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 Post subject: An Addo Odyssey
Unread postPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 3:52 pm 
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My intent with our Addo trip report is to work it into something to be entered into the SANParks writing competition, and I trust some more of you will do the same. So originally I would not have posted anything here but I've now decided against it so that we can all start getting our writing juices to flow and make the writing competion a hugh success this year.

So following will be part of my work in progress with a couple of additions that will not be in the end product. I hope you enjoy it.

We were booked for Addo on 21-25 May 2007 and this is our story.

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Unread postPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 3:52 pm 
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First off let me post a scan of part of the map you receive at reception. The image size has be reduced drastically for posting on the Forum but I trust you might still be able to read it.

The map only show the main game viewing area in which Addo Main Camp is situated. At the bottom of the map you'll see the gate that leads to the area where Matyholweni is situated.

During our stay both the Mbabala loop and the area of the Gorah loop from Carols Rest that is one way was closed due to all the rain and muddy conditions.
Image

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Unread postPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 3:53 pm 
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As I am standing on the veranda of our chalet looking towards the lit waterhole on the boundary fence with Addo Main camp, I realise one thing (two actually)

First off all weather frontal systems do not read reservation confirmation letters and secondly that animals do not read weather prediction maps

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Being a Krugerite from age 3 months it was a leap of faith making the decision to exchange the well known and loved roads and places of Kruger for a first time visit to Addo Elephant National Park.

After some research on the SANParks website a booking was made for the period 21-25 May 2007. Now as with any new destination one tends to be a little nervous at what might lay ahead but also exited at the thought of something new. As the booking was made in January a 4 month count down started to our “mid year” break.

And so departure day arrived amidst one of the first real bad cold front systems moving across the whole of South Africa! Rain, rain, rain, cold, cold and more cold travelled with us from Gordon’s Bay to our overnight stop in Knysna. The morning of 21 May broke with more rain and reports of even lower temperatures and snow on the mountains.

It is in these overcast, rainy and cold conditions that we arrived at the Matyholweni gate at Colchester. After a quick gate check-in we proceeded to make our way through this yet animal un-inhabited section of Addo. Travelling along a very good gravel road we arrived at the gate to the game area after about 16km.

After travelling 1km we saw our first game, Warthogs. The first of many more and a fascinating site and very exited first sighting for Dominique our 7 month old baby girl. Looking at the warthogs closely a new saying came to my mind which goes along the following lines: “It is so cold even the warthogs have goose bumps!”

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We made our way past places we have never seen before with names like Marion Baree waterhole, Spekboom hide, Lendlovu Pan and Woodlands eventually finding ourselves at Addo Main Camp at 12:00. Still raining at times, cold outside, being told we can only enter our accommodation at 13:00 and being very tired the three of us took a nap in the car.

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Unread postPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 4:13 pm 
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When I booked the trip we could not get 4 nights in a chalet in Main camp due to the fact that all units were booked for the Wednesday night. So we had a Chalet booked in Main Camp for the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evening and a Family Cottage in Matyholweni camp for the Wednesday evening.

The chalet we stayed in was one of those coded CH2/4 by SANParks and consisted of an open plan area with 2 single beds moved together, a double sleeper couch, kitchen with all utensils including a full sized 3 plate stove with oven and a fridge/freezer. The bathroom had a shower and bath. The latter proved very useful to get Dominique cleaned. On the parental side only two notes; firstly there is one power outlet that is on crawling-baby-eye-level and secondly the unit has a tile floor that can get pretty cold for bare feet and crawling babies.

We stayed in Chalet number 31 and as with all the chalets it is close to the fence and has a good view of the game area.

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Trying to defrost my wife and baby girl stayed at the chalet spending time in front of the little fan heater we brought along, while I decided to take a afternoon drive by myself. Finding your way around the couple of loop roads in the game area is made easy with the very nice fold out map handed out free of charge at reception.

So in pouring rain which was only briefly interrupted at times I made my way firstly onto the short Domkrag Dam / Woodlands loop quickly adding kudu, zebra, ostrich, warthog and the first of many black-backed jackal sightings to my list. My list of birds also grew ever so slightly. After receiving a message from the wife that she and the little one are planning to take a nap, I thought there is no good reason for returning to camp now and made my way down to Zuurkop lookout point.

At the lookout point the sign below was waiting and I thought to myself “The chance of getting frost bite outside is now more real than getting a lion bite”. In the distance I could see a number of cars on the road leading down to Carols Rest waterhole and also a large elephant standing on the grass plain in the valley below so decided that Carols Rest will be my next destination.

