2

Kruger National Park – Day 24

3 December 2017

We bade farewell to Pat and Tony this morning and they made their way through the park for a few hours before leaving for Witbank where they are spending the night.

The Earl and I decided to have a rest day and do a few things in camp.   Isn’t it great that each rest camp has a laundry with coin operated washing machines and dryers?   Just two five rand coins;  and half an hour later my bed linen was washed and ready for the dryer.  In went the next two coins. I pressed the start button – nothing!  Oh no!  Had it been clothes I could have made a plan to hang it out but Kingsize bed linen – Noooooo.  So I rang the duty manager and within minutes two charming young technicians arrived to sort out my problem.   “It took my money but it won’t work,”  I said sadly.

‘We’re here to help,” they said scratching their heads.  Then one unlocked the machine with a key, did something miraculous and hey presto the dryer started!  “What did you do?” I asked.  “‘Magic,” he replied.

I then put a load of clothing on while the linen dried and when that was done the clothes were ready for the dryer.  By 9:30 I’d done the laundry, cleaned the caravan, watched some birds and had a swim.

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Green-winged pytilia – otherwise known as a melba finch

The Earl and I then went to the restaurant for breakfast.  By this time the temperature was rising but it was cool relaxing on the deck under the trees.  The birding was good too,

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The white-fronted bee-eaters were very active

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The marsh sandpiper was as busy as ever

After sorting out banking and email on his laptop The Earl had a nap and then we did a two hour drive next to the river to Nkulu Picnic Site and back.  The trip there was very quiet with little to see except impala.   On the way back though, the animals seemed to have woken from their naps,

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I rather like this scene of elephant, fish eagle and water buck sharing the facilities

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He’s not called a water buffalo for nothing

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This is the way to travel

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Why are these people staring, Mum?

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I really need a manacure – no time with all this childcare

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Two beautiful male Nyala greeted us

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This elephant was right next to my window

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Aren’t I a handsome chap!

It was too hot to cook tonight so we went to the Cattle Baron Take-Away and got chicken wraps and I made a Greek salad.  A perfect ending to a very hot day!

 

5

Kruger National Park – Day 23

2 December 2017 –

We haven’t seen cats for a few days and were feeling a little restless about it as it’s Tony and Pat’s last full day in The Park.   It would be nice to get one last sighting of a predator for them.

I suggested we drive to Tshokwane for breakfast because lions and leopard had been seen in that area.   Everybody agreed.

Before we left camp we found this chap foraging on the neighboring campsite.

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White-throated Robin-Chat

We drove the scenic route along the river and took all the loops we could.

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Frisky male impala were butting heads and interlocking horns – it seemed more play than serious rivalry

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A hippo still out grazing before going back into the water for the day

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The Earl aways gets a fright when these giants suddenly appear and cross in front of him

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These gentle waterbuck said a cheery good morning

There was a lull in sightings when all of a sudden we jerked to attention.  Something was crossing the road ahead of us.  Leopard, cheetah – No LION!   We all got an eyeful of her and then she was gone.  Maybe some more would follow and cross over too.  We waited a few minutes but nobody came.  Just a little ahead we saw a stationary car.  As we approached I saw them – lion lying under a tree.  A farewell gift for our friends,

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The other car left and we had them to ourselves for a while. Suddenly another lion appeared and then two of them got up together to change position and flop down again

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What an awesome sighting.  But wait – there’s more.  We drove on a little further and spotted two more lionesses lying on a log. There was a lot of foliage blocking them so we didn’t get photos but enjoyed seeing them get up and stretch before settling back down again.

We were thrilled at this sighting which was just before we got to our breakfast stop.  At Tshokwane we were amused when this pied barbet settled on a plate and himself to scraps!  I’ve never seen a barbet do that before.

IMG_8272On our return we concentrated on bird watching and enjoyed seeing a common duiker, giraffe and zebra.   As we approached the lion spot a car stopped us and said there were male lions up ahead.   Our females had left but these boys had settled in close by to where they had been. The one remained asleep but the other gave us a bit of entertainment.

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Why did you wake me up?

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Oh how tiresome – yawn, yawn!

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Don’t you know a lion needs 20 hours of sleep per day?

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Oh well – while I’m up i might as well have a scratch

When we came to the place where we expected to find a leopard on the rocks, we got a klipspringer instead!

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We decided to take a long midday break as it was really hot again today.  We swam in the pool a few times and only went to Lake Panic later in the afternoon for an hour.  I would be quite happy to spend an entire day in this hide as even on a slow day interesting things happen.  You have to sit very quietly in a hide and at first you might think there is nothing there but when you really look you start to see things. It took a while for us to notice that a Jacana at the far end of the pond had four chicks that must have been just out of their eggs.  Father Jacana looks after the kids while Mom goes off to find another mate and another nest in which to lay her eggs.

