Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 12

13 January 2018

Last night I said, “You’re doing so well being ready to leave camp by 6:00 am.  Tomorrow is our second last day in the park. Let’s try to get out even earlier than usual.”

“What do you call early?” asked Shan suspiciousy.

“The gate opens at 4:30 – but let’s say 5 or 5:30?

Two pairs of eyes looked at me in horrified disbelief.  “Why?” they asked.

“Because you’re more likely to get the animals in active mode early in the morning.  Lions spend 20 hours a day sleeping in the shade under trees. The chances of seeing them active in the morning is increased if you get out there nice and early.”

They reluctantly agreed.

It took a while to get them to wake up this morning and Simon said, “Gran, how can you do this to me!” But we managed to get out of the gate just after 5:00 am.  Dawn was golden on the horizon and the kids’ cameras were clicking away at the seldom seen, awesome sight.


Simon took this one through the side mirror of the car


The hippos were having an early morning swim


This chap seemed happy to see us

We took the S128 and then joined up with the H4-1 to Tshokwane.  After a few minutes the early rising caught up with Simon and after taking a photo of some buffalo he gave up and fell asleep!


He woke with a start when Shan called out –  Elephant! and one was right next to his window. Then a really big one stepped into the road behind the car and decided to follow us.  This caused shrieks of “Drive, Grandpa, Drive!”  from both kids.  “Nah,” said Grandpa “I’ll let him catch up first and then drive!”  The kids thought this might be fun and encouraged him to wait till he was really close but Gran reprimanded him. “Don’t you dare be a hero – you never know what he might do!”   Nervous laughter from the kids before they started yelling for him to drive again!


The big boy just wanted to follow us

Simon fell asleep again but after the next sighting sleep was impossible.  The early rising was paying off.


Two young lions playing


We counted six of them but found out later there were 12 but some were hidden


This chap pulled the bark off the tree and played with it


Such a handsome lion

We watched these lions playing for a little while and then went on as breakfast was calling.

A car was parked at the next turnoff and we almost rode straight past when Grandpa yelled – oops – Lion!


A honeymoon coupe!


She looked sleepy


But The King had other ideas


People are watching – to find a room of course


And she did – well a sort of private spot anyway.

“The children’s education is complete,”  I said.

“What do you mean, Gran,”  said Shan

“That we now know how lions mate!”  said Simon.

Four of the Big Five before breakfast!  Yes getting out early certainly paid off this morning!

But wait, there’s more!   The occupants of the car who had the honeymoon coupe first had moved on ahead of us and were parked next to a tree. They pointed out a Verreaux’s Eagle-owl.  Great!


Tshokwane serves the best coffee in Kruger and we were ready for ours when we arrived there shortly after our lovely morning.

On our return trip we revisited the honey moon couple and continued to enjoy the regulars.  The birding was good too.  The best was seeing ground hornbill again.

It was almost midday when we arrived back at camp.

Simon has struck up a friendship with the boys camping next to us.  All the kids had a great afternoon at the pool.


We went out again for a short drive at 4 pm.  Nothing too exciting crossed our path but after the morning’s excitement we were content to enjoy the regulars.

Tomorrow is our last full day in The Park.  We will spend our last night at Berg en Dal and then leave early on Monday morning.




Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 11

12 January 2018

The weather is once again hot in The Kruger National Park with temperatures reaching the mid thirties.

This morning for our  drive we drove to Crocodile Bridge Camp.  There were lots of the usual animals about and we got four of the Big Five.   Four rhino were quite far away so we didn’t take a photo.  There were a few elephant sightings but as we have many ellie photos we didn’t take of them either.   The same goes for buffalo which we saw from camp and from the bridge.  There is no restaurant at this Gate Camp but you can get coffee from a kiosk and ready made sandwiches, pies, muffins etc from the shop.  In the past we have enjoyed their pies but today there were none available so we settled for sandwiches which were also very good.

These are the highlights from this morning’s drive.


A Bateleur finally posed for a half decent photograph


The veld was littered with Impala – The kids now call them litter!


A wildebeest resting in the shade


Donkeys in striped pajamas everywhere


A flotilla of white-faced ducks with a female knob-billed duck in the foreground


An emerald-spotted wood-dove


Wild Dog about to settle down in the shade for a midday nap


But we disturbed their peace


Such gorgeous creatures


Yes – It’s hot!

When we got back to camp our neighbours told us about lions just three km from the bridge so we went in search of them.


