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Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks. September 2015.

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Jesscan1
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Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks. September 2015.

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Tue Oct 06, 2015 7:06 pm

Jesscan’s September Sojourn

Episode 1. The Idea

For the past 28 years, bar visits to KTP, Mapungubwe, Addo and the West Coast National Park, Kruger has been our holiday destination at least twice a year - mainly due to our Gauteng locality.

Having grown up in Cape Town, the West Coast and the Western Cape has always been an attraction and as avid birders always seeking new species, the Western Cape harbours a huge diversity of birds and this really appealed to us.

The question of course was ‘When to go?’

Early spring?

Yes. Spring is really a good time as it is flower season in the Cape and we may be lucky with some of the migrant birds that arrive for the summer months.

What is the best time of the year for flowers both in the Namaqua area and further south toward the Western Cape?

It certainly is a long way to travel from Gauteng to the Cape just to see the flowers.

All these multiple questions and thoughts did, was, sow the seeds of a plan for a holiday with a difference.

Why not visit some other parks in the region?

We consulted the list of SAN parks reserves from A-Z.

Which parks have we not visited?

Which parks would we like to visit?

All of them if possible. :D

The plan for a Super Road Trip that would allow us to see what was on offer nature wise in the western part of the country and visit some ‘new’ parks was thus born.

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A round trip from Gauteng to the Northern Cape, Namaqualand, the West Coast, the Western Cape and then home via the Eastern Cape would give us a good taste of what 8 of the 9 biomes of South Africa has to offer. (Some sources quote eight biomes in South Africa and some nine!).

We would take in the following 8 biomes: Grassland, Nama Karoo, Savanna, Succulent Karoo, Fynbos, Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, Forest and Albany Thicket.

Mokala and Augrabies have always been on our wish list, so the logical starting point would be Mokala National Park, some 70 odd kilometers to the south of Kimberley.

Augrabies Falls National Park would be the next stop and then onto Namaqua National Park.

The West Coast National Park was next on route and as the intention was to spend more time enjoying nature and less time in the vehicle, travel times and distances between parks would be a factor.

Tankwa Karoo National Park, a biodiversity hot spot, with 780 plant species, 124 bird species, breath taking landscapes, wide open spaces, inky black nights to reveal myriads of stars, would be the next logical destination as this ‘inland’ park is more or less en-route to the West Coast National Park, which would be our next port of call and the notion of no electricity, no TV, no cell phone reception and no crowds appealed to Andy.

The travel distance of 500km and a travel time of a shade under 7 hours from Namaqua National Park via the N7 and R27 to Tankwa would leave precious little time for photo opportunities and to enjoy the scenery. The next leg of the trip to West Coast National Park via Wolseley would be in the order of 320km.

The coastal route from Namaqua National Park via Lamberts Bay, Elands Bay, and Cape Columbine, was the other option.

The image of wheeling gulls and terns soaring along endless stretches of pristine beaches, dolphins playing in the waves at the harbour entrance, early morning/late afternoon photo opportunities of the breeding colony of Cape Gannets on Bird Island, and the thought of fresh seafood swayed the difficult decision to take the coastal route and overnight at Lamberts Bay.

Besides, the total distance from Namaqua to The West Coast National Park via Lambert’s Bay is 495km, with the 150km from Lamberts Bay to West Coast NP along the coast, giving us time to visit Rocherpan, a birding hotspot, with the possibility of spotting and photographing some local bird species.

The extra attraction of The West Coast Nat Park in early spring, besides the park’s own flower display, is that the Postberg Reserve Flower Section, home to the greater concentration of the park’s mammals and spectacular floral display, is only open to the public during August and September of each year.

While researching the Reserve at Cape Columbine, the Columbine Lighthouse became a must "visit and photograph" attraction and hence the idea of visiting and photographing other Cape lighthouses along our route became a ‘must do’ and would be included in our planning.

Our journey from the West Coast National Park would take us over the Hottentot’s Holland Mountains to the southernmost point of Africa to the Cape Agulhas National Park. No coincidence that the 3rd oldest lighthouse in South Africa, the Agulhas Lighthouse, is adjacent to the Park.

From Agulhas the Bontebok National Park would be our next stop and as the travel distance is less than 150km between Agulhas and Bontebok, we would go via the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

The De Hoop Nature Reserve, as well as Bird Island at Lambert’s Bay, and Rocherpan Nature Reserve fall under the umbrella of Cape Nature and, as Wild Card holders with an All Parks Cluster Membership, as Day Visitors, entrance to these partner Parks is free.

The Bontebok National Park (the smallest of our National Parks, in addition to being home to a relict population of the endemic Bontebok, is a protected area for coastal Renosterveld, containing several species that are found nowhere else in the world.

From Bontebok we planned to go via Wilderness and then on to Addo.

Addo, SA’s third largest park, has a diversity of wildlife, including Black Rhino, which besides all the other Addo specials are on our “to be photographed” list.

After Addo we would have a few days at our holiday home in Port Alfred and continue our sojourn to our Edenvale home via The Mountain Zebra National Park.

The Mountain Zebra National Park is "a gem", lying in the arms of the Bankberg Mountains with its unusual wildlife and includes four biomes.

8 National Parks in 3 weeks?

Great idea. We need to make reservations!

To be continued ...

Jesscan1
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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Thu Oct 08, 2015 6:36 pm

Jesscan’s September Sojourn

Episode 2. The Reservations and gear

September was the chosen month for the trip and the planning for the trip commenced in February 2015, with the departure date and bookings dependent on availability in the various parks.

The crucial park was the Namaqua National Park, as, being flower season, the chalets (just four in total) at Skilpad Camp in Namaqua were pretty much booked up for August and September.

The SAN Parks official website has always been our source for planning and checking on availability, so when a chalet at Skilpad became available, we called Reservation House in Cresta Johannesburg and the friendly Roxanne ‘grabbed” the chalet for us.

The vast majority of our reservations over the many years of visiting SAN parks have been through Reservation House and their friendly, professional staff come highly recommended.

The chalet was booked for the 18th September and now we had a starting point and planned our trip and reservations around that date.

After a little juggling with the itinerary, it was finally settled.

Depart on the 14th September 2015 and spend the first two nights at Lilydale camp in Mokala. (Point #2 on our route map posted in Episode 1 posted on 6 October).

