1

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 9

The wind died down last night and did not blow us all away to Oz. We all had a good night’s sleep but the effects of early rising for the past week have taken its toll on our teenage grandchildren.  It took a while to coax them out of the tent this morning and it was after six before we went off for our morning drive.

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Shan was out of it for the first hour of the day!!

We did a short morning drive along the S100, checked out the Leopard/Hyaena kill and then went back to camp.  These are the highlights:-

Vultures were feasting on the leftovers of the leopard’s kill.

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We also found some white storks. I imagine they’d just made a delivery of babies to some Park Parents.IMG_2084

We  found a spot where there was a Painted Snipe, Grey Heron, African Black Crake and Fish Eagle.

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Painted Snipe

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Fish Eagle

Some other birding delights of the day were:-

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Finally I got a half decent photo of a Magpie Shrike

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Carmine bee-eaters

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Amur Falcon

Then we had an encounter with a bull elephant in musth.   He owned the road and just kept coming toward us.  “Reverse, Grandpa!”  yelled the kids.  “We’re going to die!”  moaned Shannon.   “Tell my parents I love them!’

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Slightly scary when a giant heads straight for your vehicle

While they were freaking out they both kept their cameras trained on the scene videoing the drama.  There were other cars on the road too and we all just gave the Elllie his space and reversed until he decided he’d had enough fun and went off into the bush.

The commentary on the video was hilarious.  “I don’t know who will see this but at least you will know how I died.   This is freaking terrifying!   Grandpa – reverse faster.  (chuckles from Grandpa)  Don’t worry kids he’s not angry he won’t do anything. (from Grandma)  That’s was the last crushed people said (from Shan)   Lots of nervous laughter.

It all lasted about three minutes and when it was over the kids said – Man that was scary! – But really we were in no danger.   This was no angry, charging elephant.

Back at camp we had breakfast and spent a few hours chilling before going out again at 3.   It was not a very exciting afternoon – probably just as well after the morning drama.  The highlight was coming across a mommy hyaena with cubs

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I was also thrilled to get the African Hawk Eagle

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The weather was cold again today but by this evening we could see that it was clearing.   The Earl cooked a chicken casserole for supper.  An elephant passed by the fence. He was so silent that had the neighbours not alerted us we would not have seen him.   It is such fun being close to the fence.

10

Black and White Challenge 29 June 2017

Here are my contributions to This week’s black and white challenge from Cee

Feet

011 Gemsbok Earl (3)-001

Gemsbok (Oryx) 

465 African Jacana

Wide Spread toes of the African Jacana

475 Warthog

A Warthog tucks his feet away to get closer to the new grass shoots

Hands

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Clasped in Prayer

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Fingers were made before forks

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Grasping a fork

Paws/Legs

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Mighty Lion Paws

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It’s not easy taking a drink with such long legs and an extended neck to deal with

178 elepahant

Enormous

5

Share your world 27 February 2017

Here are my answers to this weeks Cee’s Share your world

Ever ran out of gas in your vehicle? 

I can’t remember ever having run out of fuel in my vehicle.   But it’s been close.  Sometimes we travel long distances on roads that seem to go on forever but we make sure that we fuel when we can.  We have been in wild places where we’ve had to take in our own fuel.  That was fun!

 

Which are better: black or green olives?

I am of Mediterranean ancestry so olives are very important to me.  I always have black olives of various types in the fridge but I also like green olives.

If you were a great explorer, what would you explore?

I love exploring and have been to some pretty awesome places.  There is nothing I enjoy more than getting close and personal with African wildlife.

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Sunrise in Africa

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This Etosha Elephant tried to charge us

I imagine, though, that a great explorer is someone who goes where no man has gone before.   Well – I can’t identify with that – I have no desire to go to Mars or the arse end of the world where conditions are inhospitably hot or cold.  I don’t mind roughing it but there’s a limit.  So I think for this one I’d say anywhere exotic that I’ve never been before so long as I do not have to risk life or limb. And when I’m there I’d like to meet the local people, learn about their lifestyles and explore their fauna and flora.

Quotes List: At least three of your favorite quotes?

I often go on about attitude being the most important thing to get you through life.