They were asleep under a tree quite far from the road but The King got up and stared at us


Then flopped down again


At the bridge we got this lovely Goliath Heron

We chilled in camp for most of the afternoon and then went out again for a short drive from 4 o’clock to 6 o’clock.  The Amur falcons and  rollers were flocking together and hawking insects which was really interesting to watch.


Rollers hawking insects

Here are the other highlights of our afternoon drive


Southern White-crowned Shrike


Burchell’s Coucal


Snake-eagle with a reptile of some sort – see the tail

When we got back the kids went for a swim with the neighbour’s kids and later Simon went on another night hike and saw hyaena from the restaurant deck.

It was a beautiful evening and we had a braai.    It was after nine before we were ready for bed.


Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 9

The wind died down last night and did not blow us all away to Oz. We all had a good night’s sleep but the effects of early rising for the past week have taken its toll on our teenage grandchildren.  It took a while to coax them out of the tent this morning and it was after six before we went off for our morning drive.


Shan was out of it for the first hour of the day!!

We did a short morning drive along the S100, checked out the Leopard/Hyaena kill and then went back to camp.  These are the highlights:-

Vultures were feasting on the leftovers of the leopard’s kill.


We also found some white storks. I imagine they’d just made a delivery of babies to some Park Parents.IMG_2084

We  found a spot where there was a Painted Snipe, Grey Heron, African Black Crake and Fish Eagle.


Painted Snipe


Fish Eagle

Some other birding delights of the day were:-


Finally I got a half decent photo of a Magpie Shrike


Carmine bee-eaters


Amur Falcon

Then we had an encounter with a bull elephant in musth.   He owned the road and just kept coming toward us.  “Reverse, Grandpa!”  yelled the kids.  “We’re going to die!”  moaned Shannon.   “Tell my parents I love them!’


Slightly scary when a giant heads straight for your vehicle

While they were freaking out they both kept their cameras trained on the scene videoing the drama.  There were other cars on the road too and we all just gave the Elllie his space and reversed until he decided he’d had enough fun and went off into the bush.

The commentary on the video was hilarious.  “I don’t know who will see this but at least you will know how I died.   This is freaking terrifying!   Grandpa – reverse faster.  (chuckles from Grandpa)  Don’t worry kids he’s not angry he won’t do anything. (from Grandma)  That’s was the last crushed people said (from Shan)   Lots of nervous laughter.

It all lasted about three minutes and when it was over the kids said – Man that was scary! – But really we were in no danger.   This was no angry, charging elephant.

Back at camp we had breakfast and spent a few hours chilling before going out again at 3.   It was not a very exciting afternoon – probably just as well after the morning drama.  The highlight was coming across a mommy hyaena with cubs


I was also thrilled to get the African Hawk Eagle


The weather was cold again today but by this evening we could see that it was clearing.   The Earl cooked a chicken casserole for supper.  An elephant passed by the fence. He was so silent that had the neighbours not alerted us we would not have seen him.   It is such fun being close to the fence.


Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 8

What a night!!  The wind got up and blew all night rocking the caravan and preventing us from getting a decent amount of sleep.  There was thunder and lightening too but no rain.   This morning Shan and Simon looked totally wrecked.  “I thought the tent was going to be blown away with me in it never to be seen again!’  she complained.  “Well, ” said I ” You would just have been taken off to the Land of Oz and there you would have met a lion with no courage so you’d have been perfectly safe!”   She was not amused.

“Tonight I’m sleeping in your bed!”  said Si.

Well I was actually waiting for that to happen but no little bodies found there way in.  They were too scared to move!   I did peep through my window to see if they were okay and all seemed well and it seems they did survive!

We left camp closer to 7 than 6 this morning.  It was still blowing and it was overcast and much cooler than yesterday which was a relief.  But the wind was still hectic.  Travelling in the car was more comfortable than staying at the campsite!  We did a short loop, returned for breakfast which Grandpa cooked and then went straight out again, taking our left overs with us for lunch.

On our Before Breakfast Drive we had some lovely sightings of the usual gang but these are the highlights.

We saw first one bull elephant and then another.

Why had it got chunks out of its ears, Shan wanted to know.   And why is the one tusk so worn out.

The wear and tear on the tusks is from using it to dig and if the elephant is right dominant the right tusk will be more worn than the left and vice versa.  I’m not sure but many of them do.


The second bull, though, had ears and tusks in good condition.  That’s because he takes care of himself and brushes with Colgate – I joked.


Simon earned more points by spotting brown hooded parrots for us.


Giraffe entertained us at regular intervals


A red-crested korhaan caught a juicy grasshopper for breakfast


A turtle out of water – probably seeking a new pond.

After breakfast we planned on doing a long loop but we were too tired to finish it so took a short cut home.  It was a good choice as we had some lovely sightings on the changed route.

