Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On Safari With Karen from 16 October 2014

16 October 2014

This morning we set off with a mission to find a lion. Any lion would do, big or small. But as it had started raining last night and it was still raining this morning we started losing hope quite quickly. We left as soon as the gates opened and on camp road found two buffalos who thought this early visit while they were having breakfast was rather inappropriate. They didn't take the slightest notice of us. One scratching its back on a tree, the other munching on the grass on the side of the road a meter away from the car. Even starting the car again gave no reaction at all!

Down Numbi tar and Napi it was buffalos all over the place. As we've seen so many yesterday, just had an amazing view of two and we were on a mission, we passed them all. We also saw some nice duikers, all standing still in the cold rain. A loop around Shabeni had given us two klipspringers and a troop of baboons passing by. One baboon on top of the koppie was looking very miserable, cold and wet. If possible he would have drowned his sorrows in a nearby pub given the look of him.

Close to Shitlhave Dam we saw three giraffes. The dam itself was quiet. A couple of white egrets, two green-backed herons, blacksmith lapwings and a few impalas coming to drink. A hippo showed his ears, eyes and nostrils, but that was it.

Down Napi we saw even more buffalos, zebras and a couple of red-crested korhaans doing a little dance. By the looks of it he wanted to mate but she wanted none of that! He kept on mounting but she wiggled free. In the end she ran away and he couldn't keep up. You go girl! Our new animal of today was a blue wildebeest, just one male on his own.

Our loveliest sighting this morning was a rock. Oh no, it is not a rock, it's a white rhino! It was walking towards a side dirt road and we stood and watched it coming out of the grass. And then this little baby rhino bounced out of the grass next to mummy! Too little to be seen in the grasses we were all surprised the big rock had a little rock. They were so cool around our vehicle that we had an amazing sighting. When another vehicle suddenly reversed she got a fright and started protecting her baby. With her baby in front of her she pushed it away from that vehicle, back into plain view for us. Now more cars had arrived and she swiftly crossed the road to safety shielding her baby from everyone else. On the other side of the road her baby bounced happily around the mum again while the mother started feeding on the fresh green grass.

Then it was time to make our way back to the gate as it was time to say goodbye to Matt and Shelley. One last look around the scenery, but the rain intensified and all the animals were hiding away. Except for buffalos, as we caught the tail of a herd crossing just before we reached Numbi. I hope Matt and Shelley had a wonderful time and find better weather up in Cape Town! The lion mission failed, so we will save it for next time.

A quick return to Nkambeni for a break and to pick up some of the guests who had been on a bushwalk. They encountered buffalos and zebras and learned lots about tracks and other little things that make the bush teeming with wildlife. They had enjoyed it immensely and a big thank you to their bushwalk guide Simon who had made it so great.

We set off late morning just before lunchtime when it was just easing off with the rain. As the sun was shining, we decided to try our luck again with the loop that is now know as the leopard loop. We stopped at the infamous rock underneath which the leopards should be hiding. There were about 9 giant plated lizards lying on this rock sunbathing so we had something to look at, but we wanted something else. And this time it was fifth time lucky!! We sat very still for a while and one by one out of their layer came 3 tiny little leopard cubs, probably about a month old. They first adjusted a bit to the bright light and then started playing. One tried climbing onto a rock, but was too eager and fell down again, which made us giggle. Another was catching it's brother or sister's tail. It was such a great sight watching these three newborns playing around we stayed for quite some time.

When other vehicles showed up we decided to be nice and let them have a look. So we moved off and continuing our drive onto Napi. We saw a couple of steenboks before arriving at Shitlhave Dam where three elephants were swimming. We sat watching two young bulls play while the third and biggest one of them all came out of the water and started throwing sand over himself before having some nice sicklebush to munch.

When all bulls were out of the water and crossed the road in front of us, we set of towards Skukuza for a late lunch. We saw zebras, the young hyena pup close to Transport Dam, more blue wildebeest, almost drove over a chameleon (but noticed him just in time), stopped in time to let a couple of crested francolins cross the road, saw some lovely white rhinos lounging close to the road, 5 kudu bulls and some giraffes.

On the way back it looked like a storm was brewing so we took the quickest route back, which was down Napi again. We made a quick stop at Mathekanyan to look at the view and photograph the storm, before trying to stay ahead of it on the way down. A couple of days ago when we turned around we saw all new animals on the same road, but this time nothing has changed. Same hyena pup, same white rhinos and lots of elephants on the way back. The crested francolins and chameleon however had moved off. Their place in front of the wheels was taking by an impala ram (the ladies on the other side were worth the risk of almost being run over by a safari car), red-crested korhaan (different kind of suicide for this bird) and a bird party consisting of 2 red-billed hornbills, a yellow-billed hornbill and 4 grey louries that pointblank refused to move off the road.

