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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:16 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Cape Town
PetraJ: More to follow soon... Promise

Radman: We were very lucky that nothing got stolen. But it is just a nuisince to sit with a brocken window and bent burglar bars.

Hilda: Thank you I can not wait to start telling my story.

By 04h45 we were at the Engen One Stop filling the car with petrol. (this was the first thing we forgot to do yesturday. :wall: )

04h55
SO: How about some coffee?
Me: :wall: I left the cups on the table next to the kettle... :redface:

This was not the biggest crisis in the world as the coffee bottle have 2 small cupps that we could use. Once we reached the Hugenote Tunnel we were starting to feel more alive and realising that we were on holiday!
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Apparently we were not the only people who decided to leave early. :)

_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:29 pm 
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@PetraJ - With petrol prices what they are that is very valuable information indeed. :D Thank you very much for the tip.
@RayK - I will be sure to invite you to my wedding :)

The drive to Kruger was loooong! BUT we decided to take it easy and not drive long distances in one day. Your holiday begins when you close the door behind you. Our first night was spent in Colesberg. I now know 3 important things about Colesberg.
*Its Hot
*It has a beautifull church
*Die Plattelander is one fine restaurant
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We left Colesber early the next morning. Next stop Centurion. We had to stop at the Voortrekker Monument. I was there when I was a child and Stiaan have never been there. What an important day and special time this was for both of us. :D
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The following day we left our very dodgy accommodation in Centurion very early! (Beware of booking over the internet, is all I have to say about that! :big_eyes: )

We were now on the final leg of our journey! The Kruger Park is now in sight! BUT before I beging the story here are a couple more images of our journey. :tongue:
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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:19 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:41 pm
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Thank you hilda, Tawny and WendyA :D

Villa Langa in Malelane is a beautiful guesthouse and ideal for passing travellers. They have a pool, air conditioned rooms and a braai. We arrived at around 13h00, unpacked the car and headed off to Malelane gate to enter the Kruger National Park, we could not wait for the morning. We new that it was possible the worst time to spot game but the we could just not wait a minute longer!
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The staff at the gate was very friendly and efficient and in no time we were in!

The Kruger Park was established in 1926 to try and protect the animals and biodiversity of the African Bush. Today there are about 150 mammal-, 500 bird-, 340 tree-, 115reptile-, 50 fish- and 35 amphibian species in the park.

The first animals we saw was Impala, surprise, surprise! Impala are VERY common antelope in the Lowveld but they are also one of the most superbly adapted species in this area.
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Still on the tar road heading away from Malelane gate even before the turnoff to the S25 we came across our first member of the Big Five. But before we could see exactly what it was we spotted this idiot getting out of the car at an Elephant sighting!
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I would rather take my chances playing chicken with a 10ton truck. At least the truck does not have a temper!!
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The ears of an African elephant are enormous with a bull elephant having ears 2m X 1.2m and weighing 20kg each. These have multiple uses. Besides hearing they are used to express mood during social interactions. They also play a vital role in thermoregulation, effectively dissipating three-quarters of the heat needed to maintain a constant body temperature. An elephant can pump all of its blood through its ears every 20 minutes!
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We tuned onto the gravel S25. Creaping along at about 15km/hour we cruitinezed ever tree, bush and shrub. Every few minutes we would stop and investigate a couple of rocks lying under a tree. In our hurry the binuculars was left at the guesthouse so we used the camera to take a picture and then zoom in to see what was under, in or around the tree. It is kinda like digging for gold. Our overall success rate using this technique turned out to be 0.001%! :tongue:
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I only saw these lions under the tree when we got back home and I started to go through the pictures. Because the were between the above mentioned elephant sighting and the next giraffe sighting I assume that we saw them during first couple of minutes on the S25. :)

That makes 2 of the big 5 in the first 10km in the park! (Lions are VERY well comoflaged!) Lions are extremely lethargic for the majority of their lives, spending about 20 hours a day resting.

_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:21 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:41 pm
Posts: 72
Location: Cape Town
Meandering Mouse: Welcome abourd. :) I hope you enjoy this one as much as I am enjoying writing it. :)

Anri thank you and I agree. We were really lucky on that first day with all the sightings.