Augrabies Falls main camp (Point # 3) was next for the two nights so that we would be at Namaqua on the 18th (Point #4)

The following two nights would be at Lamberts Bay (Point #5) to see the Gannets and Paternoster (Point #6) to see and photograph some waders and Oystercatchers before spending two nights at Duinepos in the West Coast National Park (Point #7 on the map) to see the flowers.

A night at Agulhas (Point #8) and a night at Bontebok (Point #9) followed by a night in Wilderness (Point #10) with Andy’s brother, before spending two nights in Addo (Point #11).

From Addo we planned on two nights in Port Alfred (point #12) before heading for Mountain Zebra National Park (point #13) on our way home.

We would get home on the 2nd October after breaking the long journey from MZNP to Edenvale with a night on a sheep farm near Springfontein in the Free State (point #14).

With the decision made on what accommodation we wanted and when, it was a quick call to Reservation House to make the SAN parks bookings.

The reservation for The West Coast National Park had to be made directly with Duinepos, as the chalets are part of a community development project.

What to take
Andy is a list maker … so much so that I am sure that there are even lists of lists.

We have a Kruger list, a Kruger camping list, a KTP list, a Zebula list, an Ngwenya list, a Mapungubwe list, and the list goes on…

We take everything. Well ... almost.

On this trip, although the duration would be nearly three weeks, we decided to trim the list and cut down on what was going to be packed.

In the past, on the majority of our bush trips, we usually spent at least four nights in a particular camp, so unpacking and packing up to move elsewhere never became a chore.

On this trip however we would be having a number of one night stopovers and we did not want to have the hassle of packing and unpacking except for the bare essentials.

Another consideration regarding the logistics was that our travels would take us through towns where we could stock up on provisions and additionally savour the fare of some really fine restaurants. :D

Considerable research was done prior to setting off as to where to find suitable grocery stores to replenish the stores.

Security was another consideration, as when not staying in one of the SAN Parks camps, we were reluctant to leave expensive photographic equipment in the cottage/chalet when we went out to eat at a restaurant.

The “Thule” to the rescue.

The Thule is an aerodynamic-designed rooftop storage box that stores a huge amount of stuff, thus uncluttering the car. It is lockable and a secure place to keep valuable stuff out of sight. Our son lent us his Thule.

We test drove the Thule on our two previous Kruger trips and found it extremely versatile and useful.

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Andy says that it does increase the car's fuel consumption though, especially when driving in windy conditions.

With the reservations and the planning done, it was a matter of waiting for the departure day to arrive.

It was a long wait.

The 14th of September duly arrived and we were up, up and way.

Episode 3, the TR starts tomorrow. :D

To be continued …

Jesscan1
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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Sat Oct 10, 2015 11:33 pm

Jesscan’s September Sojourn

Episode 3. The Sojourn begins.

Edenvale to Mokala National Park- 14th September Part 1

The commuter traffic on the N12 south of Johannesburg was light for a Monday morning and we were grateful for this as driving in traffic is definitely not on our have-to-do list.

We were grateful too that we were heading West as the sun popped up above the Eastern horizon, as for once we did not have to lower the car’s sunshields to block out the glare from the sun.

The quickest and shortest route to Mokala is along the N12, passing through Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp, Wolmaranstad, Bloemhof, Christiana, Warrenton and Kimberley.

The entire stretch of road was in very good condition with no roadworks. We managed good average speed of a little under 100km an hour.

The landscape along this route is typical of the North West Province (Old Western Transvaal), some mining activity and a lot of open grassveld with a fair amount of farming enterprise.

There was very little in the way of bird and raptor life along the roads, except for the occasional Corvids.

Approaching Kimberley however, things began to change.

On the Northern outskirts of Kimberley one passes Kamfers Dam, a permanent wetland and one of four breeding sites in Africa for Lesser Flamingos.

As we drove past, the dam was awash with the pink birds. An incredible sight, even if viewed from the road in passing.

Andy has a cousin in Kimberley, so the plan was to stop off at their house for a chat and a cup of tea before continuing to Mokala.

While chatting and sipping our tea, I remarked on the awesome sight of the Flamingos as we drove into town.

Our cousin, a long time Kimberley local, said “Drink up your tea. I will take you to a ‘secret’ spot to see the birds up close without disturbing them”

Jumping at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we gulped down our tea, unpacked some cameras and set off to see the Flamingos.

There are an estimated 50,000 Lesser Flamingos breeding at the dam at one time.

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The photos do not really do justice as to how many Flamingos have made Kamfers Dam their home.

It is definitely a sight that can only be appreciated by taking in the scene with one’s own eyes.

More good news is that I am led to believe that a small contingency of Greater Flamingos have also started breeding on one of the island strips.

After absorbing this amazing spectacle for more than an hour we dragged ourselves away, bade farewell to our hosts, who are regular Mokala visitors and headed for Mokala ourselves.

It was around 2pm when we reached the turn off to Mokala National Park, just 37km South of Kimberley.

Kimberley, of course is famous for diamonds. Discovered near the town around 1871, these sparkling gems led to that cliché “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.

Mokala National Park ‘discovered’ (established) in 2007, is Kimberley’s latest gem.

The 16km Provincial gravel road leading to the Park’s Northern entrance gate is quite corrugated and as we were in no major hurry we dawdled along at 60km an hour kicking up minimal dust and negating the bone-shaking corrugations.

We arrived at the Lilydale or Northern gate of the Park at around 2:30 pm and the exceptionally friendly and professional parks official, clipboard in hand with the SAN Parks gate registration form, greeted us warmly.

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With the registration formalities duly completed, Andy steered the car on the 6km drive along the soft, sandy road towards Lilydale Rest Camp.

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The soft, rich, red sand had me back in Kgalagadi for a moment, until I saw the quite different vegetation on the road side.

All the roads that we travelled on in Mokala were in a very good condition.

There were signs that road improvements were being planned on the road from the Northern Gate to Lilydale Camp as there were huge piles of sand along the road leading to the Camp.

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This Ostrich seemed to be guarding the sand piles.

While an Ant-eating Chat proclaimed his territory from the top of one of the sand heaps.

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The next day, when we travelled from Lilydale to Mosu and back to Lilydale, there were workmen busy repairing a short section of the road close to Mosu.