We got a tip about a male lion on Circle road so with the risk of the storm setting loose above our heads we decided to check anyways. We were lucky in finding this lion lying down in the high grass. As he was still a young male, his mane was the same colour as the dry yellow grass and therefore he blended in very well. Not a great photo opportunity so we waited as long as we could to see if he would rise. His companion that was rumored to be at the same place was lying flat somewhere around and was nowhere to be seen. When time run out we had to continue and were happy that the fella at least had sat up with his head and not like his companion lying completely hidden.

As the storm started we drove back to Numbi Gate, quickly stopping for a duiker and a warthog on separate occasions. When we arrived at the lodge the weather had completely changed! We started the drive with a lovely afternoon sun and returned with a proper South African bush storm: thunder, lightning, wind, downpour and hail!! Unsurprisingly the power didn't survive this pounding of nature and we spend the evening dinner with candles.

17 October 2014

The storm last night created havoc. Many of us hadn't slept well as the wind kept on trying to fly the tents away and some were even having some rain inside. When having breakfast it was still raining and no matter how we looked at it, all was wet. We took a bit of a slower breakfast, dreading going out in the wet and were happy when it cleared up a bit. We packed up the car and set off for what would be the last game drive for Kaye and Sarina.

On camp road two buffalos showed that they didn't care about the rain much and they were munching the grass with as much gusto as always. On Numbi tar we just missed a small herd of buffalos crossing, but we caught the tail end of all butts turned towards us. We took a drive down Circle Road, continuing on Fayi Loop, but yesterday's lions were no longer in the area. They had moved off before the rain had stopped, so didn't even see the tracks. However we did see some duikers, zebras (including one pregnant one and unfortunately also an injured one (a mum with a youngster to make the impression worse))), a skin and bones of what used to be a giraffe, plenty of reedbuck and a hippo head in one of the streams.

Two elephants were munching close by before we turned onto the now famous Leopard Loop. We just wanted to try to have a last look at the little cubs before setting off. And once again we were in luck as we got a glimpse of two of them climbing out of their hiding hole. However cars kept starting so they didn't last long out in the open as their reaction to strange noises is good: hide, hide, hide!!

Now it was time for us to go down to Nelspruit where we had to say goodbye to Sarina and Kaye. Thanks for joining us ladies, and hope both of you have a nice flight home! Hope you go home with great stories to share from your safaris and the proper African storm.

At the same time while saying goodbye, we welcomed Gordon and Mary to this tour. Their first drive is the Sundowner Game Drive. As they left it was sunny, but nowadays, here you never know... More about that later.

Meanwhile Kerry, Emma and Claire had been on the Panorama Tour. On this tour you visit various beautiful sites around the Blyde River Canyon. When they get back, they'll tell us all about it too!

The Sundowner Game Drive stayed dry and was thoroughly enjoyed. Before they stopped for drinks at Mashawu Dam, they saw zebras, giraffe, buffalo, a white rhino, kudus, impalas and the very seldom seen tsessebe. Their free drinks were joined by hippos that were playing in the dam itself and two elephants that were feeding on the other side of the dam wall they were standing on.

