14

Wine, Whales and Music at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Our friends Perci and Ray invited us to help celebrate their five years of wedded bliss at  De Hoop Nature Reserve.  There was a Wine, Whale and Music special on so we accepted with alacrity.

The weather was beautiful for this time of the year and it was great to get away for this special weekend.

On Saturday morning we arrived just in time to join a cruise on the vlei.

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The Happy Couple

Our guide was excellent. What a great surprise to see hundreds of black-crowned night herons roosting on the bank with other herons and egrets.   We would never have seen them from the shore.  It was a fabulous start to our cruise.

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Black-crowned night heron

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Sacred Ibis and Little Egrets

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Hundreds of flying ibis, herons and egrets

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Adult and juvenile black-crowned night herons

The rest of the cruise did not disappoint.  We kept seeing more and more species but the moving boat made photography difficult.  Highlights were greater crested grebes,  lesser and greater flamingos, Caspian Terns, yellow-billed ducks, Cape Teal and black-winged stilts.

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A tree full of African Darters

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African Darter

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Greater Flamingos

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Rock Dassie (hyrax)

It was really a most enjoyable trip and it ended with another super surprise – spoonbills waiting to greet us at the jetty.

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Beautiful spoonbills with a little egret

From there  we went to the restaurant and  did some wine tasting, bought some specialty cheeses and then enjoyed a mussel chowder for lunch.

As we were leaving the restaurant somebody came and threw her arms around me.  It was my ex-colleague Taryn who was there with her hubby, Craig and daughter Ella.   What an amazing surprise.  We keep up on Facebook but I haven’t seen Taryn for many years!

After checking into our chalet, Earl had a nap, I read my book and Perci and Ray took a walk to the restaurant to enjoy the high tea.   Later in the afternoon we went for a short game drive.

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Bontebok

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Blacksmith Lapwing taking a bath

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Rhebok

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Male Ostrich

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Scrub Hare

The evening dinner was fantastic.  A quintet of a flutist, three violinists and a cellist entertained us with their beautiful music.  For dinner we had courgette soup for starters then Pork belly with mash and veggies for mains and a tiramisu for dessert.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

This morning we were up early and at breakfast by 8.   There was a lovely selection of continental goodies and then scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon.

Our morning activity involved a drive to Koppie Alleen where we would meet Lauren de Vos for a whale-watching and rock pool activities

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Black-winged stilt seen on our drive

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Grass bird at Koppie Alleen

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Southern Right Whales in the bay – on the left is an albino calf.

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Life in the rock pools

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Star fish

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Cape Robin

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Whale Tail

What a great weekend.   We are so impressed with everything that De Hoop has to offer.   The accommodation is well maintained, the restaurant serves excellent food, the guides are exceptional and there is a lot to see and do in the park.

Check out their website

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4

Hermanus Weekend

Friday, 08 June 2018

The Earl drove me to Hermanus this morning.  The plan was for me to spend a girls’ weekend with Meghan while he and Tommy would have a boys’ weekend in Struisbaai.  Tom and Earl are old friends who need to catch up from time to time!

Once I was settled into the lovely holiday home we girls had for the weekend, the guys hit the road back to Struisbaai.   After they left, Meg and I went to have her car washed, do a bit of shopping and have a coffee at The Running Rabbit.

A little later another of Meg’s friend’s Sandy arrived with two German exchange students, Lici and Lina. Meg is hosting Lici and she’d brought her friend along with her.

Lici is 15 and is in Grade 10 at Bergvliet High School. Lina is 17 and in Grade 11. Lina is from Berlin and Lici from Munich.   It was so interesting chatting to them about their impressions of a South African High School.

Lina is the product of a Montessori school and has a happy relationship with her teachers.  The approach to learning is more relaxed there than it is here. The emphasis is on teaching the child rather than the curriculum. There is a close relationship between learner and teacher and they are allowed to progress at their own pace.  Lici on the other hand finds school here less strict than the private school she attends back home. They both find it really strange and annoying to have to wear a school uniform! Back home they can wear make-up and any clothing they like to school.  But in spite of the differences they are both very happy at Bergvliet.

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Meg’s Holiday Home in Hermanus

Before dinner Meg and I went with Sandy to walk her beautiful black lab. We laughed when he poohed on command.

 

We went as far as a lookout place where we could see the sea then walked back.

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Meg had a goulash ready for heating and we served it with pasta, spinach that I’d made and green beans.

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Lici, Lina, Meg and Sandy

Saturday, 09 June 2018

The girls were up early and went for a walk. Sandy went to Stanton to meet an old friend. Meg and I had brekkie together and shared our superior wisdom of how to solve the problems of all our friends and family – LOL

Later the girls made the most delicious carrot cake muffins which Meg iced with cream cheese frosting.

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The muffins in the foreground – Sandy cooking chicken curry for dinner while Meg cheers her on

It rained hard in the afternoon so after indulging in my spinach quiche for lunch we all sat in front of the fire and played Rummikub. The girls were Ace at it but we soon caught on.  It was great fun.

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Lici gets a massage from Lina before we start the game

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Rummikub in front of the fire

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Lina has a good hand

 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Meg made her delicious fruity oats for breakfast, Sandy supplied croissants and we all sat down to enjoy it.    The men arrived around 11 and had some too.

Meg had to go off to meet a friend for lunch so the rest of us piled into the Everest and went exploring Hermanus.

Our first stop was Hoy’s Koppie. It is an isolated hill rising approximately 75 metres above sea-level. In the mid-19th century, the early inhabitants of the town called it Klip Kop (stone hill).

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The steep steps up to the top of Hoy Koppie

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Tom and The Earl 

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The View

Tom had researched the story of Hoy Koppie and shared his knowledge with us.

