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Kruger National Park – Day 27

6 December 2017 – Last full day in Kruger

It rained in the night and it was still overcast and cool when we woke up and temperatures only reached the mid twenties today. As it was our last day in the park we decided to make the most of it and took a long drive stopping first at Crocodile Bridge camp for brunch and Afsaal for afternoon coffee.  We left at 6:00 am and only got back to Berg en Dal at 4:00 pm

It was an amazing last day and our sightings were really special.

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First to greet us early this morning was Mr Waterbuck

 

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The first of the many rhino we came across today

Giraffe are the most elegant of creatures and even when they’re having a confrontation it looks more like a ballet than a boxing match.  It’s called necking when they fight but it all looks so gentelmanly

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They don’t look aggressive at all

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Getting ready to knock each other’s necks

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Elephant spectators look on in amusement

We took a loop to be closer to the river and suddenly The Earl noticed this fellow fly into a tree.  It took a while for me to see him and when I did I was delighted as it’s the first for this trip and one of the less common kingfishers.

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Grey-headed Kingfisher

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He gave The Earl a fright

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A rhino road block

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Mom and baby giraffe

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The wind got into this Martial Eagle’s feathers

After breakfast at Crocodile Bridge we spotted some impala, wildebeest and warthogs just outside the camp.  The warthogs had piglets.

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Too much cuteness here!

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Sweeeet!

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Adorable

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Pretty Piggies

The Earl started moving on – “Wait,” I said, “I’m enjoying the piglets – don’t go yet!”  “We have to find the lions and leopards.” he said.  “No!” I complained. “Let’s enjoy what we’ve got!” But he wouldn’t listen and I was miffed!

But not for long – had we stayed as I’d have liked we would have missed this!

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Lioness on the move

We spotted her coming across an open field.   The Earl reversed and turned into another road where she came right toward us and then passed our vehicle.

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She was heading somewhere with purpose

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She paused when she saw some wildebeest

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She dropped down in the long glass – unseen by the wildebeest – Spot the ears

 

No way could she hunt those wildies on her own.   We stayed with her for a while but then it was time to move on.  What a great sighting.

while later on our drive we came across some more royalty  – this time there were four – one blocking the road and the others lying asleep in the veld.

 

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The King blocking his Highway

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Then flopping down to sleep regardless of the two cars wanting to pass by

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But in the end he got up and moved and joined his friends.

We thought we might get all five of the Biggies today but we dipped on leopard.  Not that we can complain as we have had so many lovely experiences with leopard on other days and who can sniff at two lovely lion sightings in one day!

Other interesting sightings before we finally gave up for the day.

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White-crested Helmet-shrike

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Don’t wander off too far, young one.

 

Toward the end of our drive the skies started to darken and it was raining when we arrived at camp.  We debated about what to do about dinner but it cleared sufficiently to enable us to go with Plan A and braai.  I stir fried some veggies to go with it.   It is still raining now so it will be a wet pack-up tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kruger National Park – Day 26

5 December 2017 – Berg en Dal

We are nicely settled here at Berg en Dal at the south end of The Kruger National Park.  Our campsite is right next to the fence and when we arrived yesterday we saw a herd of elephant close by.   Also in front of our site is a tall tree where two yellow-billed kites have built a nest.  It is well hidden but we have seen Mom and Dad in the open a few times – but in poor light.  Hopefully better photos will be possible soon.

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The whole of Berg en Dal rest camp is in pristine condition.  The paths are swept and there facilities are kept sparkling clean. In all the other camps we have found there are issues with maintenance. If Berg en Dal can get it right – then so can the others!

The one problem we are having here is with the monkeys.  Oh my – they are so cheeky!  The problem probably began because tourists insisted on feeding them and now thy take the easy way out and try to steal from the campers.   Our neighbours had a whole loaf of bread taken from under their noses and our butter very nearly went Awol but The Earl managed to frighten the culprit and she dropped it.  A bit of dusting off later and it’s now safely secured in a plastic container in the locked fridge.

