we are considering a different arrangement i.e. driver in front and their cameras on the passenger seat, SO in back with their cameras. We’ve seen several couples working this way – perhaps someone could give us advice? John and Poppy – if you read this bit, I’m sure that is how you were working – all advice welcome from people with 2 serious photographers in the car.

Back to our TR though….We drove out along the tar towards the H3 where the bush was very quiet and just a few Ellies spotted on the hillside. Once on the H3 we drove up to the Matjulu bridge in the hope that the Lions may still be around but they had moved on. Our plan was to take the sand road down to Crocodile Bridge – in the past we have had fabulous sightings along here but this morning it was pretty quiet. As we approached the junction of the S25 and the Mlambane loop road up to Gardenia Hide, several vehicles were stopped. At first we could see nothing and could not work out which side people were looking as, of the 3 cars ahead, one was on the right, one on the left and one in the middle. Driving up to the closest car to ask for more info, they told us that a very grumpy bull elephant was close to the road and had already charged 2 vehicles. That certainly explained why everyone was leaving some space and why nobody had moved forward. I love elephants but from experience always give them plenty of space. The time passed and still the elephant stayed to intimidate us. Eventually, after 15-20 minutes, the ‘front’ vehicle decided to chance moving forwards. The bull was having none of it and charged again. Luckily, the vehicle had got past him safely but we saw them stop at the top of a hill about 100 metres along the road – possibly to let their hearts stop racing or a change of underwear! The rest of us took the reverse route and waited again. By this stage I made the executive decision to take a completely different route to Crocodile Bridge and opted for the sand road to Biyamiti Weir where we stopped for our coffee and hot chocolate. It was oh so tempting to take the Biyamiti camp road but we stuck to the rules and continued north along the S114 and then along the S21 planning to have a late breakfast at Lower Sabie. Before then though, the drinks had resulted in a desperate plea from the back seat requesting a comfort break as soon as possible and when we reached the tar road, we decided the closest stop would be Nkuhlu Picnic Site. Relieved, we decided to eat here but were sadly too early for the buff pies although a hot breakfast was very welcome and we were ready to move on again.
The next stretch revealed, a Fish Eagle with his breakfast,

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some interested Zebras,

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an impressive Kudu,

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and a Grey heron with his reflection.

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Pausing briefly at Sunset Dam to see a Green-backed Heron

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and at Lower Sabie for a quick loo stop and to show Sam the wonderful view from the deck, we continued southwards to Crocodile Bridge which would be our base for the next 2 nights only to be stopped by a herd of Ellies crossing the road with one mini-bus too close for comfort.

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At this point I must raise the thorny debate of the later check-in times. Whilst we did prefer the earlier time of 12 noon, we were not too inconvenienced by the change to 2pm but travelling with a child this trip, a different dilemma arose. So please can I open the floor to all those who travel with children to ask if you have the same problem and, if so, suggested solutions would be very welcome. As adults, on the whole, we can be pretty flexible about mealtimes in the Park. We stop for coffee or whatever somewhere early in the morning and call in to camp/picnic site for a hot breakfast perhaps 8.30-ish. Moving the check in to 2pm means (unless you are staying near your base camp) having to buy lunch as well rather than checking in at 12 and then cooking it yourself. I know all children are different but most need/want to eat regularly.

At Crocodile Bridge we were allocated Bungalow number 8 – a nice quiet position almost in the corner and facing the river. As we unloaded the car and unpacked, Sam had a wander around the camp and met the local warthogs who were busy eating the fresh green grass.
Back out again for a sunset drive and we opted to try the S28 as we had been told a cheetah was active in the area. Sadly no cheetah today, and not much else either but a nice Giraffe

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and a chance to look at a different type of terrain from the area around BnD. To make a circular route we returned down the tar and could not miss a total traffic jam about 50 metres in along the S28. Hoping it was the cheetah, we joined the queue and had cameras at the ready. This time, however, it was a large male lion. Like most other people, we enjoy a big cat sighting but are happy to spend a short time when so many people are looking and then move on to make space for someone else. Having worked my way to the ‘end of the queue’, this was my intention but one particular vehicle who obviously meant to stay in ‘her spot’ until the bitter end and most of us were totalled wedged in and could not move anywhere. I have to say there were 2 JJs from Shishangeni who both behaved impeccably by spending a short time so that their clients could see the lion and take photos and then managed to wangle their trucks out of the crush and move away. We, however, became stuck for so long, we only made it back into camp by the skin of our teeth and I suspect some did not get back until the gates actually closed. Still, time for a braai (Sam just loved this time every evening) and a delicious steak dinner. We knew Hugh was staying in camp and we had hoped to walk around to the campsite to say hello but we felt it was too late after we had eaten and washed up. Perhaps next time, Hugh, but hope you had as good a trip as we had.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:50 pm 
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Friday 19th August 2011

This lovely morning we were up and out of the gates soon after they opened.

