Friday, October 31, 2014

54 rhino poaching suspects arrested in Kruger National Park in October 2014

South African National Parks (SANParks) today announced the arrest of six suspected poachers and the fatal wounding of two others in two separate operations. In the first operation, Crocodile Bridge Rangers made contact with three suspected rhino poachers. In the ensuing pursuit, two were fatally wounded and the third managed to escape back into Mozambique. A hunting rifle, ammunition and other hunting equipment was recovered on the scene.

In the second operation, six suspects were arrested by the SANParks Environmental Crime Investigative Unit, with the support of the SAPS, in a follow up operation outside the western boundary of the Kruger National Park (KNP). A hunting rifle, ammunition and two cars were confiscated. The arrests follow two weeks of successful operations, resulting in 35 suspected poachers being taken into custody and brings the total arrests in the KNP for the month of October to a record 54.

The KNP has experienced an increase in armed incursions recently, resulting in 14 contacts between armed poaching gangs and Joint Forces consisting of SANParks Rangers, SAPS and SANDF.

The latest arrests bring the total for the year within the KNP to 144. This is the highest number of suspected poachers arrested in the KNP to date.

Commenting on the latest situation in the KNP, the Acting Chief Executive of SANParks, Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa, praised the actions of the SANParks rangers, and the SAPS and SANDF forces engaged in the fight against rhino poaching: “I would like to thank the men and women of our Joint Forces for the courage and tenacity they have shown in the fight to safeguard the rhino population in the KNP. We are very proud of them and their actions. We are focused on winning this war at all costs and I can promise South Africans that we will leave nothing to chance in protecting our rhino in this iconic park and in our other national parks” concluded Songelwa.

Issued by:
South African National Parks Corporate Communications

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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On safari with Curtis from 19 October 2014

19 October 2014

The start of a new tour and after driving down from Nelspruit we checked in to Nkambeni lodge. The first activity was a sundowner drive which is a nice relaxing way for the guests to acclimatize to the safari way of life. Luckily after a week of rain the sun had come out and everyone got to see a beautiful sunset overlooking the dam where pods of hippos are getting ready to leave the water for their evening munch. On the drive back to the lodge impala, kudu, buffalo, rhino and giraffe were spotted.

20 October 2014

The next morning, after a good cooked breakie it was time to get out on the road. Straight away on numbi we came upon three separate sightings of buffalo. First two dagga boys and then a small herd and then a much larger herd of more than a hundred. Immediately after two male elephants crossed the road in front of us and further along we found a group of giraffe. We headed to the spot where the leopard cubs have been seen recently, but before that another great elephant sighting, this time a female herd with a tiny little baby just a few months old. At the leopard den we were to be disappointed as the cubs were hidden away from all the cars outside. Although disappointed by this we would forget this blow by the end of the day. Along Napi it was fairly quiet with few sightings of elephant, buffalo,impala, kudu and a couple of steenbok. A fellow guide informed us of a lion sighting so we made haste and headed that way. We were in luck as as we drove onto the bridge we found four lions sat on the bank, to our left. Three lionesses and a lovely black - manned male lion. As one lioness got up and disappeared into the shade something caught my eye to the right and as I turned I saw a leopard walking out of the grass and across the river bed before disappearing back into the grass. With the excitement of seeing the leopard we, just for a minute, forgot about the lions which one by one got up and moved away from view. After all the joy of seeing the two cats at the same sighting we moved off down to Skukuza for a quick break.
Back on the road we headed down along the sabie river where we found African wild dog. Two deep in the bush and then eight others close to the road. At first they just were lying down resting but then they all jumped up and enabled us a much better sighting. From then on, all the way to lower sabie we had lots of wonderful elephants and plenty of hippos, baboons and vervets on the road as well as the impalas, kudus and Bushbuck. We stopped at sunset dam to look at the hippo and lots of crocodiles and also spend a bit of time looking at the birdlife around the water which included plovers and lapwings, storks and herons and those very noisy geese.
At lunch I was informed off a possible cheetah sighting just a short drive from lower sabie so after lunch we headed straight down there. We were lucky to find them hiding in the shade of a tree. We were informed that there were three but we only spotted two. Although they spent most of the time in the grass. They were kind enough to sit up occasionally giving us the opportunity to get some nice photos.

