Staying outside of a game reserve is not ideal but it’s better than nothing. We’re loving The Homestead which is just a short distance from the entrance gate. Day visitors may only enter the game viewing at 7:00 am while for residents it’s an hour earlier. In the past we would be first at the gate! But today we only woke up at 7 and entered the park after 8. Then we had a leisurely breakfast at The Cattle Baron before setting off on our game drive.
There are many different types of antelope in the park and they’re all thriving. First we were greeted by this beauty.
Lovely male kudu with another in the background
Addo Elephant Park is one of the few places in the country that is home to the flightless dung beetle. Visitors are warned to watch out for them on the roads as they cannot fly away to safety.
The flightless dung beetles mostly feed on elephant or buffalo faeces, but they have been recorded to also feed on dung from other species such as rabbits, baboons, antelope and ostrich. Read about dung beetles here
We really enjoy the birdlife in the parks we visit but Autumn in Addo hasn’t produced anything too exciting. These are some of the birds we managed to photograph
Cape Wagtail collecting nesting material
Cape Glossy Starling
Tortoises tend to be less plentiful as winter approaches but we did find one who was still quite wide awake
We found lots of plains animals in the south today. There are a number of waterholes that attract them and the grazing in also very good. All the animals are looking very healthy. We enjoyed seeing a number of different species making Addo look like what one expects Africa to be. It was lovely to see a mix of zebra, kudu, red hartebeest, warthogs and elephants spread across the veld.
We learned that elephants were starting to dominate the waterholes and leaving little over for the other creatures. So the authorities have placed an electric fence around one we saw today. The wires hang down to a certain height and prevent the elephants from drinking but are high enough for the smaller animals to be unaffected. No chance of the zebras being squirted by elephants at this waterhole!
Do you see the wires hanging just above the zebras
This elephant walked right past – obviously knows what will happen if he goes to this pub!
Oh the bliss of elephant free water!
BUT at the waterholes where they’re free to frolic there was a lot of fun today. They swam and played and rolled in mud to their hearts content.
It’s hot – I need a swim
Oh what fun
Look at me!
Mom – I love this
What’s going on here?
Time to get out
Most of the waterholes we visited had tons of frisky elephants taking the waters. It was fascinating to watch them.
We stopped at Jack’s picnic site for coffee
And the final excitement of the day was this young hyaena lying next tot he side of the road – not often seen in Addo so we were thrilled.
We are back from another amazing sojourn in The Kruger National Park. I have hundreds of photographs providing wonderful memories and will be going through them and posting some on this blog in the week or so.
Sunday 29 June 2014 Bloemfontein to Numbi Gate and Pretriouskop Rest Camp
We left Bloemfontein at 5 a.m. after a very comfortable night at Duinerus. Thanks to Magriet for her fantastic hospitality. The weather was clear and sunny though a little chilly for the first few hours. We stopped at Grasmere for breakfast and met some people with a CS number plate. They were from Bredasdorp and on their way to Kruger and Mozambique.
We decided to do our shopping at Middleberg Mall just off the freeway instead of Nelspruit and that proved to be a good idea as it had Woolworths and we were done in no time! The arrival at Numbi at 3:00 went smoothly. We had to fill out an indemnity at the gate and then went through reception very quickly. We then travelled the S3 and our first sighting was a fork-tailed drongo – very common in the park. Shortly after we stopped off at Mestel Dam. There was a pod of hippo basking in the sun. Earl wanted to leave straight away but I insisted he turn off the engine and watch and wait. Within minutes we found a fish eagle, darter, pied king fisher, giant kingfisher, jacana, and black crake. The thing about waterholes is that things can change so quickly. We even got to hear the fish eagles iconic African call.
First of many hippos seen this trip
We were quite tired after our two days of travelling so did not do a long game drive. We found grey hornbills and then Peter alerted us to waterbuck and kudu in the bush.
What are you doing in my park?
A target on your bottom is quite something to live with!
We then turned onto the S7 and Heather called Stop when she spotted a burchels coucal posing in a tree. Shortly after that we found some glossy starlings and more drongos.
On the H 1 Earl spotted a single warthog grazing in the dry grass. At the Pretoriouskop day visitor picnic site we found impala with oxpeckers giving them a beauty treatment.
You really must take care of these ears!
Three lovely waterbuck appeared just before Pretoriouskop entrance and a group of 4 dwarf mongoose darted across the road before we finally entered the gate at 4:30 Checking in went smoothly and we were delighted to move into to Huts 130 and 131 . We dined on braaied chops, sweet potatoes and salad an spent the evening outdoors in beautiful weather. It only got cold at around 9 pm
Relaxing on the stoep of our rondawel
Cheers my love
Our own personal chef
We also brought our own personal window cleaner!
