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 Post subject: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 6:40 pm 
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We have recently returned from 16 nights in the park covering all areas from Biyamiti to Shingwedzi, this was our second visit, the first being in February 2011. Some positives from our last visit were the new franchise restaurants, the pleasant nature of all the staff with better service and smiles, rather than some of the grumpy faces we experienced in 2011. Another positive for us was the dryer conditions in the park, February was ok weather wise, but the grass was high and the game more spread out. This time being in November at the end of the dry season, conditions for game viewing were much more favourable.
On the subject of game, we were surprised to find some areas that were abundant with wildlife on our previous visit, were almost empty this time round. The area around Satara for instance, and particularly the S100, were virtually deserted. The same goes for the south west side of the park, the H3 and anything west of that seemed really empty.
We we're talking to a regular visitor from the states and he was saying that in all his time visiting every November for more than 20 years, he'd never experienced so little game, and in particular around Satara. I was just wondering if this was the experience of any other regular visitors, or could it just be the case that game simply moves around, and at times is more dispersed.
On the plus side, we were expecting very little in terms of sightings in the north, as this seems to be the general opinion, that game is more sparse in that area. To our delight we had some of our best sightings north of Shingwedzi, including Lion, big herds of Bufalo and elephant and some of the more rare antelope. Definitely an area not to be missed as of course it also has the advantage of being quieter in terms of visitors.
We are now planning our next visit in October 15, this time taking our 9 year old granddaughter, hopefully she will be old enough to appreciate the unique nature and the special wonders of KNP.


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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:04 pm 
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Lovely feedback, thank you matbe.

We were also in Kruger in November and definitely found areas where game viewing was slow - also mostly around Satara. I do think that February being a wetter, more 'plentiful' time, will be very different to visit to the dryer seasons.

I also have heard that the plains game like zebra do migrate within the park between Satara area and Lower Sabie area.

At 9, your little grandie will surely love the park. It was about that age we introduced our boys, both grown men now, who both hanker to visit the Kruger.

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:31 pm 
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I did the S100 la few times, and was also really disappointed. Hardly saw anything along it.
Didn't live up to its reputation.


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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 8:06 pm 
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While I am certainly no expert on game numbers , could the changes you describe not be possibly the affect of the move to dismantle the artificial water holes in the Park ? Maybe some of the more experienced or scientific members could comment on this .I can also recommend a book called Shaping Kruger that discusses the damage to migration that the water holes made to the migration of herds in Kruger .

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 8:37 pm 
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Animals constantly move around.

Seasonal movements are common place, since animals have to adapt to availability of resources such as water and grazing. This causes local migrations leaving certain areas open at certain times.

Even on a day by day basis you get huge differences. I have driven many times on well know game viewing roads such as the S28 and S100 without seeing too much in terms of animals, just to have excellent sightings on the same route the next day. This is purely due to chance and the fact that animals move as they wish.

This can be frustrating at times and at the same time it keeps the bush interesting, as you never know what you are going to get.

One needs to realize that, in terms of large mammals, there are large areas of the park which are not utilized at any given time. Animals rotate through these areas to avoid predation (or to hunt) and it serves as the "pantry" for later use.

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:19 pm 
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Interesting about game movement, we were saying on some of our quieter drives that realistically you can only see a certain distance from the road, in some areas no more than a few metres where the bush is dense. Considering there are hundreds of square miles out of sight from the roads it's amazing we see as much game as we do.
Of course the animals move around and migrate for all sorts of reasons, water, grazing and prey are just few, but correct me if I'm wrong here, isn't Kruger totally fenced, so that where ever the game moves to, it will always be within the park.
One thing we did notice, towards the end of our visit we had a tremendous thunderstorm one night, driving rain with gale force winds. Next day driving out of Skukuza we saw hardly any animals for hours, in fact after that storm there was virtually nothing to be seen for the whole of that day or the next. Is this usual behaviour after such a violent storm, do the animals go for cover and stay there for a number of days.


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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 10:07 pm 
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I think generally after rainstorms the animals tend to move around less this is due to the temperature being lower and also the availability of local water puddles and water in the vegetation so they don't have a need to walk to rivers/streams or watering holes and so cross over roads etc . I don't think many animals seek permanent shelter during storms and rain ... having said that we once had the thrilling experience of seeing a rather large elephant on the S28 running full tilt trumpeting past us . The only thing we could put it down to was a thunderstorm that was happening in the area at the time .Not sure what happened to him or where he ended up but I was glad to not be in his path as there was nothing going to stop him .

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 2:21 am 
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You are correct that Kruger is fenced. This, combined with the supply of artificial water points did stop many of the previous migrations. This still has an influence till today.

But also note that in sections fences have been lifted. Though this is still limited since the "new" area available is not that large. In the West the private reserves (called the APNR) have included new areas. Since the fences have been lifted there is a noted seasonal movement of animals such as elephant and buffalo in and out of these reserves.

The water policy has also been changed and many of the artificial water points have been closed. This has also led to increased migrations within the park itself. This is perhaps the most important change since animals are again utilizing winter and summer grazing areas according to season, rather than staying in one area throughout the year.

Weather has an influence on game viewing. When it is hot and when it is raining you usually see less animals. This is not because they can disappear, but because they are less mobile. Where possible they will look for cover, which tends to make them inconspicuous.

When walking we often notice areas where animals lay down. This is very often within large shrubs which will provide shade and / or protection against wind. Even if a road were to pass close to these areas an animal resting there would be invisible to visitors.

