Tag Archives: Kruger National Park

Travel in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Moving Day

Thursday 19 November 2020

It is quarter to five. I wake to the sound of the dawn chorus and drag myself off to the ablutions. Today is moving day. It takes just under an hour to pack up and get ready to move. Maureen and Jim drop round to say farewell. They will continue on at Satara and we arrange to meet at Olifants Camp for breakfast tomorrow.

It is already quite hot when we leave at five past six. We stick to the tar road as we are towing.

The first creatures to greet us are some wildebeest and zebra. A car up ahead is looking intently at them. We pass by and I say, “He’s looking rather intently – perhaps he is seeing something else. The Earl obediently stops.

You nearly missed me

Yes we nearly miss her but we watch and follow as she continues on her mission. The other car drives off.

And this is who we see.

Thanks to the other car for alerting us to a lovely hyaena sighting. Sorry he missed the second one.

Soon we find ourselves in the land of mopane trees. Spotting game in amongst them is not easy but they are very pretty. In some parts we are next to the Letaba River and from time to time we spot a few things.

Mr Saddle-bill Stork
Waterbuck in their favourite habitat
A lovely Fish Eagle

I am sitting next to the back left passenger window. My head is down checking my photographs. The Earl comes to a sudden halt. Terrified, I look up and see Horace Hyaena staring me straight in the eye.

As I lift my camera, he saunters off.

The Earl is laughing. “I didn’t realise I was looking at a creature until this rock moved!” Next we come upon a herd of buffalo crossing the road and slipping behind the Mopanes

Bartholomew studies me and apologises for the fright Horace gave me. Hyaenas are like that, he says.

It’s eight o’clock when we arrive at Letaba. We check in and find a suitable campsite under the shady Mopanes. We need to fill the caravans water tanks and there is a tap nearby. The Earl un-hitches the caravan, takes out the hose and finds it is not long enough! But he is a man with a plan and although the roof is already up and the stands are down he decides to tow the caravan into position to reach the tap. He lifts the stands, hitches up again and I guide him forward. He then fills the tanks and reverses back to our original spot. I am most grateful as this will save me going to the camp kitchen to wash up.

With the setting up complete we are now thirsty and hungry. We go to the restaurant for breakfast.

The usual Covid protocols are strictly adhered to

Letaba’s Tindlovu restaurant has a wonderful view across the valley. Sadly it is quite dry and much rain is still needed.

View from the deck
The breakfast is excellent

The internet is down and the card machine does not work. The Earl leaves his name and number and promises to come back later as we don’t have cash.

We go for a game drive and decide to stop in at Olifant’s camp, 32 km away. Letaba’s shop burned down a few weeks ago and has still not been rebuilt. We can shop at Olifant’s and get cashback if they’re unaffected by the internet disaster. How reliant we have become on modern technology, even in the African bush!

We do not see much on our drive there – it is already very hot – 41 degrees C. At Olifants we buy a few groceries and get some cash from the check-out. Then we go to the deck where you can look down on the Olifant’s River

Spot the hippo out of the water

We then go to the petrol station to refuel. The attendant notices the left front tyre looks a bit soft. He checks it and finds it has a puncture which he plugs for us. What a star for noticing.

On our drive back we have a few interesting sightings but mostly in the distance making photography tricky. Here are just a few I can’t resist showing you.

William Waterbuck is wondering what Gregory Goliath is doing.
Sammy Southern Black Tit has caught his lunch
Not a wonderful photograph but the sun catching Mr Violet-back is quite beautiful.

There is a workshop at Letaba and when we return the Earl takes the car there so they can properly fix the puncture. Our spare is a ‘biscuit’ and we don’t want to drive in the park on that! The Earl is very impressed with the service he receives from the workshop.

Letaba is a beautiful, shady campsite and the facilities are the best we have had so far.

Shady Mopanes
Gecko 81 all set up
Camp Kitchen
Four two-plate stoves and a microwave as well as boiling water syphon
Two sinks
Coin op Laundry
Adequate sized shower, a bench and three strong hooks for hanging clothes and towel
Big basins
Make-up and hair-drying area

Letaba camp is famous for its owls especially the Scops Owl which resides in the mapane trees. This morning a neighbour who was about to leave told us that they had seen the owl in the tree under which we set up.

This evening as we prepare our braai we hear an owl but it is not the call of the scops.

The braai is on the go when we hear the owlet call
Other campers hear the call too and one of them finds the pearl spotted in our tree and points him out to me (Correction – it is a barred owlet)

Later we hear the Scops but it is too dark to find him. Tomorrow we shall look again.

Travelling in the time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Day 5 – Skukuza to Tshokwane and Lower Sabie and Back.

When in Kruger it is early to bed and early to rise if you want to escape the heat and get the best sightings. It takes a day or two to get into this routine. This morning for the first time neither of us had any trouble rising before five o’clock. After a fortifying cup of coffee and a rusk we were out the gate by half past five. Yes, that is an hour after opening time and in the past we liked to be first out but those days are over. We actually find that the birding is better a little later.

Today the temperature was 23 degrees C when we left camp and it rose to 33 degrees C by ten o’clock.