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We decided to stick to the tar road, hoping that we might find a cat along the way. Again it was quiet – began to feel we had taken the wrong road but am reading the same comment on all the TRs from the same time so just one of those things. Our first sighting was another YR – John and Poppy. Lovely to talk to you both and can put faces to names. Soon after we passed the Biyamiti morning drive vehicle….recognised as Magic Guarri and SO were waving frantically from the back! We pulled off the road at Sunset Dam for a quick look around – as it seemed quiet we decided to check out a spot a few 100 metres along the road where we noted some parked cars. Not the hoped-for cats, but beautiful kudu resplendent in the morning light.
We returned to Sunset to find a good spot to switch off the engine and have our coffee and hot chocolate. Incredibly we were the only car there and had an uninterrupted view across the whole of the Dam. Crocodiles were out of the water everywhere (as this was the first animal Sam saw in Kruger, he already felt an emotional attachment to them)

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and so many birds feeding along the water’s edge.

Wattled Plover
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Common Sandpiper
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/r_j_veitch/6136187133/" title="Common-Sandpiper by Image

African Pied Wagtail
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Hippos were in pods all around the dam and we had huge smiles watching a grey heron which appeared to float through the water atop a hippo back. As the hippo stayed below the surface, it really did look as if the heron were ‘walking on water’.

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Suddenly Sam called out ‘Look at the crocodile, he’s caught an impala’ – WOW! Sam had just spotted his first kill. A solitary Impala had crept down to the water’s edge in between a large group of storks but had been spotted by a large 20 feet croc who raced out of the water and grabbed the antelope before he could move, As the croc shook the poor impala, we prayed he had gone quickly.

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The speed with which they can attack something along the waters edge is staggering and this was the second trip in a row we had experienced such a killing. As coffee and chocolate were totally forgotten, we all grabbed a camera to capture the event. Although we had many more amazing sightings during our trip, for Sam, this really was the best sighting of all and is the first tale to be told whenever people ask him what he saw in the Kruger. Incredibly we were still the only vehicle at Sunset to witness the spectacle. It took a while for our hearts to stop racing but the thought of breakfast eventually prompted us to drive back to Lower Sabie and calm down on the deck.
We already knew by now that Sam just loved the Kruger and, for certain, this was the action which had him totally hooked. In the hope that we might find the doggies, we now took the sand roads (H5,S108, S25) towards the Biyamiti river crossing. Along the way we stopped alongside a parked car who pointed out a Giant Eagle Owl sitting on her nest.

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The lady in the car said she had come here for the past 2 days and that the Owl had 2 chicks but we could only see the adult. It was a lovely sight to see though and we waited until another vehicle approached so that we could point out the nest to them. Ironically the first lady had been driving a Daihatsu Terios and, on reflection, I have grave doubts that we would have fitted in as easily to our ‘booked’ vehicle as the upgrade we had been fortunate to be allocated.
The Biyamiti river bed had no animals to welcome us and we decided to return to Hippo Pools where the hippos were also hiding but Sam was interested to look at the rock paintings. We returned to Crocodile Bridge for lunch and a well deserved rest. Also an opportunity to write up our journals and Sam could not wait to put pen to paper. For our sunset drive we had decided to head north along the tar and then take the S130, returning along the tar again to camp. Again this was certainly the right choice and returning south, we were rewarded with a glimpse of a leopard retreating into the bush and a lovely African Barred Owlet in a tree near the road.

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Too quick for a photo but, nevertheless, the next animal on Sam’s wish list. Soon after as the bush opened out to an area of plain, we followed several black-backed jackals. All were moving quickly and definitely appeared to be on a mission.
At Gezantfombi 3 elephants were wallowing in the mud – as we watched them from the height of the sand road, they revelled in the cooling mud and it was such a pleasure to witness their enjoyment.

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It was only spoiled but a man who got out of his vehicle and proceeded to walk all along the edge of the bank. Despite everyone calling out to him to return to his car, he continued until he had taken his photos of the Ellies. :naughty:
Now we returned to camp for our evening braai and an early night as tomorrow we had a long journey northwards.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:58 pm 
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Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
thank you again everyone - we are thrilled you are enjoying our photographic efforts.

Kamadejo - As there were 3 of us, we each had a kitbag (our hold luggage), all our camera kit and their bags as well as 2 coolboxes and large water bottles. Even in the Renault Koleus, we found that only the kit bags and water bottles would fit in the boot. The coolboxes had to go behind the front seats and the cameras all over the back seat (with Sam) and the front foot well. I know this is only the case when you are moving from camp to camp but we did not find so much spare room. This was the first trip we had done with more than 2 people and we really noticed how much more room you needed. The Terios did not look as large as the koleus, certainly the boot looked smaller. We will be back in December and self catering so will need the coolboxes and extra space for food and drinks as he did this trip. Perhaps it was because we were all using 2 cameras and tried to position them so that we could reach them as necessary. Even so, I did almost all the driving and found I had to have both my cameras in the back with Sam so had to ask him to pass them to me. Perhaps someone has rented a Terios and can give better information than us. We only looked at the vehicle with one person inside and it just did not look very spacious. Our first choice would be a Nissan X Trail which always seemed to have all the space we needed but the rental price has got so very expensive since last year. Like everyone we have to work to a budget and to cover higher flight costs, food and accommodation, we have to cut back on the hire car..or not come for so long which weould be a terrible option.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:54 pm 
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Karin, we were really lucky to spot the owl and we had the sighting to ourselves so could get the best position for a photo. To be honest we thought we were looking at a Pearl spotted owl but when another vehicle pulled up alongside us, the driver was a very knowledgeable birder and explained that we were looking at an African Barred owl and how to tell the difference. We were very grateful to her as it was a new bird for us. She did not have a YR but if she is reading this TR - many thanks again for your help.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:47 pm 
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Saturday, 20th August 2011

