Friday, November 7, 2014

On safari With Karen From 3 November 2014

3 November 2014

A new tour started yesterday and after a quick check-in at Nkambeni Safari Camp the guests went on their first game drive. This was the sundowner game drive. They were taken down to Mashawu Dam for their sundowner drinks, which is a lovely dam full of hippos. But before they got there they had also enjoyed sightings of elephants close by the vehicle, zebras, impala, kudu and waterbuck. So much so they almost missed the sunset! Then again, the clouds were kind of obscuring the prettiness of the sunset. On the way back they also had a great sighting of a hyena. All in all, this first drive was thoroughly enjoyed!

4 November 2014

Then this morning we set off after breakfast. It wasn't cold as yet, but the clouds were looking as if they were going to spit on us (which they did a little bit later on the drive). We drove up Numbi tar and then Napi. It all started quiet and then suddenly, the animals started appearing. First we got a small herd of female and young male kudus all lying down. Then a couple of waterbuck grazing and a lone impala running from ... Well we didn't see anything running after it so we assume a ghost.

Then we had a lot of fun when the guys on the truck thought they saw a rhino. Us girls were scouting around with and without binoculars, but we did see no such thing. Then out from behind a bush comes... a warthog. With a bit of imagination it looks like a small rhino, but no. However, after some more kilometers we spotted our first real white rhino, and there were more to follow. We also saw a few elephants bulls and some buffalo bulls not far from our first white rhino bull. As if there had been a general bull meeting.

We also saw a family of vervet monkeys, with a tiny little baby being protected by all. And a hyena babysitter with what looked like at least three different aged litters to babysit. The youngest of the lot got the most freedom and was happily joining in a game of tag as well as 'bite the ear' or 'bite the tail'. Unfortunately for one pup though, the 'bite the tail' game was rather popular and it was his tail they were using.

Before we got to Skukuza for our break we saw some zebras in the distance, ground hornbills off the ground and in a tree, white-fronted bee eaters, and a dung beetle rolling a big dung ball. It wasn't our only dung beetle encounter as one being tired of flying hitched a ride in the car. Careful not to squash him (or altogether touch him) a frenzy emerged in the back of the truck as this little bugger kept walking around between the rows of seats from the front to the back. Until Allan was the bravest of them all and picked him up and tossed him in the grass.

During break time at Skukuza we took a look at a large hippo that was lying in the river, but nicely visible. When it was time to continue our drive we followed up on a tip about lions down the H3. We did see some buffalo on the way, but the lions at Kwaggapan were lying flat as the grass somewhere in the distance unseen. However we were rewarded for our trip down south as we spotted a leopard walking through the grass. Well, mostly just its white tuft of the tail that was sticking out. Anticipating its movements we drove past and waited at an open area, where we could see a bit more of it. Dreamily we said it should jump in the tree for a better view. We were in luck, as the one tree in line with our perfect vision, about 25m from the road, suddenly had a leopard it in. It posed for us and some other cars for about 5min. And that was it, show time over. She jumped down and while we followed the white tuft of the tail, that's all we got to see of her after the show.

So far no lion luck though, but we had gotten another tip while the leopard walked away. So we set off again, seeing our first giraffes of this trip and had a great sighting of some elephants feeding close to the road. A youngster was with the family but kept hiding behind a termite mount. There were definitely more elephants around as we herd grass being pulled, branches broken, but all unseen. But alas, also the second tip didn't pay off. Here we had a sighting of 5 kudu bulls though. Not as great as the leopard, but still impressive.

Third time is a charm they say and we were hoping to prove it right. Upon our third possible lion tip, we already thought we would see something different again, but this time it was indeed lions. We didn't spot as many as they said there were, but still, we got lions! That even completed our big five for today, so we felt really chuffed. And even on the way back to Skukuza we saw more lions! And that wasn't the only sighting: leopard tortoise, wildebeests, yellow - billed hornbills, steenboks and a very big leopard tortoise. Not to mention the vervet monkeys raiding the parking lot at Skukuza itself.

After a spot of lunch it was time to head back to camp as it started to get really hot. We drove down Napi again seeing a very small leopard tortoise, a secretary bird, a dung beetle that had got himself a girlfriend on the ball, a herd of buffalos, more giraffes in the distance and a large group of reedbucks.

The last stretch on Numbi tar gave us some more elephants, waterbuck, zebras and a last new animal: dwarf mongoose. Upon return it was time for a dive in the pool at the lodge and a drink in the bar to celebrate this excellent safari day!

5 November 2014

This morning we set off again after a hearty breakfast for our morning safari. The weather forecasted was much better than yesterday and this morning we left with our sunglasses already on our noses! We were greeted by some impalas and waterbucks hanging out on camp road, before we spotted two young bull elephants hanging out together. These guys came closer and closer to the road and two buffalo bulls that were relaxing a little further on. In the end the buffalos decided to get out of the way of those two boisterous males.

