5 December 2014
After the pick up of two new guests at Phabeni Gate we spotted some buffalo in the Phabeni River. On our way to Nyamundwa Dam we stopped for a large leopard tortoise. Here we took pictures and sat talking about him for some time. When it was time to move on we started the engine and suddenly this leopard half fell half jumped out of the tree right next to us on the other side! We had not noticed him at all through the foliage of the tree and while we were watching the leopard tortoise he was most definitely watching us. We don't like to stress out or scare wildlife but if it wasn't for the start of the engine he would have gone unnoticed by all! Now we all saw him running away for about 50m in to the bush and then stop and look back. He then slowly disappeared deeper into the bush.
Before reaching Nyamundwa we saw plenty herds of impalas, breeding herds as well as a large bachelor group. At Nyamundwa Dam a fish eagle was sitting in a tree, but more interesting were the two hippos showing off their large teeth in the water and the buffalos on the waters edge not being impressed at all. We tried taking pictures of the lightning in the background, but the two seconds you're not ready, is when lightning strikes!
Then we made our way down on Albassini, trying to be at the lodge before the storm really would break loose. We did see more impalas, but the quietness of animals helped us getting close to our goal. But not close enough: with about 10km to go we saw the rain coming along the road. A quick stop to put our ponchos on and we braved the rain on the last stretch home. It signaled the end of a long day for some as well as the start of a new safari for others.
6 December 2014
This morning we left with only half the group as it was raining quite heavily. As we had such a good day yesterday, not everyone was keen to get wet before they would go to the airport. With the brave ones loaded we set off and had a fruitless quiet drive on camp road and then Numbi tar. In fact we didn't see a single animal until we got to Circle Road. Here on Manungu Koppies we saw a troop of baboons as well as two klipsrpingers. There were more baboons walking alongside the road and we got some good shots of them.
Around the corner an impala was nursing her newborn baby. It looked only a couple of hours old, still fragile, but already alert next to its mother. Soon it would be introduced to the rest of the herd. A beautiful waterbuck bull was lying in the grass nearby to ruminate. A grey duiker further along the road had no patience for photos and had run off before we could aim cameras.
On Fayi Loop then we came across a new species of this tour in the form of two reedbuck at one of the drainage lines, while waterbuck were lying nearby and kudu on other side of the road.
Then we got to see a herd of elephants up close and personal. When we first noticed them they were deep in the forest. They were spread out foraging and we were hoping for a better view so we decided to hang around. Then suddenly a giraffe popped out in front of us. While we angled the car to get a better shot of the giraffe, while keeping an eye on the elephants, the giraffe moved off on the other side and the elephants started emerging out of the bush. With at least four paths to choose from that would let the elephants cross the road around us without us hindering, one of the females decided she wanted this one particular path we actually had blocked. As the herd ambled closer and closer she stood her ground on the path. Surprisingly they let a young baby elephant wonder within a meter of our car without supervision while an older one was stopped by its mother about 3 meters away. Now we had a stand off! With the elephants feed much to close to move the vehicle we were hoping she would change her mind voluntarily to take one of the other open paths. Especially since three elephants already had done so and we showed by sitting still we meant no harm. A few tense moments followed as the ten or so elephants very close to our right stopped feeding and all watched us. With baited breath we waited. And waited. What was 20 seconds felt like hours, when finally an older female resumed feeding and so calming the rest of them. Reluctantly the group then past right past the vehicle, one even sniffing the front bumper, but they crossed in front of us without harm. To show them we came in peace we gave them plenty of time to cross and resume feeding on the other side. They then used this liberty to cross back once more, and back, and back again! When they were at least 10 meters into the bush we decided to continue, giraffe long gone off course.
On our way out two young elephants had to show that they were still not liking us much by trumpeting loudly when we passed the spot. Once all had ended safely the big stories came loose in the vehicle!
Around Shabeni loop we didn't see more mammals but had a good look at a male red-collared widowbird, a crested barbet, a very pretty paradise whydah and then it started raining again. We made our way back along a very quiet Numbi road to Numbi Gate where it was time to say goodbye to Teddy, Pam, Duane, Shon, Gloria, Zane, Donna, Bob and Barbara.
Then together with the two remaining guests we decided to have an early lunch at Pretoriuskop before continuing on our safari. Upon exiting we saw a family of dwarf mongoose having a dig on the side of the road for food. They froze when the car stopped, letting us get some nice pictures. We also saw a leopard tortoise, and after yesterday's encounter immediately started scouting for a leopard but no such luck this time.