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Father Jacana wtching his young

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Squacco Heron fishing

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Pied Kingfisher with is prey

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We heard the Water Thick-knees before we them

Once again it was a perfect evening and just as we were enjoying Magnum Ice-creams for dessert I heard a rustle at the paper packet that we use for a bin. I yelled and it ran away. I suspected it was a honey badger but I caught sight of something smaller.  African wild cat perhaps?  The cheeky creature came back again and Pat said – shine your torch on it which I did and saw it was a bushbaby!.  At that moment Pat and Tony’s daughter was Skyping from New Zealand.  Chaos ensued as we raced to see if we could find the intruder.  We found him behind the caravan on the branch of a tree.  He wasn’t at all concerned and just stared at us from his safe vantage point.  Tony was able to show his daughter, Maria, the naughty creature.

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Sorry Bushbaby – We’re not the type of campers who hand out leftovers! Go find your own food!

Sadly tonight is the last one in the park for P&T as tomorrow they will make their way back home.  We still have a few more days before heading back to Kokstad.

2

Kruger National Park – Day 22

1 December 2017 – Transport Dam and Lake Panic

What is it that brings one back to the Kruger National Park time and time again?  For many it’s the thrill of seeing the Big Five – Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino.  And yes – there’s not doubt that these creatures as well as hyena, jackal, wild dog and cheetah give one an enormous thrill.  But that’s not what brings me back for more.  It’s more than that – it’s being in the bush, communing with nature, the trees, the peace the whole vibe of the place and especially the birds.   I love to sit at a waterhole or dam and observe the activity of the waders, the weavers, herons and kingfishers.  I can’t put into words how awesome it is. I know that some people raise their eyebrows and shake their heads and wonder what I’m on about – but I can’t help it.  Put me in a hide for three hours and I will be content to just sit and watch and take in the peace and tranquility of it all.

Today was awesome.  Let me tell you about it.  But if your eyes have already glazed over -don’t worry – I won’t be offended if you do not read – this blog is for those who are as bird nerdy as I am!

Omigosh – as I sit here outside my caravan at 21:06 on the balmiest if evenings I hear the distant sound of a hyena calling.  This is what it’s like in the middle of the African Bush!  But back to today’s story.

I woke to the sound of the “Piet my Vrou” at 5:00 am this morning.   This cuckoo – the red-chested cuckoo to be precise calls incessantly in the summertime but is almost impossible to find as he hides so well in the foliage of the trees.  However, as I emerged from my caravan to go to the showers, wrapped in nothing but my sarong I spotted said cuckoo atop a dead tree in full view and full song!   The early morning light is not good for photography and I thought – No – I don’t think this is worth a photograph but when I got to the ablutions I dumped my vanity bag, clothes and towel and dashed back to the caravan for the camera.  “Patricia, ”  I called outside my friend’s tent.  “The Piet my Vrou  is in full view.  Come quickly and you will see her.”  I then took several photographs, put my binoculars outside her tent as she couldn’t find hers and headed to the showers.

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An early morning shot of a Red Chested Cuckoo – “Piet my Vrou”

When I was done I found a forlorn Patricia Mary.  “I missed it by a second,” said she. “As i raised the binoculars to see him he flew away!”  The problem was that P.M. had dallied over putting on some clothes instead of coming out half naked to see the elusive bird!  But me?  I have no pride!  And if anybody saw a mad old woman in a sarong taking photos of an irritating bird calling at some ungodly hour and they didn’t like it – tough – I got my shot and that is all I wanted.  For those of you reading who do not know the South African Birds – The call of the red-chested cuckoo sounds like the Afrikaans words – Piet my vrou meaning  Pete my wife.   Yes, I know it makes no sense at all.

Before we left for our morning drive we watched some little birds flitting about in the trees and were pleased to add bronze manikin to our list although the photograph is not worth publishing!

Choosing which bird is my favourite is very difficult because there are so many that I just love to see.  But I definitely get a huge thrill every time I see a Saddle-Billed Stork so if pressed I would have to say that this is my favourite bird.  Usually we spot them at some distance away in a pond or river but today we were hugely surprised to find on on the side of the road.   She was alone, clicking her bill and hunting morsels to eat.  She was not at all bothered by our presence and we were able to observe her for quite some time, first on the right side of the road and then crossing to the left where there was a midden.  A dung beetle was busy doing his cleaning up job when his life came to a sudden end as Mrs SBS gobbled him up!