Monday 30 June 2014 Pretoriouskop
We made an early start this morning and exited the gate just after 06h00. It was still dark but it was not as chilly as we’d anticipated. It gets light suddenly here and the sunrises are magnificent.
This sunrise with a giraffe silhouetted in the foreground typifies Africa for me.
This is Africa
The first leg of our journey took us along the H1-1. We turned off onto the s71 to Shithave Dam where there was very little besides a grey heron and a pied kingfisher.
Back on the H1-1 we found giraffe, zebra and kudu. The highlight of the morning was a beautiful brown snake eagle perched atop a tee. Snake Eagles are not true eagles as their feathers do not go down to their feet – only to the knees. Most snake eagles have yellow eyes.
We also spent ages observing a party of birds flitting about in the bushes. Seeing us stopped and staring into the bush caused a number of cars to enquire as to what exciting creature we had seen. They tore off in a puff of dust when we tried to point out an interesting bird or 2. Many people visit the park for the Big 5 and other predators and as excting as it is to see them I get more of a thrill out of the small things in Kruger. One can travel the roads for hours and not see a thing if you don’t take note of the birds and other small things.
At 9 we arrived at Transport Dam where a pod of hippos were frolicking, a few jacanas were walking in the water plants, a crake made an appearance, water dikkop sunned themselves and hornbills and lapwings begged tidbits from the tourists!
Continuing further were shaken from a reverie when we spotted a roadblock up ahead. A herd of elephants were refusing to allow the cars to pass. One mock charged a car and then swerved into the bush probably giggling and elephant laugh as the occupants breathed a sigh of relief.
A special sighting thereafter was a little Klipspringer staring at us silently from his rocky perch.
A Kruger Road Block!
Klipspringers are incredibly nimble on rocks
We stopped at Afsaal for breakfast at about 11. It was quite warm now and we sat in the shade to enjoy our toasted sandwiches and coffee. Afsaal is one of the larger picnic sites which has a kiosk providing meals and good coffee can be obtained. We prefer the smaller picnic sites where they do not have shops etc but Kruger draws thousands of tourists and they must be fed!
We went a little further past Afsaal before turning back to Pretoriouskop. A pile of cars were staring into the bush where leopard had been seen but we didn’t bother to wait for the phantom to appear. We enjoyed sightings of giraffe, zebra, warthog and a few more bird parties and arrived back at camp at 3.
She’s on a leaf and thorn diet
Brown hooded kingfisher
After shopping, getting and ice cream and resting for a while we explored the camp and found some lovely birds in the pool area.
We were delighted to find a crested barbet, black headed oriole and red-billed woodhoepoe. In front of our hut we also found a Kurrichane Thrush.
Black Headed Oriole
Red-billed woodhoepoe with bug
Supper was an early braai. Earl went to be very early and the rest of us chatted outdoors for a while before turning in for the night. We do not keep late hours in Kruger!
The wind was up this morning and so we decided a day trip to somewhere else was called for. A bit of bird and game watching might be a good experience for our grandchildren and would ensure that they didn’t get too much sun. So the early morning run was shelved and we had an ‘Early’ breakfast then Lauren, Earl the kids and I set off at about 8. Alan, Lisa and Laurie decided to give the nature thing a miss.
Jay was the most enthusiastic of all the kids and on route keenly spotted the birds of prey. Plenty of yellow-billed kites were hawking and steppe and jackal buzzards were atop of telephone poles. We also saw flocks of our national bird – the blue crane.
Flock of Blue Crane
We also spotted a special bird that we don’t often see in The Western Cape
Namaqua Dove – Male
Just before entering the reserve we saw baboons. Now we are used the cheeky Cape Point clan who have no fear of humans. They are pretty precocious in Kruger too. But these would not hang around for a chat at all. We managed to get some bum shots.
Bye bye baboons
We have all four children on our Wild Card so only had to fork out a R40 Conservation fee for Lauren. The Wild Card is well worth having. We have one for all clusters and we can get into any South African National Park free. The cost of the card is R745 per year for a couple and up to five children. (For more information on The Wild Card – http://www.wildcard.co.za/faq.htm?action=view-list&catid=512 )
Once in the park the kids were thrilled to see zebra, ostrich and bontebok.