Along Napi in one of the drainage line we encountered three buffalo bulls. They didn't mind us at all, looking up briefly with vacant expressions before resuming their grazing activities. A steppe eagle was sitting in a tree nearby. Before Shithave Dam in the open area we noticed tree large elephant bulls. They were feeding along the road and we watched them come towards us. One started crossing behind us, but instead of actually crossing he then turned around and started challenging the other bull right behind him in line. Oh joy! After the close encounter this morning now they were actually starting a fight right behind our vehicle. Luckily this time the second elephant wasn't really in the mood to pick a fight and he kept moving away from us, the challenging bull following him with much bravado. After trying to pick a fight for 15min, and really, he tried hard, the second bull still didn't budge, he finally gave up. Or he was just hungry again as he resumed feeding. A black bellied bustard almost went unnoticed in the squabble!
We continued our drive spotting two white rhinos in the bush. Waiting for a better picture they kept on coming closer and closer, in the end almost right next to the car. Now that was a better picture! And furthermore we also saw multiple woodlands kingfishers, we passed a flock of whitebacked vultures and it was stinking like mad so they found a carcass to feed on, and more white rhino.
Up Watergat we found plenty impala, steenboks, beautiful kudu bulls, a lonely and rare and endangered ground hornbill, and a pair of woolly necked storks. However no cheetah or leopard, as people we passed told us were up this road. Apparently by the time we got there they had enough of lying around and moved off.
Down Doispane we encountered our first herd of buffalo for Shez and Victor. Half of them were crossing while the other half was still lying down ruminating. It looked like they had no intention to get up. We came across many zebras, vervet monkeys and a couple of wildebeest, as well as some daggaboys just before reaching Phabeni Gate.
Here we picked up Ian and Tony who joined us on safari and set off back on Doispane Road. Now with new guests on the truck we stopped for the same daggaboys, impalas, and zebras, while unfortunately the vervet monkeys and wildebeest had moved off. However we got a large male warthog and lone bull elephant instead.
At the S4 turn-off we did see two fighting elephant bulls. This time they were indeed fighting but luckily in no proximity to the vehicle. The sounds of the clashing tusks was overwhelming as it looked like they were really going for it. As one was driven backwards uphill, he could fight back from his higher position. After a while they mad truce and with a headshake at each other they resumed feeding of the same bush.
While driving along the S4 - Riverroad - Krugerroad we saw a vervet monkey family with lots of babies as well as baboons and a tawny eagle. We then checked-in to Skukuza after a long but very successful day!
7 December 2014
This morning we set off with a little drizzle. It didn't look to bad, so we were high spirited. Just around the corner we started off with a great sighting of 4 hyenas. They were hanging around, sniffing at something in the bushes, coming on the road to drink the rainwater from the standing puddles and one of them even had a nice roll on the tar to scratch its back. It was an awesome sighting we thoroughly enjoyed.
When we pulled off however, the rain intensified. That wasn't really according to plan as we all covered up beneath ponchos. The many leopard tortoises and hinged tortoises we saw on the road enjoyed the rain very much, as they all came to drink from the rain puddles and were up and about. We did come across some baboons and vervet monkeys, which were looking just as miserable as us.
Then of course we saw many wet impalas and white backed vultures, but we also saw an elephant herd crossing right behind us. Unbeknown they wanted to cross, when we first noticed them, we stopped right in their way of passage. Being told so by the matriarch we moved out of the way and had an excellent view of this elephant herd crossing military style all in a nicely formed line. In a drainage line a mother and baby rhino were resting. We watched getting quite wet ourselves as we had the toughest rain yet. It did get rewarded with the mum and baby briefly standing up to have a standing snooze, before lying down again.
When the rain finally started easing off we were close to having breakfast. We photographed two woodlands kingfishers displaying their beautiful colours to us, probably to deter each other or to impress a female that had long gone. At Sunset Dam we saw a marabou stork, white stork and Egyptian geese that chased away a juvenile martial eagle.
Then it was time for a well deserved cup of steaming hot coffee and some breakfast as by now we were all cold and wet. We ate with hippos and buffalos, cape glossy starlings and dark capped bulbuls, white storks, grey herons and a crocodile all close-by.
While having breakfast the weather was nice and dry, and even the sun came to have a look. What do ya know, the moment we get back in the car and start driving again, it comes down with buckets of rain! We didn't flinch and set off anyway on the tar road back to Skukuza. And this time we were rewarded with spotting lions. Just before the Lubyelubye bridge a male lion didn't care about the rain and was lying in the open riverbed. Head up, looking around, he was giving a great show for pictures. The occasional yawn and the licking of the paws made it perfect. And then suddenly from the edge of the riverbed came a lioness. She walked up to the male, and straight passed him. The male however, got up and followed her. As we drove along with them they lied down in the riverbed together where she started washing her face while the male started napping. After a while she got bored and got up again. She walked along the riverline and then up towards the road. Aiming the spot right she came out right in front of our bumper and as before, the male had followed. Have great shots of their rear ends as they kept on walking on the road for a bit, before crossing completely and disappearing into the thicker bush on the other side!