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This one is probably my favourite because I have had so many moments like that have taken my breath away.

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Then there are the more flippant ones that make me laugh

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The last one comes from my brother – “I’d rather be rich and miserable than poor and miserable!”

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

On Monday The Earl had to go to the dentist as he’d lost a tooth while biting into his spare ribs.  (He never did find said tooth!)  She referred him to a periodontist in Somerset West – two hours drive from home.  He was lucky enough to get an appointment the following day. Fortunately I went along with him as during the hour and a half procedure he was given a sedative and wasn’t allowed to drive back!    We were grateful that he was able to get everything done in one session so we don’t have to return.   However, the price has been a lot of post procedure pain!  We went back to the dentist in Bredasdorp today and she has given him more antibiotic and pain medication.  Thankfully he is feeling much better now.

I am looking forward to this weekend as my daughter will be visiting.  She is bringing friends too which will be fun.

 

 

 

2

Kruger National Park Day 10 Day trip to Letaba

8 July 2014 Day Trip to Letaba
We started the day at 7 a.m. warmly dressed and expecting rain. It did drizzle for an hour or two so we decided to take the tar road to Letaba, have breakfast there then take the dirt roads home. This turned out to be a wise decision as the rain stopped for our return journey.
First up today – Impala. If they’re around you know the park is healthy!  Stopping on a bridge we found a huge herd of buffalo crossing the river.

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Crossing the river

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Crested Francolin were up early, zebra crossed in front of us and then we found our first tortoise of the trip. Strange that he was not hibernating on this very cold morning. Heather suggested that his burrow might have been flooded and he was forced out.

Tortoise crossing the wet road

Tortoise crossing the wet road

Is his tongue stuck to the tar or does the tar make the water taste like coke?

Is his tongue stuck to the tar or does the tar make the water taste like coke?

A lilac breasted roller was fluffed up and wet looking rather sorry for itself.

Wet Lilac Breasted Roller

Wet Lilac Breasted Roller

We saw bull elephants quite a few times. I feel quite sorry for the male of the species as elephants have a matriarchal society and the alpha female leads the family and when the males get to a certain age they have to leave the herd and are only allowed to visit.

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Birds of prey have made themselves scarce this trip but the brown snake eagle is often around.
Baboons amused us several times today too.

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So waaa to you too

So waaa to you too

We have not stopped too many times for birds as they seem to be scattered abroad. But we did find a few bird parties and this little lark had us guessing. We finally decided it was a monotonous lark.

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We stopped to look at giraffe, zebra and elephant and then arrived at Letaba at 9:15.

Refurbing of the restaurant and rest rooms are in process. Bug and Mean have taken over and we were apprehensive as to the service having had two bad experiences at Satara and Olifants. Our waitress was lovely but we had to speak simply as she did not understand everything we said. Our drinks arrived in less than 15 minutes and our meal in less than half an hour which we find quite acceptable. The food was good. My coffee was the house blend which is bottomless. The first cup was not very hot but as I take it black it was drinkable. I was offered a second cup and I asked for it to be hot and it was! Usually their coffees are served in a mug but I asked for a cup and a cup I received. So we were impressed with Mug and Bean, Letaba! After breakfast we walked around the camp trying to find owls but they were clearly away on holiday. Instead we found a grey-headed bushshrike. It was not easy getting photographs as it moved constantly and his behind the foliage.

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My shot with his bill behind the branch

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Earl managed a clearer shot

Bushbuck love Letaba and find their way into the camp.  We found one trying to look inconspicuous under a tree.

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We took a slow drive back to Olifants along the river road but there was not much to see. The cold weather had clearly sent the critters into hiding.
There were of course stops to see the usual suspects of giraffe and zebra etc. The vegetation is very pretty in this area with Mopane trees in varying colours from autumn to new spring leaves. So the colours are green, yellow, orange, red, bronze. At one of our stops we found pied wagtail, 3 banded plover and a coucal in a tree.

African Pied Wagtail

African Pied Wagtail

Three banded plover

Three banded plover

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A flock of canaries startled us out of a reverie and we stopped for ages taking photographs. There were other species among them like grey headed sparrow and twin spot batis. Red winged starling flew into a tree and as I watched them I caught sight of a brown headed parrot hiding in the foliage. This caused a great flurry of camera activity and finally we all managed to get some decent shots.