Bontebok and Baby
We stopped at the restaurant to go to the loo and then set off to Koppie Alleen where we planned to swim and play on the dunes. But on the way a mini disaster struck. The battery light came on and a message on the dashboard informed us that we should get the car to a workshop for alternator repairs. Earl and the boys got up to look under the bonnet – but couldn’t find where the alternator was hidden – Modern Cars!
It continued to storm during the night and when I woke up at 4:30 it was still raining. We decided not to wake the kids till 5:30 and by 6 the sky was beginning to clear. We managed to get away by 6:15. In summer this would be quite late but from 1 April the gate only opens at 6 as it is getting light later and later. Today would really have been the last day one could have made a very early start.
It turned out to be quite a long day and we only got back to Skukuza at 3 p.m. We did, however, make a few stops at hides and look out points to stretch legs and get rid of wriggles etc. As you can imagine four children cooped up together in a small space can become somewhat noisy when there’s a lull in the sightings. We try to keep them entertained and interested but usually its they who keep us in fits of laughter with their sayings and antics.
“I want to see a cheetah,” declares Shannon. “I can see one right now,” says Jay touching her on the shoulder. “Hey – you’re not supposed to touch the animals,” comes her quick retort.
We stop at to see a beautiful Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and take many photographs. “He looks cross,” says Jay – “probably sick of the paparazzi hassling. Don’t tell the next car where he is – he needs some privacy.”
We self-cater all our meals except brunch and find the service at picnic spot and rest camp restaurant varies from time to time and place to place. But Lower Sabie is consistently bad and today we made the mistake of arriving there at midday when they’re at their busiest. We put in our order, waited an age and were then told that they’d run out of pizza. Another long wait before our meal finally arrived. A small price to pay for being in a beautiful setting where hippo and buffalo lazed on the river bank.
We have not seen large herds of plains animals so when we see zebra, wildebeest and giraffe we get quite excited. Today we found them in patches. The giraffe in particular have been difficult to photograph as they hide behind tall trees or keep their distance from the road. “Droff’ yelled Jay when he saw a small journey of them this afternoon. “What the heck is ‘droff’ ? “A quick way of saying giraffe, silly.” I’ll never call them anything else again!
Some other highlights of the day.
We followed this lioness for a while but she refused to look at the camera
Sadly there are people both tourists and tradesmen who visit the park who do not take enough care on the roads and animals and birds get knocked down. Our little group of kids get mad when they see speeding or careless behaviour on the part of others and today Shannon was close to tears when we found a bateleur on the body of a very young monkey that had been run over. We explained that the bateleur had found an easy meal and soon it had competition from a white-headed vulture. The former had already flown up into a nearby tree to keep watch on his potential meal when the latter appeared on the scene. Neither of them attempted to eat the monkey while we watched.
The kids have been looking at things on offer in the park shops and Simon finally decided to get himself a monkey. Here he is at Lower Sabie with his new friend.
We left at 6 and enjoyed some game viewing and birding before exiting at 7:15. A ranger stopped to tell us that there were black rhino near the gate. But they had disappeared by the time we got there. Still good to know that they are around.
We arrived at Addo Rest Camp at quarter to 10 – too early for checking into the bungalow so we unhitched the trailer, had a health breakfast at the restaurant and went for a drive.
First animal seen – elephant! This after people we met in Kokstad told us they’d been to Addo several times and had never seen elephants. We, on the other hand, have always seen hundreds and we have been coming to Addo since the year 2000.
This time of the year is clearly good for game viewing. The park was green and there was plenty of water around. The only disappointing water hole was Marion Barree.
But back to day 1. We made our way to Carol’s rest where lion had been seen. En route saw lots of kudu and red hartebeest, a jackal and eland at a distance but lots of them – never seen so many before. A family were out of their car trying to get a better look at the game. We drew up next to them and I asked, “Are you South Africans?” They were but had no idea that they weren’t allowed out of their vehicle. Never mind the symbols at the gate! Earliebird told them that lion had been sighted round the corner. They were back in the vehicle quick smart. Homo Ignoramus!
There were no lion at Carol’s Rest but there was a buffalo drinking. We moved on and headed back toward camp enjoying sightings of elephant, eland, buffalo, red hartebeest and zebra. The birds we found were common fiscal, mousebirds – red-faced and speckled and red-capped larks. The birdlife this trip was not as prolific as usual – very few bokmakieries of which there are usually scores.
We decided not to braai and I cooked a chicken casserole for dinner which we enjoyed outdoors looking over the valley and watched kudu, buffalo and elephant make their way to the waterhole for an evening drink.