In essence there was no “Stop and Go” at this location as the road machinery made way for us and we were waved through.

The only poor road surfaces that we encountered were on the De Krans and Kleinbek roads.

This is understandable and to be expected as both these roads are designated 4x4 only and were quite true to the sign boards – 4x4 only. If truth be told, both these ‘roads’ were quite hectic.

The reception staff at Lilydale camp were waiting for us, paperwork ready, as the official at the gate had radioed ahead to advise them that we were on our way.

After getting directions to the chalet, we drove the short distance to number 12.

#12 is the last (furthest West) chalet in the row of the BD3 units and has a magnificent view over the Riet River. (Pics of the view in the next episode).

The chalets epitomise the pride that the staff have for this gem of a park.

Fresh, soft, fluffy, white towels were neatly rolled up and placed at the foot of the double bed that was adorned with continental as well as standard pillows.
(The same on the third bed, a single).

The lighting in the chalet was excellent, with a bright fluorescent in the kitchen/dining area and spot-light type reading lights above the beds.

The bedroom had the usual cupboard with enough hangers and a huge mirror on the wall.

The bathroom had all the mod cons including soap dispensers, insect spray, dust pan etc.

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The kitchen/dining room was equipped with a kettle, microwave, toaster, a 3-plate electric stove with oven and a breakfast nook with 3 bar stools that served as the kitchen work space and dining area. As for the utensils, crockery and cutlery, there was every item that one could need.

The verandah overlooking the Riet River has a four seater, bench-type table (the kind that one would find in the outside area of a pub) with a built-in brick braai area off the side.

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The car was unpacked in record time and a short while after settling in we made ready for our first game drive of the trip. :D


To be continued …
Last edited by Jesscan1 on Sun Oct 11, 2015 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra, 8 parks.

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 10:19 pm

Episode 3.

Mokala National Park - 14th September Part 2

Lilydale does not have a gate per se, rather a sort of a cattle grid that is connected to a very low electrified fence, less than a meter high, that encircles the camp, which we crossed at about 4pm, planning to explore the Vaalbos Loop in a counter clockwise direction.

The vegetation in the immediate vicinity of the camp and along the first 5km or so of the road that parallels the Riet River is Vaalbos Rocky Shrubland and forms part of the Savanna Biome and borders on Nama Karoo.

The most prominent species appears to be the Black Thorn (Swarthaak) a thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented flowers.

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September is their flowering time and with so many of these bushes in the area it makes for quite a show.

From a distance the shrubs all seem to be covered by popped corn, until on closer inspection, one can see the delicate make up of each flower and see the associated black thorns that give the shrub its name.

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We travelled 1km and came to a split in the road, with a little signboard pointing to the right that proclaimed “[b]Kleinbek. 4 X 4 Only”[/b].

“According to the map, this road will take us down to the river” said the driver (Andy).

The road looked quite good and after all we were in a 4X4. So ... No worries!

Besides, the view looked spectacular.

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Andy made a right turn. Well ... the road did not stay good for much longer.

What lay ahead was a steep, windy downhill - strewn with large rocks.

Undaunted, down the hill we went and the further down we went, the worse the road became. This road was definitely for hardened 4x4 types.

This view of the Riet River is what kept us going on this crazy ride.

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After much shaking and bumping we arrived at the bottom of the hill only to find that our path to the river was blocked by a big gate and ... the gate was locked.

Back up the hill we bounced and were quite relieved when we re-joined the normal road.

A few km further on there was another split in the road and a little sign pointing off to the right, proclaiming “De Krans. 4 X 4 Only”.

“This road looks a lot better than the one to Kleinbek” announced Andy..
“OK then. Let’s GO” said I.

In retrospect the decision was not a bad one as the road was not that bad. At the end of the road, the view of De Krans made up for the jarring ride.

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Back on the Vaalbos Loop the vegetation made a subtle change and although the Black Thorn was still prevalent, the rocky parts were slowly replaced by tall yellow grass.

With the change in vegetation we spotted the first mammal of our drive.

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He did not stay too long and disappeared over a small rise.

Continuing along the loop, the scene changed rapidly to one of open grassland dotted with the odd Camel Thorn tree.

Within the space of ten minutes we had ticked off a number of Mokala’s antelope.

At one of the few water points on the loop some Red Hartebeest, attracted by the water, attracted our cameras.

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Red Hartebeest are in abundance in Mokala and we spotted many of these colourful antelope while in the park.

The Hartebeest were in the company of Tsessebe and a few Black Wildebeest.

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Compared to the Hartebeest and Tsessebe, the Black Wildebeest were very skittish and made off at speed on our approach.

We were not able to get any close up pics of the Black Wildebeest until the next day.

This pic however shows the abrupt change in vegetation from Vaalbos Rocky Shrubland to Open Grassland and illustrates the Black Wildebeest in it’s preferred habitat.

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The wide open veld that forms the North Eastern part of Mokala and is specific to the Western and Southern sections of the Vaalbos Loop are excellent for game viewing.

Yes, at times the game is a distance away, but one does not drive five minutes without seeing some kind of animal. So you are continually seeing something as you drive.

We were on the lookout for birds, especially Pipits and Larks and although we heard some Clapper Larks, the birds were not visible.

We definitely lucked out on birds on our first drive. The next day was different. :D

We did pick up the first of many Roan Antelope that are a feature of Mokala and spent some time clicking away at these pretty buck.

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The youngsters have the funniest ears … but that is for another episode.

To be continued …
Last edited by Jesscan1 on Tue Oct 13, 2015 6:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 11:22 pm

Episode 4.

Mokala National Park - 14th September Part 3

Continuing on our drive around the Vaalbos Loop some Zebra crossed the road ahead of us.

At first glance, the Zebra in Mokala look just like any Plains Zebra.

There are, however, some subtle differences in the animal’s striping, particularly around the hind quarters and back legs.

This I gleaned, when reading up on the Mokala Zebra prior to our trip and learned that there is a project running that by selective breeding, a group of people are attempting to breed a population of Zebras as close as possible to the extinct Quagga.

This pic of our first Mokala Zebra is to show the magnificent animal posing for us in its grassland habitat, rather than show any genetic differences.

