Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Battle at Kruger National Park (Transport Dam)


By this time everybody who is anybody that has access to the web and “Youtube” would no doubt have heard about or the term “Battle at Kruger”, well below is the word for word account of the action by the guide “Frank” who had the guests aboard his open safari vehicle on the afternoon that the video was taken of this encounter.

We as a company consider ourselves very lucky to know Frank and have him as a good friend and collegue who we work closely with on a daily basis while conducting our safaris.

'It was during an afternoon drive when one of my colleagues called over the radio reporting the presence of lions at a place called Transport Dam between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza.  Safari vehicles had been visiting the scene for a short stop and had left. On my arrival I found 7 lions lying on the dam wall watching a herd of buffalo drinking at the dam.
The lions were all quite young except for an adult female and I did not believe they would take on the buffalo who in any event were too far from them to approach effectively.  I decided to stay on the sighting a while, for my clients to view the buffalo at leisure, whilst they drank at the river and they then began to move away.

The adult lion female at this stage had moved off the dam wall and was lying out of sight behind a rock near where we were parked.  The buffalo started moving slowly away from the water and the young lions were lying watching them.  For some inexplicable reason the herd of buffalo led by an adult followed by another adult, followed by a calf and then the rest of the herd, started to walk onto the narrow dam wall, directly to where the young lions were lying.  The lions had no cover and I was then intrigued by the developing situation.
One of the guests asked me what I thought would happen and based on past experience I told them the lions would run away.  I had no sooner expressed this opinion than one of the lions did in fact turn and slink off out of sight.  The buffalo kept walking in single file towards the lions apparently unaware of them and the lions moved closer to one another and crouched down in a threatening posture.
When the lead buffalo was about 15-20 metres from the lions, it suddenly stopped and started tossing his head about.  At that stage everything happened so fast that I cannot recall whether the buffalo turned and started to run away or if the lioness charged and they then ran.  In any event the lions all charged the fleeing buffalo.
They ran past the two adults and jumped on the calf who fell into the dam with the lions still attached to it.  The rest of the lions were all busy attacking the buffalo calf in the water while the rest of the herd ran away.  Suddenly a huge crocodile grabbed hold of the buffalo calf and a tug-of-war ensued between the lions and the crocodile.  The lions were victorious dragging the buffalo calf out of the water and up the bank with the crocodile hanging on its' leg before it finally relinquished its' grip.
By now the herd had regrouped, turned and amidst a cloud of dust they charged the lions who were busy mauling the poor calf lying on the ground.  The lioness tried to stand her ground but was tossed into the air by one of the buffalo.  The other lions lost their nerve and fled with the aggressive buffalo behind them.  As if this wasn't enough the calf stood up and was enveloped by the herd who moved off.  UNBELIEVABLE!!'

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kruger National Park Safari with the Dag Party and Jan and Lauren Burford 26th – 30th March 2010

Day 1

Guests were picked up from the "City Lodge Airport" for there transfer to the Kruger National Park. For some in the party, this was not the first visit to Africa and so the expectation was quite high as to what would be seen  while on safari in the Kruger Park aboard our open safari vehicles. After the change over from our air-conditioned microbus, it was off to the camp of Pretoriuskop for check in, and a chance for some lunch and a rest, before departing at 15h00 on an afternoon game drive to see what was out there.  At 15h00 I picked up my new “Lion Hunters” and drove down the Napi road. Not much happening in the beginning of the trip but as it progressed, so did the animal sightings. At the entrance to Napi Boulders, 2 White Rhino (male and female) crossed the road, sent marking the territory. On our drive back to camp we had two large Elephant bulls on the side of the road. Further to this we also saw 2 huge “Dagga boy’s” (Cape buffalo). My guests were happy and could’nt believe you could see so much on your first afternoon drive. They weren’t as fortunate as the previous people, and only had 5 days in the Kruger Park. At supper they wanted to know if this was enough time to see the “Big 5”. My answer to this is “How long is a piece of string?”. It’s difficult to answer as I might see the “Big 5” in one game drive or I might not for an entire week. With this in mind, I bid my guests a good night.