It wasn’t long before we started seeing the animals, first up being the ever-present impala. Many tourist have bumper stickers reading, “Please pass, we stop for birds.” Or – “Birders on board, prone to sudden stops.” The Earl wants to get one that says, “Beware – we stop for everything!” Well – we do at the beginning but after the tenth lot of impala we tend to ignore them and drive past unless they’re being particularly engaging.

We also had fun watching many birds and our list is now up to 70 species. At the beginning of a trip new species get added to the list quite quickly and then slow down but this year we are taking a little longer to hit 100. I suspect it’s because some of the migrant birds have not yet arrived.

On the H4-1 we got a female Diederick’s cuckoo, monotonous lark, African Hoopoe, Rattling cisticola, Black-backed puffback, black-crowned tchagra and red-breasted swallow but our cutest encounter was with these arrow-marked babbler.

These arrow-marked babblers were grooming each other in the early morning sun
They also seemed to be deep in conversation. “Did you hear what Mabel did?”

They were most obliging and let us watch them for quite a while before flying off one at a time.

This black-crowned tchagra was not quite as confident and tried to hide from my camera

By seven o’clock we had reached the H1-2 and had some interesting sightings on our drive to Tshokwane Picnic site.

This baboon was lying flat and fast asleep until I disturbed him. He was not charmed by the disturbance to his morning nap.
Don’t you just hate it when this happens!
There were eight of these magnificent Ground Hornbill, three juveniles and five adults.

They were very close to the car and suddenly we heard a loud knock. One of them had pecked at the back door, The Earl thought it was in an attempt to catch an insect.

One of our favourite birds is the Red-crested korhaan. This morning Mrs Korhaan made an appearance but did not stay long.

From time to time we saw small groups of elephant, in the bush, browsing on trees and sometimes crossing in front of us.

This bull has a rather handsome pair of tusks

The ‘shiny’ starlings are plentiful in the park and are quite tricky to identify. This Burchell’s starling has a dark eye so is a little easier than the others.

Up until now we have seen very few wildebeest and those that we have come across have been far away or lying down. I needed to get a decent photo for my Australian friend, Erich who loves them!

Hi boys, Erich sends his regards.

By the time we arrived at Tshokwane it was half past eight and we were looking forward to a good African breakfast. This picnic site is our favourite in spite of its problems with baboons and monkeys. But shock horror – it is in the process of being taken over by new management and they were not doing cooked breakfasts! We could, however, get sandwiches, carrot cake or croissants from the shop. Fortunately they were doing Americano coffee and cappuccino. We settled for croissants and also bought some biltong. (For my non South African readers – biltong is similar to jerky but very much nicer.)

The lapa is built around an enormous tree
The entrance to Tshokwane

Hopefully they will be fully operational soon.

While paying for my coffee, I asked the cashier, “No monkeys or baboons today?”

“Do you want one?” she asked.

“How much?” I joked back.

“Free for you,” she laughed.

Well, at first there were no monkeys or baboons to steal our food but the birds made up for it.

This cheeky barbet wanted my croissant
They are usually shy birds but this one has leaned where to get a free meal!

Later a single baboon did appear but one of the staff chased it away. Perhaps during lockdown the monkeys learned not to come begging. Now all that remains is for people to learn not to feed them!

The view from the picnic site – the impala are using the dry river as a thoroughfare
So are the wildebeest
Our first Grey Hornbill of the trip – in one of the Tshokwane trees

After breakfast we headed to Orpen Dam

We were held up by a herd of buffalo heading to the dam for a drink. There were more than five hundred of them and it took at least fifteen minutes before we could get through
Elephants and buffalo were spread along the banks of the dam.
We spent half an hour enjoying the scene

The elephants were not happy that the buffalo wanted to share their watering hole. They trumpeted and complained and even tried to chase the buffalo away. Water buck and impala kept their distance at the far end of the dam. We also saw an openbill, three grey heron and some Egyptian geese.

On our way to Lower Sabi we found a male red-crested korhaan but he didn’t stick around for very long.

There was very little to see on the H10 to Lower Sabie. We stopped there at half-past eleven and bought Magnum Ice creamsi and rested a bit before making our way back to Skukuza.

Sunset Dam is usually full of activity but it was quite quiet today.

A Common Sandpiper was strutting about
Don’t swim in the dam unless you want to meet up with this guy.

There was a lot to see on the H4-1 as it runs beside the Sabie River for much of the way. We saw our first black duck on the far bank but too far for a photograph. Elephants were present at various intervals along the way.

The animals of the Kruger National Park are really privileged. They get free spa treatments whether they want them or not. The ox-peckers work really hard to keep their clients looking good. Jerry here is a very popular client and all the therapists vie to keep him in tip top shape. Have you ever seen so many of them on one animal?

This giraffe amus
Such attention to detail – not an inch of flesh is left untreated!

At one point of the river road we saw a number of cars stopped up ahead. Everyone was looking down on the river bank and on enquiry we were told that there was a very hard to see leopard in a tree far away. We moved slowly on and asked another chap if he could see it. “Listen,” he said. “Don’t waste your time here. Make your way to the bridge. There is a leopard in a tree close to the road. You can’t miss it.”