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Our route took us to Afsaal Picnic Site where we stopped for breakfast.  On the way we spotted some of our favourite creatures

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What big tusks you have

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This carnivorous snail is a big chap 

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Pearl breasted Swallow at the Afsaal

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A lovely welcome from Tindlovu Rustic Kitchen at Afsaal

Afsaal is a busy stop but we were impressed with its efficiency.  You can queue for take-aways or sit at a table and a waitron will take your order.  We chose the latter and were highly impressed with our waitress.  We dithered over our order and she treated us with patience and humour.   The Earl said something annoying and I smacked him playfully.  She looked at me in horror and rubbed his hand.  Then we all burst out laughing.   Finally she sorted out our whims and fancies and brought us a most enjoyable breakfast.

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Our sassy waitress, Mpumi

Feeling fortified with food and content with our experience we continued on to Transport Dam.  On the way we saw buffalo

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And stopped for a loo break at Pretoriouskop

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Beautiful Coral Tree

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Ellie cooling off at Transport Dam

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White-faced ducks

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Wood Sandpiper

On our way to Skukuza we spotted a few regulars

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Steenbok

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Giraffe

It was very hot today and so we swam in the pool during our rest time and then Pat and I did a load of washing at the laundrette before we all went off to Lake Panic for our afternoon outing.  This hide never disappoints.  We spent an hour or so enjoying the business of nature going on before our eyes.

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Nyala Males were having a drink and a play-fight – or were they serious?

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A three-banded plover popped in for a while

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There was great entertainment from green-backed herons

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And Squacco Herons

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Terrapins sunned themselves

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Mr (below) and Mrs Pied Kingfisher fished

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A paradise fly-catcher dipped in and out of the water for a bath and a drink.

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Hippos conversed

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A shy female nyala or three came down for a quick drink too

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And two fish eagles loudly declared their love for each other

This was the best part of our day but reluctantly we had to leave.

Just before returning to camp we spotted this guy crossing the road.  He scuttle off into the bush but not before turning around to say good evening.

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Spotted Hyena ended our day

This evening we treated ourselves to an evening out to dinner at The Cattle Baron and it was awesome. Once again we had a smart, sassy waitress who took excellent care of our needs.  It was a perfect ending to a stunning day.

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2

Kruger National Park – Day 21

30 November 2017 Lower Sabie to Skukuza

It’s hard to believe that we have been in the park for three weeks now.  Each day has had something special and we are still loving every moment.   We now have the pack up and go routine totally sussed and everything went smoothly for our departure to Skukza this morning.  Pat’s hand is very much better and she felt that she could cope helping Tony with their tent but The Earl insisted on giving a hand – we don’t want her using her wrist too much and causing it more damage!

We hit the tar road at 6:45 and Pat and Tony took the scenic route.   Our first road block – elephants of course.  This photograph is taken through the windscreen but I couldn’t resist the cuteness of the baby rolling on the tar.

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Skukuza is only 35 km from Lower Sabie on the tar road and we did not stop for much as we just wanted to get to camp to set up.  We were just done when Tony phoned to say they had arrived. We met them at reception and took them to our site.  They decided not to join us for brekkie as it looked like rain and they wanted to set up before it came.

The Earl and I went to The Cattle Baron and sat under the Sycamore Fig enjoying the ambience. The service today was slow but when you’re in Africa you don’t really care.  When we finally got our eggs and bacon it was delicious – and the coffee was good.   While we were waiting we watched the starlings, weavers and sparrows in the tree and then The Earl said, “Hey there’s a green pigeon.”  Our first for this trip!  Where had they been hinding?

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This elusibe Green Pigeon and three others posed beautifully for us

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The spectacled weaver has a quizical look

Today was more of a rest day as it turned out to be quite hot – the rain never came.  We took a short afternoon drive and these were the highlights.

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Golden Breasted Bunting – he sang beautifully

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Trumpeter Hornbill

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Dung Beetle cleaning up the bush – such an amazingly hard worker

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Dark form Wahberg’s Eagle – I think

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A useful tool is the elephant’s trunk

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Can’t resist the cuteness

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What was he thinking getting right into the tree

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Yellow-billed hornbill

This might sound repetitive – but it was a braai again tonight.  Honestly there’s no better way to eat in the bush!