This morning we are on the road for 6.10 as it would be the longest drive to change camps, moving northwards to Letaba. Knowing we realistically must keep to the tar roads, the only dilemma was whether we should take the H10 or the longer route and hope for something amazing as we crossed the high water bridge on the H12. We decided on the longer route – partly influenced by our incredible Otter sighting in the Sabie River 2 years ago which we yearn to replicate at some time. A brief pause at Sunset Dam where we were treated to some Cormorants,
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Woolly-necked Stork,
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Hammerkop
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and Brown-headed Parrot.
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After a quick loo break at Nkuhlu, our reward for this road option was another nice Rhino sighting.
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Sadly no Otters were visible as we crossed the bridge and many waterholes further on were either dry or closed due to blue-green algae. As we had been warned by several others of the serious Vervet problem at Tshokwane, we popped in for another comfort break (as I am sure all those who travel with children will agree, ALWAYS stop for a loo break when you have the chance) but parked up at Mazithi waterhole for our coffee and hot chocolate. Like Sunset Dam, there is a long stretch of parking area so you can sit for as long as you wish without feeling you must move on to make room for other vehicles. It always has a real sense of peace here too. There may be little happening when you first stop but something always seems to turn up while you wait. This morning a small herd of Zebra came down to quench their thirst.
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I find it fascinating how they arrange their drinking as they always have one animal on guard and they never stay for long. When other species are with them, we have often noted how they will let the other animals, be they Impala or Wildebeest, drink first and only after the water has been tested will they seek refreshment. I presume this is to check out the water for Crocodiles?
Onwards again, we called in at Satara for an ice cream as the temperatures were climbing rapidly and Sam was dealing with the long car journey very well. Our plan was to reach Olifants for a proper lunch break but we were spoiled for choice with all the sightings along the H1-4 with more Rhino,
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Ostrich,
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Korhaan,
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Elephants
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and several Kori Bustards.
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Still, we enjoyed our lunch on the new restaurant deck and showed Sam the amazing view along the river before moving on again.
At Letaba we were allocated bungalow B13 and were greeted by the resident bushbuck as we unloaded the car. Sam just loved this setting and the walk along the fence to check out the river bed. It gave me a chance to go down to the laundry and catch up on some washing before we ran out of clean clothing. Sam took the chance to catch up with his journal whilst Richard backed up our photos from the last couple of days. It had been a tiring day spending so long in the car but our reward was a dinner of T-bone steaks. This has always been our favourite treat on the braai especially as they require a mortgage to buy in the UK! So, well fed and watered (well, more a bottle of wine), we retreated to bed and slept soundly.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:33 pm 
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We opted to have a lie-in this morning after the long drive yesterday and decided to start our day with a cooked breakfast. I love cooking but did miss all my pots and pans as I tried to get everything ready together. You know when you have a suspicion that something is not quite right but you can’t put your finger on it? Eventually I realised that the hot plates were definitely not hot. A quick check around and it was confirmed that the electricity was off. Was it just our hut or were our neighbours in the same predicament. Yes, we were all in it together. We are somewhat spoiled in the UK and ‘load-shedding’ is not a regular occurrence. We waited for a while but still no joy and I had 3 pans full of half-cooked food. Resort to Plan B and light up the braai. It gave us a chance to talk to several of our neighbours and we were able to share our braai with them and finish cooking breakfast. Problem solved and new friends made. As the morning was slipping away, I put all the utensils etc in the sink to soak and off we went to Matambeni Hide. It is such a lovely place to chill out here and never as hectic or full as Lake Panic. Plenty of time to watch the Waterbuck,
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some Hippos,
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and Ellies.
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On the way back to camp we spotted a Grysbok and an Egyptian Goose having something to eat.
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Back at the bungalow I was mortified to find all my washing up had been done and put away. I felt really guilty and will make sure I do not leave it undone again. Will certainly reflect this when we leave our tip but just never thought SANP staff would do this. We walked down to the restaurant for lunch and then onto the shop to stock up on food supplies. Time to write up our journals again. Sam was really very good about doing his – he is not the quickest writer in the world (his brain is always ahead of his hand) but I tried to make time to sit with him each day and, if I was writing as well as him, it did not seem too unfair. It also gave us a chance to talk about some of the things we had seen during the day.

Time again to jump into the car for an afternoon drive – the temperature was now at 29 degrees and a beautiful clear blue sky. Taking the S46 along the river we found lots of Ellies. Some small groups of bulls but also a nice breeding herd who were probably on their way down to the river for refreshment and a cooling bath. Returning to camp by the tar road, we spotted a Tawny Eagle, Giraffe and a herd of Zebra (but no decent images). Now to rustle up some dinner and relax with a glass of wine (or two) before retiring to bed.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:33 pm 
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Monday 22nd August 2011