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This might be a female or non-breeding red-headed weaver

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Chinspot Batis with yellow fronted canary in background

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Yellow-fronted canaries

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Brown headed parrot

After this excitement there was a dry spell of driving until among the beautiful burnished colours of the Mopani trees I saw a ball of grey. I called stop and Earl reversed and even when I saw it again I was tempted to say – no its nothing but I raised my binoculars to it and found a pearl spotted owlet. It took a while to describe to the others where I was looking and there was great excitement when everyone spotted it. We had a brief minute or two when suddenly it was gone and we could not see where it had flown too. A really special treat!

Pearl Spotted Owlet

Pearl Spotted Owlet

We had tried to fill up with diesel at Letaba but they had run out so we needed to be sure to get back to Olifants before we ran out. We arrived back at quarter past 2, filled up, went to the shop and then had left overs for lunch at our huts. At half past three we went out again this time to find our crocodile and terrapin pond. We always visit this pond as the first time we found it a baby croc and his terrapin friends came rushing to the edge to meet any vehicle that happened along. Clearly someone had started feeding them and they still try to cash in on the deal. And yes they were there! The croc is much bigger and more frightening now but still ruler of the pond! I wonder if he will ever migrate away from it.

He comes Crockie

My but he’s grown!

Beware

Beware

Have you got some crumbs for us?

Have you got some crumbs for us?

Please?

Please?

To end the day we found kudu and then a korhaan.

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It was our tamest day so far but a slow day in Kruger is still better than a good day in Cape Town.

2

Kruger National Park Day 9 Orpen to Olifants

7 July 2014 Orpen to Olifants Our day started very early with a loud clattering and crashing coming from the stoep. Earl and I both got up to investigate at the same time – I knew it had to be a honey badger and I grabbed the walkie talkie to alert Heather. By the time we got there the invader had gone. It was just after 2 a.m. We went wearily back to bed and eventually dropped off only to be awoken by fresh clattering and this time there were 2 naughty critters. They’d upset the bin, opened a latched cupboard and were greedily devouring the scraps left over from last night’s supper! Our presence with cameras did nothing to deter them and we managed to get some reasonable shots of the little burglars.

Intruding Honey badegers

Intruding Honey badgers

After all this excitement it was difficult to get back to sleep but exhaustion took over and we were back in dreamland knowing that our wake up time would be 5 a.m. BUT I had somehow got it wrong and woke with a start at twenty to six. The alarm was only set for 6 which was supposed to be departure time! But with cooperation from everyone we packed up quickly and were on the road to Olifants by 6:30. Our intention was to stop at Timbavati Picnic Site and make breakfast there. But the weather had turned and it was freezing so we had a loo and coffee break there then continued to Olifants where we had brunch much later. The sightings today were good. From Orpen along the H7 we first found wildebeest and then Peter said – red brake lights up ahead – what has he seen? As we approached Heather called out Jackal and to our joy he cooperated well and gave us a good photo shoot. He sniffed and scratched for morsels to eat, performed his toilet then took off into the bush.

On an early morning mission

On an early morning mission

When nature calls you must respond

When nature calls you must respond

We saw zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and impala and then another holdup of cars ahead.

Just love these elegant creatures

Just love these elegant creatures

When we caught up we found a huge herd of buffalo – nice to see after the few scattered pairs and individuals we’d seen previously.

Nice herd having breakfast

Nice herd having breakfast

All this was before 7:30 in the morning. Then up ahead two cars cruising slowly and staring into the bush. Earl passed the one in front very slowly and I mouthed – what? Lion he mouthed back. We couldn’t see anything then the car in front of him pointed and we caught up and stopped. Heather yelled – there he is and a huge male stared me right in the eye! Earl said – close your window – my hands were shaking on the camera but I was not about to give up my shot to wind up any window!

He stared me in the eye before looking away

He stared me in the eye before looking away

We watched him for a while turned around and saw him cross the road and march off into the bush. There was a second lion but we didn’t see it. It must have gone over while we were looking at his friend.