This great sighting had made us forget about the rain which started easing down again. We continued as the lions were out of sight and saw multiple Jacobin's cuckoos, red chested cuckoo, a couple of bushbucks, warthogs, nice kudu bulls, elephants in the river, a juvenile bateleur and a fish eagle.
We then crossed high level bridge over the Sabie river where the hippos were resting in little groups pretending to be rocks. On the Marula tar side of the river we did see two pretty lilac breasted rollers sitting in a tree all wet. Judging by the wet tarmac we had just missed the rain here, but we didn't mind this at all! At the low level bridge over the Sand river we suddenly saw a wild dog walking in the open. And he was actually not alone as he was walking back to the rest of its family. The greeted each other with tail wags and whining and licking and then settled back in. Using each other as pillows we counted about nine wild dogs piled up to sleep. As we didn't get anymore than the occasional ear wiggle and paw movement, we gave up after a while and continued down the road.
When we got to the other side and turned onto the last stretch of the road to Skukuza we heard vervet monkeys as well as impalas call the alarm. We scouted around and saw the tail of a leopard disappearing into the bush towards the river. With a swift movement we turned around and drove onto alpha loop and tried to calculate its path. Right there where we were waiting he reappeared between the bushes. We followed him through the bushes to an open spot where we had an amazing sighting of him coming out in the open, sniffing and scent marking a bush and then walked right by our vehicle as if we didn't exist, cross in front of us and walked down on the other side towards the river and out of sight. The amount of pictures taken was incredible, but it was truly an amazing sighting!
Just before Skukuza we had a little laugh about this giant landsnail that tried to run across the road but looked like it got stuck in place. Back 'home' we enjoyed ourselves with a self braaied lunch with a show by a pintailed whydah male impressing a female and a couple of black-collared barbets singing their duet in the tree next to us.
Then, as the sun actually came out, it was time for the sundowner safari. Let's hope they keep it dry!
8 December 2014
The guests were lucky and kept it dry on the sundowner. While on a truck full of other people as well as children handling the spotlight, they managed to add some more sightings to the already impressive list. They saw a giraffe, which was one more thing they really liked to see in the KNP, as well as baboons, lots of vervet monkeys playing in the water, a family of white rhinos, a nyala, the wild dogs that hadn't moved an inch from where we saw them this morning, one bull elephant, a rock python, a large-spotted genet and they ended with lots of hyenas in the road just before Skukuza.
This morning we set off a little later than we yesterday. After all yesterday's excitement, another rainy weather forecast, a late dinner after the sundowner, and the fact we had to pack up all our stuff, we decided 30 minutes more sleep would be a nice thing. But actually, when we drove out of Skukuza, it was still early. And dry, for now. We started of good with three giraffes munching on either side of the road. They were picking off the Acacia leaves as if they hadn't eating anything as good in days. But it gave lots of good photo opportunities for us. A little side trip to the Mathekanyane viewpoint gave us a nice perspective of the vast greatness of the Kruger Park. Then it was a rather quiet drive except for the omnipresent impalas and a landsnail crossing the road in its own pace.
We then got a tip from a member of the public about some lions on the dirtroad up ahead, so we decided to have a quick look. Watergat seemed to be the place to be for animals today as we in quick succession encountered various harems of zebras, multiple white rhinos, a steenbok couple, waterbucks, two kudu bulls as well as some females, a dung beetle rolling a massive ball across the road and then the lions. Two male lions, one lying as flat as a pile of dirt, one with his head up but with his back to us. Either way, we could see the awesomeness of their full manes. However after 10 minutes watching lions sleep, we gave up waiting for some movement and drove back towards Napi. Along the way, most animals we saw on the way up hadn't moved far.
Then down Napi we saw two big elephant bulls and a warthog. The animals were hiding away, helping us to get to Pretoriuskop quickly for a long overdue cup of coffee and breakfast. After that the safari was unfortunately coming to an end as we drove to the KMI Airport. We ended the safari with sightings of a long crested eagle on the way and impalas at the airport itself. I know Ian, Tony, Victor and Shez had a great time, and hopefully they enjoy going through all the pictures they took almost as much as the real safari. Maybe we'll see you back one day! Safe travels to Cape Town and Mozambique!
More coming soon!!