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We did take a number of pics of the Zebbies with reduced striping on their rump and legs on day two of our Mokala visit. More on this in a future episode.

This Savanna Biome is the perfect habitat for the Gemsbok , native to our arid regions of South Africa and "the pose" is just so typical of this animal.

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They are either rather suspicious creatures, or seem to be trying to out-stare one, as so often they would move some distance away, stop, then turn and face us head-on, and then stare for long periods in our direction, before heading away.

Here I think that they were trying to teach the youngsters “the stare”.

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Junior on the right seemed to find interest in something else.

All the animals in the Grassland appear to co-habit quite peacefully and often one finds different species quite happy mixing with each other..

A few hundred meters past the Gemsbok, a couple of Sable were mingling with Black Wildebeest.

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No Grassland landscape would be complete without the presence of the Springbuck

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About a kilometer from Lilydale Camp entrance is a road leading to a lookout point.

The road terminates at a raised wooden and thatch Gazebo that overlooks a waterhole.

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This is a superb spot for watching the sunset and while waiting for the sun to start it’s descent in the West, a herd of Buffalo appeared and made their way down to the water to drink.

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The drive, followed by the traditional braai, was a fitting end to an amazing first day of our September Sojourn from Mokala to Mountain Zebra National Park via 8 different Parks.

To be continued …

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra - via 8 parks.

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 11:23 pm

Episode 6.

Mokala National Park - 15th September Part 1

The merry chirping of a Southern Masked Weaver stirred us from our slumber.

It was barely 5:30 am and the sun had yet to stagger above the cloudy Eastern horizon.

Standing on the verandah, a mug of hot chocolate in hand, we enjoyed the crisp early morning air, hoping that the cloud would clear.

There was plenty of bird activity outside the chalet to keep us occupied, as the ‘early birds’ darted from bush to bush.

Southern Masked Weavers, a Cape Robin Chat and a Red-eyed Bulbul were some of the visitors.

It was well after 6:00am before the sun broke the hold of the cloud and appeared for the first time through a small break in the cloud.

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It was worth the wait and gave us plenty of time to enjoy a quick breakfast of Muesli and papaya on the verandah, while relishing the awesome view of the river from our chalet.

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There was only one item on today’s agenda - Explore Mokala - Every twist and every turn of every road.

We headed out of the camp in the direction of Mosu, intending to arrive at Mosu for brunch at the restaurant.

I have made mention that on our first drive in Mokala we had heard an Eastern Clapper Lark but were not able to spot him.

This morning our luck changed. Not 5 minutes into our drive we heard and found a male Clapper Lark.

The bird was displaying for his mate and regularly popped out of the long grass rising to about 7 meters, wings clapping all the while in the ascent and then descending rapidly to land in the grass while making a loud whistling sound.

The bird was quite a way off and trying to guess when and where he would fly up was a lottery.

After a couple of attempts at getting some kind of photographic evidence, we managed to get a shot of the bird as he was about to land.

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It would seem that it was not only the Lark showing off, as a few minutes later this Northern Black Korhaan announced his presence from a prominent spot on top of a termite mound.

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Besides the larger antelope, Mokala has some of the smaller, dainty buck and this little Steenbok Ram showed some surprise as we stopped to admire his grand set of horns.

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On our first drive around the Vaalbos Loop the previous day, the Sable kept their distance and did not venture close to the road.

Today was a little different and this beautiful specimen was our first large antelope of the day.

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Red Hartebeest are a dime a dozen in Mokala and one does not travel for any length of time without seeing these buck.

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In fact, one does not travel for any length of time in Mokala without seeing something.

We had so many sightings on our second day in Mokala that if I posted all our sightings, the page count for our second day could well run into seven or more pages.

I will try and limit this day’s activities to five pages! :D

The road from Lilydale to Mosu takes one past the northern entrance gate (Lilydale Gate), where the road turns right and heads off in a South Westerly direction.

About a kilometer before the turn, the vegetation begins to change from the Savanna Grassveld to Kimberley Thornveld.

Different Acacia species, especially the Black Thorn, are prevalent here and the Camelthorn makes more of an appearance.

Mokala is the Setswana name for the Camelthorn.

Our first mammal in this Biome were some Zebra.

At first glance, the Zebras in Mokala look much like any other Plains Zebra.

There are, however, some differences in the animal’s striping, particularly around the hind quarters and back legs.

This Zebbie was one of a number of Zebra that showed these different markings.

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The Mokala Zebbies have a reduced striping on their rump, much like the Quagga of old, but one major difference is that the Quagga had brown hindquarters while Mokala Zebbies have a paler rear.

This is possibly why they have inherited the name ‘witgat’ zebra. (White-backside zebra).

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To be continued …

Jesscan1
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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:59 pm

Episode 7.
Mokala National Park - 15th September Part 2

There are a number of loop roads in Mokala and after travelling about 14km from Lilydale Camp towards Mosu, we came to the first of these loops on our route and took a right turn onto the “Knietjie Loop

At the junction of the Loop and the ‘main’ road were a collection of different animals all hanging about as if waiting for a bus.

Red Hartebeest, Tsessebe, Gemsbok, Springbuck and this female Ostrich which seemed to have an itch somewhere and was flapping her wings and tossing her head in the most awkward positions.

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Red Hartebeest occur all around Mokala and this beauty stopped her grazing to have her portrait taken for posterity.

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The Gemsbok did what Gemsbok seem to like doing and just stared.

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While this handsome Tsessebe couple took a leaf out of the Gemsbok book and stared as well.

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The previous four photos were all taken in the space of 3 minutes.

Although the area was quite bushy, with stacks of Blackthorn Shrubs and longish grass, spotting game was relatively easy as these Springbuck were in one of the many open patches.

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It was not just the antelope that were on show.

The bush birds started to appear. :D

A White-backed Mousebird got into the act and posed in the warm light for it’s portrait.

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Not to be outdone, this Marico Flycatcher landed on a tree stump for his holiday snap.

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The open Grassy Plains of Northern Mokala are preferred by the Black Wildebeest, while in Mokala it’s distant cousin, the Blue Wildebeest, seem to prefer the Thornveld parts.

This muddy group staring at us over their shoulders had us thinking.

‘Do all Mokala animals stare at everyone that passes by, or is it something about us that fascinates them’.

