4

Kruger National Park Day 1 and 2 Bloemfontein to Numbi Gate and Pretoriuskop

We are back from another amazing sojourn in The Kruger National Park. I have hundreds of photographs providing wonderful memories and will be going through them and posting some on this blog in the week or so.

Sunday 29 June 2014 Bloemfontein to Numbi Gate and Pretriouskop Rest Camp

We left Bloemfontein at 5 a.m. after a very comfortable night at Duinerus. Thanks to Magriet for her fantastic hospitality. The weather was clear and sunny though a little chilly for the first few hours. We stopped at Grasmere for breakfast and met some people with a CS number plate. They were from Bredasdorp and on their way to Kruger and Mozambique.

We decided to do our shopping at Middleberg Mall just off the freeway instead of Nelspruit and that proved to be a good idea as it had Woolworths and we were done in no time! The arrival at Numbi at 3:00 went smoothly. We had to fill out an indemnity at the gate and then went through reception very quickly. We then travelled the S3 and our first sighting was a fork-tailed drongo – very common in the park. Shortly after we stopped off at Mestel Dam. There was a pod of hippo basking in the sun. Earl wanted to leave straight away but I insisted he turn off the engine and watch and wait. Within minutes we found a fish eagle, darter, pied king fisher, giant kingfisher, jacana, and black crake. The thing about waterholes is that things can change so quickly. We even got to hear the fish eagles iconic African call.

First of many hippos seen this trip

First of many hippos seen this trip

We were quite tired after our two days of travelling so did not do a long game drive. We found grey hornbills and then Peter alerted us to waterbuck and kudu in the bush.

What are you doing in my park?

What are you doing in my park?

A target on your bottom is quite something to live with!

A target on your bottom is quite something to live with!

We then turned onto the S7 and Heather called Stop when she spotted a burchels coucal posing in a tree. Shortly after that we found some glossy starlings and more drongos.

Burchell's Coucal

Burchell’s Coucal

On the H 1 Earl spotted a single warthog grazing in the dry grass. At the Pretoriouskop day visitor picnic site we found impala with oxpeckers giving them a beauty treatment.

Beauty Treatment

You really must take care of these ears!

Three lovely waterbuck appeared just before Pretoriouskop entrance and a group of 4 dwarf mongoose darted across the road before we finally entered the gate at 4:30 Checking in went smoothly and we were delighted to move into to Huts 130 and 131 . We dined on braaied chops, sweet potatoes and salad an spent the evening outdoors in beautiful weather. It only got cold at around 9 pm

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Relaxing on the stoep of our rondawel

Cheers my love

Cheers my love

Our own personal chef

Our own personal chef

We also brought our own personal window cleaner!

We also brought our own personal window cleaner!

Monday 30 June 2014 Pretoriouskop

We made an early start this morning and exited the gate just after 06h00. It was still dark but it was not as chilly as we’d anticipated. It gets light suddenly here and the sunrises are magnificent.
This sunrise with a giraffe silhouetted in the foreground typifies Africa for me.

This is Africa

This is Africa

The first leg of our journey took us along the H1-1. We turned off onto the s71 to Shithave Dam where there was very little besides a grey heron and a pied kingfisher.
Back on the H1-1 we found giraffe, zebra and kudu. The highlight of the morning was a beautiful brown snake eagle perched atop a tee. Snake Eagles are not true eagles as their feathers do not go down to their feet – only to the knees.  Most snake eagles have yellow eyes.

Brown Snake-Eagle

Brown Snake-Eagle

We also spent ages observing a party of birds flitting about in the bushes. Seeing us stopped and staring into the bush caused a number of cars to enquire as to what exciting creature we had seen. They tore off in a puff of dust when we tried to point out an interesting bird or 2. Many people visit the park for the Big 5 and other predators and as excting as it is to see them I get more of a thrill out of the small things in Kruger. One can travel the roads for hours and not see a thing if you don’t take note of the birds and other small things.

At 9 we arrived at Transport Dam where a pod of hippos were frolicking, a few jacanas were walking in the water plants, a crake made an appearance, water dikkop sunned themselves and hornbills and lapwings begged tidbits from the tourists!
Continuing further were shaken from a reverie when we spotted a roadblock up ahead. A herd of elephants were refusing to allow the cars to pass. One mock charged a car and then swerved into the bush probably giggling and elephant laugh as the occupants breathed a sigh of relief.
A special sighting thereafter was a little Klipspringer staring at us silently from his rocky perch.

Klipspringers are incredibly nimble on rocks.

A Kruger Road Block!

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Klipspringers are incredibly nimble on rocks

We stopped at Afsaal for breakfast at about 11. It was quite warm now and we sat in the shade to enjoy our toasted sandwiches and coffee. Afsaal is one of the larger picnic sites which has a kiosk providing meals and good coffee can be obtained.  We prefer the smaller picnic sites where they do not have shops etc but Kruger draws thousands of tourists and they must be fed!

Afsaal

Afsaal

We went a little further past Afsaal before turning back to Pretoriouskop. A pile of cars were staring into the bush where leopard had been seen but we didn’t bother to wait for the phantom to appear. We enjoyed sightings of giraffe, zebra, warthog and a few more bird parties and arrived back at camp at 3.

Beautiful Model

Beautiful Model

She's on a leaf and thorn diet

She’s on a leaf and thorn diet

Hello Boys!