4

Kruger National Park – Day 19

28 November 2017 – Even The Bad Days Are Good So Long As I Am In Kruger

No two days in a game reserve are ever the same.  Some days the creatures appear around every corning and the adrenaline pumps all day long as one predator sighing after another pops up.  On others you can drive for miles through beautiful countryside but with hardly a sign of life and you wonder if Scotty has beamed the wildlife up from the earth and then all of a sudden they’re there again and you once again exclaim in awe and wonder at the sight of gentle impala or strikingly beautiful zebra.

We started off early this morning on the H4-1 and enjoyed some good birding and saw all the regulars.  We took several loops until we came to Skukuza where we had breakfast at The Cattle Baron which overlooks the Sabie River.  It is an awesome venue.

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The Jacobin Cuckoo

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Who can resist all this cuteness?

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Always great to see the red-crested korhaan

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Red-billed Oxpeckers grooming a kudu

After breakfast The Earl said he would not take me to my favourite hide – Lake Panic – as our next camp would be Skukuza and we would have five days to spend there!   But then he told our friends that  he might have a grumpy wife for a few hours so stopped there anyway!  What a brilliant spot.  I could have stayed there all day.  The lesser masked weavers were busy with nest building, the African Black Crake was busy seeking snacks, a squacco hero fished and so did a green-backed heron.  We saw several pied kingfishers and a little malachite as well.

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Lesser-Masked Weaver

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Female Pied Kingfisher

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Male Pied Kingfisher

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Green-backed Heron

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Expert at fishing

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Squacco Heron

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All fluffed up

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A terrapin is always fun to see

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Mom and baby hippo

It was an elephant day today and although we’ve seen many we still get a thrill with each new heard we encounter.

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Suddenly the hills were alive with elephants

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They came down and surrounded us

Later we came upon a huge herd, quietly marching through the trees to a waterhole.  It’s quite scary when they wave their trunks at you, trumpet loudly and then pass you by with a nonchalant gait.

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At the waterhole

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Getting the hang of using that trunk

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A friendly play fight – or not?

Some of the animals we meet are remarkable human

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I’m safe here with Mom

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How adorable is that!

Yes – even a quiet day in Kruger is thrilling.

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2

Kruger National Park – Day 17

26 November 2017 – Satara to Lower Sabie

After the rain during the night, we thought we might have a wet pack-up this morning but although it was still overcast and cool the rain held off.  And by the afternoon the temperature rose to 35 degrees C.

We packed up, hitched the caravan, helped P&T with their tent and were on the H1-3 by 6:40 am.   P&T did some loops but we like to stick to the tar roads when we’re towing. The plan was to meet them at Tshokwane for breakfast.

Usually the tar roads are a little boring regarding sightings but today we were lucky.

At Punda Maria we’d seen the crested guineafowl which are not as common as the helmeted guineafowl and today the first one for the trip turned up.

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Elephants crossed in front of us and showed us their bums.

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I have been looking  for the weird and wonderful knob-billed duck and today he turned up in an unexpected place

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Knob-billed duck perched on top of a dead tree

Then we came upon a road block of cars and caravans

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A mating pair of lions

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Just having a break

We managed to get through the crush of cars and continued until the next road block!

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We made it to this spot just in time as the leopard was on the move and soon disappeared into the bush.  This was just 1km from the picnic site.

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Tshokwane Picnic Site

The Tshokwane picnic site serves a delicious Early Bird breakfast of egg, bacon and tomato with toast for only R25.   Coffee, of course, is extra but it is the best coffee in the park!   Pat and Tony caught up to us just as we put our order in and they ordered the same.   Should you ever find yourselves in KNP and at this picnic site, be aware that there is a huge problem with monkeys and baboons.  Guard your food!

On the remainder of the trip we continued to have some lovely sightings.

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A Zebra Crossing

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European Roller

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Elephants decorating the hillside

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Elephants scaring The Earl silly

We arrived at camp at around 11 am and got set up and then had a rest.  Pat and Tony arrived at 2 after taking the scenic route.

We all went out together again for short drive at 4 pm.  The birding was good first on the bridge overlooking the Sabie River.

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Giant Kingfisher

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Mommy Egyptian Goose with goslings

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Opened-bill Storks

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Catching something tasty

Then we went to the famous Sunset Dam.  We saw some special birds but with the sun setting photography was difficult.

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I managed a good shot of the white crowned lapwing

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Sunset Dam

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Pied Kingfisher admiring the sunset

It was a perfect evening our sweet husbands did a splendid braai for supper

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Thanks Guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Kruger National Park – Day 16 – Satara

25 November 2017 – An Awesome Day

After yesterday’s heat we woke to rain this morning – very welcome as The Park is dry and they need their rains.  It was also quite cold but nothing dampens ones spirits when in The Park.  A Bad Day in Kruger is still better than a Good Day at home.