WendyA I could not agree with you more. It is aways a select few that spoils everything for the rest of us!! I wish I could tell you that this was the only bad apples that we saw, but alas...

hilda Thank you and stay tuned I have a lot more surprises in store. :)

Radman Glad you are enjoying this. :) I wish I could personally escourt all the idiots out of KNP!

Back to my story...
Our next surprise was a beautiful giraffe.
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This giraffe was beautifull, so relaxed and so close to our car. Giraffes are classic browsers, their long necks giving them access to the highest follaige. They do however bend down to pick up bones or soil that they chew to supplement calcium and phosphorus that is lacking in their diet. This is called osteophagia and geophagia respectively.

I have to confess that SO and I started this trip as non-birders, BUT the feathered creatures of the bush have the tendency to grow on you. By the end of the trip we were spending a lot of time looking up in the sky or scruitinising small branches. Prior to this trip ALL ground birds would be promptly identified as 'boshoenders' a.k.a bush-chickens. This year at every bird sighting we would screech to a halt and out would come the cameras and books. We ID'ed the first bird as a crowned lapwing and the second as a shy Red-billed hornbill. Any help and corrections will be more than welcome as we are a couple of Green-hornbills when it comes to birds. :lol:
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I often think that the abundance of Impala in the Kruger is a shame. Because there are so many of them very few people stop to really look at these magnificent annimals.They can execute jumps of up to 3m high and 12m long :big_eyes: .
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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


Last edited by Rino on Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:33 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:41 pm
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There are a lot of elephants in the Kruger Park. In fact there are about 8000 to many! If you think that an adult bull elephant consumes 300kg of food each and every day you can understand why so may there are so many broken trees around and a fully grown bull elephant will expell 155kg of dung each day. That explaines the neetly formed grass packages all over the roads. :)
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The short afternoon drive was turning out to be quite spectacular. This was SO's very first trip to the Kruger Park and I could see that already he was hooked for life. On that very first day we stopped for everything. We took pictures of everything and when we got home we discussed every sighting untill the wee hours of the morning. :D

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We saw quite a few Grey Loeries during the first few days. These birds are clumsy in flight, but very agile as they moove from branch to branch. It was very difficult to get a clear shot.

Glossy starlings are some of the most striking birds in the Lowveld.

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Their feathers have an iredescent sheen that shimmers with hues of blue, green and purple. Remarkably, this effect is not caused by pigmentation and in fact glossy starlings have no colour pigment in their feathers at all. The colourful effect is created by the manner in which the keratin (structural material that makes the feathers strong) is layered. As light falls on the feathers, these keratin layers reflect different wavelengths of light differently.

I told you we took pictures of everything! We even snapped this sossage tree. The fruit is used in an array of traditional magico-medicinal treatments. The unripe fruit is used to cure syphilis and rheumatism. The powdered form is applied to skin sores, ulcerations and acne. Boiled the bark and fruit can cure stomach complaints. The powdered fruit improves milk productuin in lactating woman and will fatten up your baby if you rub it into its skin. The fruits are often strung up in tribal huts to ward off whirlwinds and red dye can be extracted by boiling the fruit.
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The best part of the day came very unexpectedly. I was busy studying the map when all of a sudded SO started making weird noises. I looked at him like he was crazy! He pointed into the road... and there he was!

The largest, most beautifull rhino I have ever seen.

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I was devastated that I missed his entire crossing. I only saw him when he already reached the opposite side of the road. He walked off into the bush and refused to turn around. This bum-shot was all we saw of him.
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I was elated at seeing my favourite animal, but very disappointed that I missed the first part of his crossing. I was just about to start sulking when I saw the last of the mohecans poke his head through the bushes right next to me.

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Now it was my turn to make funny noises! I elbowed Stiaan in the ribs and pointed. This rhino sauntered across the road allowing us a good view. Excited chatter erupted in the car. The smile remained on my face well into the night, but also some sadness. How can people harm these stately creatures. Already in 2012 11 rhino's have been killed in the Kruger National park. In 2011 a record number of rhino's have been poached and 2 sub-species of rhino have been announced to be officially extinct. I wish I could personally strangle every single poacher in the world, weather he is on the top or the bottom of the piramed, I don't care. This has to STOP!!
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That day we crossed the crocadile river back to Malelane with big smiles and a little sadness. Tomorrow we will be back, but so will the poachers...