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This baby was right outside our caravan  – I yelled at him and he ran to Mom

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“That nasty old lady yelled at me, Mom”  he said.                                                                                                                                         “How could you?!” she looked at me in disgust.

We were out by six this morning and were back for breakfast by ten.   At first we did not see much but then things improved.  Once again today there were more of the biggies and unusual smallies.

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Lovely to see a red-breasted swallow

Gardenia Hide is usually stunning but there was very little there today.  We were also disappointed to find that the path to the hide had been neglected, there were poles missing from the fence and there was an overflowing bin at the gate as well as litter on the path.  Not good enough Sanparks!

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African Wattled Lapwing

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Tree-frog nest built over water so that when the eggs hatch the tadpoles will fall in.  They fend for themselves from birth.

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A well camouflaged Water Thick-knee

Kudu, tortoise and buffalo were next on our list.  We also saw a few herds of elephant but they were hiding in the trees.  Four rhino were also some distance off.IMG_8705IMG_8710P1120459

And finally a leopard turned up this morning – not the best sighting ever but good to see him on a rock. He was fast asleep and didn’t stir for anyone!

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After the leopard we continued to see some lovely sightings – elephants, kudu, tortoise and buffalo until we returned to camp.  We rested until 3 o’clock and then went out for our afternoon drive.

First we encountered a herd of elephants. The babies were adorable

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A ground hornbill crossed our path

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A wainterhole we visited proved to be absolutely stunning.  We found a rhino having a wonderful, wallowing time and when the elephants came down they gave him a wide berth.  I wonder what it was that made them nervous of a rhino – his lovely long horn perhaps?

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Blissfully wallowing in the cool water

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Elephant giving a wide berth

Eventually the elephants left with a great deal of trumpeting.  They chased the poor impala from the scene.   We stayed to watch the rhinoceros complete his beauty treatment. He had a few itches to scratch  and amused us with the solution to his problems!

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Emerging after a lovely muddy bath

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Oooh what a lovely scratch

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Well, nobody’s going to do it for me, you know!

Finally he trundled off to his midden quite a way off but which we could still see.  He sprayed liberally into the midden and then wandered off.

We continued on our way too and enjoyed these other creatures along the way

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A common duiker peeked at us

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A hyena on a mission

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A red-breasted swallow

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And another rhino having a mud bath somewhere else!

It was another perfect evening and we braaied chicken kebabs for dinner.

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Only one more full day left in Kruger – how time flies.

 

 

 

 

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Kruger National Park – Day 23

2 December 2017 –

We haven’t seen cats for a few days and were feeling a little restless about it as it’s Tony and Pat’s last full day in The Park.   It would be nice to get one last sighting of a predator for them.

I suggested we drive to Tshokwane for breakfast because lions and leopard had been seen in that area.   Everybody agreed.

Before we left camp we found this chap foraging on the neighboring campsite.

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White-throated Robin-Chat

We drove the scenic route along the river and took all the loops we could.

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Frisky male impala were butting heads and interlocking horns – it seemed more play than serious rivalry

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A hippo still out grazing before going back into the water for the day

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The Earl aways gets a fright when these giants suddenly appear and cross in front of him

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These gentle waterbuck said a cheery good morning

There was a lull in sightings when all of a sudden we jerked to attention.  Something was crossing the road ahead of us.  Leopard, cheetah – No LION!   We all got an eyeful of her and then she was gone.  Maybe some more would follow and cross over too.  We waited a few minutes but nobody came.  Just a little ahead we saw a stationary car.  As we approached I saw them – lion lying under a tree.  A farewell gift for our friends,

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The other car left and we had them to ourselves for a while. Suddenly another lion appeared and then two of them got up together to change position and flop down again

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What an awesome sighting.  But wait – there’s more.  We drove on a little further and spotted two more lionesses lying on a log. There was a lot of foliage blocking them so we didn’t get photos but enjoyed seeing them get up and stretch before settling back down again.

We were thrilled at this sighting which was just before we got to our breakfast stop.  At Tshokwane we were amused when this pied barbet settled on a plate and himself to scraps!  I’ve never seen a barbet do that before.