Time to head back to the lodge and as we drove back down the river we found a young male lion lying hidden. It seemed like he was trying to hunt impala but was quickly spotted and so started to walk along the river bank. We spent ten minutes or so following him before he moved into the reeds. Further along we found more ellies and a mother and calf rhino before we came across another lion sighting,  this time two females taking cover from the sun which was now burning down on us. We were now running out of time and so we just drove pointing out all the ellies and buffalo,  impala, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and Warthog we saw along the way. We did stop a couple of times for rhinos and we had one final surprise as we came across two more leopards. One sat in a tree and the second sat at the bottom of it. Unfortunately time was running out and we had to make a dash for the gate before we got locked in.

21 October 2014

This morning we drove with the intention of hopefully finding the leopard cubs at their den. We passed buffalo, zebra and giraffe before we actually got to the den. Once there we were in luck as all three tiny cubs were outside playing a game of rough and tumble with each other. There was not too many cars at the sighting but as you can imagine this is a rare sighting and everyone wants to get some great pictures. Patience was needed and it took over half an hour before we were in a prime position to enjoy the sighting. As the number of cars decreased we were allowed to enjoy this beautiful sighting for an hour more watching  as the three cubs stalked and pounced on each other, playing around as all kittens do, getting valuable practice in for when they are much bigger. A truly great sighting which the guests and myself will relive time and time again. Finally we decided it was time in giving others an opportunity to view the cubs and we headed down Napi. We got lots of general game, all the different antelopes as well as three big bull ellies who were debating with each other who had dominance. When they had finally agreed they then went about their own business which means they resumed eating. We also had a first glimpse of a klipspringer for this tour as well as a few very nice rhino sightings close to the road. 
But this morning belonged to three tiny little leopard cubs!!!!
This afternoon we went out for a just short drive. Firstly we headed down Napi where we found a couple of buffalo in the drainage line but then our attention was turned to a hyena which moved off quite abruptly as the buffalo got closer. We watched as he found a nice bush to lie back down and got little more than the occasional head looking up. We then turned around and headed back to the leopard den. This afternoon the cubs weren't in such a playful way with just one popping it's head up and looking around. The other two were hiding with mum further in the bush and after quite a bit of time and effort searching for them we spotted mum. Unfortunately it was the briefest of looks as she sloped away into the undergrowth.

22 October 2014

This morning we welcomed two new guests to the tour and after breakfast headed out on another drive. Immediately along numbi we spotted plenty of animals all enjoying some fresh greens such as zebra, wildebeest, warthog, buffalo, impala and kudu. Along Napi we had some good elephant sightings both of bachelor groups and also female herds. Then we came across a lovely crash off three rhino close to the road including a young calf just a few months old. After this we turned around and headed down to shithave dam where we found a male lion lying on the dam wall. We sat watching him for quite a time but not much movement, just the occasional head looking up and rolling over and a couple of stretches. Not even a hippo or a Waterbuck could interest him. Then it was time to say goodbye to Michael and Liz, it was great having you on the tour and I know just how much you have enjoyed yourself on safari. Hope you find the time to go through all those photos you took!!!
This afternoon just a short drive around the area where we found baboons, vervets monkeys, common duiker, steenbok, common reedbuck and giraffe as well as lots of buffaloes and a herd of elephants down at the dam.

