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The Pardus Trip : KNP April 2006

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The Pardus Trip : KNP April 2006

Unread post by pardus » Mon May 01, 2006 6:10 pm

Hi Everyone

It took me a while to settle back in the city and also to formulate my thoughts and experiences into something tangible. My trip to Tamboti was a spiritual one. I stayed there alone for a while about four years ago, and although I have returned for short visits, this one was to seek whether the same would happen to my soul. And it did!

Saturday 21 April

My daughter and I leave at 5:30. We decide to enter at Kruger gate so that we can start travelling in the Park sooner. As we stop on the bridge, we start crying. The African Fish Eagle greets us five times. We stand there and smile and cry. Silly women we are! :redface: As we pass through the gate, our first sighting was that of a Zebra and the customary Impala. I love April/May, as the rutting season is in full blast, and the humble Impala struts their stuff.
A quick stop-over at Skukuza. The toilets smell like Home.
We pass the low-water bridges of the Sabie and Sand rivers, and marvel at how strong it is flowing. We’ve seen it with very little water at this time of year on previous occasions, and we feel happy that the animals will have a good winter. The next sighting we have is of bathing vultures in a pool of the Sandriver. My daughter has never seen this before, and we sit watching their behaviour for a while.
By the time we reach Tshokwane, I feel a bit tired. The lush vegetation requires a lot of concentration. At some places, the grass is so tall, one cannot see the Impala’s legs.

We stop at Nsemani dam and marvel at how full it is. The last time my daughter was there with me, we saw the sad sight of fish struggling in a tiny puddle of mud. The abundance of nature is joyful.

At last we arrive at Orpen gate. I love the staff at Orpen gate, they have warm smiles and they are chatty. We head for Tamboti, armed with wood and ice. As we turn into the sand road, we are met by a herd of Wildebeest and Impala. The tiredness is seeping away.

17:30 – we had a good shower, our tent made home. We watch the tree across the Timbavati where we know a troop of baboons sleep. The sounds of night starts gently – the last excited gossip of the day-birds fill the large trees around our tent. And then, the familiar bark that eccho’s across the river. “Our Family” is coming in from day of foraging. The night concert starts, the gentle pruup of the Scopps Owl in the tree just behind our tent, the chatter and scolding of the baboons and the vicious snorting of an Impala ram to herd his harem in for the night. The White Faced Owl calls from the river bank and the Gaint Eagle Owl replies. On cue when the darkness finally comes, the evocative Fierynecked Night Jar sings the nightsong. And then it is very quiet. The sounds of human activity reminds us that a fire must be made. We get up, mesmerised and glad to be Home.

19:30 The mozzies are eating us alive! The PFS comes out and we almost spray out half a can. The camp is filled with delicious smells of meat roasting over coals. I also smell the beautiful fragrance of earth and grass mingling in the smoky air. The human sounds are becoming hushed. And then, from somewhere in the dark, she calls, her spine chilling Whoop! Whoooop! that no one can mistake as one of Africa’s dark magical songs. We don’t see her, but hear her as she comes through the tall grass outside the fence. And there she stands, looking at us in the dim light. We slowly walk down to the fence and eye her through the diamond mesh. She is a beautiful spotted hyena and she is nursing. She looks at us and sniffs the air, turns and becomes part of the night again.

We stumble around out of sheer tiredness. One last coffee on the deck and then to bed. The Zebra’s whinny and the lions roar shortly after. KILL! There’s a KILL somewhere in the darkness. Sleep – I don’t think so! So we sit on the stairs to the deck, sipping our coffee and listening for the intermittent roars that tear into the star-studded velvety black African night.

As we sit, a branch outside the fence is suddenly torn off. We jump up in surprise :shock: (ok) and a leisurely ellie saunters past us – not more than 30 feet :shock: !, snacking on our fence bushes. SLEEP? We have never been so close to a wild elephant, smelling it, listening to it’s tummy rumble. Bliss, heaven and cherries on top. At some stage we even get a long two minute stare from our visitor, and we are beyond any pleasure that we had ever known. The ellie moves on. Our adrenalin is way up. We MUST sleep now. So another hectic day in Africa ends amidst the chorus of roaring lions.

22 April to follow.

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Pardus Trip Part II

Unread post by pardus » Tue May 02, 2006 8:25 pm

23 April – Sunday

We are awoken by a hysterical francolin :big_eyes: . It’s still dark, just about 4:45. The blankets are snugg and warm. All the tent flaps are open, and the very cool breeze of early morning seeps through. The greyheaded bush shrike starts to call. My spine tingles. I just love this alarm clock of the bush.

