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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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Weekly Photo Challenge 12 July 2017

This week’s challenge is Collage  Here is my contribution.

Collage

Christmas Collage – 2011

Greater Striped Swallow Collage

Greater Striped Swallow Collage

Collage

Ski-boat Collage

Collages

Cheetah Collage

Ibis

Ibis collage – including Glossy, Bald, Hadeda and Sacred

 

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 23 and 24

24 June 2015 Bitterpan

We hear lions this morning but none appear at the waterhole. We cook breakfast, chat to our neighbours and exchange details then leave for Twee Rivieren.
It is another roller coaster ride over the dunes and the scenery is great. We then take the dune road toward the Nossob – Twee Rivieren road but we have only a few sightings.

Affectionate jackals

Affectionate jackals

A secretary bird

A secretary bird

Big herds of Springbok

Big herds of Springbok

Ostriches descending rapidly from the ridge of a dune

Ostriches descending rapidly from the ridge of a dune

Erich's windebeest at a waterhole

Gemsbok at a waterhole

It is our grandson, Jay’s eighteenth birthday today.  We have had no internet or cell phone coms so are delighted to be able to ring him when we get to Twee Rivieren – the only camp where such luxuries are available.

Happy Birthday, my boy - What's that you say - You've been selected for Western Province Fishing?

Happy Birthday, my boy – What’s that you say – You’ve been selected for Western Province Fishing?

Doesn’t Earlybird look cute with my pink iphone on his ear?  The exciting news of Jay being selected for Western Province delights him. Watch out Shelly Beach – Here comes Jay!

We spend the afternoon relaxing and have a braai for dinner.

25 June 2015 Twee Rivieren

We set off early and are the first car in the queue. I tell Earlybird he is making a mistake choosing the Mata Mata road as it was very quiet in March and we had had all our good sightings on the Nossob road.

“The fact that we saw nothing yesterday,” I said, “is because it was the wrong time of day.”
I don’t like travelling at 40 km/hr. It is too fast in a game reserve. As we whiz by I see something right on the side of the road and yell, “Stop –  lion!”

Earlybird sees it at the same time a skids to a halt. We’ve almost passed a pride of 8. The two males are proudly watching their cubs while the moms cross over to the other side of the road.

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We are the only car for half an hour – nobody else comes while we’re there. We move on and alert several others as we pass them.  It’s fun to see their bored expressions change when they realise that good a sighting is coming up soon!
Lions are not the only exciting things to see in a game reserve.  We are very excited at our next observation.

There was a whole family of these cute little meerkats

There was a whole family of  meerkats – on the wrong side of the road for good light – and this chap was taking his guard duty very seriously

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Gemsbok having a confrontation

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Erich’s favourite surveying the world from the top of a dune

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Male and female yellow canaries singing sweetly

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Marico Flycatcher looking dapper

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It was interesting to see this little steenbok digging for roots with its front hooves

I have to take back my words about this being the wrong road to take today – because in addition to our lions and other creatures we have three cheetah sightings

After we have breakfast at Kamqua picnic site we drive  on a bit further toward Mata Mata and find  some cars parked. They tell us we’ve missed three cheetahs  trying to get lunch.   Then we see them!

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We follow them as they make their way through the bush.

IMG_7205 IMG_7208 IMG_7214We think they may try to hunt again but instead they lie down under a tree and so we leave them in peace.

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Soon after this we spot another cheetah, on her own, sitting up on the ridge.  She then walks along the ridge and disappears down the other side.

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As we travel on Earlybird stops and says – Look at that gemsbok – We look and see his is standing stock still and staring up onto the dune ridge.  We scan with our binoculars and after a few minutes I spot her.

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She starts to move towards the springbok and gemsbok.  They all move away and the springbok cross to the other side of the road.

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We drive up the hill toward Killie Krankie to get a better view.  She is patient and does not move for ages.

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Eventually we leave as all the animals are aware of her and she won’t hunt today.

As we travel back to TR cars stop us to say they have seen the lions but when we get back to the spot they are no longer there.  What a fabulous last day we have had.

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 18

Friday 19 June Cheetah Day

I wake at quarter to six and get up at quarter past – it is freezing!  I wrap myself in a rug and go to the loo.  My ablutions are quick and I get dressed under the blankets!  Today I don a pair of thermal tights under my jeans.   I can’t  feel the ends of my fingers even though I wrap them in a warm pair of gloves.   Packing up is painful and takes twice as long as with warm hands!

The temperature registers at -2 in the car and goes down to -3.  Thank Goodness for an effective air-con in the car as soon we warm up.

There are a few exciting spots the first being two African Wild Cats darting across the veld.  Unfortunately the light is wrong and they are too quick for a photograph.  But still it is a great sighting.

