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 Post subject: carolv's Courtship Dancing in KNP. Nov-Dec '13
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:08 pm 
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After the guilt for taking so long to write up our 2012 trip, as promised, I have got somewhat better organised to share another memorable journey through Paradise. As in 2012 we were in country for 4 weeks and virtually the same dates so it has been very interesting to see just how different a trip it has been. So welcome aboard our ‘tour bus’ and share our journey.

14th November

After the problems with SO trying to sit comfortably in Economy, we bit the bullet this time and upgraded to Premium Economy. Apart from the obvious difference of space and comfort, it allowed us to bring 2 x 23Kg bags each in the hold ensuring we had no problems with medical kit and I filled up my second bag with sports kit and clothing for the charity I fundraise for in the UK and where we would be visiting at the end of our trip. This meant we both had a good night’s sleep and were well rested and ready to go when we landed at O R Tambo airport in the morning. Never having travelled the ‘posh’ way before, we also found that our luggage arrived first and we only took 30 minutes from landing, making our way through customs, collecting all our bags from the carousel and joining the queue at the car rental office.

No matter which company we hire our vehicle from, this always seems to be our first hiccup. As the office was very busy, I waited with our luggage outside the office whilst SO went in to pick up the keys and sign all the paperwork. The assistant quickly produced all the papers and held a set of keys in her hand, then hesitated and vanished to the back. As the time passed, I called out to SO, “I bet they have given our car to someone else” as you will have guessed, this has happened to us on several occasions! Eventually, the lady reappeared, smiling broadly and offering us an upgrade to some vehicle or other we had never heard of. “Is it manual transmission?” we asked. She retreated to the back office again, quickly returning to say “no”. We apologised and said that a vehicle with a manual gearbox was essential. As I do almost all the driving, I’ll have a go with most vehicles but I hate automatics with a passion. By now we were getting somewhat anxious about wasting time. We explained that we had a 5 hour drive ahead of us and we would really prefer to do it all in the daylight. Eventually we were offered a smaller vehicle (a Nissan Livina) but promised that they would find us something suitable as quickly as possible. Somehow we managed to fit in all our luggage but it was a very tight squeeze and the staff in the garage were somewhat bemused. As some of you may know, I fundraise for the South African charity by selling at Car Boot sales and I have to say, this is truly what we looked like. Still, we were finally on the road heading eastwards. A couple of hours later, our mobile phone rang: Car hire office “Are you stopping for lunch?”...”No”, “Where do you think you will be about 3.30pm?” “We hope to be near Hazyview”, “Oh, we’ll ring you back”.
An hour later, the phone rings again: “Are you stopping for lunch?” “No, we’re still not stopping for lunch”, “Where do you think you will be about 3.30pm?” “We still hope to be close to Hazyview”. Another pause, “Oh...would you like a double-cab bakkie?” “YES PLEASE” we yelled. Now we have had many an upgrade over the years but never such an amazing offer. As they were now having to get a driver to bring it from the airport to our first night destination in Hazyview, we went through all the details for their driver to find Rissington. On our arrival at the inn in Hazyview we encountered a small ‘visitor’ near the entrance to our room:

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We had soon unloaded our car and went up to the bar for a well deserved sundowner. At 6pm we spotted an Isuzu bakkie driving along the track and Richard rushed down to check if this was our vehicle. It had taken the driver 6 hours to reach us and having checked over the Nissan and the Isuzu, we asked the driver about having a break before he drove back to Tambo. I fully realise that Africa does not adhere to the same laws as the UK but we just could not let this charming man drive just get back into our car and return to the airport without a proper break. This Inn is as close to a second home for us in South Africa and we were pleased to get the cook to prepare the driver some food and drink which he had with us on the stoep before leaving for the long drive back to Jo’burg. We have often said that any Company can make a mistake but the way they resolve it is key to our final opinion of them. They are certainly at the top of our list when we next look for a car rental! It had been a tiring day but tomorrow we would be up early to load up our Bakkie ready to head into Kruger.

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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: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:59 pm 
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15th November

Please note that any references to rhino are now more than two months old and hence location information, given approximately in the text, is now very old news. I hate to cause offence or upset to anyone so thought we had better make this point clear before we get cracking as we inadvertently upset one or two people with our 2012 TR.

We were up in plenty of time to re-organise our bags and load them into my new toy. Wow, what a lot of space these bakkies have and still leave plenty of space for a big shop at PnP before heading to Phabeni Gate. The sun was shining and the temperature rising quickly even as we waited for our paperwork at the Gate. It did not take long to have everything ready and, with another new Kruger map in hand, we were on our way. The causeway was quiet but we soon had our first sighting of the day – Impala – closely followed by a Fork-tailed Drongo.

We would be keeping to the tar roads as our first camp would be Satara and the thermometer was rising quickly so we were somewhat concerned about our shopping although it was packed in coolboxes. Not that this strategy means we would see any less along the way. Our first stop has always been a lucky stop for us. In fact there was so much to see that we joined the back of a mini traffic jam as the cars inched their way around the nearby tree. Elephants and Rhino

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were feeding close by, a pair of Egyptian Geese were taking their goslings out for a swim (the first time we had ever seen their babies and they were utterly charming),

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a pod of Hippo out in the Dam, Blacksmith Plovers along the water’s edge and White-breasted Cormorants settled in the tree in the middle of the water. We had only been in the Park a matter of minutes and what an amazing start to our trip. All too aware of the distance we had to drive, we could not stay as long as we would have wished.