We saw a jeep jockey stopped on the side of the road and asked him what they were looking at.  “A tortoise,” he said.  “But 1km from here you will find  some ‘nice’ lions.

“Drive,”  Grandpa, “Drive!”  yelled the kids.   Much to their disgust Grandpa took off very slowly.  Just look for cars, he said.  Then you’ll know we’ve found them.  Simon saw the cars first and then spotted a sleeping lion some distance before the group of cars and a little way off next to a waterhole.


First a back view – but it was a male which was a good sign


Then another male fast asleep


And another

We moved closer and found a good spot to see yet more male lions.  There were five altogether – a bachelor pride!


Good Morning Your Majesty

It was time to stop and stare.  I climbed over the seat and got the ice creams out of the car freezer.

IMG_1720Why did I get the deformed one?  You all got healthy ones!

Shan decided to take a photograph of hers – Ice cream in the bush-veld.


“My grandparents stop for birds.  I stop for ice cream”

After enjoying our lion and ice cream we moved on and enjoyed some more birds


European Bee-eater

My favourite small antelope is the Steenbok.  They are usually solitary but sometimes mating pairs will be seen together.  This morning we got a pair.


They are very shy and try to hide


Mr Steenbok thinks I can’t see him


Mrs Steenbok showed herself

Soon after this we came upon another traffic jam.   “What do you think we will see?” I asked.   “Wild Dog.” said Simon.  “Cheetah!”  said Shan. “Lion” said Earl.  “Leopard.”  said I.

Simon saw them first and called – Wild Dog.  I saw them second and called Leopard.  Then I changed it to Cheetah. –  Shan was right!    Simon got 20 for spotting them first and Shan 10 for the right guess.

There were six on a kill – A mom and five almost fully grown cubs.  Shan had been dying to see cheetah and they were on my side of the car so I quickly swapped places with her so she could fully enjoy them.


Shan getting some good shots


It was quite a feast



These three had full tummies and were just resting

A driver in a car facing us wanted to leave and tried to start her car.  Uh oh – The battery was flat.  She was devastated and put her head on the steering wheel and looked like she was about to burst into tears.  Her companion too looked distressed.  I put my head out of the window and called, “Don’t worry!  As soon as we can my husband will help you.  We have jump leads.”   She put her hands together in thanks.   I think they were French tourists.

The cheetahs finished their meal and were getting restless.  The Earl opened the door  and climbed up to get the leads out of the box on top of the roof.  Simon and Shannon freaked.  “Grandpa – the cheetahs – they’ll eat you!”   “Don’t worry kids, the cheetahs’ tummies are full – they won’t want to eat a tough old man like Grandpa.”   Other tourists looked on in horror.  I indicated to them that the other car needed help and they all nodded in wonder.

The cheetahs looked on too and started to move away from their kill.  They kept a wary eye on The Earl and the young man from the other car but made no attempt to attack.  They were, I think, more afraid of them than they of the cheetahs.   If you zoom in on the photo you can see a blurred image of them staring at the goings on.


The Earl fetching the jump leads


Doing the necessary while the cheetahs look on

Some of the other tourists looked horrified that the assistance happened so near a group of predators, but they were far enough away for the two men to hop back into the cars if they approached.

When got back to camp at around two o’clock, our neighbour approached us.

“Have you done the S100?”  she asked.

“Only yesterday.” we replied.

“Well today a leopard killed a zebra near the waterhole.  Go quickly and you might see it.”

The kids were not keen to go out yet again and The Earl needed a nap so it was after 4 o’clock when we decided to see what was happening on the infamous S 100.   We couldn’t have timed it better.  We came upon the traffic jam at said waterhole.
“Surely the leopard won’t still be here.”  I said.

“It’s a hyaena!”  called Simon and he was right.  No sign of the leopard at all.  We managed to get a really nice position and had perfect views of the hyaena working away at the zebra kill.   In the trees and on the ground there were also vultures waiting anxiously for their turn to get at the carcass.




This zebra is rather delicious


The undertakers of the bush

The hyaena was really tucking in and we were enjoying the action when The Earl suddenly said, “Hey, I can see the leopard.”   And he carefully described where he saw some spots under a nearby tree.  How he spotted it, I do not know. It was simply a collection of spots with ears the twitched from time to time.  We couldn’t believe it!

“Why is the leopard allowing the hyaena to eat his dinner?”  the kids wanted to know.  We explained that this often happens to leopards. They make the kill and unless he gets it up a tree quickly other predators steal it from him.  He was clearly exhausted and lying under the tree unable to challenge the thief.

