5

Kruger National Park – Day 9

18 November 2017 – Shingwedzi

This morning while we waited for Pat and Tony to finish packing up their tent, and before we said farewell to Punda Maria, Earl and I  paid one last visit to the hide.  This is the only camp in The Park that has a hide and a lit waterhole and it is frequently visited by many animals.  Elephants were already there and we watched them finish their ablutions and take on some refreshing liquid before they lumbered off into the bush.  It was quiet for a few minutes and then we heard loud and excited trumpeting and another herd came racing down to the water.  It was as if the little ones were calling – Mommy, I can’t wait to get into the water, please can we run ahead.

 

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It was awesome and we would have lingered longer but it was time to head to Shingwedzi.  Earl quickly helped with the tent packing up and then we set off separately.   The only disadvantage of towing a caravan is that you can’t stop suddenly, nor do all the reversing and manoeuvring at a sighting as you would like to. Also there is always the fear that you’ll be confronted by an oncoming elephant!   So we took the direct tar road and only stopped when we could.   We did manage to have some lovely sightings but once we got to Shingwedzi, we set up quickly, had a bit of a rest and then went to the restaurant for lunch.  Pat and Tony met us there. They had taken the river road and had lingered over bird and animal sightings.

All the usual patron of the Kruger Restaurant were about – elephant, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra so when we saw something a little out of the ordinary it peaked our interest.  This shy creature was kind enough to stop to have his portrait taken.

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Sharpes Grysbok

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Another large herd of buffalo

We checked in at Shingwedzi at around 10:30 and quickly found a lovely site next to the fence and close to the ablution block.  We had some feathered hosts welcome us.  The red-billed woodhoopoes were quite vocal but seemed in a hurry to be somewhere else and didn’t stop to chat.  Mrs Burchell, hower, asked if had any crumbs for her.  No – sorry we don’t eat bread.

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Burchell’s starling 

The arrow-marked babblers are always busy but blurted out their greetings as they flew from tree to tree.

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Arrow-marked babbler 

After lunch P&T went to set up camp at Shingwedzi  while The Earl and I did the river route which was very productive.   The Mopani Diner was open and the patrons were helping themselves to their offerings.

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Baboon feeding on Mopani leaves

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I am safe here with my mommy

It was very hot and most of the birds were napping in the cool of the foliage. It was later in the afternoon when we started to spot a few as they emerged from hiding.   This lovely raptor was hoping there would be a slithering reptile on the menu.

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Brown Snake-eagle

Sometimes you have to take the kids out to eat too.  Mom is trying to teach this youngster that he must eat by himself now.IMG_5414

The next feathered diner we met is a new one for us.

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White-throated Robin-chat

At the same cafe, skulking in the foliage we found an old friend.

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Long-billed Crombec

Some of the residents prefer to eat ‘seafood’  In this case, actually, it’s river-food. There were Egyptian Geese, Grey Herons, three-banded plovers and other waterbirds checking out the menu but our favourite was this lovely chap.

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Yellow-billed Stork

I have hundreds of giraffe photographs as I just love these stunning creatures.  I couldn’t resist taking more today.

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We are only at Shingwedzi for one night.  We weren’t very hungry after our lunch at the restaurant so it was well after sunset when we braaied.    A honey-badger entered the campsite and tried to steal from the humans and a hyena passed by on the other side of the fence.  Hopefully he never finds his way inside.

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Sunset at Shingwedzi

Tomorrow we head to Letaba for four nights.

 

 

 

 

 

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9

Kruger National Park – Day 2

11 November 2017 – Tsendze

How fantastic to wake to the sounds of the dawn chorus in the bush.  It was already getting light at 4:30 am and that’s when the gate opens.  But we had no intention of making such an early start.  I went to shower at the ablution block just after 5 and we were packed and ready to leave at 6:30

Our first exciting event was an encounter with  Ayres Hawk-eagle.   There were actually two.  The light was bad so the photo is not great but we found this one on a kill.