En route to Skukuza we spotted Lilac-breasted rollers, African Hoopoe, several Woodland Kingfishers and a couple of Warthogs. We called into camp for a quick loo break and picked up a sandwich and cold drinks for our lunch. We had been drinking plenty of water in the car but, with the heat, the water was well past the ‘warm’ stage and rapidly approaching boiling point! Keeping to the south of the Sabie river, a Kudu bull was seeking shade, a Little Bee-eater perched on a branch,

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a Cape Buffalo had retreated to a large pool to cool down

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and we could hear Fish Eagles but did not see them. We spotted an Impala lamb who seemed to be all on his own so we hoped nothing untoward had happened to his family. Baboons were active along the high water bridge.

Heading north we found a Klipspringer posing by the Kruger Tablets

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and soon we took the short sand road to Leeupan. Despite its dryness the wildlife were wandering around – Giraffes,

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Warthogs, Wildebeest, Saddle-bill Stork and Egyptian Geese. Back on the tar we passed more Impala and a small breeding herd of Elephant who had several young babies to nurture.

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Pausing to watch a Giraffe cross the road, we soon pulled into Tshokwane for a comfort break and to change drivers.
Normally SO is quite happy for me to most of the driving whilst we are in the Park so that he can concentrate on the photography but I sensed he was somewhat reluctant to hand over the keys this time. I’d told him if he ever got his hands on one of these 4x4s he would love it! And it would certainly come into its own as our trip progressed.

I love very hot weather but as the temperature soared to 40+ we were both feeling a bit warm. Coming from the UK perhaps we needed a day or two to acclimatise! We found a small group of Ellies close to the road spraying themselves with mud to cool down – not sure I was ready to go this far to cool off myself. At Mazithi Dam we watched Hippos, White-faced Duck, Egyptian Geese and Knob-billed Ducks then Kumana Dam offered a watering place for Grey Herons, Waterbuck and Zebras. Moving on we found one Steenbok under a tree and shortly afterwards another one seeking some shade in the grass.

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As we passed herds of Zebra,

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Buffalo

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and Elephants we were glad to arrive at Satara in the late afternoon and dashed into Reception to book in. The lady attending to us seemed rather abrupt and after handing us the keys to Bungalow C61, we asked if we could book a Sunset Drive for the following day (“no” she said, “there are only 2 of you and we don’t have anyone else booked for that day yet” As we had never known at least one truck not to go out on a drive, this seemed a strange argument but she was insistent we would have to ask again tomorrow.) Do they really wait for a group of 4 to book to start with? Our request for a place on the Mananga Trail also met with a resounding “No”. Is it full every day we enquired. This also met with a loud “No” and when we asked further, we were told that the Trail was closed for the rainy season. This was our first day back in the Park and really we did not want to start with an argument so I am hoping that someone reading this will be able to give me some more information. When can you book the Mananga Trail?

We unloaded our vehicle as quickly as possible and filled up the freezer and fridge although some items had already turned to liquid. At least the spread could be used instead of cooking oil! Sitting down on the stoep with a couple of cold beers we were soon in conversation with our neighbours, Nick and Douglas, who were having a ‘Boy’s week away’ in Kruger and then down to Ngwenya for another week. Both South Africans they had been doing several Kruger trips a year since they were children and each evening we were at Satara we met up for a drink and to talk through our sightings that day. On our first evening we were also joined by the Honey Badgers and SO (Wildimage) had a go at photographing the moon.

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Moon by WildImageSANP, on Flickr

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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.


Last edited by hilda on Tue Feb 04, 2014 4:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
Specific name of Rhino sighting edited.


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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:13 pm 
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Great to have you all on aboard with us.

We loved the Moon picture also. On past trips we have tried a few night sky shots but this was the most succesful to date. We once had a go at 'star trails' whilst staying at Punda but the bush babies kept knocking our equipment over which was both funny and frustrating at the same time. Perhaps they thought they should have been the centre of attention instead!

As for the Reception staff - we just let it go as it is very rare in our experience that they are not really helpful.

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... 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: Mon Feb 03, 2014 10:16 pm 
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16th November

We had both slept well and managed to crawl out of our beds reasonably early. It had been a pretty warm night and by 5am the temperature was already at 21 degrees. The rush for the gate had already passed and the roads fairly empty at 5am, no doubt they were checking out ‘Lion Alley’. Another guest at the Inn in Hazyview who had recently been in the Park for a few days had told us cheetah were being seen on a daily basis near Satara so we decided to head south along the tar road. On past trips we had often been lucky along this stretch of road in the early morning. Guineafowl were playing Russian Roulette across the road and Baboons sat down on the tar catching the warmth of the sun as they groomed each other. It was not long before we had our first big cat – lion.

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We enjoyed his company for a while but moved on as a traffic jam eventually began to form.

So much to watch and enjoy as we drove on, Elephant, Swainsons Francolin, a tree covered with White-backed Vultures,

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a herd of Wildbeest,

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Magpie Shrikes with their deafening call, Steenbok, Zebra, Impala,

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Warthog, Grey Lourie, Tawny Eagles and Giraffe.