Day 2

06h00 Time for tea and coffee before leaving the camp on the mornings game drive. My guests hadn’t seen Lions or Leopard’s and obviously where very anxious to see them in “Wild Africa”. Knowing that the mating Lions were around, we drove towards Manungu Koppies as I was sure I’d pick them up. I was totally wrong. I didn’t get the mating Lions but 3 Lioness’s lying together on the gravel road approximately 1.6Kms from the koppies itself. With photos taken, we proceeded to Skakuza for breakfast. Approximately 700m north of the S114, a colleague called in a sighting of Leopard. Apparently mobile, so we didn’t have a lot of time to get to it if we were going to go. I turned the open safari vehicle around and headed in the direction of the Leopard sighting, staying in touch with Jan all the way. It’s as though the Leopard waited till we got to the area before turning and walking straight across the road in from of us. As it moved off the road, it continued with its sent marking, not bothered by our vehicle at all. As we drove forward, so the Leopard walked parallel with the car – You can imagine the photos taken. This mighty cat walked right between a herd of Impala, with no care in the world, and then as fast as it appeared so it disappeared. At that stage I couldn’t make out if it was a Lion roar or my stomach. With hunger pains we drove into Skakuza for breakfast. Must have been hunger pains because all I could think of was a farmer’s breakfast. After breakfast, I traveled along the most western board of the Kruger Park (River road), hoping to see a herd of African elephant or Cape buffalo close to the water. Nothing spectacular was found. My guests requested that instead of an afternoon drive, we spend a couple of hours at the Shitlhave dam. Although not much was seen, while sitting there, it was lovely just to be able to sit and watch nature as the sun set over the savannah plains.

Day 3

06h00 Time for tea and coffee prior to leaving the camp.We set out for another day in the bush. Heading eastwards we drove down Voortrekker road, hoping to see some unusual sights. The words were scarcely out of my mouth when to the right of us we spotted a large Sable bull. Majestic in his approach to the road/us, but as the wind turned and he picked up our scent, he was off with a “Dash of speed”. No sight of any Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, on route to Afsaal picnic spot. At the first historical sight, we drove straight up to 6 White Rhino grazing right next to the road. Close up photos could be taken and lots of questions could be answered as we enjoyed the scenery around us. We drove past Afsaal, to check if any black Rhino where on the Gabro plains, however nothing today. Just then we heard that approximately 7.2Kms from us were the 3 nomadic male Lions. We drove on and as we got to them, so they got up and walked towards us. I turned the engine off and all we could hear was the clickity click of cameras as these massive beasts walked past us. Seemed like an everyday occurrence, that we would pick up Lions before breakfast – I kept reminding the guests that this was not a Zoo. After a late breakfast our general game viewing was excellent and many hours where spent enjoying the basic features of nature. Midday I had my guests back at camp for them to spend some time around the swimming pool. While they were enjoying themselves, I met more clients (2 day safari) that had just arrived and gave them a briefing. I could see, cloud build up around the camp. We left camp at 15h00 sharp. No sooner had I left, I got a call from one of my colleagues that he had spotted Lions on Napi boulders. Approximately 20m of the road both males where lying sleeping. We headed on down the Napi road to a small waterhole called Deleporte. As we got closer, I could see a couple of cars on the bridge and approached slowly. I decided to turn the open safari vehicle around, and as we did that so a female leopard approached us on our left. Guest’s cameras going, she paid no attention to us and politely ran across the road into the tall yellow thatch grass. My new clients from the USA thought this was better than “President Obahma”.  Slow drive back to camp, explaining the African bush and answering questions. On our return to the camp everyone was happy, that a successful day was had by all.

Day 4

06h00 Tea and coffee and an explanation of the days line up. With this done, we headed out for a round trip north. My plan was to show my clients more of the Kruger Park and not just riding from animal sighting to animal sighting. A late breakfast at Tshokwane picnic spot was planned and most of the day was spent, stopping for unusual sightings. Rhino, Elephant, Buffelo, Lion and Lepoard sightings where achieved on the day and before we new it, we started heading back to camp. All the clients on my open safari vehicle, was booked for the Sunset drive and as all of you know, I don’t like to get back to camp only to put my guests onto another vehicle for a further 4 hours. At supper, I said my goodbyes to some of my clients that were leaving really early the next morning in order to get there flight from Nelspruit Vilencoulos and wouldn’t join us on the following mornings game drive. Sadly my trip was also approaching an end and the drive in the morning would be my last for a couple of days.