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We also got a good sighting of the common black-shouldered kite – but what a pretty bird.

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Elephants, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest and zebra were also on the menu and we got to see a lot of birdlife.   Here are a few photos that we managed to get.

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Lesser-striped swallow

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Hippo

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The uncommon yellow-billed oxpecker – grooming a zebra

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Cute little blue waxbill

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Shy steenbok

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Beautiful giraffe

 

A rarity in the park is an antelope similar to a red hartebeest – the Tsessebe – We found a few of them which was lovely.

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Time wore on and we were getting hungry.  We decided to head back toward Mopani and have something to eat there.  After a few hours of game driving you rather hope that you won’t see anything exciting as all you want is to have a break and get some strong coffee into you.  I yelled at the earl to stop with a couple of interesting birds but either I was too late or he’d lost interest because he just drove on.  Thank Goodness for that because just a few kms from camp we spotted some stationery cars – always a good sign – It has to be a leopard, I said and as we got closer I spotted a tail hanging down from the branch of a tree.  Oh joy – all thoughts of coffee and food disappeared in an instant.   There was a young leopard on a kill up in the tree.  And was she having a delightful breakfast – lucky creature.   If we’d delayed over the birds I’d called we would have missed her as after a minute she slid down the tree, washed her paws and slipped off into the bush!  Gone!  The only evidence were the remains of impala hanging in the tree!

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We lingered long over breakfast at Mopani as its restaurant has such a lovely view over the river.  We saw marabou storks and watched greater striped swallows take off and land back in the branches of the trees again.   There was a lot of activity.  I had a second cup of coffee while the Earl went to another section of the facility to pay accounts and send emails from his laptop.

We like to rest in camp in the middle of the day and it was now just after 11.  We just did one more loop to Mooiplaas Picnic site, spotted some birds and hippos and then did a little river loop where we saw buffalo and elephant.

We got back to camp around 1 o’clock and rested until 3:30 and then went out again.   We saw all the usual suspects and were not expecting anything too exciting.   It was nearing 6 o’clock when we were in sight of this morning’s leopard tree and gate closing is at 6:30.  And what should we see – three cars stopped at the tree.

“They’re probably looking at the carcass,” I said the Earl.

But no as we got closer I saw that the leopard was back.

But wait there’s more – “Look there,” said The Earl,  “There’s another one in the tree.”

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And then all hell broke loose as the two leopards started growling and slapping each other.

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This is my dinner – Be off with you!

 

After a brief skirmish one decided she’d better get out of there and slipped down the tree and disappeared into the bush.  The victor sat in the split in the tree for a few minutes looking for all the world like any domestic kitty cat.

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Then he climbed onto the branch where the impala carcass was and proceeded to finish his meal.

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Soon other cars appeared and in the end there were five of us watching this amazing sight.   It gets dark quickly in the Kruger and by 6:10 I had enough photographs in good light.  It was time to head quickly back to camp before the gate was locked!   We made it with 10 minutes to spare

5

Kruger National Park Day 1

10 November  2017 – Tsendze

We left Haenertzburg, with new caravan in tow at 8:30 this morning. We stopped at Tzaneen Lifestyle Centre for breakfast and to do some last minute shopping and then we were finally off to my most favourite place in the world – The Kruger National Park.

When I saw the familiar road sign indicating the direction of the park I really started to get excited.  Two and half hours later we were there – Phalaborwa Gate welcomed us and check in was quick and smooth.

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Our Home on Wheels

Once on the road to Mopani 77 km further on I breathed in the sweet air of the bushveld and sat back to enjoy the three hour ride.  Yes – that’s how long you take to travel distances in the park as the speed limit is 40km on dirt and 50km on tar – but you hardly ever go that fast as you travel slowly while searching the bush for life.

And what do you think our first mammal was?  No not an impala which is the most common creature in the park

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It was an elephant!

The impala, of course,  did appear as did many zebra and as we  travelling near the river there were lots of buffalo too.

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Very common, but very pretty

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Mommy and Baby

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Who do you think you’re looking at!