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What a lot and we had only just driven as far as Kumana Dam where we parked up to enjoy coffee and biscuits. The residents from yesterday were still about – Waterbuck, Grey Herons, Hippo

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and Egyptian Geese – and we love this morning ritual of just sitting, drink in hand, watching whatever is out and about and soaking up the atmosphere.

Refreshed and in need of a comfort break at Tshokwane we passed Kudu, Rhino

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and more Warthogs as we headed south. Now I know that you do not need a 4x4 to drive Kruger roads but they certainly make some of the sand roads considerably more comfortable to drive down so we decided to try our luck on the S35 towards N’wanetsi. It is a long time since we have been down this route, no particular reason why not and we still hoped to find these elusive cheetahs. It was not to be though but plenty of other wildlife along the way – Wildebeest, Zebras,

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Hadeda Ibis, Steenbok, Giraffe family with a delightful baby,

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Lilac-breasted Roller,

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Burchells Glossy Starling and Crowned Plover.

By 9am it was already 32 degrees and the frequent drinks meant we needed to call into the picnic site before continuing our journey. Only a quick pit stop and we were back in the car driving along the S41. This a particularly quiet this morning but we did find a juvenile Bateleur,

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an Impala herd with lots of new born lambs and more Giraffe before heading westwards along the S100. No kitty cats along lion alley for us today but more Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Steenbok, Common Duiker, Waterbuck and Kudu. By the time we reached the tar road again, our tummies were grumbling loudly and we headed back to camp to cook up some brunch. The day was getting ever hotter and SO went inside for a rest. I sat down on the stoep with a cool drink and do a bit of birdwatching. By 3pm we were ready to get back on the road but had to pause near Reception as a large Water Monitor made his way along the track.

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If it was the same one we watched at Satara last year, he is growing well and soon had a fascinated audience.

Our favourite afternoon drive, when based at Satara, is along the H7 and we certainly made the right choice today. After watching 3 Ground Hornbills close to the road, we soon saw a veritable traffic jam ahead. We had found a large pride of lions, spread along both sides of the road and each with a kill. As you can imagine, the hot weather did not make this scene particularly sweet-smelling! As we inched along, we found our first YR this trip – WildCatZoo and SO – but so many vehicles jostling for position do not make it a great experience for us and as soon as we could find a space, we drove away.

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We paused briefly at Nsemani Dam where Hippos and a Bull Elephant

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were cooling off in the water and continued along to the S12 turning. Before Girivana we passed another Bull Elephant, Zebra, a family group of Giraffe, a white-backed Vulture

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and Arrow-marked Babblers. At the waterhole Saddle-billed Stork and a Woolly-necked Stork were feeding

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and just ahead of us a large herd of Ellies who seemed to be on a mission. They could have been drinking at the waterhole but with the hot weather rapidly evaporating the water, we thought it more likely they were on their way to Nsemani. They had several youngsters in their group and we kept well back to ensure they were not distressed by us. When they had all disappeared safely into the bush, we headed back for the Dam in the hope that we might see them come down to the water. At the Dam, the Hippo were starting to leave the water,

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Waterbuck and Impala had come down to drink, Knob-billed and White-faced Ducks were along the water’s edge and a Fish Eagle was watching over proceedings.

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Despite waiting for a while, the Ellies did not make an appearance and we also hoped to get some better photos at the Lion kill on the way back to camp. There were a few less vehicles in the jam and I suspect a few would be late arrivals at Orpen in due course.

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Finally back in camp, it was time to light up the braai have some sundowners,

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catch up with our neighbours Nick and Douglas and catch our breath from another full day in the Park. Our final sighting of the day was the latest camp resident, an African Wild Cat.

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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: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:08 pm 
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Award: Sighting of the Year - Small creatures and/or insects (2012)
Thank you all. We had amazing sightings on this trip and so many of them. Making notes as we go along to enable me to write up our TR, always seems to make the sightings look so much more. In the past when we just stopped to watch and take photos, I think we did not quite realise just how much we had seen. Having a notebook and writing down each animal, bird and experience really brings it home to you how much we have seen

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... 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: Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:13 pm 
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17th November

It had been a very warm night and we were out of the gate only 10 minutes after the early birds – a definite challenge for us these days! We headed north along the tar and then took the S90 as we had a circular route in mind before returning to cook breakfast. A truly eclectic mix of wildlife along the way – Kudu, Steenbok, 2 young Black-backed Jackals (last year we had seen very few jackals but this trip was the complete opposite),

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Red-crested Korhaan making its very distinctive call,

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Slender Mongoose, Francolins, Wildebeest, Zebra and Giraffe, Waterbuck, Hyena,

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Baboons, Ellies and Saddle-bill Storks in their nest, even a small Dwarf Mongoose family came out to greet us.

By the time we paused at Gudzani Dam we were well ready for our morning coffee whilst watching Crocodiles and Black Crake, Fish Eagle,

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Hippos, Yellow billed Stork and White faced Ducks.