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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:08 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:41 pm
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Ok time to continue with my TR. 21 December 2011, the first official day of our holiday, but our 3rd day away from home. :) (Slow and steady wins the race.)

We got out of bed at 04h30, made coffee and packed the leftover braaivleis. We gathered all our belongings and headed for the gate. There were no ques and by 05h37 we were in the park.

Before we left I did extensive research and according to my gathered information campers are allowed to check in at 09h00 in the morning. This means that we had a good three and a half hours of early morning game viewing before checking in and the arduous task of pitching the tent.

First animal we saw was a couple of beautiful kudu's.
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When threatened, the kudu will often run away rather than fight. Wounded bulls have been known to charge the attacker, hitting the attacker with their sturdy horn base rather than stabbing it. Wounded females can keep running for many miles without stopping to rest for more than a minute. They are great kickers and are capable of breaking a wild dog's or jackal's neck or back. They are good jumpers and can clear a 5-foot fence from a standing start.

A mutualistic relationship has evolved between Dwarf Mongooses and hornbills, in which hornbills seek out mongooses in order for the two species to forage together and warn each other of nearby birds of prey and other predators.
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These cute carnivores are often found around old termite mounds, their favourite place to sleep. We saw a lot of them in the Berg and Dal area especially in the campsite where they scurried around tents and trailers looking for discarded food.

Rhino's was on the menu again! This time they were completely relaxed and we parked the car and had some coffee with the family unit.

The big male was clearly the head of his family, but he did try and play a little hide and seek with us.

First he tried hiding behind a bush...
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Then he decided a nearby tree was a better option...

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He finally decided to give up the fight and had a lie down with his family...

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After a while all three got really restless and started standing up and walking around! We could not figure out what alarmed them. SO was convinced that they could smell the coffee, or maybe they wanted a bite from our 'braaibroodjies'. Finally we saw the reason for their restlessness.

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A group of hikers on their morning walk was standing only a couple of meters away. They were all really quiet and since Rino's have really bad eyesight they settled down again after a couple of tense minutes I am sure. :) (would loved to have been in that group!)

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As we drove away from the Rhino's a car coming from the front flagged us down. It was a young lady and possibly her mother. They warned us that there was some really cheeky elephants next to the road up ahead and one of them had already mock charged a couple of cars.

When we arrived we could see a commotion in the road ahead. We stopped to take a bum-shot of some less-cheeky elephants and then sneaked onto a side road away from the action. (I had no intention of challenging a big male elephant in a bad mood!)
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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:53 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Thank you Dan, Sharifa, Cheetah2111 and Pumbaa :)

On with the story...

If you remember from the previous episode we sneaked off onto a side road after being frightened by some cheeky elephants. :big_eyes:

The side road turned out to be an excellent idea as it lead to more Rhino's!!! How lucky are we!
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These boys were right next to the road, unfortunately we could not get a good picture because of the long grass. The sound however was absolutely amazing and something I will never forget. To hear them munching away was really special. I could not believe how loud it was. You could hear, see and smell how much they enjoyed their breakfast! I just hope that my children would also be able to experience this one day.
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The buffalo's hiding in the grass proved to be a bit of a challenge to try and photograph even though they were really close. :) We did however manage to get a whole lot of different bum-shots on a variety of animals.
Impala,
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Elephant,
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Zebra,
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and another Elephant, this one without a tail. :) Apparently elephants sometimes loose their tails when they hold on to each other as they walk. Maybe that is what happened to this one.
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We did manage to get a nice head-shot of a Rhino. Just look at those huge ears. All the better to hear you with my dear...
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Community nest spiders make large untidy web constructions that superficially resemble bird's nests. Many spiders, including males, females and young , live together on the web but each may recline into a separate one of the many tunnels and chambers present. Part of the web is designed to entrap prey, which is immediately overcome by a hunting group of the community nest spiders which drag it back to the retreat where it is shared by all the members of the nest. Community nest spiders can be fairly large, up to 2cm, but they are harmless.
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Of course we saw some birds, lots of them actually. This purple-headed turaco (I think) whas the highlight and the only bird we managed a picture of. :) The turaco family has some pigments that are unique to them. This includes a green pigment called turacin. The green in the turaco's feathers is the only green caused by an actual pigment. All other greens in birds' feathers are caused by either tyndal scattering or a combination of yellow and black pigment in the feathers.
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We finally arrived at Berg en Dal Camp at around 09h15 that morning. We had a very friendly and efficient check in and then started the search for a camp site. Eventually we found one (not by the fence) but at least we had 3 out of the 4 things we really wanted. Shade, a braai and electricity! Not bad. Pitching the tent was slow going as it was very hot (yes at 09h30 in the morning.) Most of my jobs are inside the tent whitch was by now a large oven! Finally an hour and a half later we rewarded ourselves with a swim and a beer!
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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:19 am 
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Our first day at Berg and Dal was busy and H-O-T with temperatures reaching 38 degrees Celsius. As a result we spent most of the afternoon in the pool. We decided to do an afternoon drive.