Today we decided to do a pyjama run. That is, brush you teeth, damp your hair, flatten it, pull a track suit over your pyjamas, make a flask of coffee and zip out the gate when it opens. It works very well if you share ablutions, because when you return, the bathrooms are quiet and cleaned after the first session.

In the semi-darkness we head off. Our first sighting was two hyenas returning over the road. The Impalas were at it and the calm, morose Wildebeest just stood there looking with eyes asking “what’s all the fuss about.”

We take the S106 turn-off at Bobbejaankrans lookout after dodging the early morning ellie not-so-sanition works. Can anyone tell me why the elephants prefer to do it in the tar road?
We spot a herd of Impala and sit to drink coffee. Soon enough, five giraffes stroll into our vista and leisurely browse. They check us out underneath their long lashes. But the Impala’s are the main attraction. The ram chases the ewes and they keep on avoiding him, so us two girls enjoyed this intensely. “Go girl, give him a run for his money!” The snorting and grunting and displays were incredible to watch. Tireless and energetic behaviour of the Impalas, who otherwise, demurely go about their business.

On our way, we pass the Rabelais Hut – it is being renovated. We wonder if the lurking elephant bull who used to hang around there has moved on, but find his calling cards a kilometre or so onwards. Old habits die hard. We wonder if he still likes to surprise you and step on it ever so slightly…

Ablutions done and picnic packed, we head for the S39 – the beautiful road that meanders along the Timbavati. On our way we see an elephant bull and a few meters from it, a lone dagga boy grazing. Two old lonely bulls, magnificent and sad at the same time. The river, where there are lookouts or where the dense vegetation allows, has numerous pools of water. I am sure that the winter season will provide spectacular viewing. We encounter small herds of Impala, Giraffe and quite large herds of Zebra. Seems that the boys of this kind also have itchy pants, and they are up each others noses all the time.
The afternoon sun releases the herbaceous smell of the potato bush and it’s time to finally do the plant ID. Out with the tree book and the search is on. I am almost ashamed to say that after many years, I can now correctly identify the plant. Close to the Timbavati picnic site, we see a small family of Waterbuck, but the road was long and the porcelain throne a vivid image. The grass too tall to risk a “veldtie”.

The resident Bushbuck still up to it’s tricks at the picnic site. We have a quick bite and head off on the S40. Our only sighting a lonely old male baboon that eats termites off the tree trunks. We stop over at Satara for some Amarula supply and better wood – the Tamboti shop only had leadwood which at best of times, works when you want a slow fire. We look at the sightings board and see that there were cheetah and wild dog seen close to the turn-off we took earlier the morning on our pyjama run. WELL! It starts raining on our way back, and the smell of rain mixed with dust wafts through the air. A large flock of guinea fowl decides that they need to have road-block. We take some incredible photos.

Back to Orpen, a large herd of Zebras where we spotted the two bulls earlier on, and giraffe a few kilometres from there. Close to the Tamaboti turn-off, we get about seven ground hornbills in a dry tree. The Wildebeest and Impala are still grazing in little groups along the road.

The sun sets, and we start marking off our bird sightings, downloading photographs and going about dinner. I bought yet another bag of leadwood, albeit smaller pieces this time. We are prepared for a long night. Our troop returns and start their noisy night-time settling in the tree across the tent. We sit on the stairs of the deck, watching the small flames dancing on the wood (I also bought a bottle of spirits to conquer the leadwood…). The Scopps starts to pruup. The night concert officially starts….

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The Pardus Trip Part III & V

Unread post by pardus » Wed May 03, 2006 8:47 pm

24 April

The nutty francolin starts at 4:45 sharp, and continues until the arrow marked babblers start to protest. This morning is bit cooler than yesterday. My mobile rings at 5:00. “Happy BIRTHDAY!!!! Why are you a morning person when you are in the bush and not in the city? Dhu. What’s your birthday wish? Someone of Sanparks telling me I can stay in Tamboti for mahala for a year to finish writing my book…or maybe just a lion sighting today…”

The ghost bird starts to call. Long drawn out notes that fill the air with its melancholy. The green spotted dove joins in. I sit on the side of my bed in ecstasy. This is how a birthday should be. I get a bun with one candle in ( :angel: my daughter is an angel) and a cup of steaming coffee. The hyena whoops from across the river and the baboons start their day in a true hysterical baboon way. The lions roar from far away, a gentle calling roar. The silence that fills my soul is more precious than any gift I had ever received. This place…this keeper of my soul.