Back on the road we headed west along the S100 finding another Steenbok hiding in the grass. Then a car stopped alongside us and introduced herself as MandyM, another YR currently staying at Satara and whom we would see several more times whilst in the area. No cats along the Alley for us today but a Burchell’s Coucal, Ground Hornbills,

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Waterbuck,

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Giraffe and two Dagga boys.

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Before returning to camp we just had to see if the lions were still anywhere near their kills along the H7 but the only evidence remaining were a pile of bones.

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Passing 4 Ostriches along the way, we headed to Nsemani Dam where we found some of the Lions were out and about. Perhaps they had been down to drink as the day was certainly heating up. We turned round and headed back to camp, a couple of Buffalo feeding close to the road looked up as we passed.

We called into Reception to try to book a Drive for the following night as it would be our last chance before moving north. No problem this time and we put the forms in the car ready to be filled in as necessary.

The heat was becoming quite oppressive now and when we left for an afternoon drive, it was nearly 38 degrees. We drove south passing Ellies and Buffalo before heading east along the H6 N’wanetsi road. Lots to see along this track herds of Zebra and Wildebeest, several Giraffe,

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2 large Tuskers,

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Ostrich

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and a large herd of Elephant. After that it was very quiet, a juvenile Bateleur

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along the S41 (probably the same bird we had seen the previous day) and Kudu and heading back along the S100 again our attention was more taken with the increasing flashes of lightning. It really looked and felt as if a storm were about to break and for sure it broke with a vengeance soon after we returned to camp.

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There is something totally mesmerising about watching an electrical storm in Africa and this one went on for hours and hours.

Oh, and by the way we also saw some rhino today –

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We opted to cook something easy on the hotplates rather than attempt a braai – the rain, when it came, was torrential and everything and everybody had retreated to their huts. We opted to have an early night and see what the next day would bring.

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... 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 Feb 09, 2014 8:12 pm 
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18th November

Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil to make up our flask of coffee, I looked out across our circle of huts. Plenty of small branches covered the grass together with large puddles of water somehow made it feel a very different day from yesterday. The temperature was 19 degrees but the dampness made the air feel much cooler. As we drove out to the camp gate, we saw a large tree had been brought down close to the petrol station and we heard from a guide later in the day that one of the kitchens had been struck by lightning and was out of action.

Driving slowly along the Orpen road, herds of Zebra and Wildebeest grazed alongside each other. Small groups of Waterbuck were spotted and the usual pod of Hippos were swimming at Nsemani Dam. Everywhere somehow felt quiet as though the wildlife had sought shelter from the storm last night and were yet to re-emerge. Vultures posed in the trees.

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and the Kudu were back browsing.

After a quick look at the map we decided to try our luck on the S39 as it seemed ages since we had driven along this road. Our first spot was an Hyena, perhaps on its way back to a warm den. The smaller birds were conspicuous by their absence but the large ones were certainly out and about. Lots of Vultures – White-headed, Lappet-faced, White-backed and Hooded.

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Amazing to see such a mix this morning. Marabou Storks were also keeping them company.

Something else to enjoy after the rains were the many scents as we passed – ginger, aniseed, floral and cabbage. Not sure what gave rise to the last ‘perfume’ but for sure this is what we could smell. Several Eagles were in the trees close to the river but it was difficult to confirm whether they were Tawny or Steppe as they were well hidden amongst the branches. We could definitely recognise a pair of Giant Eagle Owls though – one remained in the tree but its mate was on the ground quite close to us.

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A trio of Giraffe stretched out along the track

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in contrast to their much smaller companions of a Tortoise and a Giant Land Snail,

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then more Kudu

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and two Nyala.

At Timbavati Picnic spot we stopped for a comfort break and enjoy our first coffee of the morning. The riverbed was very quiet but a Bataleur soared overhead and a Red-billed Hornbill tried its luck for a dropped crumb or two by the seats.

Back on the road towards Ratelpan but before the S127 road branches off, there is a (usually) small river crossing with a pool of water right next to the road. The rains had obviously increased the water here and we spent a good while in the company of 11 Yellow-billed Storks,

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Grey Heron and a large Crocodile.

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As the crossing here is quite narrow, we needed to move on as more traffic reached us and we had both some nice shots of the Storks. Continuing north the river bed had plenty of flowing water and large pod of Hippos kept us amused

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with Egyptian Geese and a Crocodile on the sandbank. At Ratelpan Hide several smaller birds were about – Black-winged Stilt,

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Sandpiper, Grey Heron,

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Tawny-flanked Prinia, Sunbird, Common Waxbill

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and more Grey Heron and Crocodiles

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further from the bank.

Once back in the car we turned towards the main tar road to find more Giraffe, Wildebeest, Zebra and a Steenbok. Interestingly we had not seen a single Elephant this morning and knowing how they really do not like electrical storms, we could only assume they had sought shelter and kept away from the open savannah area north of Satara.

At one spot along the road we found a large circle of burnt earth – we decided it must have been struck by lightning last night and kept burning until the heavy rain extinguished the flames. Turning right into the camp road we pulled alongside another YR and it was our pleasure to meet Granjan.