IMG_8272On our return we concentrated on bird watching and enjoyed seeing a common duiker, giraffe and zebra.   As we approached the lion spot a car stopped us and said there were male lions up ahead.   Our females had left but these boys had settled in close by to where they had been. The one remained asleep but the other gave us a bit of entertainment.

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Why did you wake me up?

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Oh how tiresome – yawn, yawn!

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Don’t you know a lion needs 20 hours of sleep per day?

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Oh well – while I’m up i might as well have a scratch

When we came to the place where we expected to find a leopard on the rocks, we got a klipspringer instead!

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We decided to take a long midday break as it was really hot again today.  We swam in the pool a few times and only went to Lake Panic later in the afternoon for an hour.  I would be quite happy to spend an entire day in this hide as even on a slow day interesting things happen.  You have to sit very quietly in a hide and at first you might think there is nothing there but when you really look you start to see things. It took a while for us to notice that a Jacana at the far end of the pond had four chicks that must have been just out of their eggs.  Father Jacana looks after the kids while Mom goes off to find another mate and another nest in which to lay her eggs.

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Father Jacana wtching his young

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Squacco Heron fishing

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Pied Kingfisher with is prey

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We heard the Water Thick-knees before we them

Once again it was a perfect evening and just as we were enjoying Magnum Ice-creams for dessert I heard a rustle at the paper packet that we use for a bin. I yelled and it ran away. I suspected it was a honey badger but I caught sight of something smaller.  African wild cat perhaps?  The cheeky creature came back again and Pat said – shine your torch on it which I did and saw it was a bushbaby!.  At that moment Pat and Tony’s daughter was Skyping from New Zealand.  Chaos ensued as we raced to see if we could find the intruder.  We found him behind the caravan on the branch of a tree.  He wasn’t at all concerned and just stared at us from his safe vantage point.  Tony was able to show his daughter, Maria, the naughty creature.

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Sorry Bushbaby – We’re not the type of campers who hand out leftovers! Go find your own food!

Sadly tonight is the last one in the park for P&T as tomorrow they will make their way back home.  We still have a few more days before heading back to Kokstad.

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Kruger National Park – Day 22

1 December 2017 – Transport Dam and Lake Panic

What is it that brings one back to the Kruger National Park time and time again?  For many it’s the thrill of seeing the Big Five – Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino.  And yes – there’s not doubt that these creatures as well as hyena, jackal, wild dog and cheetah give one an enormous thrill.  But that’s not what brings me back for more.  It’s more than that – it’s being in the bush, communing with nature, the trees, the peace the whole vibe of the place and especially the birds.   I love to sit at a waterhole or dam and observe the activity of the waders, the weavers, herons and kingfishers.  I can’t put into words how awesome it is. I know that some people raise their eyebrows and shake their heads and wonder what I’m on about – but I can’t help it.  Put me in a hide for three hours and I will be content to just sit and watch and take in the peace and tranquility of it all.

Today was awesome.  Let me tell you about it.  But if your eyes have already glazed over -don’t worry – I won’t be offended if you do not read – this blog is for those who are as bird nerdy as I am!

Omigosh – as I sit here outside my caravan at 21:06 on the balmiest if evenings I hear the distant sound of a hyena calling.  This is what it’s like in the middle of the African Bush!  But back to today’s story.

I woke to the sound of the “Piet my Vrou” at 5:00 am this morning.   This cuckoo – the red-chested cuckoo to be precise calls incessantly in the summertime but is almost impossible to find as he hides so well in the foliage of the trees.  However, as I emerged from my caravan to go to the showers, wrapped in nothing but my sarong I spotted said cuckoo atop a dead tree in full view and full song!   The early morning light is not good for photography and I thought – No – I don’t think this is worth a photograph but when I got to the ablutions I dumped my vanity bag, clothes and towel and dashed back to the caravan for the camera.  “Patricia, ”  I called outside my friend’s tent.  “The Piet my Vrou  is in full view.  Come quickly and you will see her.”  I then took several photographs, put my binoculars outside her tent as she couldn’t find hers and headed to the showers.