By 6:35 we were exploring the H7.   As usual we stopped for every interesting bird.  We saw common waxbill flitting about and while we were enjoying them we heard the familiar clicks and then kyip, kyip kyip – the call of the Red-Crested Korhaan.  Then we saw him strutting across the road.   He then flew up and tumbled down free-fall style.  What an awesome bird.  We expected he was showing off for a female but she was clearly not interested as she remained hidden.

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Next to pop up unexpectedly was this chap.

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We saw the usual suspects too, elephant, zebra, kudu etc  before turning onto the S39.  This drive was good too and we found a tawny eagle and some vultures.   As we trundled along we saw two cars alongside of each other up ahead.  “Either they’re friends having a chat about their next route or the one is telling the other what he has seen.  I bet it’s a leopard,” said I.
As we approached, the one pulled away and parked in front. The other indicated that we should take his place.  ” If you look carefully – you will see a leopard,” he told us. We looked but couldn’t see anything so went ahead a little way and watched some birds.  The second car left but the first remained.  He must still have it we thought so we reversed to take another look.  Oh Wow.  There he was – quite a big male but still well hidden under the tree.

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Oh those wild eyes

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J need my rest, you know

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Here’s looking at you, kid!

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How long are you planning on staying ?

Reluctantly we left the scene to let the next car have a chance and soon reached Timbavati Picnic site where we hired a skottel and cooked breakfast.  It was raining a bit but we were quite dry under the thatch shelters.

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Our return trip produced more hyena and lovely birds but it was raining so photography was a bit difficult.  Back at camp we had a rest. At 3:30 I went to see if Pat and Tony were awake – they weren’t so I told The Earl that we should skip an afternoon drive.  But when they woke at 4 they were still keen to go out  and so at 4:30 we hit the S100.  I had a strange feeling that something exciting would turn up and Pat voiced the same thought.

Sure enough we got a lovely surprise. We found the occupants of two vehicles staring into the distance.   We could just see the flick of a tail and a twitch of an ear.   Another car approached and asked what there was.  We told her not much and then one of the lionesses got up and moved!  We then all go lovely views of her and the other one until they disappeared in the undergrowth again.  We thought we might find them on our return route but they were nowhere around.

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It was certainly worth going for that short drive to find our lions!

You would think camp cooking would be problematic when the weather is cold and wet.  But we were lucky.  The rain held off and we were quite content to sit under our canopy and enjoy a fabulous meal cooked once again by our Bush Master Chef.  It was a most delicious chicken and vegetable dish cooked on the Snappy Chef. (Induction Stove)

The resident hyenas patrolled past the fence quite frequently.  One actually stopped and stared at us as if to say – Please share your meal with me!  But of course we said – No way – go and hunt your own food!

It rained in the night and we expected a wet pack up the next morning!

 

0

Kruger National Park – Day 15 – Satara

24 November – Birds and Hyenas

There are no words to describe the thrill one has when one is woken in the night or early in the morning by the sounds of the bushveld.   We have heard the shrill laugh of the hyena the howl of the jackals and the roar of lions on several occasions since being in The Park.  This morning the hyenas were particularly vocal and urged me out of bed before 5 am. Pat had heard them and the lions too so was also up a the same rude hour.

We were meant to leave be out the gate by 6 am but it was a little after that before we hit the H1-3

First up was a zebra crossing and then a number of lovely bird sightings.

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African Harrier Hawk – getting his adult plumage

Soon we turned onto the H6

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A Swainson’s Spurfowl in full voice

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Purple Roller

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Isn’t the baby impala too cute

The H6 is famous for hyena sightings and we were not disappointed

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These two were on a mission

They were not the only two we saw – there were many lying fast asleep.  Clearly they’d had a hard night!

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These two opened weary eyes to check us out

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We also met up with wildebeest

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A handsome ostrich

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And this magnificent Martial Eagle

By 7:35 we’d turned onto the S37 where a herd of Impala scared The Earl silly by leaping in front of the car without warning.  Luckily we were going slowly as one must in a game reserve.

At 8:30 we got out at Sweni Hide and had a good time observing the activity there.

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A water buck and herd of impala came down to drink

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This yellow-billed stork sat on its haunches

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Then she lay right down.

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Perhaps standing on one leg gets a bit exhausting

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The grey heron walked post cranky crocodile without a care in the world

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And went to chat to the storks

 

Next we went to Sweni Picnic site which has a hide overlooking the river but there was not much to see.  However, we got a lovely puffback in the picnic area.