By now our morning routine was pretty slick and we were packed and loaded up by 6.15 am. The morning was cool at 11 deg C and by the time we stopped on the Letaba bridge, it had dropped down to 8. The sunrise this morning was beautiful and 2 Saddle-billed Storks were fishing in the river, then they took off.
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We were moving northwards again today and planned to stick to the main tar road as the sand option up to Shingwedzi has no chance for a comfort break and we knew it would be too far for Sam. We watched another breeding herd of elephants
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and just north of the S48/H15 junction, a leopard paced through the bushes and then wandered off.
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As the road had been fairly quiet, we decided to try the s50 roundabout way to Mopani, hoping something may have come down to the waterholes. We found 2 bull elephant (one a large tusker) at Nshawu
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but nothing at Mooiplas which has often been lucky for us in the past. Before reaching Mopani camp we watched a large herd of buffalo which had probably been at the waterhole earlier. They had lots of calves and all looked very healthy. Then we had some beautiful light on a Zebra.
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We stopped at Mopani for a comfort break and breakfast. We had been in two minds whether to try the restaurant or not as our last experience here was truly diabolical and really had not been forgotten. Still, to sit and look out over Pioneer Dam is a magnificent setting and perhaps you have to give people another chance. The result was probably a 1-1 draw. We found a table outside overlooking the dam and eventually our order was taken for breakfast. Overhead we could see and hear the fish eagles – always a treat. By this time all the other tables on the deck had been occupied and as we waited (and waited) for breakfast, we began to chat amongst ourselves. All the other guests were South African and what an interesting conversation we had. One couple were in their 80’s and recalled many sightings they had enjoyed over the years. Everyone was interested in how we, as overseas visitors, felt about the Kruger Park and South Africa in general. They were all particularly interested in Sam’s impression of their country and what sights he had experienced to date. Such a pleasure to have so many people to talk with and confirms our statements to friends at home that the people here are so friendly and welcoming. Eventually the breakfasts did arrive – it really was a long wait which I found incomprehensible as we all had more or less the same food which could have been cooked much, much quicker. However…we did at least get our food which is more than happened on our previous visit.

Back on the road, we continued north, enjoying another big herd of buffalo, bull elephant and a breeding herd, and a brown snake eagle. We had been somewhat surprised how few large birds we had seen to date so each sighting gave us a chance to talk to Sam about that particular species. Yet more elephant were by the Shingwedzi river bridge and along the road to camp.
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It was still much too early to check in but we popped into reception to see if there would be any space for us on the sunset drive that evening. They kindly checked all our paperwork and gave us our bungalow (22) so that we could just call in at 2pm to collect the keys. We had time to drive along the road towards the Kanniedood dam, always such a rewarding area of the park, and found plenty more Ellies,
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Striped Kingfisher,
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Goliath Heron
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and Saddle-billed Storks, before returning to camp to pick up our keys and unpack the car. Time for Sam to put pen to paper again, Richard to load up more photos onto a hard drive and me to prepare for dinner. We love the sunset drives but find it can be too late to eat if you haven’t got everything ready before it departs. For speed I cook a Bolognese sauce so that I can reheat it quickly when we get back from the drive and cook some pasta to accompany it.

We walked across to the assembly area and found we would be the only people on the drive that evening – we had noted as we were in the north that far fewer people were on the drives. Not sure if this is due to the increased costs or something else. Certainly there were plenty of people staying in camp. However, our guide for the evening was Abel, who we found to be charming, helpful and very knowledgeable. He has only been at Shingwedzi for 6 months, having moved down from Punda Maria. He had expected us to be looking for the cats and thought we would be disappointed when the drive began very quietly. He looked almost relieved when we assured him that we would enjoy whatever we saw and had no particular wish list we expected him to tick off. Starting out towards Kanniedood the road was quiet but plenty of birdlife feeding before nightfall. A new sighting for us was Green (Red-billed) Tree Hoopoes moving up the branches. As the light faded we turned back and crossed the causeway but saw nothing until we slowed for the tar road junction where Abel’s sharp eyes spotted a female boomslang who had just eaten. What a thrill! It turned out to be the one and only snake we saw on this trip and Sam was captivated. After his crocodile kill, not to mention the fact that he loves his food, this was another highlight for him. Creeping along the main road we found a Large-spotted Genet, Civet, Buffalo, Sharpe’s Grysbok and then, another new species, an Acacia mouse. Normally the very word ‘mouse’ would reduce me to a gibbering wreck but I was fascinated by this small rodent who only lived in the acacia – although a portent for another sighting some days later which still gives me nightmares but more about that in due course. Finally, as we journeyed along the road back to camp, there lay a large male lion in front of us.
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We watched for a while and as he got up and moved into the bush, he began to roar. What a wonderful sound this is – perhaps the very essence of Africa – and considered this had been one of our very best drives recently. Even as we sat down to eat dinner, we could still hear lions roaring close by to camp. For us all, a truly priceless experience, and we slept well that night.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 12:06 pm 
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Tuesday, 23rd August 2011

