Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Safari With Karen From 21 October 2014

21 October 2014

This morning it was time to pack up and leave Nkambeni Safari Camp, as it was time to move on. On the road out of camp we started by spotting two elephants in the distance. Then on the tar road a giraffe was walking around with a baby giraffe by her side. Well, by her side not really, as when the mum walked off the baby kept on standing behind a tree. When a male giraffe arrived at the seen and checked if the mum was ready to mate again by sniffing her bum, the baby looked quickly around the tree before disappearing in the other direction.

We decided it was our last chance to see the leopard cubs, so we went to visit them straight away. And oh boy, were we lucky this morning. All three of them were out and it was all playtime and adventure for these three little ones. With mum gone they dared to venture more and more away from their den hole, and they were chasing each other, climbing tree stalks (falling down them too), trying to catch each other, pushing each other off rocks or out of trees. It was a wonderful sight to see those three cubs explore the big wild world. So we spend the rest of the early morning sitting with these wonderful leopard cubs! Ok, we had a little bit of attention leftover for the slender mongoose that crossed the rock nearby, but the rest was devoted to the three musketeers.

When playtime was clearly over, as the cubs started to fall asleep on sight and one by one disappeared into their den hole, we took leave from the sighting and went for a little coffee break at Pretoriuskop. We would spend the night here later, but as it was still too early to check-in we set off again to see some other parts of the park.

Once again we spotted a mummy warthog with two tiny little piglets. Babies was definitely a theme this morning! Furthermore we saw elephants, plenty of wildebeest, zebras and a secretary bird before we turned down the H3. To stick to the special birds theme we then saw some ground hornbills too, as well as more elephants and some white rhinos (including a mum and a baby, still keeping the theme here).

Just before we got to Afsaal we had an amazing sighting of this big white rhino bull which had an itch. And not just one itch. He was scratching his belly, and all around his backside over this little bush. All that popped to mind is Balou in Disney's Jungle Book, which in his Bear Necessities song finds a tree to scratch!

After an early lunch break at Afsaal we decided to go take a look down at the Mlambane river before returning to Pretoriuskop. We weren't planning on staying long, but we got distracted by this big herd of elephants. First we saw only one, but we could hear plenty more of them in the bush. It was rather ghostly as we saw trees move, heard branches break and even heard munching and some "tummy rumble" sounds elephants make to communicate. Then one started crossing, and slowly more and more came out of the bush and followed. There were elephants of all ages and sizes, a teenie tiny baby (another one for the theme), youngsters, teens and adults and elderly. One very big elephant was intending to feed the youngsters some fresh green leaves as in 1...2...3...big pushes and she was pushing over a large tree! It was right next to the road, great to see and luckily she pushed it away
from us ;). Then bit by bit they all moved off and so we set off again, making our way back to Pretoriuskop.

Back up the H3 and then Napi we had plenty of sightings. We saw lots of elephants (no young babies this time), a klipspringer, giraffes, zebras, a brilliant male warthogs showing off his tusks, kudus and let's not forget the impalas! While checking in the guests enjoyed watching the vervet monkeys huddling together in camp as it started to cool down and they were getting ready for the night. A tiny little vervet monkey was shared between the mother and some aspiring mothers before it got tucked away between mum's nipples to have a drink. It was the end of another great day of this 7-day safari.

22 October 2014

Today we started wet, as it had started to rain earlier this morning. Trying not to let it bother us, we once again packed up and set off for a final drive down Napi. We didn't get far before we had our first sighting of the day: a leopard in a tree. It was the same tree as two days ago at the end of the day, so probably the same leopard. However we spotted only one leopard this time. After looking at her in the tree for a bit, she had enough of the onlookers and jumped out of the tree. We saw her again sitting on a little termite mount further into the drainage line, but then she started moving towards the road. Slowly she walked down into the drainage line and had a little bit to drink of the water. Then suddenly she sprinted across and hid herself away in the lush green bushes on the other side of the road. Leopard gone, we were on the road again.

Shortly after we saw a small herd of buffalos lying down close to the road and as one of the mothers was still standing, a little calf was taking the opportunity to have some milk. Not sure if the cow gave still milk though as the calf had to hit the udder quite hard a couple of times, but it didn't seem to bother the cow. We also had a couple of white rhino sightings. A baby was drinking from her mother here too, but it seemed to be a lot more gentle than the buffalo calf.

Down the road we saw some wildebeest, impalas, our second secretary bird (but might be the same one as yesterday), zebras, a shouting red crested korhaan, black headed oriole, a so far unidentified blind snake, a juvenile bateleur and just before breakfast we had a glimpse of another leopard walking down the road parallel but in the dense bush.

We enjoyed our breakfast at the Skukuza Golfclub, where in the end the hippos came to greet us too. We then left on our way to Satara. We first drove over Ellooff, where a leopard tortoise took its time crossing the road. We also saw a large troop of baboons on the H1-2, including a mother with a tiny baby. Yeah, I know, lots of babies this tour!

A quick pitstop at Tshokwane before continuing on the H1-3, but we didn't get far. A big male lion was having a meal out of a zebra. It looked like a very fresh kill, and the male was making the most of it. Somehow it seemed impossible he ate it all though and the answer to get came after watching the male feast for quite some time: one by one the females of the pride as well as some youngsters came walking over the hill in the background. Well, I say walking, but it looked more like dragging or staggering. They were so full the bellies were protruding like big balloons and it showed in there ability to walk. They laid down in a big huddle and started washing the blood from their paws. We counted at least 8 females and youngsters walking into view as well as another male that kept a bit more distance, and not to forget the massive male that was still feasting on the leftover zebra when we left the sighting an hour later.

