Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On safari With Karen from 6 November 2014

6 November 2014

Another day on this safari and today we were going to spend all day in the park. We started as always when we stay at Nkambeni after breakfast. Camp road was quiet, but on Numbi tar we got sightings of dwarf mongoose hanging out with a male waterbuck and two cardinal woodpeckers just after Numbi Reception. Then a little further down the road we saw some zebras quite close to the road, a buffalo herd far in the background and spread out in the bush and we had a sighting of giraffes traveling together with a group of zebra. Three bull elephants we munching on the trees just before the Napi turn-of. One of them was in must and he started pestering the other two, so obviously he was in a grumpy mood and didn't want anybody too close. Taking the hint we continued on our way.

Down Napi we got plenty more zebra sightings and of course plenty of impala. As the raining season has started, impala birthing season should start soon, so every impala herd has been inspected of newborns, but so far no luck. We did encounter kudus and steenbok. A fresh pile of poo from rhino was spotted with many dung beetles. And as competition for the best dung is fierce, the beetles started rolling it away in every direction as soon as they had something that was sort of rollable. One brave dung beetle rolled a pile of dung that was almost like a rectangle and it looked more like flipping than rolling. And there were still about 30 dung beetles in the pile of poo itself searching for the best bits leftover. So all this was a great and sometimes hilarious sight, then why didn't we think having it in the middle of the road was such a good idea? Well, have you ever tried to drive around a pile of poo with dung beetles scattering it in every direction, without driving over any of them? Well, it took us quite some time...

Just past the Napi boulders a lone hyena was safe guarding the den site as the little ones were probably sleeping inside. It was already getting quite hot, so it was fully understandable. Then further on towards Skukuza it was a quiet drive. Apart from a red crested korhaan, Cape glossy starlings and some elephants in the distance, we reached Skukuza with some time to spare.

Then after break we drove along Doispane where we suddenly came to a site where one car was standing still and the people looking in the distance. "Lions" she says, so we instantly looked in the same direction. And there they were indeed. Hard to spot with the naked eye, but easy to see with binoculars (and once you know where they were you could see them with the naked eye too). We spotted at least three females, but they were a bit restless: lying down, getting up, walking a short distance, lying down again. Nonetheless a very good lion sighting.

A short drive further we stood still again, but this time for a herd of elephants and not too far off two big big bulls. We could only assume they were checking out the ladies, but it certainly looked like they were. On the opposite side of the road we noticed some beautiful kudu bulls as well. Furthermore we came across a small group of wildebeests  before we got to Phabeni Gate. Here we sadly had to say goodbye to Eulee and Nick, who have brought a lot of luck on their safari tour! It was great having you (and all the luck you brought) on this safari and I hope you have just as a great time in Cape Town! Thanks for joining us.

Then together with Max an Laura, who were still remaining on this tour we took a scenic drive down Riverroad. A beautiful drive with changing landscapes and most of the time lots of sounds of the bush protruding the silence. We heard the beautiful tones of the grey headed bush-shrike, gorgeous bush-shrike, cicadas, a brubru, black collared barbets, African hoopoe, fish eagles, greater honeyguide, elephants in the distance and even the scream of the lilac breasted roller. On top of that we also enjoyed sightings of a family of warthogs with 7 small piglets, a crowned hornbill in addition to the yellow-billed hornbill, elephants hiding in the shade and shielding their sleeping babies from the sun, a black headed oriole, vervet monkeys, both male and female bushbucks and the rare and endangered ground hornbills.

On the last stretch before Skukuza, on Kruger road, we noticed a white-backed vulture nest. One bird was sitting on it in the full sun, and if we looked closely with binoculars we could identify the chick in the nest she was shielding from the sun.

During lunch at Skukuza we had lunch with a show. A herd of elephants found lunchtime the perfect time to have a drink in the river in front of the restaurant, and the drink was thoroughly enjoyed both by the elephants as well as by us watching them. A pretty coloured tree agama was spotted on the way back to the vehicle.

Then down Napi it went, where once again we could add a new animal to this tour: a troop of baboons was resting and feeding next to the road. Suddenly a lot of uproar when a youngster most likely had done something it wasn't supposed to. One of the big king males had to discipline the youngster and the youngster screamed murder! All havoc broke loose when the king chased the youngster all around and the rest of the troop scattered for safe havens.

While driving we came past so many elephant and white rhino sightings that in the end we didn't even stop for them anymore. It was pointed out, but we didn't stop anymore. It was getting hot, almost too hot to stop, but then we were spoiled rotten with sightings! However we did definitely stop for a sighting of sable antelopes. Another new animal of this tour, but also a great sightings as we don't see them too often. These shy animals like to hide in the bush. We could see three of them clearly with binoculars, but judging by movement and patches of brown and white more we hiding in the bush beyond.