23 October 2014
Setting off this morning, with a cup of coffee in the guests hand, we headed down Napi where we found impala, elephant, kudu and a nice herd of buffalo to start with. We then came up to the flat rocks where we found a couple of stationary vehicles, after scouting around we found their point of interest. 4 hyenas relaxing in the grass close to the road. We watched as they just chilled before one by one they moved off out of view. Carrying on we came across more antelope and a couple of elephants before taking a turn down to Transport dam. The dam was relatively quiet today with just the hippos, a few impala and the water birds. Planning to stop at the golf course for breakie we took a detour where we found four more hyena lying next to the road. A fifth was hiding in the grass but we saw nothing than its ear. Again we watched until they disappeared into the grass. Carrying on we came upon two rhino sighting, the first a lone male relaxing in the dirt and then two more close by. We turned onto Kruger road where we got the first two amazing cat sightings today. It started with one of the guests shouting "stop" because there on the right was a huge male leopard spraying a bush in his territory. We turned the vehicle as he walked to the road and crossed in front of us. As he walked into the grass on the other side it appeared it was going to be a brief sighting but this fellow had other ideas!!! He started to walk parallel to the road sometimes coming close and then walking a bit further into the bush. We therefore were able to anticipate his direction and could position the car, around all the others by this time, in the more open spaces getting some shots of him. At one stage he climbed up on a small rock and posed for us before walking within a meter of the car and looking up at us. After roughly thirty minutes and 1.3kms he had enough and crossed over the road again and moved into the bush to end a great viewing. He gave us such an opportunity to get a great photo or actually about 300 as my guests managed.
We stopped off at the golf course for breakie and while eating watched as the hippos came out of the water and stood on the sand bank as well as making a lot of hippo noise.
Back on the road we headed down along the river spotting our first Bushbuck and nyala for these guests. Seeing endless hippos and buffalo and a nice herd of elephants cross the road while we tried to take a photo of the impressive horns on a kudu, who by the way was very camera shy and hid behind an acacia tree.
We then heard about three cape clawless otters down at sabie bridge so we headed down there but to no luck, however it did give us an opportunity to see a couple of crocs sunbathing on the sandbanks.
We then headed to lunch at lower sabie where elephants and hippos could be seen from the restaurant deck. As we set back the way we came Karen called to say she had found lions just a couple of kilometers down the road so we made haste only to find them well hidden in the bush. We waited hoping that they would get up and move closer and our hopes were answered as slowly two adolescent males moved closer to us with a third just behind. They continued to move closer until they were standing next to the car on the road. For the next 5 kilometers and for nearly an hour we were able to follow them as they walked along the road. On a couple of occasions they took the opportunity to try and hunt impala both times failing miserably as the impala spotted them and alarmed call. Every now and again they would stop and we were able to drive up next to them and admire them as close as it gets. Having said that having a male lion look at you at eye level in an open vehicle can get the heartbeat beating a little bit quicker. Finally they started to walk into the bush and this was our cue to move on. After such an encounter time was running out and we had to make haste so we just drove. Sometimes it is nice to just sit and watch as the scenery passes you by and see what you can see. Endless amounts of impala, kudu and hippo we passed as well as a troop of baboons and vervets on the road before we turned onto Napi. This road was quiet this afternoon but we did find a nice sighting of klipspringer and lots of general game.
A great day out with lots of great sightings but with two encounters with the cats that no one will ever forget.

24 October 2014
After the success of the last couple of days we were in the lucky position of being able to be very choosy in the sightings we stopped at and so while we drove past a lot of different things we did stop at some very nice sightings. The first was a large bull elephant which was close to the road and hungry, he stopped at a large marula tree reached up stretching as high as he could and snapped down a branch. As everyone had turned off their engines we were able to hear fully the eerie sound of him chewing the branch and then he spat out the outer bark. We then moved onto a sighting of three rhino including the mother and calf. They started to move closer to the road into the open area and we got a look at the little calf which is usually hidden by the grass. As they moved to the road it became apparent they wanted to cross but a vehicle was blocking their way. Mum took a disliking to this and gave the car a slight nudge with her head. Maybe a good story for the driver in the future but not sure the hire car company will think so.  We then came to the flat rocks on Napi and found a traffic jam all looking at a cheetah which was laying down on a termite mound. It was quite far away but with binoculars we could get a clear look. After a break we headed down the river and came to a very interesting sighting of over 100 vultures and marabou stork lying in the sand. Its their favorite place to take a bath!!!
As we came up to lower sabie we found two lion sightings, the second was a group of five. A male and female lying in the shade of a tree with two females and a young male more hidden in the shade of the long grass. The first sighting though was a very different sighting. Two females and two young males had made their way along the river bed up to a large herd of buffalo getting within 30 meters before being seen. This created a standoff for about twenty minutes before the buffalo started to move off. This gave the lions a second opportunity and they took it moving closer and closer to a small group of buffalo which was lying in the water and slightly separated from the rest of herd. At about twenty meters from this smaller group the lions disappeared into the reeds and we waited......and waited....and waited some more!!! Then suddenly the buffaloes started to run. We watched as a buffalo started to run up a slight hill before the two female lions jumped on to its back, one of them biting into its back. The two young males too inexperienced didn't know what to do and stood around. Suddenly the buffalo started to cry out distress calls and then the rest of the herd changed direction turned and ran towards their comrade. Now when hundred tone of buffalo come charging it doesn't matter if you are a fearsome lion you run and that's exactly what these four did. Making their escape up onto some rocks but the buffalo weren't having that as they harassed and chased and challenged the lions on their rock. Eventually it calmed down and the buffalo stood their ground as the lions lay on the rocks with just a few meters separating the two groups of animals by now. We waited for twenty minutes to see what may happen and eventually the buffalo moved off with the lions staying put on the rock.
After lunch we passed the scene again and the buffalo were still there but the lions had taken cover in the reeds not to be seen. We drove back down alone the river stopping for families of baboon's and monkies which never get boring with their antics before we came to our third lion sighting. Two large males sitting next to a kill. They were a fair distance away but we still had a nice look with the binoculars. We then found two hyena next to their den who both moved on quickly into the grass. 
Our final sighting was of two rhino who walked up close into the open and then crossed the road just feet in front of us and then posed for photos on the other side.

