3

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 6

Today it was HOT.  The mercury rose to 40 degrees C.  It has been in the mid to high thirties and we’ve coped but today – phew – really hot!

Our morning began late as we’d decided today would be a rest day.   We told the kids to wake us when they were ready to rise and shine.  “Yes!” said Shannon  “That will be well after 9 o’clock!”

“I’ll get up at about 8 and have a morning swim then come and wake you.” said Simon.

So what a surprise when I heard the caravan door open around 6 ish.  Simon had come to get his towel and he and Shan went off for a swim.  They returned at 7 and went to get boiling water from the communal kitchen to make us coffee.   To say we were impressed would be an understatement!  Well – they’re rural kids so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised!

We did take it slowly today.  We set off just before 8, popped into Lake Panic which was very quiet and then went for a walk at The Nursery which was lovely.

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We returned to Camp at ten and Grandpa cooked us a scrumptious breakfast.  We spent the rest of the morning chilling in camp – swimming, editing photographs, checking Facebook etc.  Grandpa and I had a nap and when we woke up we gave the kids lunch and then went for a yet another swim.  We were ready to go out for a game drive just before three.

Unless we’re in the pool or the air conditioned caravan it is actually cooler driving in the car. In the heat of the day, though, animal sightings can be slow.  What one does see is creatures crowded under the shadiest trees they can find, wallowing in waterholes or lying asleep in the shade of overhanging rocks or trees.

Shannon’s favourite buck is the Kudu.  We always have to stop to take photo of these magnificent creatures.  She loves the antlers of the males and the pretty faces of the females.

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In the times when sightings are thin, I read interesting facts about the animals out loud to the kids.  Shannon remembered that Kudu do not run straight away when they sense or see a predator.  They stop and look at him and only run when he starts to chase. Usually a predator gives up if he has been spotted by his prey.

When we saw two females cross in front of us we once again had to stop for Shannon’s pleasure.  On the other side of the road they stood stock still and stared into the bush.  “They must have seen or smelled a predator,”  said Shan excitedly.
“Let’s wait a few minutes to see what happens,”  I insisted when Grandpa wanted to move on.

We watched as the kudu looked this way and that and just didn’t move at all. Then Grandpa started to move the car. “Stop!”  said Simon ” I see something.  It might be a dead animal!’

But it wasn’t.

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Fast asleep and oblivious of kudu or humans

The buck could smell the lioness but had no idea where she was and we wouldn’t have either had we not read the signs that something was there somewhere.   Shannon said – It’s a group effort – Grandpa’s driving skills – Not knocking the kudu over and killing our chances of seeing the lion.  Gran insisting that we wait to see what the kudu had sensed. And Simon’s Eagle Eyes for spotting the sleeping lion!

We were the first ones to see this sleeping beauty and what a traffic jam we caused and so much pointing out to where the well camouflaged creature lay.  We left them all and went off chuckling that a lazy lion could cause so much interest.

We continued to enjoy our sightings.

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Male Nyala

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Nyala female with baby

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Blond Tawny Eagle on a nest

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Hippo

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Marabou Stork

As we were travelling along we suddenly came upon some elephants with babies.  There was a car ahead of us and she was standing still.  A large mother and baby were blocking the way and soon others joined them.  For twenty minutes the elephants simply stood about not allowing anybody to pass.

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Elephant Road Block

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What were they thinking?  Ha – let’s have some fun with the tourists!

Then they started walking slowly and calmly along the road toward the cars.  Everybody simple reversed not daring to try to pass by them.

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But after scaring us all silly they slipped onto the side of the road and ambled off into the bush.   Ha Ha – elephants. Very funny!

After enjoying some baboons, monkeys, giraffe and birds we returned to camp along the road where we’d seen the sleeping lion.  Sure enough there were a number of cars parked at the spot and when we got there we saw that ‘our’ lion had moved to another spot but was still fast asleep.

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We had a perfect view of her and I said – Let’s wait five minutes.  She might wake up.  And she did.

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Is nap time over?

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What are you all staring at?

It was almost gate closing time so we left our beauty to get over her sleepiness and headed back to camp.  What a stunning rest day we had!

6

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 4

5 January 2018

Yesterday’s scores were as follows – Simon in the lead with 70 points.  Grandpa has 64 and Shannon 55.  Grandpa was annoyed as at first we scored him the higher score but Si reminded us that we hadn’t entered the Walk points which pushed him ahead. Grandpa hadn’t done the whole walk but he did score for creatures he saw first before he went back to the caravan and none were scored after that!

