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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:07 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
3rd December

We slept so well last night and no Baboons to cause havoc. Bliss! Biyamiti is one of our all-time favourite camps and we were so happy to have been able to get a few nights here. We were up and about in plenty of time for SO to get organised whilst I made up a coffee flask and some food for our first break and we opened up the camp gate at 4.35am. The weather was cloudy and humid but not too cold at 21 degrees. As we headed south towards the S25, we kept a serious lookout for any Ellies which were on their way up from the river. I love this ‘private’ road which serves Biyamiti camp only (well, in theory it does) but it can be very narrow and leaves little scope for passing close to the larger animals. Just a raptor in a tree on the lookout for a tasty snack along the way.

At the junction with the S25, we turned eastwards towards Crocodile Bridge. This has always been one of the luckiest roads in the Park for us and for certain we were not to be disappointed this morning. Our treats were Ellies, Buffalo, Giraffe, 4 Lions (2 male and 2 Lionesses)

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Spotted Hyena,

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another Lioness hunting Impala (unsuccessfully),

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Wahlberg’s Eagle,

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Tawny Eagle,

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Zebra with a young foal,

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Wildebeest...

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and we had only now reached the tar road north. Definitely time for a coffee break at Gezantfombi and talk through our sightings so far. At the Dam we were joined by a large herd of Wildebeest and lots of Impala.

Time to drive on again and turned north onto the tar until taking a right turn onto the S28. A bit quiet today but always something to enjoy along the journey – a juvenile Fish Eagle, Grey Heron, Warthogs, Zebra, Giraffe, more Wildebeest but this herd had lots of very young babies, Kudu,

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Burchell’s Coucal,

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Swainson’s Francolin (posing on a termite mound)

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and a large tusker.

We took the S137 in the hope of spending some time with the Dwarf Mongoose family but they were not out playing when we passed. We did spot a Brown Snake Eagle

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and several Dung Beetles however.

We slowly made our way via the S130, H4-2 and H5 to the S25

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and back to camp for breakfast. More Hyenas were found along the way together with Bataleur and Steenbok. Looking back, what an amazing array of wildlife and all before our first meal of the day!

At mid morning we drove up to Biyamiti Weir

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and then back again – Giraffe, Fish Eagles,

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Water Monitor, Ellies and Dwarf Mongoose. Time for a rest, then an early dinner as we had booked a Sunset Drive this evening. When we went up to await the truck at Reception, we were surprised to find there were just 4 of our booked on the drive but this seems par for the course these days. We were joined by a father and son, Simon and Trevor, a very knowledgeable pair who were great company with our guide.

So what did we find on our last Sunset drive for this trip? Well, yet again, not a cat to be found but plenty of other treats – Ellies,

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4 Rhinos, Porcupine, Hyena, White-tailed Mongoose, Giraffe,

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Lesser Bushbabies, Tawny Eagle, Vultures, Common Duiker and last, but certainly not least, an Elephant Shrew.

During the day we had also been very lucky to find a crash of 6 Rhinos, a Mother Rhino and her young calf and several individuals along the way.

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Our heads were buzzing when we finally returned to camp and we sat outside with a glass (or two) of wine to talk through the day. This would be our last night actually in the Park for this trip and little did we know what would await us in the morning.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=77459Our 2013 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2014 12:38 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
4th December

I’m not quite sure how it developed that we would not, more likely could not, just leave Kruger and drive straight back to the airport for our flight home. I think we did it for the first 2 or 3 trips only and found it was a wrench too far. To ease our withdrawal symptoms, we always spend a few days after leaving Kruger at the Inn in Hazyview which we usually refer to as being our ‘second home’. It gives us the option of coming back into the Park as Day Visitors as well as a total relaxation day or a few hours to do some shopping before packing for home. Hence we packed up and loaded the car this morning with less trepidation than we would have had if planning the long drive back to O R Tambo airport.

Leaving camp at 4.45am, the air was very damp following heavy rain throughout the night.