There were still several kilometers to go and we doubted that the animal would still be there but decided not to bother with the hard to see one anyway. There were too many cars fighting for position and it just wasn’t worth it.

And today was our lucky day! As we approached the bridge we could see a few cars parked on the side of the road. I saw the leopard immediately and we had a perfect spot to park straight away.

She was alert and posed beautifully
She even sat up for a while
The Earl got some lovely shots
We had a good ten minutes with her before she decided to turn her back and go to sleep!

What a perfect ending to today’s trip.

Travelling during the time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Day 4 – Skukuza to Pretoriouskop and Back

Today we left camp at six o’clock. It was overcast and started at a cool 23 degrees C. There was no wind and it did not rain. The day’s high was 28 degrees C.

We started on the H11. As we crossed the bridge over the Sabie River we had our first sighting of the day – eight hyaena scampering in the river bed. There were five adults and three still outgrowing their black, baby fur.

They were all over the place and very active but I managed to get three into one frame

The birds, at this time of the morning, are very active. The Earl called out that he could hear parrots. We stopped and scanned and this is what we found.

Brown-headed parrots decorating the dead trees
A close-up of two of them

Another special bird to make an appearance was the European Bee-eater

The elegant giraffe were also silently munching their breakfast

There were also plenty of elephants about today.

Just before Kruger Gate we turned left onto the S3 and found a warthog fraternising with a herd of impala.

We then followed the S1 and found kudu and zebra

We were also amused to see two sleepy hyaenas taking their nap in full view of the tourists

We arrived at Nyamundwa Dam at eight o’clock and were delighted to find this scene.

There were waterbuck, blue wildebeest, at least forty zebra, hippo and a few interesting birds. The zebra entertained us with their antics and the waterbuck were also in a frisky mood chasing each other across the veld.

As we continued we came across a black-bellied bustard. What an entertaining bird. He was quite happy to demonstrate his call which sounds like a frog’s croak followed by a pop similar to a cork releasing from a champagne bottle.

It is a very pretty drive to Pretoriouskop and soon the kop came into view.

Because of the dense trees and bush it is not easy to spot animals in this area. However, the birdlife is interesting.

Red-collared widowbird
Lilac-breasted Roller
Crested Barbet

We took a break at Pretoriouskop’s Wimpy which has lovely seating outdoors and in.

We then started our return trip on the H1-1 where a buffalo popped out from the trees to greet us.

Soon after this we turned down a dirt road to a waterhole where we found some giraffe and more buffalo

We then did a detour from S11 to see the Nahpe Boulder

The ashes of Joseph France Ludorf who had a great deal to do with the early establishment of the park
are scattered here.

We made another detour to Transport Dam but there was not much to be seen there beside zebra, waterbuck, a yellow-billed stork and some starlings.

We continued our journey and spotted more of the usual suspects, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala etc. De Laporte Waterhole is about 5 km from Skukuza and we turned in there for a look and see. There was absolutely nothing or rather that is what The Earl said but I insisted on scanning with my binoculars and found two crested francolin, a three-banded plover, greater striped swallows and a pin-tailed whydah. They were too far for photos but fun to watch. The Earl was about to start the car and move but I insisted he wait ten minutes. Only three minutes later these giants came silently onto the scene.

These were the first
The rest of the troop weren’t far behind

They frolicked drank and showered and then turned around and left as silently as they had arrived. The Earl was about to start the car when I noticed more visitors approaching at a rapid rate.

The three little pigs must have been waiting for the elephants to leave before they rushed down to quench their thirst
And then the oxpecker groomers arrived for work
Just checking to see if your nostrils need cleaning
Looking good, Mr Piggy
All done – could you please give us a lift home?

We arrived back at camp at half past one and then went back to the De Laporte at half past four. It was quiet for a while but then European Bee-eaters came swooping down to drink in mid-flight, settle in a dead tree and then swoop down again. It was most entertaining to watch. A few male elephants visited in turn and just before we left it looked like some giraffe might come down but they decided to browse instead.

And so ended a most pleasant day.

Gecko Goes to Kruger – A Bad Hair Day at Lower Sabie

9 December 2019

We have been in Kruger for close on a month now and have experienced all the pleasures and trials of caravanning.  Thank Goodness we gave up rooftop tenting some time ago.  Now that we’re ‘glamping’ we can deal with all the hassles that may befall us as far as heat, wind and rain are concerned. This trip we have had it all!

It rained during the night and it was still raining when we woke up this morning.  We decided not to go out at an impolite hour so lay in until 06:30.     By then it had calmed down to a drizzle and we got up and walked to the ablutions for a shower.  Yesterday, at reception,  we put in a complaint about no hot water.  This morning I am pleased to report that the problem was resolved.

We then went to the restaurant for breakfast.  It was still raining but we enjoyed watching the hippos frolicking in the river.