The last bit of today's long drive we did come across giraffes, zebras, waterbuck, a black bellied bustard on a hill trying to shout for the ladies and having the higher ground aiming to reach further. And we noticed trees full of white backed vultures. This is normally the case when a dead animal is lying around waiting to be eaten, but where ever we looked, no such dead animal was found (or smelled). In the end we gave up, satisfied with having seen just the vultures without their food source. It had been a long, but very great day!!

7 November 2014

This morning we started wet and cold. Not my favorite way to start the day, so all hopes were on the weather forecast that predicted warmer and sunnier times. Alas, by the time I am writing this we are still waiting for that sunshine. It did however dry up, so at least it was just one of the least favorite things on game drive: cold. We started with a sighting of a yellow-billed kite eating what looked like a leg bone (os femoris to be exact) from a small mammal, like a rabbit or something.

Then on the road towards Napi we saw a couple of elephant bulls and later one in must. Buffalos had no fun in this morning weather either and they were still trying to wake up before a breakfast munch. We saw waterbuck, impalas, lilac breasted rollers and a red-crested korhaan doing his suicidal display before we reached the hyena den. This time we were lucky as the hyenas had decided it wasn't too hot to sleep outside. We counted at least 4 adults and 5 pups lying scattered around the high grass to have a rest. Bateleurs were flying in the background giving us an aerial show at the same time.

We enjoyed the view from the top of Mathekanyan. We also spotted baboons walking along the round down below, so we decided to get back in the truck and drive down to have a closer look. The youngsters were playing while the older ones and the mums with young babies retreated into the quiet corner. Then we also came across a big male warthog as well as two more hyenas just before our break-time at Skukuza.

We then drove down a new road for this tour: Ellooff. We had gotten a tip there might be wild dogs around, but while we looked real close on the said spot, no dogs were found. We did see a slender mongoose crossing the road, a common grey duiker on bravo loop, and a family of green woodhoopoes, when suddenly the wild dogs were lying next to the road. A little further in there were more dogs walking around and some were chasing white-backed vultures. However the vultures kept returning to a spot obscured by bushes and we did see one wild dogs chewing on something, so we deduced they must have made a kill in the dense bush. The ones lying down in plain sight looked indeed quite full and nothing could disturb them.

We continued our drive having many sightings of impalas on the side of the road and we saw some lovely vervet monkeys. Then we got a tip about lions on the Tshokwane tar. We decided to have a go and while passing zebras and buffalos on the way, we made it indeed to the lions. Three young males were lying in the high grass so at first we only saw some ears wiggle. If you haven't been on a safari in the winter or just after, you should know that the colour yellow of the lion is an exact match to the yellow of the dry grass. So even though these lions were just about 20 meters away from us, they were mostly invisible. We decided to wait patiently for a while and to see what would happen when more and more cars came to look at those wiggling ears. Well, to be honest, not much. Until one male decided to get up and find another spot to lie down. And when that was apparently a worse spot, he returned to his original hiding place. And that was all we got for staring at grass for 30min! But those two minutes of seeing a full lion up close was definitely worth it!

We turned around and drove back towards Marula tar to return to Skukuza. On the way we saw a Burchell's coucal, also know as the rain bird, but luckily it stayed quiet, saw a lovely elephant herd drinking in the dam and caught the tail end of an elephant herd crossing the road towards the river for a drink, a couple of bushbucks, some steenboks, more buffalos and just before Skukuza 4 giraffes.

We had our lunch once again at Skukuza, since the detour to see the lions gave us a limited time frame to go someplace else. Then off we went, once again along Napi. This time we saw a giraffe munching quite close to the road and our new animal of today was a klipspringer on Klipspringer Koppies (if you ever wondered where the name came from, now you know).

And then suddenly, out of the corner of our eye, we saw something move. Out in the open was walking ... a leopard!! Our abrupt stopping maneuver got noticed, so we got an evil eye and then he continued walking as if nothing was following him. We kept up with him while he walked alongside us, about 10 meters in the bush. And then he decided to cross the road just behind us. As other cars had turned up he did it at a bit of a trot, but then walked slowly on the other side. We kept following until he settled down just behind a fallen tree where he found something to munch on. It looked like a warthog leg and he started chewing on it as if his life depended on it. Well, he was looking a bit slim, but not so much he wouldn't be able to hunt. So while he was munching this afternoon snack, the sighting got busier with cars and as he didn't seem to want to walk any further we decided to leave him. It was however once again third time lucky as we missed a leopard sighting by minutes already twice this morning! That's how life can be in the bush.

