6

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 12

13 January 2018

Last night I said, “You’re doing so well being ready to leave camp by 6:00 am.  Tomorrow is our second last day in the park. Let’s try to get out even earlier than usual.”

“What do you call early?” asked Shan suspiciousy.

“The gate opens at 4:30 – but let’s say 5 or 5:30?

Two pairs of eyes looked at me in horrified disbelief.  “Why?” they asked.

“Because you’re more likely to get the animals in active mode early in the morning.  Lions spend 20 hours a day sleeping in the shade under trees. The chances of seeing them active in the morning is increased if you get out there nice and early.”

They reluctantly agreed.

It took a while to get them to wake up this morning and Simon said, “Gran, how can you do this to me!” But we managed to get out of the gate just after 5:00 am.  Dawn was golden on the horizon and the kids’ cameras were clicking away at the seldom seen, awesome sight.

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Simon took this one through the side mirror of the car

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The hippos were having an early morning swim

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This chap seemed happy to see us

We took the S128 and then joined up with the H4-1 to Tshokwane.  After a few minutes the early rising caught up with Simon and after taking a photo of some buffalo he gave up and fell asleep!

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He woke with a start when Shan called out –  Elephant! and one was right next to his window. Then a really big one stepped into the road behind the car and decided to follow us.  This caused shrieks of “Drive, Grandpa, Drive!”  from both kids.  “Nah,” said Grandpa “I’ll let him catch up first and then drive!”  The kids thought this might be fun and encouraged him to wait till he was really close but Gran reprimanded him. “Don’t you dare be a hero – you never know what he might do!”   Nervous laughter from the kids before they started yelling for him to drive again!

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The big boy just wanted to follow us

Simon fell asleep again but after the next sighting sleep was impossible.  The early rising was paying off.

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Two young lions playing

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We counted six of them but found out later there were 12 but some were hidden

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This chap pulled the bark off the tree and played with it

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Such a handsome lion

We watched these lions playing for a little while and then went on as breakfast was calling.

A car was parked at the next turnoff and we almost rode straight past when Grandpa yelled – oops – Lion!

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A honeymoon coupe!

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She looked sleepy

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But The King had other ideas

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People are watching – to find a room of course

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And she did – well a sort of private spot anyway.

“The children’s education is complete,”  I said.

“What do you mean, Gran,”  said Shan

“That we now know how lions mate!”  said Simon.

Four of the Big Five before breakfast!  Yes getting out early certainly paid off this morning!

But wait, there’s more!   The occupants of the car who had the honeymoon coupe first had moved on ahead of us and were parked next to a tree. They pointed out a Verreaux’s Eagle-owl.  Great!

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Tshokwane serves the best coffee in Kruger and we were ready for ours when we arrived there shortly after our lovely morning.

On our return trip we revisited the honey moon couple and continued to enjoy the regulars.  The birding was good too.  The best was seeing ground hornbill again.

It was almost midday when we arrived back at camp.

Simon has struck up a friendship with the boys camping next to us.  All the kids had a great afternoon at the pool.

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We went out again for a short drive at 4 pm.  Nothing too exciting crossed our path but after the morning’s excitement we were content to enjoy the regulars.

Tomorrow is our last full day in The Park.  We will spend our last night at Berg en Dal and then leave early on Monday morning.

 

 

6

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 11

12 January 2018

The weather is once again hot in The Kruger National Park with temperatures reaching the mid thirties.

This morning for our  drive we drove to Crocodile Bridge Camp.  There were lots of the usual animals about and we got four of the Big Five.   Four rhino were quite far away so we didn’t take a photo.  There were a few elephant sightings but as we have many ellie photos we didn’t take of them either.   The same goes for buffalo which we saw from camp and from the bridge.  There is no restaurant at this Gate Camp but you can get coffee from a kiosk and ready made sandwiches, pies, muffins etc from the shop.  In the past we have enjoyed their pies but today there were none available so we settled for sandwiches which were also very good.

These are the highlights from this morning’s drive.

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A Bateleur finally posed for a half decent photograph

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

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A wildebeest resting in the shade

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Donkeys in striped pajamas everywhere

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

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An emerald-spotted wood-dove

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

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But we disturbed their peace

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Such gorgeous creatures

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Yes – It’s hot!

When we got back to camp our neighbours told us about lions just three km from the bridge so we went in search of them.

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

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Then flopped down again

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At the bridge we got this lovely Goliath Heron

We chilled in camp for most of the afternoon and then went out again for a short drive from 4 o’clock to 6 o’clock.  The Amur falcons and  rollers were flocking together and hawking insects which was really interesting to watch.