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Not easy to get this very vocal bird as he hides in the foliage.  Here he’s nicely puffed up.

We then followed the S41.  The birding was good

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We watched a bateleur catch and eat a mouse

Near the river we observed thousands of quelea swarming and hanging in the trees.  Pat suggested a good collective noun for them – A cloud of quelea.

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There were “Clouds” of Quelea everywhere

We then joined the S100 and had some good sightings along that route.

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Trumpeter Hornbill

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Great to get the pale form Wahburg Eagle

When he flew to another tree we saw this barn owl with its wings hanging down over the branch – very odd.

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Barn Owl acting strangely

We also enjoyed the giraffe and zebra

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We had planned to come back to camp for breakfast but only made it there by midday so instead went to The Rustic Kitchen for lunch.  Pat and I enjoyed a chicken salad and the men had chicken may toasties.

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We went out again at 4 pm and did the S100.

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This male waterbuck was very relaxed

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The Sabota Lark got some dinner

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A puffed up purple roller

It was cool this morning but  the temperature rose to 35 in the afternoon.  Pat and Tony cooked chicken kebabs, butternut and sweet potato on the braai which we served with a Greek Salad.

Ánother ‘lousy’ day in Africa!

 

 

 

 

 

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Kruger National Park – Day 14 – Satara

23 November 2017 – Letaba to Satara and The S100.

After yesterday’s 40 degree C heat we woke to cooler conditions today.  In fact the mercury dropped by 20 degrees!

We were packed up and ready to roll by 7:00 o’clock.  Pat and Tony were to follow after going to reception to find out about getting Pat to a doctor.

The first excitement walked toward us on the tar road.   Mom, Dad and Little One

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Come on Mom and Dad – keep up!

Then they veered off the road and passed by the car.  We got a shot of Mom – or Dad – difficult to tell the sexes apart.

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She seems to be smiling about something.

When we arrived at Satara we got a call from Tony.  They were on their way and would set up camp and then head to Skukuza to see the camp doctor.

We set up next to the fence at the North-west side of camp.  There were quite a few interesting birds hanging around and posing for their portraits.

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Red-billed Buffalo-weaver

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Burchell’s Starling

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Grey-headed Sparrow

When Pat and Tony  arrived we helped them set up and then went to have breakfast at the restaurant.  They managed to get an appointment for 2 o’clock and set off for Skukuza at midday.

Earl and I had a rest and then at 3 pm set off to do a stretch of the S100, turning around and retracing our route so as to be back in camp in time.  The drive there produced some common residents.

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My favourite creatures

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Zebs had a dust bath

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A stripe of zebra

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Delighted to have this red-faced mousebird sit still for a second

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This non-breeding shaft-tailed whydah had us guessing for a while

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Red-billed quelea

We hoped to see a lot more as the S100 is famous for seeing both lion and leopard – but not luck there.  However, the birding was good.

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A lovely surprise – Trumpeter Hornbill

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Male Red-backed shrike

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Bateleur Female

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Bateleur Male

Seeing the trumpeter hornbill was special for me and I counted that as the highlight of the day.  I was in a bit of a complacent dream when suddenly I saw it, just a short distance away, so well camouflaged in the dry grass.  “There’s a cheetah!” I called out to The Earl.  “Where?” he said.  “There,” I pointed.  “Where’s there!”  he was frustrated.

“Stop!” I yelled.  “He’s going to come out in front of the car.”  And then he saw it too.

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What a brilliant surprise
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We had him all to ourselves

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The beautiful boy!

He crossed the road and then moved off into the distance.  We watched until he disappeared over the ridge.  A car approached – just a minute too late.  We were the only ones to have seen him!

Pat and Tony were back from the Skukuza by 6:15.   Pat’s wrist is badly sprained and the doctor strapped it into a brace.   She is comfortable but may have to have x-rays if the swelling doesn’t go down.

As it was so cool we decided that a stew would be best for dinner tonight. Once again our Master Chef of the Bushveld put our snappy chef and smartspace pots to excellent use and we dined in style once again.

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Kruger National Park – Day 13

22 November 2017 – Birthday Surprises

I am celebrating my birthday in my most favourite place in the world.  Who could ask for a better gift than that!  And all my birthday wishes came true today.  The creatures of the Kruger National Park popped up to say Hi.

I had no plans to celebrate in any way – just being here was enough for me.  But my darling husband arranged for us to make a breakfast stop at Mopani Rest Camp because they have such a lovely restaurant overlooking the Luluvu River.  Letaba’s restaurant is closed and there is only The Rustic Kitchen to replace it.   This meant quite a long drive there but we had some lovely sightings and every time something interesting happened, Pat said, “Happy Birthday, Helen!”