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An early morning shot of a Red Chested Cuckoo – “Piet my Vrou”

When I was done I found a forlorn Patricia Mary.  “I missed it by a second,” said she. “As i raised the binoculars to see him he flew away!”  The problem was that P.M. had dallied over putting on some clothes instead of coming out half naked to see the elusive bird!  But me?  I have no pride!  And if anybody saw a mad old woman in a sarong taking photos of an irritating bird calling at some ungodly hour and they didn’t like it – tough – I got my shot and that is all I wanted.  For those of you reading who do not know the South African Birds – The call of the red-chested cuckoo sounds like the Afrikaans words – Piet my vrou meaning  Pete my wife.   Yes, I know it makes no sense at all.

Before we left for our morning drive we watched some little birds flitting about in the trees and were pleased to add bronze manikin to our list although the photograph is not worth publishing!

Choosing which bird is my favourite is very difficult because there are so many that I just love to see.  But I definitely get a huge thrill every time I see a Saddle-Billed Stork so if pressed I would have to say that this is my favourite bird.  Usually we spot them at some distance away in a pond or river but today we were hugely surprised to find on on the side of the road.   She was alone, clicking her bill and hunting morsels to eat.  She was not at all bothered by our presence and we were able to observe her for quite some time, first on the right side of the road and then crossing to the left where there was a midden.  A dung beetle was busy doing his cleaning up job when his life came to a sudden end as Mrs SBS gobbled him up!

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Our route took us to Afsaal Picnic Site where we stopped for breakfast.  On the way we spotted some of our favourite creatures

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What big tusks you have

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This carnivorous snail is a big chap 

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Pearl breasted Swallow at the Afsaal

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A lovely welcome from Tindlovu Rustic Kitchen at Afsaal

Afsaal is a busy stop but we were impressed with its efficiency.  You can queue for take-aways or sit at a table and a waitron will take your order.  We chose the latter and were highly impressed with our waitress.  We dithered over our order and she treated us with patience and humour.   The Earl said something annoying and I smacked him playfully.  She looked at me in horror and rubbed his hand.  Then we all burst out laughing.   Finally she sorted out our whims and fancies and brought us a most enjoyable breakfast.

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Our sassy waitress, Mpumi

Feeling fortified with food and content with our experience we continued on to Transport Dam.  On the way we saw buffalo

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And stopped for a loo break at Pretoriouskop

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Beautiful Coral Tree

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Ellie cooling off at Transport Dam

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White-faced ducks

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Wood Sandpiper

On our way to Skukuza we spotted a few regulars

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Steenbok

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Giraffe

It was very hot today and so we swam in the pool during our rest time and then Pat and I did a load of washing at the laundrette before we all went off to Lake Panic for our afternoon outing.  This hide never disappoints.  We spent an hour or so enjoying the business of nature going on before our eyes.

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Nyala Males were having a drink and a play-fight – or were they serious?

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A three-banded plover popped in for a while

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There was great entertainment from green-backed herons

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And Squacco Herons

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Terrapins sunned themselves

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Mr (below) and Mrs Pied Kingfisher fished

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A paradise fly-catcher dipped in and out of the water for a bath and a drink.

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Hippos conversed

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A shy female nyala or three came down for a quick drink too

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And two fish eagles loudly declared their love for each other

This was the best part of our day but reluctantly we had to leave.

Just before returning to camp we spotted this guy crossing the road.  He scuttle off into the bush but not before turning around to say good evening.

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Spotted Hyena ended our day

This evening we treated ourselves to an evening out to dinner at The Cattle Baron and it was awesome. Once again we had a smart, sassy waitress who took excellent care of our needs.  It was a perfect ending to a stunning day.

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Kruger National Park – Day 21

30 November 2017 Lower Sabie to Skukuza

It’s hard to believe that we have been in the park for three weeks now.  Each day has had something special and we are still loving every moment.   We now have the pack up and go routine totally sussed and everything went smoothly for our departure to Skukza this morning.  Pat’s hand is very much better and she felt that she could cope helping Tony with their tent but The Earl insisted on giving a hand – we don’t want her using her wrist too much and causing it more damage!

