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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.

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Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 8

What a night!!  The wind got up and blew all night rocking the caravan and preventing us from getting a decent amount of sleep.  There was thunder and lightening too but no rain.   This morning Shan and Simon looked totally wrecked.  “I thought the tent was going to be blown away with me in it never to be seen again!’  she complained.  “Well, ” said I ” You would just have been taken off to the Land of Oz and there you would have met a lion with no courage so you’d have been perfectly safe!”   She was not amused.

“Tonight I’m sleeping in your bed!”  said Si.

Well I was actually waiting for that to happen but no little bodies found there way in.  They were too scared to move!   I did peep through my window to see if they were okay and all seemed well and it seems they did survive!

We left camp closer to 7 than 6 this morning.  It was still blowing and it was overcast and much cooler than yesterday which was a relief.  But the wind was still hectic.  Travelling in the car was more comfortable than staying at the campsite!  We did a short loop, returned for breakfast which Grandpa cooked and then went straight out again, taking our left overs with us for lunch.

On our Before Breakfast Drive we had some lovely sightings of the usual gang but these are the highlights.

We saw first one bull elephant and then another.

Why had it got chunks out of its ears, Shan wanted to know.   And why is the one tusk so worn out.

The wear and tear on the tusks is from using it to dig and if the elephant is right dominant the right tusk will be more worn than the left and vice versa.  I’m not sure but many of them do.

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The second bull, though, had ears and tusks in good condition.  That’s because he takes care of himself and brushes with Colgate – I joked.

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Simon earned more points by spotting brown hooded parrots for us.

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Giraffe entertained us at regular intervals

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A red-crested korhaan caught a juicy grasshopper for breakfast

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A turtle out of water – probably seeking a new pond.

After breakfast we planned on doing a long loop but we were too tired to finish it so took a short cut home.  It was a good choice as we had some lovely sightings on the changed route.

We saw a jeep jockey stopped on the side of the road and asked him what they were looking at.  “A tortoise,” he said.  “But 1km from here you will find  some ‘nice’ lions.

“Drive,”  Grandpa, “Drive!”  yelled the kids.   Much to their disgust Grandpa took off very slowly.  Just look for cars, he said.  Then you’ll know we’ve found them.  Simon saw the cars first and then spotted a sleeping lion some distance before the group of cars and a little way off next to a waterhole.

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First a back view – but it was a male which was a good sign

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Then another male fast asleep

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And another

We moved closer and found a good spot to see yet more male lions.  There were five altogether – a bachelor pride!

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Good Morning Your Majesty

It was time to stop and stare.  I climbed over the seat and got the ice creams out of the car freezer.

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Shan decided to take a photograph of hers – Ice cream in the bush-veld.

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“My grandparents stop for birds.  I stop for ice cream”

After enjoying our lion and ice cream we moved on and enjoyed some more birds

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European Bee-eater

My favourite small antelope is the Steenbok.  They are usually solitary but sometimes mating pairs will be seen together.  This morning we got a pair.

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They are very shy and try to hide

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Mr Steenbok thinks I can’t see him

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Mrs Steenbok showed herself

Soon after this we came upon another traffic jam.   “What do you think we will see?” I asked.   “Wild Dog.” said Simon.  “Cheetah!”  said Shan. “Lion” said Earl.  “Leopard.”  said I.

Simon saw them first and called – Wild Dog.  I saw them second and called Leopard.  Then I changed it to Cheetah. –  Shan was right!    Simon got 20 for spotting them first and Shan 10 for the right guess.

There were six on a kill – A mom and five almost fully grown cubs.  Shan had been dying to see cheetah and they were on my side of the car so I quickly swapped places with her so she could fully enjoy them.

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Shan getting some good shots

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It was quite a feast

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These three had full tummies and were just resting

A driver in a car facing us wanted to leave and tried to start her car.  Uh oh – The battery was flat.  She was devastated and put her head on the steering wheel and looked like she was about to burst into tears.  Her companion too looked distressed.  I put my head out of the window and called, “Don’t worry!  As soon as we can my husband will help you.  We have jump leads.”   She put her hands together in thanks.   I think they were French tourists.

The cheetahs finished their meal and were getting restless.  The Earl opened the door  and climbed up to get the leads out of the box on top of the roof.  Simon and Shannon freaked.  “Grandpa – the cheetahs – they’ll eat you!”   “Don’t worry kids, the cheetahs’ tummies are full – they won’t want to eat a tough old man like Grandpa.”   Other tourists looked on in horror.  I indicated to them that the other car needed help and they all nodded in wonder.