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 12:54 pm 
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Interesting point about animals lying down, especially the cats. We came across a Leopard with a kill in a tree close to the road very early one morning. As we stopped the car she was down from the tree before we even had chance to switch on the camera, then lay down in the grass not more than 2 metres from the tree, even though we knew where she was, she became totally invisible. We waited for nearly an hour, with other cars that had obviously stopped to ask what we had seen, but it became clear that whilst there were cars there she had no intention of moving, so remaining totally out of sight.
Why have sanparks changed the policy on their man made waterholes, surely if the consequence of that is less game for visitors to view, then over time visitor numbers are going to drop. After all viewing the animals is the main reason above anything else that people visit the park. Fewer sightings will surely result in fewer visitors, especially those travelling long distances like ourselves.


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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 1:15 pm 
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9 was the age we first took our daughter to Kruger and she loved it!!!!
She is now a mother herself, and still goes to the park when visiting SA.

SO and I stayed in Phalaborwa for 6 months in 2012/2013, doing regular day visits.

There were huge floods in Jan 2013, and we noticed that whereas there had been plentiful animals and birds prior to the floods, afterwards many of them seemed to have disappeared.

We visited again 2013/2014 and numbers had not really improved much.

Nice to have your positive feed back.

Hoping you have an aewsome trip in Oct. :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 4:58 pm 
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One of the reasons for closing the artificial water holes was because the veld around them was being over-grazed because the animals didn't move far from the water. Now they move further and graze more extensively. Some species - roan and sable antelope especially - were threatened by the over-grazing in their area. We were in the park in October and November 2014 and saw the over-grazing around some waterholes.

You cannot go to any game park and assume that you are guaranteed to see lots of game. It is always a question of being in the right place at the right time. Kruger National Park is not a zoo and the animals follow historical migration patterns and seek water, wherever it may be. Part of the thrill of being there is coming across animals. We have driven for hours seeing nothing and then, suddenly, we see an animal - wonderful. When we don't see animals, we look at the birds, the trees, the landscape and just enjoy being there.

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 5:02 pm 
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The artificial waterholes caused the animals to stop migrating leading to problems with vegetation in certain areas .It also causes a problem with predators being over supplied in one area and becoming too dependent on the presence of larger herds all year .The affects are quite complex but in a nutshell this causes areas to become overgrown forcing which some of the rarer species to be more predated upon ,vegetation changes have far reaching effects on all species including birds ,fish and mammals . Remember as much as we enjoy viewing the animals the primary goal of the Park is conservation not entertainment ,something that is often lost on allot of people .Its supposed to be as much as possible a normal untouched natural area again not easy as simply by making roads , having fences and allowing humans in big metal cages , its not quite natural so does need some management to try keep the equilibrium .

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 5:56 pm 
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Thanks for the responses to the issue of artificial water holes, very informative and logical. Having learnt a little of the history of how Kruger came to be, I can certainly understand that conservation supersedes the interest of game viewing, and the parks ecology and environmental welfare is and should be the main concern of Sanparks.
I also understand and totally agree that Kruger, or any wildlife park isn't a zoo, one of the biggest attractions for us and I'm sure many visitors, is the fact that you never know what you might find round the next corner. Many times we would drive for an hour or more seeing very little, only to turn the next bend to find an amazing sighting.
It's that kind of experience that makes Kruger the special place it is.
As most visitors will know, great sightings are as much a matter luck and being in the right place etc etc. We were north of Shingwedzi at the junction of S56 and H1-7 deciding if we should turn left towards Punda Maria, or right back towards our camp. We turned right and almost immediately we were stopped in our tracks by 3 lions just resting in the road. Decisions, decisions.


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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2015 1:52 pm 
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I think the others have basically nailed the reasons for the change in water policy.

I just want to add that one of the reasons why KNP is so special is the rich diversity within the park in landscapes and eco-systems and also in animal species. I would much prefer having a diversity in species rather than seeing large numbers of a few species.

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 Post subject: Re: Recent visit.
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2015 3:20 pm 
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We were in Kruger from December 25-January 12th and agree with the sightings around Satara. We were up and down the roads (including 100) and saw very little. FINALLY saw a couple of lions at a distance, but not up close and personal! I had met a ranger's son at Berg en Dal who said he could "guarantee" we would see lions at Satara (then he said, "well ALMOST guarantee) as he had never ever been there when he had not seen lions.
We were amazed, though, at all of the sightings that were listed both east and west of Satara but they must have hid from us when we came down the road!

However, we had a GREAT time and did see LOTS of animals. We had FOUR cheetah sightings and 3 leopard sightings along with the other 4 of the big five. Someone at the park mentioned the "Magnificent Seven" which we had never heard of before. I googled it when I came home to find that it was the big five along with the wild dog (saw them, too) and the giraffe. The "other" magnificent seven that we found was at the Elephant museum which listed seven dead elephants that had once roamed Kruger! But, the man said that he had SEEN the magnificent seven by Lower Sabie in one day so we knew he wasn't talking about the elephant magnificent seven!!

Our trip was awesome! Stayed at Berg en Dal, Lower Sabie, Skukuza, Olifants, Satara, and Mopani.
Long flight home (40 minutes from Skukuza to JNB - 11 hours to London and another 11 to Dallas) Oh my!
It is always worth it, of course! this was my fourth trip to Kruger and hope I can return. (am getting old)!
Linda


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