Day 5

05h30 Tea and coffee ready, @ 06h00 Tea and coffee still ready, and again @ 06h30 Tea and coffee still ready,
“Oops” my guests overslept, who said been on safari is easy. Early morning rising, takes its toll on some that aren’t use to it. Most of our early morning safari was spent taking pictures of interesting things and very little on the animals themselves as guests had seen so much in the last couple of days. We returned back to camp, for a warm breakfast and after packing up departed for Nelspruit where the guests would be transferred by Dean back to JHB International airport in order for them to catch there flight on to Cape Town.

With my job done to the best of my ability and trusting all clients where overjoyed it was time to say:

Till next time “Good Night, GOD Bless, Good bye”.

The feedback from the guests about the safari to the Kruger National Park was that they had a wonderful time, none of them ever thought to see so much especially the leopards thay all seemed to be in the right place at the right time for them. All have said that they will be returning to us to come on another safari, with a large number committing to doing a nine day safari starting in the north of the park and ending in the south 9 days later.

The photos shown in this post were taken by Jan Burford while on safari with Nhongo Safaris to the Kruger National Park.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kruger National Park Safari with Van Hettima and Party 21st – 26th March 2010

Nhongo Safaris picked up the van Hettima party at the Emerald Guest House in the suburb of Kempton Park Johannesburg and started our transfer leg to Nelspruit where the guests would change over from one of our air-conditioned microbuses onto one of our open safari vehicles for the last legtotheworld renowned Kruger National Park. The guide conducting the safari was Mark and below is a day to day account of the safari with the visiting guests.

I found myself, entering “Home” away from Home. It was midday as we entered the park through Numbi gate. My idea was to travel down to Pretoriuskop Camp, where we would have a bit of free time, seen my clients had just traveled from JHB. I’m used to the fact that if we enter the park at midday, very little will be seen on our way into camp. This is ok though as it gives me time to introduce the visitors to the Kruger Park and to share interesting facts about the park. Size, regions with in the parks boarders, rain fall and different plant life are topics for discussion. As usual very little was seen due to the heat. At 15h00 we set off for a sunset drive, keeping our route close to camp. On Fayi Loop I showed my clients, the nesting Bateleur Eagle. The young are getting quite big now and I suspect, they will leave the safety of the nest shortly. We proceeded onto Shebeni Koppies to see what was in the area. This also gives our clients an understanding as to the size of the Kruger Park. People are blown away, with the magnitude of the Park. With this done, all my clients understand from there on “THIS IS NOT A ZOO”. As we had six days planned, this was ample time to show my clients the “big 5” and have an extra day to show them some of the landscapes this magnificent place has hidden away.
“Rhino”, someone shouted. We stopped only to see this massive land mammal disappearing into the bush, tail up as though poaches were onto it. This was a wonderful lesson for my guests and immediately they understood what my briefing earlier was all about. “Should you see an animal, PLEASE KEEP THE NOISE LEVELS DOWN, as the animals will be scarred off. Our grass is long and these animals disappear easily”.

First sighting of the big 5 ……….a Rhino Bum….

As we pulled back onto the tar between Numbi gate and the Pretoriuskop Camp, we had a White Rhino in the road just standing there. I noticed my guests understood the previous experience and there was total quietness. The animal was very relaxed, and photos could be taken. While facing the Rhino, a herd of African Elephants walked out just behind it. What a sight, Africa’s Largest mammals both on the road together. The trip was over and we started moving back to camp. As we did this, I found myself thinking “Slowly cowboy, we can’t see everything in one day, that’s two of the Big 5”.