We intended to eat earlier today as we had finally got a Sunset drive booked. Despite the protestations of the Reception staff a few days earlier, there were sufficient people to fill two trucks this afternoon. We were lucky enough to go out with Irvine (Irwin?) who has moved up to Satara from Lower Sabie. We have been on drives with him several times in the past and were surprised to see him here. He had decided he knew the Lower Sabie area so well that he needed a new challenge and thus moved northwards. It was a very interesting ‘guest list’ on our truck – all Kruger regulars so good spotters and very knowledgeable. One group were guides and rangers from the USA, mostly working in Yellowstone Park I believe.

After the usual safety check, etc. Irwin noted that the area had been very quiet that day as a result of the previous storm and that no particular animal was guaranteed.

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Never was a truer word spoken on this drive and these words would be recalled on every drive we did during this trip. However, as is so often the case in the Park, we may not have found a single cat (apart from some eyes which he thought might have been Serval) but a very eclectic mix of wildlife were spotted by the time we returned to camp – Impala and lambs, Zebra, Wildbeest, Bull Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Waterbuck, a veritable journey of Giraffes (almost too many to count),

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several small-spotted Genets,

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Lesser Bushbabies, Red-lipped Snake,

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Common Egg-eater Snake, Slender Mongoose, Steenbok, Common Duikers, Red-crested and Black-bellied Korhaans, Hyena den with pups,

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Brown Snake Eagle, Warthogs, 2 Black-backed Jackals, Fireflies and Scrub Hares. What a great night!

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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: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:23 pm 
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Huge thank you to everyone for their kind comments. We do love to share our trips with everyone and are so proud that people feel the photos are OK.

I hope to get a few more days written up very soon - reading Jaco's comments on the wet season is somewhat ironic for a great many of us in UK this year - the boot is very much on the other foot for lots of areas here.

Jaco V - thank you for giving us more info on booking the Trails - does it really mean you can only book it on the actual day and not the day before? Also, is there a set date when 'Wet Season' starts? I think we were a bit taken aback as we had tried to do the trail (Mananga) before that thunderstorm and we had been driving around in temperatures of 40+. The last time I think we saw it mentioned in a TR was from John and Poppy and I know they usually go out in August. A bit tricky for us to change our dates from Nov/Dec to your mid winter just to try the Trail but hopefully we will get a chance at it one day.

Nice to see so many of you have also had the pleasure of doing a drive with Irvine. We certainly feel he is one of the best guides in the Park and even when the night is quiet, he is always entertaining. We have been on several drives over the years when a guide has just switched off the engine and let everyone sit and soak up the amazing Kruger night atmosphere. Just the thought of it is giving me serious withdrawal symptoms!!

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... 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 Feb 27, 2014 11:39 am 
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Carol, I have done some checks and will answer your questions best I can.

carolv wrote:
Jaco V - thank you for giving us more info on booking the Trails - does it really mean you can only book it on the actual day and not the day before?

That is correct. The first 6 vehicles that arrive at reception and book on the day are the ones on the trail. I have to add, I have never had the experience where I am told the trail is full when trying to book an hour or two after reception opened. The reason for only being allowed to book on the day is so that the trail can be closed should the section ranger decide to close it due to rain or other reasons.

carolv wrote:
Also, is there a set date when 'Wet Season' starts? I think we were a bit taken aback as we had tried to do the trail (Mananga) before that thunderstorm and we had been driving around in temperatures of 40+.

I would have been taken aback as well. One would expect the person at reception to at least explain why you cant book the trail for the next day. It seems to me you missed out on a great opportunity because of this.

carolv wrote:
The last time I think we saw it mentioned in a TR was from John and Poppy and I know they usually go out in August. A bit tricky for us to change our dates from Nov/Dec to your mid winter just to try the Trail but hopefully we will get a chance at it one day.

I have checked the SANParks page with information regarding the 4x4 trails. That page can be found here
There is no indication of the trails being closed during the wet season that I could see. I must apologize I gave you wrong information :redface: . The trails are open troughout the year, the only proviso is that they can be closed at the section ranger's discretion. No need to change your planing to do a trail :D
The Lebombo Overland Eco Trail is only open between 1 April and 31 October. This is where I confused myself.

Just a note, rain the previous night still does not mean a trail will be closed. It depends on how much rain fell, the area that it rained in and off course, how wet the season has been. The wet season is normally from November to March, with the early rains falling as early as end September and October.

I have driven the Madlabantu trail at Pretoriuskop in January 2009. After completing the trail both my SO and I agreed that the trail should have been closed. Should you be interrested, you can read my TR A tale of Tall grass, insects and a damp spot……… telling about that experience

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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:39 pm 
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Hi Jaco V - Thank you so much for all the trouble you have taken to answer my questions. It is very much appreciated and I shall keep my fingers crossed that we will be more successful when we next have the chance to book a trail. I will also read up on your trail close to P/kop. It is a camp we do often stop at and we enjoy the area. In fact, I only found out about that trail whilst researching for the Mananga. Just shows, no matter how often we make a KNP trip, there is always something new to discover .