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Slowly making my way down the hill and unto the open grassland area I see more kudu (they turned out to be what impala is to Kruger), warthog, zebra, ostriches and the first Red Hartebeest of our trip.

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Unread postPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 4:15 pm 
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Being used to the sometimes ill tempered and impatient elephants of Kruger I can just described my first real close encounter with Addo elephants as amazing. As I turned a corner I find the road in front of me occupied by two elephants with no intention of getting out of the way.

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They seem to be leisurely making their way to the waterhole via the gravel road smelling all the elephant droppings in the road as they go along. Being cautious to pass them I decide to hang back and follow them at distance. When some cars approaching from the front pass them without any incident I decide to see if I can get pass them.

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They give way and as I approach Carols Rest I am just in time to see a herd of elephants moving off after having a drink. I just missed them drinking within meters of the road! As gate closing time was getting nearer I turned the car around (the rest of the Gorah Loop was closed I assumed due to the rain and mud).

Rounding a corner I come face-to-face with a herd of elephants strolling towards me also using the gravel road. As there were some young elephants with them I thought the best thing to do will be to pull to the side of the road and keep as quiet as possible. The first lot passed within 2 meters of the car and seemed at ease with me being there. Then a cow with a young one approached and I could hear my heart beat (actually could hear the water dripping into my bladder also!). Without giving me too much notice they passed the car and I could hear their breathing, rumbling stomachs and the sloooff, sloooff of their footsteps in the muddy road. What and experience, one which I doubt would’ve been so peaceful in Kruger.

Below photos taken in bad weather conditions just showing how close they passed.

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Back at camp I could not wait to share the photo and video footage with my wife. And so ended our first day in Addo. No braai fire tonight as the rain and cold put a stop to any thoughts of spending time outside. As a matter of fact we did not braai at all during our visit!

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:03 am 
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Tuesday morning arrived overcast and cold but at least the rain has stopped, albeit for only a while. Having Dominique with us and this being her first long car trip we tried to keep her normal routine e.g. sleeping etc. as normal as possible. So she would wake us at 05:00, then we had to play and eat and then she wanted to sleep again at about 08:00 waking up at about 09:30. So our game viewing days only started around 10:00.

As we had no baggage in the car we decided to fold down the back seats of our Tazz to create a flat surface where Dominique can play and sleep and set of on our drive. An arrangment which had the approval of both mom and baby it seems.

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We travelled down the tar road past Lendlovu Pan taking the loop past Hapoor Dam and back up the gravel road towards Main Camp. After a quick biological stop at camp we made our way down to Carols Rest as I really wanted Dominique to see elephants close up.

For the second day running this road was very productive and we got to see most of the species mentioned before but no elephants. We did come across a herd of buffalo close to the waterhole. They seemed not the least bothered with the rain which was coming down in buckets again at this stage.

Image

Image

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:39 am 
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This one is of a buffalo to the right of the one in the first photo. Taken before the "first photo". Rain was really coming down in buckets at that stage. Had to "hide" under a rain jacket to keep me and the camera dry when I took these shots.
Image

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:18 am 
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As we re-entered the grassland area there they were. A herd of elephants close to the road. Magdeline got Dominique’s attention focussed on the big forms not to far from the car and once they moved they caught her attention to great delight of both parents and baby.

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And here are some photos of the elephants that caused her great excitement.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:20 am 
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We arrived back at camp around lunch time and decided, since the rain abated, that we would take a quick stroll around camp. The Nyati waterhole is right next to the perimeter fence and can be viewed either from a “platform” or from the underground hide. Below Magdeline and Dominique is standing on the “platform” with the waterhole in the background.

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We also made our way down to the underground hide but the cold wind blowing into our faces saw to it that we did not stay long. Outside the entrance to the hide Dominique’s little hands explored some of the local flora which was encouraged although Dad did not approve of the attempt at tasting the leaves

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Our afternoon drive was on the loop to Domkrag Dam / Woodlands and again down to Carols Rest to see if we can get some more close animal encounters for Dominique.

Just outside camp we came across a Black-backed Jackal running down the road with a dead Porcupine in it’s mouth.

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Down on the plain we got close encounters for Dominique with ostriches, warthogs and zebras which she enjoyed immensely and we also saw a pair of jackals.

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Down at Carols Rest the remains of an elephant was visible in the background and one just wonder what the last minutes of such a magnificent beast must have been like.