Day 2

05h30 Coffee and tea was enjoyed before leaving camp on the mornings game drive. As we came out of camp and turned left onto the link road to Manungu Koppies. 1.1Kms down the road lay 2 Lions (1 Male and 1 Female). I recognized them as part of the Shebeni pride and obviously on honeymoon. We spent about 20min with them and once the traffic started building up it was time for us to move on. Napi was our route to Skakuza for breakfast. 2 huge Elephants bulls came walking along the tar at 1.7Kms from Numbi junction. What’s was strange is that very little “General game” sightings where on the road. At the entrance to Napi Boulders, we spotted 4 White Rhino walking towards the road. As a guide, we have knowledge of different territories for some of the more elusive “Cats” namely Cheetah and Leopard. Obviously traveling along, I’m on a look out for these small spotted guys but don’t get to see them on every ride we do. During our stay in the park, we where going to move to Skakuza and decided that I would focus on the Southern region, while staying at Pretoriuskop Camp. We drove out of Skakuza and proceeded to the S114 were we would drive south towards Afsaal picnic spot. The S114, gave us good “General Game” sightings and time could be spent enjoying and photographing species such as Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Zebra and a few other smaller antelope such as Duiker and Steenbok. We stopped off at Afsaal picnic spot, for a midmorning break, (Always good to stretch the legs after a 2-3 hrs drive). Temperatures rising, we drove back towards Pretoriuskop Camp via Voortrekker road. Not much on the road to report on. We planned on tackling the bush again at 15h30. As things starting to cool down, giving us the opportunity to travel down the Albasini road and part of Doispan tar that leads in from the Phabeni Gate close to Hayzeyview. Not much happening on Albasini road this afternoon. Giraffe together with Zebra’s showed my guests the true meaning of “eating out”. The reason for them being together is purely strength in numbers. As Zebra’s are grazers and Giraffe are browsers, they also don’t interfere with each others food source, and for this reason it is a rather common sighting seeing them together.

Day 3

05h30 Again coffee and tea was enjoyed in the camp before leaving on the mornings game drive. The morning air was rather cool and given the cloud base above us, this could be the order of the day. Napi was alive with “General Game” and it took us rather long to get down to Afsaal picnic spot for breakfast. As it was cool the Hyena’s den was busy and this gave my guests the opportunity to observe Mom and Dad with the youngsters doing what they do at home. 2.2Kms down the H3 a large Elephant Bull next to the road, it’s amazing to see what these animals eat and how course the plant matter is that they put into their mouths. No wonder the animal is a bulk feeder. Not quality just quantity. After a wonderful Traders breakfast, we headed up the S114. This proved uneventful and rather disappointing. Cloud base covered the entire African sky and temperatures must have been in the low 20’s. A college of mine reports a leopard on the Napi rd approximately 10Kms from our location. As you all know although it’s my favorite cat, it’s not worth chasing after this cat as the average sighting is approximately 20sec.
We traveled along, spending some time on birds in the area. Fantastic photos were taken of the ground hornbill with approximately 5 frogs in its beak. While on this sighting, my college called us to inform us that sight was lost and the leopard had moved off into the bush. We crossed over Napi road and headed on to River road. This might give us some spectacular sightings of animals coming out of the bush, moving towards the river for a drink. Many Hippos’s where out of the water enjoying the cool day and I could show my clients just how big these creatures really are. Continuing on our trip, there seemed to be traffic jam ahead. I got to understand why, as there was a massive African elephant bull in the road. For those of you that have never traveled this road, it’s a very narrow road and bush thickets have grown either side. I noticed that this bull was in "Must", and we approached him with caution. As we got to within 5m from him I turned off the open safari vehicle and let him continue with his walk. Although in "Must", he seemed rather comfortable with us and gave us some spectacular time alone with him, just to sit and enjoy his presence. My guests were shocked at how close he was to us, and not disturbed by our presence. The rest of the trip back to the camp was rather quite, and I spent time discussing plants and their medicinal uses as well as interesting facts regarding insects etc. Although not a brilliant day with lots of animal sightings, we were satisfied with what our creator gave us and the unusual interesting things the bush has to show.