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He was a big boy

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Off to find his friend

A last glance back at the canned people

A nice scratch on the prickly bush before moving on again

Near the waterhole Girabana we found a fish eagle in a tree and waterbuck looking too gorgeous for words.

Fish Eagle

Fish Eagle

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Beautiful Female

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Sat on a wet toilet seat? Or is it just a target on her bum!

After our coffee at Timbavati we took a detour to the Ratelpan hide but it was disappointing. Usually we spend at least half an hour there but today the cold prevented us from waiting for something to turn up. There seemed little to see on the S127 and were chatting about this and that when I interrupted a story Heather was relating – Kori Bustard! And then there were 2.

All Puffed up to look attractive for his mate

All Puffed up to look attractive for his mate

Approaching each other

Approaching each other

Shall we dance?

Shall we dance?

Soon after we stopped for Temminck’s coursers and while we were trying to identify them a car drew up and asked if we’d seen the Secretary Bird. You mean Kori Bustard? we asked. No and he showed us his photograph – he’d seen it 5km back – too far for us to chase. We were most disappointed to have missed it because earlier in the holiday I’d commented that we’d never found Secretary Birds in the KNP! How annoying to have missed it by 5km! They raced ahead and we found them soon after starting at a bird of prey in a tree. It was difficult to identify but we thought we knew what it could be We asked the driver what he thought but he was stumped. “Juvenile Black breasted Snake-Eagle we said. ” when it’s a juvenile – I give up he laughed. But that’s what my son thinks it is too! The boy was about 12. Next up we found a small group of Mommy elephants with their adorable offspring.

Elephants again

Elephants again

Then surprise and delight I spotted the elusive bird we’d been seeking – A secretary bird! What were the chances after missing the previous one we would so soon find the culprit!

The elusive Secretary Bird

The elusive Secretary Bird

The next interesting sighting was a little yellow mongoose trying to hide away from us. IMG_4930 The final highlight of the day was once again seeing 2 cars ahead going slowly, catching up and Earl declaring – its a hyena. In fact it was a baby. On a previous visit we witnessed an adult pack going off to hunt, a baby bidding its mom goodbye and going off to the den. Clearly this one had not obeyed the instruction to stay hidden while his elders we getting his lunch! It was a beautiful sighting!

My shot - he was right next to my window

My shot – he was right next to my window

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Nice capture by Earl

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And then he stalked off!

We arrived at Olifants at 12, checked in but could only pick up the keys at 1 so we had brunch at Mug and Bean – a tad better than Satara but not much!

6

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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0

Taking the Kids to Kruger – Skukuza

FRIDAY 30 MARCH 2012

Earl was so exhausted last night that he could hardly eat so we decided to make a late start this morning.  I thought this would mean – leave camp at about 9 a.m. but he was totally refreshed when we woke up and our ‘late’ start was at 6:30 instead of 5:30!

Although each day in Kruger has its special moments, some days can be slow with little game appearing. Yesterday was such a day and I knew that if we didn’t do something to keep the kids interested we’d have some rioting in the car.  So we started straight away with the points for first sightings and the competition was on!

Our first excitement were elephants crossing in front of us – they’re a favourite with the kids although they get the adrenalin going when they get too close.

Then buck – not impala – a different buck – Jay called out in excitement – and there on the side of the road was a lovely Male Bushbuck – so different from the female they’d seen yesterday at Afsaal. That earned him 5 points as it’s not a common one to see.

Jay kept ahead with spotting birds and animals first but Shannon was better at naming them.   Josh insisted that the people in front had an advantage but Jay still seemed to beat me to it.  We laughed when he then insisted that it was because he was on the wrong side of the car.

Of course when he won 10 points for finding Granny a Marico Sunbird no mention of unfair advantages was made.

The competition certainly kept the eyes glued the bush and we saw lots of wonderful things in the time that it took us to travel from Skukuza to Nkulu picnic site.

Female Red-backed shrike with breakfast

Bad hair day for this hamerkop

Nkulu is on a river bank and we love stopping here.   The only problem is that the monkeys are rather naughty and you have to be very careful that your breakfast isn’t stolen. Our attention was distracted by a green-backed heron on the opposite bank when our order was placed on the table. Fellow tourists yelled a warning when a cheeky Vervet snatched half a toasted cheese sandwich from Joshua’s plate!