IMG_7635 Hippos 2019-12-09 7-55-06 AMIMG_7637 Hippos 2019-12-09 7-55-28 AM

At 08:00 we set off for our wet morning drive.  The temperature was 19 degrees C and did not drop any lower.   We took the tar road to Crocodile Bridge and back as most of the dirt roads were closed.   Before taking the Croc Bridge road we popped in at Sunset Dam

IMG_7647 Crocodiles at Sunset Dam 2019-12-09 8-14-01 AM

A pile of crocodiles

IMG_7653 Hippos Sunset Dam 2019-12-09 8-15-56 AM

Playful hippos

IMG_7673 Wood Sanpiper Sunset Dam 2019-12-09 8-23-36 AM

Wood Sandpiper, I think.

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A Ruff, I think

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Black-winged Stilt

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Collection of birds – Stilts, Jacana and Egyptian Goose

Taking photographs on a rainy day is challenging.  If you take the photograph through a closed window there will be raindrops in your picture.  Open the window and your lens gets wet and so do you!   It was a matter of taking the shot and immediately drying off the camera, the inside of the car and yourself!  Well – we chose to come to Kruger in the rainy season so we have to suffer the consequences!

Today we took a few bird photos.  Most of them were having a bad hair day.

P1190306 Bad Hair Day Fish Eagle 2019-12-09 12-22-32 PM

African Fish Eagle

P1190287 Juvenile Bateleur bad hair day 2019-12-09 9-55-19 AM

Immature Bateleur

IMG_7734 Bateluer Bad Hair Day 2019-12-09 9-37-58 AM

Finally an adult Bateur posed for me

P1190269 Bateleur 2019-12-09 9-50-16 AM

The Earl got a shot after she’d smoothed down her feathers.

IMG_7706 Swainson's Spurfowl Bad Hair Day 2019-12-09 9-01-55 AM

A Swainson’s Spurfowl trying to deal with the weather

IMG_7708 Purple Roller Bad Hair Day 2019-12-09 9-06-49 AM

The Purple Roller always looks rougher than his cousin the Lilac-breasted but it’s worse on a rainy day.

A few other birds were looking particularly lovely in spite of the weather.

IMG_7698 Cattle Egret breeding plumage 2019-12-09 8-55-34 AM

The Cattle Egret is always a pretty bird but is particularly so when dressed up for courting.

IMG_7721 Green Pigeons 2019-12-09 9-17-45 AM

A treeful of Green Pigeons

IMG_7713 Green Pigeon 2019-12-09 9-15-44 AM

This one might need to comb his moustache

We saw very few mammals.  Elephants were conspicuous by their absence as were the buffalo.  Only impala, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe showed themselves.

P1190290 Giraffe 2019-12-09 10-25-17 AM

Giraffe – always elegant no matter what the weather

IMG_7746 Impala Babies 2019-12-09 9-46-24 AM

The cutest Impala lambs

IMG_7748 Mom and Impala Babies 2019-12-09 9-46-32 AM

Mom keeps a close eye on them

At Crocodile Bridge Camp we had a coffee and then went back to Lower Sabie.  After a rest, we went out at 16:00.  We saw the usual suspects but it was raining hard and we didn’t take any photographs.

The rain had almost stopped when we returned so we took down the canopy and packed the groundsheet away.   Packing up camp in the rain is not the most pleasant experience so it’s best to do it when conditions are bearable.

Once we were done with packing up we went to the restaurant for dinner.  Lower Sabie has a Mug and Bean which is not my favourite franchise in any part of the country.  There were a few of them in the park but all were closed down because of bad service.  This morning’s breakfast was good and dinner was okay.  I had the rump steak, asked for rare but it came medium and was not very tasty. I had to add salt.  The vegetables and salad made up for it and one can’t complain about the price.   The Earl had ribs which he said were a little dry.

Loads shedding is a problem all over the country and one would think that Mug and Bean would be prepared.  Luckily our food arrived before the power went off.   Why, we wondered, did M&B not have candles on the tables?  Why did they not have an emergency generator?   Foreign guests were dumbfounded to find they would have to wait for up to an hour before they could put in their orders for food.  Not good enough, Bug and Mean!

Tomorrow, we will be going to Crocodile Bridge for two nights and then our sojourn in the park will be over!

Gecko Goes to Kruger – Lower Sabie

8 December 2019

Clearly, the school holidays have started as today we saw more cars than usual on the Kruger roads.   It’s lovely to see families enjoying the wild.  It is the most awesome way to spend a holiday.  We have had our grandchildren in The Park with us before and they just loved it.

When I booked at very short notice for this holiday, I had no problems getting the camps that I desired.  The only camp that was a little tricky was Lower Sabie – it was totally booked up except for the three nights that I wanted.   So I was a little surprised and disappointed to find that this is the worst maintained camp of all that we have visited this year.  There was no hot water in the ablutions this morning.  The men’s side had blocked drains, no benches in the shower cubicle and only one hook on which to hang a towel and clothing.  Two of the camp kitchens that I went to did not have boiling water on tap.  The third kitchen I tried did.  It is really a beautiful camp and it is a pity that management here is so poor.

It rained quite heavily last night and it was still raining when we got up at 4:30 am this morning.  After a cold shower, we set off at 5:30.    It’s lovely to have the rain in Kruger but it does mean that the animals are hiding somewhere we can’t see them and when we do photography is difficult.  So today I am simply going to show you the highlights of what we saw.

