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MSI's South-North-South. KNP, December 2016

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MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

MSI's South-North-South. KNP, December 2016

Unread post by MSI » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:13 pm

South-North-South Kruger

I am not very poetic in my writing so this report will be more like “just the facts.” :?

I spent 14 days traveling from the Pretoriuskop in the south to Punda Maria in the north then back to Berg-N-Dal in the south. I drove a lot in the park. I was up every day at 4am and was out the gate by 5. I stayed out everyday until about 5pm. I tried to stick to the gravel roads mainly but would take a paved road occasionally, especially when traveling from one camp to the next. I drove 1,550 miles (2495 KM) during my 14 days there and didn't even begin to cover all the roads. Yeah, that was a lot of driving. :shock:

Mt trip started by my driving to Toronto, Canada which is 4 hours north of my home in Pennsylvania. From there I flew Air Canada to London then flew British Airway to Johannesburg. After landing in Johannesburg I flew SAA to Nelspruit. I flew business class the entire route and found all the airlines and planes comfortable. On my Toronto to London leg, I flew for the first time on the new Boeing 789. That was by far the nicest, smoothest and quietest plane I have ever been on. Highly recommend! :dance:

I had a short connection in Johannesburg so I used Bid Air Fast Track service. Wow, fast it was! From getting off the plane until I was sitting at the gate for my connecting flight to Neslpruit was less then 30 minutes. The service wasn't cheap but at ZAR 1290, it was money well spent not to have to worry about missing my final connection before Kruger.

After landing at MQP, I picked up a Toyota Fortuner I had reserved from Budget. Although you do not need a big SUV for Kruger, after driving in the park for 12 hours per day, I really appreciated having one. There were some secondary roads that I would not have wanted to take a car on, although the paved roads are excellent, some of the dirt roads were a bit rough.

I have my business logo printed on magnetic signs. I placed one on each side of my car. It helped me locate my vehicle in the parking lot of a "sea of white Fortuners". :lol:

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After picking up my car I was headed toward Melelane gate by 10:30 am. I emailed the Spar there a week before and they had a nice supply of frozen meat and assorted items ready for me to pick up. I popped into their store at Melelane, grabbed my groceries, changed some USD to ZAR and picked up a sim card for my iPhone. The Spar is a great place to get all that accomplished at one time.

I did bring my GPS from home with the map pack for South Africa. That turned out to be the handiest thing to have with me. Obviously I was able to use all the normal driving functions but what was the most handy was being able to mark a sighting on the GPS then be able to drive back to the exact spot hours later. It was also nice to be able to give other people the exact distance back to a sighting I had entered into the GPS. I also set the unit to map all the roads I traveled. It was interesting to see how many of the roads I had driven on and I was also amazed at how many I didn't even get to.

After arriving through Melalane gate I drove up to Pretoriskop for 2 nights. I stayed in unit 134. Although nothing fancy, the room suited me just fine. The staff were all excellent and so polite. I drove 319 km around Pretoriskop and saw...

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and on the Circle Road around Pretoriskop I saw these guys around 4:30 pm. I was quit shocked when I came around the corner and there they were. I counted 14 in the herd. :wink:

Sable Antelope

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It was nice to see some younger ones in the herd.
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To be continued...

MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

Re: South-North-South

Unread post by MSI » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:33 pm

After 2 enjoyable days at Pretoriuskop, it was time to head to Olifants. The closer I got to Olifants, the effects of the drought became glaringly evident, especially after leaving the green and relatively wet south. The ground was absolutely scorched around Satara. :( I saw my share of dead hippo's while I was in the park also.

I was at Olifants camp for 2 nights and I stayed in the Nshawu Guesthouse. Although the view is spectacular it does have a funny layout, where you need to exit the main house to get to the kitchen. Also the a/c didn't work in the bedroom that I wanted to stay in. No big deal as there were 4 others to choose from.

This was the hottest temp I saw while I was in the park. I saw 45c last year at Olifants, but even 42c is plenty hot. :shock: I would often start out in the morning with the windows down and the heat on. Once the temp got to 19c, the heat would go off. At 25c on came the a/c. I always drove with the windows down and the a/c until the temp hit 40c, then the windows had to go up.

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Hello!

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The view of the Olifants river from my deck. A classic Africa shot.

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While staying at the house baboons broke the glass out of the window and stole some tomatoes I had on the table. All this happened when I was out on a game drive and I came back to 3 SanParks employees fixing my window. We had a chat and a few laughs as they went about their work. A very friendly group of guys.

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One BIG croc feeding on an unfortunate hippo. He eventually drug it to the water, grabbed the hippos leg and did the "death roll." He ended up with the whole leg in his mouth, which he promptly swallowed in one gulp. :shock: I did see several hippos grazing from my room but also 2 other dead ones.