We hit the tar road at 6:45 and Pat and Tony took the scenic route.   Our first road block – elephants of course.  This photograph is taken through the windscreen but I couldn’t resist the cuteness of the baby rolling on the tar.

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Skukuza is only 35 km from Lower Sabie on the tar road and we did not stop for much as we just wanted to get to camp to set up.  We were just done when Tony phoned to say they had arrived. We met them at reception and took them to our site.  They decided not to join us for brekkie as it looked like rain and they wanted to set up before it came.

The Earl and I went to The Cattle Baron and sat under the Sycamore Fig enjoying the ambience. The service today was slow but when you’re in Africa you don’t really care.  When we finally got our eggs and bacon it was delicious – and the coffee was good.   While we were waiting we watched the starlings, weavers and sparrows in the tree and then The Earl said, “Hey there’s a green pigeon.”  Our first for this trip!  Where had they been hinding?

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This elusibe Green Pigeon and three others posed beautifully for us

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The spectacled weaver has a quizical look

Today was more of a rest day as it turned out to be quite hot – the rain never came.  We took a short afternoon drive and these were the highlights.

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Golden Breasted Bunting – he sang beautifully

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Trumpeter Hornbill

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Dung Beetle cleaning up the bush – such an amazingly hard worker

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Dark form Wahberg’s Eagle – I think

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A useful tool is the elephant’s trunk

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Can’t resist the cuteness

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What was he thinking getting right into the tree

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Yellow-billed hornbill

This might sound repetitive – but it was a braai again tonight.  Honestly there’s no better way to eat in the bush!

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Kruger National Park – Day 16 – Satara

25 November 2017 – An Awesome Day

After yesterday’s heat we woke to rain this morning – very welcome as The Park is dry and they need their rains.  It was also quite cold but nothing dampens ones spirits when in The Park.  A Bad Day in Kruger is still better than a Good Day at home.

By 6:35 we were exploring the H7.   As usual we stopped for every interesting bird.  We saw common waxbill flitting about and while we were enjoying them we heard the familiar clicks and then kyip, kyip kyip – the call of the Red-Crested Korhaan.  Then we saw him strutting across the road.   He then flew up and tumbled down free-fall style.  What an awesome bird.  We expected he was showing off for a female but she was clearly not interested as she remained hidden.

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Next to pop up unexpectedly was this chap.

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We saw the usual suspects too, elephant, zebra, kudu etc  before turning onto the S39.  This drive was good too and we found a tawny eagle and some vultures.   As we trundled along we saw two cars alongside of each other up ahead.  “Either they’re friends having a chat about their next route or the one is telling the other what he has seen.  I bet it’s a leopard,” said I.
As we approached, the one pulled away and parked in front. The other indicated that we should take his place.  ” If you look carefully – you will see a leopard,” he told us. We looked but couldn’t see anything so went ahead a little way and watched some birds.  The second car left but the first remained.  He must still have it we thought so we reversed to take another look.  Oh Wow.  There he was – quite a big male but still well hidden under the tree.

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Oh those wild eyes

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J need my rest, you know

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Here’s looking at you, kid!

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How long are you planning on staying ?

Reluctantly we left the scene to let the next car have a chance and soon reached Timbavati Picnic site where we hired a skottel and cooked breakfast.  It was raining a bit but we were quite dry under the thatch shelters.

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Our return trip produced more hyena and lovely birds but it was raining so photography was a bit difficult.  Back at camp we had a rest. At 3:30 I went to see if Pat and Tony were awake – they weren’t so I told The Earl that we should skip an afternoon drive.  But when they woke at 4 they were still keen to go out  and so at 4:30 we hit the S100.  I had a strange feeling that something exciting would turn up and Pat voiced the same thought.

Sure enough we got a lovely surprise. We found the occupants of two vehicles staring into the distance.   We could just see the flick of a tail and a twitch of an ear.   Another car approached and asked what there was.  We told her not much and then one of the lionesses got up and moved!  We then all go lovely views of her and the other one until they disappeared in the undergrowth again.  We thought we might find them on our return route but they were nowhere around.