He was horrified but placated when I offered him my chips and half a toasted chicken mayonnaise. Shannon told us she didn’t really like monkeys – they scared her and a large male must have sensed this as he actually threatened her with a grunt and a made a move toward her.   Earl shouted and she hid behind me giggling nervously.

Cheeky monkey enjoying Joshua's breakfast

Jay is enjoying Nkulu's famous buffalo pie

As soon as we’d eaten we packed up left over buffalo pies and sandwiches and continued our journey.   Shan was sitting up front with me.  We stopped to photograph some very young monkeys and Shan was really enjoying them until Earl pointed to a big one right next to her window – she started to wind up the window and I said – “no – don’t I just want to snap his portrait”  she burst into tears and leapt over onto Earl’s lap.  I think the incident at the Nkulu upset her more than we realised.   After a cuddle and comforting words she was fine again and we warned the boys not to tease her about monkeys, please!

We had further fun with primates when we stopped on a bridge and a troop of baboons had the kids in fits of laughter with their antics – chasing each other, play fighting and tumbling and almost 0ff the bridge.

They then went and climbed the sandy cliffs and foraged for termites or whatever lives in the bank.

There were other interesting things to see in the water too.  Simon spotted a legawaan on the rocks and another where the monkeys were climbing up and down the bank.

A Goliath heron patiently fished in some fast running water

Birds of prey earned our young spotters lots of points and gave us an opportunity to teach them how to tell one from another.
The brown snake eagle has yellow eyes and feathers only to its knees while the lesser spotted eagle  has ‘stove pipes’ , pale eyes and yellow feet.  And the don’t be too convinced that you’re right – all birds of prey are tricky to identify – even the experts make mistakes.  But the martial is unmistakable with its black chest and white, speckled tummy.

Brown Snake Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Martial Eagle

At Sunset Dam the challenge was to see how many crocodiles you could count – they camouflage so well and perhaps there were more than the 10 we got.   Plenty of hippos lazed and grunted in the shallows and the shore birds gave us lots of pleasure.

Wood sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

After a refreshing drink at Lower Sabie we made our way home.  Simon had been as good as gold but was now starting to ask when he could go for a swim.  It was really hot today.

The elephants could not let us off lightly today – a rather angry looking bull decided not to make way for us as he trundled down the middle of the tar road.   We had to reverse until he found a place that suited him to get off the road.   A lovely adrenalin rush to end the day!

After the kids had a swim we went to the nearby hide of Lake Panic for just half an hour.  There were hippos and birds but at this time of year not the variety that we usually see.    Still it was good to see that no damage had been done by the floods.

A thunder storm cooled things down this evening but put rather a dampener on our braai.   Jay stripped to his waist and used a storage box lid to prevent the fire from going out while he finished off cooking our chicken.

3

Taking the Kids to Kruger – Berg en Dal to Skukuza

THURSDAY 29 March 2012 BERG EN DAL TO SKUKUZA

The phone alarm disturbed my peaceful dreams and got me out of bed at 4:30 a.m.  Once everything was ready for packing, we woke the kids, gave them breakfast, made sure nothing was left behind and got them into the car.   The weather was warm but overcast and it had rained in the night.   We had some drizzle during the day but it was still hot!

Our first interesting bird sighting was of a pair of crested francolin.

Crested Francolin

Crossing a low-level bridge we found a common sandpiper and a water thick-knee.

Common Sandpiper

Water Thick-knee

Dwarf mongoose often take over abandoned anthills and our cutest sighting got everyone going – ooh – how sweet!

Dwarf Mongoose

Things were becoming a little boring as we passed bush after bush and strained our eyes searching into the long glass for some sort of creature to appear.   Then I saw across the river a load of elephants storming down to drink and swim.   We watched them through the trees then realised that they were going to cross the river and come up onto the road in front of us.  It was an enormous herd of about 60 jumbos and they raised their trunks and trumpeted as they came stumbling up the bank towards us.  Simon was suddenly frozen into silence on my lap.  Shannon beseeched them – please don’t hurt us – we just want to look at you!   They just stared at us, waved their trunks and then trundled past in front and behind the car.  The children were awed and when they were gone, Simon said, “That really freaked me out!”    It was awesome to see such a big herd with ellies of all ages from tiny babies to great big mommies.