25 October 2014
This morning was unfortunately the last day of this safari tour and we set off early to maximize the time we had left. We headed down Napi spotting buffalo and elephant when we heard about a cheetah sighting nearby. When we got to the area we found two cheetahs, the first lying at the side of the road and the second hidden away in the grass. So hidden it took quite a while to locate it. Although the cheetah popped his head up and occasionally looked around the sighting was amazing. Patience was required and so as other safari trucks and the public came and went we stayed put. In fact ourselves and a second vehicle stayed put for two hours and it was just us two who were there to notice a elephant walking along the hill in the far distance. Actually two others noticed the elephant and they were the cheetahs. Why a huge elephant would interest the smallest, most feeble of the large cats is beyond me. But it did and they started to get up and walk with intention. It didn't take too long for common sense to prevail and they decided to go back to their favorite pastime which was relaxing. Finally one of them disappeared into the grass and we left them to it. We went back to Pretoriouskop for some breakie and then a drive down Numbi where we saw impala, zebra, elephant and buffalo before we left the park. Thanks to Eric and Francis for a great five days. I know you enjoyed the wonderful sightings we had especially those of the leopard and lions. Safe travels to Cape Town.

More coming soon!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Department of Environmental Affairs notes indictment of South Africans in the USA for rhino poaching-related offenses

The Department of Environmental Affairs has noted the indictment of two South Africans by the United States Department of Justice. The indictment of the owners of Out of Africa Adventerous Safaris is noted. We will monitor developments related to the case. 

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, assisted the US Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in their investigation.

The Department understands that there is a criminal case against Dawie Groenewald and 10 co-accused who are expected to stand trial in South Africa in August 2015 on 1 872 charges including racketeering, the illegal trade in rhino horns, fraud, corruption, assault and the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Legal action by the United States Attorney General’s Office comes less than a week after the Police and SANParks officials successfully apprehended 14 suspected rhino poachers in joint operations in the Kruger National Park.

“The success of the joint operations undertaken by the SAPS and SANParks is an example of the commitment of South Africa’s police and rangers to work together to eliminate rhino poaching from our country,” said the Department.

The three highly successful operations had been undertaken in the Kruger National Park between Friday, 17 October 2014, and Sunday, 19 October 2014.

The arrest of the 14 suspected rhino poachers brought to 113 the total number of poachers arrested in the Kruger National Park so far this year.

The Department congratulated all those involved in the operations.

The Department is confident that joint operations such as these will send a strong message to all those intent on poaching any species, particularly rhino, in our national parks, provincial reserves and on private conservation land – that they will be caught and face the full might of the law.

The successful arrests in the Kruger National Park came as the number of rhino poached in South Africa since the start of 2014 increased to 899. The Kruger National Park continued to bear the brunt of rhino poaching in South Africa, having lost 581 animals since 1 January 2014.

A total of 109 rhinos have been poached in Limpopo, 74 in KwaZulu-Natal, 57 in Mpumalanga and 53 in North West. A second rhino has been poached in the Northern Cape.

Since January 2014, a total of 282 alleged rhino poachers have been arrested. Among these are an alleged rhino poaching syndicate leader.

South Africans are urged to report incidents of poaching and tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211.

Issued by:
The Department of Environmental Affairs

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 !!