At the bridge we spotted a pied kingfisher looking for lunch while further up the river a herd of elephants crossed over.   Water buck were about too.

Sometimes the ride becomes quiet and for a while you don’t see anything and then just when you’re about to fall asleep with boredom something crops up to excite you.  Today a shape appeared at the side of the road and I yelled out to the Earl to slow down.

“What?” he said

“A puppy,” I squealed

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and there al by itself lay the tiniest hyena cub you could ever wish to see.

“Where is your mommy?”  I asked him and he just stared sleepily at  me.

“Hey!  Here she is on my side!” noticed the earl after 3 whole minutes of  looking through my window.

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And sure enough there was mom with another little pup – just off the road.

Hyenas tend to make their dens in culverts under the road so they surely must have had one just there.

Korhaans often appear and sometimes very photogenic.

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But today the fronds of grass kept preventing me from getting good shots.

A tortoise crossed our path

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After checking in at Mopani Camp – there’s no check in office at Tsenze Rustic Camp 6km from there – we went to the restaurant for a bite to eat.  The restaurant overlooks the river and there were many interesting things to watch.

We then made our way Tsendze Rustic Camp where there is no electricity and just two camp attendants ensuring that the campers are happy.  The facilities are in pristine condition, it is quiet and the camp is full of birdlife – it’s really back to nature.   When you enter and leave you have to open and close the gate, looking around for dangerous wildlife as you do so!   As we drove around looking for campsite number 22 we spotted the barred owlet – this is really a special find.

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Then began the set up process.  Now remember this was the first time with the new caravan.  And The Earl suffers from anxiety and I am not the most patient psychiatric nurse.   I steeled myself for half an hour of stress and panic.  We unpacked to perfectly colour labelled tent poles and studied the perfectly clear diagram.  It was all very straightforward but The Earl wanted to beat the clock – and every time he encountered a problem like forgetting where he put the mallet his stress levels rose.  At least 10 times I had to remind him to breath and take it slowly. “It will all come together in the fullness of time.”  And of course it did and it was so much easier than our previous caravan’s set-up process!

We spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out where we would put things while in camp so that we didn’t have to do too much digging into bags and boxes.

Then we poured ourselves a drink and went over to chat to the neighbours who coincidently we’d met during check in at Mopani.  They are from Louis Trichardt and have a really smart fold out caravan.   Once it’s set up it is bigger and more luxurious than our one.  The bedroom has an island bed.  There are three times as many cupboards and they have a lovely seating area inside as well as out.   Their  bathroom is also twice the size as ours.  But I love our compact little set up and would not swap it now!

The weather has been stunning – overcast but no rain, no wind and it is warm.  We had a wonderful braai this evening and were in our brand new king size bed by 9 pm!   It was too warm for under the duvet so we slept with just a sheet.

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3

Wild Adventure Chapter 7 The Earl Helps a Distressed Car at a Lion Sighting

9 MARCH

The day started with a lanner.  This is a common bird in the KTP and the Grum-Peighs often see them chasing and catching doves. But this one decided to show off to them on the road.  He was eating insects or getting minerals from the gravel or whatever attracts all the creatures of the park to this habit.  Anyway he posed beautifully.

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After enjoying the lanner they pushed on to Kij Kij and found a beautiful male lion drinking at the waterhole.  They then followed him as he walked off toward the Nossob road.   Several cars were parked facing the waterhole and he flopped down in their shadows.   Eventually they decided that enough was enough and set off in search of other game

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A kori bustard entertained them by showing them how to take a dust bath.

IMG_6213IMG_6215IMG_6216When there is little game to be seen the G-Ps keep a sharp eye out for birds.  Even the little familiar chat is good to see.

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At Melkvlei waterhole there were lots of gemsbok.

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On their return they found the male lion sleeping in the shade of a tree. Lady G-P aimed her camera but suddenly the car started moving forward.  “Hey – I’m trying to get a shot,”she complained.

“But this guy in front is calling me to chat to him,” replied the Earl.

