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Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

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charbel
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Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby charbel » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:17 am

As several forumites know, I've been in KNP from June 12th to June 27th, in a trip planned for more than a year. First time in Kruger in winter, a very dry winter, not much water everywhere, a lot of excitement everywhere.

I arrived in Kruger after a week in Durban, working in UKZN but also including a short visit to Imfolozi-Hluhluwe. Nice but nothing to compare to KNP (or KTP). I met my friends Pedro, Renata and Simone at the airport, a short flight, and up R538 to Phabeni Gate!

To begin a new trip report, a new strategy is needed. I still didn’t finish my TR for my first visit to Kruger in 2011. It will be ended soon, with just some additional pics. For this TR, I will describe the whole visit, with only some pics for posting, and then I will add more pics later on.

We entered KNP through Phabeni Gate June 12th, around 2:30PM. Our first stop was in the Albasini Ruins. It was great to see the remains of João Albasini’s house, knowing about his story. There we saw several Blue Waxbills foraging in the ground, a very beautiful first sighting in the trip.

From there we followed S1 up to the crossing with S3, where we turned south in this latter road, going in the direction of our first camp, Pretoriuskop. In this short stretch of S1, we saw only Hippos’ spoors and Impalas.
As we followed S3 up to Mestel Dam, we saw more animals: Impalas, Vervet Monkeys, Zebras, Warthogs, Buffalos, Red-billed Oxpeckers, Fork-tailed Drongos, and a green Sunbird that we couldn’t photograph, making it difficult to identify precisely. Another finding were Cheetah’s footprints. Cheetahs would elude us, however, for the rest of the trip. Not one single sighting of this magnificent animal, I am sorry to say.

Mestel Dam was an agitated place that day. We saw 10 Hippos either lying under the sun, a special view of the winter, or inside the dam, and also a Fish Eagle In hunting mode. He captured a fish while we were there and we watched it eating at the margin of the dam. Other than these, we saw a Hamerkops and Blacksmith Lapwings in Mestel.

As we were late, we dropped the plan of going to Pretoriuskop through Napi Road and, instead, returned to S7. As we moved along S7 we saw Zebras, Impalas, Buffalos, and Fork-tailed Drongos.

We did the Shabeni loop and, although we didn’t see animals there, it was as pleasant as usual, given the beauty of the landscape. Then we went to Pretoriuskop through Napi Road with only a sighting of 3 Crested Francolins.
We arrived on time and, after a long line in the reception, as many cars were arriving at the same time, and it was holidays in South Africa (up to Tuesday 16th), we went to our BG4 bungalow.

The accommodation was good enough, although a bit small for 4 people. Later we would stay in much better accommodations. What I really disliked was "eating" in a Wimpy. I do think it harms the experience to eat in those kinds of places in Kruger. I definitely prefer the older restaurants. I asked for some pork ribs just to leave the whole plate untouched. Fortunately I had nut and dried fruits to survive through the night. When we arrived at Berg-En-Dal the next day it was good to find a Tindlovu there, not a Wimpy. All in all, although Pretoriuskop was not unpleasant, it was by far the worst camp experience in the trip.

Here are some pics for these first hours in KNP. First, a Vervet in S3, eating and watching us. It was my first experience with long zoom lens. I am happy with the results… Here is my equipment in the trip: one Canon EOS T3 body, one Canon EOS 7D body, one Tamron 150-600mm lens, one Canon 100-400m L lens, one Canon 18-135 mm lens, and just as a replacement if something went wrong a Canon 55-250 mm lens (which was not used). Besides that, I have a Panasonic HC-W858 handcam, with nice zoom range and the capacity of filming in infrared, which was great during the day and during the night drives. To work with the camera, I had a Nitecore torch that could emit infrared beams, to enhance the filming. This Vervet was a first experience on the resolution I could obtain at a distance. I am still learning to use the equipment, but all in all I am satisfied with the results.

Image

This pic is not so good, a lot of foliage in between made it difficult to take a good pic. But it is biologically interesting. We could clearly see that the Oxpeckers were taking pieces of meat of the Buffalo to eat. They keep the wounds open so that they can benefit from this extra meal, while he eats parasites when the animal is not wounded. Plasticity! The ecological interaction can be one of parasitism or one of mutualism depending on the circumstances. We saw this Buffalo in a big herd in S3.

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Another Buffalo, now in a group of three in S7, by the end of the afternoon, so in not so good light. What I like most about the pic is how he is looking and the marks of time in his face.

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A Hippo resting in the beach and a Hippo in the water in Mestel Dam.

Image

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Finally, a magnificent sunset before arriving in Pretoriuskop.

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Come on board, my dear forumites!