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Rollers hawking insects

Here are the other highlights of our afternoon drive

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Southern White-crowned Shrike

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Burchell’s Coucal

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Snake-eagle with a reptile of some sort – see the tail

When we got back the kids went for a swim with the neighbour’s kids and later Simon went on another night hike and saw hyaena from the restaurant deck.

It was a beautiful evening and we had a braai.    It was after nine before we were ready for bed.

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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2

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Kruger National Park Day 18

16 July Lower Sabie
We decided on a later start today and started off at Sunset dam at quarter to 8. It is definitely best to be there in the morning. We had an amazing time watching white crowned lapwings, a ruff, three banded plover and different storks and kingfishers.

The hippos were also in amorous mood and we watched a love scene playing out.

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White-crowned Lapwing

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Ruff

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Yellow-billed Stork

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Wooly-necked Stork

Three Banded Plover

Three Banded Plover

Pied kingfishers

Pied kingfishers

What a lovely smile you have

Show me your tonsils and I’ll show you mine

Just a little kiss please

Just a little kiss please

What toothpaste do you use

What toothpaste do you use

Cosying up

Cosying up

Such a loving couple

Afterglow?

Travel by Hippo - beats the bus

Travel by Hippo – beats the bus

On the S28 we got another pearl spotted owlet. Great to see so many in the park. A Senegal lapwing was another bird that gave us pleasure to find.

Pearl Spotted Owlet

Pearl Spotted Owlet

Senegal Lapwing

Senegal Lapwing

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A tawny Eagle is disturbed by a warthog

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The hog ignores the bird

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Find a patch to scratch his nose and have a snack

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Tawny joins his mate in the dry grass and shares his meal with her.

Our morning produced all the usual suspects before we stopped at Crocodile Bridge for breakfast. This is a small Gate Camp and does not have a restaurant. However they have a coffee hut and tables and chairs outdoors. From the shop we got ready made sandwiches which were really good and we also indulged in chocolate chip muffins.  We spotted some good birds there too.

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White-bellied sunbird

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House Sparrow

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Blue Waxbill

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Black Headed Oriole

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Black Collared Barbet

A special experience today was on the S25 as it crossed to the S26 on a low level bridge. There was just a bit of water but lots going on. We watched monkeys drinking,a heron catch a fish and a monitor lizard catch a frog.

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The Heron ready to fish (Note monitor lizard in background.)

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What can he see?

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Going for the prey

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Got it!

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Down the gullet it goes

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Water Monitor starts exploring

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What can he find in the pond

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Getting closer

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Admires his reflection

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Tests the waters with a hind leg

Tongue darts in and out
Speaks with a forked tongue?

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A frog meets his fete

 

Monkey slake their thirst

Monkey slake their thirst

 

1

Kruger National Park Day 16 and 17

Satara 14 July
I Had a very bad night last night because of my very sore back. I did some stretching exercises and then we hit the S100. Every bump in the road was an agony and my body language must have shown it all because Peter told Earl to stop and said he thought we should turn back so I could have a rest from sitting. Everyone agreed and I was grateful but said they should go out without me. I have seen everything in Kruger before and wanted them to go out and get me a photo of a leopard. They said they would but the didn’t! Instead we took a walk around the camp and saw some interesting birds. Then we went to the Mug ‘n Bean for breakfast. We spent the rest of the day in camp. Earl gave me a massage and I had a long sleep. I took some painkillers and this helped too.

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Bateleur spotted before we returned

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Grey-headed Sparrow in camp

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Heath did chef duty

Satara to Lower Sabie 15 July
I was much better this morning. I did my exercises and took some more dicloflam. We left at 6:30 and made our way to Lower Sabie where we would be staying in the Safari Tents right next to the Sabie River.
The first part of our trip produced lovely birds and game.

 

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Spider webs in the early morning mist

Lesser Striped Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Good Morning

Good Morning

Lovely Day

Lovely Day

Here's looking at you kid

Here’s looking at you kid

A Tree with a View

A Tree with a View

Peek a Boo I see you

Peek a Boo I see you

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Breakfast French Style

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Bateleurs posing obligingly

Bateleurs posing obligingly

We stopped at Tshokwane for breakfast then did the Orpen Dam loop which was very fruitful.

Breakfast at Tshokwane

Breakfast at Tshokwane

Yellowbilled hornbill right next to me at Toshokwane

Yellow-billed hornbill right next to me at Toshokwane

A mousebird hiding in the foliage at Toshokwane

A mousebird hiding in the foliage at Toshokwane

There were lots of buffalo on the Orpen loop.