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Debating whether to head northwards to Biyamiti Weir or south to check out the causeway, we decided on the latter which left us the option to drive the western end of the S25 to join the H3. Initially the track was very quiet – only the constant splash as we drove through large puddles in the road. We stopped at the top of the slope leading down to the bridge and were passed by Simon and Trevor with whom we had shared the drive yesterday evening. They planned to drive the eastern side of the S25 and were hoping to find the cats who had proved so elusive last night. We crept down onto the bridge and were immediately rewarded with a Giant Kingfisher who had just caught his breakfast and was busy thrashing his kill against a branch to enable him to swallow the large fish.

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This bird was priceless and we spent nearly half an hour with him as he battered his prey relentlessly. Eventually he managed to swallow his meal and moved on so we continued to the end of the bridge, turned around and stopped to watch the Lesser Striped Swallows who were posing on the other side of the parapet.

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Time to drive on and we moved slowly along the S25, soon passing the Biyamiti turn and headed westwards. Suddenly we spotted movement on the road ahead. I accelerated slightly in case it was something crossing the track and we might miss them – initially we thought it was a pack of Hyenas but no...as soon as we realised the animals were coming towards us, we just knew we had found Wild Dogs. They were a small pack of 6 and one was fitted with a radio collar.

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We spent several years coming to Kruger before we ever saw doggies and on that occasion it was on the same road and we were on a Sunset Drive with Elliott. Even now we can instantly recall that first sighting and the guide was thrilled for us...not as thrilled as we were I have to say.

However, here we are, the only car on the road and the dogs have reached us on the road. Instantly we realised they were hunting – just how exciting could this get. As the pack passed us, I quickly turned our vehicle around and followed them – desperately trying to find a balance of being in a position for SO to take photographs and keeping as close to the pack as I could but without inhibiting their hunt.

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We kept with them for several kilometres and just before the bridge we managed to pass them. Our plan had been to get photos as they came across the bridge but as I dashed over to the other side, made the quickest about turn I could manage and drove down onto the bridge again, we suddenly realised our plan had backfired somewhat as a herd of Impala dashed across the road at the top of the slope and the dogs were off in every direction to finish the hunt. As soon as we made it back to the top of the other slope, we could see that the dogs had been successful and had caught several lambs.

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It was both shocking and yet totally absorbing. Wild Dogs are one of the most ruthless killers and I have decided not to describe the scene further lest it cause unnecessary upset to people. However, we just could not stop watching this incredible sight.

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We were almost speechless – it was as if we had been dropped into a BBC Wildlife documentary. For sure it would rate as the most amazing experience we have ever had in the Park..probably joint first in Africa as a whole as we had watched a pride of Lions hunt and kill Buffalo in the Okavango Delta a few years ago. When the Dogs moved away into the bush we just sat and looked at each other, almost too stunned to turn on the ignition and drive on. Equally unbelievable was the fact that in all the time we had spent with the Dogs, not a single other vehicle had joined us. Never was ‘right place, right time’ a more appropriate comment.

Continuing along the S25 and then the main tar road up to Afsaal, the sightings were still charming but less dramatic – Bushbuck, Giraffe,

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Crocodile, Ellies and a Martial Eagle.

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Even a small tortoise was added to the mix – we think this is a Natal Hinged Tortoise

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We realised we had forgotten to stop for our coffee break this morning and opted for a full breakfast at the picnic site instead.

Back on the tar, heading north, we finally found the elusive Leopard – 3 weeks in the Park and this was the first we had found.

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On our last trip, we had seen more of these spotted beauties than we have ever seen but it was very different this year. Still, as we are always explaining to people, Kruger is not a zoo. The traffic jam was building up and we soon moved on to enjoy a small breeding herd of Elephant,

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Water Monitor, Steenbok and Kudu before pulling into Skukuza for a comfort break and to pick up some shopping – T shirts for our grandson.

A quick stop at Lake Panic revealed all the usual suspects.

Thick-billed Weaver

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Jacana

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Masked Weavers

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Water Dikkop

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Egyptian Geese

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Black Crake

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White-fronted Cormorant

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Pied Kingfisher

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And an impressive array of Dragonflies

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Zebras, Impala and Warthogs along the Doispane road. Giraffe and Steenbok spotted along the Waterhole road. A quick call into Transport Dam to find Hippos, Waterbuck, White-faced Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Buffalo Weavers. Heading to Numbi Gate we paused for Waterbuck and another breeding herd of Ellies. Two Rhinos had wished us well during the day

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but now we were heading away from Numbi Gate towards our home for the next few days.