18 October 2014

We woke up after a good night sleep to a bright new day with plenty if sunshine. We set off after breakfast down camp road where we saw buffalos in the distance. The drive started quiet seeing our new animal only on Shabeni Loop: an elephant was munching on a bush. Furthermore we also saw some impalas and buffalos.
We took a drive around Circle Road and Fayi Loop seeing lots of waterbucks and duikers, a red crested korhaan, a couple of giraffes in the far distance and plenty of zebras. A couple of eagles were flying above trying to find a thermal that would take them someplace else.
And of course we ended up on leopard loop. All three of the cubs came out to play in the sunshine. As it was a nice and warm day they were a lot more active and we watched them play and explore for over an hour. Then they got tired and had disappeared into their safe hiding place for a nap. This was our cue for taking our own break at Pretoriuskop.
Just before the entrance gate though we stopped for what looked like a relay by dwarf mongooses. One would run up to the road from our right, stop and look. A second one ran up and as soon as he reached the spot of the first, he froze while the first on the scene ran across and froze on the other side of the tar. Then a third pushed the second across the road, the second the first into the bush. And then a fourth did the same... But then there was no fifth so he just ran across after letting another car pass by.
After the break we set of for a last quick stop at Shitlhave Dam. On the way we got a glimpse of a herd of sable antelopes through the burned trees, a warthog in the distances and a couple of steenboks. Upon seeing us they got a fright and ran away, both in separate directions. Realizing this they both turned and ran towards each other, startling each other by their own move. In the end the male settled for running after the female (what else is new!)
At Shitlhave dam five giraffes were feeding on the green leaves. A waterbuck was actually standing in the water, but otherwise it was a quiet spot. Then we had to turn back to Numbi Gate as we were running out of time. We saw plenty of duikers on the way back, a buffalo right next to the road and a mother and baby giraffe. Some last pictures of swallows and whitef-ronted bee eaters on the power lines and we arrived back at Numbi Gate. Unfortunately it was goodbye for Emma, Kerry and Claire. Thanks for the fun times on this safari and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Maybe we'll see you again on another safari, as the safari bug never goes away.
As new guests joined us in the afternoon we set course once again towards the leopard cubs. On camp road we encountered a family of reedbuck and saw some buffalos in the distances. Then on Numbi tar we spotted zebras and impalas as well as kudus and more buffalos close to the road. A pretty lilac breasted roller was shy because as soon as the cameras were out he flew away. The same happened with a duiker, well, he didn't fly away, but ran.
At the leopard cub sighting there were already some cars. We did get a glimpse of the cubs but they weren't out to play for long and unfortunately our visual was against the sun. When we had moved to a better spot the cubs were napping out of sight. We waited quite some time but no luck, so when cars started arriving and others kept on starting and left their engine running we cut our losses and drove off.
On the route back to camp via Napi we spotted two warthogs. They spotted us too and kept on running away alongside the road and after reversing for about 500m we let them go as we didn't catch up with them. We saw a lovely white rhino and some more kudus before we ended up in the middle of a herd of buffalo. Parts of the herd were grazing on both sides of the road, but none crossed.
We came back to Nkambeni Safari Camp where our welcome/goodbye dinner is being served in the boma tonight!
19 October 2014
As today was the last day for some of the new guest we set off once again to try to find a lion. I can inform you already that, once again, the mission failed. However we saw lots of other good things on our morning drive. It started on camp road where a family of zebras was feeding in the drainage line, and we also saw a duiker.

Up Numbi tar we spotted two of the three of the reedbuck family we noticed in the drainage line yesterday afternoon. In the background there were some buffalo too. We took a loop around Shabeni where we found more buffalos and had a lovely sighting of two klipspringers. The female was feeding while themale stood watch. He gave an excellent show of how well a klipspringer can hop on little rocks. And then they switched rolls with the male feeding and the female taking over the watch.

Around a corner we saw a slender mongoose, three giant plated lizards, and a tree squirrel all in one spot. The tree squirrel was being mobbed by a forktailed drongo. The slender mongoose just passing by on his way to someplace else. And the three giant plated lizards were just hanging out in the sun to warm up.

Then down Napi we had a family of dwarf mongoose crossing the road at great speed, while a red crested korhaan had a very slow morning as she walked across in slow motion. We noticed a couple of bateleurs flying in the sky. Of course we did see impalas today and also a very handsome kudu bull.

On Napi Boulders we saw our first elephant for the day. He was in the distance and just showing us his bum so we didn't stay long. Back on. Napi for the return journey we spotted a herd of elephants at some distance, and a pretty young sable bull. Whitebacked vultures were circling on a thermal which one by one took them in a direction of wherever the wind would take them.

Of course now that we know they are there we once again decided to go see the leopard cubs. However this time around we didn't see them. We got glimpses of movement between the branches but they didn't come out. Then again, there were lots of cars around so they might have been a bit shy. Before we got parked in we took our leave and quickly stopped at Pretoriuskop.

Then back out around Circle road. This road was rather quiet with animals, seeing only some waterbucks, an elephant far away and a dead giraffe. As some of the guests were keen to see a giraffe we were hoping to see a alive one instead of just this bag of skin with bones.

At the end of this morning we drove down Numbi tar, where, apart from the zebras that were hanging out with them, we found some live giraffes! With just a couple of 100 meters before the exit, pfew. Two were lying down to rest and one just came by to greet them. Then they stood up and walked in the opposite direction as us, as we were heading to Numbi Gate. We passed some more buffalos resting on the side of the road and then it was really over.

Now we said goodbye to Mary & Gordon, Grace and Debby, which were returning to Jo'burg and Pretoria to go back to work. Well, the girls are as where Gordon is just having a few more days of holiday before him and Mary are on a trip to Cape Town. I hope all of you enjoyed your safari, even though it was a short break in between work!

In the afternoon we took a drive down to Mestel Dam for a change. On the way there we spotted some impala and waterbuck before an elephant came showing himself of rather close to the road. Another elephant was further into the bush. At Mestel Dam there were Egyptian geese and blacksmith lapwings with the hippos yawning in the background.

We continued towards the overflow where a pied kingfisher showed us exactly how to fish. A giraffe was crossing the drainage line and on the open area we spotted another 7 giraffes and a large herd of impalas. We turned around and saw most of the animals in reverse order again before we tuned back onto the tar. Here we encountered a couple of dwarf mongoose foraging, a couple more giraffes, kudus, crested barbet and a diderick's cuckoo and lots of buffalos of all ages. We even saw a leucist buffalo, looking like an old and grey buffalo.