IMG_7468 Hippo in a small pond 2019-12-08 5-47-47 AM

When you have a whole river to swim in why would you choose a tiny, muddy pond?

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Baby Elephant

IMG_7488 Eye to eye with an elephant 2019-12-08 9-18-42 AM

I’d just taken a cell phone photo when this ellie and I had an encounter.  The Earl took the photo

Of course, birds feature a great deal.

IMG_7491 Brown-headed Parrot 2019-12-08 9-24-28 AM

Lovely to spot some Brown-headed parrots.  This one was all wet!

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A Black-bellied Bustard spread his wings and fluffed up his feathers

IMG_7525

A treeful of cattle egrets

IMG_7529 Green-winged Pytilia 2019-12-08 10-28-57 AM 2019-12-08 10-28-57 AM

A Green-winged Pytilia

IMG_7561 Blue Waxbill 2019-12-08 11-04-55 AM

A Blue Waxbill

IMG_7565 Treeful of Wattled Starlings 2019-12-08 2-54-35 PM

A treeful of Wattled Starlings

IMG_7568 Male Wattled Starling 2019-12-08 2-54-56 PM

Male Wattled Starling

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An immature Martial Eagle

IMG_7573 Treeful of Barn Swallows 2019-12-08 3-09-35 PM

A Treeful of Barn Swallows

P1190241

Zebra and Giraffe enjoying each other’s company

P1190239 Giraffe And Zebra 2019-12-08 3-27-01 PM

Giraffe Browse – Zebra Graze so they do not compete for food.

 

P1190245

Wildebeest

 

IMG_7588

Warthogs

This morning, just outside the camp we found this impala carcass hanging in a tree.  There was no sign of the leopard who had obviously left it there.  Unless a ranger had put there as a joke!?   A few cars decided to wait and see if the predator would return.  I’m afraid we don’t have that kind of patience.  We went past it again on our return and there were still cars waiting  – nobody had seen any sign of a leopard.  When we went out in the afternoon – same story.  And on our return at 5 pm, all that could be seen was the impala hanging in the tree but still, there was a traffic jam!

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Leopard’s pantry – perhaps he likes his meat well hung!

It will be interesting to see whether the impala is still hanging there tomorrow.

This evening the Earl cooked a curry in the Smart Space pots and we sat outdoors and enjoyed the wonderful ambience of a wildlife campsite.  Two bushbabies came to visit and entertained us with their amazing ability to bounce from the ground and into the trees.

I can’t imagine a more perfect place to be.

Gecko Goes to Kruger – An Exciting Ride From Berg en Dal to Lower Sabi via Skukuza.

7 December 2019

The dawn chorus woke us well before it was actually dawn this morning.  Going back to sleep was impossible so we packed up and were on the road with Gecko in tow by quarter to five. It was going to be a long drive as we would start on the S110 then take the H3 tar road to Skukuza and have breakfast there before taking the H4-1 to Lower Sabie.

One does not expect to have too much excitement on the tar road especially when one is towing a caravan!  But today all the animals came out to play.

Just minutes after exiting Berg en Dal we saw a car stopped up ahead.  “We see a lion! – Under that tree,” said the little girl in the back seat.  And sure enough, but a fair distance away, sat a male lion staring with big eyes.  Because of the caravan and not wanting to spoil their view we rode on.

Not long afterwards, still on the S110, we saw this.

IMG_7205 Wild dog up ahead 2019-12-07 5-41-35 AM

I woke up this morning with a strong feeling that we would see African Wild Dog today!  They’re also known as Cape Hunting Dog or Cape Painted Dog

Wild Dogs are endangered and they are carefully monitored in the Kruger National Park.

IMG_7210 Wild dog looking for one of his pack 2019-12-07 5-42-16 AM

This animal is collared so his movements can be monitored. This is probably the Alpha male. He is looking into the bush and waiting for a straggler from his pack

IMG_7216 Wild Dog 2019-12-07 5-43-04 AM

Another worried member waiting for the straggler

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I’m coming – don’t worry!

There were three or four cars slowly following the dogs but we managed to overtake and go past the animals so that everybody could have a good sighting.   It also gave me the chance to look back and aim my camera at the running dogs.

IMG_7229 Wild Dogs running 2019-12-07 5-44-11 AM

Let’s have a race!

IMG_7245 Fun Loving Wild Dogs 2019-12-07 5-45-06 AM

Come on Pack, enough of the high jinks.  Let’s get away from these nosy tourists!

Wow – what a great start to our morning!

We missed getting a photograph of the first lion but on the H3 a car up ahead stopped. As we approached we saw the lion walking on the road.  She then went into the bush and we could see her but she was not photographable.  The Earl got a bum shot which is not worth posting.  We couldn’t hang around to see if she would emerge as more cars arrived from both directions and we didn’t want to get caught in the mess.

Not long after that – you’ve guessed it – more lions!   This time there were several young cubs of various ages.  They’d been left alone while the mothers went hunting we presume. One lay on the road while others were spread out in the grass and under the trees.

IMG_7249 lion cubs 2019-12-07 6-29-59 AM

The older ones were babysitting

IMG_7256 Lion cubs one on road two under bush 2019-12-07 6-30-47 AM

The little ones were very obedient

IMG_7257 Lioness 2019-12-07 6-31-00 AM

When’s Mommy coming home – I’m hungry!