But after about half an hour something amazing happened.  The hyaena dragged part of the kill toward the tree where the leopard was lying.   As soon as he passed the spot, the leopard got up and went to the kill where he started eating, unchallenged by the thief.


Leopard returning to his kill


Tucking in to a lovely meal

Then to our immense surprise the hyaena left the piece he’d dragged away.  We expected to see a scuffle between the two predators but instead the leopard allowed the hyaena to join him at the table.   “A mixed species dinner date!’  said Shan.


Hyaena and Leopard sharing a meal!

This went on for some time and then the leopard left the table and went to chew on what Hyaena had left in front of the tree!

I wonder if these two creatures are friends.  Did Leopard say – Hey, Hyaena – You’re welcome to my zebra – it’s too much for one leopard.  You’ve got good teeth and jaws – make a start on it and I’ll join you later.

There certainly was no attempt by either to chase the other away.  They really were content to share.   Sharing, is after all, caring!   I just wonder if they ended up inviting the vultures to finish it off when they were done.  We didn’t have time to find out as gate closing time was fast approaching.   We were, however, thrilled to see what we did.


Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 7

8 January 2018

The past three day have been particularly HOT.  Today the mercury reached 43 degrees C.   Even the evenings are hot and we remain scantily dressed even outdoors.  This is a huge contrast to the cold and wet December we had in Kokstad!


Simon, still wet from a swim,  helping Grandpa with dinner last night

It is a 92 km drive from Skukuza to Satara.  We were packed up and ready to leave at 6:30 am and it was already hot.

Meet Roger – he travels everywhere with his friend Simon and keeps us all amused when the outdoor wildlife are hiding from view.


Roger dislikes confined spaces so holds on tightly to the roof and peaks at us through the window. He loves to let the wind blow through his fur.


His baboon cousins enjoy eating the fruit of the sausage tree


This guy has a huge appetite for them

We arrived at Satara around 10 ish and set up as quickly as we could in the heat of the day.  The only thing to do on a day like this is to find aircon or swim!  I took the kids to the pool while Grandpa napped then did the laundry.

We set off for a game drive just after three.  Hooray for modern motorcars with effective climate control.   The S100 is famous in The Kruger Park and usually produces excellent sightings.  We did see lots of plains animals but today the predators evaded us.


The highlight of the day was finding the rare and endangered Painted Snipe.   I spotted him with some other waders while watching bee eaters and kingfishers flying and dipping into the river.


Our camp is right next to the fence and this evening the kids were thrilled to spot a hyena walking past.   We hoped to get sites next to the fence in each camp but at this time of the year that is not easy as the best sites get snapped up very quickly.  We were lucky to get this spot and I’m glad that the kids will experience being closer to the wildlife at night.

Tomorrow, we’re hoping it will be a little cooler – even a thunderstorm to cool things down would be welcome.


Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 5

6 January 2018

Our day started with a bit of drama.  We were late getting into the car and were just leaving camp when I realised that my binoculars were missing.  They must be in the caravan – we must go back and so we did – but they were nowhere to be seen.  Last night I’d left my handbag on the table outside the caravan.  Nothing had been taken.  How could my binoculars be gone!   I was almost in tears as we set off without them. Then just before exiting through the gate The Earl missed his wallet.  Oh no!  We raced back to the caravan and I dashed in to retrieve it – and YES – My binoculars were hiding there too!   They were under a towel that I hadn’t noticed in my first search!

It was 6:30 and we were headed toward Tshokwane.

Simon – still in the lead with his sightings scores – did not let us down.  He kept on spotting birds and animals for an hour or so and then he began to fade.  What was wrong?  A tummy ache, I fear.  We almost turned back but he insisted that he would be okay. He would just have a sleep in the car.  The only thing that cheered him up was when we came upon a clan of hyenas on a kill. They were not easy to see because of the trees but they were close enough for us to enjoy.

Soon after that we arrived at Tshokwane and Simon ate a Greek Salad and perked up considerably for the rest of the morning.

We returned to camp at about 11:30 and the kids went swimming, Gramps had a nap and I did the laundry.  After lunch and chores were done we all went back to the pool.


Here are the highlights of our morning.


10 Points to Grandpa for getting me this Jacobin Cuckoo


Little Bee-eater – A 10 for Simon


Ellies having fun


Ten for Shan – Goliath Heron



Beware of the Spelling Police – a misprint on our calling card

Uh Oh -What’s an eliphant?  when you order breakfast at Tshokwane they give you an animal card and call it’s name when it’s ready.