And it did seem as if though some of the animals knew it was my special day.  A giraffe crossed the road, stopped and looked right at me ane I believe sent me a birthay greeting.

 

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And so did this buffalo!

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Who’s the birthday girl then?

This warthog provided some amusing entertainment

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Mud, glorious mud

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I need a good scratch

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Oh Hi, didn’t see you there – Happy Birthday

Birding is our passion and today we saw some lovely specials

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Marsh Sandpiper

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White-Crested Helmet-Shrike

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Red-billed Ox-peckers on a buffalo’s back

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Namaqua Dove

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Kori Bustard

My birthday breakfast was fantastic.  What a view we had and what lovely birds we saw from the deck.

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The deck at the Mopani Restaurant

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A really scrumptious breakfast

The temperature got up to 40 degrees C today but we were relatively cool in our airconditioned vehicle.  However, opening the windows to take photographs let in the hot air and by the time we got back to Letaba we were all ready for a swim.

In the pool I chatted to an older lady who was such an inspiration.  She and her hubby were still travelling and having lovley holidays together.   Then she went out and the next thing I knew she’d slipped and fallen. I leapt out of the pool to see how she was.  How amazing was her attitude. “I’m fine,”  she said, “It’s just my dignity that’s damaged!”  There were two young men immediately on the scene and her husband said, “Don’t pull her up by her arms.”  He put a towel under her arms and then said,  “Pull her up using the towel.”  It worked perfectly and she was absolutely fine.

I went in for a little longer and then we all got out and would you believe – Pat slipped and landed flat on her back hitting her hand hard as she fell.  Oh horror!   We used the towel trick to get her up too.   Unfortunately her hand was really hurt.  Back at camp we iced it and I put an ice-pack in the freezer that she could use in the night.   Earl strapped her up as best he could and she insisted that she would be fine.  (I am writing this two days later so I can report that she went to Skukuza the next day to consult a doctor and is now in a brace and on medication for the pain.   If the swelling does not go down she will have to have x-rays but right now she is comfortable.)

Without my noticing, The Earl slipped into the park shop at Mopani and bought a bottle of champagne which he chilled in the car fridge.  So when we were about to pour our sundowners out came the champers to celebrate my 65th birthday!

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Cheers!   ( I’m sure my sister approves)

The Earl refused to let anybody help with the preparation of my celebratory meal tonight and presented us with a Master Chef quality chicken dish.  It was to die for.

 

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Enjoying my dinner in the bush

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Pat with injured wrist on ice managed with one hand

Another African day under the belt!

 

 

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Kruger National Park – Day 10

19 November 2017 – Shingwedzi to Letaba

By 6:30 we were packed and ready to leave.  Letaba is 108km from Shingwedzi so we planned to take a break at Mopani and have breakfast at the restaurant.

Once again with caravan in tow we stuck to the tar road and only stopped a few times to take photos of interesting creatures.

The much maligned hyena is considered to be a cowardly and nasty character and features as the ‘baddy’ in many folklore and children’s stories.  In fact these creatures are  not just scavengers but efficient and powerful predators.   Spotted hyenas live in structured groups.  A group of hyenas is called a clan of hyenas.   Did you know that the females rank higher than the males and an alpha female leads the clan. They whole clan helps to raise the young.   When you get to know them you just can’t help loving them and that’s why we were thrilled to find three lying on the side of the road this morning.

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It was a tough night, please let me sleep

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Oooh I’m so comfortable here

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What’s going on – why did you wake me!

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Alright I’ll smile for the photo

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Now I’m going to find a quieter, shadier spot to sleep!

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What do you mean, I must come with you?

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Oh, alright then, I’m coming!

We left the sleepy things in peace and moved on toward Mopani but not before stopping for to get a photograph of the most magnificent eagle in The Park.

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The proud Martial Eagle

We’ve become accustomed to road blocks too and patiently waited for these wild cows cross over.

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This is our road and we’ll take our time if we want to.

The view of the river below the restaurant was as stunning as always but today we saw an osprey in a tree – too distant for a photo but nevertheless great to see.  These are some of the other birds we managed to photograph

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White-faced ducks

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African Jacana

These gorgeous girls stared at us before we arrived at Letaba.

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Female Waterbuck

It was really hot when we arrived in Letaba.  We drove around the shady camp looking for a good spot to set up, met another Gecko owner from Somerset West, chatted to them and then while we were filling our water tanks,  someone whom I recognised walked by and made a jokey comment about caravanning.  He and his wife were tenting nearby.  After chatting a while we discovered that we’d stayed a their B&B a few years ago.  Hugh had organised a bird guide for us. It was an awesome trip.   Today he showed us where to find the Scops Owls.