We continued on and found the birds were enjoying the early morning sun.  The Lilac-breasted roller is very common in Kruger but still very pretty.

IMG_7270 Lilac-breasted Roller 2019-12-07 7-24-60

Lilac-breasted Roller

IMG_7271 Lilac breasted roller in flight 2019-12-07 7-25-00 AM

I’m outa here!

Sensitive viewers, please skip the next two pictures!  A car up ahead of us stopped and we looked into the bush to see what they had spotted.  But the front passenger pointed downward from her window and then they drove off.

I saw a snake – a puff adder I think – wriggling his tail like mad but not moving forward.  On closer observation, I saw why.

IMG_7279 Snake on raod devouring a frog 2019-12-07 7-29-19

He had a frog in his mouth and was trying to ingest it!

IMG_7276 Snake eating frog 2019-12-07 7-29-7

Sorry can’t chat now – I have a frog in my throat!

It was soon after this that we arrived at Skukuza.  We parked the Everest and Gecko at the caravan park and walked to the restaurant to have our own breakfast which was a lot more appetising than frog!

I have to say that The Cattle Baron at Skukuza is awesome.  We sat on the deck with a wonderful view over the Sabie River and ordered The Sunrise which was less than R50,00.  The Earl had a cappuccino and I had a black Americano.  I’m fussy about coffee and I had no complaints.  The sunrise consists of two eggs, two slices of bacon, a potato rosti a grilled tomato and toast. You can choose to have your eggs any style and we both asked for scrambled.  When it arrived I could not believe how much food was on my plate – three large slices of bacon instead of two and I am sure you can’t get that much scramble out of two eggs!   It was awesome. I told the waiter that I had a complaint.  “I ordered two slices of bacon and I got three!”

“I like your complaint,” he said with a look of relief on his face!

IMG_7288 Giant Kingfisher 2019-12-07 8-16-06 AM.JPG

Giant Kingfisher was seen at breakfast time

We continued on to Lower Sabie and had some lovely sightings.

IMG_7303 Fish Eagle 2019-12-07 9-13-36 AM

Fish Eagle in a tree next to the river

IMG_7317 Elephants 2019-12-07 9-32-24 AM

Quite a few elephants including these two

IMG_7320 Lions 2019-12-07 9-59-24 AM

And another pride of lions!

The sky began to cloud over as we arrived at Lower Sabie but it was still very hot.  We set up camp and then had a rest before going out again.   There was a light drizzle all afternoon.

We had some lovely sightings of elephant and buffalo and other animals but the birding was particularly good.

IMG_7325 Levaillant's Cuckoo 2019-12-07 2-13-56 PM

Levaillan’ts Cuckoo

IMG_7349 Red-breasted Swallow 2019-12-07 3-14-48 PM

Red-breasted Swallow

We have been seeing the Red-crested Korhaan frequently but the Black-bellied Bustard only revealed himself to us today.  He looks similar but has a longer neck and is taller in stature.

IMG_7364 Black-bellied bustard 2019-12-07 3-52-53 PM

We were thrilled to add Black-bellied Bustard to our Kruger list for 2019

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Woolly-necked Storks were also new for this trip

I have been trying all holiday to get the Red-faced Mousebird to pose for me and today he sat still beautifully for the Earl.

 

P1190211 Red-faced Mousebird 2019-12-07 2-39-32 PM

Thanks for not hiding today, Mr Mousebird

It was quite a thrill to see this family cross the road in front of us

IMG_7340 Shelley's Francolin Family 2019-12-07 3-00-57 PM

They are not commonly seen

IMG_7341 Shelley's Francolins 2019-12-07 3-00-59 PM

Shelley’s Francolin is an uncommon resident of the area

IMG_7343 Shelley's Francolin 2019-12-07 3-01-04 PM

I hope I have identified you correctly!

IMG_7457 Lower Sabie Campsite 2019-12-07 6-16-21 PM.JPG

In spite of the rain, we were able to make a fire and braai in the evening.

 

 

Gecko #81 Goes to Kruger – Satara to Skukuza

3 December 2019

If we thought moving south was going to be cooler, we were wrong. It is just as hot in this half of the park.  This morning at 04:30 it was already 25 degrees C and it got up to 43 by 14h00!

We were on the road to Skukuza with the Gecko in tow by 05:30.   Remember the sun is up really early in this part of the world and it was shining brightly at this hour.

We were greeted by the usual gang – impala with their gambolling lambs, zany zebras expecting us to wait patiently as they strolled across the road and grumpy wildebeest turning their heads snootily away from us.

IMG_6436 Whalberg 2019-12-03 6-20-05 AM

A Tawny Eagle glanced sideways at us

Being in the right place at the right time is what it’s all about when seeking creatures in an African game reserve.  This morning Kruger decided to reveal some of her drama to us.

First, we saw two or three stationary cars.  Then we saw a scattering of about nine or ten hyaenas.  “There must be a kill,” I said and scanned the scene. “Lion – I see a lion under that bush.  Wait, there are others!”   Altogether I counted five.