Hello Boys!

Brown hooded kingfisher

Brown hooded kingfisher

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Longbilled Crombec

Longbilled Crombec

Yellow-billed Hornbills

Yellow-billed Hornbills

After shopping, getting and ice cream and resting for a while we explored the camp and found some lovely birds in the pool area.

We were delighted to find a crested barbet,  black headed oriole and red-billed woodhoepoe.  In front of our hut we also found a Kurrichane Thrush.

Crested Barbet

Crested Barbet

Black Headed Oriole

Black Headed Oriole

Red-billed woodhoepoe with bug

Red-billed woodhoepoe with bug

Kurrichane Thrush

Kurrichane Thrush

 

Supper was an early braai. Earl went to be very early and the rest of us chatted outdoors for a while before turning in for the night. We do not keep late hours in Kruger!

2

Taking the Kids to Kruger – Pretoriouskop to Berg en Dal

FRIDAY 2 APRIL 2012

Pretoriouskop is a lovely camp and we sat outdoors and braaied our supper last night.  It was lovely to see the row of fires as our neighbours all did the same thing.  A group of loud American tourists were next door and their guide came over to apologize for the noise.  He promised it wouldn’t last long as they were all tired and would be going to bed early!  We quite enjoyed hearing them joyfully recount the events of the day – they’d clearly had a good time.

Today was our last full day in the park.   It has not been the most productive holiday game wise that we have had but we each day has had its special sightings. Earl and I are delighted that we have been able to find the Big 5 for the children and that many special creatures have been seen.  The only thing left on our wish list was Wild Dog. We really wanted to show them these beautiful animals also know as Painted Wolves and Cape Hunting Dog.  They are vulnerable and through conservation efforts have been brought back from the brink of extinction.

We took a long route via Lower Sabie to get to our final camp, Berg en Dal.  Check in time is 2 p.m. so there is not point rushing straight there.   The roads we travelled were rewarding.

Miraculously we had everyone dressed, fed and packed by 6 a.m. and Jay couldn’t resist taking a picture of the sunrise.

The periods between sightings can be long and boring for young children specially if they’re ADHD.  Jay is fine once his medication kicks in but he is a natural clown and entertained his cousins by taking their stuffed toys and pretending they were ‘out to get them’.  Poor Grandpa was very patient when Monkey appeared at his window while the kids collapsed in mirth.

But at a sighting the excitement was transferred to the real animals and they all competed for window space to get their photographs.   Jay being the oldest and at the top of the pecking order managed to get the best ones as he shoved the younger ones out of his way!

Early on in the day we found a heap of buffalo.  There were mothers with babies and young bulls fighting and the kids enjoyed watching it all happen.

Elephants also made a friendly appearance and Shannon shot this lovely shot of a young one.

And this one from Jay.

Giraffe were elegant as they browsed from the tops of trees.  Today they were in the mood for a photo shoot.

Shannon was amused to see that not only does a giraffe have a very long neck – he has a tongue to match!

It was not even half past eight when we saw a bit of a traffic jam ahead and there on a rock lay a lazy leopard – our third for this trip!  Its not often we seem more leopard than lion!

So then we had three of the big five for the day.  All we needed were lion and rhinoceros – usually this is not difficult – but today was to be different.

We stopped at Lower Sabie for toasted sandwiches and continued our drive.  We stopped when we saw interesting birds and the bee-eaters were really having a good time today.

We also found purple rollers and managed to take some good shots.

And Lilac breasted rollers are probably the most photogenic of all. Here is one with a gogga in his beak.

It was just before midday when we finally got the one animal we were hoping to see.  Grandpa was felt that his mission was successful – he’d shown his grandchildren the best that Kruger could offer.

After this excitement we stopped at one of the picnic sites for a loo break and to get some ‘slushies’, ice cream and crisps.

A fourth member of the Big Five was spotted next.  At first he refused to lift his head but finally we managed to get a good shot of him.

Other creatures we saw today brought us great joy.  We are so proud our grandchildren enjoy the smaller stuff as much or even more than the Big 5 and mega stars of the bush.   Josh is  more aware of the creatures around him and asks questions about how they survive. Simon at only seven remembers the names of all the birds he has seen.   Shannon is becoming quite a little expert and Jay is completely converted to conservation and gets mad when he sees bad behavour of other tourists in the park.

They have all enjoyed getting their pictures and here is a selection of what they captured today.

Magpie Shrike

European Bee Eater in flight

Brown Snake Eagle

Turtle in a mud puddle we nearly ran over!

European Bee-Eater

Lilac-breasted roller

We arrived at Berg en Dal at half past three.  The kids went for to the pool and returned a little later saying that Simon had vomited in the pool – I think he swallowed some pool water because he was quite fine when they brought him back.  “Jay saved me,” he declared.

We had a delicious chicken casserole that Lauren had made and frozen for us and after our ‘prize-giving’ it was early to bed.  They were all winners – Jay for the most enthusiastic spotter. Shannon for naming the most birds. Simon for patience and quick learning of bird names and Josh for spotting birds that Gran really wanted to see.  They were thrilled with the little puzzles, key rings, ‘canned lion’ and bath toys they won.   Hopefully this is a holiday they will never forget.  Grandpa and I certainly won’t.