Thursday 6 January 2011
Earliebird had a strong feeling that the lions would be at Carol’s Rest this morning so we set off early and were the first out the gate. It was 22⁰C and climbing. We drove slowly and enjoyed sightings of kudu – males had lovely big antlers, eland and red hartebeest. The large herds of eland had many babies amongst them so the herd is certainly going to grow even more.
A jackal trotted along on a mission and a pale chanting goshawk in a tree caught our attention.
Our Caravelle and a Kombi arrived almost simultaneously at Carol’s Rest and we were the only cars for about 10 minutes. We saw the two big buffalo bulls straight away and for a minute I thought that was it when the three lions exploded on my senses – two young males and a female. There was no cover for any of the animals and they were staring at each other.
We could hear a jackal howling and eventually saw him with our binoculars. He was clearly upset that the three lions were so near the waterhole or was begging them to attack so he could help partake in the meal. But there was no way these predators were going to get into those two huge ungulates. There was no doubt who had the upper hand – or hoof. The buffalo grazed peacefully until the lions came to close then charged and had them scampering away. We watched the cats try a few half-hearted attempts before settling down to play with each other and finally snooze.
More cars began to arrive and as it was a wide-open area there was plenty of place to park and everyone had a good view. Suddenly I noticed the passenger in the car parked in front of us trying to catch my attention. It our daughter’s friend, Michele, visiting the park with her husband and kids. Lisa had told her to look out for us and it was great that we could tell her we’d found each other at the lion sighting.
Cars kept arriving and stopping to look at the lions but one came along, obviously saw the buffalo and thought to himself – oh they’re all looking at the buffalo and drove straight by! He did not bother to scan the area properly and missed what was probably on the top of his wish list. I can just hear him telling his mates – “It’s a waste of time going to game reserves – you don’t see anything.” Well – you don’t see anything if you don’t take the time to look.
We spent over an hour with the magnificent cats and during that time zebra came to drink and two more jackal appeared. We then moved on to see what else Addo had to show us. My list went something like this – red-capped lark, African pipit, drongo, hoopoe (one who posed beautifully), warthog, jackal, elephants, jackal, tortoise, elephants, tortoise, warthog, bokmakierie, eland, elephant, tortoise.
The temperature had climbed to 38 by the time we got back for brunch and we relaxed for a few hours before venturing out again at 4 o’clock. We enjoyed seeing the usual suspects but were amazed at all the tortoises that kept making an appearance – our total for the day was at least 12, so we called today The Day of the Tortoise.
Our highlight of the afternoon was spending time at a little waterhole that we could just see through a gap in the bush. Earliebird spotted two yellow-billed ducks under a dead log which made a very pretty picture.
Another then swam by behind them then they swam to join it further along.
We were just enjoying the tranquil scene when a yellow-billed kite landed in a tree right in front of us and entertained us by preening and spreading his wings and providing us with wonderful Kodak moments.
Several cars stopped to find out what we were so engrossed in but when we told them we were looking at ducks and kites they moved straight on. Oh dear, we birders are a funny lot!
After an hour of this, we went to Jack’s Picnic site for a loo break and were very impressed with this facility.
Just before entering we stopped at a mud puddle and laughed at an itchy warthog He’d found a very entertaining way of relieving his itches on a strategically placed rock.
We braaied the last of our chops and enjoyed them with baked potatoes and salad while we once again watched the wildlife take their evening stroll down to the waterhole.
Friday 7 January 2011
This morning, our last, we packed everything ready to go and then headed out for a drive before breakfast. We were enjoying observing all the Addo game when someone stopped to tell us that there were hyena at Domkrag Dam. We did not rush but were luck enough to get there before they disappeared. Photography was not easy from the lookout point but we got nice views of the remaining hyena with our binoculars.
Finally, it was time to leave. We returned to our bungalow, hitched up the trailer and then went to the restaurant for a health breakfast – highly recommended – muesli, fruit and yogurt in a glass.
Michelle and her family saw us as they were heading for the waterhole and told us that they’d seen a black rhino at the campsite fence the night before.
We took our time driving through the new section of the park exiting at the Colchester gate. We enjoyed zebra crossing with babies in front of us
A steppe buzzard posed for a portrait
The sombre greenbul finally “came out to fight” – you hear this bird constantly calling – Willie come out and fight – but you seldom see him! I guess he is too scared.
Finally we found the highlight of our trip – the tiniest little quail-finch. What fascinating birds.
You never know what a game reserve is going to offer you – it is different every time. This was not our most exciting visit to Addo but it was certainly still most enjoyable and who knows what she will have to offer next time.