We head for N’wanetsi. It’s really cold this morning. At Nsemani dam, we stop and scan. I nearly faint with shock! Three grey headed seagulls sit at the brim of the water. We look in disbelieve. :big_eyes: We check our Sasol and Sinclair and sigh, they are found inland, but it’s first for us to see GULLS in the middle of KNP! So we speculate that they must be from Moz. We also spot a tern, a first for us as well. Excited we travel on, and find two Bateleur’s just past the Nwanetsi river bridge on the road. Another thing we noticed that after the rain, a lot of grasshoppers and crickets started to cross the road, and the consequent road kill provided a feast for the hornbills and starlings. That might also be reason for yesterday’s guinea fowl road-block.
The H6 turned out a few sightings of Zebra and Wildebeest. We turned off at Sonop and had a wonderful sighting of a breeding pair of Saddle billed storks. It was very cold at the picnic site. The lookout was quiet and windy. A small family of Waterbuck were grazing on the opposite bank. The river was the fullest I had ever seen it, and a noticeable absence of water birds, except for a crake or two. We drove to Sweni bird-hide and sat there with chattering teeth for a while. Two crocs, a large family of Hippo’s with three very small calves. I have never seen the water so deep at Sweni, thus never seen Hippo’s there before. Both of the places we had been to were very quiet, it almost felt as if we had the place to ourselves.

We took the Gudzani road and save a few Impalas, we sighted a lone ellie bull. Gudzani dam is filled to brim. There again, water birds were not in sight. We turned back to the S100, and were entertained by masses of Zebra and Giraffe. The one herd we sat watching, were antsy, biting and kicking and generally HORSING around. Slowly, the Giraffes started to appear and as soon as they started to cross the road to the other side, the Zebras lined up in single file! and started to follow them. This was fascinating to watch. We also found a Crombeck, which was a first for my daughter. On our way back, the gulls were still there.
We stopped at Orpen to book a night drive and were told that someone sighted the Cheetas about two km’s from the gate. So back we travelled, but after searching for a while, we decided to call it a day. But behold, five kitties instead came to few. A huge male and four females, passed out on a sandy patch, looking like balloons with tails. SO! There was a kill, because they were inches away from bursting! I silently sat and said thanks for my granted birthday wish. :dance:

20:00. We board the gamedrive vehicle. It just us two and our guide. I don’t care what we see, I just want to be in bush in the dark night and see a million stars and know…that there are THINGS out there who are alive, hunting, hiding, making noises and that there is this incredible silence that I can smell, taste, hear and put away in my heart like a precious gift to be opened when I am in bad need of sustenance. So we learn about the stars, we see the giant eagle owl, the night jar, a bush baby and a chameleon curled up like a luminescent banana in a thorn tree. I feel the cool night air on my face, and the dark blanket of Mama Afrika folds around me. I wish I could just sit there on one spot the whole night and look at the path of the stars until daylight came to put away night’s beautiful gems.

25 April

We head off early to Muzandzeni with full picnic regalia. A bush breakfast of note coming up. The raw eggs close at hand, as there used to be a gregarious ellie hanging around there. For those of you frowning, I read about a ranger who did raw eggies on ellies and they didn’t like it one bit. We see a Bateleur doing a snake on the side of the road in two minutes flat. It makes us hungry…

At the picnic site, we are alone. I’m starting to like this illusion of being alone in the park. A huge Jackallberry tree has been unearthed but part of its roots are still in the ground and it continues growing. At the base of the uplifted roots, there is an elephant skull and a large bone underneath it. We unpack our stuff not far from it and walk over to look. There is still flesh on the skull and bone, or as my daughter put it, it’s fresh up mom. We were both a little awkward with this. The giant old tree with the skull of the elephant at its base. Life, nature and cycles.

We start breakfast and I guiltily turn my back to the skull when I crack the eggs open to fry. The old man at the site told us that they found the elephant dead at the drinking hole at the back. It was ill.

We take the S126 after our bush brekkie. A lot of Giraffe and Zebra. The first time we travelled on this road and it thus a new exploration. I like the roads turning off from the S36, I found all of them beautiful and have been fortunate to see kitties on most of them, however, I made peace with the fact that this trip would not yield easy sightings. Thus our flora knowledge expanded. We even had time to explore our SA Grasses book. The last 5 km’s were filled with Lala palms on the river side, and since it’s one of my favourite plants, I liked it very much.