We found a suitable campsite and unhitched but we did not set up until a little later when it was cooler.  And do you know what?   The Earl put up the canopy almost single handedly.  All I had to do was help with one pole and the ground sheet.  He now has a system that really works for him.  And I managed to push up the roof all by myself!

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Entrance to Letaba Rest Camp

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Scops Owl

As we are staying here for four nights we decided not to go on a game drive this afternoon.   Instead we took some down time to just chill in camp.

Later in the afternoon I saw a fellow camper pointing his camera into a tree so I asked what he was photographing.  This is what he pointed out to me.

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A Bushbaby!

 

The temperature got up to over 35 today and the evening was still hot.  We kept the lights off as much as possible so that the insects didn’t bother us and The Earl cooked us a delicious chicken curry and thus ended another perfect day in Africa.

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Kruger National Park – Day 7

16 November 2017

We were all up by 5 am this morning and after packing a picnic brunch we set off to Pafuri Picnic Site and Crook’s Corner which are the places for keen bird watchers to visit.  The route is so pretty as it winds through Mopane woodland with some loops to waterholes and then there are areas where taller trees like the Fever Tree appear as well as quite a few Baobab trees.  The different shades of green are also frequently broken but a splash of colour from the indigenous flowers that pop up every now and then.

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Lovely Kruger Trees

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Baobab Tree

Having an extra pair of eyes is such a help in the park and sharing the experiences with people who are as passionate and appreciative of Nature as you are also makes a visit to a game reserve so much more rewarding.   Also when you’re going through those times where you wonder whether the creatures have packed up and gone on vacation you can chat and reminisce on past trips done together or relate stories about trips done separately.   There was a lot of  debating on what bird that was, reminiscing, fun and laughter in our car today!

It was cooler today and we enjoyed not having to deal with the fatiguing heat. The creatures seemed to be happier in the cooler conditions too and we were privileged to have some lovely sightings.

Birds of Prey are always exciting but these birds are difficult to photograph when they sit up too high on a tree, are too far away or the light is wrong.  We all had to get our eye in to help identify these tricky raptors.  The first one of the day stimulated a great deal of debate but we finally agreed that it was a Lesser Spotted Eagle.  (Heather and other experts out there who might read this – please correct any errors in our diagnoses.)

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Would you believe that one of the most common birds in the park had us guessing for a few minutes until it dawned on me after not seeing one for three years that it was the female Red-Backed Shrike!

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Almost as pretty as her mate

It was great to see a black-crowned tchagra

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A beautiful male kudu with his magnificent antlers

At one point on our trip we found an abandoned antbear hole and observed some interesting bird activity.  There were a lot of flying insects around and they were having the time of their lives feeding in that spot.   Here are but a few of the species we saw.

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Blue Waxbill

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Violet-backed Starling (Plum coloured Starling)

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White-fronted Bee-eater

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Red-billed quellea

Other birds that we were thrilled to find and get photographs of on our drive were the following.

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The Woodland Kingfisher – His call is iconic in The Kruger National Park

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The Go Away Bird (Grey Lourie)

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Crested Barbet

It’s the unexpected little things that make a drive in The Park interesting and we get just as much joy out of them as seeing any of The Big Five.

“What’s that bunny doing in the tree?”   Well he might look like a rabbit but actually he is a tree hyrax and more closely related to an elephant – and No elephants don’t climb trees either.   A cousin of the tree hyrax is the more common rock hyrax.  The tree dassie has four toes on each of his front feet and three on each of his back feet.  They have rounded nails and rubbery soles to help them climb trees.

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Isn’t this the cutest little tree dassie you ever could see!

We got out on the bridge overlooking the beautiful Luvuvhu River.  IMG_4879

As we enjoyed the breathtaking view and observed some distant waterbirds Tony alerted us to a prehistoric looking creature below.

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A Water Monitor

We stopped for brunch at Pafuri Picnic Site.  Some Nyala Females decided to join us.

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There were some cheeky monkeys about too.  But I just love them

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Monkey with baby

We returned to camp and had a rest and then went out again for a short time.  We saw more elephants, zebra and birds.   The sunset this evening was stunning.

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For supper we roasted a chicken in the electric Romosca Pot. I cooked a mix of veggies in the smart space pan on the  Snappy Chef.   It all worked beautifully and we enjoyed chicken with a crispy skin and delicious veggies.  Another Fabulous Day in Africa.

 

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