The excitement of that awesome sighting stayed with us for a while.  Then Joshua spotted and Shannon identified an immature bateleur. (The competition for being the first to spot and name the birds is great!)

After the recent flooding in the Kruger National Park, some bridges were damaged and to our horror we found the one we wanted to cross still not repaired.  Our choice was to retrace our route or take a road that is only open to visitors to Biyamati Bush Lodge.   Another car was in the same predicament so jointly we decided to take the out of bounds road. We would not usually do this but there were not warnings that the road was closed so this would be our excuse if caught.   (We weren’t)

On the way we found buffalo, rhino, kudu, impala, some birds but nothing else.

We stopped at Afsaal for brunch and then continued to Skukuza.  We found warthog, giraffe and zebra, more kudu and impala, a kori bustard – but not good enough for a photograph and of course many birds.

Black-collared Barbet

Dark-capped bulbul

Brown-hooded kingfisher

We checked into family cottage 229 which consisted of two en suite bedrooms and a spacious living area.   We moved the extra bed in our room to the second bedroom so the cousins could all be together.

After settling in, lunch and a nap we took a walk next to the river and found a few birds, then went to the shop.

Simon said the best part of his day was having an ice-cream and moving into the cottage!

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A Great Start to 2011 Part 2 Mountain Zebra to Addo

5 January 2011

We left at 6 and enjoyed some game viewing and birding before exiting at 7:15. A ranger stopped to tell us that there were black rhino near the gate. But they had disappeared by the time we got there. Still good to know that they are around.
ADDO
We arrived at Addo Rest Camp at quarter to 10 – too early for checking into the bungalow so we unhitched the trailer, had a health breakfast at the restaurant and went for a drive.

First animal seen –  elephant! This after people we met in Kokstad told us they’d been to Addo several times and had never seen elephants.  We, on the other hand, have always seen hundreds and we have been coming to Addo since the year 2000.

Road Block

This time of the year is clearly good for game viewing. The park was green and there was plenty of water around. The only disappointing water hole was Marion Barree.
But back to day 1. We made our way to Carol’s rest where lion had been seen. En route saw lots of kudu and red hartebeest, a jackal and eland at a distance but lots of them – never seen so many before. A family were out of their car trying to get a better look at the game. We drew up next to them and I asked, “Are you South Africans?” They were but had no idea that they weren’t allowed out of their vehicle. Never mind the symbols at the gate! Earliebird told them that lion had been sighted round the corner. They were back in the vehicle quick smart. Homo Ignoramus!

There were no lion at Carol’s Rest but there was a buffalo drinking.  We moved on and headed back toward camp enjoying sightings of elephant, eland, buffalo, red hartebeest and zebra.  The birds we found were common fiscal, mousebirds – red-faced and speckled and red-capped larks.   The birdlife this trip was not as prolific as usual – very few bokmakieries of which there are usually scores.

We decided not to braai and I cooked a chicken casserole for dinner which we enjoyed outdoors looking over the valley and watched kudu, buffalo and elephant make their way to the waterhole for an evening drink.

Thursday 6 January 2011

Earliebird had a strong feeling that the lions would be at Carol’s Rest this morning so we set off early and were the first out the gate.  It was 22⁰C and climbing.   We drove slowly and enjoyed sightings of kudu – males had lovely big antlers, eland and red hartebeest.  The large herds of eland had many babies amongst them so the herd is certainly going to grow even more.

Eland

A jackal trotted along on a mission and a pale chanting goshawk in a tree caught our attention.

Jackal

Our Caravelle and a Kombi arrived almost simultaneously at Carol’s Rest and we were the only cars for about 10 minutes.  We saw the two big buffalo bulls straight away and for a minute I thought that was it when the three lions exploded on my senses – two young males and a female.   There was no cover for any of the animals and they were staring at each other.

Don’t mess with us!