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Towards the end of Knietjie Loop, the more sparse the grass cover became, until the area was predominantly Black Thorn with the odd Camel Thorn and soft red sand. Reminiscent of KTP.

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The cloud cover from earlier in the morning had returned and when we arrived at Stofdam a light drizzle had begun.

Stofdam Hide was very quiet. There was a small puddle of water in front of the Hide and no sign of any life.

I can imagine though that after some good rain and the Dam full of water, this could be a bumper spot.


To be continued …

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:26 pm

Episode 8.

Mokala National Park - 15th September Part 3

From Stofdam to Mosu camp, the terrain becomes quite hilly.

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The hills are covered with low Blackthorn Shrubs and in amongst the rocks and bushes, a lone Eland stood surveying the scene.

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Mosu Camp is quite a lot bigger than Lilydale and is fairly spread out.

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The camp has 15 units and as we were Day Visitors, we only visited the restaurant area.

There is a lovely swimming pool adjacent to the restaurant where we intended to have a late breakfast, however we arrived on the stroke of 10am and were informed that breakfast was now over.

No worries really, we found that the lunch menu was quite adequate. Andy had fish and chips, which he says was yummy, and I settled for a toasted sandwich, also yummy.

We wandered around the 'Visitors’ area taking pics of some of the lovely flowers in the garden and then headed out to continue exploring Mokala.

We were headed for the Matopi Loop and the road took us past the Motswedi Campsite.

As the camping site was for residents only we drove on, heading for the Matopi Loop.

Raptors are always on our wish list and we were sheer out of luck in Mokala as not one raptor came our way.

We did manage some Corvids however in the way of this Pied Crow.

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On our further travels to and in the other Parks that we visited, the Pied Crow was the most prevalent of all the large birds.

On the smaller bird scale we had numerous sightings of the Marico Flycatcher.

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Always on the lookout for birds, shortly after spotting the Flycatcher, we were rewarded with a new species (for us) which we have eventually identified as an African Pipit.

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Birds were in abundance now and an old favourite of ours from our Kgalagadi trips, was the Scaly-feathered Finch.

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The variety of birds ranged from small birds to large birds and the largest and most common in Mokala is the graceful Ostrich.

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There is a water hole at the most Westerly point on the Matopi Loop and it was here, where the Camel Thorn trees seem to be the tallest, that we found the tallest mammal inhabitants of Mokala. A family of eight beautiful Giraffe.

They were rather spread out, heads bent downwards, all munching away at the tops of the thorny trees.

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We stopped at the Matopi Picnic Spot and saw an LBJ sitting at the top of a bush chirping away.

The jizz of the bird screamed … Prinia. Prinia. Prinia, as the behaviour of the bird was so much like the ubiquitous Tawny-flanked Prinia that we know so well from Kruger.

On returning home, we asked for, and thanks to fellow forumite arks, we got positive ID.

A Black-chested Prinia.

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Another first for us. :D :D It would seem that this day was going to be a big birding day. :D :D


To be continued …

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:14 pm

Episode 9.

Mokala National Park - 15th September Part 4

The day was turning out to be a bumper birding day with a number of ‘firsts’ for us.

The Eastern Clapper Lark displaying was pretty exciting, as were the sightings of the Marico Flycatcher, African Pipit and the Black-chested Prinia.

Fourfirsts’ already and it was not yet mid-day. :D

Robins or more precisely Scrub Robins are sometimes a challenge for us amateur birders to ID.

Fortunately on our side we have a number of reference books and lists of the birds that occur in our National Parks.

Two Scrub Robins are listed as Mokala residents. The Karoo Scrub Robin and the Kalahari Scrub Robin.

With some consultation of the books and after observing the bird on the ground we confidently declared that our Robin was a Kalahari Scrub Robin.

Another ‘first’.

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We stopped at the lovely Matopi Picnic Spot for a comfort break and leg stretch before continuing on our way to complete the Matopi Loop.

This area would appear to be Pipit country and another African Pipit, running along, parallel to the road, stopped for a moment, while I took the pic.

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We always drive with the windows open and the sound of a song bird overrode the buzz of the bush.

A host of Yellow Canaries were darting from one thorn bush to the next.

Some singing and some, like us, listening. The melodious call of this fellow, perched atop of a thorn bush, prompted the snap.

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The birdie did not stay for much longer and blasted off in a flash of bright yellow as he followed his friends.

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Approaching the end of the Matopi loop, a short way before re-joining the road back to Mosu, the terrain begins to rise amongst some small hills.

This is when we realized that Lady Luck was definitely smiling on us, as another ‘first’ in the form of a Short-toed Rock Thrush hopped onto a convenient rock and sat perfectly still while we recorded the occasion.

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The Mokala Warthog are quite a different colour to our Kruger Warthogs, seemingly to take on the colour of their sandy surroundings and appearing more brown and not grey like the Kruger piggies.

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Another feature of the Thornveld area of Mokala are the number of Sociable Weavers nests, especially in the South Western corner.

I suspect that is so due to the prevalence of the many Camel Thorn (Acacia erioloba) trees, which is one of the preferred tree for the Sociable Weavers to build their nests on due to the trees strong branches.

The nests are used for years and some nests (not necessarily in Mokala) are more than 100 years old and can weigh more than a ton.

This pic of a Camel Thorn tree with a broken branch containing a Weaver’s nest lying on the ground lends weight to the fact that the nests are rather heavy.

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The birds themselves are always busy bringing new nesting material and other goodies to the nest.

One of the nest dwellers needing a rest from the ‘to and fro-ing’ landed on a branch only long enough for me to capture the pose.

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The ‘specials’ continued to roll on for us.

This Batis was/could be another of our ‘firsts’.

Andy suspects that it is a male Pririt Batis primarily due to the location and that the female that I snapped (not a good pic as the bird was looking the wrong way, but helpful for the ID) had the correct rufous orange colour.

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The day had simply flown by and if truth be told, ‘explore Mokala’, was mission accomplished.

Entirely satisfied, we parked outside our chalet at Lilydale to catch our breath before embarking on our final foray to enjoy the Mokala magic.

To be continued …

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Tue Oct 27, 2015 12:19 pm

Episode 10.

Mokala National Park - 15th September Part 5

I cannot sing the praises of the Mokala office personnel more highly.