He pulled up next to the hired four by four.   “I’m so sorry,”said a British voice “But I stopped here to see this lion and now my car is dead!”  There were two men and two women in the vehicle and they all looked terrified.

“Don’t worry,” said Lady G-P, “My husband will fix it.” She has great confidence in her her husband’s MacGyver type skills.

The Earl turned the car around  with a view to jump starting his dead car.  “Just keep an eye on Leo.”said His Lordship as he climbed up and opened a rooftop box to retrieve his tools.  “He’s sitting up!” yelled Lady Peigh. But her hero was not fazed.   He took out all the tools he needed and passed them to her.

“He’s standing up now!” Lady Peigh was getting nervous. Leo sniffed the air and decided the smell of his Lordship was not to his liking and dropped down again and went back to sleep!

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Leo licked his lips as he contemplated an earl for dinner

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Nope – not worth the effort – think I’ll have another nap instead

The Earl decided that caution was the better part of valour and quickly hitched the tow rope to the distressed vehicle and towed him to a safer spot.   The car did not start while being towed but when they stopped the Earl found that it was a loose connection and fixed it pronto.

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The First Earl of Struisbaai using his MacGyver skills

The British tourist were most grateful.  They had no tools in the hired vehicle and were quite unprepared for any mishap.   Lady G-P would never travel without her personal handyman.

They went back to look at the lion and wait for the Frend-Leighs and then took a slow drive home finding a pale chanting goshawk and a few  ground squirrels on the way.

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Isn’t he beautiful

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On guard and ready to warn his friends of pending danger

4

Wild Adventure Chapter 6 Lions at Kij Kij

8 March

The advantage of staying in a bush camp on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is that there are fewer people in camp and one really gets to commune with nature – it’s living on the edge as there is always a chance that a wild creature could wander past your caravan or tent.  This is what the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs love about Camp Rooiputs Number 2.   It is also closer to the water holes so you get to them before the crowds from Twee Rivieren arrive.  But Rooiputs has the added advantage of being close enough to Twee Rivieren so that when you need to replenish your stocks it’s a quick trip there and back.  On this particular morning the friends decide to check out the Kij Kij Waterhole nice and early and then take the long dune road that connects to another road that takes you to TR.  The plan is then to leave the park and shop at the Kgalagadi Lodge shop – and have breakfast at their restaurant.  There is nothing as good as mixing a bit of rustic living with luxury now and then!

And they are well rewarded when they get to Kij Kij and find some frolicking lions.

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Good Morning Kgalagadi

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This is fun!

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Come on let’s play!

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Time to go!

The Dune Road is very long and bendy and can be boring but today a honey badger rushed over the road in front of them and they saw 19 Northern Black Korhaan

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The best of the bunch

On the return journey the Grum-Peighs stop for every bird.  Ho-Hum!

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A lesser grey shrike

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The ever-present tawny eagle

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Southern Masked weaver and Lark-like Bunting

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Male and female red-headed finch

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Grey-backed sparrowlark

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Male red-headed finch

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Immature Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Jackal

The highlight was seeing a cobra try to invade a sociable weaver nest.

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In the evening the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs had another delicious braai.  There was no sign of stormy weather and the sunset was magnificent.

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The Earl and The Friend bonding in front of the fire

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Sunset

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Camp Rooiputs Number 2 at night

1

#NaBloPoMo 23 – Addo to Jeffrey’s Ba

NaBloPoMo

We couldn’t resist going for one last game drive before packing up this morning.  I’d heard lions roaring in the night and though we just might be able to find them but that was not to be.  We did, though, find two jackals at Ghwarrie Pan and I managed to persuade one to pose.

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On our return Early made breakfast and then we packed up and made our way to Jeffrey’s Bay.  It’s lovely to be here catching up with our friends Maureen and Jim. Maureen cooked us a delicious Roast Leg of Lamb for dinner tonight and we enjoyed the company of their friend, Errol too.

 

Yesterday I took some videos of the elephants and I am including them here