We continued down Napi where we were entertained by various sightings like
a tree squirrel, plenty steenboks, even more elephants, , scattered sightings of buffalo bulls, the same hyenas as this morning, just less obvious, kudus, dwarf mongoose and a black bellied bustard that was standing on the exact same hill as yesterday. He was real though as he was making his very recognizable sound as if he blows a bubble. We finished as we started with a sighting of a yellow-billed kite, however he had finished eating by now.

8 November 2014

Another cloudy and drizzly morning, but we set off anyways hoping the
weather would be better. On camp road we encountered some waterbucks and a duiker that ran away once we stopped to look at it. We drove Numbi tar towards Pretoriuskop to take one of the loops. A warthog walked ahead of us on the side of the road, showing us the way. On the loop a leopard was seen this morning, but we unfortunately had missed it. We did get to see a nice elephant show of a male trying to impress a female. Either he was doing yoga, just trying to separate her from the other elephants in her group or maybe even proposing, fact is that we saw him doing all kinds of weird stretches and that he went down on his knees for her. Either way, she was not impressed and when he forgot for a split second to cut her off, she crossed the road and rejoined the others. For one of the young ones in the group, this was probably the first encounter with an adult male as he kept sniffing the air and looked rather stressed and uncomfortable.

Then we turned onto Napi where an elephant bull in must blocked our way. He was a smelly dude! And definitely bigger than the one we just saw doing the courting, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry to meet up with the little herd of females.

Further down Napi we saw a nice herd of buffalo. We were snapping our pictures when suddenly the back of the herd started galloping and within a few seconds the entire herd was galloping away. We waited to see if something was following, like a  lion, that would cause them to run away. But as no hunting animal or otherwise showed up, we were forced that something or someone in the truck behind us had started the event.

Of course we spotted many impala, a few steenboks, a klipspringer on its Koppie, kudus and a troop of baboons just before we got to Skukuza for some coffee. When we left Skukuza a half hour later, the baboons were still there. Then we drove Kruger road where we saw our first giraffes for some. 5 long-necked animals were feeding of the trees in the area. On Doispane we saw some more giraffes and added zebras to our list.

At Phabeni Gate it was unfortunately time to say goodbye to Laura and Max. I know they enjoyed their safari very much, and I hope to see them back one day! Thank you for your company on this trip and enjoy your stay in Cape Town!!

With the last leftover guests we drove back on Doispane where this time the giraffes had gone, but they were replaced by a small group of vervet monkeys. At Nyamundwa Dam we took some time to look at the hippos lying in the shallow water and the lone crocodile lying on the shore opposite us. A fish eagle sat in the nearby tree, and we spotted some other water birds. A herd of buffalo was drinking in the puddles in the overflow of Nyamundwa.

Then the rest of Doispane was still rather quiet, although the two male zebras were still there as well as the impalas and kudus. So we took a turn down the S4 where we were greeted by more baboons that were following some kudus around. And we saw our first baby impala of the season. That means it is truly summer now and soon all the impala lambs will be born.

We stopped for lunch at the Skukuza golfclub where the hippos were giving a show. In and out of the water they went, 2 babies were playing with each other and the rest of the harem was yawning at each other as if they were showing that they didn't need a dentist visit anytime soon. When our lunch was brought a red-billed hornbill tried to get a piece but was out of luck (no feeding of any animals in the Kruger NP!) and we watched a grey lourie in a nearby tree.

Guess we had been hoping too hard for better weather as by now it was a blue sky, nicely sunny, but then of course boiling hot. The way back down Napi brought us long stretches of empty bush, or at least the animals were hiding away from our sight. Still, we passed two big herds of buffalo that were split across the road and saw a herd of elephants drinking and throwing water over themselves. On the last stretch it got a bit busier with, kudus, impalas, zebras, lilac breasted roller, and a warthog with piglets.

Back at Nkambeni it wasn't over yet, as the guests embarked on a sundowner safari. Hoping for some lions, or a leopard, they set off. Unfortunately no such luck, but they did get a nice sunset, and nice sightings of white rhino, buffalo and an elephant pushing over a tree right next to the road.

9 November 2014

Today was the last activity of this tour, as the guests went on a bushwalk.

Taken by rangers from the lodge they walked through the bush (not on a path) for about two hours. They saw impalas, a nice kudu bull, waterbuck, fresh tracks of leopard and elephants (fortunately just the tracks) before encountering a herd of buffalos. These were not awake yet, but stood up being disturbed in their slumber by the arrival of the bushwalkers. They formed a line to look at them while the guests looked back from a termite mount height. Then the buffalos decided they had enough and they walked off. Upon return at the lodge they saw the hippos back in their dam going back to sleep.

And that was the last bit of this safari as after a transfer down to Nelspruit we said goodbye to Andrew, Marcio, Linda and Ingenia (hope I spelled that correctly), who had to get back to Jo'burg to go back to work on Monday. Thanks you for joining us on this safari, I hope you had a good time!

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