At 13th water hole we meet a couple we’d met the day before – George and Venetia.  They say they’ve seen the cubs but they have now gone over the ridge – clearly following their mothers who must be ahead of them.   We chat for a while then both cars move on.   We find them stopped up ahead of us and as we draw nearer see what they have seen – three cheetahs moving swiftly through the bush high up on the ridge.

One of the cheetahs moving stealthily through the bush

One of the cheetahs moving stealthily through the bush

We guess they are on their way to Urikaruus water hole so hurry along to wait for them.  After  20 minutes, Earlybird says – they’re not coming let’s go but then a land rover ahead of us turns around.  His mate has gone up to the viewpoint and has radioed him that the cheetahs are coming.   So we turn around too and – there they are – coming right for us!

He is centimeters from my eyeballs

He is centimeters from my eyeballs

And touches the car as he passes by my door

He makes his way across the road passing right next to the passenger side of the car

We’ve been looking at a steenbok at the waterhole while we are waiting and the cheetahs spot her too.  The one gives chase and she scoots off into the trees – we think the cheetah will return with breakfast for the others but she comes back empty handed.

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She looks at the cheetahs nervously

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We watch the cheetahs frolic and have fun for a while and then they move back over the road and over the ridge – but wow – what a sighting.

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Next we find the three eagle owls in the tree.

one of the Verreaux's Eagle Owls

one of the Verreaux’s Eagle Owls

We stop for breakfast at Kamqua before continuing our journey to Nossob

Earlybird cooks a killer brekkie

Earlybird cooks a killer brekkie

On the way we see some interesting birds and big herds of gemsbok at the waterholes.

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We check into Chalet 8 just behind reception.  It is quite warm now.  We have a braai for supper and eat outdoors.

Sundowners at Nossob

Sundowners at Nossob

A visitor looking for titbits

A visitor looking for titbits

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Nothing beats a good old fashioned South African Braai

After supper Earl takes the Schoffls to the waterhole and I stay behind and have a shower and catch up with my bookkeeping.

There is not much happening at the waterhole so they are soon back.

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Kruger National Park Day Day 6 Skukuza to Orpen

4 July 2014 – Skukuza to Orpen

We made an early start today as we had a long way to go to get to Orpen and we did not take the direct route so by 6:15 we were packed and ready to go. We needed to fill up and Earl got onto conversation with the petrol jockey. He confided that he’d been to Cape Town and liked it for the fishing but not the weather. Earl readily took this opportunity to show him some of his fishing photos on his phone!

Once we were off I read him an email from his friend John and in the process we forgot to post the keys. This Peter alerted us to when we were half an hour into our journey and so we had to turn back and take a different route to the original plan to Orpen!
We then took the H1-2 and soon found a tawny eagle in a tree.

Tawny Eagle by Earl

Tawny Eagle by Earl

Elephants and baboons were about and zebra buffalo and rhino made an appearance.

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Jumbo’s tusks looking a little worse for wear

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At Leeupan there was a gathering of zebra which we first found crossing the road before they headed to muddy up a small water puddle. Impala and kudu were there as was a single giraffe. There was a woolly necked stork hiding in the reeds and some other water birds were there too.

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Quite a pose one has to pull just to get a drink

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A martial eagle was the next exciting bird to be found sitting atop a tree. A bit far but lovely to see.

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At 9:30 we arrived at Tshokwane Picnic site, ordered kuduwors rolls and coffee – the best in the park and spent an hour chilling before hitting the road again.

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At Mafagalamba Dam we found a pod of hippo in and out of the water. A heron found the  back of a hippo a good viewing point. There were wildebeest and waterbuck grazing and drinking and we renamed the dam Waterbuck bum waterhole as it’s actual name is too difficult to pronounce!

As we crossed a ford over the N’waswitosonto River I spotted a ‘stone’ at the edge of the water but when I looked with my binoculars it tuned into an Ayre’s Hawk Eagle – a wonderful find for the mad birders that we are!

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It was a long day today and we continued to find the usual suspects – impala, zebra, giraffe,wildebeest which was great because sometimes you can see nothing and worry about what has happened to our wildlife. Happily they are alive and well and living in The Kruger National Park.
We usually visit Kruger in Spring or Summer when the birdlife is prolific. The migrants are missing in winter so the abundance is not present right now. However every now and then we stop and find parties of small resident birds which are difficult to photograph as they move so quickly.
Some special birds we saw today were Brown Snake Eagle, Red-crested Korean, rattling cisticola, saddle billed stork and woolly necked stork.

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Cape Glossy Starling

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Arrow-marked babbler

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Yellow-bellied Eromomela

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Rattling Cisticola

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Saddle-billed Stork

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Red-crested Korhaan

Cats – any cats and predators are always exciting to see. We have seen very few so far – 12 lion yesterday were a big surprise. I had a strong feeling that cheetah would appear today and I told everyone that we would see them.