Day 4

05h30 With tea and coffee enjoyed at the camp, it was time to move out as today we were making our way to the camp of Skukuza were we would overnight for the next two nights.
I had heard the “Shebeni Lion pride” roaring the entire night and was anxious to get out and search for them. Something was happening and we needed to find out what was going on.
On leaving camp, I radioed one of my colleagues Frank as he was also in the area and a specialist in his field. He had also heard the Lions roaring throughout the night and was already on the search. I new we had the mating pair of Lions near our camp so turned off onto the link road once again. There the pair lay in the middle of the road. At that moment Frank called me and said, he had picked up lots of spoor (animal tracks) and was busy tracking them. I replied and gave him our exact location and informed him that both Male and Female where lying in the road. Little to my surprise, Frank called and informed me that on his way to me, he came across another pair of mating Lions. This meant that the “Shebeni Pride” had split and both males had each chosen a female to mate with. Not often has this happened, where the two males from the “Shebeni Pride”, split and mate simultaneously. Good to have such sightings within 20min of leaving camp. We then left the Lions, and moved slowly onto our breakfast destination, Nkuhlu picnic spot. Approximately 2.5Kms before the picnic spot, we came across a herd of buffalo in the Sabie river. My guests enjoyed the sighting as we hadn’t seen any on this trip. No sooner had we finished our breakfast and got back into the open safari vehicle, another college informed me of a leopard that was “Lalapanze in the Shlazla” (lying in the tree). This was in the general direction I planned to travel back to camp, but as you all know, there’s no rush to get there. We had an eventful trip and many different animals and birds where spotted. It took us approximately 01h30hrs to approach the area in which the leopard was sighted. My radio squawked, and another guide informed me that she was still lying in the same Marula tree when first reported. Seen it was our only “Big 5” animal still not seen, we drove to where she was lying. There she lay, gracefully just whiling away the time not bothered by any of us. It was a distant sighting of approximately 300m off the road. We spent some time with her and then moved off. “Big 5” bagged was the statement made. The advantage of being on an overnight safari, is that time can be spent with animals, which the normal International day visitor cannot do. We drove to the Hyena den, and switched the open safari vehicle off and spent time with this family/pack.

Back onto camp as my guests were going on a sunset drive, and I like to give them an hour or so just to relax, prior to the drive.

Day 5

05h30 After a cup of coffee and tea, we headed out of Skukuza Camp to do a rather long trip as it was their last full day on safari. We headed for Tshokwane picnic spot for breakfast. The trip up to Tshokwane proved to be disappointing as very little was seen. Nothing but your “General Game” was spotted all they way up to Tshokwane picnic spot. After a wholesome breakfast, we proceeded along the H10 towards Lower Sabie. Along the route we stopped off at Nkumbe look out point. Spending some time at these look out points just make us realize how small and insignificant we really are.

What a Beautiful office I have got.

Prior to stopping at Lower Sabie for a leg stretch, I decided to travel a couple of Kilometers down the Crocodile bridge road. This road is known to be one of the best in the Kruger Park. I turned onto Mativuhlungu Loop and approximately 1.7Kms down, we came across a dead female White Rhino, and next to her side was her healthy calf. It was unclear how she died. But no predators or scavenges meant it must have happened recently. While at the sighting the “Mapoza’s” (Field Ranges) arrived. They often have the task of removing two horns, in order to prevent these been removed illegally (Huge demand for Rhino horn in Asia). It seemed that the calf was weaned, and would be able to survive on its own in this area. After enough photos were taken, we left the sighting and stopped off at camp for a deserved leg stretch. Much of the afternoon was quite and made one understand that the Kruger Park was not some kind of zoo.
We drove back into camp, where my guests could spend time in the shop (last afternoon and lots of family back home waiting for African presents).

Day 6

Due to the Sun and temperatures – I decided to listen to the bush and change the start times of our daily safaris. I anticipate “A CHANGE IN SEASON”.
06h00 We enjoyed tea and coffee in camp before leaving camp on the guests final drive before breakfast. We decided to do a loop around Skakuza and come back to the Selati restaurant for breakfast. Nothing out of the ordinary was spotted on our early morning drive. But just before coming back into camp we came across a male and female saddle billed stalk in the river bed. Good photos were taken of this scarce bird and I’m sure the clients will have fond memories of all our different animal sightings. After breakfast, we headed down the Napi road to the Numbi gate, where I would bid my clients farewell and pick up the following clients arriving at the same gate. Dean was already on his way with the new guests coming in, so there was no time to waste as the guests on safari were needing to return to the Johannesburg airport for there flight home.
Dean picked up the guests at 12h00 and started the homeward bound journey, while en route gusts feedback was that they had a wonderful time, saw a huge amount of animals and are wanting to return on safari to the Kruger National Park with the rest of there family as well as some younger children in order to show them the wonderful African animals that we have in the park.