The road to Orpen yielded a small herd of Buffalo, piggies and a baboon road block. I need to say at this point that I cannot include any of the photographs taken at this particular sighting as I am sure Sanparks will sue us for extreme nudity and pornographic material. EESH, things are surely going :shock: bump in the Park…

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Unread post by Shidzidzii » Thu May 04, 2006 8:40 am

I think you saw the White-winged Tern Chidonias leucopterus - the are rare Paleartic migrants in KNP summers . I have seen them once myself .
Whiskered Tern or Sooty Tern could be outside possibilities but only individual , rare recordings to date.

Grey-headed Gull Lanus cirrocephalus - that is a mega-tick .
One was spotted by Dr A C Kemp at Mazithi dam in July 1967 according to Ken Newman . Not sure if there are subsequent sightings.

That same Cheetah group was in that open area 2 km outside Orpen in Dec-Jan so it's nice to know they are still around .

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The Pardus Trip Final

Unread post by pardus » Thu May 04, 2006 10:39 pm

26 April

Our last day… The crazy francolin alarm clock goes off…and as the Timbavati is painted in hues of shimmering gold, the rest of the bird chorus follows suit. My being tells me that this is how I would like to wake up every morning for the rest of my life.

We head for Olifants. About 10 km’s from Satara, we see two African Hawk Eagles in a dry tree. Easily confused for Martials or Ayres. So needles to say, we have a teeny bird fight in the car. The Martial issue was easily cleared up by the absence of a bib, but the Ayres debate took a while. The Ngotso dam yielded two woolly necked storks which we haven’t seen in while. Much of the rest up to the Olifants river bridge had small groups of plains game. Another chance to explore the different vegetation in the ecozones.

At the N’wamanzi lookout we “caught”a tourist feeding the Vervet Monkeys, sitting with them scattered all over the bonnet of his car. Big eyes and white faces. :roll: Stupid me got out and a monkey almost jumped in. Thankfully, a camera strap can do wonders to imitate a snake-like thing and the little animals took flight.

From Olifants we travelled to Balule, and was passed by a Forum member travelling in a Polo or Jetta with a yellow ribbon. I waved, but we passed each other. Wish I knew who it was. A short visit to Balule to show my daughter and as we drove out, we passed a tree with some kind of creeper that was blooming filled with butterflies of all kinds and sizes. It was really amazing to see so many types of butterflies together.

On the S89 we sat watching another herd of raunchy Impalas, and lone behold, a beautiful Kudu bull chased a cow across the road and back. You go girl! We also found a set of Wildebeest horns lying on the side of the road which indicated a kill earlier on as there was still wet flesh on it.
We took the S39 that goes past Roodewal, and almost bumped into an Ellie as we drove around a corner. I don’t know who had the biggest fright! :shock: A troop of baboons and more giraffe, and more Zebras and even more Impalas. Ok, so don’t tell me there are no more animals in the park, even at these dense conditions, we have seen duiker and kudu as well. Leopard tortoise, ellies (though not as much as we saw in December in the South), oodles of mongoose, even rabbits in the riverbed at night. Perhaps these animals don’t count in importance in comparison to kitties? I loved that fact that we explored the flora in more depth, as we otherwise keep ourselves too busy with the next great sighting.

Oh and I am forgetting something vital. High tea at Bobbejaankrans lookout. Our daily ritual between 16:00 and 17:00 to clean out the flask before we head back to camp. Nothing like the last two cuppies of tea out of the flask to hydrate you before the evening’s beverage on the deck…

27 April

We start moving before crazy francolin wakes. I think we p….d it off, because it never made a sound this morning. As we start the car, we start crying. “Mom, can we travel to Skukuza instead of going out at Orpen gate?” Skukuza it is. 7 Km’s from camp, we see the cars and there they are. A pride of three females, four cubs and two males. The lioness calls and the cubs come running. They linger, sniff the air. The males draw behind and then as the females move away into thicket, they follow. What a great way to say goodbye…
1 May 2006

Last thought before the rat race absorbs me.

My ode to Kruger...

“Take me to the places on the earth
that teach you how to dance,
the places where you can risk
letting the world break your heart.
And I will take you the places
where the earth beneath my feet
and the stars overhead
make my heart whole
and again”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer – The Dance

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Unread post by pardus » Fri May 05, 2006 7:18 pm

:D Hi All

My sincerest gratitude to everyone who gave me such positive feedback. I know we share this passion called Kruger, the scraps, the crumbs, the thick side and the fat. may we never forget the people who makes this possible, their dedication and hard work.

A special one to you Manzi, for showing me the stars and for sharing your love with us.

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