Sir William Hoy, who was born in Scotland, was head of the Cape and SA Railways in the early 1900s. He spent frequent holidays in Hermanus and loved the relaxed lifestyle. He frequently climbed the koppie to admire the views across Walker’s Bay.

In 1912, he vetoed the building of a rail line to Hermanus. Sir Hoy died at the age of 62 in 1930. It was his wish to be buried at the summit of his favourite hill. A contour path was constructed and his fishermen friends carried his coffin up for burial in a hollow that was blasted out of the rock for this purpose.

Five years later Lady Gertrude Hoy died in England.  Her body was placed in a lead coffin and shipped back to South Africa.  Twenty fisherman carried the heavy coffin up the koppie and buried her beside her husband.  The Hermanus Historical Society takes care of the graves today.

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After climbing the koppie we went down to the waterfront.   There were dolphins in the bay and the girls also enjoyed watching the dassies.

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There were interesting sculptures to be seen too.

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Sitting on the Whale Tail Bench

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The old harbour is also fascinating. As part of the art festival there was a display of sculptures made of the plastic, hooks, fishing line and netting  from our polluted ocean. Hermien welcomed us into the tiny museum.  She is passionate about saving the Sea.   We were given a glass of water and told to drink a toast to the sea.  We were then invited to take a sprig of fynbos and place it on the sea’s coffin.   She then gave a brief explanation of what was happening to our oceans and how it was up to humankind to change their habits to protect them.  It was a very moving experience.

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A Wreath made from sea polution

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An old whaling harpoon

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The Coffin

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Sculptures from sea polution

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The Old Harbour was proclaimed ‘a Museum’ in 1972. Old fishing boats were collected and repaired for outdoor display.

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We then went to have a drink at one of the local restaurants before making our way back to the house.  We stopped at the new harbour and spotted a whale in the bay.

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You can see a barnacle on this Southern Right Whale

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We saw him quite well – but photography was difficult

Earl and I left at 4:15.  We took Lina with us to Cape Town as she has an exam tomorrow.   The others stayed another night.

Monday 11 June 2018

We were in Cape Town to celebrate The Earl’s sister’s 75th birthday.  We took her and her hubby to The Black Marlin for dinner.  It was really lovely.

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Just after Sunset – view across the bay from Carrol and Vere’s home at Castle Rock

 

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Happy Birthday, Carrol.

 

 

5

Fun Photo Challenge – Z

This week’s Fun Photo Challenge from Cee calls for pictures of anything beginning with Z.  Of course the first thing that comes to mind is Zebra.

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Part of the challenge includes photographs of  ‘catching zzzs’

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Lazy Lion 

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Sleeping Puff Adder found in our Kgalagadi Camp!

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Went straight back to sleep when he was caught and put under a distant tree!

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A very comfy position to sleep in

6

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.

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A Bateleur finally posed for a half decent photograph

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

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A wildebeest resting in the shade

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Donkeys in striped pajamas everywhere

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

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An emerald-spotted wood-dove

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

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But we disturbed their peace

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Such gorgeous creatures

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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.

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

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Then flopped down again

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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.

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Rollers hawking insects

Here are the other highlights of our afternoon drive

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Southern White-crowned Shrike

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Burchell’s Coucal

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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.

1

Kokstad Christmas – Part 1

Those of you who follow my blog regularly know that we are currently visiting our clan in Kokstad.  We started our Christmas celebrations early.  On Wednesday The Bakers came over for a pre-Christmas dinner. We wore the silly hats and pulled the surprise pack crackers and shared the corny jokes that popped out too.  It really got us all into the Christmas spirit

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Nicoline, Shan and Scott

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Simon and Robyn

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Al, Si, Shan, Scott, Me, Earl, Lauren

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Al, Nicoline, Shan, Scott, Si, Robyn, Sean, Me, Lauren

We have had unseasonably cold weather this December so when we saw that the sun would be shining on Thursday we headed off to a dam in the mountains so the ‘boys’ could do some fishing.  What a lovey cottage we had on The Du Plessis farm in the Swartberg.

It was Allan’s birthday on Friday.   He and Simon were out fishing very early on on their return we presented the gifts and had a slap-up breakfast to celebrate his special day.

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My Rural Family

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Scrumptious Birthday Breakfast

Al is such a great dad and his kids expressed this so well in the cards they made.

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Al, Earl and Simon fished and caught a total of nine bass. They kept two which The Earl cooked for lunch when we were back home.

Because of the iffy weather we have not done much outdoorsy stuff but on Sunday at the rude hour of 6:30 am my son-in-law and granddaughter knocked on the door – Hey Gran – do you want to come for a walk.

I thought it would be a gentle stroll along gravel paths suitable for a 65 year old grandmother.

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Like this

But no –  they took me on a bundu bashing ramble across farmlands, over barbed wire fences, through long, possibly snake-infested grass while dodging thorny thistles, low overhanging branches and rabbit holes.

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Do you see the reed buck and the dog? – No?  That’s how long the grass was!

Cody smelt a reed buck – but it was too clever for him and kept dead still – all we could see were it’s horns sticking up from the long grass.

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We bent over to get through the trees

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And climbed through many tricky fences

The plan was to cross the river over a bridge and then take the shortcut back to their farm but somehow the it seemed not to be there and so we headed back through the long grass observing many pretty buck and birds before reaching home two hours after we started out!

 

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It was all worth the effort for the pretty scenes we saw

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Lovely river – no bridge

Considering that Shan and Al both have much longer legs than I, I think I did okay to keep up with them – Yes my limbs felt like jelly at the end of it but it was great fun.  I think I might join them again.

Today we celebrated Christmas with The Bakers and tomorrow we’re having the Macs over – More about that next time.

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.