We could hear a jackal howling and eventually saw him with our binoculars.  He was clearly upset that the three lions were so near the waterhole or was begging them to attack so he could help partake in the meal.   But there was no way these predators were going to get into those two huge ungulates.   There was no doubt who had the upper hand – or hoof.   The buffalo grazed peacefully until the lions came to close then charged and had them scampering away.  We watched the cats try a few half-hearted attempts before settling down to play with each other and finally snooze.

Affection

More cars began to arrive and as it was a wide-open area there was plenty of place to park and everyone had a good view.   Suddenly I noticed the passenger in the car parked in front of us trying to catch my attention.   It our daughter’s friend, Michele, visiting the park with her husband and kids.   Lisa had told her to look out for us and it was great that we could tell her we’d found each other at the lion sighting.

Cars kept arriving and stopping to look at the lions but one came along, obviously saw the buffalo and thought to himself – oh they’re all looking at the buffalo and drove straight by!   He did not bother to scan the area properly and missed what was probably on the top of his wish  list.  I can just hear him telling his mates – “It’s a waste of time going to game reserves – you don’t see anything.”    Well – you don’t see anything if you don’t take the time to look.

We spent over an hour with the magnificent cats and during that time zebra came to drink and two more jackal appeared.  We then moved on to see what else Addo had to show us.  My list went something like this – red-capped lark, African pipit, drongo, hoopoe (one who posed beautifully),  warthog, jackal, elephants, jackal, tortoise, elephants, tortoise, warthog, bokmakierie, eland, elephant, tortoise.

Red-capped lark with lunch
Zebra and Hartebeest nose to nose
Warthog mom and babies

Hoopoe
Tortoise Couple

The temperature had climbed to 38 by the time we got back for brunch and we relaxed for a few hours before venturing out again at 4 o’clock. We enjoyed seeing the usual suspects but were amazed at all the tortoises that kept making an appearance – our total for the day was at least 12, so we called today The Day of the Tortoise.

Afternoon Drive

Our highlight of the afternoon was spending time at a little waterhole that we could just see through a gap in the bush.   Earliebird spotted two yellow-billed ducks under a dead log  which made a very pretty picture.

Another then swam by behind them then they swam to join it further along.

We were just enjoying the tranquil scene when a yellow-billed kite landed in a tree right in front of us and entertained us by preening and spreading his wings and providing us with wonderful Kodak moments.

Yellow-billed Kite

Several cars stopped to find out what we were so engrossed in but when we told them we were looking at ducks and kites they moved straight on. Oh dear, we birders are a funny lot!

After an hour of this, we went to Jack’s Picnic site for a loo break and were very impressed with this facility.

Just  before entering we stopped at a mud puddle and laughed at an itchy warthog  He’d found a very entertaining way of relieving his itches on a strategically placed rock.

Itchy Warthog
Oh the relief!

We braaied the last of our chops and enjoyed them with baked potatoes and salad while we once again watched the wildlife take their evening stroll down to the waterhole.

Friday 7 January 2011

This morning, our last, we packed everything ready to go and then headed out for a drive before breakfast.   We were enjoying observing all the Addo game when someone stopped to tell us that there were hyena at Domkrag Dam.   We did not rush but were luck enough to get there before they disappeared.   Photography was not easy from the lookout point but we got nice views of the remaining hyena with our binoculars.

Finally, it was time to leave. We returned to our bungalow, hitched up the trailer and then went to the restaurant for a health breakfast – highly recommended – muesli, fruit and yogurt in a glass.

Michelle and her family saw us as they were heading for the waterhole and told us that they’d seen a black rhino at the campsite fence the night before.

We took our time driving through the new section of the park exiting at the Colchester gate.   We enjoyed zebra crossing with babies in front of us

Baby first

A steppe buzzard posed for a portrait

The sombre greenbul finally “came out to fight” – you hear this bird constantly calling – Willie come out and fight – but you seldom see him!  I guess he is too scared.

Sombre Greenbul

Finally we found the highlight of our trip – the tiniest little quail-finch. What fascinating birds.

You never know what a game reserve is going to offer you – it is different every time.  This was not our most exciting visit to Addo but it was certainly still most enjoyable and who knows what she will have to offer next time.