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Salon Treatments are so relaxing

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Just chewing on a blade of straw

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Spider Webs in the early morning

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Is that a grin or a grimace?

Crossing a ford we found these two kingfishers.

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Pied

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Malachite

We found this gang at a waterhole

We found this gang at a waterhole

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Yet another coucal

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Fish Eagle on nest

Male sandgrouse with chick

Male sandgrouse with chick

There was not much on the tar road to Sabie but we stopped at Sunset Dam and had a wonderful hour watching the activity there. A fish eagle caught a fish. A tawny tried to take it away from him. He survived that attack only to have it taken by an adult fish eagle. Giraffe came down as well as impala and wildebeest. There were scores of crocodiles and hippo on the bank and the water birds gave us some lovely entertainment.

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Our safari tents are not the same. Earl and I took the bigger one with a fantastic kitchen as we are the caterers. The front deck is also bigger and has a table for four but only 2 chairs. Luckily we brought camp chairs with us. Inside is very roomy and the bathroom is quite modern.
Heather and Peter have a smaller tent but the view is great. We think they might be gradually upgrading all the tents. Theirs is looking a bit the worse for wear. Hopefully in the next couple of years all the tents will be upgraded. I can highly recommend staying in the safari tents although during the day they are quite hot and at night they are cold. But extra blankets are provided. At suppertime it was pleasant on the deck. During the night the sound of the bush was deafening with hippo grunting, hyena laughing and jackals howling. Baboons barking added to the cacophony.

Here are some of the birds who came to visit.

Weaver

Spectacled Weaver

Canary

Yellow Canary

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LBJ – Could be a rattling cisticola

Glossy Starling

Glossy Starling

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LBJ

 

 

0

Taking the Kids to Kruger – Skukuza Part 2

31 March 2012 – SKUKUZA

It continued to storm during the night and when I woke up at 4:30 it was still raining.   We decided not to wake the kids till 5:30 and by 6 the sky was beginning to clear.  We managed to get away by 6:15.  In summer this would be quite late but from 1 April the gate only opens at 6 as it is getting light later and later. Today would really have been the last day one could have made a very early start.

It turned out to be quite a long day and we only got back to Skukuza at 3 p.m.  We did, however, make a few stops at hides and look out points to stretch legs and get rid of wriggles etc.   As you can imagine four children cooped up together in a small space can become somewhat noisy when there’s a lull in the sightings.  We try to keep them entertained and interested but usually its they who keep us in fits  of laughter with their sayings and antics.

“I want to see a cheetah,” declares Shannon.  “I can see one right now,” says Jay touching her on the shoulder.  “Hey – you’re not supposed to touch the animals,” comes her quick retort.

We stop at to see a beautiful Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and take many photographs.  “He looks cross,” says Jay – “probably sick of the paparazzi hassling.  Don’t tell the next car where he is – he needs some privacy.”

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl

We self-cater all our meals except brunch and find the service at  picnic spot and rest camp restaurant  varies from time to time and place to place. But Lower Sabie is consistently bad and today we made the mistake of arriving there at midday when they’re at their busiest.   We put in our order, waited an age and were then told that they’d run out of pizza.  Another long wait before our meal finally arrived.   A small price to pay for being in a beautiful setting where hippo and buffalo lazed on the river bank.

We have not seen large herds of plains animals so when we see zebra, wildebeest and giraffe we get quite excited.  Today we found them in patches.  The giraffe in particular have been difficult to photograph as they hide behind tall trees or keep their distance from the road.   “Droff’ yelled Jay when he saw a small journey of them this afternoon.  “What the heck is ‘droff’ ? “A quick way of saying giraffe, silly.”   I’ll never call them anything else again!

Some other highlights of the day.

White-fronted lapwing

Swainson's Francolin

Green-winged Pytilia

Lesser-grey shrike

We followed this lioness for a while but she refused to look at the camera

Carmine bee-eater

Tawny Eagle

Klipspringer

Red-breasted Swallows

Sadly there are people both tourists and tradesmen who visit the park who do not take enough care on the roads and animals and birds get knocked down.  Our little group of kids get mad when they see speeding or careless behaviour on the part of others and today Shannon was close to tears when we found a bateleur on the body of a very young monkey that had been run over.   We explained that the bateleur had found an easy meal and soon it had competition from a white-headed vulture.  The former had already flown up into a nearby tree to keep watch on his potential meal when the latter appeared on the scene.  Neither of them attempted to eat the monkey while we watched.

The kids have been looking at things on offer in the park shops and Simon  finally decided to get himself a monkey. Here he is at Lower Sabie with his new friend.