The cheetahs looked on too and started to move away from their kill.  They kept a wary eye on The Earl and the young man from the other car but made no attempt to attack.  They were, I think, more afraid of them than they of the cheetahs.   If you zoom in on the photo you can see a blurred image of them staring at the goings on.

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The Earl fetching the jump leads

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Doing the necessary while the cheetahs look on

Some of the other tourists looked horrified that the assistance happened so near a group of predators, but they were far enough away for the two men to hop back into the cars if they approached.

When got back to camp at around two o’clock, our neighbour approached us.

“Have you done the S100?”  she asked.

“Only yesterday.” we replied.

“Well today a leopard killed a zebra near the waterhole.  Go quickly and you might see it.”

The kids were not keen to go out yet again and The Earl needed a nap so it was after 4 o’clock when we decided to see what was happening on the infamous S 100.   We couldn’t have timed it better.  We came upon the traffic jam at said waterhole.
“Surely the leopard won’t still be here.”  I said.

“It’s a hyaena!”  called Simon and he was right.  No sign of the leopard at all.  We managed to get a really nice position and had perfect views of the hyaena working away at the zebra kill.   In the trees and on the ground there were also vultures waiting anxiously for their turn to get at the carcass.

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This zebra is rather delicious

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The undertakers of the bush

The hyaena was really tucking in and we were enjoying the action when The Earl suddenly said, “Hey, I can see the leopard.”   And he carefully described where he saw some spots under a nearby tree.  How he spotted it, I do not know. It was simply a collection of spots with ears the twitched from time to time.  We couldn’t believe it!

“Why is the leopard allowing the hyaena to eat his dinner?”  the kids wanted to know.  We explained that this often happens to leopards. They make the kill and unless he gets it up a tree quickly other predators steal it from him.  He was clearly exhausted and lying under the tree unable to challenge the thief.

But after about half an hour something amazing happened.  The hyaena dragged part of the kill toward the tree where the leopard was lying.   As soon as he passed the spot, the leopard got up and went to the kill where he started eating, unchallenged by the thief.

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Leopard returning to his kill

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Tucking in to a lovely meal

Then to our immense surprise the hyaena left the piece he’d dragged away.  We expected to see a scuffle between the two predators but instead the leopard allowed the hyaena to join him at the table.   “A mixed species dinner date!’  said Shan.

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Hyaena and Leopard sharing a meal!

This went on for some time and then the leopard left the table and went to chew on what Hyaena had left in front of the tree!

I wonder if these two creatures are friends.  Did Leopard say – Hey, Hyaena – You’re welcome to my zebra – it’s too much for one leopard.  You’ve got good teeth and jaws – make a start on it and I’ll join you later.

There certainly was no attempt by either to chase the other away.  They really were content to share.   Sharing, is after all, caring!   I just wonder if they ended up inviting the vultures to finish it off when they were done.  We didn’t have time to find out as gate closing time was fast approaching.   We were, however, thrilled to see what we did.

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Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 7

8 January 2018

The past three day have been particularly HOT.  Today the mercury reached 43 degrees C.   Even the evenings are hot and we remain scantily dressed even outdoors.  This is a huge contrast to the cold and wet December we had in Kokstad!

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Simon, still wet from a swim,  helping Grandpa with dinner last night

It is a 92 km drive from Skukuza to Satara.  We were packed up and ready to leave at 6:30 am and it was already hot.

Meet Roger – he travels everywhere with his friend Simon and keeps us all amused when the outdoor wildlife are hiding from view.

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Roger dislikes confined spaces so holds on tightly to the roof and peaks at us through the window. He loves to let the wind blow through his fur.

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His baboon cousins enjoy eating the fruit of the sausage tree

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This guy has a huge appetite for them

We arrived at Satara around 10 ish and set up as quickly as we could in the heat of the day.  The only thing to do on a day like this is to find aircon or swim!  I took the kids to the pool while Grandpa napped then did the laundry.

We set off for a game drive just after three.  Hooray for modern motorcars with effective climate control.   The S100 is famous in The Kruger Park and usually produces excellent sightings.  We did see lots of plains animals but today the predators evaded us.

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The highlight of the day was finding the rare and endangered Painted Snipe.   I spotted him with some other waders while watching bee eaters and kingfishers flying and dipping into the river.