Cries of disgust when I told the kids that Marabou Storks pee on their legs to keep cool

They also were a tad horrified at it’s habits.   They stab flamingos in their backs then drown them before dismembering and eating them – No way, Gran!


Klipspringers mate for life – Just like Gran and Grandp

Klipspringers mark their territory with the scent gland below its eyes.   These two are clearly a pair.   They would make sure no other of their species enter their territory.


White backed vulture drying its wings



On a river bridge – a lovely pied kingfisher


Shan got me my favourite bee-eater – 10 points to her!

After cooling off in the pool, tidying the caravan and sorting out the washing we set off for a short afternoon drive.

We found frolicking zebra, plenty of impala, elephants, wildebeest and lots of birds


A happy heffalump


A very cute baby Vervet Monkey


Mommy will take care of me!

We were about to turn left when we noticed some stationary cars to the right so decided to check out what they were looking at.  At first we saw nothing and asked the occupants of a car what they’d seen.  They didn’t have binoculars and said there was an animal over there!  Simon spotted it immediately.


A lazy leopard taking an afternoon nap

After waiting 10 minutes for it to wake up we gave up and headed toward Lake Panic.   Once again we saw some stationary cars.   What can you see?


Hyena napping under a bush.

We’ve visited Lake Panic many times before and it has always been exciting. Today I said to Shan – It’s a bit quiet here today – not much happening.  At the end of an hour she said – So this is what you call quiet!  Well if you don’t know the place ….  No – Lake Panic never disappoints.


White faced ducks and a jacana


Walking on water – Daddy Jacana


Green-backed heron


Daddy Jacana takes the chicks under his wing


Baby Jacana

Just before entering the gate at Skukuza we spotted The Three Little Pigs trotting up the road.


Warthogs on a mission

Because we stopped for them we noticed some lapwings – well camouflaged – and we almost dismissed them for common crowned lapwings.


Senegal Lapwing

The weather has been really hot with temperatures getting up to 38 degrees C.  Right now it is 10 pm and I am sitting outdoors without a fleece.  It is bliss.

The past five days have been lovely but by 8 the kids are exhausted and so are we!   Tomorrow we will have a rest day!


Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 4

5 January 2018

Yesterday’s scores were as follows – Simon in the lead with 70 points.  Grandpa has 64 and Shannon 55.  Grandpa was annoyed as at first we scored him the higher score but Si reminded us that we hadn’t entered the Walk points which pushed him ahead. Grandpa hadn’t done the whole walk but he did score for creatures he saw first before he went back to the caravan and none were scored after that!

Today we moved to Skukuza Rest Camp.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures into the thirties.   Packing up the caravan and tent was fast and efficient and we left Berg en Dal at 6:20 and made our way quickly along the tar road arriving at 8:30.  We did not stop much along the way.

Check in at Skukuza was quick and efficient.  We found a campsite next to the swimming pool and an attendant came to help us set up.   We were done quickly and then walked to the shop for ice cream.   It was really hot!  We decided to rest and swim and only to go out after 1 pm.  We were pretty sure the animals would be sleeping in the shade and not showing themselves in the middle of the day.


Shan enjoying the water – Simon kept hiding from the camera

After the kids and I swam and Grandpa napped we set off to see what we could find.  Today turned out to have long stretches with absolutely no sightings – not even a bird!  Of course there were some interesting things and we were thrilled to get the following:


Black shouldered kite


White-headed Vulture


The monkeys had the kids in fits of laughter



The baboons behave like humans!


Elephants are always fun


The oddest duck ever – Knob-billed duck

Usually it’s okay to do the distance but today it was really hot and the ‘dry spells’ of no sightings began to work on the patience of the un-caged kids in the back seat.   Concentration was lost, giggling and high jinks took it’s place.   How much longer became the plaintive cry.   And then — up ahead a traffic jam.   A naughty tourist was sitting on the roof of her car – Her binoculars were trained on something in the distance.  We were next to a river with a rocky bank.  “There are supposed to be lions here,” she said.  “But I can’t see them.”   Well if from her vantage point she couldn’t, what chance would we have.  We asked some others and they too said they’re here but out of sight.

Grandpa tried to maneuver the car into a better position and then he said, “What’s that walking toward us!”

All attention went from the elusive lions to what suddenly appeared and we were the first to see him!


The leopard was quite unconcerned about the interest paid to him by the tourists

We watched this magnificent creature of the wild nonchalantly walking past the cars.  He stopped to sniff and spray and mark his territory and the excitement caused was phenomenal. It was 15 minutes to gate closing time so once we’d absorbed the sighting we made our way quickly back to camp.  What a great way to end our day.