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It was certainly worth going for that short drive to find our lions!

You would think camp cooking would be problematic when the weather is cold and wet.  But we were lucky.  The rain held off and we were quite content to sit under our canopy and enjoy a fabulous meal cooked once again by our Bush Master Chef.  It was a most delicious chicken and vegetable dish cooked on the Snappy Chef. (Induction Stove)

The resident hyenas patrolled past the fence quite frequently.  One actually stopped and stared at us as if to say – Please share your meal with me!  But of course we said – No way – go and hunt your own food!

It rained in the night and we expected a wet pack up the next morning!

 

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Kruger National Park – Day 9

18 November 2017 – Shingwedzi

This morning while we waited for Pat and Tony to finish packing up their tent, and before we said farewell to Punda Maria, Earl and I  paid one last visit to the hide.  This is the only camp in The Park that has a hide and a lit waterhole and it is frequently visited by many animals.  Elephants were already there and we watched them finish their ablutions and take on some refreshing liquid before they lumbered off into the bush.  It was quiet for a few minutes and then we heard loud and excited trumpeting and another herd came racing down to the water.  It was as if the little ones were calling – Mommy, I can’t wait to get into the water, please can we run ahead.

 

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It was awesome and we would have lingered longer but it was time to head to Shingwedzi.  Earl quickly helped with the tent packing up and then we set off separately.   The only disadvantage of towing a caravan is that you can’t stop suddenly, nor do all the reversing and manoeuvring at a sighting as you would like to. Also there is always the fear that you’ll be confronted by an oncoming elephant!   So we took the direct tar road and only stopped when we could.   We did manage to have some lovely sightings but once we got to Shingwedzi, we set up quickly, had a bit of a rest and then went to the restaurant for lunch.  Pat and Tony met us there. They had taken the river road and had lingered over bird and animal sightings.

All the usual patron of the Kruger Restaurant were about – elephant, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra so when we saw something a little out of the ordinary it peaked our interest.  This shy creature was kind enough to stop to have his portrait taken.

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Sharpes Grysbok

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Another large herd of buffalo

We checked in at Shingwedzi at around 10:30 and quickly found a lovely site next to the fence and close to the ablution block.  We had some feathered hosts welcome us.  The red-billed woodhoopoes were quite vocal but seemed in a hurry to be somewhere else and didn’t stop to chat.  Mrs Burchell, hower, asked if had any crumbs for her.  No – sorry we don’t eat bread.

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Burchell’s starling 

The arrow-marked babblers are always busy but blurted out their greetings as they flew from tree to tree.

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Arrow-marked babbler 

After lunch P&T went to set up camp at Shingwedzi  while The Earl and I did the river route which was very productive.   The Mopani Diner was open and the patrons were helping themselves to their offerings.

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Baboon feeding on Mopani leaves

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I am safe here with my mommy

It was very hot and most of the birds were napping in the cool of the foliage. It was later in the afternoon when we started to spot a few as they emerged from hiding.   This lovely raptor was hoping there would be a slithering reptile on the menu.

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Brown Snake-eagle

Sometimes you have to take the kids out to eat too.  Mom is trying to teach this youngster that he must eat by himself now.IMG_5414

The next feathered diner we met is a new one for us.

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White-throated Robin-chat

At the same cafe, skulking in the foliage we found an old friend.

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Long-billed Crombec

Some of the residents prefer to eat ‘seafood’  In this case, actually, it’s river-food. There were Egyptian Geese, Grey Herons, three-banded plovers and other waterbirds checking out the menu but our favourite was this lovely chap.

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Yellow-billed Stork

I have hundreds of giraffe photographs as I just love these stunning creatures.  I couldn’t resist taking more today.

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We are only at Shingwedzi for one night.  We weren’t very hungry after our lunch at the restaurant so it was well after sunset when we braaied.    A honey-badger entered the campsite and tried to steal from the humans and a hyena passed by on the other side of the fence.  Hopefully he never finds his way inside.

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Sunset at Shingwedzi

Tomorrow we head to Letaba for four nights.