We were tired and in a hurry to get to camp when we noticed a few cars stationery up ahead. In the distance Earl pointed out a shape moving toward us. Lion, he said but it turned into a cheetah! We pulled into a space and had brilliant views of two cheetahs walking gingerly toward us. One ran across the road between the cars and the other was skittish and frightened not wanting to take the chance. He was right next to our car, on the correct side of the road for the sun not to spoil the picture. But the animal is the same color as the grass and very well camouflaged! He eventually summoned up the courage to join his mate and it was so sweet to see them greet each other and frolic together before running off into the sunset.

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Looking for his mate

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Debating which way to go

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He changed direction then crossed quickly

Earl;s Cheetah

Earl’s Cheetah looking him right in the eye.

Wow that left us on a high and now Earl just wanted to get to camp and we stopped only briefly for elephant, rhino, buffalo, kudu and a korhaan!
Orpen Camp is our favourite. We were in huts 8 and 9.  Each had an outdoor kitchen and covered stoep. The room was comfy with an en suite shower and loo.  Orpen also has the best swimming pool and a floodlit waterhole on the other side of the fence.  It is a small, unspoilt camp with no restaurant. However, there is a coffee hut next to the shop that serves excellent coffees, teas and hot chocolate.

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Fortune and Misfortune – A Fortuner Adventure – Day 5

1 July 2012

Earl was still not feeling good this morning.   He did not have a temperature but he complained that his body was aching.  It sounded like a dose of influenza was on the way!   I left him in bed while we got up and packed and in spite of his ails he insisted on driving.

We were enjoying the early morning drive, snug and warm in our vehicle, no cars in sight and just the odd springbok and gemsbok about, when just up ahead we saw a car stopped and wondered what he had seen.  We soon found out.  Right in front of him, on the road was a young male lion.   Eyes forward we got our cameras ready.   We were thrilled to be only one of two cars and did not have to fight for position.  Suddenly someone in the car ahead gesticulated to us and we looked around to see a lioness in the distance.  She was slowly making her way toward us and we didn’t know where to look – at the lioness or the lion who was really close.  I insisted that we wait for the lioness to get closer.  “She’s going to join her husband,” I said.  And he did keep looking behind him to monitor her progress.   Of course, I was right and eventually we were rewarded when she came up right next to the car.

Lioness

After snapping many photographs we slowly overtook the car in front  of us and past the male so we could turn around to get more than his back view.

Looking for his wife

Happy that she’s following her lord and master

It was a great start to our journey to Nossob!

Close by a jackal expressed what he thought about his king and queen

We don’t often see kudu in Kgalagadi so it was great to find these beautiful males at the waterhole.

Kudu

A passing tourist alerted us to cheetah around the corner.   We took our time as we’d seen cheetah in this spot before and knew they would be far from the road and not in a hurry to move on.

On the way we spied these two perched high up and surveying the scene.

White-backed Vultures

We could not resist snapping this kestrel either

Rock Kestrel

And then as we rounded the corner we saw a few cars looking over the wide grassland and soon caught sight of cheetahs on the move.

Cheetahs

We wondered where they were headed

Just to a shady tree where they could sleep for the rest of the day!

We continued on our way, delighted to have had 2 cat sightings in one morning.   There was not much excitement for the rest of the way but we did stop for birds and enjoyed seeing all the springbok, gemsbok, kori bustards – we counted 97 in one day – there must have been a Kori Bustard convention that nobody told us about.    Usually it’s very exciting spotting one but we had become quite blasé about these magnificent birds.

Our plan was to stop at a picnic site and Earl would cook breakfast but by the time we got there he was feeling dreadful so we settled for cereal and coffee.

Isn’t it amazing that you can be 1000 km from home in a reserve where you seldom see another soul on the road and then you can randomly turn up at a picnic site and  you recognise the only other people there.  Yes – we met Sean and Isobella, members of our bird club,  who just happened to be on their way to Mata Mata where they were exiting to go to Namibia!  What were the chances!

There was a lot of bird activity but this was the best photograph I managed. This little chap is a black chested prinia. He is in his non-breeding feathers hence no black chest!

Black-chested Prinia

We made Earl as comfortable as possible in the passenger seat and I drove the rest of the way to Nossob.  He had the shivers and was not a happy man.