Carol

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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:46 pm 
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19th November

We would be leaving Satara today but only moving as far as Letaba so we had plenty of time to do an early morning drive before returning to cook breakfast and pack up the car. Our roads of choice would be south on the tar, along the H6 to N’wanetsi, up the S41 and back along the S100. Pausing to watch a group of Zebra, we were joined by YR, MandyM, again. A bachelor group of Ellies had returned to the area, a small herd of Buffalo, Wildebeest, Black-bellied Korhaan and 2 big Tuskers. There had been very little traffic on the road with us (so many seem to start with Lion Alley) but shortly after a 5 a.m. sunrise

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we saw 2 cars parked ahead of us. We approached slowly and were rewarded with one of the best sightings we have ever had in the Park – 2 young male Cheetah had crossed the road and were hovering around the base of a dead tree.

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They seemed oblivious of their audience and with just the 3 vehicles (another 4th car joined later) parked up, we all had an amazing half hour as these beautiful cats stretched, posed and then one climbed the tree to check out the area.

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It was just like one of those documentaries shot in the Serengeti. We have seen some fabulous Cheetah in Kruger over the years but never had we seen them climb a tree. When they eventually moved away into the grassland, we all looked at each other and let out an big “WOW”.

We were absolutely buzzing as we continued eastwards along the tar – what a start to the day and thank goodness we had decided to make this early morning trip before moving camp. We were in need of a comfort break at N’wanetsi but even before we reached the picnic site we had found a couple of Black-backed Jackals,

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Grey Duiker, Kudu, Giraffe, African Land Snail and Waterbuck.

Heading north we spotted a juvenile Bateleur posing in a tree

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– actually I think it may have been the same one we had seen a day or two before – Open-billed Stork and White-backed Vultures.

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We stopped at Gudzani Dam for our morning coffee and biscuits. Hippos were playing in the water, Egyptian Geese and White-faced Ducks kept a safe distance from the resident Crocodile, a Glossy Starling hopped close to our car and a Bataleur flew above us.

SO’s tum was beginning to rumble and we drove back along the S100 – no lions this morning but lots of Wildebeest, Waterbucks, Impala, herd of Zebra,

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Warthogs and 2 juvenile Saddle-billed Storks.

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Back at camp SO helped pack up the bags whilst I cooked breakfast. I must admit over the years we have got this down to quite a slick operation, no doubt all you ‘Mites are just as proficient, and loading up this ultra spacious Isuzu is utter simplicity. Pull down the back and shove it all in – never have we had so much space. Our plan was to keep to the tar heading north and it wasn’t long before an approaching car flashed us and stopped alongside – it was YR Flying Cheetah who we had met on our last trip and it was lovely to spend a few minutes catching up on each other’s journeys so far. If you get to read this TR, FC, do you remember commenting that you had been in the Park for over 2 weeks before spotting a leopard? We recalled that observation many a time over the next few weeks as you will see.

After our ultra busy morning so far, the wildlife seemed to have decided to hide away from us but an occasional Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe

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and Tortoise were still about. A Slender Mongoose also raced across the road in front of us. On the Olifants bridge we got out to stretch our legs and look out over the river. The air was full with Swifts, a Crocodile lay out on a sandbank and Impala ambled along the river bank. We were curious to see what the state of play was with the Balule crossing so took the S91 to check it out and then continue along the river to Olifants. No work seemed to be ongoing at the causeway which explains why there is no date being offered for its re-opening – pity, we love this causeway and have had some lovely sightings over the years. As with Biyamiti weir, we find it a brilliant spot for bird photography as you are so close to the water. A female Giraffe was feeding close to the road and then we spotted a family of Banded Mongoose. We both love Mongoose and were really lucky spotting them on this trip. It was a long time since we had seen the Banded ones though and so an even greater pleasure to find a family this time.

We called into Olifants to get Ice Creams and met up with 2 more Yrs – Bert and his SO – they were also on their way to Letaba so we hoped to meet up with them again.
Taking the sand roads along the river towards Letaba, lots more Giraffe out and about, at the small waterhole on the left side we paused briefly but as soon as any vehicle stops here, the terrapins race towards the road so we moved off quickly. A solitary Crocodile sat watching us with a curious terrapin.

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Three Buffalo were cooling over in a pool by the rocks

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and an Elephant Bull stood drinking in the river whilst Fish Eagles cried overhead.

At the small causeway before you reach camp, we had plenty to see – 3 Crocodiles, Grey Heron, 2 Yellow-billed Storks, Egyptian Geese and a Sandpiper.

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The thought occurred to us that, by the way of an internal competition, we would try to see who could get an images with the greatest number of different species in it. The latter image has 4 (this was one of mine) – plenty of time left for further attempts at the record.

The recent heavy rains had obviously replenished this area of water and the wildlife were taking full advantage. Just a short way now to reach Letaba and check-in did not take long. I have forgotten to write down our hut number but it was in the section 85-90 not far from the Laudromat. We have often stayed at Letaba but, for whatever reason, have always been allocated accommodation at the other side of the camp. We quickly unloaded and sat on the stoep with a cold beer. Our new neighbours soon arrived and we were very pleased to find it was Bert and SO. This was only our second camp of the trip but they were leaving the Park in a few days so we had plenty of sightings to catch up with, including a Rhino mother and calf.

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It was a pleasure to meet you both and thank you for sharing time with us.
It had been a truly memorable day and after a well-earned dinner, we were soon more than ready for our beds.