Friendly, efficient, helpful and hospitable are some adjectives that are applicable to the staff. With this in mind, we popped past reception to say thank you and bid them goodbye.

We had intended to have breakfast at the restaurant before departing for Augrabies the following day, and on enquiry learned that the breakfast service commenced at 07:30. We were planning on a much earlier departure time and thus that idea was toast.

While saying our farewells we scouted the restaurant which is in the same thatched building as reception.

I can honestly say that we missed out on something really special and ought to have had at least one meal at the restaurant or even a drink at the bar as the view from the restaurant and veranda is something truly marvellous.

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At the gate exiting the camp, this little fellow (Scrub Hare) hopped across the road in front of us, plonked down in what little cover there was and froze on the spot.

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Mokala has been a revelation. For us an undiscovered gem. A place of such splendour that we will definitely go back.

The Vaalbos Loop with its wide open spaces and pristine grassland was for me a place of special beauty.

As we take our last drive in Mokala along the Vaalbos Loop, I would like to share with you three photos that epitomise the flora, fauna and vista that is Mokala’s grassland savanna. (Springbuck and Black Wildebeest in the grass).

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The host of birds that we saw, are not to be forgotten and as the first birdy that greeted us on our arrival in Mokala was an Ant-eating Chat, it is fitting that on our final game drive an Ant-eating Chat bade us farewell with a low fly past.

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The intention was to spend the last moments of our day at the Lookout Point in hope that the Buffalo would come down to drink. They did!

Mokala Buff look the same as Kruger Buff. Same size, similar horn structure and patterns, except for one glaring difference. No ‘dagga’ boys.

Very few Bulls in fact and no Bulls with those mean eyes and huge boss.

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Daylight and time was running out. We had six minutes before ‘gate’ closing time.

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Which was more than enough time to capture the sunset over the Lookout Point in magical Mokala.

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To be continued …

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Sun Nov 01, 2015 6:42 pm

Episode 11.
Leaving Mokala - 16th September

Packing up to leave Mokala after such a splendid time was not easy.

However we were comforted by the notion that our adventure had only just begun and ahead, waiting for us, were another 7 magnificent parks for us to explore.
This dispelled any melancholy thoughts that we may have had about our departure.

Sunrise at Lilydale on the morning of the 16th September was scheduled for 06:17 and right on time and cue old sol appeared in the east.

There was a smidgen of cloud on the horizon which diffused the rays and seemed to shatter the golden ball into three pieces.

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The drive to Lilydale exit gate was a slow one.

As we drove past a small family of Roan Antelope, this youngster looked at us wistfully as if to say “Are you going already”.

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We never really expected a change in the Gemsbok's demeanour and in response to our friendly wave and “Goodbye. We will be back soon”, as we drove past, the regal oryx simply … yes, you guessed it … stared.

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The Ant-eating Chat that we had seen in that same area atop of the sand piles two days earlier on our arrival in Mokala was a lot more animated at our pending departure and flew from one pile of sand to the next keeping in tandem with us along the road, all the while making quite a fuss and seemingly begging us to stay a little longer.

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During our time in Mokala, we were very fortunate to have managed to tick of a number of ‘firsts’ with regards to the birdies. There were a few mystery LBJs that made a fleeting appearance on our drives that we could not ID or get a pic of and so remain unidentified flying birdies (UFBs).

As arks and leervis alluded to, larks often frustrate us with either their identification or capturing their photo.

Sometimes we do get lucky though and another ‘first’ and not too difficult to photograph and ID was a Rufous-naped Lark which posed so beautifully in the early morning light, almost at the perfect height too while perched on a sand pile.

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The exit gate was a little less than a kilometer ahead.

Much in the same spot as on the previous day, this Steenbok popped up to say cheerio and sprinted off ahead of us as if to say “Race you to the gate.”

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Mokala. What a magical park. The sightings and the scenery was amazing. So many animals and such variety. So many different birds and for us so many ‘firsts’.

I can just imagine what birding in the park would be like in mid-summer when all the migrants are about. Well, the only way to find out is to visit in mid-summer.
We will be doing that.

It was with heavy hearts that we drove out of the Lilydale gate and headed down the corrugated dirt road taking us to the highway.

We soon cheered up though as Augrabies Falls National Park was only six hours away. :D

To be continued …
Last edited by Jesscan1 on Sun Nov 01, 2015 7:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:42 pm

Episode 12.

Mokala to Augrabies Falls National Park - 16th September.

Mokala to Augrabies Falls National Park, the second of our intended eight park sojourn, is a 560km odd journey.

We were not too concerned about how long time-wise the journey would take as we were, after all, on holiday.

The route would take us along the N8 through Griquatown to Groblershoop where we would join the N10 to Upington and then the N14 to a little past Kakamas where the R359 would take us to the park.

As confirmed Krugerparkers (to coin a phrase – inspiration unashamedly stolen from isinkwe’s signature “KRUGERPARKING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH), we have made the journey from Gauteng (where we live) to the Eastern Transvaal many, many times.

On these journeys, from Gauteng to the various Kruger gates, there are large parts of the route which I can openly say are not exactly awe inspiring.

The exceptions of course being Magoebaskloof, the Strijdom Tunnel area and Schoemanskloof.

The N8 to Griquatown is a long straight road with some bush on either side of the road, with wide open spaces.
All farmland, I suppose, as we saw pockets of dorper sheep and springbok (some white springbuck too) along the way with very little sign of man’s interfering hand besides the fences and the odd wind pump.

I kind of like that.

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An admirable aspect of the Cape roads is that there is no shortage of picnic spots along the roads.

One can be assured that every few kilometers or so one will see a road sign like this.

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Every picnic spot that we passed, (and we passed a lot of them) as we travelled extensively on all types of Cape roads, from the Northern Cape through the Western Cape and into the Eastern Cape, was well maintained, tidy and clean.

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The road was relatively straight and flat, then, once past Groblershoop, the terrain became somewhat hillier.
The vegetation was still very much Nama Karoo with Black Thorn and other shrubby plants.

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Telephone poles and lines are a feature along these roads and in the arid areas of SA the telephone poles are a perfect support for Sociable Weavers to build their enormous nests. Nests of all sizes and shapes are built using the horizontal metal part of the pole as a support.