 

As we watched one hyaena after another snatch a bone and run off with it, vultures suddenly dropped down from the sky.

One by one four of the lionesses left the scene, crossed the road in front of the cars and disappeared into the bush.  We think they went to find a pond to quench their thirst.

IMG_6519 Hyaena and vulture scene 2019-12-03 6-40-13 AM

Hyaenas and vultures everywhere

P1190061 Hyaena getting close to lion's kill 2019-12-03 6-55-56 AM

This hyaena is not afraid of the lioness – she is waiting patiently to grab a scrap.  She is blocking the view to the lioness

P1190059 Lioness on kill by Earl 2019-12-03 6-55-50 AM

Munching on the carcass of a Waterbuck, I think – see the horn

IMG_6568 Lioness on kill 2019-12-03 7-04-59 AM

Those hyaenas and vultures must wait their turn.

P1190052 Lioness 2019-12-03 6-51-06 AM

Off to find a drink

IMG_6565 Two Hyaenas 2019-12-03 7-03-51 AMIMG_6558 Three Hyaenas 2019-12-03 7-02-02 AMIMG_6552 Lioness and Vulture at kill 2019-12-03 7-00-38 AM

IMG_6545 Hyaena carrying bone 2019-12-03 6-48-34 AM

Hey, look!  I’ve got a bone!

IMG_6543 Vultures 2019-12-03 6-47-36 AM

Patiently waiting for their turn

IMG_6532 Vulture with wings spread 2019-12-03 6-42-51 AM

Might as well show off while I’m here

IMG_6526 Hyaenas with bone 2019-12-03 6-41-59 AM

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Nobody’s paying any attention to my beauty

IMG_6523 Hooded Vulture 2019-12-03 6-41-16 AM

Hooded Vulture, I think.

IMG_6515 Hyaena 2019-12-03 6-39-44 AM

When is that lion going to leave!

IMG_6509 Lioness 2019-12-03 6-38-43 AM

All right, my subjects, I’m leaving now.  The scraps are all yours.

That was quite a lot of excitement for 6:30 in the morning!  Luckily it was at a place where we could stand with the caravan and even though it was next to a tar road there were only about four cars there.

We continued our journey and stopped at Tshokwane for breakfast.

At Skukuza, we found a lovely shady spot for the caravan.   I needed to do some washing but when I checked out the laundry found that the washing machine was missing!   There were two groundsmen about so I asked if there was perhaps another one close by.  Fortunately, there was one near the safari tents not far away.   After putting on a load, the Earl and I went to the pool to cool off.  After the 45 minutes, I walked to the laundry and hung the washing and then we went off for our afternoon drive.

We enjoyed watching our close relatives having a picnic under the trees, noted that the impala lambs were multiplying and there were lots of baby zebras about too.

IMG_6595 Female Kudu 2019-12-03 4-04-06 PM

These ladies were trying to keep cool in the shade

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I cannot resist photographing every steenbok I see.   They are quite shy but often stay still long enough for a photoshoot

We ended our drive with a visit to Lake Panic which is my most favourite spot in Kruger. Even at 17:00, it was very hot and the Earl could only take it for fifteen minutes before having to return to the air-conditioned car.  I stayed a minute or two longer but as there was not a great deal more to observe, and I didn’t want him to get lonely without me, I left too.

IMG_6612 Hippo at Lake Panic 2019-12-03 4-58-45 PM

Hippos enjoying a swim but was this yawner bored or tired?

IMG_6624 Female Kudu drinking at Lake Panic 2019-12-03 5-01-58 PM

Lovely to see kudu come down to drink

IMG_6638 Paradise Flycatcher Lake Panic 2019-12-03 5-08-48 PM

A Paradise Flycatcher took a sip and then flew onto a branch and actually posed!

IMG_6639 White-faced Ducks 2019-12-03 5-10-22 PM

White-faced ducks were visiting too

Clouds started gathering as I brought in the washing and a gusting wind began to blow.  I decided it would be better to cook in the Remoska rather than braai tonight.  We fully expected a thunderstorm during the night.

Gecko #81 goes to Kruger – Berg en Dal to Pretoriouskop and Back

14 November 2019

Don’t go to Kruger in summer!   It will be too hot!  You won’t be able to cope with the heat!  The grass is too long.  You won’t see any animals.

The above is advice I have received from many well-meaning people, most of whom have never been to Kruger or who only go in winter.   All the information out there suggests that the winter months are the best.  It’s warm during the day but chilly at night but you will definitely see the animals as they won’t be hiding in the long grass!

Well, most of my visits over the past 20 years have been in summer and yes, it’s hot and the grass is long but the game viewing is still awesome.  Also, it’s a fantastic time to see birds as the migrants from Europe love the Kruger.

Now what we have never been warned about – mainly because the prophets of doom have never been here themselves – is that you might just get flooded out!   The weather can become rather extreme at this time of year.  In past years we have had a spit and a spot of rain and on a few occasions have had to pack up in wet conditions.  But read on dear reader to find out what happened to us today!