At 16h30 with the temperature cooling a little bit we gathered at the reception area and boarded our 'safari-vehicle'. Raymond was our guide for the evening and he guided us strait to our very first sighting of one of the 'ugly 5'. Marabu storks in my opinion also earn a spot amongst the 'stinky 5' and the 'disgusting 5'. They defecate on their own legs in an attempt at thermo-regulation.
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We also got to see the only blue wildebeest in the area. According to Raymond there used to be 3 wildebeest left in the berg and dal area but both of those have been killed by lions. Apparently it is only a matter of time until this one meets the same fate...
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After that the sightings came thick and fast with warthog, elephants and yet more rhino's. We even saw a boomslag pick up some road kill. (unfortunately we did not manage a picture.)
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The age old saying goes, 'red sky at night is a Shepard's delignt'. We spent some time trying to take some artsy pictures of the beautiful evening sky.

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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:37 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Posts: 72
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Thank you everybody for the very kind comments. :)

Besides the spectacular sunset the animal sightings kept on coming...

Giraffes

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and some very relaxed looking impalas,
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The highlight of our trip was the 2 predator sightings. The first being 8 lions. These guys seemed very interested in something just outside of our line of sight. All of them were looking in the same direction. We tried and tried again to photograph just one looking in our direction.

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After about half an hour of taking pictures of the back of their heads, one finally looked in our direction... Lions have black tips to their tails and black behind their ears. These are 'follow me' signs. The black tail is at exactly the right height for a cub to follow a female through tall grass. Lions are also the only cats with tassells of hair at the tips of their tails.
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On our way back to camp we came across one more predator. Hyenas. :) They were very relaxed and one of them had a suckling cub with it. It looked really big and I am sure is almost weened.
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The spotted hyena is arguably the most successful large carnivore in Africa because it is both a proficient hunter and scavenger. Hyenas are extremely mobile and will travel up to 70km in a night to access food if need be. Unlike other carnivores, hyena cubs are born with their eyes open, canines fully erupted and aggressive tendencies intact.

After a wonderful drive we made it back to camp and fell asleep with the sounds and smell of the African bush.

_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:18 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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I only just saw.... Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for my very first set of Horns. :big_eyes: and very :D

Hello Everybody, I am so sorry for abandoning you for such a long time. What a hectic 2 weeks I have had. Luckily I can now finally get back to the job at hand and continue my TR. :)

Day 2 in the beautiful Berg en Dal Camp dawned and we were excited to be on the road again. The first thing we saw was the hyenas from the previous night. They were still in the exact same spot we left them. They seemed relaxed and we got a good view of them in the early morning light.
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Hyenas live in clans dominated by the larger, more aggressive females. Each clan defends a territory of about 130 square km.
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We also came across some Rhino's...again. The first rhino's that was introduced to the Kruger Park was in this area.
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A very large herd of Cape Water Buffalo in a riverbed was next on our sightings list. The movements of a herd of buffalo are determined by specific individuals known as pathfinders. These are not necessarily dominant animals but they simply act as leaders to the herd. Each sub-herd within the major herd also has a pathfinder which will lead its members when the herd splits up.