Now I almost forget to mention that while watching those lions we also saw plenty of white backed vultures waiting for some scraps (but we were pessimistic they would get some) and three blackbacked jackals. When it was just the male feeding on the zebra two of those jackals were rather brave and came quite close to the male and his kill. One even stole a bit. But as soon as the rest of the pride turned up the jackals resided to waiting on the sidelines.

When we finally set off again we drove to Satara without many stops. There weren't many animals around in this windy and rainy weather, or maybe they just thought we had seen enough. But we did get to see two groups of 4 ground hornbills (one in a tree, and then flying down, one further on just sticking to the ground), another crossing leopard tortoise, lots of giraffes, some live zebras and wildebeest. And to prove carnivore animals have a varied diet we found skeletons of giraffe, wildebeest and buffalo all quite close to the road.

We checked in at Satara where the guests tonight had their evening safari. They were lucky enough to see even more lions tonight, two lots of them (they said about 10 more lions are added to their count), one including two big male lions playing. They also saw a herd of elephants with babies, a herd of buffalos, hyenas, spotted eagle owl and some unidentified animals.

23 October 2014

Before we had even left this morning we already had our first sighting as a family of banded mongoose was breaking into the camp. Most of them got away with sneaking in through a hole in the fence, but one or two actually got zapped by the electric wires. OUCH! And the spark scared off some of the members of the family too. We sat watching them playing for a bit before continuing, and spotting a vervet monkey on the roof of the kitchen and his friend just jumped up clearly having something stolen from that area. And all that before we were even out of the gate of Satara.

Across the gate were 3 giraffes and not far down the road two hyenas were spotted (no pun intended). Furthermore down towards Tshokwane on the H1-3 we saw Burchell's coucal, magpie shrikes, plenty more giraffes, a sadlebilled stork, and two more young hyenas. And then a long stretch of nothing.

Just before Tshokwane there was some life again with zebras, lots of wildebeest, a kori bustard came walking by, a martial eagle and a bushbuck was feeding across the river while we had breakfast.

After breakfast we settled in for a drive down the H10 to Lower Sabie. First we stopped at the two Mlondozi Lookout points (Nkumbe viewsites), to take some pictures of the beautiful view and we spotted some giraffes and zebras in the distance. Then it was down through the plains where we spotted plenty of wildebeest, even more zebra, twice a reedbuck, slender mongooses sitting still long enough for pictures and a black chested snake eagle flying away with a live snake in his beak! And we saw so many warthogs on this road, we stopped counting. But none of them stood still long enough with its face towards us for a picture. Or we weren't quick enough to take one, that's more likely...

We stopped watching an old bull elephant pushing over a tree for two younger bulls to feed off the top. When the tree didn't completely fall over right away, after using his head, he used his feet to push it down completely. Very handy creatures, those elephants, using every tool that is at their disposal! We also saw a herd of elephants later on and an ostrich family consisting of mum, dad and at least 7 offspring. But the little ostriches kept on moving around in the grass that is just as tall, so it was difficult to count them. Oh and not to forget we saw a red crested korhaan trying to impress a female. He had his crest all up and bright, jumping up and down in excitement and cooing to the lady. Unfortunately the lady though, she didn't seem too impressed. He kept on going for quite a while and then took a run at her. Well, she would have none of that! She spread her wings and took off, with the male instantly following in pursuit...

Lunch was eaten at Lower Sabie and then we stopped at Sunset dam, where the crocodiles were floating in the water or lying on the shores, yellow-billed storks were feeding, an openbill was snoozing, and so were the hippos, and a grey heron was snoozing on the bum of a hippo who didn't seem to mind.

Then further on we suddenly spotted a lion in the bush just past Sunset Dam. He was walking through the bushes and sometimes lying down. And another one showed and a little bit later we even saw a third. We stopped at an open spot in the hope they would walk across for a good picture, and so they did. But we got more then we bargained for as we suddenly noticed some impalas. We pulled forward as the lions started stalking and then made a half-hearted attempt at the impala. No luck, but they did come out of the bush and started walking in the road. First just the two of them, later all three. We had some good shots in the beginning, but then let some other cars pass to take a chance. Then the third one came through the cars and kept on walking alongside us in the traffic jam (which had grown in great length by now), sometimes lying down and getting back up to follow its brothers. The three young males were followed by about 40 cars, give or take a few, for a walk down the road that took them an hour. After 1,5 hours of following their every move, the walked down into the riverbed and we finally decided to leave them.

After that it was a straight run down to Skukuza. We did see another new animal: a hinged tortoise in the middle of the road. But also plenty of the ones we had seen before: hippos, buffalos, a large family of vervet monkeys with a newborn baby, elephants, steenboks, guineafowls, kudus including some nice bulls, waterbucks and of course, impalas!

At dinnertime we had some nice sounds of the bush surrounding us as various frogs, toads and bushbabies were letting us know they were there!

24 October 2014

Today we had breakfast when the restaurant opened after which we packed up and set off for our last safari. We drove down Kruger road and Doispane to Phabeni Gate. We did see some last animals like impalas, kudus, elephants and buffalos. We took some last pictures and then in was time to leave the Park.

After an eventful drive down to Nelspruit as a truck full of sugar had fallen over on a very busy crossroads, we arrived safely in Nelspuit. Here we said goodbye to Hennie, Jan, Charlotte and Dirk. I hope you had a great safari and when you get home, and look at the pictures, you'll know how lucky you have been with all your sightings! Watching those pictures will make you go on safari all over again.

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