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Info: Sunset/Night drives taken from camps.

Discuss activities available in the Kruger National Park, and follow all the sighting reports.
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wildtuinman
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Night drives

Unread post by wildtuinman » Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:04 am

If I knew I would only saw a nightjar, springhare or any other nocturnal animal that I would not have the chance to see at daytime, I would have gone on a night drive. Must say that I have been very fortunate with sightings of all of the big 5 during such drives. But some of the most memorable sightings were those of an African wildcat and Spotted eagle owl.

Night drives very often produce a sighting of the big 5, but it is rather the sighting of the smaller nocturnal animal that should make an activity like the night drive worth its money, and they are always there to complete the experience.

Don't let the chance of experiencing something phenomenal go past because you only want to see the big 5 as what happened to a group of people being so fortunate, and ironically uninterested, to have seen a Pel's feeding on fish and passed the chance because the big and hairy was their cup of tea. I think that night drives are great!!
Last edited by wildtuinman on Wed May 11, 2005 1:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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night drive lights

Unread post by wildtuinman » Thu Jan 06, 2005 6:46 am

Seems that it could depend on what vehicle you get do the night drive in. I would vote for less lighting and more effective usage of it. In actual fact reckless handling of spotlights can be harmful to nocturnal creatures when shown into their eyes. I have witnessed on numerous occasions how certain members on a drive "stuff" around with the lights. Lights should not be shown directly onto the animal but should rather be "bounced off" the ground just infront of them.

The 2 fixed lights, although not as bright, helps often to spot something at close quaters such as chameleons, bushbabies, snakes in shrubs and owls as they keep focusing in the same direction. Normally the driver on such a drive has such keen sighting that he'll make observations before the visitors with the help of the 2 fixed lights.

The reason for the 2 fixed lights not being as bright as the handheld ones could possibly be not to disturb/hurt the animals spotted at a closer range to much, but still to give enough light to see them.

My opinion is that it is better to have 2 people responsible enough with good sight and a bit of experience operate the lights than 4 with some of them not helping the cause in anyway.

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Night Drive Spotlights

Unread post by bwana » Wed Feb 16, 2005 4:32 pm

Why dont they use a red bulb or red filter on the spotlights for the night drives? I've seen it used in documentaries and the light doesn't blind the animals so it is possible to follow the action without getting all sensitive about disrupting the natural course of events. Inevitably once the ranger has warned the guests operating the spotlights not to shine here there everywhere they tend to shine too far back or in front of the animal.
Your thoughts?

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Herman
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Unread post by Herman » Wed Feb 16, 2005 8:04 pm

What I've seen in Phinda and Londolozi is that they use the spotlight the way we use it in the Kruger, but once you've spotted an eye, they slide a red filter in position and then keep the light on the animal without blinding it. Don't know why Kruger can't do it ?

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Unread post by Tabs » Wed Feb 16, 2005 10:47 pm

I have used the spotlight in two different circumstances.

The first was while doing my Field Guide training, in the Sabi Sands and in the Timbavati.
In both places we were taught that, should you happen to shine the light on any diurnal animal - mostly herbivores including antelope, elephants, rhino, buffalo, giraffe etc. - you immediately take the light off them or at the very least shine it briefly on their butt so that the other guests can see them as:
1. The spotlight temporarily blinds diurnals, making them more susceptible to any predator in the area or to injury if the flee and hit a tree or whatever.
2. It can enrage them - thinking about elephants, rhino and buffalo here in particular
3. In any case it is likely to disturb their natural behaviour

Whatever the reason, we should never interfere with the natural proccess of nature.

The other instance was on a night drive from Orpen and I had control of one of the 'passenger' spotlights.

Shortly after we left the camp, my light shone on a breeding herd of elephants.
I immediately placed the beam on the backside of one of the adult ellies and told the other guests to take their pics quickly as I was would not shine the light on them for long.

After a short time I moved the light elsewhere, only to be told by the Ranger to put the light back fully onto the elephants so that people could take good pictures! I shone the light back on the rump of the ellies but refused to put them in the full glare.

Shortly afterwards we came across an impala herd. I immediately put the light down to the road only to be told, once again, to shine it on the impalas so that pictures could be taken - I ignored his request!

It is also the case that, should you be using a spotlight and come across a predator - such as lions (or even nocturnal birds) - you should never, ever shine the light on their heads/in their faces.
Although the light is reflected back from their eyes and does not affect their sight, lions can become quite aggressive if they have strong light in their face - as anyone would!

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Research protocol

Unread post by wildjohn » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:02 pm

Research protocol is to switch lights off when the predator (lions normally) are attempting to hunt. The light is only switched on when there is audio of something - successful kill or failed hunt. For that purpose it is only unbiased way to obtain info on hunting success. Tourism creates the pressure to have to see the hunt, so thats where those red filters are handy...