This morning we planned a more leisurely day. We would be spending 4 nights at Shingwedzi so plenty of time to explore the area. I made up sandwiches to pack in the car for breakfast later and we set off northwards along the tar road. The wildlife had obviously had a busy night and they were sleeping it off, but the Ellies were all out and about together with a few Zebras.
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It was very noticeable how many more Elephants were to be seen in the northern part of Kruger, definitely we had seen relatively few when staying in the south this trip. We pulled into Babalala for our breakfast stop. The Hornbills are becoming a real nuisance here and we almost resorted to eating in the car. I feel somewhat reluctant to keep asking people to stop feeding the birds at picnic sites and the notices are everywhere stating ‘Do not feed the animals’ :rtm: but I do not find it an enjoyable situation having Hornbills or Vervets trying to snatch food from my hand and I worry particularly about children having food taken from them. Perhaps SANP really should try the ‘on the spot’ fine approach – it might resolve the problem quickly and I’m sure they could put the money to good use…more Baboon-proof bins for a start.
Leaving the picnic site we decided to return via the Mphongolo road. Pausing to watch Elephant and Zebras at the waterhole, we found this road to be exceptionally quiet but did find some Waterbuck and a herd of Elephant in the riverbed. Back at camp, it was time to tackle another pile of washing before we all ran out of clean clothes, as well as a trip to the shop to restock on some food.
At the shop we were shocked to discover how little was on the shelves and virtually no meat products for us to contemplate a braai. As for the prices… well, at first I thought the wrong price had been written on but sadly this was not the case. Standing in the queue, a lady at the side of me suddenly asked ‘Are you Carol and Sam?’ Yes, we said, and you must be Flick. We knew PNF and SO would be staying for some nights here at the same time as us and we had planned to meet up for a drink if possible. Noting down their bungalow number we said we would pop round before going out on our afternoon drive. When we did call round a bit later, we were sorry to hear they had not had a pleasant experience at the camp so far with no bread to buy in the shop, an upset in the restaurant and food being removed from their fridge. Not the best start, and they were returning to their rooms to calm down. We have been in touch since and I know some things were sorted but we hope we will get to have a drink together another time, Pieter and Flick. Lovely to meet you though.
Back out for a quick afternoon drive where we watched a family group of Ellies drinking and playing in the river bed. A couple of the teenagers were play-fighting, which is always amusing to watch.
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Returning to camp, it was time to relax with a glass of wine and concoct something for dinner mixing a bit of this and that from the fridge. Amazing what you can produce when necessary and no-one went hungry. Our neighbours in camp had arrived and we were less than thrilled by the almost constant ring from their mobile phones. For the entire time we were at Shingwedzi, they were talking on phones the whole time. I know Kruger is not a phone-free zone but we did wonder why they had come if their lives were so busy that they could not have them switched off…for a while anyway. We were even more bemused when we noticed what they were using for their braai each evening – the longest tree branches we had ever seen on a braai – we even wondered if they had come into the Park with a saw and cut down their wood en route. One thing is for certain, they just had to have gotten out of their cars to collect it. Every evening they produced yet another pile of it as well.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 2:13 pm 
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Wednesday, 24th August

All organised for an early start as today we wanted to get to Crooks Corner and we were on the road a few minutes after 6am. Sam captured the sunrise for us.
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Only a few minutes from camp, a small traffic jam surrounded the local male Lion. He appeared to be on his own but it is more than likely that his pride were not far away. We watched him for a while but with a long drive ahead, we knew we must be on our way. A large bull Elephant was walking just past the bridge but he soon disappeared further into the bush. At Babalala a small herd of Zebra were grazing and at Mawawi waterhole, another large herd of Buffalo.
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Soon a Bataleur seated on a branch, nearby a lone Giraffe and then, just south of Shisha west, a Lilac-breasted Roller.
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Turning onto the Punda Gate road we continued slowly and stopped for a magnificent Fish Eagle posing near a large mud patch
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with several Emerald-spotted Doves close by.
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Moving on again a Slender Mongoose darted across our path with a beautiful male Nyala closer to Punda Maria camp. We chose to stop for breakfast here as it was a chance to show Sam this charming camp and we have always been fed well at their restaurant. Personally we find it a shame that every camp is now under the same catering group with exactly the same menu everywhere. Always willing to try out something different, Sam was rapidly tiring of having the same choices each time. Ever the catering star though, our food was cooked to perfection and served with a big smile. Certainly, this camp won Sam’s vote for the best breakfast of the trip and when asked by the manager what we felt about our meal, we were pleased to tell him that it had certainly won our vote and we would be looking forward to a 3 stay here in December. Yes, I know it is a small camp but the staff always seem to go that extra mile to provide good service. We also took the opportunity to buy some more meat and general provisions as this shop had considerably more on their shelves than at Shingwedzi. In fact, despite being one of the smallest camp shops in the Park, it had a good range and we could select enough to feed us for the remainder of our time in Kruger.

Back on the road we turned left after the camp gate to take the S60 towards the main tar road. We paused to watch a small group of birds close to the road who were flitting from bush to bush and hunted through our trusty Newmans to identify them – Arnott’s Chat, another new species for us.
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Ironically we were to see them again and again for the remains of the day and yet we are certain we had never spotted them before. Stopping near a large koppie we found a lovely pair of Klipspringer posing on tiptoe.
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Then, halfway up the rocks, Dassies (Rock Hyrax) – an action shot and hence not the best quality image.
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We have never seen Dassies anywhere in the Kruger before, although I recalled a forum thread before we left the UK where someone had said that they were in the Kruger. A lovely surprise for us and another tick on Sam’s Kruger Tick List. Plenty of action at Mashikhiri waterhole with a large herd of Buffalo, Elephants and Zebra coming down to drink.

