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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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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!

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Kruger National Park – Day 20

29 November 2017 – A Day for Leopards

The weather was warm again today with the temperature reaching the mid thirties.

As I have mentioned in previous episodes – no two days are alike in Kruger.   Today was a good one for seeing the “Big” guys.

The bridge gave us our first thrill of the day.

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Hippos had an early morning meeting

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Saddle-bill Stork and Yellow-bill egret sharing a fishing spot

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Is the yellow-billed egret leading the spoonbills astray as the saddle-billed looks on?

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These two Fish Eagles had a confrontation over a fish

The black-shouldered kite is usually rare in KNP but due to the drought in the West of the country many have moved East and there is now an influx of them in The Park.   On one day we saw 18 of them.

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Yet another Black-shouldered Kite

As we continued along the tar road we saw a single stationary car stopped on the right hand side of the road.  It was open country with few trees and we couldn’t see anything at all.  But we never pass a stationary  car so we stopped alongside and asked – “What do you see?”  “A leopard,”  replied the rather good looking young man behind the wheel. He lovely wife was beside him with a huge smile on her face.   “Where?” we asked  and how come we hadn’t seen it?   “Reverse a little and look in the biggest tree you can see over there.” he pointed.

We looked at the tree – it was far away and we saw nothing until we trained our binoculars on it. “I have him!”  I said – “But how on earth did they spot that!”

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The distant leopard in the far away tree

It turned out that they’d stopped just to scan the area with binoculars and the lovely wife and spotted him quite by chance!   What a lucky break.  Before long there were four or five cars wondering what the fuss was about.  We were able to point out this special for them before we moved on.

Next we stopped at a look-out where you are allowed to get out of your car and sit in a boma to view the vast valley below.   At first we saw nothing but veld and trees and then The Earl said – Omigosh – look at all the elephants!

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They just kept coming – a huge herd of them

Just before we got to Tshokwane we saw a few cars staring into the bush.  Another leopard!  He was lying asleep under a bush, well hidden and a photograph was impossible.   But when he sat up The Earl managed to get one before he walked off into the thicket.

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Not our best leopard picture ever!

Tshokwane is the best picnic site in the park.  The kitchen and the seating area incorporate big trees, the coffee is excellent and the food inexpensive and good.

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The Shady Eating Area

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The Cooking Area

With out hunger satisfied we set off again and found yet another leopard.  This one was also in a tree and we could see him nicely.   But we did not manage to get a photograph.

 

we also saw lots of elephants today.   At Orpen Dam Lookout we watched them come down and have fun in the mud.

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Orpen Dam Lookout

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The View

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Elephants having a confrontation

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Mud glorious Mud – Mum, I think I may be stuck!

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Don’t worry – you’ll get out

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White-faced ducks and glossy ibis were also enjoying the dam

We spent a long time out this morning and enjoyed many fascinating sightings.

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Yellow-throated Longclaw

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Red-crested korhaan

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Male Kudu

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Playful Zebra

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Giraffe and Elephants

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Follow the leader

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Scary Crocodile

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Black Heron

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Mischieveous Monkeys

We have seen rhino a few times this trip but I am not mentioning on what day nor on which roads in case some poaching criminal comes across this blog and it helps him find his target.   Rhino are being poached at an alarming rate although Sanparks are going to great lengths to put anti-poaching measures in place.  We are delighted to have seen many men in camouflage patrolling and checking and we have heard that recent arrests have been made.

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A Happy Rhinoceros – Long may he remain safe from poachers

It was another perfect evening in The Park although the weather had clouded over.  We enjoyed The Earl’s chicken wing starter and a braai of chops, steak and boerewors with sweet potatoes and a lovely Greek Salad before retiring for the night.  Yes another great day in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Kruger National Park – Day 18

27 November – Lower Sabie

Once again the mercury dropped and we we back in jeans and fleeces all day today.  We took a drive to Crocodile Bridge Camp where we bought pies and coffee for breakfast as they do not have breakfast facilities.  These are the highlights of what we saw there and back,

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A pair of wattled starlings in a tree

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Woodland’s Kingfisher

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Brown-hooded Kingfisher

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It is the season for baby animals in The Park – Here a young impala is trying to get him mother to stand up so he can have a drink!

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Yellow-billed Kite

When we got back to Lower Sabie we went to restaurant where there is a deck overlooking the Sabie River.   We took a walk along the boardwalk and this is what we saw.

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Red-billed oxpecker cleaning ears

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Red-backed mannikin

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Swee Waxbill

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White-browed Robin

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In the afternoon we went for a drive along the S122

These are the highlights

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This rather large crocodile seen as we crossed the bridge

 

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Male red-crested korhaan

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Female red-crested Korhaan

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Baby red-crested korhaan

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Scrub Hare

We saw lions on two occasions but they were just lying around!

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We had a bit of a scare with elephants a few times.  I think they have a sense of humour and tease the tourists.  Sometimes you come upon them all of a sudden and they raise their trunks and trumpet at you giving you an awful fright.  Today as we drove toward home we noticed a car ahead – a young couple we’d chatted to earlier – but now they were rapidly reversing toward us – because an elephant was coming down the road and they were afraid to upset him by driving past.  We decided to reverse too and then the other car came along side us.  The ellie was some distance away and both cars had a chance to turn around.  The Earl decided not to move away but said, If he comes too close I’ll be able to race off but I think he’ll move into the bush.  Of course he was right.   As soon as Ellie saw this can of tourists wasn’t getting out of his way he veered off into the bush.

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To end our drive we stopped at Sunset Dam and watched a pair of hippos have a confrontation.

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Another exciting day in Africa ended with a lovely braai.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!