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Couple of good sightings - Olifants Trail

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Peter Betts
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Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 8:38 pm
Location: Port Elizabeth

Couple of good sightings - Olifants Trail

Unread post by Peter Betts » Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:20 pm

I did the Olifants Trail a few times with Trails Ranger Don English prior to him becoming a Section Ranger at Shangoni. One day he parked at Balule Tourist Camp and his wife Sharon drove the truck back to the Trails Camp. It is not the normal route but as we had asked Don to bring Sharon and their new born baby to be with us all in camp we had a driver and also I think Don really appreciated our kindness so he laid it on thick! We walked right under the main Olifants Camp and I can still hear a young boys voice shouting out from the lookout "Pa daar's mense en een het n geweer!!" anyway just then we stopped to view a Pel's Fishing Owl which soon burst out of the Fig tree and flew off. a Kilometre further we found a few Fishing Owl feathers on the ground and droppings so this was a roosting place. At that point we saw an African Finfoot cruising along the bank. Later Don left us on the bank and asked us to be ready as he went into the reeds. out flushed a pair of Whitebacked Night Herons on of which posed beautifully not 15 metres from the group. That was a special trail as we went to the confluence of the Letaba and Olifants and then he took us to the Lebombo Mountains where the Olifants goes through a Gorge into Mocambique. We climbed the slopes of the Mountains through some amazing Ephorbia forests where we spooked a small family group of Nyala which are scarce in that area. One morning we parked at my favourite windmill in the whole Kruger (BANGU) just past Balule and as we were getting ready to move off to track the big male lion who had left his spoor all over the area around the trough estimated 30 mins earlier, suddenly there sat a Whitebreasted Cuckoo Shrike on a nearby bush. Don said the tracks showed that our boy was moving off at a brisk pace so we left the Cuckoo Shrike and in TOTAL silence we moved through the very dry sandy veld easily picking up the sun highlighted spoor up to 30 metres in front of us. We were quick and fast ...classic Lion Hunting tactics. After 10 mins we were very close. I'm never afraid with Buff or Elephant around but Lion always has the effect of leaving my throat dry and sweaty palms and forhead.
Suddenly Don stopped and there he was sitting down sideways to us 50 metres away. He turned to face us in absolute horror and surprise. Then he was up and away running for all he was worth. I will never forget the sight of this huge Mane bobbing up and down as we watched the King depart. It took me awhile for my pulse to calm down and I was just thankful that we encountered him in open country and not thick bush!!!! Nice Birds as well that morning. One of my best Trails.
Punda Maria Sept 27,28
Bateleur Sept 29,30 (free award)
Tamboti Oct 1,2,3,4
Biyamiti Oct 5,6,7,8

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