After Baobab Hill we turned right towards the Pafuri border post but headed north to Crooks Corner before reaching the actual gate. As always there was plenty of action at Crooks Corner – the water and sand bars were heaving with huge Crocodiles, several gorging themselves on large fish. A large pod of Hippo swam around the Crocs with the adults keeping their offspring safe. It always amazes me how close these two species keep – does anyone know if a Crocodile ever eats a small Hippo?
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The birdlife was also active in the bushes and trees on the bank with Burchell’s Coucal, Hadida Ibis, White-fronted Bee-eaters, Marico Sunbirds and a Giant Kingfisher.
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We had been very lucky to be the only vehicle here for quite a while and when several more cars arrived, we decided to drive on to Pafuri picnic site, passing lots of Nyala on the way. We also stopped to tell Sam about the Fever Trees.
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At the picnic site we sat down for cold drinks and a sandwich lunch, keeping our coolbox shut and close to us as the Vervets were dashing from table to table with the speed of light. In fact it was not long before our mobile hugging neighbours from Shingwedzi also arrived here and were cooking up a late breakfast. Despite calling out to them that the monkeys were all around, they decided to cook in one area but laid out a table a few metres away, complete with bread rolls, etc. Needless to say, the one of the Vervets helped itself to a bread roll and scurried off to a nearby tree.

As we watched kudu and elephants down in the river, Frank came up to say hello. This man is an absolute treasure and we were thrilled to read that he has recently been rewarded for his continuing contribution to the Kruger Park. We were so grateful that he made time to talk to us and tell us about some new birds just arrived in the area. With his help we enjoyed the Golden-backed Pytilia (which had recently arrived),
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Jamieson’s Firefinch and Blue Waxbills. The Pytilia and the Firefinch both being new species for us.
Huge thank you, Frank. :clap: :clap:

The time was flying by and we knew we must make our way back south although we stopped briefly on the bridge across the Luvuvhu river where a beautiful African Fish Eagle posed on the railing.
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We had hoped to show Sam Nyala drive but we felt the time was too late now and, if we did see something special, we really would not have enough time to stay. Perhaps just as well since we had yet more sightings on the way back, a group of Tsessebe,
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then Zebras and Elephants at Babalala. Roan Antelope a few kilometres further on looking lovely surrounded by the Mopani bushes.
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And finally, Slender Mongoose and Steenbok closer to camp.
It had been a long tiring day but so rewarding. We celebrated with more t-bone steaks on the braai served with noodles. Our neighbours had just made it back to camp before gate closure and we watched with amazement as they piled branches onto their braai. We sat down on our veranda enjoying the sounds of the night – interspersed with the continuing ring tones of course!! :evil:

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 3:08 pm 
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Thursday 25th August

This morning we wanted to take Sam out to Red Rocks intending to do it as a circular route. Keeping to the tar we had hoped to find some big cats but no luck today, everything still in bed. Even at Red Rocks it was deserted but on the way to Tshanga Look Out we spotted Giraffe and our first Spotted Hyena. I cannot remember being in the Park for so long without seeing Hyenas. It was a female who appeared to be on a mission so she did not stay long in our company. Sam enjoyed the scramble around the rocks at Tshanga and we took some photos of him with Edmund the Explorer.
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The view from here is fantastic but somehow I never feel totally comfortable sitting on the rocks in this spot. Is it just me or do others wonder just how long it would take to get back to your car should anything appear in your vision? As for the toilet, perhaps it would be better to be pulled down.

Back in the car we passed the turn off to Bataleur camp – one of the very few we have never stayed at and so not ever been to Silwervis. Perhaps someone would tell us if this should be added to our ‘must try’ list. It is a bit like passing the road to Biyamiti camp where there is always just a little temptation to take the road anyway although we have always managed to resist the temptation and hope we will get a booking there on the next trip. As we reached the main loop we turned towards the causeway and take the northern section of the S52. A few kilometres along the road we saw parked cars and were thrilled to find they were watching a pride of 7 lions.
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They were happily settled quite close to the road and could actually be seen from both sides of the river so no giant traffic jam formed. This gave us the chance to just sit and have our coffee with them. After a while a herd of buffalo were making their way down to the river, only 50 metres or so from our parked cars. The lions certainly seemed to be aware of them but the buffs also sensed they did not have the location to themselves. Quite how close each came to the other we do not know although the lions appeared more ready to seek shade and sleep rather than instigate a hunting trip. Eventually we had to move on but we paused on to oncoming cars about the lion sighting so I hope they found them on their journey.

Back in camp it was time for a late breakfast cum brunch and tackle a bag of washing. The weather was very warm and we hoped it would dry quickly, ready for our move south tomorrow. Once done and hung out on our travel washing line, we got back in the car to go down to the bird hide and Kanniedood Dam. Sometimes you just know in your heart that you have made the right choice! Creeping around every little loop close by the river, we found several tuskers in the river bed,
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a herd of Buffalo cooling off in the water,
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Green Woodhoopoes working their way up and down a large tree,
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Waterbuck,
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Nyala,
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Bushbuck,
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Impala and then, in the midst of a group of Impala, the smallest, cutest little antelope we had ever seen. So amazed were we all by this animal that not one of took a photo. In all honesty, we could not quite get to grips with what we were watching and when it dashed away into the bush, we all looked at each other in total amazement. We were certain we had just seen a Suni – a dwarf antelope we had never heard of before until our guide, Abel, from the sunset drive a few evenings previous, had told us about it. We searched and searched forwards and backwards along the road, peering into every opening and under every bush but it had vanished. When we next went into a camp shop, we searched through the mammal books to look up this dwarf antelope and we are convinced this is indeed what we had seen but, sorry folks, no photo to prove it. I have never even heard one mentioned in another TR…has anyone else seen a Suni?