We then turned onto Fayi Loop where we had a great sighting of a herd of elephants. At first they were a bit far into the bush, but good things come to those who wait. Slowly they came closer and closer and then they all stood on the side of the road. As they had some little ones, the mothers waited for the protection of the aunties as well before they crossed. As one big elephant group they crossed in front and a few stragglers behind us. Then they completely disappeared into the bush, completely out of sight.

A little further on there were even more elephants. We followed at the pace of one of them walking in the middle of the road, who brought us to another heard of elephants. Some had crossed, others seemed to go the other way. Some elephants weren't happy the car split the herd and let us know by the elephant speak which sounds like a big tummy rumble. So we parked out of the way, as they might get crazy ideas. There was one tiny little elephant that was trying to figure out what that ting in front of its face was for. An hilarious sight, as it couldn't really use its trunk yet at all.

In between the taller trees we then encountered some lovely giraffes. Some got a fright and ran away, others were curious to see what was happening. Then two decided to cross in front of us. Not a bad deal, but their modeling coach really needs to work with them. As the first one crossed, he looked our way but stopped in the middle of the road for not even a second to take a good picture. The second one didn't even stop at all and looked the other way!! Tsssss.

Down the loop we also found a steenbok couple, a dark chanting goshawk, two Dung-beetles having a race in "roll the ball" almost having a head on collision with a car, a juvenile bateleur, a common grey duiker (our new animal of this tour), a warthog with two piglets, more waterbuck, a gracious kudu bull, vervet monkeys, helmeted guineafowls making a racket and a big herd of buffalos. While watching the buffalos they suddenly started running. The buffalo stampede ran across a drainage line where then they resumed grazing as if nothing happened. We waited around for quite some time to see if something scared them was maybe a lion, but nothing showed up. All we could see in the distance they were running from was a kudu bull hanging out with some impalas.

But our best sighting this morning was another herd of elephants. They came from the dense bush just as we stopped at a little drainage line. The waterhole was just in front of us and slowly but steadily this herd of elephants moved towards it, chasing out two reedbucks. Well, if I saw this big herd coming towards me, I would make a run for it! But we actually stayed put next to the waterhole and the entire herd lined up to have a drink from it. The little ones well protected in their midst, they all drank until they had their fill. Then the matriarch called that it was time to move and off they went. They formed a line and crossed the road behind off into the field.

Meanwhile Allan and Claire were enjoying their bushwalk. They enjoyed the silence of the bush and learning all about the tracks and signs that animals leave behind. They also came across animals like a leopard tortoise, impalas, and a warthog in a hiding hole.

After a quick relaxing break, unfortunately it was time for Allan and Claire as well as Chloe and Bruce to leave our safari as they continued on their travels. I hope you had a wonderful time on this safari.

In the afternoon we set off again for an afternoon drive with Eulee and Nick, while newcomers Max and Laura were taken on their sundowner safari. First the afternoon drive, where we took a drive all the way down to Napi Boulders and back. It started of with a sighting of zebras, and then a 100m on another group of zebras. A couple of hundred meters later there was a group with zebras and giraffes. It must have been a zebra afternoon, because during the drive we passed several more lots. And while we are comparing it to the morning, where we saw lots of elephants, this entire afternoon drive we saw only 1 and he was far in the distance too.

We did come across another herd of buffalos, that was resting in the shade of the trees, a tawny eagle being severely mobbed by two fork-tailed drongos, another tawny eagle sitting silently in a tree, a lovely white rhino bull and two warthogs. On Napi Boulders itself we came across a male lion doing what lions do best: lying. We almost drove past him as a flat lying lion looks just like the grass, but the flick of his tail caught our attention. Then we saw the blink of an eye and an ear wiggle, some more tail flicks and the top bit of the mane so we were sure it was a male lion. And we waited, and waited, and waited a bit more, but he was point blank refusing to lift his head. The most movement we got was when he rolled on his belly (funnily enough no one wanted to get out and give him a belly rub) and then slowly keeled over the other way. So all bits considered we have seen the entire lion...

On the way back from the Boulders on the tar we came across a tsessebe. A rare sighting (and believe it or not, my first ever sighting of a tsessebe in the Kruger NP!). Unfortunately the tsessebe did not want to stay around to celebrate as the moment he was spotted he actually moved off, retreating further and further into the trees. And we got to see a glimpse of a leopard. The people at the sighting thought they needed to inform us it just crossed the road, but we caught the tail end of it, so it still counts as seeing another leopard!

Meanwhile Max and Laura had a great time on their sundowner drive. Not only did they get to see the sunset, they were also treated to sightings of buffalos, elephants, a leopard and a honey badger and more! A great start of their safari!

More coming soon!!

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