Time for a hot shower, a very large Bloody Mary and someone else to cook our dinner...as well as catching up with friends.

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=77459Our 2013 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2014 2:07 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:12 am
Posts: 267
Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
6th December

Well, I did say we had to ease our Park visits gently and so we had collected our Breakfast Picnic and joined the queue at Phabeni Gate at 5am where we were the second car. The rain had stopped and we spent the waiting time chatting to the occupants of the vehicle ahead of us. They were Pretoria based but had been to Nelspruit on business yesterday and always took the opportunity to have at least one day in the Park before returning home. Sadly it was from them that we learned of the passing of Madiba, without whom we would probably never have been able to come to South Africa in the first place.

Once the gates were opened, it did not take long to get our paperwork stamped and we were back in the Park. A Green-backed Heron was fishing close to the causeway but we could not wait there long as the cars were approaching behind us. A juvenile Eagle was posing in a tree but the branches were partially hiding him and we could not identify what type he was.

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A Bull Elephant was striding out through the bush, no doubt on his way back from the river. Our plan was to drive down the S3 initially but, after a brief stop for a Hyena, we spotted a large tusker ahead of us and he was striding purposefully along the road towards us.

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I paused, he still kept to the road, I reversed for a bit and he still kept coming. Another car stopped behind me but I knew we would need to reverse again. This continued for some time and, after reversing for at least a kilometre or two, not only had the Ellie continued to keep walking on the road towards us but the traffic jam behind us was also mounting up. We were fairly certain by now that the Elephant was in musth and I began to feel a trifle vulnerable. When you are the only vehicle needing to reverse you feel more confident but with a veritable jam behind us now, they were making me very nervous. When one car decided to pass us all and drive closer to the Elephant, despite us all calling out to the driver that he was in musth, I opted for the safe route and turned around to drive back along the road we had come. Most of the other cars did the same but a few decided to brave it out. Perhaps ‘brave’ is not the right description, ‘foolhardy’ more like and having read about the tragic incident on the Waterhole Road a week or so later, I think I will stick to my decision to give the Elephant precedence!

Before joining the tar road again, we were rewarded with a sighting of a Black-bellied Korhaan. These birds had certainly been one of the stars of our trip this year.

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We stopped for coffee at Nyamundwa Dam and were joined by Hippos, Cormorants, Fish Eagles, Pied Kingfisher and Wire-tailed Swallows.

En route to Skukuza we passed Wahlberg’s Eagle,

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Buffalos,

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Giraffe, Tawny Eagle, Zebra,

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Wildebeest with a new born calves,

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and Kudu.

After a quick pit stop at Skukuza and the sighting of a Leaf Insect (a Katydid?),

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we were back in the car heading south. For no particular reason we decided to try our luck along the S114 and, for certain, this was an inspired choice today. When we saw the line of cars ahead, we wondered what the spot would be...Leopard. It was hiding in the base of a bush but after some time, it eventually came out of hiding and we were able to get some great photos.

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Moving south again we found Dwarf Mongoose,

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Tawny Eagle,

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Steenbok,

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Kudu and then we parked alongside Mpondo Dam for a while. It is a very peaceful place to sit, even if the wildlife is not about but today we saw Kudu, Waterbuck, White-faced Duck, Egyptian Geese, Green-backed Heron and Fish Eagles. The time was passing quickly and we needed to head west again. A common Duiker greeted us and then, along the H3, a Lioness.

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After nearly 4 weeks in Kruger, we finally had a Big 5 day!!

The Klipspringer were awaiting us at the big koppies close to the junction of the H3 and the H1,

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then more Zebra and Giraffe.

A quick check at Transport revealed Greater Egret, Grey Heron, White-faced Duck, Blacksmith Plovers, Hippos, Crocodiles, Malachite Kingfisher

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and Water Dikkop. Like Lake Panic, it is rare for us not to try our luck at Transport and, even when quiet, it is such a peaceful spot just to sit, look and listen.

At Shitlhave we found Waterbuck, Grey Heron and Egyptian Geese.

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During the day we had also enjoyed the company of several Rhino.