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Unread post by Herman » Sun Apr 03, 2005 10:59 am

I'd rather do my own morning drive.
The sunset drive is often nice, because you're out in the bush when the predators start coming out.
We once had a magic sunset near Croc Bridge with a pair of jackals calling one another - beautiful, almost sad calls in the last light of the setting sun.
I'd say the night drives are more rewarding for nocturnal animal sightings, because they start later when they're already on the move, unlike on the sunset drives when some might still be inactive.
The golden rule however remains - It depends on your luck ! The day walks start at about 7 ( depending on the season) and last about two hours.
The guides are well trained and it's not dangerous, but remember you're out in the animal's territory and not the other way round.
Friends of ours had two close encounters on the same walk with a rhino and a lioness !
The lioness was already crouching, ready to jump, when the ranger fired a shot to scare her and the rhino charged them and fortunately missed my friend by about a metre !

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Mon May 30, 2005 10:18 am

Always remember that a nightdrive is there to try and get the chance of seeing the more elusive nocturnal animals. Don't expect to go out and find the big 5, then u might come back dissapointed.

Remeber to take precaution for the mozzies and don't have to much beer on the drive. I have seen many people to scared to do the nature call and they end up wishing the drive would finish.
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Unread post by Krokodile » Fri Jun 03, 2005 9:26 pm

In my experience, the quality of the night drive is governed largely by the experience and knowledge of the guide. We've had excellent night drives on which we have seen almost nothing new, but the information imparted by the guide has made it a memorable event.

We recently had a fantastic night drive from Letaba led by Johann, where everyone on the vehicle was considered in their wish-list of sightings and no sighting was considered too small or insignificant for him to stop and share some of his extensive knowledge of the bush.

In contrast, the next nights drive from Olifants was decidedly lack-lustre, and although the sightings were interesting, there was little explanation about what we were observing, we couldn't hear the guide when he was speaking and I found myself dropping off to sleep on the way back to camp at the end :oops: .

Incidentally, WTM, Have had night drives from Punda which have been full of sightings and others on which practically nothing was seen - not even birds! Up there, more than almost anywhere, the thickness of the bush really does affect sightings.

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Tue Jun 14, 2005 10:36 am

hornbill wrote:Do you think it's better to go for the sunset drive from 4.30 p.m. for about 3 hours or for the night drive which is from 8.00 p.m. for about 2 hours?

We'll be at Satara this weekend and I can't decide which to do :?


Hi hornbill. I have to be honest here and say that I have not been on a nightdrive for a looong time. I was on several recent sunset drives. I was actually under the impression that nightdrives were replaced by sunset ones untill recently finding out that it depends from what camp you attend.

I really enjoy the sunset alot more. You get to drive that magic hour and then it spills over into the night. Honestly, the more time you can spend in the bush on a drive the better it is. Sunset for me!!

Another 3 plusses is that it will give you enough time for a braai afterwards. Many animals become active just as the sun sets. and the sunset from a special place in the PArk other than the camps are always special.
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Unread post by arks » Fri Jun 09, 2006 9:38 pm

TXDrifter wrote:What kind of vehicles are used for the sunset drives? Is it easy to see and take pictures? How many people would a vehicle typically hold?

Thanks, only 84 more days to go. 8)

The smaller vehicles, used generally at bush camps, hold 10, and the larger ones hold @20 people. It's generally pretty easy to see and take pix, especially if you get an "outside" seat. You may also be asked to help operate a spotlight, but plenty of consideration is usually given to those trying to take pix.
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Unread post by bert » Sun Jun 25, 2006 7:22 pm

Elsa wrote:I am not sure how pleasant it would be in Winter as it would be extremely cold on the back of an open vehicle that late at night.


Very true
Dont forget gloves, windbreaker and something to cover your head.

Same goes for the morning walks and drives.
1st hour is cold

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Unread post by Bush Baptist » Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:42 pm

scholes1313 wrote:Hello . does anyone know if you can go on any of the camp drives or walks from Morela and Balula? I was just hoping that the drives and walks from Orpen and Olifants camps will pick up from these camps.


The night drive vehicle from Orpen picks up visitors from Marula and Tamboti and drops them off again afterwards.
I presume the walks are the same, as the camps are only 2 km apart.
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:42 am

Just to explain a bit...

If you wanna see nocturnal life then obviously the night drive is the way to go. In general, animals are far more comfy with vehicles in Kruger, thus you will get closer to the hairy and scary stuff on a night drive then whilst on foot.

Walks are there to experience the smaller things and scenery you tend to miss out on when driving around in a car.

The two areas differ vastly as well. Lower Sabie has a perennial river which Satara does not have. So the sightings of animals may differ. Both are very good for the main predators though.
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Unread post by Mgoddard » Mon Apr 16, 2007 6:52 am

You are right, you can book a 10 seater if you have a private party of less than 10. I have booked this at PK before, but not sure if all camps do this, and the price was roughly R25 more per person. Check with the camp itself.


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