The roaring of lions woke us at an impolite hour this morning.  I turned over and ignored them!   Only crazy people go out at 4:30 in the morning.  The saner among us wait until after six!  I was up before the Earl and after my shower, I had coffee and a rusk ready to tempt him from his comfy bed.  The weather was overcast and warm and while I pottered around, a lovely white-browed robin made an appearance.

IMG_3063 White-browed robin 2019-11-14 5-57-00 AM

In order to have the Ford serviced we have to get to a certain number of km on the clock.  It didn’t have enough before we left home and by the time we get back, we’ll have too many.  So our Bredasdorp man organised for us to have it done in Nelspruit tomorrow.   We were just short of the required kilometres so we decided to do an extra-long trip today.   After coffee and rusks, we set off just after six stopping at Afsaal picnic site for breakfast and then continuing to Pretoriuskop Camp,  arriving around midday.

The overcast weather meant the light for photography was not great.  We hoped for a bit of rain as the park, like the rest of the country, really needs it. Since arriving in the park we have not needed to put on jackets or jerseys.  The temperatures have hovered in the early to late twenties.  Today it went right up to 33 degrees C.

There were long stretches of driving when there was absolutely nothing happening – not a bird nor a buck – yet by the end of the day we’d seen some interesting creatures and four out of the compulsory BIG FIVE!  Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephant.  Sorry  – no lions.

IMG_3073 Immature Martial Eagle 2019-11-14 7-35-38 AM

Always exciting to see eagles – this one we think is an immature Martial

IMG_3077 Impala herd of females 2019-11-14 7-53-03 AM

Very common and very pretty – the lovely Macdonald’s for lions – Impala females

IMG_3084

And a shy grey duiker

IMG_3102 Natal Spurfowl 2019-11-14 8-47-20 AM

Gardenia Hide produced very little but this Natal Spurfowl entertained us

IMG_3121 Elephant approaching 2019-11-14 9-16-16 AM

Lots of small herds of elephants and of course quite a few single males like this guy

IMG_3120 Terapin at elephant's feet 2019-11-14 9-14-17 AM

At the waterhole, he almost stepped on a terrapin

As we drove along we came across a stationary car.  “What have you spotted?” asked the Earl.   He was foreign and his answer sounded like, “kudu”  We couldn’t see a thing so the Earl drove on.  “Go back,” I said, “They’re still staring into the bush.  There must be something there!”

“Anything to make you happy, my love,”  he sighed obligingly.  And then I saw it – not a kudu – a cuckoo!

IMG_3129 Jacobin Cuckoo Pied Morph 2019-11-14 10-46-13 AM

Yesterday I posted the dark morph Jacobin Cuckoo – This is the pied morph Jacobin Cuckoo!

IMG_3137 Waterbuck 2019-11-14 11-38-40 AM

First, he refused to look at me but I asked nicely so he posed beautifully – Male Waterbuck

After we’d stopped and enjoyed an ice cream at Pretoriouskop we got back in the car to make our long way back to Berg en Dal.   The skies looked threatening and we expected a shower of rain.

IMG_3174 Storm clouds gathering 2019-11-14 2-25-41 PM

Not too scary looking

There was first one big splash and then another on the windscreen, a few stokes from the wipers and it was clear again.  This went on for a minute or two and then the wind got up. Omiword – it was gale force – almost like a hurricane.   The rain pelted down in huge drops and then the hail hit sounding like shots from a gun!  The Earl drove with full headlights on at snail’s pace and then had to come to a complete stop as visibility was zero!

IMG_3178IMG_3179IMG_3183

I was terrified!   I was afraid that the golfball-sized hailstones would crash through the windscreen or windows, we’d be drenched or drowned and never see home again!   I was wearing a fit watch that measures your heartbeat and mine went up from its normal 70 to 91!   The storm went on for an agonising 15 minutes and we were alone in the middle of the wilds of Africa!

And then it was over as suddenly as it had begun.  We were in one piece and perfectly safe.   What an adventure!

We continued and saw a few more animals.  Miraculously they’d survived the storm too!  Imagine being a tiny bird or helpless buck in a violent storm like that!

IMG_3185

A klipspringer surveying is surroundings – How that rock doesn’t tumble I do not know!

 

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There was a baby too but he was hiding from the camera

P1180341 Elephant 2019-11-14 8-19-00 AM

A happy ellie

P1180354 Zebra pattern Earl 2019-11-14 11-58-51 AM

Distinctive pattern on this guy’s rump

P1180358

A rather wet steenbok

P1180361

One of the many buffalo seen today

We also glimpsed a leopard again today.   It took us ages to locate him hiding under a tree and then he got up and disappeared into the bush.  Too quick for a photograph, I’m afraid.

The skies clouded over again as we approached Berg en Dal.  The Earl wanted to get back to camp quickly to secure our canopy and make sure the hatches were securely battened down!

Just as we got to the caravan the heavens opened, there was thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour.  We secured the poles and the Earl made sure the canopy didn’t collapse under the weight of the water collecting in it.

P1180363

The Earl using a broom to push the canopy up so the water emptied

P1180365

Suddenly we had a river running past our caravan!

This storm too lasted only about half an hour and then all was calm again.   We abandoned our original plans to braai and I cooked chicken in the Remosca pot.   So yes, we survived!