Today we moved to Skukuza Rest Camp.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures into the thirties.   Packing up the caravan and tent was fast and efficient and we left Berg en Dal at 6:20 and made our way quickly along the tar road arriving at 8:30.  We did not stop much along the way.

Check in at Skukuza was quick and efficient.  We found a campsite next to the swimming pool and an attendant came to help us set up.   We were done quickly and then walked to the shop for ice cream.   It was really hot!  We decided to rest and swim and only to go out after 1 pm.  We were pretty sure the animals would be sleeping in the shade and not showing themselves in the middle of the day.

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Shan enjoying the water – Simon kept hiding from the camera

After the kids and I swam and Grandpa napped we set off to see what we could find.  Today turned out to have long stretches with absolutely no sightings – not even a bird!  Of course there were some interesting things and we were thrilled to get the following:

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Black shouldered kite

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White-headed Vulture

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The monkeys had the kids in fits of laughter

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The baboons behave like humans!

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Elephants are always fun

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The oddest duck ever – Knob-billed duck

Usually it’s okay to do the distance but today it was really hot and the ‘dry spells’ of no sightings began to work on the patience of the un-caged kids in the back seat.   Concentration was lost, giggling and high jinks took it’s place.   How much longer became the plaintive cry.   And then — up ahead a traffic jam.   A naughty tourist was sitting on the roof of her car – Her binoculars were trained on something in the distance.  We were next to a river with a rocky bank.  “There are supposed to be lions here,” she said.  “But I can’t see them.”   Well if from her vantage point she couldn’t, what chance would we have.  We asked some others and they too said they’re here but out of sight.

Grandpa tried to maneuver the car into a better position and then he said, “What’s that walking toward us!”

All attention went from the elusive lions to what suddenly appeared and we were the first to see him!

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The leopard was quite unconcerned about the interest paid to him by the tourists

We watched this magnificent creature of the wild nonchalantly walking past the cars.  He stopped to sniff and spray and mark his territory and the excitement caused was phenomenal. It was 15 minutes to gate closing time so once we’d absorbed the sighting we made our way quickly back to camp.  What a great way to end our day.

2

Kruger National Park – Day 24

3 December 2017

We bade farewell to Pat and Tony this morning and they made their way through the park for a few hours before leaving for Witbank where they are spending the night.

The Earl and I decided to have a rest day and do a few things in camp.   Isn’t it great that each rest camp has a laundry with coin operated washing machines and dryers?   Just two five rand coins;  and half an hour later my bed linen was washed and ready for the dryer.  In went the next two coins. I pressed the start button – nothing!  Oh no!  Had it been clothes I could have made a plan to hang it out but Kingsize bed linen – Noooooo.  So I rang the duty manager and within minutes two charming young technicians arrived to sort out my problem.   “It took my money but it won’t work,”  I said sadly.

‘We’re here to help,” they said scratching their heads.  Then one unlocked the machine with a key, did something miraculous and hey presto the dryer started!  “What did you do?” I asked.  “‘Magic,” he replied.

I then put a load of clothing on while the linen dried and when that was done the clothes were ready for the dryer.  By 9:30 I’d done the laundry, cleaned the caravan, watched some birds and had a swim.

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Green-winged pytilia – otherwise known as a melba finch

The Earl and I then went to the restaurant for breakfast.  By this time the temperature was rising but it was cool relaxing on the deck under the trees.  The birding was good too,

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The white-fronted bee-eaters were very active

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The marsh sandpiper was as busy as ever

After sorting out banking and email on his laptop The Earl had a nap and then we did a two hour drive next to the river to Nkulu Picnic Site and back.  The trip there was very quiet with little to see except impala.   On the way back though, the animals seemed to have woken from their naps,

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I rather like this scene of elephant, fish eagle and water buck sharing the facilities

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He’s not called a water buffalo for nothing

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This is the way to travel

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Why are these people staring, Mum?

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I really need a manacure – no time with all this childcare

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Two beautiful male Nyala greeted us

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This elephant was right next to my window

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Aren’t I a handsome chap!

It was too hot to cook tonight so we went to the Cattle Baron Take-Away and got chicken wraps and I made a Greek salad.  A perfect ending to a very hot day!

 

5

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.

2

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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2

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!

0

Taking the Kids to Kruger – Skukuza

FRIDAY 30 MARCH 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Female Red-backed shrike with breakfast

Bad hair day for this hamerkop

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

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

Cheeky monkey enjoying Joshua's breakfast

Jay is enjoying Nkulu's famous buffalo pie

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

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

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

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

A Goliath heron patiently fished in some fast running water

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

Brown Snake Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Martial Eagle

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

Wood sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

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

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

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

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