We were buzzing with excitement at this sighting and continued on to the bird hide. It is a bit of a squeeze parking underneath here which added to the adrenalin rush experienced by another person a while later. We climbed up the steps and sat down to do some birdwatching. Plenty out and about feeding in the river – Yellow-billed Storks, Herons, Egrets, Egyptian Geese,
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a Kori Bustard along the far bank and several Crocs lying out in the sun.
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Soon another gentleman joined us in the hide. He was very interested in SO’s ‘bazooka’ lens and we chatted about our sightings from the day. Now we heard the rumble which can only mean that elephants are close by and it was not long before we saw a teenager feeding close to the side of the hide. Then more and more Ellies approached the hide, some along the water’s edge and others almost directly under the hide itself. We all held our breath as they were almost close enough to touch and were somewhat unsure as to what they would do if they saw us. Slowly, slowly they moved past with a few stragglers at the back. Suddenly we heard a car door close and then a step on the stairs – Sam whispered ‘Can they climb stairs?’ We all turned to look at the space at the top of the steps as a lady appeared in our sight. It was the wife of our fellow hide visitor and she had decided to stay in the car whilst he had climbed up into the hide but had then found herself surrounded by Ellies. It was the most amazing experience but I suspect any doctor taking our blood pressure would have had serious concerns when looking at the readings. Certainly I was still shaking when I got back into the car and was more than ready for a large glass of wine before cooking dinner. None of us will forget this day in a hurry and confirmed what we have always said that Shingwedzi is a brilliant area to stay.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 10:56 pm 
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Friday, 26th August

This morning we were up and loading the car for our move back south with the crescent moon visible in the early morning sky.
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One of our concerns bringing Sam out to Kruger was that he had never been away from home or his Mum for 3 weeks yet he was the first to say how the time had flown by. Just shows what happens when you are all having such a brilliant time! As we were only transferring down to Mopani, we decided to take the S50 and see what was out and about in that area. Along the river bank all was quiet but we spotted African darters, Sharpes Grysbok and Nyala. After passing Kanniedood it seemed that all the wildlife had stayed in bed as we only saw the occasional hornbill. Indeed it was so quiet that we kept going until reaching Mooiplas Pan where we decided it had to be a spot for coffee and hot chocolate. We have always been lucky with sightings here and felt something would surely emerge to wish us good morning. Soon a few Zebras came down for a drink,
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then a group of 4 Ground Hornbills, one of whom had just caught a Chameleon for breakfast.
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Ironically this was the one and only Chameleon we saw on this entire trip but Sam felt justified in ticking the relevant box on his Kruger tick list…even if the Chameleons head was halfway down the Hornbill’s throat. By the time we had emptied our coffee flask we had also seen Warthogs, more Hornbills, Crowned Plovers, Wildebeest and a herd of Buffalo in the distance. Definitely worth stopping here for a break.

Although it was still too early to check in, we popped into Mopani for a quick comfort break before returning to the car and driving along to Shipandani hide. On a hot day this is always a cool place to rest and look out along the river bank. Considering how close it is to a main camp, we are always surprised at how few people we ever see here. We stayed for a long while watching the Hippos,
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Goliath Heron,
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and Striped Kingfisher,
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yet no others stopped at the hide to share the sightings with us. Perhaps one day we will pluck up the courage to spend a night here. Eventually we decided to move on and popped into the hide at Pioneer before driving along the Shongololo Loop and then back to Mopani on the tar road. At reception we checked in and were allocated bungalow 98 where Sam was thrilled to find he had a bunk bed. Needless to say the top bunk is always the more exciting option. As we sat outside on the veranda, Richard spotted something laying on a rock several metres and creeping slowly along it found it was a Giant Plated-lizard. It stayed long enough for Sam to see him but not for me to grab a camera and take a photo. Definitely a case of the one that got away but it was another new sighting for us all and not one that we expected to find in camp. So it was back to a welcome glass of cold beer and pens out to catch up with our journals again.

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... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


Last edited by carolv on Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger - the next generation
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:41 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:12 am
Posts: 241
Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Saturday, 27th August

We were up bright and early and left camp minutes after gate opening. This morning we would be moving down to Satara. We had a clear, blue sky and already the temperature was at 15 degrees. You know how sometimes you just feel it is going to be a fantastic day? Oh yes…today would be really special and luck was well and truly on our side as far as sightings go. Initially all was quiet on the tar road, just a single bull elephant striding out into the bush, then some zebras at Middlevlei, followed by two honey badgers racing through the grass. Great to see them in the daylight but too quick to get any good pictures. Along the Letaba river a large troop of baboons were playing and grooming each other.

As we neared Letaba camp, we toyed with the option of stopping for an early breakfast but decided (thank goodness) to take the S46 along the river and stop for a coffee break before planning a breakfast at Olifants. As we looked out for a place to stop and watch the wildlife along the river, we found an area with plenty of space to park although several other cars were in the area. Driving slowly down to the bank, a lady in another vehicle pointed out a group of 4 lions lying out on the far side of the river.