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Our camp is right next to the fence and this evening the kids were thrilled to spot a hyena walking past.   We hoped to get sites next to the fence in each camp but at this time of the year that is not easy as the best sites get snapped up very quickly.  We were lucky to get this spot and I’m glad that the kids will experience being closer to the wildlife at night.

Tomorrow, we’re hoping it will be a little cooler – even a thunderstorm to cool things down would be welcome.

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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 15 – Satara

24 November – Birds and Hyenas

There are no words to describe the thrill one has when one is woken in the night or early in the morning by the sounds of the bushveld.   We have heard the shrill laugh of the hyena the howl of the jackals and the roar of lions on several occasions since being in The Park.  This morning the hyenas were particularly vocal and urged me out of bed before 5 am. Pat had heard them and the lions too so was also up a the same rude hour.

We were meant to leave be out the gate by 6 am but it was a little after that before we hit the H1-3

First up was a zebra crossing and then a number of lovely bird sightings.

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African Harrier Hawk – getting his adult plumage

Soon we turned onto the H6

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A Swainson’s Spurfowl in full voice

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Purple Roller

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Isn’t the baby impala too cute

The H6 is famous for hyena sightings and we were not disappointed

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These two were on a mission

They were not the only two we saw – there were many lying fast asleep.  Clearly they’d had a hard night!

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These two opened weary eyes to check us out

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We also met up with wildebeest

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A handsome ostrich

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And this magnificent Martial Eagle

By 7:35 we’d turned onto the S37 where a herd of Impala scared The Earl silly by leaping in front of the car without warning.  Luckily we were going slowly as one must in a game reserve.

At 8:30 we got out at Sweni Hide and had a good time observing the activity there.

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A water buck and herd of impala came down to drink

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This yellow-billed stork sat on its haunches

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Then she lay right down.

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Perhaps standing on one leg gets a bit exhausting

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The grey heron walked post cranky crocodile without a care in the world

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And went to chat to the storks

 

Next we went to Sweni Picnic site which has a hide overlooking the river but there was not much to see.  However, we got a lovely puffback in the picnic area.

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Not easy to get this very vocal bird as he hides in the foliage.  Here he’s nicely puffed up.

We then followed the S41.  The birding was good

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We watched a bateleur catch and eat a mouse

Near the river we observed thousands of quelea swarming and hanging in the trees.  Pat suggested a good collective noun for them – A cloud of quelea.

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There were “Clouds” of Quelea everywhere

We then joined the S100 and had some good sightings along that route.

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Trumpeter Hornbill

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Great to get the pale form Wahburg Eagle

When he flew to another tree we saw this barn owl with its wings hanging down over the branch – very odd.

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Barn Owl acting strangely

We also enjoyed the giraffe and zebra

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We had planned to come back to camp for breakfast but only made it there by midday so instead went to The Rustic Kitchen for lunch.  Pat and I enjoyed a chicken salad and the men had chicken may toasties.

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We went out again at 4 pm and did the S100.

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This male waterbuck was very relaxed

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The Sabota Lark got some dinner

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A puffed up purple roller

It was cool this morning but  the temperature rose to 35 in the afternoon.  Pat and Tony cooked chicken kebabs, butternut and sweet potato on the braai which we served with a Greek Salad.

Ánother ‘lousy’ day in Africa!

 

 

 

 

 

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Kruger National Park – Day 14 – Satara

23 November 2017 – Letaba to Satara and The S100.

After yesterday’s 40 degree C heat we woke to cooler conditions today.  In fact the mercury dropped by 20 degrees!

We were packed up and ready to roll by 7:00 o’clock.  Pat and Tony were to follow after going to reception to find out about getting Pat to a doctor.

The first excitement walked toward us on the tar road.   Mom, Dad and Little One

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Come on Mom and Dad – keep up!

Then they veered off the road and passed by the car.  We got a shot of Mom – or Dad – difficult to tell the sexes apart.

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She seems to be smiling about something.

When we arrived at Satara we got a call from Tony.  They were on their way and would set up camp and then head to Skukuza to see the camp doctor.

We set up next to the fence at the North-west side of camp.  There were quite a few interesting birds hanging around and posing for their portraits.

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Red-billed Buffalo-weaver

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Burchell’s Starling

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Grey-headed Sparrow

When Pat and Tony  arrived we helped them set up and then went to have breakfast at the restaurant.  They managed to get an appointment for 2 o’clock and set off for Skukuza at midday.