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Approaching Upington the road began to follow the course of the Orange River and capitalising on the abundance of water, the farming activity changed to the cultivation of table grapes as the road on either side was lined with vineyards.

After a short stop in Upington to top up supplies we arrived at Augrabies Falls National Park a little after 3pm.

On our previous trips through this area, on the way to Kgalagadi, (Kimberley to Upington) we were amazed by the number of flying insects that the car collected, both on the windscreen and on the front grille and bull bar.

While walking to reception to check in, I noticed this pair of Red-eyed Bulbuls tucking into a free lunch that had collected on the front of an adjacent parked car.

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Check-in was quick, by very competent staff who gave a comprehensive briefing on the rules of the park, the gate operating times, the Falls themselves and supplied us with an information guide, as well as a map of the park.

Armed with our key and information pack we hastened to chalet #7.

Parking for the car is on the side the chalet and although one can park in front of the chalet, we found it easier to off load the car if parked next to chalet.
The unit was clean and tidy. The kitchen had all the necessary equipment (toaster, kettle) and fridge/freezer with a 2 plate hotplate on the one side of the room and on the opposite side separated by a three seater wooden dining room table was the sink and microwave oven.

The only deficiency was that there was only one plug point in the room and both plates on the stove had only two settings … ON or OFF.

There was a large mirror in the bedroom :D along with plenty of cupboard space and benches to put your overnight bag on. :D :D

The patio was equipped with a round concrete table and concrete seating. (Cushions work fine).

This unit is the unit closest to the main Falls and I can imagine what the view would be like when the river is in full flow as the rocks in front of the chalet would be covered by the water.

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After unpacking the cold stuff into the fridge and before we set off on our first drive in Augrabies, Andy took a pic of a happy me outside the chalet. :D

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To be continued …

We are off to Kruger in the morning for 8 days. The next episode of Jesscan1’s sojourn will thus be delayed until we get back on about the 13th November.

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Nov 13, 2015 6:53 pm

Hello again everybody. We are back from our latest Kruger trip and although Kruger was extremely dry, once again an awesome time was had, with some special sightings. The TR on this November holiday is in the pipeline.

The Mokala to Mountain Zebra September sojourn continues below …

Episode 13
Augrabies Falls National Park – pm short drive - 16th September 2015


There is a spindly tree on the east side of the chalet that attracted a number of birds during our stay.

It is difficult to say what the attraction was, beside the fact that the tree was tall and the top branches were leafless.

I suppose that because of the trees height, it was a good spot for advertising one's singing prowess, as all the birds that perched in that tree sang their song with great gusto.

The first of these was this Dusky Sunbird that we saw as we were leaving for our first drive to explore Augrabies.

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We arrived at the gate to the Game Area at around 4:15 pm. We had no idea of what lay ahead or how far we could drive before we had to turn around and head back to camp before gate closing time, which in September was 7:30pm.

That meant that we had about 3 hours! We can certainly see a lot in that time.

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Barely a kilometer from the gate a troop of Vervet Monkeys came bounding out of the bush and gave us our first sighting and pics of Augrabies wildlife.

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Leaving the Vervets to their own devices we turned a bend in the road and were faced with this

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A flooded road? How deep is the water? The flow looks pretty strong!

After a minute or two of indecision we noticed car tyre tracks on the dry part of the road on the near side leading back to the camp and surmised that the water could not be too deep. It wasn’t. The tyres barely got wet as we drove through the 2cm of water.

Funny though, on our return to camp that evening, as we approached the stream, we saw a gentleman, sandals in one hand and a stick in the other, walking across the stream towards us, testing the depth of the water with the stick, while his anxious companion sat in their shiny new sedan on the far side of the stream looking on.

As we were now ‘seasoned’ Augrabies visitors having been in the park for almost 3 hours, we were able to say to him, “No worries. The water is very shallow”.
With a sign of relief the gent turned about and waded back to his car.

Our next bird sighting provoked some lengthy discussion and much thumbing of the pages of all our bird books.

Eventually we decided that this was a Southern Red Bishop in transitional plumage stage before sporting its final breeding colours.

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A further kilometer or so down the road, we began to see what makes Augrabies such a special park. The scenery and landscape is simply out of this world.
Augrabies simply is another world. An ancient world and one can only wonder what events shaped this spectacular landscape.

Not one landscape, but many different landscapes. From Moon Rock, where after walking to the summit, the view across the area is quite remarkable, to the igneous rocks of the “Swart Rante” (a loose translation is Black Ledges), to the ancient granite rocks that line the gorge.

A striking feature of Augrabies are the blazing blue skies that crown the mountains, hills, valleys and endless plains that make up this intriguing land.

Heading towards Ararat, this is a shot of the landscape in the area.

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The view of the Orange River at the Ararat viewpoint shows part of the gorge that runs for 18km from the Main Falls through the gorge and then into flat land as the river winds its way to the sea.

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I have not been able to find out why the Ararat area is so named and if anyone has some clue, please let us all know.

The view from the viewing deck is quite breath-taking and one wonders how many aeons it has taken for the water to carve it’s path through the rocks to create the gorge.

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We had travelled just 15km when we arrived at Oranjekom at around 5:30pm.

The sun was beginning its descent in the western sky, and the shadows cast by the hills on the western side of the gorge and the reflection of the blue sky on the river, painted the river sapphire blue, while the still hot sun turned the walls of the gorge a soft gold.

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Time was marching on and we still needed to visit the Falls themselves, so we took a slow drive back to Augrabies main camp.

I have only one word to describe the main waterfall at Augrabies and that is WOW.

September is a rather dry time of the year and the water flow rate reflects this as the Main Falls were a shadow of what they can be in March/April when the flow is at its peak.

For us, seeing and hearing the sound of the water as it plunged down the 60 odd meters down the granite chute was a spectacle never to be forgotten.

I can only imagine what the sight and sound would be like with the Orange River in flood, as it was in some years previous.

Even at a ‘dribble’ compared to those years, the falls are still magnificent.

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While admiring the sight, another Augrabies special popped out to enjoy the last rays of the sun.

It was a Broadley’s flat lizard.

When in full breeding colour, the multi-coloured males can almost compete with the colourful Cape Minstrels on Tweede Nuwe Jaar.