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Who could resist taking a picture? :cam:

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or this one? :cam: :cam:

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Up to this point I had been in the park 4 days. I had yet to see a lion, leopard or even a jackal. Although I won't fight my way through a "cat jam" to watch a few lions sleeping, not only had I not seen any lions, I hadn't even seen a "cat jam" yet either... :hmz: What would tomorrow bring? To be continued...

MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

Re: South-North-South

Unread post by MSI » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:30 pm

I was up, packed and headed out of Olifants by 5am on my way to my most northern camp, Punda Maria. It was a pleasure packing my food as Mr. Baboon was not an early riser. :thumbs_up:

As soon as I backed my vehicle out from under the carport, I was aware that it was raining. Not pouring, just a nice, steady rain. The rain continued all the way to Punda and I saw some good sized puddles and waterholes. I was surprised that on my second day in Punda I headed up to Crooks Corner and found the S63 and 64 closed due to flooding. I drove around there a bit and the rangers came out and removed the road closed signs.

I stayed in the Nshawu Guesthouse at Punda. I had recently been remodeled and everything was shiny and new. It was a pleasure to stay there. I will have to say that I was surprised at how much litter (mainly beer cans) were scattered along the H1-3. :rtm:

At check in the friendly guy at the desk apologized for the condition of the only pen he had. It looked like it was run over by a truck and then taped back together. I got in my luggage and gave him a dozen MSI pens. I hope they are still using them when I go back next year. :)

And my drought of lions was finally over. It was raining, he was wet and in no mood to have his picture taken. Off into the bush he went.

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The following are some shots of the guest house. It only opened a few months ago. Very comfortable.

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Just another classic "Out of Africa" shot. :cam:

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This was up around Crooks Corner. These red-orange spiders-mites were everywhere. Don't know what they were, but there were thousands. I'm assuming they came up out of the ground because of the heavy rains.

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First time I ever saw badgers. There were 2 (the other is in the middle right of the pic) way off in the distance. I watched then for about 15 minutes hoping they would come closer for a better picture, but they never did and finally disappeared altogether. My camera was at full telephoto and this is the best pic I got.

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MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

Re: South-North-South

Unread post by MSI » Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:41 pm

After driving 523k around Punda, I left for Satara at 5:15 am, where I stayed in room A3. It didn't have any view to speak of but I was late in booking and I had to take what I could get. Heading to Satara I figured my drought of felines was about to come to an end. :dance: Not only did I see a lot of felines, at every sighting I was by myself the entire time. How lucky is that? I was driving south towards Satara and saw this (female?) I assume it was a female as she was chirping which I assume she was calling her cubs. I watched her by myself for 5 minutes before she disappeared.

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don't remember the road these were on but they were enjoying the sunshine.

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Got a brief glimpse of this lioness with her 3 cubs. They were on a mission and never even looked at me before slipping into the bush.

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I was obviously enjoying my time around Satara but had yet to see my favorite feline, the leopard. On my second day there, I driving on the S126 and looking at all the trees hanging over the road and thinking they would be excellent ones to see a leopard in. The early morning sun was at my back when I came around the corner and and not 50 feet from the road was this. :dance: My first leopard and I had the sighting all to myself.

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After watching her for 10 minutes she came out of the tree and laid by the road. By the time I got the car positioned I only had time to take 1 picture before she got up and slipping into the bush.

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and then on the S39 I saw this pair laying right by the road staying cool. This was also a solo sighting. I watched them for a bit, marked their location on the GPS and headed off. I came back a few hours later, but they were gone.

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On this day I also had the privilege of meeting Mandy M from the forum at the Timbavati picnic sight. I enjoyed our chat and I hope you drop by to see my pictures.

So as you can see I saw felines in spades around Satara. Tomorrow I will head off to Lower Sabie and that will mark day 10 in the park. Only 4 more days left... :x

MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

Re: South-North-South

Unread post by MSI » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:18 pm

I finally left Satara at 7:45 after taking an early morning drive back to where I saw the leopard in the tree yesterday. No luck this morning for another leopard, but I did see 8 more lions on the S128, a pride of 5 and a pride of 3. I drove a total of 619K around Satara. It was nice to be heading further south and back into some relatively green scenery. I have been on safari in both the green and the dry season, I do prefer the scenery of the green season. When I got to LS, after checking in I took a ride down to Croc Bridge in the afternoon. I stayed there last year and wanted to go back and visit the camp. While I was there I bought a Steak and Kidney pie. Never had one before and I think it was heavy on the kidney! :hmz: I ate it but I wouldn't buy another. :mrgreen:

It was nice to get my fill of cats over the past few days and I was able to concentrate on some other animals. Here are a few more I saw around Lower Sabie.

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He was admiring the handsome bird in the mirror. :lol:

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I can see the person trying to explain all the scratches on the car when he has to return it. :lol:

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IS the Hornbill nesting? :hmz:

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2 beautiful Bateleurs.