Cheers
Charbel

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hilda
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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby hilda » Thu Jul 09, 2015 4:11 am

Great start to your new trip report Charbel! :clap: :clap:

Sorry that you didn't like your food at the Wimpy in Pretoriuskop! So far there were only good reviews from the 'mites about all the new restaurants in Kruger. :hmz:

Impressive camera equipment! Looking forward to the rest of your trip report! :popcorn:
The secret of life is not to do what you like, but to like what you do. - Unknown.
Kruger sleeps in March 2016
2 - 5: Skukuza
6 - 8: Crocodile Bridge
9 - 11: Lower Sabie
12 - 13: Biyamiti
14: Return home

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby leervis » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:30 am

Charbel, a great start with good images. It is always good to hear of visitors who have had to endure intercontinental travel to visit Kruger. Looking forward to the rest of your report.
10 -13 May Berg en Dal Camping
14 May Lower Sabie Chalet
15 - 18 Pretoriuskop Camping
19 May Satara Chalet
20 - 24 May Balule Camping

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:36 am

I am sorry the start of your trip was such a disappointment. I do tend to use Wimpy as a breakfast venue, so I have never tasted their other food. You did get a magnificent sunset though. :thumbs_up:

I am tightening my seat belt and ready for the ride. :dance: :dance: :dance:

:popcorn:
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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby charbel » Thu Jul 09, 2015 7:43 am

dear Hilda, Leervis, Meandering mouse
Welcome on board!
I am sorry I gave the wrong impression by talking about Wimpy... No, the beginning of the trip was not a disappointment. Despite the fact I didn't like the food there, this was such a minor issue when compared to the beautiful beginning in the roads from Phabeni to Pretoriuskop...
Only 3 hours in the park and we had already seen much!
Leervis, I see you will stay in Sirheni. It was one of the best camps in the whole trip. What a great staff we found there! Especially Paul, who received us with such a great mood. He was so helpful and the night drive with him was the best ever, since we did our first. Unforgettable! I hope you find him there. He is such a special person!

Cheers
Charbel

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby umtali1 » Thu Jul 09, 2015 9:53 am

I am boarding this bus in haste, Charbel, because, if this TR is anything like your previous one, we shall be in for a treat. :clap: :clap:
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2013 Mokala and KNP http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=75574.

2015 "Cape Town to Namibia border" - Ebb and Flow, Karoo NP, Mokala, Augrabies & KTP

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby Philip1 » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:21 pm

:D Charbel, nice to see a TR from you again.

:mrgreen: Lovely Pic's of all..and the "Sunset" :whistle: Thank you.
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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby Karin Mitton » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:30 pm

On-board for this one - beautiful photos - I really love that sunset.
Very interesting about the buffalo and oxpecker.

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby Heksie » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:58 pm

Great start to your TR
Sorry for the problems with Wimpy, we were there in January and have to say that we were very happy with our take away brekkies...
Great sunset kiekie
And thanks for that informative pic of the buff and oxpecker :thumbs_up:
2015
9-20 Dec Satara
14 Dec Sable Hide
21-27 Dec Lower Sabie
28 Dec-4 Jan Satara
5-8 Jan Lower Sabie
9 Jan Croc Bridge

2016
2-6 March Skukuza

29-31 March Lower Sabie

8 -11 July Tsendze
12-15 July Satara

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charbel
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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby charbel » Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:40 pm

Dear Heksie, Karin, Philip and Umtali,
Very nice to have you on board! I plan to do the TR more efficiently than my previous one, despite the usual burden of work... Let's see. I am also editing movies and I will send them along as they get ready, not following the chronology. I hope you all enjoy! For me,it is a way of keeping the experience alive!

Cheers
Charbel

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby charbel » Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:37 am

Dear forumites,
Back to the TR. Before entering a posting on June 13th, three pics taken by Pedro in June 12th.

First, one of the Vervets we saw in S3 in a state of "pure contemplation".

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This is such a nice composition made by Pedro, the Hippos with the sea of savana behind them, in Mestel Dam, with the niceties added by the dry tree on the margin of the dam.

Image

Finally, Pedro's pic of the same Buffalo at S7. This looks like an old fellow indeed!

Image

Soon I'll make a posting on June 13th sightings...

Cheers
Charbel

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:43 am

I do love the pure contemplation. :D It is a beautiful picture of Mestel. A nice place for contemplation.

:popcorn:
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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby jjames04 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 5:51 am

Charbel,

Nice start to your TR, I especially liked the fiery red sunset and the scenic shot with the hippos in the foreground! Funny you mentioned the Whimpy at Pretoriuskop. We had the same experience but fortunately it was the very last camp we stayed and only for one night so we only suffered through one meal there. All of the other camps we stayed at had excellent food with the Mug & Bean restaurants being top notch in our view. Looking forward to the rest of the TR.

Cheers,

Joe

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charbel
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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby charbel » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:11 am

Dear Meandering Mouse,
Yes, Mestel was so so beautiful this time, I felt it much more enticing than when I've been there in the summer.

To see the Fish Eagle catching something that looked like a Tilapia there was very nice. No good pic to show, however.

Dear Joe,
Welcome on board!!! We got a number of very nice sunsets, they will come out as the TR develops...

Mugg and Bean was a good treaty. All the other days we had great meals, including the ones we did ourselves! And nice wines, a special thing in South Africa indeed!

Cheers
Charbel

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Re: Report on second trip to Kruger – the dry days of winter

Unread postby hilda » Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:12 am

Stunning pictures by Pedro Charbel! Love the picture at Mestel Dam with the Hippos and all the trees! :clap: :clap:

Beautiful Buffalo! He really looks old! :clap: :clap:
The secret of life is not to do what you like, but to like what you do. - Unknown.
Kruger sleeps in March 2016
2 - 5: Skukuza
6 - 8: Crocodile Bridge
9 - 11: Lower Sabie
12 - 13: Biyamiti
14: Return home


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