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Canon's A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP, January 2016

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canon
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Canon's A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP, January 2016

Unread post by canon » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:30 pm

As has become somewhat of a tradition SO and I welcomed the New Year in under the canvas of our tent in the beautiful Mountain Zebra National Park. This is the third successive year that we have done this. This was without a shadow of doubt the hottest that we have had to endure but, being a child of the Karoo, this did not spoil our experience one little bit. Once again the park lived up to its high standards despite the fact that many of the perimeter stands have been messed up with an attempt at planting grass on them. The surface has become so uneven which makes it very difficult to pitch a tent - I am sure that this was a well-meaning attempt to spruce up the camp sites that just went a bit pear shaped. The park was desperately in need of rain and this could be seen on the condition of the herbivores. There were a few thunder storms while we were there but more noise that rain!

We were pleased to arrive at the gate nice and early and once again the welcome at the gate was so warm and genuine. The minute that you pass through this gate the heartbeat drops and the beauty of the Karoo creeps under your skin.

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Check in went smoothly as usual and we found our favourite camp site (No 28) to be vacant which was a good start and we immediately got going with setting up our camp which would be our home for seven nights. Unfortunately not much shade but being at the end of the row ensures one quite a bit of privacy.

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The temp was soon in the late 30's so we decided to chill under the thorn tree until late afternoon when it would cool off somewhat. We decided to drive the scenic Kranskop Loop which must be one of the more beautiful drives that SAN Parks can offer.

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Game viewing was quiet until we reached the Doornhoek Dam. Here there was plenty of bird life being the primary water source during this dry period.

Grey Heron

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Three-banded Plover

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Red-knobbed Coot

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Dabchick

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Last edited by canon on Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:56 pm

DAY 2

Our brave intention of having an early start failed to materialize with us deciding to ignore the alarm clock - after all we were on holiday! At around mid-morning we set off to drive the Ubejane Loop. It was already hot which meant that many of the animals were already seeking the sanctuary of the shade in the thorn thickets. This Red Haartebeest did not seem to care about the heat!

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We then decided to head up the Link Road towards Rooiplaat and on to higher ground via Kranskop. This proved to be a good decision because right on the top of the drive (between the two "twee spoor" concrete tracks) we bumped into these handsome fellows lying in the shade. The cool breeze on top of the mountain ensured that they were in a prime spot.

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We spent a while in their company but they were in no hurry to move so we headed on down the pass stopping at the dam once again where there was once again bird life to enjoy. We were particularly pleased to see the young Fish Eagle - a first for us in MZNP

White-breasted Cormorant

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Sacred Ibis

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Grey Heron

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Immature Fish Eagle

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It was soon midday and terribly hot so we headed back to the sanctuary of our little thorn tree where we chilled (probably not the correct word) before going on an evening drive.
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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:14 pm

At about 16h00 we headed off again - a gentle breeze had got up so things had cooled down somewhat. We followed the same route as the one that we did in the morning. Much more wild life was to be seen along the thorn thickets on Ubejane Loop.

Springbok

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Pin-tailed Whydah

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Mountain Zebra

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At the big dry dam at the bottom end of the loop we saw a cloud of dust and on closer inspection found these two Mountain Zebras having a rather serious altercation and by the time they had had enough they were both exhausted. I never realized that they could be so aggressive - those back kicks and bites must inflict some serious damage if used effectively

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This one decided to call it a day and dashed off looking quite unscathed

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:27 pm

On the way up the Link Road this Red Haartebeest presented a lovely silhouette

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On we went up to Kranskop Loop - we debated whether or not to drive the scenic route again. SO said that we may bump into the Lions again to which I replied "lightning never strikes in the same place twice". Anyway she won and off we went. Well I was forced to eat humble pie because lying right next to the road was this magnificent specimen. It was quite strange to observe that they had no scars on their faces as is usually the case - real smooth dudes!

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He even decided to have a blow wave - was a visitation from the lionesses imminent

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What a beaut....

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How lucky were we to have these guys for company twice in one day!. En rote home this Springbok passed us by in a bit of a hurry

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:26 pm

Thanks to all the forumites who commented thus far - nice to see keen interest in this great park.

DAY 3

We decided to tackle the short Umgeni 4x4 trail as an early morning drive. It is always great to be out early in the Karoo air and even nicer on a quiet route such as this one. Soon after turning off the tar we saw a troop of baboons with plenty of young ones about - always full value for entertainment.