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The end of our first day in Augrabies was fast approaching and the sun had morphed into an orange ball as it sank below the horizon.

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We eventually tore ourselves away from the spectacle and headed back to the chalet for supper.

To be continued …
Last edited by Jesscan1 on Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:21 pm

Episode 14

Augrabies Falls National Park - 17th September Part 1

Clear blue skies greeted us on the second morning of our Augrabies sojourn.

While Andy was making our breakfast, I was busy packing the picnic basket with some yummy edibles for our lunch, as the plan for the day was – explore Augrabies from East to West and back again.

The furthest West one can get is the Quiver Loop and conveniently placed at the beginning of the loop is the “Af en Toe” picnic site.
This was where we planned to stop for lunch.

On our first short drive in Augrabies the previous evening, we had lucked out on the birds. I suppose that we were so overawed with the scenery that the poor birdies were overlooked.

Well today was going to be different.

Windows open and at a snail's pace we headed out into the wild unknown.

Within minutes we had two good sightings and our first special.

A bird that we see on the very odd occasion in Kruger is the Acacia Pied Barbet.
It was great to see these birds on a number of occasions in Augrabies.

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We had seen numerous Kalahari Scrub Robins in Mokala, but as this chap was our first encounter with these busy birds, we snapped away as he was posing beautifully in the early morning sun.

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Not long after the Scrub Robin we thought that we had sighted a Cape White-eye, but it only dawned on us much later that we had spotted our first Augrabies ‘special’.
An Orange River White-eye. :D .
Another ‘first’ for us..

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We had not forgotten the landscape though and those hills in the distance were where we were headed.

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The black hills that were our target were soon close up and not far from the turn-off to Echo Corner.

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The birds were starting to appear and on the road to Echo Corner this lovely lady (Female Namaqua Sand Grouse) gave us the look as we passed by.

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While travelling down the soft sandy road in between the huge outcrops of black rocky hills, a female Mountain Wheatear searched the surrounds for some grub.

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We knew that any Lark that we saw along the road was going to be a challenge to ID. Roberts lists 22 larks in the region. Fortunately the official Augrabies Bird Checklist has only 6. After a process of elimination and studying all our LBJ books, the conclusion was reached that this is most likely a Thick-billed race of the Sabota Lark.

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The landscape before the turn off to Echo Corner became hillier and one can only wonder how these small hills of metamorphosed igneous rock came to be.

From a distance, one could be deceived into thinking that a number of huge tipper trucks had dumped a load of rocks in a neat row so as to shape the landscape.

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The road leading to the viewpoint terminated in a picturesque bowl surrounded by hills of biotite granite and a tranquil pool of water as the centre piece.

This was Echo Corner.

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Echo Corner was true to its name and like a couple of naughty kids we tested Echo Corner’s echoing faculties to its fullest.
It is not called Echo corner for nothing and it works! :D

We headed back towards the Swart Rante and the main road as we still had a long road to travel to complete our Augrabies expedition …

To be continued …
Last edited by Jesscan1 on Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Jesscan's September Sojourn - Mokala to Mountain Zebra via 8 parks

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:49 pm

Episode 15.

Augrabies Falls National Park

17th September Part 2

Once back on the main road, after our fun visit to Echo Corner, it was birding time again.

A Chat Flycatcher,

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followed by a White Throated Canary were the first of our spots.

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Both these birds were "firsts" for us.

Verreaux’s Eagles are reported to be breeding in the area, so we kept a sharp eye on the sky and surrounding hills.
No eagles were to be seen. We did however see stacks of Rock Hyraxes (Dassies) on the rocks and as the Dassies are the favourite fare for the eagles, one can understand why the birds like this area.

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The R359 tar road from Upington to the Riemvasmaak Hot Springs in the Blouputs Valley runs South to North through the Augrabies Falls Park.

A subway on the Augrabies dirt road runs under the R359 road connecting the Eastern section of Augrabies to the more open veld of the Western Section.

A host of (possibly Barn) Swallows were darting around the subway as we headed towards the Af en Toe Picnic Site.

Having had a close up sighting of a female Namaqua Sandgrouse a little earlier, it was now the male's turn and this handsome fellow froze in his tracks until we had driven past him.

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The ideal would be, as in Kgalagadi, to have a flock of these birds descend upon a water hole in the late afternoon and then have a raptor or Black-backed Jackal appear and have the whole flock rise up as one and bolt into the air as the predatory animal attempts a kill. Wishful thinking of course, although we did see a number of Sandgrouse flying in to sip at a waterhole, but there was no sign of any predators or raptors to spoil their day.

A bird species that we used to see regularly in Kruger that we have not seen for about 5 years is Namaqua Doves.

We saw a number of these birds, especially near the water holes.

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For reasons unknown, the Western part of Augrabies harboured most of the animal species.

We started to see more and more animals as the area became more open veld with grass and some small trees and shrubs.

Gemsbok, Springbuck, Giraffe, Tsessebe, and the first raptor of our trip, a Black-chested Snake Eagle that was circling in the dazzling blue sky.

The Augrabies Gemsbok, much like the Mokala Gemsbok, regarded us as some kind of an oddity and just stared at us.

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The Springbuck too found us quite interesting and turned to look. (Or were they just being polite to us new visitors).

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We were now approaching the ‘Quiver Loop’ and the further West that we travelled the more abundant these trees became.

The trees are really Tree Aloes (Aloe dichotoma) or as they are called in that part of the world, Quiver Trees or Koker Boom in Afrikaans, and besides their impressive visual appearance, they make a wonderful platform to support the nests of the Sociable Weavers.

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Although the other trees in the area, except for the odd Camel Thorn did not grow much taller than the Quiver Trees, the Giraffe that we saw, much like the Giraffe in Mokala, seemed to cope pretty well bending their necks downwards to nibble on the thorn bushes.

The other vegetation in the biome consisted of short shrubby plants and this wobble of Ostriches in the background made for an interesting picture.

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The day was hot and we were looking forward to our picnic and break at Af en Toe Picnic Spot[/b,] but not before watching this [b]Gemsbok drinking at the water hole, a stones throw away from the picnic area.

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We watched this stately Oryx until he plodded slowly off into the veld.

It was now picnic time at Af en Toe.

To be continued …


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