Earl and I had a rest and then at 3 pm set off to do a stretch of the S100, turning around and retracing our route so as to be back in camp in time.  The drive there produced some common residents.

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My favourite creatures

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Zebs had a dust bath

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A stripe of zebra

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Delighted to have this red-faced mousebird sit still for a second

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This non-breeding shaft-tailed whydah had us guessing for a while

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Red-billed quelea

We hoped to see a lot more as the S100 is famous for seeing both lion and leopard – but not luck there.  However, the birding was good.

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A lovely surprise – Trumpeter Hornbill

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Male Red-backed shrike

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Bateleur Female

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Bateleur Male

Seeing the trumpeter hornbill was special for me and I counted that as the highlight of the day.  I was in a bit of a complacent dream when suddenly I saw it, just a short distance away, so well camouflaged in the dry grass.  “There’s a cheetah!” I called out to The Earl.  “Where?” he said.  “There,” I pointed.  “Where’s there!”  he was frustrated.

“Stop!” I yelled.  “He’s going to come out in front of the car.”  And then he saw it too.

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What a brilliant surprise
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We had him all to ourselves

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The beautiful boy!

He crossed the road and then moved off into the distance.  We watched until he disappeared over the ridge.  A car approached – just a minute too late.  We were the only ones to have seen him!

Pat and Tony were back from the Skukuza by 6:15.   Pat’s wrist is badly sprained and the doctor strapped it into a brace.   She is comfortable but may have to have x-rays if the swelling doesn’t go down.

As it was so cool we decided that a stew would be best for dinner tonight. Once again our Master Chef of the Bushveld put our snappy chef and smartspace pots to excellent use and we dined in style once again.

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Kruger National Park Day 15

13 July Satara 175388
We left camp at 6:35 and the temperature was 10 degrees C. It rose to 28 later in the day.
As we turned onto the S100 we saw a car facing toward us driving very slowly. The driver waved us down and she was very excited. “Die luiperd is hier. Hy was nou op die pad.” (The leopard was here. It was just on the road.) She was the only other car and she pointed into the bush. Peter, Earl and I caught sight of him and then he disappeared. Not a fantastic sighting and no photograph but a leopard nevertheless. Peter told us we were now off the hook! He’d seen his leopard!
Coucals seem to be having a convention in the park this holiday as we keep seeing them.

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Two wooly necked storks were next to capture our attention and straight after we were amused to find a saddle-bill at the top of a tree.

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We enjoyed some good birding but did not find lions or any more leopards along the infamous S100.
We turned onto the S41 and continued our birding finding many interesting species.

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Immature Batteleur

Then onto the H6 where there were zebra and other game to observe.

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At 9:10 Peter alerted us to a traffic jam. We found a gap and after much talking at once managed to show Pete where the female was hiding behind a bush. Moving a little ahead we managed to get a good sighting of 2 cubs and then the mom got up and took them off into the bush.

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We returned to Satara and Earl cooked us breakfast, we had a bit of a break and then went out again at midday with the intention of going to Sweni Water Hole. Right outside the camp on the H3 we found 3 adult and 2 juvenile Ground Hornbills.

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Once again we spotted the usual game and then we were alerted to lion by another tourist coming in the opposite direction.
It was quite far off but we all got good sightings of her before she dropped down and disappeared into the long straw for an afternoon nap. No one would know she was there!
The Sweni Waterhole has changed since our last visit. There is now a road going right down to the river and you can sit there and watch the river before entering the hide. We found it most productive and found jacanas, kingfishers, crakes, moorhen and green backed herons. We spent a long time watching before going into the hide.

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After enjoying the crocodiles and terrapin, more activity from the green backed heron and jacanas we were entertained with a love scene from the Jacanas.

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We saw four different species of kingfisher in the hour or so that we spent at this spot. We watched the giant and the pied catch fish. The little malachite didn’t have much luck and the brown hooded simply posed beautifully for us when we exited the hide.

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On the last leg of our drive back to camp we had a few more interesting sightings.   A lovely pearl spotted owls which Earl spotted and reversed to check if he was right.

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Burchell’s Sandgrouse, male and female.

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Another stunning brown-hooded kingfisher.

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An finally elephant and drinking and a hippo and baby on the bank of the river.

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All day I’d been battling with my back which decided to rebel against the constant sitting and little exercise. Because of our early starts to the day I even neglected to do my Big Five exercises which my Witch Doctor insists upon. I did some stretches on our return home. I hope a good night’s rest will sort my out by morning.