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I was driving on the Croc River Road and slowly approached a car parked on the road. They were looking up into a tree so I immediately thought leopard! After staring at the tree for a minute and not seeing anything, I started to move on. The driver of the car waved me down and asked if I saw the owl. Of course I did not so they pointed it out. I would have never seen it if it were not for the friendly people pointing it out.

Verreaux's eagle-owl. Lifer for me!

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I'm gonna go with some type of osprey?

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Love the bee eaters.

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I had an enjoyable time around LS and I stayed in room 81. For some reason I thought the camp would be a lot smaller than it was... Tomorrow morning I'm setting off bright and early for Biyamiti. Looking forward to it. :D

MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

Re: South-North-South

Unread post by MSI » Wed Dec 21, 2016 4:38 pm

Being that my drive from Lower Sabie to Biyamiti was relatively short, I headed back up towards Skukuza then drove the S114 towards Biyamiti. When I checked into Biyamiti I spoke with the front desk man and he told me they had seem leopard every night for the past 3 month at the hide during the drought. Of course it rained in the past few weeks and he said the leopards weren't coming in regularly anymore. :? I still spent quite a bit of time driving back and forth on the private road to the camp. Although I didn't see much along that road, the drive was really enjoyable.

Also when I checked in I was told that the rooms didn't have any keys to them. I thought, "this is my kind of camp!" Even in the other camps I never locked my door when I was there or away. When I was gone during the day, the only thing in the room was food and I just preferred to come and go without a key. That's the way it is where I live. I never lock my car, house etc. It's one of the benefits of living in the country. But I digress... Anyhow, I was told my room was #15- or so I thought... I drove down and unloaded my frozen food and just when I was getting ready to head out 2 more cars pulled up. They said they thought they were in 14 and 15. I went back to reception to see what happened. Of course I was in 13, not 15. :redface: I apologized profusely to my neighbors and told them it would only take me a minute to get my stuff out. They said not to bother, they would just take my unit #13. :clap: Very kind of them.

This is the blurry :redface: view of unit 15. There is a nice walking trail around the perimeter camp that I used one evening. I guess most camps have a walking trial, this is the first time I ever used it. :?

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These birds always seem to be saying, "What are you looking at?"

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Nice Comb Duck. First one I ever saw.

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Nice Scrub Hare. First time sighting for me, again. :D

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Hippo at the Gardenia Hide. Get ready he's gonna yawn! :cam:

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Yawned so wide I couldn't get it all in my shot! :lol:

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On the private Biyamiti road they have a nice lookout spot with a table and a few benches. Just wanted to say, "Thank you, Igna. I did enjoy your view."

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Tomorrow it's off to Berg-N-Dal for my final 2 nights in the park. :(

MSI
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:08 pm

Re: South-North-South

Unread post by MSI » Thu Dec 22, 2016 5:01 pm

From Biyamiti I headed to Berg N Dal for my final 2 nights. Not that I am a "Big 5" chaser, but I had yet to see the "Big 5" all on one day over my entire 12 days in the park. I saw the Big 5 on both days around Berg. I had also been keeping a keen eye out for wild dogs, but they too eluded me so far. I left Biyamiti early and slowly headed to Berg. I was really looking forward to returning for 2 nights. Berg was the first camp I stayed in on my first visit to the park last year, and I only spent one night. I had fantastic sightings around the camp and I must say, it is my favorite camp in the park. Let me show you what was around Berg- Both the good and the bad...


Between the mongoose and the badger, I don't know who is the most active and difficult for me to get a good picture of. :?
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I'm gonna go with a Yellow Fronted Canary?
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Leopard sleeping in a very leafy tree in the S110. This picture was taken around 11 in the morning.
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I came back around 3 in the afternoon to see if he had moved. I got lucky and caught him on the ground although I was not able to get a very good picture. What a nice leopard he is.
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I had 1/2 a day in the park before I had to head back to Nelspruit for my afternoon flight heading back home. I had pretty much given up on seeing wild dog when I came around the corner and saw this pack running up the road. :dance: I stopped my vehile and they laid down just to the side of me. I spent 10 minutes with them before the first car came. I counted 10-12 dogs and one was wearing a collar.

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I also saw one of these in the south of the park. :cam: As soon as our eyes met, he was off in a flash. Another nice, solo sighting.

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I was really impressed with the numbers of white rhino I saw in the south. On one day in particular, I quit counting at 17. :wink:

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Another nice leopard in a tree. I watched him sleep for a few minutes and drove on. When I returned an hour later, he was gone.

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And my picture for the wall of shame. 2 younger guys riding on the inside of the vehicle and the other riding on the window sill on the road to the Malelane gate. And the cherry on the top, they were doing close to 70K. :roll:

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So there it is. My 14 days in the park in late November, early December. I had an excellent time and am already planning a return visit this November. Thanks for following along and I hope the ride wasn't too bumpy! :tongue:


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