It was after 1:30 when we arrived.  We needed to refuel for our trip to Gharagab the following day as there would be no place to do so between here and there.   We had also been warned that Nossob was running low on diesel but there was no point on filling up at Mata Mata as we were close on full.   It was a Sunday and the petrol pumps were closed till 2!  Earl got into the queue while I went to check in.   There was some delay at reception too as there was only one attendant who could deal with us and she was busy dealing with a gate and key crisis – not too sure of the details.  I got chatting to young woman in the queue who was checking in to go to Gharagab.   There were two vehicles and three people in her party and they’d driven all the way from Twee Rivieren and were heading straight for Gharagab 160km away on a 4×4 track.   I wished her luck as I was sure they wouldn’t make it before dark!  We would not dream of driving from Twee Rivieren to Gharagab without an overnight stop at Nossob.   You never know how often you are going to stop for animals, whether you’ll get a puncture, how bad the roads might be etc. etc.  But they were young, thought themselves invincible and didn’t have a care in the world.  Do I miss those days?  No, I don’t think so!

Luckily there was enough diesel, we stocked up on fire wood and mineral water – no drinking water at Gharagab and checked into our bungalows.  Earl went straight to bed.  Heather, Peter and I, after some lunch and unpacking walked to the hide which overlooks a waterhole.

Wildebeest taking a drink

There was quite a lot of bird activity and we watched a lanner trying to catch doves but he was not successful.

I managed to snap a pale chanting goshawk just as he took flight.

Earl remained in bed and Peter braaied our supper.   We debated whether we should abandon the trip and try and get to Upington and a doctor. I had a well-stocked first aid kit with flu medication but no antibiotics.  Earl’s fever was over 40 degrees C, which worried me. Once at Gharagab we would be settled for three nights – no driving around as the only road is the one-way, round trip on a  4X4 track between Nossob and the wilderness camp. Travelling to Twee Rivieren would take forever and then it would be another 250 km to Upington.  I thought Earl would be more comfortable staying put and decided that he might as well be sick there as anywhere else.  So the plan was for me to drive the 4×4 track and see how things went.

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Taking the Kids to Kruger – Skukuza to Pretoriuskop

1 April 2012 – Skukuza to Pretoriuskop

If you are a member of the Sanparks Forums as I am, you always tie a yellow ribbon around the drivers mirror so that if other members are in the park at the same time you can stop and chat.  “Bushcraft” a fellow forum member and his family were staying near us at Skukuza last night and so we got together for a braai last night.  It was great meeting them and their three girls got on very well with our four grandchildren – a nice opportunity for Shan to have some girl company! But bed-time was somewhat later than is wise when  you’re rising early in the park!    In spite of this we managed to get completely packed up and out the gate by 6:15.  From 1 April, gate opening is only at 6.

We have found that finding game is a challenge at this time of the year and there have been long stretches of nothing between sightings.  With hyper-active kids this can be trying – for them and for us but besides getting a bit noisy and the odd jibe at each other the kids have been fantastic.  And what we have managed to find has been super rewarding but we have not always managed to get photographs.   It has been a learning curve for the kids to just appreciate with their eyes and not to be too fussed about capturing the moment digitally.

Shannon is excellent at remembering the names of the birds but the boys  – well – the boys are boys and make up their own hilarious names and mock their cousin when she’s so perfect and say – “No its a jackal striped horned kingfisher” and they all laugh uproariously.

There were some special moments today.  We came upon a traffic jam and were told that a cheetah had been sighted but was now lying in the long grass.   Nobody wanted to move out of the way so Earl politely asked an offending ‘jeep jockey’ to move her vehicle from the middle of the road.  She obliged and we then managed to get through the mess of cars blocking the way.   There is really little point of boring a car load of children with a non-event.  They desperately wanted to see the creature but understood why we would not wait among a crowd of sillies.   And they were rewarded because later in the day we got a beauty, in full view standing on a rock.   The grass was long and made unblurred photography difficult but Earl and  Jay managed to get reasonable shots.

Cheetah on rock by Earl

Cheetah by Jay

We just managed a glimpse of a hyena this morning and then later got a good sighting.   This is one of a pair we saw walking down the road towards us before slipping into the long grass.

We had told the children about green pigeons but not until today did we mange to find any.   A whole treeful appeared before us but they did not feel like posing for the paparazzi.   But Jay kept trying and got a lovely shot.

Another highlight was this little Lizzard Buzzard.  Jay was proud to be able to correctly identify it himself by comparing his pic with the one in the book.

Lizzard Buzzard

Bats used to live under the thatch of the lapas at Skukuza but when we tried to show them to the kids there were none to be found.  The restaurant manager told us they’d all left but he did not know why – they’d been there for years.   Well today when we had breakfast at Pretoriouskop, Shan looked up and saw bat eyes staring down at her.   She insisted on swapping places with me!

We have spotted the buck with target bums from time to time but photography has been difficult.  Today we were determined to at least have a memory shot.

We checked into our Pretoriouskop family cottage 111 at 2:00 p.m.  It is on the perimeter and we hope to spot game at the fence later on.  It is cooler today but the children went to the pool for a swim and are now playing cards and downloading photos.   It will be an early night tonight.