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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:12 pm 
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We knew you would all love the Cheetah sighting. Even as we sat watching them, the hairs stood up on the back on our necks and we kept asking if we were really just watching this unfold before our eyes. It was the absolutely best Cheetah sighting we have ever had...anywhere. As someone said, it was truly a jampacked trip albeit we often did not see what we expected but perhaps it was all the better for that. The last few trips we have seen very few Jackals - this time we almost lost count of them. Several new species appeared for us and that is always a treat. Then 2 incredible sightings, one was this time with the Cheetahs and, if you stick with us, another sighting which, even now, we cannot believe we experienced. We never come with a wish list. Well, we really would love to spot a Pangolin one day! However, as we always tell others, just enjoy everything you see - it is an unbelievable privilege to be able to watch wildlife in the wild. In the beginning we used to write up our holiday trips and add to our photos to share with our families, especially our parents who would never be able to see it for themselves. Having found the Forum and adding our trip to the Travel Tales is worth all the effort so that others can share our journey. Meeting lots of you along the way is another bonus. Anyway, I must get back to the writing part or we will never get to the end.

Meandering Mouse - I can see what you mean about the eye of the Bataleur. Did not notice it until we put up the photo. I am certain we saw the same bird in the exact same tree a day or so before. Will try to go back and see if we have a photo of it then. It almost looks as if it has a cataract or something. Hope not.

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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 3:02 pm 
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20th November

We slept very well and did not race up this morning but still managed to leave camp by 5.45 am. We began by checking out the Letaba bridge – quiet today but Waterbuck and Hippo about. Back on the tar we drove south and then west onto the Phalaborwa Gate road where we were soon joined by a Hyena and a Grey Loerie.
As we approached the N’waswitsonto bridge there was a very strong carrion smell but, try as we might, we could not find its source. Not even a Vulture or two to give us a clue. Moving on we were soon stopped by a large herd of Buffalo crossing the road.

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What an impressive sight they are.

Heading west we found Giraffe, some Impala rams sparring,

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plenty of Vultures perched in a tree,

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Ellies, Black-backed Jackal,

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Hyena and a charming group of Dassies in the rocky area at the junction of the tar and the S51 track to Sable hide.

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Close to the hide a Monitor Lizard was sunning itself on a rock near the Dam

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Monitor Lizard Close-up by WildImageSANP, on Flickr

and we parked up by the Hide to look out across the water. We have always been very lucky with sightings here and today would not be different. As we opened up the hide windows, we saw a herd of Ellies making their way down to the water where they kept us entertained for a good while.

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A few birds also around – Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Blacksmith Plover and a Black Kite.

It was time to move on and we drove to the Gate as we needed to do another big food shop and the Spar at Phalaborwa is excellent. Before shopping we popped into the Wild Side Coffee Shop for our breakfast. If you have never tried this little establishment, you must do. It is excellent and the gift shop is also very good.

By the time we had stocked up in the supermarket, the temperature had reached 33 degrees and we needed to get back to camp as quickly as possible to get it all into the fridge and freezer. Ironically, the road was very quiet so we did not take too long to get back to Letaba.

The day was quite warm (mid 30’s) and we opted for siesta before driving out again. SO does it the proper way but I am so reluctant to miss anything that I slouch in a chair on the stoep and doze. Awoke at one stage to see the resident Bushbucks just in front of me. They are so gentle and very cute.

We did not plan a long sunset drive, just along to the Letaba Bridge and meander along the river bank as there are so many lay-bys to stop in. Always plenty to see along here, several Crocodiles both in and out of the water,

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Yellow-billed Storks, Hadeda Ibis,

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Sandpipers, Egrets, Blacksmith Plovers, Egyptian Geese, Impala, Woodland Kingfishers, Red-billed Wood Hoopoe,

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Waterbuck, Hippos, a trio of Giraffe,

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Bushbucks,

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Baboons

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and a displaying Korhaan. What a kamikaze act this is! We love these birds, not jewelled colours but exquisite patterns on their feathers and their strange calls which you often hear before you spot them. But their courtship dance is something else. We had been told about it by guides but had never actually seen it. As the trip progressed, we saw the display over and over again and it gave us the title for our TR. It does make you wonder just how these acts evolve. Surely the Korhaan did not wake up one day and think ‘Let’s try this stunt to impress the females’.

Just before returning to camp, we drove down to the little river crossing on the sand road south of Letaba where some new residents were enjoying the water– Terrapins, Egyptian Geese, Three-banded Plovers and 2 Cape Buffalo cooling down from the heat of the day.

As we prepared the braai for the evening, we caught up with Bert and SO for a final chat as they would be leaving the Park in the morning. He had just received a text from a friend in the Netherlands telling him that it was snowing so they were not looking forward to the dramatic temperature change on their return.

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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 6:29 pm 
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Jaco V wrote:
carolv wrote:
Also, is there a set date when 'Wet Season' starts? I think we were a bit taken aback as we had tried to do the trail (Mananga) before that thunderstorm and we had been driving around in temperatures of 40+.

I would have been taken aback as well. One would expect the person at reception to at least explain why you cant book the trail for the next day. It seems to me you missed out on a great opportunity because of this.

Guys, there is a war against poaching going on in the park, and at times activities might be affected by this, and the staff might not be at liberty to give this information out.

The Mananga Trail is currently closed, and has been since Nov last year.