Image

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 12:02 pm 
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Wednesday morning broke and it was time to pack up and move down to Matyholweni camp. The day started overcast but it cleared later on and the good weather continued into Thursday. Although the weather cleared it seemed as if the animals also cleared the area as the number of animal sightings drop dramatically over the last two days of our visit giving the impression that they enjoyed the bad weather more than we did.

As we could only book in at 13:00 we took our time to get down to Matyholweni. Magdeline was driving and as there were not a lot of animals around to keep her occupied Dominique opted for a nap on Dad’s lap.

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The whole area in which Matyholweni is situated is currently unpopulated by animals but do offer some good birding along the road leading from the game section to the camp.

In Xhosa the word Matyholweni means “in the bush” and as can be seen by the photos below this is exactly what you get at Matyholweni.

Our unit on the right....................Our unit seen from the road
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We stayed in unit 10, one of the family cottages. The unit is equipped with good quality bedding, furniture, crockery, utensils etc. The kitchen only has a small fridge and a 2 plate counter top stove. The bathroom consists of a shower, toilet and wash basin, all of good quality material. Outside on the deck is a table and chairs as well as the braai area. Your view is of a hill with dense vegetation. On our stay there we were the only guests in the camp. A really great camp and once the area is stocked with game it will surely be a favourite of many people.

Image Image

Image Image

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Last edited by francoisd on Fri Jun 01, 2007 12:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 1:01 pm 
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Thursday, the last full day of our stay in Addo arrived with the call of Southern Boubous to be heard all over the camp and clear skies a welcome sight. The only problem of only staying one night at a specific camp is all the packing and unpacking that accompanies it.

We made our way back to the game area and as with our previous drives in the vicinity of Spekboom hide Dominique was asleep so we decided once again to skip the hide. There is a proverb that says let sleeping dogs lie and I believe the same goes for sleeping babies.

During the course of the day we travelled most of the roads in Addo with no great sightings and only 2 elephants seen. Once back at Main Camp we unpacked and strolled around camp looking at the location of the various accommodation units and exploring in general. We also made a quick visit to the SASOL Red Bishop Bird hide which is situated in the camp close to the restaurant area. No Red Bishops or any other birds unfortunately.

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The Park map describes the hide as follow: The large Bird Hide at Addo Rest Camp overlooks a reed filled wetland where you will be able to observe an interesting variety of birdlife.

Below a panoramic view from inside the hide to show the “wetland”. I assume that once there is some more water in it that birdlife might pick up.

Image

After our walk we sat outside on the veranda looking out over the park and soaking up some sunshine. While I tried to get some shots of the Fiscal Flycatcher that was about Dominique investigated the items on the veranda. Some common day items is very interesting to a little one when they have never encountered something similar before.

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Before retiring to our chalet for the night we decided to take a walk along the fence. We walked all the way from our chalet down to the underground hide, up to the shop and back again. Dominique enjoying every minute of being outside, seeing the plants, the birds, the animals and feeling the cool afternoon air against her face.

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Mission accomplished. We have succeeded in leading Dominique in her journey of discovering the beauty of South Africa’s wildlife and in particular those areas under custodianship of SANParks. Next up Kruger in September.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 1:02 pm 
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And as the last of these memories go through my mind, I look down at the waterhole far down below as the sun is setting thinking to myself that although weather frontal systems do not read reservation confirmation letters and animals do not read weather prediction maps we had a really great visit to Addo Elephant National Park.

Image

We will be back…..one day…………when it is not so cold.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 2:37 pm 
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Hope you've enjoyed reading the report

Some more animal photos

Red Hartebeest
Image

Zebra
Image

Jackals (had about 11 sightings)
Image

Warthog
Image

Kudu (lots and lots)
Image

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 2:51 pm 
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And the final bunch of photos just have to be birds :lol:
I enjoyed putting the report together. Some might have prefered me taking longer to post the report but I don't like dragging things out.

Some more bird photos

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk
Image

Black-shouldered Kite
Image

Red-necked Spurfowl (Francolin)
Image

Fiscal Flycatcher
Image

Greater Double Collard Sunbird
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Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:20 am 
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Our animal list

Elephant
Red Hartebeest
Common Duiker
Cape Grysbok (first for us, in camp infront of our chalet, camera in car!)
Black-backed Jackal
Burchells Zebra
Warthog
Bushbuck (in camp)
Buffalo
Kudu
Eland
Vervet Monkey
Yellow Mongoose
Meerkat / Suricate

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Last edited by francoisd on Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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