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Apart from a few Mountain Zebra the route was surprisingly quiet

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A quick swing around a very dry and barren Rooiplaat yielded nothing so we decided to head back to camp as the heat had become unbearable.
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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:35 pm

In the afternoon we headed straight up the Kranskop Loop - this area still had plenty of green vegetation which we thought would attract plenty of game. It was good to see that the renovations to Doornhoek Cottage had been completed after having been gutted by a fire a few years ago

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Once again there was plenty to entertain us at the dam

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Last edited by canon on Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:38 pm

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:43 pm

We continued up the pass and watched how the weather was building - this strange phenomenon looked like a twister but it soon disappeared into thin air

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The lions seemed to have made the mountains their home !

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We headed home when it began to rain and actually enjoyed cooling off a bit. Unfortunately there was not much rain - mainly thunder and lightening
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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:44 pm

Thanks for all the interest in this report - many commented on the Doornhoek Cottage and seemed pleased that it had eventually been renovated. It is indeed a lovely spot - we had the privilege of staying there many years ago when it was a lot more affordable.

DAY4

It was an early start so that we could tackle the Juriesdam 4x4 loop at the best time of the day. On the way up the pass we spotted this very relaxed family of Chacma Baboons

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As we reached the top of the pass we came across a couple of Red Hartebeest calves lying all alone and wondered what had happened to their mothers who were nowhere in sight. Anyway the youngsters did not seem to be too bothered

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It is always nice to see these Vervet Monkeys out in the wild. They are a real curse in the camps, especially MZNP. These fellows were enjoying the early morning sunshine whilst sitting a a lone mimosa tree - butter would not melt in their mouths!

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:55 pm

We had a midday break and decided to tackle the Sonnensrust 4x4 trail in the afternoon. In my opinion this is the best 4x4 route in the park giving one a sense of complete isolation. Just before the trail turn-off we saw this nice Springbok ram

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The Ground Squirrels are always full value for entertainment - we spent a good while in the company of this crowd soon after turning onto the trail

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The foothills of Salpetersberg was teaming with game with plenty of Springbok, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Ostriches and Eland to be seen. As we started the climb the Gemsbok appeared from all over. I wonder if this was a set of twins?

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Once we reached the plateau we encountered many Mountain Zebra and Kudu. The MZ seemed to have found a puddle in red clay to roll in

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Thu Jan 28, 2016 10:00 pm

We stopped for a cuppa at the look-out point which is one of our favourite spots in the park. We could not think of a more appropriate place to spend some quiet time on the last day of 2015.

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A little way along the road to Rooiplaat we found more Squirrels

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Thu Jan 28, 2016 10:07 pm

En route back to camp we saw a nice variety of what MZNP could offer

Jackal Buzzard

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Black Wildebeest

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Another Jackal Buzzard

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African Pipit (please correct me if I am wrong - not too good with these LBJ's)

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We cooked a nice slow potjie which was washed down with some could "osbloed". The camp was beautifully quiet with everybody appearing to see the new year in by celebrating the beauty of silence in the bush, encouraging mother nature to to quietly whisper "Happy New Year"
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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:24 pm

DAY 5

As I am writing this report the temp is 41 degrees here in Grahamstown - seems hotter than it was in the park!

We slept in a bit on new years day and then headed up the Kranskop loop seeing these baboons doing some dangerous mountaineering on the rock face - I trust that they never had a late old years eve!

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The dam once again provided some action - this time not only from our feathered friends

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:33 pm

By 11h30 it had already got so hot that we decided to double back to camp with the hope that it would cool off in the afternoon so that we could do a decent drive. On the way back we saw a family of Red Hartebeest with plenty of little ones - they seem so vulnerable!

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Cool shade was hard to find so we headed up to the pool for a swim - many had the same idea too. A relaxing time followed (after all it was 01 Jan) before we set off to Ubejane area under growing thunder clouds.

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We were rewarded with three special sightings - was this a good omen for 2016? Firstly we came across this Blue Korhaan on Ubejane Loop right at the bottom near the Sonnensrust turn-off - really pretty birds that we had seen only once before

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We doubled back and soon bumped into this solitary Bat-eared Fox which was good to see

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Re: A blazing hot start to the year in MZNP

Unread post by canon » Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:41 pm

En route home we noticed that the veld was teeming with flying ants and other goggas - possibly as a result of a bit of moisture coupled with the heat. These chaps were keeping a good look out for something to snack on - plenty ants for them...

This chat seemed to be a bit of a gymnast

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As we approached the rest camp we came across this mother with a really inquisitive little one

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The third special for us on this afternoon was spotting two Jacobin's Cuckoos (Pied) sitting on our campsite. They were really enjoying the flying ants. This was a lifer for us.

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Last edited by canon on Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

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