This is a great part of the Letaba river as there are so many places to just stop and watch yet plenty of space for other vehicles to park also so that everyone could share this special sighting. Their only agenda appeared to be a day of rest in the sunshine and, apart from the occasional get up and stretch, this is exactly what they did for as long as we stayed here. Hunger pangs were beginning to surface and we left the lions to their captivated audience.

Following the roads which clung to the river, we spotted several pods of Hippo, Grey Heron, Black-winged stilts, Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese and then Richard called out ‘Stop’.
A young leopard was walking along our side of the river bank and, as we crept along the road, he began to walk closer to the road. Sensing he was not on his own, he suddenly jumped up into a large bush to hide.
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We sat spellbound at his antics as we were certain the bush was not large enough to take his weight and it was not long before he landed back on the ground and sought another hiding place.
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Moving even closer to us, the leopard dropped down into a donga and stood facing us. He (or she?) would move back and forth along the donga but kept returning for eye to eye contact with us.
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We were privileged to have this sighting all to ourselves for nearly 20 minutes and when I heard another vehicle approaching from behind, I signalled for them to slow down so that I could point out where the leopard had gone. This just had to be our best ever leopard sighting and we left slowly in the hope that he would move out from the shelter of the donga to give the people in the other car a chance to watch him as we had done. The huge smiles on our faces as we pulled into Olifants for a rather late breakfast left no doubt how special our morning had been so far.

Fed and watered we drove down to the Balule causeway and stopped to watch a Goliath Heron poised on some stones searching for his next meal.
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Turning back towards the tar road, we drove to the high water bridge and got out to watch elephants, crocodiles and a yellow-billed stork. The temperature had now climbed to 23 degrees but the weather was changing with more wind and cloud. As always there was plenty to see along this stretch of the road – Ground Hornbills, Kudu, Cape Buffalo, Wildebeest at Nyamarhi waterhole and, just north of Ngotso south, an impala hanging in a tree.
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Obviously a leopard kill, we looked around eagerly but the meal was for a later time. Several Kori Bustards were walking close to the road, yet more ground hornbills (the conservation project started to increase their numbers must have been phenomenally successful), Ostriches,
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more Lions in the distance with large herds of Wildebeest, Zebra And Buffalo.

By the time we drove into Satara we had been inundated with wildlife sightings but our luck still held good as there were still places available for a Sunset drive that evening. We checked in at the same time although it was too early to be given our keys and we drove out to Nsemani where we found a small Elephant herd, Zebra, Hippos and Fish Eagle.

We were keen to collect our keys as soon as possible so that I could prepare something for dinner which could be heated up quickly and easily when we came back from the sunset drive. I love sunset drives for the chance to have daylight and night-time sightings but it is always a dilemma whether to eat very early before you leave or on your return. Anyway, I prepped some sauce to have with pasta later and as soon as we could we packed up our cameras and made our way to the meeting point for the sunset drive.

We were an international crowd but all regular Kruger visitors and when our guide, Martin, arrived, it did not take long to run through the dos and don’ts of the drive. Everyone was aware of the Impala hanging in the tree and asked, if possible, could we make our way northwards in the hope that the Leopard have returned for his dinner. Martin assured us that he had the ‘lucky drive’ so we were content to see what the evening awaited us. We were not to be disappointed and on our way northwards enjoyed sightings of Elephant, Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Kori Bustard, Small-spotted Genet, African Wildcat, Civet and finally, reaching the tree containing the dead Impala, our dreams were fulfilled as the Leopard was spotted devouring his kill. Not quite sure whether we should admit to this but we were over the moon when Martin offered to drive off the road and try to get as close to the Leopard and his kill as possible so that we could all get good photos. It was such a special time and our Sam was almost shaking with excitement as he watched the Leopard enjoying his prize and with the blood running down his face. I fear we have turned him into a rather blood-thirsty child but at least he really understood the ‘circle of life’. Eventually we had to make our way back towards camp but on the way back found Chameleon, Black-backed Jackal, Duiker, Steenbok, White-Tailed Mongoose (long time since we had seen one of these) and, finally, Spotted Hyena before we turned up to the camp gates. WOW what a drive and we were all buzzing as we alighted from the truck.

Walking back to our bungalow, we were all ready to eat and it did not take long to heat up our dinner. Halfway through the meal, Sam happily called out ‘Nana, there’s a rat running under the table’. I jumped up screaming – I love wildlife with a passion with the exception of mice and rats. Never had I seen anything like it and I was absolutely beside myself with fear. :big_eyes:

Thank goodness it eventually ran off the stoep rather than into the bedroom – just what I would have done if it had gone inside I just do not know…certainly I would have been sleeping in the car! It was only recently that I noticed another thread on the Kruger forum from Anne-marie who had taken a series of photos of a leopard eating a cane rate. It was just like the rat we had seen and I could identify our (un)welcome guest. Never had I seen such a thing either inside camp or in the bush. Whilst I could no doubt deal with seeing one in the bush with me safely in a car, never, never do I want to see another one running around my feet. I still have nightmares about the experience now. Sam and Richard just found it all rather funny although SO does know just how much I am terrified of such rodents. Most definitely this was a day and night to remember.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?style=2&f=27&t=58977Our 2012 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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