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Finally, on the way back to Numbi Gate, we were amazed to find another Vine Snake.

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We have never seen them on previous trips and this time we had spotted 2. Just shows, you never know what will come looking for you!

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=77459Our 2013 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2014 4:16 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:12 am
Posts: 267
Location: HAMPSHIRE UK
9th December

This would definitely be our last day in the Park for this year and so we were queueing at Numbi Gate shortly after 5am. Considering the paperwork is the same at every Gate into the Park, it puzzles me why some take so much longer than others. A slight irritation but nothing will spoil the day for us we trust.

Keeping to the tar we headed eastwards passing Zebra, Impala, Buffalo, Kudu, White-backed Vultures,

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and a Brown Snake Eagle.

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Luckily we were going slowly as 2 Ellies suddenly burst out from the bushes and dashed across the road in front of us. No doubt they had some secret agenda of their own. We waited for a short while almost, expecting something else to emerge from the undergrowth but it was not to be. We took the sand road down to Biyamiti Weir. It was indeed very quiet this morning but always one of the nicest spots for a morning coffee break.

The Fish Eagle was out and about – we would miss the sound of its cry when we were back home again.

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A Crocodile stretched out on one of the sandbars in the river. A common Sandpiper was wading across the water cascading down the weir.

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Plenty of Giraffe browsing

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and several raptors posing in the trees.

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Moving on to Afsaal for our last Park breakfast this trip. There seemed to be a lot of construction being undertaken so wondering what changes are planned for this Picnic Site. The management seemed to have changed and I am not sure it was for the better. However, their breakfasts are one of the best value in the Park.

Although the temperature was climbing, the wildlife remained in hiding and we saw little as we headed northwards to Transport Dam. At least there is always some action here and we were joined by Kudu and Impala,

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Waterbuck, White-faced Ducks,

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Water Dikkop, Knob-billed Ducks, Hippos,

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Egyptian Geese, Kingfishers, Plovers and Weavers.

Along the Waterhole Road a solitary Steenbok had waited to wish us ‘farewell’.

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Steenbok Close-up by WildImageSANP on Flickr

Time for a comfort break at Skukuza and an ice-cream treat.

Heading along the Doispane road, a few Buffalo raised their heads as we passed but little else to see. But we had to stop in at Lake Panic for a last fix of Masked Weavers,

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Grey Heron,

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and Green-backed Heron.

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We had planned to exit via Phabeni but the pull of the Park was too strong and, at the last minute, we opted to drive down the S3 and exit at Numbi. Oh, it is so hard to drive away! As if some of the animals had also felt guilty at staying away from us today, we saw more along the S3 than we probably had done anywhere else....Kudu,

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several Elephants, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Zebras, Giraffe and a Little Bee-eater.

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We had also been privileged to find a few Rhino during the day.

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So here is the end of our Kruger report. Thank you to everyone who shared our journey. So many memorable experiences – the Wild Dogs hunting are still crystal clear in my memory.

The withdrawal symptoms became so great as we completed our TR that we have just booked our next trip and will return in November 2014. Our dates and camps are now on the Meets and Greets so please look out for us and please contact us if you will be ‘sharing’ any camp and we would love to meet up for a drink or a braai.

Carol and Richard (carolv & WildImage)

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=77459Our 2013 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Wed May 07, 2014 7:44 pm 
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Kaapsedrai

I know what you mean about not wanting to watch dogs hunting but the scene was just so gripping and so natural (ie it is what these dogs do) that we were absolutely spellbound. I doubt we will ever see this again and we almost felt as if we were in a documentary. We did not post any of the really explicit photographs as we thought they might be far too upsetting for everyone. It was one thing to experience the scene in real time but a rather different kettle of fish to be too graphic when 'sharing the scene' in a TR. Unlike a pride of lions hunting where the action seems to be 'planned', Wild Dogs hunt at an incredible speed.

Roll on November...!

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http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=77459Our 2013 Trip Report
... and how I miss being back in the KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Thu May 08, 2014 9:03 pm 
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As I read your reply Kaapsedrai. it suddenly came back to me that SO and I first met you and your family a few trips ago at a Wild Dog sighting just outside Skukuza. On that occasion they were just lying down in the grass at the side of the road, bellies full though.

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


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