I tried to take a couple of pictures of this Lilac Breasted Rolar. In the first shot was not quite centred enough so the bird decided to help me out a little... :)
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We then played a little hide and seek with a Kudu Cow and her young son. Its little horns only just starting to form.
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More young animals came in the form of a Chacma Baboon. For the first 5 weeks of their lives, the babies cling to the mother's belly where they have an on-tap supply of milk and can be transported safely whenever danger threatens. At 5 weeks old, the babies can walk and at this stage they begin to ride jockey on their mother's backs using the kinked tail as a backrest.
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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:07 am 
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Thank you everybody for all the coments and for sticking with me. :)

During the afternoon we decided to take a drive up to Skukuza to see what the hype about Lake Panic was all about. Lake Panic is a bird hide that provide secret views of a hippo- and croc-filled dam which is a magnet for birds of all types. Big raptors, herons, jacanas, thick-knees, kingfishers, ducks and many more inhabit the convenient dead leadwoods and thick surrounding bush, or dart around on the lily pads. One story is that Lake Panic got its name from a year in which the river feeding it flooded and threatened to break the wall. If it had, that would have been the end of the golf course and staff village.

On our way there we stopped at a popular lookout point for a rare chance to get out of the car and stretch our legs.
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Approaching Lake Panic we saw this raptor soaring high aboveImage
Lake panic is very peaceful and noise and loud conversation are frownded upon.
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The highlight of our visit was the African Fish Eagle.
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The fish-eagle is a piscevore (fish eater) and is specialised for this difficult task. It has long, sharp talons and effect a tight grip on its slippery quarry as well as spicules under the feet which also assist with grip. Typically the fish-eagle will remain perched for most of the day hunting for only 1% of the time. The call of the fish-eagle is a magnificent and majestic sound and always leaves me with goose-bumps. Whenever you hear its call you know that you are in Africa.

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Unfortunately we could not spend a long time in this beautiful and peaceful place. We had to drive back to Berg and Dal, but we will definitely be back...
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_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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 Post subject: Re: A Kruger Christmas
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:31 am 
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I am so glad to see that everybody is till enjoying my report. :)

Here is the next chapter...

It was our third and final day at Berg en Dal, we have seen so much in this beautiful area of the park that we decided to spend the day lazing around camp.

We slept in cooked a lovely breackfast and relaxed. By now the first people were starting to return home after their morning drive. Our neighbour came strolling towards us with a big smile on his face... "Did you guys see the wild dogs this morning?" WHAT! No! We slept in! All of a sudden all hell broke loose. We hurriedly packed away our stuff and locked the tent. We jumped in the car and raced (at a sedate 40km/h) to the dog sighting. We were starting to loose hope, thinking that they had probably moved off by now, but we rounded the next corner and there it was... the mother of all traffic jams! Aaaah, we are never going to be able to see anything I sulked. We approached slowly. I see one!

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I quickly snapped a picture! Proof that we saw them. :) Wild dogs are extremely difficult to find in the Kruger National Park, not just because there are only about 250-350 in the whole park, but also because they are often on the move when they are seen. This means that only a few vehicles generally see a pack before it disappears into the bush.

The people at this sighting was amazing! The people in front took their pictures and then moved off, some fell back in line to try a shot from the other side. This meant that we got to the front relatively quickly. :) I wish every sighting could be like this.
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Every time one of the cars moved we could see another group of dogs hidden in the grass. Eventually we had a prime spot. We snapped away.
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We took so many pictures in such a short time that I was worried that my battery was going to fail at any moment.
Lycaon pictus is a large canid found only in Africa, especially in savannas and lightly wooded areas. It is variously called the African wild dog, African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted dog, painted wolf, painted hunting dog, spotted dog, or ornate wolf.

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The African wild dog has a bite force quotient (BFQ, the strength of bite relative to the animal's mass) measured at 142, the highest of any extant mammal of the order Carnivora, although exceeded by the Tasmanian devil, a marsupial carnivore.
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We got our pictures and moved off, we decided to drive past the traffic, turn around and fall in at the back of the line once again. This time we packed away our cameras and enjoyed this special moment with Africa's Painted Dogs.

_________________
All about our fantastic adventures in Africa on my blog.
http://ourgreathikes.blogspot.com/
Kruger in December!
21-23 B&D
24-26 Skukuza
29-31 Satara


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Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Submitted by Stampajane at 17:58:07 Submitted by Anonymous at 17:24:45 Submitted by avidspotter at 18:31:46 Submitted by Shiba at 05:20:09