20 October 2014

We woke up to an overcast morning and were hoping it would stay dry. On the other hand it would be nice if it wasn't going to be as hot as yesterday. In hindsight, it was the later, boiling hot in the afternoon, but nonetheless we had a great day. Here is our story:

As always when you leave Nkambeni you turn onto Numbi tar. Today we slalomed around various other safari cars which just started their day tours, as they were stopping for lots of buffalos and zebras as well as kudu and impalas. And we are spoiled with seeing those animals already on this tour, so we decided to get ahead.

We turned onto Napi and had a little giggle about a flock of guineafowls digging around in elephant poo for their breakfast. We stopped for a crested barbet but before a photo was taking he already flew away. And we admired the Cape glossy starlings. White rhinos we grazing and just passed it we had a big bull elephant munching on the only green bush in a burned area and after a while crossing just behind the vehicle.

At the exit of the Napi Boulders we had our first dung beetle sighting of the season. This little guy was rolling a little ball of poo into the grass and out of sight. Then it was rather quiet until Skukuza, as we just saw some impalas, kudus, blue wildebeest and some more elephants in the distance. Like I said, we are spoiled! We stopped at Skukuza for a break where a leopard tortoise was walking around on the grass at the entrance and a vervet monkey was strutting around the public area looking for some scraps. Just before we left we noticed a brightly coloured tree agama on a nearby tree too.

As the weather had gotten nicer we decided to continue our day and drove the H4-1 from Skukuza to Lower Sabie. Here is where it started to become a great day as we got a tip about wild dogs on the way as we just left Skukuza. We arrived at the sighting when the wild dogs were just settling in for a rest. We counted at least nine of them divided in three shady areas, but there might even have been more. Some were still a bit restless and kept on popping up their heads as cameras clicked, however others were already fast asleep. And as the temperature had risen quickly, that wasn't such a bad idea! It was good sleeping or lying in the shade weather now!

Further along we encountered some new antelope like bushbuck and nyala, but also saw lots of ones we already had seen: impalas, impalas, steenbok, impalas and guess what, impalas! Oh and a beautiful kudu bull looking at us through the trees. We also saw lots of hippos and buffalos in the riverbed. Some hippos even got up and showed us more than just their backs or worse, just nostrils.

Just when we passed Nkuhlu picnic spot, we encountered some baboons on the road. The little babies riding on Mommy's back. All were heading towards Nkuhlu, probably seeing if they could rob some tourists of their lunch! We saw some nice fish eagles, brown headed  parrots, bateleurs and yellow-billed kites flying over. Down at Sunset Dam a big crocodile was lying close to the shore. We parked at safe distance to have some good photos and after a while he was getting too hot and crouched back into the water. At the water's edge there were plenty of yellow-billed storks, Egyptian geese, three-banded plovers and a spoonbill.

After lunch at Lower Sabie we planned on heading back to Skukuza the same way, but not for a little detour down the H10. As Curtis had found some cheetahs there, we took a chance and went to have a look. We did get to see a bit of a head, some flicks of a tail and four paws in the air when he decided to roll over. All body parts counted together making up most of the cheetah. There were supposed to be two cheetahs or maybe even three, but we could only count body parts.

Another quick stop at Sunset Dam showed us the hippos had barely moved at all, neither had most of the crocodiles and all the previous mentioned birds were still there too. A stork feeding nearby taught a lesson to a little baby crocodile by picking it on the head and body when it came too close to the feeding grounds of the stork. Then we got a call about lions just ahead up the road. So we took off in pursuit. We saw the back of one lion walking through the reeds, and sometimes got a bit more visual.

Other animals seen on the way back up to Skukuza: a big male giraffe standing close to the road, lots of elephants in the Sabie river, plenty of hippos, crested francolins crossing the road last minute in front of the vehicle, two white backed vultures, more baboons and a sighting with two sleeping lions under a tree with vervet monkey hopping around in the tree above.

As we were running a bit late we drove down Napi on a drive by game drive. This time around it was teeming with wildlife: a herd of blue wildebeest, warthogs, waterbucks, grey duiker, steenbok and then suddenly a leopard. Here of course we did stop and after a short investigation noticed one leopard in a tree with a prey that she had caught, plus one leopard lying behind the tree on a little sand hill watching plus a hyena underneath the tree. While pulling up the kill and chewing on it the leopard dropped some bits and the hyena gratefully took his share.

Then it was really time to end this awesome day, so back down Numbi tar, saying goodbyes to plenty of giraffes and buffalos before returning back at Nkambeni.

More coming soon !!

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