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 Post subject: Re: Courtship Dancing in the KNP Nov-Dec 2013
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:41 pm 
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21st November

Having heard the wind blowing hard through the night, I was not surprised to see the weather had changed for the worse when we got up this morning. The sky was dark and cloudy, the wind definitely on the cool side. I quickly made up our flask of coffee, packed a few munchies and we were back on the road. We took the tar heading north, stopping by the river area as we went along. Much quieter than yesterday but found Saddle-billed Stork, Hippos, Spoonbills,

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Little and Greater Egrets, a tortoise rushing across the road,

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Grey Heron and Sandpipers. By the time we had reached the Letaba bridge, the rain had also arrived.

Stopping on the Letaba bridge, we got out of the car briefly to check the river bed – Waterbuck and various Ellies about – but did not tarry for too long as it was decidedly damp.

Keeping to the tar road, we soon came across a large Buffalo herd and parked up to watch them as they munched their way through the bushes and eventually crossed the road.

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Further north we took the H15 Giriyondo road in the hope of finding some of the rarer antelope. Lots of Zebras

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and Wildebeest and then a group of Tsessebe.

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It is a long time since we have driven down the H15 and, even then, had never continued for very long – partly because we do not usually have the treat of such a sturdy 4x4 and also it could be busy with people dashing across with boats in tow as they raced towards the Indian Ocean. Although the road was quiet we continued as far as the Makhadzi Picnic Site – it was still a chilly morning and a comfort break was in order. We were the only car here although we spotted a couple of staff on the edge of the site. We were somewhat intrigued about the number and size of the buildings here. Perhaps someone could explain – does it have a special reason for them? Some history of which we are unaware? Not sure if it was because we were the only visitors but it had a sort of strange atmosphere...but then, maybe I was feeling a bit super-sensitive that day!

Back on the track to rejoin the H15, we headed east for a short while as it looked as though there might be a river crossing – certainly the line of large trees seemed to line up either side of the road. Just a muddy patch however, with a Green-backed Heron patrolling

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and a Fish Eagle was settled in a nearby tree.

We decided to turn back and head back to the tar but were soon stopped by a Red-crested Korhaan displaying for us in the middle of the road. What a fabulous sight it was and just wish I had been able to capture it on video.

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Red-crested Korhaan by WildImageSANP, on Flickr

Continuing on, the Zebras were grazing in the open area by the tar junction. Heading south lots of Little Swifts in the sky, a European Roller posing and a Steenbok caught our attention. At the bridge the Ellies had moved on and were replaced by Hippo, Little Egret, Yellow-billed Stork, Egyptian Geese, Fish Eagle and a Spoonbill in flight.

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A solitary Terrapin inched its way across the road – I’m sure he would have been safer crossing under the bridge.

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Back at Letaba camp I cooked a late breakfast to warm us up. The temperature had reached 21 degrees but the rain made it feel much cooler. Obviously we had been spoilt by the very hot days further south and I really do like the heat as all my family and friends will confirm!

This was our last full day at Letaba and we wanted to drive up to the Manthambeni hide this afternoon. Passing Waterbuck,

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Giraffe, Baboons and 2 single Bull Elephant along the way, we finally reached the hide. What a difference all the rains earlier in the year had made. Plenty of deep water but much fewer sandbanks for the waders to use. Like everyone else, we read avidly on the Forum about all the heavy rainfall and sometimes floods but, until you actually get to an area that you know well, you cannot comprehend how much difference these can make. Plenty of water for large Hippo pods, several Crocodiles were stretched out along the central sandbar, a few Ellies came down for a drink but the star attraction for us were the 4 Fish Eagles.

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They flew backwards and forwards in front of the hide, constantly calling out to each other. We had never seen 4 together and were unsure whether they were two adult pairs or one adult pair and their two grown up offspring.

Moving on, we headed south over the bridge, pausing to watch a group of 7 Waterbuck and Yellow-billed Stork. Turning onto the H9 a Buffalo herd filled both sides of the road, soon causing a real traffic jam. We tried our luck along the S131 which was very quiet apart from a single Bull Elephant, then took the S96 and back along the H9 where we soon caught up with a long line of vehicles strung out along the road. A pride of lions were laid out in the bush, mostly sleeping.

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We could see 6 but suspect there were at least 4 more hidden deep in the long grass. It was difficult to see them all but we were shocked when another vehicle drove way into the grass in an attempt to get better photos :naughty:

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and thoroughly upset one male lion who looked very skinny and was limping badly.

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It’s never easy to know what to do for the best in these situations, several of us tried to flash the driver and call out to him to get back on the tar but, if you shout too loudly, you are disturbing the wildlife also. We took a photo of him, others waved pen and paper to indicate that they intended to report him but it all leaves a bad taste in the mouth for everyone else who were prepared to sit and wait quietly for a better chance to see them. As we inched closer to the action, we saw a couple of friendly faces, YRs Wildcatzoo and her SO, who kindly gave up their space for us to get some photos. Huge thanks to you both and it was nice to see you again as we had met up before at Satara.

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Eventually we got back on the road and headed back to camp and be met by some of the resident Bushbucks.

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Time to light up the braai, pour out a glass (or two) of red and talk through our day

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...we also had to pack up ready to move on again in the morning.

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